Contemporary art museums are weird. You go past the reception and enter an unusual place where anything is possible. You see canvasses painted with one single tone of red and you see benches on which no one can sit. If you are lucky enough, you will also see a small metal can in which artists have stored their own excrement. For your surprise, no one seems to notice that there is a can full of literal sh*t inside a museum. You ponder and after a long consideration but you still have no idea what the hell you are doing looking at contemporary art. You are not alone.
This break I embarked on one of these adventures, but with one difference. This time around I challenged myself to not dismiss the absurd, the ugly, or the weird. I would carefully watch the one colored canvasses as I would with a renaissance painting. I would embrace it just long enough to feel a connection. The simple brick sculptures, the awkward deformed human shapes, and the stuff hanging from the ceiling…I would watch it closely. No text, no arts history, no fancy explanations.
That day I entered the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston to discover one of the most beautiful pices of art I have ever seen. Walking by the contemporary art section of the museum, I found myself in a small white room. The piece was called Osservate, leggete con me by Frances Stark. Inside the room, words were projected on three walls. There was classical music. To my surprise, the sentences projected on the walls seemed to be some sort of flirtatious texting. No canvasses, no paint – that was all. It was slightly obscene, oddly uncomfortable. I sat down on a bench placed in the middle of the room (I was confident it was “sittable”).
Of the two people talking, one of them was an artist, presumably the one that created this piece. The artist was talking to someone from Italy, followed by others. It was not only flirtation. Between teaching dirty words in Italian, they talked about the political situation in Italy and about the very meaning of artistic creation. It was so spontaneous, free of any pretension or worries. The quick summary about European politics was followed by sexting as if it was just a natural transition. I never truly considered how profound the daily life is. But there was more.
While watching that video for 30 minutes or so, I was constantly expecting grandiosity. The MFA is an awesome museum with an interesting curation and particularly good contemporary art section. I was constantly on the verge of epiphany, from discussing Tantra to the Medici family in Italy. At one point, the artist is asked “is art for you, art, or business.” This conversation would be so heavy, so serious, if it was not for the context. “Art.” The intensity peaks along with the music and suddenly, the discussion goes back to flirtation.
This is one of the hidden powers of a museum. Museums bring to the spotlight something that would have gone unnoticed. I expected to see art and I saw it even in the least pretensions, simplest contexts. You just need to give it time, observe it for long enough.
Apparently, sexting is sublime if you give it a chance.