Helene Grimaud to play in a flooded armory

Helene Grimaud Douglas Gordon.jpg

As the New York Times notes, New York’s Park Avenue Armory is big enough that it once housed the three orchestras required to perform Stockhausen’s Gruppen. Now, Helene Grimaud is playing a series of solo recitals in the space — but the vast armory won’t be empty. As Grimaud plays, the armory around the pianist will slowly flood with water.

Grimaud’s performances, which will take place on ten evenings over the course of a period starting tomorrow and concluding on Dec. 21, are part of tears become… streams become…, an art installation by the acclaimed conceptual artist Douglas Gordon. “I once saw a small boy playing the piano with one hand,” Gordon told the Times regarding the piece’s inspiration, “and wiping away tears with the other. The tears ran down his face and onto his hand and then onto the keys of the piano. It stuck with me, those tears.”

Gordon and his team have equipped the armory for full-on flooding, complete with elaborate waterproof flooring and a piping system that will flood the floor with 122,000 gallons of water and then suck the water back up at the end of each performance.

As the water seeps over the floor, Grimaud will play a program of works inspired by water — such as Ravel’s Jeux d’Eaux and Debussy’s Sunken Cathedral. She’ll perform in an outfit custom-designed by the French designer agnes b.; Gordon told ArtNews that the costume is “incredibly sexy.”

Grimaud will be playing a concert grand lent by Steinway — but only after Gordon and his engineers assured Steinway that they’d keep the air in the Armory at zero percent humidity by maintaining air temperature in the 70s and water temperature in the 50s. That non-destructive approach is new for Gordon, who, for a 2012 film, set a Bechstein grand piano on fire.

Details regarding the installation and Grimaud’s performances are available at the Armory’s website.


Photo: Douglas Gordon and Helene Grimaud making plans at the Park Avenue Armory. Photo courtesy Helene Grimaud.