Instead Of Burning Down The House, David Byrne Turns to Cliche

David Byrne in front of "Tight Spot" (2011), inflated globe and audio (via

Without knowing it, I stumbled onto David Byrne’s installation Tight Spot at the Pace Gallery two weeks ago while wandering through the many Chelsea gallery openings at the start of the September gallery shows. Lured in by the amount of people attending the opening and the booming sound coming from this literal hole in the wall, I kept yelling at the friend who was with me: “What is this? … What is this?”  Later after I understood a little more about the installation, I’m still not quite sure what it is.

In an empty space between the Pace Gallery and the new section of the Highline, David Byrne’s Tight Spot features a giant inflatable globe stuck into this space. Maybe due to his relationship with photographer Cindy Sherman, Byrne, who is best known as the legendary lead singer/guitarist of the Talking Heads, has in recent years been more and more interested in making art rather than music.

A simple concept, Byrne took a huge inflated globe and stuffed it into the space. Radiating from inside the globe was a booming sound with no discernible vocals. Apparently, Byrne used the sound to draw a crowd into the space, which surely worked since I was unable to get a clear photograph of any part of the opening because I was being jostled around too much.

While Tight Spot is an interesting use of urban space, mirroring the Highline’s revitalization of abandoned spaces, I’m not sure if the installation itself has an impact beyond Byrne’s celebrity. Walking up to the location of Tight Spot, I was drawn by the number of people, crowding the opening. Without knowing what the exhibition was, I turned around and saw David Byrne, wondering why he was there and attempting to not go completely fan-girl on him. Once I figured out Byrne was the artist, I felt a sinking feeling because of how confused I felt about the art.

For me, the meaning of the piece might be a little too heavy-handed. I suppose Byrne is saying that our world right now is in a literal “tight spot,” which, with the global economy, wars, Occupy Wall Street protesters being pepper sprayed, is undoubtedly true. But isn’t there something so cliche about using a globe in political art?

While I was not in love with the show, I find myself struggling with this review because of my love for his music. I also appreciate the utter spectacle of a booming world shoved into a hole in the street.

So I think I’ll just listen to some Talking Heads to console my cognitive dissonance.

David Byrne’s Tight Spot will be on view at the Pace Gallery (508 West 25th Street, Chelsea, Manhattan) until October 1.

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