Monday, May 25, 2009


Last Tuesday, Kim & I went to the Museum of Contemporary Art to see two things: the Buckminster Fuller exhibit, and the Olafur Eliasson show. To be honest, I know almost nothing about modern art, but I had heard of Eliasson from the above picture, taken from The Weather Project at the Tate Modern in 2003-04. I think I saw the picture on a blog somewhere, or perhaps when I was looking up info on waterfalls he created in the rivers around NYC last summer. I did not get a chance to see them the one day I was in the city, but I hear from New Yorkers that they were pretty cool. The MCA exhibit is more of a random mix of his various projects, rather than an installation around a single theme, but it was awesome. We started in a long hallway filled with single-spectrum yellow light, washing out all colors but shades of black and yellow. The Inverted Berlin Sphere was particularly awesome, sending bits of light all over the room, and was a definite connection to the fantastic geometric shapes of Buckminster Fuller upstairs. There was a wall of live reindeer moss (if only it was live reindeer, huh?) from floor to ceiling, bulging out a bit at the bottom (maybe from gravity) which was both serene and a little creepy. There was a circular room whose walls gradually changed all the colors of the spectrum, which I have been thinking about and wishing it could be used in conjuction with other things (dance studio?). After leaving this, we almost missed the dark entrance into Beauty, truly gorgeous installation. We blindly climb up a short ramp, the ground feels squishy, there's a strange dampness, a funny smell. As we round the corner we realize it is water that we are smelling and feeling, and we see a fine mist spotlighted, falling from the ceiling. We were in the museum on a free afternoon, so the room was packed with every kind of Chicagoan, but after a short time everyone fell silent. You know the strange stillness when everyone in a crowded room, say, a party, or a movie theater, stops talking all at once? It was like that only it hung and hung. Maybe everyone realized how nice it was to be silent and feel the quiet and the darkness and the mist.

Then, we went upstairs to the Buckminister Fuller exhibit. Not only was this guy a visionary, but he was coming up with sustainable, affordable, pre-fab housing as early as the 1920s! Way before any of those terms were even in use, much less popular. This reminded me of something Zeb had been saying to me just a few days before, that the 20s and 30s were a "moment" when people thought that the world does not have to be the way it is, and sought radical ways to change it. Then came the war, and the 50s, and people were scared back into conformity. He claims that therefore the radical 60s were really not all that radical, and that people today have largely lost the sense of potential for change. (Sorry to digress on the topic of my boyfriend, the Marxist. Back to Bucky). Bucky had a few ideas that I'll have to dismiss as the Le Corbusier fallacy, which is that people want to live in simple-looking high-rise structures. I read this silly book by Alain de Botton, The Architecture of Happiness, and pretty much the only time I agreed with him is when he says that Le Corbusier's plans for super-high-rise public housing structures to replace Paris were basically doomed to failure, and it would have been a major loss had they actually been built. Bucky had similar ideas of putting lots of people very close together, in floating pyramids and huge balloon spheres, which look beautiful and amazing and futuristic but I think would drive people who lived in them crazy. Kim studied biochemistry, so she could really appreciate the geometrical designs drawn from nature, and I liked it because I am a big dork and it reminded me of my mathemetician father, and also because I love geodesic domes. There is one across the bay from my grandparents' house in Alabama, and it looks really funny but is almost hurricane-proof.
And by "I am a huge dork" I mean: look at this! They are stellated icosahedrons! They are so cool!

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