Tuesday, April 1, 2014

It Was A Magical Space

Today is Tuesday, and I could probably describe my weekend as magical. I've referred to an event as magical before on this blog, in this post from December in which I hinted that using the word magical was ultimately a cop out on my part. 

Cop out or not, when I look back on my weekend it felt like magic. Milwaukee. Sunshine. New friends. Old friends. Alli. No sleep. No problems. No rules. Similar in emotional ecstasy to how I felt when I drove down the Mississippi River in December to Prairie Moon Road. Completely different days and locations and yet, one word still applies.

At one point this weekend I found myself talking to Debra Brehmer, owner and director of the Portrait Society Gallery in Milwaukee's Third Ward. We talked more than we looked, but I did get a chance to see the most recent show, a ceramics exhibition that, like the exhibitions at JMKAC, MAM, WPCA, and several other Milwaukee area galleries, was a part of the NCECA Conference that was held in March. Needless to say, I've seen a lot of ceramics in the past month. And happily so; I don't have much of a ceramics vocabulary at all. Which is why, when I saw this piece, I felt like I was finally being spoken to in a language I understood. Well, sort of: 

Thomas Müller, This Is A Magical Space

Magical. 

What does it mean, and why did it fit in so perfectly with the weekend I was having?

In my training to be a docent at JMKAC I have been taught a technique that prompts viewers to break down pieces bit by bit until there is nothing left to break down. For example, the question, "What do you see?" leads to the question, "Why do you say that?" which leads to the question, "What else do you see?" until the discussion fizzles out or the eighth graders I am speaking to start looking at me like I'm an alien. 

It's an effective technique. In using it to teach others I have ended up learning more about the art than I knew before I started giving tours, without reading any additional information about the pieces I have been touring.

I thought I might try the technique on this blog with Magical Space. I don't have a group of eighth graders in front of me, which will make it easier, but I also don't have a group of wonderfully observant third graders either, which will make it harder. All I've got is this space. Blogger. A more confined space than the gallery in some ways, but in other ways an infinite space. Cyberspace. My space, and the space inside my head.

Ready, let's go.

This: 
  • Pronoun. 
  • "The person, thing, or idea that is present or near in place, time, or thought or that has just been mentioned. The thing that is closest to you or that is being shown to you. The present time."
  • Letters.
  • Word.
  • In English.
  • Helvetica.
  • Ceramic.
  • Sculpture.
  • The gallery.
  • Milwaukee.
  • The floor.
  • The Marshall Building.
  • The specific room in the gallery.
  • The space inside the circle.
  • The beginning of the sentence.
Is:
  • Verb.
  • "3rd person singular present indicative of be."
  • Letters.
  • Word.
  • In English.
  • Helvetica.
  • Ceramic.
  • Sculpture.
  • Definite, not opinion.
A:
  • Indefinite article.
  • Letter.
  • Word. 
  • In English.
  • Helvetica.
  • Ceramic.
  • Sculpture.
  • Singular.
  • One.
  • The only.
  • One of many.
Magical:
  • Adjective.
  • "Produced by or as if by magic. Of or pertaining to magic."
  • Letters.
  • Word.
  • In English.
  • Helvetica.
  • Ceramic.
  • Sculpture.
  • A matter of opinion.
  • Strange.
  • Wonderful.
  • An extension of magic.
  • Mysterious, enchanting.
  • Fantastical. 
  • Three syllables.
  • My weekend.
Space.:
  • Noun, often attributive.
  • "A period of time; also, its duration. A limited extent in one, two, or three dimensions. An extent set apart or available. The distance from other people or things that a person needs in order to remain comfortable. One of the degrees between or above or below the lines of a musical staff. A boundless three-dimensional extent in which objects and events occur and have relative position and direction. Physical space independent of what occupies it. The region beyond the earth's atmosphere or beyond the solar system. A set of mathematical elements and especially of abstractions of all the points on a line, in a plane, or in physical space. A broadcast time available especially to advertisers. Accommodation on a public vehicle. An opportunity for privacy or time to oneself."
  • Letters.
  • Word. 
  • In English.
  • Helvetica.
  • Ceramic.
  • Sculpture.
  • The gallery.
  • Milwaukee.
  • The floor.
  • The Marshall Building.
  • The specific room in the gallery.
  • The space inside the circle.
  • The end of the sentence.

This is a magical space. Five words with a million different connections. One word that I keep using to describe things happening in my life. Except in this depiction the "m" is crumbling and has fallen to the floor, breaking the seemingly endless circle of the sentence in the word that seems to be most important. If I were to read this sentence out loud I would probably read it as, "This is a meuagical shpace," because that's how the fallen letters look like they would sound. 

As I'm sitting writing this blog at a coffee shop in Sheboygan I'm thinking, "Is this a magical space?" It doesn't feel like one at all. I had a terrible Monday (a Meuonday, maybe?) which was a complete contrast to my wonderful weekend. My butt kind of hurts and I've got a crick in my neck. There's a high schooler a couple feet away from me practicing sight singing in a squeaky falsetto, and this place always plays the same music. If I saw Magical Space in this coffee shop I would probably think, "Well, no, it's not."

But maybe for some a visit to this shop is magical in the same way that a trip to most galleries is magical for me. If I were giving a tour to third graders I might ask them, "Where is your magical space?" I can just imagine the answers now: my bedroom, a treehouse, Narnia, outer space. 

I can end by saying that when I think of Magical Space I get the urge to drive back to Milwaukee, curl myself up in a ball in the middle of it, and stay there. Back to my magical weekend and that moment in time. I guess that's my conclusion. The artist isn't referring to a physical space but a moment in time in which we are observing a piece in a gallery and we either feel something from it or we don't. When we look back on the moment we'll remember it, but some of the details will start to crumble. By using words instead of imagery he is trying to access our ability to remember certain phrases and aphorisms better than we remember the specific details of images. But he also doesn't want us to place too much importance on the words, so he physically disfigures them to remind us that these are still ceramic objects and this is an art piece. 

Magical. Meuagical. It's clearly not a cop out adjective if another artist is using it in a high art setting. But it's already fading and losing its meaning as Meuonday turned into Tuewshday and Tuewshday will slowly turn into Weedneshday. 

When I look back on my weekend, I'll remember the sun.

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