Don’t look at the art, look through it!

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Polaroid Mural, The Voyeur

It’s another lazy Saturday. I was sitting in a bath sipping a Jamba Juice, listening to this glorious indie pop song, reading David Sedaris and thinking about old loves and new crushes when I realized that I had NO IDEA what I was going to blog about today. This wouldn’t be a problem if no one was reading this thing, but this little project has kinda sorta taken off in the last week. I don’t know who you are, but thanks for reading!

I started thinking about windows, which have been on my mind since I learned all about Marcel Duchamp’s The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even. The work, which was never completed, deals with themes that Duchamp (1887-1968) struggled with in art and life. He was always trying to verge away from the “retinal,” or our tendency to being tied down in the physical world, and reach transcendence (i.e. passage into some sort of BEYOND).

The Bride shows several figures and objects suspended on two panes of glass. A group of “bachelors,” caught in the real world, struggles to reach the “bride” in the pane above them (the BEYOND). The bachelors’ task seems futile, but there is some sort of connection borne from a rising nebulous gas that is attempting to float from the lower to the upper pane.

I don’t totally get it, but in any case, Duchamp believed that windows and glass could become a portal to transcendence. After all, art is trapped in the material world just like we are. Art must become an invisible plane of ideas- like a pane of glass- in order for it to truly help us transcend. Or something like that!

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View of a girl through two window panes, Espresso Roma

There are windows I’m fond of in town, like the ones on either side of Espresso Roma’s main entrance. Two tables are tucked into the nooks next to the windows. You can sit at one of the tables and peer through the windows at the person seated in the other nook. The glass distorts your distant companion, making him or her look like a living oil painting.

But I think my very favorite window in town is set into the wall outside The Voyeur, a museum of contemporary fine art on Blair Blvd. in the Whiteaker Neighborhood. It’s a circular window that forms the lens of a painted Polaroid camera, allowing the viewer a voyeuristic look into the museum.

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The Voyeur (interior)

Suddenly, the mural itself isn’t the work of art. Viewers both inside and outside the museum are constantly framing and changing the subject of the mural- it all depends on who is looking in, who is looking out, and what their relationship is. In other words, the pane of glass is invisibly creating the experience (with just a little help from the paint around it).

It gives me hope that the idea of art as a transcendent medium isn’t out of reach. What else can be done with a pane of glass? It’s a question worth asking if your thoughts are as dark as those of Duchamp at his most depressed. Fight that nihilism!

BONUS: Here’s a little photo/audio project I did on The Voyeur and Mo Bowen, the wonderful and charismatic owner and curator.

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