Saturday, April 9, 2011

The ICA - The Culture Experiment Part 2

"Just because you're silent doesn't mean you have nothing to say."  Paul Chan.  Where on Earth could this be from?

Several months ago, in our attempt to bring culture into our kids lives, we brought them (dragging and screaming, of course) to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.  At the time, I saw this a fair compromise for the hundreds of dollars we've spent on ice cream, car rides and video games - all they had to do was just walk with us through one of the most famous art galleries in the United States.  While perusing some of the most famous works of art in the United States, an idea struck me.  Why not also visit the Institute of Contemporary Art in (at the time), its new home in the South Boston Waterfront.

Not quite Plastic bags...              courtesy of
Well it took over a year, but we finally made it to the ICA.  We were trying to kill time before the recent Harlem Globetrotters game and this was our third choice.  Unfortunately, both the Fenway Park Tour and the New England Sports Hall of Fame were closed for the day.  I guess off to the ICA we finally go!

4pm.  Boston.  The first problem we encounter is that the museum's closing time is just an hour after we arrive.  How are we going to see everything in time?  As we come to find out, this won't be a problem.

We walk up to the "child friendly" table staffed by a couple of college kids clearly working here to pad their resume.  They point us in the general direction of the elevator so that we move to the fourth floor while simultaneously looking at their phones or watches, I can't tell.

Undaunted, the kids love the glass elevator, that we have to take to get to the East Wing (Mom - not so much).  We come out of the elevator greeted by the first two pieces of contemporary art.  A can of some sort of energy drink rolling endlessly on a conveyor belt and a bunch of plastic grocery bags blowing up in the ceiling.  Seriously, you ask?  Yes, seriously.  Now I'm not an aficianado of contemporary art, but that really sucks.  If I see art that my children can do in art class, then it's not really art.  It's just throwing stuff on the wall and seeing what sticks.  I can't even justify some sort of symbolism in these two first pieces.  Luckliy, it gets better.

We then venture through a couple of rooms.  One is dominated by newspaper clippings, receipts and advertisements folded in certain ways to spell unintended words and phrases.  Pretty cool idea I thought from an artist named Gabriel Curi - discovering our materialistic culture in unusual ways (or at least that is what the tattooed gentleman explained to me as I squint to read what's written on the tapestries.  The boys were likewise enamored with the room that included the mirrored lights that appeared to go on forever.  The museum associate and I tried to explain the concept of the one way mirror to my six year old as the reason why the lights appeared to go on forever, to no avail.  He is 6 after all.

After spending fifteen minutes in the first two rooms, we walk into what I call the "video" room.  We watch a video of guy walking through a supermarket shooting bows and arrows at food, obviously harkening back to the days when we were hunters and gatherers.  It was amusing to watch until my 8 year old asked for a bow and arrow set for his birthday, then not so much.

"But you don't like grocery shopping." I explain to him as we proceed to a stop action (or slow moving) video of large sugar cubes in a pool of oil.  The juxtaposition of the pure white sugar cubes slowly disintegrating into the oil was interesting to watch, as was the slow deterioration of the sugar cube structure.  Another work that was a shadow projected on the floor only induced the children to create their own shadows. 

We were finally able to talk them into moving to the most interesting part of the museum which interestingly enough was part of the building architecture too - the observation room.  It was here that a glass wall overhanging the little board walk made you think that you were floating right above Boston Harbor.  Incidentally, I have no idea what the kiosks were there for in the sitting gallery part of the observation room.  It was here, though, that we spent the most time.  Sensing the children getting bored, we thought we would go down to the lower floors

Unfortunately the third floor was a motion picture/video art room that was closed when we were there and the second floor was some sort of digital sound room that was not open to the public.  These closed doors bummed us out.  It was even too late to go through the gift store.  Hooray on that one though! I don't have to buy a couple of stuffed animals with "ICA" stitched on them.

Overall, the museum was interesting.  There is no reason to make a day of it however as even real art lovers can walk through the area in an hour.  Remember we were trying to kill time before a game and still only managed to be there for an hour.  It appeared that there were a couple of exhibits getting ready to open, so perhaps the viewing time and space will increase.  It certainly didn't seem like we walked through the entire structure; it seems much bigger from the outside.

And that quote to lead this off?  Next to the sugar cube/oil video.

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