Another thing about my day at MoMa. At one spot they had a collection of the gallery’s works selected and organised by one Vik Muniz. It looks like they regularly have an exhibit where an artist selects works according to a certain theme. This one was called Rebus and its mission statement was a quote from Albert Einstein:
The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.
The start of the exhibit was a quite long film of one massive Rube Goldberg machine. For those who haven’t heard the term before, a Rube Goldberg machine is basically where you use a chain reaction of needlessly complex mechanisms to perform a simple task. Some of you might remember an example of this from the Honda Accord commercial.
Anyway, it was massively packed in that spot. People were crowding in to see it, exclaiming their enjoyment of it, and laughing aloud at some of the crazier things that were happening on the screen. People were glued to this fucking thing, and it just went on and on. And they were all LOVING it. Having the time of their lives. Sitting down with the kids, talking about how good it was. And everyone was staying for the whole thing! I didn’t watch it all but it had to have been longer than 10 minutes, and most people walk past any film exhibit longer than a minute.
As I watched these people, I noticed that a lot of them didn’t even look at the rest of the exhibit, and in fact almost none of them stopped to read the explanation accompanying the film (and setting up the tone for the whole exhibit.) I did read it, and when I did, I felt glad for the first time in a few days. I felt glad to be me.
Here is an excerpt of what it said:
The human brain responds directly to the eye’s inability to process all the visual elements of a scene instantaneously. As our eyes move from one point to another, they create a continuous narrative that is perceived by the brain as a seamless whole. I have often contended that human consciousness emerged from the growing complexity of such optical narratives and our penchant for interacting with the world through cause-and-effect models, graphs and timelines. The pleasure we derive from Rube Goldberg machines and rows of falling dominoes is an echo of one of our most primitive perceptual handicaps. Attention is what enables us to capture a managable vision of the world, by allowing us to ignore its natural complexity.
I thought that was such a fascinating thing to read and to ponder about, and hardly anyone bothered to read it. They just sat there living it, and not paying attention. I’m glad I can enjoy this sort of thing, and I’m glad I’m not one of the many people who cruise through exhibits (and life) without paying attention to what’s around them. I’m glad the art got me thinking about the artists intent, and about the human condition, instead of just mindlessly enjoying Rube Goldberg machine footage.