To have experienced The Back Door, Martin Creed’s interactive art exhibit installed throughout the Park Avenue Armory, was like walking into and exploring an authentically disquieting dreamscape version of Disney’s Haunted Mansion for adults who dig weird art.
As the most mainstream-accessible part of The Back Door, two collections of small-canvas paintings can be found in the Armory’s first floor Board of Officers Room. It got much less-safe from there.
Crossing all media including painting, drawing, music, dance, theater, film, sculpture, fashion, and more, Martin Creed’s practice considers our everyday existence and the visible and invisible structures that shape our lives. Creed continues his ongoing exploration into rhythm, scale and order in The Back Door; the artist’s largest installation in the US to date, which is a survey of his work from its most minimal moments to extravagant, larger-than-life installations.
Utilizing both the Wade Thompson Drill Hall and the historic interiors of the building, Creed re-imagines the space with opening and closing doors and curtains, a slamming piano, and a room full of balloons, among other new works made for this exhibition. These materials and situations, when grouped together, create a playful spectacle within a framework that provides the viewer with a fascinating way to counter our visually overloaded, choice-saturated culture.
The most popular work in the exhibit is called Half the Air in a Given Space, which is a room filled half-way to the ceiling with large, inflated white latex balloons.
It was recommended that you queue up for this room as soon as you arrived, as there might be a wait of 10 minutes or more. They only let six or so people enter the room at one time. This is why:
Once you squeeze your way into the room, the balloons, which are about 17″ in diameter, will be over your head, and you will need to gently bounce them upward and away from you in order to navigate your way to an exit on the other side of the room, which is marked by a red Exit sign. I wouldn’t recommended this experience to anyone who is prone to panic attacks or who has claustrophobia, or for a small child, but otherwise it is quite fun and there is no need to freak out.
As you can see, I was able to get these fun photos while submerged in a sea of Balloons! When would you ever have the chance to do this again? There were assistants at the room’s exit door, to help you get out.
In the above video, I am in a room called The Parlor, in which the overhead lights flash on and off at one-second intervals for a piece called The Lights Going On and Off. The door on the other side of the room opens automatically, so it is impossible to be trapped in there. Again, no need to panic!
Next, I entered the Wade Thompson Drill Hall, which is a massive room the size of an airplane hangar. There is a screen suspended from the ceiling about midway into the room, which shows nearly static film clips of people doing mundane things like sitting and staring.
This is a woman sitting in a room.
This is the room she is sitting in. There are six short films ranging in length from 1 minute 30 seconds to 2 minutes.
Across that room to the right, you will see the above sign with an arrow. Follow it to an open door and enter an entirely new space.
You are now in a long corridor that extends the length of the building, which is divided into 9 small kiosks, each showing a different short film. The first one shows different people crossing the same street, one at a time, while demonstrating a “funny walk,” as the famous Monty Python sketch would call it.
Another film is this naked man standing in a room with occasional close-ups of his ass.
This video clip is from a film that shows a numerical countdown.
This one is called Fuck Off. Either there was no video, or it just wasn’t working, for this audio-only clip of someone using the F Word, a lot. (Warning: NSFW)
I didn’t stick around long enough to find out why she was squatting.
When you see this sign, you are about to watch a video of a penis going from flaccid to erect, and back again. Hashtag-trying-too-hard.
These Roving Musicians are fun to stop and listen to as they wander through the various rooms. Those curtains they are seen walking through open and close by themselves, and constitute a separate artwork called A Curtain Opening and Closing.
In the Field and Staff Room, you will see chairs stacked on top of other chairs and tables stacked on other tables, a row of small cactus plants in front of a mirror (lower right in the above photo) and a video installation.
I felt like I was back in the ’60s.
Even if art is not your thing, you would probably have enjoyed its distractions as you explore an amazing historical building and imagine what types of ghosts must inhabit this obviously haunted space.
Find out more about Martin Creed’s The Back Door, which has now closed at This Link!