Saturday, November 27, 2004

Contemporary Art

I'm back in NYC.

My friend W. came home to Massachusetts to have Thanksgiving with my family.

On Friday, we drove up to Mass MoCA. I've been before, but this time the exhibitions were particularly thought-provoking. First, we saw an exhibit called "Proposition Player" by Matthew Ritchie. Ritchie has created - in his mind and through fiction-writing, painting, sculpture, and other media - his own cosmology (for lack of a better word), drawing on religious imagery ranging from voodoo to the Bible to tarot, as well as scientific concepts from physics to genetics. This could all be really pretentious but it is saved by the fact that many of his paintings and sculptures are beautiful, and all are at least visually engaging. W. was a bit frustrated by his inclusion of various constants and physics equations because she felt it was a tease. I felt that his paintings got you to ask the same questions that we ask about the universe: which parts are purposeful, organized, follow patterns? which parts are random, created by chance? So on that level - and on the straight aesthetic level - I really liked his work.

Another piece that we both really liked was in The Interventionists exhibit. The town where Mass MoCA is located, North Adams, was a sort-of burned-out mill town with a bad reputation until recently. The museum and other community efforts are bringing it back to life. One group of artists asked townspeople to write phrases or sentences - like slogans - for different landmarks and places in town. Then they took a car and put one of those digital advertising things on top of it, like taxis have, and programmed it so that as it drives around town, the screen shows the different comments and statements submitted by townspeople for each location. It provided real insight into the kinds of things that are on the minds of people in North Adams and into the history of the town. Some examples: "We need a skate park?" "Why do so many people in Greylock get cancer?" "A girl drowned up here." "How can you get into Mass MoCA... if you don't have any money?" and so on.

And the trees keep growing upwards....

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