Sleepwalkers, Night 16
Last night I forgot to mention that I ran into Yael and Anne in the garden tonight and Doug Aitken was with them. I took the opportunity to ask him if the 6 o'clock clocks were an intentional gesture. Every night at 6 pm while the bells are ringing in the neighborhood every screen is filled with the image of a clock. Turns out that it is, in fact, a happy accident. That makes it even better. Chance, as ever, gets it done.
Tonight I viewed Sleepwalkers with painter Steve Flanagan. He made a great observation about the cascading shower water. He said that it reminded him of a Pat Steir
And lastly . . . are the idiots winning? There was an odd moment when some escapees from the the Sugarape
offices let out a collective "Oohh!" in reaction to the moment when the businessman was hit by the cab. It felt a bit, "Watch this. This is cool. Heh-heh." Dan Ashcroft
would have cringed. Then he would have written an article about it. But just before the cringe he would have laughed at them laughing, which is what I did. The idiots. They are
Sleepwalkers, Night 15
The FedEx lamp in the postal worker's apartment is my favorite moment of irony in Sleepwalkers. I've loved this lamp since I saw it during the Creative Council's
studio visit with Doug Aitken a few months ago. .
No irony here. Just a quiet moment of light.
My friend Sue came along for the ride tonight. At one point, she mentioned the silent film aspect of the work, something that curator Peter Eeley had discussed on NPR
recently. When we were in the garden Sue brought up the subject again during one of the more abstract sections when she said, "I know this is a silent film, but doesn't this part look
loud?" I mean, seriously, how many ways can I say, "Yes."? Such a kick to witness somebody absolutely and completely getting something you love.
Sleepwalkers, Night 14
Simple. Tonight, the moon and the sun shared the screen.
Just before waking.
Sleepwalkers, Night 12
It was great to see so many people out enjoying Sleepwalkers
tonight. At first I thought that it was because of MoMA's family night, but then I realized that there weren't that many children watching the installation. I guess it's just that the word is out. Excellent.
I really wasn't moved to take too many pictures tonight, but not because I wasn't moved. Exactly the opposite. It was a night for immersion and silence. Which is exactly where the night started: Silence. Or, actually, the lack of it. Out of curiosity I thought I'd try a little experiment with a couple different soundtracks. Ha. Silly boy. I didn't make it past one. I even thought I'd ease into it with some drones from Thomas Koner
. I was a little surprised how wrong it felt to be hearing anything other than the sounds of the city while I was watching the films. I had a thirsty ear for those sounds within two minutes. The iPod went back into my pocket and I let it flow.
On the wildly small world front . . . later that night I met a friend at a bar
in Brooklyn. He ran into someone he hadn't seen in 15 years. Turns out that his long lost pal was (the very entertaining) Anne Hubbell, who happens to be the KODAK
rep that hooked up Aitken with the film stock for Sleepwalkers
. What are the odds? I don't know, but I'll take 'em.
Sleepwalkers, Night 11
Some kicks from the inside. The light and images from the projections are infiltrating MoMA's interiors in a way that's going to be difficult to leave behind when this is all over.
Arthur Young, meet Cy Twombly. We know you share the same house, but this might be the first time you've met. At least like this.
Inside the projection moves past the surface and we get a sliver of sun. Nice.
On the outside . . .
Ooh, and forget the Newcastle. They have Smithwicks
at Connolly's. We learn as we go.
Sleepwalkers, Night 10
I don't know. This is just great. The circle divided. Almost squared off if you look just past the surface. Of course, it's tempting to go all theoretical on your ass with this image, but I won't. There's nothing to do but just stand back and be filled. Let everything flow from that. Even theory.
I mean, it is
difficult to look at this photograph--considering the metaphor that it holds--without thinking of Roberta Smith's comment
about "the house that cubism built".
Tonight's art/booze bonus came before viewing the installation when I had a martini with a friend at The King Cole Lounge
at the St. Regis. This is one of my favorite places in the world, not to mention New York City. Warmth, a Maxfield Parrish mural, and a certain sense of denial. What's not to love.
Sleepwalkers, Night 9
This was the second time I'd experienced the juxtaposition of the businessman and the office worker on the parking lot walls. There's a delicious tension that develops because of the symmetrical (skin tone, carriage) and the asymmetrical (age, gender, position) nature of this pairing.
The surreal moment of the evening came in the garden when my eye was drawn to the movements inside The Modern. Wait staff and patrons seemed to be moving with the rhythm of Sleepwalkers
, or maybe it was the installation that was matching the rhythm of the figures inside the restaurant. Either way, it was a full-on, dreamlike ballet. This just keeps getting better, kids.
Two bonus treats:
1. Check the Calder silhouettes on 53rd Street.
2. Connolly's has Newcastle
Yael sent me these stunning pictures of Jim Hodges' Look and See
in its permant home at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery
in Buffalo. My post
about it back in September of 2005 was one of the reasons that Creative Time asked me to do a blog
for them. Hodges' sculpture was one of the reasons that I wanted
to do the blog for them.
Sleepwalkers, Night 7
The actors lost their names tonight as I found their characters. I've been referring to the people in the films by the names of the actors who play them. I didn't find them on the walls of MoMA though. I found them, after work, while I was traveling uptown on the E train to see the installation. Everyone was dreaming of dancing on the hood of a cab, playing violin, twirling, drumming, spinning a lariat. But mostly, everybody just looked alone and tired. There they were . . . the businessman, the office worker, the postal clerk, the bike messenger, the electrician. They weren't going anywhere. And neither were their names.
One other thing: Tonight I was able to grab the 6 o'clock picture that I mentioned on Day 5 while the bells were ringing. Sweet Jesus, this is good.
Sleepwalkers, Night 6
Another great viewing. The most memorable moment happened a couple minutes after I arrived. I had listened to the NPR story
on the Sleepwalkers
this morning. In his interview curator Peter Eleey had stressed the point that these are silent films. I had that in my head as I watched the first film of the evening and started to hear the sound of an old movie projector. I mean, this is an amazing installation but was it capable of provoking aural hallucinations? Well, no. Turns out that it was the hot dog guy's generator. However, in those few seconds before rational thought arrived I know that I was waiting for the theatre organ to kick in. Beautiful.
And let's not forget the generator.
Sleepwalkers, Night 5
Two things my camera missed tonight, but my eyes (and ears) didn't. 1. At 6 PM sharp, church bells began to ring in the neighborhood as every single wall in the garden filled with clock images. This might have been more magical than the snow last night. 2. There was a wonderful moment when Tilda Swinton walks across the screen, and on the west wall of the garden it looks as if she's walking across the 3rd floor of MoMA.
I did, however, manage to catch this nice series in the parking lot.
Tonight it was reaffirmed. Donald Sutherland is totally the man. In the NYT article of January 7, Aitken talked about the stir that went on when he was shooting Sutherland. Tonight, there were two couples standing near me in the garden who were disappointed that the Sutherland film wasn't being shown while they were there. I told them that it was ok. He would probably be in the next rotation. They were thrilled when he appeared on the east wall. Yes. He's the man.
Earlier in the garden . . .
From across 54th Street . . .
And I caught a good example of what I meant when I referred to the unlocked rhythm of the work yesterday. This approach is not dissimilar to the rhythmic attacks employed most skillfully by the Stax house drummer Al Jackson, Jr.
or legendary bassist Busta Jones
(These pics aren't the clearest, but they're clear enough to illustrate my point.)
You can play right on the beat . . .
Or just slightly off it (Look close.) . . .
Where do you want the song to go?
On Your Radio.
A friend woke me up this morning to tell me that they were doing a story about Sleepwalkers
on Weekend Edition Saturday on NPR. Here's the link
Sleepwalkers, Night 4
When I arrived at MoMA I didn't spend a lot of time with the projections on the front of the building, a bit of a repeat of what I had done the first night. About an hour later I discovered that that was a mistake. Learn from me. Hug everything.
In the parking lot, Ryan Donowho on the right wall and Chan Marshall on the left. I love when the abstractions take over out here. The patterns of the building's bricks add unexpected textures, depending on the color and lighting of the image. Stood beside a very observant viewer making comments to her friend. I can't remember a single thing that she said.
About two minutes after I walked into the sculpture garden it began to snow. This brought all kinds of magic to my house. It reminded me--as it always does when it begins to snow--of Delmore Schwatz's In Dreams Begin Responsibilities
. It was especially appropriate here.
I ran into CT president and artistic director Anne Pasternak in the garden. While Anne and I were talking, her phone started to ring. About then, I noticed Doug Aitken over in the corner. He was calling someone on his phone. Anne maybe?. I said, "Is that Doug over there calling you?" It was.
It was a treat to meet the artist. Such a smart, nice, unassuming guy. No art star bullshit. And let's face it, with a project this big it would be an easy train to jump. We had had a brief chat at his studio about the excellence of New York Hack
and Thomas Koner
, but we were never officially introduced. Where's Yael when you need her? (Joking of course. Yael is the best and actually is always
there when you need her. This is something that cannot possibly be said enough.)
Tonight, the silent unlocked rhythms of Sleepwalkers
were most strongly felt in the garden. The way the 1-2-1/1 (or 1/1-2-1 if you prefer) projections play off each other creates a different song every time I see it. I learned first from Maya Lin's Peace Chapel
and later--in a more focused way--James Turrell's Meeting
how environment plays a role in constantly transforming a work of art in a public space. The people (figures) in the garden as well as the crowds moving through the museum come to play in the frame. And have I mentioned the snow? Yeah. It was a good night for Sleepwalkers
Before I left the garden I witnessed one more classic cell phone moment. Anne was talking on her phone to a woman on the other side of the glass, standing in the warmth of a very busy Friday night at MoMA. It was an odd thing, but it somehow worked with some of the themes of Sleepwalkers
. Modernity. Touching. Not touching. The obliteration of distance, and the gulf between. I am thinking of Paul Virilio
now, at least a little bit.
On my way out I walked back through the parking lot. Donald Sutherland was on the right wall and Tilda Swinton was on the left. There's a moment when Sutherland reaches out and presses his hand against the separating glass in the taxi. It's as if he's putting his hand on inside of the wall, trying to touch the world outside. Also, I loved the way the building with the golden light matched both the sun and Tilda Swinton.
As I said at the beginning of this post, I had initially missed how good Sleepwalkers
looks on the face of MoMA. My first impression of it was almost as a teaser for what was to come. My bad. One of the great things about this installation is how the viewer becomes "co-editor", as Aitken put in a piece
on NPR Saturday morning. Changing your vantage point changes the work. MoMA's facade is the most rigidly framed of all the screens, which makes it interesting in its own way. It's certainly the one that makes it easiest to concentrate on just the film and nothing else. Well, not quite. As on the walls in the parking lot, the patterns of the building itself find new ways to show themselves off when the more abstract sections of Sleepwalkers
are on them. Not to mention that it's great when, (And sadly, this is not a moment that I captured on camera.) a FedEx truck drives by while the hilariously ironic FedEx lamp is being projected onto the screen. This is what I'm talking about. The facade rules. Give it a hug.
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About the author
Brent Burket has his own art blog, Heart As Arena. He also writes for ArtCal Zine.
Brent has been a member of Creative Council since January 2005.
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