Friday, April 17, 2009

Ernst Junger Is For Real

I'm reading Ernst Junger's The Glass Bees and am having the typical dystopian experience of reading something from the past set in the future, our present, in which I say: this is so true for today! For example, think on this: "A work of art wastes away and becomes lusterless in surroundings where it has a price but not a value" (50). 

The old man and I see art as much as we can and we are becoming more and more disgruntled by the way we are treated by museum staff. For instance, while we were in Kansas City's Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art I was told, not asked, to go put my water canister on the front desk. It didn't matter that I had already been in the museum for over an hour and it didn't matter that I was having a swell time with my arm around the old man, listening to him tell me why I should like the painting featuring cupcakes. Why would anyone want to interrupt that in order to tell me to put my water bottle somewhere? I wasn't even drinking water and the bottle was empty anyway. I wasn't even listening to the old man so much as trying to get him to stand closer to me because I wanted to pet his beard, looking really red in the Kansas sunshine, which is kind of nice if you want to know. The beard is highly respected in our house, but suddenly we weren't in a sort of house, a sort of moment because we were in a MUSEUM! and MUSEUM! staffers follow rules and scold people just cuz.

Another time we were at the Neue Gallerie and a museum staffer yelled, "NO PHONES" after the old man took a quick call from his mother. I was upset that the guard, for lack of a better term, couldn't simply have asked him to put the phone away. She furthermore stood behind us and her walkie-talkie filled the room with screeches and murmurs at full volume as though that wasn't distracting.  

I wonder if these rude museum staffers are more than just a product of no training (i.e. how to talk to people) but a product of the museum regarding its art as an investment rather than a well-curated display of stimulating material. Museums are no longer places where we can go see one human trying to make sense or nonsense for other humans; museums are the new banks. How many millions did van Gogh's sunflowers go for? Sixty-seven? So now I can't carry an empty canister of water, laugh, send someone a text about how stupid they were not to come see art with me, make out in front of cupcakes, or carry my coat or my journal which was in my handbag that I was forced to check. It's almost best for everything to be worth nothing if it means we don't have to treat each other poorly and treat art as though no one were meant to see it.  


1 comment:

Dan Magers said...

Ah! You saw the Wayne Thiebaud cupcakes. He had a show in KC a million years ago--I guess they kept some. Museum staff are indeed punchable.