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Thread: MoMa and Dada

  1. #1

    Default MoMa and Dada

    MOMA AND DADA

    My college roommate Zack lived at MoMA.

    A member, he inhaled its rarefied air weekly and he lived its twin doctrines: l’art pour l’art and epater le bourgeois.

    Between visits he mulled through Rimbaud or e. e. cummings and montaged the works of Picabia and Man Ray --some of which were (al)ready-made collage. R. Mutt’s urinal adorned his wall, teacups in his world were lined with fur, and Mona Lisa came with a mustache.

    Zack was a Dadaist.

    He whiled hours at his drumset, cigarette adangle from the corner of his mouth. He was backing Django, and the cigarette: well, that was clearly Camus’ homage to Bogey.

    Zack was the most mercurial and interesting person a midwest hick like me had ever met. He got me interested in New York, smoking, Gertrude Stein, the Village and MoMA. He broadened my mind and he stoked my rebellion.

    Children, obey your parents, for this is the secret of long life,

    There was always something new and in-your-face at MoMA, something you knew the Babbitts didn’t --couldn’t-- ever get. So the Babbitts mostly stayed away, and the hardcore visitors were goateed intellectuals or earnest, pretty girls with glasses.

    Except on Saturdays when it was a little crowded and full of boyfriends, it was a great place to pick up girls. You could spot one lost in solitary contemplation of a Franz Kline, sidle up and murmur gently, “can you believe how much it’s full of space?” Then if you could afford it you could hit the deserted cafeteria for a “Danish Open Sandwich” --some kind of raw fish on nubbly black bread—Danish because the folks at MoMA knew Denmark as the well-spring of virtue in all applied arts…You could wash it down with French mineral water. Very healthy, very soulful.

    MoMA was so avant-garde!

    So I was juiced, boy, for my first MoMA visit since the big makeover.

    I was completely unprepared for what I found.

    What I found was a mall. And it was full of mall-goers: 80% overweight and 40% obese. To be truthful, the Dada special exhibit still had its contingent of goatees --that stuff was clearly too boring for regular folks to bother with; you could see the couples from Jersey enter, hesitate and wheel their strollers right back out of that one. But the rest of the Museum…fuhgeddaboudit.

    For starters, this mall comes with a food court: no fewer than three different eating places packed to the gills. In fact the whole place smells of food; like good marketeers the management knows how to entice with aromas. You didn’t think they made their megabucks just on the $20 entrance fee, did you?

    The circulation resembles a mall, a department store or a multi-story Cineplex. There’s a concourse that runs through from 54th to 53rd Street. After you pass through ticket control, it’s a department store organized about escalators and elevators. Third floor, hosiery, ladies undergarments…I mean Drawings, Photography, Architecture and Design

    Douanier Rousseau’s still there and the Demoiselles d’Avignon and the Postman Roulin, and the Pop Art is dutifully on display along with the Pollocks and the Rothkos.
    There’s the same Cisitalia, the same old Bauhaus originals. But now somehow it all seems so… old hat.

    Then it hits you: they’re selling exactly the same stuff as when Alfred Barr was the director half a century ago. There it is: the avant-gardism of 1960 perfectly embalmed, now a historical artifact. Why …it belongs in a museum!

    Modern?...nah. Fire in the belly?...Oh…

    Avant-garde? …maybe next week.

    Nice stuff, but since it’s no longer really relevant, you could think of it as remnants of a now-dead movement --if only folks knew enough history for it to have any meaning for them.

    It’s reflected in how much time people allocate to looking at each piece. Some folks don’t even break step with their strollers, others hop dutifully from highlight to highlight as programmed by their portable electronic commentaries. They don’t even see the stuff in between. (Really, they don’t even see the highlights; they’re too busy trying to spot what the commentator is pointing out.)

    It’s the philistine festival, and you can plainly see they’re bored. Just like they’re bored at the mall. Same old, same old…

    You can’t pick up a pretty girl with glasses any more; there’s no solitude, there’s no contemplation, there’s no peace, there’s no meaning. It’s a mob scene in a mall and the commodity that’s being sold is art.

    But no one’s really buying because they don’t know or trust the merchandise. If there are any Zacks left they skulk in on a Tuesday at eleven. But you know there aren’t: who plans his life around a commercial?

    Over the years I wondered what had become of Zack. Then I ran into a mutual classmate, who knew.

    Zack had put a bullet through his head. It was the ultimate Dada routine.

  2. #2

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    Gee, sorry to hear that. One can't possibly be expected to appreciate modern art in the presence of fat people.

  3. #3
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    "Modernism" describes a movement in 20th century art, so it's entirely appropriate that the collection looks like it did 50 years ago - that's what they're going for. Modern does not mean contemporary in an art context and moma is nothing more than a time capsule. If you'd like to see contemporary art, a more appropriate museum would be The Whitney or PS1. Better yet, go to Chelsea.

    It's so absurd I'm not sure this isn't a joke. (though I'm fascinated to hear more about this rebellion you're stoking in the suburbs).

  4. #4

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    Yes, I remember the MOMA when it was absolutely empty during the day. It seemed special and that the people who went truly loved art. I remember how simple the cafeteria was. The museum was modern but had a patina.

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by BPC View Post
    One can't possibly be expected to appreciate modern art in the presence of fat people.
    ^ The story's essence.

    Quote Originally Posted by ryan View Post
    "Modernism" describes a movement in 20th century art, so it's entirely appropriate that the collection looks like it did 50 years ago - that's what they're going for. Modern does not mean contemporary in an art context and moma is nothing more than a time capsule. If you'd like to see contemporary art, a more appropriate museum would be The Whitney or PS1. Better yet, go to Chelsea.
    ^ Stated with exactly the right level of pedantry for the context. Mind the cow pies.

    It's so absurd I'm not sure this isn't a joke.
    Continuing in the spirit of pedantry: though it's couched as reportage, it has formal elements of a joke, including a punch line and an antic viewpoint.

    It also contains an invitation to join the joke.

    I'm fascinated to hear more about this rebellion you're stoking in the suburbs.
    I said that? Can't find it.

    Must refer to some other thread.

    Quote Originally Posted by Fabrizio View Post
    Yes, I remember the MOMA when it was absolutely empty during the day. It seemed special and that the people who went truly loved art. I remember how simple the cafeteria was. The museum was modern but had a patina.
    Modern art was still unpopular then, because it was still alive. Had teeth.

    It's not really popular now either, but folks feel free to ignore it on their way to one of the restaurants.

  6. #6
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    I've been a member of MoMa for years -- always liked the fact that I could pop in for an hour or so (not feeling the compulsion to hang around for hours to get the full worth of my admission fee -- and with the new admission fee of $20 it seems people feel compelled to hang about, but the configuration of the building does not help to guide the experience).

    Since the expansion was completed the building has not drawn me in the way it used to. Partly because of the crowds, partly because I'm not crazy about the new configuration. The new entry / staircase really does make you feel like you're being funneled into some controlled experience in an odd way.

    Some of the new transitional spaces simply overwhelm the pieces that are displayed there.

    When I go to MoMa nowadays I tend to take the elevator to the great new loft like spaces at the top of the addition -- the only part of the new building that feel special to me.

    But the membership does offer easy access to the Film series in the theaters on the lower level -- still one of the best deals in town.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by lofter1 View Post
    Since the expansion was completed the building has not drawn me in the way it used to.
    In the drive to the minimal, someone threw out the je ne sais quoi by mistake.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by ablarc View Post
    Originally Posted by BPC
    One can't possibly be expected to appreciate modern art in the presence of fat people.

    ^ The story's essence.
    Perhaps not, but it is interesting to see the shifting boudnaries of political correctness at work. It would (thankfully) be unacceptable today to say you cannot enjoy art in the presence of "negroes" or "homos," but somehow the fatties are still fair game. I suppose one could argue that the difference is the overweight brought this revulsion upon themselves through their personal conduct, but then that is not always the case (some people have thyroid conditions and the like). Also, the same could arguably be said of the poor, but hopefully no one on this board would be so crass as to suggest that too many poor people spoil the art. Perhaps the comment was simply a way to distinguish "cool" Manhattanites (who because of all the walking and other social factors tend to be skinnier, on average) from "uncool" persons in the outer-boroughs and elsewhere beyond city limits (who tend to be heavier as a result of living within the prevailing car and fast food culture).

    Whatever the case, if your roommate Zack really shot himself rather than live in a world where he would have to coexist with uncool fat people, before resorting to violence, he should have first given Scandanavia a try. I am told that almost everyone there is tall and slim, although they could do a better job of guarding their Munch's.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by BPC View Post
    Perhaps not, but it is interesting to see the shifting boudnaries of political correctness at work. It would (thankfully) be unacceptable today to say you cannot enjoy art in the presence of "negroes" or "homos," but somehow the fatties are still fair game. I suppose one could argue that the difference is the overweight brought this revulsion upon themselves through their personal conduct, but then that is not always the case (some people have thyroid conditions and the like). Also, the same could arguably be said of the poor, but hopefully no one on this board would be so crass as to suggest that too many poor people spoil the art. Perhaps the comment was simply a way to distinguish "cool" Manhattanites (who because of all the walking and other social factors tend to be skinnier, on average) from "uncool" persons in the outer-boroughs and elsewhere beyond city limits (who tend to be heavier as a result of living within the prevailing car and fast food culture).
    Now BPC, this construct is entirely yours. When I earlier "agreed" with your interpretation of the essence, it was tongue-in-cheek because I thought it was so obvious that that wasn't my point. And the postulate was so patently absurd (Dada, in fact) that I thought you too weren't serious. I had no idea that you'd advance such a preposterous theory seriously; and I'm sorry you've now made a bit of a fool of yourself. Lighten up.

    I suppose it's touching you think fat folks need you to spring so quixotically to their defense; I think, however, they'll survive quite nicely without. Do you think perhaps it's a tad condescending for you to think they need you?

    Whatever the case, if your roommate Zack really shot himself rather than live in a world where he would have to coexist with uncool fat people, before resorting to violence, he should have first given Scandanavia a try. I am told that almost everyone there is tall and slim, although they could do a better job of guarding their Munch's.
    I have no idea why he did what he did, and I hope you'll join me in thinking your theory is absurd. Nobody thinks like that.

    If you want a literal theory, here it is: Zack was too smart for his own good. The world bummed him out with its imperfections. Dada dovetailed with his absurdist perception. MoMA fueled his disaffection. At one time it had the power to affect people's minds in very much more powerful ways than it does now. These days a visit to MoMA is scarcely more moving than a trip to the Mall --at least for most people.

    Clear enough? I hate having to be literal like that; it's much less boring to say things elliptically, but it requires a reader to discern an author's intentions rather than imputing them. So I can't apologize too profusely for being unclear; I think the fog of misunderstanding was provided by your mind.

    I suspect you misread my post out of political correctness; shows how misleading that can be. And it makes for really tedious conversation like this.

    Maybe we could chalk it up to exaggeration --if you'll reciprocate the courtesy.

    .
    Last edited by ablarc; September 27th, 2006 at 01:41 PM.

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    For all your smug condescention, I'm still not convinced you have any idea what you're talking about re: art. I generally assume that an "author" writes obtusely - I'm sorry, elliptically - to avoid stating their ideas with vulnerable clarity. I'm hearing "art was only cool when I discovered it." Correct me if I'm wrong. That fog of misunderstanding I walk around in is dense.

    But you shouldn't argue with anything I've written because it was all a joke. And I hate fat people. And I have thesaurus.com bookmarked.

  11. #11

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    Kids....I REALLY don´t think you get ablarcs post or are even interested in meeting it half way.

    BTW: I remember that black bread and salmon and sparkling water. AND I remember sharing it on a date with a red haired girl.

    ----------

    The NERVE of ablarc....calling fat people...fat.
    Last edited by Fabrizio; September 27th, 2006 at 04:02 PM.

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    Thought-provoking, yes...but ultimately, I think it comes down to a scathing social criticism. Whether or not the rise of Generation Fat is correlated with the effects is not too relevant; the point is, we're less likely to run into people like Zack these days.

    You want more extrapolation? - architecture reflects the social progression almost all too accurately.

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  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fabrizio View Post
    I remember that black bread and salmon and sparkling water. AND I remember sharing it on a date with a red haired girl.
    Krikey! It's like sharing the same life.

    Actually, they didn't have a big selection.

    My girl was a brunette.

    Quote Originally Posted by pianoman11686 View Post
    ...the point is, we're less likely to run into people like Zack these days.
    Yes (for better or for worse), that is the point.

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