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The Nebraska State Historical Society has some wonderful photos taken of children and adults who are in attendance at various Halloween gatherings and parties. Because the state has a wide range of immigrant influences, European traditions regarding Halloween have often been localized cultural events. Of course, the traditions had to adjust a bit, as well. The pumpkin, for instance, replaced the English turnip as the gourd of choice when carving a jack-o-lantern. A lot of credit for Halloween’s popularity goes to the Irish.

Nebraska History Blog
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A week or so ago I was driving in the North Country, taking photographs, and listening to an NGA podcast interview/lecture with Mel Bochner on the occasion of his exhibit of Theory of Boundaries. Listening to him, I found myself much more interested in installation art than I have been in a long time. I really was taken by his candor regarding the commodification of art, and the role of installation in bucking that trend. However, looking back from the present day of course, he rightly observes that anything including a momentary installation can be commodified. It was really naive to think otherwise. "Theory of Boundaries" is a set of language fractions (prepositions), presented on raw pigment (chalk, originally carpenter's chalk used for chalk lines). I confess that I hadn't heard of him, though I have known and loved the work of his contemporaries like Ed Ruscha. Bochner's language works seem really seminal in retrospect, and his recent collaboration with a landscape architect, Kraus Campo, fascinates me.1

With that in mind, it seemed reasonable to take a walk (a long one, though) from the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh to The Mattress Factory. Krista was a bit in pain when we got there, and we walked (thanks to google) into some fairly questionable alleys complete with beat cops keeping an eye on lost tourists, so perhaps we were a bit less receptive than we should have been. Mostly, the installations there seemed pointless and silly. Jerstin Crosby's piece, in particular, elicited one viewer who happened to be there with us to exclaim: "I could do this!" My question would be: why would anyone want to? Free association has never really been all that interesting to me. I picked up the magic 8 ball, sitting on the piece of plywood that set the "table" for the tableau, and it said "I cannot answer at this time" (or something to that effect). Compared to installations I've seen at the Walker or at MOCA this place just seemed lame and pointless.

I've been wandering around a lot more lately, trying to figure out just what I want to do. Mostly, I'm enjoying making things but I've been contemplating a return to photography as well. I can't really figure out exactly what is up. All I know is that I feel downright energized by the visit to the Warhol museum, and by the Low concert, in a way that I haven't in a long time. The Mattress Factory was a relatively minor hiccup in an overwhelmingly interesting visit to a new place. I look forward to going back sometime in the near future, but the next trip on the books is to Tennessee. There's so much more to say about Pittsburgh and what I'm thinking about in general but I'm feeling a bit tongue tied. This often happens when I'm thinking about visual things. The visual and verbal always seem to clash in me. I can do either, just not at the same time.

This isn't the case with music, thank god. It seems to blend with just about anything. I listened this to a Michael Nesmith (yeah, hey hey he was a Monkey) album called "The Prison" this morning. I like it enough that I just located a vinyl copy to explore further; apparently it's written as the auditory "background piece" to a piece of writing included in the album's booklet. I can't wait to try the full experience. But the primary trigger for me was on the second cut, "Dance Between the Raindrops":

"Dance between the raindrops,"
Were the last words that he said
As I tumbled head long into the storm.
So rising to the challenge
I wrestled with the door
Using what I thought was my good arm.

But there is no way in
To where you already are.
There is no way out
Of everywhere.
No satisfaction can come
To that which is fulfilled,
And all the lies will fall away
With the cares.

Leave the door closed loosely
So the messenger will know
That it's all right to just walk in.
This fear that you've been feeling
Has no substance of its own
And though the battle rages fiercely, you will win.

For there is no way in
To where you already are.
There is no way out
Of everywhere.
No satisfaction can come
To that which is fulfilled,
And all the lies fall away
With the cares.

Michael Nesmith, "Dance Between The Raindrops," The Prison (1994)

It's all about the prepositions, the boundaries I guess. There is no way in to where you are; there is no way out of everywhere.

Watching Low practice a craft that, at least for me, gives feelings substance and weight moved me deeply. I had forgotten what that was like. I had hoped to find moving spaces to occupy in Pittsburgh, but in the end I think the most valuable one was the "skull room" in the Warhol museum where mortality surrounds you, though the Warhol/Basquiat Last Supper was pretty awesome too. A great trip, really.


1Though it must be noted that public reaction appears to be mixed. I was unaware of this artwork when I was in Pittsburgh, but I'll definitely seek it out next time I'm there. I must say that the Strip alone begs another visit.
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Atlanta
Beluga Whale at the Atlanta Aquarium

I was horribly disappointed by the Atlanta aquarium and it took me a long time to figure out why. There are many animals there that you don't usually see, particularly whale sharks and beluga whales. They do a big business with their dolphin show, but after watching The Cove I wasn't really interested in helping to fund that. I rode the long escalator to watch the two token dolphins swimming circles and walked away really sad.

The vibe of the place was just different from any other aquarium I have visited. Forking over my $28 and passing through an airport-style security gauntlet, rewards you with a view of huge banners for corporate sponsors. Where most aquariums have tanks, Atlanta places video screens with virtual footage of fish. Not many plants or corals, just fish. There was little hint of interdependent ecosystems except to point out how necessary and rewarding man's (read corporate) interventions into wild habitats are. It was like stepping into an Exxon commercial. It was paid corporate propaganda of the sleaziest sort, and the spectators were asked to pay just as much as the sponsors. I refused to pay $16 to visit the Coke museum across the street.

Atlanta

No thanks. The whole experience just seemed fishy (and not in a good way). Unlike Monterey, or even the Duluth Great Lakes aquarium that promote the preservation of unique and diverse environments, the Georgia Aquarium sells you the "great mammal' view of history. The otter, for instance, is trumpeted as "the protector of the kelp forest" while man helps contribute to longer whale lifespans by trapping them and putting them in big glass tanks emblazoned with advertising. I felt like I needed a shower afterward and deserved a tip. Instead, tourists are encouraged to pay for the privilege of being told how important big mammals are.

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