Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Ackwardly Comfortable

For an exhibit about comfort, the comfort exhibit was oddly uncomfortable.
But perhaps that's what makes the experience so interesting.

Lets start with the location. By no means was it located in a run down shanty part of town, but an art exhibition (at least from my limited experience) it was not. Rather it was a little apartment on the second floor of an old apartment complex at the end of a semi-secluded alleyway. I'm sure the used pots and pans in the hallway extenuated the entrance. Walking up the dimly lit stairwell, I distinctly remember being confused, especially in the presence of pots. I don't know about my fellow classmates, perhaps more observant then I, but it was several seconds before I could decide where the exhibit started and where they stopped, i.e. was the kitchen actually an exhibit, because apparently the bathroom was one.
So upon entering the local we were asked to take of our shoes, a common enough Chinese custom. As such I decided to look for slippers, and indeed they had them. And on the theme of uncomfortable? They were most definitely uncomfortable (due to my oddly shaped/size feet).
Then the heat hits you. Wow, it's sort of hot in the room, and why is that? The very first art exhibit catches my attention. It's a gigantic ugly looking air con unit. The guide/artist directing our awkward group explains:
This air-con unit is put in reverse, usually the contraption is on the outside. The idea is that by putting in the reverse we are trying make the outside cooler, even if it is only by a minuscule amount.
Interesting, but on the flip side it raises the temperature of the exhibit by a significant amount, as beads of sweat on my forehead can most probably attest to.

Next we are introduced and ushered into the second room. It's another odd one, the room's floor is decorated with light blue tiles, tiles that sink into the floor when you step on them. An interesting contraption that creates a visually, physically unique experience as you make your way around the small room. But what's the practical result? A room that is very hard to navigate in. I tread around very carefully, keeping my balance and trying not to bump into anybody in the overly crowded room. Pain was my next thought, my toe gets crushed by one of the tiles as ironically the guide accidentally steps to near my own foot. He of course obligingly moves his foot after I rudely ask him to. Dealing with a throbbing foot and the mild heat I turned my attention to the steps leading up a window resting at waist height. The guide tells me its an interactive piece of art. OK, so I try to get on the platform, only to find that the "cushion" floor and the wooden viewing platform are not really built to accommodate each other. In others words, I almost fall off.

My experience gets more normal from that point. Others things of note include the open windows, which again in one sense allow the attendee to view the outside landscape (someoneelse's apartment, the alleyway, and empty plot of land). But on the other they let insects in, as well as the aforementioned heat. And don't forget the awkwardly placed mattress that somehow you are supposed to step on...
As we leave I get the feeling that most us (as in the NYU study abroad students) don't really have any idea what is exactly going on. One of my teachers makes a funny comment about how uncomfortably odd this whole exhibit is. I think our guide overhears, but I concur, if not in a positive manner.

To top off the trip I figure I might check out the bathroom. I step in and draw a blank, where is the exhibit? Then I notice that all the daily items used in the bathroom are instead hanging or glued onto the walls. I don't get it, but even if I had wanted to use the bathroom (which at that point I had a slight urge to do) I don't think I would have.
That pretty much was the general feeling. Where does the exhibit end and where does it start? It's an apartment so the toilet bowl should work right? I don't know...
Thus concludes our little escapade to the comfort exhibit as I take of my unconformable slippers and put on my pair of flip-flops.

But let me digress, I have yet to give my opinion of the exhibit itself. I liked it. It wasn't the pieces of art, it wasn't the cute ideas, it wasn't the reverse-air con, rather it was on a whole the way that such art was displayed. This kind of modern art was intelligently displayed in this manner, it's unique flavor is lost if shoved in an upscale exhibit. I don't know if it was purposefully designed as such, or if I had a uniquely "Kevin" experience, but I felt that the comfort exhibit was displayed in a hilariously uncomfortable way.
With a throbbing toe (which got better later that day) a sweaty shirt and a confused demeanor I can safely say that I thoroughly enjoyed my uncomfortable experience.

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