By Lauren Grucci
Have you ever wanted to see what it’s like to hang out inside a lava lamp for an hour or so? Perhaps a lava lamp that sat on the shelf of a favorite psychedelic mascot like Jim Morrison or Ken Kesey – Yes? Well if you have, then this is the place for you…
The Dream House was created in 1993 by husband and wife – composer La Monte Young and visual artist Mariah Zanzeela. The couple was greatly inspired by classical indian vocal techniques and together founded the Theater of Eternal Music. This project explored effects of long form drone sounds and involved collaborations with many well known avant garde video artists, composers, and singer song writers such as John Cale – a founding member of the Velvet Underground. The exhibit has been described as an exercise of all the senses and exists in an empty apartment on the 3rd floor of a building in Tribeca.
It was a Friday night and before the exhibit I decided to meet up with my friend Shannon and her friend Christie. It was crab cakes at Westville to vodka sodas on Elizabeth street where I played a less than glorified game of pool and smoked cigarettes with a boy who claimed I smile too much. It’s very unlike me to leave a bar early but at 10pm I decided I’d finish my melted cocktail and head to the exhibit id been dreaming about for months (no pun intended).
I originally found out about The Dream House after seeing a magenta glow from the installation on the street in college. It wasn’t until my job moved down to Soho that I realized it was A. still open and B. so close.
I had my cab drop me on the corner of Orchard and walked through the bitter cold to the front door only to be greeted by a broken buzzer and a paper flyer with instructions that read “buzz floor 3 or call this number”. After attempting both suggestions several times with frozen fingers and no answer, a loud buzzzzzzz came through the intercom and I was given access to a steep white staircase. At the top I was greeted by a friendly, long haired attendee or “gate keeper” as I like to call them, who calmly and almost therapeutically instructed me to remove my shoes and avoid participating in any photography (bummer). He presented me with the suggested donation of $5 and while trying to unzip my boot without alluding to the fact that I had a strong buzz going on we discussed information on how to volunteer for his position. As I prepped to enter the room I felt a certain vibration coming from the walls and the dusty hardwood floors. The attendee opened the door to the space and I was hit almost immediately with the scent of incense. The sound pulsating from the empty apartment was a haunting hum that throbbed with a frequency similar to that of white noise, however slightly more palatable. I took a step into the space, placed both feet on the soft white carpet, and the door was shut behind me.
Upon entering you are bathed in a mix of pinkish purple lighting and given the option to go left into a larger room or right into a smaller room. I chose right and floated into an area where one of Mariah’s geometric sculptures lived and pillows leaned against the base boards. After adjusting to the sensory overload I continued to the opposite end of the narrow hallway passing a sign on the wall that read “The Dream House” forwards and backwards.
In the larger room there were several bodies horizontally positioned across the floor – resting their heads on the pillows provided by the installation. Some were resting alone while others laid coupled, holding hands or tangling legs. No one spoke and at times I had to question whether certain people were breathing. There was a shrine on one of the walls set for Pandit Pran Nath – a Hindustani classical singer who strongly influenced Young and Zanzeela’s work. After observing the alter and the giant amps in each corner of the room that were producing the psychedelic pulse, I chose my place on the ground and followed suit. The slightest movement would alter how you processed the humming in the room and it was so intense at a level closer to the ground that I felt slightly nauseous although some of that nausea probably had to do with the 3 beverages I decided to hang out with previous to the visit. Out of respect to the artists I tried to keep my photo snapping to a minimum and after blindly pointing my cell phone towards the suspended swirled cut outs hanging from the ceiling, I rolled to my left side and rested in fetal position. I found that the humming went from irritating and invasive to soothing and womb like which not only comforted me, but made me want to stay. I could have potentially slept there if not for the fact that the attendee would be waking me up atmidnight telling me The Dream House does not function as an Airbnb.
At first laying between two couples created a sense of loneliness which soon shifted into a moment of solitude – are we actually ever ALONE in this city? As I tossed and turned noting the effect of my motion on the sound, I thought a lot about concepts of public and personal space. I remember doing studies in college on “spaces” and how they categorized themselves based on intentions of use, who inhabited them, and what part they played in the flow of life. Concepts of place or space are strongly perceived by the elements that create it. Our understanding of the function of a space is usually related to the presence of mobility and communication at that specific moment we are present within it. We as individuals (whether living on our own or with 6 roommates) are faced with moments of being “alone” in extremely public places everyday i.e. commuting on the subway, washing your clothes at the laundromat, or waiting at a bar for a friend. Utilizing this space as a think tank brought to mind the idea of something deeper than physical “place” – somewhere in which you are not communicating or mobilizing with second or outside parties, but communicating and mobilizing internally. An existence of “mental place” in a public space – public meditation – something that requires extreme concentration, or a visit to the Dream House.
Ok – back to earth…
All in all the time spent at Young and Zanzeela’s installation was enjoyable and completely worth the late night visit. The combination of sound and light created stimulation of all the senses and allowed for a one of a kind experience. At times I was waiting for someone to pass around a tray of Kool-aid and ask me to wear all white however the hour spent in the exhibit allowed me to sit with my own thoughts without any distractions, something that is rare in this busy city. I would recommend going at night in order to appreciate the intensity of the visuals and whether you bring a partner is up to. I’m sure – like the ever changing perception of the piece – the experience will be unique for everyone.
Check out The Dream House – located @ 275 Church Street – open from 2pm-12am Wednesdays through Sundays