Sunday, December 5, 2010

now in new york

Now in New York!

Peter Greenaway’s Vision of  Leonardo’s  Last Supper of 1498 has just arrived at the Park Avenue Armory: a major arrival. It hasn’t actually been taken off the wall of the Santa Maria delle Grazie monastery in Milan, but the enormous replica has come. This replica or “clone”, that Factum Arte took five weeks to construct, was “painted” by an inkjet printer, but will last longer than the original… The projection in the massive armory is likely to astound those who haven’t seen Greenaway’s previous such projections, such as the Rembrandt  Nightwatch (but iin that case, the projections were onto the real canvas) and the Veronese Wedding at Cana in Venice last year. Some are intensely furious at such playing with the works of art, some are just shocked, and some are  moved. Full disclosure: I am one of the latter, having seen the  projection of the Wedding at Cana during the Venice Biennale. The spectators sat and stood everywhere, scarcely an inch of room to make any protesting or acclaiming gesture during the projection. The whole thing stuck in my mind, along with the music, and I found it impossible to recount to those who hadn’t experienced it. Now we New Yorkers can have a Last Supper experience….

Not exactly on the same scale is one among the tropical terrariums (terraria?) constructed by Paula Hayes at MOMA, under the alluring title: “Nocturne of the Limax maximus,” delightfully translated as “Night music of the great slug.” Now the fact that that the Great Slug is really called the “leopard slug” added to this delight. My favorite terrarium is just plain “Slug” – fifteen feet in length, and it hangs on a wall, whereas “Egg” (filled with plants, not slugs) stands upright. Perhaps MOMA will buy “Slug,” but that we don’t know yet.

Right up there with living things as part of spectatordom are the pigeons squatting  atop the glass coffin in the see-into portion of the Houdini exhibition constructed by Matthew Barney for his Cremaster project, and recreated in the Jewish Museum here. (Last week,  we went on a Saturday, always free entry, because they can’t handle money on a Saturday,  and in this case, we were given jelly doughnuts on our departure, to celebrate Channukah.) Back to the pigeons. They were  put there deliberately to “deface” the coffin, are properly and continually nourished and given breathing room – as a wall text reassures us. I hadn’t known that the world-famous Houdini (80, 000 spectators for his stunts, out of straitjackets, out of buildings, off bridges, out of milk cans and steamer trunks and so on)  was the son of a rabbi, thus the Jewish Museum venue. Nor had I remembered that his character was played by Norman Mailer and by Matthew Barney himself in various parts of the Cremaster series (2 and 5, if I have my numbers right.) And, of course, by Tony Curtis in a Hollywood film, but that I remembered.

 Now I wasn’t in Washington when the National Portrait Gallery recently removed a video from the exhibition called “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American portraiture” because it was deemed offensive to the public. The video, made by David Wojnarowicz to depict the suffering caused by Aids, is called “A Fire in my Belly” and features a scene of a crucifix across which ants are crawling.  Didn’t see it, no, but I do vividly remember the fuss over the Piss Christ  also in Washington, and, in Brooklyn, Mayor Giuliani’s horror over Chris Offil’s Madonna made with dung, to such an extent that he wanted to close down the subway stop nearest to the museum.

In any case, Houdini’s pigeons are still there, doing their thing. 

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