(No, this is not a post about yogurt. Though I am having some right now, after midnight, since I didn’t eat much today. I failed to notice, however, that the yogurt I selected was not only “probiotic” but also “light”, so it’s quite nasty as it contains aspartame. I cannot abide artificial sweeteners. Truly. The taste, the aftertaste. Gah.)

One of the benefits of living so close to Manhattan is that there are so many cool cultural things going on relatively close by. Sadly, I haven’t really been taking advantage of too many of these cultural events and things since they’re usually more enjoyable with company (you know, so you can be all pompous, superior and smarmy in a nice exclusive group of 2 or 3 people) and not everyone is up for a spur-of-the-moment jaunt into NYC to look at paintings or whatever.

But I got to enjoy some culture today, yes indeed. My company provides all employees with a “culture card” at the beginning of every calendar year which entitles us to free admission and discounts at several great museums in the major metro areas where we have offices – New York and San Francisco, for starters. My friend from work told me about the movie screenings at MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) for which we also get free admission. So this afternoon, after a series of text messages, I met up with her and her boyfriend and we went off to MoMA to check out the new exhibits and catch this evening’s screening.

Currently, the special exhibit in the main atrium is sculpture by Martin Puryear. It’s pretty amazing stuff. I’ll post some pictures (thumbnails) below since a link to the exhibition page will probably go dead once the exhibit is over (on January 14). From left to right, you see “Ad Astra”, “Greed’s Trophy” and “Desire.”

Ad Astra by Martin PuryearGreed’s Trophy by Martin PuryearDesire by Martin Puryear

I especially enjoyed his artist’s statement. I wrote down a portion in my Moleskine reporter’s notebook (small, purse size) but just found the whole thing on the site:

puryear.jpg

“But coherence is not the same as resolution.” I love that.

In another gallery, there were etchings by Lucian Freud, a section on contemporary Latin American art, and then their regular photography collection which is always nice to see – some Diane Arbus, etc. We also checked out “Multiplex: Directions in Art, 1970 to Now” – some more modern modern art. I think MoMA has been getting some flack over the last few years for not showcasing much contemporary or postmodern art and clinging to “modern art”: art produced between 1870 and 1970. I was born in 1978; 1970 is still modern in my book. However, anything that requires us to talk about the 19th century is not as modern as we’d like to see, I think. The Multiplex exhibit had some truly interesting pieces, but also some that make it far too easy to make fun of PoMo/contemporary art, e.g. a TV running a video that was quite honestly what you’d see if you played a damaged blank VHS tape. A black screen with occasional bursts of “static.” And that was it.

Perhaps if I’d stood there long enough, something would’ve appeared to me from within the white noise of it, or I would’ve ended up meditating on how the black yet staticky screen represents the emptiness and downfall of the modern visual media (TV, film) — or at least invented something to say so I wouldn’t have to admit that I really thought it was “meh.” I guess I’m not as cultured as I thought.

f451.jpgThen it was time for the screening. There are three theatres in MoMa. They don’t allow food or drink, and they don’t sell any either (n.b.) The movie they were screening tonight was “Fahrenheit 451” directed by Francois Truffaut, based on the book by Ray Bradbury. I’d seen it before, but it was a long time ago, so I just remembered the plot and that there was a scene on a bridge of some sort and some running.

While there were some moments that elicited laughter simply because of their dated technology (SFX-wise), it was still relevant to the audience. There were murmurs during parts that were overt commentaries on Communism/Socialism, and bitter laughter when the critical eye of the camera was focused on the culture’s obsession with television and media… which seems all the more creepy given the popularity of reality TV and people buying larger and larger television sets (the wall screens in the movie are quite similar).

There’s a great scene where Montag’s wife is watching the government programming and is excited because she’s been selected to be an “actress” on a popular program. She sits down in front of the TV screen and the actors on her TV speak to one another, then turn pointedly to the camera and ask her (by name) what she thinks of a question they’re debating (about a guest list for a dinner party). She can’t muster a response (overwhelmed at her “fame”); they pause their conversation long enough for a response and then tell her she’s absolutely right (despite her sputtering silence/lack of response).

Has you ever run into anyone in real life who is a total champion of a “character” on a reality TV show and will get into arguments with other people about whose contestant is more worthy of winning (particularly in reality TV that does not involve audience voting via 800-number or SMS)? It’s not exactly the same thing, but in terms of pointless emotional investment in completely banal matters, and false interaction with the media, it’s pretty damn close.

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