Gordon and Grimaud at The Park Avenue Armory

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The historic Park Avenue Armory has hosted plenty of amazing installations and performances these past few years in the massive Wade Thompson Drill Hall, from Ann Hamilton's swingsTom Sach's Mars landing, and Paul McCarthy's raunchy Snow White, to concerts by the likes of the xx and Massive Attack, Robert Wilson's staging of The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic and a thrilling five-play run by the Royal Shakespeare Company. But now, starting this week and continuing only through January 4, we have what may be the most technically ambitious and quietly spectacular installation/concert series to date, the lovely "tears become… streams become…" a collaboration between Turner Prize-winning artist Douglas Gordon and renowned pianist Hélène Grimaud. 

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Douglas Gordon at The Park Avenue Armory

Gordon's contribution to the piece is brilliantly simple: nearly the entire floor of the Armory's 55,000-square Wade Thompson Drill is flooded with a small-pond's worth of water. Sometimes glassy, sometimes shimmering, the 122,000 gallons of liquid serves as a vast mirror, reflecting the room's soaring latticed ceiling, creating the illusion of great depth, and basically "doubling" the already-vast space. Gordon also uses light to great effect, shifting and highlighting intricate details and, apparently, there's some smoke involved as well, so the visual landscape continually changes. The water also acts as an amplifier for the musical component of the work. And the engineering that went into the installation's execution is really pretty staggering, as Gordon had to recess, level and waterproof the Drill Hall's old, creaky wooden floor, and then figure out to constantly dehumidify the massive room for the show's entire run.   


Hélène Grimaud at The Park Avenue Armory

Even during the day, when anyone can come and view the installation (for a $15 admission fee), "tears become… streams become…" is an engaging piece of art; one of the two pianos that sits in the water is of the automatic "player" variety, so you can experience the aural part of the piece as well. But really, it's at night, when Grimauld plays live, that the Armory really becomes a magical place. For eight shows only–and they're selling out fast–Grimauld gives an hour-long performance of water-themed piano pieces by the likes of Debussy, Listz, Ravel, and others. Here's maybe the coolest part: when you enter and take your seat around the perimeter of the floor, the whole place is dry. Only slowly does the water seep in through the floorboards, creating puddles, then streams, then the entire lake. It takes almost half an hour and the effect, from what I hear, is mesmerizing. And then Grimauld sloshes out across the water to her piano, and plays. I can't wait.


Tears Become… Streams Become…

Douglas Gordon and Hélène Grimaud's "tears become . . . streams become . . ." will be at the Park Avenue Armory (between 66th and 67th Streets) from now through January 4. The eight nighttime performances end on December 21, and you can buy tickets here



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