strictures and structures

if only we stopped trying to be happy, we could have a pretty good time

Month: November, 2017

Lisbon partnered dance report

I can’t recommend it. With the exception of one swing night, there’s nothing to do but kizomba. If you’re not a fan of close embrace right off the bat, like me, there’s little to do here. At Barrio Latino, at least, it’s too crowded to do anything but close embrace, which cuts off a lot of interesting vocabulary.

There have been only two times in my life where someone walked out of a dance with me halfway through, and I’m sorry to say that Barrio Latino, Lisbon, was the site of the second time. This is the rudest thing you can do to someone, short of insulting them outright.

I asked another guy there what the deal was, and he just said that the Portuguese were very arrogant. Considering he was French, that’s saying quite a bit.

I don’t know why the other dance reports I read online were so glowing, but my AirBnB host said that gentrification has proceeded at a mind-boggling pace. The price of rent in Lisbon doubled within a year, which makes San Francisco look sane in comparison. So maybe the Portuguese have gotten more unfriendly in the last couple years.

Why is modern art so damn boring?

I made the mistake of going to a modern art museum today. I stood before a big yellow triangle that invited me to contemplate its massiveness, its yellowness, and its angliness. And nothing else. I attempted to let my mind fill with yellow, to consider the purity of the three straight lines. And I just couldn’t do it. I got bored and left after ten seconds.

Why is modern art so damn boring? It’s too reductive. Deriving meaning from some colored shape relies on seeing its relationships with other colored shapes. Trying to appreciate a giant installation that’s nothing but a big vertical stripe feels wrongheaded for the same reasons that attempting to derive Newton’s laws from studying a single point mass would be. The most interesting truths lie in the studying of interactions. You would never learn about gravity from studying a closed system with a single point mass, and any experience of yellowness that you get from looking at a big yellow triangle will be similarly stunted. It’s too cerebral, too pure, too sterile.

You can tell all this abstract art is a failure to communicate when you have to, have to, read the informational placard that comes with it. This, even if you are already familiar with several centuries’ worth of art history, and have years of experience studying drawing. A piece of visual art should speak for itself. It shouldn’t need help from a completely different medium. I’ve become accustomed to seeing exhibits and considering the artwork and its accompanying placard together as a single piece of work. I rather doubt that this is what any of the original artists ever intended.

It’s not that abstract art is hard to get. It’s that there’s too little to get. You get it, you absorb it, and then you think, damn, is this all there was? Sadly, the answer is yes.