We picked a good day to go, because it was one of the last before the current exhibit, titled "Memory Theatre", was set to close. Usually before we go to exhibits together, my mom or I know ahead of time or at least have heard about whatever was new and exciting there, but neither of us were really sure what to expect, and now, weeks later, I am starting to collect and understand my thoughts on what I saw.
The exhibit featured many works in different media, from different eras, by artists of different nationalities and culture perspectives, and they all approached the broad topic of "memory" in different ways. There were pieces that took a more personal approach - from a collection of personal belongings and knickknacks molded in to a plastic head to painted comics that told stories of the artists experience growing up in a crowded apartment complex in Russia. There were pieces that took a more cultural approach, attempting to preserve the memories of certain eras or peoples - a series of photographic prints depicting multiple American responses to the 9/11 attacks, glass art pieces made from destroyed churches or monuments (including many pieces that came from the ruins of World War II war zones), and many other preserved artifacts from around the world. Many works in the exhibit dealt with the idea of memory after death - a wall of memorializing ribbons made from cremated remains of a loved one (gross but rad!), post mortem portraits, c-prints of individual copper canisters containing cremated remains of patients from a state-run psychiatric hospital - all serving as modern momento moris, if you will. Others chose to investigate the more psychological and scientific aspects of our notion of memory - interactive investigations of how we perceive/remember images (try it yourself!), and a video chapter of a man's experiment of recording one word a day .
Together, all of these (and more, of course), made for a really interesting and engaging exhibit. However, one of my favorite things in the gallery that day isn't listed on the MAG's website, nor did it have a plaque with an artist name or description of the piece next to it on the wall. In the back corner of one of the rooms in the gallery there was a table with a few pads of sticky notes and pens, offering themselves to the viewers. Each sticky note had one of three questions on it for the patrons regarding memory: "What is your first memory", "What is your favorite memory", "What is something you wish you could remember?". People would post their answers to the back wall, leaving a display of memories for all to see.
i dont know if i am really allowed to have taken this picture in the gallery but i did it anyways and here it is.
Where I left my mittens!
More of my high school Spanish!
My wife's birthday...oops!
Others were a bit more haunting:
More about my mom's last few days
My dad before he started drinking
Life before cancer
Some were written in elegant, detailed paragraphs in flowing cursive letters, while others stung me with their simplicity and sweetness in scribbled, chicken-scratch handwriting:
What is your favorite memory?
Everything about Susan.
I know a lot of people may view this as a lazy wall to fill a gallery wall, and some wouldn't call this "art", especially by traditional standards, but I found it to be the most striking thing I saw all winter break. After all the different perspectives and approaches to understanding "memory" that this exhibit opened me up to, I think this is certainly the piece I will remember the most.
On the topic of memory, I have started this blog addition to my website for that reason - I want to be able to use writing as a way of collecting, organizing and remembering all of my thoughts and experiences with art throughout this new year. I hope that in this I will grow as a writer, an artist and a student, so that I can be the best that I can be and other cliche things. I also hope that maybe some of you will be reading and commenting (critiques always welcome!) so that I can stay on track and encouraged.
Thanks a bunch.