Mumok and the religious experience


So, my first day in Vienna – I was tired and mildly grumpy. After the long trip from Paris and my wholly underwhelming hotel, I wasn’t excited to do much.

I decided to head to the Museum Quartier, a complex that housed a number of modern galleries and museums. I figured, ‘ensconce yourself around pretty things and hopefully your mood will improve’.

And I was not wrong.

I saw the very impressive, grey, modular building of the Mumok gallery and was instantly drawn to it.
It is an ULTRA-modern, modern art gallery. (I don’t think anything predated the 60’s!)

When I first entered, I could hear incredibly, ethereal music.
The lady at the ticket desk explained that a concert was in progress inside one of the gallery rooms. I walked straight over to find and expensive room, filled with colored light and whirling sound.

A quartet of classical recorder players were creating a dreamscape of sound, and I found it completely spell binding. (For the non musicians reading this, recorder music – when played well – is completely beautiful.) They were playing a quartet by Pérotin (from the 13th century) and later a polyrythmic duet by Philip Glass.
Wrapped in the beautiful music, my perception of time and my awareness of people around me fell away. I was just sitting in the music, completely lost and enraptured.

After the Glass piece, I headed to an exhibition of minimalist and landscape art. Almost every piece I saw was concerned with reflection. The very nature and appearance of each work was affected by the presence and observation of the viewer. No viewer would ever have the same experience of any one piece.
It was a wonderful, twisty mind problem and I was quickly engrossed in contemplation.

I want to tell you about a few of the pieces…

(1)There was a small mirror with the blurred image of a mans face covering its center.
The work asked for the viewer to obscure their own reflection in the mirror with the image of the male.
I stood squarely in front of the mirror, and it felt wonderful.
I don’t love mirrors and I’m no big fan of my own reflection. But I never expected the feeling of elation and safety that came from standing before a mirror and not seeing myself.
It was also really confronting. I still don’t know why the hell I felt so happy and so liberated without my reflection?

(2)In a small antechamber, I found a tiny 90’s looking television that appeared to be projecting the image of the inside of a box.
At first I thought “how clever! a depiction of the emptiness of TV culture” (with the passing thought of “how clever! I automatically understand the artistic intention! Winnah.”).
But then, the audio guide explained that the image projected was actually the vision and sound from the inside of a cement box buried near the gallery. It was intended as a piece that projected emptiness and silence.
The impression that this new (and true) artistic intention left on me was immediate and startling.
It made me consider mortality and eternal silence, emptiness and the idea of meaning.
I stated at that screen for an age, bewitched and bothered.

(3)There was a small room devoted to a short film, displaying and documenting a piece of Land Art called the Spiral Jetty. (Googled that shit!)
The Spiral Jetty is a man made, earth rock sculpture that spirals from the shore and into the deep of an the water in the Great Salt Lake of Utah. In a reaction from the minerals that run into the lake, the water there regularly runs blood red.
The images of red water and white stone were so eerie. And the work was so captivating. The piece seemed like it was lain their by magic in the distant past.

Ok, back to the story.
The main event at Mumok right now is their massive collection of works by Dan Flavin.

Dan Flavin was a famous minimalist artist from the 60’s that chose to work SOLELY with fluorescent tube lighting. He wanted to work with a commercially viable and limited medium, and he manages to create truly expressive, individual and beautiful works.

The Mumok collection of Flavin’s works took up the larger spaces on four separate floors of the gallery. I spent hours walking in and out of the glow of his various creations.

On the walls of one of the large exhibition rooms were three untitled numbers for the audio guide.
One of the numbers played a piece of very mechanistic electro music, the second played an atmospheric piece by Philip Glass and the final number played Pérotin’s ‘Viderent Omens’.
The galley was providing music for the visitors to enhance their experience of the Flavin’s works. And I think it was pure genius!
I chose the Pérotin, an early music piece with lilting voices and complicated contrapuntalism (sorry guys, music nerd). I wandered through the large gallery space and instantly noticed that the intensity of color and light in each work was massively enhanced. And this is where I found my favourite of Flavin’s works.

It’s called ‘Untitled (to Jan and Ron Greenburg)’ and it consists of two small rooms, divided by a wall of light.
On one side, the light is a sunny yellow, and on the other, a cool green. In either room, there is a small glimpse of the color on the other side.
With the stunning music in my ears; stepping into the yellow lit room and it felt like entering into a warm embrace. I brought my face and body close to the wall of light and bathed in the warmth and the glow. It was a glorious, almost religious experience.
Entering the green lit room, I was struck by a feeling of calm, quiet and peace. The closer I got to the lights, the more I felt that I could lay down and wither til I died in a place as beautiful as this.

When I exited both rooms, the colors of the real world seemed changed. It made me feel like my perception of the world had been massively and irrevocably altered.
Eventually, as my eyes adjusted, I slowly returned to reality. But I felt blown away that 1 wall of light and some interwoven voices could such an overwhelming effect on me.
Standing in the light, I felt uplifted and full of hope and peace. And when I came back to earth, I felt lighter than before.

I left the Mumok so happy. It gave me a moment of peace from the tempestuous ocean of my mind. (*coughWANKER!!!cough*)

Oh god, I hope you’ll all forgive me for such an outburst of nonsense and rhetoric.
I just wanted you to know about this marvelous place and how exceptionally well it made me feel.

I felt well, for the first time in a long time. And while the feeling was fleeting, fuck it was important.

Love to you all!!
Xx

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