The Many Faces of the Park Avenue Armory and Martin Creed
When I go home to see my mom, we often take a trip to the Park Avenue Armory. I am always excited to go because the Armory feels like a fun-home filled with limitless possibilies. It seems like the Armory creative team said, “fuck it” to the rules. They are deeply committed to having a vast array of unique installations.
The about section on their homepage opens with:
“Part American palace, part industrial shed, Park Avenue Armory is dedicated to supporting unconventional works in the visual and performing arts that need non-traditional spaces for their full realization, enabling artists to create, students to experience, and audiences to consume epic and adventurous presentations that cannot be mounted elsewhere in New York City.”
The phrasing of “epic and adventourous presentations” rings true. Everytime I enter the building I’m entering the unknown which is dangerous and mystifying all at once.
The last time I was at the Armory was for a Martin Creed installation. For those of you who don’t know Martin Creed, check out his “about section” on his website that is entitled WORDS. And if you get to his WORDS page, make sure to checks out his WORKS page—where each of his pieces is simply entitled Work No. (1-3000). Martin Creed was born in England and lived in Glasgow for most of his life. He is a hyphenated artist who is passionate about the melding of different kinds of art.
The specific exhibition I saw of his was called The Back Door. I started my journey in a room crammed full of white latex balloons. You had to physically push your way through the balloons in order to exit the room. I joyously played with them like the 5 year old I often aspire to be (see below).
After this room I entered the main room of the Armory on a high—I was thinking to myself, “what other fun things am I going to encounter?” I was immediately faced with a film of an older white haired woman (Creed’s mother) on a couch opening her mouth in slow-motion to reveal a strange substance on her tongue. When that video finished, another video started with someone else opening his mouth in slow-motion to reveal something strange. This then happened with several other people. I was fascinated and fixated by these images.
The whole time I was looking at these images, the back door (a semi-garage door) was opening and closing. At first, I thought it was a fluke, but as it continued I started to catch on. The world outside was equal parts art as the world inside. I started to notice who was walking by and if they were aware of the door opening next to them and the giant industial shed with strange figures inside. I was surprised to see that most people simply walked by the door without any glance inside.
Then I started to wonder if I had been aware of my own surrondings. Was I taking in the strange things happening around me? My fellow patrons, the amount of people in the room with me, the temperature in the air, etc.
As I walked to the next room the videos became more and more vulgar. There were videos of people vomitting one right after the other, videos of people pulling down their pants and shitting on white surfaces. But the most fascinating thing to do was watch the people watch the videos. There was one man who watched a video of an old man pooping on a white tiled floor for about 30 minutes. He had a notebook and was taking notes. I watched the man watching the video for a long long time. I created a narrative about this man—-why was he at the Armory? Why this day? Why this video? And why the note taking?
I heard a faint noise in the distance. It had been there the whole time, but I must have readily accepted it as background noise and not paid attention. When I became curious about the sound, I started to follow it to the source. I FOUND A MARCHING BAND!! When I actively chose to be present, I discovered a freakin marching band. I equated this discovery and the discovery about my fellow patrons actions with the way I want to live my life. If I really start listening, who knows what crazy adventures I will go on.
The Armory constantly feels like a hyper-contained metaphor for life. I want to be open to whatever is thrown at me and constantly curious about what there is to offer. If I do this, I am bound to exit every experience a little changed and a little fuller.