“People will understand better and better that I was opening doors on another future, against all prejudices, all fanaticisms. When I see a tree I get a shock, as though it were something that breathes, that talks. A tree is also something human. I find my way to the absolute essence of nature, and my landscapes have nothing to do with exterior reality. When I stand in front of a canvas, I never know what I’m going to do–and nobody is more surprised than I at what comes out. Empty spaces, empty horizons, empty plains–everything that has been stripped bare has always made a strong impression on me. In my paintings, the forms are both immobile and mobile. They are immobile because the canvas is an immobile support. They are immobile because of the cleanness of the contours and because of the kind of framing that sometimes encloses them. But precisely because they are immobile, they suggest motion. I’m not interested in any school or any artist. Not one. I’m only interested in anonymous art, the kind that springs from the collective unconscious. I paint the way I walk along the street. I pick up a pearl or a crust of bread and that’s what I give back, what I collect.”
– Joan Miro
The chance of seeing the work of Joan Miro at the Centre Pompidou certainly widens the eyes of those that place value in the pedagogy of the spaces that we experience. Often we fall into new worlds via the page or the cinema, but rarely are we given the opportunity of authentically experiencing “the birth of a new world” through the interaction we have with the language of space within which we exist. Beginning with the Autoportrait of 1919 and flourishing with a muted yet resounding trumpet call in the Peinture of 1933, the collection of works takes the viewer on a journey inside the mind of Miro. If, however, the journey remained solely one of voyeurism, it would be unlikely worthy of an exegesis.
The introductory quote at the entrance of the exhibit is from Bataille. This quote points the viewer towards the secret of the exhibit: the intimate connection between Miro and the intellectual and artistic community of Paris. It suggests that Miro is concerned with attacking primordial and metaphysical questions. What follow will not be an experience of Bretonian surrealism or Dalian shock. The stage is constructed from the mind of the one who enters. For most of the viewers, the paintings will remain still, grounded in 21st century Paris. It will stop at the question of a viewing subject opposed to a represented object. Still, a possibility exists that the eye will be captured and present-day Paris will be forgotten for the pleasure of another world delivered via the interaction between the viewer as artist and the artist as viewer.
Miro asks how the application of paint to a canvas can speak to the world around him as experienced rather than as seen. How is one to accommodate for the wandering eye of the conversant at a table who not only picks up the red of my shirt, but the cat snaking between my feet, the basilica in the distance, and the swirling of clouds in the sky? How can pigment in suspension speak to a figure that wants to actively change the world around him? This question stems from a discourse that debates the extent to which the world is represented by an individual – the anonymous subject – as opposed to a world represented collectively through the discourse itself.
In the works before 1922, Miro leaves formal representational mutations aside and concentrates on putting expression into a stylized mode of representation drawn from intuition and discourse with his contemporaries. He adds faces to walls, exaggerates the fertility of a women through strategically placed green, brings humanity to rabbits, and adds compositional motion, and thus feeling / life, to planes. During these early works, he brings humanity to precisely grouped colors on the canvas by working out a harmony between the subjective nature of these figures and a language of symbolic forms drawn from things that generally are considered objective. Through blurring the manner in which he represents space, and humans in that space, he creates a composite manner of painting. An organic unity between man and nature is suggested by prompting the viewer of the canvas to identify “a circle sprouting lines” as much with “eyes projecting into the world” as with “roots taking hold in the earth.”
To create a language drawn from the people and spaces we experience does not go to a great enough extreme. There is still the question of what lies behind these symbols. From where is an artist to take a stand in order to express the psychological assimilation of figure and ground. It is not Miro’s project to destroy representation in our world. If he did so, he would deny his fundamental desire to create a world on a plane experienced by a viewer that shows that viewer precisely the world that he lives in when his (and our) eyes are closed. His work is concerned with the moment before sleep when thoughts drift to that lost friend with the thick beard and piercing eyes, to the feeling of aloneness in a world of discontinuous beings, or to the primal desire to wander in a foreign land looking like a hippopotamus with a grinning face.
It would be difficult for Miro to remain immune to considering the relationship of the artist to the canvas. It had become a prerequisite for membership in the Paris art community. The mode of willing a work into creation could not be left to the side as questions of the public life of a painting, the private life of an artist, and their common opposition came to the floor of the proverbial artistic agora. The virtual existence of this space itself and the changing class of those that defined and occupied has defined the form that it has taken. As one moves through the exhibition space, the things on the wall pull the eyes into fields that are an extension of the consciousness of Miro. This is accomplished in part through the positioning of Miro as artist at a point in the field in relation to the entire scope of the field of the canvas and world that it might represent.
This plane is a corollary to the subconscious of the artist and is mediated the signature. The location of the signature – the word “Miro” – is a sign that allows for an entrance into a language. It signifies a point of departure for the viewer and locates a subject within a space. The various locations of this point – often lying within a figure, next to a figure, between two fields of color, or lost in the space of the canvas – allows for an intentionality of the artist to be read by the viewer. Of course we are not lead to understand this as a definitive perspective, but only the location of one aspect of a certain will to art. This motion of signing location suggests that it becomes a sign independent of a conventional understanding of the signature as denoting the author. It is a connotative element that emphasizes the entire work as signature. We understand a commitment to maintain the authored work and identity of the artist in the work and, at the same time, know that by objectifying this mark, the work is understood to exist independently of a logical or rational intention of the artist.
The presentation of the work as subjective does more to objectify the work than the removal of any authoring mark. We find such a stance repeated in the ambiguity of mark making generally. The oscillation between almost brushless areas and intersubjective strokes of force and intuition shows that the field presented to the viewer is definitively what is seen, but could be something entirely different should the moment in time be different for either us or the man behind the brush. The language of symbolic form is torn between referentiality to events that all humans are deeply steeped in and a vocabulary that has been developed through very specific motions of a hand. We are drawn as we find that the connotated events are either too foreign because of an unknown linguistic base or too close to moments that we hope to think about in the privacy of our dreams rather than with numerous viewers of art.
In Miro’s later works, he discontinues signing the front of his canvas with an obvious signature. Miro no longer gives an overt clue of where the author stands. Is the viewer abandoned? Has the deformed rabbit that once helped us through the world abandoned use? During these years, the planes on the wall can no longer be identified as being “a Miro.” The act of dreaming paintings no longer results in a painting. The planes on the wall no provide access to something that lies beneath “painting” in a traditional sense. We are now within the realm of the field. Things are assembled and objects are presented. Subjective moves are derived from how the object is used. Instead of taking part in a ritual around the fire celebrating the fertility of the land, they take place in the elaborate ritual of going to a museum. We can see these unsigned artifacts in a very similar way that we look at a mask from Africa. They veil the world and remind of the rules that we must follow. While it is essential that Miro displays his understanding of “the end of art properly so called” in an eventuality centered around such a mythico-religious construction founded on the capitalist exchange-value of paintings assigned the name of a famous author, it is heartening that the lasts works in the show abandon the attempt to destroy painting. The signature returns and we are given hope that the will to make a work can be placed ahead of coming to terms with the world around us.
Miro develops a treatment of paint on canvas via a painting technique that allows for the placement of man in a world confronted by limits. Miro never fully abandons his attempt to use paint to describe man on the physical rather than spiritual, metaphysical, rational, or logical, brink of complete mutation, anguish, and dissolution. The color that fills the area of the canvas that is not occupied by what we generally read as figures is not read just as “color.” These areas do not fall pray to a flattening behind a subject. Occupation of a given location on the canvas is not pursued in any traditional manner. Instead, the entirety of the canvas is treated with an even and dreaming hand. The world in which we seem to feel the subjects occupies is as much a subject as the subjects are concrete things. The play between a blue upper portion and a red lower portion may connotate the relationship between earth and sky while at the same time denoting something entirely other. They speak to the tension that the creature in the space feels. The result is reference to the symbolic language that allows these creatures to exist in the first place. It would be difficult for Miro to accomplish this simultaneous distancing and bringing together if he allowed for the rules used to paint the creatures and the world to be the same.
It is essential that while the subjects becomes ever tighter and more controlled, the field in which they exist becomes increasingly loose and boarders on complete dissolution. As man continues to regulate the rules that control the image of his existence he loosens his grip on the formal reality in which he exists. While Miro may be observing the breakdown of the formal structure of our world and the blurring of lines of demarcation between subject and object, he by no means suggests that such an observation is originary. Rather, he suggests that such an eventuality stems from our inner self and is related to the democratization of the world which we create through each individuals existence. The hand of Miro is not passive, but is wrapped up in this breakdown. The attention that he gives allows his subjects and ultimately the viewer to dream. His works are not simply paintings, poems or dreams, but are meta-paintings, meta-poems, and meta-dreams.
In order to accomplish such an ambition, the ground on which the shapes exist must be fleeting. This is to say, for Miro’s canvases to be something other than “paintings,” they must be created in a way that is different from how “painting” are traditionally created. Rather that being the result of laborious studies, careful preparation, a desire to represent some person or narrative, and a gradual building of layers and finishes on the surface of the canvas, Miro creates paintings rapidly, through a state of dreaming, and often on something entirely other than canvas. The paint must be applied with great speed and precision. Color is not the focus of creation. The texture and the feeling are primary. Nevertheless, color is required to exist as a grounding element from which we might feel other colors on the canvas could be drawn. The background must be understood as a distillation of that which we first observe in order to blur any distinction. The color chosen acts as a prelude and becomes activated later as the figures and creatures swirl throughout the canvas. The background comes forward as two things meet and merge before our eyes while remaining separate in “reality.”
The final paintings presented to the viewer are certainly not discontinuous with those canvases that deny their status as paintings. The creatures that were once juxtaposed to the world of the plane that they existed in are now represented via the tools that created the “background.” No longer is there a need to talk about things subjective and things objective. Any attempt to speak to the representation of the subject in relation to the object, or visa versa, is made through a blurred and muffled cry from the brush. We are no longer asked to know anything. All that is before us must be intuited and never fully understood. A sense of poetry is resounding in these works with a greater feeling of finesse than his so called poems of a couple of years earlier.
Through the process of placing a gesture on the canvas, and capturing a fortunate point of departure, he takes line and color to a place of conclusion. He places the period at the end his oeuvre. The line is everything: curve of a women’s hip, sight in the world, separator, connector, divider, mover, and stabilizer. Color is trapped by everything. Sometimes color is completely objective, stemming from a manufactured surface. At a different point, color operates autonomously as color. It is connotes emotion. Through the final rooms of the exhibition, we are told that color and surface are about all the failures that painting must walk through just as the line speaks to the resilience of many to create authentically. A distinction is created between creating to produce for consumption and production from the primal desire to take hold of the world at-hand and show it to another for enjoyment.
Miro investigates a world that is, but whose rules are constantly on the verge of no longer being able to produce concrete understanding past daily experience. Miro exposes another path that human evolution might have taken. While we construct our edifices of capital and promote freedom in concept through our standards of behavior, we long for new freedom – a shift to a new and more equitable form of society. Discontinuity in a world of beings who are at heart continuous is re-presented with paint on canvas. The lingering animal nature of modern man is at the root of these works. We understand that an aesthetic language common to all is not to be found and that we now place our faith in each individual’s conceptual ability to appreciate aesthetics absolutely. To understand the works presented in Gallery 1 of the Pompidou from is to grasp the “ugly” world in which we live and a constant longing to call it “beautiful.” We create beauty out that which has no historical basis. What we valorize as beautiful is a dialectic history of man through our position at the end of this movement. While some conceptions of the world might understand an absolute negation of nature by the arrival of modern man, Miro suggests that at the moment when negation occurs, a new construction of “nature” is offered through an innate ability of individual consciousness.
Lewis Mumford suggests that “the city” can be understood as a museum. If this is true, do the things that we call “museums” take on a new role or are they just one specific type of “exhibit” within the broader whole? Would the specific function of these exhibit be to instruct us on the nature of “value” – aids in evaluating the world?
Locating the work of Piano and Rogers in the center of Paris is a privilege that has been granted only due to its status as “cultural-center”. There are few works of great “modernists” given this honor. The museum takes on the role of a place to house “art” and acts as a symbol of the evolution of design itself. It is a place that is playful by way of a requisite “modern” understanding of our world. Structural members can become the size of humans and ventilation shafts can be creatures in the landscape. It creates a landscape. It does so in part by acting aggressively towards the place that it is in. Parts pierce the land to prepare the visitor for the gravity of the building that depresses the earth with its weight.
After slipping down the traditional stone-paved piazza, one enters an interior square. This transition provides the so-called meta-exegetical moment where the theme of compression and expansion is stated. Once tickets have been purchased, the brilliant exterior circulation system, observed from the piazza, beckons. Traveling up the escalator filled tubes, an analogy between the ventilation systems and the human visitors as primary reason for the existence of the building is suggested. The balance between plumbing, ventilation, and humanity has driven the architectural innovations in Paris and beyond for centuries. Thus, this history is represented to us as we gain an ever better view of the city unfolding below. Traveling along the façade makes a new landscape. We are free to look out and breath in fresh air through the open tube above. It is easy to feel the faith – one unimaginable in the litigious United States of America – that the architect has in the guest.
Arriving at the top of the long climb away from daily existence, we are ready to see important works of arts. In the galleries, the rhythm of expansion and contraction continues as one moves from large galleries for the display of some of the most exceptional modern journeys, to thin corridors that show perhaps how these worlds came to be. This pattern is similar to how we move in our day-to-day existence. It characterizes the majority of the permanent collection. Throughout, a careful attitude is taken towards the controversial relationship between art, the plane on which it hangs, and the building in which that plane exists. Such a museum is the anti-thesis to the Guggenheim. We rarely enter the corners or circulate around the edge. When we try, we find that this space is not ours, but belongs to the building.
While the building might suggest an analytic stance towards architecture – one about carrying loads and creating a place that is ultimately technological – the inhabitation of the space suggests that a much more “continental” position has been taken. Out of the dreams of the 1960s metabolists, and members of archigram and archizoom, and fluxus among others, a turn is taken into the realm of “dreaming proper.” Such a turn reminds us of the desire to support a cover and to create places that speak to the primal needs of modern man. The building contradicts its rationality as its functional members are experienced by the eye of the visitor rather than the eye of the critic. As paint peals and things decay, the building takes on life. It is something that must be given care. A certain symbiotic relationship between man and building develops.
It is difficult for anybody who is supposed to be within the discourse to theorize the perception of a building so heavily debated from a point outside said discourse. It is unlikely that this building has really become known by many. We hear about it, but few can name Rogers and Piano as its creator or offer an explanation of the concepts behind its making. Architecture, however, is not strictly about language, but the degree to which it is capable of addressing the existential needs of man. Beyond anything else, the building is and “is” only insofar as man is. To understand this “is” we listen to stories, read myths, pay attention to the media, talk with friends, feel the structure that supports the roof above, remember the collection of masks donated by Andre Breton, and listen to the theorists that help us make sense of our human condition.
This is the broader context in which the building exists. While the building denies history proper, it embraces the collective history of the city that, while it may be at an end, has become increasingly mythologized. Within this context, the building, distances itself from the continuity of the past in order to present works of art objectively. It has become a place of modern romanticism and it is for this that we valorize it to such a degree. Where, however, does this building lie within the broader landscape of museums and the city in general, perhaps itself a museum? As tourists, we go to places that have been designed as museums and to places that were once homes. The homes that we visit are generally those of kings and are situated in close proximity to the place where the government was housed. They are symbols of land holdings and of politics. While some of us seek out Waterloo and Jena, Normandy and Hiroshima, we generally remain confident in our decision to see the place of decision and abstract historical movement. Whether such a desire to visit places of political action stems from an increased feeling of governmental inaction should linger before us. For the moment, the event of visiting should be examined via homes and created museums.
The museum, a place defined by its access to the “public,” is defined less by its removal from the realm of privacy and exclusion than by being symbolic of the palace. Out of the great period of reform came the need to concretely express the reversal of the position of master and slave through showing that the palace was now for the people. Louis Philippe was perhaps the first to make this attempt when he converted part of Versailles into a place for the Bourgeois to view the history of France. We witness the appropriation of an ex-home by a rising class. The terms of the past have been rewritten to suite a new generation. This reconfiguration of the palace allowed for formal built elements from the past to remain actively in service of representing how man is situated in the world. The city became increasingly defined by its ability to maintain order and hold transgression at bay. Yet it was increasingly observable that the city was a place of chaos and vice. Such vice and chaos arose through a mutation of how past forms of human activity were labeled and viewed by the moral framework of a new class of wealthy citizens. To a certain extent, Versailles is a point of departure. We continue to desire the union of selfishness, religion, and politics in a space of dwelling yet posit a negation of the excess of the idle ruling rich. Like the revolutionaries of France, it is in our human nature to be unable to destroy Versailles. A simple mutation of how it is used is all that is required.
Through this positing of our negative attitude, we understand what lies beneath the surface most clearly. We understand Versailles as a place of revision. While it is intended to be whole – both in its symbolizing of the country and in its concrete togetherness – it is defined by transitions of style to allow for the negation of the past in favor of the contemporary. Simultaneously, such is defined by a negation of the physical, while still maintaining place, to allow for the preservation of absolute power through conversation. An allowance is made for constant update while maintaining absolute values. Nevertheless, the condition observed within Versailles, and many palaces throughout Europe, is not “absolute negative willing” in an “authentic” sense. We are told at the present moment that such a point of negative dialectic movement is no longer to be found in our world. While these words may be true, our feeling tells us otherwise.
More accurately, we might say that the apparent halt of the dialectic at the moment when the slave took power from below was only an expression of the inability of the dialectic to account for its increasingly rapid movement. It was a discontent with the discontinuity of power and the span of a generation. The realization that the palace and government were unable to reflect our most current desires lead to the mutation of palace into museum. The rules by which the museum existed allowed for greater flexibility and mutability. The values expressed did not have to be defined by a population that was becoming too large to be expressed with care. Instead, the ruling class could maintain their influence while not admitting to it through the desire of the masses to preserve culture and to define their world based upon an overturning of the past. By way of this covering of intent, a board of experts could assign value to a realm that was admittedly subjective in a period of neo-Kantianism. The conflict of the many and the one was resolved.
It was not possible, however, to leave the palace aside altogether. The new class still needed to remind themselves of the world from which they had come and the one that they could not return to. If the palace were to be negated entirely, it would reflect a destruction of work. Such a destruction would deny the grounds upon which the revolution was based. An intrinsic value exists in the imagined act of the creation of these buildings. The careful attention to detail is seen as a product of the hand of a laborer like revolutionary. The care taken is too human to destroy. It speaks to the power of a continuous Man and the abstract power of the whole to act concretely. Moreover, as Man is given the freedom that has been so intensely desired, he increasingly loses this ability to make things of value by hand. Things continue to get bigger while the manner in which we valorize human achievement becomes smaller and more impersonal. To achieve a global ethics implies a destruction of our ability to create the object that is subjective and imperfect. The bowl or the army uniform must be standardized.
As each generation overturns the city of the past, they build a museum to explain why they were justified in this overturning. If this is not accomplished, there is a great threat that one’s own generation will in turn be negated. If this is the case, one cannot claim Utopia, the ideal city of Man, or the city of God. There is always the hope that there will be a point where one will not be overturned. However, as we see a world that continually sinks deeper into concealment and ignorance, the romantics among us fear that what we love too much has been fulfilled to its fullest. While this point of stability has come, it is not the moment at which the distribution and manifestation of capital arrives at a point of stability. What results is the realization that the City of Man cannot “keep up” with changing style and is, in fact, an invisible city. The importance placed on work and adaptability to what is best proves that a city reconciled with man’s being cannot exist without being in a state of self-contradiction. The city is unable to evolve fast enough.
Through the paradox that capital brings to our world, we valorize a set of art prices that we seem to think to be a rational corollary. Rather than attempt an authentic reconciliation, we perpetuate the paradox via the rules used in its definition. In hopes of reconciliation of Man with Nature and Man with Man, the place of democratization and rationalization is created. Perhaps if we extend some mix of Cartesian, Kantian, and Libertine reason to all, we can arrive at a world of peace and love. Perhaps if we impose a standard dwelling style across the entire country, create a series of rules for dwelling that are enforced by homeowners associations, and provide an escapist mythology on screens that proliferate in homes and shopping malls, we will be able to arrive at a reconciled state. This world of “nuclear families” quickly brings images of Dr. Strangelove to mind. The successes and failures that such a situation might hope to enjoy are immediately obvious.
While the move to the suburbs was the evolution of the family and the unit in which they dwelled, the invention of the commercial plane was the corollary action of capital. The man who commuted to work every day would surely be willing to entertain the notion that he could take his family with him on the über-commute. If it was possible to derive value from the rapid mobility of dissemination of style and information something of value might be saved. If it was not possible to stay at the edge of one condition out of fear that soon one might be drawn in and contradicted, why not travel the world embracing a condition where one never grasps the truth of the situation, but remains only between friends. A perpetual tourist, one never has to perceive reality. The façade is all that one requires to exist hand. As a result, the museum becomes about the façade of the city not being opaque enough. While we long for concreteness of communication and simplicity of linguistic connotation and denotation, what we fear is that which is concrete. We fear our home because, even if it lies in a suburb like every other, it is not abstract enough. We exist within a desert of the real.
As tourist, the place of museum is defined as rationalization for visiting a foreign land. As a place of reason, there must be a sense of order once the price of admission has been paid. The map that guided to the museum is now replaced by one of a new scale. This will take you to the art that you wish to see. Yet the spatial analogue is not all that clear. What one is guided to are a series of labels that explain the value of the piece of art. Without these indexes, the museum has little meaning to most. Few would be able to recognize a Bellini without such direction. By way of this text which accompanies all works, the visitor is segregated. It is clear who has the education to prompt illumination upon seeing the smile on the virgin and child by da Vinci. It becomes apparent who is a visitor from afar and from near by those that are able to read the language of the text. Often, complaints are heard from those who feel that the museum would be of much greater interest if the labels were in their native language.
The text, however, is not all there is for us to use in our attempt to appreciate the art. A work marked by a large crowd shows us that it must be of great value. And yet, such a crowd pushes the person who desires to investigate a heavily debated work to the side. There is no room for the scholar to study the Mona Lisa. The space is insufficient to study many of the works as one sees many motivated by the limited amount of time they have in any given place. They must always be traveling to gather more moments to build their lives. It is logical then that many spend the time that they do have capturing the moment with their camera. To do so requires spending more time looking through the viewfinder than unpacking the brush strokes of a master. Few have the education to undertake such an action and those that have the knowledge wallow in a predetermined conclusion. In short, whether it is visual, textual, or mechanical, it is through a series of mediations that we as tourists understand the works in a museum.
Physical rather than metaphysical behavior guides the event of visiting the museum. From a very early age, we are taught the rules. We are told that we must respect those that also have come so that they have an equal opportunity of experiencing the works that speak to precisely our struggle with rules and animal nature. As a place that has been objectified through a series of subjective perspectives captured in works of art, our hope is that it will surpass our home that is most likely also subject to an eradication of discomfort. As the museum becomes a home away from home, it is one where all of the walls watch and judge. Beyond the text between man and art, the system of monitoring the health of the museum stands as primary contradiction of the expressed goals of what and who presents the museum to the public. As technology becomes increasingly inexpensive, the desire to control every aspect of the environment of a museum is increasingly sought. While such is for the benefit of the works contained within, it is more broadly intended to preserve the work for eternity. It would be impossible to conceive of the disappearance of so recent an achievement as the Water Lilies. The museum does not play by the rules of Time. It is outside of the construct that has produced it. It is the vanguard of the total negation of nature – the arrival before nothingness.
If one touched the oil varnish of a Rembrandt, surely an alarm would go off and perhaps you’d be expelled from the museum. While looking closely at the Picasso Museum, I turned my head to the left and noticed that this is exactly what was happening – a gentle touch with no sense of wrongdoing. The significance of such an observation is not to say that if we all touched we could be allowed to do so by convention. It simply suggests that for some there is no value to be found in the works of other civilizations not because they are other, but because the civilization does not arrive at value in the same manner as those under the influence of European Culture might do so. Truth can be found through this behavior aside from a world of value. The truth comes from the photo of mother and father on axis with a great fireplace in a castle as presented to the colleagues at home. It becomes part of a mythology that is tied to a common mythology of travel. Is this method of travel a positive one? Does positive travel lead to a dissemination of the values of that culture?
The residents of a city behave in their home museums very differently. They are places for fun and validate their patrons as members of a specific class. As a chance to escape the world of work, they allow for relaxation and removal of responsibility. One is allowed to be completely subjective. There is no pressure to conform to a set of standards. A disagreement over meaning will end in the resignation to personal opinion. The museums that one chooses as a resident are often different than those chosen by the tourist. One will not visit the Rodin museum if given only a day or two in Paris. Yet doing so offers a prime opportunity to see the best collection of shoes and glasses among a setting of decidedly “un-style-ish” art. It is about being there. Primarily the distinction is one of time. A greater sense of leisure is allowed for in these smaller museums that are slightly off the beaten path.
Fundamentally, “museum time” is not different to Time as a common social construct. If we place our self vis-à-vis paintings that claim to speak about originary time-ish-ness, are we allowed an opportunity to become conscious of this relationship that lies at ground? Like all that we are going around, this is true for some, but for most such would be an antithetical definition. It is an example of the variable extension and compression of the metering of life. We move to accomplish the goal based on the rules of the space. We come not when it opens, but surely are in fear of closing time. We make museums cafes profitable as time-saving refueling stations and return to the tiring task of absorbing names, dates, and symbols that will make it possible for us to re-cognize what has been seen during a conversation with somebody that we hope to impress. By the end, the progression of Time no longer allows for us to appreciate multiple works, but slows our senses and negates our actions. We are more annoyed with the man that makes us take that extra step through a photographic action. Awareness of our self in the space is extreme as all that we desire is “escape.” Regardless of whether “escape” is achieved while peering into the world of Delacroix, a primal experience is had and success of the museum is there for us to embrace.
It should be noted that paying a visit to a museum is an exception to our economic behavior just as art is a paradox of capital valuation. Unlike a sporting event, meal at a restaurant, item of clothing, retaining of a lawyer, doctor, or dentist, we pay the museum to expend energy. Such a motion is one of excess. Understood through such a word, it evokes the paradox of the domestic construct once again. If the museum proper is placed within the context of the entire city as museum, we can understand it as corresponding to the violent impulses of man while the other exhibits are those founded upon work and order. Underlying the seemingly rational order of the inhabitation of the palace, is the bringing forward of the ungrounded, individual, capitalistic, and imperialistic aspects that have been overthrown. The very act of overthrowing has lead not to a democratization of the symbolic space that has been overthrown, but simply a covered understanding of this space. We need look no farther than a contrast between the film Russian Ark and Berlin: Symphony of a City to understand the relationship between the museum and imperialism as well as an illustration of Museum Time and City Time.
To visit a specific place of residence that has become a museum values the political properties associated with the domicile above those properties associated with another place and person. In order to be confident in the values posited, one must have the support of the community. This results in crowding of the places of greatest value and an inability to see such a place. This could be a problem if the community is correct and able to value such a historicity. Such a historicity is an illusion. Instead, I would argue that it is an echo of a distant act of positing or uttering. It is logical that when we arrive at these places that have too many people to see, we notice the resounding flow of humans through the confined corridors that have been created at the sides of great rooms. Such a flow becomes the subject of observation not only because of the construct that creates it, but through the rooms that, because they are unable to exist for Man as historic, cannot have any true intrigue or value based upon their formal existence. What results is a kind of hyperactivity. When value is questioned it becomes all the more pressing to show that the value posited is correct.
Should the consideration of “museum” become one of monument, memorial, or cemetery? Is the act of pilgrimage to a symbol of the dead at the root of our visits to places that house art and create history? Insofar as such places of death are contained by myth in a line posited as continuous and evolutionary, they are similar. As a certain type of dwelling, further comparisons arise. Going to a tomb of a great man is motivated by similar feelings that drives visits to museums. They are places that remind us that our orientation is towards death – to continuity and discontinuity. They are cities of dead for the living. They exist as a mutation of the surroundings. This division is mirrored in the split between the resident visitor and the touristic visitor. To visit is to be overly comfortable, or completely oblivious to, one’s position as tourist because of the objects viewed that have a more readable system of signs that connect human nature with animal nature. For the local, they are more alive and give more life. Some museums are, as a result less popular because they require a far greater degree of education. They only occasionally achieve the critical mass to be recognized within a common cultural language.
To become a museum proper, the person buried within must fit within the domestic world out of which the museum has come. A visit to a grave other than a king or political hero is at ground a subversive act. Individual knowledge is valued over a common moral system. The ability to decide and feel rather than know is taken as primary. To understand what has become of Sartre requires knowledge of a system outside of the system that inspired his work. One must value the personal over the collective rather than accept the collective experience of taking in a painting. The certainty of both the individual and its negation is too great at the tomb of Citroen. Without such an acceptance, one might be lead to the conclusion that the stone object above Sartre’s final place of rest is too small for such a great man. The confrontation is too great for most to handle while the insignificance of that confrontation remains so small for those that undertake its positing within the construct of their own world.
The galleries that contain the work of multiple artists fail to speak with clarity to relationship between the building as “modern” architecture and it as a place that displays “modern” art. When a single artist is given the honor of being represented in a gallery, there is a possibility to understand the specifics of the statement required of them on the question of architecture’s stand towards art. They have avoided the position taken by the likes of Scarpa, Wright, and Gehry that architecture remains the kingpin and, perhaps even, the last authentic art. Instead, the Pompidou suggests that only through art can one understand the position that one takes towards architecture. Architecture must remain something that we as humans never have full access to. It is in the realm of myth and always must be slightly above our heads. It does not touch the deepest emotions of man through signage. Instead, it opens up only on the exterior, if ever. By seeing a continuous dream of Miro in the space, the building states that it will always remain too big and clumsy to ever talk about the detail of our modern existence. The space speaks to the economization of construction, the loss of detail, and democratization. We are reminded that we can still find room for the obsessive, historical, popular, sensuous, and friendly. Such will not, however, be the role of the abstract framework that we construct to help us live out our lives and keep us safe from those things that threaten to bring us into confrontation with, our inevitable death.
“I had rather walk all my life in darkness if, at the end of my existence, I am to unearth some spark of light, some rays of pure sun than walk, like the young, in an artificial light derived from the Voltaic Arcs. As for my means of expression, I struggle more and more to achieve a maximum clarity, force, and plastic aggressiveness–in other words, to provide an immediate physical sensation that will then make its way to the soul.”
– Joan Miro