Concettina Died and Other Stories of the East Side

Index Zazaura: Mid Summer Edition, posted July 20, 2008 at 02:29 AM

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Well, I already told you about Reno. But what about New York? It's hotter here now than it was there then! I hate summer. Hate hate hate hate hate. The whole city stinks and I sweat like a horse. I've been riding my bike, but my lord it's been harder and harder to deal with it. The humidity makes me feel like I just can't get enough air. So with all this, why on earth have I not been to the beach yet this summer?!? That's just inexcusable. Perhaps next weekend. Perhaps next week if there's a perfect beach day I'll play hookie and leave the office to their own devices. That's not nice, but neither is being landlocked when you live 5 miles from the coast!

Despite the heat, I agreed to meet Laura and her friends Christopher and Timothy for some art viewing. We met at the MoMA, to attend the member's preview of a new architecture show, Home Delivery. It was fabulous, but the heat was too much to linger among the houses built on 54th Street and so we headed to the museum's bar. Ahhh, much better. I had a delicious Peruvian tonic. From there we headed south to see a new public art installation at Rockefeller Center, Chris Burden's What My Father Gave Me, a 10-story tall skyscraper made out of erector set toys. It's seriously cool, paying homage not just to his father but to New York itself, activating as a sculptural space one of the most interesting and iconic architectural spaces in the city. I've loved Burden since I first learned of his early experimental performances while I was in college. But later works of his have also captivated me--Medusa's Head, The Other Vietnam Memorial, Fist of Light--and I was excited to learn about this new piece at Rockefeller Center. It's shiny and humongous, and it's made of toys! It does a couple of things: first it confounds the viewer because of its size and its material--I mean, it looks somewhat like it shouldn't hold up under its own weight. And then it delights the viewer--who among us when playing with blocks or Legos or Tinker Toys or whatnot didn't want to build a skyscraper? And here it is, a childhood dream come true. But then the real thing it does is it shows off the gorgeously structured space of Rockefeller Center. It's at the opposite end of the long plaza from where the annual Christmas tree stands, and thus makes a nice mimicry of the tall tower. To stand between them and look at one, then turn 180 degrees to look at the other one is made instantly aware of the beautiful parallels and rigidly structured arrangements of the Center. But also because it breaks up space which is usually empty, you see the lovely balance of the Saks building across the street, and you see the gentle slope of the plaza down to the skating rink. I've loved a number of the public art projects at RC (especially Jeff Koons's Puppy and Jenny Holzer's For The City projections), but this one seems to sculpturally utilize the space in a way the others didn't. It's wonderful.

But of course the public art project that everyone's heard of--and that has been shoved down our throats by the media--is Olafur Eliasson's The New York City Waterfalls. When I first heard of it, I thought it was a wonderful idea. And then I saw the dramatic renderings the artist created and thought, "Wow!" And then you see the real thing and shrug. I mean, it's cool and all. But it's an installation that is dwarfed by the space it's in (New York Harbor for god sakes!). The wind seems to be more of a factor than the artist or engineers accounted for--for the water's always blowing to one side or the other and over-exposing the scaffolding structure. And the piece seems to suffer the same exact problem so many of us New Yorkers suffer on a day-to-day basis: weak water pressure! That cannot be the connotation the artist had in mind when devising this piece. Mark Fox told me he thought the problem was that there was no mass, no weight at the tops of the scaffolds. He felt he needed to see a somewhat static source at the top in order to give the falling water its power. Personally, I don't mind that the water seems to be coming from nowhere, I just hate that there isn't enough of it. I can see through each and every one of all four falls. Weak. And they're always so far away, because to look at them properly you are gazing across a huge body of water. I did see the one under the Brooklyn Bridge from Fulton's Landing--so looking at the falls from the side and from slightly behind. It was prettier up close for sure, and more impressive, and seemed bigger. I just think the artist didn't quite get the scale right--there's nothing forceful about them. Think about coming upon a waterfall in nature--it stops you in your tracks with its size and beauty. These waterfalls are waiting there to be sought out--buried in the busy hubbub of NYC's constant rat race. They just don't cut it.

Oddly enough, just after I saw the NYC Waterfalls, I watched Wong Kar-Wai's 1997 film Happy Together, and in the 10+ years it's been since I've seen it, I had forgotten that there are spectacular images of the South American Iguazu waterfalls. Everything about the amazing images of these falls is what's missing from Eliasson's piece. So forget coming to New York this summer to see the falls. Stay home in your air conditioning and rent Happy Together:

Finally, may I ask: Is there some kind of conspiracy among pop musicians to bury their voices in their expensive-producer-created mixes? I can't hear Beck on Beck's new album. Madonna's doing the same thing on her new one. Why? Why? Why, Beck, why?

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