By Craig Hubert | The filmmaker Bill Morrison and the composer Richard Einhorn will premiere their new interactive theater piece, “The Shooting Gallery,” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music this weekend in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. That the performance is happening now, and at all, is oddly fitting, as it was born from a sudden and life-altering, albeit personal, event.
“The Shooting Gallery” was conceived in a café in the East Village a few years ago, over a meal between Morrison and the composer Richard Einhorn. “I had just experienced a really catastrophic thing: I had had some kind of infection, probably a viral infection, and overnight my right ear went completely deaf and my left ear went down about 70 percent,” Einhorn said in a phone interview. “And I was trying to cope with the fact that I could only hear on one side and I was having a lot of difficulty because everything was so disorienting. I couldn’t hear where sounds were coming from. So I was describing all this to Bill and he said, ‘This reminds me of an idea I had a long time ago.’”
Morrison, whose experimental films are comprised of archival footage in various states of decay, then described for Einhorn a performance in which disorientation is crucial, where music and film would coexist in a carnivalesque space where the audience would control, in a sense, what is happening around them.
For “The Shooting Gallery,” the BAM Fisher Theater will be transformed into a black box. The seats will be removed and the audience will be encouraged to roam the space. Each participant will be given a special laser pointer, which, when aimed at various targets on four different screens, will trigger video (a “collection of greatest hits from my archives,” according to Morrison) and composed pieces by Einhorn. Depending on how the audience reacts, the piece will be different every night.
“There’s something else happening during projection and during performance,” Morrison said. “People are alive and in the moment with the image and music happening, and that’s a very exciting dynamic for me, especially when projection can be a performance element and music and film can be malleable in the same way rather than one dictating the other. They respond to each other, and the audience is, in effect, making edits.”
“I think both Bill and I were very amazed because when we actually got the piece up and running it was very close to what we initially conceived in that conversation in the café,” Einhorn said. But for Morrison, part of the thrill of “The Shooting Gallery” is its fluid nature, the way it’s constantly changing, never set in stone. “We’re still developing this piece, which is the magic of what the Fischer has allowed us to do here. We’ll have one show on Thursday and be able to adjust for Friday and Saturday,” he said.
The team had to scramble to replace equipment that was ruined during Hurricane Sandy. But the show will go on. It’s now up to the audience to do the rest.
“The Shooting Gallery” opens at BAM Fisher Theater tonight
Image: Bill Morrison/Nina Mouritzen