This past Friday I had the fortunate opportunity to enjoy my bliss: solo museum hopping in New York City. In one day, I buckled down and visited three museums.
First stop was the Lower East Side, my former stomping ground, to view the “Here and Elsewhere” exhibition. For the third time. Laden with imagery that individually retains strong political yet simultaneously personal content, the whole exhibition is beautifully curated and perfectly timed. In my opinion, the exhibition is one that should be viewed by anyone who has any grasp of the recent history of the numerous conflicts in the Middle East, as it presents a critical perspective far beyond political and mass media representations that somewhat eliminate the humanity of a struggle that is so prominent and so contemporary.
Then I headed to the Museum of the Moving Image, which is a hidden gem in Astoria. The site’s history as Paramount’s former studio before World War II has been warmly embraced by the museum’s brand, to the museum’s benefit; the resulting institution is a hub for both production and exhibition of contemporary moving image art as well as a historical archive of the American film industry.
My last and most moving stop was MoMA PS1. When the admissions desk offered me a free ticket due to there only being one exhibition on view, I was expecting to spend no more than thirty minutes at the museum. I ended up spending nearly two hours there.
Having no background knowledge of what I was about to see, the wall text for Xavier Le Roy’s Retrospective was somewhat perplexing to me for its lack of explication of the artist’s own history and instead listing the names of 16 artists. My confusion was multiplied when I entered the exhibition space expecting to see wall art, yet only to be welcomed by the vocal whirrings of three performance artists who directly addressed me as I entered. Slightly off-put, I wandered the space and the flanking corridors, looking for any wall art that represented Le Roy’s oeuvre.
In my wandering, I stumbled into the performance artist Eleanor Bauer in a back room with several books and computers. Sensing my confusion, she approached me and asked if I had any questions.
“Yeah… is this an actual retrospective?”
Although I am retrospectively (hah) embarrassed by my lack of awareness of what the piece was, Eleanor was gracious in her explanation. Driven by a concept of interaction and temporal-spatial ambiguities, Le Roy’s Retrospective is a performance piece presenting the artist’s own work in the framework of his artistic colleagues’ own retrospectives. In a collaborative, compelling, and extremely direct-to-viewer presentation, Retrospective creates a temporal-spatial rift that creates a viewer experience — or at least my own experience — that is simultaneously detached yet highly intimate, where the nature of interaction, free expression, and anonymity are questioned. Simply, it is a beautiful piece.