“Hi! So we’re from a program at MoMA called the Cross-Museum Collective and we’ve been asking people to write spontaneous poems about the piece of artwork that they’re currently looking at for the MoMA blog. Would you want to write one for us?”
Poetry writing is a very intimate experience that typically doesn’t occur in public and social spheres. Asking gallery visitors to write poems blurred the lines between public and private. Additionally, the poems served as self-similar surveys of what the gallery visitors think of MoMA’s collection, as they are art-responding-to-art.
We sought to capture the visitors’ responses to both the art and the physical spaces in which it is exhibited. As teens interested in art (and, some of us, artists ourselves), it was interesting to see what the visitors at MoMA thought of pieces. Poems do not give any limitations or restrictions (except for those who chose to write haiku), and people would write down what they were thinking at that exact moment. Since people were writing poems and that too on the spot, the responses were probably in the most pure and uncensored form possible.
However, finding the courage to actually go up to people and request they write us poems is another story. When we first started out, though excited to embark on a new adventure, we had our doubts: “What if they say no?” “What if they don’t speak English?” “What if they think of us as ‘annoying teenagers’ and report us to the closest security guard?” “Will we be banned from MoMA?!” Despite these concerns, there was an overpowering amount of motivation. Not only would we get to try something new, and meet people in an atypical situation, but we would also get a priceless experience and get to have it all published on a world-renowned blog. As we asked more people for poems, we became more comfortable with this process. Collecting poems that contained word associations, allusions, and opinions of the pieces from randomly selected MoMA visitors was a unique way to receive responses and reactions of the art.
The results, as well as their reactions, were across the board. As we expected, quite a few people rejected our request, citing their inability to “write on the spot.” Others reluctantly accepted the challenge. But what really excited us were those that became truly submerged in their writing. Some took nearly half an hour perfecting their poems. Others, after pondering, asked if they could spend the night writing and e-mail us their poems. One of our authors even looked for us later in order to photograph her work. We were pleasantly surprised by how a seemingly simple request of a stranger could give birth to the passionate, visceral works of art. For once in a major institution, the rigid role of exhibiting artist has been democratized; art at MoMA reaches far beyond its exhibitions. Below is a compilation of the poems we collected:
Laughing & gasping
cyclical & youthful play
by Anna Jackson, Vanessa Lee, and Hannah Bunting; inspired by Pavel Tchelitchew’s Hide-and-Seek
This stuff is weird
But even so
I guess its nice
I could sure go for a landscape
by Anders Reading from Texas; inspired by Naum Gabo’s Realistic Manifesto
The grotesque, the beauty
stopping everyday thoughts
tapping into the eternal internal
pushing the creativity of confusion
exiting that which is already within
smelling with appreciation
for that which is not said
feeling again, that which should be left
by Tsuru; inspired by Pablo Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon
tom tom pod
I hear and
Footsteps and the rumble
by Paz Tanjuaguio; inspired by John Cage’s score to 4’33”
Frozen at Dusk
The rolling hills of Moroccan Garden
entwined against the coral dusk sky.
No end no beginning
periwinkles are frozen
no sense of time, movement.
by Anonymous; inspired by Henri Matisse’s The Moroccans
Ethereal — sounds like our
perception — but — somehow at one
by Anonymous; inspired by Paul Gauguin’s Marquesan Landscape with Figure
When I look at this painting I am reminded of
my own brown skin, its yellow copper tones.
The beauty of brown
by C.P.; inspired by Paul Gauguin’s Two Tahitian Women
Feather light brush strokes
Tranquil coloring blowing through the canvas
by ML; inspired by Claude Monet’s Agapanthus
I feel bad for the people enjoying
the paintings through a digital
screen. To claim they’re seen it.
They’re missing the point. Use
your own eyes for once.
by Gabriel Benbow; inspired by Piet Mondrian’s Composition in Red, Blue, and Yellow
like a berry suspended on a branch
to be free, to be rope
will cause you to talk
by Anonymous; inspired by Paul Gauguin’s Human Misery
The cat lady sits
Does she know we are
watching, 100 years later
As she waits, poised
for what she knows not
Patient, lovely, enduring
by Cindy M. Walker; inspired by Henri Matisse’s Woman on a High Stool
by ML, inspired by MoMA in general
There is nothing to say-
by Anonymous; inspired Jackson Pollock’s Number 1A, 1948
Paint across a canvas
Where so much is to be said
Yet nothing at all
The splash of wild excitement
by Annika Fincher from Alaska; inspired Jackson Pollock’s Number 1A, 1948
It’s chaos and orderly
Something new each time
Its meaning depends on me.
by SG; inspired Jackson Pollock’s Number 1A, 1948
Surely artists are not only painting images of the world but of the truest arms of the soul
by KB; inspired by artists at MoMA in general
This week, every post on Inside/Out is created by participants in the MoMA + MoMA PS1 Cross-Museum Collective, a behind-the-scenes program for teenage alumni of our In the Making studio-art classes. Over the course of the 16-week project, the participating teens work with educators, curators, security staff, conservators, and other Museum staff to gain hands-on experience across a number of fields. In addition, they create collaborative artwork with a range of contemporary artists. More info can be found HERE and HERE. Info on our 2014 free summer art courses for teens is available now.