For an hour on Thursday night, a pair of musical mad scientists held court in the Ackland Art Museum.
Amidst a pile of old television monitors, keyboards and wires twisted together on the gallery floor, the alternative music group Invisible brought a decidedly modern flair to the classic art displays in the museum.
Invisible gave a 45-minute performance as part of the ongoing Think Thursday series at the Ackland.
Members Mark Dixon and Bart Trotman combined absurdist poetry, short video clips and musical sounds created from found objects to craft a low-key trance show in the University’s art museum.
“It’s dance music for your brain,” Trotman said.
The group’s name comes from its unique musical style.
“It was hell to name it,” Dixon said. “When you’re in between genres, there’s an invisibility to that,” Dixon said.
Invisible’s set, “Rhythm 1001,” continues this week’s Signal Festival, a celebration of electronic music in Chapel Hill and Carrboro.
The festival founder, Uzoma Nwosu, approached the Ackland to bring the outlandish group to the museum performance space when Invisible joined the festival, Ackland events and programs coordinator Allison Portnow said.
“This is the perfect venue for them because what they are doing is truly art,” Nwosu said.
The Think Thursday series seeks to support more local artists like Invisible by providing them a venue for greater exposure.
The program provides the greater community with activities and give artists a voice, Portnow said.
“We are trying to open the cultural scene,” Portnow said.
Invisible previously played at the museum in 2009.
Dixon and Trotman are creative in their material choices — from thrift store junk to old television monitors to solo cups and walkers, the group looks to the trash as a matter of financial necessity.
“There’s a kind of romance in using old stuff, but it’s also imperative,” Dixon said.
The group’s drum machine was the central focus of Thursday’s performance.
Dixon ‘played’ this drum machine by taking bamboo pegs in and out of a turning wheel as the drum machine sent out signals to connected instruments.
These self-taught musicians layered synthesized electronic sounds with rhythmic background beats created from junk, setting up their work in the gallery space for more than three hours.
“Unlike a guitar that inevitably has a lot of history attached to it, I have to discover what these objects can do and where they fit,” Dixon said.
The group formed four years ago in Greensboro. Dixon was a originally a sculptor, but decided to focus on performance art to better interact with an audience.
“There is a driven engagement with the audience while you are doing a live performance,” Dixon said.
The audience bobbed and swayed to the beat Thursday night, giving an enthusiastic ovation after the short but intense set.
“It’s fascinating to see how objects can be made and to watch the creative process,” audience member Ginger Blakeley said.
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