When else are you going to be able to ‘ice’* skate inside a museum?
Mia Feuer: An Unkindness is an ambitious and satisfying exhibit currently on display at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. The museum employs two large rooms to house five of Feuer’s pieces. On paper it may seem frivolous. In reality it’s an excellent use of space for the DC artists works.
Feuer has taken her experiences traveling and making art in the Canadian tar sands, Arctic Circle and the Suez Canal and created pieces that expose an environment in pain and a reality full of gorgeous decay. Her work will please fans of ruin porn (think abandoned theme parks, insane asylums, nuclear disaster sites all twenty years after their last use) and childlike wonder.
An Unkindness, hanging above Rink, is actually easy to ignore. The piece is quite large and could only be housed in a large institution like the Corcoran, but it’s below an ‘ice’ rink! You can skate! Really! There are ice skates for a black ‘ice’ rink! How cool! That isn’t sarcasm. It instantly brings the viewer to childhood, something the artist intended. From the Corcoran Events, Experiences & Exhibitions guide:
Feuer: I have memories as a child, when I would skate alone at night at an outdoor rink around the corner from my parents’ house. With Rink, I envisioned one skater at a time to recall that kind of solitude that I experienced when I was little.
It works. It totally works. When you’re on the ‘ice,’ skates loosely tied (which is very bad for the ankles), trying to maintain your balance in a public arena not usually meant for movement, you’re a kid. It’s a feeling that you probably have not ever experienced in an art gallery, let alone an art museum of the Corcoran’s stature.
It works because you don’t want to lose that feeling. Once you being thinking about that feeling, you notice what’s above the rink. a menacing blob of doom. It brings to mind a murder of crows, something that makes no one feel comforted. The environment is collapsing and you don’t want to lose the ice. The ice shouldn’t be this dark. If this doom comes any closer, we won’t have the ability to skate. And that’s why it works.
The second-floor installation is definitely worth visiting, but it’s damn near impossible to compete with Rink and An Unkindness. Reclamation Site is a colorful statement on the impact of industry in the arctic. Dog Sled, made by the artist from found materials while on a boat, is a DIY statement on appreciating what’s around. The lit snowflake fixture above the sled is a nice nod to Pyramiden, the coal mining and oil exploation settlement below the North Pole where the artist spent time.
But it’s about the Rink. Some may think it’s a stunt. Some may think it’s not art. It doesn’t matter. Just go on the ‘ice.’ Take a few laps. If you’re afraid to skate or can’t skate, take a walk in it and look up. It’s a scary sight. It’s why I’m recommending all of my friends to visit a museum they’ve visited multiple times.
Mia Feuer: An Unkindness is now open at the Corcoran. It runs until February 23. Viewers ‘ice’ skate at their own risk. One person at a time can skate, as long as they’re willing to sign a release form.
*The rink is made of high density polyethylene polymer. It does not feel like you’re skating on ice. When I attempted to hockey stop, I was not able. The material does not have as much give as ice. It’s also difficult to glide since the rink is much smaller than a regulation size rink or the typical outdoor rink found around DC.