October 26, 2017. Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain.
The first Arte you gotta know about was the magnificence you’re gonna encounter as you make your way through the cramped pigeon warrens that surround the Gothic quarter.
Hold on. Do you know about bocadillos? We should talk about bocadillos.
They’re this European miracle where you give someone like $3 and they give you a baguette jammed full of… something. In this case it was tuna. Since discovering them, I’ve eaten almost nothing else. The chorizo one was incredible, but I had a hot one full of garlic sauce, onions, and chicken breast called a “pollastre” that changed my life.
So, eat your bocadillo, then try not to get divebombed by pigeons. If you’re lucky, on your way to the Picasso Museum, you might happen upon the skeevy back alley that leads into the Museo Europeano de Arte Moderno (MEAM), or as I like to call it, the Font of Madness.
The museum was empty, which is to be expected considering the platform 9 3/4 situation you had to go through to find the entrance. I was going to pass by, but there was really no ignoring the creepy bondage poster.
$8 with the student discount. That’s like two bocadillas! Which is like half a hostel! Totally unreasonable, but I was in too deep to turn back now.
TWO DISCLAIMERS: I’m not sure what the rules are on posting pictures of museum exhibits in public, and I couldn’t find them online. If I’m stepping on toes, I’ll take them down. If I’m advertising… you’re welcome, I guess? Either way, they belong to their artists and the museum, all rights reserved, etc.
Also, there’s gonna be a lot of naked ladies and death imagery ahead. I’m not sure if how much of both I saw says more about the museum or about me.
This was the first one that really shook me. It’s called Semillas (seeds) by Tenaya Sims. Attached to the card is a somewhat dissonant story about when the artist was a child, he accidentally lit a ballpoint pen on fire, then spilled the burning ink onto the ground and tried to stamp it out, which just spread it around. He said that’s what inspired this. I guess art is mostly in the interpretation, because this painting gave me genuine pause. Towering over me, wreathed in burning debris, what I saw was the goddess that brought down the sky.
The card said something about growth and propagation in this one, but I saw a whole lot of carcasses going on.
This was called Laura, I can’t find the artist but I wish I could. The realism was stunning. I really thought she was going to start smirking while I gawped up at the detail in the face, in the individual eyelashes, murmuring “shiiiiiiiiit”.
This one from Miki Chart stands on its own, but it becomes truly devastating with the explanation card. Forgive my paraphrase, but it was something to the effect of:
“Here’s we have a mandolin, a traditional instrument that very few people play in this day in age. Atop it we see a canary. Though we may have forgotten the melody, it has not, and it is by its echoed song that it’s kept alive. It’s a reflection on importance of remembering the past.”
I’m working on a fantasy novel, and I wrote almost this exact scene the day before I saw this painting. The dress was a different color, it was only one guard, and the presence of death was more an implication than Death the Physical Dude, but otherwise, identical to what’s going on here. Same girl, same build, same eyes, same season, same dagger. That, I assure you, is a jarring experience.
You don’t realize how surreal this one is at first. At least, I didn’t. The longer I looked, the more weirdness happened. In my ever humble, that’s what art should be for.
This is where I started to doubt my own ability to interpret art, because I know nobody else is gonna look at this and see Regina Spektor jerking the earth off onto a pile of skulls. That… couldn’t have been the artist’s goal. It’s a knife. Right? It’s a knife? It has to be a knife.
Here we what’s left if you drive a stake through Tom Waits‘ heart.
After that, I went upstairs to the paranoid schizophrenia floor. I’m not going to try to interpret what happened here. Remember that awful movie The Cell with J. Lo? It was like a better version of that, in real life.
That about did it for me. I staggered outside, Slav-squatted against an alley wall next to turquoise merchants, and stared at my hands for 20 minutes.
If you ever get the chance, you have to check this place out. It’s like drugs. It’s like being inside drugs.