THE GUARDIAN | 6 December 2019

Signe Pierce has been mentioned in The Guardian for her music performance in Miami, Florida, during Art Basel Miami. Pierce performed her new music single Do You Wanna Be Alive? together with exhibitions by well-known artists and DJs Grimes, Sophie and Nina Kraviz.

Grimes review – a suitably surreal invasion of the Miami Art Basel

By Kevin EG Perry

The art world has descended on Miami for Art Basel, the annual fair dedicated to proving that old idiom about a fool and his money. The most talked-about piece so far is by the Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, who has found at least two buyers for a work consisting of a banana duct-taped to a wall. Arrested Development’s Lucille Bluth once blithely asked: “I mean, it’s one banana, Michael. How much could it cost?” The answer, it turns out, is $120,000.

Grimes fans could be forgiven for wondering if she might pull similar art pranks at her mysterious one-off show Bio-Haqué, held at an abandoned RC Cola plant that’s now transmogrified into a graffiti-blitzed 7,000-capacity outdoor venue in the city’s trendy Wynwood district. Details were scant when she first announced the show, writing cryptically on Instagram that she’d be joined by fellow provocateurs Sophie and Nina Kraviz and that it would be “a place where the well-proven anti-aging properties of raving have been distilled into the most potent experience available on the market today”.

Reversing the ravages of age seemed like a lot to hope for, but what we did get was a shipping container-based art installation called AI Meditations. Created by Grimes in collaboration with technologist Matt Aimonetti, a sign at the entrance explained that it had been developed as an alternative meditation tool for those who disagree with the received wisdom that nature is inherently calming. “If you’ve grown up with the internet, your natural home is the digital realm,” it read. “As a cyborg, too much exposure to nature and peace can cause feelings of disconnection, making meditation through traditional avenues difficult.”

Grimes’s solution is an audiovisual experience intended to treat video game or social media addiction and designed, ironically, by an “artificial intelligence entity”. She achieved this feat by “exposing the AI to Kim Kardashian’s Instagram feed, popular video games and more”.

Inside the shipping container, fans were handed a set of headphones and a vibrating backpack that means every rumble of bass is felt as well as heard. The voiceover instructed us to focus on our breathing, sounding suspiciously like analogue meditation. It was hard to discern exactly which elements of Kardashian iconography the AI had been drawn to: the visuals had us travelling down what looked like a digital birth canal. Not everyone was impressed. “It looks like a Windows screensaver,” announced one young fan from Tampa, not inaccurately.

In fairness, he didn’t get to enjoy the full meditation experience. Intended to last eight minutes, staff cut it to three because only four people could go in at a time and the queue snaking across the venue was threatening to pull attention from the DJ sets. These were the main event, particularly after Grimes made headlines last month by predicting “live music is going to be obsolete soon”. She added that “DJs get paid more than real musicians”, telling the Mindscape podcast: “People are actually just gravitating towards the clean, finished, fake world. Everyone wants to be in a simulation.”

There was nothing simulated about Sophie’s thrilling set, which included new song Do You Wanna Be Alive? with live vocals by the charismatic Signe Pierce. Dancers clad in metallic jumpsuits and disco-ball masks gyrated to her remix of Brooke Candy’s Cum, a neat juxtaposition of the robotic and the carnal. Kraviz closed the night with a harder techno set that peaked when she dropped Bjarki’s I Wanna Go Bang.

Sandwiched in between was Grimes herself, who opened her set with a quick blast of this year’s comeback single We Appreciate Power before eschewing her own music in favour of big dance bangers such as Jack Back’s (It Happens) Sometimes, Thomas Newson’s Goes Like This and Fisher’s Stop It.

Contrary to Grimes’s comments about our desire to live in a pristine simulation, her joyous set was made even better by the fact that it went wrong several times. At one point she managed to accidentally silence the music, raving alone in headphones before someone tapped her on the shoulder. Later, just before the end of her set, the sound cut out again. Grimes laughed as she explained the file she wanted to play was corrupted. Unbowed, she closed with i_o’s Low, interspersed with snatches of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and Britney Spears’ Toxic.

Afterwards she thanked the audience “for being kind, even though I muted it a few times”. The crowd roared back, revelling in the moments that are not clean, finished or fake. Technical perfection is not the point of art, and neither is it a recipe for a good party.

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