The Neighbors

The collaborative floor at the New Museum struck me as proof that most people, most of the time, are boring.  I’m not proud of that.  I wasn’t happy about it.  You give people an empty room, and they write the most annoyingly obvious things about corporations or money or they paint Mickey Mouse or the McDonald’s logo or they write about peace and love and community, and I am so bored.

photo (9) photo (8)

When I am bored I assume it is a personal failing of mine, though.  I was happy to see lab coats and then the ladders and all the paint.  Obviously this was interactive, one of my favorite kinds of art, and there seemed to be no nevermind to it.  A sign had warned us that the whole thing was being taped to be shown with time-lapse, and this was an even more boring idea, suggesting to me that someone was sleeping with someone at the museum.

This is a risk of being over thirty: getting bored with stuff. I am six months in New York, and apparently even I can be bored by art here, art that cost a lot of money.

This is what was interesting: I felt bad covering over other people’s work, unless, as I determined, what they had made was unbearably boring.  I covered some boring words.  I saw there were pastels out on a table, and I crouched down there and got to work.

It was nice to draw in a museum, help to clear out your head before you moved on to the next thing to see.

photo (15)One part of being an artist is balancing your input and output, your eating and shitting, except hopefully your work isn’t shit.

A nice lady in a much-painted lab coat told me I could either take my picture with me or put it up.  I thanked her very much.  I photographed it and left it where it was.

I wandered around looking, and when I returned to my round table, someone had defaced my picture by adding an apple.  The place was not crowded, and still I had no idea who the perpetrator might be.  It was Friday afternoon, and although this museum trip jump-started my transition from teacher to artist, my brain was still pretty fuzzy from work.

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You make things, people ruin them.

I went to the paints and covered over some things I thought were too boring.

Two other exhibits: Pawel Althamer’s “The Neighbors.”  He likes to make representations of people, which reminded me of my little sister, who makes many Halloween scarecrows of sorts, and made many inmates for our Marquis de Sade dungeon last Mardi Gras.

Who is my neighbor, right?  I didn’t think about it then.  I’m kind of slow.

Some of these people are made out of animal intestines, which is just as creepy as it sounds.  Two self-portraits.  Then one of his daughter, holding a fishing pole with a feather on the end, and it is uber-creepy, trust me.

photo (12)Himself in a suitcase I liked.  I am definitely in a suitcase right now, some sort of purgatory, half-world.

photo (13)He made a representation of a well-known bum in a town in Poland, a sculpture that bounces the way the guy did.  Althamer is interested in preserving people as they are, where they are, and making them significant.

I don’t think I have the right medium to do that.  Writing about real people is fraught.  I am afraid, even when I write affectionately about people, that they will find something in it embarrassing or some odd pea under the mattress to disturb our relationship.  And I don’t want to steal people’s souls.

No, I do, but I don’t want to get caught.

There was a stop-motion animation and then the set was around the corner.  There it was.  What was real about any of that?  With the motion, the human figures were rather real, and that city, those sets, were doll-sized and right there, not somewhere far away– in eastern Europe, I assumed, as everything at the museum seemed to be eastern European this trip.

Althamer had another floor, this one of robot/zombie people who had the faces of real people in Venice, all their eyes closed for the making of their masks, all grey, grey.  Their insides were hollow, their limbs were either straggling or construction beams.  In each corner was a video playing.  The artist was being hypnotized in one corner, in another, he was getting high, and in a third, he was having anesthesia administered.

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I took a photo of the grey people, and a guard kindly asked me not to use a flash.  I appreciated her soft touch, and proceeded to open the wrong door to the stairs, setting off the fire alarm.

She was also nice about this.  “I am ruining everything here,” I said.  She smiled.

What did it mean that they existed there, at least their faces, at least eyes closed, in New York, there, and not in Venice.  Is Venice even a real place?  I have my doubts.

He didn’t know who he was,or he was trying to un-learn, which I appreciated, because I don’t know who I am, either.

Pawel Althamer exhibit


This is the dollar bill I painted because I am rich now, and I felt like breaking the law.

photo (7)The other is someone being an ass, but I like that.

photo (11)

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