Matthew Ritchie Concludes ICA Residency with ‘The Long Count’
For the last year and a half, artist Matthew Ritchie has presented a number of exciting projects in Boston. From a multi-sensory mural in the lobby of the ICA, to a cool monochrome Dewey Square mural with accompanying short film, and “Monstrance/Remonstrance,” a site-specific performance that took visitors from the museum to Our Lady of Good Voyage Chapel nearby.
These interdisciplinary presentations were all part of Ritchie’s 18-month residency at the ICA, during which he worked with curator Jenelle Porter to plan a cohesive series of exhibitions and shows.
“We took a lot of chances,” Ritchie says, calling the freedom and timespan of the program an incredible luxury. “The premise of the project, this idea of Remanence, was to create memories that would carry forward, so if you were at the beginning of the project, then by the end some of the things would be gone.”
He credits Porter for working with him to shape the residency in a way that “builds an architecture of time.” Whether it was 2D or 3D, visual or multi-sensory, a long-lasting installation or a one-time “you had to be there” performance, all of the works referenced back to one another.
Thursday and Friday night, Ritchie will present the last part of his residency, a multimedia concert performance called “The Long Count/The Long Game” featuring Aaron and Bryce Dessner of The National, Kelley Deal of The Breeders, Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond, and Evan Ziporyn of MIT’s Center for Art, Science & Technology.
The performance begins with staged “installations” on the first floor of the ICA, where Deal will perform in front of Ritchie’s “Monstrance/Remonstrance” installation as Ziporyn improvises, the Dessners will strike an electric guitar back and forth with a baseball bat, and in the cafe, ICA Teen Arts Program members will offer tarot card readings.
This “first act” of the production builds up the creation myth theme of “The Long Count,” and will be free and open to all museum visitors. The ticketed main show takes place afterward in the Barbara Lee Family Foundation Theater.
“The Long Count” is inspired by the hero twins of the Popul Vuh, the Mayan book of creation. Through rock music and abstract visuals, this final presentation in Ritchie’s residency clearly expresses his interest in concepts of time and duality.
“[Remanence] circles back on itself, and ends with a story about the beginning of time,” Ritchie says.
He came up with the idea with the Dessners in mind, after meeting the twin brothers and starting to collaborate with them a few years ago.
“I’d been fascinated by the Mayan creation myth and the hero twins years before I’d met [the Dessners],” Ritchie says. “There aren’t that many stories about twins, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to use these things together, and that was ‘The Long Count.’ It also seemed really appropriate for a piece of music that would have all these different forms, but never really stop.”
The Dessners, who have played Boston Calling with their band The National twice, are not the only twins in the production, nor the only musicians in the show with Boston ties. Kelley Deal and her twin, Kim, are both in Boston band The Breeders, and Kim is a former member of the Pixies.
“Everything has a flip side—there’s always what you know—and what interests me is this: from what you know, can you guess what you don’t know?” Ritchie says. “We worked with several twins throughout the project, and they all kind of have a magical language between them.”
About half the show this week will be the same as a previous version, but the ICA performances will very much be site-specific, with different featured artists and other major updates. Ritchie notes that the ground floor events will really invite the audience to become a part of the production. Then during the show, they’ll go back to being the audience.
“The show is a lot of things, but especially the last half an hour, it’s just a really killer rock show,” Ritchie says.
“The Long Count/The Long Game” takes place Thursday and Friday night, January 15 and 16, at the ICA. Ground floor “staged installations” begin at 7:30 p.m., free and open to the public. Ticketed show begins at 8:15 p.m. in the Barbara Lee Family Foundation Theater ($30 nonmembers). Learn more at icaboston.org.