Friday, February 21, 2014

Hey you kids! Get offa' my Art!

Catalina State Park
(admittedly not a museum)
Photo: SkwiboArts
I recently went for a hike at Catalina State Park to enjoy the silence of the foothills and clear my head, surrounded by the desert. When I arrived, I realized that there was a noisy group of 8-10 year old boys in front of me. They were running around on the trail while yelling about things they found to be awesome on X Box. Their mother followed behind, talking on her cell phone. I was disappointed until I was able to outpace them all and I found my silence at last.

This sparked a debate in my mind about the enjoyment of places.

“We live in a time where he who enjoys loudest enjoys best.”
“It’s just great for kids to be outside playing and engaging with their environment.”
“What happens to people who seek silence, do they just need to work harder to find what they are looking for than loud people? “
“Is wanting silence less valid than wanting to be loud?”
“I should learn to appreciate whatever is going on around me.”

And naturally, my mind turned to art; specifically the museum. At one time I had a membership to MoMA which allowed me to go to the exhibit opening parties. I didn't go to the parties to hobnob with other members, I went because the other galleries were open during the gala and it gave me the opportunity to see MoMA’s collection without being surrounded by thousands of other people. I am a person who likes to look at art objects in a quiet, somewhat reverent atmosphere. It’s definitely not the only way to appreciate art, but it is still a viable one.

My somewhat old fashioned preference for viewing art objects is why I was put off by events reported in a blog post I read recently at To sum it up, a family was allowing their child to play on a Donald Judd sculpture at the Tate Modern. When the source of the article confronted them about it, they responded that the source knew nothing about kids.

Untitled, Donald Judd
Photo: Tate Modern
Now, I realize that this is a report of a single event and doesn't warrant my indignant outrage. What surprised me was that when I talked about the article to people and expressed my disapproval of the behavior, the Tate got very little sympathy. Most people don’t particularly care for Judd’s work and many would welcome the irreverent behavior to counteract what they perceive as undeserved value placed on the object. One well considered response I received was that Judd would probably approve.

Nike of Samothrace
Photo: The Louvre
Now, don’t get me wrong there are plenty of interactive installations out there that were built for interaction and I think that type of work is great. I would like to see more of it. But an art object (even a post-object art object) which is on a museum wall for consideration is not necessarily there to be physically interacted with or not depending on the viewer’s desires or opinion of the piece. One would not climb on the Nike of Samothrace, giving the excuse that “it’s out of context.” One would not lick a painting attributed to the studio of Rembrandt just because “Rembrandt probably didn’t touch it.”

That being said, I would love to see more interactive playgrounds for kids, designed by artists at museums or designated interactive exhibits that allow kids to blow off that steam during a forced museum visit. Here’s an example of a playground
which has been designed with an artistic rigor that could be installed at a museum. It gives children a place and object to interact with, while parents could read about the concepts that went into the playground’s design.

Arguments have been made for decades that museums need to adapt to the times in order to remain relevant. But, I think that as long as museums exhibit art objects for consideration and enjoyment there must be a level of decorum allowing those objects to be viewed and considered by the most people. We have a general consensus that people should be more or less quiet in a movie theater. Why is it snobbish to suggest that people be considerate and follow a traditional decorum in museums?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

15 Un-hip Things I Miss About New York

From 2002 until 2009, I lived in East Williamsburg / Greenpoint in Brooklyn. I am currently making plans to move back to the New York City Metropolitan area, but I get a lot of warnings from old friends and media figures that New York is washed up and lame. To be fair, many people are of the opinion that New York stopped being cool before I even got there. I got to see a lot of changes while I was there and North Brooklyn is almost unrecognizable now (except for my old neighborhood.) But in truth I never stopped loving the city mostly because I was never all that hip. Here are a few examples of non-trendy and some downright touristy things that that I enjoyed while living in Brooklyn and working in Manhattan which will still be there for a while.

-          My butcher, my drycleaner, my Laundromat, my local market: I loved going to work and coming home and saying hello to a dozen people or so.

-          That row of almost identical office buildings on the west side of Sixth Avenue near Radio City Music Hall. I also still like the Seagram’s Building. Okay, I pretty much like all large buildings.

-          Standing in front of Lincoln Center at night and looking at the giant Chagalls in the lobby of the Met Opera House even when I can’t afford to see an opera there.

-          Looking at New Jersey and downtown Manhattan from Hudson River Park.

-          The DIY decorative elements dressing up the houses in East Williamsburg and Greenpoint.

-          The Queensboro Bridge: Really under-appreciated. I got to know it pretty well during the transit strike in 2005.

-          Walking around Gramercy Park and imagining I am a turn of the century aristocrat.

-     Seeing Larry King everywhere.

-          Going to see my friend in a play: We all have a friend in a play. I actually like going to see my friend in a play.

-          Julian Schnabel’s house.

-          Taking a long cab ride at night while listening to Iggy Pop’s “The Passenger” on headphones.

-          Jazz Clubs

-          The mind-bogglingly massive pieces of infrastructure readily visible in the outer boroughs.

-          Those old timey social clubs, like the Harvard Club, Yale Club or Explorer’s Club.

-          Delis.