Undercurrent, a new show that combines art and music, will open its doors at 455 Jefferson Street in Bushwick on September 9.
Thematically focused on the climate crisis, the show will feature immersive experiences created by a lengthy list of talented musicians, including Bon Iver, Grimes, The 1975, Jojra Smith, and more.
Steve Milton discusses Undercurrent’s origins, message, and desired impact in Brooklyn and beyond.
“Undercurrent began as a passion project,” Milton said during a virtual interview. “We were thinking of this as a new type of music and art event in which we were collaborating with musicians, artists, and technologists to do something that’s a little bit more non-traditional.
“It’s a new way for fans to experience the work and a new way for artists to share their creativity,” he added.
Milton and co-creator Brett Volker have worked in the intersection between art and technology for many years now. The two previously worked together at innovation and design agency ADA and sound design agency Listen., experiences that allowed the pair to collaborate with notable artists such as Childish Gambino, Briano Eno, and Saint Vincent.
Milton and Volker are bringing their industry knowledge – and their extensive contacts – to Undercurrent. The duo have long dreamed about a project that combines music and technology on such a massive scale, and knew that such a project would need to focus on an important central theme.
They quickly settled on the climate crisis.
“When we started thinking about Undercurrent, we wanted to use this new experience to focus on something that we’re passionate about or that we care about and that means something to us,” Milton explained. “We landed on the idea of the climate because it is a huge existential threat and, admittedly, something that is really hard to wrap your head around.”
All of the installations featured in Undercurrent will focus on the climate in some way, be it abstract or literal. Milton and Volker are hopeful that the work of talented artists will mesh with the innovative format, giving people insight and possibly even hope to help them confront the impossibly large challenge that climate change presents.
“Sometimes it can get to the point where it seems like there is nothing you can do about it,” Milton said. “The answer, we think, is working with artists to inspire action and to open people’s minds to new ways of thinking about both the problems and the solutions.”
In addition to the list of artists contributing to Undercurrent, Milton and Volker have partnered with multiple nonprofit organizations that will have a presence throughout the show’s run. These include The Ocean Conservancy, Kiss the Ground, and the Global Forest Generation.
Undercurrent is focused on the global scale of the climate crisis, but its creators are also optimistic that the event will help to confront climate challenges within Brooklyn specifically, a borough that much of the Undercurrent team lives in.
“It’s our hope that we’re going to bring thousands of people through this thing,” Milton said, “and they’re going to all walk away empowered with the tools from each of these nonprofits to go and make a difference, hopefully directly within their own neighborhood and within their own community.
“That would be a wonderful outcome if we can make some progress on the local front,” he added. “And we expect to because a lot of people who live in Brooklyn and love the area are coming to this.”
Undercurrent will open on Thursday, September 9, and will occupy a 60,000-square-foot space in the heart of Bushwick. While there is still work to be done before the show’s opening, Milton is excited to see people’s reaction to the innovative and immersive experience.
“I think people will be inspired to think and to be creative,” Milton said. “When people see all of the artists and the great work that they’ve done, they will be inspired to make a difference when it comes to the climate, instead of feeling like they are unable to do anything.”