The Danger of Screaming Women
A couple of days ago I finally decided to tell someone I work with that I was sick of his offensive jokes. Today another male peer invaded my personal space multiple times and hit me in the back of my head, all by accident of course. This morning at work another male who works in the building stared at me for a few minutes, then approached me and asked for my number. These three instances of dysfunctionality are only a taste of the magic that happens at the place where I spend my working days. Nobody will be reprimanded. This place also happens to be a museum. Where are Adrian Piper’s calling cards when you need them?
Everyday another factor also adds to the rising levels of my disbelief of people’s actions. Since June 30th, 2010, screams have been heard throughout the museum’s atrium. This is not what has been annoying me, but the number of times I hear people complaining about the artwork. Everyday patrons and employees alike complain about the screams. Older members of the museum exclaim that in the 20, 30, or 40 plus years that they have been visiting the museum they’ve never heard so much noise. “How can I enjoy Matisse with this racket?” My peers, of course, apologize. One incorrectly stated that the work was important in the 1970’s when it was first shown, but is no longer relevant.
The work in question that has so many people upset are a set of instructions by Yoko Ono. Voice Piece for Soprano asks the viewer to: Scream. 1. against the wind; 2. against the wall; 3. against the sky. In 1964 Ono published, Grapefruit, a book filled with over 150 event scores. These scores serve as instructions of actions for others to perform from digging a hole in a garden to burning a house down. Voice Piece for Soprano was first realized in 1961 at her Tribeca loft which she used as a performance space. When bewildered visitors learn the artist behind the screams is Yoko Ono many blame her for the soft shouts, high pitched howls and death metal growls that intrude on their picture perfect day of art viewing. Some people ask what she does besides being John Lennon’s widow. The reprise currently on view at MoMA was not her idea at all, in fact in an interview with Art Info, Ono states that she was surprised when the museum approached her about showing the piece as she always thought of the location as a quiet place. Who do we then owe our satisfaction or disgust to?
How much has the world changed since 1961 if people still only want and expect solitary paintings inside of museums while the world inside and outside tweets? It seems no one I know has anything positive to say about Voice Piece for Soprano. One of the main concerns being that the piece is that it is disruptive to the other work in the museum. It is the only work that one is fully available to experience in the museum. Between the groups of people constantly blocking the path near any painting that’s been taught about in middle school and prosumer tourists snapping photographs wherever possible, is a little screaming the worst thing that has happened in a museum? The amount of body odor in the former Tim Burton exhibit was enough for me to never want to look at his sketches again. Why can people accept the crowds and the noise they came with but are not willing to embrace an emotion?
Of course I screamed. How could I not? I had to convince my friends to go before me and like many other shy screamers I quickly walked away my piercing cry was heard…twice. Voice Piece for Soprano is a fully engaging experience and whether you choose to participate or not you are playing by its lack of rules. I relish Free Fridays when the atrium seems to be filled with people who have been waiting all week to scream. The audience sits quietly around the mic ready to experience a good airing of the lungs. People walk up alone or in pairs and scream their hearts out, or at least as loud as their courage can take them for the day. Everyone claps. I sit and listen, waiting to scream again.