The "immersive art event" wave, and David Hockney's psychedelically good new show
Almost a month late to the comment game AND my first comment but here goes:
I was in London in early April and took the fam to this, based solely on your rec. They were slightly surprised that this was on the agenda as I have spoken derisively about the immersive art trend (I was an art major, let me live), and I absolutely wouldn't have made the time had I not read this.
Will I sound like a weirdo if I tell you it almost brought me to tears? Like multiple times? Was it maybe the fact that I was feeling the family vacation vibes and flooded with memories that were a little bittersweet as it was our last day in London and I knew we were about to return to the drudgery of daily life? Was it that my 11yo son had happily inhaled a plate of mussels while standing up at Borough Market just before and I could see him as both child and future adult? Was it my down for whatever husband, happily watching the moving colors? Was it the charming British family behind us, explaining to a small child that the voice was "Mr. Hockney"? Maybe all of the above?
All this is to say: thanks for the push.
The other thing about most of the immersive art stuff (that excludes to artist from the creation process) is the motivation; they're 100% profit-driven. There's no artistic message or meaning, they transmute recognizable public domain imagery into copyright-able, franchise-able 'experiences' that are pitched by experiential marketing agencies to investors for their ROI.
My mind went back to this post this week since I just went to the Broad to check out the (great!!!!!) William Kentridge exhibit they had on and then decided to take a spin around the galleries. Revolting!! It made me mad. Even though some of the art is good (though less than you'd like) the way they've hung and lit it soooo brightly and put everything so close together, how bright and loud everything is... I've spent a lot of time in the Ellsworth Kelly room at SF MOMA which is beautiful and contemplative and the way they hung the Kelly stuff in the Broad (two steps away from all the other crap) felt like such a desecration.
BUT. Idk I just can't bring myself to hate those immersive Van Gogh things, though I haven't actually been to one. Whenever I see pics it's always couples lying on the floor holding hands, or families with kids or whatever, it's sweet. I think it's cool that in our completely image saturated culture somehow a hunger for painting still persists. Like maybe people don't even know it consciously but there's something in Van Gogh that speaks to them 150 years onward.
It feels funny writing this bc I am not a populist at all lol, I am accused of elitism way more often and I hate the "let people enjoy things" forced-fun mindset. But yeah painting (especially paintings that are, for lack of a better word, conventionally beautiful) can seem so enervated as a form but clearly it has energies waiting to be harnessed and that gives me a little bit of faith. Just my 2c!! The Hockney thing looks awesome ofc.
(And its basically impossible to have a personal/emotional experience with any of the really famous Van Goghs in person because you have to navigate a giant crowd of people at any time of day. Maybe if you got to MOMA right when it opened and sprinted to starry night you could get 2 or 3 minutes alone.)
Loved this – reminds me of how I (according to my mom) used to sit in front of Sam Francis' "Basel Mural" at the Norton Simon as a little kid and stare at the colors for way longer than a little kid was expected to sit still. I now do a similar thing whenever I go see Hockney's "Mulholland Drive" painting at LACMA :')
"...lucrative code on how to build a “grammable” “museum” “experience”..."
This has also worked it's way into the restaurant industry. There are so many places doing average food, service, etc. but have some feature in their space which lends itself to a "pre-composed" photo and social media hype.
I get that it probably brings folks in the door and creates hella visibility for them, but it hurts my heart when it's so clearly built with the intent to get posted on timelines. I think I might just be missing when people posted photos of their food instead?
I highly recommend everybody watch Brad Troemel’s video report that dives deep on this subject.
Linking behind the paywall for the spy nation, but I encourage everyone to support his work, well worth it.
oh god, ok, so this is literally my job (museum curator) and I have so many Opinions and Feelings about this...
because yeah, on one level it's hugely annoying when you pour your mind and soul into an exhibition/gallery, and then you see people engaging with via the medium of selfie instead of reading the captions and pondering wisely. and it's annoying when you want to *have* that experience as a visitor, something contemplative and quiet maybe, but you're being BLOCKED by a rampaging group of students wielding selfie sticks.
but not everyone experiences art in the same way, and looking through a camera lens is still a form of looking... maybe we see it as less 'pure' because we're looking with a goal in mind (the perfect photo) that isn't about the art/artist per se, like we're mediating the work and inserting ourselves into its significance - rather than 'this is a picasso', it's 'this is MY photo of a picasso and also that's my buddy steve next to it'.
thing is, historically, those impulses have always been present in how people viewed art. like if you consider the Grand Tour, where 18th century aristocrats would f off to italy for a couple of years to learn about CULTURE, only a minority of those travellers were really and truly there for the contemplative experience. it was more important to show that you'd viewed the most important antiquities and paintings (even if you were really in italy to party), and to bring home copies in the form of plaster casts, sketches or bronzes - which is why so many Grand Tourists sat for their portrait with artists like Pompeo Batoni, who specialised in s w a g g y representations of rich travellers surrounded by statues.
i could go on about this for ages - i won't tho - but it's a really vexed question which boils down to, why are we looking and what are we looking FOR?
love this entire screed, had a similar reaction at the leo villareal exhibit at pace, was in my head at his crazy visual pieces and some insta-fool has me move to take a 5 minute long series of photos (with photographer) in front of a few pieces. i love the idea of an immersive piece that refrains from being the next 'museum' of ice cream...
Was recently in LA (checked out the Broad and became mesmerized by some Cecily Brown) and it happened to me twice that I was taking a selfie while sitting at the bar with some friends when a bartender suddenly appeared and offered to take a photo for us instead. I didn't like the first time it happened but when it happened again at a second place I was cringing so hard!! A selfie for me is usually a quick snap to either look goofy and send to a friend or something to help me remember where I was when I look back. I really don't like when photos become the focus of a social event.
Anyway the Hockney exhibit seems lovely af!!!