Friday, April 15, 2011

Birthday Gifts.

Two days ago I received several incredible birthday gifts. In the morning, my mother gave me 3 gifts, one of which was a great surprise, an Anselm Kiefer book I really wanted. Right after that I picked up packages at the Southwark post office, a post office that's best described as the fifth circle of Dante's Hell. There was a long wait and, of course, a screaming match between a customer and an employee. And the customer was completely right. It's a through the roof pain in the ass level at the Southwark post office.

I brought the packages home and in one of them was a photo of the Art Museum, taken by a local photographer and sent to me as a gift from my sister-in-law, Jill Bloom. It was great. And there was another present. Also something amazing. Tony Thomas had sent me an autographed copy of Just Kids by Patti Smith, with a birthday inscription to me.

My appreciation for these gifts is beyond my usual gratitude and exuberance, because they came at a time I've been thinking about the nature of my relationships to family, to friends, to strangers, and to the world at large. I'm writing a very short essay for the exhibition catalog for Ten Years, and it's totally impossible for me because there's no way for me to synapse thoughts to words. And, yes, I just made up a new definition for "synapse." I am really anxious about writing for my upcoming exhibition catalog. Not to worry, I've got some crackerjacks on the case... Peter Barberie and Sally Stein are writing, but I'd like to include even just a page of first person narrative.

Impossible is the word that comes to mind for every aspect of writing this essay. It's an impossibility to put it in words and it's an impossibility to describe it with installation shots, neither video and photos do the job. Under the highway, there's a constant loud arhythmic sound. And there's a shaft of light that runs down the middle of the space right at 1PM during the beginning of May. It lasts for less than 20 minutes and to me it's as beautiful and important as any another part of the installation. When the instalation was up for those 3 hours, weather mattered. History of the American interstate highway system matters. Philadelphia history and my personal history matters. The history of photography matters. Critical thinking skills matter. Vision theory matters. Politics matter. Poetic form matters. There's no way to articulate the breadth of how this work became my life and and my life became this work. But one thing keeps coming up, the importance of relationships, my family, my friends, strangers... and at this point people who have particpated in my work and those who have an interest in my work.

So I keep coming back to my relationship to the world, my joy of navigating the world on my own terms and how much I value my relationships with people from every time in my life. I'm on facebook a lot right now and one of the things I'm fascinated by is how directly connected I feel to people who I haven't seen for 30 years. And how connected I feel to people from EVERY PART of my life. Birth through this instant. In many ways, I consider almost all my relationships as current, as an integral part of myself even if I haven't spoken or seen the person in years. Seeing where these people are in their lives has just kind of reinforced the incredible joy I have in being alive, while knowing that all of our lives are always painful and hard alongside effervescent and joyful. I sometimes feel like I'm everything all the time, and I have been very demanding of my wife and my immediate family in being part of that. So thanks. And special thanks to my wife, the patient, balanced and brilliant, Lynn Bloom.

What this has to do with I-95, I'll be damned if I know, but it's got some something to do with it. Theory, art history, contemporary art practices, photography, sense of place, using the specific to get at the universal, class structure, urban planning, personal history, oh, they're all up in there. But somehow I'm finding that working at the Taco House matters as much as Lucy Lippard.


I worked with Tony Thomas at Tower Records in 1987, but we were acquainted before that when he worked at 3rd Street Jazz. I always loved Tony and considered him a good friend but we lost touch a year or two after I left Tower and he moved to New York. Earlier in the year he surprised me by coming to a talk I gave at the ICP in NY, and while it was over 20 years since I'd seen him in person I felt like we were still the same friends, smoking pot and listening to the Sugarcubes.

I am sentimental, yes, but Tony's thoughtful gift has come at a moment as I'm trying to sort out what I-95 was and there's a connection there, something I can't fully put my finger on. Thank you, TT.


Meanwhile, on the block, Bobby's outside yelling and I think he's totally off his meds. But Thorazine absence hasn't impacted Bobby's need to talk to me about every Jewish holiday. For the last 2 weeks he's told me about all of the neighborhood stores that have Passover sales every time I leave the house... Pathmark, Shoprite and Super Fresh have Passover goods. He reads the circulars every week. And while the Acme is our closest store I've heard from Bobby that "the Mickey Mouse, fucking dump Acme doesn't have anything for Passover."'

Antoinette rescheduled our billboard photo shoot for after Easter and she and Al were at it today, arguing and pointing at each other with their canes.


For Tony: "like a nice piece of birthday cake, with icing, like, vanilla"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oooh. Happy Belated Birthday!

re: I'm working like crazy on an essay and after working on it for about 2 months I have about 43 words down.

You're almost there. Good thing you're limiting it to 50 words.


Allan Smithee