Monday, October 12, 2015

This is such an incredibly contemplative  work. It is a relaxing, calming, meditational space. It is a work of art you want to spend time bathing, soaking, immersed in. Far beyond mere optic tricks, this room is fuzzy boundaries and expansive space, visual focus dissipated and psychic focus celebrated. The experience James Turrell creates with Breathing Light is truly lovely, one you want to drink in.
This creates a comical problem for LACMA. The work is designed to wow you initially but awe you slowly, it is intended to touch as time passes in extended light envelopment. The work is on a nearly hour long loop of light shiftings, if what one security guard told me is true. The sign outside suggests no less than five minutes be spent in the space.
LACMA, however, needs to get people in and out. They don't want lines, day trippers, homeless people, spiritual seekers, horny kids, or drug trippers taking up residence in the space. So they have a security guard in the edgeless alcove with you, and he tosses you out when your five minutes are up. This may be in the best interest of the greatest number of people, but it is to the detriment of the work itself and all who see it.
It makes me wonder if there aren't works that an institution should simply acknowledge they can't respectfully or responsibly show. I don't know the answer to that. I adore LACMA. This, however, may simply be a work they cannot do justice if they need to control patrons this extensively.
On the other hand, it may only be a hardcore of durational art lovers who are put out by this. Or this may be a little joke on Turrell's part. A middle finger from him to LACMA and the upright boho viewer. I don't know.
We talk about these sorts of issues a lot in EbM. We attach a lot of rules to our collaborator artist's contracts, because this is a bind I want to find ways to avoid, if we can. I don't ever want to commission a project that requires a viewer to spend time engaged with the artwork, and also requires a security guard on site to evict anyone who has the audacity to spend time with the artwork.
With EbM, we are still small, broke, and young as an institution. We can make declarations that works cannot be fenced or policed or dangerous or transgressive. It doesn't matter really, not in any practical way.
We must learn from experiences like this, as we grow, though, because someday we will have a sculpture garden moon tethered to the end of a space elevator, and both will be managed in trust for all humanity to use. And further in the future still we will steward our home planet Earth as a heritage site to sate all the space-going species' curiosities and contemplations. And the problem of the commons will weigh greatly on our minds.

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