Taylor Lee Shepherd’s Television Altarpiece “Space Rites” @ St. Maurice’s Church (P3+)

Altarpieces inspire awe, reverence, wonder, and depending on your religious convictions- either fear, or serenity.

Taylor Lee Shepherd’s P3+ installation entitled Space Rites makes excellent use of the St. Maurice’s Church in the Lower 9th by inspiring all of the above. The church, gutted and bare of most ornamentation, pews, pulpit, and other trappings of its former purpose, has been transformed into a space that challenges visitors to consider the reason the church is stripped down to the vaulted ceilings and plaster walls (read: Katrina), while also creating a sense of awe that comes from seeing a two-story tall stack of clunky television sets that have been changed into visual oscillator that interact with the many musical performances scheduled to take place in the church, which by the way still has excellent acoustics.

A few months ago my partner Rotten Milk got a phone call from Shepherd asking if their moving company, Black Cat Movers could travel to several Goodwill thrift stores and collect over 100 elderly television sets; the big, clunky old boxy ones that everyone had before the advent of flat screens. When Shepherd contacted Goodwill initially, someone in management offered to round up as many television sets as they could find, for free. Last winter, we had visited Shepherd’s home at the time to play records and see a few prototypes of the oscillators in action. The screen usually has a circular or linear pattern that moves in response to audio input, stretching, contracting, wobbling, and zig-zagging into patterns in constant flux. I’m not entirely sure still how this works, but each television had a unique response and varied in color and pattern from one to the next.

Shepherd’s P3 installation in St. Maurice’s debuted with a performance by a local assisted living center choral group collaborating with Murmerations choir, composed of much younger members. The two groups alternated with pieces from their repertoire, then came together at the front of the church to harmonize on several pieces together. Amplified, the choral groups triggered the televisions to pulse and react in time to the music.

Shepherd and the Airlift Collective have many more performances planned for the installation, including a gong orchestra scheduled for November 22nd, all of which are ticketed. Local noise musician Rob Cambry teamed up with Nels Cline of the band Wilco to play the installation this past Saturday. Airlift’s mission is to foster these sort of crossovers between local creative producers and outside talent. Additional performances are listed on the organizations website at http://www.neworleansairlift.org/. Space Rites will be on view through January 7, 2015.

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