Updated: Nov 29, 2019
First Time at the Tucson Museum of Contemporary Art Fundraiser
In October I had the privilege of attending the Tucson Museum of Contemporary Art’s fall fundraiser. If I’m honest, and let’s be honest, I’ve always had mixed feelings about contemporary art. It’s not what I’m drawn to, it rarely inspires me to run out and create, and sometimes it’s downright difficult to look at depending on the subject matter. But a lot of that is why they do it, to challenge the viewers' perceptions of art and comfortability, and I understand why it needs to be done even if I'm not going to hang it on my walls.
I didn’t know what to expect once we got there. Again (honestly,) I’d only been in the building few times and I’d only ever been on the main floor, mostly in the large bay that used to house fire trucks. Additionally, the only other art fundraiser I’d attended was the Tucson Museum of Arts Crush Party which admittedly is more my speed. As we approached I could see the bay was dim and empty. For a moment my heart dropped, we were already late due to my poor directional sense and now it looked like the party was a bust.
I shouldn’t have worried. Nothing disappointed.
We were flagged down and directed around to the back of the building where our tickets were taken and herded up a flight of stairs that dumped us out into a house party, the kind I could have only dreamed of in Casa Grande in the 90’s. Maybe they were out there, I just wasn’t invited to any.
MOCA opened up and sprawled before me revealing a great amount of space I’d never realized they had. KXCI spun music while a group of backup dancers shook their stuff, you could procure scrunchies and chokers at a nearby table or get a genuine school lunch from The Welcome Diner through a slot in the wall. Tater tots are still the best thing on the menu.
Random little booths held live people banging to get out, some of them just drank and watched us watching them, one couple appeared to be singing karaoke to no music at all. A photographer, in.stante, wandered the halls taking pictures of passers-by. Some were candid, some staged, all amazing. The bathroom held a live spanking/flogging demonstration with a Dom and her sub, another restrained man wearing a ball gag patiently waited his turn in a corner.
Across the hall was a cubicle covered in fake 100 dollar bills while a woman wearing only a thong and holding a giant flower between her legs looked bored if not disgusted at us, the throng of gawkers here for a good time. I wondered if she was having a good time in her “performance” or if she simply wanted to go home.
The attention to detail…
There were rooms with balloons, rooms with stripes, rooms to give you seizures, and even a room that acted as a closet where you could buy legitimate “vintage” (shudder,) clothing! But my favorite room, and by room I mean instillation, was the bedroom of some confused teenager exploring their tastes. My companion and I sat on the bed appreciating the posters on the walls and the time appropriate furniture.
Two women joined us and we chatted with them as I found an empty bottle of pills had fallen between the crack between the nightstand and the bed, my companion found dirty socks and started digging through the drawers. The women were now making jokes about this fictional persons bedroom. We contemplated their gender upon finding a wig in a plastic bag stuffed in the back of the dresser. A few more people asked if they could hang and sit, this fictional person interested them also.
30 minutes went by, a group of strangers all pawing through this bedroom, dissecting its owner behind their back. We laughed, we conspired, we were friends hanging out, waiting for the rightful owner of the room to walk in and complete the picture. It felt like a genuine slice of the 90’s until Agent Scully and the Smoking Man popped in for a look around and that is why it was my favorite installation by far. For a minute I did want to believe.
The entire evening was bizarre, surreal, and utterly enjoyable. Each exhibit provoked thought; about where you’ve been, where you are now, how much was performance art? Are we all part of the grand concept of the overall installation encompassed by the fundraiser? Could those people be locked in those tiny rooms for ….
Sometimes contemporary art pushes the boundaries of what you feel comfortable looking at; that is why the environment it is housed in is clean, welcoming, and secure. Tucson’s Museum of Contemporary art is exactly that and more. The 90's R Dead fundraiser delivered on the promise of the premise, a 90's bash, but it gave a truly wonderful interactive experience that is hard to find outside of Halloween.
GRANTED, even though it was riding the pre-Halloween build of late October I have zero doubts that it would have been just as smashing in spring or summer. This fundraiser rounds out my handful of contemporary art experiences and has been by far my favorite.
I was fortunate enough to be a guest this year but I will happily pay for a ticket next year, (even if it's not a theme I hold dear to my heart.) I think the educational events, partnerships, and overall programming is worth supporting. Consider supporting a local museum, it can be so much more than simply throwing a couple of dollars into the donation bucket, it can be an amazing interactive experience.