Saturday, December 15, 2012

Not radical II: Ann Hamilton at the Park Avenue Armory

The author, working up an appetite


I just can't get into the radical masquerade that the art world is.

That’s a quote from Walter Robinson. Maybe that’s why I like his paintings so much.

I wrote this on 12-12-12, at 36,000 feet on a Jet Blue flight to L.A. and when I landed, the earth was still there. But even if there wasn’t a galactic shift, perhaps we can create one in the art world—that, at least, is within our control.  My wish for art in the Aquarian Age, is that that we take nothing for granted.

Last week I ranted about Martha Rosler’s garage sale at MoMA. This week I’ll reinforce my curmudgeon status with a non-response to Ann Hamilton’s installation in the vast Parade Hall at the Park Avenue Armory. Like Rosler, Hamilton is somewhat sanctified, protected by an aura of profundity she has cultivated, or has been cultivated for her, over the years.

I won’t describe the installation – this is not a review – except to say that it concerns a long white curtain that bisects the space, wooden swings on chains that cause the curtain panels to move when visitors swing on them, live white doves incarcerated in wicker basket/cages stacked on a table where a man and a woman attired in feathered capes are reading something, and packages twee-ly wrapped with brown paper and twine scattered here and there, containing speakers that emit voices. The real star is the room.

Photograph: Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

Oh I know, I could have made more of an effort. I could have listened more closely to the readings and relayed voices (were they the same?). I could have spent more time on the swings. I could have tried to figure out how the newsprint broadsheet of fuzzy photographs contributes to the whole.

Or I could go to lunch.

No doubt I'll be roundly criticized for dismissing something I haven’t fully explored—except I believe it’s the artist’s responsibility to engage me, not the other way around. I have no compunction about putting down a book halfway through, and if, in the middle of a play or concert, I find myself doing eye exercises or worrying about my bills, I don’t blame myself. I don’t underestimate the power of really great art to sweep me away. I think about how I once had a massive migraine that miraculously disappeared during a performance of Taming of the Shrew in Central Park with Raul Julia and Meryl Streep. Or the time my boy friend and I had a colossal fight on the way to see an early Cirque du Soleil, and went home in love. I could go on and on…Christian Marclay’s The Clock (which I finally left after 2 ½ hours only because I had to pee), Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller’s genius Pandemonium at Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary, Olafur Eliasson's The Weather Project at the Tate Modern (in an even more humungous space)....concerts by Sigur Ros…yes, such experiences are few and far between, but why lower the bar? Why should I spend my time trying to figure out what an artist is trying to convey, when I could be eating a splendid lamb tagine at Café Mogador?

As my friend, Roberto, observed so accurately in the taxi on our way downtown: I’m fatigued by the expectation of the system that I’ll play along completely.

I also don’t think that birds should have to suffer for art, any more than I should.

5 comments:

Roberta said...

You are such a breath of fresh air. I often wonder what is wrong with me when I attend some shows at museums that I just don't get. I am happy to know there are others out there who feel the same.

lxv said...

"twee-ly"? Now there's an adverb for you!

I hate the feeling of "it's' not 'my' artworld" but that's the way I feel most of the time.

Luisa said...

i kind of felt the same way, except i liked the curtain and swings, feeling that was enough. the artist had to gunk it all up with all the other over conceptualized elements- speakers in brown bags, people reading and writing, birds. for me it read as lacking faith in the beauty of the object (the curtain), for us to interpret and feel on our own.

Sean Greene said...

Agreed! I think many of us are feeling the same conflict, but you are putting it out there in the conversation. Thank you for that.

I always think of art objects and installations like people at a party. Some of them get my attention and make me want to know more, others-- well, don't.

JafaBrit's Art said...

wow! Yes, as Roberta said a "breath of fresh air".