Whatever the pleasure and interest of watching someone play a piano from a hole in its sound box and walk the eviscerated piano through a gallery space might actually be, it is difficult to imagine how anyone not marinated in the gobbledygook of conceptual artism would be inspired to expect either pleasure or interest from Roberta Smith’s account of the latest nonsense at MoMA. (NYT)
“Stop, Repair, Prepare” destabilizes all kinds of conventions, expectations and relationships. The music is often muffled and fragmented, the players prone to error. Some resort to occasional key changes because of the difficulty of reaching the black keys. Precariousness ensues; things teeter on the brink of disintegration. Chaos, Romanticism’s energy source, threatens or titillates.
The concentrated embrace of musician and instrument is more intense and exclusive than in normal performance. This allows the viewer-listener the liberty to examine the performance as the sculpture that it also is, but not passively. On the move, the piece herds and rearranges its audience as it goes, a spontaneous choreography that is most visible from upper levels. And as the instrument changes position, so does the sound, which is most intense if you follow closely in the piano’s wake, as you might a hearse. An especially arresting detail: the pianist’s hands are completely exposed and available for viewing; they flit about the keyboard like dancers on a stage.