If angels were scientists

4 Apr

I went with my partner (also a playwright & musician) to MASSMoCA in North Adams, Massachussetts for a couple days last week. There was still snow on the ground. North Adams is a hard-scrabble, beautiful old mill town in Western Mass. It hasn’t had the B&B makeover of the Berkshire pretty towns but it has MASSMoCA, an art gallery/ museum housed in an astonishingly huge old mill, originally a textile mill then an electronics factory and now an art gallery.

We saw Spencer Finch’s exhibition and also Anselm Kiefer’s. Such different work and so inspiring. Finch’s work was light, joyful and in close dialogue with the natural world and scientific processes. Much of it recreated certain light conditions– a huge blue cellophane folded cloud, hung before a painstakingly constructed panel of fluorescent lights of different shades, re-created the light in Emily Dickinson’s garden one summer afternoon. It made me look at the room and the light in it differently—to feel light as a palpable, passing entity. If angels were scientists, I picture them doing this kind of work. (I guess that’s something like the premise—only weightier because everything German is, even bread— of Wings of Desire/ Der Himmel uber Berlin).

Kiefer’s work (also riveting) couldn’t have been heavier. I’ll write more about that later, when I’m not brain-dead from work. There’s something about the light and darkness of history (the vertical dimension, its shattering light and waves of darkness, not the horizontal time-line dimension) that both exhibitions suggested. There’s something too about seeing strong work… across media… it’s inspiring and re-wires dull habit brain paths. Visual art undoes (or at least loosens) the tight circuit of language’s referentiality and somehow this helps with the writing.

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