Saturday and Sunday were pretty busy for me, as it was Art All Night in Pittsburgh. I checked my “art” in (I goofed the process up a few times. Apparently I can’t follow simple written directions…) with Marcia and her husband Travis, came back to my place for some food, then hit up the actual exhibit.
It was plenty more busy than I thought it would be. It knew it was a big local happening but the amount of art and people there provided sensory overload. I pictured it a little more low-key and noiseless, a situation which is far more conducive to reading (see my “art” below) than trying to dodge people walking around hodge-podge.
It was held in the Iron City brewery, in a factory/warehouse that (presumably) isn’t used any more. If you’ve ever been into a factory or warehouse, you’ll notice that it’s gigantic and kind of noisy from the reverberations. Take out all of the equipment and add thousands of people and it’s even bigger and more reverberating — so you get the idea of what it was like to be in there.
When we first spotted it hanging, the paper had slid down inside the frame and exposing the backing. That’s my stupid fault for not taping or providing more support to it. With help from Marcia and Trav I fixed it (even though a great number of signs instructed everyone NOT TO TOUCH ANY ARTWORK).
The result, from Marcia’s post:
Here’s a photo of Marcia and her entry, “Carved”. Notice the delicious and probably unintentional parody she is pulling off, of the black and red piece right next to her. Meta-art!
I will post the actual text of my fumbling attempt of visual artistry tomorrow. In the meantime, I apologize that you’ll have to look at this until then.
I registered to be a part of Art All Night in the Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh. I won’t go into details about what it is, but basically anyone can submit a piece of art for it. I don’t qualify as a real artist but I am passable at graphic design — I’ll be submitting a design piece (or is it a “work”? I forget which is the real art-world term) incorporating the text of the story. It won’t be anything complicated visually because planning to gussy it up without any real skill behind it is asking for trouble, and I want the focus to be on the text and not the design elements.
Her Fearful Symmetry is the followup to unfortunately-surnamed Niffennegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife (which, I have been told, is slightly more enjoyable and popular). The story revolves around twin sisters, Julia and Valentina, who inherit a flat in London, from a recently-deceased aunt’s. It’s located directly adjacent to the large, historic Highgate Cemetery, where their late Aunt Elspeth’s paramour, Robert, is a curator.
Things get weird when the barely-adult twins spot a message written on a dusty tabletop from their departed aunt, whom the reader already knew was in the tail end of the initial stages of “living” as a ghost, thanks to Niffenegger’s deft, if a little disorienting, omniscient point-of-view sleight of hand. There’s also the neighbor Martin, who drove away his wife with his extreme OCD and the twins’ mother, Edie, who is their aunt’s twin sister. Following this?
The book is divided into three parts, and a friend told me that the third part is where some people say the plot fell apart. I didn’t quite see it, but perhaps Niffenegger didn’t map things out according to her readers’ expectations. One of the twins and Elspeth concoct a risky scheme that brings the exposition to a boiling point, and within the plot itself it opens the door to a host of unforeseen complications and unintended consequences. It might be that it wasn’t exactly clear whether Elspeth’s intentions in this plan were truly benevolent (I believe they were, for the most part) — some readers might feel some cognitive dissonance in not having that matter settled. In a similar sense, we might be as a television audience poisoned to expect earth-shattering twists before a story’s closing — a result of the endless barrage of reality TV shows that rely on such a cheap, infantile maneuver as a pay off for drudging through 20 minutes of silliness.
One thing about Niffenegger’s approach to the narrative is situation the supernatural in the most real world context, similar to M. Night Shamalan’s treatment of fantastical phenomenon (Unbreakable, Signs). She delves into what might be the nature of a ghostly existence without an in extremis (heh) portrayal resulting. There are no rattling chains and no deals with the devil where there is instead a disembodied spirit that grows, learns, and whose experiences mirror that of her previous incarnated self. Though I believe she could have fleshed it out more, Niffenegger uses the concept of the separation of the body and spirit as a type of real world alienation as we see in the relationship with Julia and Valentina, the twins with their parents, Martin with Marijke, and so on. Just as those forms of alienation can be reconciled, Niffenegger suggests, so can the alienation between a soul and the body be reconciled.
I’m a sucker for extensive inner conflict, and Niffenegger missed a golden opportunity with the exposure of the ghost realm as real. Robert, who had nary a passing thought towards religion (he is a professed Marxist), barely struggles with coming to terms with objective evidence of the afterlife. It should have been worldview-obliterating, but Niffenegger played the chord without letting it ring out.
You could probably find a reason to read this book and get something out of it, assuming you enjoy any kind of fiction: the supernatural element isn’t burdensome but it’s there and it’s functional to the story. Those who have leanings toward suspense and semi-horror will regard Niffenegger’s exploration of the subject with least some compelling interest. At the heart of the story, though, is the prospect of reclaiming or reforming (or reincarnating) an identity and redeeming lost love.
The Devil Wears Prada recently released the video for ‘Assistant to the Regional Manager’. I covered the video shoot for Noisecreep, so it was nice to see the finished product emerge. I only witnessed a fraction of the gruntwork, organization, and creativity that went into it, but I know that the entire videographic process is grueling.
Plus I got to go into the women’s bathroom. If you have a notepad and paper and at least look like you know what you’re doing, you are allowed to go into strange places.
Tiffany Cooper, a good friend of mine and one half of the Hot Metal Studio duo, recently let loose with a blog post containing photos of the interview I did with Iwrestledabearonce and their set at Diesel in Pittsburgh’s South Side.
I’m not super into photos of myself but she did a great job. One of my favorites is the one of us walking (look down).
My first post from the interview will be up soon at Noisecreep.
I have a recent post over at Noisecreep on a video of a death metal version of Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World”. It’s probably one of the only pop standards I really like, especially the elegance of the lyrics (“elegance” in the sense but “brief but meaningful”).
My favorite line is the “dark, sacred night” one. Usually for pop lyric writers the night is a locale for licentiousness or misdeeds, so it’s nice to hear it praised instead of used as a setting for vice.
The lyrics were written by David Weiss and Bob Thiele — no idea who they are.
I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself what a wonderful world.
I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark, sacred night
And I think to myself what a wonderful world.
The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people going by
I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do
They’re really saying I love you.
I hear babies cry, I watch them grow
They’ll learn much more than I’ll never know
And I think to myself what a wonderful world
Yes I think to myself what a wonderful world.
Come and see the place where he lay.
I thought about writing another scripture-based story, like how I did with A Native’s Story, but the idea came to me about ten minutes ago and it’s already Easter. Maybe next year, if someone cares enough to remind me.
EDIT on 4/5: My conscience/muse has been nagging me since I wrote this post, so it looks like this will be written soon.