Friday, February 23, 2007

Art Openings

"In the room the women come and go,
Talking of Michelangelo." (T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock)

Imagining that the world exists on a small coffee table in the middle of a room, I was wondering the other day about where I hang out.

Someone accused me of experiencing life vicariously. As a youth, I identified with Colin Wilson's Outsider, who "cannot live in the comfortable insulated world of the bourgeois, accepting what he sees and touches as reality." Perhaps because I felt socially awkward, I slung a camera around my neck and watched people like a fly on the wall. I secretly envied those who were part of life, able to lose themselves in the ambiance of the moment.

Art itself is a vicarious experience (with Jackson Pollack as an exception). In college a therapist told me that I used photography to avoid the intimacy of life (my words). I laughed but realize forty years later that he had a good point.

I suspect that mindfullness (in Buddhism, the practice of being here) really refers to both time and space. Have I ever been anywhere where I've supposed to be? Someone asked me yesterday how I can stand to be in a 4 hours meeting about I subject I have no interest. Maybe I do that by being somewhere else.

I never felt that I had a real job until now. Teaching others how to look on and analyze, rather than be, seemed like play.

I shed the camera a few years ago with the idea that I would go the middle of the room and lose myself in the moment. Yet, I'm still at the edge, even with the idea that I'm watching myself being on the edge. I'm aware of my awareness, and sometimes overwhelmed by it.

I remember a review in the NY Review of Books where the reviewer claimed that the book failed because she (as the reader) got engrossed in the story. What greater pleasure could there be? Is this a failure or success for the author?

I wanted to write this about art openings. I have, in a sense. Last night I was at the edge of an opening, looking on. It wasn't my opening anymore. I am leaving the institution and no longer feel part of the department that hosted the event. And there were lots of young kids. I sometimes feel with young kids that I've been away a long time from Earth and now my spaceship has returned and lots of changes have occurred.

I can't get over how smooth everyone's skin looks when they are young.

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Who's in the world?

Xiushan said, "What can you do about the world?" Dizang said, "What do you call the world?"