We get out of bed and make our way to the museum early. We are on a mission! Armed with a marked up map and specific instructions, thanks to Stephanie at Panoramic tours, we know just where to go, Underground. It is the most direct route. We were going to see HER.
Of course, we did not expect to have any, “alone time” with her. We knew that she is “everybody’s darling.”
What we got was much worse… we were reminded of how meaningless, insignificant, and trite our Bucket Lists are. We were, 100% a part of the herd of humanity, snapping an image of La Gioconda, before being pushed out of the way by the next, equally determined tourist/pilgrim with a smart phone or a canon camera, at the ready.
(FOOL! She loves to be up there, behind bullet-proof glass, the absolute center of an ongoing panic, a perpetual craze, which occurs with clocklike regularity, from the moment the museum opens, until the last tour bus leaves, in the world famous and celebrated Louvre Museum, in Paris, France.)
Seeing her… I did NOT see her. She was invisible. I saw the flash of cameras, the crazed LOOK of… hunger? Yes, HUNGER for… what? Recognition, perhaps… we seek to see THE ORIGINAL, THE MOTHER IMAGE from which all the tacky little key chains, coffee mugs, calendars, and other scraps or fragments of the sacred, the untouchable, THE ORIGINAL, the a priori … which is stamped on the faces of the ART STARVED crowds… “Art starved?” You ask… Well… Yes, that is what I witnessed.
I saw adult infants reaching for the teat of certified beauty and established aesthetic certainties. The queen of conformity, The Mona Lisa is the mental rabbit foot, the proof that one is CULTURED, cultivated, worthy of living. Having documented the sight of her with a selfie, we are FREE, to turn on backs—forever—on the little revered painting by Leonard d’ Vinci, the original Renaissance Man. (I believe, we all want some of the milky charm that sprays from this eternal fountain.)
She and she alone sits and is worshiped by i-phone clicks and selfie sticks, wielded with an alarming lack of grace. She is photographed so many times per day, and visited by so many people, NONE of whom really see her. Instead, they ignore each other, pulling and tugging—fighting—to see her?
We all wish to solve the mystery. She is a treasure, that is for certain. Yet, why? How is it that a painting can stimulate such visual appetite, cultural hunger? The standing whiff of desperation around her is a grand spectacle. Frau Kolb was a part of it; flaunting her own needy and naked desire to be beautiful, famous, loved, and celebrated. We all want a piece of that excitement. The thrill of being seen as significant, worthy, ein Schatz (which means, “a treasure,” in German). We all want to be valued, special, celebrated or at least accepted. Don’t we?
Well, long ago, a German cultural critic, Walter Benjamin (15 July 1892 – 26 September 1940) wrote an essay which, I’ve tried to read, many times. Yet, I simply don’t understand it. He speaks about, “the Aura,” of the work of art and… how that aura was lost via reproduction, which is not… or is… I can’t tell which… a BAD thing. Opps! (I know… I studied art history, I really should be able to understand what Benjamin or Theodor W. Adorno, who responds to him. “Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” is the article by Benjamin which I regret falling to comprehend, because that is the heart of the matter…) Mona Lisa’s pull is in the ease with which her high impact and mysterious image can be turned into endless reproductions! Yes. She reproduces like it is nobody’s business. She sells!
Mona, with her come-hither looks is forever… a siren, beckoning tourists, to the crush… to the HORROR of Invisibility. Since we are all NOBODY in comparison with the famed Dame!
Leonardo d’ Vinci’s Mona Lisa is reproduced in cheap prints on coffee cups, deli napkins, and shopping totes… enough “kitsch,” (A wonderful German word, which art historians LOVE, which means… crap art we get a KICK out of like… whoopee cushions of culture…) to populate a cosmos of gaping landfills. Clearly, the tightly guarded ORIGINAL work of art was painted by Leonard d’ Vinci, a time traveling genius, who had the political savvy to die in the arms of a French King, (no less!). Moreover, Leonardo may have understood, precisely how to make an immortal image, one which could easily be pressed and passed on, a type of female figurative currency. Yet, she is nothing special, really… She is not even… BIG… she’s not even Marilyn… platinum blond….but she is pure POP, contemporary art, that is for certain. Who among us can verify that the painting we think we see is not a poster?
The “painting,” sits behind bullet proof glass and must have a red velvet rope around her. I mean… if she were not the real thing who among the millions that snap a picture in a year could tell? Certainly NOT I! I got no where near enough to see the genius, the otherworldly, Uncanny hand of the master! One barely has time to snap a selfie before being pushed out of the way by someone convinced that their need for a selfie is greater than yours.
I believe that when The Muse of Talkinggrid, Ms. Crane said, “Fuck the Mona Lisa!” She was nailed a sentiment I share. Why all the fuss? Mona Lisa’s tripped out, picture perfect, made for selfies image, is as vapid as that of two bit hussy. We refuse to be humiliated! We are better than THAT! Well… actually, we (husband & I) fought the crowds to see her. We pushed. Shoved, each other… Actually, Harmuth never pushes, but is not a person anyone can dismiss. Ms. Crane is likely not to have pushed anyone because she is,The Muse, after all and people really do respect her “Aura.” Frau Kolb is convinced that “the Aura,” of La Gioconda is one more example of a sheepish desire to fold into the herd, while feeling superior and civilized.
I did not see a single person that looked satisfied by their brush with the inordinate tourist crowds mobbing Mona. After grabbing a snap of her, across the room and over the heads of a gaggle of other anonymous gaping gawkers, every visitor I saw looked cranky, disappointed. One and all, we are NOTHING in the face of Mona Lisa’s FAME, her radiant reputation! She rules.
The actual work of art, as it hangs for “public pleasure,” at the Louvre, the painting is erased by the mass unseeing of the image under a storm of “distracted,” self absorbed, self appointed, “art critics” of mostly ZERO integrity (this, of course, includes me… I too have fallen, stooped, and hustled to see the Lady behind glass… only to encounter what I knew would be a monumental waste of human energy, in search of sacred… something… Which, of course was NOT there. There is only a flimsy experience of emptiness, in an overcrowded museum hall, where all the other paintings are made utterly invisible, erased, by the frantic crowds clicking images of themselves and the beast that is desire for recognition, reputation, and singularity; which may be the fuel that gets all the tourists out of bed and ready to face challenging crowd conditions for so little reward, paying for the privilege of being one more ART LOVER! Hah!
We, at Talkinggrid, admit to being vain. We want, no less than anyone else wants, our “brands,”to endure; our own five centuries of fame. We want to be Marilyn, the American La Gioconda, The Girl with the Pearl Earring, and The Venus de Willendorf rolled into ONE, mega MOM, a super being, with an ample bosom, ready to feed the entire world. Yet, few are willing to do the exercise, the calisthenics required, of those that seek enduring glory. Few are going to die in the embrace of royal patrons, either.