image from artnet
I recently made the trek over to West 19th and 11th avenue in Chelsea to see what most of the art community here in New York City had been excitedly bumbling about since January. Doug Wheeler, the respected contemporary artist known for his work with light sculpture inspired by the mid-20th century experience, had apparently created a sensation at his gallerist David Zwirner’s NYC space.
All I knew before going was that it was Wheeler’s take on infinity, and that no matter the wait, it was worth it.
Well, the wait was exactly 2 hours and 32 minutes. The experience lasted 10 minutes. It was one of the most worthwhile 10 minutes maybe in the last 7 years of my life.
I’m not much for extremes, or for lists, or for classifications. It’s not often that I qualify such things as most important moments. I think our perception of what’s important shifts according to our current experiences and present state. But what had such a deep impact on me was more what I left the space with, as opposed to what I felt in the very moment.
All the installation consisted of was a room that had been meticulously painted such that once walking in, you had very little idea where it ended or where the ceiling was, and what was up or down. After a few minutes of adjusting, it was indeed possible to find the walls and see some of the texture of the wood in the ceiling. But, what was more impressive was the feeling of complete clarity and an utterly empty mind.
I’ve tried to achieve this cloud-like sensation of an empty mind, free of any thought, good or bad before. I’ve tried through meditation and through yoga. The closest I’ve come to what I’ll call “thought-lessness” is envisioning a pale blue light flowing through my body. That is indeed calming, but not in true essence a complete lack of thought.
Doug Wheeler finally helped me to achieve the state of an empty mind. And what was most intriguing in retrospect was how warm the sensation was…the emptiness of mind was wholly and encompassing-ly glowing with heat.
David Zwirner’s foresight to set up the waiting room with chairs in a circle and around 40 people waiting in said chairs, reading and speaking with each other quietly also set the mood. I felt as though this must be what purgatory (or to religious people, what waiting to be judged or let into Heaven) must feel like if it were to exist. It was peaceful while also seeming mathematical. This was just as much part of the experience for me as was being in the literal installation.
Now, whenever I feel the need to let go, just for a moment, I can recall that warm sensation of emptiness—what Wheeler and critics are calling infinity—and find peace of mind and body just for as long as I need.
This was one of the most complete pieces of art I’ve ever been lucky enough to experience, and it will stay with me for the remainder of my days.