Archive for the 'Tate' Category

Romances I-V

A while back, I tried to write something about the paintings in the Tate Modern, but it was very frustrating to try to find something to say about paintings that seemed to represent the mechanistic silence of modernity. As a result I decided to write little romantic scenes under them which have something (or at times very little) to do with the artworks themselves. They came out alright, I think. Here’s a list of those five little pieces.

(1) Kandinsky
(2) Warhol
(3) Léger
(4) Pollock
(5) Rothko

It would be nice to see them staged, but as they are just pointless fragments intended to create a contrast with obscure Modernist paintings there’s little chance of that. As they stand, it is enough they trigger a vague memory of a vague experience.


I tried to think of something to say about Mark Rothko‘s stuff, but I couldn’t think of anything. Instead, I wrote this little scene under one of his paintings.

Source: Wikipedia

A Romance V

[At an art gallery]
T: It does seem like this is beyond me, or that we are beyond art.
U: ‘We are beyond art?’ That sounds good.
T: Because it makes us sound all mysterious and advanced beyond the comprehension of a concept of art dreamt up by our forefathers?
U: No, it just sounds good after ‘beyond me’ because there’s a kind of symmetry to the statement, that either-or thing.
T: There’s also that generalization, that jump from ‘me’ to ‘we.’
U: True.
U: Do you think there’ll be something better after this?
T: In the next room, you mean? I saw some interesting photographs and posters when we passed the entrance.
U: After whatever it is we are experiencing and seeing in that painting?
T: Why can’t you just enjoy the colors? You are thinking way too much.
U: It makes me feel stupid if I don’t!
T: You do have to learn to be quiet at some point, even if it makes you think you are stupid. Maybe that’s what the painting is telling you.
U: Quiet?
T: Painting’s a dead form anyway.
U: Everything else had already been said.
T: It is simple for a reason.
U: What’s left?
T: Well, there’s us.
U: We aren’t beyond that.


I tried to think of something to say about Jackson Pollock‘s later stuff, but I couldn’t think of anything. Instead, I wrote this little scene under one of his paintings.

Source: Wikipedia

A Romance IV

[Two people facing a masterpiece]
W: What the hell is that?
G: A masterpiece, it says here.
W: It does not open up that well for a masterpiece, does it? Maybe it will get better as we continue to observe it.
G: Adhuc tranquillum est, sed expecta paulum.
W: What?
G: It’s Latin.
W: Oh?
W: You know, what we see and hear is not that much in the end. In fact, you could say that we are blind and deaf and that what we can sense is just the result of an absence of blindness and deafness.
G: You could say that, but you’d have to be a moron to believe it makes any difference.
W: I know. Still, it gives you a nice tingle in your spine to think that sort of thing out loud, doesn’t it? Sort of shake things up a bit and say that because A is dependent on B in some way there must be a shared identity between them and then substitute B for A in whatever you say next because of this residue of identity?
G: It does.
W: You still think it’s a crap painting, don’t you?
G: Let’s wait here for a while. Maybe it will start growing on us.
W: It sure looks like it wants to. It’s like . . .
G: Rhizomatic?
W: Yes.
[G and W hold hands]


I tried to think of something to say about Fernand Léger, his films and art, but I couldn’t think of anything. (He wrote some stuff about art himself and that’ll help anyone interested to learn more.) Instead, I wrote this little scene under one of his paintings of beer.

Source: Wikipedia

A Romance III

[Man on a mall escalator going down, speaking on the phone]
M: Yeah, he went nuts, completely nuts.
P: . . .
M: He went completely nuts!
P: . . .
M: Totally!
P: . . .
M: Well, he didn’t go completely nuts, but you could tell he was excited.
P: . . .
M: I don’t know. It makes everything seem livelier. You do understand that if we were left with the bare essentials our lives would appear to us as empty and meaningless as they really are.
P: . . .
M: In a way it’s a question of metaphysics. Where are you, you sound like you’re close by.
P: . . .
M: I like the stuff he did with the band more than his solo stuff. There you are!
P: You got everything? Here, smell this. She says it’s got real amber in it.
M: Couldn’t find the peanuts, but I got everything else. That’s a bit rich.
P: Once it dries it should have nice base notes, once the citrus from the top dies down. It’s pretty expensive and the middle florals are a bit too sweet, but after an hour it’ll be just right, I just know it. I think I’ll try it out for a few days. Do you like it?
M: I love the way you smell. I would love you whatever you smelled like.
P: No you wouldn’t.
[Shop keeper talks inanely]

[Phil Collins]


I tried to think of something to say about Warhol’s art, but I couldn’t think of anything. Instead, I wrote this little scene under one of his paintings.

Source: Wikipedia

A Romance II

[Leather couch creaks]
P: Doctor, I suffer from insomnia. I can’t sleep and when I’m awake I’m so tired I’m not really awake. My work suffers, my relationships suffer, and I think I might be losing my mind. I’m afraid to talk to people because I fear my words will come out as madness when I’m like this. And there’s this noise in my head.
D: Well, take drugs. That’s what everybody does.
P: I know, but I don’t want to do what everyone else does. I find the idea of drugs repulsive. It would make me something I’m not and substitute my true self with chemicals. I can’t lose that, my personality, my soul. However difficult this problem is, I still want to be me.
D: Do you realize that you have not uttered a single phrase without referring to yourself? Maybe you should get rid of your current true self. I think it is an absolute bore.
P: Sorry. Let’s try something else, then.
D: What do you want to do?
P: Can’t do anything, really. Too agitated to sleep, too tired to work or think. It’s hellish.
D: Come now, surely hell is worse than this.
P: I said ‘hellish’, mind the ‘ish’.
D: Ah, excuse me. You are not suicidal, are you?
P: No. Couldn’t be bothered.
D: Homicidal?
P: Don’t be silly.
D: Amorous?
P: I thought you’d never ask.
[Leather couch creaks]
[Song of birds through an open window and fade]


I tried to think of something to say about Kandinsky, but I couldn’t think of anything. (He wrote tons of stuff about art himself and that’ll help anyone interested to learn more.) Instead, I wrote this little scene under one of his paintings.

Source: Wikipedia

A Romance

[Alarm goes off]
R: Isn’t all this a bit Kafkaesque?
B: What do you mean?
R: Sort of . . . a violently absurd parable that reflects the human condition, if you will.
B: No, I mean what are you referring to as Kafkaesque?
R: Oh.
[Pause, alarm dies]
R: The bell, the siren we heard just now.
B: Sirens don’t do Kafka nor does Kafka do sirens.
R: No, no. Someone’s house is burning down and boots are put on feet and overalls on shoulders and gloves and a small army of people with axes and hoses and trucks head to the site to save someone who probably hates her life anyway.
B: It could have been a car crash or something else.
R: No, it was a fire. In any case, my point still stands.
B: Did you just use that word to impress me, or maybe you lit a fire just to have the occasion to use it and so try to impress me.
R: It has nothing to do with you, but I do like you.
B: I like you too.
[Distorted violins and fade]

Art in London

A while back, I took a trip to London in order to look at paintings and sculptures. As I did on my trip to Paris, I made notes of my tours of the British Museum, Victoria and Albert, National Gallery, and the Tates and these posts are based on those notes. I’m pretty much uneducated in art matters, so the result is a sort of reconstructed memory of my effort to educate myself. Here’s a list of the posts minus the romances, little scenes which I attached to certain Modernist paintings:

(1) Meeting Old Friends in the British Museum
(2) The Arrogant Spectator
(3) The Elgin Marbles
(4) The Mona Lisa of the British Museum
(5) Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas
(6) Gods Are Dead and I Feel Fine
(7) Sunshine Horrorshow
(8) Shape and Texture
(9) How Good Can You Get?
(10) Whaam!
(11) Just Express Your Feelings
(12) Explosive Decompression
(13) Who Owns Andy Warhol?
(14) A Flange of Venuses
(15) It Was Ever Thus
(16) It Was Ever Tush
(17) Allez, vivants, luttez, pauvres futurs squelettes
(18) The Hapsburg Jaw
(19) J’en ai assez de ces putains de serpents!
(20) Paint Orgasm
(21) Cartoon Saints
(22) Off with His Head Already!
(23) Virgins and Their Children
(24) Past the Wit of Man
(25) And After the World Exploded
(26) Paint / Glass / Rage
(27) Messianic Complexes
(28) A Sight I Didn’t See
(29) Hodge-Podge
(30) Bernini Clinical
(31) Truth and/or Reality

There’s a tendency for these to get more bizarre as the paintings become more abstract and hence have less to say. That could also be taken as an issue with editing and quality control, but this is an internet blog and both of those terms are, after all, the very opposites of quality control. Therefore, don’t expect carefully constructed essays with each post. You might call them “impressions” if you have to call them something.