The 2016 Tribeca Film Festival was rife with world premieres, celebrity appearances, and experimental features. One such inventive presentation was named The Bomb, a novel, fully emissive experience that takes attendees on a journey through the past 50 years—the nuclear age—with a startling 55-minute cinematic experience and a tantalizing soundscape.
Ticket holders arrived at Gotham Hall, located in midtown Manhattan. Many guests entered through the building’s grand doorway with uncertain expressions, others appeared excited— but all were expectant. As an attendee myself, I felt a mixture of these feelings all at once. Once inside the shadowy main hall one sees a lavish, and rather ginormous, chandelier hanging overhead, a luxury red carpet covering the ground, 50-foot screens surrounding the walls from floor to ceiling in a full 360 degrees, and a stage in the center overflowing with musical instruments: guitars, drums, microphones, etc. The show had yet to start and it was already an awe-inspiring sight to behold. I meandered through the large room, watching people line up at the inhouse bar, sidle up to the stage, and randomly pick spots to sit while waiting for the show to start. After about 15 minutes The Acid, the show’s band, took their place on the stage. Prior to the show’s commencement, attendees were encouraged to walk around during the proceedings, stating that doing so would enhance the experience, unless, of course, one starts to feel overwhelmed. A few safety instructions were given—such as if one feels dizzy, one should rest on the ground until the affected party regains their bearings.
The all-encompassing monitors lit up with images of soldiers marching, music also arose from its epicenter—a catchy drumbeat that played in time with the on-screen footfalls. Even at this early stage, I knew I was in for one of the most unique experiences I have ever had. The gigantic televisions encompassed all of my vision, even peripheral. Within minutes The Bomb’s purpose becomes clear: to showcase the horrors of nuclear weapons. The Acid’s signature style developed over the course of this multimedia instillation, an ethereal, electronic beat that created an eerie calm as the video feed constantly transformed. In my opinion, one of the show’s most prominent segments showcased a collection of 1950’s public safety footage. This educational piece instructed viewers about the appropriate procedures to employ in the event of a nuclear attack. Watching this old material while listening to the spooky melody created an extraordinary scene. I felt a great deal of empathy, feeling the fear and uncertainness viewers must have experienced while watching this same film all those years ago, especially when the possibility of a dropped bomb could come at any time. That uneasy feeling soon turned to disgust. The screens began to exhibit tape of nuclear testing involving its affects on animals. As an animal lover, seeing the poor creatures caged up, waiting for their cruel fate was hard to watch.
A part of me became angry. Why show such things? I thought. After taking a step back I realized that, in fact, these things are important for us to perceive. It really did happen, and in recent history too. It is imperative that we know the cruel acts people perpetrated in order to ensure that their weapons of war would wrought the envisioned destruction, and that’s what The Bomb is all about. It took me on a voyage through time, a time in our history filled with a great deal of evil, anxiety, and paranoia. Nothing showed this more than the performance’s conclusion. A light in the center of the stage glowed red, coating the entire room in a crimson radiance. A layer of mist drifted on the air, a symbolic representation of The Bomb’s explosion.
There are not many events that can be presented as a completely unique venture. However, The Bomb can certainly be classed as such. It’s educational, but not in the traditional sense, we do not learn facts or figures over the course of the show: we discover feelings. We absorb the time’s state of mind; we acquire sympathy through a completely novel method, one I thought impossible. The Bomb is not for everyone, attendees would have to enjoy history, art, and a particular genre of music in order to have good time. It ticked all the right boxes for me, making it an experience that I will never forget. Photos: Dean Moses