Archive for the ‘Park Avenue Armory’ tag

“Hansel & Gretel” at Park Avenue Armory – Save Your Money

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Hansel & Gretel at Park Avenue Armory

The “Hansel & Gretel” curatorial statement describes the installation as a space that brings together Jacques Herzog, Pierre de Meuron and Ai Weiwei combined interests in

the psychological impact of architecture and the politics of public space; creating a playful, strange, and eventually eerie environment with different layers of reality revealed to the visitor… Hansel & Gretel is a dystopian forest of projected light where the floor rises up, as if lifted by an invisible force, and visitors are tracked by infrared cameras and surveyed by overhead drones as they systematically capture the parkgoers’ data and movements…

Unfortunately, the only portion of this description that resonates is the playfulness. Indeed Herzog, de Meuron and Weiwei have created a dark environment in which visitors may skip around and play with light traces of their image. However, the installation lacks strangeness, eeriness, politics or any psychological reverberation.

Other than the initial moment of discovery that one’s image is being projected on to the ground after it is periodically taken due to on one’s movement in the space, the installation presents very little that is interesting. The drones may have been a neat prop had they not been tethered.

The second part of the installation is a didactic revelation of what the installation is trying to allude to – that we are objects of surveillance. As far as a critical art installation regarding surveillance, there was much more interesting work done 15+ years ago. Perhaps the theme of surveillance has been so overly investigated and picked apart by art previously and by entertainment today (“Black Mirror” for example) that such an installation seems trite and naive. There is so much of our data being captured today, that building an installation that merely plays upon facial recognition and motion sensors is just kind of dumb, but it is playful. So if $16 is worth the cost of running around a huge dark open space and playing with light projection, check it out.

Hansel & Gretel at Park Avenue Armory

A second perspective: Playtime at the Armory
Once again discovering what this city has to offer, there I was with Ricardo walking into a venue called the Armory near Hunter College, a place I had never been before to see a new art installation called “Hansel & Gretel”. He had been keen to check this out for a few weeks, and like the curious creature I am, I followed along.

We received a quick intro and were instructed to read a phase on the wall before entering -which i forgot- and then allowed to enter. We walked into black nothingness. My immediate reaction was to scramble for Ricardo’s hand. I didn’t realize the massiveness of this place until my eyes adjusted from the summer sunlight to the darkness inside of the Armory. It was only eerie the first few minutes because I had no idea where the hell I was walking. There were a few cameras far above us hanging from the ceiling and lights that would follow us. As we continued to walk, our movement was detected, grid lines would appear and cameras would be activated to capture our moves. Suddenly, it was playtime! It was fun to pose in different positions to watch the resulting snap shot of yourself illuminated on the black floor. At one point my sweater and shoes came off and I really got into it.

Ricardo noticed two drones hovering on one side of the space living poor unfulfilled lives- tied onto leashes without free movement. It would have been more interesting if they were chasing people around. After exhausting our ideas for poses, the novelty wore off and we were ready to enter part deux of the installation. For that, we had to exit this part of the Armory and enter from another entrance on the other side of the street.

After pausing in front of a camera you were allowed inside. There were many ipads on long tables with apps. You could elect to have your face identified and then search the cameras for your photo which was taken in the first part of the installation. That was cool. You could read about the history of surveillance, or access cameras to spy on others walking into the exhibits. The Armory itself was impressive, the installation not as much. It was a new, interesting experience- a fun activity for kids, I would say. I didn’t leave with the feeling that I had witnessed an impressive statement against today’s constant scrutiny and monitoring that we are all under. I didn’t feel intruded upon. There wasn’t anything menacing or fantastical as is described in the program leaflet. It was just pretty cool and fun.

Perhaps the work behind the installation was complicated, but with my lack of technical know-how, I failed to appreciate the amount of effort involved. To have truly made an impact, more could have been done to confuse or play with the audience with the intention of throwing them off or perhaps even scaring them. Coupling that with the sound of Russian men having conversations in the background (that felt clandestine in nature), and I would have possibly left quite feeling differently.

Hansel & Gretel at Park Avenue Armory

Tom Sachs, MARS: Cool but Lame

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I had been so excited to see Tom Sachs’s “Space Program: MARS”, unfortunately it turned out to be a disappointment and a sharp reminder of how lame work that is executed to target the Art Market can be. I also made the mistake of taking my nearly four year old son, the kid was bored and I should have known better.

I’m a big fan of Tom Sachs’s work, his amazing craft at assembling functioning sculptures out of materials never meant to be used in the forms that he does or as he calls it bricolage. I’m also well aware that the end product of his work is the art object and what interactivity is available in the work is meant exclusively for the artist and a few friends. However from MARS I hoped for something different, more spectacular and more available to a general public. Ahead of the visit, I checked to see if the exhibition was kid friendly, according to the Armory site it was, so this fed my image of an immersive and interactive installation.

Upon entering the space, I was not entirely surprised to find that the Armory overwhelms the work. The installation feels like museums pieces staged on platforms in a gigantic armory. I think that each element would have been amazing in a museum or gallery where the environment itself is at a much smaller scale. But in the armory, the pieces look like scattered work that do not come together as a whole. The installation is not interactive, in fact twice I was told to get off a platform when trying to get a closer look at the work (second photo below) and later told to take a notepad off a stool, because the stool was part of the art… And then there was the annoyance of Sachs’s assistants skating or bicycling around the armory and climbing into the sculptures which just made it all feel like a playground for the artist and his friends.

Tom Sachs MARS

Tom Sachs MARS, first installation upon entering the main space

Tom Sachs MARS

Tom Sachs MARS, Ground Control

Part of the reason that I’m writing this is that visiting the Tom Sachs MARS show brought into focus the effect of work created for a market driven audience and the limitations of a space like the Armory on Park where Art is meant to be seen and not touched. Tom Sachs’s sculptures themselves reminded me of an exhibition that I saw last summer in the Santa Fe’s Center for Contemporary Art. The exhibition titled The Due Return by a collective that goes by Meow Wolf, was entirely immersive, other worldly, engaging and fun. It didn’t carry any of the pretentions of the art world, it was a magnificent and sincere installation that still felt like fine art. The Due Return presents a giant ship that sails through space and welcomed anyone of any age to traverse its various levels and rooms and discover countless interactive elements. I can’t imaging coming across an installation like The Due Return at an art establishment in New York City and it’s disappointing. Below is an image from a post featuring The Due Return.

Meow Wolf's "The Due Return"

Meow Wolf's "The Due Return" Captain's Deck

The Due Return

Interactive Screens on the Captain's Deck

The Due Return

Typing log in the Captain's quarter

My son could not get enough of The Due Return and we visited multiple times during a residency in Santa Fe. Whereas he was bored at Tom Sachs Space Program: MARS… I certainly understand that MARS was not designed to entertain young kids, but it should not be promoted as “an immersive space odyssey”… immersive for whom?

Tom Sachs MARS

Kid bored on MARS

In speaking with one of the store attendants (the exhibition has a store that features products in collaboration with Nike), the attendant told me that although the installation itself isn’t that exciting, the performances appeared to be something special. I did not attend any of the performances, however my recommendation is if you are going to see the show before it ends this week, do it on an evening of a performance, don’t go just for the exhibition.

Written by ricardo

June 13th, 2012 at 10:04 am