Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Berkshire Journal: MASS MoCA

The Hall Art Foundation's Anselm Kiefer Building at MASS MoCA (photo: F. Levy)
Converting an abandoned industrial landscape to an artistic habitat is one approach to gentrification. Adaptive reuse is a term often used for this process. Artists have always turned around imperiled and depressed areas. The cast iron buidlings of Manhattan's SoHo were a prime example of that phenomenon. North Adams, Massachusetts, in the heart of the Berkshires, which is the home of MASS MoCA, is another. The city with its deserted two story red brick buildings and broken down wooden row houses is an extended legacy of the decline of New England as a manufacturing center. As you walk around the museum you'll come across pieces of abandoned junk, rusted machinery and other detritus only to discover the beginning of an artistic strategy. This is actually the perfect environment for the work of Anselm Kiefer which accounts for one of the central buildings. But "The Boiler House" is the most perfect and elegant example of the appropriation of reality for artistic purposes ("Suffering From Realness" is another one of MoCA's current exhibits). "The Boiler House" is an inadvertent manifesto for the whole MoCA project. The art work is essentially an in situ installation comprising the innards of Sprague Electric which closed its plant in 1947. Boilers, coal hoppers and ash disposal conveyors are the palette and there's a soundscape "All Those Vanished Engines" by Stephen Vitiello along with Michael Oatman's three-part work, "All Utopias Fell," with its iconic Airstream trailer. Creativity and Perversion is the title of a psychoanalytic tome by Janine Chassaguet-Smirgel. The monograph to accompany "The Boiler Room" might be Creativity and Obsolescence

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