I've been in NYC for the last day or so. I like going to the City once a year and do do my regular geek-related activities: go to the Strand book store, hit a museum, walk through Central Park (very pretty with all the snow), and see a play.
This is about my visit to the Guggenheim Museum. For those of you not familiar with the Guggenheim, the inside is like being in a barrel of sorts. You walk around the sides on a ramp that gently goes upwards. Art is displayed on the wall of the barrel. To your other side is empty space. It's a beautiful effect kinda like being in one of those domed churches (without the nasty superstition).
So, I'm pretty oblivious at times. OK, OK, most of the time I'm fairly aware of my environment in case of a natural disaster or random zombie outbreak occurring. When I'm in the Guggenheim it's different. My paranoid, "Flight or Flee" (as against to Fight or Flee) response is shut off. In those moments I'm less aware and pragmatically speaking... stupid.
I walk into the museum, and I soaked up the space (the place is all white to magnify the spaciness). I slowly walk up the ramp. Do I notice there is NO art on the wall? No. I'm just being stupid Andy at the Guggenheim chill'n in the space. Suddenly, this little 10 year old girl with braces introduces herself and starts walking with me. My first thought? Oh my God, I'm not a pedophile, and I shouldn't be talking to you. My second thought? This is some kinda scam or maybe I'm in some horror movie with Evil Children with mind control powers that are going to drain my brain.
Then she asked me, "What is Progress?"
Now I'm really disoriented as we walk up the ramp of all white with bare walls. I thought for a moment and started to say what I thought, with minimal editorial control from my higher brain functions. "Progress? It's man's escape from misery," I quipped. She repeated my statement (she must have been taught to do that when grownups say crazy shit). "Sure," I continued, "think about it, for the majority of human history life has been: nasty, brutish, and short." "Nasty, Brutish, and Short?" she replied. "Sure, progress is moving away from that. Take some of the more uncivilized areas of the world, let's say Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe has a life expectancy of what? Forty? Forty-Five? There's a whole lot of progress needing to be done there." I didn't stop there. I just kept talking in the same vein.
By then I figured out this HAD to be part of the exhibit. No art on the walls?
Someone willing to listen to my crazy talk? Then a high school kid (male) met up with us and introduced himself. The little girl related (with uncanny efficiency) our conversation. "This is Andy. He thinks Progress is man's escape from misery. The typical human experience has been: nasty, brutish, and short... historically speaking. Take Zimbabwe..." Have you ever seen Dr. Phil? It's a show I don't often watch, and then only for a few minutes. There is a typical segment when the offending loon gets to see themselves on camera doing their looniness, The typical response is, "Wow, I didn't realize how loony I was acting." As this precocious, 10 year old was basically relating my thoughts on the human condition I thought, "Wow, that sounds pretty brutal -- true, funny, and brutal." She said her good-bye and scampered away apparently unscathed by our discussion. I meant to say something like, "It's not all bad. Things are much better than say, Medieval Europe when 1/3 of the population died of the Black Death!" Too late. My new friend was asking me followup questions about Progress. This went on all the way up to the top (the ramp wind around the wall like a screw). When the last person I was talking to was an older guy.
I usually dislike interactive art. I'm lazy. I just want to look at pretty stuff. That's why I paid my $18. This exhibit actually made me feel like I was part of an artistic process. Mind you, the process was kinda like me going out drinking and talking smack only in a nicer environment. And people HAD to listen to me (after all I did pay something). The exhibit was the creation of artist Tino Sehgal. I have to tell you, this was my most pleasant experience in the Guggenheim.
Now, some of you who haven't been in the museum are thinking, "Andy, you got played. You paid $18 and all you got was a twenty minute conversation outta it?" Point taken. What I failed to mention on the way down the ramp I walked into the rooms off to the side and saw some lovely painting/sculptures from the Parisian inter-war period. So I feel like I wasn't completely ripped off.
In retrospect, if I hadn't been so disoriented in the beginning I would've added some rainbows and butterflies to my assessment of the Human Condition, at least to the 10 year old.
Children shouldn't know they're in Purgatory.