“I have a friend who’s an artist and has sometimes taken a view which I don’t agree with very well. He’ll hold up a flower and say “look how beautiful it is,” and I’ll agree. Then he says “I as an artist can see how beautiful this is but you as a scientist take this all apart and it becomes a dull thing,” and I think that he’s kind of nutty. First of all, the beauty that he sees is available to other people and to me too, I believe. Although I may not be quite as refined aesthetically as he is … I can appreciate the beauty of a flower. At the same time, I see much more about the flower than he sees. I could imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside, which also have a beauty. I mean it’s not just beauty at this dimension, at one centimeter; there’s also beauty at smaller dimensions, the inner structure, also the processes. The fact that the colors in the flower evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting; it means that insects can see the color. It adds a question: does this aesthetic sense also exist in the lower forms? Why is it aesthetic? All kinds of interesting questions which the science knowledge only adds to the excitement, the mystery and the awe of a flower. It only adds. I don’t understand how it subtracts.”
“If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about answers.”
“For the first three months, I place each student at a table with a thousand pieces of white paper and a trash can underneath. Every day they have to sit at the table for several hours and write ideas. They put the ideas they like on the right side of the table; the ones they don’t like, they put in the trash. But we don’t throw out the trash. After three months, I only take the ideas from the trash can. I don’t even look at the ideas they liked. Because the trash can is a treasure trove of things they’re afraid to do.”
― Marina Abramović, Walk Through Walls: Becoming Marina Abramovic
I have always loved documentaries. Now in this age of streaming – documentary watching has become like drinking from a firehose.
One time, I can’t remember where… probably a college film festival in the 70’s I saw a documentary by Stan Woodward about grits. This was probably the first transformative documentary I saw – I was a different person (at least slightly) after I saw it. I wrote about this years later, many years ago, in my first blog and lamented the fact that I couldn’t find the thing anywhere and had to be satisfied with only seeing it once. A kind reader mailed me a VHS copy.
Of course, it wasn’t as good as I remembered.
Now, in this best of all possible worlds, we don’t only have documentaries… we have mockumentaries. If done well these too can be… if not transformative at least moderately entertaining. That might be all we can ask for anymore.
There is even a series of mockumentaries, “Documentary Now!“, on IFC. A new season is under way, and the latest one is brilliant. It is called “Waiting for the Artist” and is a riff (a very close one at that) on the famous work “The Artist Is Present” about the famous (and famously insane) performance artist Marina Abramović.
Somehow, they convinced Cate Blanchett to portray Marina Abramović – and she is spot on.
If you have IFC, be sure and check out “Waiting for the Artist” – it hits the perfect place between lunacy and pathos and even has a bit of a point to it.
And the ending is really, really funny.
Youtube has a copy of the original Marina Abramović documentary. Marina is even crazier than the character in the mockumentary.
This is how they meet. One night Slothrop is out raiding a vegetable
garden in the park. Thousands of people living in the open. He skirts
their fires, stealthy. All he wants is a handful of greens here, a carrot
or mangel-wurzel there, just to keep him going. When they see him they
throw rocks, lumber, once not long ago an old hand-grenade that didn’t
go off but made him shit where he stood.
—-Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow
Oh, the shark, babe, has such teeth, dear
And it shows them pearly white
Just a jackknife has old MacHeath, babe
And he keeps it, ah, out of sight
Ya know when that shark bites with his teeth, babe
Scarlet billows start to spread
Fancy gloves, oh, wears old MacHeath, babe
So there’s never, never a trace of red
—-Mac the Knife
“Everything he had ever done that had been better left undone. Every lie he had told — told to himself, or told to others. Every little hurt, and all the great hurts. Each one was pulled out of him, detail by detail, inch by inch. The demon stripped away the cover of forgetfulness, stripped everything down to truth, and it hurt more than anything.”
― Neil Gaiman, Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders
“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”
― Pablo Picasso
Kettle Art is a gallery in Deep Ellum and is known for its unflagging support of local artists. Every February those artists get a shot at returning the favor. The gallery distributes about two hundred identical nine by twelve inch boards to be converted into works of art. They go on sale at seven PM for fifty dollars apiece, and all of the proceeds go toward the gallery (they return the favor a week later with their For the Love of Artists event). The thing is that there are two hundred or so pieces, but three hundred or so folks show up and many buy several works – some up to ten. That’s why they call it a “competitive shopping event.” They open the doors at seven PM sharp and everyone rushes in.
The paintings are numbered and you take the numbers up front and reserve your painting – if nobody else has gotten to it first. Then you pay, then you pick up.
I don’t have a lot of money, but I can come up with fifty dollars. I used to go an hour early so I could get a spot near the front of the line… and get the painting I wanted. I don’t do that any more – now I go an hour and a half early.
The event is at seven and I wanted to get there at five thirty. It takes an hour or so to get downtown on the train, especially since I have to change from the Red line to the Green to get from downtown to Deep Ellum… plus fifteen minutes to get to the train station – I left home right at four fifteen.
Everything went as planned until I got off the train at the Arts District station downtown. On the weekends the trains don’t run very often and the next Green train wouldn’t be there for a half hour. That would not do. My eyes fell on the electric scooters lined up on the sidewalk. I’ve ridden the scooters before (read about an adventure here) so out came my phone and I unlocked one and five minutes and a buck ninety later I was in Deep Ellum. The only problem was that the road I took was rough and the little wheels on the scooter didn’t help that – but I made it in one piece.
Arriving right on time, ninety minutes early, I was fourth in line. The fun thing is that the same people go early every year, so we had a lot to talk about. Mostly, though, we talked about strategy. You see, the line starts immediately at the reserve table, so the question is whether to rush to the table or walk around and look for the painting you really want – at the risk of someone else getting it.
I always stress out about this, stress too much. One year I went on a bike ride and arrived dehydrated and the stress got to me and I wrote down the wrong number – getting a random painting. It was OK – but not the style I wanted… and the artist saw me with it and said, “I can’t believe it sold so fast.” I lied and said, “Oh I wanted it right from the start!”
This year I looked in the window and could clearly see the first paintings with their numbers. I realized that I really liked four of the first five and would be happy with any of those. Talking to the people in line (we all traded our favorites and agreed not to buy each others) they suggested a great strategy. It involved buying two paintings. I would rush to the table and buy a painting I like right away (Painting #1, as a matter of fact) and then I had one that I liked locked up. After that, I could leisurely walk around, writing down any others that looked good and buy one of those later. Many would be bought, but some should still be left.
That was the ticket. I’d spend an extra fifty dollars, but get two paintings… and have fun, with no pressure, because I was guaranteed of at least one that I liked and would probably get two.
The line behind me stretched most of the way around the block… and then the door flew open and I rushed in, went right to the table (I was third, the people in line before me were there first) and bought painting #1.
In this photo you can see a painting by Richard Ross – I bought one of his in 2016.
Happy with my choice, I wandered around looking at all the art, writing down the numbers of about two dozen works that I particularly liked. Then I joined the long line waiting for a painting. When I reached the front, I was surprised at how man numbers I had written down were still available. I chose a colorful Day of the Dead skull that I knew Candy would like.
It was painted by David Pech. Candy really liked it.
Once I had both my paintings picked up it was getting late, though there were still people arriving and buying art. Looking at the board where they crossed numbers off when the paintings were taken I noticed that there were still a couple that I had written down as particularly liking that were not purchased yet. So I guess I don’t really need to go ninety minutes early next year. But I think I will. I’ll definitely save up a hundred and buy two paintings. That strategy is the ticket.
I should have brought a backpack because I couldn’t ride a scooter with two paintings in my hands. So I had to wait thirty minutes for the next train.