Massachusetts – Day 1: I Love Books, Theatre, and Waterfalls

Day one in Massachusetts started with a trip to Mass MoCA, or the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams, MA. It was AWESOME! My favorite part was the Bibliothecapilia section, obviously. The first room/section of the exhibit had this cool piece showing pages of a book shooting out in big curling arches. I didn’t see the plaque that said who made it, or the title, but it was cool nonetheless.

First room in the Bibliothecapilia exhibit at Mass MoCA, North Adams, MA.

First room in the Bibliothecapilia exhibit at Mass MoCA, North Adams, MA.

The next room had shelves of books and a few seats and an invitation to explore the books. I think I sat in this room for at least an hour. Most of the books on display had bookmarks in them. When I opened the book to a bookmarked page it was to discover passages underlined or additions in the margins by the previous owner. I LOVED IT! I love finding things like that in books so it was beyond sweet that there was this whole exhibit dedicated to it. It was so cool! I started with books I’d read, then moved to ones with interesting titles, or ones I’d heard of. It was fascinating. In some books I read all of the notes or underlined passages, in others I just picked a few to look at and then moved on. I could’ve stayed there for days.

In the middle of this room was a glass case that displayed different things found in the books while putting together the exhibit. The things ranged from bookmarks and notes to dried flowers and photographs. For me, the two most interesting finds were both letters. One was to the owner of the book saying something along the lines of, “Dear Joe, I found this while packing and it has your name on it. I don’t like to keep books lent to me for longer than ten years, so here you go.” 🙂 The other letter was much darker. It was written by a woman who started it with something like, “I’m thinking about suicide, nothing serious, I’m sure it’ll pass, but there you have it. Who am I even writing this to? Who will ever read this?” It really struck me that there was this woman writing this letter thinking no one would ever read it, and then there I was, however many years later, a complete stranger, one of many strangers, reading her letter. I wondered what happened to her and how she’d feel about everyone reading her letter. It was super thought provoking.

Second room in the Bibliothecapilia exhibit at Mass MoCA, North Adams, MA.

Second room in the Bibliothecapilia exhibit at Mass MoCA, North Adams, MA.

In the final section of the Bibliothecapilia was a video by Clayton Cubitt. It was called Hysterical Literature. The video had ten sections and in each section a different woman sat at a table and read from a book. All you could see was a dark background and the top half of the woman, with her arms on a table, reading the book. She read the book until she climaxed and then closed the book, stated her name and the book she had been reading. And that was it. Next person. It was really interesting. And random. And also kind of funny, because the women kept trying to read even whilst…distracted. I think the most interesting part was that even when they were reading a book I knew or had read, I wasn’t hearing the words of that story. Instead, the words became separate from their book, because I knew what was happening to the woman. Effectively, the words lost their meaning and became completely poetic. It was really interesting, unlike anything I’d ever seen or experienced before.

Another exhibit I really enjoyed was by Jim Shaw. His exhibit was called Entertaining Doubts. He had a range of different pieces. One section had wigs representing the elements and across from them, videos of people wearing the wigs in a sort of interpretive dance of that element. Another section had a lounge chair shaped like an ear. There was also this model house and hanging from the bottom was what looked like five plus feet of human hair, just hanging all around the bottom until it touched the ground. Super random. My favorite section of his though, was the one where he recycled theatre drops (the big paintings that cover the entire stage in the background) and painted superheroes and other cartoon characters over them. I think I mainly liked that he used the drops, because something about theatre always makes my heart happy.

Jim Shaw's Entertaining Doubts exhibit at Mass MoCA, North Adams, MA.

Jim Shaw’s Entertaining Doubts exhibit at Mass MoCA, North Adams, MA.

The last artist I came across was named Ran Hwang. Her exhibit was called Untethered. She had these large birds made out of nails and string as well as mosaic birds made out of buttons and beads. In the blurb about her it said she was focused on the idea of being free, and yet constrained by your surroundings in that freedom. It was a really complicated concept and I enjoyed it.

After Mass MOCA I went for a mini hike on the Cascades Trail in North Adams. I turned down a neighborhood street convinced I was in the wrong spot, but then found the little parking area that had been mentioned online, so I parked and proceeded onto the path that was seemingly right in someone’s backyard. It was such a cool hidden spot.

The entrance to Cascades Trail off Marion Ave in North Adams, MA is right in someone's backyard...

The entrance to Cascades Trail off Marion Ave in North Adams, MA is right in someone’s backyard…

It was about a ten minute or so walk to the waterfall. It started out pretty flat and easy and then got hilly and rocky toward the end. I nearly killed myself sliding down a hill in the mud, which I later realized was because that was not, in fact, the path. The path nicely curved around the river relatively flat and did not go down the death path I had taken earlier. Luckily, I managed to catch myself on a tree and didn’t end up all muddy, just a little sore from the weird way I torqued my back. The waterfall was pretty and since it was so hidden I only saw one other person on my way in. When I got to the waterfall I found a big rock in the middle of the river and sat and wrote in my journal. As I was finishing up a group of about nine high school/college aged kids came by, but that was it for other people around. It was getting a little chilly so I decided to head back to the car and go meet up with my host for the evening. Overall, it was a pretty solid first day in Massachusetts.

Waterfall on Cascades Trail in North Adams, MA.

Waterfall on Cascades Trail in North Adams, MA.

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