Forcing a Pause

Rothko fans will recall that his big blurry boxes require viewers to pause and absorb what we’re seeing:

Fans of modern art embrace this “forced pause.”  Maybe it’s this very pause that characterizes the renaissance from “classic” to “modern.”

Interesting then that the Guggenheim capitalizes on the forced pause to spur its own renaissance:

Explaining their approach, the architects write that “the Guggenheim has become, in a sense, a victim of its own success due to an over-saturation of human movement in a singular space. Our proposal aims to accomplish the seemingly incompatible: to restore a museum environment conducive to experiencing art and to maximize and heighten other experiences brought about by the iconic status of the museum itself.”

The specific strategy here is “to trap, i.e., to force a pause. This programmatic component was not considered by Wright, who envisioned a space defined by tireless motion.”

But Cho saves the best analogy for last: once the overflowing crowds of art-drunk tourists come to fill the “pop-out pods,” it’s “as if they were performing as a part of a living Baroque ceiling sculpture.”

The architects continue, writing that “the pop-out pods, each approximately 60 cm deep, contain seats,” and “each pod has five openings for the head and limbs, which make the membrane”—and I love this metaphor—”much like a garment that can be worn collectively by 180 people.”

Imagining a piece of clothing so huge you mistake for a building is an awesome change in both scale and context; you would go inside by putting the building on, slipping in one arm at a time.

For both of these the art lies in the experience.  Rothko’s paintings are attractive, but what makes them “art” is the effect they have on the viewer.  Similarly “wearing” the Guggenheim is “art” in that it forces anyone experiencing it to reconsider what’s around them in a completely new way.

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One response to “Forcing a Pause

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