Speechless: a sensory experience at the Dallas Museum of Art

Recently,  I had the chance to visit the Dallas Museum of Art, before the world shut down due to the Corona virus. A large exhibit was in main temporary gallery. “Speechless”.  Even from the name of the exhibit, we could surmise that it was going to be a different kind of art exhibit.  I took a friend with me and later found out that it was her first time ever to visit a museum of any kind.  As we walked along the curved walls, there were shapes and instructions on the wall.  My friend observed that you could do all these things without speaking.   We first found our way into a room that was literally buzzing with noise. There was a pool of water on the floor and a shallow stadium like steps were above it.  There were lighted glass egg like shapes on poles and holders positioned all around the stadium steps. The sound waves coming from half a dozen or so glass eggs in the room were causing the water in the pool to form different kinds of patterns. We were invited to move the sound-wave-emitting objects to produce our own unique  and beautiful patterns in the water. It was amazing to see the water change as the light and sound changed in the room.

In the next room that we entered, there was a little house made of fabric. We could walk into the house over a small bridge like structure, and were greeted by hundreds of small cloth spiral creations arranged around the walls. The creations were sewn and quilted by random individuals who added to the artist’s creation. The end result was a beautiful colorful texture over the whole inside of this little hut.  We were in an intimate space looking at intimate creations of a community. It was a very tactile as well as visual experience.  On the wall of the gallery were photos of the people who had participated in the project.

We passed through a couple more rooms before we saw a dark room at the end of a short curved entryway. Inside the darkened room was a huge black ball that had narrow sections like a beach ball. To experience it, we had to put our ears against it and listen. Much like you can listen to noises coming out of a sea shell, each of these sections had different sound effects coming out of them. Each one was distinct. My friend who had just had eye surgery said it helped her focus her sense of hearing.

The last room that we went in of the Speechless exhibit was a huge room filled with amorphous shapes that were activated as we entered.  There seemed to be a spinning movement in the room. The large shapes started inflating. Each shape was covered with a clear plastic tarp. As the tarps inflated, we could see the sculptures inside. There was random inflating and deflating of these grotesque structures.  The shapes seemed to wobble and weeble.  Some you could sit on or interact with, others remained a mystery. Soon our eyes and bodies were affected by the room. We could not determine whether it was the weird lighting, the constant and random movement, or something else, but we had to get out of there.

I love Art Museums especially. and most any kind of museum in general, so I enjoyed hearing my friends impressions and thoughts on the museum experience. We took in a few of the permanent galleries after we exited the Speechless exhibit. As an introvert, she says she liked the museum because there is no need to talk to anyone, or perform, you can just take in each object or painting and go on to others.  She found the museum engaging, enlightening, educational, attractive, and refreshing. She was also glad to see the things there that have been preserved and protected for posterity. Me too!

I think she will be back.


[afterward note: My friend’s name is Kendra D’Large.]

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