Museums of Something Else

Looking for Van Gogh
in a Roomful of Clicks

You’re about to fulfill a lifelong dream: getting up close with your favorite masterpiece. This painting’s haunted your memories for years, and it’s now about to make living in this city all the worthier. But when you’re finally ready for its close up, your reverie suffers a low blow.
Between you and the frame, a phone-picture-taking crowd is busy, turning your dream into a blurry background to their selfies. Miffed, you swear never to come back again. Which brings us to today’s offering: museums are important, but don’t have to suck. Here’s why.
As depositories of humanity’s cultural and artistic achievements, museums have been incomparable. Often the sole local well of knowledge, they anchor communities around a shared past. No wonder they’re also useful for tyrants to stake a claim into the future.
Besides displaying disturbing mementos of our brutal heritage, and the vanquished civilizations we’ve helped destroy, these warehouses of memory and fractured narratives also face crushing competition of the present day’s increasing obsession with accessibility.
Round-the-clock knowledge at one’s fingertips is rendering irrelevant the need for an actual physical place to house art and the past. But the Internet has potential to turn voyeurism into something intimate and personal, in ways that museums seem to be faltering at.
We’re not ready to give up on them just yet, though; just pointing to alternatives that may enhance their mission. Read and click on the illustrations to open up new possibilities. It may sooth your soul and give you a healthy reason to skip that rude crowd this weekend.

THE MOURNING ART COLLECTION
For a place displaying death-inspiring art objects in its galleries, and housed next to a cemetery, the possibility of sudden demise should be never too far. But since its 1990 inception, the Museum of Mourning Art has thrived, even if it had to auction some of its artifacts to survive.
It sits next to Arlington Cemetery (no, not that Arlington), Philadelphia, and it did have to close briefly, while it sold some items. But unlike its neighbors, it’s bound to come back to life, and in line with Americans’ peculiar taste for anything related to the departed.
Its art focus is distinct from similarly lugubrious institutions such as New Orleans’ Museum of Death, Houston-based National Museum of Funeral History, and New York’s Morbid Anatomy Museum. Step into these places for a glance of what’s literally coming next.

POP-UP FEELINGS & BROKEN HEARTS
For an unfortunately brief time, New York had its throbbing pulse measured by art. The pop up Museum of Feelings mixed ‘social media and real-time data from local news, weather reports, flight delays’ and even the Stock Exchange, and translated them into colors.
It was the kind of tactile, refreshing experience traditional museums have to avoid these days, lest not give ideas to deranged minds. It’s now limited by the Web, but it still suggests an alternate reality (more)
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Read Also:
* Scary Night
* Broken Hearts

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Newspaper Taxis

Lucy, Pablo & Tara: Behind
Lennon’s Sgt. Pepper Songs

Some say that John Lennon was the reporter-on-duty for the Beatles. For the most part, his songs do have that matter-of-fact quality, often commenting on the news of the day. Or of his life, for that matter, and always taking a lot of artistic liberties, of course.
Three songs from the 1967 Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album have exquisite stories behind them: Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds, Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite, and A Day in the Life. One family-generated, other on vaudeville history, and another about a crash that may have shaken London society and pretty much no one else, but that did send John ‘into a dream.’
We’re not getting into the slippery slope of ancient rock music critique, for most of these stories have been percolating around for over 40 years. They’re part of the lore and mystique about the Beatles and, we promise, that’s the last word ending in ‘QUE’ we’ll be using on this post. But before we forget, of course, these are outstanding songs, and the passage of time has had no effect on them.
As such, they always had room to inspire apocryphal tales about them, which are sometimes so colorful and detailed that only Apple would care enough to periodically deny them any currency. Reality trumps delusion in the case of these three, however, and their true (more)
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Read Also:
* John & Poe
* Dear John
* Dr. Winston O’Boogie
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Aurora in New York

Lorca, the Voice of Spain
That Franco Could Not Kill

‘I realized they had murdered me. They ransacked the cafés, the graveyards, the churches… But they never found me? No. They never found me.’ This eerie Federico Garcia Lorca (mis)quote accurately describes what has actually happened for over half a century.
Until the early 2000s, when rumors were finally confirmed that he’d been shot and buried in a mass grave by a Spanish right-wing falange, 80 years ago this Friday, the mystery of Lorca’s demise only compounded to his allure. And his body still remains undiscovered.
In the meantime, the fascist regime that killed him, and ruled Spain until dictator Francisco Franco was finally dead in 1975, lasted too long but not nearly as long as will both Lorca‘s legacy and the world’s acknowledgement of his greatness. His stature has actually increased.
Before we pat each other’s back, though, on the assumption that poets always win over despots, let’s not forget the grim fate of thousands of Spaniard republicans, who were also murdered, but unlike Lorca, were buried along their names, personal history, and ideal of a free world.
While Franco, and so many others, died ‘peacefully’ in their sleep, the tormented lives of those they killed or sent to the gallows left plenty of grief to spare for generations. Luckily for Lorca, who was far from being a political animal, something else was going on for him.

THE GENTILHOMBRE OF ANDALUSIA
Already well known in Spain for his folk-inflected poetry and popular plays, his disappearance spiked interest on his work abroad, and his collection Poet en Nueva York, of poems written during his 10-month-long U.S. visit, in 1929-30, granted him critical acclaim.
Slowly too, the acknowledgment of his homosexuality has taken a front role in the appreciation of his work. Salvador Dali, who’s believed to have been his lover, had no qualms admitting it, although typically adding that their relation had been ‘very painful.’
In the end, though, regardless of his sexual orientation, it’s on his 20-odd years body of work where answers about the endurance of his legacy may lay. That’s what happens when a life is cut short, but in the case of Lorca, much remains to be savored and subjected to wider exposure.
A DARK PAST MAY PAY A VISIT
As for his death, many are ambivalent about the renewed search for his body. Ironically, it’s the kin of those who fought and perished in the Spanish Civil War that may have at least part of their (more)
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Read Also:
* Gypsy King
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The Spanglish Twins

Shakespeare & Cervantes
Who Improved Our DNA

They never knew it, but when William Shakespeare and Miguel Cervantes left this earth, 400 hundred years ago this Saturday, their work were destined to become part of humanity’s greatest treasuries. And English and Spanish, two of the world’s most spoken languages.
Their art not just redefined their mothers’ tongues, but helped England and Spain conquest most of the world, way beyond what their powerful armies were capable of. Four centuries later, over a billion people speak an accented form of what they once put on writing.
Language has always been, arguably, a weapon of global domination. In 1616, with Europe deeply involved in wars of subjugation, Portugal and the Netherlands, for instance, were also militarily capable and actively jockeying for control of resources and trade.
But either for lacking of geographical advantage, strategical wherewithal, or visionary drive, by the time Cervantes published the first part of Don Quixote, or Shakespeare, what was to become the First Folio, none of them were matches to Spaniards and Britons.
That’s of course a simplification. To many, Portuguese Luis de Camões was their equal, and his The Lusiads, the definitive account of the Discovery Era. But neither he nor Portugal’s mighty at sea survived the new century. And today, considerably less people speak his tongue.

A GENTILHOMBRE & THE WINDMILLS
Miguel Cervantes de Saavedra was pretty much the fruit of Spain’s Siglo de Oro, the period between the first decades of the 1500s and the end of the 16th century. Having reconquered their country from the Muslims, Spain was at the center of the world and expanding.
Unprecedented stability and trade, along a vigorous art tradition, forged the nation and inspired Cervantes to embrace the age, but not without struggle. From a humble family, he became a soldier and a crown’s servant, in order to support a career as a writer in his later years.
His tale of a delusional nobleman, chasing a doomed dream of love and peace, with a witty sidekick to counterpoint his reveries, still resonates. The poignancy of his adventures can be traced to Cervantes’ own quest for redemption, which included having been captured and enslaved.
It was all worthy, apparently. After his tomb was discovered last year in Madrid, and as his bones go through forensic analysis, there’s no question about whose history is being exhumed. More than the Inquisition, or the Armada, Spain’s now best represented by Cervantes.

THE BARD WHO MAY NOT HAVE LIVED
Some scholars have grown exasperated about the still lingering questions about Shakespeare authorship. For them, those who believe his works were penned by Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, thus the Oxfordians, had their shot and it missed the point. It’s understandable.
There was never any question about the quality, or depth and breadth, of the multiple sonnets, poems, comedies, tragedies, stories, and romances attributed to that person who, despite thought of (more)
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Read Also:
* Author, Author
* Bones of Contention

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