Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Charles and Camilla in the frame

I've finally finished my painting of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles in their car on the way to the Royal Variety Performance on 9 December 2010 (I can't believe it happened so long ago already).
     I did the painting as a kind of 'homage' to Richard Hamilton and his painting 'Swingeing London 67' which shows Mick Jagger and the art dealer Robert Fraser handcuffed together in a police van as they arrived at court on drugs charges in 1967. I've always loved that picture which actually exists in six different versions and is a mixed-media piece with screenprint elements and even metal handcuffs embedded in at least one version. Whenever I see it in an exhibition, it always makes me happy.
     So that's why I tackled this one. It's acrylic on canvas, about 30 x 20 inches. It was very exciting to paint. I did C & C inside their car first as they seemed to be one level of 'reality' in the picture. Then I did the weird reflected faces of the 'attackers', one of whom seems to be embedded in Charles' shoulder. Finally I did all the strange dashes of reflected light on the various windows which I really enjoyed doing.
     Quite often when I'm doing a picture, thoughts occur to me about it that I hadn't had before I started but which seem to reinforce the 'interest' of the picture for me. In this case, I thought of C & C in their perfectly lit 'cage' of a car and how this could stand for the Royal Family as a whole, kind of caged by their position in society where they're both protected and curated and, of course, hugely privileged, but also restricted and frozen by protocol and history and all the ridiculous fanfare that surrounds them. Meanwhile, the rest of society is moving on, breaking up and turning nasty every so often, changing, dazzling, evanescing, but the Royals just have to keep on doing their royal thing like waxworks. I'm not a Royalist, by the way, far from it. But I was very struck by this image and the understandable fear on C & C's faces. They were very vulnerable in this situation, in spite of all their bodyguards and bullet-proofed car. The car got separated from the rest of the cavalcade, a window was broken and Camilla was poked in the ribs (no doubt as hard as possible) with some sort of stick. The 'mob' were chanting 'Off with their heads!' -- was that a wittily historical reference or kind of obvious? The two of them must have been terrified.
     But beyond all of that 'meaning', I was really most interested in the intense colours in all the reflections.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Sketchbook surprise

me with my mum and dad
I almost fell off my chair yesterday when Jo at Fiddlesnips emailed me to tell me that my Brooklyn Sketchbook had featured on the Arthouse Co-op's blog. It was the weirdest thing to see an object that I had made on someone else's blog, with photos taken by them and their thoughts on it. It made my stomach churn a bit but I was really pleased. The strangest thing is that I actually follow that blog but had somehow missed this post, which was written quite a few weeks ago. So my book has been 'out there' all this time and I didn't even know.
     Meanwhile, I'm driving myself near to madness, trying to get on with a biggish painting (which needs daylight so only do-able at weekends), gearing up to try to write a book and now, as if I needed another project, I'm trying my hand at making one of those sort-of-slideshow-sort-of-animations like the 29 Ways to stay Creative, but it's taking an age to do and I'm not at all sure whether it will be any good.
Finally, the above is a screen grab of the home page of a cool charity project. It has a triangle for every single of the 16 million-plus colours that can be used online. You go on the site, Own A Colour.com, and you can make a donation to 'buy' an individual colour. Then you can name it and add a note saying why you've called it that. I have bought #209548 which is a green colour, and I've named it 'Audrey's Green'. It's the sort of shade of green that my mum always used in her paintings for grass and leaves. I used to say to her that it wasn't the right colour (too blue) but she loved it and carried right on using it. What did I know anyway?

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Trying to be creative -- pt 3

Hello again -- sorry for the unplanned gap between parts 2 and 3 of this exploration of one set of 'ways to be creative'. Let's get going again with No. 18: Count your blessings.
'Count your blessings' by the wonderful Tilleke Schwarz: www.tillekeschwarz.com
I have sometimes followed another, related piece of advice which is to help yourself fall asleep by counting your blessings (it will start to sound as though I do nothing without being told to) but I had to stop as I felt as though I was tempting fate. If I've had a 'bad day' within the parameters of my world, it doesn't take long before thoughts of how much worse it could be threaten to become overwhelming. I may have had to deal with a disgruntled person at work, I may have had to sit in traffic both morning and night, but my kids are safe, I am warm and fed, etc, etc. And I have the absolute luxury of 'being creative', or trying to be.
     I'm not sure whether counting your blessings will actually contribute much to the creative endeavour, in any case.
     Anyhoo, homily over.
19. Get lots of rest.
Sleeping Woman by Tamara de Lempicka
Once upon a time I would have said that getting lots of rest was essential. Who can fully use their creativity when their brain hurts from lack of sleep? But having spent so much time over the last few years reading by the light of a tiny torch in the middle of the night because I can't sleep, I'd say your body (and mind) is able to get by on surprisingly little sleep. Mine is not an extreme case. I used to worry about not getting seven hours a night but after I did a trial programme with sleepio.com (which I'd really recommend, by the way, if you are seriously concerned about your sleep), and saw how much worse other people's sleep problems were (from the user forums) I decided not to lose any more sleep over it.
In fact last night by the light of my torch I was reading this brilliant little book about the history of holiday camps by Kathryn Ferry. The early days when it was men-only in rows of bell tents and the way that the first chalet camps were built by trades unions was fascinating. You can see a gallery of pictures from the book here.
     So, no one can go too long without rest, but, again, I'm not sure this is going to be my no. 1 priority, creativity-wise.
20. Take risks.
Are we talking about the sort of 'risk' you take when you mix up, say, a lovely acidy-green and splat it all over your canvas or are we talking about jumping-off-the-pier-just-for-the-hell-of-it kind of risks? I'm all for the former and NOT AT ALL for the latter.
     It was perhaps 'taking a risk' to take this old postcard:
And try to turn it into this HUGE oil painting when I had never used oil paints before. The painting is truly dreadful and is consigned to our garage in the roll of shame. You can see the original postcard stuck on the wall at the top (to get the scale):
I should just explain that I was doing (am still doing, in theory) a series of pictures based on old postcards where most of the detail was intentionally wiped out and only one or two lone figures remained. This one (below), in oil pastel, worked better I think:
This was the original postcard for this one:
I really want to get back to doing these. I like doing them. Unfortunately, the 'risk-taking' of the really big one put me off oil paint completely. So was the risk worth taking? Probably, yes.
     Now, going back to jumping off the pier and the like, I actually have a bit of an obsession with 'jumpers' [not the Sarah Lund kind -- although we finished watching the boxed set of The Killing 1 this week, at an average rate of 3 episodes a night, and it was awesome] and have been known to spend hours on holiday trying to get photos of kids doing just that. Here are a few:
At Abereiddy
At Solva

At Charlestown, nr St Austell
 But I'm one of those people who anticipates disaster in their guts. I can't watch You've Been Framed because I feel in my viscera an echo of the pain of the people falling off stages and getting tennis balls where it hurts. It's torture. Similarly, it was hard watching all these jumpers for fear that they would hit a submerged bicycle or break their necks landing badly. You may pity my kids and imagine that they've been brought up in a cottonwool world of sitting nice and quietly while the other children tear around having fun, but I'm not as bad as that -- quite bad, though.
21. Break the rules.
Hmm, I'm not really for breaking the rules. Or only very very small ones that don't really count. When the riots broke out this summer, we sat at home watching it on television, very disturbed and telling ourselves that it was the end of society. We thought we were seeing the social fabric being ripped apart and, for a few nights, we thought it would never be mended. If you had gone on the rampage and grabbed for free the stuff that the culture tells you you must have, why would you ever delay gratification again? That the 'clampdown' did succeed in re-establishing the normal capitalist order seemed incredible as we had felt the momentum of the disorder would not be stopped so easily. Obviously there is a delirious pleasure to be had from breaking rules but the dominant order will reassert itself one way or another and then there's usually payback. I don't relish payback.
     In art it's hard to break the rules now in postmodernism anything goes. I like juxtapositions that don't feel right, as in this small painting I did a while ago:
The pink section is the pattern of a dress I used to have as a child
22. Don't force it.
Good one, Mr 29 Ways.
For instance, don't get too hung up on capturing 'jumpers'... I didn't get a single decent image out of this exercise -- D enjoyed it, though.
23. Read a page of the dictionary.
Oh indeed. Yes indeed. Many's the day that I open the dictionary at random, but quite punctiliously, and punctuate that day's conversation with pungent puns and punchy points. I can come across as a bit of a pundit, but my speech positively pullulates with puncta. No one dares to puncture my puncheon when I'm in the flow. I'm as pulsating as Pulchinello, as punchdrunk as a pullet. Pummel me now before I have a pulmonary embolism!
24. Create a framework.
I take this to mean that you try to set the creative work you do within a set of aims or ideas. You create meaning for your work by thinking about it and setting it in a context. This, I think, is a good way to approach projects and something I could do with doing more. Or, rather, it would be better if I stuck to one project at a time instead of flitting from one thing to another. I do have the beginnings of frameworks for my work, I have ideas about why I'm embarking on something or other, but I don't stay with each thing long enough to develop a coherent 'body of work', if I dare use such a fancy term.
     This, for instance, was a big picture I did more or less as an experiment a few months ago:
As I was doing it, I had all sorts of thoughts about the way that adults try to inculcate young children into 'norms' of behaviour by making them colour in images instead of letting them draw their own forms. I could easily have developed this, trying different media, using different source images, different colours, different compositions and so on, but I had too many other projects piling up and this all got left for another day. The trouble is, I don't have enough days.
25. Stop trying to be someone else's perfect 100%.
Ha. This one isn't a problem. I'm under no illusions that I'm anyone's perfect 100%.
26. Got an idea? Write it down.
YES! DO THIS. Is there anything more frustrating than the vague sensation that you have had a fantastic idea and forgotten it? Naturally it's the best idea you ever had. And now it's gone. I've lost so many ideas, I could weep. Ideas are also scary -- they have so much unrealised potential. If I look through my notebooks and see the ideas I've scribbled down, I know that I will never follow through on even one percent of them. I will die and they will die with me. That's a black thought. But even blacker is not keeping your ideas in the first place.
I write ideas down in my current notebook, then I try to 'harvest' them into a special ideas book. I'm just looking at this now to see if there's a page I could bear to scan and use as an illustration, but there's something so 'naked' about ideas in their first form -- they seem foolish, naive, and yet I know that they are precious.
I'm going to keep my funny ideas to myself for the time being...
27. Clean your workspace.
Photo taken at 10.32 on Saturday January 14, ie right now. I'm saying nothing.
28. Have fun.
Absolutely. What's the point otherwise? If being creative isn't fun, or, if not a laugh a minute, then at least satisfying and enjoyable, why bother? I know that when I'm happy making something, it's completely absorbing. I don't think about snacking, I don't need music or the radio on, I don't feel the cold, I don't notice the time passing. I know it's one of the best ways I spend time.
Trying to take photos down a kaleidoscope was fun
29. Finish something.
Yep. That would be good, wouldn't it?
Unfinished since 1978

strange unfinished necklace experiment
But the good news is ... I've finished this blogpost. Hurray. Thanks for coming along through this odd exercise. Has it been encouraging? I hope so. Looking forward to seeing all your creativity in the coming weeks and months.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Trying to be creative -- pt 2

Welcome back to my very personal 'interrogation' of the 29 Ways to Stay Creative featured recently on Lesley's blog...

So far we've reached No. 11: Surround yourself with creative people.
Truth be told, I'm a rather solitary person, having grown up as an only child and become very used to finding ways to keep myself occupied (viz yesterday's childhood activity list). My mum once published, long ago, a short story in The Lady which was about a young mother with a horror of other people's children and who preferred her little girl to amuse herself safely at home alone. That was just a character trait of the main character and not the actual subject of the story but that was the element that struck me when I read it years later and remembered how few birthday parties and sleepovers I went to -- the story was almost pure autobiography. I also remembered that the number of times people came to the house was so few that these occasions had mostly been elevated to the level of family legend by the frequent retelling of the 'terrible' things that had happened when children were rashly admitted to the house. A little Scottish boy called Nigel White came with his parents, just before Christmas one year in the late sixties. He became famous in our house for running up to his mother at one point and crying out in his little Scottish voice, 'Look, Mammy, a feeeeeee-ry' [a fairy]. Then he uncurled his little Scottish fingers to reveal one of our beloved glass Christmas baubles crushed to glitter in his little Scottish hand.
     Life has gone on and I have been through intensely social periods but, since we moved down south a decade ago, I am not surrounded by very many people at all, alas, creative or otherwise. That's entirely my own fault and I vow right here to do something about it. My closest creative companions are you, my blogchums, out there, and I'm very glad to have you.
No. 12: Get feedback.
This leads directly on from No. 11, I think. But lovely blogfriends are probably not the best people to ask for feedback because they are too kind and encouraging to say, 'That painting's not so great, have you thought about taking up gardening?' One probably needs the kind of ego-crushing criticism you supposedly get from your fellow students at art school. Actually my husband is brilliant at pointing out the key thing that needs to be done to improve my paintings and the like, so I rely on him for an honest opinion (and I can take the criticism too, it's just nice and warm in the cupboard under the stairs. No, I'm not crying and poking my eyes out with a paintbrush, really, I'm not...)
13. Collaborate.
Oh dear, we've hit a bit of a dry patch here. No creatives, no feedback and now precious little collaboration.
Collaboration is probably the thing I find the most difficult as I'm very good at thinking I know best. When we have training days at work where we have to go in groups and make teddybears out of paper (we actually had to do this once), I'm usually the one that wants to give it a go and has a good idea for mass production of paper teddybears, which then turns out to be the antithesis of the team-work solution we were supposed to find. It isn't teamwork, it's a dictatorship, and a misguided one at that.
     I also have problems with ownership when it comes to collaboration. If a group of people collaborate on a single piece of work, who will 'own' the piece when it's finished. Truly collaborative people don't even think about such things, I'm sure -- the satisfaction is in the joint endeavour itself.
     I've just remembered a single collaborative project from when I was doing my foundation art course a few years ago. In pairs, we had to dress a mannequin in an Elizabethan costume made from scrap paper. As I was 'old' and everyone else was 18 or 19, I was the class pariah and I'm sure no one particularly wanted to be my partner (it was just like waiting to be picked for the team in PE ... sob) but I did end up with a very nice girl and I remember I enjoyed it a lot -- a mad afternoon creasing and crinkling paper and making with the staple gun.
OK, so more collaboration would be a good thing.
14. Don't give up.
I think I'm OK on this score, just about. Look how many goes I had at getting just the image I wanted from some old footage:
... before I finally got the one I wanted:
However, I did give up my printing class out of frustration at how bad my prints were:
Sometimes I think my 'giving up' is disguised by my starting on something new, which doesn't feel the same at all. So perhaps this is also one for me to work on.
15. Practice, practice, practice.
I practise SO hard on my king.com games. Does that count??
new favourite Puzzle Mana. Just can't get my level 4 monsters
16. Allow yourself to make mistakes.
Oh I hate this one. I absolutely hate making mistakes. I'm trying to think of something where I made what I considered to be a mistake and then it magically turned out better than intended...
The only thing I can think of along those lines is the above stitched collage which I did on a one-day course that I thought was going to be about 'lifting' images using solvents and the like but wasn't. Once I'd realised that I'd misunderstood, I just got on with it and really enjoyed the day.
17. Go somewhere new.
I totally endorse this one, but does going to a new village five miles down the road count, or do you have to go to Uruguay or Krygystan? I love adventures but prefer 'safe' adventures (it's not boding well for no.20...). I had a lovely day out in Essex a couple of years ago, where the highlight was Wivenhoe.
near Wivenhoe
I'm stopping there for today as we have borrowed the boxed set of The Killing series 1 and are watching three episodes a night. Completely addictive.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Trying to be creative

Lesley often has great videos on her blog, and her 28 December post had a great one: 29 Ways to Stay Creative.  I like the style of this animated graphic and I like the 29 commands as well. But I found myself questioning whether I am likely to carry out these instructions for real. As we're just about to launch a book at work about the benefits of 'Doing Something Different', I feel pretty well informed about the benefits of changing what you do, but how hard is it to go against ingrained habits? Also, what if you already follow the instruction anyway?
     Let's take those 29 Ways in turn

1. Make lists.
Yes, well, I wouldn't be functional without lists. I'm increasingly reliant on lists and I wouldn't be surprised if by the middle of 2012 my daily 'to do' list goes something like:
  • wake up
  • breathe in  
  • breathe out
  • continue to breathe
  • get up
  • wash
  • etc, etc
I love looking back at old lists as they often reveal quite startling levels of self-delusion, as with this list, written on one of those days when doing one's 9-5 job until one is 70 (or whatever the retirement age will be in a few years' time) seems unbearable:
This list is embarrassing but not as embarrassing as the others I've just been looking at (I tend to make lists in notebooks so they are kept for all time) and which have made me want to go outside right away and throw myself under a bus (one advantage of living on a main road). The main problem is that so many items are never cleared from the list but merely transferred from the old list to the new list. Some items on my 'things to achieve in 2012' list have been on such lists for years, decades even.
     In fact many of my lists have persisted since childhood. Here's my list of 'holiday ideas' from about 1974 (aged 12) -- I wouldn't be averse to doing most of them now. Is that bad?

2. Carry a notebook everywhere.
Absolutely. I am never without a notebook. Usually two or three. The trouble is I now have about 36 notebooks full of a mishmash of work stuff, 'creative' stuff, shopping lists, plans, curtain measurements, and so on, not by any means all dated, so extracting the good stuff is quite difficult. A sample page, hopefully not too embarrassing -- these are opening lines for novels, written very quickly for a writing workshop...
3. Try free writing.
Oh dear, oh dear. This one is very dodgy. I've tried it in the past and it's completely weird. Not sure I should go public with this stuff...
I'm not convinced that anything very inspiring comes out of automatic writing, but when I tried it (a few times), I quite enjoyed the sense that it was possible to switch off one's normal inner monitor. So perhaps it would be possible to start with an actual idea and then let the words flow uncensored. But without an idea (as above), it will mostly be just drivel, I fear.
4. Get away from the computer.
Ha. Ha ha. I can't step away from the computer because it's my brain. It's my head and my outside world and my sketchbook and my magical answer-machine. I do go away from it sometimes, as earlier this afternoon when feebly trying to do a bit of my new painting, but it soon calls me back. I will try to get away from the computer. I have a plan to sort out all the photos and documents I have relating to my family history ... but then I'll probably scan them.
A fine photo of my great aunt Winnie
5. Quit beating yourself up.
This is a good one, because who wants to suffer the Dantean levels of self-flagellation we inflict upon ourselves? Could I really stop berating myself for not publishing at least one novel, not winning every competition I enter, not getting up while it's still dark to jog round the garden (no way I'm going public), not doing all the other thousand things I had every intention of doing when they first entered my psyche (probably in around 2002)? And if I could, what would happen? Would I achieve anything at all? Perhaps if I cut myself a little more slack, it might result in less time wasted feeling guilty. Or it might result in complete indolence...
best Google Images search ever: 'sleepy cat'
6. Take breaks.
I do like to keep busy. I also waste an awful lot time playing games on King.com and I don't think that really counts as taking a break as it makes your eyeballs feel like frozen sprouts. I will try to stir myself more often. Look, I will go and check on our tea right now...
not very interesting...
7. Sing in the shower.
I absolutely believe in singing at every opportunity. I favour the Marseillaise which I know in French without ever having knowingly learnt it (this spooks me -- I suspect a previous existence as a Revolutionary). I also like to sing Jerusalem and Downtown and Monsieur Dupont. I also love to sing carols and hymns, favouring descants, but have been warned by my children not to do this at any school event.
8. Drink coffee.
No, coffee is bad. Drink Dragonfly Eary Grey Rooibos tea instead. It only smells slightly of fish and won't keep you awake at night or make you feel as though your heart is making a bid for freedom through your ribcage.
9. Listen to new music.
Yes! I completely endorse this one. It's very stimulating. To show willing I have just this very second downloaded Quisiera by Raul Orellana from iTunes, a masterpiece of Spanish house music from 1990. Oh, those tinkling milk bottles (that's what it sounds like to me). I loved this back in 1990, all too briefly, and have been trying to remember what it was for, oh dear lord, 21 years.... By sheer mind power, I have tracked it down. Hurray! (OK, so it's not completely new to me, but it's not my usual thing and my memory is very bad ... does that count?)
10. Be open.
I feel I've got this covered. I'm about as eclectic as it's possible to be without exploding, I think (perhaps I exaggerate a little). I like ... Proust, Big Brother, aubergines, washers, Spongebob, Mike Harding, Dickens, Dvorak, Puff the Magic Dragon, Project Runway, Freud, bagels, starlings, true crime, Melvyn Bragg, pork scratchings.... What do you like?
Peter, Paul and Mary frolic in the Autumn mist
This exercise is taking on a life of its own so I'm going to stop there for today. More soon...

Monday, 2 January 2012

Doing New York -- day 6

Central Park
It was our last day in New York and we were leaving the city very early the next morning. All of us felt a sadness that we have never really experienced before when on holiday. Usually there's little reluctance to leave, however good a time we've had, as the pull of home starts to exert itself. But I think all four of us loved New York so much, we'd quite like to have stayed there for who knows how long.
     So we had to cram in as much as possible... I don't have many photos for this day, as you couldn't take photos in the galleries. First we went to the Gagosian Gallery on Madison Avenue to see Robert Rauschenberg's private art collection. As Gagosian is a commercial gallery, it's really just a posh shop (we told ourselves as we tiptoed in trying to look respectable), but the opportunity to see Rauschenberg's own collection seemed quite special. It's all being sold, after his death in 2008, to benefit the new foundation set up in his name. The art was great, a lot of it personally dedicated to 'Bob', and gave a sense of a close-knit circle of artists.
     It felt very cool to be in that smart private gallery -- how were the staff to know that we weren't a shabby-looking family of vast wealth looking to blow a few millions on a Jasper Johns...?
     After Gagosian, we went to the Whitney Museum of American Art, which was also terrific. We didn't much rate the special shows dedicated to Sherrie Levine (seems like a massive case of Emperor's New Clothes) and David Smith (apparently one of the greatest sculptors of the 20th century... liked shiny rectangles), but I was wowed by the floor that drew on the Museum's own collection. It was called Real/Surreal and brought together ... realists and surrealists in order to show the common ground between the two. It was true! I've always said to myself that I'm not keen on surrealism as I tend so strongly towards the realists, but, placed side by side like this, you could see that both tendencies depended for their effect on elements of the other end of the spectrum. It came down to 'making strange', I guess, so that a city sidewalk would be given an aura of unreality by its emptiness or the cool, oblique light, and a fantastical scene would be imbued with creepiness by the sense that it could be happening just around the corner in your own world.
     I was very struck by this weird lithograph by Robert Riggs called 'Children's Ward' from c. 1940:
After that we walked down Madison Avenue (sigh, how long before I can write those words again...?) to Barney's department store, which made up in glamour what Macy's had lacked the day before. Instead of Santa's grotto they had 'Gaga's Wonderland'. I'm not a massive fan of Lady G, but there was something enjoyably camp about this whole thing.
Chocolate Alexander McQueen shoes, anyone?
A quick trip round FAO Schwarz next but it was insane. You had to queue both to get in and to get out, which tended to induce mild panic. The sweeties bit was good.
Can you sense the crazed fever setting in now? We had to fit everything in that we hadn't done previously. Impossible! But it was on to Central Park.
Then up to Columbus Circle.
Then, finally, a last tired walk back to the hotel, taking in a supermarket.
And then packing. And sleeping. And leaving.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Doing New York -- day 5

Detail from 'I Still Use Brushes' by Arman, paintbrushes set in acrylic resin, 1969, MOMA
Day 5 and the art was really ramping up now. We headed straight for MOMA, first thing. I can't begin to capture MOMA in a blogpost, but will just touch on a couple of things. I was tickled by the work, above, which was pulsatingly red/orange and both beautiful and funny (I thought). It dates from the late Sixties, when the 'death of painting' had been confidently declared, so although Arman (not come across him before, but he is a good one to Google for images - he loved accumulations of the same object...) was still using brushes, he wasn't painting with them.
City Hall Subway Station, New York, by Hannah Wilke, kneaded erasers and antique postcard, mounted on wood, 1974, MOMA
This small work by Hannah Wilke caught my eye because it used a vintage postcard. The 'kneaded erasers' are possibly standing in for gum. There was a whole room devoted to Wilke, who seems to have straddled many different art disciplines. She died far too young.
Untitled (Placebo) by Felix Gonzalez-Torres
Another artist who died too young is Felix Gonzalez-Torres. I'm only finding out all this information about these artists in retrospect, you understand. Gonzalez-Torres died in 1996 aged 39. When you come across this silver sea of sweets in the context of a serious state gallery like MOMA, it's very thrilling to realise that you won't be penalised if you take some of the sweets. You will be 'stealing' the work, but in a sense that act of stealing constitutes the work, or is a vital part of it. It's such an incredibly simple thing and yet the act of taking the sweets galvanises the relationship between the artist and the viewer, making the latter feel as though they're crossing boundaries (of course they're not, because the 'stealing' is permitted, and the card on the gallery wall said that the sweets were 'endless', so they are just replenished all the time). For the last few decades, a lot of modern art has been trying to undermine the various ways in which 'art' is venerated and taken so seriously and this piece succeeds in this aim better than most. My kids exulted in eating their little bits of 'stolen' art. I brought mine home and they're here on my desk, still 'vibrating' (for me) with my experience of seeing them in situ, bending down, daring to grasp them and stowing them in my pocket.
Talking of eating the art, the weirdest experience we had in the Museum of Modern Art was Rirkrit Tiravanija's Untitled (Free/Still). It consisted of a kind of 'soup kitchen' in the middle of the gallery where delicious Thai vegetable curry was being served to all comers, for free. This was the art.

Here's the blurb about it, from the gallery wall:
I guess this works in much the same way as the sweets. It was very exciting and transgressive to be sitting eating curry in the gallery and I guess that we became part of the exhibit for as long as we were partaking. People were very curious and couldn't quite believe that they were allowed to get the food and eat it there. I'm so glad the curry itself was so tasty. It wouldn't have been the same if it had been horrible.
After MOMA (no need for a lunch stop now!), we walked down to the International Center for Photography, taking in the HBO shop on the way in order to pay homage to our beloved Larry David of Curb Your Enthusiasm (I forgot to include Curb on my list of Top TV for 2011; the latest series has been wonderful). At the Photography Center, there was a big exhibition of photos remembering 9/11 which was very sobering. We had decided not to go to Ground Zero because it seemed a bit ghoulish but these images seemed a fitting way to acknowledge the city's terrible wound.
Getting tired now, but for some reason one of our number (no names) had become fixated on Macy's, so we trogged to Macy's and it turned out to be rather limp and weary (like me). The knackered old escalators were something else. It was good to visit another iconic NYC place but not for very long.
John's Pizzeria

The big mural at John's
I just have to mention the pizza place we went to that evening: John's, slogan 'No Slices'. We just picked it more or less at random but it was fantastic, housed in a big converted church with a huge stained glass dome. If you didn't have a table (of course we didn't), you had to stand in the bar until your number came up on a digital board, which was quite exciting (for a while). The pizza was really good and it turns out that the place is well known and has hosted the end of series parties for The Sopranos (another of my absolute fave shows) so who knows, maybe I sat in the same chair as Tone!
M&M's World -- the wall of M&M's
     This was the night that the lucky males in our party went to see Stephen Merchant's stand-up show but it was too naughty for the girls (well, maybe I could have taken it...), so Dora and I went out on our own and hung out in Times Square, which we liked so much. We went to M&M's World where you can fill a bag from the vast selection of colours you can see some of above. All around us people were loading up with great sackloads of M&M's, but we managed to stop at only a relative few (it was the same syndrome you get in a bead shop when you can hardly bear to stop picking colours).
      Then we went back to the hotel and watched the (grim) final of American X Factor. It was only good for staying awake until the men came back.