Back to School
I've always been a big fan of throwbacks: whether it be a movie, a musical, or leftover dinner. I've even been known to post a picture of myself when I was a baby every now and then. But if you had asked me to go back in time and do my high school years all over again, I would've broken that time machine myself.
Visiting MoMA PS1, which was built on an abandoned public school (hence the name), was definitely a reminder of that time. The dimly lit halls, the crammed bathroom stalls, even the out-of-order drinking fountains, all reminded me of the four years I spent in high school. Just to be clear, it's not that my high school years were horrible, in fact, far from it. I was never bullied, my grades were above average, and I had a core group of friends, most of whom are still my best friends to this day. Still, it was an awkward and confusing time. Everybody was a teenager, hormones were raging, and yet we were still expected to understand Algebra (which has yet to come in handy in my adult life).
The decision to make a museum out of an underutilized space such as PS1 was as ingenious as the concept of a time machine. It allowed visitors to transport themselves to a significant time in their lives, to a shared familiar place, which, for some, can be associated with immense anxiety and stress, and then use that same space and turn it on its head, and recreate it in such a way, where, not only learning and creativity are valued, they are required.
Because of the unique space, the artists featured in PS1 are always met with an interesting challenge. Each work of art is site-specific, meaning the artists work with the environment where their pieces are exhibited, rather than the other way around. Each piece is carefully chosen and practically molded to fit with the museum's space. One great example of this is the installation, Education by Stone (2016), by the artist Cinthia Marcelle, which you can see in an image below. Occupying MoMA PS1's Duplex galley, the installation features a fairly benign material, chalk, which takes on a different meaning considering the origin of PS1's space. Sticks of chalk were lodged into the fissures and openings of the gallery's brick walls from floor to ceiling, which, if you stay long enough, reveals the material's "inherent instability and fragility."
Whether you had a great time in high school or not, MoMA PS1 should be on your must-see list. If you're a fan of contemporary art, their changing exhibitions of contemporary artists are very well-curated and are sure to compel you. If you're also in New York during the Summer, the museum puts out a daytime concert series all throughout the summer season in their courtyard featuring new and up-and-coming musicians and artists in their "Warm Up" series. Be careful, though, as these concerts tend to be on the "mosh"-y side.