Day 38: Vernissage or your life


Morning gloom, post-neo-poststructuralistic

This blog post uses powerful imagery to undermine the logocentric masculinity inherent in all deconstructed and neo-deconstructed post-colonial art. This blog post embraces the unavoidable ambiguity in referencing the non-signifying signifyer. This blog post teaches us all that reality as we know it necessarily entails non-reality, even presupposes non-reality, and that this non-reality becomes reality as soon as it is framed as such. This blog post uses any word as long as it sounds good. 

I went to a vernissage yesterday. (It took me a while to get out the door, my francophile wife insisted I should pronounce it Vernissage, whereas I said Fernissage, as they do in German — but I got there in the end, silently humming ferni-ferni-fernissage to myself while I locked the bike.) I stayed for four hours. I’m still a bit dizzy.

The fffernissage was for a video art exhibition. It wasn’t free champagne and all dark suits, as it was at my only previous fffernissage in Prague, but it was free, and you could at least buy champagne, and there was a big wall where they would project all the ten nominees for some kind of video art award.

The first film showed a young man breaking into tears while trying to describe how he managed to get out of Afghanistan. The film cut to an old woman, probably Afghan as well, sitting on the floor. She didn’t say anything. She just sat there, she hardly moved. After a few minutes a sense of restlessness spread in the audience. After a few more moments, it seemed like a tiny smile escaped the old woman’s face, her wrinkled face changed almost imperceptibly, her lone tooth seemed to smile as well, at us, at fifty rich, white, safe Danes, who have never been to Afghanistan and in their naivety think that feeling sorry for her, feeling sorry for a moving image of her hardly moving projected on a wall in a museum, would in any way help her.  It made me smile, too.

Then the curator got up and apologized, there’s something wrong with the film, the image seems to have frozen…

Clap clap clap.

The second film was this. Images of a forest canopy accompanied by the sound of church bells. The curator said something in his introduction that this showed the juxtaposition of natural time and artificial, i.e. human, time, and did so in a brilliant way. I got the point after ten seconds — after that I felt sad. Imagine locking yourself inside a dark building to watch still pictures of nature! Imagine how much more you can get from actually being out in the woods!

Clap clap clap.

The third film was über-over-exposed images of nature and people swimming in what seemed like a giant hole in the ground. The camera moved slowly over some plants and the people swimming in the background were…, no, they weren’t naked after all. Oh well. More over-exposed nature, then.

Clap clap clap.

The fourth film, however, was brilliant. An Iranian woman in the US calls her parents in Iran vie Skype and asks her mother to a poem out loud — her father is supposed to just sit there, while she herself constantly interrupts her mother. Read slower, read louder, more feeling. All the other films were serious in a very somber way, like most art films are. I don’t know why. You’re supposed to sit there and watch this screen and furrow your brow and everything is very important. This film, however, made us feel good and made us think, it made us watch and yet we always found something more in the picture, some gesture from the mother, some irritation from the father.

Despite the fact that it was all in Persian. Or because?

Clap clap clap.

The fifth film was a picture of a leg, filmed from the perspective of the leg’s owner, making two 360 degree turns so that the shadow changed. Yawn.

Clap clap clap.

The sixth film was the only one all members of the jury had on their short list. It was brilliant, but again it had this artistic gloom — I had enough, I went home.

Clap clap clap.


It’s a pity art has become annexed by the artsy. It’s a pity art has become a commodity on par with gold and diamonds: no painting is worth more than 100 000 000 USD. No painting is worth a tenth of that. It’s a pity the art argot has gotten out of hand (it’s not even funny to make fun of, like I tried above: it’s too extreme). It’s a pity if art turns into celebrity hunt: it’s a pity most visitors just rush through Louvre to catch a glimpse of La Joconde. It’s a pity we think we have to go to galleries to see art. Granted, it was a different experience to see these films in a dark room with fifty other people — but that doesn’t mean that seeing the very same film on Vimeo is inferior. It’s different, but it’s just as much art.

In some sense, it’s even better at home: there’s no clapping after each film, there’s no-one trying to be more artsy or knowledgeable than they are, there’s much less pretence. (There will always be, though: it’s often difficult to admit even to yourself that you kind of like a Miley Cyrus song.)

It’s a pity some people are scares away from art because they’re not artsy enough.


How was it, my wife asked when I got back home.

I put my hands together for a spinning leg, a forest canopy and over-exposed leaves, I said.

So you liked it?

I liked the fresh air outside. I liked the raindrops on my bike, the dark sky, the sound of a bike over cobblestone, the slight smell of thaw and spring after a short winter. I liked riding my bike along closed shops and open pubs, listening to the undecipherable guttural sounds from semi-drunken Danes, thinking about how much more difficult it would have been if they spoke Persian, even if they were sober, about how far we are from our families, and yet how we can call them on Skype, how much my parents correct me, or I them, I don’t know, I have never though about how much of our speech is corrections and rebukes. I liked locking my bike outside our home and telling myself to say something nice once I got inside.

I liked the cold air and the raindrops on my seat. I liked a mother reading a poem in Persian. I liked an old, silent, Afghan woman smiling at me. It might not have been art enough.

But yes, I liked it. And that’s enough.

1 thought on “Day 38: Vernissage or your life

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