Art is good for the soul

| April 23, 2014

One of the venues for the 19th Biennale of Sydney is the Museum of Contemporary Art. Svetlana Stankovic, who is the editor of Open Forum, reflects on art and happiness after visiting the exhibition.

I find art calming and invigorating at the same time. Strolling through the Museum of Contemporary Art to explore their display for the 19th Biennale of Sydney a few weekends ago, I’m wondering: What exactly is it about art that makes me so happy? Is it being surrounded by like-minded people, silently connected through the love of art? Or being alone with my thoughts, aimlessly musing about this art work or the other, making mental connections?

My first stop is a dark room with a wall-to-wall video screening by Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist. It’s titled Mercy Garden Retour Skin (What is it with obscure titles for art works by the way? I guess it’s supposed to draw you in, make you curious. Or am I missing some vital cultural reference?).

People are lying on bean bags that are scattered throughout the room. I join them and let the atmospheric music and pictures wash over me. It’s a loop of lush, organic, hyper-coloured plants, grains of sand, swirling water… I feel myself drifting off, being carried along by the vivid images when I notice people around me getting restless. There are a few embarrassed giggles, and I realise that what I took for a floating sea plant under water is actually a shrivelled penis gently swaying in the soft current. Which explains the reference to nudity at the entrance I was wondering about. It’s light-hearted and sensual:


Pipilotti Rist: Mercy Garden Retour Skin, MCA


The next room is the opposite – brightly lit, with angular forms. Jim Lambie’s work is titled Zobop (obviously). He has covered the whole gallery floor in vividly coloured striped vinyl tape. The result is striking:


Jim Lambie: Zobop, MCAJim Lambie: Zobop (detail), MCA


I almost walk past this next neon installation by Polish artist Hubert Czeropok. He is quoting the Joker in the Batman film The Dark Knight. The sign depicts a darkly comical message about the fine line between sanity and madness:


Hubert Czeropok: Madness is like gravity, MCA


Continuing, I enter a bright, austere room where artist Roni Horn has assembled pale blue glass castings that look like small pools filled to the brim with water. It is incredibly tempting to disturb the surface of this still mirror, and a vigilant museum attendant keeps reminding newcomers not to touch the fragile art work. This is beautiful and ethereal:


Roni Horn: Ten Liquid Incidents, MCA


The last exhibit reveals another thing about art that makes me happy: it’s the sheer aesthetic pleasure of gazing at a thing of beauty. In that sense it’s like poetry or music – it calms my inner turmoil. I guess you take whatever you need from art in the exact moment you experience it. And that is good for the soul.




    April 24, 2014 at 4:50 am

    Svetlana this was an

    Svetlana this was an inspiring Blog. It has made me more mindful of why I love experiencing artistic expression and how important it is to include this experience in our day to day lives. 

    • Svetlana Stankovic

      April 24, 2014 at 5:07 am

      Thanks, Catherine, I’m glad

      Thanks, Catherine, I'm glad you like it! You're absolutely right, art should be part of our day to day lives and be accessible to anyone – to share, discuss, argue about and enjoy…