When I first moved to New Orleans (to attend Newcomb College in 1999), Bywater was a place that only those “in the know” talked about; and when it was mentioned, we were warned to only go “with a group.”
Since then, much has changed in that neighborhood and in New Orleans (understatement of the century, right?). I’ve had a blast in Bywater and in other sections of town from which I was once warned away.
When I went to Bywater last weekend, I found it to be everything I was promised in college and more – except that going “with a group” still holds true, but only because it can be more fun that way.
My fiancé, a very dear friend and I had made the trek (because when you live in “the sliver on the river” anything more than a five-minute drive is considered a trek) to visit with a friend and hit Euclid Records to see if we could find any treasures. (Quick aside: last time we went to Euclid, I found a pristine copy of the self-titled record The Wild Tchoupitoulas for a great price – it’s my personal soundtrack to Mardi Gras and I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited to hold a piece of vinyl.)
Instead, after a late-afternoon meal our Bywater-residing friend suggested a visit to “an installation” and a “constitutional” around his neighborhood.
The installation is entitled: “‘Constant Abrasive Irritation Produces The Pearl: A Disease of the Oyster?’ – Lenny Bruce” and is located at 639 Desire St., in a home that comprises many buildings that have formerly been a speakeasy, an ironworks, wallpaper storage and more. Though this late 18th-century house has been known to rock ‘n’ roll, this current satellite exhibition of Prostpect.2 is the first time the space has been open to the public.
Entering this space was, for me, almost overwhelming. Each corner, space, bookshelf, table and bench is full of carefully chosen pieces – though without consideration, it could look just like someone’s junk piled about. Throughout this exhibit, curated by artist and DJ John Otte, pieces, mostly video art installations, by 22 artists are hung, placed and almost hidden around corners.
I felt like a small child who has just been taken up into Grandmother’s attic to hunt for treasure.
I wish I could better explain the arresting nature of this exhibition, but it must be experienced to be believed. I will say that my favorite pieces are a bathtub full of sped-up time-lapse blooming flowers (projected from above) and a tiered series of white steps full of sand and objects located in the back left corner of the backyard (trust me, go look at this one).
We spent over an hour in the exhibit and speaking with Otte, but I could’ve spent an evening or more to even begin to take in all that’s on display.
After our visit to “The Pearl,” we walked around the neighborhood, popping into Satsuma and a couple second-hand shops (It was lovely to meet you, Wes!) looking for another man’s trash to make into treasure.
I never would’ve thought that a walk through Bywater would turn into a successful treasure hunt.
“‘Constant Abrasive Irritation Produces The Pearl: A Disease of the Oyster?’ – Lenny Bruce” is only open for four more days! Make sure to catch it Saturdays and Sundays (Jan. 21, 22, 28 and closing night, Jan. 29) from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Maybe you’ll find your own treasure.