When I was 19 I lived in London for a year of study. It was my first time abroad as well as away from home. I didn't know anyone but had a deep need to see the world. I went on a ‘pre-tour trip’ with other future students that were also about to be in the same study abroad program. Our first stop was Amsterdam (oh dear, this conservative, southern raised innocent was thrown into culture shock to say the least.) Then after that our next stop was Paris.
I mention all this to say I have been there before - a brief two days- with strangers who I was desperately hoping to make a friend. (On a side note I think my first time to kiss a stranger was in Paris)...I digress - this past summer I went again for a longer visit and not only visited Paris but a few other places in France as well. It was beautiful, romantic and inspiring. I felt more appreciative or maybe just more aware how lucky and amazing it was to be there. One experience that I am introspective and grateful for afterward was my time at the Musée de l'Orangerie.
Monet designed the space specifically to house his painting the Nymphéas (Water Lilies). When you walk in you can immediately feel the cohesion of the art and space. You are immersed into his world...his vision. The colors surround you like a rich, silky blanket. The simplicity, light, and whiteness all showcase what he is trying to say and make you focus on. For those of you that have not been the room, it is oval and his paintings are large taking up most of the walls all around you. There are benches in the middle of the room where you sit and observe - switching sides and moving to different parts of the room.
For me even just entering the space was a refreshing change from the other museums. Crowds are never fun ... but tourists are the worst crowds ever. I have lived in New York City for about 6 years and I loathe them with every fiber of my being while I walk down the street, get on the subway, or am at the NYC museum. Ok, ok....I was a tourist in Paris -the thing of it is -I just wanted to absorb, watch and think. My goal was not to tick off famous pieces off my list. Anyways, the space at l’Orangerie prevented any crazy fast food art viewing to happen. The space was designed to experience the work.
I felt that I was in the zone completely receptive to what was in around me. The art that was created to enjoy, evoke thought, and inspire. I felt that others around me though they might be having their own unique experience were at least taking a moment. How often in today's world are we allowed that or do we give ourselves permission to do that?
The painting was beautiful and a masterpiece but I had seen many masterpieces within the last few days prior to this. What struck me was how important the setting of how the art was showcased influenced my ability to appreciate it. This made me reflect how important the setting is when an audience sees a play.
I am not just talking about the set design but the theatre space as well. Each piece in the physical environment helps shape the experience. Don't get me wrong I can't count the number of times I have worked or seen a production in a basement theatre or found space which really good work has taken place. What I want to open my mind is the possibilities that artists such as Monet, Wagner, and Craig stretched their minds to discover - what should it be and not what do we have to work with.
Wagner spent years perfecting the opera theatre in Bayreuth so that the acoustics were the best quality it could be from the stage to the audience so that his work was best showcased. It left me with a thought what would that be for a play?
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!