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Green Desert: Part 2

Each time I return to New York, my spiritual home, it takes even less time for me to become uptight, tense, stressed and mistrustful towards others.

Yet it’s time now to advance, New York City here I come. With each progressive time I return there, I find that it takes a shorter period of time for me, from the calm I transform into while away, to become uptight, mistrustful towards those around me, tense and stressed, not only by the accelerated haste of life there but also by the isolating distance of unaware indifference I instantly sense; sipping in-between, and then swiftly spreading, and eventually pushing me apart and away from the rest of humanity, it rushes in all directions of disinterested others who center only upon themselves, their phones, music or games.

I used to love this city, always eager to return to it from my various travels and assignments that took me elsewhere. I always considered it my symbolic home, not that I have any. After all, that’s what defines a Wandering Jew. Yet, in recent times, I find that the cultural, racial, economic and hereditary diversity of what used to be called a “melting pot” has simmered and dissipated away. Greed has filled the void.

Now the city is mainly affordable to those who are well or very well off, and still willing to subsidize those who are not, marginalized to or into the ever shrinking regions of this vast and ever growing megalopolis.

Now, able to look at my city from the bird’s eye view, I have a distinct sensation of everyone being in it for themselves. The ambiance of more and more people trying to make the kill, to earn as much as possible, forgetting any principals or fairness, fair play, or simply enough is enough, seems dissipated, evaporated.

With the rapidity of the city increasing and intensifying, its former tolerance and humility disappear. As the multitude of its inhabitants rush with an acquired skill of maneuverability and dexterity in all directions through crowds as well as extreme traffic, the ever increasing volume of tourists stands out as a sore and obstacle in the otherwise efficiently and effortlessly insane flow of oblivious madness of this rat race.

Each time there I aim to fulfill at least a few goals: have a bagel with chopped herring from a Jewish deli, followed by a delicious and mouth-watering dinner, oddly not as easily accessible in smaller towns. But, above all else, I hope to visit a few of my chosen museums. And so, zealously, ravening for all I can get, off I go.

The bagel was good, what else? The day a good bagel cannot be found in NYC will be truly apocalyptic. But the chopped herring, while satisfying in flavor and aroma, but further increased in cost, was absurdly watered down. As I said, greed is infecting, invading and corrupting the best of what we humans are capable of.  Yet the tender “fall of the fork” BBQ ribs, as well as the accompanying dense Stout were delectable.

Guggenheim is one of the museums I consider vital to my sanity, but not because of the exemplary exhibits and artists it features. For many a time, I walk away truly disappointed, even flabbergasted by what I judge to be poor choices and curatorial judgments. Yet for better or worse, I walk out feeling either positive anger and frustration or sublime wonder and fulfillment. I realize that without one the other would be unfeasible.

Like the Smithsonian Institutions, the Guggenheim is a non-profit institution. The truth of the matter is that the entrance ticket of US $22 would seem unaffordable to the majority of people, or maybe a somewhat smaller majority when it comes to the affluence of New York City. Yet, since it was a mid-week day, my hope was that the crowds will be thinner in density. Was I mistaken! The queue outside the structure was striking.  I can imagine how many people look with envy at such a queue, envious and unable, or unwilling to spend such an amount for a one-time exposure to the treasures of human achievements, imagination and strife.

Yet, to put it in a twisted sort of perspective, the entrance to the MOMA is even higher! Yet often, as the night falls upon the city, once the gates to the inner wealth become sealed, I have seen homeless gather, outside of the museum, coming here to rest over the grid-iron vents spewing warm steam into the cold air.

But back to the Guggenheim. The majority of the exhibit was devoted to ZERO, a German group that became fertile in the mid-20th century. Much of the artwork investigates affiliations and interplay of light, shadows, textures, materials and devices used to generate the desired experimentation and effects. In other words, what some of these artists were obviously striving for was to experiment with the above parameters and capacities to generate a sense of illusion of what is not truly there, a form of initial augmentation of reality.

Another artwork, which obviously had inspired further explorations by the more modern artists of illusions.

Their ability to generate shadows, and play with them to expand the otherwise flat space, is interesting.

Some of the artwork employing flames and smoke symbolize even humbler means of generating imagery. Yet it takes into consideration human fascination with fire and flame. It could be a desire to gain control?

I was especially taken by the very simplest of methods and found it to be charming and yet dimensional.

I suppose that coming from the ocean side of the green desert, I sensed it reminiscent of many sailboats.

I also liked inquiring attempts at play with textures and extruded dimensionality, some fused with smoke.

“Mirror, mirror on the wall…” has throughout ages proven itself irresistible to a human mind, whether artistic or vain. To me, it is its ability to create another illusionary space that is not there, as well as its irresistible ability to twist and deform images of who we think we are as well as how we see ourselves.

And then yet another, not new but it too must had inspired further refinements by artists that followed in ZERO footsteps, a painting created by an artist resorting to unclothed female bodies as his paint brush.

And so, as an artist who propagates and practices the “gravity free and reality independent” thinking and ideation, both through my own art as well as via mentoring, enlightening and empowering of others, always probing what might await ahead, and inviting others to do so through thinking that is unrestrained by what we accept as the true face of reality, I could identify with ZERO, appreciate it for its pioneering. But…

I am most enticed by the deeper meaning, soul searching and potent ideas of art as expression of ideals, rebellion or strive for freedom against any odds, probing emotional or tragic expressions of the most inner and deepest of humanity. Eager for art and design seeking imaginative visions of conceivable futures, I felt that this particular exhibit did not truly represent my favorite forms of artistic endeavors. Yet, striving to remain open minded at all times and in all the diversity of places, I found that seeing the experimentations of the ZERO group, offered an enriching and eye opening historic perspective enabling me to understand and appreciate the advances artists like them have made since their time. For current magic of illusion far surpasses the now seemingly simplistic, though not at that time, attempts at creative and visual alchemy.

Thus, considering the limited technology resources, using naive means available to them, they were able to create a superbly spacious impression of what brings to my mind a vision of a black hole, or a galaxy?

And having watched Interstellar thereafter, I found the trip through the black hole so disappointing!

Departing for the airport my eyes turned towards the sight of the Freedom Tower. As it has been in every prior reflection, a sense of inner disenchantment descended upon me. This was to be the timeless icon of the pain of the 9/11 tragedy but also of our determination and perseverance for the future, a vision of the freedom this building was to project all around the world. Yet after years of competitions and delays, the design elected for construction is, at least to me, a great disappointment. Not only does the concept fail to project our humanity’s vision of freedom, idealism, unadulterated will and untiring fortitude, but it is dull and, at least to me, headless, in fact decapitated. It climaxes not with an imposing crown but on a skinny antenna that is, if anything at all, pragmatic, puny, weak, impotent and all but breathtakingly impressive.

Every time I see it, I wonder why its creators so badly mishandled this once in a lifetime occasion for the most imaginative, amazing, memorable, unforgettably breathtaking masterpiece it could had been.

And so, on that sour note, back to my green desert. At sundown it looks truly stunning. So, am I insane?