Before my vacation to the US, my boyfriend invited me over to Mass MoCA. I happily agreed to the invite. Who declines an invite to see the suburban part of Massachusetts and a contemporary art museum? Of course I had to go! In August, after visiting my family in Maryland and getting some rest in New York, we headed to Mass Moca in North Adams.
The drive was scenic with lots of lush greens, the vast landscape was spectacular. The weather was just right, almost like autumn weather. We went to a diner for breakfast. I’ll always choose a diner any day. It’s cheap and it gives you that authentic American experience.
When we got there, we realized that the place was huge! Mass MoCA is a converted mill factory. It’s one of the liveliest centers for making and enjoying today’s most evocative art. Mass MoCA also offers residencies for artists.
I especially like their mission:
“MASS MoCA’s mission is to nurture and present exciting new art of the highest quality in all media—and in all phases of its production—then we work equally hard to leverage that activity as a catalyst for community revitalization: the creation of new markets, good jobs, and the long-term enrichment of a region in economic need are all central to our purpose.
We are ardent believers in the power of the creative economy.
We are convinced that advancement of the arts, increased tourism, deeper community participation, and regional economic development are mutually reinforcing and inextricably linked: The arts create and bestow community identity. A strong sense of identity and pride rallies confidence, hope, productivity, and economic vibrancy.”
One of the most stunning exhibit in Mass MoCA is Until by Nick Cave.
Until begins with a dense sculptural field of metallic ornaments leading to a crystal cloud topped by a private garden populated with birds, flowers, and black-face lawn jockeys, finally coming to rest before a cliff wall hand-woven with shoelaces and hundreds of thousands of colorful pony beads.
This is an active space where alluring kinetics and a sumptuous, overwhelming materiality give way to stark images of guns, bullets, and targets, positioning us all as culpable, vulnerable, and potentially under attack. The aim of this is pointed, questioning us to spark discussion about important issues in a space that is at once dazzling, provocative, and — ultimately — optimistic.
Cave believes in humanity, celebrating possibility while also creating a forum for critical discussion that eventually provokes the question, “Is there racism in heaven?”
We stayed here for a while, until it felt overwhelming.
Tanja Hollander was another artist that I find endearing especially with her project, “Are you really my friend?” The project reminds me of the many friendships I’ve made in social media from 2011 and meeting them in person in their home country.
Tanja set out to differentiate the actual from the virtual by photographing all 626 of her Facebook friends.
What began as a personal documentary on friendship and environmental portraiture, it has turned into an exploration of contemporary culture, relationships, generosity and compassion, family structure, community-building, storytelling, meal-sharing, the economy and class, the relationship between technology and travel in the 21st century, social networking, memory, and the history of the portrait.
In the exhibit “Thumbs up for the Mothership”, DeDeaux and Holley firmly believe that through art, they can address these issues and “help heal the mothership.” I find Holley’s work more intriguing and more spot on.
Both DeDeaux and Holley frequently experiment with mixed media and incorporate performance into their practice — ranging from totemic found objects and photography to experimental blues music and Afrofuturist philosophies.
It was convenient that our hotel is not far from Mass MoCA. We stayed at The Porches Inn which is just across the museum. Had a nap since I am still feeling jet lagged which worked well for us before our James Turrell appointment.
We first encountered James Turrell in Setouchi Triennale last year in Japan. They had the light rooms there, it was our first time experiencing the dark rooms in Mass MoCA. One of the rooms requires the audience to book their experience as it only allows two people at once. It was a unique experience but it became uneasy for me at the end. Nonetheless it was great that it pushed me out of my comfort zone.
Tips for the whole experience: Set an open mind, get a car and book a hotel near the museum so you can fully immerse yourself in the experience. It’s a plus that you’re exploring the quaint countryside of North Adams. Preparation is key to a wonderful experience.