"Are We There Yet?" Leaves Many Unanswered Questions -- But That's the Point
|The environment of "Are We There Yet?" fosters listening and contemplation.|
|Gershoni (left) and Goldberg|
"Can I return this?" asks a man with a Jewish inflection in his voice.
A woman then asks, "What does love look like?"
The sound comes from a small white speaker on the floor, one of at least a dozen dotting the perimeter of the room. As you walk forward and take in the airy beauty of the empty space, the next speaker (and hidden camera) detects your motion, and another random question begins:
"Do you believe in magic?"
More voices filter through.
"What's the secret to a good marriage?"
"Is there an afterlife?"
"What are you waiting for?"
"Paper or plastic?"
Despite the seeming barrage, it's not overwhelming in the least. In fact, you almost wish the questions would come quicker. (There's that Information Age thing again.) The system has built-in pauses between the tracks so you have time to think about what's being asked. Likewise, if you stand still to reflect for a moment, the questions cease. The challenge then becomes a test of will power: Can you slow down and enter into that "contemplative state of mind?"
Says Goldberg, "I'm always interested in how new technology gives new perspective on history and culture."
Other questions come from literature, popular culture, and the Talmud. In fact Jewish tradition is at the heart of the project, searching and questioning being central to Jewish cultural and spiritual identity, according to the organizers. Jews are encouraged throughout their lives to follow the Yiddish proverb, "One who does not ask, does not know."
The complex robotics underlying the deceivingly simple installation are pretty darn cool and the sound quality fantastic. This is thanks to Meyer Sound, the outfit behind Cirque de Soleil, the Beijing Olympics, and a plethora of concert halls around the world.
Yet after spending some time in the installation, a few questions of your own to start to arise.
"What exactly is the point of the exhibit?"
"What does it mean?"
"What am I supposed to learn?"
For better or worse, it's not about answers. As Goldberg explains, "It's about searching for meaning, not getting to the answer, but getting to the next question. It's about raising questions, thinking about them, and asking more questions."
So if it drives you batty when someone answers a question with a question, be prepared for a healthy dose of rhetorical queries. Likewise, if you leave feeling perplexed and asking what the heck you just experienced - well, that's a darn good question too.
Then again, maybe that's the point.