Wednesday, May 29, 2013

I Am... Puzzled by Modern Art

So, being temporarily retired, how do I spend my time? My mother spends her time volunteering and helping friends who need an inordinate amount of aid (aka free labor). My dad spends a lot of time glued to the computer, editing and writing. Well I'm not really what is known as a “people person,” and I get antsy sitting in front of the computer for too long. So what do I do? Go to Tel Aviv obviously. What does Tel Aviv have that Jerusalem doesn't, you ask? A beach, an antique market, African refugees, complete and utter slums, humidity, people who won't throw rocks at you for wandering into their neighborhood (in other words, people who are way more chillaxed than Jerusalemites), innumerable art galleries, and 16 shekel coffee (as opposed to the 10 shekel Jerusalem coffee which is just as tasty). Most importantly, the entire city is a photo-op. I like to take my camera and just wander around capturing the architecture, and the singularly remarkable creature know as the “Tel-Avivian.”
I've been to Tel Aviv a few times in recent months. Once, my mother and I went to help Tina pack up for her move to the yuppy section of North Tel Aviv (no refugees there). Once, my father and I spent the afternoon wandering around, photographing before meeting up with the rest of the family for dinner as a celebratory double birthday (Tina's and David's) and anniversary (also Tina's and David's) dinner. We'd made plans to go to a fancy Yemenite restaurant, but a certain someone who shall remain nameless, 'cough' 'cough' mom, didn't think to make reservations, so we had falafel instead. Just kidding, we found another nice meat restaurant not too far away and were welcomed in with open arms. Probably because it was completely empty. Like, Yom Kippur empty. I don't know why, since the food was pretty good. My mother turned to the waitress, and asked “why is this place so empty?” Whereupon Tina and I made a pact never to take her out again since she can't be trusted in polite society. Although I'm probably exaggerating by calling Israelis “polite society,” but we will certainly never take her to visit the queen. Unless the queen is mostly deaf, seeing as she's about 200 years old, in which case it's probably ok. Unless my mother starts making faces at her.
One day, I took a solitary day trip to wander around photographing, and then meet up with a friend for dinner. I started in Yaffo, and then walked up the beach towards central Tel Aviv. In case you're wondering, this is the reason I'm so tan. I had plans to meet my friend at a restaurant across the street from the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. So I figured I'd take the opportunity and spend a few hours there. I can usually find at least a few interesting exhibitions; they have a variety of styles of art. This visit however, mostly left me scratching my head. I've never really been a fan of contemporary art, mostly because people use different mediums to express their political views. If I wanted to know about people's political views, I'd read the newspaper. I like art, because I like to look at pretty things, or things that are at least interesting. If a piece of art reminds me of the two elephants in a bathtub joke, then I give it two thumbs down. If it's something I could do, but wouldn't because it would be a waste of paint, then I am forced to give it no stars.
The main exhibition was actually a collection of different exhibits by an artist named Douglas Gordon. The exhibition was very creatively called “I Am Also... Douglas Gordon.” This is the first exhibition I've seen which has an ellipsis in the title. Points for that at least. The best word I could use to describe his work would be “randomness.”
The first exhibit, which I shall from now on refer to as exhibit one, was a collection of photographs. The collection filled about three rooms and packed the walls. I happen to like photography, but it seemed to me to be a mass of random photographs. There were pictures of food on plates, and hands, feet in shoes, and things that to this day, I have no idea what they are. Maybe bugs. Or internal organs. Impossible to say really. There was a dead piano on the floor in the middle of the first room. It had obviously been picked clean by vultures and only the skeleton of this poor piano was left. It is unclear to me why there was a piano corpse on the floor; I would obviously have considered it evidence in a police investigation. Moving on...
There were quite a few video installations as well. You had to go through a heavy black curtain into a completely dark room. The only source of light was from the video itself. I was curious, so I walked into the first one. I almost fell over the security guard's chair on the way in it was so dark. I honestly don't even remember what the video was about because I was so intent on not walking into anyone or anything and feeling for the wall. Another one I went into appeared to be a soccer game. I didn't last too long in that one either. The last one wasn't a video. It was actually just a paragraph on the wall which was illuminated for 30 seconds before returning to darkness. I came in while it was still dark and when it finally lit up I let out a strangled “gaaaa!” because there was suddenly a really tall guy standing 2 feet away from me. I gave an embarrassed cough, and commenced reading. It was something vaguely philosophical and when the light went out again, the tall guy and I made our way back to where we remembered the curtain being. That was the last time I was walking through a black curtain again, so I moved on to the next installation. It was a bunch of random videos, from a burning piano (now I understand about the piano corpse), to a guy drawing on himself with red markers, to an elephant walking. Actually you could only see the elephant's feet (which were admittedly pretty cute).
In addition, the walls of the new section of the museum were covered in non-sequiters. As if someone had opened up a private letter or instant message and taken out sentences and then written them in really big letters on the wall. Not the first time I've seen such a thing but just as strange the second or third time around. As a child, I was always encouraged not to write on the walls, but now I see that my artistic essence was being stifled. I will probably have to sue my parents for the loss of possible future earnings from art installations by discouraging artistic expression on the walls. These exhibits were also... Douglas Gordon.
The next exhibit I would like to mention was a series of collages by John Stezaker, which he called “One on One.” It was basically a bunch of old photographs, altered in some way so as to create “a channel of cultural resistance to the sweeping unification of the image flux in the media; an attempt to reconstruct that which was lost to the gaze in a visual culture founded entirely on excess, flickering, and flattening.” At least according to the Tel Aviv museum. In other words, he took old photographs and stuck postcards over the faces. I kid you not. If I did that, my parents would be furious with me for defacing (pun intended) the old family photos. They will almost certainly be hearing from my lawyer any day now. I could have been a famous artist too.
The cherry on the cake was the last exhibit, called “Host and Guest.” It was described as:
A program of nine exhibitions and events with over 30 international artists and thinkers examining the theme of hospitality. The complex obligations, tensions and generosity between hosts and guests are explored through painting, photography, video, installations, performance and public discussions, touching on philosophy, politics and more.

In other words, photographs of sad looking Arabs, obviously having been displaced by the evil Israeli occupiers (among other photographs and installations; let it not be said that the exhibition constituted only sad looking Arabs). There were also more rooms with black curtains but I wasn't going to do that again. As much as I love walking into walls, a black eye and broken nose for the sake of art is going a bit far.

1 comment:

  1. Haven't caught up on your blog in quite a while. Did not know about your MDA misadventures but Steve could have told you how utterly incompetent they are. It took about a year for him to get somebody to accept his credential from NJ before he could start volunteering here. And that was just the beginning.