Emerging From The TV-Free Zone

When Kish and I arrived from from our trip yesterday, we had gone eight full days without watching a minute of TV.  Last night we broke the string by checking out the end of the PGA tournament.

IMG_2667For the first few days of our trip, there was no real TV option to be had.  Our room at the bed and breakfast in Tamworth, New Hampshire didn’t have a TV set, and there wasn’t a TV to be found anywhere on the premises of the Rockywold-Deephaven Family Camp (which is, I think, part of the whole idea of that great facility).  We didn’t feel deprived in either place because our days were filled with walking, swimming, reading, and visiting places we wanted to see.  In fact, not having a TV was kind of liberating — there was one less choice to be made.

The same was true at our stops in the Berkshires and at the Chautauqua Institution grounds, except that I think our rooms in those two places may well have had TVs.  We didn’t really notice because in both places we had lots to do, with more strolling past new places, visiting the spectacular Mass MoCA Museum, and watching Shakespeare and a fine concert and ballet performance.  After days filled with such activities, watching some limp TV show would have been a kind of comedown.

I’ve often thought that TV is a kind of reflexive gap filler; you’ve got a few hours to kill before you go to bed, and watching TV helps to pass that time.  It’s not that TV is an evil force, it’s just that it’s an easy default option — and a mindless one.  Our vacation showed it doesn’t have to be that way.

Mass MoCA

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Kish and I were blown away by our visit today to Mass MoCA — the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art — in North Adams, Massachusetts. It is an awesome powerhouse of a museum with a fine selection of contemporary art and, most importantly, the space to display the pieces properly, with plenty of room and light.

In20140808-125502-46502950.jpg fact, the Mass MoCA buildings are as jaw-dropping as the art. The museum occupies a sprawling set of brick industrial buildings with plenty of windows and ceilings that are sky-high. The space allows for display of the most titanic pieces imaginable — like Teresita Fernandez’s Black Sun, shown in the photo at the top of this post — and allows ample, crowd-free room from which to admire them.  Mass MoCA has so much space it will be featuring a huge exhibition of the wall drawing conceptions of Sol Lewitt for 25 years.  25 years!

Adding to the adventure are the many nooks and crannies and passageways and bridges that reflect the buildings’ industrial past, and the canal that cuts through the property. Be sure not to miss the rusting boiler room building, which has been converted into a kind of musical art experience, and the Hall Art Foundation building, an aircraft hangar-sized structure that features gigantic pieces by Anselm Kiefer.

During our visit we particularly enjoyed the display of the very evocative art of Darren Waterston, with paintings that are deep, layered, and mysterious, and his full-sized, carefully constructed decomposing room called Filthy Lucre that riffs on James McNeill Whistler’s Peacock Room and reimagines it as a crumbling ruin.  We also appreciated a huge exhibition of the work of Izhar Patkin that demonstrated, in particular, what the Mass MoCA space permits. In one huge wing, shown in the photograph below, the curators built separate rooms to display Patkin’s beautiful and haunting painted fabric creations. How many museums have the space to permit that?

If you are an art lover, Mass MoCA is simply not to be missed.

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