I hope everyone had a fantastic Thanksgiving yesterday! We held Thanksgiving at our apartment yesterday, so it was a bit of madness with all the cooking and food and wine and people, but all in all a fun night. Since Thanksgiving is such a quintessentially American holiday (I’m ignoring Canadian Thanksgiving … because it’s Canadian), it was fun to experience it with a bunch of people for whom this was their first Thanksgiving. And now roomie E and I will be eating turkey sandwiches ’til kingdom come. Good thing we like turkey!
Nam June Paik (1932-2006) was a Korean-American artist who loved television. Er … loved using televisions. In his artwork. His electronic art. Media art. Video. Yeah. Cool stuff. I had never heard about him before and granted I’m not well-versed in contemporary art or media art, but apparently he was pretty revolutionary and influential. As much as I like art, I’m not actually in the art field – does that excuse my ignorance?
This piece is “Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii” (1995) and wow, it will not be ignored. It’s one of his most famous pieces and it’s not hard to understand why. With each state outlined in bright glaring neon and filled with televisions, it’s a very eye-catching/eye-consuming piece. It’s obviously a critique on American culture’s obsession with the attention-grabbing, but it’s darn near impossible to not stand in front of it mouth agape and just stare at the moving screens for a good, long while. Also in the museum (the Smithsonian American Art Museum in DC) was another piece by Paik called “Megatron/Matrix” (1995), but after spending a few minutes in that room, I felt like my eyes were going to explode.
I’ll admit it, I don’t particularly care for decorative stained glass. My only exception would be rose windows in churches (but that’s mostly due to my love of Christian architecture). Stained glass was apparently quite a thing in the US from the late-19th century to the 20th, but I’m not too familiar with that history.
Below is a detail from “Peacocks and Peonies I” (1882) by John La Farge. This piece of stained glass is in the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC. Seeing it up close, you notice the texture and dimensionality of the glass and the amazing intricacy of each piece. The Met also has a bunch of stained glass, but usually I’m too busy in the European paintings galleries to bother venturing all the way over to the American Wing. And unlike the Met, all the Smithsonian museums in DC are free! As in really free, and not fake free with strongly suggested donations accompanied by dirty looks.
I don’t have anything against the medium, but I ain’t won over by it. Stained glass lacks that sense of artistic freedom and artist’s hand that is so obvious in painting. There’s something so craft, so conscious and deliberate about stained glass. It’s not something you can slap together in a fit of inspiration, or change course midway, or go back and alter. It just … is. And though that is compelling in its own way, I find that the hardness of the material creates an inherent sense of static distance with me, the viewer. Pretty. Just not my cup of tea.
Columbus Circle is at the southwest corner of Central Park and at the intersection of West 59th, CPW, 8th, and Broadway, but I know it better as the subway stop where I can transfer between the ABCD and 1 trains. In other words, it’s a pretty important location although I rarely venture above ground. Fun fact: It’s also the point from which all official distances from NYC are measured.
For the past few weeks (and until November 18) there’s a temporary art installation by Tatzu Nishi and the Public Art Fund called Discovering Columbus and it’s pretty cool. At Columbus Circle there’s a marble statue of Christopher Columbus (erected in 1892) by Gaetano Russo … but it doesn’t get much attention because it’s high up on a column. So the installation plays with the perspective of that statue.
Basically they built a living room around the statue of Columbus so it appears as if he’s just hanging out on the coffee table. It’s weird because the statue’s gigantic and it’s such a surreal space with couches, CNN on the television, and a ridiculous pink wallpaper designed by the artist. However, unlike most living rooms, it was crowded, everyone was still wearing their coats, conversation was limited, and most people just walked around taking pictures or posing for pictures.
It was neat to see the statue up close since it was never intended to be viewed like that. But … it seemed a little demeaning as well, to create this freaky casual staged setting around Russo’s statue, which was obviously meant to be monumental and inspiring with the tall column and prominent location. What does it mean for one artist (Tatzu Nishi) to co-opt the work of another artist (Gaetano Russo) to create his own artwork? It doesn’t respect the original artist’s intentions, desires, or beliefs, but should it?
You had to climb quite a few stairs to get to the room, but it was manageable, and since you had to already have an entry pass (you can get them free on the website), the wait wasn’t long. Overall it took about half an hour between waiting and being up there since there’s really not much to do but take pictures and then leave. Discovering Columbus was worth the trip (’cause it’s free and not time-consuming) and it’s a success in terms of lots of people being interested, being a unique experience, and questioning the monumentality and aloofness of such a statue. But I still kind of feel bad for Russo’s Columbus being gawked at like that.
It snowed today! It’s still snowing! Because of the nor’easter! And I almost froze to death! I really, really need to check the weather more often. And I really need to listen to people when they tell me that it’s going to snow, because a light jacket and Keds were really no match for snow, especially snow that was coming down at an angle due to the wind. Waiting at a corner to cross the street, the trash can next to me blew over – woah.
I wonder how long it’s going to continue snowing for. Hm … I guess it’s time to break out the winter coat, scarves, gloves, hat, and snow boots. Acks, so excited! Snow is still sort of a novelty since last year was quite mild. Roomie E ain’t too fond of it because she grew up with lots of snow, but I still think it’s cool. Then again, I am sitting in my nicely heated apartment and it’s only the first day of snow … we’ll see if my opinion changes as the winter progresses.
My absentee voter ballot is in the mail, because I am a good little American. Last year I voted much earlier … but I was lazy this year. Election Day this year is November 6, 2012, so I’m cutting it close.
I never vote straight party, and I spent a good chunk of time in studio today researching all the people on that ballot. Unfortunately no matter how I vote, it probably doesn’t matter. The state I’m voting in isn’t a swing state for the presidential election, and all the state and local positions have already been decided by the R or D by that candidate’s name. Oh well, I feel good voting anyhow.