13 November 2010

Salvador Dali

Salvador Dali's "Debris of an Automobile Giving Birth to a Horse"
I'd been wanting to see Salvador Dali's works for a long, long time now, and had ever since I'd seen those banners with the moustached man staring down at me from lampposts.

"I'd like to go see that, " I'd say to my girlfriend.
"Yeah, me too!", said she.

And we put it off for a while. But it's hard to put off going to see one of the most striking, original, and creative artists of the modern age when the museum he's in had free admission yesterday. So we gathered ourselves up and went.

Let me tell you, actually seeing the pictures is a beautiful thing. How can you get a true sense of the detail that went into some of the enormous (easily 12+ feet tall) paintings through a computer screen or a book? It loses something ethereal and undergoes a transformation from an actual artifact of dedication and passion to a pedestrian image, little more than a postage stamp. It's a damn shame more people can't go out and see real art.

Speaking of damn shames, this excursion made me realize two things. One: How coarse I feel. Not because people around me are so fancy, or so enlightened when I am not, but because I felt like yelling at people to quit standing two inches in front of the painting so that nobody else can see it, or to move your ass, you've been standing there trying to look smart for ten fucking minutes or the always delightful, Will you quit goddamn giggling at breats, you pre-pubescent shitheads? It's never felt more bizarre to be outside of my comfort zone, to be honest with you. The only time I'm around real crowds is when I'm on active duty, and it's a different feel of a crowd. Sure, people are, as they say, gaggle-fucking around, but everybody has a purpose. You're not standing in the way because people need to get by, and if people need to get by, you all part like the damn red sea to let people through. I guess it has to be something in the training that makes you other-centered. Even if you're a selfish prick, you can at least realize that you're not the greatest thing out there. Hopefully.

The second thing I realized is that people are shallow and stupid and do not deserve a great artist like Dali. People would offer their silly-ass conjectures about what this painting "means" and what this is a metaphor for, like great art can be reduced to trite banalities and crass gestures. There isn't any sort of meaning of life hidden in art, there isn't some sort of greater spiritual message in beauty. "C'eci ne pas une pipe", catch my drift? This picture is a picture. It is what it is. Dali's most famous image, the Persistance of Memory, do you know why he called it that? Do you know why it was made?

Was it a comment on how memory isn't as persistant as we think, with the clocks representing the breakdown and inconsistency of that most rigid construct itself, of time? Is it a metaphor for how everything is flexible and flowing no matter how we decide to categorize it?

Let me tell you.

Dali was painting a landscape, and then wanted to add something a little more unusual to it. He then thought of adding soft clocks, painted them, and asked him what his wife thought of it. She said that anybody who saw it would never forget it. Thus the name. That's it. That's all the meaning you get.

Like my girlfriend said, "People need meaning. Art does not."

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