Coming to virtual cinemas tomorrow, Friday, December 18:
Sarasota, Berkshire, Provincetown, Aspen, Woodstock, GlobeDocs, Hamptons
An institutional history and portrait of a contemporary arts center.
MASS MoCA is a contemporary arts center located in North Adams MA, a small blue collar town that was, since 1860, a one-industry town until the 1980s, when the local factory shut down, resulting in an economic downturn and depression that saw the population dwindle, with few opportunities. Numerous ideas were put forward for economic development using the old factory buildings, but ultimately the unlikely concept of a contemporary arts center was hatched, using the scale of the site to enable the showcasing of land art and other non-normative work that doesn’t easily fit within the confines of a traditional museum. Jennifer Trainer, a longtime part of MASS MoCA’s staff, interweaves the long road to getting state and local government funding for the museum with an overview of its past exhibitions and performance presentations, alongside the present project of mounting an ambitious project by artist Nick Cave. A constant refrain is how much or how little the institution has properly integrated with North Adams – many residents have no interest in or understanding of contemporary art – and the slowness of the economic development that was expected – but neither of these are particularly well-developed. While to some extent aiming for an institutional profile in the Wiseman school, the project instead ends up feeling too promotional and insider, with far too much time devoted to elements that simply don’t merit the attention, and short shrift paid to aspects that are more interesting, such as the challenges of the space.