Space Rites

Space Rites: An Interactive Art Installation & Community Performance Series

Location: St. Maurice Church, 605 St. Maurice Ave. New Orleans, LA

Date: October 26, 2014 - January 2015

Check out a video of the event:

New Orleans Airlift presented Space Rites, a wildly diverse concert series, at the deconsecrated St. Maurice Church in the Lower 9th Ward. Inside artist Taylor Lee Shepherd's interactive sound installation, Altarpiece, made from over 50 rewired televisions, formed a giant, sound-responsive altar. Acting as invented oscilloscopes, the televisions reflected every sound that passed through the space in hypnotic patterns of light.

There were six performances in the Space Rites Series featuring diverse performers in front of theAltarpiece. Master percussionist Tatsuya Nakataniand hisGong Orchestra, comprised of eleven local musicians who trained on the day of the performance, created a hallowed sound that got the oscilloscope TV’s buzzing. Weather Warlock, C-Section 8 and Mountain of Wizard brought down the house with smoke filled sets and epic soundscapes. 

In traditional Airlift style their were a number of out-there collaborations beginning with an incredible opening performance by theLower 9th Ward Senior Center Choirwho were joined by the Murmurations Choir, a youthful ensemble singing polyphonic harmonies. Guitar giants Nels Cline, of Wilco, and local avant-garde powerhouseRob Cambre,were mesmerizing in their first ever collaboration. While the Bitchin Bajajs'(Chicago) dreamy drone accompanied a photo retrospective of legendary musical moments culled from years of punk shows by Guggenheim-award winner, Bill Daniel.

The final performance brought members of the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra brass section into collaboration with the Van Hahn Lion Dance team from New Orleans East.This traditional Vietnamese dance team features two-person performers in Lion costumes alongside drummers.  Guggenheim-award winning modern composer Yotam Haber created a piece especially for the performance entitledSpace Rites 6 and conducted these unlikely collaborators in what was an unforgettable experience.

However one of the exciting, and radical, things about this project was the joining of this art installation with the booming voice and soaring spirit of Reverend Duplessis, of Mt. Nebo Bible Baptist Church. Every Sunday visitors could hear and see his voiceas he conducted his services through the oscilloscope altar - or what he called "Resurrection Technology." The Reverend's Lower 9th Ward congregation has been displaced since Katrina and currently holds services in his home. As his congregation continues rebuilding their own church nearly ten years after the storm, the Reverend used this moment to reach new audiences from an unusual pulpit.

This project was a satellite of the Prospect.3 international art biennial. Airlift was proud to present his beautiful collaboration between visual art and music in the epic sanctuary of St. Maurice Church, made possible a creative space by the Creative Alliance of New Orleans. Many thanks go to our volunteers and to the neighbors of the Lower 9th ward.


New Orleans Airlift always seems to rise to the occasion, and this year its Space Rites in the Lower 9th Ward explores previously uncharted territory. .…Dubbed "resurrection technology" by Rev. Charles Duplessis, who incorporates (The oscilloscopes) into his Sunday morning services, their metaphysical aura was evident on the evening of Oct. 26, when the Murmurations choir joined the Lower 9th Ward Senior Center Gospel Choir for the first concert of the series Old-time religion met avant-garde innovation as the Murmurations' haunting polyphony interacted with the female gospel group's spirited singing — they substituted "9th Ward spirit" for "old time religion" in the song of the same name. The church, …. is the perfect venue for such festive down-home otherworldliness.

Eric Bookhardt, The Gambit


Number 8 in "Top 10 Are Experiences of 2014" "Sound sculptor Taylor Shepherd breathed new life into 30 old-fashioned televisions, when he converted them into sound-sensitive oscilloscopes mounted in the two-story baroque altar of a ghostly deconsecrated church. The choir, guitar and gong concerts that followed were sublime. Periodic performances through Jan. 25, 2015."

- Doug McCash,


The Lower Ninth Ward Church, has become the new home for musical performances breathing new life into the ethereal (though now deconsecrated) space.

-Nola Defender


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