Under the racket of taxis and buses barreling up 10th Avenue, people chattering, the endless throb of drills ripping city pavement, and the piercing warning of trucks backing up, comes a low sound, a reverberating boom, boom, boom as distant and intimate as the heartbeat of a baby in the womb. Then the sound stops momentarily as if to catch its breath before starting up again. Rounding the corner and heading west on 25th Street, the erratic beat grows louder until, ducking between two buildings underneath the train-tracks of The Highline, the source of the sound is finally revealed. It's the world, our bulging, straining Earth.
This is Tight Spot, an installation piece of a blue blown-up globe by musician and visual artist, David Bryne that measures 48 by 20 feet and is an inflatable globe reminiscent of those grammar school globes that used to spin in the front of classrooms. Only instead of a hard globe we can hold in our hands, Tight Spot is giant sized and as soft as a beach ball. Since September 15th Tight Spot has occupied the space adjacent to Pace Gallery, where, compressed between the buildings and squished below The Highline, it emits low frequency vibrations.
Like a lot of Byrne's previous installation pieces, Tight Spot is deceptive in its simplicity. A simple object remembered from childhood, but like a memory in its recreation, this globe has become exaggerated. Tight Spot has also been given Bryne's voice. The thumping sound comes from two speakers placed inside the interior of the world that plays recordings of Bryne's filtered and processed voice and are, he has said, an open invitation to passersby to come, investigate and discover the object.
This is art that actively engages with the viewer. A meet-up with an object that has been given a human sound and that is itself pressed into a tight spot, but so are we. As viewers we are held in the small space allotted us, between sidewalk and large object. It is an intimate encounter in our everyday world with an everyday object but one that points beyond itself to the social currents of society and the world at large. As if to suggest that, come hell or high water, we are all in this together.
Standing there, one wonders if like a balloon, our world is expanding too fast? Or inversely, are we, like the compressed globe, being crushed by outside forces? Will the tissue of our world hold? And is this the sound the world makes when it is under too much stress and like an exhausted heart, an infant unable to be born or about to putter out?
All recognizably representational art is a distortion. And these distortions can be either formal or emotional. However, in Tight Spot, Byrne has done both. The compressed sphere of our earth protrudes in the center and flattens out at the side, like a fisheye lens it maps the curve of the earth though the image is almost entirely of blue sea -- blue being Bryne's favorite color -- calming to look at and yet, startling in the realization that there isn't enough space for the whole earth to fit. Not in this tight spot. This bulbous though representational exaggeration is both comical and sad as if in Tight Spot, Bryne has found a way to walk the line between truth and paranoia.
Tight Spot is on view at 508 West 25th Street in New York until October 1, 2011.