Archive for March 5th, 2011

Is this woman being rescued by this man?  Did she just faint, overcome by the beauty of Carl Andre’s  steel tiles on the floor (lower left)?

This is a museum scene.  Specifically, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, a week ago.  The Luna Negra Dance Company performed in the gallery space that day–interacting with the exhibit pieces–and I happened to catch it.  I filmed part of the performance with my little pocket camera.  (See link at end of this post.)

Seeing professional dancers bopping, banging, hugging, lying on, sliding and slithering around art work in museum galleries in the middle of the day was a special treat.  But actually, for me, the museum experience always involves observing other museum goers.  I have a romantic, modernist sensibility. That means that the question “What Is Art” is always an issue.  When I observe other people in museums and galleries, I always wonder if they’re thinking “Is This Art?”  I wonder how they relate to these objects and what expectations they bring with them when they enter the museum.

In the 19th century skyscrapers were called “cathedrals of commerce” and museums were called “cathedrals of culture”   or  “cathedrals of art.”  Doesn’t that sound like ancient history!  We don’t hear that kind of  cathedral talk nowadays.  People who expect to encounter the sacred and find a pile of gravel on the floor, are either offended or they’re prompted to redefine the sacred.  How about Félix Gonzáles-Torres’s hill of candy in the corner, where you’re invited to take a piece.  Where’s the grand cathedral feeling in that?

Modern and Contemporary Art requires the reaction of the viewer for its completion. It doesn’t give you the answer, it doesn’t reassure, it doesn’t confirm your old assumptions.  Instead, it asks questions.  In that respect it’s actually rather Socratic—talk about the ancients.  A visit to the art museum gives your brain a work out. The MCA is very explicit on this topic.  On one side of the wall: “Without you;”  on the other side: “I’m nothing.”  The YOU here is the audience, the museum goer, the art observer.

A Robert Irwin piece has this quote next to it>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Consciousness, perception.  Big words?  Abstract concepts?  No, it’s where we live.  Everybody. The MCA looks more like a playground than a cathedral.  That’s good, because if we’re going to reflect about perception and consciousness, we better be relaxed.

Get off your knees.  Hop skip jump.



All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.


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