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November 09, 2006

Ian Treasure: When the Rain Comes, When the Sun Shines


Ian Treasure: When the Rain Comes, When the Sun Shines

The problem with exhibiting time-based arts is, no surprises here—time. Timing would be more apt, or lack thereof. Seeing a dead monitor or a dead kinetic installation is almost a deal breaker for me. It’s a tough one and I empathize with the imperfect conditions surrounding viewing time-based exhibits in a public setting.

My first approach is to embrace a Zen-like frame of mind and simply wait. My next approach is to move to the left or right or a bit closer and hope some minute movement will activate the exhibit so I can clap my hands with glee. Sometimes, my patience pays off. Other times it does not.

Ian Treasure’s exhibit, When the Rain Comes, When the Sun Shines, consists of a wall lined with black umbrellas pointed outward, rather than up, some open, some not. As a minimalist exhibition of black, puffy hexagonals protruding from the wall, it was pleasing enough until the cables and wires provided a clue that something else was at stake, at which point I was poised for excitement. I waited quietly, scanning for micro movements, a twitch, anything. I anticipated it would be like watching popcorn pop. Instead, it was like watching a Chantal Akerman
 film and expecting a punch line.  After some serious dawdling, I gave up and walked away. Nothing happened.

Still wanting to be pleased, I didn’t walk very far, only across the hall to the gift store to inquire about the timing. I asked how often the umbrellas open. I was told it was random, but only during museum hours. I walked back in. It was a Sunday. The museum would close in one hour. I stared at the umbrellas, trying to will some them to open in my presence. They did not. I waited patiently. Nothing. Eventually, I walked around to see the other exhibits within earshot, lest I heard the sound of an umbrella opening. I did not. On my way out, I peeked in. No change in the weather.

I’m still debating the meaning of random, if there’s such a thing as calculated randomness, and if calculated randomness is it akin to predicting the weather. Is computerizing the umbrellas to open only during museum hours the equivalent of predicting the rainy season in Southern California? Did I mention the California watercolors down the hallway? Did I mention the drive to Pasadena?

Art and technology can make for an interesting pair, and I’m aware of the parameters involved constructing an ideal condition for viewing kinetic exhibits. Had the randomness of time had been compressed a bit more, taking in account not only the museum hours, but also the people who visit the museum, the experience might have left me in a sunnier disposition by day’s end. 

February 27, 2006

Our Evening with John Baldessari

Scene: Approaching the first floor elevator in the Structure 4 Parking Lot in Santa Monica.

Matt and I were coming back from dinner. Our car was parked on level 6. I'm a stair person, but Matt heads toward the elevator, so I follow. John Baldessari is standing there talking to another person. They are waiting for the elevator. The elevator is on the 5th floor.

Matt says, "Let's take the stairs." I protest. Matt says, "It's only on the 4th floor, let's take the stairs." We turn to take the stairs. I wasn't going to make a scene just so I could ride the elevator with Baldessari.

I am not from California, did not go to school in L.A. and therefore am not privy to having hobnobbed with Mr. Baldessari. I've spotted him a couple of times before from a short distance. He's easy to spot. He's usually a foot taller than everyone else.

As we step barely out of earshot, Matt says, (with a laugh) "That looked like John Baldessari, only taller." I'm walking in front of Matt, rolling my eyes. When we get to the first floor landing, I tell Matt that WAS Baldessari.

Matt stopped dead in his tracks with an expression of total shock and awe, and actually swung around and leaped down the steps. Then he was flummoxed. If we run back down the steps now, it would be obvious we were trying to ride the elevator with Baldessari. We head back down the steps anyway. No one was by the elevator.

We walk up the steps to the 6th floor. Matt's really disappointed. He keeps saying what a great artist Baldessari is, how much he loves Baldessari etc. I asked him what he would have said had we actually had the opportunity to ride the elevator with Mr. Baldessari. He said he would have told him how much he loved his art, how he had always admired him as an artist, and then he would have made some small talk about the piece that was reproduced in the LA times that morning. I've never seen Matt that excited about seeing anyone. It was endearing.

We exit the 6th floor stairwell and Baldessari is in the passenger seat of the car parked right by the elevator. As we walk past, we look, but do not stare. We find our car and get in. We back out of the parking space. Baldessari is in the car behind us. There is a traffic jam exiting the building. We stay in front of Baldessari for the duration of the parking structure exodus, except for one point when another car muscled its way in between us. We turn left out of the parking structure. The car, which transports Baldessari, turns left also. At a stoplight, we are side by side. At the next light, we split for the freeway and exit our secret narrative.

In summary, my husband has been a long time Baldassari fan and we were too self-conscious to tell him that in person.

Back to work.