Whitney Museum Biennial 2012
The Whitney Museum’s Biennial opened my eyes to yet another view of the world of museums. I wasn’t ‘wowed.’ That does not mean I did not enjoy the experience. I very much enjoyed visiting the museum. I was mainly captured by the set-up and the informal atmosphere. The only part that really ruined this informal atmosphere was the people who stand guard over the work. However they are simply doing their job to make sure people do not take pictures or touch certain artwork. Yet they seemed misplaced in this type of atmosphere.
I loved how the spaces were set up. They made the floors appear somewhat informal, similar to a space inside a home with various rooms of different purposes. Artwork from various artists seemed to flow together, instead of being restricted to their own spaces. I could walk easily from one space to another and glance ahead on what was coming up. There were some works with their own spaces on other floors though. Despite that it was a successful show.
There were some spaces where it felt like people were on display. I could not tell if they were part of the piece or simply sitting there and chatting with people who came on by. I was unsure of who they were. Were they the artists? Simply people who worked in the museum? Or were they actors? I saw this theme continue in other locations, making me thing this was intentional. It was a display of communication. It was informal. This created a bridge between the visitors and the museum. I listened in on some of the conversations and the chatting is what gave me that feel. They talked about their lives, things happening in their lives, their interests, works they liked or did not like. A lot was conversation people would normally have outside of the museum. I would pass a room and there would be a person sitting there talking with a museum visitor. There would be a room full of people acting out scenes. A person even spoke to visitors via Skype. He talked about an opera he was writing. However it was obvious he wasn’t too happy to be there in front of the camera. He didn’t seem that interested in talking with us. There was even a closed off area where two people spoke to a museum visitor from inside what appeared to be cage-like to me. At first I thought we were viewing a performance. Yet the person they were interacting with had a sticker like us signifying he was a normal visitor. The scene was cheerful. The man outside was invited into their space to continue their conversation. As he was entering I scanned the rest of the area and jumped when I saw something unusual in the back. A creepy doll was set up in the very back. As if it was spying on them. Then I felt we were doing the same thing as the doll: we technically were spying/eyeing the scene in the cage-like space too.
The first work that really caught my attention was Werner Herzog’s Hearsay of the Soul. I loved how the work had its own space. I went in originally to rest my tired feet but ended up staying for a long period of time because I fell in love with the music. It was a multi-screen projection. Occasionally landscape artwork was put on the screen as well. I was captured by the expression of the cellist. He was so into his music that it translated onto his face. It was entrancing. I did not care much for the rest of the work. Although the artwork was nice, it went well with the music. I feel that cellist and the music overall was the best part of the experience. I wasn’t crazy about how the action traveled up and down the multiple screens. I had to keep changing my view from one screen to another and that bugged me.
Another work that captured my attention was Nick Mauss’ Concern, Crush, Desire 2011. It was a popular one. People wandered back over to the area and went through the doors of this piece constantly. They posed and took pictures. They would go up close and discuss the work. I did the same as well. It gave me a feeling of belonging to another world. The space was cartoony. I felt as if I went through I would be taken into a cartoon world. The work is better observed from a distance than up close. From a distance it has more of that cartoony vibe and appeared completely painted. However when I went close to observe the details it lost that magical quality. Seeing reality through the doors (the regular museum and various other people) also destroyed that fantasy.
A third work I enjoyed was Oscar Tuzaon’s For Hire 2012. It was fun walking around the space. It was like a mini version of the inside of a home or a skeleton of a home. However you could walk around in a way that would be unnatural in a house. The sad part was we could not go up the steps. I wanted to but there was nothing to go up to. It would have been nice if there was another floor to go up to.
The three works are very different from each other. Hearsay of the Soul had its own space. It was cut off from the rest of the floor. You entered a dark space and sat on the ground to look at the multiple screens. The main feature was its music and display of artwork. Concern, Crush, Desire and For Hire shared a quality. They were interactive work. They were not cut off from the space around them, but instead added to the surrounding space. Concern, Crush, and Desire added to the living room feel of the floor it was situated in while For Hire was like a miniature home. The main feature of Concern, Crush, Desire was the cartoony design of the doors and space while the main feature of For Hire was the interaction process.