New York March 2012
Our class trip with Hanru to New York City was overwhelming. We packed in on average two to three museums per day, which included meeting with most of the curators as well. The museums that stood out high above the rest were the Guggenheim and the Dia Beacon. Of all the speakers, the two from these museums were also the most interesting and inspiring to listen to. Both places presented art in a totally unique way that moved me.
I had never been to the Dia Beacon before and was very impressed by the architecture of the museum and the way the art was displayed. The entire museum is naturally lit with skylights and windows. I don’t think I have ever seen art shown in that way before. It completely changes the viewing experience. The way the light hits the objects changes throughout the day and so the pieces look different depending on the time of day and quality of light. I have to say I think I was more impressed with the actual building itself than the art inside, but I was incredibly drawn to Richard Serra’s circular maze sculptures. While walking through Serra’s Union of the Torus and the Sphere (2001) I felt the quieting of my mind and a heightening of my senses. I became aware of the temperature drop, the way the sound differed, the way the texture of the walls felt, and the patterns of light and shadow that formed on the walls. The way the walls curved in an uneven way altered my sense of balance as well, however I still felt a sense of calm and peace while inside the mazes. I returned to the Serra sculptures later in the afternoon and was pleased to see how the light had changed and how that created a whole new experience inside the structures. I really enjoyed the talk by Dia Beacon’s curator Philippe Vergne. I loved what he said about “art is now, it is in the present”. It was interesting that he mentioned the Rothko Chapel in Houston, and discussed how different ways of viewing art, enhance and change the viewer’s experience. I had been home the weekend before and was telling my father about our trip to L.A. and my response to seeing some of Rothko’s large, subtle paintings. He told me about the chapel and his experience of how viewing the paintings within such an amazing space affected him deeply. After viewing the work at the Dia Beacon, listening to my father describe the experience of the Rothko Chapel, and hearing Philippe talk about theses two spaces and different ways of viewing art it made me think of all the possibilities of how art could be shown and viewed.
The Guggenheim also has a very unique way of displaying art. I had been to the Guggenheim before about 17 years ago when I was in high school. I remember it making a huge impression on me at the time, this time even more so. I really enjoyed how curator Sandini Podnar personally took us around and spoke about all of the exhibitions in the museum. Her passion and enthusiasm enhanced the whole viewing experience for me. I enjoyed the way John Chamberlain’s jumbled metal sculptures were displayed throughout the museum going up the ramp. You go off into separate rooms filled with different exhibitions. The one’s I enjoyed the most were Being Singular Plural and the Francesca Woodman retrospective.
Within the first room of Being Singular Plural Amar Kanwar’s short films of Burma were displayed in a beautiful way. The presentation in this room was a brilliant. The room was dark and small sheets of paper hung down from the ceiling and video clips were projected onto the pages. Off to one side there were books on display that had the first pages torn out by the Burmese bookshop owner Ko Than Hay in 1994. These pages had contained ideological slogans inserted by the county’s military regime. It was an ode to the thousands engaged in the ongoing struggle for democracy in Burma. It reminded me of the film Burma VJ, which captured this struggle of the fight for people’s freedom under a violent oppressive military regime. My absolute favorite part of Being Singular Plural was the film Residue 2011 by Sonal Jain and Miganka Mahukaillya. You enter into a small dark room with the film playing in a loop with surround sound. The visual imagery in this film was stunning and subtle. It had the texture of the works of Aaron Siskind, the color palate of Richard Misrach, and the mechanical structures and machines were reminiscent of Lewis Hine and Bernd and Hilla Becher. I was mesmerized by the images and the sounds. There were pressure gauges that looked like eyes that morphed into moths and flies. There were sounds of monks chanting over steel machinery inside an abandoned factory. Rust colored oil drums in an over grown field with static noise. Certain times ambient noise from the surrounding scene with rumbling noises in the background would get really loud for a split second. The sounds and music were very effective at hinting a presence other than the viewer. The colors, light, textures, and the slow panning of the camera were visually seductive. I went into the room and sat and watched several parts of the film at different points. Although the order of viewing did not seem to matter I still wish I could have watched it from start to finish.