Saturday, April 16, 2011

T.1912: What is it about history that makes us do these things?

(Above water, underwater. Photos from here).

Marking the 99th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic this week, the Guggenheim hosted Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster's T.1912 -- a "site-specific staged audience experience" that sort of re-staged the disaster. The Museum's rotunda was transformed into a ship with some vinyl lettering denoting different decks, some chairs, and a few life preservers slung over the sides. At the beginning, we were all ushered around to particular decks by stewards clad in period dress. At the bottom of the Museum, the Worldless Music Orchestra played Gavin Bryars' 1969 "The Sinking of the Titanic," which is very pretty. The sounds were eerie and melancholy and if you really let your mind go, you could imagine the strange feeling of solitude of being on the ocean right before hitting the iceberg. When the ship was hit, the lighting effects changed, and the stewards separated the men from the women and children, directing the women up and the men down (to the icy depths). There on the top deck, I was separated from my friend (who presumably perished in the water). There had been a cocktail party for the people who had paid more money for tickets to the event, and a few deck chairs were slung around to signify a nautical/luxury environment. The cocktail party attendees might as well have been anywhere else, because they were just chatting and wheeling and dealing as usual, not really acknowledging what was going on. That, combined with the sounds of the wait staff noisily cleaning up their serving stations, sort of detracted from the mood. I kept waiting for something to happen, but nothing really did. At the bottom of the Museum, the blue lights intensified (to suggest submersion in the water) and the orchestra members, all wearing white, did look very nice. While moments of the evening felt special, it was underwhelming overall. Plus, I kept wondering if the Titanic's passengers were watching us from some other realm, perplexed at why we were reenacting such a thing.

1 comment:

POP TART said...

it's such a shame when it somehow just doesn't work - the space at Guggenheim is so beautiful and I see how they got the idea.