Sunday, June 12, 2011

Day 7: 6/11/11...There Is No Dana Only Xul

      MUSEUM NINJA!! That's me. Three museums in one day. KA-POW!! If you need proof of this amazing feat: my feet. I'll send you a picture of my feet which, in Whoville they say, like the Grinch's heart, grew three sizes that day.

       First boss level was the Xul Solar museum. This dude was a FREAK. So of course I LOVED it. Basically he's this guy who went to Europe and shmoozed with the big shot artists, and then went back to Buenos Aires and took it in his own crazy direction. If you've heard of Theosophy, then 'nuff said.

      Otherwise, Theosophy was this hodge-podge weirdo buffet from around the late 1800's to about WW2. (Going on memory.) It was back when everything Eastern was still very exotic and alien. So it was this Western mix of pretty much every spiritual and underground religious hocus pocus that they could grab onto thrown into a Cuisinart and chugged like Kool Aid. Seances and contacting the "other realm" and spirit guides was a major ingredient. So Xul was one of those folks.

       The funny thing is, I've come across Theosophy before when I stumbled on another semi-outsider artist that I ended up liking very much - Nicholas Roerich. And I've been to his one-man museum in NYC. Come to think of it, it had that same vibe to it - kinda unknown and hard to find, with a staff who seems like they might be more than just employees but mmaaayybe relatives or devotees? When the guard unlocked the door for me, the lady at the desk said "You are here to see the museum?" I'm thinking: "Is there some other reason to come here that I should know about?" But I didn't know the secret handshake.

        Another connection between me and Xul was that he was good friends and a collaborator of Jorge Borges, Argentina's most famous writer. I'm a really big fan of his work. I haven't heard that he was into Theosophy, but it wouldn't surprise me. Xul illustrated some of his books.

       So the art - very cool! Really weird. Basically Xul is one of those guys who has no boundaries between life and art. Pretty much everything he's interested in gets glommed onto his visual language. He made his own language - literally - (literally?) - actually more than one. He even made his own "improved" piano with different notes and rainbow keys. So his art ends up looking like this religious art from an alien planet. (Just like Roerich's). If you know what to look for, you can see all the occult threads in the weave, but it's all synthesized in an individual weirdness. It also looks somewhat like "outsider" or "naive" art, or the stuff that you see sometimes that schizophrenics make. Lots of eyes rendered straight on, faces where there shouldn't be, text incorporated into the painting, rays and beams of light, etc.

       I wanted to buy some sort of souvenir but there was nothing at all good. Which is amazing because if Xul was still in charge I'm sure the selection would be way more interesting than buttons and very bad prints. What about a Xul cape? Xul ocarinas that actually make trombone sounds? Xul billiard balls? A Xul umbrella? (I'd definitely buy that one.)

       Second boss level was MNBA, which is the national version of the Fortabat: all Argentinian. This time the quality was wwaaaaayyyy better. However, I still had that seen-this-before feeling. You name just about any world-known artist of the past 150 years, and they were faithfully "homaged" here. Even Mondrian. How can you possibly think that you could do paintings similar to Mondrian and still display anything original? It's just squares and 3 friggin' colors!! Maybe it's the same in lots of countries? There's probably tons of it in the US, but we also have a lot of the real deal. Once the 70's rolled around, though, there was some more original and pretty cool stuff.

       What I really liked about the MNBA, though, was their section on pre-Colombian art. I've seen a lot of that type of stuff in other museums in NYC and London and other places, but this was different than anything I'd seen before. The pottery and figures were very unique. I never get mildly interested in textiles, but what they had here was pretty amazing. It was like lace - much much more refined and delicate than anything I'd seen before. Plus they had this cool tree made out of yarn that had dead birds hanging off it. Very Goth.

       Final boss level was Palais de Glace, which was a place for contemporary art. It was pretty good overall. More video and installation stuff than paintings and photos.

       Over the course of the day I had the thought that comes up a lot of times when I'm looking at art - and that is "what is the perspective of women when they look at all the images of nude women"? Is it demeaning? Honestly for me women are just beautiful, so I can see the appeal of lots of art about that. And I'm not calling for even one more image of a naked dude. I just wonder about the view from "the other side". I also see the problem of looking at women as objects. It's a problem that torments me night and day as a matter of fact.

       So it was really interesting to see a video of a women lying on her apartment couch in the classic odalisque pose of the hand over the hoo-ha but otherwise nekked, staring directly into the camera. But blinking and with everyday ambient noise, and with a troubled look on her face. It really amplified the thoughts I'd already been a-ponderin'. She was attractive but thankfully not smokin' hot or I would have totally missed the point. OINK.

       After that I took a picture of the huge metal flower that is an icon of Buenos Aires. And then I walked for a couple hours in every direction except the right one. How many times will I be betrayed by the idea that getting lost can be adventurous? I need to have a compass surgically welded onto my wrist bones.

       At least I was lost in a decent area, right? Well, it's a common misunderstanding that bums just fall down and snooze or rattle containers of change in totally random and evenly distributed parts of cities. In reality they know exactly where to look miserable. If you really wanted sleep, would you track down the busiest street in town? I wouldn't.

       So I'm walking down a street of very fancy hotels, and I see a guy falling on his ass against a wall half a block ahead. Time to tightrope on the curb! says I. I get perpendicular to him and SMASH - a wine bottle explodes half a stride in front of my feet. Thankfully there was no chance in hell that there would be an atom of wine left in it to sully my threads.

       So what is the correct response in such a pickle? Well, my internal conversation with him went like this: "That may work down here, buddy, but I've worked and walked in NOO.......YAWK.........CITY. You don't get eye contact without a deadly weapon." I just kept my stride and trucked down the promenade without missing a beat. As I did, he's like "Ay. AY. Amigo!" Oh sure, that's how I make all my friends! Ducking shards of glass! Did he expect a fist full of pesos for NOT hitting me? He should have aimed for the middle of the tres gringos.

       Well, by the time I got back to the hotel I was sorry he hadn't sheared my feet off. Thankfully I only have two blisters. Sadly they used to be called feet. AY   yay   YAY...

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