It turns out energy, not money, is what drives the world, and energy is much more frightening. The curiosity, naïveté and possibilities it bring can be dangerous in inquisitive hands, money has nothing on it.
Take for example ‘The Ball’ (aka ‘Mine Kafon Wind-Powered Deminer’), an enormous version of a smaller model created by the cleverness of small children, specifically Massoud Hassani and his brother while growing up in Afghanistan. The boys used to make toys from paper, and most of the time their little projects ended up being blown away by the wind. I imagine little Massoud was watching one of his creations fly away when he had his ‘Trojan horse’ moment, something he created could go much further than him and accomplish things he couldn’t. He created another small but heavier shape this time, one that looks like a ball, and rolled it off into the fields, to detonate bombs.
WHEN: Oct 21, 2019–Jan 26, 2020
Kid you not. He purposely caused explosions while innocently saving lives in the process. The broken pieces of his little balls would sometimes be salvaged for reuse, but most of them would die there, shattered by blasts intended to kill a child. The materials are basic, the power infinite, and in more than one level. A child, a toy, and sweet innocence standing up against minefields created by the egos of sick adults.
Massoud’s now giant ball in the middle of the room is what drew me to this exhibition to begin with, now turned into a huge display-size powerhouse his model is exciting, I can’t resist taking dozens of photos, I feel an urge I can’t explain.
I am at the MoMa in New York City. The museum has just been renovated. It is open and bright, filled to the rim on a Saturday afternoon. The cost of entrance is extravagant, the jolt of people vibrating in unison intoxicating. The food at the cafeteria? I would pass, even the one where you wait to be seated for an extra fee.
Back to energy. Upon entering the humongous automatic glass doors, the first thing I see is a projector shining the word Energy on the red wall. The image fluctuates and moves in capricious ways, it expands and shrinks, to the point where sometimes I can’t read the word. It feel like I’m looking at the sun because of the fiery letters changing from orange to yellow to red. It put things in perspective, I feel alone and invisible in my tiny galaxy.
Moving on, there is a joystick, how could there not be? An old screen computer game is encrusted on the wall. I wait a rather long time until the Asian lady with perfect hair finishes her turn and then I face a broken black screen. It takes a while for it to come back online. I grab the joystick wishing the game was ping pong but it’s not, it’s just one of those run-of-the-mill diversions where you move your little ship and shoot at objects coming your way. But I can’t move, the joystick is stuck. One, two, three and I’m dead. Nothing I could have done. The technology of my own childhood failed me.
At this point I hear myself say on the recorder: ‘I want a lava cake’. But I have no recollection of saying that. The energy of sugar can be baffling.
Behind me there is a flamboyant costume that screams David Bowie. It has no sex, meaning the genitals have no delineation. (Richard Malone Jumpsuit Specimen). It turns out the artist was commissioned to make this as a plain uniform, the type you would see a worker wear, like the people in the Chinese factory on the troubling video that comes next. Only the fabrics used on this one are durable, it is machine washable and filled with spirals and lines with sparkling blinding dots. It is, well, just a piece of clothing, only fueled by someone who makes the ordinary intoxicating. That is the energy of fashion.
The video of the assembly line in one of millions of factories somewhere in mainland China makes me cringe. There are two lines of workers of which I only see about eight, but there are more, they go back into the horizon and follow a line of perspective that fades into what seems like infinity, an endless serpent machine made of human flesh and blood. Every move the workers make is rehearsed, they do only what is required to either plug a piece into another or close a box. Everyone has one, maybe two tasks and everything is orchestrated. When one of them has a still moment she stares front and waits in silence. They don’t look like robots, they are robots, and they seem proud of it. It’s humbling that I am at a museum rather than working a suicidal amount of hours doing that. There is a lot to unpack there.
I get close to the ball again, I can’t help it, this time I am too close, the guard with an Indian accent tells me to step away. I never learn.
And then, wait, what? What would be the energy behind this black slim piece of metal spiraling upwards? They tell me is all about engineering, a part of a Boeing 777, one of those mythological beings we call airplanes that take off into the air while we read a magazine and as if nothing was happening. The information card says it is extremely flexible yet highly resistant to impact, but of course you can’t touch it. My best guess is that it’s ‘emotionally’ fragile.
And then the mother of all energies. ANGER. You know the one, you’ve probably felt it at some point. It happens when rage fuels your veins with flames, your eyes sharpen sending rays of evil and your fangs are almost showing. That moment when you are no longer human, you are a demon. I’ve been there and that is usually when the kitchen bursts, who hasn’t enjoyed throwing a cup to the floor and watching it break? But what I am looking at is a chandelier made of broken pieces in the shape of a flower. Broken teapots at the core, broken pieces of plates and saucers for petals, and forks, knives and spoons for flowers.
Turns out the artists enjoy throwing dinnerware on the ground and then arrange them into this work of art in exactly the way in which the pieces fell apart. A frozen picture of what is ruined, a photograph of an emotional meltdown. The sign says do not touch: Why would anyone touch? I rather stay away from the energy of a psychotic breakdown.
On my way out I feel the buzz of the whole museum, I approach another exhibition that features stand-alone, decorated arch doors leading nowhere and randomly placed in a large room. The area is full, an act is about to start and I am there at exactly the right time. The performance consists of three women walking through each of the doors and then starting all over again. They repeat this six times, they just walk. I see no sign of anything else happening. It’s chocolate time.
Let me leave you with a question. You know the ‘on’ button in every computer? The circle with an opening at the top in the center with that little vertical line? That was the only image I could see from outside the museum before paying the price of passing through the glass doors. Did you ever notice it looks like it’s giving you the finger? I know, I’m sorry, one of those things that cannot be unseen.