Sunday, December 03, 2006

What do you call a guy who's been hung on the wall? Art!

The Denver Post's main blog asks the perennial question, "Is art supposed to be distrubing [sic]?" The question links to a piece in the Post today:
"Art is made to disturb," Georges Braque, the cubist painter and Pablo Picasso buddy, once said.

But art museums?
Yep, the Daniel Libeskind-designed addition to the Denver Art Museum is back--in the news!
Staring up at the soaring walls is - in a few people - causing tiny crystals to tumble around the inner-ear balance center, hitting cells and making the visitors woozy.

Add the building's unusual angles and curving stairways, which can confuse the eyes, and the results can be stomach-churning.

Experts expressed concern:
"My patients are not going to the art museum," said Carol Foster, an ear specialist and balance expert at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center.

"You could bus a bunch of them over there and they'd be flopping around on the floor," she joked.
Ha ha! Humor is the best medicine. The museum's "communications director" tried to "spin" (once again, ha ha!) the story:
Museum officials say the effect is tiny - there has been only one official complaint of dizziness.

"There was never intention on the part of the museum to create a perceptual challenge," said Andrea Fulton, the museum's communications director.
In fairness, the Post notes that it's not the only building that messes with people. The addition:
joins a list of buildings with high-profile architecture and unintended consequences.

There is the Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles designed by Frank Gehry, for example.

The building, a swirl of shiny metal, caught and reflected so much Southern California sunlight that it raised the temperature on a nearby sidewalk to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

And the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. - designed by Edward Durrell Stone - has a massive awning with no visible supports that triggers anxiety in some people, creating an urge to flee.

"Architecture is a speculative project," University of Colorado architecture professor Taisto Makela said. "Just by drawing things, making models, thinking about things, you can't tell how that space will be experienced until you do experience it . . . ."
Makela has been a critic of the building not for its ability to induce vertigo, but as a strange and difficult place to display art given its tipped walls and odd spaces.
He's not alone there. The article goes into a long, slightly bullshit-sounding explanation of what happens in the inner ear to cause the dizziness.

Communications Director Fulton, meanwhile, kept a stiff upper, um, ear:

"Our approach in general is that not everything has to fall into the normal boundaries of what you might expect. We like that," Fulton said. "We like the conversation it's created."

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