Another day in Minneapolis. Gwen and I started off by walking around Lake Phelan, just down the road from our hosts. Very pleasant, with a pair of trails for running and bike riding, both of which were getting plenty of use. The powers that be trucked in some sand and created a beach at one spot on the lake that nobody was using–but there were buoys marking off a swimming area too tiny for anything beyond a little splashing around.
After that, we drove into Minneapolis again to visit the Walker Museum. The first thing that caught my eye was something outside that I had read about before, the Mobile Dwelling Unit by Lot Ek. This is a 40-foot shipping container that has been converted to a living space, with almost all of one wall, and much of the opposite, converted into slide-out units, each for a specific function–toilet, shower, kitchen, bed, storage, TV viewing, dining–so when deployed, the center area is empty. The concept is quite clever. The thing itself seems incomplete–most of the interior was unfinished plywood, with pencil marks showing cut-lines and the like; the soft surfaces were raw foam. Curiously, surveillance cameras were everywhere inside, even though there’s nothing to obstruct your view from one end to the other (and, well, who puts surveillance cameras in their home?). A museum staffer explained that the idea was that the cameras would be on the outside in a real MDU. Apart from the unfinished quality, I have more serious criticisms of the MDU: it has poor connections to the outdoors, with very limited window exposure, none of which open, and only one door to only connect to the outside. My guess is that it has no insulation to speak of, and only a window-unit air conditioner, so it could become intolerably hot in a hot climate. But it’s still a very nifty concept.
After taking in the MDU, we wandered around the nearby sculpture and botanical gardens (which were fodder for my camera–I will upload pictures when I get back). The weather was especially nice, and I think none of us were in hurry to go indoors. Eventually we did. The current exhibit–of which the MDU is a part–is of cutting-edge industrual and architectural design. Some of this was high-concept wankery, like the chair that responds to electromagnetic radiation to make you conscious of the high-tech world we live in. Some of it was self-mocking, like bottles that look broken. Some of it was mind-boggling, like a presentation for “pig city”–a self-contained pig-farming skyscraper that’s designed for maximum efficiency. One of Shigeru Ban’s cardboard-tube emergency shelters (used to house victims of the Kobe Earthquake) was on display, and I was glad to have a chance to walk around in that.
The permanent exhibit at the Walker pretty much left me cold–navel-gazing modern art. Everyday objects presented as art. When Marcel Duschamp did it, it was a clever gag, but you can only get away with that once–you can’t build an entire movement out of it.
After we finished with the Walker, we fortified ourselves with coffee and snacks, dropped in on an old friend of Gwen’s, and then went to the home of the parents of my friend Jen, who just happens to be visiting the ancestral abode at the same time we’re up here. We all had a chance to catch up, her mom overfed us and guilt-tripped us about not eating enough (you’d think she was Jewish, but she’s Chinese), and we generally had an excellent time talking about disturbing movies and feral Chihuahuas.