Thursday, September 07, 2017

Soundtracks at SFMOMA

A collection of arty soundscapes called Soundtracks has been installed throughout SFMOMA and has taken over the entire 7th floor of the museum. Not a fan of conceptual art installations, I visited with low expectations, and was happily surprised.

Many of the installations are light and playful, and a large contingent of children last Monday were loving them.

A tin can telephone house, Amalia Pica's 2014 Switchboard (Pavilion) would not have been out of place at the Exploratorium, though unfortunately it didn't really work sonically. According to the online catalogue, the difficulty of communication is part of the point of the piece, though not a very compelling one.

That didn't keep everyone from trying their best to make primitive wireless communication happen.

The French artist CĂ©leste Boursier-Mougenot created the 2012 clinamen, a marvelous circular pool of water with a slowly moving current that buoys a collection of floating porcelain bowls that bump into each other, creating bell-like textures that are exquisitely hypnotic.

In wall signage, the artist requests that no cell phones or photography be allowed because the experience is meant to be meditative, but good luck with that injunction.

The greatest discovery was in a dark room with nine screens angled off of each other, showing an hour-long video called The Visitors. I saw the last thirty minutes, and about ten minutes into the experience, I burst into tears, possibly the first time in my life that has happened in a museum.

The 2012 work by Icelandic performance artist Ragnar Kjartansson, strumming his guitar in the bathtub below, is so lovely and surprising that I don't want to spoil the effect. Just go.

And afterwards read this wonderful review by Laura Cumming in The Guardian of Kjartansson's Barbican retrospective last year in London. She ends the post with: "The Visitors is a marvellous creation, rhapsodic, mesmerising and overwhelmingly affecting. It runs for more than an hour but you could stay there for ever. I could not pull myself away."

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