I once made a video about my experiences at the Museum für Moderne Kunst (Museum of Modern Art, or MMK for short) in Frankfurt, Germany. You can view this on my YouTube channel (although it’s one of my first videos and not very good). Here is a blog post about the experience that can accompany that online video or vice versa.
First, my time in the museum was a thought-provoking experience. I found the works forced me to connect with my own thoughts and encounter the world in ways I probably wouldn’t have done otherwise (in that moment). Or, at least, they encouraged me to acknowledge those thoughts. Some of the works that stayed with me were the films that were on display, as well as an interactive artwork, and an artist I discovered whose work I’ll have to read more about.
One of short films I had to take note of was Mathieu Kleyebe Abonnenc’s Secteur IX B. This was a film from 2015 that lasted around 40 minutes, or just over. You can find a teaser for this film online here. The teaser’s great, but I recommend seeing the actual full film. Sit through it. Absorb it. It’s so well made that it’ll inspire you to make your own films. When I watched it, I had to sit through the whole thing. 40 mins seems long for an artwork in a gallery with so many other works beckoning, but this really gripped me. I won’t say too much about the content because it’s not for me to spoil the experience for anyone else. I believe it’ll be showed in other art galleries so don’t worry if you’re not up for travelling far. I did some online research and I’ve found it’s also been shown in Tate Modern in London, so no doubt there’s going to be loads of opportunity to see it.
The next film I’m going to talk to you about is Safe Conduct by Ed Atkins (2016). Here’s the installation-view teaser. To be honest, this is more of an installation piece than a short film as we might think of one. It’s actually horrifying. Its content is very repetitive, and it seems very mechanical and calm, almost hypnotic, yet still horrific. It’s really unnerving to watch. It made me think about how everything in our life is reduced to a mechanically reproduced commodity. In the artwork, things that definitely shouldn’t be mechanically reproduced were mechanically reproduced. There was a nauseating juxtaposition of organic matter and machinery. You can’t help but worry about some sort of horrifying dystopian future, and also feel guilty that you might be part of its cause. Again, I recommend you immerse yourself in this artwork to get the full impact of it. It’s one thing to read about it online, another thing to be amidst the installation.
The next work that stayed with me is William Forsythe’s Towards the Diagnostic Gaze (2013). This is probably my favourite at the moment. It’s an interactive piece that I find quite cute. It’s comical in a way but also, in my opinion, presents a good message about inner calm and mindfulness. It’s basically a luxurious-looking feather duster lying on a stone shelf that has the words ‘Hold the object absolutely still’ carved into it.
If you indeed attempt to hold the feather duster absolutely still, you become aware of all the little movements on your own body, your balance, the atmosphere, all which contribute to moving the feather. You realise you cannot hold the object still (as you would assume anyway) but also think about why this is. Words can’t do this justice, just go find a feather duster and watch it move as you try to hold it absolutely still.
Finally, I’d like to write briefly about the artist Carolee Schneemann who had a number of works on display in the gallery when I visited. Being a composer and having focused on music for most of my life, her work was new to me at the time. She’s a visual artist whose works explore the body, sexuality, and gender. When I was in that museum confronted by her work, I just had to stare. Her work is provocative and it’s difficult to look away. I can’t really do her work justice in a blog post like this. I think to get the full impact you have to be there in the gallery immersed in the experience. If you’re not already aware of her, have a gander online. Or, if you dare watch my YouTube video on this topic, you’ll be able to see more of what I mean.
Mathieu Kleyebe Abonnenc
1977, Paris (FR) – lebt und arbeitet in Rom (IT)
Secteur IX B, 2015
HD film, 41 min 58 sec
Production red shoes/Coproduction Centre Pompidou Metz, CAC Brétigny
MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt am Main Schenkung Bȃloise-Gruppe
1982, Oxford (GB) – lebt in Berlin (DE)
Safe Conduct, 2016
3-Kanal-HD-Videoinstallation, 5-Kanal Audio
Courtesy the artist, Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin, Cabinet Gallery, London, Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, New York and dépendance, Brussels
1949, New York, NY (US) – Frankfurt am Main (DE)
Towards the Diagnostic Gaze, 2013
MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt am Main Schenkung des Künstlers
This artwork was a feather duster with the instructions ‘Bitte halten Sie das Objekt vollkommen still.’ (English: hold the object absolutely still)