David Byrne’s Tight Spot
Byrne says he exulted in the project’s limits. “The worst is to be told, Oh, just do anything you want to do,” he says. “Things tend to create themselves when you lay out all the rules.” He certainly had a restriction: the site itself, a dark and grimy plot that, Byrne says, had been “a dumping ground for car parts and junk.” The piece needed to withstand the weather; it needed to interact with the High Line; it needed to stand out from its surroundings; it needed to entice passersby; it needed to be temporary (and thus somewhat inexpensive); and it needed to be relatively PG.
Once he laid out these considerations, the shape and subject came to him almost immediately, he says, and he gravitated (so to speak) toward something more like a grade-school artifact, with pastel colors and clean lines, than a precise model via Google Earth. “I wanted to go for the graceful vision, the world I knew from childhood—I used to have globes in my house that looked just like this. It’s a little lighter and a little more fun. But there is a bit of an ominous message as well.” An ecocrisis interpretation is more or less inevitable (a pale-blue planet swelling under pressure).
Byrne also evokes a peaceful nostalgia. After all, on a classroom globe, you know where everyone’s borders and national identities are, and they don’t appear to change from day to day. As for the audio component—that dark and portentous pulse—it mates well with the High Line, a sound both natural and industrial, like “a giant piece of fabric or a sail, and the wind beating against it. Or a big piece of machinery in a building that is far enough away so that you can’t totally hear it, but there is that one part of the sound that really travels,” Byrne says. It turns out that he sang it himself. “Rather than try to get it electronically or find instruments to do it, I just made the sounds with my mouth and filtered them enough so that you can’t tell it’s a human voice.”
Tight Spot is the only work of art that will ever occupy this spot, which, Byrne notes, “wasn’t quite claimed by anybody for a long time.”
(via David Byrne on His High Line Installation, Tight Spot — New York Magazine)