Marina Rosenfeld's Teenage Lontano/16 Channels at Whitney Biennial 2008

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As with any exhibition that surveys the best of contemporary art practices, the Whitney Biennial consistently elicits its share of cheers and, more frequently, jeers: complaints about artists omitted, marginalized mediums, insider back-scratching, and so on. While the 2008 edition may also merit such criticism, it deserves some praise for introducing a performance-heavy program at the Park Avenue Armory. Spanning the first two weeks of the biennial's three-month run, the Armory series finds artists and musicians like Agathe Snow, Lucky Dragons and Gang Gang Dance crossing and re-crossing the boundaries of performance and installation in the decorous (and semi-crumbling) rooms of the 1881 New York landmark. This Saturday evening, composer and turntablist Marina Rosenfeld will debut Teenage Lontano/16 Channels (2008), a "cover version" of György Liget's Lontano (1967) that Rosenfeld specifically conceived for the Armory's 55,000-square foot Drill Hall. Rosenfeld's reworking stretches the Hungarian composer's twelve-minute work to an even thirty and subjects his exceedingly meticulous score to a slew of chance scenarios - most importantly, the translation of the orchestral piece into a vocal composition, relayed via portable mp3 players into the headphones of the thirty-five New York teenagers who comprise Rosenfeld's choir. Hanging several dozen feet above the teens, a massive speaker will rotate at 33 1/3 r.p.m., like a turntable, and fire electronic sounds into the recesses of the cavernous hall: a space-age accompaniment to Rosenfeld's acoustic community. Like her seminal performance, sheer frost orchestra, in which seventeen women administered nail-polish to floor-bound guitars, Teenage Lontano/16 Channels emphasizes Rosenfeld's professed interest in the "ideosocial construction of music-making," here taking a vernacular of contemporary listening, a generation for which technology is like a second-skin, and through them reappraising a moment of high-Modern composition. - Tyler Coburn

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