1. Tadao Ando’s homage to Marcel Duchamp is located in the men’s restroom on the ground floor of the Modern. It looks like a urinal. But, when we remember that Duchamp’s Fountain (which also “looks” like a urinal) was upside down, we can appreciate the irony in Tadao Ando’s right-side-up version.
2. The main staircase to the galleries has 36 steps. This represents the number of times Ando lost during his brief stint as a professional boxer. The two “breaks” in the staircase represent the number of times Ando was knocked out cold.
3. The exhibition being installed in the upstairs galleries is not actually Vernon Fisher: K-Mart Conceptualism. It is in fact, an art exhibition about the installation of an art exhibition.
4. On the other side of the Modern’s pond is a collaborative piece by Richard Serra and Cy Twombly, entitled My Heart is Not Modern.
5. Larry Bell’s Untitled (1968) is not, as I once suspected, about changing perceptions and geometric abstraction. Instead, it is the empty display case from which one of the Modern’s priceless art pieces has mysteriously vanished.
6. Tadao Ando commissioned Daniel Judd (the son of Donald Judd) to create all the metal fire extinguisher boxes that are interspersed throughout the galleries.
7. Kiefer’s Book With Wings (1992-94) is a testament to the artist’s ability to speak seven different languages (including Sanskrit).
8. The Modern staff has a gallery in the breakroom and the current piece, which looks remarkably like an ordinary umbrella rack, is a tribute to Magritte’s Multiple Umbrellas.
Okay, so I didn’t actually learn those things, specifically because none of these “facts” are real. But that was essentially the point of Keith Wilson’s Cave and Mountain Tour of The Modern, which took place on September 8 as part of the Modern Graduate Series. Wilson gave us a tour of the museum that implemented elements of fact and fiction alike, a performance piece which made the tour participants question their own involvement in the construction of fact, while also challenging us to look at familiar surroundings with new eyes.
I thought Wilson’s tour was an interesting take on the notion of psychogeography -- the idea that everyone defines the space around them based on their individual subjectivity. For example, the space that is occupied by the staff umbrella rack now has a deeper meaning for me than the location where I store my umbrella: it’s now linked to my memory of Wilson’s observation that the umbrella rack is art. That memory will affect my interpretation of that space (and probably umbrella racks in general) for a long time.
Other people who don’t share that memory will identify with the space differently than I will. These people may not understand why I’m looking for “Daniel Judd’s” fire extinguisher boxes in the galleries, or why I burst into giggles when I encounter Larry Bell’s piece. It's a personal, subjective approach to particular objects and particular spaces; an individualistic approach that makes a space uniquely relevant to me. Wilson’s tour was able to take spaces and objects that we generally overlook in our day-to-day existence and bestow it with new importance, even if that importance is only imagined.
Chances are, that “imaginary” relevance will stick with you…and you’ll never look at a place the same way again.
The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth’s Modern Graduate Series is a succession of meetings where area graduate students can experience the Modern’s special exhibitions and attend lectures by visiting artists, scholars, and art professionals from across the state. More information on the Modern Graduate Series can be found here.