A bathroom was installed in the Atrium. There it stood behind the glass, lit up and noisy. Water was flowing out from the sink and the toilet, surgent, intimidating, splashy. Was it a metaphor for the School’s run-down sewage system? Or a new way to keep students alert? Opinions divided, yet the table installed providently nearby said it was the art work “Awakening” by Meta Isaeus-Berlin.
I still remember my admissions interview for SSE BSc program. As I was naming the reasons I liked the school, art came up second or third. Being surrounded with the works of contemporary artists sounded appealing, if not luxurious. I didn’t expect overflowing bathrooms … I must admit, though: since then, I progressed in my understanding of art to the point I can actually enjoy truly thought provoking pieces. “Awakening” is one of such art works.
“Awakening” is not the name I’m using for the installation. I usually call it “Overflow”. An ethnography professor from Lund gave a whole lunch lecture dedicated to this art piece. Turns out, one can talk about overflow for an hour – no kidding! The lecture revolved mostly around the fact that we are overflowing with information, daily tasks, even money. Quite like that bathroom, erupting new and new portions of water every second, we get overwhelmed with the fast pace of our lives. The clarity of the metaphor is almost trivial, so I decided to take a second look, and a third one, and so until I find out the message that speaks to me.
Last semester, I went to an Art Talk by Rober Stasinski, who proposed a new (at least to me) way of looking at art: to see it as a problem you haven’t seen before. Such a problem requires a solution that addresses the core of the problem, not scratches on the surface. In most cases, we don’t even try to solve that problem, and walk away with an illusion of solution. To get to the actual solution, though, it takes more reflection than just staring at the art piece for 20 seconds. Our lazy brains, however, usually do just that: find the easiest analogy and walk away.
“Overflow” installation is rather pleasant from the distance. If I close my eyes sitting in the atrium, I can imagine myself by the mountain river, with a waterfall nearby. Or maybe on a Roman holiday, enjoying the fountain splashing in the middle of the piazza. However, as I come closer, the sound gets intimidating, and the view starts reminding an emergency. It makes me think of my never-ending flow of deadlines, duties, goals… The rush for better grades, careers, relationships – isn’t that what life is made of? The rush gets so intense sometimes, you fear getting overflown by it. That’s when it helps to take a step out of the glassy box, and look at it from the distance. Shut down the roaring monster, and let the fountain speak…