So, like, I don’t understand art. I’ve never gone to museums often, so when I see something that’s not immediately pretty, that’s like much of the conceptual, deliberately chaotic and ugly stuff at the ICA for their 80s exhibit, I’m just baffled. And I read their wall descriptions and am like “?” (“that’s just a picture of a man, a woman, and a camera. how am i automatically supposed to look at this and think ‘male gaze’?”). art renders me stupid. and when the exhibit titles and the descriptions tell you to consider politics and gender norms with these whatevers, it just feels wrong to me. like, i think of a museum or gallery as a neutral space and these works are just ripped from their context and jumbled together. well, no, i’m sure their presence and order are carefully considered by the curator, but it’s lost on me.
so that was a whole paragraph of “i’m lost.” cool. art is great and important, i’m sure, i just never grew up with it or trained myself to know how to approach it.
but! i glommed onto the pieces that had a lot of words in them, because i love to read, so the words gave me something to focus on. and i loved “The Shadow” by Sophie Calle, because the words dominated, and were full of names like “Tuileries” and “the Louvre” and “I bought flowers at the grocery store” and all these words that set off starbursts in my head, like, “Paris! Paris! I love Paris! take me back there!”
it was a relatable piece too. because it was so creepy and narcissistic. are you ever walking through a great city alone and you feel and look beautiful and vital and you wish somebody was watching you and admiring you? you can just wait for those moments to come along, or you can just hire a private investigator to tail you and create that feeling sort of on-demand! throughout her report of the meandering day that she took him through, calle was all, “i was afraid he would lose me,” “it comforted me to see him having a beer at the bar,” and “i wonder what he thinks of the day i created for us. i wonder if he has thought of me, after.”
so this was a day that calle ostensibly created for the benefit of her spy. she took him to really well known places in paris, tourist attractions. i assume her investigator is from paris, or from france. i kept thinking that it would’ve been more interesting to go to more obscure places, and to relate to him like a local (a hipster?) (though she made him trace her traditional walk to school and everything). or so that actual parisians or people who have lived in that city like them could be like, “yes!” or “i gotta check that out.” but maybe it’s for the benefit of those who have never been, either. you know, those who watch “Midnight in Paris” and are like, “i want to be in THAT postcard.”
that’s fine. i like that conception of paris, and i’m glad that i’ll never lose it myself, even though i have seen enough of its sometimes greatly, sometimes drearily obscure corners. there’s something about that city that belongs in the realm of nostalgia and romanticization, even if it’s only sometimes true.