Thursday, October 19, 2006 - The Michigan Daily - 5B
Art not enough to sustain the myth of MoMA
By Caitlin Cowan
Daily Arts Editor
Jim Carroll was the first poet I ever fell
in love with. His hallucinatory, smack-
induced dreamscapes enthralled me
from the very first time I read his work,
crouched on my heels in the back corner
of a local book store when I was 11 or
12. One of his prose poems in particular
has always intrigued me. "Stepping Out
of M.O.M.A." is a short piece in which
Carroll describes leaving the Museum of
Modern Art in New York as if waking
from a haunting reverie.
"I know this city will die before the
fall of evening," Carroll wrote. "I lean
against a slick cool marble cornerstone
with my shirt undone and my blue eyes
sinking like wet lips down the shoulders
of women." In my preteen mind, Carroll
was the epitome of dirty, sexy malcontent,
and if he hung out in front of MoMA, I
wanted to know about it.
So for a long time I've imagined
MoMA as a kind of mythical oasis of
surreal and artistic treasures lodged in
the steely heart of midtown Manhattan.
I imagined that only ragged, disaffected
poets like Carroll would frequent such a
place. This past weekend I finally visited
the museum to which I had constructed
a wistful monument in my mind. And
while the riches of modern art housed
inside were stunning to behold, MoMA
itself was not at all what I expected.
Beyond its intimidating white concrete
and glass fagade, MoMa lodges hordes of
inarguably brilliant and famous works.
Andy Warhol's Campbell's soup-can
collection, Dali's "The Persistence of
Memory" and Monet's water lilies are all
highlights. But at every turn and corridor
there is more to discover: half a dozen
Jackson Pollack masterworks, a haunt-
ing self-portrait in pencil by Joan Mir6,
Picasso's nudes, Kandinsky, Cdzanne,
Pisarro - the list goes on. MoMA's
patronage, however, is another story.
Far from attracting young, blonde
urbanites like Carroll, MoMA was pre-
courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art
Salvador Dali's "Illuminated Pleasures" on display at the Museum of Modem Art. Vincent Van Gogh's "Starry Night," also on display.
dominantly filled with overweight, mid-.
dle-aged yuppies, giggling children and
grinning Chinese tour groups sporting
huge, prehistoric black cameras around
their necks. Unlike some other large
museums, MoMA allows pictures inside
the galleries provided that they're taken
without flash. But unlike the somber
atmospheres of other art museums I have
frequented, the docents at MoMA often
had to remind visitors to turn off their
flash, hold their small children by the hand
and keep their personal belongings off the
floor, which interrupted my solemn view-
ing at least once or twice in each gallery.
I felt like I was in a zoo rather than one of
the world's most renowned art museums.
The galleries sometimes seemed disor-
ganized and cramped, with Van Gogh's
more than famous "Starry Night" literal-
ly crammed between another of his paint-
ings and Dali's "Illuminated Pleasures."
At first I appreciated this treatment of the
celebrated Van Gogh piece: Just because
a third of all lower-middle-class homes
display a print of the swirling landscape
doesn't give it quality or importance. But
through the rest of the museum, I felt that
there was a distinct lack of coherence to
the art assembled. I couldn't remember if
I had already been through certain rooms,
and found myself doubling back to make
sure I hadn't missed anything.
While I am no connoisseur of art, the
level of ignorance openly and loudly pro-
claimed by MoMA's patrons that day was
startling. One portly, sharply dressed
woman seemed to follow me, fanning
herself and uttering such gems as "I don't
get it," and "I just love that Tan-Gway
guy," referring to surrealist painter Yves
Tanguy. I suppose I assume too much. I
just expected more from people who paid
$20 to see the exhibits. My mistake, I
see now, lies in my belief that MoMA's
patrons are predominantly New York-
ers. But that's obviously not the case. In
reality, the museum is a lucrative, if well-
respected, tourist trap. It's not a commen-
tary on art, but instead, an analysis of its
After a stroll through the outdoor sculp-
ture gardens, I made my way out through
throngs of loud youth groups and angry-
looking senior citizens. I couldn't help but
wonder if any contact with visual art was
better than none at all. Had the grouchy
teenagers who had come to MoMA on
school trips gained an appreciation for
abstract art while they rolled their eyes at
Rothko's dichromatic canvases? Did the
overseas tourists come to see the paintings
or to take pictures next to them?
Now, almost 10 years after first pictur-
ing Jim Carroll slumped on the steps of
MoMA and a few days after seeing it with
my own eyes, my understanding of his
words and one of New York's most well-
regarded museums has shifted. Perhaps
Carroll, too, felt alienated by the people
inside of the museum who didn't under-
stand him or the artists inside. Maybe
that's why he was "stepping out" and not
"stepping in." "I noticed the mother of a
girl I had once loved so badly," he wrote.
"I felt pure; I placed my swollen tongue
to her lips. Neither of us had come this
far to die with strangers."
The strangers Carroll speaks of might
have been the denizens of MoMA lurking
inside decades ago rather that the outsid-
ers I once imagined. Somehow I tend to
think now that he didn't see the museum
as a safe house: He saw it instead as a
bastion of culture that had been corrupted
as much as anything outside of its walls,
whether those walls were full of master-
pieces or not.
NY's CBGB closes doors,
opens windows on eternity
By Devika Daga
For the Daily
You don't need to be 30 and
balding to know what the CBGB is
- or was. Before the club closed
its doors for good last week, the
music venue had become so leg-
endary that on any given night,
a former Hell's Angel could've
been seen nursing a beer next to
hipster teenagers clad in Ramones
You needn't have made your
mark on its (in)famous wall of
urine or passed out from heat-
exhaustion and dehydration while
witnessing the creation of punk
rock or had your first music-
induced orgasm in the presence
of David Byrne to know that the
CBGB was fucking awesome.
Of course, it would have helped.
It would've helped because the
CBGB - and every other "leg-
endary" rock club for that mat-
ter - only means something in
the past tense. Without a doubt, a
mere glance at the concert posters
outside the 315 Bowery address in
the last decade would be enough to
render the CBGB totally obsolete.
Granted that legends are only real-
ized in hindsight, the fact remains
that what makes CBGB's so great
is its musical past, not present.
What, then, are we to make of
places such as the CBGB, with an
appeal planted strictly in the past?
How do we interpret the greatness
of a club with a myth that no longer
lies in musical tenacity, but rather,
in its stubbornness to survive?
Quite simply, we don't. We lay
them to rest and allow their legend
to remain intact by those who have
lived the experience, not those
who aspire to.
As a member of the latter party,
I whole-heartedly applaud the clos-
ing of the CBGB. Call me crazy,
but trust me, it's better this way.
Growing up in the mid '90s,
there wasn't a whole lot of musical
greats waiting to be worshipped:
The most my generation could
aspire to be was a garter-wearing
Catholic schoolgirl, or, alterna-
tively, a suicidal neo-goth with
In this respect, it's a relief to
know that a youth culture existed
in which boy-toys, bling-bling and
depression were not the top three
contenders for emotional appeal.
Based upon family members' and
teachers' anecdotes, I've learned
that rebellious teenage anarchy
can be filtered into something pro-
ductive - such as a revolutionary
Such an ideal is encapsulated in
the history of the punk-rock gen-
eration - and more specifically,
in the legend of CBGB, where on
any given weekend between 1974
and 1976 history was made. And
not by renaissance men or multi-
millionaires or chic socialites,
but by average, putrid, passionate,
dirt-under-the-fingernails type of
rockers. These were the type of
maniacs teenagers wanted to be.
These are the type of maniacs that
kids these days need to recall.
But by allowing the CBGB
to exist past the benchmark of
"legendary," members of the
first punk-rock generation com-
promise its legacy for those who
haven't experienced it firsthand.
Step in now, and unless you're
chaperoned by Hell's Angel No.
1 or Uncle Joe, the effect of the
CBGB is entirely lost - a Chuck
Taylor-wearing indie kid can only
pretend to appreciate the broken
urinals, beer-drenched sofas and
in former concert-goer Richard
Hell's words the "stalactites of
grime" that make up the joint. He
can only romanticize what it was
like for Blondie or Patti Smith or
The Ramones to lash out in unas-
suming verse in classic "fuck-you"
The CBGB has become more You'll easily find "I listen to R&B A LiI' Wayne
of an esoteric cultural reference defensive tackle to get ready for "Georgia Bush"
than the venue for musical experi- Alan Branch on the games. Everyone
mentation it once stood for. The gridiron, steamrolling else listens to hard-
longer it would have stayed open, his opponents on core rap but I like the No-Yo
the weaker the legend would have Saturdays. To get into smooth R&B stuff." "Mirror"
become. his head, however,
To those still mourning the loss you've got to get into Musiq (Soulchild)
of this East Village gem, I feel iS headphones. "Love" Chris Brown
for you. But as music aficionados Of "Don't Say "Winner
both young and old, we should Nuthin,"' by the Roots,
focus on preserving the sanctity Branch says that "It's Musiq (Soulchild)
of CBGB for the future: By clos- just the illest song "Just Friends (Sunny)"
ing the chapter on the club, its ever." He also likes
legend can remain intact. Whether Lil' Wayne's "Georgia
we were center stage, out in line Bush." "That whole Roots
or in the womb when CBGB was mixtape is good," he "Don't Say Nuthin'"
at its peak, we should remember said. The freestyle
it-as the seedy, grimy dump that at the end of that
housed some of the world's most song is the best."
influential bands - not the seedy, As for his musicalH
grimy dump that tried relentlessly taste, which might BY TREVOR,
to capitalize on its memories by range a little softer CAMPBELL/Daily
transforming into an off-the-beat- than fans probably
en path tourist attraction. expect from Branch's
So age and experience are bone-crunching
required for us to know that the tackles, he says that
CBGB was fucking awesome. R&B is what puts him
But you probably do need to have in the mood - for
a receding hairline at the least to winning, that is.
appreciate the transient nature of
Announcing the 41 annual series of events that brings students,
professionals & organizational representatives together to discuss
pathways to international careers.
International Career Panel Discussions
Thursday, Sept. 14, 7 PM (Int'l Institute Rm 1636)--
"International Employment Myths & Opportunities"
Coming in October:
Graduate Internships in the UN, 10119, Noon
Careers in International Health & Humanitarian Relief, 10/24, 5 PM
Teaching & Volunteering Abroad, 10/24, 7:30 PM
UM & China: Academic & Career Opportunities, 10/25, Noon
Peace Corps Information Session, 10/25, 7 PM
International Opportunities Fair
Wednesday, October 25, 2006 from 2-6 pm, Michigan Union y d h
Meet with representatives of 50+ organizations to:
Explore options for work, internships, volunteering, teaching, & research abroad Michigan
Learn more about exciting intemational careers rid ay,October 20,206
Saturday,c r 2 1 06 u8:00
Tickets ar* $3"o adults &9f or students and senior citizens
For info, tel. 647-2299, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org & visit: Contact: Dance Alliance 734429.9599
http://www umich.edu/-icenter//swt add itiona 810 227 3069
Because... your passion can be your paycheck!
PANDORA.COM* comes to campus
TODAY! October 19 8 - 9 pm
Maize & Blue Auditorium, SAB
Meet Tim Westergren, the founder and CEO of Pandora
Hear how he took his passion for music and
"street" knowledge of business and made it his career.
PASSION ... CAREER ... MAKE IT HAPPEN
Sponsored by The Career Center The areer Center
Helping students transate their
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