Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Nature Abhors a Vacuum

The Guggenheim is a carcass, stripped of all its usual exhibits. The couple making love on the ground floor is the only piece of punctuation. So it’s appropriate that one of the side exhibits, in a room off the rotunda, is called “Contemplating the Void” (Aristotle’s dictum, “nature abhors a vacuum,” is scrawled on the wall), in which 200 artists and architects propose how they would fill the perennially dramatic central rotunda of the museum. The sculptor Alice Aycock’s design consists of a jellyfish and a teacup, while another artist displays pictures of reddened labia. The palette of the Tino Sehgal work that occupies the rotunda is the human body, and the work is aleatory by nature. Whoever enters the museum becomes a part of a piece, a massive chain letter started by a child asking, “What is progress?” The food chain ends with an elder concluding, “This is progress," and then posing a whole new set of questions. But what is progress? Putting one foot ahead of the other?  Is regress progress, in that it teaches you something about yourself? Is progress technology, which increases both possibility and dissatisfaction? Once you reach the top, you take note of the couple still making love. They are smaller, and their estheticized passion is met with growing indifference from the crowd in the lobby. Descending the ramps after the experience is over, an observer comments about her interlocutors, “They pass you like former lovers. They don’t recognize you. They don’t know you.”

1 comment:

  1. An interesting reverie upon the nature of the museum. Thinking that they have reached the limit of the combinations and permutations possible in presenting exhibitions of art, the museum's curators have drawn a blank ... whereupon they have asked artists to "fill in the blank."

    The result is an exhibition that sounds simultaneously meretricious and sterile. So sterile does it seem that - in deference to our age of the Internet - it lacks only the addition of "AOL" to transform the museum into a mausoleum, in which the remains of our "high" culture lie embalmed.

    However, final judgment will have to wait upon a personal visit to the Guggenheim. This is only fair, and reflects the standard of evaluation required by eras prior to the Computer Age, lest actual experience of messy and gooey reality be supplanted merely by the GUI.


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