It’s not often that you leave a symposium feeling more awake than when you started, but that was certainly the case for every attendee and participant of last week’s The Child in the City of Play: Growing by Design
Posts by Laura Beiles
MoMA Studio: Common Senses opened on September 24 in the mezzanine of MoMA’s Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Education and Research Building.
On June 8 and 15, poet-scholars Stefania Heim and Wayne Koestenbaum shared their favorite “lunch poems” by the beloved poet Frank O’Hara—who worked on and off at MoMA from 1951 to 1966—in the Museum’s Sculpture Garden at lunchtime.
Did you know that museum visitors spend an average of three seconds looking at a work of art? What can a viewer possibly glean from that brief encounter? When I invited poets Matthew Rohrer and Joshua Beckman to do a reading at MoMA, I knew that they would be able to change that statistic for a lucky few. They know how to encourage diverse audiences to join them in the process not only of composing poems, but of looking at and contemplating art and creating a fresh experience with it. So I challenged them to use MoMA’s public as a resource to write poems about works of art in the collection or about the museum experience in general. In their preliminary field work, they spied on museum goers, listened to their conversations, recorded people’s activities, and trained a group of teens from MoMA’s Teen Voices Project to do the same. Our goal was to bring an assortment of people, art, and poetry together, and to spawn unexpected social interactions.
“You know who has a really cool Christopher Walken impersonation? Oh wait, you don’t know this person…” “I’m a real bot…” Do you ever catch the tail end of a stranger’s conversation, then begin to weave the rest of the tale on your own? How much do you embellish what might be a very simple story? And have you ever eavesdropped on other people’s conversations at MoMA?
While you might imagine that a lot of the discussions taking place in the Museum galleries have to do with the art on the walls, poets Matthew Rohrer and Joshua Beckman have discovered otherwise. Roaming the Museum and riding its elevators for three days in February and March, they have been snooping on other people’s chatter, and they found that it’s not so much about the art. Many of the conversations are incomprehensible to them, not because Rohrer and Beckman only understand art-speak, but because so many MoMA visitors these days are speaking other languages besides English
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