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.