Friday, December 5, 2008

A little bit of art, Bronx-style

I heard that the Bronx Museum of Art was free to get into tonight... so I swung by there after work since "if it's free, it's for me," plus, I do try to see the boroughs other than Manhattan sometimes.

Except for a couple trips to Yankee Stadium, I really haven't been to the Bronx at all.

So they had one main exhibit, "Street Art Street Life from the 1950s to Now." It had some of the generic stuff often associated with "street art," like random shots of city buildings and folks and some petty vandalism passed off as art ("the artist placed wine bottles in trees in the park and left them there" - whatever, that's just littering...), but this exhibit also had some pretty interesting "pieces" too.

Some were what I guess you'd call "performance pieces."

For instance, this French woman had her mother hire a private detective to tail her for a day. She knew what was going on, but the PI presumably thought it was a normal job.

So the woman went about a normal day and at the end of the day wrote a sort of a journal entry about her activities. That was later juxtaposed with the candid snapshots the PI took and his notes/version of events.

Sadly, the PI seemed either lazy or just not good at his job though. She got picked up by her friends in a car at eight and went out drinking until about four in the morning, and the PI's last notation was something like "8 o'clock: Subject drives home for the evening." Oops.

I wonder if the mom got a discount for the guy messing up?

My favorite had to be on "One Year Performance 1981-1982," where this dude spent the entire year outside in New York City. They had pictures, artifacts and video documenting the "adventure." I was fascinated.

The New York Times described it pretty succinctly in their review of the whole exhibit...
And it’s great to be reminded of extraordinary endurance pieces performed by the artist Tehching Hsieh.

For one, done in 1981 and 1982, he lived outdoors in the city for a solid year, never going inside, equipped with only what he could carry on his back. The show includes relics of the project, an extreme street version of Outward Bound: a video, some photographs and one of the photocopied maps of Manhattan on which he made notations of precisely where he had slept, dined and defecated on a given day.

Unfortunately, he did end up spending one night indoors during the year though... in jail. "The Man" is always messing things up, right?

Though I wasn't there too long, I saw the guy peeing at least three times and going number two by the harbor once on the video documenting the year. I guess he had a really boring existence for that year. A lot of the other clips consisted of him sitting at a fountain at this one park, looking very bored.

The guy's name is Tehching Hsieh and he was originally from Taiwan. He apparently did a performance piece like that once a year for a little while in the early 80's, ranging from living in a cage for a year to punching a time card every hour on the hour for a year.

Click on "artwork" on his page, aptly named, and it has info on each of his endeavors, which is kind of cool.

I still can't decide if the guy is a total nut job or brilliant, a little of both I guess. I know I would lose my mind trying to do some of the things he did. It also had to be a little weird for whoever was documenting/assisting with some of these "pieces," like the guy feeding him in a cage for a year... oh well.

Anywho, another video was of this woman somewhere in Europe in the 1960's (allegedly) protesting the gender roles portrayed on television (not a Donna Reed fan I guess?). So she went to a public square, wearing only a TV-looking box fastened to her torso as a top. The front of the "TV" was like a curtain. She let men reach into the "TV" and fondle her breasts (only for like 5 or 10 seconds at a time though, she counted). The idea was to see who would be willing to act that way in public with tons of random other people there to see.

How this protested unfair gender roles on TV? I'm not really sure, but she looked to be enjoying herself, and the men were too.

Maybe through her awareness campaign she helped usher in the age of shows featuring accomplished career-women - like "Charlie's Angels." A definite move in the right direction for society as a whole in my humble opinion. An even bigger leap for mankind was when they replaced Farrah Fawcett with Cheryl Ladd. Cheryl Ladd > Farrah Fawcett. Sorry, it's just a matter of fact.

Hmm... I wonder if they have any episodes on Hulu...

(P.S. They apparently do! Awesome.)

There was also a slideshow made by this British guy of pictures of random municipal objects from all over the world, broken into sections like garbage bins, benches, barricades and bollards.

That one was otherwise fairly uninteresting, except for where the building I work in made a cameo... word! During the part on bollards. The dude totally had a picture of the bollards separating the building I work in from the streets. I was pleased.

While there were definitely plenty of pictures and things in the exhibit that were wastes of time and space, overall I'd say it was definitely more interesting than I had expected.

Chalk one up for the Bronx.

Well, I figure I'll throw in a couple Bronx-related Overheard in New York quotes for good measure:

Old black lady: Bus driver, you a dumb motherfucker! You just turned down the wrong street!
Man: Don't worry, Mr. Bus Driver, I still have faith in you.
Old black lady, to man: Get your faggot-ass off the bus!

--8 bus, Bronx

Mother: See, it says these are endangered deer from China.
Tween daughter: I guess they are from China. Look at their slanty eyes!

--Bronx Zoo

Male lawyer #1: It's sad -- all I can think of is sex, and I hate that stereotype about male lawyers, that we're all some sort of horn dogs. [Pauses and sees female lawyer] God, I wanna fuck her.
Male lawyer #2: Dude, everyone does. All the guys wish her pussy was the bar exam.

--Bronx Small Claims Court (I can only hope the court my brother works at is like this one...)

Chick: He's either retarded... or from the Bronx.

--Hell's Kitchen

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