MoMA Comes to Melbourne Pt 3

So, this is the final post on the MoMA’s visit to Melbourne. I probably could have reduced it to two posts, but it is really that there are quite a number of works that I wanted to look at, and explore. The other thing is that the exhibition itself was also quite large, having two major sections at each end of the art gallery. Then again, my understanding is that the MoMA itself is quite large as well. The other interesting thing is that I wonder whether the sections that we were exploring here are the sections as they are laid out in the MoMA itself. Well, maybe, one day, if I ever end up in New York, I’ll find out.


Things as they Are (or could be)

The reality was that the world was changing, or at least people’s attitudes were beginning to change. The past couple of decades had been defined by function over form, which resulted in some rather ugly looking buildings, among other things. Yet, at this time we were beginning to see a transformation in the market, particularly with the Baby Boomers suddenly entering their teenage years. This was a generation who had been raised without needing to go off to fight in a foreign war (though there was Vietnam, so I guess it was my generation, generation X, that was the first generation not needing to go to war), so there was suddenly a demand for change, and in fact a demand for style.


What we had was also a group of architects that began to reject the idea of function over form, and instead looked at adding artistic design back into the buildings that they constructed, something that has come down to today. However, this was a time when we were looking to the future, so, instead of returning to the Gothic style architecture of the past, we instead take a more modern, and even futuristic, approach. In many cases though, this looking into the future, also had people envisioning what this future was going to be like, with some even seeing a hedonistic paradise where nobody had to work.


This is an interesting work by artist Ron Herron and is, well, called Moving Cities. It sort of raises the question of what actually is a city – is it a collection of people or is it a specific geographic locale? If we were to move the entire population of Los Angeles to, well, Bolivia, would that still be Los Angeles, or would the empty shell of the city sitting on the southern California coast still remain Los Angeles. I suspect that the second idea is the correct one.


The thing is that cities are dynamic and always changing, and this is what this work is trying to explore. Here the city doesn’t stay in one place, but rather it moves. No longer is it defined by its geographic location, but rather by the shell in which the people inhabit. Yet, in another sense, we don’t use the term city in that way. For instance, if we were to put a million people into a space ship and fire that space ship off into space, it will still be a space ship, it will not, at least in my mind, and others as well, be considered a city.



We continue this idea of the city with this work by Peter Cook called Plug-In City. This came about in the 1960s from a British architectural society. In a way, they were exploring the idea of how cities could be transformed in the future to make them more practical. This concept works on the idea of obsolescence, namely that when a building is no longer needed, or is out of date, it is removed and replaced by something newer. Yet, this can also be seen as a criticism of our consumerist, wasteful, society that seeks to throw things away as fast as possible, simply to get the next best, more modern concept. In a way we live in a disposable society, and this idea of a disposable city is a concept that seems to reach the pinnacle of this problem.


I’m not entirely sure whether I can consider this to actually be a work of art. The reason being is that this symbol simply isn’t new – it has been around for a really long time, and has been used in financial transactions since at least the 17th Century. However, the reason this symbol exists, at least in the MoMA, is because it defines our modern world – we use it all the time with email. This symbol was picked by Tomlinson because of the fact that at the time it was, well, very rarely used. However, since it now denotes the destination of an email, we pretty much use it, well, literally every day.



Well, this is one of those examples of the imagination of youth. Gary Anderson, a 23-year-old Engineer student submitted this design for a competition to come up with a symbol to represent recycling, at the time being paper. Well, the simplicity of the design, and the fact that we all pretty much know what it means, goes to show the result of this. Apparently Gary had been doing a project on recycling at the time, so the symbol was already floating around in his head.


Immense Encyclopedia

So, we are now jumping to the 80s and the 90s where artists seem to be co-opting other works to be able to develop their own style. As one artist suggested, the art world is now borrowing from itself as if it were an immense encyclopedia. Yet this is nothing new since art, and in turn, literature, has always borrowed from what came before to produce that which is popular now. However, as technology advanced, so did the medium that produces art. Film is a particularly popular medium, though we also once again have art in the form of posters, album covers (particularly from the Nu-Wave punk movement), and of course signs and buildings.



Keith Harring was not just an artist, but a social commentator and political activist. Much of his works dealt with the issues he was seeking to confront, such as the work above called Totem. Much of his work arises from the use of symbols, and the above we have not just an Egyptian sarcophagus, but also symbols within them. In a way, this is one of those works that screams out so many things, as we see images of people inside, and in a sense, we have this idea of death surrounding us. In a way this work deals with the scourge of AIDs, which finally took his life in 1990.


Vavoom is a character from the animated series Felix the Cat, and his power is that he can literally move mountains by simply shouting his name. This in a way is one of the defining qualities of language, where we simply cut it down to a single word. In a way it feels as if we are moving backwards, so language emerged from grunts, and seems to be returning to that spot, where we simply use a single word to be able to communicate.


Vavoom was created by Raymond Pettibon, an artist that emerged from the underground punk scene in Southern California, and is well know for having a somewhat irreverent spirit, something that punk seems to be all about, but also merging many different styles into a single concept.


This work, by Iraqi born Zaha Hadid is called Peak Project. It is actually the design of a gym that was supposed to be built in Kowloon in Hong Kong (though, of course, the Peak is actually on the island, and is not actually in Kowloon, though Kowloon does have a mountain of its very own). The idea was to create artificial cliffs, after removing parts of the mountain to be able to build this structure. Obviously, the structure itself does have a very futuristic look to it.



Yeah, this sort of gets you when you first look at it, and a part of you tries to wonder what it actually is. Well, this work, by Andreas Gursky, is called Times Square, and is of the foyer of the Marriot Hotel located in, yeah, Times Square, New York. It is sort of confronting, but it has actually been manipulated and enhanced by his computer. In a way, Gursky grew up in Germany, and went to art school at a time when photographers were beginning to muscle their way into the art world themselves.


In a way, there are many painters who have disappeared into the world of obscurity (like my Grandfather). In a way, many of these artists never had the opportunity to become famous like, say, Jackson Pollock, or simply never managed to produce something that caught the eyes of the right people. However, this work is no doubt a memorial to them, by Anslem Keifer, and is called ‘To the Unknown Painter’. It is sort of, at first, reminiscent of the Acropolis in Athens, but looking at it again, it seems to be more modern. In a way it is a memorial, a memorial to those who no doubt will be forgotten.



There is something of a difference between the album covers we looked at before, and these rock posters. Well, the main thing is that these are basically punk bands and not the punk that we ended up with in the 90s, but the original, namely the Clash and the Sex Pistols. In a way, they represent the anti-establishment nature of the movement, who considered pop music to be, well, quite dull actually. These posters would have been sent to record shops, and given out in clubs, and seek to challenge a system that have become rather oppressive. In a way, it is still reflective of the later day punk bands (such as Rage Against the Machine) that borrowed from this movement.



The final work we will look at is one that depicts the plight of the Sahwari Arabs in the Saharan desert. In 1975, fleeing the Saharan War, they established a refugee camp, which became known as the Sahwaran Arab Democratic Republic. The thing is that this place was, well, pretty much ignored by the rest of the world, who honestly don’t care about stateless individuals and would rather have them locked up in concentration camps. However, Manual Herz, a Swiss Architect, sought to bring light to the existence of these people, and the fact that they are simply wanting to flee from war.


Creative Commons License


MoMA Comes to Melbourne Pt 3 by David Sarkies is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. This license only applies to the text and any image that is within the public domain. Any images or videos that are the subject of copyright are not covered by this license. Use of these images are for illustrative purposes only are are not intended to assert ownership. If you wish to use this work commercially please feel free to contact me at david dot sarkies at internode dot on dot net


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