Monday, February 21, 2005

Blue state delusions

Steve Winn does some musing on the Red State, Blue State cultural divide in the country---you get to do so some musing if your column is called "The Culture"---before he reviews a one-man show by a 24-year-old guy named Dan Hoyle ("For Blues to Get Back on Track, Understand Florida," Feb 17, 2005). Seems that Hoyle was so traumatized by his experience campaigning in vain for Kerry last year, that he's made a show out of it. Hoyle provides an anecdote from his door-to-door campaign: a black man greeted him at the front door of a house in Florida and asked, "You say you're from California? What the fuck do you know about Florida?" Winn doesn't give us Hoyle's response.
Late in the campaign last year, some D5 candidates sent an urgent email message urging us to do some phone banking to voters in crucial states to get them to vote for Kerry. I got a chuckle out of this idea at the time, trying to imagine what a San Francisco progressive would say to someone in the hinterland who was leaning toward Bush: "Hi, I'm a D5 progressive in San Francisco, and I want to tell you why you should vote for John Kerry." The assumption behind the phone bank idea is that SF progressives have a special moral and political insight into the political life of the country, a dubious notion, since their grasp of what's going on in their own city seems less than firm to me.

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The Emperor is wearing a copper sheath

John King, the Chronicle's architecture critic---his column is called "Place"--- is in full Panglossian mode this week. King on the new, bunker-like de Young Museum building in Golden Gate Park:

Whether you anticipate or abhor the de Young's arrival depends on whether you welcome a splash of innovation in the staid local architecture scene, or you loathe a contemporary intrusion in our aged artificial park. But guess what? The controversy will fade. The de Young we grow to know will be filled with familiar art, wrapped in outdoor sculpture and vegetation. 

We won't be experiencing some abstract architectural installation on bare soil, but an evolving art storehouse. That art is what, over time, will add resonance to the new de Young. The architecture is provocative, yes---but it is one small piece of the overall package. When architecture is applied to something as public and memorable as a museum, architecture is not an art form in and of itself. It is a vessel waiting to be filled. And that's when the fun begins ("N.Y.'s MOMA Offers Insight into de Young," SF Chronicle, Feb. 17, 2005).

I'm not having any fun yet with the new de Young building. It looks like a bunker to me, notwithstanding the artsy copper sheath and the tower. Maybe it looks better inside. I hope so. 

King is wrong about those of us who think it's an ugly building. I don't mind "a contemporary intrusion into our aged artificial park"---a redundancy, since parks by definition are artificial---but some intrusions are more intrusive than others.

"Evolving art storehouse"? Looks like a warehouse to me. And how exactly does a building "evolve"? A design that suited a park environment would have been better, instead of a warehouse-like building that looks like it was transported from the Nevada desert. 

Nor will the art inside necessarily redeem this building. Concealing it with "outdoor sculpture and vegetation" will surely help. Or maybe we can get Christo to wrap it in fabric.

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