Take Your Time

June 25, 2008 at 4:41 pm | Posted in art | Comments Off on Take Your Time
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I have a huge backlog of Paris posts to type up, but this is time-sensitive (closing at the end of the month), so it’s coming first.

Take Your Time

This weekend I schlepped all the way to New York because I just couldn’t bear to miss the Olafur Eliasson retrospective on right now at the MoMA. I like Eliasson because he’s not about art as stuff — instead of asking people to stand around and admire his beautiful objects, his art is about perception and intangible experience. There are objects, but the objects themselves aren’t the point, except in that they create an environment where strange, beautiful, unexpected experiences are possible.

Take Your Time

This piece, for example, 360 degree room for all colors, is the one I first fell in love with when I saw it at the Tate modern back in 2004. My original description: “You enter this circular room in which glorious colored light emanates from the walls. Everything you look at is awash in the glow from the walls, but even better is if you stand right next to the wall so there’s nothing in your field of vision but pure colored light. It’s like staring right into the abyss, or confronting the face of God or something. Awesome and terrible all at once, so beautiful you feel as though you’d go mad if you don’t look away.” Obviously, the piece can’t really be conveyed by still photos on a computer screen, but if you want to get some vague idea of it, check out this slideshow.

Not everything in the show was a complete success. One of the most talked about pieces was the Reversed waterfall out at PS1 in Queens, and for all that I loved the concept, the execution failed to impress. As the title implies, “a system of pumps reverses the flow of water in this man made waterfall, sending the water streaming upward.” A wonderful, whimsical idea, but it turns out gravity is a mighty foe when it comes to rushing water — the whole piece looked like a glorified bubbler or drinking fountain, and nothing about it conveyed “waterfall” to me.

Beauty, on the other hand, (also at PS1), completely made up for it. Another totally unphotographable work, in which “a spotlight shines obliquely through a curtain of fine mist, creating an indoor rainbow.” Oh, but what a curtain!

Take Your Time

Even though I knew it was water, there was a strange tactile, fabric-like quality to the mist — if you stood directly under it, it was like a shimmering, gossamer curtain billowing down on you, just slightly heavier than air. Definitely worth the trek out to Queens.

Okay, this post is getting on the long side, but please do check out the rest of the photos for more gorgeous experiments with light, color, and water.

Olafur Eliassion
at the MoMA and PS1 in New York until June 30th.


Oral Action

June 19, 2008 at 3:22 pm | Posted in vie quotidienne | 2 Comments
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Finally getting around to upload my leftover Paris photos, and I ran across this little gem.

Oral Action

Anybody looking for some action?

Traces of the Sacred

June 11, 2008 at 12:01 am | Posted in art | 4 Comments
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Looking over my reviews of the last few exhibits I’ve been to, I see a theme emerge. What I’ve really been into, recently, is art that embraces the anti-rational, the emotional, the transcendent — nothing too cerebral or easily defined. So it’s no big surprise that I fell wholly in love with Traces du Sacré, the big exhibit currently at Beaubourg.

traces du sacré

How much did I love it? All told, I spent about seven hours there, spread out over three visits, and if I hadn’t been leaving town, I probably would have gone back again.

The purpose of Traces du Sacré is to assemble works by artists engaged in a search for something beyond mundane, material existence. Over the long history of art, artists have often been charged with representing spiritual themes; in the past, this generally meant producing overtly religious works, but in the 20th century, when organized, mainstream religion lost its sway over artists and intellectuals, people didn’t give up on the idea of the sacred entirely — they just found new ways to explore the basic human urge toward transcendence.

The exhibit is organized thematically, with a focus on the different approaches artists of various kinds took toward the problem. There’s a section on psychedelia, complete with day-glo swirlies under ultra-violet light, and a section on Freudian psychology — another non-religious way of examining the invisible landscape of the psyche. One of my favorite rooms emphasized the new occult/religious movements that grew up around the turn of the last century in an attempt to reinvent faith without the baggage of archaic religious institutions. It was surprising how many artists — Mondrian, Duchamp — dabbled in new age ideology before settling into their better known incarnations.

It’s a huge exhibit with some 350 works in various different media. Some were goofy or hadn’t aged well — Thelemites wandering around Egypt to a soundtrack by Jimmy Page, for example — but others, like Rothko, Francis Bacon, or a film clip by F.W. Murnau impressed with their ability to capture the resonance of the sublime and the supernatural within a secular framework.

Traces du Sacré
until August 11 200
Centre Pompidou

World Cup of Nutbutters, Hazel vs. Pea

June 6, 2008 at 8:38 pm | Posted in food | 5 Comments
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So, I’m back in the States again, for the summer and maybe longer… But never fear — I have such a backlog of restaurants and exhibits to share from my last two weeks in Paris, I can probably put together a couple of months worth of Paris-based posts without breaking stride.

Right now, though, I have to share a change I’ve noticed since last time I was in the US: commercials for Nutella on tv!

Nutella has been available in America since at least the 80s, but in my memory it was always a specialty item, sold in the “international foods” section of gourmet supermarkets, and regarded as a mark of sophistication among fans, who might say things like, “Could you pick me up some Nutella? I developed a taste for it back when I spent a semester in Florence.”

The new marketing campaign, however, is all home-grown. The tv spot emphasizes Nutella’s properties as a fast and healthful breakfast food, rather than a nostalgic sweet from the old country. And instead of baguettes and crepes, the website shows Nutella spread on classic American breadstuffs, like english muffins, whole wheat bread, and bagels. The only hint of Nutella’s European pedigree is in the history section, which notes that Nutella was first sold in Italy — and subtly snarks that Nutella “outsells all brands of peanut butter combined worldwide!”

Take that, peanut butter. American kids may think you’re tops, but the rest of the world scarfs Nutella.

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