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Keeping the Light Alive: Behind the Scenes with Karl

The Dying of the Light: Film as Medium and Metaphor, a film exhibition which featured several massive projectors and analog films, closed to the public last week. In a photo essay, our film technician intern reflects upon the six months he spent tending to one of our highest-maintenance exhibitions. 

By Karl Frederick Mattson

The Dying of the Light: A once continuously looped film exhibition, temperamental in nature, and spliced together with a heavy dose of preservation and nostalgia. The delicate technical maintenance required for such an exhibition came down to a physical science. The projectors — essentially living and breathing mechanical wonders — came with their fair share of daily issues. Given that the exhibition ran constantly for 11 months from opening to close on a daily basis resulted in an indefinite amount of time behind the scenes to keep the bustling machines running.

The following series of images is a brief account of the attentive technical maintenance that was required to preserve and often repair the nearly obsolete presentation, medium, and metaphor of analogue film in a public setting.

 

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The film before the film.

 

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The War Room, where a vast array of film equipment was stored.

 

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The film tech cart, which included all of the necessary projector tinkering tools.

 

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Prepping the ol’ movie theater projector (oil leaks galore) for a new print of Rosa Barba’s The Long Road.

 

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Watching for the green ray while testing out a new print.

 

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Turning on Matthew Buckingham’s False Future, hoping the projector lamp won’t burn out (again).

 

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A box full of used chandeliers.

 

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A trusty bright neon microfiber cloth used to clean Rosa Barba’s Stating The Real Sublime.

 

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Dead light.

Posted February 26, 2015 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Exhibitions, Film, Interns, The Dying of the Light, Uncategorized
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Made at MASS MoCA: Helado Negro

Last week, MASS MoCA was lucky enough to have Helado Negro (the moniker for musician Roberto Lange) in residency working on the next installment of his Island Universe Story. Roberto and his musical collaborators, Mikael Jorgensen of Wilco, Jason Ajemian and Jason Trammell of the William Onyeabor Atomic Bomb Band, and Oliver Chapoy of Certain Creatures, spent six days in our studios before performing on Saturday night. Here’s a video of Roberto discussing his project and what it’s like to create and collaborate at MASS MoCA.

Yesterday, Roberto announced that he was a recipient of the Joyce Award for 2015, along with previously exhibiting MASS MoCA artists Nari Ward and Sanford Biggers. His award will be used to produce the upcoming performance of Island Universe Story as part of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra’s Liquid Music series in March. The Joyce Award allows the SPCO to partner with Helado Negro to bring this groundbreaking, Latin-inspired sonic performance to new audiences with a group of world class musicians who have performed with Wilco, Stereolab, and David Byrne.

Roberto, we couldn’t be happier for you. Congratulations!

Posted January 28, 2015 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Helado Negro, Made at MASS MoCA, Music
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Thank You from MASS MoCA

As the holiday season whips by in a flurry of flash sales and, well, flurries, it can be easy to get carried away in the “getting” and forget to be thankful for all that we already have. As our fifteenth year becomes our sixteenth year, the staff here at MASS MoCA looks back with gratitude on twelve months’ worth of programming, residencies, and exhibits. From music festivals to educational workshops to large-scale art installations, here are the moments from 2014 that we’re the most thankful for:

Glenn Kotche and David Cossin’s duet at the Bang on a Can Marathon

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Nick Veasey and Marilène Oliver’s Kidspace residency

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Installing Darren Waterston’s Filthy Lucre

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Having an amazing time at Beck in June

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The amazing turnout at our FreshGrass Bluegrass Festival
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The transformation that occurs in our galleries at installation time

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Doubling the number of students served by our school partnership program

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Bang on a Can playing Terry Reily’s In C inside Izhar Patkin’s veiled suite, and…

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…working with Ann Hamilton on her Paper Chorus.

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We’re thankful to you for making these moments happen, and for joining us to watch them unfold. Can’t wait to see you next year, and the year after…

Posted December 23, 2014 by MASS MoCA
Filed under Berkshires, BLOG, Darren Waterston: Uncertain Beauty, Exhibitions, Kidspace, Uncategorized
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38 Lanterns for MASS MoCA’s NYC Gala

All images and text excerpted from coombscriddle.wordpress.com.

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Last winter, local glass artist Debora Coombs was onsite at MASS MoCA for a few weeks, faux-painting and creating gold texture for interior surfaces in Darren Waterston’s Uncertain Beauty exhibition at MASS MoCA. For the museum’s annual gala this fall, Coombs and Waterston showed off their latest collaboration, a sold-out edition of 38 hand-made lanterns.

Here’s a peek inside Coombs’ studio and the lantern-making process.

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Darren Waterston, painting landscapes onto glass

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Coombs and Waterston at the NYC Gala in October

Learn more about Darren Waterston’s MASS MoCA exhibition Uncertain Beauty here and visit Coombs’ website to learn more about the glass process and her work.

Posted December 3, 2014 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Darren Waterston: Uncertain Beauty, Design, Exhibitions, Local Artists
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Calling all Massachusetts Artists!

assets-for-artists2 assets-for-artists2 MASS MoCA’s Assets for Artists program is in its seventh year of helping Massachusetts artists build financial stability and entrepreneurial success. Founded in 2008, Assets for Artists is a matched-savings and entrepreneurship training program for low-income artists in all disciplines. If you are a Massachusetts artist and you are eligible to apply, don’t miss out. Assets for Artists is accepting applications through November 7, 2014!

Assets for Artists helps artists access capital, grow their artistic ventures, and gain the financial stability that promotes creative freedom. Artists selected to participate in 2014 will benefit from a “matched savings” program that provides $2,000 in grant funding, two free professional development workshops, and one-on-one business and financial counseling, including support in writing a business plan.

The program, born from MASS MoCA’s commitment to community revitalization through the arts, was piloted at home in Berkshire County, enrolling nine local artists during its first year. Today, Assets for Artists — administered by MASS MoCA in collaboration with ArtHome, the Midas Collaborative, and many local partners — has expanded to serve nearly 200 artists across the state of Massachusetts and in New York City, Rhode Island, and Portland, Maine. Here are just a few of the Massachusetts artists we enrolled last year:

From now until November 7, Assets for Artists is accepting applications from low-income creative entrepreneurs throughout the state of Massachusetts. To learn more and to download the application, visit the Assets for Artists website.

Posted October 30, 2014 by MASS MoCA
Filed under Assets for Artists, BLOG, Local Artists, North Adams
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Inside Moisture Content

By Hannah Pivo

I recently spent three days inside a work of art. Yes, literally inside of it. The piece, an enormous labyrinth of fabric and plastic, is called Moisture Content, and it’s one of four works that make up Lee Boroson’s exhibition Plastic Fantastic, currently on view in Building 5, MASS MoCA’s largest gallery space. For this exhibition, the artist used an array of manufactured materials — plastics, fabrics, glass, and goo — to create immersive environments that replicate natural phenomena, including a waterfall, an underground cavern, a lava field, and fog. Together, they offer a thought-provoking commentary on the relationship between humans and the environment, both natural and built.

Blog-Moisture_Content1 Lee Boroson, Moisture Content, 2014, fabric, acrylic, mylar, Lexan, aluminum, webbing, cord, variable dimensions. Photo by Andreas Engel.

As the Visual Arts Intern at MASS MoCA, I’ve faced my fair share of odd assignments — most of them for this exhibition. I’ve placed strange online orders for items such as flanges and portable dust collectors and goo (who knew goo was available for bulk purchase?). I’ve shown up without an appointment at a large chemical manufacturing plant, hoping to track down the salesman who promised us bottles of flowable silicone sealant. I’ve packed materials in trash bags and labeled them “THIS IS ART — PLEASE DON’T TRASH” because they really did look just like trash. So, when I joined MASS MoCA’s fantastic art fabrication crew for the last two weeks of Boroson’s installation, I was ready for things to get a little strange. What resulted was a particularly close acquaintance with Moisture Content, the artist’s stunning recreation of the experience of moving through fog.

Blog-Moisture_Content2A peek at what lays beyond the white curtains… Richard Criddle (left) and Mason Hurley (right) hard at work and looking splendid in khaki. Photo by Lauren Clark.

Moisture Content was built from the inside out. First, a series of giant concentric wooden rings were mounted to the ceiling. Inner layers of gauzy fabric came next, followed by the artwork’s glimmering core — a cluster of spheres made of thin metal rods and origami-folded plastic circles. Now these globes dangle tantalizingly from the ceiling, but their assembly was a painstaking process. At the center of each one hides a clear plastic ball punctured by carefully drilled holes. Hundreds of plastic circles were cut and folded, then attached to metal rods using itsy-bitsy nuts and washers. The rods were then screwed, one by one, into the drill holes in the plastic spheres. At the end of the day, the tips of my fingers were numb from twisting and turning the rods into place. With these sparkling globes in position, the rest of the layers of fabric could be hung, and Moisture Content really began to take shape.

Blog-Moisture_Content3 Posing in Building 5 with my favorite fellow shop girl, Lauren Clark. Photo by Lauren Clark.

The central fabric portion of Moisture Content is flanked on both sides by a galaxy of suspended orbs. Each sphere is made of dozens of plastic cones of various sizes, all held together with staples. The fabulous Lauren Clark and I hung hundreds of these spheres from nylon shoelaces dangling from the ceiling while jamming to The Pixies and Weezer’s Blue Album. For direction, Lee told us to imagine water molecules moving randomly through space. “Think water, think fog, think Moisture Content,” he said. Work halted when we ran out of shoelaces. I was sent on a mission to get more, and discovered that though you can buy mass quantities of goo on the Internet, you sadly cannot purchase shoelaces in bulk at the drop of a hat. So, I found a nylon cord at the hardware store that’s a near match. If you look closely, you’ll notice that two different cords — one flat and one round — are used in Moisture Content.

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Hanging out with some plastic spheres. Photo by Lauren Clark.

I thought the piece was nearly complete, but when I arrived the next morning, I noticed that something had changed. Lee had pinned together many of the outer layers of fabric, transforming the central column into a maze. Suddenly, it was all too easy to get lost in the “fog.” Lee used safety pins to adjust the length of the curtains and join them together, and each of the pins needed to be replaced with a few stitches of nylon thread. I mentioned that I had experience hand-sewing ribbons onto pointe shoes from my years dancing ballet in high school, so without delay I was put to the task.

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Sewing curtains inside Moisture Content. Photo by Harriet Lauritsen-Smith.

I spent the next three days sewing inside of Moisture Content. I had some helpers along the way, including the exhibition’s curator, Denise Markonish, whom I had the pleasure of teaching how to sew. I also had a lot of time alone. I imagined myself empress of an icy fortress (both Queen Elsa from Frozen and Queen Frostine from Candy Land came to mind). Occasionally, people would wander through, struggling to find Lee or Denise hidden inside. Their confused efforts at navigation were an early indicator of the artist’s success in constructing a foggy sense of disorientation.

Blog-Moisture_Content6 Moisture Content (detail), 2014. Photo by Andreas Engel.

The final step to perfecting Moisture Content? A good old-fashioned steaming. Lingering creases covered the shiny, perforated pieces of fabric that hang near the center of the piece. These twist and turn as you move past, and they were in desperate need of de-wrinkling. I lugged a standing steamer (borrowed from the fine folks in MASS MoCA’s performing arts department), a chair, and a rolling cart around the inner circle of the artwork, because both the steamer and I needed to be elevated to reach the highest parts of the fabric. And with that, Moisture Content was complete, ready for visitors to wander and ponder, just hopefully not for three days.

Blog-Moisture_Content7 Enjoying the opening reception with Harriet Lauritsen-Smith (center) and Lauren Clark (right). Photo by Jane Burns.

Lee Boroson’s Plastic Fantastic is now on view in MASS MoCA’s Building 5 gallery through September 7, 2015.

Posted October 22, 2014 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Exhibitions, Interns, Lee Boroson: Plastic Fantastic
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