The CAA conference proved to be an interesting experience. Everyone walks around wearing name tags, so instead of searching for faces we look for names. The first session had us sitting in front of Robert Ousterhout, famed Byzantinist who teaches at Penn. How did we know? Name tag. Giddy feelings circulated among us.
The following day I ended up at the morning session, late, but in time to hear two of the best lectures of the conference.
-Theirs, Mine, or Ours? Untangling the Experience of Ancient Art
Irene Winter, Harvard University
-Talking to Statues and Conversing with the Dead
Ingrid D. Rowland, University of Notre Dame School of Architecture, Rome Program
These ladies knew how to weave a story, entertaining us with joy. The panel was entitled Experience, and each discussed the role of the historian in his own research. There was some provocative exploration of the historian who borders on fetishistic, wooed by his objects.
Between sessions we fit in a refreshing walk to the edge of Central Park.
Carved/Recarved: The Surface of Sculpture
-Transforming the Antique: Donatello and the Martelli David
A. Victor Coonin, Rhodes College
-Gothic Recarves Gothic: The Case of the "Annunciata della Porta del Campanile" in the Museum of the Opera del Duomo in Florence
Francesco Di Ciaula, Museum of the Opera del Duomo, Florence
-A French Face-Lift for a Seated King at the Metropolitan Museum
Ludovico Geymonat, Bibliotheca Hertziana-Max Planck Institut für Kunstgeschichte
-The Nineteenth-Century "Fonte Gaia": Quercesque Vision or Purist Revision?
Chiara Scappini, Rutgers University
-Carving, Recarving, and Forgery: Working Ivory in the Tenth and Twentieth Centuries
Anthony Cutler, Pennsylvania State University
Anthony Cutler, Byzantinist, is another of those prolific scholars. I was holding my breath for his arrival at the podium, thinking of the image I had conjured of him to match his writing style. I imagined something like a masculine European with thick black hair, a heart breaker. His confidence as a scholar and writer leaves me feeling like I've been seduced. In my methodology class we often wondered what these guys looked like, at one point we started including snapshots with discussions. Usually they were unsurprising nerd-ish. Anthony Cutler turned out to be a small and frail man, whose hands shook through his entire presentation. That did not stop him from working the crowd with his acerbic wit and never ending knowledge. I think we were all mesmerized and/or bordering on slumber since he spoke for nearly an hour (at the end of a two and half hour session) with a very lilting voice. No one dared to cut him short, because it's Anthony Cutler!!!
Later that evening my room mate, Sophia, and I had Vietnamese sandwiches and discussed art with an artist (!, so unusual). One thing that came up was a show that he highly recommended: Christian Marclay, The Clock, at the Paula Cooper Gallery, a "24-hour timepiece that ticks off the minutes — and sometimes the seconds — of a full day, using thousands of brilliantly spliced-together film clips from all kinds of movies. All of them feature clocks or watches or people announcing the time, or more obliquely conjure up the passage of time." (Read more in the NYT link above)
This is the only video that I could find, it's a bit silly but still worth taking a look at. I forgot about the show until the next day when I got up early to see this session:
The Erasure of Contemporary Memory, Part I
-Archives for the Future: New Media Art and the Erasure of Memory
Timothy Murray, Cornell University
Renate Ferro, Cornell University
-Video Art as Prosthetic Memory
Jacqueline Millner, University of Sydney
-Illegibility: Luc Tuymans’s Strategies of Obfuscation in History Painting
Alison Gass, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
-“You Sir Are a Space Too!” What Ad Reinhardt and Jacques Derrida Have to Tell Us about Erasure
Bruce Barber, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University
-Eroding Documentary: Walker Evans and the Polaroid
Katherine Alcauskas, Yale University Art Gallery
Jacqueline Millner, in her fascinating talk, brought up a personal experience she'd had while watching a similar sort of film called Love, from 2003. In this case, she was in Brisbane and the artist was Tracey Moffatt. In her film, Moffatt has spliced together penultimate love scenes from Hollywood movies from the last sixty years. Her work interrogates the connection between familiar memory and present time response through the presentation of images that are at times, misogynistic, racist, stereotypical, or violent. Despite these cliches, the familiarity and seemingly intimate relationship to the imagery, both in content and context, can cause emotional response.
Millner described how the short film sent her into sobs, right in the middle of a stark gallery. She showed us a clip and sure enough it only took a few minutes to make me feel something. She brought up James Elkins' book Pictures and Tears: A History of People Who Have Cried in Front of Paintings which asks why people cry or do not cry in the presence of art, comparing the religious "compunctive" tears to modern ones. It is a good question and as I contemplated it, I thought back to The Clock and I decided I had to see it. Alas, I was not the only one who was interested. After waiting in line for nearly an hour with I swear one hundred people, I gave up. And I am sad that I did because that was the final weekend.
Slightly more surreal: while passing through Times Square on my way back to our temporary place in the West Village, I saw the news projected on huge screens: manhunt on for 24 hour killing spree in Brooklyn. Giving chase overnight in Manhattan's subway tunnels, he was captured Saturday morning right where the news reel that I saw was running on a loop. Apparently he stabbed someone on the train who was reading a news article about him! There is something strange here about the collision of coverage and events.
The most viscerally magical moment of the trip, for me, came after a tranquil lunch at HanGawi, in Koreatown . While putting my shoes back on I heard a distinct voice and covertly scanned the surroundings to find: Antony of Antony and the Johnsons! Thrilled, my eyes lingered and drifted for only a second. I was then rewarded with the one and only Bjork, Antony's dining companion. My heart was pounding in that little Korean oasis. I made myself look away and give them privacy, but hearing their voices was so transporting, I was on cloud 9.
This woman played a large part in my formative teenage years and through my adult life. One of the most memorable concerts I've been to was at Radio City Music Hall in 2001, where I saw her perform on the Vespertine tour.
Although I had big plans to take advantage of the free entrance to all museums perk, I didn't spend more than twenty minutes in the MoMA and I skipped the Museum of Biblical Art. I wanted to be outside, soaking up the energy of a world unlike my own, cloistered in book stacks. Sunday was a day of adventuring with no agenda, other than to find Bond Street, which took us on twists and turns through Soho. Before departing I caught Somewhere at the Angelika and decided that even though Marie Antoinette was a misstep, I actually really enjoyed Sofia Coppola's latest. I found it to be relaxing, a transitory atmosphere that seemed right for just that moment in time.
At the train station I picked up a beautiful little book, On Solitude by Michel de Montaigne, a sixteenth-century Humanist writer. There are essays in the book which range from the virtues of solitude, the pleasures and dangers of reading and books, the importance of sleep and why we sometimes laugh and cry at the same time. So far, it's proving to be quite extraordinary.
Finally, A. O. Scott's pick of the week seems to weave all of these things together.