Archive for the ‘Image Craving’ Category

Tehching Hsieh’s Lessons for Quarantine

June 2, 2020

Earlier on in #quarantinelife, I was a virtual ideas machine.  Seriously golden nuggets were just falling out of my mouth every time I spoke.  I actually was a little annoyed, because I had more ideas in the span of eight weeks than I had in the previous three years, when I actually had at least a little free time to execute them.  Now that time is basically over, which is sad but also perhaps freeing, in its way.

One of the ideas I had during the brief moment of intellectual fertility was to interview the performance artist Tehching Hsieh about what he has to say about how to live under quarantine.  Hsieh is famous for his series of One Year Performances: for one year each, he punched a time clock every hour on the hour (sometimes called Time Clock Piece), never went indoors, lived in an 11’6″ x 9′ x 8′ cell (Cage Piece) and remained tied by an 8-foot rope to fellow performance artist Linda Montano (Rope Piece), with whom he was not romantically linked at the time and actually didn’t know before the piece began (this feels important to point out).

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The one I thought spoke to the most to our current moment was the performance where he lived in the cell, because of the obvious comparison that while we were all feeling cooped up, he was quite literally cooped up: no Netflix, no sourdough starters, no Times digital subscription or Quarantine Chat or anything at all.  He didn’t even make eye contact with the visitors who were allowed in every three weeks (totaling nineteen times a year).  This is how he described his life during that year:

Thinking was the focus of this piece and was also my way of survival.  While doing this piece, thinking was my major job.  It doesn’t matter what I was thinking about, but I had to continue thinking, otherwise I would lose control not only of myself but also of the ability to handle the whole situation.  It was difficult to pass time.  I scratched 365 marks on the wall, one for each day.  I had to calculate time; although I may have broken the rule of no writing, it helped me to know how many days I had passed, how many more days I had to go.  

More:

What I needed was the use of my confined body to carry out the work, while at the same time, my mind, detached from the confinement, was free to think and to advance. I am as free in the cage as outside.  My work here is not focusing on political imprisonment or on the self-cultivation of Zen retreats, but on freedom of thinking and on letting time go by. 

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He also talked about dividing his cell into different “rooms” in his mind, and breaking up his day by going on a walk “outside” (aka around the cell) and then returning “home” (his bed).

But then the more I thought about this, the more I realized that for me, actually the most analogous situation was the piece he did with Linda Montano.  I am, after all, not alone in my quarantine, but inside a decently-sized-for-NYC-but-not-big apartment 99% of my time with two small children and my husband (so actually, my version of this would be being tied to another artist and two young monkeys).  I’m sure some young-and-in-love types would hear about this piece and be like, “Oh, that sounds so lovely, being with someone all the time!”  But my response is: OMG no.  And it turns out that actually, Hsieh and Montano ended up really disliking each other.  Hsieh puts it diplomatically (“Linda and I were exposed to each other.  That brought complexity.”) but Marina Abramovic, in supplementary material provided for the publication of the book Out of Now, which chronicles Hsieh’s work, provides more insight:

But with Tehching and Linda there was no love.  I was really puzzled by scratches above their two separate beds where they slept.  Later on, I heard that they didn’t get along and in frustration they scratched the walls with their nails.  They had made this promise and they are both very fatalistic in their work so they didn’t want to break it.  

Interestingly, my husband felt like the piece that best mirrored our current times is the Time Clock Piece.  Why?  Because he is being asked to “clock in” without any sort of actual supervision and without actually going anywhere, I think was the gist.  Not to say that Hsieh didn’t have people to whom he was accountable––usually lawyers or other third parties were in charge of making sure he was doing what he agreed to.  And my husband also pointed out, intelligently, that the homeless populations in cities affected by COVID-19 might be represented by the piece where Hsieh stays outdoors entirely for a year, as many might be trying to actively avoid shelters, where crowding makes contagion even more likely.

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So I wrote to Hsieh, asking him if maybe he’d be willing to be interviewed and tell me a bit about how he feels his art relates to this moment, etc.  And he responded quickly!  And nicely!  And said no.

The beginning of his email read: I’m open to the connection you are building between the current situation and my work, at the meantime my work is about passing time, rather than how to pass time, I’m afraid it won’t the best for me to talk about my work in relation to the current situation.

Which reads a little like fancy art world speak for, “You obviously didn’t get my point, plebeian” to me.  But yes, of course I do understand that allowing time to continue on passively is not the same thing as figuring out what to do with your time (eye roll emoji).  That doesn’t negate the obvious question here: what on earth did you think about for an entire year?!

Hope you are doing well, although we all feel constrained in a way, at least we still have free thinking.

Said a person living with two toddlers… never.

Nothing

May 1, 2020

“What is nothing?” I ask.

“Nothing is when you are given a very small portion of ice cream by an adult, and you look at the plate and at the adult and you ask for more and the adult says you have a huge portion and you say, ‘That’s it?  That’s nothing.’  And that is nothing,” says Lulu.

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Hey Willy, See the Pyramids by Maira Kalman

Eff Off

April 12, 2020

Thank you for driving home how utterly trapped I am right now.  #letitdie

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Lego Auschwitz

March 29, 2020

Libera, Lego Concentration Camp

From the beginning, Konzentrationslager caused a huge sensation, with viewers split on whether it was an important work or a travesty. Depicting genocide with a toy made people uncomfortable. Some Holocaust activists saw the work as trivializing the experiences of survivors, while others disagreed. The Jewish Museum in New York City displayed the sets for several months in 2002 as part of an exhibit on Nazi imagery in modern art.

Even LEGO joined in the criticism, complaining that [artist Zbigniew] Libera hadn’t told the company what he was intending when it donated the bricks and that this contribution didn’t constitute sponsorship as implied by the packaging’s labeling. LEGO tried to get Libera to stop displaying the work, backing down from its pressure only after the artist hired a lawyer.

From The Cult of Lego by John Baichtal and Joe Meno

Honestly

March 4, 2020

The Coronavirus lewk is this cape with gauze face mask from Portrait of a Lady on Fire.

Oh Please

January 6, 2020

I know that Vogue.com is not necessarily where one should be going to see reality reflected, but cmon: how could a wedding where the bride wore five outfits ever be considered “effortless”?

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The Best Metaphor for Motherhood

December 18, 2019

Is this sentence about mama elephants trying to avoid breathing exhaust fumes from Babar.

 

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My Introvert Paradise

December 18, 2019

When I read the 2011 obituary of 104-year-old Huguette Clark, the reclusive heiress who had spent nearly two decades in luxury hospital suites by choice before she died, naturally my first thought was, “This bitch is my hero.”  Okay, so maybe I have no interest in collecting dolls, as the eccentric Clark did well into adulthood, and maybe I didn’t grow up in a 121-room mansion, but dreamers gotta dream!

When Clark died, she left behind three enormous properties, estates in Santa Barbara and New Canaan, Connecticut, and a palatial apartment on 5th Avenue, that she hadn’t set foot in since her hospital admission.  She kept people on staff at all three houses to ensure they would be in perfect shape lest she decide (?) to pay a visit.  (Side note: have considered writing a short story about the house manager at the Santa Barbara estate, a real Remains-of-the-Day type, who squashes a new hire’s mission to find out more about their mysterious employer.  Or something like that.)

Anyway, her properties were put up for sale after her death, including her apartment at 907 5th Avenue, which was originally two apartments combined so she could live with her mother.  Naturally I want to live there.  When the realtor put a floor plan up on the listing site back in the day, I printed a copy and marked what the layout would be if justice were real and I got to live in a mansion.  Herewith, my introvert paradise!

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From top left around in a clockwise circle moving closer to the compass:

Kitchen
Informal breakfast nook: no idea why I put breakfast in quotation marks but I’ve grown a lot in the last eight years
Dining room
Bathroom with clawfoot tub: basically all I want in life, other than a $22.5 million apartment, is a clawfoot tub
Bedroom: mine
Closet: not sure where I’ll be getting the money to buy clothes in this scenario but it’s my fantasy
Nonfiction library: where I store my collection of nonfiction books
Bathroom
Cozy TV/movie watching room: big couches, plush blankets, etc.
Closet
Nap closet: for when you’re on the other side of the house and you’re too lazy to walk back to your own bed to nap
Hisbodedut room: when you want to daven Breslov style
Craft room: a room for doing projects, a la Amy Sedaris
Billiards room: not sure why I chose this, because I don’t play pool, but maybe I was just running out of ideas?
Sculptor-in-residence’s room: this is where the sculptor-residence will live and, well, sculpt
SIR’s bathroom
Office: this is the only room in the apartment with WiFi
Fiction library: where I store my novels
Group therapy room: where I get together with a bunch of people and do some guerrilla group therapy
Soundproof destruction room: when you’re really angry you can come in here and break things
Pantry
Empty room with waxed floor for skateboarding, toy car riding and sliding around on your butt: self-explanatory
Phone booth #2: phone booth #1 is on the other side
Psychopath room: a padded room for when you want to lose your shit a little
Room I forgot to name: thoughts, anyone?
Ping pong and game room: foosball as well
Is this a room or a hallway?: I genuinely cannot tell
Knick knack closet: this is where I keep my knick-knacks
Crying closet: this is a room with a couch and lots of tissues in case you feel like crying in private
Art gallery: this is where I keep my pictures and display the SIR’s work
Phone booth
Supply closet: for paper towels and such

So!  That’s the goal, folks.  Let’s make it happen.  Coming up soon, the link to my GoFundMe––aiming for a cool $25 mill here, people, so don’t be shy!  Oh and I’m auctioning off the original of the above.  Just reach out to Siobhan: she’s lazy, but she knows how to cash a check.

SAD!

December 4, 2019

Not gonna lie, pretty bummed these ceramic peanuts are sold out.  (PS: having a bit of a consumerist moment over here!  Send help!). (PPS: I love fake food you can scatter around your house a laAmy Sedaris!)

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Inspiration Everywhere!

November 7, 2019

Honestly the LEWK is these Pacific Northwestern Slavic anti-vaccine protestors.

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