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LIVE REPORT: Moritz Von Oswald & Atom™
Konstantino Glikos , August 24th, 2015 14:08

Konstantino Glikos reports on the two headliners at Warm Up, a longstanding program at MoMa's PS1 in New York.

Photo by Jenny Czyborra

Great spaces often come with great histories, and MoMa PS1 is no exception. The tale of the museum-cum-arts space located in Long Island City, Queens and its gargantuan courtyard starts in 1971, with a resounding twist of fate. The building, having been slated for demolition, was saved by "The Institute For Art And Urban Resources", which at the time was headed up by Alanna Heiss. The effort to transform the former Public School (Queens Public School No. 1) into a contemporary arts space ultimately succeeded in creating one of the most influential modern art museums in New York City. The 1970s is of course an era in NYC that couldn't possibly provide a greater contrast to what the makeup of the city is today, artistically, socially, and politically. What stays the same in this city is its landmarks and PS1 is undeniably one of them. Throughout the years, there have been many seminal moments hemmed into the museum's exhibition history, ranging from mythic expressionist-painter Jean Michel Basquiat's second ever show in 1981, to recent work showed by influential minimal sculptor Richard Serra.

In 1998, the "Warm Up" was started in efforts to bridge the gap between the art world and the subdivided dance music scenes in the city. The series was a singular weekly event taking place in the oversized courtyard of the museum. With one look at the lineups, past to present, it's apparent that there is a meticulous curatorial underpinning here, with an emphasis squarely placed on musical diversity. This season there seems to offer something for everyone, all the while safely riding high along a critical crest of dance music culture. "Warm Up" makes this version of programming look effortless, albeit, this is no easy feat.

Today perhaps provides one of the best examples of adventurous programming all season. I stroll into the courtyard just as Raster Noton's Atom™, aka Atom Heart, is getting underway with his live set. The sounds provided: an amalgamation of arpeggiated organic drum patterns, likely a result of layered track-stems, give way to mounting slow builds. Being familiar with Atom's lengthy discography, I know what to expect, though I am more interested in reading the mixed reactions from the crowd. As expected, the scope of response is highly polarised. A familiar, motile response registers amongst the black-bedecked techno crowd, while others wear perplexed looks, and of course, everything you can imagine in between. There is a palpable feeling here that much of this crowd didn't knowingly sign up for an abstract techno set in the middle of a summer day. It's likely this billing was done in-part to test the heterogeneous crowd's limits.

The tension lightens once German legend Moritz Von Oswald begins, as he plays a track-based laptop DJ set while sitting at a desk. The set is tightly strung together, with many great moments woven into it. Detroit-borne classics like 'Altered Ego' by Floorplan, released on M-Plant records, fits the context and setting near-perfectly, and provokes the most ardent movement on the magna dance floor this day.

Spaces like PS1 have an indeterminable value to this city, especially in light of the impending tides of change New York City seems to be constantly combating. PS1 "Warm Up" once a week accommodates up to 5,000 people, of all different ages, backgrounds, respective niches and ushers attendees in to naturally step out their comfort zones. Inevitably, varied forms of exposure occurs creating a cultural crossroads. A day at this event can at times achieve a rarefied alchemy in more ways than one in the dance music scene at large.