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Defender Picks


Cleary, Toussaint Go Through the Looking Glass at THNOC

By Ashley Larsen

In the midst of the 300+ emerging and established artists being showcased in P3+, Xiao Xiao’s exhibition truly stands out as both awe inspiring and as a bit of a mind boggler. Xiao Xiao (pronounced Sh-ih-ow, Sh-ih-ow) is both an artist and a technologist. In her most recent work, she fuses both skills with her NOLA upbringing to create a stirring homage to the piano music of the Crescent City.


MirrorFugue, as the piece is called, is a surreal combination of music and technology’s portrayal of the art form. The art exhibition is tucked away behind a somewhat hidden white door on 400 Chartres street, and after a short walk down a hallway whilst listening to the sounds of a pianist, you are confronted with a grand piano that is played by a reflection. 


On the music stand is a reflection of the upper body of the pianist, and on the keys of the player piano, one can see the fingers of the pianist glide across the ivories in sync. “I really recommend for people to sit down at the piano bench, and to look into the reflection of the keyboard, and because when you sit there your brain suddenly starts to play a trick on you where you start to think that somebody is really there. And the piano player is really there.”


Four piano players are featured in the exhibition, “and they are all related to New Orleans and have a range of styles and backgrounds,” says Xiao. Allen Toussaint, Jon Cleary, Ron Markham, and Nick Sanders are all acclaimed New Orleans’ artists in their own rights, sit patiently on the wall in four portraits awaiting their turn at the piano. “It is almost like a Harry Potter thing because instead of having still portraits there is a video of them, and they are just sitting there kind of listening and enjoying the music, and when it is their turn to play they get up and go to the piano.”


Xiao first came up with the idea a few years ago, when she was playing piano “I was looking at the reflection of my hands in the keyboard, and I started thinking wouldn’t it be really pretty if instead of seeing your own reflection you could see someone else’s reflection. It would be like you were playing with them.”


“Part of the exhibition is not only to showcase the technology but really using the technology to showcase both the music of New Orleans and these artists and their stories and their music.”


Through a chance meeting last year at the Aspen Ideas Festival, where Xiao was presenting the project, she ran into fellow New Orleanian Phyllis Taylor and together they worked to bring the project home. “because New Orleans has such a rich tradition of piano players, it seems like a natural fit.” And through a fortuitous happenstance the showcase happened alongside the P3+ and became part of the exhibition. 


P3+ is a satellite exhibition of Prospect 3, a biennial that showcases artists and new practices from around the world. P3+ showcases local artists and exhibitions happening concurrently with the biennial. 


The MirrorFugue installation runs till Saturday December 20th (9:30a.m. to 4:30p.m.)On Saturday Allen Toussaint will make an appearance and performance.

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Renard Boissiere, Evan Z.E. Hammond, Naimonu James, Wilson Koewing, J.A. Lloyd, Nina Luckman, Dead Huey Long, Alexis Manrodt, Joseph Santiago, Andrew Smith, Cynthia Via, Austin Yde


Art Director

Michael Weber, B.A.


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Linzi Falk

Editor Emeritus

Alexis Manrodt

B. E. Mintz

Stephen Babcock

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