In early March, Finger Music & Sound Design Creative Director Dave Hodge teamed up with Culture Shock NY and Lyle Owerko to curate an exhibition at Volta Art Show. BOOM!, the product of that collaboration, is a 21st century homage to when the boombox brought about cultural experimentation and led to unique new forms of dance and music. Using vintage boomboxes from the personal collection of famed photographer Lyle Owerko, author of The Boombox Project, the creators of BOOM! set boomboxes up opposite a group of iPads. Hodge selected six iPad apps to represent a handful of today’s many audio-visual stimuli. Featuring live breakdance performances led by Victor “Kid Glyde” Alicea and Melanie Aguirre (performing, appropriately enough, to an iPod hooked up to a boombox), the creators of Boom!brought a performance element to Volta that was entirely different and refreshing.
Perhaps the greatest success of the BOOM! installation at Volta was its contrast against other exhibits. It wasn’t for sale, and it wasn’t a collection of works by the same artist. It was an interactive presentation, drawn from different creators. “The innovation is in the mix of disparate yet related technologies, the juxtaposition of the old and the new, an homage to the predecessors of our iPad driven world and a look forward to what is to come,” says Culture Shock. “This is a visitor-interactive celebration of technology, creativity, physicality and art.”
In its current form, BOOM! is not, and could not be, timeless. It is merely a bridge between decades. At this time, technology – especially the technology related to entertainment – evolves and turns over too quickly to draw parallels between past innovations and present obsessions. iPads and apps represent one branch of the lineage of the boombox, but certainly not the only one. What BOOM! has done successfully is take a snapshot of technology in time: the iPad is used for creation, consumption, recreation, and interactive entertainment – just like the boombox in its technological prime – and both innovations can be personal and social. But that’s not to say that the installation couldn’t expand outwards. Is the iPad is just a stepping-stone to some greater innovation, or will it – like the boombox – inspire many new products and ways of thinking, and one day become an equally obsolete icon of the past?