Thanks to a lovely gift from my brother, I have access to a few museums in New York for free and yesterday evening I visited the New Museum, located on Bowery and Houston.
Although the museum is quite well-curated, it really reminded me of how much I dislike multimedia exhibits. There are often so many noises, conflicting both within the art itself and with other art whose noises are overflowing into the next room, and I feel the need to leave the noise as soon as possible. And this means...since the majority of the New Museum has auditory accompaniment, I missed a lot of the works. It's ironic really, because the artists often want to create a jarring or uneasy sense in the viewer, but the extremes to which they go results in me ignoring their art completely. I can't imagine that was their intention either...
I really liked the top level of the museum, which is currently an exhibit about gender, sexual orientation, and identity, based on a series of interviews that visitors can watch at individual booths. It was interesting to have so many different types of people talk about these issues on the different television screens, and it is particularly timely to visit it now with the current political climate.
The other exhibit I liked is in the gallery next door, called "The Parade." It's by Nathalie Djurberg, with "music" (of course, more noise!) by Hans Berg. In the gallery itself there are several dozen sculptures of birds, in various positions and activities, and each section has a stop-animation video (usually with clay) that portrays some horrible facet of human nature (greed, gluttony, etc.). It is meant - of course - to be disturbing and unsettling to the viewer, but the cartoon-like nature of the sculptures make the gallery look almost child-like. The videos on the other hand, regardless of being clay and stick puppets, are definitely creepy and unsettling.
All the exhibits had a feeling of insanity, disorientation, and emphasis on the negative. Although modern art has always had a tendency towards the critical, it has also sometimes been expressed through humor, beauty, or even sadness. These exhibits were almost entirely about disorientation or discomfort for the viewer, forcing me to ask - If the viewer has to be on the defensive every time s/he views art like this, isn't there a high risk that the ensuing frustration will be against the artist, and not the society that led to these visions?
All in all, not my favorite museum, but that's also due to personal preference for silent exhibits and some positivity. If you're into multimedia art, or the theme of technology in society, then I recommend the current exhibits. And if you can make it Thursday evenings, they have free admission (tickets must be reserved online in advance).
Next Up: Chelsea Art Museum