This picture was taken in Mumbai back in January, with the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in the background. Take note of the dog on the ground. That’s how I feel. Oh thesis. Sigh.
Now I can’t be for certain that they exist (in the United States) because I haven’t seen a mangosteen since I was in China, but apparently it’s a thing? Or at least Snapple’s latched onto it. Somewhat. Maybe it’s the exoticism of it, the unknown tropical fruit. I’ve only had a mangosteen once in my life, but I remember it being good. Sweet but a light, refreshing kind of sweet (unlike honey – yuck!). The Snapple, however, ain’t that great because the flavor is too light to work as a drink. But when I saw it in the vending machine at school I just had to buy it (dollar fifty be darned) for nostalgic reasons. Eh. Definitely not as good or as fun as a real mangosteen!
I had an epiphany while slaving away on thesis research. “I’m being irrational,” I said to myself. And then I realized that I was, but i isn’t. i isn’t even real! i is imaginary! And that got me on a train of thought that is wholly irrelevant to my thesis but made me happy, because math humor does that.
But really, what does it mean to be imaginary? In architecture, we use seemingly obvious words to mean specialized or conceptual things, co-opting the English language for our own jargon to confound others. For example: That’s quite the moment, nice flow and form. Where’s the tension, the trauma? What’s the agency? Traditional is not classical – it lacks order … or rather, the orders. Capitals are stone, curtains are glass. No suit and tie to be formal, no speeches at the pedestal, no cash in the vault. Footprints don’t involve feet, scales don’t weigh, and grading involves drawing squiggly lines. Follow the narrative?
Is there a real? Is there an imaginary? Or are they part of the same system? You cannot discount the imaginary simply because it’s not real, simply because you cannot place it in relation to the line, simply because it’s not positive (it ain’t negative either). The imaginary is very much real … just not real real … it’s complex.
Need a moment?
Ai Weiwei at the Hirshhorn, yadda yadda yadda. This is a continuation of my previous post, but I’m too busy with thesis to post insightful detail. Ah, exhaustion. So voila. These three were some of the larger pieces in the exhibit.
“Names of the Student Earthquake Victims Found by the Citizens’ Investigation and Remembrance”
When you go upstairs into the main gallery space, this curved wall is what greets you. It’s basically a giant spreadsheet and looks kind of neat, like someone’s idea of creative wallpapering. But then you hear it. The names being read. Huh? Then you read the description of the piece. They’re the names of the dead children. And then you feel like you’re going to cry. And the starkness of the rows and columns feels so inadequate. And it reminds you of 9/11 and then you really, really wanna cry.
“Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads”
This was considered a separate exhibit to the “According to What?” exhibition, but whatever, it’s all Ai Weiwei. The Hirshhorn is basically a giant hovering donut. In the center of the space situated around the fountain were 12 sculptures representing the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac. I didn’t really like my dragon. I think he looks weird. Neat, but I didn’t really like their placement around the fountain – found it distracting.
“Cube Light” (2008)
To be honest, I’m not really sure what to make of this piece. Ai Weiwei’s work is successful because of the political/cultural/social messages … but this is just glitzy. It is pretty though. Nice and sparkly. Shiny. Perhaps it’s a commentary on China’s vapid turn to the purely aesthetic? While “Cube Light” is impressive … is it really by Ai Weiwei? Really?
The end. Back to thesis now.
Ai Weiwei. Yep, him again. It seems like nowadays everyone knows of the Chinese artist/dissident. His show at the Hirshhorn in DC was called “According to What?” and ran from October 7, 2012, to February 24, 2013. So yes, this means that I have been sitting on this post for … quite a while. Forgive me!
There was a pretty fascinating article about Ai Weiwei in The New Republic that’s worth a read. “Noble and Ignoble” by Jed Perl is basically about how Ai Weiwei kind of sucks as an artist, and while I kind of like Ai Weiwei’s work, I do agree that the work (which is fairly minimal in itself) owes a lot of its impact to the figure of Ai Weiwei the political dissident and not to Ai Weiwei the artist. But that’s his whole schtick anyway.
“Colored Vases” (2007-2010)
“Tea House” (2009)
My favorite piece was “Tea House” … but I’ve always been quite the minimalist myself and I like tea! A lot of Ai Weiwei’s work relies on having a basis of knowledge and interest in contemporary China and reading that in his works in order to fully flesh it out. Without that support, the artwork is nice but bland. Whatever. He’s making an appearance in my thesis. Then again, pretty much everyone/anyone who has/had anything to say about China is making an appearance in my thesis – it’s a monster (in a small package).
Melting candles are quite pretty. But however much you want to take a picture of the flame and melting candle, first think long and hard about the potential damage. Apparently digital cameras are not fond of extreme heat, did you know? So placing your camera near an open flame might cause it to temporary blank out, which can be quite scary (understatement). Thankfully after about five minutes (which seemed like a lifetime) my camera returned to normal and was able to take pictures that weren’t just blurs. Whew!
This is the photo that almost cost me $150.
Oh, and my laptop died. And unlike my camera, it decided not to revive. No idea what happened. And no, I did not let my laptop play with fire. So while I’m not out that $150, I will very soon be out about $1000. FUN.
What is it about chocolate Easter bunnies that makes me happy? The dismemberment. Not so much the consumption since usually it’s cheap chocolate, but there’s something so cathartic about taking a cute little chocolate bunny, cutting off its ears, then its feet, then its head, et cetera. It’s like the Black Knight … but for the bunny. “Tis but a scratch!” Chomp.