The elevator ride up to the gallery felt like a gilded tower of terror. Upon exiting we saw Rat, with his aquamarine Ibanez and violin bow peaking out of a SXSW tote, and Kenneth Keshavan Maslak, better known as Kenny Millions, donning a tiny saxophone, trombone, and LED-mohawk.
Sharon Aponte Misdea, the Deputy Director of Collections and Curatorial Affairs, welcomed us and talked about the roots of noise music being laid in the modern era: with the industrial revolution came new sounds, sonic shifts not only in music but throughout the lived environment.
(For a quick primer on noise music, and to learn how Rat ruined my life, click here.)
What proceeded was a subtle, serious, and at times playful interrogation of the objects and art throughout the exhibition. Starting next to the German artist Fritz Gartner’s Winter Morning in the Cast Steel Works, Rat let loose his distorted pluckings from the small portable amp flung around his shoulder. Kenny, his multicolored mohawk aglow, sputtered softly into his sax.
They led us around the exhibitions, a weird procession that visibly freaked out some staff and visitors, with a sort of subdued, bouncy gait like Oompa Loompas dressed in all black for a funeral. They stopped in front of a collection of early and mid-century radios and telephones, Rat reached into his bag of tricks, and plugged in a machine that played static, his counterpoint Kenny in tow.
It was refreshing to see Rat walk up to Ivo Saliger’s Double Nude, playing tapes for them as his henchman Kenny grunted into his horns. And profound yet absurd it was when Rat turned on a contemporary hand vacuum and laid it in front of some displayed, steely vintage ones.
The last set was in the Political Posters of the Contemporary Middle East room, a sunglassed Rat soloing, Kenny on his knees dangling his keys as if they were a percussive instrument (or are).
The tour ended with Deputy Director Misdea talking about the futurist Luigi Russolo, arguably the first noise artist. Invigorating it was to see the collection contextualized in new ways, and to see a more demure and contemplative Rat Bastard and Kenny Millions, doing what they do.