Flash Mob for FREE Day

Emily, our superstar performing arts intern, and Tim, whose 100-watt smile you see at Hardware everyday, talk about how they teamed up to bring a day full of dance to FREE Day, which took place on February 11, 2012.


We spent a few days during the weeks leading up to FREE Day using the rehearsal hall space, listening to 80s music and coming up with an arsenal of funky dance moves to put together in a sequence that would be both visually appealing and easy to pick up. We had a lot of fun goofing around in the studio and perfecting classic dance steps like the cabbage patch, the running man, and the Molly Ringwald. Check out our rehearsal video here.


On FREE Day, we taught lots of different people—toddlers, college students, grandmas, ballerinas, and football players alike—the dance we created. We taught about 20 people in each of our classes throughout the day. We danced Michael Jackson’s P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing), because it was upbeat, light-hearted, and makes you want to move! We also asked the people who took our dance class to dance with us later in the afternoon, as part of a surprise flash mob in the galleries. Check out our dance class video here.


Our dancers milled about through The Workers: Precarity, Invisibility, Mobility exhibit, blending in with unsuspecting, art-viewing patrons. Suddenly, Michael Jackson music started playing through the galleries, and spontaneous dancing broke out! We definitely surprised a bunch of patrons who got caught in the middle of the flash mob. There was a lot of talent, but the best movers were by far were the 2 little nuggets (they must have only been 3 or 4 years old) decked out in pastels and mermaid gear from Kidspace who got their groove on right in the middle of the flash mob! Check out our flash mob video here.

PRE-SHOW DANCE INSTRUCTION                          

To end the night, we taught a dance class on the Hunter Center stage, immediately before Gordon Voidwell and his band played some rockin’ music for a psychedelic 80′s synth funk dance party. We wore headset microphones (affectionately called the Madonna mics in the performing arts department – check out the photo below, taken backstage!) to broadcast our voices to the crowd on the dance floor. Since we faced the crowd in the Hunter Center, dance instruction was trickier because we had to reverse all of our instructions so that the audience could mirror our movements.

FREE Day 2012 was so much fun—music, dance, theatre, art-making activities, a mermaid parade, face painting, a hilarious photobooth, and great deals at Hardware! We were psyched to get to collaborate with the community and with each other. We can’t wait for you to come back to hang out next year and dance with the two of us at FREE Day 2013! - Emily and Tim

Posted February 17, 2012 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Dance, Dance Parties, Free Day, Hardware, Interns, The Workers, Uncategorized
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Getting to Know Sanford Biggers

It’s always exciting to see new art moving into the galleries here at MASS MoCA. The latest comes from Sanford Biggers, a New York-based artist whose exhibition “The Cartographer’s Conundrum” opened Saturday, February 4th in our football field-sized Building 5 gallery. This multidisciplinary new show takes inspiration from Sanford’s late cousin John Biggers, a Houston, TX based painter and muralist, as well as themes of Afrofuturism, which re-imagines the African diaspora through the lens of cosmology and technology. We had a chance to sit down and chat with Sanford about the new exhibit and his work in general.


Sanford Biggers, center, with Curator Denise Markonish and Director Joe Thompson at the opening on Saturday.


How would you define Afrofuturism for people who aren’t familiar with the concept?

I’m still trying to figure out the concept myself (laughs), but it’s been this ongoing dialogue for, I’d probably say the last 15 years, at least on a scholarly level. As an aesthetic dialogue I’d say it’s been going on 40 or 50 years. But one aspect of it is the notion of looking at the very complicated past of people in the African diaspora and understanding that in relation to where we are today—technologically, socially, culturally, economically, so on and so forth. When I say ‘we’ I mean the world. Everyone. And looking forward as well, sort of trying to figure out a way to re-investigate and re-claim the past through the use of science fiction. You know, if you think about Sun-Ra or Earth Wind and Fire or John Coltrane—a lot of their work was really dealing with very spritual and transcendent themes borrowed from science fiction and Eastern religions and African religions. And as they did that they sort of went through Western structures and a myriad of historical references to the U.S. to get to that place where we’re sort of looking past and looking beyond it. But also—this is a new thing I’m thinking—at least the way I’m using it, there’s almost a reference to comic books and comic book sci-fi, and the old album covers from P. Funk or Santana, and the kind of vision that was expressed in those album covers—High graphic, high illustration elements.

What’s it been like working at MASS MoCA? Has the size of the space influenced or changed your preconceived ideas for the exhibit?

Yeah, to answer the second question first, definitely. Coming here on a daily basis and having to deal with different issues of space or light or volume or presence—but I knew it was going to be a challenge like that. I mean, it’s not the kind of place where you can just bring something already made and plop in the middle and leave. You’ve got to work with the space and see what kinds of challenges arise.

Are you happy with how it’s turned out?

I am. The thing about it is, the way this is set up, different things happen during different weather conditions, so you’ll never see the same show twice. You know, the reflections, the shadows, the light, the pacing of all of that changes daily.

You said in an interview with Harvard that some of your ideas for your piece “Constellation (Stranger Fruit)” appeared to you in a dream. How much a part, if any, does your subconscious mind play in your work?

I don’t know, I think doing art is like its own form of therapy, so everybody’s got a little bit of their own personal stuff inside the work, even if it’s the most stark, minimal, conceptual work possible. Even that, somehow I think, has a unique relationship to that person. So I mean, the subconscious definitely steps into the work, but more so as visual cues. You know how you might have a song that you wake up with in the morning and it’s stuck in your head for a day or so? It’s a lot like that. I’ll have a dream that’s not really related to art at all, and I might turn a corner and see something, and that’s the one thing I remember when I wake up, or some version of it. But the more you think about it, the more it changes and morphs, but at least it’s a starting point.

Did any parts of this show come to you spontaneously?

The Plexiglas definitely, and I think the stage lights sort of happened because of doing performances, doing lectures, and having those lights looking back at you half the time.

Can you talk about your interest in sacred geometry and how that ties into what you do?

Yeah, I think I probably was first exposed to that subconsciously from the work of John Biggers, but more consciously when I went to college and we started to look at a lot of ideas that came from North African and Egyptian societies. And the notion of sacred geometry was really interesting to me—I remember hearing about how in certain cultures, it’s actually looked down upon to look at an image, a photographic image, or to try to depict a deity or god, or Allah. And the way you can actually sort of acknowledge that presence is through geometry and perfection of line and numbers. And the idea of the “Vitruvian Man”—of course that goes into Europe and is translated into all these different meanings over generations. So, that’s interesting to me, and also its implications in terms of the societies that upheld those  sacred geometries. This was something that [John] Biggers was  interested in, and he worked with a mathematician where he was teaching at Texas Southern University, and they both would just sit and have these long sessions about different things they’d learned about sacred geometry and how to apply that to his visual strategies.

Speaking of Leonardo’s “Vitruvian Man,” I read that you spent some time living in Florence, Italy. How long were you there and did that affect your aesthetic at all?

I was there for a year, studying. I lived there before I moved to Japan for three years. So, that was my first time living abroad and I studied Italian, photography, sculpture and painting while I was there.

Can you talk about your time in Japan a little bit?

Yeah, when I was living in Japan I became really interested in Buddhism. There was a temple a few blocks away from where I was living, and I would walk by it and then I gradually started to walk through it. First I was just intrigued by the sculptures and the statues, and then I got a little bit more into the ritual and learning more about where it came from, and then I started to go through different readings about Buddhism and so on. And seeing it in a living culture was also very influential. So some of the ideas definitely come into my work—that’s where the initial dance floor started from, because they were fashioned after mandalas. And I still apply a lot of those ideas: Wabi-sabi and the perfection of the imperfect, and using found objects because they have their inherent history, and their beauty is in their rusticity and used patina. So I mean in this installation, you can definitely see that with the pipe organs and different instruments.

How do you hope people will feel when they walk through this space?

I just hope they can take the time and see many different things unfold. There’s not one thing I want people to get from it. I actually would like them to have multiple discoveries.


By Cora Sugarman

Posted February 6, 2012 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Exhibitions
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Building 5 Through the Years

In just a couple of weeks, Sanford Biggers’ show The Cartographer’s Conundrum will be at MASS MoCA. With another exciting installation about to take place in our giant Building 5 gallery, we thought we’d take a look back at some of the shows that have graced this enormous space in the past.

1999-2000: The 1/4 Mile or 2 Furlong Piece

In 1999, Robert Rauschenberg’s extensive work was our first major exhibit in the space. This self-contained collage-like retrospective of mixed media also served as the setting for MASS MoCA’s grand opening gala.


2001-2003: 14 Stations

In 2001, Robert Wilson’s sculptural installation 14 Stations filled the space. It was a seminal interpretation of the Via Crucis or “Way of the Cross”- referring to the moments of passion Christ experienced en route to crucifixion. Visitors could peer into each structure to experience the different scenes and figures along the way.


2004-2005: Inopportune

A few years later, nine exploding cars took over the 300 foot long gallery, suspended from the ceiling with multicolored rods shooting in all directions. This dramatic stop-motion moment served as the centerpiece for Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang’s show Inopportune.


2007-2008: Projections

In 2007, Jenny Holzer transformed the space with large-scale projections of selected poetry by Wislawa Szymborska. Coupled with giant bean bags scattered throughout the room, visitors were invited to sit back and absorb the surreal landscape and accompanying messages.


2008-2009: The Nanjing Particles

In 2008, English conceptual artist Simon Starling animated the huge exhibition space with large sculptural forms derived from microscopic particles.


2009-2010: Gravity is a Force to be Reckoned With

A year later, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle explored the failings of Modernism with his upside-down glass house. The exhibit was based on Mies van der Rohe’s uncompleted project The House With Four Columns (1951), a square structure open to view on all four sides through glass walls. Everything hung in suspension and a phone rang off the hook.


Up next…. Stay tuned for Sanford Biggers’ show, opening on February 4, 2012!


Here’s to many more amazing shows in the future!



Posted January 23, 2012 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Exhibitions, Inigo Manglano-Ovale, Katharina Grosse, Simon Starling

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Disney Recycles–and We Don’t Mean Plastics

Disney recycles, just probably not in the way you are thinking!  They may recycle old bottles and newspapers, however they definitely recycle animation.  Artist Oliver Laric points this out in his documentary Versions, featured in our Memery exhibit.  Take a couple of deep breaths before watching because the evidence may taint your image of the “Wonderful World of Disney” (:45-2min):

Versions highlights the widespread re-usage of images throughout the history of art, so don’t worry, Disney isn’t only at fault.  However, Laric emphasizes how such recycling of images is iconoclastic in that the art that was once unique loses much of its significance as it is re-mediated.  These Disney segments are shocking because their originality and individual magic has been undermined, essentially leaving them simply as versions of one another, hence the title of the documentary.

Though Disney is not the only one reusing images and animation, it is quite rampant through their history.  Here are some other examples of Disney’s recycling habits.

Guilty:  Robin Hood, Aristocats, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, the list goes on and on and this vid exposes them all!

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Posted December 28, 2011 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Exhibitions, Memery

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Sol LeWitt Here + There

One of the most fascinating aspects of a Sol LeWitt Wall Drawing is that it can never be the same from one exhibit to another.

Every time a Wall Drawing is put on display, a group of draftsmen paint or draw a new interpretation of the piece.  In following Conceptual Art, when the idea behind the art takes precedence over the actual piece of artwork, LeWitt writes a set of directions of how to create each piece of artwork.  The directions drive the art process.

Before creating the new piece, wherever the Wall Drawing is currently located must be painted over so it no longer exists in that setting.  Even if MASS MoCA wanted to relocate one of our Wall Drawings, the artwork cannot be moved, it must be repainted in the new space.

Only one official interpretation of a Wall Drawing can exist at one time; once the previous one has been painted over, the draftsmen are free to start their work.  The draftsmen then use LeWitt’s directions to create their interpretation.  However, every draftsman and every space is different, meaning that each time a Sol LeWitt is put on display, it is inherently unique.

Check out how varied, and at times similar, Sol LeWitt Wall Drawings can be even when they are rooted in the same directions!

Wall Drawing 146A at MASS MoCA.  The “A” in 146A refers to the original (146) being white wall with blue crayon and this piece having blue walls with white crayon.

146 at the Guggenheim in NYC in 1972.
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Posted December 21, 2011 by MASS MoCA
Filed under An Exchange with Sol LeWitt, BLOG

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The Mango Tourists on Vacation

We asked visitors:  If Nari Ward’s Mango Tourists could be taken out of the museum and put anywhere, where would you put them?

  • Jamaica—At a Beach w/ Piña Coladas
  • Hanging upside down from the floor of the 3rd level of the Eiffel Tower
  • In a thunderstorm cloud
  • In a garden
  • In my front yard with Christmas Lights all around
  • Africa
  • I would put it on the museum roof
  • In my memory
  • Central Park! It would be cool to start a Sculpture Garden
  • Somerville, MA
  • Pier 6, NY, NY
  • Downtown North Adams Outside Park area
  • Hollywood!
  • In Lindenlea Park in Ottawa, ON
  • Along the wooded path at the Clark
  • A Parisian sculpture garden
  • Paris Pyramid Entrance to the Louvre
  • I like it where it is! (so do we!)
For now they’ll be at MASS MoCA until April 3, 2012.  Come visit the Mango Tourists!

Posted December 12, 2011 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Nari Ward: Sub Mirage Lignum
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