The Lascaux Cave, The Rolling Stones, and Kusama Infinity Rooms don’t scale
What does scale? Kim Kardashian. The iPhone. Anybody, or at least anybody with US$700, can have an iPhone. And with that iPhone, you can join the 105 million other people who follow Kim Kardashian on Instagram.
But the Caves at Lascaux do not. After 20 years of human breath, the 16,000-year-old art started to disintegrate. Today it’s hard to even get into the Disneyland of Prehistory, Lascaux II.
If you like stadium spectacles, then you can enjoy The Rolling Stones and every mega-band since them. But if you like sitting in a small club and being close enough to actually see the singer’s lips move, then that experience hasn’t been available for a long time.
The Broad Museum here in Los Angeles, and the organizing Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., are doing a commendable job of realizing an impossible task. To provide individual humans with a singular experience on an impossibly large scale.
The Mayan Ball Court and The Rothko Chapel
Why did Mark Rothko want a “chapel” to install his art in? I think because the sublime cannot be experienced in 30 seconds.
I sat at the Mayan Ball Court at Chichen Itza, Mexico for 3 hours. I looked. I sat. I loitered. I meandered. Perhaps I was a psychic flâneur, in that my experience was not about the few humans contemporaneously there with me, but about wondering, and imagining, about the events at this place so long ago.
I didn’t really need photos from Chichen Itza because, after 180 minutes, I had experienced a meaningful part of this place. At Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors you get 30 seconds in each of 6 rooms. A total of 180 seconds of experience. The work is powerful. It is as sublime as one can experience in 30 seconds.
The wall text states:
Infinity Mirrored Room – The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away is an immersive environment that fosters an out-of-body experience… this installation creates a harmonious and quiet place for visitors to contemplate their existence, reflect on the passage of time, and think about their relationship to the outer world.
It sounds like the wall text is describing The Rothko Chapel to me. Not art-as-entertainment-as-thrill-ride.
I’m not really complaining. It is beautiful work. It is sublime. I felt lucky to experience it. Even for 30 seconds. Like the Mayan Ball Court or the Rothko Chapel, I could have stood there for 3 hours. But this is retail experience. Pay. See. Move on. I don’t know a better way to show or experience this work. It is a presentation at scale, of work that does not scale.