I find art calming and invigorating at the same time. Strolling through the Museum of Contemporary Art to explore their display for the 19th Biennale of Sydney a few weekends ago, I'm wondering: What exactly is it about art that makes me so happy? Is it being surrounded by like-minded people, silently connected through the love of art? Or being alone with my thoughts, aimlessly musing about this art work or the other, making mental connections?
My first stop is a dark room with a wall-to-wall video screening by Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist. It's titled Mercy Garden Retour Skin (What is it with obscure titles for art works by the way? I guess it's supposed to draw you in, make you curious. Or I'm missing some vital cultural reference here. Clearly, this needs to be addressed in a separate blog post...).
People are lying on bean bags that are scattered throughout the room. I join them and let the atmospheric music and pictures wash over me. It's a loop of lush, organic, hyper-coloured plants, grains of sand, swirling water... I feel myself drifting off, being carried along by the vivid images when I notice people around me getting restless. There are a few embarrassed giggles, and I realise that what I took for a floating sea plant under water is actually a shrivelled penis gently swaying in the soft current. Which explains the reference to nudity at the entrance I was wondering about. It's light-hearted and sensual art at its best:
The next room is the opposite - brightly lit and angular forms. Jim Lambie's work is titled Zobop (obviously). He has covered the whole gallery floor in vividly coloured striped vinyl tape. The result is striking:
I almost walk past this next neon installation by Polish artist Hubert Czeropok. He is quoting the Joker in the Batman film The Dark Knight. The sign depicts a darkly comical message about the fine line between sanity and madness:
Continuing, I enter a bright, austere room where artist Roni Horn has assembled pale blue glass castings that look like small pools filled to the brim with water. It is incredibly tempting to disturb the surface of this still mirror, and a vigilant museum attendant keeps reminding newcomers not to touch the fragile art work. This is beautiful and ethereal:
The last exhibit reveals another thing about art that makes me happy: it's enjoying the sheer aesthetic pleasure of gazing at a thing of beauty. In that sense it's like poetry or music - it calms my inner turmoil. I guess you take whatever you need from art in the exact moment you experience it. And that is good for the soul.