Through meditation you find that the mountain is high, and the king is far away. You can always find sanctuary in your own mind.
Comb it wet through these otherwise days.
“Difficult” scenes emerge. What was so bad about perjury?
Think back to how it teased us.
We were raised alive for the behest of others.
Children unwind us, grown-ups cobble us
into their frescoes. Night is seen as becoming.
We love you! This from the heralds.
Alas it isn’t as easy once again.
The old bike just lies there.
I shall have to do something…
In the meantime living resolves itself
into a dance. A cinema. More light.
Tonight we saw Kim Gordon’s new project Body/Head at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. I was going to go with my friend Joe but he got sick so we got a babysitter and I took my husband Jim instead.
New math when you have a kid means things you might have tolerated or maybe thought was sort of interesting seem way less amusing when the Babysitter Meter is running. Like when Yo La Tengo re-enacted an entire Seinfeld episode— I love them so much but that is my definition of not babysitter-worthy.
The opening act was also not babysitter-worthy. Two noise guitarists from New Zealand improvising not really music but some sort of soundscape? If that’s not up my alley, it’s up no one’s alley. Sadly, it wasn’t up my alley.
I was with them for the first three and a half hours, but then my mind started to wander. Why don’t they put their knobs on a table, so they are not crippled slouching the whole time? Why don’t they look at each other? Are they listening to each other? Why don’t they ever keep a thing going? Then further wanderings. To New Zealand and Chris Knox and I hoped he is OK and the Clean they are so great and “Barbara Manning in New Zealand” which was the soundtrack of my first roadtrip with Jim to Mammoth Cave. I remembered DeeRow once mocked Barbara Manning for her “crunchy droney guitars” and so how much would he hate THIS? The thought that he would hate this so much sustained me for the final four and half hours of their set.
But there was no structure that I could tell, no tunes, no callbacks, no references to anything I have heard or known or imagined. Nothing lasted long, nothing was suggested; there was no story or anything. Just a lot of science and fucking around with pedals.
Because it was an art museum, and because I have been out of the art world and driving my kid around the near suburbs for a while, I will admit that maybe I just didn’t understand their context or what they were trying to do. On the other hand, I have listened to a lot of improvised music and I think you’re supposed to start from a place other than Equipment.
No big deal, I got a glass of wine when it was over, bitched a little to Jim, and we returned to our seats to see a sea of folks on their iphones playing I SHIT YOU NOT candy crush. People you are at an art museum. This is an event. Folks are dressed up. Make eye contact. Look around. Talk to a stranger. Be human and awkward. Put your fucking phone away before it’s too late. (I know it’s too late.)
Then Body/Head started, and it was everything I complained the opening band wasn’t. They were standing, for one. They were dressed up, for another. They played tunes. She sang. There was no noodling and fiddling. There was structure. Sounds built on each other, went somewhere, came back.
And there was story.
Projected behind them on a giant screen was a film. I have no idea what the film this was, if it was from another film or something she made for this performance. But I loved it. It opens with super slo-mo wild vegetal hair and a button down shirt—- and a mouth you could make out in the distance behind the hair-wheat. It was a girl but was she dead? Drugged? In love? A scarecrow?
Next was the face of young man looking directly at us from an underground archive. In contrast to the woman, his hair was neatly controlled by product, off his face, ordered and clean and controlled. Or was it? Stubble on his face reminds us that cellular control of life/death processes (i.e. hair) is futile. Hair will find its way.
The film was slowed down so a blink took several seconds, and the simple turning of his head was charged with drama. Forcing us to look up from our tiny candycrushed screens and to look slowly deliberately into a human’s giant projected face and think about fear, dominance, control, is an act foreign and thrilling and unsettling.
He pursues us/her down a corridor. He takes photos of her in an art studio as she lays on a taped down paper canvas. There is a stunning scene where she pulls her hair toward the camera and it explodes/falls over her face. They probably have sex, but we don’t see that. I think this is about his male gaze, not ours.
Then the model becomes artist and she picks up her discarded stockings and dips them in what looks like leftover black paint. Because the paint is dry and stockings lack absorbancy and rigidity (because they are not a “tool” and are soft and “feminine”?), she paints futilely, making little progress, barely brushing the surface, leaving little mark.
This scene goes on for the rest of the performance, and it was apparently unbearable for many people to watch, as couple after couple got up and left during the painting scene. To the folks who left, it seems there is nothing more intolerable than having to watch a woman artist work.
I thought it then ended too quickly. I wanted more. What happened? What happens to the girl? What ever happens to the girl? They write their songs and tell their stories and make their art and some people don’t want to hear it. OK motherfuckers, it’s your loss.
Body/Head took me out of my day and got me thinking about art and life and futility and meaning, beautiful young people, young women making art, young men taking art, older women writing songs and half-assed blog posts. I need to slow down and think about these things more.
I kept my kid home from school today. It’s supposed to be 97 degrees, and his classroom in an old brick building is not air-conditioned. When I picked him up yesterday (when it was 5 degrees cooler) he seemed disoriented and was showing signs of heat stress. So I thought we would have a “math day” where we do math all day (this is a treat for him, seriously), and it’s been going pretty good so far.
The dog still needs to be walked though, so we were out and ran into a neighbor I’ve known for ten years and always liked. He beefed about how soft kids are now, we never had air conditioning and we were fine. This is true, I said (though my kid is not soft!!), but most of us also didn’t have air conditioning at home, and most kids today just aren’t acclimated to this kind of unrelenting heat.
Besides, it’s dangerous! Why don’t the grownups who keep saying shit like this to kids turn off their own damn AC if they think they’re so tough.
Then he started railing about global warming, how it’s all a big lie, and it was all I could do not use the words “that’s fucking horseshit” in front of my son.
"If you actually read the science…" he mansplained, "you’ll see that the arctic ice is actually getting thicker."
No, no, no, I said. The long term trend is massive loss of summer sea ice in the arctic, and most scientists think we will be looking at ice-free summers within our lifetimes.
"That’s just not true." he continued. "It’s natural variation. Look back a million years and it was much hotter then." He told me to watch a NOVA episode that explained how in a couple places the ice is getting thicker.
I suggested, with increasing incredulity and rising voice, that a couple data points in Antarctica don’t negate the overall trend and potential harm to humans, who obviously were not around a million years ago to enjoy those hotter temperatures. Not wanting to get into fisticuffs in front of my son, I suggested we might continue our argument at an upcoming neighbor’s party.
(And believe me I will be avoiding this topic with him in the future because I would like to continue to be neighborly with him and he’s otherwise a pretty good guy.)
My son was VERY interested to see me get mad at another grownup, and I explained to him the dangers of cherry picking details and ignoring the big picture, or starting out with political views and looking for science “facts” to back them up. Also, that some people just like to hold contrary opinions, despite all the evidence in the world. There’s work to do, and I don’t know what the answers are, but there’s no time to be an idiot.
And now we’re going to have a turtle sundae, because that’s enough work for one day.
Hey there my fellow white people: not everyone uses the n-word. In fact, lots of otherwise-flawed people never use it at all. It would never occur to me to use this word, and in the past ten years I have heard it used in conversation among whites only twice, and it was jarring both times, and there was much discussion afterwards about how the speaker could’ve used such a word. In both cases, our opinion of that person dropped and never recovered. When white people use the n-word against blacks, it is hurtful. Ask any black person you know if they want you to call them that. They don’t? Then don’t. No one is claiming perfection, but it’s easy enough to stop doing something when someone says it hurts them. For example, in the past I might’ve used the word “retarded” to describe all the people posting here that everyone uses it anyway, and black people use it, so therefore it’s no big deal when white people use it. But people have pointed out to me that the “r-word” is hurtful to people with mental disabilities, and so it’s just as easy to say you guys are all either ignorant or just plain old racist.