What happens when you cross a boundary to enter a space? Does the agency of the space affect your perspective as you transgress the border from its outside to its inside? Does Apple want you to be the same person when you enter their retail establishments that you are when you enter a truckstop toilet or a hospital waiting room? Spaces have power. They exert agency upon your perspective, for better or for worse.

When you go to an art space do you put on your art glasses? Do you activate your cerebral, sophisticated self? Is it easier to find meaning on a blank piece of paper when it is on a museum wall than it is when it is in an Office Depot? If so, why? How many selves can be activated in one day? How can one self contain many other selves?

This is the south entrance to the Nelson Atkins Museum in Kansas City. Notice the lengths to which this space goes in positioning you as you enter. Your body, your history, your mind. The steps are short in height but long, causing you to ascend slowly to confront the threshold. In the journey up the stairs you may admire the grandeur of the Nelson’s neoclassical style, an admission of the Greco-Roman origins of American culture. It is clear long before transgressing its colossal doors that you are about to enter a repository of VITALLY IMPORTANT CULTURAL INFORMATION. As the Nelson would have you believe it to be, anyway.

Should it be any surprise then that when Claus Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen intervened on this staid and deliberate edifice with their shuttlecocks it was met with a chorus of disapproval? In transmuting the Nelson and its gardens into a mammoth game of badminton, do the shuttlecocks modify the self that is supposed to enter the space? If so, how? Do the shuttlecocks modify the meaning of the building itself? If so, how? Is the building being made fun of? Is our culture being made fun of? Are you being made fun of? In being exposed to this humorous gesture are you any longer prepared to receive VITALLY IMPORTANT CULTURAL INFORMATION?


8 Comments Add yours

  1. Hooper says:

    I wish you would answer your own questions. Please get specific with your opinion. What do you think the shuttlecocks are doing??

    1. sethsethjohnsonjohnson says:

      The job of C.A.T.A., at least as it appears today, is to stake out a particular set of problems- problems which feel worth having. C.A.T.A. seeks to reconcile postmodernism’s nihilistic relativism through a variety of means. As such, C.A.T.A. does enact a particular set of experiments designed offer such reconciliation. Fortunately or unfortunately it has no answers. That said, C.A.T.A. also refuses to be didactic. C.A.T.A.’s mission revolves around questions, not answers. It is in this way that we hope to address the subjectivity (of the viewer, of the maker, of the experiencer) as a real and extremely potent agent in the construction of a transmodern ontology.

      1. Hooper says:

        The problem with the “eternal question” technique is that you are using others to fill your void of meaning. If the question itself was the answer, well, that could be poetic, especially if no one heard the question or was inclined to respond. However, the nature of the question is to posses it’s contemplator. That possession quite literally becomes your answer to “what are the shuttlecocks doing?” Perhaps more accurately “I am going to attempt to posses you with another question” becomes your answer. I find this inappropriate. Perhaps I find it simply underdeveloped. When will the questioning climax into concrete epiphany?? What are the shuttlecocks doing?

      2. sethsethjohnsonjohnson says:

        Perhaps it is underdeveloped, but you are quite right; the goal is to possess the contemplator with a question. That sounds perfect. In this case, shuttlecocks or thoughts or blog posts or histories, we simply ask that the contemplator be aware that these things might affect one’s perspective and to consider how they might. We don’t have access to any answer as to how these things might affect you individually, and we are uninterested in trying to coach any kind of specific perspective beyond a particular form of curiosity. Perhaps you have already generated this curiosity and are thus unmoved by the question. This is ok with us.
        We do, of course, have our own reactions to things like shuttlecocks, but they seem trivial to talk about- at least in the context of this particular blog post. There is no ‘void of meaning,’ though we understand why you feel the way you do. Everything is infinitely meaningful in our eyes. This veers terrifyingly close to nihilism and in order for us to subvert this problem and explore the role of subjectivity in the cultivation of meaning C.A.T.A. is founded. We intend to explore these issues earnestly, openly, and inquisitively. If this leads to concrete epiphany, so be it.
        If it fails to yield such results- well, at least we tried in the best way we knew how.

  2. Patti C says:

    This is a very fine question to share in the cosmos, as life, being controlled folly at best, bears all considerations. Yes, every space has its awareness or lack of same, and yes, every space whose spacemaker has created control upon it has a job to do upon the space enterer. So, the informed space enterer will be aware of the effect attempt, and have to re-connect with their own interior space to see how it vibes to the created space they have entered.

    looking forward to entering CATA home space when it is open.

  3. jametatone says:

    SethSeth got very very close to the issue with this sentence:

    “Everything is infinitely meaningful in our eyes. This veers terrifyingly close to nihilism, and in order for us to subvert this problem and explore the role of subjectivity in the cultivation of meaning, C.A.T.A. was founded.”

    Hooper, ANY answer given as to what the shuttle cocks are doing functions as a set of blinders, masking that infinite potential for meaning to which sethseth alludes. But trust me Hooper, I also overstand your fear of that black Nihl which looks a bit like an eternal, unanswerable question. That fear must be utterly embraced or we are all lost. Silence is the first answer to all questions. In the case of the shuttle cocks, MY second answer is:

    The shuttle cocks are directly questioning the Ontology of the Nelson itself.

  4. Dennis says:

    I don’t think that the shuttlecocks have to be perceived in any particular way, but they definitely serve to alter a viewers awareness once they engage them in the landscape. For me the purpose they serve is to set the tone for the entire museum experience. You can’t enter a museum and think about things in the same way that the world defines and assigns meanings. The shuttlecocks invite one to enter in to a different state of perception, so I totally agree that they address the Ontology of the Museum, but I think that they question as much as affirm the nature of the museum and its state of cultural being.

    1. jametatone says:

      yes! Those shuttlecocks totally super-charge the museum as well! Perhaps because there will be certain works which CANNOT be reduced to aspects of the big joke, they will ripe through the net and make their mark all the more deeply through the doubt.

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