Study: Watching people at SculptureCenter

Here's a study of the precarious "hidden room" at SculptureCenter in Long Island City, NY. SculptureCenter is a gallery that specializes in sculptural works of all types and mediums. 

Access to that room is from a corner. It has no door; you don’t feel welcome to enter, but nothing is stopping you. This threshold is plain and unmarked. It is a command, a gentle request, a small shout; all a ventriloquist act by the art within. Those who find themselves rushing through art galleries are not incorrect to do so and we must not judge them, but they will likely miss this pleasure of a different sort. But maybe the room... it is like jail or a straightjacket: you enter but you get trapped. Others enter the room, and you feel as if you must give the works (as awful or fabulous as they might be) extra attention. They watch you, and if the work is particularly bad, you become the work; the only point of interest, a performance artist now, grappling with the work.

Now, they have a dark corner (and something to consider logistically), the people huddle together but they do not know each other, although they know one thing now: they knew about this. That’s satisfying. They are looking on, into a screen of some sort, it emits lights and things- it should be avoidable, but it is not. Some of them are scared of it- they look away after a while. Or they are brave and are willing to look at it for a bit longer, but they put their hands behind their back- they’ve surrendered. Some are nervous because of it- they put their hands into pockets. Maybe the hiding of hands is a way to avoid disassociation- “it’s not my work, I didn’t make it,” or it’s a restraint. The work is awful; so awful that one must employ every possible mechanism to avoid ripping it off the wall and destroying it. No, it’s lust. People hide their hands so they aren’t compelled to walk off with the masterpiece. Everyone “does” have an opinion at present. We can be perfectly certain of that. We’re all looking at the same thing. A million people could be in one room and they could all be silent. Something happened where people were no longer allowed to talk in art galleries. You must be solemn. Maybe there is a mournful energy- a jealousy. The very nature of the wall is limiting. A person facing a wall is private. They do not invite conversation. Art makes its way to the wall, but deserves a better circumstance.

Anyway, the viewer; the art lovers or whatever- they walk on after some time, trying to avoid it again. Probably, they will wander toward it again, and then in any direction, circling around other people, doing anything to avoid the conversation. They swivel and they pivot but they rarely sit. They dance with everyone in the room. Soon, they flip through a press release, as if it’s the most important thing, the secret ingredient to suddenly loving the work. They read it (or pretend to) and now they’ve got purpose, as if they’ve found what they were looking for. They trot out of the room, going much more confidently than how they entered.