These days, huge black curtains drape off parts of the interior of the Tower Building in Fair Park. They form several rooms that hold what’s described as “an immersive art installation” about a dystopian future. The entire artwork was brought here by SMU (as part of Ignite/Arts Dallas), on a tour by a Detroit art and hip-hop collective. Art & Seek’s Jerome Weeks sat down with Justin Martin to explain what all this means.
The Detroit group called Complex Movements is here because they won the Meadows Prize from SMU, right?
And part of the prize stipulates the winners come to Dallas to create a project. And that project, ‘Beware of the Dandelions’ is — I’m reading parts of their flyer – an art installation with a hip-hop, sci-fi, post-apocalyptic parable.
OK, post-apocalyptic, you’ve got me. But an art installation. Is that painful?
So which is it here?
In fact, Complex Movements has come to Dallas several times already to meet with local groups like the Fahari Arts Institute at South Dallas Cultural Center. They’re big into community organizing and promoting social justice and political action. They want to extend the cooperative experience or education you get inside the installation, bring it out into a wider community .
And what is that experience?
Then we’re guided down a short hall into the heart of the installation. This is a large, plastic, geodesic pod – it can hold about 25-30 people. We watch videos and graphics projected on the different sides all around us.
Kind of like a miniature planetarium?
Detroit – my hometown –invented techno music and it’s become America’s poster child for postindustrial collapse. So it’s no surprise a group of politically-conscious, Detroit artists with a heavy interest in sci-fi might generate something like this. ‘Dandelions’ depicts both a devastated urban landscape and hopes for overcoming it. A guy named Waajeed produced the music and some of it is quite grand. The hip-hop lyrics and metaphors come so thick and fast, though, I could only get a sense of the story, not the many connections being made.
But through all this, the audience doesn’t just stand there. It’s an interactive experience. The story has us clap and move and interact with each other in different patterns inside the pod.
Like — the starlings.
So what do you think?
Believe it or not, though, it struck me that it’s actually like a post-apocalyptic, hip-hop opera — in a pod. I mean, if Dallas Opera presents ‘Death and the Powers,’ which had singing robots, why isn’t this an ‘immersive opera’? It has arias, plus the set, the music, the videos — they’re all meant to form a single experience, which is very much an operatic ideal. And it has a story, which I admit was too dense for me to follow. But without subtitles I think most people can’t follow Philip Glass’s operas, either.
So I like to think of ‘Beware of the Dandelions’ as a politically didactic, electronic opera presented in a very, very small opera house.
So what else has been happening locally in music?
So it seems a stalemate. After a concert in Bass Hall last week, several musicians unfurled a banner that said, ‘Growth Not Cuts.” Meaning, in a growing economy, why are their salaries getting cut?
Generally, our classical music scene here has been fairly lucky in dodging the bitter negotiations or even bankruptcies that have crippled other symphonies and operas. Here’s hoping that luck continues.