On Tuesday, I went to the Museum of Modern Art because I was unable to attend any poetry readings this semester. I haven’t been to the MoMA since sophomore year of high school so making the trip out to 5th Ave was also a nice journey down nostalgia-road.
Once I made it inside, I went straight to the first floor into the “modern ward” which featured art and sculptures from the 1980s and up. Making my way through, I saw some very curious videos playing on massive screen projectors. The one that really captured my attention were three screens that showed an empty room with an elephant in it. The whole movie followed how this elephant repeatedly sat, stood, rocked, and rolled and another small box to the side featured a close up on the elephants face and its blinking eye. I was captivated because it was fascinating watching this huge animal go through these motions. When we see an elephant, it is usually on t.v. or in a circus, or a still photo in a magazine, but we never see one getting up and sitting down. I moved on and saw other films and slides, one that caught my eye was Open Your Eyes, 2010 by Kader Attia which showed projection slides of mutilated faces. It was horrific to look at but I couldn’t take my eyes off the images. I did not read the summary pane on the wall but I do know that these images were supposed to be a reflection of the Western ideals of beauty and what humans (from Western culture) perceive as aesthetically attractive. The images were horrifying; these faces did not just have scars and gashes. Instead they had gaps in the center of their faces, missing eyeballs, skin from their chins and foreheads pulled over their faces to cover what’s missing. I did not watch the entire show because it became too gruesome and disheartening. I wish there were stories with each photo but unfortunately you’re kept guessing as to how these deformities came to be.
There was one piece that caught my attention. It was by German born artist Wolfgang Tillmans titled “Freischwimmer 199” which is a chromogenic color print. Translated from German, the title means “Free Float.”
I like this work a lot because you can’t really tell what it is when you first look at it. Of course, the colors and the gradient looks beautiful. I feel like it presents this calm oceanic feeling as if looking at the sea. But when I looked closely, I see faces and not just two, there are multiple of them. It seems like they not different faces either, it’s as if the print captures the faces in motion. I see the contours of the “faces” and it looks like they’re intimate, like looking into one another. Then again, it could be something completely different. This is what I see, an intimate peaceful moment but not obvious to the world around them.