Feb. 13th, 2017

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After the rally, I met [personal profile] ghost_lingering and Jon at MoMa. They had a sort of special installation in recognition of Trump's travel ban on visitors from seven majority-Muslim countries. I say sort of because I'm not sure whether it really comprises an installation, exactly, except that it does.

The installation, such as it is, consists of seven paintings by contemporary artists installed in MoMa's fifth floor galleries, which typically host the museum's permanent collections- that amazing and confusing collection of Picassos, Matisses, Magrittes and Van Goghs that are the museum's most reliable draw for visitors. I've written before about how MoMa constitutes a canonical avant garde, a 'Revolutionary Orthodoxy'. The seven paintings installed in this gallery present a deliberate and sometimes really unsettling disruption of this paradoxical conservatism.

I commented partway through that it sort of felt like a treasure hunt, to wander through these familiar galleries and spot the painting that was out of place. Sometimes it was instantly obvious; other times the work blended until you took a closer look. A Sudanese painting set beside a Picasso guitar sculpture showed similar geometries and a similar color palette- and an utterly different sense of composition.

Each of the paintings had a note beside it noting that the artist was from a country whose travel into the US was being restricted by the executive order, making clear how such an executive order would impact our artistic and cultural exchange with the world. But the positioning of the art within the context of MoMa's permanent collection made a sort of opposite argument, namely that these works of art are not scary, they are not foreign and weird, they're perfectly recognizable as part of the normal discourse of the art world. And that cutting these seven countries out of our American lives isn't cutting out the Other, something separate- it's cutting something out of our very heart.

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