I should probably tell you, I’m not very good at modern art. I don’t always “get it.” I’m not very analytical when it comes to that kind of thing. My reactions can range from “oh ok” to “that was…neat?” to “I think I liked it.” But something like a sense of duty to the art community mixed with my love for museums always drives me to visit anyway, despite my own hesitations. In my head, I have somehow worked out that one-day contemporary art and I will get along, it’ll just take time.

For this reason, I found myself in Long Island City this Saturday walking to the MoMA PS1. I had planned only as far as transferring to the L train from Grand Central and getting off at the Court House stop. From there I walked a few blocks and found myself outside of an old primary school building with “PS1” painting along one side. I wasn’t sure what I was about to happen, but bought a ticket anyways.

The museum opens at noon Thursday through Monday. I got there at 12:20, and pretty much had the place to myself. Apart from the desk clerk that sold me my ticket, the docents guarding each room and the occasional hipster, there wasn’t a lot of foot traffic. This made navigating awkward. I had no one to follow. I didn’t know how long to look at a painting. I just aimlessly walked from one installation to the next, stopping for random intervals at each in order to absorb that art. It’s not that the building was excessively expansive. It was just organized in a modern way. It was free flowing. I was used to being funneled through exhibits, arrows painted on the floor telling me where to go and when to look. This wasn’t the case. Apart from the paper map in my hand, there weren’t any directions to be had. Plaques on the walls explained each artist and their works, but left me to figure out the rest for myself. So I wandered. I walked up and down hallways, retracing my steps and passing past the same people more than twice. I started to see the exhibits and installations as landmarks. In an attempt to keep my barrings, I
kept track of the exhibits I had passed, like breadcrumbs, finding new ones by retracing my steps. I would stop every so often and peer through the doorways around me in an attempt to figure out where I was based on what I could see around me. It worked for the most part.

Actually, being lost kind of helped. It left me in rooms for longer than I would’ve been if I knew what I was doing or where I was going. I sat and listened to the entire fourteen minutes of Janet Cardiff’s The Forty Part Motet. I watched Chim↑Pom’s video for all 100 cheers. I took the time to walk up and down staircase B in search of Alexis Rockman’s Unititled.

I found it at the bottom of the first floor
I kind of liked hunting for the exhibits. The staircases were all decorated by different artists. My favorite was Ernesto Caivano’s In the Woods. I was really drawn to certain aspects of the some of the exhibits. To me, some of them seemed really admirable. Darren Bader’s installation incorporated stray animals up for adoption. In one room he had an iguana. In another he housed three cats, rescued from New York. Each cat was “titled” like any other work of art. I sat and played with “The Cat Made of Crab Meat” for a good twenty minutes.

One of my favorite installations was Surasi Kusolwong’s Golden Ghost. The artist had filled a room with thread waste, which is just what it sounds like, a lot of string. Within this mess she hid gold necklaces, free for whoever finds them. The room was complete with benches and a mirror that reads, “Golden Ghost The Future Belongs to Ghosts.” It was like the ball pits of my childhood. Except this wasn’t Chuck E Cheese’s and it had an underlying message of consumerism. This didn’t stop me from making yarn angels and mucking around.

They should install one of these in the library during conference
Unfortunately, not all the exhibits were open to my wanderings. Some opened at certain times, others were weather permitting. Still there was plenty to see. I saw enough in the three floors of exhibits to add something to my “appreciation” of contemporary art. Not enough to send me running back, but I’m happy I went. Moral of the story? Get lost and take your time. Then you’ll notice things.

Image Source: MoMA PS1

Zoe Marquedant doesn't talk about Fight Club. She is an SLC writing student with a dinosaur watch and an over-developed sense of state pride. She can be found around campus perpetuating awkward moments and swearing like a sailor. Zoe firmly believes life is what happens in-between good cups of coffee.

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