December 26, 2005

Unsilent Night

Bless my magical city, where on a dark and stormy solstice a hundred or so people gathered in Dolores Park, armed with boomboxes and umbrellas to participate in Phil Kline's "Unsilent Night". Tapes and CDs were distributed, Kline counted to 3, and we all pressed play at once to start the piece in time together. Beautiful noise surrounded us as we paused for a breathless moment, and then we went on a walk through the Mission. The people we encountered stopped in their tracks, eyes widened in delight and surprise, brows knit in confusion. The sound bounced off the houses in the narrow streets and came echoing back to us. A young girl ran to the window and called for her mother to come too. Church bells chimed from our stereos, choirs sang. A woman stood quietly on her doorstep, front door key forgotten in her hand. The rain stopped and started and stopped and started again. Holy night indeed.

The next day I kept the good feeling going by taking a work break to visit Andrea Way's amazingly intricate ink drawings at Brian Gross Fine Art. Way creates personal topographies that reminded me of the patterns I used to map out for myself on cross-hatch paper, except hers are way way cooler. Her drawings are pure abstractions in which ribbons of color spill down the paper and archipelagoes of shapes swim before your eyes.

I've been too busy lately to have a chance to watch any DVDs, but Saturday afternoon I found some time to settle in with the kitties for a viewing of Jirí Menzel's delightful first feature Closely Watched Trains. Adapted from Bohumil Hrabal's novel, Trains tells the story of a young dispatcher's apprentice who is trying to learn how to successfully make love to his girl. Meanwhile his mentor at the station is having considerably more luck with the ladies, particularly when he uses rubber stamps to great effect. You almost wouldn't realize this is occupied Czechoslovakia during World War II, but war does have a way of making its presence known. Both darkly funny and gently beautiful, Closely Watched Trains won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 1968, and I can see why.

I hadn't been to the Contemporary Jewish Museum in years, not since their Ben Katchor exhibit, but they were open for a few hours on Sunday to celebrate the fact that Christmas and the first day of Hanukkah fell on the same day this year. I stopped by (in between a ham lunch and a ham dinner) and wandered around their current show, Intersections: Reading the Space. The centerpiece of the exhibit was a strip of cloth that had travelled around the world three times, passing repeatedly through the hands of three female artists of differing religions: Australian Irene Barberis, Iranian-born Parastou Forouhar (currently living in exile in Germany), and American Jane Logemann. Individual works from the trio were also arranged throughout the museum, even underfoot and overhead, pieces that grappled with ideas about the nature of religious texts and of language itself. It was all gorgeous, and it was wonderful to spend some time on the holiday honoring religious diversity.


Unsilent Night
Brian Gross Fine Art
Closely Watched Trains
Contemporary Jewish Museum

Posted by nightfall at December 26, 2005 08:55 PM