For all involved, Holly Herndon’s prodigious set at The Lab on Sunday night for Noise Pop was an exercise in the limitations of sound, vision, social agitation, supervision, and dissociation. Crowded into the center of an unobtrusive and stale space, while the outside world incessantly buzzed towards the center of the Mission, unprepared attendees found themselves suddenly guided into an intimately surveilled microcosm, simultaneously embellished and
probed by the beautifully discordant sound experiments that make up the oeuvre of the Bay Area artist.

Situated into a triangular space partitioned by three large screens, Holly and her equipment took their place in the center of it all while the grainy projections of security cameras quietly scanning the crowd, the room, and the artist herself were broadcast on either side of the audience. With a real, live being at the helm of the CCTV, onlookers were able to spy side by side with a lonely cyber stalker as he gazed upon solitary dancers, texters, and friends. It was at times both an unsettling and intoxicating feeling to watch the images glide closer and closer to your spot in the crowd, one underscored by both a desire to be on camera and the dread of being seen.

On the center screen, Holly greeted her audience by casually glancing through an enlarged Facebook invitation for the event, eyeing photos, relationship statuses, and job posts for all to see. Instead of speaking, she merely typed her words, amplifying her already questionable and formidable status as a simple relayer and interpreter of digital messages instead of a human being. Playing behind her was a lengthy video piece made of flat digital renderings of ears of corn, sushi, laptops, guitars, and photos lifted from Facebook, which floated adrift through a world of bedrooms and congested cityscapes. The lonely cyber stalker, who was simply situated in the back of the room behind the captivated audience, occasionally appeared on screen, watching Holly and hitting his vape pen.

As always, Herndon’s sound fell gracefully between the club and the classroom, exposing her roots in both dance music and staunch experimentalism. Her voice, rarely heard for longer than a briefly sampled moment, bewitchingly accentuated the euphorically disturbing nature of her music, leaving her listeners anxiously questioning their place in the cyber world and whether or not their voice had a place there, too. For a brief moment, The Lab was both an infinite and intimate digital space, an ambivalent institution where we were all real, but felt more like a powerless imitation of ourselves.

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