Communicating Within the New Museum’s Pixel Forrest

Waiting In Line for Pixel Forest

The line is an hour and a half long and reminded me of the Gilmore Girls Revival episode where Rory interviews people in New York City who stand in line for things. It is hard to tell what artwork has drawn individuals to the line itself. I for example, tagged along to the museum when asked by my friend Sara. With basically zero knowledge about what exhibits were being featured at the museum.

Sara and I stand outside bundled up with coats, gloves, and scarves and await our entrance. Four ticket lines move steadily and we’re ushered to the second floor. We begin our adventure at the Pipilotti Rist: Pixel Forest exhibit.

First Impressions of the Pixels 

I am pretty sensitive to the light in a room. When I was in the orchestra in middle school, I would get headaches and feel like I was getting naturally high from the florescent lighting in our practice space. It had really terrible lighting (according to me).

When I entered the exhibit with its hanging silk and projections I found myself feeling quite similar to myself at age twelve in that practice room. The meditative and sublime lighting and sound had me feeling trippy, and in need of a lie down. This was convenient because the exhibit itself had pillows, cushions and even beds to retire from standing and to admire the screen projections and video installations.

When Pixels Go Public

Pipilotti’s meditative and dreamlike installation takes people into a private place in a public environment. An exploration of contemporary communication transcends the use of the Smartphone or laptops by immersing visitors in a communal digital experience shared in the museum space itself. With this came some interesting interactions and ways that folks were engaging within the exhibit.

People are invited to take photos and walk between the dangling pixel lights. With this immersive experience came a reality that is far too familiar—the extension of the private to public space and people quite possibly, over sharing. There were most definitely hundreds of photos taken beneath the lights during my visit, which is wonderful because it illustrates its accessibility. But in the mix, there was a lack of respect for the exhibit itself.

Security guards expressed concerns as people touched the dangling pixels. One security guard jokingly mentioned to a visitor, “If this one breaks, we now have your finger prints so we’ll know who did it,” they said. Polite warnings and reminders where given to several visitors who chose to rest their hands on the exhibit like they would the buttons on their Smartphones.

Immersive Art

In many regards the immersive nature of the exhibit was enlightening to how our communities interact. However, the way that noise carried in the space and the distracting nature of many bodies interacting at once in a way that seemed inappropriate, or child-like was concerning. The atmosphere reminded me of an interactive science museum and folks were frolicking as they pleased.

Maybe these are the joys and challenges of creating an immersive exhibit in the age of digital? There will always be people who violate or take advantage of their access to those spaces. The grace that staff at the New Museum addressed those who were behaving in ways inconsistent with visitor expectations was remarkable. I’d return again, but might need to be more strategic about the time and day I go!


Feature photo courtesy of Sara Brandt


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s