Sunday, July 25, 2010

So Many Artists, So Little Time

The New Museum block party, at Sara Roosevelt Park on Saturday, was a small neighborhood affair, consisting of about 8 small tents and mineral water sponsored by Whole Foods. Good enough, I suppose, for fitting in, but not for reaching out. The museum however was crowded. GH and I watched Patrick Pleutin's animation short Bamiyan (2008), shown as part of the REDCAT International Children's Film Festival. The 14-minute film narrated, in French and Chinese, with English subtitles, the visit of Chinese monk Xuanzang to Bamiyan, Afghanistan, where he saw the giant statues of Buddha. The statues were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001, and children living in the valley told the legends of that destruction. The colors of the film were as gorgeous as stained glass, but they moved and changed.

Both GH and I liked the work of Brazilian artist Rivane Neuenschwander, but we liked different parts of it.  GH liked At a Certain Distance (Ex-Voto Paintings) (2010) for their architectural rendering of space, and matched muted colors. He also liked the film The Tenant (2010) which featured a soap bubble wandering through a deserted house. I enjoyed Rain Rains (2002), "an environment of leaking buckets." It used just a few basic elements to create a sensuous and meditative experience. "After the Storm" (2010), made with New York county maps exposed to the weather during Brazil's rainy season, resonated with implied narratives. The painting over the torn maps suggested the working of imagination, after the weather had taken its toll.

On the second floor was Brion Gysin, painter, performer, and poet. In 1959 he invented the Cut-Up Method and together with William S. Burroughs created The Third Mind, a Cut-Up collage manifesto. He also invented Combination Poetry (computer rearrangement of the words "the poet does not own the words," for instance) as well as the Dream Machine, a rotating light sculpture that used the flickering effect to create visions. The methods were interesting; they shared a common wish to circumvent the mind. But could they say anything more than that?

I enjoyed the art on this visit to the New Museum much more than on previous two visits. The artists on show this time were much more substantial and creative. After resting at GH's place for a while, we went to the neighborhood garden where his friends R and L and their daughter S were working. They became members not so long ago, and were planting some flowers in their allotted bed. The garden was wet and loamy and hot.

Leaving them, we passed by a much bigger neighborhood garden (at the intersection of B and 6) and went in to take a look. A fish pond bubbled near the entrance. A pavilion stage stood at the back. We were back at the gate again when a young man ran up to us and invited us to return for a film screening. Later, at the Q&A, we realized that he was the director of the film. The Evangelist,  directed by Nathaniel Chapman, explored the relationship between a gay man (played by Theodore Bouloukos) and a boy he adopted (Lucas Fox Philips) who turned out to possess a religious bent.

Set in Provincetown, the film deliberately, and quite originally, flipped the usual scenario by making gay the status quo and religion the marginalized. What followed was almost a parable about the murderous instinct at work in religion, but a parable inflected by absurdity and familial love (from a gay man!). The supporting characters could have been fleshed out more, but the central drama was captivating. Despite working from what must be a tight budget, the black-and-white cinematography was very artful.

We were soaked in perspiration by the time the film was over. The night was very humid. But we wouldn't have wanted to miss watching the film. One of the incidental pleasures of a Saturday night in New York.

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