Rain Room is the latest in museum crazes, an installation where motion sensors make it possible for you to walk through a steady downpour without getting wet. It’s widely agreed upon that Rain Room is nothing short of a miracle.
Rain Room is also part of PS1’s “Expo,” a season-long arts and tech exposition responding to the challenges and realities of climate change. It’s proven to attract hours-long lines at the Barbican, and it happens to dovetail perfectly with a sort of ethereal art/runway photo which look great on Instagram, so in this case we can swallow climate awareness in something we already like, and MoMA can take that to the bank– a win-win-win! (Unless of course those 260 gallons-per-minute aren’t getting recycled, but, who cares about that.)
As I discovered yesterday, only two kinds of people get into the Rain Room: MoMA members and crazy people. There is no way to move a line of 200 people in and out of there in less than four hours, because MoMA has orchestrated an unlimited line. People can spend as long as they want in the Rain Room, and members can jump ahead to a slightly longer, but faster-moving member line at any time. So unless you buy a membership, you could conceivably wait in line indefinitely.
MoMA’s never been too democratic about its wait policy; back in 2010, they opened the museum early so celebrities like Björk, Matthew Barney, and their kid could avoid the up-to-8-hour wait to stare at Marina Abramovic. But, like The Artist is Present, or Event of a Thread, or Experience, people are apparently prepared to wait as long as it takes. It started pouring outside around 10:40, ten minutes after the museum opened, when a staffer glibly quoted four hours as our waiting time for the Rain Room. Nobody budged. Instead, fifty or so people smiled and resumed their conversations. A group of tourists rounded the corner, pointing, “The Rain Room!”
“Why do you want to go to Rain Room?” I asked the woman behind me.
She chuckled, and shrugged. “My friend heard it was really good, so we took the day off and brought the kids. I was just thinking I spent 50 bucks to stand in the rain!” She quickly added, “I don’t mind so much. We’re taking turns, she’ll see the exhibit inside and then come take over for me.”
Whether that was worth it, I’ll never know. I went inside and saw some art.