Tag Archives: Hirshhorn Museum

The Hirshhorn’s Newest Exhibit Will Capture Your Heart



A new exhibit at the Hirshhorn will capture your heart — literally, you might say. Pulse, created by artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, combines science and art in the museum’s largest interactive technology exhibition ever. It’s beautiful, unique, thought provoking, and so interesting. And it offers an experience that all ages can appreciate in some way.

Requiring visitor engagement, Pulse is comprised of three large-scale installations that use heart rate sensors to produce audiovisual experiences from visitors’ own biometric data. That’s right, your heartbeat — along with those of other museum-goers — helps generate many of the scenes and sounds throughout the exhibition. Visitors’ fingerprints play a big part in it, too.

The works were inspired by the heartbeats of Lozano-Hemmer’s own fraternal twins when they were still in the womb. He asked for two ultrasounds to listen to both at once and was moved by their distinct pulses that “began phasing in and out, creating new complex sounds.” He wanted to make the differences visible with his art and turn them into immersive experiences that don’t just illustrate the metrics of the heart, but also, as Lozano-Hemmer put it during the media preview, “remind us of the fundamental metrics of humanity.”

Taking up the entire second floor of the Hirshhorn, the exhibition begins with Pulse Index, which records participants’ fingerprints (along with their heart rates) and projects them along one wall. There are 10,000 of them, beginning with one giant image of the last print recorded, then more smaller images of previous prints that reduce in size as they move along the wall. Every time a new print is recorded, one is deleted from the other end, a metaphor for the human life cycle. It’s arresting to see all of the individual identities in one sweeping projection. Lozano-Hemmer also noted that creating this landscape of fingerprints — which are usually used to track and identify — and making them into art, symbolically breaks up the control of our current identification systems.

In the next room, Pulse Tank presents several illuminated water tanks throughout the room with heart rate sensors connected to them. Visitors interact with the sensors by inserting a finger or placing palms on a surface. Computers then detect their pulse and tap ripples into the water, and the patterns are reflected onto the wall. Essentially, you can see your heartbeat as shadows and light and watch it move along the wall, sometimes intersecting with those of other visitors, but each of them unique.

The final installation, Pulse Room, kind of has a disco feel to it with 200 flickering incandescent light bulbs hanging from the ceiling in the dark gallery with a reddish-orange hue. There’s a low rumbling that almost sounds like the build-up of something larger that never comes to fruition. You (or at least I did, anyway) realize later that each light bulb represents a heartbeat, and that rumbling sound is 200 of them playing at once. A sensor on the far side of the room lets you add your heartbeat to the mix. It starts with the first bulb, which blinks with your heart rate. Like the fingerprints, as a new heartbeat is added, the rest move to the next bulb, the last one dropping off — again, signifying the cycle of life. It’s at once moving and enchanting, uplifting but also a little bit grim as we’re reminded that we’re all in this together, though — in the broad spectrum of the universe — our time here is fleeting.

Pulse is likely going to be a popular exhibition, and there may be lines to interact with it and use the sensors. But unlike previous exhibits with waiting times, in this one you can still immerse in and enjoy the art created by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer — and everyone interacting with his work — while you wait, since the results are all around you. That seems fitting for an exhibit that, in many ways, illustrates our collective experience as human beings.

Kids are very welcome to Pulse — Lozano-Hemmer has three himself and says that children often change the environment of the room, making it more lively and playful than the somber feel of just adults. And while young children may not understand the underlying meaning of the works, they will enjoy interacting them and, hopefully, experience a sense of wonder.

Pulse will be at the Hirshhorn through April 28, 2019. Museum hours are 10am – 5:30pm. Admission is free.


Leave a Comment

Filed under 2018, 2019, All ages, Art, DC, Exhibit, Fall, Free, Museums, Spring, Weekdays, Weekend, Winter

Review: Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors at the Hirshhorn

yayoi_window

There is so much hype surrounding Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors at the Hirshhorn. And the big question: “Does the exhibit live up to it?” The answer — my answer, anyway — is that depends on how you look at it. I know… not so helpful, but read on for some insight.

You know how sometimes you want to love something, and you think that under the right circumstances you would be utterly dazzled and blown away, but those circumstances are just completely unattainable? That’s pretty much how I feel about this exhibit.

yayoi_lightsroom

The art itself is absolutely stellar. The whole experience of going to see it, not quite so much. That’s because it was difficult to really experience and enjoy the art, at least in those “right circumstances” I would have preferred. And I don’t think it’s unreasonable for me to feel that way, because this art is so enchanting. You want to immerse in it and hang out for awhile, but there isn’t opportunity to do that.

yayoi_pink_globes

* * * * *

So, let me back up and offer a bit more information about Infinity Mirrors. The main features of the exhibition are five installations — small rooms transformed into boundless wonderlands with Kusama’s brilliant, imaginative sculptures and mirror-lined walls that make the spaces feel like they go on for, well, infinity.

yayoi_pumpkins

It’s so incredible to see you want to stand (and sit and even lie down) there forever and relish in it from every angle. But that feeling ends abruptly when your 30 seconds to see it — which go by so fast — are up, the door opens, and you have to exit.

yayoi_line

Part of what makes that short span of time fly by so fast is the comparison to the wait in line to go in, which was up to about 25 minutes when I visited. Also, you might share some of the spaces with others, making it a little awkward to move around and stand in different spots to absorb it all. I was able to go in two installations on my own, but I’ve heard they are not allowing individual sessions anymore to help the lines move faster.

yayoi_sculptures

There is art on display besides the Infinity Mirror Rooms. Colorful paintings and sculptures, plus small infinity rooms that you peer into through little windows are beautiful and fun to view. At the end is the Obliteration Room, a completely white space — the walls, floor, furniture, decor, everything — where you can stick colorful dots wherever you want. The people watching is an interesting part of the experience, too. Quite a few visitors dress for the exhibits in dots (a common pattern in Kusama’s work), bold colors, and outfits that will convey well on Instagram.

yayoi_redwindow

And that brings up a whole other aspect of this show. Its Instagram-iness seems to be a big part of its appeal, and it looked like many people were there more for a perfect selfie than to enjoy the art itself. On one hand, I think it’s fantastic that people are engaging with the art, and it’s being celebrated and shared. On the other hand, when there are long lines and limited time to enjoy it, I kind of wish that wasn’t adding to the crowds.

yayoi_reddots

Is it worth it to take the kids?
This is what you’re probably now wondering, and here are my thoughts: This is art that definitely will delight kids, even young children. However, there is a good chance lines and wait times will be long. (See this Washington Post article about wait times this past weekend.) You know best what your kids can handle, how patiently they can wait, and how much you think they’ll get out of being there. A couple of things about viewing the art to keep in mind, too: 1) Space is limited in the rooms, and it could be hard keeping little hands off the art 2) Young kiddos might not be happy about having to exit the rooms before they are ready. (I’m an old kiddo and I wasn’t happy!)

yayoi_obliteration

If you do bring the kids…
– Let children know beforehand that there will be waiting and limited time inside the rooms to manage expectations.
– Bring along something to keep them occupied while you wait in lines.
– Try to go with another adult and take turns waiting in line and walking around with your children (this means lucking out and getting multiple tickets, or you can buy the membership – see below).
– Strollers are not permitted in the exhibit, though there is stroller parking outside.
– Have a back-up plan in case you get to the museum and determine the lines are too long for your kids (and you) to wait — you have your pick of other museums on the Mall.

Other general tips & info
Free Timed Passes are available every Monday at 12pm for the following week. They sell out quickly, so be ready to reserve yours online as soon as it turns noon.
– If you have timed passes, all guests with you need them, even infants.
– A limited number of free same-day Walk-Up Timed Passes will be available at the Museum, with a line starting at 9:30am, and the passes distributed first-come, first-served at 10am. You can get real-time updates on availability on Twitter.
– You can purchase a special Kusama Circle Membership for $50, which lets you and a guest bypass the general admission line one time. Children under 18 are not considered guests and get in free with you.
Other membership options are available at higher rates.
– Get tickets for a weekday if you can.
– Try to put your camera away as much as possible. You may spend so much time trying to get the perfect shot that you miss out on enjoying the art. Really, that 30 seconds flies!

yayoi_quote

Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors will be on view at the Hirshhorn through May 14. Museum hours are 10am – 5:30pm, and word has it they are staying open until 7:30pm to accommodate guests with later passes.


12 Comments

Filed under All ages, Art, DC, Exhibit, Free, Museums, Spring, Weekdays, Weekend, Winter

Celebrate Freedom with the Newseum, the Hirshhorn, and Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei's words and works will be projected onto the 74-foot-tall marble First Amendment tablet

Ai Weiwei’s words and works will be projected onto the 74-foot-tall marble First Amendment tablet



I posted about this on the KFDC Facebook page yesterday, but in case you don’t follow there, I wanted to make mention here, too. Because not only is this unique, it sounds kind of awesome. (And, btw, I do recommend following on Facebook, since I often mention events, deals, and more there that I don’t have time to put on the blog.)

Every evening from January 17-19, the Newseum, in partnership with the Hirshhorn Museum, will present a projection featuring images and quotes by Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei. Ai is an outspoken critic of the Chinese government’s stance on democracy whose advocacy of universal human rights complements the Newseum’s mission to champion freedom of speech and expression for all people.

I posted about his current exhibit at the Hirshhorn, Ai Weiwei: According to What?, not too long ago. If you haven’t been, I highly recommend going. His work is fascinating, and even if the kids don’t understand the meaning behind it, they likely will enjoy just looking at his many remarkable pieces.

Visible from Pennsylvania Avenue and parts of the National Mall, the projection will appear on the 74-foot-tall marble First Amendment tablet on the exterior of the Newseum. It will feature the trio of images from one of Ai’s most recognizable works, “Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn,” 1995/2009, as well as quotes from the artist about freedom of expression and the importance of individual engagement and action within society. Projected over the 45 words of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the powerful images and quotes are intended to draw attention to the important freedoms all Americans enjoy. The projections will begin at 7pm each evening.

This sounds worthy of, not just a drive-by (or walk- or bike-by), but a park-and-check-it-out-for-awhile, too. Enjoy!

Leave a Comment

Filed under All ages, Art, DC, Exhibit, Free, Museums, Outdoor, Weekdays, Weekend, Winter

“Ai Weiwei: According to What?” at the Hirshhorn

A starburst of Qing Dynasty stools at "Ai Weiwei: According to What?"

 

My kids and I have been admiring the Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads sculptures on display in the Hirshhorn’s central plaza since they were installed there last spring.  They love finding our Chinese calendar characters, and we’ve spent several outings circling and discussing them all — the cool dragon, the happy dog, the mean tiger, the creepy bunny, etc. (That last one is my Donnie Darko-obsessed take.)

So, I was pretty excited to learn that the museum would be showcasing a new exhibit by Ai Weiwei, the artist behind the bestial works. “Ai Weiwei: According to What?” opened this past Sunday, and we stopped by for a first look.

The exhibit begins with "Forever" in the lobby

The exhibit begins with “Forever” in the lobby

On the surface, the exhibit is actually quite whimsical, with many substantial installations that use everyday objects as art mediums. Bicycle frames are welded together to create a quirky circular sculpture displayed in the museum lobby.  A snake fashioned from green school backpacks meanders along the second-floor ceiling. More than 3,000 porcelain crabs are piled up on the floor. Ancient Chinese vases are splashed with brilliant paint colors.  A large expanse of steel rods laid out in a long expanse resemble a boardwalk or rolling terrain.

A backpack snake slithers through the second floor

A backpack snake slithers through the second floor


In case you were wondering what a pile of 3,000+ crabs looks like

In case you were wondering what a pile of 3,000+ crabs looks like

But reading about the works — the meaning behind them and, in some cases, the origins of the materials — provides a completely different, more serious, and sometimes somber perspective of the exhibit. The bicycle sculpture, entitled “Forever,” is an updated version of Weiwei’s “Forever Bicycles” piece that symbolizes cultural changes in China. “Snake Ceiling” honors the victims, many of them young students, of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.  The crab heap called “He Xie” is a statement about censorship. The vases doused with paint represent the clash between traditional and contemporary culture. The steel rods, nearly 40 tons worth, were salvaged from the earthquake rubble and straightened to make “Straight.”

Desecration of ancient relics or bold progression?

Desecration of ancient relics or bold progression?

Nearly 40 tons of salvaged rebar from the Sichuan earthquake comprise "Straight"

Nearly 40 tons of salvaged rebar from the Sichuan earthquake comprise “Straight”

There are many more large installations, about 25 total, along with photographs displayed on walls and smaller works that are equally profound and thought provoking — when you delve into them. On aesthetic alone, the art doesn’t necessarily convey its weighty intentions, and most of the works are quite extraordinary and fun to view. This is why I’d recommend it for adults and kids alike; regardless of whether children will “get” it, there is a good chance they will enjoy it. Though I should warn: This isn’t an interactive exhibit like Suprasensorial was, and we heard alarms going off everywhere as curious visitors got too close to the works.

A close look at the noggin

Don't miss "Cube Light" on the third floor, above the main area of the exhibit

Don’t miss “Cube Light” on the third floor, above the main area of the exhibit

I’ll definitely be checking out “According to What?” again (and again) while it’s here.  And I need to make at least one visit sans kids… those alarms that were going off, a couple of them were due to my overzealous babes.  🙂

Ai Weiwei: According to What?” will be on exhibit as the Hirshhorn through February 24, 2013. Museum hours are 10am – 5:30pm. Admission is free.

 

3 Comments

Filed under Art, DC, Exhibit, Fall, Free, Gradeschoolers, Museums, Preschoolers, Preteens, Teens, Weekdays, Weekend, Winter