Early Christian texts describe acedia as a demon that besieges the soul at noon, when the day listlessly drags and delirious visions momentarily reign in the blinding light. The Menil Collection presents a major exhibition of seven sculptural works by the artists Allora & Calzadilla (Jennifer Allora, b. 1974, and Guillermo Calzadilla b. 1971) that revolve around this concept, serving as a manifestation of noon’s hold over humankind and as a metaphor for the uncertainties defining our time. Created specifically for the Menil’s main building, Allora & Calzadilla: Specters of Noon will use sounds, cast shadows, and novel sculptural materials to evoke an awe-inducing atmosphere of bewilderment and beauty.
The pieces on view are inspired by the artists’ four-year immersion in the Menil’s extraordinary holdings of Surrealism. They explored the historic role that Surrealism played in the Caribbean in the years surrounding World War II, including its pivotal role in anti-colonialism, and the movement’s fascination with the importance of noon. Allora and Calzadilla extended their research by connecting this history to the current moment by seeking out shared connections between Houston and their own home of San Juan, both port cities that have been deeply impacted by energy commerce and the effects of a changing climate.
A soundscape, organized by Grammy Award winning, Pulitzer Prize-winner, and Oscar nominated avant-garde composer David Lang, will permeate the gallery space, augmenting the hypnotic atmosphere of disorientation that the artists are creating. Lang worked closely with the artists to develop an eight-hour cycle of constantly evolving sounds that will run daily in the exhibition, and according to Lang, “sonically sculpt the day.” A combination of instrumental, vocal, and electrical recordings, the sounds will respond to and activate the works of art on view. The exhibition will conclude, in its final weeks, with a series of live vocal performances, all composed by Lang in collaboration with the artists, and led by the renowned Philadelphia-based chorus master Donald Nally. DACAMERA, based in Houston, will partner with the Menil to train the vocalists who will be performing the pieces.