Just a couple of days into their tour, the Bowerbirds found themselves running up against a slight misfortune when their recently purchased tour van broke down in Charlottesville, Va. Hours from D.C. and a day before their gig at the Black Cat, they rented a van and hit the road. But between the breakdown and gig, they had a less publicized function requiring their presence in town a day early: a preview unveiling of Monica Canilao‘s Home Mender, commissioned for the 5×5 initiative.
Launched by the DC Commission for Arts and Humanities, 5×5 is a public art program that identified five curators to oversee five artists in developing temporary public art installations at a variety of locations throughout the city. One of those sites is the Lightbox, a warehouse space located in Anacostia.
San Francisco-based curator Justine Topfer, of Out of the Box Projects, selected Monica Canilao as one of the artists to participate as part of her 5×5 project, “Betwixt & Between.” Monica’s incredible installation features a dwelling-like structure constructed of found materials collected on her cross-country journey. The piece mostly fills the upper level of the Lightbox, including the outer rooftop area. It is also some of her artwork that graces the album cover of the Bowerbirds latest effort, The Clearing. Beth Tacular, who plays accordion and sings in the band, recalled first encountering Monica’s work when she discovered some installation photos from an earlier collaboration with street artist Swoon. Immediately falling in love with her work, and after spending some time with her in her studio, the band ultimately asked to use her piece for the album art.
So when everyone’s schedules lined up, it made perfect sense for the Bowerbirds to be a part of this opening night for Home Mender. With the time off before their D.C. show, Monica asked the band to come up and as a part of the event.
“It’s so awesome because just like our album is inside her art, we get to play inside of her world–her 3D art,” Beth said. “It’s so amazing.”
And as an additional treat, the Bowerbirds experimented with some of their arrangements, employing some new tools to reimagine some of the songs. Though lead singer Phillip Moore says they were just messing around.
“We just wanted something for ourselves I think,” Phillip said. “It takes so long to record an album and release it, it’s just fun to be creative. We had all these other ideas, like let’s try this on this song, synthesizers, drum machines.”
“It’s really fun,” Beth said. “It’s the total opposite direction from our beginnings of just being really acoustic.”
We were lucky enough to take part in the evening’s events, spending time throughout the day with Monica and her crew as they continued to construct the majestic installation, and to capture the band’s special performance. The above videos feature versions of “Overcome with Light,” “Walk the Furrows,” “Deathwish,” “In the Yard,” and “Braveworld,” all from The Clearing.
The Lightbox will host a public grand opening on April 14th, featuring Monica Canilao’s Home Mender, along with other 5×5 works as part of Lumen8Anacostia, an all day event. Check out the site for more information on this and other 5×5 projects happening right now.
In addition, special thanks to Liz Gorman for sharing her beautiful photos from the opening & performance below.