Sunday, May 22, 2016

Purple Reign

As the world becomes smaller, information mushrooms, and roads of communication multiply faster than bacteria, generations of cultural phenomena grow smaller and smaller.  Nostalgia is recent and cheap-- songs are recycled and sampled at shorter intervals-- art movements are re-packaged and re-hashed almost as quickly as iPhones become obsolescent.  We download and delete, download and downgrade, download and forget.  Like super-sized boxes of girl-scout cookies, we can't really tell one bite from another, and after all, there is an endless supply of a limited assortment.  What's the point, really?

The whole Warholian joke has become so top-heavy we've forgotten to see the irony in Andy's leavings after all… we're so busy calculating value and counting possessions, we can't see the financial hoax is on us.  Money doesn't seem to be something we laugh about; like dick size, it's something some people obsess over in men's rooms, bedrooms, over lunch and in boardrooms.  It's cheap.  A million dollars is nothing to brag about; a billion-- well, that simply guarantees you a bib in the Wall Street half-marathon.

And what is a 60-million-dollar penthouse in a brand-new phallic glass tower but a place to entertain, to invite designers and decorators to compete for spread, a few walls on which to display your new paintings which are hopefully worth more at market than your apartment which might as well be a hologram?   None of these air-pads existed in the vintage, solid structural versions of real New York we see in old photos and film footage.  They are ghost projections into some future-- air rights become architectural wrongs.

Today I previewed a show of nouveau-grafitti.  Deftly presented, apartment-ready wall-souvenirs which seemed about as impassioned as papier-mâché tacos.  One after the other--the text was vapid, the colors were pastel-pretty, the technique was thin, facile and uninspired, and each whole thing seemed to represent about four minutes of the life of a phone-wielding self-promoter.  Canvas to facebook, to tumbler, to instagram… in less time than an average pop-song.  It wasn't even like I've seen these before.  It was more like something I would never have looked at-- things that didn't deserve a wall-- bad wrappers on generic candy sold in the bus stations of poor countries.  Ready-made Forever-21 art.  Not even kitsch because these people were standing by and taking themselves seriously.  There were prices posted on labels which any reasonable person with an eye might have mistaken for lire or yen.

Of course there were some less wieldy objects, some Banksy-esque garbage-rescues which were decorated or spilled-on or sprayed or mutilated…. a few collages and framed relics…  and then on to the Metropolitan Museum-- my revered house of the art-holy, where one hour before closing, the guards were playing a version of chutes and ladders--- walling off rooms and corralling the tourist crowds into the halls of Greek and Roman, of Oceania and African… I managed to exchange a wink with the Picasso Gertrude Stein who was annoyed at having to compete with the Costume Institute crowds and still wondering how some of her neighbors were getting along politically.  I had a terrible thought that one day in the near future some museum might be hung in order of value.  Descending, ascending… will there be a time when a digital ticker-tape will circle the galleries with daily artist-stock information  and auction results? Or is that someone's conceptual exhibit?

Saturday evenings at the museum are not really the time for serious contemplation-- kids running around playing tag in the Temple of Dendur, shoppers and baby-toting, eaters and drinkers, gossipers and strollers--- I almost missed the days when the magazines suggested single New Yorkers try to look for mates in these places.  Now nearly everyone was taking selfies and consulting their phones.  At least I didn't pay full price.  In fact, an evening rain-shower kept the emerging crowds hovering beneath the monumental pillars and cornice.  I traded my $2 umbrella for a pair of entry stickers; the couple was thrilled at their good fortune and it saved me from the humiliation of having to fork over a meagre $1 each for the privilege of milling around looking for the open rooms at the tail-end of an exhausting art day.

Home to my cherished neighbors and less cherished new neighbors who seem hell-bent on complaining  constantly about my guitarist and poet guests.  Endless renovations have destroyed the integrity of wall insulation in these old venerable buildings and no one cares that the value of my personal privacy has been destroyed.  Mold might be good for you, I would like to say to them.  Stuff is good.  The fact that your decor is minimal and your bookshelves empty terrifies me.  I may have shoeboxes of old polaroids, like Andy did (thank goodness for the market-- these cannot really be forged or reproduced, only faded)… but they have obese, messy instagrams and tumblers--- terabytes of data and family videos they couldn't watch in six lifetimes.  Money in credit cards and online funds and assets which wouldn't fit in any traditional safe… email and texts enough to fill all the theaters of the future with useless dialogue far away into some eternal digital wasteland.

I have a purple Warhol cow visiting at the moment in my living room.  It occurs to me, as she greets me daily, that she looks a bit old and tired.  Her eyes don't follow me with the same attention as I once thought.  She is tired of her frame, of the black marker signature which has made her an icon rather than a milk producer.  And she is one of many thousands.  She is all over the internet… millions and maybe billions, with the harness and her pink nose--- in various sizes, colors… identical.  Forever 1971, or 65, or 86--- whatever date you choose.  A suitable New York wall-pet without shame or upkeep… a symbol of something that belongs and yet doesn't belong in an urban grass-less home.  At least she is not one of those balloon puppies or hideous Koons vases.  But she's a little ashamed that her legacy has been so perverted and her little joke of multiplicity has become so grotesquely distorted.  Still, she doesn't seem to mind her surroundings and she is a little snobbish on the subject of my embarrassing new neighbors.  She greets them with indifference and not even the slightest moo.  She's definitely vegan,  has an affinity for all things Prince, and unlike me, her roommate, has been to most of the best places in the city.  She's a celebrity, a star.  No lemonade drinkers on my wall, no whitewashed blondes on our turntable.  Cows are apparently rather intelligent and I learned today that they hold grudges for years.  Now I know why I like her so much and what Andy was trying to tell us with his wallpaper.  A-cow.

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