Just days after Halloween, witness a quiet, threatening beast that has long struck fear in the hearts of millions: the wild artist. The Cabinet of Dr. Strange is an art installation and performance created by Livio Tragtenberg, a Brazilian composer and Guggenheim Foundation Fellow. It will be at Lincoln Road and Washington for Miami Beach's Sleepless Night on November 5.
Tragtenberg will sit in a cage playing an "extinct animal," a composer, trapped in an urban, modern world. He extends an open portal to passersby: a microphone hanging from the side of his cage. Bystanders are free to speak, sing, or scream whatever they wish. The "animal" then immediately reinterprets the sounds with digital equipment inside the cage. Some brave audience participants are even invited inside the beast's cage, where he offers to help solve their "sound problems."
We spoke with the wild composer responsible for this unique "cabinet" about the reasons behind his interactive invention.
New Times: Who is this character, Dr. Strange?
Livio Tragtenburg: Dr. Strange is a kind of Frankenstein. It's me; it's the artist in the cage in the jungle of our time. He is a specimen in extinction: the artist as we know him from the 19th century and the modern tradition.
We've read that the living installation creates an ironic situation when met with its audience. How so?
Dr. Strange wants to be in contact, to find the other. But, on the other side, he is a beast, a wild animal trying to dialogue with people. Sometimes, he is very ironic. It depends what the anonymous people talk, act or sing into the microphone, [which is] always open at the side of the cage.
What does it mean to "solve sound problems" for your audience? Is this a joke, implying that people's voices are not "correct" the way they are?
No, Dr. Strange acts as in a medical consultant. The patient sits inside the cage (a bit dangerous!) and shows his "sound or musical problems or questions" to him. They discuss and try, there, to find some solution to these questions.
Have you had anyone say anything profound into your open microphone? Anything rude or appalling?
All kinds of things, freedom is guaranteed.
Where did the idea for this exhibit come from?
I love the city. I feel myself, as a composer in the old way, out of the circulation of the city, acting only in a closed circuit. I want the open and free contact and dialogue. That's why I created the Street Musicians Orchestra [in Berlin], and in Miami the Nervous City Orchestra in 2005. Then, the [Art] Biennial of Sao Paulo invited me to do it there. I thought, "that's a zoo of arts!" Perfect for the composer animal in extinction.
What motivates you as an artist?
The unknown in contacting different people. The dialogue, the discussion, the meeting.
The Cabinet of Dr. Strange is part of Miami Beach's Sleepless Night on Saturday, November 5 at 6 p.m.. Look for it on Lincoln Road near Washington Avenue.