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At Dia:Beacon there is an installation by Fred Sandback, a series of giant shapes formed from brightly colored string. In one room stands a series of three huge rectangles — the string reaches down from the ceiling, across the floor, and then back up again — standing at odd angles to one another. In another, the string stretches, taut, at an angle to the wall.
I was visiting the museum with a close friend on my 29th birthday, in September. It was a bright and warm day, one that justified giant sunglasses, and we had taken the Metro North up the Hudson River and eaten lunch in a backyard garden filled with bees.
Now, facing the string sculptures, I stood transfixed. They looked like planes of glass. I stuck my hand straight across. “Can we walk through?” I asked the guard. “Sure,” he said. I stepped back and forth through the shape like it was a door to another world. I imagined a log cabin in the Vermont woods, early-20th-century Vienna, The Gilmore Girls’ Stars Hollow (mostly that last one).
It was only after the sculptures had percolated in my mind for weeks that it occurred to me: I tend to envision all the things I badly want encased in glass boxes. I stand on the outside, watching the people inside enjoying their rewards, unable to penetrate the exterior and grab some for myself.
The contents of the boxes change. Because often I do at some point get what’s inside. I get my writing published. I get paid for my writing. I get my writing published in that magazine. Or: I go on a date. I go on multiple dates. I meet a man in a coffee shop, on a downtown bus. Whatever the achievement, the sense of victory — if there is one — is instantly supplanted by the presence of a new box. It’s like an endless succession of Sandback rectangles, on and on and on. What’s inside these boxes is never outlandish; people all around me are enjoying these desserts. But somehow, to my mind, they are tantalizing treats from which I am banned access and with which I will be taunted. By nature, because I want them, I cannot have them.
I know these boxes of impossibility are a trick of my wily mind. Still, when they appear, I believe in them completely. I simultaneously know that they are a delusion and believe the delusion is real. They feel impenetrable, unchanging, and certain. They also feel unique: everyone else can find love, but not me.
So, yes, the Sandback sculptures were like portals to other worlds, but not the literal ones I was envisioning. Stepping through the string, I granted myself permission to enter the experiential worlds I’d imagined were not mine to have. The giant glass planes, bordered by string, were not glass planes at all: they were blank space, all border. They suggested I had been mistaken, that all I see as glass may really be a door.
At Dia:Beacon, there is another piece, by the artist Robert Smithson, that is a mound of sharp glass shards. The piece is called “Map of Broken Glass (Atlantis),” so in theory it is arranged in the shape of the lost continent, but all I saw was a pile of sharp corners. I stood far away from it, afraid that if I got too close I might be tempted to impulsively jump into it like a pile of leaves — just like I have to resist the urge, sometimes, to grab a French fry off a stranger’s plate or poke the butt of the person walking ahead of me in a stairwell. I was reminded of the episode of Louis in which he’s on a date with Parker Posey as Liz. They go up onto a roof, and she sits on the ledge, which scares him. He asks her to stop.
“But the only way I’d fall is if I jumped,” she says. “That’s why you’re afraid to come over here. Because a part of you wants to jump because it’d be so easy. But I don’t want to jump. I’d never do that. I’m having too good of a time.”
One day I will crouch down right next to a pile of broken glass and feel no pull toward it, none whatsoever. It’ll be nothing more than the ghost of my old mind.
The city brought shows to life that will be talked about for years to come.
Our favorite LA shows of 2021, brought to you by the writers and editors of Hyperallergic.
On view in Abu Dhabi until February 5, 2022, the paintings and sculptures in Modernisms shed new light on artists like Parviz Tanavoli, Fahrelnissa Zeid, and M.F. Husain.
Full Spectrum spans 40 years of the artist’s career and provides an efficient crash course for anyone new to Edmonds’s work.
A show at the Prado valorizes cross-cultural flows while muffling ruptures, and two contemporary art exhibitions critique Hispanic legacies to investigate how art history occludes power.
SMFA at Tufts is seeking applications for at least four full-time Professor of the Practice positions in Sound/Sound Installation, Ceramics, Sculpture, and Drawing.
International Court of Justice Rules Azerbaijan Must Stop Destroying Armenian Cultural Heritage in Artsakh
The ruling points to major implications for protection of all cultural heritage during peacetime.
Afghan refugee Amin didn’t feel comfortable telling director Jonas Poher Rasmussen his story without a way to conceal his identity. Rasmussen explains the process to Hyperallergic.
Yemen Blues brings their sonic blend of Yemenite, West African, and Jazz back to Joe’s Pub in New York City this December, featuring opener Ahmed Alshaiba.
Now that’s change.
Michael Steinhardt was in possession of over 180 objects smuggled from 11 nations by “crime bosses, money launderers and tomb raiders.”
“Jobless, futureless, in constant fear of arrest and death at the hands of the Taliban, we do not live but merely exist,” says an open letter published by Artists at Risk.