Throughout the spring and summer, I punch the clock at a greenhouse in the farming community of Allendale, Michigan. While there is little to no training given by the managers of the company, I am thrown into the indoor fields of flowering annuals like a clueless tourist being dumped into a foreign land. As the days drone on, I quickly learn the alternative names of plants and where they are located in the store. It is not long before I begin understanding care and maintenance procedures and their corresponding relations to other plants. I distinguish annuals from perennials, full-sun from part-sun from full-shade. Heat resistance and zoning become second nature to me. I can tell customers which plants attract butterflies and hummingbirds and which ones repel deer and mosquito. The complexity becomes beautiful and I find myself engrossed by the magic of plants. It is an enchantment I do not wish to flee.
So I make it follow me. As I now gaze into the leafy tendrils of my elephant foot palm on the windowsill, I cannot help but smile. This small palm tree brings a sliver of joy and life to my white-walled dorm room during the lifeless months of fall and winter. The grey ceramic pot creates a micro island, an oasis from the grip of seasonal affective disorder. While the trees lose their leaves and the flowers go dormant, my foot palm remains green and lively.
As humans, plants are our perfect companions. We exhale carbon dioxide while they inhale it. Plants give off oxygen, and we take it. Together, we complete the cycle of gases. They breathe and intake nutrients and water like animals, but are generally sedentary objects like rocks. They are the epitome of living art.
Imagine an empty room, cold and industrial. Not living, not breathing. It doesnâ€™t grow or change. Its ambiance is poor, if not bare. Give it plants and it will grow atmosphere. They stretch their green leaves into the living space and give us something to interact with. Unlike furniture, they are organic and require care. Plants force us to foster a relationship. Care is mandatory for their survival. We must feed them water and sunlight so that they may give us joy. The discipline of caring for them is rewarded subtly by the thriving nature of the plant. From sculpting bushes and trimming hedges to growing crops and fruit trees, oneâ€™s care of plants is often correlated with its harvestâ€”be it concretely through produce, or abstractly through beauty. It allows us to grow art. No painting or sculpture can bring as much natural beauty to a room as a vibrant plant.
Over Fall Break I had the luxury to go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art on a Monday. As any veteran Museumgoer could tell you, the Met is not open to the public on Mondays. Yet, I have the good fortune of having a mother who happens to be a volunteer at the Met (a love for art clearly runs in my blood!) and was thus able to traverse through the halls uninterrupted.
Being at one of the worldâ€™s greatest museums, entirely empty, was like nothing else in the world. The euphoria I feel whenever I step in a museum is indescribable â€“ being surrounded by such vast amounts of beautiful treasures fills me with endless enthusiasm and joy. But being able to explore the museum without hundreds of people – people pushing, shoving, and ruining the ambiance, was an experience in and of itself. The unique ability to stare and reflect on a Manet or a Rodin in complete silence, deepened both my understanding and love for the works.
Last spring I studied abroad in London, where I spent every weekend exploring Europe’s cities – Paris, Madrid, Barcelona, Dublin, Sevilla, Florence – a countless number of artist havens. My prerogative in my travels was to visit museums in every city , to take in as much art in one day as I could. From the Museo del Prado to the Musee D’Orsay to the Picasso Museum, I found myself surrounded by people speaking languages I hardly understood (my Michigan-level comprehension of French and Spanish could only take me so far!) and felt more concerned about keeping my belongings in check and not bumping into fellow tourists Â than I did on taking in Guernica.
Thus, as I only have now realized, there is something truly magical about viewing works of art in the sanctuary of one’s own privacy. Being able to muse on my thoughts uninterrupted, thinking about and questioning the works, without distraction, was the most enlightening artistic experience – creativity was endless, comprehension had no boundaries.
In light of a seminar presented by my business schoolâ€™s namesake, Stephen M. Ross, I was inundated with paranoia upon hearing about Mr.Rossâ€™ Hudson Yards Development, a new real estate venture along Manhattanâ€™s west side from 28th to 43rd street west of 8th avenue. Â With the growing popularity of the Highline, rumors of retail giants moving in, and the Hudson Yards Development, there will undoubtedly be a much needed surge to the consumer economy as tourists move in and spending increases.Â But what does this mean for the residents, cultural integrity, and artistic haven that these neighborhoods once hosted? Is this an inevitable change that must take place in order to progress and improve the economy? Or is there an alternative that can dually increase spending while maintain cultural integrity?
Mr. Ross is the founder and Chairman of The Related Companies, a real estate investment firm. Â He has developed a portfolio of real estate ventures in metropolitan cities nationwide, such as New York City, Las Vegas, and several others in California. He has grown his company by investing in transformative properties, such as the Time Warner Center on the Upper West Side of New York City, as well as affordable living housing throughout the city.
In 2005 the city rezoned the area from west Chelsea to herald square to convert current manufacturing space to residential and commercial developments and named it the Hudson Yards Development. The Hudson Yards area will have the capacity for approximately 26 million square feet of new office development, 20,000 units of housing, 2 million square feet of retail, and 3 million square feet of hotel space, says the Hudson Yards Development Corporation.Â Â With the luxury brand Coach leading the pack and incepting construction of the first building in the Hudson Yards Project, retail giants such as Sephora plan to move in and draw in shoppers, tourists, and new residents alike. Local boutiques will have to compete with mass producing low mark up companies that move in. Â Even now, the art spaces are strained to compete with restaurants, retailers, and luxury brand boutiques.
Even since 2009 the commercial effects of the Highline have challenged Â West Chelsea’s establishments and integrity.Â Â The restaurants became increasingly trendy and decreasingly delicious; the people migrate from uptown to counterfeit â€œbohemianâ€ lofts; and slowly, the art increasingly high profile, decreasingly raw and native. Â And while Mr. Ross explained in his presentation to the students of the Ross School of Business that he and his partners keep cultural integrity in mind, such as making the “Jazz at Lincoln Center” the highlight of the Time Warner Development, phrases such as “New York’s Next Great Neighborhood” on the company’s web page indicate a more transformational pursuit.
What I fear most is that the Hudson Yards Â turns the area into an amusement park of sorts, asÂ Jeremiah Moss discusses in the New York Times article â€œDisney World on the Hudson,â€ losing all integrity for the raw gritty New York feeling that tourists hate, and New Yorkers love. Native artists have noticeably begun to flee the West Side for lower-profile neighborhoods tucked away from media hounds and tourists.Â And while Chelsea can already be deemed a commercialized, yuppie area, any remnants of authenticity that I know it to possess may be stripped away even further. What will become of the neighbors that envelope the Hudson Yards Development?Â More importantly, what will happen to the art that spawned there?
I love the morning. I don’t love getting up in the morning, but I really love the morning. The air is different in the morning. It is dense with possibilities. Maybe I’m a gushing romantic, but the air makes getting up a whole lot easier.
This past Friday I took a bus up to North Campus, my lukewarm tea in hand, and walked to the Walgreen Drama Center. It was rainy, but not yet miserable yet. Only a sprinkle. Inside of the Arthur Miller Theatre, there was a large projection screen with the image of a man walking back and forth projected on to it. On the left of the stage was an intricate set up of electronics, to the right, a few miscellaneous items strewn about the floor in a line. I noticed two balls, roughly the size of a bowling ball. One was a globe, and the other was just black.
The Argentinian Dance Company, Grupo Krapp, has been in residence for the past couple weeks. I’ve been sick and busy (for a number of reasons) and couldn’t make the various workshops and talks they had around campus. But this Friday show was my final shot to see them. And so I did.
Grupo Krapp is named after a Samuel Beckett play, Krapp’s Last Tape. This particular play happens to be one of the two Beckett plays I’ve ever seen, which means I was able to brag about this to my girlfriend and pretend that I know more about theatre than her (I don’t). Krapp’s Last Tape is a one man show, a piece about an old man looking back at his life through a serious of tape recordings. The main character, Krapp, makes one recording a year on his birthday, chronicling the events of his life. Before he makes his tape for his 69th birthday, he listens to one from his 39th birthday. It’s a really remarkable and emotional play. Samuel Beckett never struck me as the most inviting or emotional playwright, but in Krapp’s Last Tape, Beckett takes a firm look at life, laughs at its inconsistencies, and cries at its tragedies. I think Grupo Krapp tries to do the same thing.
It’s difficult to call what Grupo Krapp does dance. There was a lot of acting, a lot of feats of physical strength, a lot of multimedia components, but never so much dancing in a traditional sense. In one awkward scene, titled â€œDuet A,â€ two dancers paced around stage replicating the first experience they had dancing. Their shoulders were raised, their movements sharp and stiff. It was a peculiar kind of dancing, but after some observation, really quite beautiful. These performers were replicating a beautiful point in life, a point of no expectation and only passion. Or maybe lust. Or maybe boredom. I’m not quite sure. Either way, it was beautiful.
The piece they performed was called â€œAdonde van los muertos (Lado B).â€ The performers told us it was about death, but only a in few scenes did the show actually simulate death. The rest of the show was…well, it was incapable of description. It involved a game of soccer played onstage (an audience volunteer joined the cast, as they were down a member). It involved two performers below a large cloth and replicating (to an unsettlingly successful degree) the movements of a horse. It involved a performer simulating the motions of a robot, complete with sound effects. The dialogue was sparse, but biting and confounding. It reminded me very much of the twists of Beckett’s language in â€œWaiting for Godotâ€ (the other Beckett play that I’ve seen). The piece opened with a projection of a short film, where several people were interviewed about their thoughts concerning death. They asked these interviewees what they imagined death would look like, should it be captured in a physical object. One person said death couldn’t be an object, that death was the opposite of an object. Another paused, perplexed by the question. He quietly answered that death looks like a black ball.
The question of meaning always comes up when I see a production like this. I don’t think I understood a lot of what Grupo Krapp put on stage. I only remarked in the beauty of it, in the entertainment of it, and in the absurdity of it. But when the production finished and all of the cast members had left the stage, I noticed that the black ball that was lying there since the very beginning was still there. They hadn’t oddslot touched it during the whole production. It was subtle. It was small. And it was terrifying. But it made sense. There was indeed a logic to this performance â€“ that was the black ball of death that the young man in the opening sequence had mentioned. The performance didn’t have to mean anything specific. But it meant something. The fact that the work had an internal logic was the important part.
I thought a lot about Grupo Krapp this morning. How they are pushing the boundary of what dance is and what art is and what a performance is. How I would have loved to play soccer with them put probably would have done so horribly that they would have picked someone else instead and started the show over. How they are so incredibly deliciously esoteric and I love it. How the air in that theatre was dense with sunrise and dense with possibility. Maybe I’m a gushing romantic, but the air makes getting up and going off and doing work that much more inspiring and exciting.
On a recent trip to the DIA, my Art History class was pleasantly treated to a tour by the museumâ€™s director (who is AMAZING, if you ever meet her). Â If you have never been to the Detroit Institute of Art, I highly reccommend it. Â Although the surrounding area can be quite dodgy, once inside, you forget all about the modenr squalor of a fallen urban landscape and transport yourself to a time of soaring white marble, vaulted gothic cathedrals, and gleaming suits of armor that demand acknowledgment. Â The African art is kind of scary, the Egyptian art is mystic and abstract, and everything is full of eye-catching shapes and colors.
While every piece moved my eyes, what moved my mind was when the director took us beyond the suits of armor, to the European portrait gallery, where she showed us one painting in particular.
It was a portrait of Eleonora de Toledo by Bronzino and it was jaw-dropping.
The layers of fabric, the folds, and the dancing patterns that were choreographed down her bodice…
Seeing my reaction, the director of the museum told us, â€œWe were just in the main hall where the suits of armor were displayed. Â Now as you know, there were suits of armor for military campaigns, jousiting tournaments, and also fancy suits of armor which were much like tuxedoes are today. Â And here,â€ the director gestured to the Bronzino, â€œWas what I consider to be female armor.â€
Her metaphor intrigued me. Â And moreover, it got me thinking about the limits and capabilities of women throughout history. In the Renaissance especially, an age where women had little control over their fortunes, marriage lives, and living situations, there was one sphere where women could exercise control and could exude all of the confidence and personality that society allowed her: in her dress.
Never before I had ascribed so much power to an article of clothing. Â But this dress and this woman, was not just one piece of clothing. Â She was the pure angel of the pearls around her neck, the hardened, wrought iron of the black swirls on her gown, and she was a living, breathing human being who had few avenues for self-expression.
As I stood there, gazing up into the serene face of a female who lived a vastly different life from me, I found a connection through the power of clothes. Â I thought about what I was wearing (a light blue button-down, jeans, a dark blue cardigan, and my tan, canvas trenchcoat) and then picked up my gold and pearl necklace around my neck.
I write, mostly fiction but also other less traditional forms, like I tweet a lot and Tumbl dumb image macros and stuff. And this blog, I suppose, is writing.
Here is an image macro I Tumbld, which has a picture of me. Look at my beautiful blurry face, and now you can picture who is talking to you:
I’m very interested in the internet and its culture, particularly the “art” surrounding it. With my blog here this year I intend to talk a lot about “internet art.”
I feel traditional, IRL art is losing its appeal and relevance. I feel the internet is “where it’s at.” Probably I feel this way because I am mostly interested in literature, and books are a dying art form while internet literature is rising. Maybe other art forms, like paintings or something, are still good IRL.
My favorite book is ‘the internet,’ is my clever answer to “What’s your favorite book?”