The Art of the Conservation of Energy (for Art)

I just finished reading (well, listening to, actually) Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall, about a tribe of cliff-dwelling runners, the evolutionary biology of human bodies and running, the destruction of our bodies by Nike, and the rising popularity of ultra-marathons, 100 mile races on mountain trails at high altitudes. Of course in the latter case, the conservation of energy is essential: you can’t spend it all when you still have so many miles to go.

Now, I would like to make clear that I am about the farthest thing from an athlete–I get winded running just a few steps. I do, however, find that I need to use the art of the conservation of energy, for art. As in the case of going to MoMA for a particular exhibition, in this case “Alighiero Boetti: Game Plan,” which I’ve been saying I was gonna go to since back when I was crippled, and on a quick weekend trip home, I finally had the chance to go.

There were other attractive exhibitions, and I feel that I should be a bit of a generalist and see exhibitions outside my immediate interests. But, there’s only so much museum energy–intense looking and thinking, not to mention prolonged walking and standing–one can expend, and I wanted to keep some in reserve for walking by some public art on Park Avenue that I’d just read about in the Times, not to mention for seeing my friends later in the evening.

So, despite how much my inclination for all kinds of exhibitions is to look closely at every object, particularly at things that attract me, I had to force myself to skim. I had to skim through the exhibition on the Quay Brothers, whose dark, alternative films are not my usual fare, but whose inky drawings and prints, posters and set designs, stop-motion animations and the props, puppets and sets used to make them, were exquisite. I had to skim through Renée Green’s installation that formed a viewing station for several major art films in MoMA’s archive, many of which I would have liked to see if I had more time and didn’t need to save the energy. I only briefly visited the installation by Slavs and Tartars, whose work had been recommended to me by my former boss. At the very end of my visit I whizzed through “The Century of the Child,” not because I was overly interested in the details, but because there were some beautiful examples of Art Nouveau, Arts and Crafts, and modern design, not to mention a blast from my childhood, a video simulation of the original SimCity in all its pixelated glory.

Selections from “The Century of the Child”

Quay Brothers, Test for the Calligrapher

More on Boetti and the public art I saw… in the next couple of posts. Oh yes, I’m going to drag this out… the suspense must be killing you!!!

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