By Stephanie Jurburg, Columbia Spectator
In a corner stands a proud, autonomous violin with which American experimental musician Laurie Anderson played. Turn around, and you will see an index card on which John Lennon’s wife, Yoko Ono wrote “This is not here.” If you like modern art or the sixties just hold a place in your heart, the Looking at Music exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art has a lot to offer.
During the sixties, novel technologies and ideas surfaced and begged to be incorporated into the art scene, and it was an eclectic mix of musicians and artists that pioneered in making use of the new media. This show, which runs through Jan. 5, explores the birth of mixed media.
The exhibition could best be described as miscellaneous—a television decorated with metallic pearls, David Bowie’s music video “Space Oddity”, and a looping video of John Lennon staring at the camera are crammed into the two small rooms that comprise the exhibition. Overwhelming? You might think so. But all the pieces in the show exude the same rawness, leaving no doubt that these were the first steps in shaping modern art as we see it today and giving the show a real sense of cohesion.
Looking at Music brings viewers back to a time when underground culture surfaced and played with boundaries. One can get a sense of the bubbling excitement that overtook the sixties as new discoveries were made and values began to shift. Upon exiting the galleries, one emerges with a heightened sense of respect for the artists that dared to make these changes, and suddenly the eclectic storyline of an off-kilter Beatles music video makes complete sense.
And then you might find yourself wanting more. Looking at Music, although composed of great pieces and put together with much thought, is small. Just when you fully grasp the essence of the show, it’s over. Perhaps not worth an exclusive trip to MoMA, the exhibition is an excellent nook in the museum. Within these rooms, absurdity is justified, glorified, and historically significant. The birth of the mixed media genre, considered to be a dark and underground phenomenon, is captured here and exposed for all to see.