Friday, May 22, 2015
So I finished the last half of last season of Mad Men. It and the finale were ok.
I noted the finale's last two scenes: DD in a group sitting on a grassy green stretch of lawn overlooking the ocean, very Esalen-like, smiling broadly and crazily like one of Kerouac's holy fools, listening to therapeutic type talk from a kind of guru about, I paraphrase, a new day, a new dawn and new beginnings and possibilities. Then cut to the famous Coke commercial, "I'd like to teach...," (which pimped out racial harmony to sell diabetes-inducing cola.)
So is Weiner a wiener? He said in an interview that it's inferable that DD went back to the McCann world eating ad agency and hatched this ad from his retreat experience, that it's a great ad and that it's cynical to be cynical about it.
I say with D.H.L. "Never trust the teller, trust the tale." For large, for me, the hot dog in Weiner respecting his comments on the finale rests principally on two grounds:
1. I'm a critic of the ending of The Sopranos as an artistic cop out, betrayal if you want to get dramatic about it. After X many hours following the story, I argue we're entitled to a touch of resolution--I don't need ribbons and bows wrapping a gift box, I can live with controlled ambiguity, irresolution and ambivalence but not fatuity--you viewer decide, I'm not saying--parading as purposeful ambiguity. We have here, I say, inartful anti climactic darkness, as in being kept in the dark, over richly textured possibility. So, analogously, but not in parallel, in Mad Men's last two scenes we have no way of inferring, con Weiner, whether DD went back to the agency. No, not able to infer, which means being able to draw a conclusion from a body of information, we're simply left guessing. And after all we've been through with DD, how is the sheer unknowing of what happens to him defensible? There's a difference between arguable interpretations arising from a textual foundation and arguments over meaning and significance OOH and guessing over the failure to provide artistically controlled irresolution as is the case, I argue, with the ending in both series, OTOH.
2. Weiner by his comments shows that he can't stand up to the deeper and darker implication of his own work. The adjacency of the last two scenes at a minimum could be thought to show the commercial coopting of such beneficent promise as the "higher" Esalen-like consciousness may hold for us all in order to sell diabetes-inducing, syrupy, teeth rotting, terrible-for-you soft drinks. Here we have an essence of much of advertising: the fantasy-oriented falsification of reality to sell prosaic crap. A more dire implication may be a thematic link between the romanticized hokum of Esalen-like consciousness, namely the privileging of self absorbed feelings-"How do you feel about how Sunflower feels about you feel about how she's feeling?"-and the fetishization of self-involved "freedom" inclining to something solipsistic-as if the hardnesses of reality can be subject to such self centred nonsense, so the link between that romanticized hokum and the traduction of the ideal of racial harmony to sell syrupy not-good-for-you crap: "if it feels good do it" marries being made to feel good about one's self by drinking a soft drink. As I see it, Weiner is stuck in the shallow end, "mad in craft" as Hamlet says, unable to ascend to the depths, so to say, rise to the heights, that is to say, promised but not delivered by his art.
My takes, poor things that they are, for as idiosyncratic and contrarian as they may be.
Monday, May 11, 2015
May, 7, 2015
I went this afternoon to the AGO to see the Emily Carr exhibit, From Forest To The Sea. I don't recall having given her two thoughts ever before and if I ever saw her paintings--I have to think I did, what with Kleinberg being a hour's drive--they never stuck. I had a couple of months ago gone to the AGO to see the Basquiat exhibit, Now's The Time and even went to a Saturday long seminar on him (that deserves its own note.) I came away from Basquiat thinking that the celebration of him has more to do with him being black, a street kid with tons of street cred, good looking, a buddy of Warhol's, and having died young and of a heroin overdose no less than his art. I don't buy the claims that his primitivism has great and deceptive skill behind it and that his explicitly cruder paintings, like Car Crash, have that behind them. I see lots of busyness and clutter in his paintings than great art. The sublime and the ridiculous are Breughel's magnificent peopled paintings and Basquiat's busyness. I got no emotional wallop from his paintings and felt no resonant depth in them.
But Emily Carr just knocked me out. Maybe wrongly the curator had 1930s and early 40s dark paintings of trees and forests to start the exhibit. They're so full of dark menace, ferocity and foreboding. They put me in mind of "lovely dark and deep" but with weighty emphasis on the "dark and deep" in their most forbidding and threatening aspect. The trees, tall, spindly, sparse, denuded of foliage, seem stuck and submerged in cannibalistically herbivorous vegetation with imagery of jaws wanting to swallow up what's around them, all painted in dark, gloomy colours. In many of these paintings the surrounding vegetation is painted in water imagery with tidal waves about to crash down on the trees or with swift River currents about to carry them away. And what light from the sun that does appear in some of the paintings often seems like a consuming fire. For all Emily Carr's talk about the animism of nature, of forests and trees, they seem played, fragile, weak and vulnerable in their thinness.
So, I found a disconnect between the curator's annotation of these paintings interlarded with snatches of Carr's own strong and expressive prose, much of it to a view of nature's refulgence, fecundity, regeneration, divine teleology and the dark. foreboding ferocity I just described. Accordingly, I saw way more ambivalence in her well known work Indian Church than the curator allowed for, the mere contrast of imposed European cum Christian while linearity and the nature as wild, flowing of many complex darker shades and shapes. The church was that but also had the quality to it of Hemingway's "A Clean Well Lighted Place," a small oasis of sanctuary. And in line with that two sidedness of it, the forest, in which the church sits quite alone, has untamed and threatening dark wildness to it of a thematic piece with her other paintings of nature's ferocity. So I saw exploration of both sides of that nature church paradox, each side with its own paradoxical ambivalence.
So, too, to move from these later dark paintings to the lighter, more benign paintings of her earlier years in the exhibit shocked me a little and took some adjusting to. There's a kind of smile that suffuses many of these earlier paintings in their benignity. And in that regard there's a computer based recreation of her travel to Alaska diary book of sketches and prose entries, which is delightful and funny, whimsical and charming, endlessly lightly self deprecating. I'd have thought a more telling curation would've proceeded chronologically from light to dark, so to speak.
I think her art is great.