Perception Restrained by Herzog and de Meuron at MoMA.
"Perception Transformed" Zoo Magazine No. 12. (2006) pg. 33.
The room has black walls and pine picnic benches in five rows. Fifteen flat
panel monitors light the scene from above. Each repeats a different segment from
a classic film; Jeremy Irons operating on himself; helicoptors bombing the Vietnam
countryside; Paul Morrisey's naked ass; heroin injected into an arm; a limp, vacant
DeNiro, gun in hand, sprawled on a blood soaked sofa. The light created by the
flickering screens forms a muted, synthetic daylight. The films shown above claim
the position of an art-chapel ceiling. We look on as if to God.
The environment of a museum or a gallery is open. It's almost pornographic.
But the atmosphere at Herzog & de Meuron, Perception Restrained
, the seventh in
MoMA's Artist's Choice series, is like a prude's cross-legged blush. As voyeurs,
we attempt to leer into its folds, glimpsing Gober, de Kooning, Picasso, Cezanne,
Giacometti, Pollack, Warhol, Mondrian.
In another enclosure, an Arbus, several Shermans, a Mapplethorpe and a
Dykstra are barely visible. We witness sophisticated chairs, forks, speakers, tables,
glasses and clocks from a restrained view slanting inward and down.
Swiss architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron are no strangers to
museums. They worked on the Tate Modern, the Walker Art Center and San
Francisco's De Young Museum.Yet this show offers a severe counterpoint to how
art is displayed. Exclusion, a hallmark of contemporary visual culture, is celebrated
here. Selectivity generated through architecture and the need to peer through
walls as opposed to staring at them, is Herzog and de Meuron's take on a revamp
of museum design. The first in the Artist's Choice series given to architects,
Perception Restrained utilizes "the perception of art itself" as its subject.
On a bad day, a museum can resemble a large, white cube on dry ice. A
walk through such expanse and light leaves the mind washed and the body limp.
"The problem facing the museum," explain Herzog and de Meuron, "is not a lack
of first rate art, but rather, a lack of perceptive attention on the part of museum
visitors. The art is there, spread out in a panorama, professionally illuminated,
impossible to overlook- but it is not seen."
Turning the viewing experience inside out is just one way the architects
steer this "perception machine." Confirming "an undeniable shift in imagery that
has taken place in recent years," Herzog and de Meuron have used MoMA's classic
departments-architecture and design, drawing, film and media, painting and
sculpture, photography, prints and illustrated books- to draw attention not only
to the way these media are exhibited in the museum (and the art world) but to
the way the world views them.
For more on Herzog and de Meuron go here.
For more on Zoo Magazine visit zoomagazine.de.
The cover of Zoo No. 12.
The article as it originally appeared.
Thanks to Zoo Magazine and the artist for permission to reproduce this article.