Beyond the Canvas: Finding Joy
‘Midwinter’ combines music and art at Chicago museum
For three nights in February, the Art Institute of Chicago in partnership with Pitchfork opened its doors for “Midwinter.” The event is billed as an “unprecedented art and music experience,” with more than 30 eclectic acts performing inside the museum. NewsHour Weekend’s Christopher Booker has the story, and has compiled a playlist of samplings from the event, which can be found below.
Hari Sreenivasan: Used to be that outdoor music festivals were the stuff of summer. But now, from punk rock to pop and country to contemporary jazz, the festival season starts in spring. This past winter, the Art Institute of Chicago and online music magazine Pitchfork, tried something new: taking advantage of the outdoor music festival off-season, with an indoor version of their own. It's called Midwinter. NewsHour Weekend's Christopher Booker has the story.
Christopher Booker: Of the many questions surrounding just how to host a multi-day, multi-stage concert inside one of the country's premiere art institutions, perhaps the most interesting: does hearing music change the way we see art? For three nights in February, the Art Institute of Chicago in partnership with Pitchfork, a digital music publication, tried to find out, opening its doors for "Midwinter" -- an event billed as an "unprecedented art and music experience"
Jacqueline Terrassa: It is not a festival, in it it is really a new kind of experience both in terms of the festival world but also the museum world.
Christopher Booker: Jacqueline Terrassa is Art Institute of Chicago's Woman's Endowed Chair of learning and public engagement.
I can see where Pitchfork would jump at this but was there any hesitation amongst the Art Institute?
Jacqueline Terrassa: Never. I mean of course we had to think about how we would make it happen. But it wasn't, there wasn't a question about why we would make it happen, but the museum. Is have never thought of itself simply as a place for passively presenting work. It's a place where work gets created. It's a place where people bring ideas and where we use a collection to inspire and to generate new forms of experiences
Christopher Booker: Spread out over the nearly million square foot institute - the event hosted over 30 avant garde and experimental musicians for performances within and among the museums celebrated collections. From vocalist Madison McFerrin to singer-songwriter Bill Callahan, whose music has been described as "atmospheric desert blues" and "counterclockwise to the rest of the world's spin."
Bill Callahan: (singing) The lucky supple teeth of the straw picked knuckle meat.
Christopher Booker: For harp player Mary Lattimore, Midwinter wasn't her first time playing in a museum, but it was an opportunity she says, to keep pushing the boundaries of her instrument.
Where does the harp player fit in this world of experimental music?
Mary Lattimore: There's just no rules in any of the experimental music and the harp has so much potential so many untapped kind of sounds that you can make. You can bring it into the future and like modernize it by playing things like this.
Christopher Booker: Playing on a staircase that sits between the institute's impressionist and American folk art galleries.... Latimore records sections of her music as she plays - looping those recordings throughout her performance.
Do you think there's a greater appetite for different types of experiences when it comes to live performance?
Mary Lattimore: I think so now for sure
Christopher Booker: Why do you think that would be?
Mary Lattimore: Music is so accessible now. It feels like people aren't as invested on the individual record itself or like, you know it's become a little bit more background music and people are getting it for free from everywhere and so like having a really dynamic performance in a weird space. It's hard to replicate
Puja Patel: Our audience has always been this super music fan the kind of music nerd.
Christopher Booker: Puja Patel is the editor-in-chief of Pitchfork. She says Midwinter is part of a broader effort within the magazine.
Puja Patel: We're trying to make it more purposeful to comment on how music is reflective of a larger cultural narrative right? The way that politics and social issues and race and identity kind of inform the way that we listen to music. Right?
So we have Joey Purp who is hip hop artists. We have William Bassinski WHO's ambient work came out of the aftermath of the attacks during 9/11 and Laurie Anderson who is this icon who released music on the label of an associate of Andy Warhol who is featured in this museum. I think that the way that we've kind connected the history of that mindset and also the diversity of that.
Christopher Booker: The mindset of experimentation, breaking bounds?
Puja Patel: Innovation, being forward-thinking.
Christopher Booker: Do you think this will bring people to the museum who wouldn't necessarily come to the museum?
Jacqueline Terrassa: Definitely. And my hope is that for those who believe that art museums are about some kind of only quiet passive looking that they will come and they will discover that it's not at all like that.