Monday, September 12, 2011

Watch very closely

While in Newcastle (see here for pictures of my trip!), I visited the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art.

I've always found art galleries incredibly inspirational, and in the midst of finishing my revision of Project Demo and starting a new project, I figured I needed as much inspiration as I could get.

I wasn't disappointed.

The best fun was the Robert Breer exhibit. The door to the exhibit hall had several conspicuously posted warnings about how fragile the art was to the slightest touch, and to be careful of bags, children, etc. That piqued my interest.

I stepped through the doorway behind a mother with two young sons. The guard stationed just inside made sure she knew about the fragile art, while I looked around. The room was filled with white igloos (see picture) and a few other randomly assorted objects. It was absolutely bizarre. I turned to the explanatory board on the side of the room, read about how Breer was fascinated with movement, animation, and film, though none of that seemed to explain the igloos. So as the guard guided the family over to the igloo, my ears perked up.

"Watch it very closely," he said to the boys.

They all gathered in close. I couldn't tell if he was playing games with them (something security personnel in art museums don't normally do) or dead serious. All I saw was a white igloo. I watched with them.

Then the mother gasped. "It's moving!" she said.

The guard and family talked a bit more, but I had to see this for myself. I edged closer to the igloo, stared at it as the guard had suggested. It WAS moving, fractionally, ever so slowly gliding across the floor.

The kids pelted the guard with questions. The best: "Do they [the igloos] ever crash into each other?" Apparently they do, but at very slow speeds.

I lingered over each object in the room. Mostly igloos, but also tiny igloos fixed with ink that drew pictures on a board below. Also crumpled up fabrics, small styrofoam wedges, and a huge right angle wall, all moving.

I visited the other exhibit room on Robert Breer next, which had some of his animation, films, and flip books. But I was really struck by the igloos. They were so creepy. And silent. And MOVING.

And I might have missed the entire experience, just thought it was a room full of random vaguely igloo-shaped objects, if I hadn't caught the guard explaining it to the family. After all, how often do we watch very closely?

In doing research for this post, I just discovered that Robert Breer passed away August 11th. I'm so sorry.

Wednesday I'll post on my other inspiration from the Baltic.


  1. What an incredible exhibit. How surreal. How lucky you caught the guard's explanation because I don't think I would have stood there staring at an igloo until I noticed it moving. Anne, what a wonderful trip this was for you!

  2. I've always found art to be incredibly inspiring - I've spent hours just sitting and writing at Tate Modern in the past, for instance. I did end up with an character who was a conceptual artist though...

  3. I love Newcastle. I could just make out the Millenium Bridge in the corner of your photo, so I even knew where this was. But I'm sure I'd never have noticed that igloo move if nobody had pointed it out.

  4. Andrea: Aw, so nice to have someone get it. It WAS a great trip. And so glad to know I'm not alone in thinking I might have missed the moving igloos!

    Nick: hehehe. The dark side to spending too much time in art museums. I used to write in the Bristol Museum, but I'd happily swap that for the Tate Modern! Bristol is probably quieter, though.

    Mary: Hah! I feel so much better knowing that others might have missed the igloo, too. I just feel so lucky I caught that explanation! Yep, I was right by the river, next door to the Millennium Bridge.

  5. How interesting! I'm glad you had children in the room too. :) Did the igloos make any kind of noise as they moved or was it all very silent? I think I would have found them creepy as well, but I don't know why.

    However, what I almost overlooked - you started a new project? Did I miss this in another post?

  6. This makes me itch to go to an art exhibit. Seems like forever since I've been to one, and this one sounds fascinating. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Bridgette: No noise. Funny, I never thought to wonder how they moved until I left! Perhaps that's what makes it spooky, the lack of noises, or an obvious mechanism, almost makes them seem alive.

    Medeia: Aw, I hope there's something you can go nearby! I've got a great museum in Bristol that I hardly ever go to, and I'm always kicking myself about it! Funny how we need to be forced to do things we'll love. ;)

  8. Oh, Bridgette, almost forgot to say! Yes, I've been behind on my blog posting, so you haven't missed anything, but YES, playing with a new project. Hopefully posting about that on Friday.

  9. Anne, I'm completely fascinated with the idea of those igloos. They must have been creepy but in a fascinating way.

    You've given me a bug to go see this art exhibit. I wonder if it ever travels. . .

    Glad to catch up on Project Fun too. It sounds like your recent travels have inspired you. :)

  10. Bridgette: They WERE creepy. Not so much in the moment, with the bright lights and the crowds. But the guard mentioned to the boys that they sometimes crash into each other at night, and I was thinking of those things floating around in the dark, with no one watching, and totally creeped myself out! ;)

    You should definitely google Robert Breer's sculpture, see if there might be anything ever in your area.

    My recent travels have definitely been inspiring! Such a treat!


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