Wednesday, November 19, 2008


"Skill, craft, technique, knack, facility, ability, know-how."

  Hmm... I suppose that can encompass just about anything. 
  Earlier this evening I entered the Centre Pompidou and sat on a bench reading a post that was to explain the art show I was about to view. Understand that I am one of those people that has to "be in the right mood" to really enjoy or have the patience for a given exhibition, especially one that is abstract such as the one I was on my way to... Well, as it turns out, I was in the "right mood" so just know that I went in with a very open mind. Anyway, the post I was reading went on to state that the pieces from artist Christian Bonnefoi are... Insert list of overly intellectualized oxymoronic adjectives here... I remember somewhere in the jumble of words it saying something about this man's art going against subjectivity. Wait a second! What? Now, I'll openly admit that I don't "know" the first thing about this sort of stuff, but something I've always felt that I solidly understood is this: Art, especially abstract art, is ALWAYS subjective. I believe this because that art can only be made by that artist and, for me, art always has some layer of personal emotion.  In either case I felt a little skeptical and a little intrigued at the same time. So I moved on to the show.
  Now, I'll tell you, I gave this my honest and best effort. I exercised patience along with keeping an open mind. I looked at the details and tried to think about what I'd read. Tried to figure out what it meant when he used tissue paper with yellow paint right there, then painted a jagged red line going across and over the top. I will admit that in the end I didn't "get it". I thought some of the pieces were pleasing look at... And I thought some of the pieces were not pleasing to look at. For me, it felt like total chance. Our class assignment in going to view this work was to write about something in the show that made us feel something. I don't know what the hell I felt. I think it might have been nothing. It seems to me that there are two possible scenarios. One, this artist is just getting his shit out in the best way he knows how. Two, he's just playing on the fact that people over analyse his work and going with it. In the first scenario communication doesn't really matter cause it's just him doing what he does. In the second scenario he either believes he's actually communicating with his audience or he knows he's not. Maybe I just don't speak this dude's language, but I didn't feel communicated to one bit. Oh well, it was sure interesting to think about though. 
  As it turns out, however, I did have a "favorite" piece. It was this piece that used some wooden framing with see through canvass or netting of some sort over the top. Then the canvass/netting was painted on in certain places. The displacement was, I think, supposed to give a 3-dimensional quality to it. Well it just so happened that the way the light in the museum was shining on it gave the illusion of almost pencil shading, but it was really just the shadow cast on the wall behind. Really cool, but unfortunately I think this was an accident... Or did this Christian Bonnefoi guy actually create and place the piece keeping in mind the exact angle of the light that would illuminate it during it's time in presentation? Hmmm... 

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Memorial to a good man

  I awoke this morning around 5 am to a my phone ringing. Not quite awake yet, I answered. The first thing I heard was the distressed voice of my very close friend Kym. Before my confusion got a chance to clear she spat out the heartbreaking news.
  To go back in time a bit I feel I should speak about our past. I met Kym through mutual friend, Ellen, about 7 years ago. Everything between her and I happened very naturally and, before long, we were in a relationship and traveling the world together. Those good times were compounded when we returned to the states and I met Kym's family. A wonderful group of 2 sisters, her mother, and her father. The second I walked through the door I was greeted with the warmest of regards which, considering the circumstances of steeling their beloved daughter and taking her to far off places, was a big surprise to me. We were all instantly friends. They, without any pre-requisites, invited me into their home like I was already part of the family. A main staple to this family and to Kym's life in general was her father, Michael. This man was not only truly loved and respected by his family, but by the community as well, as he involved himself deeply in the business of helping others that are less fortunate. I will never forget that first evening I met Michael and his parting words to me that night. Keep in mind I was a long haired, care free, 20 year old traveler. A that point in my life I never expected to meet a girlfriend's father and have him accept me so easily and with such an open heart. As I was on my way out the door that evening he stopped me, shook my hand, looked me in the eye, and said "thank you for taking care of my daughter" 
  Over the years many things have changed. Kym and I broke up eventually. We found ourselves in other relationships as well. Nothing changed with me and Michael. Every time I saw him I was always so amazed and inspired at how open he was. Even years after Kym and I's break up he still made me feel like a part of his family. 
  So, in the early hours of this morning, when I heard the words from Kym's shaky voice that her father had died from a massive heart attack... I simply did not know what to do, say, think, feel. Fuck that's heavy. I think for, my part, eventually I will be okay. The thing that truly and deeply breaks my heart is this; What about Kym, her sisters, and her mother? Michael was the life blood for those women and to know that he's left them to deal in a world without him makes me feel like the earth has been kicked off it's axis. That I cannot deal with. 
  There are so many things I want to say, but the thing I want to say most is to Michael himself; Michael, thank you for being a truly good man. 

Friday, October 17, 2008

Rambling off the beaten path

  So there I was. Standing, sweating, staring. My girlfriend (at the time) Kym stood with me. After a sleepless night on a messy third class train with little to no comfort, there we found ourselves peering across the border. All I could see was dust and people. I felt like I was in a movie. 
  Hmm, that's a funny thought. Looking back, any time I was ever traveling and did something or went somewhere that made me feel or day dream that I was in some sort of movie that hadn't been made yet, it was always a memory worth looking back on. I guess you could say that I travelled for those moments. I not only looked forward to them, but sought them out. 
  To get back... I found myself, in this particular moment, crossing the border from Thailand into Laos at some purposefully off the beaten track border crossing. I don't remember it's name. We continued on foot through the dust and pathetic attempt for an immigration building... Well, not really through, but right on past cause it was empty and locked up from what I remember. Well, we did get a stamp from somewhere, so I guess it wasn't totally abandoned. 
  It's always kinda funny thinking back to these memories for a few reasons. Of course, I talked about them all the time back when it was something that happened recently, but as the years go by, one begins to let them slip into the pot of collected experience and they sit there for longer and longer without being let out for air and disscusion. And when you do, you always forget all these little details like; How we found the border from the train platform, or in this case; How we got from crossing the border to riding in the back of a truck holding a bag of soda with a straw in it. It's also funny to think that accomplishing these things are actually some of the more difficult tasks at certain times. 
  To get back, there I was in the back of a truck sitting on a bench drinking some sort of really sugary soda from a straw in a plastic bag. The truck was completely crowded full of people getting rides back to their small villages. I looked up to Kym and posed a question. "why do you think they put the soda into these sacks?" At the precise moment of delivery I happened to notice, on the opposing side of the truck, a sack full of soda hanging from one of the bars of the bed covering. Understanding what to do then, I promptly found a bar for my own sack, hung it, then stretched out my legs over one of the many bags of rice cluttering the floor of the truck bed. It was going to be a long journey... But where were we going? 
  I must explain something about the way I prefer to travel. Plans, itineraries, routs, comfort... Out the door. The times I've had the best experiences were when I dropped all plans and found myself somewhere I didn't know existed. Since finding somewhere you didn't know existed is, to a point, based on luck, most of the time I just open my ears and wait for something that sounds interesting. In this case I'd heard about some place in southern Laos where there's 4,000 islands in the middle of a large river. That was enough for me. We were on our way from that knowledge ALONE. For that matter I feel it would be appropriate to say a word to Kym at this time; Kym, thank you for putting up with me. You were such a good sport. 
  Ok, where was I? Sack of soda, Truck, rice, people, Laos... Got it. Long journey indeed, especially since we really didn't know where the hell we were going. But somehow, by the grace of God, many hours later we arrived at a river bank to find a man with a boat that drove us out into what appeared to be an entire archipelago of islands. The only thing occupying the islands were families with little farms. No buildings, only little bamboo bungalows... Oh, and hammocks! After a long and perfectly lit sunset cruise we arrived on the shore to one of the islands. Don't ask me which one cause I didn't and probably will never know. It was a small island. Walking around the whole thing only took about 20 minutes or so. Nothing but farms, bungalows, pigs, and wonderful locals. Oh, I guess there were the other travelers too. I'd like to pretend that we found some far off place that no other westerner has ever set foot on... But the reality is that such a place does not exist. If it did, and you managed to find it, guess what? Just by you being there it would be tainted and ruined. The plus to running into other travelers in such a far off location, however, is that, since it's quite a difficult place to get to, they usually tend to be fairly like minded folk. The rule normally goes: the harder the place to get to, the cooler the travelers tend to be. Exceptions to the rule usually mean India. In the case of India the rule is normally as follows: The harder the place to get to, the more fucked up and whacked out the travelers are... Which is a whole different ball game. Anyway, the people we ran into on this tiny island in the middle of the Mekong river in Laos happened to be wonderful. We all enjoyed many recreational days together with activities including watching fresh water dolphins in the river, taking long walks, hanging out in hammocks, and drinking opium tea. Usually the hammocks and the tea were simultaneous. 

  God I must must must go back and try to find that place again someday.