Gimme Champagne and Some Filthy Rich Lovers of Paint

Last Spring, I told anyone who would listen that I wanted to open an art gallery. I don’t know anything about the logistics of this process, but I do know that I love thick paint, tortured and methodical artists alike, and the prospect of entering a market that involves aesthetics, occasional political engagement, and investors with grossly expendable income. When my boss, who knew nothing of this dream of mine, offered my coworker and I a VIP pass to ARCO Madrid, I said YES baby, a million times yes.

I imagined it this way: I’d be welcomed with a glass of champagne, on a red carpet; under golden light, I’d rub elbows with Madrid’s elite. Maybe, I thought, if I managed to perfect an attitude of both intrigue and boredom, I might get my foot in the door of some cool Nordic gallery. In reality, the VIP pass meant we had access to a free coat-check service, a complementary rum cocktail, and an overpriced lunch. No complaints there, of course, but the nature of  my personality meant that I approached no one and networked primarily with the walls. Also, the lights were fluorescent.

By the end of the afternoon, I was no longer sure what counted as art. Was the cleaning woman part of a performance piece? weren’t the fire extinguishers arranged rather evocatively? what could that man’s bald spot possibly represent? (Defiance in the face of destiny, perhaps.) And how about that contrast between the service-woman and the suit-clad executive? Might we take a moment to reflect upon the many uses there are for hands?

I am told, anyway, that this is a rather common side effect of attending contemporary art fairs.

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Here’s the thing about today.

In September on the subway in Astoria I was reading Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks while a barber shop quartet sang “Stand by Me.” Oli delivered a dim prognosis re: our future ear health. Deafness and hearing loss will increase exponentially, he hypothesized. The human head is not accustomed nor adapted to being plugged with high-decibel rock music and Bieber-bops. Over time, our love of music could destroy our mega-important, mega-irreplaceable cilia.

So I started listening to music at more respectable levels. Because of Oli and also because I began imagining the members of KISS, tongues out and leather on, swinging from my cilia every time I ignored a volume warning.

But the thing about today is that I didn’t feel like having my metro-mates’ nasty, mucous-laden coughs as a backdrop to the musical I was making up in my head.

So I let Thin Lizzy drown out strangers’ February flus and I thought of how I’d choreograph the whole song on Line 5 and I looked down at my coat, still stained with churro chocolate, and I thought ears be damned.

WebMD for The Middle-class Millenial Woman

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La Tabacalera, Madrid. December 2016. Photos by Juan Manual Castro Prieto.

Symptoms

Fatigue

  • You’re tired. You want to stop, but you can’t. Lattes and sunsets and quirky glassware flash before your eyes.

Existential Unease

  • If your breakfasts aren’t beautiful… do you exist?
  • If you don’t read poetry in sunbeams, do you actually understand it?
  • If you go on vacation and don’t document every moment of it, if you don’t spread your arms wide for a photo opp in front of the sea, did you really go?
  • Is the cure for depression and anxiety as easy as reading a Top 10 Reasons to Live list?

Generalized Embarrassment About Ultimately Inconsequential Bullshit:

  • You just washed your hair with shower gel for the third day in a row (lifehack: shower gel and shampoo are almost the same thing–you won’t die if you substitute one for the other on a poor or lazy day/week/month).
  • There are three empty water bottles under your bed and the only explanation you can offer is “pure, unadulterated laziness.”
  • You drank a can of Diet Coke and ate a slice of bread “for dinner.”
  • You’ve never had a manicure.
  • You went to sleep with your asymmetrical eyeliner still on last night.
  • The socks on your feet don’t match.
  • You’d rather spend an afternoon in an old man bar than at Kelsey’s new vegan venture.

Anger:

  • WHY ARE THESE PEOPLE DRINKING SO MANY LATTES?
  • Life doesn’t look like this! Life is gross! Life is that old guy at the dark convenience store (they’re trying to save on electricity) who walked in smoking a cigar, asking for change. Life is the waiter with gnarly body odor you had today. Life is Eileen Myles writing a poem called Peanut-butter that begins I am always hungry/ & wanting to have sex. Life is that lady laying on the ground at the Paseo de Prado. Life is watching a man change into his Quixote costume. Fine, whatever, it’s gorgeous, too. Life is gorgeous, but it’s not made of pastels or lists or aerial shots of eggs Benedict.

Possible Diagnosis

You fell into a scroll-hole on a lifestyle blogger’s Instagram, didn’t you? Whatta dummy.

Treatment

Go outside. Respect the lifestyle ladies and men, anyway, for working hard and making a living marketing lives that don’t look like yours does. They must wonder what the fuck? from time to time, too. But that doesn’t sell.

Very Serious Notes from A Photo Exhibition

This post is sponsored by my love for street photography and secret obsession with private people/hoarders.

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Untitled — Vivian Maier

Alternative titles:

“How I feel about making a LinkedIn”
“How I feel after fifteen minutes in a shopping mall”
“How I feel when no one wants to dance”
“How Ryan Lochte felt on his way home?”
“How I feel when someone asks me if Americans eat vegetables”
“How I looked after Spain’s last elections”

I went to the Vivian Maier exhibition at Fundación Canal in Madrid before I went home this summer and I could not contain my laughter when I saw this photo. I must have stood in front of it for a solid five minutes, which in exhibition time is: yo foreal, can you get the hell out of the way? I committed it to memory and used my hotel reservation, the only paper I could find, to write myself a reminder: “Whatever you do, do not forget Viv’s crying boy.” I imagined I looked art student chic doing that, but if anyone was watching they’d have seen the truth: a sweaty weirdo laughing alone at the museum. 

Vivian’s story is fascinating in all of my favorite ways. An eccentric woman by all accounts, she spent most of her adult life working as a nanny in Chicago. She also spent that time waltzing through the streets with her camera, amassing over one-hundred thousand photos and a good bit of super 8 film footage. She had a sharp eye for the strange, beautiful, and ugly things that pulse through every city. The strange part is that she kept the photos, film, and negatives under lock and key. They were discovered two years prior to her death by a young man at an auction (a la Storage Wars) who paid 400 dollars for the lot. In an age when even our most mundane moments are Instagrammed and #inspiring, the things people don’t share take on a special intrigue. So it probably goes without saying that there’s a lot of speculation about her motives. There’s even a documentary about it, which I haven’t seen and probably won’t. As far as anyone knows, she never tried to sell or exhibit her work, so her posthumous fame is almost offensive, the ultimate betrayal of American ambition.

Mystery aside, her photos are well worth seeing. The exhibition in Madrid is over, but there are quite a few others around the world.

Stay blessed,
Seo