Tuesday, October 18, 2005

A Marfa Moment

Y'all, it's already been more than a week since my Marfa trip and since my last post. Sometimes grad school can be such a drag! But I'm happy and excited to finally be able to share some moments from my trip.

Here's a row of, what, yucca plants? Century plants? I dunno...big spiny plants lining the railroad that runs right through the center of town.

This is the monument to the fallen horse. The landscape's pretty, too. (And I say this with no irony, folks.)

Mariachis serenaded us on Saturday night, at the dinner given by the Chinati Foundation.

For those of you who may not know, Marfa is a teeny tiny little town in West Texas, pop. 2125, and is home to a bunch of artists and also the Marfa lights. The Chinati Foundation, started by artist Donald Judd in the 1970s to preserve large scale installation art in its original context, hosts an open house weekend every October, and hordes of hipsters from Austin and beyond descend on the town, doubling its population for two to three days. DOUBLING IT. I kid you not. The locals were nice to us, but kept muttering under their breath, humph. be glad when the weekend's over.

Marfa is also the town where the cast of Giant took refuge during filming, in the Hotel El Paisano. Cool, huh? There's literally two major streets, and you can pretty much walk from one end of town to the other. You know you're not in just any little Texas town, though, when you stumble into the Marfa Book Co. and find tables and tables of lush art books, a sun-filled art gallery, and a coffee bar.

And the Marfa Lights? Well, who can say? We drove out there and hung out at the schmancy roadside tourist island they built to accommodate all us gawkers, and yeah, I did see some lights--some red, some white--fading in and out. Were they aliens? Swamp gas? Headlights from cars on the highway? Meh, who cares. Didn't really matter. The lights that really mattered were overhead--the vast, breathtaking display of stars and the Milky Way, shining with a brilliance that you just can't get in the city.

Y'all, the most hilarious thing to come out of the whole weekend was Prada Marfa. Qu'est que c'est Prada Marfa? you may be asking. The best picture I found was here, but you can google it to get more/different pictures. A couple of artists constructed a little building out in the middle of the desert, filled it with Prada merchandise from the fall collection, and sealed it. No one's meant to go in there and buy a handbag, or a pair of stilettos. It's meant to simply decay into the surroundings.

What does it all mean? Is it a critique of modern-day capitalism? A comment on the frivolity of fashion? A blowhard, patronizing art concept from a couple of pretentious art snobs from New York and Germany?

I'll bet you can guess what happened next. Come on, take a guess! Yup, you got it! Not 30 hours had passed after the installation was complete before someone broke into the "store," stole some bags and oddly enough, the right mates to a bunch of shoes, and spray painted the words "dumb" on one side and "dum dum" on the other side. !!!!!

In spite of having stated before the incident, "As we purposefully will not preserve Prada Marfa, it will eventually become a ruin so that even in a future decayed state it will remain relevant to the time in which it was made..." the artists immediately went about restoring the installation, cleaning up the graffiti, replacing the stolen merchandise, installing motion sensors, and hiring a security guard to watch the place during opening weekend.

Clearly, there's decay, and then there's decay. Yes, it's quite precious to imagine that the wind and dust will eventually cut away at the structure, but easy enough to forget that human beings are a part of the world. Yes, I understand that we're meant to stand with our heads bowed and ponder the meaninglessness of our existence in comparison to the forces of nature. But we are here, now. We are a part of "nature." And we do cause wear and tear that is perhaps not artful but nevertheless does produce meaning.

And the meaning here is clear: someone in Marfa did not like this piece of art. Read the last two paragraphs of this to get a sense of the condescension that the townspeople most likely had had enough of, and maybe the graffiti will make more sense.

As for me, I read the idea of having a Prada Marfa as, oh, wouldn't it be so funny and too too clever to put a high fashion boutique where you would least expect it, in the middle of West Texas, where most people have never even heard of Prada and perhaps have never even picked up a copy of Vogue? Isn't the absurdity brilliant? Give me a break.

Anyway, another of the highlights of the weekend was a free concert by...drumroll please....YO LA TENGO!!!!

The inspiration for my blog's wordplay! They were pretty cool. I have to confess that I'm not exceedingly familiar with the music (I just like the name), but I really enjoyed myself. In spite of not being able to get a good picture.

Oh, yeah, and the knitting! You'd think that during a sixteen hour round trip car ride (8 each way), I'd be done with maybe two shawls and a pair of socks. Well, no, not me...on the way there, I would knit in short spurts and then get very, very sleepy. On the way back, I really made progress (maybe it's front seat vs. back seat?) and listened to the entire Da Vinci Code audiobook. Good story, but the poor schmuck reading it had to do all kinds of different accents, including a high pitched French one for one of the main characters, Sophie. I never realized how amusing an audiobook mystery could be!

By the way, I really want to thank all the people who left kind words of advice and encouragement on this shawl project. After two years of knitting, I don't know why I'm paralyzed by simple deviations from patterns or from yarn weights. I cling to my patterns like a drowning rat to driftwood. As Nancy so wisely said, the only rule in knitting is yarn over needles. Hurray! How liberating!

I think the chosen project, the Flowerbasket Shawl, is progressing quite nicely:

If it doesn't catch fire up there on top of that lamp, then chances are it will be done very soon. Just another couple rows of the final repeat, and then the edging, and then done! Way ahead of schedule, I might add (the wedding I'm attending isn't until the end of next week). Never mind that the paper I have to present next Friday needs some heavy editing. I'll have my shawl!

If I were a poet, I would write "An Ode to Lace." I love lace, and have always knit lace, without really realizing it. One of my first projects was a baby blanket I picked out of one of those pattern books you buy at Michael's, and the pattern said, a quick and easy knit. Right. With baby yarn, it was definitely not quick, but it got me comfortable with the yo's and the k2tog. Then, guess what? The only socks I have been able to finish...were lace cuff socks. (One of these days I'll post an album of FOs. Probably right when I get started writing the dissertation.) Then I made the Viennese Shrug from Interweave Knits Summer 05. Wow. It was like...like painting with yarn. So cool! So while I may never be a sockster, I finally realized that I have my thing!

In other blogging news, Laura's tagged me with the Flash Your Stash meme. Eeew. I don't care about the exhibitionist nature of this meme (I have been known to flash other things, inadvertently, in the past), but this means that I have to find a clean space in my house to do the photo shoot. And there is no clean space in my house right now. Which means that I have to clean.

Yeah. Might be a while.


At 10:47 AM, Blogger Laura said...

As always, great post. Sounds like the Marfa trip was fun! As I never get to go to events like this, I appreciate all the time it must have taken you to blog so extensively about your trip! I must agree about Prada Marfa. How f'ing condescending is that? Some people. Geez.

On a more positive note, your Flower Basket shawl looks amazing! I can't wait to see it with the dress. We must have pix with the dress.

At 9:51 AM, Blogger Marisa said...

Yay! You're back!

Even though I shouldn't be on the internet, I'm addicted to your blog. And jealous of your Marfa trip. Glad you didn't just go b/c you bought into the Prada Marfa hype...

Now back to my brief (no not that kind) which I'm NOT flashing!

At 12:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your comment that a lot of the locals are glad when the event is over with definitely rings true. They like people that are down-to-earth and a little respect towards them goes a long way. Unfortunately, many of the people that attend the Open House weekend are art snobs that think they are "God's gift" and many do outrageous things to gain attention for themselves. Go on a quiet weekend where you still see the art, but actually meet some of these very "salt of the earth", good people; the scenery and skies seem more peaceful too. I think you will be enamored with them as I was when I first moved there and was considered a "newcomer".


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