30 December 2005

get your culture on* (a gay fantasia in links on cultural themes)

in addition to the orgy of movies (in theatres, on tv, and from little red envelopes), shopping, and general slothfulness this vacation week, there's also my responsibility to my higher self. whether it's that or james just dragged, me, thoughts on recent museum-going:

MoMA. flashed my (former) museum-employee card not only to skip the ticket-buying lines (they have a sign for 'other museums' employees') but to also entirely avoid the queue *outside* the museum. even without the free entry that would've been cool (dayenu). still more crowded than any place should rightly be, but the white spaciousness handles the throngs better than older-fashioned, more ornately cozy institutions. we eschewed the audio guide**, and started with a spin through the permanent collection.*** favorite bits include, as always, duchamp's to be looked at (from the other side of the glass) with one eye, close to, for almost an hour, which is just one of the best titles ever. my reaction to duchamp is almost always a chuckle, with a warm, duchamp, you fucker, with it implicit that i'm saying you clever fucker, or would, if i called people clever fuckers. next to the broken glass with the great title is a standard-cubism-looking painting, also by duchamp, called transition of virgin into a bride, so that the effect is 'oh, what nice cubism'... [read the title label]... (eyebrows raise.) 'oh.' clever fucker, that duchamp. and i'm a sucker for it.

aside from the generally wonderful permanent collection (sucker for duchamp and that expansive jackson pollack, teeming crowds in front of starry night****), and the unusually disappointing contemporary rooms (two standouts - a beautiful william kentridge animation, and a really exceptional sound sculpture (also a deconstruction/construction) by janet cardiff that you can read a bit about here, and is worth the trip and maybe the $20 alone), there was a really cool pixar zoetrope, and "safe: design takes on risk."

for those of you who haven't read matthew derby's super flat times, you should go do that now. for those of you who have read this book, the 'safe' exhibit is sort of the aesthetic manifestation of the entire world of that book. scores of brilliant constructions, many with that sheen of irony so particular to sft. a shimmering gold cube, at least twelve feet on a side, that unfolds from a large pocket on a t-shirt to a space-age shelter (the pocket, of course, bearing an instructory diagram); a face mask that looks like a papier mache hand covering your mouth; kid-sized stuffed toys of microbes and germs (james was lusting after the black death); amorphous fuzzy and soft toys designed for use by the mentally disabled. masks, boots, gloves, suits, for every conceivable use and in every conceivable material and appearance. though danger orange was, of course, prominent. (matthew derby would, of course, approve.) a funny, creepy, very cool exhibit that, especially coinciding with janet cardiff's "40 part motet," i strongly recommend.

this morning james and i walked to the met.***** a visit solely for crossing special exhibits off our to-do lists. first we walked past the mayhem that was the line waiting to get into the van gogh show. best i could tell it went from the entrance to european painting, past the staircase, and started wrapping around the balcony. great. but that wasn't actually on either list, so we headed over to the prague (the crown jewel of bohemia) exhibit. lovely, huge show. a veritable prague dept. of tourism venture, or at least had that effect. beautiful art, a possible arm bone of st. john, and i practiced my hebrew-reading skills. (lucky for me, but oddly, the bibles were written with vowels. is this something actually commonly done? were my teachers just making us suffer all those vowelless years?)

from there, losing the two-out-of-three rock-paper-scissors to dictate the schedule, the robert rauschenberg show, robert rauschenberg: combines. despite a very annoying signage set-up, where one large panel would describe several works in each room, rather than splitting it up to individual labels (so after reading a description at the entrance to a room we'd have to peek around to figure which work we'd been reading about), i loved this show. (the signage and audio guidage were generally not so hot on this show - lots of "rauschenberg favored the use of doors in his combines. unlike the past view of a painting as a window into a noble, idealized worlds, rauschenberg's doors have the effect of bringing the painting into the viewer's space..." not bad info, but over and over and over, it's like, okay, i get it, and thanks for the symbolism of the dead pheasant's lack of tail feathers.) having had minimal exposure to rauschenberg, i did think i would enjoy this, and, well, i was right. if i can someday write a book with the general aesthetic impact of his hymnal (of which i can't find an image), i will be quite pleased. i actually think there's something common between the combines and my (fiction) writing. there's a similar aesthetic - the wistfulness, the slight sentimentalism, the sense of humor, even some of his color palettes - and also a similar amount of what james calls obviousness. the way rauschenberg has all those doors intruding into the viewer's space, the pheasant on top of the unframed painting, the slightly heavy handed gestures of busting open the conventions of art, my writing is prone to obviousness of an entirely different sort... related to my unwitting attempts to rewrite (write again) "the yellow wallpaper" over and over and over. (like that book/store - anna, help? - about the guy who wants to (re-) write don quixote, only i didn't know what i was doing. and that wasn't exactly what i was doing. but sometimes, i admit, it got pretty close.)

we also saw the fra angelico show, poorly laid out in the musty lehman basement. pretty paintings, lots of old people, not a lot of space. and seriously, that basement smells like mold.


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*a few weeks ago i used the phrase 'get our party on' with my boss (as in: the meeting that was scheduled for opening night had to be rescheduled, because mark and i need to 'get our party on'), and i had to explain it. then i had to explain 'to get one's groove on,' which, if you've never had to try, is harder than you might think.

**which, past allegiances to acoustiguide's rival aside, are really just not very good, and unless they've made them free, and maybe even then, aren't worth the neck cooties.

***it's worth keeping in mind, here and through all of my writing bout art, that i don't know anything about art, beyond what the labels and audio guides through the years have imparted.

****and crowds before a famous famous painting always bring to mind the throngs rushing through the louvre, past all the really great stuff, to order past the mona lisa, which i'm sorry, just isn't that great a painting. yes, important, yes, mysterious, but just not that impressive to look at.

*****first time i've been since stopping my job there. which was weird, especially with what was once my saturday morning walk. but i do love that i can navigate that place, almost flawlessly, without a map.

1 comment:

anna said...

"pierre menard, author of the quixote" by jorge luis borges.

makes my little translator heart fill with glee. truly, one of the greatest pieces of fiction/lit theory/translation theory evah and (to me) the clearest genesis of postmodernism. borges is love!

i feel compelled to add that i'm 99 pages into don quixote. because the fact that i've read so much about it for so many years but never read the text itself must not stand.

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