In “Suprasensorial,” the Hirshhorn’s exhibit of immersive, overstimulating light works by Latin American artists, the room containing “Cosmococa—Program in Progress, CC1 Trashiscapes” presents some welcome understimulation. In his review of the show, City Paper‘s Kriston Capps wrote, “The loungey installation, which features low-flung futons and a stoner-rock soundtrack, is basically a sample of coffee beans to smell in between perfume samples.” The room is low-lit, with projected images of cocaine culture illuminating one wall.
On Friday, Hirshhorn visitors laying on “Cosmococa”‘s blue mattresses encountered a different set of narcotic signifiers. At around 5 p.m., the music stopped. The room went dark. And one of the gallerygoers, Moriah Ray, began singing.
When the moon is in the Seventh House
And Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars
Then, scattered across the room, 13 “tribe” members from George Washington University’s recent student performance of Hair broke into “Aquarius” followed by “Let the Sunshine In.” They moved about the room whimsically—-so whimsically in fact, they flubbed some lyrics.
The flash mob was GWU student Shawn Kelly’s idea. When he visited the “Suprasensorial” with his Introduction to New Media class, he felt a connection between “Cosmococa”‘s coke lounge and Hair‘s hippie milieu. “It reminded me of the [musical’s] Be-In,” Kelly says. “We had a Be-In on our stage, getting everyone together, people hanging out together, just being together in one room.”
Because “Suprasensorial” encourages visitor participation, Kelly wanted to contribute art that could reshape the exhibition. “When you look at art, you think of things that people go and they look at, but not necessarily experience,” Kelly says. “And so, by doing this flash mob we wanted people to have an experience that they aren’t expecting. When you see a group of people doing something that’s out of the ordinary, it sparks your mind and you start to think critically about what’s actually being performed.”
One of the dozen or so onlookers, Erin Stolz, approved of the artistic intervention. “It was really disorienting, but in a cool way,” she says. “I felt my senses were so off. It felt like a dream.”
Roberta Gasbarre, who directed George Washington University’s production of Hair, was invited by the students. “It was very interesting because of course on stage we created a collective theater ensemble. So there was a lot of naturalness built in,” Gasbarre says. “And they were doing a lot of their own blocking and a lot of their own work. But here, it was 360 all the way around with the focus really being on the room itself and the exhibit. It made it so special because the exhibit became the home, the world of this performance.”