Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Modern Art Exhibit Criticized

Mass MoCA, the contemporary art museum located in North Adams, Massachusetts, is currently hosting a major new installation. "Carston Holler's Amusement Park" consists of five working carnival rides, except that these rides are greatly slowed down to befuddle and distort the perceptions of visitors. According to Indepth Art News, "Slowing their velocity, light patterns, and music Holler unsettles the viewer's mind much as conventional amusement parks unsettle the body through radical changes in gravity, direction, and bodily orientation."

However, the exhibit has garnered its share of controversy, as several major art critics have panned "Amusement Park."

The installation was savaged by Reginald Delacroix of the New York Art Gazette, who stated that he "would categorically never pay admission to a carnival that runs its attractions this slow." He added that "the ride cycles are so short and so tame that the thrills are sucked out of the very air itself and beaten into submission."

"If my grandmother and her pet poodle could ride a Scrambler and think it's cute," he added, "then the ride sucks."

Piling on was Lars Kupecki of the St. Paul Radical Installation and Performance Art Dispatch: "This artist had a chance to make a real in-you-face and unique artistic statement. If he had run the Gravitron at the speed and length that they do at the county fair, there would be vomit and urine splattered all over the insides. That would have been a shot across the bow of the conservative, close-minded public. But he played things safe, and sold out to the pandering bourgeois American museum-goer by presenting clean, unchallenging art pieces that run so slowly, not even a seasick five-year-old with food poisoning would be tempted to uncork his digestive tract. Boring!"

Other reviewers were not as savage, but their reviews were at best mixed. Said Gunther Dieskau of the Denver Art and Architecture Quarterly, "I am unsure about this project. It's eerily beautiful, and the drastic slowing of all aspects of the rides places one into a curious dream state where one has a remembrance, but a quite rearranged or distorted one, of the colors and sounds of youth long ago. So in one way it's profound and engages one in a great deal of philosophical retrospection. But I can't help but notice that the bumper car cycle is even shorter than the one at Lakemont, and the Twister had such a pathetically slow and lame program, it didn't develop any of the lateral forces or tight spins that park guests really enjoy. In that respect, it's a great letdown."

Even members of the American Coaster Enthusiasts were unimpressed. Attending the opening of the installation in the (completely unfulfilled) hope of getting ERT, despite a previous bad experience attempting to ride art in Belgium, the members were disgruntled. One summed up the project succinctly: "Those flat rides look like they're being run by Six Flags."

Carsten Holler's Amusement Park runs at Mass MoCA through October, 2006.

--JCK

[Editor's Note: For further important coaster art news, read about the National ERT Museum, the National Roller Coaster Museum Gravy Exhibit, and the winning bid for the architectural design of the ACE National Roller Coaster Museum itself.]

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