You know when you walk into one of those stores that has lots of very small, expensive, breakable things, and those things are sitting on the edges of tables that are barely a child’s fart apart, and you spend your entire time there sucking in your stomach, holding your purse to your chest, and looking for the corner with the stuffed animals and scarves?
Well, take that scenario and multiply it by a thousand — or, rather, $200,000 — and you’ll have the nightmare that one woman experienced at a Los Angeles art gallery a few weeks ago.
The unidentified woman was visiting The 14th Factory, a pop-up gallery which describes itself as “a monumental, multiple-media, socially engaged art and documentary experience conceived by the Hong Kong-based British artist Simon Birch.”
Okay. Well, we have no idea what that means, but we do know that the room in which this incident occurred contained an exhibit called “Hypercaine,” which consisted of dozens of crowns formed from different mediums perched on a series of closely-spaced, unsecured pillars.
What could possibly go wrong,” you ask? “Why, this,” we answer.
The woman is seen on security camera video crouching down in front of one of the pillars for a selfie. Then, she loses her balance.
As she falls to the ground, at least ten of the pillars, carrying an estimated $200,000 worth of art, go toppling like dominoes. Fellow gallery visitors stand shocked, while a man in a tan shirt and black pants, who we assume works for the gallery, walks over with his arms in the air, saying, and we’re just guessing here, “My pillars!” He surveys the damage and runs off to get help, saying, we assume, “Shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit.” He then quickly reverses direction and goes the other way, saying, we imagine, “OhGodOhGodOhGodOhGodOhGodOhGodOhGodOhGod.”
Meanwhile, this poor woman (bless her heart) starts trying to “fix it,” standing the first pillar up and apparently heading toward the second one. We don’t know that we’d have touched anything else at this point, probably because we’d be curled up in the fetal position, crying, and thinking about all the student loans we will now never pay off.
To add a little mystique and cynicism to the whole ordeal, it’s now being reported by some news outlets that this may have been a stunt put together by one of the artists. “The video,” writes The New York Times in their article about the incident, “was uploaded by someone who claims to know Mr. Birch and its description ends with a plug: ‘The rest of The 14th Factory is one of its kind. …. Go visit before it closes end of July (or before a few more pieces break).'” For his part, Birch has denied this, telling The Times in an e-mail that it was an accident but adding: “Crowns are fragile things. They are symbols of power. Perhaps it’s ironic and meaningful that they fell.”
Hm. Crowns that fall to the ground and break apart due to an act of what some consider to be narcissism? That does sound awfully arty.
It’s also interesting that The 14th Factory is currently filming a documentary in the building — there’s a paragraph on their home page that says: “Please note that prior to entering The 14th Factory, everyone is required to sign our ‘Talent Consent and Release’ and ‘Waiver, Release and Hold Harmless Agreement’ forms at the reception as we are filming a documentary in the space.”
Huh. That’s even artier.
Regardless of whether or not this event was real or faked, it’s certainly reignited our fear of breaking expensive things in public places. Next time we plan to visit an art gallery, we’re going to prepare by going through some of those weave poles they use in dog agility competitions and setting up some laser pointers to look like those tripwire alarms you see in Mission Impossible movies. Agility and flexibility, friends — they’ll keep you from owing an artist a couple hundred thousand dollars.