Darren Bader: Images at MoMA PS1

Last Monday I headed to Queens to visit MoMA PS1. I had heard of PS1 a few times, but had never made the effort to actually go. It was in Queens after all. The good news is that the trip is not complicated or overly long, and is definitely worth it for the unique experience PS1 offers. Some advice for Google Maps users though, if you plan on traveling from Columbia by subway do not trust Google’s directions. I made this mistake only to learn that the stop on the 7 that Google wanted me to get off at was closed through April 2nd. Finding my way meant an extra 12 minute walk, and if I hadn’t had a smart phone it would have been difficult. Hopstop provides accurate directions for getting there using the E.

Once I arrived at the museum I found myself lost. My advice? Pick up a museum map when you arrive. I skipped this easy step and I regretted it. I did not realize upon entering the museum that I was doing so through the back, and so when I walked out of the lobby I had to go back outside through a courtyard to get to the actual exhibits. I reentered through the cafe and book shop only to find myself still a bit confused. There is a definite lack of signage in the museum. I headed up the first set of stairs that I found and began to hear what sounded like a choir. When I followed the noise I found Janet Cardiff’s The Forty Part Motet, a stunning sound installation that features 40 different speakers each playing a single recorded voice. The effect was consuming and thought provoking. What does it mean to have a speaker replace an individual singer or artist rather than a whole performed work? The piece left me with eery feelings about technological advancement and its effect on the individual artist.

The discovery of The Forty Part Motet immediately eased my frustrations about not finding my way around. In fact, part of the fun of the museum became discovering the exhibits as I walked through the building. After stumbling upon another installation I found a map, which led me to the exhibit I had come to see.

Darren Bader: Images seeks to challenge the meaning of what art is. At times this comes off as a bit pretentious and I have a strong feeling that some would hesitate to even call all of Bader’s “sculptures” art. Overall though, I walked away from the exhibit entertained and contemplative. My least favorite piece on display was one in which Bader used real cats. The felines were to freely roam the room, but were hiding under the couch instead. The museum employee that was supervising the room explained to another patron that the night before was the opening of the exhibit, and that the cats had a bit of stage fright. Part of Bader’s agenda, beyond challenging the meaning of art, is drawing attention to animal rights and adoption, but I could not help but feel that these poor cats would have rather been somewhere else. I realize that the open room is probably a better home than a crate in a kennel but I still felt sorry for the cats that were clearly terrified by the constant flow of museum patrons through the room.

The next room of the exhibit that I entered featured an iguana in a spacious habitat, and a croissant lying on the ground. I laughed, because it looked as if the iguana was staring at the pastry longing for a taste and I wasn’t even sure if the croissant was supposed to be there until I read the title, Iguana and Croissant. I really enjoyed the piece, and I think it may have been the first work of visual art that genuinely made me laugh out loud. I was also excited by my luck, how many people walk into this living sculpture and experience it just as I did, with the iguana staring right at the croissant? I’m unsure, but am pleased by my luck.

The next room I walked into featured just two speakers and four windows, or so I thought. Music was piping through the speakers, and it made me look out the windows toward the hustle and bustle of the city. This was yet another living sculpture, and the music turned the traffic of the city into a dream-like show. Then I noticed something on one of the window sills. Two burritos were stacked on top of each other. It was strange, but once again it made me smile. On one of the walls of the room I found the title of the piece, Chicken Burrito, Beef Burrito. The title did not diminish my original experience of the city and the traffic though. Instead, it reinforced it. If I were to focus only on the elements depicted in the title I would miss all of the living sculpture happening elsewhere.

Some pieces of Bader’s exhibit may seem silly but almost every one of them brought a smile to my face. The pieces are as provocative as they are entertaining; Bader asks us as viewers to look beyond the elements of art that he himself can control and to see all of the living sculpture that surrounds us. His approach could come off as didactic but it doesn’t. His pieces are simply too fun.

I have not included any pictures of Bader’s exhibit, because I don’t believe one can truly experience it without seeing it in person. I highly encourage anyone interested to take an adventure to PS1 before the exhibit closes in May. Columbia students are admitted to MoMA PS1 for free through CUarts’s Passport to New York, just bring your CUID with a valid semester sticker on it.

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Cody Holliday Haefner CC’12

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One Response to Darren Bader: Images at MoMA PS1

  1. Darren Bader says:

    Having a lazy, semi-sick, morning in bed, and I decided to Google myself. Fun! Found your post. Thanks for the thoughtful words. The cats piece is irking me too, and adoptions aren’t happening. If there isn’t a massive shift in that trend over the weekedn, I’m going to stop the whole “operation.” The cats are less skittish now, but it’s not feeling right. I’m glad to read your reaction to the situation. Sometimes art-ideals can boorishly blemish reality-ideals and this “cat art” is turning into an unfortunate instance of that. Art highs turned reality lows.
    Darren [Bader]

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