Provoke (Purovōku) was an experimental magazine founded by photographers Yutaka Takanashi and Takuma Nakahira, critic Koji Taki, and writer Takahiko Okada in 1968. The magazine’s subtitle read as: shisō no tame no chōhatsuteki shiryō (Provocative documents for the sake of thought). Photographer Daido Moriyama is most often associated with the publication, but Moriyama did not join the magazine until the second issue. Read more
Among the groundbreaking artists included in the exhibition Inventing Abstraction, 1910–1925, currently on view in MoMA’s sixth-floor galleries, are František Kupka (Czech, 1871–1957) and Piet Mondrian (Dutch, 1872–1944). Like the other luminaries represented in the show, beginning in the second decade of the 20th century, Kupka and Mondrian jettisoned figuration and pioneered an art of pure form. Read more
That thing that looks like a hollowed-out vintage caravan in MoMA’s Agnes Gund Garden Lobby, from now until January 21, is just that. And those bulky, muscular curtains—clinging to all sides—are in fact made of leaves, sweet potato stems, and other organic detritus. And yes, those are real people—dressed in gauzy, powdery garb—moving slowing around, or nestling inside of, the vehicle.
What you’re seeing is The Caravan Project (1999/2011/2012/2013) a work by legendary dance duo Eiko & Koma. They have been making work together since 1972, and their history is detailed at length on the Internet and in many books, so I’ll focus here on the lesser-known story of the Caravan’s journey to MoMA and the performance about to unfold inside it.
On Monday afternoon, the Caravan arrived at MoMA from its storage space in Hackensack, New Jersey. We had to stop traffic on 54th Street for a few minutes as Koma expertly reversed it into the loading dock. And from then on, there was very little margin for error as the art handlers guided it through MoMA’s mezzanine. Despite being sealed and unadorned, it had already taken on anthropomorphic airs—seeming to me like some sort of oversized, burrowing animal, ungainly in its slow but determined movement.
The last image above depicts what the Caravan looked like as the installation was wrapping up late Tuesday evening. Illuminated from the inside and parked askew, it sits below Tony Smith’s Untitled (1962), and in front of Rodin’s Monument to Balzac (1898). That unlikely grouping—each a figure in its own right—and the nearly finalized Caravan itself, has left me with a couple of observations:
Even though the performance has yet to begin, the Caravan feels fleeting. As though it had been on-the-move and needed a quick parking space, and MoMA graciously obliged. On the other hand, it appears as though it was abandoned here decades ago, and somehow managed to remain invisible until now. Decaying in plain sight. These impressions of either happenstance or near-permanence each lend the Caravan a serenity I did not anticipate. In the busiest thoroughfare of the Museum, it seems at ease.
I’m reminded here of a story about Eiko & Koma recently told to me by a friend who’d had them as teachers at Wesleyan University. She described how, in class, they asked students to isolate under-loved or under-danced body parts: “Dance from the back of your neck,” “dance from your armpits.” In another exercise, they encouraged students to dance as if each finger had a separate persona, and in a third, students were asked to move as though plants were blooming from their bodies. These requests—dancing from minor parts of the body; reconceiving hands as a quorum of autonomous subjects; trying to adopt an arboreal pace—resonate with the Caravan’s feel and function in the Museum (albeit on a different scale). The Caravan is a slow moving organism, operating in a minor key and with a temporal sensibility that seems to rub MoMA against the grain. It invites close and extended looking, an unanticipated meditation in and on an often frenzied space.
Eiko & Koma: The Caravan Project, held in conjunction with the exhibitions Tokyo 1955–1970: A New Avant-Garde and Performing Histories: Live Artworks Examining the Past, is presented in the Museum’s Agnes Gund Garden Lobby during Museum hours from Wednesday, January 16 through Monday, January 21.
Sound and space are closely linked. Our ears help define our surroundings by picking up on spatial clues in reflected sound waves. This innate ability to situate ourselves in our soundscape was probably more overtly useful in the days before electricity, when we had to rely on our ears to alert us to danger our eyes could not detect. There is, however, a movement in the visually impaired community to cultivate this ability Read more
This is the first post in a new blog series entitled Exhibiting Fluxus, showcasing works from the Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus Collection Gift that are currently on view. Read more
This summer I served as a curatorial intern assisting curator Ron Magliozzi on the exhibition Quay Brothers: On Deciphering the Pharmacist’s Prescription for Lip-Reading Puppets. My first brush with the Quay brothers, perhaps like most visitors to the Museum’s new retrospective, was entirely tangential. Read more
It has been just about a year since the artist Trisha Donnelly was invited to be the tenth artist to participate in Artist’s Choice, an ongoing series in which a contemporary artist is asked to create an exhibition from the The Museum of Modern Art’s vast collection. Read more
In the audio slideshow above, the Shanghai-based artists Ji Weiyu and Song Tao, who work together under the collective name Birdhead, talk about their installation in MoMA’s New Photography 2012 exhibition. Read more