Archive for ‘Museums’

October 12, 2011

Gabe Adels-CCS Lobby

What an underutilized space! There’s one bench when you walk in, and I’ve never seen someone sitting on it. The walls are bright white. 3 of the walls are large glass windows, with glass doors. The other wall is a service/welcome desk that provides no purpose other than a friendly “hello” as you walk in, or a reminder  that “the museum is not open today”.

The most hilarious thing about the room is an electrical socket, located just beside the service window. There are no tables or chairs around it. It has no apparent use. Did the architect put it there as a joke? To challenge the sterility of creative presentation? It’s assumed an electrical socket has no aesthetics-its sole function is use. The way we try separate art and “real life” by creating a portal into a world commentated by a female woman with a British accent who seems to whisper into your ear “Please do not move or be moved by the art” Well, I decided I would use that socket, and got myself into some trouble.

I sat down with my friend Cy, and she plugged her computer into the socket and we composed a couple of business type emails together. I was sitting on my skateboard, rolling gently to and fro. The was no activity other than us in the room for 10 minutes. I did a, slow extended glide across the room on my butt,  leaning ever so slightly to turn in full control. Suddenly, from behind one of the glass doors burst the security guard, screaming “Out! Get out! Get that out of here! The skateboard stays out! You get out of here with that skateboard!”

I flip the skateboard upside down, to show that I will not be rolling on it again. I resume my business with Cy. 5 minutes later, another security guard comes in, silently followed by the first. “I don’t mean to seem like I’m picking on you guys, but you can’t lean your backs against the wall. You’ll scuff them up, and the walls are part of the presentation of the art.”

What ideals are behind this separation between usable space and a space for art? Why, with art, is space so rigidly defined in terms of its functions? The museum space is not to be used for anything other than an extremely specific way of interacting with fine art. You can sit on that bench for 5 minutes, but if you fall asleep on it, you’ll be woken up. If a work of art moves you to sobbing tears, you will probably be seen as a threat and asked to leave. If something makes you want to sing or laugh you will be shushed.

These behavioral guidelines are inherently elitist. They maintain a separation between art, and the real world, as if normal people cannot make or appreciate art. They create a context that excludes those unwilling or unable to participate in a stuffy culture of specific behaviors, thoughts, and dress. These conventions should be challenged on every level. The institution of the museum and gallery may not be effected by city planning, etc.. Rebellion on however small a level raises awareness to the hypocrisy and ridiculousness until it catches on and people start to create and market art in other ways, to complement the portal into snobbery.

September 26, 2011

Stillspotting and Improvising – Jess Lambert

A rough sketch for stillspotting by Arvo Pärt

The beauty of public space is the fact that it belongs to the public. I don’t mean literal ownership, but it’s use and purpose is decided by those who enter the space, and what they do there. In NYC, the hectic and rushed lifestyle that most New Yorkers live is greatly dependent on the public spaces they use and occasionally inhabit – for example, sidewalks and subway cars. However, despite the streets being designed for only efficient means of travel, there’s more than just the occasional social interaction happening.

One of the upcoming exhibits for the Guggenheim Museum is called stillspotting. It takes public spaces with the city of New York and transforms them into serene rest areas to block out the rush of everyday city life. For some people, these places might already exist – many people seek refuge in libraries, and other quiet spaces. However, stillspots are so subjective, that clearly defining areas as stillspots doesn’t always work. One person might enjoy classical music and a hot bath to relax, whereas other might feel like going to metal concerts – and with that in mind, people have the opportunity to work and create their own stillspot for the museum. There are five already designed areas, and music is composed minimally by Arvo Pärt  and areas are decorated by the furniture company,  Snøhetta. In addition they are assisted by Improv Everywhere, a group with millions of v0lunteers that redefines spaces through human actions, instead of physically adjusting spaces.

The reasoning behind the stillspots.

The purposing of public spaces has been going on as long as public spaces existed. Have you ever noticed while in the city, that no one ever looks up? I guess because I was born and raised in a small town, skyscrapers still hold a bit of wonder for me – but most of New York’s constituents don’t seem to notice that some of the most beautiful architecture is not on the ground level, and never noticed, since people are so tuned into their business meetings, the taxi they have to catch to an interview, running to catch the next subway. One of the goals of both Improv Everywhere and stillspotting is to minimize the mundane. The ride back from work can be a little bit better when you have a hundred people performing a synchronized dance in your train station (IE) and maybe you can take a second on your lunch break to appreciate just how nice the silence can be (Stills). I can’t help but think that if the Guggenheim considers this art, that it’s a step in the right direction for city dwellers.

Just watch this quick video, and you’ll understand a little bit more about how they transform space with sheer numbers. The one thing that really sets aside Improv Everywhere, is the fact that they’re all strangers coordinating with other strangers, and making a statement with just the amount of people that show up. Considering that for most meetings here at Bard, you’d be lucky to have 15 people, that says a lot about how important it is to these people – that everyone takes a second out of their day for something other than routine actions in a public space. What do you think?

(If you have a minute, definitely check out this website for more info on stillspotting:,

and for some of their great projects. Enjoy!)