Old faithful Wikipedia tells us that; ’a sanctuary, in its original meaning, is a sacred place, such as a shrine. By the use of such places as a safe haven, by extension the term has come to be used for any place of safety’.
Today, we live fast – to keep up creativity, appearances, make something of ourselves and be the best people we can possibly be – definitely not to die young. Living contemporary fast lives, we need those safe havens more than ever. Maybe you turn to nature, to religion, to family, or to your special someone, to find that space.
I go to art museums.
I must have been about sixteen when I first heard the song ‘She Sells Sanctuary’ by British rock band The Cult. I did not pay much attention to the song at that point – I was sixteen and thought I would rule the world. Later on, after fully developing my philosophical tendencies and experiencing both heartbreak and the downsides of my own emotional life for the first time, I applied my own meaning to the song: Being able to provide and distribute sanctuary must be the ultimate. Such places, or people, must be the ultimate. The art museum does just that for me, and ‘She Sells Sanctuary’ still reminds me of this.
Imagine the disappointment when I learned that the song is actually ‘just’ about sex. A quick session on Google eventually let me know that the song definitely also has a deeper esoteric and spiritual meaning, but still.
When I enter the space of an art museum, I get chills. I preferably go alone, and I hardly go often enough. I do enjoy visiting art museums with company, I really do. It is just a different experience. When I go with friends, I usually come for the art, the discussion and to have an opinion about the work presented before me. That is not always the case when I go alone. I come for the certain kind of soothing, and formidable – almost inexplicable atmosphere I feel, when I step inside the museum halls, all by myself. I come for those almost sacred kinds of chills I get, when I enter a space I utterly respect. I go there to exchange tangled and excessive thoughts, for experiences of objects, sounds and visuals I might not even understand – because a head comprised by the fast life only adds to the complication of art.
I am the kind of person that despises those people who touch the art. That, to me – in the space of an art museum – would be like poking crucified Jesus with a stick, to a conservative Christian. Art museums are like churches to me. Spaces where one can ponder, and be present with, or without art. To me it is just about being present really – and to get lost in something along the way. I get chills in churches too – there I just do not have the same tools to drift and get lost, as I do with the ever-changing stimuli of unseen or not yet experienced artwork.
I will not consider this relationship I have with art museums – my somehow sanctuary – as spiritual, because I on one hand never felt comfortable using that word about myself, and because I, on the other hand, do feel that it should be reserved for something more profound. I just have not had the experience of that revelation yet. But I will make sure to let you know when, and if, I do.
I leave the art museum feeling enlightened, tired, bored, better, inspired, relieved or something completely different. That is of less importance. The important part is that I know it is a place I can always go to seek shelter – and that is what makes the art museum a sanctuary to me. A place I can always find, and always go, almost no matter where I am in the world. Except on Mondays and outside opening hours, of course.
I highly doubt I am the only person who feels this way, about places like art museums.
You probably have your spots too.
When I do not go to art museums, I go to yoga class. And that is a pretty good place to escape the fast life too.
“And the world
The world turns around
And the world and the world
The world drags me down
I’m sure in her you’ll find
‘She Sells Sanctuary’, The Cult, 1985.
ALLUSION is the personal column written by editor of opinion, Sidsel Søgaard Spas.
ALLUSION is a space to blabber about current topics, life, or just about anything she finds immediately relevant. Sidsel is particularly fond of asking questions, serious humour and is not afraid of being wrong.
ALLUSION, noun: A passing or casual reference, an incidental mention of something, either directly or by implication.