I suspect yesterday’s “Postsuburban Youth” post and several of the next few posts should be gathered under the title “things I don’t normally do.” Or, at the very least, “random shit intended to make me write.” This list comes from a friend who has worked through the same list already, calling it, in her case “This I Love.” So, ten works of art that Kitsch loves, not in any particular order. I’m glad I went back to her original post and got the correct phrasing (works of art) because “thing” was what was coming to mind and it was waaaaay too broad and I kept wanting to include people (who aren’t things, but…eh). These pieces have shaped and molded and, on occasion, broken me in ways I can only imagine managing to capture here.
So, in no particular order other than “hey this fits on a page.” It should be of no surprise to anyone who knows me personally or through this blog that I am obsessed with words–both the content and the organization of sound (which is part of the other obsession with music), so it follows much of this list is a celebration of art through word and sound. (Edited to add: forgot to say 1-5 is below, 6-10 will follow, since this was getting a touch long)
1. “Die gerade Linie ist Gottlos…”
My blog subtitle references the above remark from Hundertwasser, whose works I first encountered in KunstHaus Wien in 2000, when I spent a summer living in a vet dorm in Vienna.* The image at left is of his lithograph for the 1972 Munich Olympics. His painting tends to leave me cold (except for the spirals)–I’m a fangirl of his art theory and his architecture, but this piece sat me down hard when I saw it. I don’t know if I had been reading about the massacre (it’s entirely possible that I was, though I didn’t mention it in the diary), but I recall being heartbroken when I saw this–the hope and quelled by violence, maybe. Whatever it was, it hit me hard enough that I completely rewrote my thesis, sitting right in the room with the picture (a good thing, since I was in Vienna to rewrite and recontextualize the bloody thing). Something in the art and the violence that would necessarily become attached to it moved me–finally–and pushed me to rewrite the beast (successfully, I might add). Also developed an idea for a book on opera on film apparently. So glad to see I followed through.
2. The next should probably be filed under “goes without saying,” but I cannot
understate how much Appetite for Destruction means to me now and how much it affected me when I heard it way back when. I was hooked, horrified, amazed and wanted nothing more than to be Duff McKagan. Well, and see the band live. I knew it was radically other than what I had been listening to (save possibly for my then early forays into punk), and I knew if my mother heard the album I was done for. It was, so far as my teen mind could tell, the epitome of what rock n’ roll was supposed to be doing. Angry, aggressive, obnoxious, terrifying. Also, excellent when played very loud. The screen capture comes from the video that most astonishes me now (though not at the time)–“Welcome to the Jungle” is the song and video that grabbed me. “Paradise City,” though is remarkable for what it says about the band and, more significantly, how it says it (I’ve written about this before).
3. I’m trying to recall the first time I saw body modification of the tattoo/piercing stripe, and I can’t. It seems like it’s always been “there” (perhaps because my mother had my ears pierced when I was 9 month old or younger, when she grew tired of people asking if her cue-ball bald child was a boy or a girl. Best part of the story: the very next person exclaimed over how interesting it was to pierce the ears of a boy. Serves mom right), and I was always wanting to be more of a part of that particular brand of art. I can get sucked into studying a sleeve or a backpiece or an intricate piercing to the point of, I suspect, causing the wearer some concern. A body that can be read–especially one where the stories are well-told, though frequently they require extensive footnotes–is a thing of beauty.**
I can’t pick a single opera–that I could pick a single rock album still feels false, even if I picked the absolute obvious one. But, if I had to note an icon, it would be Maria Callas, and Tosca (for which she is dressed in the pic at left) would certainly be among those that slapped me across the face–to the point that it is one of the pieces I have a difficult time writing about. Der Ring des Nibelungen is featured in my thesis on opera, violence, and politics, but Tosca I struggle to write about because musically it means so much to me. Likewise with Callas–she astonishes me in her performances (especially, of course, the early ones).
5. I am a professor of English, so it seems reasonable to include fiction, though picking one that shaped and centered me is all but impossible. Should it be Shelley’s Frankenstein or Goethe’s Faust or perhaps Beowulf, as each has had a significant and lasting impression on me? Were I to look over my bookshelves,
what single one would I pick? One that made a profound impression on me (and manages to weave music, visual art, literature, violence, and politics into one beautifully wrought novel) is Zakes Mda’s Ways of Dying. The particulars of his subject–South Africa during the period in which Apartheid is collapsing–are compelling enough, but the lilt of his tone and the dance of hope he generates in a place that should have been utterly barren of such. The novel is simply lovely, even as much as it is heartbreaking.
*To get all this, I dug my trip diary, which begins with “I love New Jersey” (no, I don’t know why) and quickly turns to the hot guy who was in front of my in the check-in line for my flight to Amsterdam. Apparently he was an “intelligent looking rocker type” (whatever-the-fuck that meant), and I was irritated that I was too much a coward to do anything like..oh..speak to him. And I was wearing a fake wedding ring (I was single at the time), apparently to reduce the potential for…I have no idea. I’d forgotten I’d done that.
**As I typed this, it dawned on me that all bodies can be read, just as all lives have a story to tell. I suppose the difference I would draw is the investment in telling the stories on skin–in ink and metal (or wood or whatever).