Reading + Whitney Biennial

Reading  -“Notes in Justification of Putting the Audience Through a Difficult Evening”

This article written by Wallace Shawn was in response to how people feel after watching his play Aunt Dan and Lemon, in which a sick woman called Lemon, who supported Nazism, told the audience about the overwhelming influence in her life of her parents’ friend “Aunt Dan,” an eccentric, passionate professor whose stories and seductive opinions enthrall Lemon from the time she is a young girl.

Shawn pointed out that a lot of us like to watch films about evil historical figures because we feel superior to people from that time. He challenged this kind of over-confidence and wrote the play to give people”an opportunity to look objectively at a group of people, to assess them, to react to them, and to measure oneself against them, to ask, ‘Am I like that?’

He also said “Intellectual clarity seems to be a very important weapon in the fight against evil, although ‘clarity’ is of course a very difficult concept to define.” I feel troubling on how can we own that “intellectual clarity” when we were put into a world which is on going and controversial instead of a known historical scenario? We judge historical figures according to the good/bad they already committed, which is so different from a present on going issue. I’m not sure intellectual clarity would 100% prevail. Moreover, how to define “evil” when there are media and close friends who could influence our thinking? Einstein discuss relativity in terms of space and time, while in real world, we live in relativity everyday. I don’t have any answer to this. But the first step might be like what Shawn said in the article “I think staying awake rather than falling asleep when people are talking to you is an important component of the definition of clarity.”

 

Whitney Biennale

We took a visit to Whitney Biennale last Thursday and I was deeply impressed by some of the pieces.

Matt Brownings untitled wood pieces

The wood grids looked almost the same until I observed it really closely. Living in the mass production world, it’s hard for us to tell if a product/piece is made by hand or machine. This piece reminds me of the beauty of imperfectness and nature. If a machine need 10 steps of procedure to make one grid, it could simply repeat the steps over and over again to make tons of them. While for Matt, every single carve on the wood was a combination of art,  technique, time and deliberation.

Jordan Wolfson’s “Real violence”

I’m not a fan of horror or splatter films. The fight scenes in Logan are my limits.  And when Jordan Wolfson put a look-so-real violence into a VR experience, I almost keeping looking at another direction during the whole three-minute assault. I have to say it’s so smart of him to make the piece in VR as it’s a scenario that we could hardly run away, the constrain of it forced us to have mental or physical activities – like look up or other ways or stare at the fight – and it did make the piece solid and strong.

Pacific Red II

A installation by Larry Bell, placed on the 5th floor terrace of Whitney. I observed it from top view last time during my last visit, and it looked like some plain red squares lying on a grid ground. While this time by observing it quite closely, I got different perspectives. It was really interesting to see the city view via these transparent boxes with different shades of red.

Samara Golden’s “The Meat Grinder’s Iron Clothes”

It’s a fantastic piece. We started discuss which part of room were reflected by which piece of mirror immediately after we saw it. I’ve seen her piece “The Flat Side of the Knife” in Shanghai before, which was a bit similar, but what“The Meat Grinder’s Iron Clothes” fascinated me most was that the whole piece was placed at big window of the balcony. By doing so, everything outside became part of the piece. The echo of  a dynamic outside view and the static inside scene made the whole piece more vivid and the scene in rooms, although in toy size, look like real in our real world.

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