Art Vent

Letting the Fresh Air In

Looking...and not seeing,

September 12, 2007 - 6:37pm -- Carol Diehl
This is part of an email yesterday from Graham White, who did such a great job of revamping my Web site,

Hi Carol!

...I made a second visit to the Serra show and this time is was not as crowded, which was nice. I couldn't believe the Plexiglas fence they put around his work on the top gallery. My experience of Minimalist sculpture has always been that it works in large part by interacting with and empathizing the planes and volume of the containing space, so what could demonstrate a less sensitive appreciation to the art than to cage it in like an animal at the zoo? I guess the inverse is more likely accurate, the animals behind the cage are the viewers.

I've also noticed that for a striking number of museum goers, photographing the art has entirely replaced looking at the art. I have been spending some time in the museums this summer, and constantly see people walk up to a painting, camera in hand, snap the image and then the wall text, and move right along, all not more than 5 seconds duration, if that. Or first check the label to see if it is an artist worth capturing. One painting I gave up on seeing one day had two rows of photographers, about 12 or 15 people, with cameras going, and the second row with one hand raised above the heads of the first for the grab. I can't imagine most will ever be bothered to look at the photos if they wouldn't look at the painting. Like
counting coup.

Well, that's my art vent for today,


I've noticed the same phenom at rock concerts: people talking, texting, holding their cell phones up for others to listen, walking in and out to get drinks or whatever, as if the music were incidental, just an excuse to get together--surprisingly better in Philadelphia, Northampton, and Boston, where people actually dance, worst in New York. When I saw the last Sigur Ros tour in Philadelphia there was, as part of the piece, a 10-second moment of silence, which was duly observed and experienced by the audience--a powerful moment. When I saw them in New York it was "Whoo-hoo!"

Is there a way to configure the context for art so that it's more conducive to contemplation? Or are we just fogeys complaining that the world is going to hell?

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