Powerless Pistols: Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler

March 15th, 2009 § 0 comments

Hedda Gabler has recently been revived on Broadway with a prestigious cast and director, an awaited revival that revealed a disastrous interpretation filled with stilted performances—I can’t help but wonder why this play and why now. Being a critic by nature, or rather because of five years of art school, even I was not as unforgiving as the new york times or the new yorker. The play, like most, had its brilliant moments, and the rest was awkward at best. Interestingly, the better moments were brought about through the reinterpretations of the text, small alterations and additions to words and gestures that brought to life a little of the drama Ibsen likely had in mind, and that was so lacking in Sunday nights performance.

Ibsen, I have often thought, is more a feminist than most women who call themselves that. Watching last weekend’s performance I realized it was easier to misunderstand Hedda as a monstrous being without passion or feeling than to paint her in the light of the causes for those feelings. Rereading the play, I found that as unlikely as the story seemed onstage, there were small moments in the text that still ring sharply true. Her dialogue remains a critique of the obviousness and manipulation of the opposite sex, a thoughtlessness that over the last centuries has simply shifted, and has not yet disappeared. Hedda is not haunted and harassed by inner demons, she possesses a deformed conscience because she is fraught with discontent at her complete lack of control, over herself, her life, and those around her that she desperately tries to influence. In a rare moment of enthusiasm, when she believes her old lover has committed suicide at her insisting she states, “it’s liberating to know that there can still actually be a free and courageous action in this world. Something that shimmers with spontaneous beauty.” Though this notion is hastily stamped out it is as close as Hedda comes to disclosing her desire, and even hope, for life. Though the revival dwells on her talent for “feeling dead,” a line altered from “boring myself to death,” she is neither bored nor dead, and reading her frustrations as such is a dismissal of the insightful brilliance of Ibsen’s character.

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Pier 94—The Beautiful People

March 10th, 2009 § 0 comments

I wonder who thought art fairs were a good idea: investors, collectors, rich folk shopping for a new painting for the dinning room, museum directors, or gallery owners? It was certainly not thought a great idea by the makers of art, even those egotistical enough to dream of being the highlight of such a gathering of stuff, would never call it an ideal space. I could not help but wonder about this as I wandered through the Armory Show this past weekend. I was curious about the event in general, I wanted to see how it compared to Art Basel, for though I guessed it would contain many of the same galleries and artists, in the post-economic meltdown I thought the vibe, perhaps translating into the overall aesthetic, might be different—more subdued and less extravagant?

pier 94

I was relieved that this event was less costly than Basel, students could enter the maze of portable white walls for a somewhat reasonable price, the ticket included admission to both piers (92 & 94), but one was more than sufficient to become completely visually overwhelmed. I wondered as I wandered how the spaces were chosen and how the galleries chose their representative artists. Judging from the odd juxtapositions and the decorative, tasteful quality of the art I made my guesses. This lead to my amazement that someone, somehow, somewhere, decided this was a good idea.

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Inside the Big White Tent

February 22nd, 2009 § 1 comment

While I can’t really say I love my job, I do appreciate my co-worker with whom I share a small part of her photo studio. An additional member to the art department, or “creative services,” I am a somewhat odd fit at times among the other fashionable girls who sit in their cubicles and in front of their new Mac’s all day long. I used to joke when I first arrived that they put the less fashion forward employees in the dark photo studio to do their work. A veteran illustrator has an office behind me, though he travels and lectures more than he sits in it, leaving the photographer for company, and my days at work usually pass uneventfully and without the usual work stresses—npr, the constant background to our sporadic conversations, tends to aggravate me more than my job.

Outside our building, located in the heart of the fashion district, is a gold plaque—like the sidewalk stars in Hollywood—of Oscar de la Renta. Talking with a friend of a friend the other night, a graduated fashion designer, I discovered that the company I work for is an important one, and that the books we have been working on these past months are an expensive and treasured resource—who knew? The upstairs of the company looks different from our department, where fabric samples and trend storyboards are propped against the walls. The “second floor,” in office lingo, resembles a scene from The Devil Wears Prada, rolling racks of vendor samples line the walls, and the “assistants,” regular faces in the photo studio, remind me of the movie as well—they are pretty, efficient, and obsessed with fashion.

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Visiting Boston

February 21st, 2009 § 0 comments

I have come to revel in bus trips, and since I still have that west coast love of driving, I enjoy the fact that I can enjoy the road without having to drive myself. The last time I took a bus out of the city it was toward Jersey, this time we drove uptown, past our apartment, past Yankee Stadium, through Connecticut and onwards. The landscape looked colder outside ny state, frozen lakes and rivers drifted by, and houses were covered in snow that has not garnished Gotham in weeks. It feels more American somehow, or less European, to take a bus, and I enjoy the stigma. I have yet to discover exactly why this form of travel is looked down on, but it should not be surprising to find that buses are as surrounded by cultural myth as the road.

boston train station

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A Forgotten Vocabulary

February 13th, 2009 § 0 comments

“What kind of class do you want to take? Anything but ballet.”

paloma herrera

When I think of the ideal dance class I remember a particular night in San Francisco, a night class that took place while I was studying at a school there. After our “required” classes that lasted all day long, we used to crash the beginning adult classes at night. The teachers were two Russian twins, dancers for SFB, who had enough energy and charisma to bring the best out of weary feet and legs. Male ballet teachers are by far the most “fun,” they indulge in the steps they know best, jumps, turns, and fast (loose) footwork. Women are constrained by being ever attentive to perfect technique and impeccable execution. Without the pressure of our daytime teachers, without the nitpicking of our artistic director, it was the perfect time to experiment. We were brats, flaunting our training for the benefit of the beginners, but we were humbled by the local professionals who came to dance with our twins. It was as democratic as I remember ballet ever being, it was ballet without pretensions, and we were always at our best. It is that kind of class I want to find again.


(a very young Suzanne Farrell with a less youthful Balanchine)

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