Hyperactivity

Oh the places we will go. Oh the things we will see. Oh the realization that so much of our modern world is a mechanized reality. Inundated by objects of popular culture, we look to our screens—iPhone, tablet, and MacBook—for the newest fad.  Temporarily holding our attention by appealing to our sense of inclusion, the newest fad, a virtual reality comprised of manicured images of people and places, subsumes our physical reality. It takes a lived experience with inanimate objects to shock us into an activated reality in which we wonder, puzzle, and conjecture over the processes that bring about an artwork’s creation. The Whitney’s most recent exhibition, Calder: Hypermobility, catalyzes conversation about the things we are seeing—the mobiles, stabiles, and kinetic objects that defy our initial understanding.

Visitors circulate through the Whitney’s seventh floor, gradually nearing Calder’s creations, squatting to investigate up close the mechanics of a miniature mobile then backpedaling to gain a more complete perspective. The visitors dance, mimicking that of the mobiles. They give into the act of investigating an artwork and then retreat to ponder over the very process of its activation. After completing the single circuit—the analysis of one artwork—the visitor seamlessly repeats the preceding circuit, advancing to and backing away from the next object of his or her attention. Dancing in tandem, the visitors and artworks exalt the Calderian concept of unceasing motion. Filtering into the seventh floor stage, new visitors replace those exiting, thus maintaining the fluid equilibrium of the room.

While phone screens captured the unfolding rhythmic interplay of Calder’s creations, many visitors wholly entrusted analysis to their eyes, taking in the spectacle of each exhibited object. Affected by the idiosyncratic motions, visitors were drawn from their isolated mechanized realities to collectively appreciate the nuanced, choreographed motions. Sparsely decorated, Calder: Hypermobility, a platform for introspection, harnessed the performativity of Calder’s creations to subtly underscore the static nature of modern existence.

Untitled, 1947. Sheet metal, wire, and paint, 27 1/2 × 27 1/2 × 9 in. (69.9 × 69.9 × 22.9 cm). Calder Foundation, New York. © 2017 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The collision of art, nature, and mankind

Be innovative, but restrained. Embrace boldness, but be conscious of the historical environment. Create a timeless landmark, but do so in hurried time frame. The lofty expectations set upon architects are inherently contradictory. Modern architects today are pushed to conceive a new generation of public works that owe homage to their storied predecessors, yet also experiment, setting the next architectural precedent with their innovation. The collective drive to integrate technology into all aspects of architecture has resulted in architectural marvels as well as public eyesores.

 

In a mixed urban environment, such as New York, both occurrences are equally prevalent. I followed the buzz about the new Whitney before arriving in the city. While the building has received mixed reviews, and I agree that the elevators and staircases were not constructed without flaw, I think favorably upon the new structure. The raw creativity of the new Whitney is an example of how architects can use technological advances to make public space accessible and interactive. Liberated, the Whitney has opened itself up to natural light, inviting the public to easily maneuver through its open galleries and traverse its multi-tiered balconies. It is on these balconies, on which culture and nature collide, that the viewer attains a sense of fulfillment. Renzo Piano, the chief architect of the revamped Whitney, designed an intellectually stimulating building that matches the daring nature of the museum’s contemporary and modern American art collection.