Travel as Metaphor

The blog of novelist Sue Swift.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Saturday, October 28: we go to the Tate Modern to meet Maggie. I studied art between 1972-76, modern art intensively in 72-73. The primary focus of the modern artist is the dehumanization of people in the modern world, so much so that the theme has really become a cliche. The great irony of the modern world is that the more humans that there are, the more dehimanized we have become, or at least are perceived to have become.

Ultimately the modern artists' view is rather joyless and depressing. All of cubism is a metaphor for the turn-of-the-century--that everything was breaking up, coming apart

Duchamp's large glass, more properly called The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even, an "approved" copy of which is here, is about the separateness of men and women, and the mechanical nature of sex. I liked the version I saw once, the original, in which the glass had been broken and then the sculpture had been reconstructed...I liked the metaphor.

As we move toward minimalism and abstraction the artrowks look more like they have been manufactured by machine rather than made by hand. Another metaphor.

The interesting aspect of these are the unplanned imperfections. The shadows in the marble stones in Hepworth's Three Shapes. The cracks in other works caused by aging--unplanned, I am sure.

The pieces I thought most effective were a set of mirrored cubes and a suspended, open square of fiberglass whch enclosed a space without actually cutting it off from the rest of the world.

A number of works are about the artist's perceptions, and they often overestimate how interesting these perceptions are. There's a lot of self-indulgence in modern art, which IMO is caused or at least exaggerated by our culture of celebrity.

Ate lunch in the members' cafe with Berta and her art buddies. Post-Tate I walked along Bankside to the Globe. No plays on at this time; they ended in early October. Too bad I hadn't known--it would have been cool to see a play there. I took some stone steps down to the murky Thames. Strangely, in several trips to Britain, this was the first time I ahd actually walked along the riverbank, though we'd punted in the Thames Valley when I was a child. Here, I found natural chalk, bits of old pottery, and lots of broken glass along the shore.

I walked to St. Paul's. Looks like a Christo, in common with many European buildings. I went inside and hung out in the vestibule, sinceI really didn't want to pay 9 pounds to look at yet another old building when most of them are free. There's a sign asking visitors to respect the church...and they're charging admission????? What would Jesus do or say???

A girl bounced a red and white soccer ball along the black and white tiles. I didn't say anything but must have looked severe, because she stopped and aologized to me. Ha.

Rita Mae Brown wrote, "I pray for chance magnificence."

Once again luck attends me. The St. Paul's Tube station is closed, so I walk east toward the next one. I pass a closed sidewalk where a movie's being filmed. Not, unfortunately, Harry Potter, but something called Highway Robbery.

I continue down the block toward a small church. It's St. Mary-le-Bow, home of the famous Bow Bells. Designed by Wren, it was destroyed during WW2 and rebuilt according to his specs. It's a lovely little church, creamy walls and columns, a sky-blue barrel ceiling, with gilded rosettes and wood trim.

And the choir is rehearsing. They're magnificent.

I thought I'd go to Greenwich this afternoon, but I have no impulse to move.
When I go to the Bank tube, there's a sign to Leadenhall Market, which I remember is the site of the filming of Diagon Alley, so I walk there. It's dead, like everywhere in the City of London on weekends and at night.

I tube to Oxford Circus, an utter contrast since it's in the middle of the main shopping district of London and always crazy-crowded. I stop at the waterstone bookstore to hang out.

Altogether a really really nice day.

29 October--Sunday

Kew Gardens today--sunny and mild. A lovely day, but I find myself tired of the manicured perfection of London's parks and gardens. I long for the wild places ofthe earth.

30 Oct--Monday

Worked a bit doing promo in the morning, then headed for Greenwich. Even before I get there I'm tired from all the walking I've been doing, since I decided to walk through the City along the way just to see if it was anymore lively on a weekday. There were a few more people on the streets, but Leadenhall was still dead...odd...a place like that in Caalifornia would be busy no matter what the hour or the day. Heck, it's a shopping mall, right???

Train trip from Bank to Maritime Greenwich followed by fish and chips. The trip uneventful but interesting. Lots of Thames, wharf, canal action.

I'm not blown away by Greenwich. I've discovered that despite my love of the Regency era I don't care for the neoClassic architecture of the day, which was the norm for England for a couple of centuries, includng the era during which most of Greenwich's large public buildings were designed.

I'm writing this in the Planetarium sky show and it's really disappointing. I was expecting something terrific like the shows you can see at Griffith Park in La, but instead it's really cheesy and corny. I don't learn's oriented to children--stupid uninformed children, which annoys me since right now most kids are in school and the vast majority of people in the show are doubt they feel they're being talked down to as much as I do. These folks need to put on separate shows for kids.

Sooooo...I did Greenwich. Nice town, good fish and chips but the sights, while interesting, left me unmoved. A lot of the sights were closed, including the most interesting parts of the Royal Observatory. Great views of London, though, and a peek into an estate agent's window revealed that bGreenwich is almost affordable.


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