Saturday, May 3, 2008

NY Event Number Five: Visiting the Brooklyn Museum

My friend Brooke and I do something we like to call Sunday Dates. It started out about a year ago, when we started hanging out outside of work (where we met and continue to spend the majority of our time, together or apart) on Sunday evenings, the only night either of us seemed to have free and also when neither of us had to work the next day. So every few Sundays or so we would get together and do something that at least one of us hadn't done yet. Because of our schedules and various other to-dos, we've occasionally had to shelve the "Sunday" part of the date, and do something called Weekday Dates, which never seem quite as cool as the concept of Sunday Dates, despite being just as fun. This week we went on a Saturday Date (which is not as much fun to say as either Sunday Date or Weekday Date--I blame the number of syllables) to the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Every first Saturday of the month, the museum is open and free between the hours of 5PM and 11 for an event called Target Saturdays. There's usually live music, occasionally performance art, and other special presentations (film showings, etc.) surrounding the common theme of the evening. This night it was "Japan in Brooklyn." My bff (I know I'm twenty-three, but I can still say that, can't I?) Kate was in town from Boston to visit, under the guise of looking for bridesmaid dresses for her wedding (we never actually got to it, though we did brunch Sunday morning and then saw "Iron Man," which, to me, is almost better than a wedding), so I grabbed her at Port Authority, and we headed down to Brooklyn in the evening.

The Brooklyn Museum of Art is a pretty impressive building, as is most of the substantial surrounding architecture in that area--the Soldiers' and Sailor's Arch and the Brooklyn Public Library are right around the corner at Grand Army Plaza, and the beauty of Prospect Park I think cannot be debated. It is simply fact. Actually, the BPL reminds me a bit of the fascist architecture in the E.U.R. district of Rome.

The featured exhibit was of Takashi Murakami's work (hence "Japan in Brooklyn"), but we skipped that because we'd still have to pay to get in. Kate and I started on the first floor ("...a very good place to start...") in the African section which was pretty cool and had a lot of great masks. We moved upstairs to the Decorative Arts area and met Brooke, and we meandered through various exhibits of home decor as art, or art as home decor, whichever you prefer. One of the really cool parts of this section was seeing whole rooms transplanted from homes and displayed in a museum, in order to showcase design choices from various periods and locations. I can't imagine what it would take to disassemble a room, and then construct it to its original layout in a new space. This just seems very strange to me--it's not just furniture we're talking about: it's floorboards, it's walls, it's crazy. And in one of the rooms there was a toy Noah's Ark with all of the animals circling into it, two by two, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Then we went to the Egyptian floor, which was less exciting to me. While I really love the mythology of ancient Egypt and do appreciate some of it's art just in terms of the shape and boldness of much of it (hieroglyphics are awesome, and all the adornment reminds me of something I miss a lot from the ceremony of the Catholic mass: the drama and spectacle that comes when man tries to capture the divine), I have a severe and strange prejudice against the desert. I hate sand. I hate Westerns (except for "Tombstone," and only then because of Val Kilmer as, let's face it, he is the only redeeming part of that film.). I could not get through "The English Patient," or "Lawrence of Arabia" despite my affection for both Ralph Fiennes and Peter O'Toole, and it took a while for me to warm up to "Firefly." Also I dislike the jungle. Perhaps in a past life I was buried alive in sand or devoured by a crocodile in some lost swamp, but whatever the reason, whenever I stumble upon these types of exhibits I tend to shut off. Kate and I were also getting hungry, so we bounced soon after exploring one of the interactive computer touch screens installed in the wing, and celebrated our own "Japan in Brooklyn" by eating sushi a few blocks away from Grand Army Plaza.

Some things taken away from this experience to consider in terms of creating art at a later date:
1) The transformative power of a mask.
2) And isolated room, put on display. (Honestly, this is kind of a stolen idea {try to find something on the Tartuffe McCarter did last fall} but still something interesting to consider...)
3) That toy Noah's Ark image, and other implications (children understanding disaster simplicity as something that just happens, before they learn to ask why), as well as our relationships with toys and how they change as we get older. Or, still perhaps more interesting, how they don't change. And can anyone do anything with toys on stage now without being called a Julie Taymor poser right off the bat?

Despite my misgivings when it comes to Egyptian displays, I'm happy to get out and let myself be exposed to what other cultures and people have produced because it keeps my own gears turning. I'm trying to stay available, and one of the great things about Sunday Dates is that it forces me to do so. They are something that I will miss an awful lot when I'm away, in part due to the company.

Which brings me to something else: part of the reason I've been doing anything at all these past few weeks in terms of taking advantage of the city is because of my friends, getting me out and taking me places. If I were left to my own devices, I would seriously not do anything except watch Netflixed movies in my apartment all the live long day and avoid my abusive cat. How will I find the gumption to get myself out of my Anglican hovel to see any of that new city, without these people near me? I suppose there are other friends to make, but I will miss a lot the friends I have, and the friends I've just been finding over this past year.

Aw, Brookes. You'll have to visit me some Sunday in England!

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