Hummm…October 5, 2006 at 10:10 am | Posted in art, vie quotidienne | 10 Comments
When it comes to art, most people have a certain threshold of acceptability. For some, if it lacks the precise detail of a Vermeer, it can hardly be considered art. For others, the swirling colors of the impressionists barely qualify. But even the most open-minded of casual art appreciators — the people who accept without question the portrait of a soup can, or a paint-spattered canvas, or a larger than life comic strip — even these people tend to balk when faced with a single fluorescent tube, propped up in a corner.
Is it art? you ask them. No, they reply, not that.
Once you get past the first room of early works, you find that Dan Flavin worked in only one medium: various standard lengths of fluorescent light tubes, in assorted standard colors. It may not sound promising, but as I wandered through the galleries, striving to compose a few coherent sentences on the works, all I came up with was: Unspeakably beautiful. Unsatisfied, I crossed that off. No, Indescribably gorgeous. Or maybe, Unutterably sublime?
Really, it’s beyond words. An overwhelming green glow plays tricks on the senses, transforming ordinary daylight into a post-apocalyptic pink haze. An intense purple hue emanates from the end of a pure white hallway, and when you reach the room, it’s as if you’ve become engulfed in the rich pigment. Even the white tubes peek tantalizingly from around corners, drawing you forward to experience the full magnitude of the light.
I can’t imagine there’s a soul on this earth who has the slightest aesthetic sense who could fail to be moved by this display.*
All that said, there was one black smudge on my otherwise transcendent experience: a museum guide came over and told me not to take photos. But this wasn’t a simple “Madame, priez de ne pas prendres des photos” or “La photographie est interdite, madame.” No, this jerk-off wanted to have a conversation with me. My first photo snapped, he hustled over to me, his finger wagging, his eyebrows leaping ferociously. “Pas de photos?” I asked. He shook his head fiercely, so I made a big show of putting away my camera, figuring that would make him back off. But he did not back off — for some reason, he felt we needed to discuss my crime.
“You thought you could come here, and take photos?”
I wasn’t sure what to say to this. “Eh… oui?” I tried.
“You’ve never been in a museum before?” he sneered. Huh?
“Huh… bah… si, monsieur. Just last week I was at the MoMA in New York, and they had no problem with my camera.”
“This looks like New York to you?!”**
What could I say to that? “Monsieur, que voulez-vous de moi? You told me to stop taking photos, I stopped.”
After that, we stared each other down for another few seconds, until I decided to just walk away. I didn’t want to give him another chance to start in on me. Lesson learned — in the future, I’ll just play the idiot American and avoid this obnoxiousness.
So, no photos! Sorry. But you just have to get an idea of how gorgeous this was, so everything that follows is reconstructed out of official published photos and photoshop.
*Although I admit, I’m particularly interested in how office workers might react to this exhibit. Having myself spent a few years in a cubicle farm, I’m know how soul-deadening fluorescent lights can seem when you have to live under them each day. To me, this show is a commentary on and antidote to the misery of the corporate drone, but maybe others will have a different experience.
**A particularly stupid point, since photography is allowed in most of the Louvre and Pompidou. But I didn’t think of that at the time.
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