An Open Letter to MoMA PS1: So, About That Couch…

by Corinna Kirsch on August 17, 2016 Blurb

plain couch

Dear MoMA PS1,

I am writing to you about a couch. In particular, the couch pictured above. You’ll find it midway through the MoMA PS1 exhibition VITO ACCONCI: WHERE WE ARE NOW (WHO ARE WE ANYWAY?), 1976.

Now, everyone at MoMA PS1 probably has more to think about than a couch, but this couch is very important. I used to think all you needed to screen video art was some comfy seating. That was, until I met your couch.

What we have is a plush, Donald Judd/IKEA-inspired couch. Sounds just great for looking at longform video art. It can be grueling to stand still with locked knees for a 30-minute video; thus, a couch sounds like a great solution.

But look more closely. Where is the art?

couch with art circled

And where would a person sit?

couch with stick figure

Not only does one need to be a stick figure with ostrich-like legs to fit on this couch, the couch faces in a direction away from any art.

That’s right: the couch faces a blank wall.

What you'll see when looking straight ahead from this couch.

What you’ll see when looking straight ahead from this couch.

The white cube confronts you. The art has been scattered to the edges of peripheral vision. A couch for a post-art era, if you will.

All said, this couch brings up a long-held problem in video art: despite creative intentions, video art installations rarely give the work justice. To stand or to sit with time-based works is not the only issue. Sometimes videos are shown in a black-box gallery set off to the side of an exhibition, to be exiled from the rest of their exhibition-mates. It can make the work seem overly cinematic. Then there are times when several monitors play together in a single gallery, releasing a squall of competing noises. Showing longform videos on a loop complicates matters, too, when there’s a dozen works shown, and no way to know which work you’re watching. Oh, I guess I’ll come back in an hour or two to see the one video I really want to see!

Basically, watching video art can be much improved with some seating—but never did I think I’d encounter a couch facing a wall in a video art exhibition. It’s okay to put art art in front of a couch.

If that’s not possible, here are some suggestions for putting the couch to good use in the gallery.

Best Regards,

Corinna Kirsch

Turn it into a rest spot, like off a highway.

Turn it into a rest spot.

Couch-on-wheels to push people around in the gallery.

Push people around the gallery in this couch-on-wheels.

Laptop workstation

Transform it into a laptop workstation for people who like to type on their stomachs.

Psychoanalysis for dogs

Psychoanalysis for dogs

Go Greek.

Go Greek.

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