The Calder mobile tips a biomorphic sphere

Last Sunday my parents and I went into town to see a few exhibits that were closing that day. One of them, prints by Edvard Munch, was something we all wanted to see. (It did not disappoint: the way he used the woodgrain in his woodblock prints was incredible, and the evocative blocks of color were remarkable to see in person.) But the Munch is not what I want to talk about today: instead, I’d like to say a bit about a video installation at the Hirshhorn that my mother wanted to go to.

The work was called “Flooded McDonald’s” and it was exactly what it like. A Danish art collective built an exact–and I mean exact, down to the woodburned hands on the flaps of the trash bins–replica of a functioning McDonald’s restaurant and then slowly filled it with water. The only sounds were the soft susurrus of the rushing water and the tapping of objects against counters as they floated by.

It was excruciating.

I mean, I’m sure it was scathing commentary on the consumerist culture of the developed world and/or global warming, but when you get right down to it it sounds like something that college performing arts majors would think of doing when they were high. “Dude….let’s flood a McDonald’s!” I made my own fun by making hilarious-at-the-time remarks to my mother about how the coffee machine must be handling its stressful experience. Whenever the footage showed it in close-up we both shook with silent laughter.

At base, the problem is simply that I don’t particularly like modern art, don’t take it seriously, don’t enjoy analyzing pieces at great length to determine what the artist was trying to say. I like my art to have aesthetic value or, failing that, be an impressive technical feat. (Which is why I love Calder, since I find his work both aesthetic and technically impressive.) I’m sure Rothko put a lot of thought and work into his canvases, but when I look at them I just don’t see it. And they don’t move me.

1 comment to The Calder mobile tips a biomorphic sphere

  • Kit

    What timing.

    This morning, I awoke to read this post, and this post. And I’m sitting in the CU arts building basement reading both these posts, after having walked through various exhibits of various meaning and quality.

    I think the idea that “works that make you think” are art is not such a good one, for me. We have a few qualities to explore: technical skill, moral and/or intellectual value, and pure aesthetic power, to name a few. I think art, as such, needs all of these.

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