Monday, June 30, 2014

Architecture in Madrid

{ i would expect this in brooklyn, but in madrid? }

{ i love people sized streets! this is not an alley. }

{ this is obviously the elf embassy building. }
{ light and shadow and a sign that says chocolate. }

Sunday, June 29, 2014

El Matadero, Madrid

So if you go outside of Madrid proper, down some fancy named calles (streets), you will end up at the river. And at the place of slaughter and selling of flesh. El matadero.
It isn't a very old place, by European standards, but it really resonated in a familiar way with me. I grew up in New England where similar architecture was built at about the same time: late 1800s-early 1900s. Webster was a factory town of textiles. Though textile printing is far from livestock processing, it felt kinda 'homey' in an exotic Spanish way. It was amazing in its simplicity and aesthetic and... the place was huge. It wasn't just one building. That would be a slaughterhouse, singular. This was a complex! There were many buildings. Each with it's own purpose. I could not believe the amount of space designated for the sole purpose the trade of flesh, dead and possibly otherwise.

My time there was spent in the library quiet of a blisteringly hot day, trying to imagine the bloody process of dressing fresh kill. And what about the butchers? How fast could a professional team do a whole animal with sharpest cleavers going. Wondering what it would have been like with all the animals herding through. The smell of manure, offal and uncertainty- horror.
Smell is the one thing that none of the medias never prepare you for. They get you ready to kill anything or anyone, but then to smell it... Then you see the 'big men' / really stupid boys humans puking like the milksops they really are. Making more stinking things on the inside come out.

My thoughts rambled around a while more...

I watched a child run about the old slaughterhouse with such delight that his parents could stop grinning after him. So much death happened here but this boy will have a subconscious sense of happy when he thinks slaughterhouse.

We all share the killer pathology. We like to return to the place where 'the deed was done.' We all get some kind of rush out of it. A rush of reflection, or sorrow, or indifference, or boredom- even those too.

According to our oldest human thinking, places are made sacred by the shedding of blood. The religion does not matter. It is the that life matters. We started by killing animals and when we really needed to make a statement human blood was let.
Let... like rented out to the gods?
We stroll like odd gnats and flies feigning cultural appreciation, when we are just like any other animal with the scent of lunch in our noses.

All of Madrid hangs with cured pig legs.
Everywhere is the slaughterhouse. I partake though I do not eat.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Art in Madrid - Museums & Galleries

Since I have lost a lot of sleep this week (for no good reason) and am feeling completely useless, I think I should do another random travel blog entry. If there are errors it is because I cannot focus either my brain or my eyes.

It is a given. You go to almost anywhere in a European city you will be hit over the head with art. And as an apparently art starved American I can't help but notice I am being smashed with the sight of beautiful things made by hands and by cunning and.. by magic.. (Thanks Tolkien for slipping in there.)

{ lighting  array - best installation art ever? }
I loved the Thyssen. As a person it felt good to be in there and I think if I were a painting I would be ecstatic to hang on those walls. It felt like there was a lot of love for art in that place.
And the walls were painted in peach tones! This, to me, was awesome. The whole place was a peach- with art!  Coming from the land of white boxes, white rooms, white galleries the colour really said HEY! but then it didn't over power your experience of the  any artwork. Everything that was on display look great against the colour. And there was a lot of different kinds of work.  I got a giggle when women and men (yes men too) would walk by wearing anything peachy. It made me think they were wearing Thyssen camouflage. The down side of us was that it does cost to enter. And it costs even more to see special exhibitions. Unfortunately, this limited our experience to the general collection. Though, we did go to see it twice because admission was free on International Museum Day- May 18th.

 { Doña Juana la Loca (1877) Francisco Pradilla y Ortiz. }

If Thyssen can be compared sweet treat to be had once in a while then the Prado would be a main staple. It is possible to go there almost everyday FOR FREE. This is where it became clear to me that the gallery attendants were pretty damn cool. They respected your respect for the art. I did not feel not swarmed or herded through the galleries by asshat guards. They would bark if someone was blatantly not following the rules, but other than that I felt at liberty to stand 6 inches away from a piece and not be glared at. Another thing I noticed: because they have free hours on more than one day of the week you can go and not be so drowned by the crowds that you can't see anything. I could look at the art. I could see it. Dare I say, I could contemplate it. I always felt rushed and awkward looking at art in the New York museums. I had a hard time making friends with the art there. After several visits to Prado, I was all but falling in love with  Doña Juana la Loca. You have to see this in person. You can practically walk into it! And the central character Juana, she just sucks you into her grief... You forget if you are reading words or looking at a movie or oils smeared on a flat surface. 

And ah Reina Sofia. For having such a cool name and so much potential, you made me sad, so sad.
This is because it is full of everything 'modern' and not really fine art. There was a bunch of picasso.. And some ok painting. But nothing else that really moved me for the skill of it.. or even the concept. If it were to burn, I don't think I would try to save much.
There was a whole gallery on the first floor that was full of trash... I thought I was back in NYC looking at some Bushwick kid's' attempt at art installation... I could not bear to look at it. I could not even enter the space. Why would anyone want to experience a room full of trash (even for the concept) when you could experience more subtle and cleverer things by looking at THIS PAINTING! It doesn't look like much online, but trust me, this painting will get a reaction out of you in person. I could not even begin to guess how much work went into that sweater- all those fine lines and pilling effect... I just don't know... It is so well done, you actually feel itchy and a bit stifled. You feel how the off centered subject is smirking at you because so many things about what you are seeing are making you uncomfortable. The artist challenging and mocking the viewer through his subject and flaunting his skill all up in your face like. And you take it because this is master work. This is not a room full of trash that any set designer could create.. any child could produce, if given the chance.
But just like in Chelsea, you could stroll through room after room in the Reina Sofia and feel your soul hollowing out. You just become empty and at the end of your tour you just drift out blankly.. you have become a stale wind... uninspired.

I was reluctant to go into the smaller galleries on the street. I did not want to be horrified, but we were able to visit a couple galleries and not feel chupa-ed.  In my memory, this happened only when I went to the chelsea galleries and found Sabhan Adam.

At Blokker Gallery we saw a few pieces from the artist Adolph Gil. His stuff worked with different pigments and how they react to different levels lights. Glow in the dark art anyone? He managed to get 5 distinct images on one canvas. This wins coolness points, even from me!  See videos here and images here (these are a different body of work).

{ architecture porn }
In another gallery (I haven't got the name it of at the moment) we watched a short art film that we already knew something about because we had seen a little behind the scenes artist talk thing on Mexican tv.. It looked stupid from what we saw, but the end result wasn't so bad after all. The video was an unbalanced piece in that the the male performer was almost too good. It was all him. He stole the whole show and the female performer was there for... what? To have tits on screen? She was not as strong a presence as the man, but that might have been the point.. What do I know about such things?

I was relieved that my ventures into these places left me feeling more inspired than disappointed. Even if I was let down, bouncing back isn't too hard in Madrid. Just walk into the 'local post office' (communications palace!) now, cultural center and you are renewed. This too contains crappy art at times but you can easily pretend it is not there and just look and look at what used to be a freakin' post office!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Saint Who? Bring on the Ladies!

{on the bridge}
The name San Ysidro brings no goods feeling to most borderland Mexicans. This spot on the globe is one of the most tedious crossing points of the US and Mexico; especially on foot. When in the capital of Spain, however, the patron saint- San Isidro brings picnics in the park, holy donuts (known more as exquisitas rosquillas), carnations, and the appearance of really great fashion. And not just for one little day, but for almost a week!

In the best of weather, we made our way on foot across town, down through the Toledo gate and traversed the bridge to the saintly park/ cemetery where all of Madrid was outside the safety of the city proper having a picnic on any scrap of grass left open. They were raffling off ham legs, children were flying through the air on amusement park rides, elegant police horses trotted through the scene, balloons bunched almost as thickly as the crowds of people... All these things enticed me to shudder, speedily shutter click click, but none more than the Spanish ladies in full olde tyme dress. Well, to be fair, there were a few guys who had swanky get up - just not enough of them!

{ the saint himself }
The press of the crowds again reminded me that I have an anxiety disorder to fight in order to enjoy the day's events. Better than half of me was in hell, desperate to get away from all these people who have no sense of direction or sense of personal space; and escape the relentless blaze of the sun. Finery charmed the paranoid beast within and I remained normal enough to get through the park with out lashing out randomly at anyone.
We trickled back into the city proper and without intending it found ourselves right outside Isidro's church. Everyone. I. Said. EVERYONE was there to see all the holy banners and statuary come out to be paraded around the streets.  Being remarkably taller than most Spaniards, I had a great view of the scene and the extra 'bonus' of being rather in the scene. Just when I thought I would be free of the intense crowds, we had arrived just as relics the parade was beginning and as the amount of spectators grew, I was squashed flat against some fence thing while people did their best to file passed and get their own good view... I didn't think I was going to get so intimate with the entire population of the city! I even had a drunkard all up in my face. It's a wonder I didn't catch the plague.
People carried stalks of wheat with them. They lined up to drink water from a fountain that will keep them healthy for the rest of the year. They ate rosquillas. As much as the fuss and to-do disturbed me and was silly at times, it was quite beautiful all the same.

{ i got smiles from the natives }
There were soo many events going on all over the city during the saint's festival. We probably missed most of them! But that was alright. I don't think I could process any more anyway...
One of the best events was the closing concert in Plaza Mayor. We sat down there surrounded by a lot of the old fogies and listened to the most awesomest diva belt out classic flamenco tunes. We figured these old Spaniards had some salt and got a taste of it. There was a bit of a kerfuffle when some of the old folks were hard of hearing and talking overly loud to which other old folks got angry about; which is pretty damn amusing. The whole thing it escalated for a bit and someone threw a drink and a cop was called over to sort things out. Everything was ¡qué vergüentha!  ¡vergüentha! A group of them left in a huff. It was a good laugh, though not too loudly.
Then it all came back to the music. Can I just OMG for a moment or two. This woman, Argentina, sang- no, she cried a whole free outdoor concert for like 2 hours! It was a curious blend of Flamenco and jazz piano that just worked magic that night. Instead of a call for encore some guy actually hollered (as best as the Human could translate it): Bless the mother that brought you into this world! 
She was that good. She was so good, it didn't matter that I could not follow the song lyrics. And I knew I wasn't imagining things because I was sitting next to this old bitty who knew all the songs.. all the words... she would excitedly lean in and exclaim this one was her favorite or ole when she was so moved. She did not even realize I did not speak Spanish! And there I was a total noob smiling at her enthusiasm for art well done.
Ooo. Here is a vid clip I found that we are in! Somewhere in the crowds anyway. ;)
And here is more, cuz I know that was NOT enough.
You are welcome.
{ he CAN run you down and beat you with a knight stick  }

{ i want this galician's shoes }

{ oh yes, the patterns }

{ dog pose }

{ fringes of society }

{ one of my favorite shots }

{ keeping it classy }

{ suffocating foot traffic }

{ the line to drink the sacred water was 12 meters long. or so we heard }

{ pretties }

{ stealing the show }

{ holy donuts sell like.. hot.. ? cakes.. ? }

{ another little lady }

{ are we amused yet? }

{ bright day for bright costumes }

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Getting Enough Space to Have Bad Dreams

No one looks forward to having bad dreams. They are an uncomfortable business that can sour your whole day. It isn't expected that a soft bed in a pleasant hotel room in sunny Spain turns out out to be the gateway to the dark, chaotic subconscious. But there I was, on vacation, for my birthday, and having terrible dreams.  Negatives aside, they can be as much of a learning tool as anything else, if you pay attention to them. And I didn't find it so very queer to be having them- given my circumstances. I have come to the age where I am supposed to have built up something: a career, a business, a family- something. I feel I have nothing and am steadily, stubbornly moving forward making absolutely no headway.
My brain is grappling with the obscure 'path' I am on and the lack of common markers that are found in most people's lives. So of course the very moment I "get away from it all' the demons appear. I finally got the space enough to deal with them.
I remembered enough of three separate dreaming events to write down the parts that clung to my waking mind:
Without hitting all the details, my first dream centered on the loss of a tooth; the second was the most intense: I confronted my inner chaos (again); the third dream was being in a n earthquake. Then I would come back to a world of tourist traps, deep fried calamari that look like onion rings, maid service and marvelous espressos.

Even now that I am back in the West, these last two nights I've had dreams. One was about losing even more teeth.

I haven't sorted it out yet. 

Toledo seen by a Pink Canon Powershot

"The Bitter Well"
Tears of remembrance and longing from a young Toledo 

woman for her lost lover have made the waters of this well bitter.