Musings of a Stressed Premed

Macaulay work, Comments, Rants, and Reflections

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Diego Rivera- A Man with a Message He Wasn’t Paid to Send

Posted by Anna Kozlova on November 28, 2011

Looking at the images by Diego Rivera in MoMA made it obvious why he was hired to paint a mural in Rockefeller Center. His paintings teem with life and feeling, and the humanity that shines through them. Even more haunting works, such as “Frozen Assets” portray human emotion in a single image. As the wealthy put away their assets, the poor are “put away” under the exponential growth of the city.  In a center meant to reflect the movement, cluster, and life of the city, such art would fit in beautifully and reflect its spirit. It would seem as if nothing could go wrong for Rockefeller’s vision, except for one distinct fact.

Diego Rivera had an agenda on his mind.

While the main essence of Rockefeller center is the hustle and bustle of capitalism, Rivera was a staunch communist, disgusted by what he saw as depravity in the city.  When asked to paint he accepted, and gave in a sketch that was approved. However, he deviated from the original, intending to send his own message to New York. His viewpoint can be clearly seen in images and recreations of the original. On one half of the painting, there is war and strife, with images of venereal disease, and the prohibitionist Rockefeller enjoying a drink. On the other, Lenin sits and brings together a peaceful crowd of people. Despite warnings and threats, Rivera refused to change the offending details, and the mural was destroyed.

Was it correct to destroy a work of art as beautiful, though agitating, as Rivera’s “Man at the Crossroads?” While it is a shame to have a masterpiece destroyed, the decision was sound. Rivera was commissioned to paint a specific vision, and even provided a sketch that passed scrutiny. He gave in a “faulty product,” which did not match what his customer requested. He brought the destruction of the mural upon himself. What could Rivera have hoped to accomplish? Action along these lines would have inevitably been taken. It seems that his ultimate goal was the news and discussion once the conflict came to light.

I believe that the fuss surrounding Rivera’s “Man at the Crossroads” created more interest and intrigue than could ever have been generated by a more politically correct painting. I have heard of Rivera prior to reading Delirious New York and visiting MoMA because of this very reason. I’ve never previously heard of the artist whose mural ultimately filled the void. If any lesson can be taken from the whole ordeal, it is that while art is lasting, the stories behind it bring it to light.  For this reason, it is greatly beneficial to know the history behind the art and construction of sites such as the Rockefeller Center. It brings a human and tangible feel to an otherwise imposing building mass. Rockefeller and Rivera were human, and their human desires and ambitions are what led to Rockefeller Center’s present incarnation. Neglecting its history would be akin to missing the bigger picture.

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Don Giovanni- What Not to do if You Don’t Enjoy Fire and Brimstone

Posted by Anna Kozlova on November 28, 2011

I was not sure what to expect walking into the Met to see “Don Giovanni.” Reading the libretto gave a good sense of the plot of the story, although I did not know what direction the show would go in. After all, the example shown to us in school involved a Don Giovanni injecting himself with drugs and stripping down to his underwear in the middle of a party. I was very pleasantly surprised to see a show that stayed pretty accurate to the libretto, and a plot that despite taking place centuries in the past, stayed relevant to modern sensibilities.

The story of Don Giovanni is that of a “bad boy” who jumps from girl to girl at a speed that can make one’s head spin. The whole opera is a testament to Giovanni’s decadence; his mission is romance and carnal enjoyment. In a comedic statement, he claims that he does a disservice to the women of the world by staying with just one individual; a statement that does a good job at defining his whole view of life.

I had a much better time watching the opera than I did simply reading and listening to the libretto. Characters really come to life with actions, bringing emotion and humanity to the beautiful singing. The comedic aspect comes out much more distinctively with the opera; I was shocked by just how funny “Don Giovanni” was. In particular, Leporello’s exaggerated gestures as he tries to woo Donna Elvira according to Don Giovanni’s instructions had me cracking up.  While in class, it was hard to determine whether this opera is a drama, a comedy, or a “dramedy.” Now, I have no doubt that this is a comedic work.

While the premise of the show is a man having as many affairs as he can physically manage, it didn’t come off as too shocking. It may have seemed startling in more conservative times, where the Dionysiac aspect probably contracts with day-to-day life. Now, with the advent of modern television and the internet, nothing can really shock me anymore. I am still not sure whether that is bad or good, but it certainly dulls the “shock factor” that was probably a part of the performance years ago.

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Will I Survive?- A Review of “I Don’t Believe in Outer Space”

Posted by Anna Kozlova on November 27, 2011

After watching “I Don’t Believe in Outer Space,” it took me a while to register what I had just seen. I did know that there were duct tape balls all over the floor, that dancers moved around haphazardly across the stage, and that the “music” jumped at the quietest moments, nearly scaring me out of my seat. What I still don’t know is whether there is any real theme to this “ballet” show. I’ll do my best to analyze what happened throughout the performance, although I’m sure that’s not the point of the production.

While dancers in “I Don’t Believe in Outer Space” don’t use graceful, flowing, or technically difficult techniques, movement is the key motif of the show. There are no leaping, twirling figures, or feats of athletic strength. Rather, a series of stereotypical characters is acted out in very exaggerated form, giving distinct moments of clarity in an otherwise confusing show. I specifically remember the main female dancer switching between two very definite personas: the angular, praying mantis-like neighbor with a voice horror movie villains would be proud to have, and the prim, uptight, hand-wringing suburban wife.

In one of the pieces that particularly stood out, a female voice describes how movements come together, “suddenly, as if by chance.” Throughout her narration, many dancers move, writhe, clash together and vibrate apart, weaving between the many balls of duct tape strewn across the stage.

Throughout such strange sequences, random characters speak the lyrics of “I Will Survive,” occasionally eliciting awkward laughter from the audience.

The end is surprisingly poignant, as an older woman examines the form of a younger dancer, bemoaning physical movements that can no longer be done. If there was anything that I got from this strange performance, it was that movement tells a story, if a very convoluted one. Most of the time, I just tried to figure out what the heck was going on onstage.

 

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Fluxus- Rebellion in a Glass Viewing Case

Posted by Anna Kozlova on November 27, 2011

A stunning work of symmetry and clean, crisp color.

I’ll admit that when I first heard about the Fluxus exhibit, I thought of urinals. The most prominent image in my mind was a porcelain mass displayed in front of a group if intrigued individuals, pondering its connection to the meaning of life.

In the rooms and halls of the Fluxus exhibit, I did not those symbols of creative extremes, although the works had very similar messages; “We do not subscribe to the standard view of art.” Everything had an element of the absurd, or an aspect that went against the whole purpose of the object itself. There was “Giant Cutting Blades Door from Flux Combat with New York State Attorney (and Police)” by George Maciunas; a door with giant razor blades running vertically along it; meant to represent the artist’s seclusion form the public and avoidance of the police. The symbol of entry and transition became a possible killing machine with a few well placed blades and pieces of wood.

Looking at such pieces standing around the rooms made me wonder why certain pieces were chosen over others, and led to the central question that had been on my mind; “What is art, and what is its purpose?” My closest definition would have to be something that someone can enjoy being in the presence of. I cannot say that I loved all the works of “art” that I saw that day, but one did stand out to me in particular.  “Sky Laundry” by Geoffrey Hendricks was a sheet on a clothesline painted with what I thought was a near-perfect representation of the summer sky. The concept that a piece of art can transport you to another time or place was very prominent in this piece, and it stuck with me throughout the whole exhibit.

A great majority of the works were unusual tchotchke-type pieces one would not expect to see as high art. In fact, the whole theme of Fluxus is accessibility; art that one can do at home, art that can be played with and shared with others.  Little boxes filled with cards of patterns and shapes, trinkets, and small figurines made up the majority of what I saw.  These pieces, in theory, are supposed to be actively handled and toyed with. Ironically we could not touch a single one as they were all sealed into glass cases that we were told to be careful not to disturb as we walked through the gallery. Through this limitation much of what made these works unique was dimmed. We have to be told that the “Flux Box Containing God” is sealed shut; we are not free to discover this on our own and derive our own conclusions.

This revelation that what desperately tries to be accessible has turned into institutionalized work was sealed when we were given a description of a Flux tour: artist Larry Miller guides individuals around the facility showing off the form of the pipes, the smoothness of the floor, and the placements of air vents. He is avoids all that is labeled as art, including those same pieces that tried to challenge that classification.

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Visiting Coney Island and the High Line

Posted by Anna Kozlova on September 26, 2011

 

When I first heard about the High Line, I’ll admit that I had my doubts. A garden on top of an old railroad sounded a bit strange, and possibly dangerous. This wasn’t helped by the fact that a few entrances were closed on the day that I came to visit. I had to wander around the base of the railroad before finding a staircase. As I climbed up, I was shocked by what I saw. Shrubs, grass, and flowers were arranged the edges of a path that meandered through the city up in the air. I have never seen a park quite like it before; it combined art with plant life and raised it into the air of one of the busiest cities in the world.

One of the first things that caught my eye were the transitions of old to new, and the natural to artificial and back again. Benches rose from the floor in a seamless slope, moving from the gray floorboard to rich maple-colored wood.Old railroad tracks sat parallel with the new walkway, perfectly integrated into the “floor.”A balcony overlooking the High Line Park was shielded by a fence of branches, chunks of wood, and leaves; a natural shield that does not conflict with the aesthetics of the park.

Central Park is a huge span of well-groomed trees and fields in a forest-like setting. This park did not have that option; buildings rise on either side, and cars are both seen and heard as they zoom beneath your feet. I very much enjoyed this aspect of the design; it recognized Manhattan instead of trying to completely rip itself from it. Gopnik describes this balance between the natural world and the reality of city life, “The High Line combines the appeal of those fantasies in which New York has returned to the wild with an almost Zen quality of measured, peaceful distance” (Gopnik). This is not a park full of exotic trees and perfectly arranged, colorful bouquets. The landscape echoes the original state of Manhattan before it was taken over by civilization, “…Corner recommended a wide range of plantings, with heavy leanings toward tall harasses and reeds that recalled the wildflowers and weeds that had sprung up during the High Line’s long abandonment” (Goldberger). This park embraces the past in its design and feel, letting you travel through old Manhattan as you walk the narrow path through the city air.

While I visited the High Line for the first time to complete this project, I have lived across the street from Astroland and Luna Park for most of my life. The Wonder Wheel, Cyclone, and Nathan’s Hot Dog Stand are everyday sights, and not something that stands out. They make up the general aura of the area; “Come have fun for a day. We aren’t the biggest show around, but you’ll have a great time.” This isn’t Six Flags; crazy thrills and broken speed records aren’t what Coney Island is about (unless you are referring to the record number of hot dogs eaten in a sitting). There is a feeling of nostalgia towards the neighborhood that’s been entertaining for over a century. This old timey atmosphere is something that I would characterize as the “studium” of my view of Coney Island. As Barthes sees the general settings of his photographs, this atmosphere is the overarching theme of Coney Island.The standard of a classic amusement park complete with a merry-go-round, cotton candy, and a few feature attractions is the first thing that is noticeable about the entertainment area. It is at its roots a family getaway destination for some fun in the sun and a spin around the Tickler.

Miss Argentina

I do love Coney Island for this. However, there is an unusual undertone that’s sometimes hard to miss if you don’t come in on the right day. When you do catch a gem, it changes your whole view of Coney Island. I was lucky enough to capture a photograph of something that would represent my “punctum.” As Barthes describes, “I feel that its mere presence changes my reading, that I am looking at a new photograph, marked in my eyes with a higher value” (Barthes 42).

Meet “Miss Argentina”; this lovely gentleman was kind enough to pose for the camera with his dog and parrot. There is a sense of “anything goes” that sneaks up on you at Coney and gives you a shock when you least expect it. It’s this surprise factor that really defines Coney Island for me. It isn’t just a place for a family retreat; you’re in for a show. To see examples of just how “interesting” things can get, come see the Mermaid parade in the summer and be prepared for a shock or two.It’s all part of the experience.

 

 

Works Cited

Barthes, Roland. Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. New York: Hill and Wang, 2010. 42. Print.

Goldberger, Paul. “Miracle Above Manhattan.” National Geographic April 2011: 122-137. Print.

Gopnik, Adam. “A Walk on the High Line.” The New Yorker May 21, 2001: 44-49.Print.

 

 

 

 

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“Let’s Take a Walk on the High Line”

Posted by Anna Kozlova on September 26, 2011

 

“Let’s Take a Walk on the High Line”

I took about 20 photographs during my observation of the High Line Park. I used a separate photo for each of the letters and shapes on the image to show all the views I was able to capture of the scenery. The background image is that of the High Line while it was still in use.  The colored letters and shapes spread across the page are meant to highlight the differences between the old and the new. The “person” with the suitcase is walking on an arrow; this reflects the very linear pathway of the High Line Park. I have included some of the photos used within the image below.

 

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