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Standing on the Corner:
Seven Prepared Pianos for the Seven African Powers

June 1 - October 9, 2023


MoMA PS1 will debut the first durational museum presentation by musical ensemble Standing on the Corner (American, est. 2016), led by Gio Escobar (b. 1995, New York). On view from June 1 through October 9, 2023, the sonic, multimedia project brings together spiritual objects, modified instruments, and moving images. The centerpiece is a large-scale installation consisting of seven pianos distinctly presented and prepared, with symbolic objects inserted into their strings to create apparitional interventions. The installation makes visible the inner workings of the pianos, as well as the artists’ intercession into the strings, through cameras installed inside of the instruments, with footage projected in real time. Bridging Standing on the Corner’s interest in the urban renditions of ancient devotional practices of the Caribbean and Africa, the project imagines how spiritual and natural forces intersect with and bewitch our objects and environment.

The installation will be activated during concerts at 7 p.m. on June 2 and 3 and September 8 and 9, 2023. These performances will harness the altered acoustics of each piano to summon the mysterious powers that possess them. Titled “Bembé Secreto,” the original composition incarnates powerful sonic interplays between African, Caribbean, and Western musical traditions. The concert, as well as the installation, connects Standing on the Corner’s interests in cultural and spiritual practices and forges connections between New York City, Puerto Rico, and African diasporic communities—reflecting Escobar’s own ancestral ties. Capacity for the concerts is limited and free tickets will be available at momaps1.org.

Established in 2016, Standing on the Corner is led by Gio Escobar. They have performed at MoMA PS1’s Warm Up music series in 2018 and venues such as the Serpentine, London; Bourse de Commerce–Pinault Collection, Paris; Blank Forms, New York; Performance Space New York, New York; and Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, New York. Their albums include Function OST (2021), Red Burns (2017), and Standing on the Corner (2016). They have collaborated with musicians such as Danny Brown (2021), Solange (2019), Earl Sweatshirt (2018), and MIKE (2018, 2017).

Standing on the Corner: Seven Prepared Pianos for the Seven African Powers is organized by Ruba Katrib, Curator and Director of Curatorial Affairs, MoMA PS1.

Significant support for Standing on the Corner: Seven Prepared Pianos for the Seven African Powers is provided by Michi Jigarjian.

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Image courtesy the artist.

Gio Escobar reading “Man May Not Last”, 2022.