If you have walked past or wandered through Granoff this week, you may have heard some strange noises and buzzing coming from the Cohen Gallery during the day, or have seen people tinkering inside late at night through the gallery’s large front windows. This is the TRaNsMOGRifiER, running in Granoff until Tuesday, March 3rd. Information on the project’s website and on the monitor outside the gallery are terse, with a few simple instructions:
LEAVE THINGS ON EMPTY PEDESTALS OR IN THE BOXES AT INTAKE.
PICK UP YOUR THINGS THE NEXT DAY BEFORE 12 AND 6P.
PLEASE NOTE: TRANSMOGRIFICATION IS IRREVERSIBLE!
I was granted special access to witness a transmogrification session this past week, and was able to talk with one of the TRaNsMOGRifiER’s installers, P—-, about the project’s concept and the transmogrification process. P—- describes the TRaNsMOGRifiER as a “system for altering things in surprising ways, with sonic, light, and visual components.” People bring in objects during the day and leave them in the Intake boxes. When the gallery closes at sundown, transmogrification goes into work. By the next morning, objects are back on the pedestals in their transmogrified form. P—- describes the cardboard box, a repeated motif in the space, as a “space for creative reconsideration” – objects are left at Intake and revealed the next day, but what goes on in between is not entirely certain.
When I first heard of the exhibit title, I was curious what influence Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes had on the project. In the comic strip, Calvin invents a transmogrifier from an upside down cardboard box, with a dial on the side that he uses to create duplicate Calvins (equally rowdy and disinterested in doing the original Calvin’s chores) as well as to transform himself into a tiger for a day. P—- cites Calvin and Hobbes as having one version of the TRaNsMOGRifiER, perhaps the most well-known, and this version in Granoff is another iteration of the system, installed by its original plans.
The exhibition is installed between two facing walls on both sides of the large windowed front – one is the Intake wall, with an array of stacked cardboard boxes with objects people have left, including a bed spread, a folding chair, an Altoids tin, and some Lego figurines. The other is another towering wall of boxes, with transmogrified things to be picked up.
In the center of the room, monumental pedestals rise up featuring some of the objects in their transmogrified states, such as a motorized, spinning, heart-shaped candy box with a button labeled “DO NOT PRESS :)”. These objects have been deconstructed and rebuilt, with added sound, light, and digital components. A glittery tricycle now has LED headlights. A cactus with a microphone and a plastic fork is labeled with the instructions “Play my spines!” Glow sticks are motorized, frantically slapping a pedestal’s surface.