Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Don't Let's Talk About Art Tonight

Right before Christmas, I managed to finish Alexandra Fuller's first novel Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight.

The story recalls her childhood growing up in Africa, the daughter of two tough living, alcoholic, down on their luck white farmers in war-torn Rhodesia. It's an amazing, visceral tale which is at turns both horrific and humorous. Alexandra writing captures her childhood experience amazingly, while never becoming precious or affected. She writes the way I wished I could have during NaNoWriMo several years ago.

I'm pretty sure this will be my favorite book of the year, in a year where I've read several exceptional books.

But, at the same time, I'm glad that I was able to finish it before I began opening my Christmas presents, because I got quite a few books this year, including (un)Fashion (which I was pining about a few entries back) and David Byrne's newest book Arboretum.

Arboretum is Byrne's attempt to create organic graphs, forms and charts to show the connection of various words and concepts. The resulting forms and charts are interesting enough, but the real meat-and-potatoes can be found in the four foot long fold out section at the back of the book. In it, he discusses a number of the charts, their meaning and his process in creating them. It reads like the Director Commentary on the Musings of David Byrne's Brain.

It's the sort of high-minded silliness that he's known for. Which is fine by me, because Byrne could write about planting potatoes and I'd still find it interesting. In fact, his latest blog entry pretty much proves it.

In it, he begins by talking about his theories (and those of an author who's book he’d just read) on the role of art in society. Particularly its role in attracting members of the opposite sex, and how that was all inverted and had to be redefined after the industrial revolution and the invention of the camera. This then segues into him recounting his recent trip to Miami for a gallery show, and the work he saw there. Which, in turn, segues into his discussing Miami, its evolving culture and architecture*. And I find the whole thing captivating.

In fact, after being under whelmed and frustrated at Seattle's last First Thursday (the monthly gallery walk), I actually found that reading his thoughts on art got me interested and excited about fine art again. Just in time to stumble across this today...

With few wolves scattered in the front gallery, all ninety-nine 99 life-sized replicas of wolves run, gallop, and jump toward the far end of the exhibition hall, where a wall stands. The bravery of the wolves is met head on by the unyielding wall. As the leading wolves go down, many more follow with force and determination. As those in the front fall and pile up, those behind take up their positions.

Now, regardless of meaning, I think you'd be hard pressed to find someone who wouldn't find that impressive to see.OK, and a little grisly too. But, I know I'd love to see it in person. I don't really know anything about the artist, Cao Guoqiang but that piece (as well as some others in his collection, like these arrow-filled tigers) are amazing.

Or at least more interesting that anything I saw a couple weeks ago.

* The architecture was particularly interesting to me since he talked about some of the hotels seen in the James Bond movie, Goldfinger. I just watched the movie last night, as part of my recent obsession with James Bond… something I’ll most likely bore you all with later.


ambika said...

I read 'Don't Lets Go to the Dogs...' when I was living in Prague. It was one of many travel-themed memoirs (including an amazing book about growing up in an Italian castle between the wars whose title I can never remember) that got passed around among the teachers. Good stuff.

The General said...

Yeah, I was surprised how much I liked it. Sarah read it about a year ago, and enjoyed it and recommended it to me. But, it had been sitting next to my bed since then. But, once I got a couple chapters in, it really hooked me and I ended up just blowing through it... or at least as close as I can come to blowing through something with the slow speed that I read it.