So I sat down on the floor against a column, and I started to think. There’s this book I’ve been reading lately, Inventing Downtown: Artist-Run Galleries in New York City 1952-1965 by Melissa Rachleff, the companion to a terrific recent exhibition at NYU’s Grey Art Gallery. Among its many insights, this generously illustrated tome includes numerous descriptions of genre-flouting multidisciplinary installations, performances, happenings, conceptual works, and other instances of intermedia creativity by artists such as Allan Kaprow, Red Grooms, Jim Dine, Claes Oldenburg, Yoko Ono, and LaMonte Young. Among the recurring refrains is a view of conventional art criticism as a mode that failed to meet the demands of these emerging art forms, along with an urgent assertion of the artist’s authority to identify and assess her or his works, rather than ceding that authority to the critic.
I was also reminded of the intoxicating flood of sensations I encountered while covering a presentation of Cage’s epochal HPSCHD at Eyebeam Art + Technology Center for The New York Times in 2013. (Issue Project Room was involved in that presentation, along with Eyebeam and the Electronic Music Foundation.) That room, too, was flooded with simultaneous and at times contradictory sensory data. There, too, I’d spent time on the floor trying to compose my thoughts.
Grace Nexus wasn’t as confrontational or overwhelming as HPSCHD had been. Indeed, throughout the room here, audience members clustered in communal appraisal or private conversation, as if the event were some kind of egghead club night.
The key to interpreting what was going on, I think, was in a statement printed in the program distributed at the door:
In their debut performance of Grace Nexus, the collective forms a new episode in the rhizomatic Quantum Natives universe, extending their online surface to a live setting. The artists will unite to use video game engine technology, paired with software-based sound design, to sculpt birds-eye and panoramic experiences of merging fictional landscapes, physical, and online spaces, which in turn will be projected in ISSUE’s theater and online.… Grace Nexus emerges as a seance or incubator for the Quantum Natives community and an act of tourism into their world.