At the main entrance of pavilion 7, the booth for Helga de Alvear was buzzing with TV cameras and press photographers. As camera crews were filming de Alvear being interviewed in the mist of controversy, her face stoic and unresponsive, I walked straight to this Thomas Demand photograph to the left of her and thought “I saw you in Venice.’
The ice was melting in the glass bowls that had once chilled Champagne and the catering staff was packing away long plastic tubes filled with winter fruit. The fair will already filled with people and there was no wait to get in. I had clearly missed a morning party.
I kept finding myself being drawn to a well represented group of Berlin galleries and German artists, almost as if I was looking for a familiar face. However, I also couldn’t help but notice and secretly chuckle at the one lone Philip Guston painting at Hauser & Wirth behind the gallerist desk placed almost like an impulse buy and a segment of the former Cuba pavilion from the Venice Biennale at another booth.
A series of unfortunate coincidences that made me think of amor fati and my own self-representation (a serious case of bad PR) has caused hell and havoc within the confines of my mind. That I was somehow grossly throwing out slanders into the world and hurting people in ways I didn’t even know. That somehow even though my physical presence wasn’t there, this person could still feel me lurking around trying to pick a lock (okay maybe this is true). That I was using sacred and meaningful words and attaching them to the river Po or a peach pastry so that if you took the association two steps further in the wrong direction, it’d be covered in shit and I’d be eating it. That simply knowing I’m out in the world eulogizing a remembrance not even my own but of someone else’s love story had to be stopped, silenced. That I was some Louise Joséphine Bourgeois spider trying to weave myself into a narrative I was left out of and seeking young blood.
Paranoia, as though everyone was in on it, friends and strangers alike. When your upstanding friend’s 2-year-old daughter and a Greek art blogger with sexual tendencies both start telling you hand is foot, something is up. This innocuous and rather naive blog with writings of E. M. Forster daydreams, came alive in the most macabre fashion. And these people seemed angry, ready to send me to prison.
I kept looking where I shouldn’t, it had become an habitual tick. It had been going on for years but things changed last year when more antagonists entered the picture and I soon realized I wasn’t the only one who knew some version of the story. The general consensus seemed to be “You’re Calypso thinking you’re Sicily.” I can see how insufferable my IG account would be to someone who believed this. I kept looking in the same place for a different answer, but the light in which I was seen never changed but the way I was seeing myself was changing. I was starting to feel the most negative and at times positive emotions in the most real ways.
The entrance to the prisons of the Palazzo Ducale are blocked with lines of shore excursion tourists from the steady stream of cruise boats parading into Venice. It’ll be a long time on the Bridge of Sighs before I ever get in. That is why I couldn’t see the catacombs of Gente di Palermo by Gordon Douglas.
I spotted three middle-aged American gallery girls in London having the same problem I was, finding the entrance to the Basquiat exhibition at the Barbican. We tried to enter a cinema, crossed the street, crossed back over, and then finally realized the entrance was buried deep in the underpass. Then somehow we managed to get lost separately once inside and then meet again at the ticket counter, that is how large the center is.
This was a Thursday in mid-December and perhaps the record crowds had already come and gone but the staff was still left creating a three staff for every 1 visitor ratio. There was even a staff worker opening doors, which made me feel like I should have given him 20p.
When I entered the exhibition, the space felt wrong and the image greeting me felt wrong. The space consisted of two floors with small cubicles along the sides of the upper floor and a larger ground floor in the center and a staircase next to a cinema projection screen in the middle. Projected onto the screen, you had a silent film on loop of Basquiat not painting or speaking but rather what could only be described as prancing around in place. This central image had to remain mute as the smaller rooms had his voice audible in the form of interviews, spoken poetry (4 corners of the earth on repeat), or films.
I wanted to go straight to the paintings on the ground floor but was told to go up the stairs, then I wanted to turn right, away from the crowds, but was told to start from the left. Patrolled and restricted, I had to start the exhibition in chronological order. It soon became apparent that I was being given a biographical account almost like how Obama wrote his autobiography before he ran for president, that if we knew his story, we’d vote for him. The approach seemed similar in manner, that somehow if the visitor was introduced to Basquiat’s biography and contextualized in his time, we’d be convinced of his merit. I thought back to the Cy Twombly exhibition at the Centre Pompidou earlier in the year and remembered just rooms and rooms of his paintings. That is what I wanted here but was given something else.
Not that biography isn’t important, I stood looking at the painting above and thinking so this is how/ when Madonna became the number 1 cartoon breakfast cereal, but a sense of speed was lost (a defining quality) as the result of the slow pace of learning his biography and those cubicles were like rest stops I didn’t want to take.
When I did finally get to the large-scale paintings, I wondered who has all of his work, Leonardo DiCaprio? Once you look at the paintings, you notice how clear the colors are and the lines of the text clean. You are given the feeling of first stroke was the last stroke, winning at the first punch.
After the exhibition, I left seeing the gardens of the Barbican to lazy chance and it didn’t cross my path. I looked for the restrooms but found none. In the end, I left with a carrot muffin having only found the cafe.
When a moment of unseen clarity erupts from its hard shell and becomes a colored, delicate light form leaving behind its dark liquid state, this is the image I want in my mind this new year and that they may all connect into a central living heart and feed other ideas. To the ideas about to die, the intensity of its color coalescing in the center to then go down into donut holes.
In Godfather III, Michael Corleone dies a dog’s death in the relentless Sicilian sun. He topples over from his throne filled with hate and holding an orange with a dog next to him, his face hitting the arid sand. Sans family, sans love, sans everything.
Michael Corleone, the only son with an American name, begins the story in the film dressed in military uniform returning home a war hero and bringing home an American girlfriend, telling her that (violence) is my family it’s not me. But every time he interacts with the outside world, they see him through his family, they see mafia guinea. When Michael does finally pledge his allegiance to his father, who doesn’t feel a certain joy when he says I’m with you now.
If in a Balzac novel the social climbing hero recently moved to Paris has to shed his provincial ways to make every gesture one of social grace or else he’d give himself away, then in America he has to erase traces of his heritage. No more buying oranges, lawyers not violence, and get that cannoli out of my house. Along Michael Corleone’s journey to becoming American and less Sicilian, moving from the criminal underworld to the world above, you have other Americans who came and settled just a little bit before him, telling him no matter how much money he makes or how much he tries to be, he will never be American. You’ll always be a puppet you muppet. But the world above has just as many crooks and dishonest men as the world below, different weapon same intent.
The higher he climbs and the cleaner he makes his money, the more he loses his loved ones. His intentions were good and yet where does Michael Corleone go so wrong, even he wonders by the end “why am I so hated?”
There were two books lying on top of a row of books. When I picked up one in an excited manner, the other one fell behind the other books.
“I wrote my masters thesis on this book!” (It was Foer’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close)
“I’m interested in the other book.”
He walked over and reached his hand behind the books to pick it up.
“Pick any line from this book and it’s wisdom,” he said. For him, that book was love.
I looked over and read the title, “The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again)”
“But Andy Warhol was an asshole.” I took the book in my hand and briefly scanned it, thinking wisdom?
Long after this conversation ended and I was no longer apart of his life, I read as much of Andy Warhol as I could but there was no other line I liked more than that phrase inside the parentheses outside on the cover. So I kept using it and repeating it like this… from A to B and back again.
“Something beautiful. Something true … then, out of nowhere, a flock of birds flew by the window, extremely fast and incredibly close. Maybe twenty of them. Maybe more. But they also seemed like just one bird, because somehow they all knew exactly what to do…” Foer, found right in the middle of the book.