Log Illustrated - a publication from the Physics RoomLog 9 - Lists
Log 9 - Lists

"I'll love you Baby, 'till I don't" and other greats of the new love poetry:
Ideas for the edification of today's museums (footnotes to a thesis I will probably never write)
Gwynneth Porter


1. The sea also makes a great deal of noise. Quite an amazing amount really considering it is liquid and pretty much just sits there except for a bit of swelling and shore-lapping.

2. "Jeremy Owen", in Paul Goodman's The Gallery to Mytilene: stories 1949-1960, vol. IV, Black Sparrow Press, Santa Barbara, 1980, is indeed a veritable treasure-trove of a story in terms of museological information and leads. In it, JO, cast as a hick, is taken to the Museum of Modern Art in New York by some sophisticated cat, who is also, predictably, the narrator. He rails against "Typical Modern Museum slovenliness" and then recounts "Jeremy was drunken on the display, the proofs, of the grandeur of mankind. He was insatiable for more and more and more, like a man who has been lost in a desert, endlessly thirsty and who ought not to drink so fast. I watched him sidelong. He was borderline schizophrenic, all right, but I listened carefully to his syntax and I was pretty sure he wouldn't break down. He was glaringly using the monuments of our magnificence simply in order to ward off a catastrophic response to the newsy fact that we do not live in paradise. It was certainly going to persist as a fact, and he'd certainly have to keep hustling. But what gave me confidence for him was his beautiful serviceableness. He had come to the idea that if he did not find us lovely enough, he'd set about to make us lovely. I bowed to him."

3. George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) was the man who pointed out the reasons why the teachable are usually morose, ie. "You have learned something. That always feels at first as if you had lost something." Quoted in the night-time meditations book for women facing darkness, Night Light, for the evening of the 7th of July.

4. Ditto "Don't care was made to care" (Mrs Van Egdom in sharp conversation with the child Beastgate outside Van E.'s property at 26 Albert St, St. Clair, Dunedin, c.1970. She still lives there I am told). Everyone, except perhaps the hugely rich and vastly addled, gets dragged from their heaven sooner or later.

5. cf. "Yeah, you can dish it out. But can you take it, Buddy?" (trad).

6. An interesting parallel to this advanced but fatal piece of museological idealism is the ever-popular utterance, "Look, I do what the fuck I want, when I want".

7. "The truth will set you free. But at first it will make you miserable" is another popular adage in the Psychotherapy-recovery industry. It could be usefully applied to other foundering individual institutions. Sim. "I must be cruel, only to be kind" (Hamlet); "If it ain't broke, don't fix it' and "Faith without Works is Dead".

8. In early November 1999, Te Papa, the former Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, posted tiny notices in major-centre dailies inviting submissions from interested parties detailing their suggestions re: their "service delivery". There were to be received no later than 30 November 1999. The Thoreau phrase "There are thousands hacking at the branches of evil, to one who is striking at the roots". (Incidentally, the word "museum" is no longer used by Te Papa in its PR documents. This term was apparently abandoned due to certain unspecified but highly undesirable connotations to their visiting public. If anyone has a copy of the relevant TPT policy document, and they feel inclined to forward it to the offices of Log Illustrated, please do so.)

10. The words "And if not now, when?" comes from something exotic-sounding called The Talmud.

11. The phrase "I can't remember anything" is also the opening line of the Metallica's "One" from the 1988 album ...and justice for all...

12. Warhol went on to say, in one of the least apparently interesting references to museums in non-strictly-museological texts, his diary entry for Wednesday 13 June, 1979, the following: "Bob Weiner called and accused us of having an anti-Semitic newspaper because of some line in Truman's [Capote presumably] interview about stuffing all Jews and putting them in the Museum of Natural History. He said he'd read it to five people and they all agreed." I feel this clearly illustrates that more often than not, by far, the instances where museums are mentioned as settings or whatever in fiction etc. provide the most useful ideas to museum theory, ie. how people-demographics actually use/talk about museums being key, and humans being fictional beings yada yada yada.

13. Research is, of course, for poofters. But I guess it all comes down to intention (as in "the road [or should that be 'read'?] to hell is paved with good intentions").

14. To the neurotic, simple phrases, at first glance, appear to say something quite different, eg. "interior decoration" reads as "inferior decoration". John Updike's (yes, he is the same JU that used to write for Playboy) experience bears this out. In his 1960 volume Museums and women, he came up with a short story of the same name that starts with the fascinating passage "Set together, the two words are seen to be mutually transparent; the E's, the M's blend - the M's framing and squaring the structure lend resonance and a curious formal weight to the M central in the creature, which it dominates like a dark core winged with flitting syllables. Both words hum. Both suggest radiance, antiquity, mystery and duty..." However, it turns out to be a bleat about a creepy guy whose Mom kept dragging him to this particular museum when he was a kid. Later in life, he, in turn, dragged prospective fucks/girlfriends there over and over again. He finds he loses interest in chicks after the chase is over. It ends with the assertion that museums are for people who love what they can't have.

15. Other hidi-pamphlets that exist in the parallel world of the section of the subconscious' library include "You're different and that's bad", "Everyone is enlightened except you", "Normalizing pain in the workforce" and "Punishment is absolute".

16. Viz. the antique I Ching maxim, "As the small departs, the great approaches."

17. Robert Smithson went on to say, in his 1967 article "Some void thoughts on museums", the following (abridged slightly, but you can trust me): "The museum undermines one's confidence in sense-data and erodes the impression of textures upon which our sensations exist. Memories of 'excitement' seem to promise something, but nothing is always the result. Those with exhausted memories will know the astonishment. Visiting a museum is a matter of going from void to void... Stale images cancel one's perception and deviate one's motivation... The museum spreads its surfaces everywhere and becomes an untitled collection of generalizations that immobilize the eye... Sightings fall like heavy objects from one's eyes..."

Robert Smithson's Museum of the Void Robet McDougall Art Gallery
SNAP! Notice the similarities between Robert Smithson's Museum of the Void drawing of 1967 and the front end of the Robert McDougall Art Gallery at the ass-end of the Canterbury Museum here in Christchurch?

19. "Now, high class (and the high class come-on) is implicit in the very concept of a museum whether museum administrators wish it or not, and this is simply unrelated to current issues." (Alan Kaprow, 1967). Brian Adams referred to this period, the late '60s that is, as "the best years of my life" (refer Adams' Summer of '69, as in "Those were..."). However, this is not so for the museum sphere. It was at about this time that people on the inside commenced to get museums completely confused with schools -- hence the prevailing ill wind of didacticism that still chills visitors today. "Just fucking get over it" is often uttered in domestic kitchens, but seldom brought to the boardroom, more's the pity.

20. Charles Bukowski, too had a similar position on museums. Museologists are often too quick to blame museums for visitor discomfort. Far too little attention is directed at the visitors' lack of life skills and impoverished imaginations. To illustrate this, consider an extract from his collected Open City tabloid column "articles", Notes of a dirty old man (1969):

"There are a lot of things I would like to do. first off, I would like to stop getting such very ugly looking people for presidential nominees. then, I'd change the museums. there is nothing as depressing or quite as stinky as a museum. why there hasn't been a greater percentage of three-year-old girls molested on museum steps I'll never know. first off, I'd install at least one bar on each floor; this alone would pay the salaries and would allow for regeneration and salvation of some of the paintings and the drooping sabre-toothed tiger whose asshole is beginning to look more like the 8-ball sidepocket. then I'd install a rock-band, a swing band and a symphony band for each floor, plus three or four good-looking women to walk around and look good. you don't learn anything or see anything unless you vibrate. most people look at that sabre-tooth behind all that hot glass and just slink by, a little bit ashamed and a little bit bored.
but can't you see a guy and his wife, each a beer in hand, looking at the sabre-tooth, and saying, "God damn, look at those tusks! a little bit like an elephant, huh?"
and she'd say, "honey, let's go home and make love!"
and he'd say, "your ass! not until I go down to the basement and see that 1917 Spad they say Eddie Rickenbacker flew it himself. got seventeen hun. besides, I hear they got the Pink Floyd down there"..."

21. Win-win situations are progressively becoming the goal of corporate world negotiations. This demonstrates an encouraging positive shift in human consciousness. (See the current best-selling book, The seven attributes of successful people for more information on strategies like "It doesn't matter who's right or wrong, but who does something seductive and compelling in the end that counts".)

22. Paul Perry's "New Collector" and Mediamatic vol. 6 #2/3 Winter 1991/2 starts "It was August and a terrible month/Would new pleasure keep growing and burst red?..." and continues to say "Museums are security. Even if we never go into a museum, the facade alone is enough to satisfy us that someone else is taking care of things." A frightful publication on the whole. The post-crash "accountability" period has indeed spawned some horrors. Hey you guys, take the journey from the head to the heart!

23. cf. "Life ain't nothing but bitches and money" (NWA). How true. How now, even though it's not really. That reminds me of a stawry: "Word up sisser woman, I am buggin. If that man o mine calls me his bitch one more time, Ise gonna open up a can o woop-ass on that hush puppy shoe-amp crumpcake sho' nuff. You know what I wanna do? You know how everything he wears is black, white and grey, welI, I wanna take all his whites, his laundry, yo wit' me? I wanna bit by biddy bit wash 'em a bit at a time in real hot water wit' a bunch of strong-ass powder with those fancy fluffy rich coloured towels one by one he love so well. Hell that man loves his close way more than he love me. Booty ain't even a hold on that man, you wit' me? Anyways, all his whites, those sports socks, those T's, those CK undershorts, those linen shirts, Hell! that playa is gonna be diffrent pastel colours all ova. Then, he'll front me about it, high pissed an' all, and I'll say, "Baby, if I'm your bitch, I ain't nothing but a dog, and dogs can't see colour seesee. It's a rod cone thang my man. Don't be mad. That sock yous wavin' at ain't nothin but baby grey, honey. Those shorts, they's sky grey. That's salmon grey. And baby that shirt's da bomb. You look so fine in lav-en-der. All the bitches, they's gonna want a slice of that. (Girl, he's gonna be sawrry, u-huh!) Besides, you's the one what smokes all that reefer and sits happy as a sandboy watchin' the cars go by outta that window. Mr snakeskin teeth, you's the dog. Reel in your eager ol' glossy shocking-grey lipstick, and get outa my world, boy."

24. Brion Gysin was also the author of The last museum, and the person who apathetically popularised the idea that there is always a third mind present. This line was further promoted by Genesis P-Orridge of Throbbing Gristle fame.

25. Andre Breton said this in the 2nd session of the Surrealists' discussion of sex. He also remarked, interestingly, that "Love is perhaps compatible with all kinds of distractions, but the idea of love cannot endure any". Louis Aragon replied, "Quite so." (Investigating sex: surrealist discussions 1928-32, José Pierre (ed), p.30.)

29. The opening lines of Eugenio Donato's "The museum's furnace: notes toward a contextual reading of [Gustave Flaubert's mid-19th century book] Bouvard and Pécuchet" read "Le feu est chez vous" (a Flaubert quote). This translates, I think, to "the fire is at your place". On pages 25-6 of the volume under consideration, GF wrote that B and P, the arch flâneurs encyclopediaistes "...sauntered past the old bric-a-brac shops" and visited all the galleries and public collections. "In the galleries of the museum they viewed all the stuffed quadrupeds with astonishment, the butterflies with pleasure, the metals with indifference; the fossils fuelled their imagination, conchology bored them. They peered into hot-houses, and shuddered at the thought of so many foliages distilling poison. What struck them most about the cedar was the way it had been brought over in a hat... They worked up an enthusiasm at the Louvre for Raphael. At the central library they would have liked to know the exact number of volumes..."

30. In the back of the Penguin Classics edition of B&P comes GF's Dictionary of received ideas. According to the intro, this "consists largely of clichés (social noises to be uttered by those wishing to conform). Flaubert had intended to fill the second volume of Bouvard with various collections of what he considered to be idiocies." The third to last issue reads "YOUNG LADIES: Utter these words diffidently. All young ladies are pale, frail and always pure. Prohibit, in their interests every kind of reading, and all visits to museums, theatres, and especially the monkey-house at the zoo."

31. Sax Rohmer (the creator of the ultimate evil criminal mastermind of the 1920s yellow-peril variety, Fu Manchu) provides a further instance of museums as settings for Victorian detective dramas. In his surreal The dream detectives of 1926, the story "The case of the tragedies in the Greek Room" appears. In it are written the seminal lines for new museum theory, "There's trouble at the Museum!" he said abruptly. "I want you to run around." It's such a shame museum men and women don't seem to read fiction. They usually buy second-hand copies and display them in their homes, however, thus cleverly creating the illusion that the their "libraries" are in active use.

32. Similarly, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, a founder of Italian Futurism, in 1908 urged artists to start afresh and ignore all tradition. He wished to destroy museums (and libraries also) and welcomed "the kindly incendiaries with carbon fingers". He went on to say: "Museums, cemeteries!... Identical truly in the sinister promiscuousness of so many objects unknown to each other. Public dormitories, where one is forever slumbering beside hated and unknown beings..." Well! In the immortal words of Eartha Kitt in her unrequited-love song The boy from Ipinema, "What's wrong with him?".

33.40 years of NME charts confirmed my childhood observation that there were a hell of a lot of songs about love. For a while there it seemed as if they all were. In the index, songs starting with the word "love" (this includes "lover", "loving" etc.) occupy 3 1/2 columns. No other word comes close in this sort of length.

34. There were a lot of graphomaniacs around in Paul Valéry's times. Naturally, they put in their two cents-worth about things museological. For example, Valéry (1871-1945) wrote (quoted in Franco Rella's Vertigo of the mélange), "I go outside... The magnificent chaos of the museum follows me and mingles with the bustle of the street... We are and we move in the same vortex of the mélange that we inflict as a torment on the past." Whatever.

35. With regards to this justification for the popular art museum practice of "acting New York", ie. taking everything v. seriously -- NY being the seriousness capital of the world -- and expecting everyone else to respect the attendant artistic and behavioural niceties of this carry-on) -- there is a position that, to me, makes much more sense. It comes from p.64-5 of the acid, anonymous 1893 publication The silver domino (or side whispers social and literary): "Yes my friends; deny it if you will that we are all savages. (I expect you to deny it because I assert it, and you would not be human if you did not contradict me.) You will hardly refuse to admit that we are all skeletons. Our flesh makes our savagery. Our clothes make our morality. But reduced to our primal selves, we are plain Bones. And in honest, unadorned Bones, to be positive to the utmost degree of positivism, we invariably discover ourselves grinning. At what? Who shall say?"

36. In a Christchurch bagel shop, there is on the wall a list of great lines from Country and Western songs. One reads "I don't know whether to kill myself or go bowling." Indeed! How or why does (or could) anyone go about "advancing" museums in this day and age?

37. Certain people's theories have, over the years, been really idolised, by virtue, I feel, of conspicuous displays of confidence on the behalf of the writer. People tend to back things that they perceive as "winners" whether they actually are or not. Nietzsche comes to mind: "A great man did you say? All I see is the actor creating his own ideal image". Indeed, N. had a lot of relevant things to say on the subject of museums and the question of, shall we say, mana. For example, "One of the things that may drive many thinkers to despair is the recognition of the fact that the illogical is necessary for man, and that out of the illogical comes much that is good". Right on Daddy-o.

38. J. B Priestley (British novelist, 1894-1984) also wrote that (and it operates as a useful counter-undercutter for a lot of present day museum studies idiocies) "If there was a little room in the British Museum that contained only about 20 exhibits and good lighting, easy chairs and a notice imploring me to smoke, I believe I should become a museum man." (Quoted from his Self-selected essays: In the British Museum.)

39. It has been common knowledge among psychiatrists and those in-the-know in the mental health profession that smoking is a really great way of stuffing down unwanted emotions. It relates to the common, often unconscious practice of shallow breathing. G. B. Shaw knew this ages ago. Consider, and consider well Shaw's devastating words: "The unconscious self is the real genius. Your breathing goes wrong the moment your conscious self meddles with it." I have been worried about the effect of my smoking and erratic breathing -- and society's collective repressed respiratory system/s -- ever since I laid eyes on this assertion. Horrible, hateful man. Pygmalion -- honourable, my ass. Whenever I think of this, I, with a chill, am transported back to fifth form Latin classes and the revolting memory of having to read Ovid in translation to a 6'7" pervert. And then having to go to his office every morning, bend over, and point to my clean shoes for the cunt. Fuck Pygmalion and everything remotely associated with it.

40. Herman's Hermits' '60s hit single "Museum" off of Blaze goes, "I drink sweet wine at breakfast/I slept but an hour or so/I smiled a little in the silence/Deciding on where to go [chorus] Meet me at the Nat-u-ral His-tor-y Museum/I think that's what she said/A little bit sad about having to leave me..." I take issue with the "hit single" claim, as the song never made it into the NME charts. In fact, there isn't a single listing featuring the word museum. Museums seem to have traditionally existed outside of popular culture, and thus, perhaps, their appeal to the conspiratorially minded.

41. Was it Ad Reinhardt who wrote The four museums are the four mirrors?

42. It isn't surprising that the Patti Smith group's song that goes "we're gonna have a real good time together" sounds like the New York Dolls' Personality Crisis, seeing as she went around for years acting like Keith Richards.

43. Jonathan Richman said in a 1996 interview about his youth, the mid '70s and his excellently retrogressive band, The Modern Lovers, the following: "You see, I used to walk to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and I used to go to the room where they would keep the paintings by Cézanne, see. Not because I understood anything about the paintings of Cézanne, but because that's where the girls from BU used to hang out (BU -- Boston University). They had those big suede boots comin' up to here, they had the Gauloise cigarettes and they had the long hair and the brown suede jacket -- ooooohhh -- and I was very impressed. And I figured, if I had a girlfriend, I could understand these paintings and I could see straight through them." He recounts this story on The Modern Lovers' song Girl Friend off their self-titled 1976 album, but he goes further, singing "If I had a girlfriend... I'd have found something that I understand -- I'd understand a girlfriend. A girlfriend is something I understand."

44. As we lament the over complication of museums, Richman has already plainly stated, "Rock 'n' roll's about stuff that's natural anyway. It wasn't about drugs and space. It's about sex and boyfriends and girlfriends and stuff." Things are not more complicated. We are more complicating. Get it? Clearly, one of the primary functions of museums is to provide settings for hopeful lovers' rendez-vouses, accidental and spontaneously planned. People are generally much more interested in love than other stuff. This is clearly borne out by Updike's carry-on (see f.n.#14) and by the Herman's Hermits (see f.n.#40)

45. Further on the subject of all the changes-improvements being made to museums, I think planners have got things back-to-front. It's not the museum's fault if people are uncomfortable in museums. A lot of folks just don't know how to live any more. On a global scale, humans have had a great big attack of shallow breathing and ego living that can only be counteracted by amateur anaesthesia in the name of sociability. More bars are being installed in museums than ever before. I think the Californian Highway Patrol and Flaubert hit the nail on the head with their twin mottoes: "It is a mark of intelligence, no matter what you are doing, to have a good time doing it"; and "Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work."

46. One of the most touching exhibitions of affection I have ever been privileged to hear is that of a description of the pleasure one young woman friend of mine derived from drawing lung-fulls of toilet air after she had secretly commingled her urine with that left nocturnally unflushed by of her lover, so as not to wake her.

47. If it is true, as a therapist once suggested to me, that creative energy and sexual energy come from the same source, are the same thing or whatever he said, one wonders whether Vladimir Nabakov, as he wrote "The visit to the museum", a little confused by his sudden passion, reached into his trousers...

48. This sentiment was echoed by the great poet e. e. Cummings when he wrote the following lines in his "Letter to Ezra Pound" in the fall '66 edition of the Paris Review:

Natural History Museums are made by fools unlike me
But only God can stuff a tree

49. It is very sad that so many seem impervious to the love extant and excited trajectories possible in most any museum. Nina Epton, in her informative Love and the Spanish of 1961, picked this up. The first chapter, "Arabesques and slave-girls", opened thusly, beautifully: "You won't find much about love in here," observed the professor - a retired art historian - with an ironical smile. I was standing in one of the large, cool, nearly empty halls of the archaeological museum in Madrid, brooding over archaic statues of Iberian votive goddesses. "You won't find much about love in here," he repeated. "Come. Let us go and drink an horchata in the Prado."



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