Monday, April 14, 2008

Modern art

I went off to MACBA today with a friend. I know that some people really don't like modern art. Some of it I don't like either, especially since some of it is so profoundly disturbing.

I think though that why some of it is so disturbing is that it speaks to us in this time. We don't need to learn the meaning of all the Christian saints, and their symbols etc etc etc to get the painting. It speaks to us more viscerally, because it speaks more directly to our experiences and innate knowledge of the world we inhabit. Kind of like reading from your own culture; though it is sometimes a pretty tough read.

What I also really like about it is the very fact that I don't get it, and the good pieces always leave me thinking about them. This happens partially because there is no expert speaking over my shoulder interpreting it for me, and partially because I don't get it really.

We stopped into the museum briefly on Sunday while killing time waiting for the bus -I hate that phrase killing time, we ran into a friend, had a chat, watched skateboarders fly in a plaça along side a group of brilliantly colourfully dressed Indian women who were setting up for a performance, shopped in a fantastic and fascinating bookstore (and didn't buy anything, though I was sorely tempted) and saw a piece of instillation art. I don't think this is killing time.

ANYWHOO, this installation piece, which I really like now, though I didn't get it at the time, is in the main entrance space. May I add that I think my favourite form of art right now, and for the last long, while is installation works.

This pieces consisted of a series of broad very dark brown hangings describing a ragged circle, you had to walk between these to get into the piece - another think I love about installation pieces is that so often the artist invites you in, and invites you to interact with the work - inside there was a mat on the floor made up of largish, as in at least a meter across, overlapping circles of brilliantly coloured mats. There were four TVs showing black and white movies in Russian (?) with subtitles in English. All about the oil industry in Russia or Lithuania I am not sure.

I like it, because every time I think about it I get a little more, it is very generous that way. I am assuming that the wall hangings represent the oil that is culturally engulfing us (pun intended) and the carpet is the oil floating on water...etc etc etc...

We saw a couple of artists' work, a couple of Calders and a Paul Klee plus some really cool installation pieces using lights, plastic bottles and a record player...we also saw this show by Luther Baumgarten which was OK, only OK though. There was a lot of photography, all black and white (it IS modern art you know daaaahhhling) but there were two installation pieces that I filled a room. At the far end of the room there was a table without any chairs, set beautifully with a plate, on it a napkin laid flat, and then a soup bowl. There were no glasses nor stemware. The cutlery was feathers and porcupine quills. All around the walls there were slide projectors, some showing art works, all with birds and others showed modernist style patterns of shapes. It was called the origin of table manners. I think my kids could get some mileage out of it.

I loved how we could go into the room and interact with the material, stand in the way of the slides, make patterns in the slides and walk around the table...

There was a second installation piece that was a series of enormous planks, of tropical hardwood, the kind they are chopping down the Amazon forests for. They were laid on edge on the floor one behind the other like a range of mountains, and each was cut along it's top edge to mirror the shape of the ranges of hills in the photos. There were huge cables ending in naked electric bulbs laid about, artists sketchbooks with bold black sketches of skylines, and formations of pigment for painting. White scattered around, and a pyramid of blue, achingly strong blue pigment. Some of this was clear to me...about the stripping of the forests, for a few bulbs and lengths of timber, the artistic ties were less clear...still pondering that one.

There was a final display we saw which was much less clear. There was one cool section that held the archives of something like 6000 Lithuanian women singing, talking, laughing whatever. There was a table with two heat/light sensitive indents, and a bank of powerful lights around it. You were invited to use your hands to create shadows, multi-faceted because of all the lights, and as you cast your shadows, of varying intensity over the heat sensitive spots, the voices changed. I really liked it. I liked the explorational interactive aspect, and it was pretty cool. I have to confess though, I haven't gotten an AHA about it yet, though it may come.

This paragraph was inserted later... I am coming to think that some of it had to do with the changes in these women's lives caused by the shadows and actions of people they will never know and cannot affect. Kind of obvious, but as the show was discussing the changes in women's lives as they move away from Communism and Russia.....

The funniest part was that they got a bunch of young women from the Lithuanian State Bank to Karaoke to ABBA's Money Money Money. A concept that I thought was rich in possibility as well as humour...

It's a rich man's world.


elPadawan said...

Based on this post, I suppose you'd be quite a fan of the "Nuit Blanche" event, with all this interactive modern art throughout the town ;)

Beth said...

With some art, I don't care if I ever reach an "A HA!" moment. I simply love it - the colours, the style.
It's like poetry - with some poems I just love the way the words flow and don't try too hard to come up with the "right" interpretation.

oreneta said...

elPadawan, I just might be...I also really really want to go to Burning Man someday...

Beth, Yes YES Yeeeeeeees. Some of it just speaks doesn't it. I have got to read more poetry, I haven't in so long...I memorised the Wasteland though...

April is the cruelest month
Lilacs out of a dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain


I do love the poem though, and love that I have memorised it, though I couldn/t quote it now...still lines appear. If my kids ever read it they will find phrases that are familiar because I find they are so true I use them.

Maybe I'll bore my readers senseless and post it bit by bit!

hulagirlatheart said...

I'm not too keen on a lot of modern art, but I do like that it usually evokes a response of some kind from me. I just wish it wasn't always such an uncomfortable response. I am so jealous that you are surrounded by such opportunities.

Beth said...

I am so impressed! I've memorised poems too (not The Wasteland though!) and love being able to recite them.
And now that I think about it, I memorised them all when I was younger. Why don't I do it now?

Go ahead and post that poem bit by bit. You won't bore me.

oreneta said...

Hula, I don't find that all of it makes me uncomfortable, mostly the most grafic bits do. Some of it, I think, makes us uncomfortable as well, because many of the artist are pessimistic about the future, possibly with some reason.

Beth, I think I will, I'll sidebar it though I think, when the poll comes down. I can do a fair amount of William Blake because I loved him so for a while, and a whack of Shakespear, nothing like an actor or anything, but...some Keats, I agree with you though, most when I was young, and I will confess, the Wasteland I had to do for school, and I am glad of it. It was wicked hard though, a consistent storyline sure helps.

dawn said...

I am going to send my friend Kim over from Art4Life. She has been doing Instillations lately. Between you and her, I can learn a lot about art.