Silent Disco at Sci-Arc

Silent Disco at Sci-Arc

By Diana Budds
When talking about her new "Silent Disco" exhibition at Sci-Arc, Los Angeles—and more specifically Silver Lake—based architect Barbara Bestor has a lot to say. The exhibition draws inspiration from the situational aesthetics movement, the work of Giacometti, and the geometry of a dodecahedron. All those elements converge to "explore the space between social promiscuity and solipsistic trance." Weighty words aside, it's really about a three letter word that's often missing from architectural exhibitions: FUN. "We got the gig a year ago and tried to bring a unique approach to installations," says Bestor. "It's less 'objects in a space' and more spatial." And spatial it is. The exhibition is about creating an immersive environment that's just as much about what you see and hear as how you move through and perceive a space. Part WWII Razzle Dazzle camouflage and part 1970s disco, the exhibition is brings about the "superficial aspects of hedonism," says Bestor.

An in-progress shot of the exhibition. "Outside, it looks like a boat in dry dock," says Bestor.

A rendering of the exhibition showing the graphic pattern on the surfaces of the structure. The pattern is derived from a WWII military technique that used bold graphic and anamorphic surfaces to mislead enemy bombers about the size, speed and direction of a warship.

The shape of the structure is of an unfolded dodecahedron, a very "of the moment" shape says Bestor.

WWII and disco seem to have the relationship of an overbearing parent and rebellious youth, which makes for an unlikely pairing. "Both aren't really contemporary words and they imply a host of institutional properties," says Bestor. She and the team of students she collaborated with used the graphics associated with Razzle Dazzle and Disco to create a shocking and glaring interior that aims to induce a "retinal burn."

The installation is meant to be a place where Sci-Arc's students can relax, take a break from the day-to-day academic life that often involves rigorous lectures and late nights spent working on projects. How students use the space is entirely up to them says Bestor, who encourages it to be used a place to get some shut eye, catch up with friends, or listen to music. By night, it will function more as a "traditional" disco with light shows and DJs. Bestor and her friend John Huck collaborated on a soundtrack to go with the exhibition, which can be downloaded from her website. The songs that capture the feel of the exhibition according to Bestor? Bettye Lavette's "Joy" and Ladytron's "Amtv," if that helps to characterize the show.

"I'm blown away by how monumentally big it is," says Bestor of the structure that rises 17 feet high, and stretches over a 50 by 25 foot area. How big have other Sci-Arc exhibitions been in comparison? "Not. That. Big." Bestor says. The structure's shape is based off of an unfolded dodecahedron: the irregular the interior surfaces appear to advance and recede, playing with the notion of perceived form.

While designed with students in mind, the exhibition is open to the public. My suggestion: download Bestor's soundtrack and head on over to Sci-Arc's gallery with headphones in hand anytime between now and May 15th, when it closes. If you're not in the Los Angeles area (like me) you can still download the mix and get a feel for one aspect of the exhibition, which is mighty fun in and of itself.

Disco Silencio is on view at the Sci-Arc gallery until May 15th.


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