A Day at the ICA with William Forsythe

I came here two weeks ago with my friend Emily specifically to catch William Forsythe’s collection, Choreographic Objects, before its last day on February 21. It’s a wonderful, wonderful exhibition of dynamic sculptures and video projections, and we had a blast interacting with the pieces. Forsythe encourages his audience to interpret his pieces as they wish, following ad hoc instructions as they flow through the experience. A common theme seems to be taking risks and allowing yourself to fail—a pretty good metaphor for life I’d say.

First up: A Volume, within which it is Not Possible for Certain Classes of Action to Arise (original c. 2015). This piece invites visitors to crawl into the negative space below a concrete block, about 20 feet by 10 feet across, 2 feet tall.

Description from Forsythe’s site: “A floating cube tailored specifically to the museum architecture determines the empty volume that constitutes the space in which the work is realized by the visitor. The normal range of physical action is in direct relation to the possibility of it occurring in a space that is essentially uninhibited. The work offers the visitor the possibility of consciously experiencing the loss of this broad degree of freedom, which is incorporated into our daily existence.”


Next, we checked out In Nowhere and Everywhere at the Same Time, No. 3., where 60 steel pendulums, driven by motors, swing independently from the ceiling. The artist’s instructions: “PLEASE ENTER, AVOIDING ANY CONTACT WITH THE PENDULUMS.” There was a kid who zoomed through the room, spinning and dodging pendulums like he was in a game of football, while his baby brother sat on the ground crying because his mom said it was time to leave. He’ll probably be the next Tom Brady—you heard it here first.


The most anticipated exhibit: The Fact of Matter. Forsythe’s instructions? “PLEASE TRAVERSE THE SPACE USING ONLY THE RINGS.” I tried my best to get through the grid (the floor is lava!), but my arms gave out about 80% of the way through. You can see the line of people waiting around the the perimeter of the room; groups of 8 were released in waves and given 5 minutes to climb the rings.

Overall, it was an experience for the ages and one that I’ll definitely reminisce about for quite some time. It’s pretty high on my list of memorable museum visits—up there with Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors display at The Broad in Los Angeles two years ago and the Rain Room at NY MoMA, which I waited 7 hours for.

Special thanks to Emily Mu for being my photographer and museum buddy :)

Situated on the waterfront in Boston’s Seaport, the Institute of Contemporary Art was founded in 1936 with the mission to exhibit modern art. It takes about two hours to cover all galleries in the space, and there’s usually an exhibit on rotation each season. Admission prices can be found here; MIT affiliates get free entry!