Monday, November 19, 2007

The Shock Of The New







One of the most disturbing gifts I have ever received was a piece of art made as part of a mental patient's therapy and sold at an art fair to support the hospital. The picture was framed with a rusted out license plate holder and bordered by the heads of decapitated babies connected with pipe cleaners. The woman featured in the middle of this nightmare had a turquoise-colored jewel eye and a face made of paper mached newspapers. I'm a fan of outsider art, but this was beyond the pale. My relationship with the gift-giver was already fraught -- I had to laugh upon opening it. I'd gotten her the safe gifts for Christmas -- the fancy soaps and Christmas body lotions that you give to everyone you fear offending. Given what I had received, I wished I'd opted for Freud's finger puppet theater -- complete with a stage, a couch, Sigmund, Anna, and Jung. The French have a term for this -- the poison gift, the thing that says evil things you wish you could.

I had a dream the other night that I was lying in a coffin, snow falling all around. Part of a piece of performance art, I wondered when it would end which is how I feel about most performance art pieces in real time. As much as I love art, I don't love it enough to endure the beginning stages. In the best pieces, you're suffering through someone else's bad dreams. I have enough of those myself that I only want to see the really exquisite ones, the ones that will haunt forever and ever. I have no talent with the visual myself and don't expect to develop it any time soon. So I'm left with my dreams, death-haunted gifts that deliver their poison so slowly I don't even see them as the gifts they are.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door." Harvey Milk

Cocktail Hour
Drinking music suggestion: Diamond Dogs David Bowie

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Monday!

7 comments:

Brian in Mpls said...

I love crazy gifts like that...

The weirdest I ever got was a house warming presnt. It was a toilet bowl with a little pine tree growing in it decorated for x-mas from one of my artist friends who knows how much I loath x-mas. The tree died but now I have a fake Charlie Brown looking tree in it and I still wheel it inside during the holidays...My fesivus pool shoots up out of the tank..lol

Anonymous said...

I will opt for the poison gift every time. I enjoy seeing what someone thinks of me. I revel at the thought that perhaps someone might truly know what I am, what I like, or even what I need. Likewise, I hardly ever go for the 'safe' gift. I enjoy watching and listening to people, finding out what their about, and then choose a gift that accentuates what they are. I love to listen, then plot the shopping experience where I might find a gift that matches the person. And I really hate to shop. However, once a year I will make the dreaded pilgrimage to the malls where I am in constant search for a gift that will match.
As far as nightmares go I've never dreamed of being in a coffin. I've often dreamed of being serious hurt, but not dead. My little brother was killed in the first dessert storm, when he was laid out in the casket I was compelled to touch where the bullet entered his body.I guess I just wanted to touch to see if it was real. For a long time after that I had nightmares about that incident and the twist in my dream was my brother would reach up and grab my hand and tell me that it was real, but it was ok.
My perception on performance art is, well.. that life is performance art. I've been at Wayne State for a few years, (that in itself is a stage) and I love watching all the different people. For me, watching a conglomeration of different people with seperate actions and idiosyncrasies is far better than any rehearsed performance you could pay for. It's real and uncontrolled. It's art in it's simplest and most elaborate form.

chameleon

Charles Gramlich said...

Passing strange. I've never recieved anything terribly weird. Never given anything terribly weird. I tend not to make a big deal of gifts, either in the giving or the recieving. By far most of the time I'd rather give than recieve. It's so much easier.

Rodney Jerzy Kosinski said...

After seeing that photo I'll have to go back and rethink my "Steps" book, if you know what I mean. Or maybe "Cockpit," if you know what I mean. I'll just reconvene the committees that wrote them, if you know what I mean.

Robert Hughes said...

I've always thought your blog titles interesting, and I really love today's.

Pythia3 said...

Tis the season...Pandora's boxes beautifully wrapped.
Great story

Sheila said...

haha crazy gifts are awesome. Such great stories to go along with it. "Oh, what's that? Well, let me tell you how I came about that...." hehehe