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Thursday, July 16, 2015

Stendhal's Syndrome, parts 4844 - 4847

  4844. A confused, troubled look spread across his face, but then the preposterousness of the idea that Mussolini would have such thoughts caused his image to fade gradually into nothingness.

 4845. I am quite sure that if he thinks about anything, it is about mushrooms, just like all dead men.

 4846. I continued sitting at the table sipping my coffee, but then a policeman came out and asked me if I needed any help. After that he escorted me back to the exhibition hall. 

4847. As I was leaving, I noticed that there were a lot of those little rooms in the exhibit with the black curtains over the doors behind which you find video installations.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Stendhal's Syndrome, parts 4840 - 4843

 4840. "Ah," he exclaimed, "To have been like Franco and to have just gotten through that wretched time."

 4841. "And why is it so important to you that Rome have a Chelsea?" I asked. "Everyone here seems too busy to look at art." 

 4842. "Because we need a Joseph Beuys, and we need an Anselm Keiffer and we have neither. Modern art in Rome is used only as the frivolous backdrop of aristocratic society events, and we have to understand that it is an activity that is capable of redeeming the soul of a nation."

 4843. "But Beuys and Keiffer did not come out of New York," I said.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Stendhal's Syndrome, parts 4836 - 4839

 4836. We have no Chelsea here in Rome as you do in New York. So we have no pot to cook our art in. I was pleased when they chose my Termini building for this exhibit.

 4837. This building is a city in itself and you could put ten Chelsea's in it with room to spare. If I were still alive it would only be a short while and then by decree you would see something really important happening here in Termini. This is what Rome needs; Rome needs a Chelsea more than anything."

 4838. Here he stopped and looked at me as if he wondered what I thought of his idea, and when I didn't respond he continued. 

 4839. " You know, I've heard that Chelsea is becoming just shops and boutiques now, like So Ho, or the Spanish Steps. You think that nothing will happen here, that we Italians cannot get anything done, it takes a dictator..." all of a sudden he stopped again and looked distractedly away into the distance.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Stendhal's Syndrome, parts 4832 - 4835

4832. "Have you been looking at the art?" Mussolini asked me." Yes," I replied. "And what did you think," he inquired. "Well, I thought there were a few good things in the Palazzo and..." He cut me off abruptly by raising his hand up as if he did not have time to listen to half-hearted praise.

4833. "You're from New York aren't you? Sit down and have some coffee." The Italians always know if you are from New York. I don't know why. A chair appeared and also a cup of coffee, or perhaps they had been there all along, I don't know. 

4834. I sat down, sipped my coffee and after a moment he launched into a dissertation, which I thought he might. He said, "You New Yorkers are always disappointed by the modern art that you see here in Rome. And I know why. 

4835. We have good artists; I'm sure that you can see that. But here in Rome, there is no section of the city devoted to the important art of contemporary life. We have a gallery in this part, and a gallery in that part, but it is impossible to go from one to another and "see" shows as you say."

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Stendhal's Syndrome, parts 4828 - 4831

4828. Being in the grip of my malady, I was unable to look at the art but wandered around looking at door casings, heat vents, ashtrays, countertops and also out of windows, where one could see a panorama of yet another wing of Termini filling up the entire skyline.

4829. I soon found myself outside the exhibition hall walking down a long corridor, but no one stopped me or turned me back. Along the corridor ran an outside covered portico. I went out on to it and found that it was a great porch of travertine marble stretching into the distance as far as I could see.

4830. I walked along this porch for a while and then I came across a man having a caffe' at a little table. It was Benito Mussolini.

4831. As soon as I saw him sitting there I knew that it was an aberration of my illness, just a hallucination, but he seemed so real, not like an apparition at all, and his manner was so hypnotic and compelling that I walked up to him and said, "Buon giorno."

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Stendhal's Syndrome, parts 4824 - 4827

 4824. Now that I have told you what I think was happening to the man, I will continue with some of the more interesting passages in his diary. I will write out the most indicative passages, and you can draw your own conclusions about his predicament. He went to an art exhibit in Rome held at the train station and this happened apparently in the afternoon of the day of the concert. He writes...

 4825. Now it was time to go to Termini, that famous building of ill repute, immense and repulsive, but full of life like one of the huge whores in a Fellini film. Strange things awaited me there.

 4826. I have never seen a space quite like the third floor of the Termini building, where the exhibition was. The proportions of everything were huge. The construction was done under Mussolini and the style of the furnishings remind one of a Marks brothers film, in that they are as modern as things could be in the forties.

4827. There were endless corridors, dusty and quiet, in which one found enormous bathrooms, small libraries, and waiting rooms obviously no longer in use. These places force one to imagine important dignitaries from foreign countries coming on state visits. 

Friday, July 10, 2015

Stendhal's Syndrome, parts 4820 - 4823

4820. I am of the opinion that the great writers have always known that a love affair, even one that is extremely brief, is more important than the outcome of any major historic event. Major historic events may come and go, but in this life, true love happens perhaps only once or twice.

 4821. You may object and tell me that the major historic event is important, and writers have to include  romance or their works will not sell or be made into movies, but I have to disagree. Romance is the important thing. 

 4822. Love is as significant as terminal illness, because both obliterate the past and the future, and level all external events to irrelevance. 

 4823. This is why I believe that our unknown writer was suffering the prospect of lost love, I base the diagnosis of his condition on the fact that he said the words, "Everything was reduced to the same exact degree of importance."

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Stendhal's Syndrome, parts 4816 - 4819

4816. What do the great writers think about this question? If we consider War and Peace, the important issue of the book is not how many millions of men both French and Russian will die, to force the French out of Russia, but the much more important question of whether Pierre will marry Natasha.

4817. The fate of the beautiful aristocratic and innocent Natasha is truly important to Tolstoy, and all his readers, and Napoleon's War is a lovely backdrop of death and destruction to set off the romance to the greatest advantage.

4818. Consider the Russian Revolution in literature. The revolution is the setting, and the backdrop of Doctor Zhivago, where the important issue is not the revolution, but question: Will Yuri choose the blonde or the brunette. 

4819. And who can forget the important question of "Gone With the Wind." You know what that question is so I will not bother to put it down here, but it certainly has nothing to do with the freeing of the slaves, or Sherman's march to the sea.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Stendhal's Syndrome, parts 4812 - 4815

 4812. The forgoing was an excerpt from this unknown man's diary, written, as you know, when he was in Rome. I have told you about the concert, where he struggled to be moved emotionally but felt numb, and later burst into tears over a beggar girl singing on the train.

 4813. Then I quoted a passage of his description of some supposed malady of his that he described as, "Everything having the exact same degree of importance" for him.

 4814. Now I am gong to come out and say what I think was going on in him at this time, and you can correct me if you think that I am wrong. I think he suspected that his wife, if she was his wife, was having an affair, or wanted to have an affair, and this fact was destroying him emotionally.

 4815. Just how important is it when couples fall in love, or when they separate, I ask you in all seriousness. Compare some love affair that happens some place in the world to, lets say, the Civil War, or Napoleon's invasion of Russia, or the Russian revolution? Do those insignificant love affairs ever really matter?

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Stendhal's Syndrome, parts 4808 - 4811

4808. At another time I could not tear myself away from watching a safe being moved by a tall crane when I was supposed to be going to the Museum of Modern Art to see an important exhibition everyone was talking about. 

4809. By the time the safe was securely in place and all the people watching had satisfied themselves about which building it was intended for, the museum was closed and I was forced to return home without seeing the show. 

4810. I do not think, however, that this illness is at all unique to me. Who, for example can remember the scenes from movies we saw as children? On the contrary we remember the theatre very well but the movies hardly at all. 

4811. I can't even remember the movies or the theaters. Instead I remember the sensation of emerging from the theatre and finding out that it was already completely dark outside where as when I went in it was still bright day.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Stendhal's Syndrome, parts 4804 - 4807

4804. One day, toward closing time in a museum, I don't recall which one; I found myself stopping exactly half- way between the paintings, which were hung on a long expanse of gray velvet-covered wall.

4805. I would look at a small section of the velvet, skip past the next painting, and then proceed to another section of velvet between two other paintings. The paintings were those huge black ones in which all you can see is darkness, glare from the lights, and occasionally an elbow or knee emerging from shadows. 

4806. After looking at so many large black paintings, even the frames of which were hard work to look at, it was kind of a pleasure to look at the gray velvet. 

4807. This kind of viewing was upsetting, however, to the guards who immediately became suspicious and asked politely if they could "help" me. When I replied that I didn't need any help, they would continue to eye me strangely and were only happy when I went on to another room.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Stendhal's Syndrome, parts 4800 - 4803

4800. She did not really think that the ladder was a piece in a show, but children of artists have a remarkable amount of disrespect for art. Sometimes they have no interest in art at all. 

4801. I think art aggravates them, but they are drawn into it nonetheless. Who can resist such banter? She continued, "It's like something I've seen by Kounellis." I was thinking of some way to reply but she went off to talk to some one else.

4802. This then was the beginning of my illness, a confusion of perception. It expressed itself at first as an inability to distinguish what is and what is not art: an inability to separate the art from its immediate surroundings, and everything becomes elevated to the same exact degree of importance.

4803. The presence of my symptoms of Stendhal's Syndrome existed in me in a state of incubation for some time, and would only surface when I had been looking at art for too long -- for example, after spending an entire day at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Stendhal's Syndrome, parts 4796 - 4799

4796. I still recall the day I was exposed to this illness and the appearance of its first symptoms after a short incubation. It was ten years ago and I was assisting with the installation of a show in a gallery.

4797. A young girl came in, about ten years old; it was her habit to stop by the gallery on the way home from school. She was acquainted with every one in the gallery since she was the daughter of a well-known painter.

4798. Although young, she was nevertheless very familiar with the ways of galleries and often entertained us with her art knowledgeable banter. I was standing next to a long wooden extension ladder that was lying flat on the floor when she came up to me and asked very matter-of-factly, "Whose piece is this?"

4799. She was asking about the ladder on the floor and it immediately struck me that it was very much like a work of art in every way. It lay on the floor at just the right angle to the walls, but even more, it expressed in metaphor, my feelings about my life at that time.