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Sunday, June 05, 2005


Three Thousand's a Crowd

My wife and I went to see an art show today. It's called Ashes and Snow and, in New York, the form it's taken is a temporary pavilion built onto a pier. Inside the pavilion, dozens of lovely photographs are suspended, frameless, and beautifully lit down the length of the building, at the end of which a film by the photographer, Gregory Colbert, plays on a loop. The soothing, meditative soundtrack fills the whole of the exhibit, which should give the viewer a wonderful atmosphere in which to contemplate the pictures.

I say, it should give the viewer a wonderful blah blah blah. Today, it very much did not.

This is because the exhibit closes this weekend, which made it the perfect time for my wife and I to go see it.

The exhibit opened at noon. We got there at about 11:40 and took a few minutes to figure out in which huge line we belonged. Because we already had our tickets, you see, as my wife had the foresight to purchase tickets on-line and print them using the very last of our colored ink cartridge, which now sits in the printer, pathetically spitting out the occasional micro-dot of red or yellow. Our pre-printed tickets got us out of standing in the huge ticket line, for saps who just showed up hoping for the best. They also allowed us to skip the will-call line for people who'd done enough planning to ask for tickets, but were too stupid to print up their own. They did not, however, spare us the torture of the third line, the longest of all.

This was a line the likes of which one might have seen for shoes in the bleakest days of the Soviet Union. This was a line to rival the masses trying to get out of Saigon in the final days of the Vietnam War. This was a line comparable to the great New Kids of the Block Richfield Coliseum show of 1990. Not--ahem--that I was there for that. To speak plainly, the line was fucking huge.

So we waited in this line, snickering at those poor dimwits who got there even later than us and showering with contempt the idiots who were confused about what the hell this line was for. We waited, we made long-distance calls, we played charades with housewives from Jersey, we tanned.

Eventually, the line led us to the exhibit itself, which, to tell the truth, I'd completely forgotten, having become so completely immersed in the Line Community that I wouldn't have been surprised if I'd been told that I'd been waiting for the first showing of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. We went into the building to see the exhibit that I've described above. The difference between the show as it was meant to be and the show as I experienced it was made by the massive, crushing mob of people in front of us and behind us.

Instead of viewing a picture, taking it in and letting it's meaning sink in, we were forced through the exhibit at one uniform crowd pace, moving when the crowd allowed us to. I kept expecting an abattoir worker to pop up in front of me and use a slaughterhouse stunner to punch a hole into my skull. Down the length of the pier we were marched, occasionally moving around mothers having a hard time with their bored and hyper children, until the crowd grew denser, like Wonderbread squeezed by a child's fist.

(You know...'cause if you squeeze Wonderbread, it gets all dense? No? Fine. I don't know why the hell I waste my time on similes for you people.)

Anyway, the crowd was being compacted because they had reached the end and wanted to stand there and watch the movie I mentioned earlier. (No, not The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.) The problem was, that all of the people who'd been marching down the length of the pier also wanted to watch the movie, which meant that things just kept getting more and more crowded, until I began to feel like a thin slice of potato in a frittata. (Right. Sorry. No more similes.)

All in all, it was probably the worst art experience I've had since the Ass-Painting Retrospective I saw last year at the Whitney. Beautiful pieces, but the crowd made the experience something akin to the sheep-herding they do past the Mona Lisa in the Louvre. And this stuff, while good, wasn't the goddamn Mona Lisa.

I would line up to buy a copy of a new Calvin and Hobbes (if he were still creating them) before I would line up to see the Mona Lisa.
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