Saturday, 13 December 2014

Art galleries as sensory havens

I adore art galleries.  But I only recently figured out why.

It's not (just) because I'm an arts nerd who's into all that weird shit.  It's because art galleries tend to be low sensory environments.  For a person who has sensory issues relating to light and noise, they're very pleasant places to be: quiet, cool, controlled lighting, often with very few people around.  Even if it's busy people tend to be quiet and behave themselves.

To be honest, sometimes I wonder how much of my love of words, pop culture and artsy stuff is innate, and how much developed from books, galleries, films and TV being a welcome refuge from the rest of the world.

I realised this while sitting in a darkened room at the Queensland Art Gallery recently, watching Lara Favaretto's Gummo IV spin and whir.

Lara Favaretto (born 1973) Gummo IV 2012: iron, car wash brushes and electrical motors.  From the Queensland Art Gallery collection.  Image from the Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art website.

It's a series of out-of-synch spinning car wash brushes, which sounds like a joke played by the artist but is surprisingly effective and utterly fascinating to watch.  It's not the usual sort of thing I go for at all, but I sat watching it far longer than I've ever spent admiring any other individual piece of artwork.  (Except possibly Bosch paintings where you have to pore over them for an hour to see all the details.)

Watching it was, for me, a form of stimming.  I'm not usually a watching-things stimmer - I'm more a flapper and pacer - but this thing was incredibly soothing.  After a morning spent trudging around the Brisbane city centre, it was just the pick-me-up my frazzled senses needed.