YEN Chung Hsien
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【The MOMA/P.S.1 that I Liked and Disliked】
I liked the P.S.1.
But, I also disliked the P.S.1.
I liked the acronym “P.S.1” and all the misreadings one could take from it. It could be interpreted as “PLUS NO.1,” “(SONY) PLAYSTATION NO.1,” or even as “PUBLIC SCHOOL NO.1.”
I liked the old-fashion-ness of the P.S.1 building, which looked like an old, haunted house.
I liked the fear induced by the dark eerie sounds that circled my ears when staying at the studio late into the night.
I liked the feeling of suspense emanating from the most ordinary-looking entrance courtyard at P.S.1 on the first day of snow.
I liked a piece of artwork hidden in a crack of the old wooden floor at the foyer on the first floor. When I kneeled down to peer into the 2cmx1cm screen in the crack, I could see the naked female artist herself yelling to me nonstop: Let me out.
I liked the EPIC SECURITY printed on the back of the large black security guard’s jacket who often dozed off in his ugly security booth at the rear corner.
I liked the hard seriousness of the resident artists’ attempts to discuss profound issues in aesthetics, using simple English with accents from all over the world, in the Tuesday afternoons.
But, after this one-year residency which was both too short and too long, I needed a lot of emotional stimulation to be able to talk about P.S.1 again. Otherwise P.S.1 could only be as boring as a proper and reasonable preface to a story.
And what I liked about P.S.1 had no direct correlation with the properness or reasonability of the place, for I did not think that one needs to follow the roles of the new household entering an aristocratic marriage, nor did one needs to win games for a nation if selected as a national player. I would like to confront P.S.1 with a sincere attitude, an attitude like that of a student who was told to commit to school wholeheartedly since he or she was already in it anyways. I would like to confront the self-righteousness of P.S.1 as the pioneer of contemporary art.
My rebellious brain and my sometimes evasive value on life had suddenly come to a dumbstruck moment right here.
Because of the three “dislikes” for P.S.1:
---- About Contemporary Art
The true difference between “contemporary art” and “non-contemporary art” lies not in their being in the present or the past, but in whether the “art” is likable among its audience. Well, at least the true difference begins to materialize from thinking about “why art has to be liked.”
From the statement that children who studies art could never misbehave, to the statement that contemporary artists are all cuckoo in the head.
From the claim that art should be calm and quiet and is for the nurturing of the soul plus the elevation of the mind, to the claim that contemporary art brings about noise and chaos and is for overthrowing the conventional structure of aesthetic values.
Art is about techniques, workmanship, nurture, and beauty; whereas contemporary art is about collage, graffiti, application of new media to practice new disorder, and the declaration of the “ugly” beauty by the casual and opportunistic action of “finding something random and arranging them randomly.” P.S.1 possessed all of these classical ill tempers of contemporary art.
Despite all this, audience still came to P.S.1 carrying the same mindset as the one they would carry to MOMA and patiently dealt with its “dis-likability,” its ab-normativity, its noise and chaos, and its ill tempers. Nevertheless, the minimum expense of such visits usually came down to “not getting it” and “disliking it.”
---About New York City
New York City is infamous for its dis-likability.
It is infamous for its disorganization, dirtiness, high prices, indifference, and snobbishness. Just like any other big city in the world, but New York City is definitely a thousand times more dis-likable than any other.
If one was not so naive as if simply coming here to broaden his or her horizons by going to musicals, marveling at the skyscrapers, visiting Time Square, or awing at the Statue of Liberty; if one was not so indulgent as if staying at a famous hotel, eating at an expensive restaurant, or shopping at luxurious boutiques; if one was not so brief as if staying for a short spring, a short autumn, or a few parties during Christmas and New Years…
During my year at P.S.1, I saw the sadness of those who only wanted to “make a living” behind the city’s luxury, festivity, and naivety. This reality was not as glamorous and tasty as it is shown on the travel brochures, Hollywood movies, and TV programs. There were lives lived to only trying to “make a living...”
Even though New York City had the most contemporary art exhibitions, institutions, museums, and other related art stuff in the whole world, it still managed to make the artists going there experience its proper form of impatience, arrogance, and rudeness.
---Artist in Residency
Traveling was like practicing “uprooting” on oneself; an uprooting in locale, in language, in custom, in eating habits, and so on. If only it were to practice uprooting in the simple terms of travel, of enjoying the exotic and romantic experience in a foreign country… perhaps it would be joyful.
But, if an artist was to be displaced in an unfamiliar environment to make works to exhibit in a very rushed condition and in a very short period of time, then it would be like the impossibility of “laboring something” out of thin air without being in Hogwarts.
It would be like a special agent going on a mission without training, equipment, backup, and experience. It would be terrifying, dangerous, and most definitely annoying.
But hey, of the whole world, New York City provided the most residency opportunities from its museums, galleries, and arts foundations. P.S.1 probably was the earliest to realize such concept of artist-residency. It probably also had the biggest programs, and offered the longest residency durations. I often met all sorts of artists of different nationalities and ethnicities from all over the world in various circumstances, exhibitions, and Open Studio parties. We would talk amongst ourselves about our uprooting experiences, and also the difficulties and annoyances we encountered during our “missions.”
With that being said, I still missed all the “dislikes,” and my “dumbstruck” year at P.S.1.
- Images Resource：provided by YEN Chung Hsien