Being Here is Better than Wishing We’d Stayed
Apr 1919, 2008, 9:00 pm
Hunter Center Mezzanine
An Installation by The Miss Rockaway Armada
MASS MoCA, the largest center for contemporary visual and performing arts in the United States, is located off Marshall Street in North Adams on a 13-acre campus of renovated 19th-century factory buildings.
(North Adams, Mass.) The Miss Rockaway Armada is a collective of artists, musicians, and adventurers-of-all-stripes who spent the summers of 2006 and 2007 journeying down the Mississippi River on a fleet of “junk-rafts.” Hailing from all parts of the country and all walks of life, the Miss Rockaway Armada is united by the desire to create; to demonstrate different ways of living and moving that are friendlier to the environment and to each other; to indulge the urge to make something out of nothing. With this spirit and energy, The Miss Rockaway Armada comes to MASS MoCA for their first project in collaboration with a museum. Being Here is Better Than Wishing We’d Stayed, a site-specific, interactive installation in the Hunter Center Mezzanine, will open to the public on Saturday, April 19, 2008, and will remain on view through March 1, 2009. In addition to the exhibition on Saturday, April 12, 2008, at 2 PM the Miss Rockaway Armada will give a performance in the vein of the impromptu circus/theater performances they staged in towns along the Mississippi.
The Miss Rockaway Armada is a group of approximately 30 performers, artists, travelers, organizers and dreamers including members of the Toyshop Collective, Visual Resistance, The Amateurs, The Floating Neutrinos, The Infernal Noise Brigade, The Madagascar Institute, Cyclecide, and the Rude Mechanical Orchestra. The group describes itself as “a small group of people with extensive experience making big, insane projects.”
Inspired by Johnny Appleseed, traveling medicine shows, nomadic jewel box theater, a long tradition of river raft-builders and Mark Twain, members of the Miss Rockaway Armada embarked on a seemingly impossible journey. The crew set out to meet new people and exchange ideas, art and inspiration. The collective was motivated in part by a desire to reclaim and reinvent the age-old longing to roam this vast, mysterious country. In their words, “We still live in a country that fights wars so it can consume more. We are taking the urge to flee and heading for the center.” With that in mind, the Mississippi River seemed like the perfect avenue for the artists to explore. “We suspect that there is something wildish about seeing the stars night after night from the grand old Mississippi. Yeah sure, the Colorado is prettier, and the Rio Grande is its own divide, but the Mississippi has always been the main artery of this country. We wanted to start where the blood flows straight from the heart.”
The crew members began by organizing meetings, making phone calls, holding benefits, drawing blueprints, scraping up a storm of materials and building like crazy. Beginning in the summer of 2006, the collective met in Minneapolis with various raft parts, food, supplies, and most importantly, irrepressible energy and enthusiasm. With the help of friends and strangers along the way, they floated down the Mississippi River for two summers, anchoring their rafts “here and there to perform, give workshops, and create the big huge stinking spectacle we wished would have stopped in our home towns.”
At MASS MoCA the Miss Rockaway Armada will transform the Hunter Center Mezzanine â€” a place where students and other visitors gather to eat lunch and discuss their museum experiences â€” into a dynamic, interactive space. Using wood and other materials salvaged from MASS MoCA’s campus, the group will craft an environment that exudes the aesthetic, vision, and essence of The Miss Rockaway Armada’s experiences on the Mississippi River. The idea is to build a new, fantastical environment that inspires a sense of possibility and wonder. As one Miss Rockaway crewmember explains: “Let's treat our MASS MoCA experience like a small-town stop on the way down the Hoosic River. Let's make it current and as much about mutual inspiration, doing the impossible, building something new and crazy, cultural exchange, and direct interaction as the original Miss Rockaway voyage.” The environment will include tables and chairs for groups to gather and eat lunch, as well as â€˜individual idea’ stations, where visitors will have opportunities to record their thoughts and stories and contribute to the installation.
Organized by Jennifer Sichel, an intern from the Williams College-Clark Art Institute Graduate Program in the History of Art, the exhibition is part of the continuing series of MASS MoCA exhibitions presented in collaboration with the Clark Art Institute in support of MASS MoCA and the Williams College/ Clark Graduate Program in the History of Art. The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute has been placing interns from its graduate program in the curatorial department at MASS MoCA since well before MASS MoCA opened its doors.
MASS MoCA’s galleries are open from 11 â€“ 5, closed Tuesdays. Admission is $12.50 for adults, $9 for students, $5 for children 6 -16 and free for children 5 and under. Members are admitted free at all times. More information on MASS MoCA and the exhibition is available at www.massmoca.org or by calling 413. 662. 2111.
Photo by Tod Seelie