Tools for a Visit

Here are some texts, poems, films, and quotations that might inspire (or at least complement) your next visit. Also, try my questionnaire and send me your thoughts and answers. I would love to hear from you.

In his book Pictures and TearsJames Elkins offers these eight suggestions: “recipes for strong encounters with works,” as he calls them. With his approval, I’m listing them here.

1. First, go to museums alone.

2. Second, don’t try to see everything.

3. Third, minimize distractions. (Search out a quiet room.)

4. Fourth, take your time. (Wait in front of it; spend some time there!)

5. Fifth, pay full attention.

6. Sixth, do your own thinking.

7. Seventh, be on the lookout for people who are really looking (and if they take a break, go talk to them).

8. Eighth, be faithful. (If you didn’t “connect” with something during your visit, don’t give up! Come back for another try.)

Here’s a poem I wrote; another “recipe” for good museum visits.

Reflections on art exhibits

People on audio-tours drive me crazy.
Tours.  Where are they going?
I hate looking at paintings with people
who wear headsets,
who follow each other like automatons,
who skip over the same five paintings,
who like lemmings tow toward one and
contemplate it for the same reasons.

I can hear the text leaking from the headsets.
Surrounded by an endless repetitive drone
I go forward and then back to look at
one painting for a second time.
I can hear the ghostlike whisperings
of an expert echoing around me,
invading the quiet space of the paintings,
trying to speak for themselves.

Here are a few suggestions for your next exhibit:

Pass the line hawking the audio-tour.
Your don’t really go anywhere.

Go through the exhibit backwards,
to see how the artist gets less and less mature.

Skip over the paintings you don’t like.
This is especially rewarding when it is one
many are standing in front of.
(They may be wearing headsets.)

Go back to the paintings you really liked and look at them a second time.

Face a painting with viridian and turquoise
or orange and reddish pruple (Gauguin), stand there a long time.
Let the colors break down and dissolve until the representations
become colors and forms and you enter them as you would an
embrace or a body of water.

Stand in front of someone taller than you so that you become
part of their gaze, part of the painting as it were.

Brush up against someone and feel the warmth of arousal,
of embarrassment, of human contact.

Finally, pass through the gift store quickly
(for the end of the exhibit will cough you out into one)
and go have a glass of wine or a good smoke.