Magical Mystery Tour

Today on Museum Bites, we’re whipping up some magic with a tour of The Transported Man exhibit currently on display at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum.  Based on an elaborate magic trick featured in the book, The Prestige (1995), the Broad exhibition takes us on a whimsical journey where everyday objects are transformed into art.

The Transported Man Magic Trick, The Prestige (2006)
The Transported Man Magic Trick, The Prestige (2006)

Climb aboard because this magical mystery tour is waiting to take you away…

Base Magica-Scultura Vivente (1961)-Piero Manzoni, Photo by cjverb (2017)
Piero Manzoni’s Base Magica-Scultura Vivente (1961), Photo cjverb (2017)

Step Right Up:  Our first stop is Piero Manzoni’s Magic Base.  This simple wooden box with two dance-lesson footprints atop is what it appears to be…a box.  However, climb atop the magic base, strike a Madonna-style pose (vogue, vogue), and you will be transformed into a living sculpture. This phenomenon is a common sight at tourist spots around the world.  Local street performers decked out in monochromatic face paint and clothing, pose solemnly for long stretches of time.  They often fool and sometimes startle passersby.


Living Statue, Innsbruck, Photo by cjverb (2009)

Living Statue, Innsbruck, Photo by cjverb (2009)

Similarly, tableaux vivants (living pictures) are elaborate stage shows featuring recreations of famous paintings using real people, who pose motionless and silent. Click on this clip from the Gilmore Girls and enjoy a taste of tableaux vivant.

Clockwork for Oracles II (2008)-Ugo Rondinone, Photo by cjverb (2017)
Ugo Rondinone’s Clockwork for Oracles II (2008), Photo cjverb (2017)

Window to the Soul:  Our next stop is Ugo Rondinone’s Clockwork for Oracles II, a colorful collection of 52 mirrored windows (representing the 52 weeks in a year).  Spanning an entire wall, this breathtaking exhibit comes to life with each new visitor.  Enter the gallery and your image is transported into the exhibit and like the Magic Base, you become a part of the art.  Rondinone describes this piece as, “an open field for things to happen.” Instead of gazing outward through a window, the artist’s multi-colored mirrors compel you to look inward, to self-reflect.  Click on this Clockwork for Oracles II clip to watch a brief interview with Rondinone.

Robin Meier demonstrating Synchronicity (2017), Photo cjverb (2017)
Robin Meier demonstrating Synchronicity (2017), Photo cjverb (2017)

The Forest Inside the Tent:  Our third and final stop is Robin Meier and André Gwerder’s Synchronicity (2017).  Cross the threshold of this ordinary tent, and you’ll find yourself inside a living, breathing, chirping forest.  Meier and Gwerder train crickets and fireflies to match their respective chirps and flashes to the beat of two synchronized pendulums.  The artists have also incorporated several electronic devices, including turntables and flashing red lights to the mix.  Over the course of the next several weeks, the dirt floor and wall-to-wall foliage will gradually transform into a harmonious symphony of light and sound.

The Transported Man exhibition also includes the impressive Loxodonta (2017) by Daniel Firman, a full-size replica of an African elephant suspended from the ceiling; Werner Reiterer’s, Beginnings of Space Travel (2002), a taxidermied cat that appears to float up to the ceiling; and much, much more.  That concludes our trip through the magical world of The Transported Man.  Click on this virtual slide show if you’d like to see more.

Fun Magical Facts:  Magicians have been entertaining audiences as far back as the 1st century.  Ancient Roman philosopher and statesman, Seneca (c4 BC—65 AD), wrote about a street performer entertaining shoppers at the local market with the cup and balls trick. Executed much the same way today, Magicians Penn and Teller perform this slight of hand stunt with four-handed flair.  Click on this link for an entertaining look-see.

Next week, we’ll take a bare bones trek through the L’Empire de la Mort, also known as the Paris catacombs. Until then, have a great week!


Art Gallery of New South Wales

Art Museum Teaching

Eli & Edythe Broad Art Museum

Google Books-The Prestige (1995) by Christopher Priest

Lansing City Pulse

Youtube-Gilmore Girls

Youtube-Penn & Teller Explain Ball & Cups on Jonathan Ross (2010)

Youtube – Ugo Rondinone (2011)


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