The Scream at MoMA in the Cold Digital Age – The Awl

bck体育官网

byElizabethLopatto

Therehasbeenalotofwrong-headedcriticismoftheinternetbypeoplewhooughttoknowbetter。

Whichistosay,bywriters。

Iamimmediatelysuspiciouswhenawriterdoesn’tacknowledgetheobvioussimilaritiesbetweenwordsonapageandthewordsandimagesonascreen。

Writingitselfisanisolatingtechnology,justanolderone,andreadingsilently,toyourself,isanisolatingpractice,andarelativelynew?

one。

Thesetechnophobicscreedssurfaceafewtimesayear;they’vetailedoffsome,althoughIsupposetherewillalwaysbeauthorsmasochisticenoughtomaketheirownduncecapsandparadearoundinthem,inexchangeformoneyorattention。

Iamtiredofrewardingbadbehaviorwithmyattention;myattentionisalimitedresource。

Irefusetobeoutragedbyargumentsthathaven’tsubstantivelyprogressedsincebeforeIhit?

puberty。

Thatthesepiecescontinuetoappearinroughlythesameform,though,tellsmesomethingelse:There’sarealanxietyfeltbyalotofpeoplethat’sfuelingthem。

Ifindthecurrentstateofaffairsfrustrating:becausewekeepseeingthesamepiecesoverandover,wearen’ttalkingaccuratelyaboutwhat’smakingusanxious。

Mostly,we’rejustreiteratingthatweare?

anxious。

Whatissoberingabouttheinternetisnotthatit’sisolatingperse?

—?

Ifinditattractivepreciselybecauseit’sgotpeopleonit?

—?

butthatitfeelslesssatisfyingthanin-personinteractions。

Thismuchthecriticshaveright。

Whattheydon’thaverightis?

why。

Theinternethastoprivilegetwosenses,sightandhearing,overtheothers。

Thesesensesarerepresentedbecausethey’retheeasiesttoreproduce,notbecausethey’rethemostimportant。

I’muneasywiththeinternetbecauseI’membodied。

Neitherlookingatapersonnorlisteningtohimisasimmediateorintimateastouchinghim。

TheiPad’sexistenceacknowledgesthisinitssterileway,butwecanallagree,Ithink,texturelessglassisnotasmuchfunas?

—?

offthetopofmyhead?

—?

woodgrain,looselywovenlinen,grass,bare?

skin。

There’sakindofderangedCartesianismatplayininternetculture,wherewe’reencouragedtoviewourselvesasbrains,oratleasteyeballs,beingcartedaroundbyslabsofmeat。

Theimplicitviewisthatthe“I”islocatedinthebrain。

Ouruneasinessstemsfromsomethingprettyobvious:the“I”isn’tinthebrain;it’sinthebrainasitexistsinthemeat。

Thebodyandthebrainareinseparable,andthebody’sneedsarecrucialforthebrain。

Theinternet,aswonderfulasitoftenis,isn’tsatisfyingtousasfull?

animals。

Full-calorieinteractionsusuallyinvolvetouch:ahughello,afriendlyhandshake。

There’ssmell,too,especiallyinthesummerwheneveryone’ssweaty。

Sometimesalsotaste;Idoubtit’sacoincidencethatmanysocialeventsinvolvedinnerordrinks。

Theworldofdifferencebetweenavideochatwithafriendanddinnerwithherhasnothingtodowithisolationandeverythingtodowithembodiment。

Youcan’thugher,youcan’tsplitanentree,youcan’tspillyourdrinkon?

her。

Thearm-waving,chain-clankingspectreofembodimenthoversaroundtheargumentsregardinge-readersandactualbooks。

Thereisabsolutelynothingwrongwithtakingpleasureinthesmellofabook,orthetextureofapagebetweenyourfingers。

Wewillneverbewithoutbooks。

Whatstrikesmeaslikelieristhatbookswillbecomeartobjects,liketheilluminatedmanuscriptsoftheMiddleAges。

Probablymorewriterswillexploretheformofthewritten?

page。

Somewritersdothisalready。

There’sMarkDanielewski,whoinvitesreaderstoflipbooksupside-down,andwhousestheprintedformofhiswordstoalternatelyemphasizeorunderminetheactioninthewords。

OrJulioCortazar,whosechoose-your-ownadventureHopscotchtakesadvantageoftheformofthecodextoinvitereaderstoskiparound。

OrJonathanSafranFoer,whocreatedTreeofCodesfromanotherbookbyliterallycuttingout?

pieces。

Thethingis,though,thepleasureofthepage’stexturedoesn’tinvalidatethepleasureofbeingabletoreadVanityFairwithoutwreckingmywristsandshouldershaulingitaround,tosaynothingofnothavingtopayforabookwhichisnowinthepublicdomain。

NordoImeantodenigratethejoyofhaulingaroundahugelibraryinmypurse,especiallywhenI’mtraveling。

Ifenjoyingabookisbasedjustonthewordsonabackground,whocareswhatformit’s?

in?

ThesmartestwritingI’veseenonthesubjectdealsdirectlywithhowtheformaffectsthereader;LevGrossmandescribedthedifferencebetweene-readersandbooksasbeing,essentially,thedifferencebetweenthecodex,whichishowmoston-dead-treebooksareprinted,andthescroll,whichismimickedbythee-reader。

TheBible,hesaid,becamepopularasitbecameacodexreaderscouldflipthroughtoconsult,ratherthanascrollthatmadeindividualpassageshardtolocate。

Thiskindofobservationofhowkineticsmatterforcontentstrikesmeasthebestapproachtoconsideringonline?

life。

Peoplemakedistinctionsbetweentheonlineworldandthereal-lifeworld,althoughourbehaviorisrecognizablythatofthesamepersoninboth。

Thedifferencehastodowiththelimitednatureoftheinternetinteraction。

Icannolongerdestroymusicthroughtoomuchlove,byplayingittoomanytimes,makingthetapebreak,creatingscratchesontheCDorrecord。

Ican’taccidentallydog-earanonlinephoto,ordropitinthebathandwatchthecolorsrun?

—?

andthatphoto’scolorsaren’tdependentonwhatkindofmonitorI’musing。

Typinginallcapsandscreamingdemanddifferentthingsfrommybody。

Screamingrequireswaymoreemotionalengagement。

Itrequiresbreath?

—?

expandingmydiaphragm,throwingmychestouttogetenoughairinmylungs?

—?

andawillingnesstoshredmyvocalchordstobeheard。

Typinginallcapsrequireshitting“caps?

lock。



Ifinditprofoundlysoothingtolivewithart。

Ilikehavingitinmyhomeasanobjectthatagesanddegradeswithme,thatreflectswhereitsatinthesuntoolonginitsfadedcolors,orhasaslightcreaseinthecornerfromwherethemattingslipped,orwherethepainthasstartedtoflake。

We’relivingcreatures,afterall,andwe’vegottoattendtoouranimal?

needs。

Watchingasunsetisn’tjustaboutlookingatthewaythelightplaysintheclouds,thoughthat’sniceenough。

It’snotjustthewindthatcomesup,orthattheairsmellscooler。

It’showeverythingaroundisbathedinthelight,howthewholeworldseemsto?

pause。

**?

*

TheScreamisthemost-stolenpaintingintheworld。

Today,it?

—?

aversionofit?

—?

goesonviewat?

MoMA。

ReproductionsofTheScreamdon’treallywork。

I’mnotgoingtoreheatWalterBenjaminonreproductionhere;Idon’treallyfindtheideaofatalisman-magicattachedtoanoriginalconvincing1。

Juststrictlyspeaking,there’sthepracticalissueofbeingabletoreproduceorganicwearandtear。

Paintingsarelikeafavoritet-shirt,worntoperfectionafteryears,withweirdstainsfromsweatandwine,wornpatchesatthehemfromrubbingagainstyourjeans,placeswherethefabricpilledbecauseyouhabituallycarryatotebagontheleftsideofyour?

body。

WhenIsawit,IwasinNorwayformidsummer,stayingwithmyfriendAdam。

We’dworkedtogetherinNewYorkforanow-defunctsciencemagazine。

HelivedneartheMunchMuseuminthemulticulturalneighborhoodT?

yen。

NearbywasKarlJohansgate,whichbeginsatOslo’sSentralstasjon,whichisalotlikePennStationbutsmallerandcleaner。

Thestreet,whichendsattheRoyalPalace,isrepeatedlyfeaturedinEdvardMunch’swork。

WespentmyfirstdayinOslo,aSunday,walkingaroundtheneighborhood。

ThesidewalksareembossedwithIbsenquotationsinstainlesssteel。

ThesewordsmarkIbsen’sdailywalkingroute。

Ihavenoideawhatthey?

said。

Present-dayOslohasapproximatelythepopulationofthecityproperofPortland,Oregon,butoveraslightlylargerarea:586,000peopleoverabout175squaremiles。

Itiseminentlywalkable;insomeplaces,thesidewalksarewiderthanthe?

streets。

WespentmyseconddayattheMunchMuseum。

Isuggestedwegooutofproximityratherthaninterest。

I’dseenreproductionsofTheScream;who?

hasn’t?

In2008,MoMAandtheVanGoghMuseummounteditsbigVanGoghblockbusterinNewYork,andIdraggedmyselfthroughaseethingmassofpeople?

—?

thekindofcrowdthatseemsmoreinsectthanmammal?

—?

toseeit。

Iwasunderwhelmed。

StarryNight,thepaintingthatlaunchedathousanddormroomposters,lookedjustlikealways。

Therewasnothingnewormoving。

IvastlypreferredStarryNightOvertheRhonebecausethebrushworkwasmoreobvious;itwasmoreapparentahumanhadmade?

it。

There’ssomekindofhalowewanttogetfromseeinganoriginal,andthat’swhattheMoMAhadbankedoninitsVanGoghexhibit。

SoIwenttotheMunchMuseumtosayI’dseenTheScream,justlikeIcouldsayI’dseenStarryNightortheMonaLisa?

—?

nottohaveareactionto?

it。

Itwasarrangedinathreesomewithtwoothersimilarworks,DespairandAnxiety。

Atfirstglance,fromadistance,TheScreamwasnothingspecial?

—?

justthethingI’dseenhundredsoftimesbefore。

ThenIsteppedcloserandthedamnthing?

changed。

Icouldseethecardboarditwaspaintedon。

Icouldseescratchmarksinthepaint。

Thevisceraofthepaintinghadn’tbeencapturedbythereproductions。

Iclosedmyeyesandthegaping,mummy-like“O”ofthemouthimmediatelyflashedontomy?

eyelids。

Theafterimagepracticallyreekedof?

sulphur。

**?

*

Thereare,actually,twopaintedversionsofTheScream。

TheOsloNationalGalleryhastheearliest,signedanddated1893。

TheMunchMuseum’sisneithersignednordated。

Theyattributeitto“1910?

”officially,thoughmanybelieveitisfrommuchearlier。

(Bothdatesareinfactinquestion:thesigned1893versionissignedtwice,andonlydatedatthetimeofthesecondsignature。

)

The“1910?

”versionwasoneofthepaintingsbequeathedtoOsloonMunch’sdeath,andMunch’srecordswerewillfullyobtuse。

IntheMunchMuseumversion,thewavybrushstrokeusedbytheartistaddstotheuncertaintyandclaustrophobiaalreadypresentinthecomposition。

Thegapsinthepaintexposethecardboard,thecrudenessbornof?

urgency。

Inaddition,theMunchMuseumhasapastelversion,andstillanotherexistsprivately。

2Thislast,from1895,istheonethathascometoMoMA。

Thisisaversionthathasneverbeenstolen。

Itisnowownedbyananonymousperson,whomayormaynotbeLeonBlack,whospent$119。

9millionforitatSothebysthis?

spring。

IboughtacopyofSuePrideaux’sBehindtheScream,whichturnedouttobeamasterfullyresearchedbiography。

Asicklychild,Munchwasbornin1863;Munch’smotherandclosestsisterdiedbeforeheturned20。

Hisfather,adoctorandpietistfanatic,providedtheseedsforaking-hellrebellion。

MunchlosthisvirginitytohatenthusiastMillyThaulow,whowasmarriedtosomeoneelseatthetime。

OthermembersofwhatbecamehissetincludedSwedishplaywrightandpainterAugustStrindberg,aromanticrivalforthecharmsofsometimes-modelDagnyJuel,whoeventuallymarriedPolishwriterStanis?

awPrzybyszewskibeforebeingmurderedbyanotherloverinTbilisiintheviewofher5-year-oldson。

Munchlatersentaremarkablyhalf-assedmarriageproposaltoloverandmuseTullaLarsenaftershelenthimagreatdealofmoneyandthenchasedhimalloverEurope。

Hereitis,inallits?

glory:

“InmymiseryIthinkyouwouldatleastbehappierifweweremarried。

Itwouldbeakindofhomeforyoutobearmyname?

—?

everythingelsewouldbeasbefore?

—?

Iwouldhavetheabsoluterighttofreedomineveryaspectofmy?

life。



TheyendedthingsforgoodafterMunchwasaccidentallyshotinhislefthandinherpresence;it’snotclearwhethersheactuallyshothim,thoughheblamedherfortheinjury。

Hetooktheshootingespeciallybadly:itwashisworkinghandthatwasinjured,butalsoMunch?

—?

whowasthekindofhotthatmadepeopleloseIQpointsinhispresence,wellintohisforties,andlikeallattractivemen,vaintoanunholydegree3?

—?

resentedherfor“ruining”hisbeauty。

Hehidthemaimedhandfortherestofhislife。

Larsengotcustodyofalltheirfriendsinthe?

breakup。

Munchspentthemajorityofhislifebroke,drunk,andhungry,althoughhewouldeventuallyfindsupportersinGermany,allowinghimtoprovidethecareofhisfrequentlyinstitutionalizedschizophrenicsisterandtheauntwhoraisedhim。

Thisdidn’thappenuntilMunchdriedoutinCopenhagenin1908,followinganepisodeofalcohol-induceddementia。

Duringhislateryears,hisartwasdenouncedasdegeneratebyHitler。

Hesleptwithmany,possiblymost,ofhisfemalemodelsrightupuntilhisdeathofpneumoniain1944whileNorwaywasoccupiedbyNazis。

HelefthisunsoldpaintingstothecityofOslo,whichopenedtheMunchMuseumforhisworksin?

1963。

Prideaux’sgreatcarewithMunch’sintellectualhistoryandphilosophyhelpexplainsomethingofhisappeal?

—?

besides,ofcourse,hisobvious?

beauty。

NotthatI’vegotanythingagainst?

beauty。

**?

*

Onthelongestdayoftheyear,IwatchedthesunsetfromtheroofofOslo’soperahouse。

Thecreepingnightfallcontinuedpastmidnight,pinkcloudsscatteredacrosstheblueskylikeflamingoesinalake。

Adimversionofthebluehourpersistedallnight,untilthesunstartedmakingpreparationstorisearound4a。

m。

Thenightwasexceedinglyblue;Icouldstillseewithouttheaidofthestreetlights,whichhadnonethelessturnedthemselveson。

AdamandIwereintheneighborhoodanywaybecausewe’dtriedtogotoanartshowcalledBringYourOwnBeamers,“beamers”heremeaningprojectors,notcars。

Therewasalarge,whitestructurecomposedofwhatappearedtobecanvas,PVCandshippingcontainersthathadbeensetupbehindtheoperahouse,inandonwhichartistswouldprojecttheirworks。

Theideabehindtheshowwasthattheorganizerswouldprovidethestructureandpowersourcesandtheartistscouldshowupwiththeirownprojectorswiththeirart?

—?

aone-nightfree-for-allshow。

Thiswasallfine,exceptthatwhenwearrivedattheshow,onlyahandfulofpeoplebroughtprojectors。

Myfavoriteofthesefew,bravesoulswasawoman,dressedentirelyinwhite,whohadseatedherselfagainstawallwheretheEuroCup’scurrentmatch,theCzechRepublicvs。

Portugal,wasprojected。

Thematchwaseffectivelyplayedonthewomanaswell。

Afewpeoplehadstoppedto?

watch。

Irealizedaswestoodaround,hopingmorepeoplewouldsetupprojectors,thattheoddswerestackedagainstanywould-beartistsanyway。

Theywouldbeforcedtocompetewiththepornographicallybeautifulsunset。

Naturehasnosenseoftasteorproprietyandisn’tafraidofoverkill,andsowegaveupontheartthingandwalkedupthefrontoftheoperahouse。

Theoperahouse’sroofslopesdowntowardthefjordontheouteredgesanduptowardtheskyinthemiddle。

Wewalkedallthewaytothetopandstoodthere,staringatthesunset。

Iwasblissfullyuntroubledby?

thought。

Oslois59。

9degreesnorth,whichiswhythemidsummerdaysaresolong。

ItwashardtotellwhileIwastherehowmuchtemporalconfusionwasduetothejetlagandhowmuchwassimplytheexcessivelight。

Isleptwithamaskonmyfacetoblockoutthesun,butmysleepcyclewasstillshorterthanusualandmymoodwasbuoyanttothepointofspasticity。

Ifairlylevitated。

Iwasremindedofhowthoroughlytheenvironmentaffectsanimals;IwasremindedthatIaman?

animal。

Munch’s“soulpainting”wasanexplicitresponsetothemanneredpaintingsbeingsubsumedbyphotography。

Munchusedthebrushtodothingsimpossiblewithacamera。

Later,inhissobriety,hewouldusehiscameratocapturethingsimpossiblewithabrush:portraitsofhimselfwalkingthroughhispaintings?

—?

hecalledthemhischildren,sothoseshotswereeffectivelyfamilyportraits?

—?

asaghostlyblur,orinoneshotofadouble-exposurebutnotthe?

other。

Munchkeptasmanyofhispaintingsaspossible,abusingthemintheprocess。

Hecalledthisthe“horsecure,”accordingtoPrideaux。

Heamusedhimselfbythrowinghispaintingsintothetreesorusingthemaslidswhenhewascooking,draggingthemwithnailsorallowingthemtoberainedon。

HeconsideredpaintingsboughtbytheNationalGalleryandsubsequentlyvarnishedtobe?

ruined。

Munchadoptedhishorsecurefromfriend-turned-rivalStrindberg。

Hewasinterestedintheroleofchanceinart;whethersomethingwouldlastforever,orevenjustagenerationafterthedeathoftheartist,wasarbitrary。

Thehorsecurewaspartofthat,andhedidn’tworryaboutdestroyedpaintingsbecause,perPrideaux,“abrilliantthoughtnever?

dies。



TheScreamofcoursefeaturesaman,reducednearlytoaskull,withskintintednausea-green,clutchinghishandstohisearsandscreaming,withahellishsunsetbehindhim。

Munchwrote,inhisdiary,in1892,“Iwentalongtheroadwithtwofriends?

—?

“:

Thesunset。

Suddenlytheskybecameblood?

—?

andIfeltthebreathofsadness。

AtearingpainbeneathmyheartIstopped?

—?

leanedagainstthefence?

—?

deathlytiredCloudsoverthefjordofblooddrippedreekingblood。

MyfriendswentonbutIjuststoodtremblingwithanopenwoundinmybreasttremblingwithanxiety。

Iheardahugeextraordinaryscreampassthrough?

me。

TheScreamisasunsetthatdoesn’tpassataglanceintokitsch;ararity。

Theinfernoisn’timmediatelyobviousasasunset。

It’sapocalypticintone,thelongstrokesofredslappedacrossthesky。

ItisprobablythemostsuccessfulexpressionofMunch’sphilosophyofpainting。

“JustasLeonardodaVincistudiedhumananatomyanddissectedcorpses,soIwastryingtodissectsouls,”he?

wrote。

ThehorsecureandemotionalrenderingofthesunsetareofapiecewithallofMunch’swork:artasanorganicobject。

Munchwasreluctanttopartwithhis“children,”Prideauxwrites,butwhenhedid,hetoldhiscollectorstoletthemouttoseethesunfromtimetotime,fortheirhealth。

Hisartexistedaspartoftheworld,notsimplyasarepresentationofit,butassomethingthatwoulddegradeandchangeovertime,asdowe?

all。

Munch’spaintingslivecarefullyindoorsthesedays,inamuseum,withcuratorswhowillrestorethemwhentheyarefragile,astheMunchMuseumdidin2006,afterTheScreamwasstolenandheldcaptivefortwoyears。

MostrecentlyrestoredwashisworkPuberty;I’dneverseenorheardofitbefore。

Thepaintingisofanudegirl,handsfoldedinherlap。

Herexpressionispuzzled,ashamed。

Behindher,herbedsheetsarespottedwithblood?

—?

herfirstperiod。

Pubertyinfacthadn’tbeenondisplayfor10yearswhilecuratorsfixeditup;thissummerwasitsgrandre-entryintothe?

museums。

Aspeopleage,wehavetobemorecarefulwiththeirbodies;thesameistrueofpaintings。

Thecuratorshadinnowaydestroyedthetextureofthepainting;itwasstillroughlytexturedandhadnot?

—?

atleastapparently,toanamateureye?

—?

beenvarnished。

InthesketchforPuberty,displayedonthewallimmediatelybeforeenteringtheroomwiththepainting,thegirlsitswithashadowfallingtoherright,theviewer’sleft。

Inthepainting,theshadowfallstoherleft,theviewer’sright。

AdamtoldmethatIfoundthismoresatisfying?

—?

andIdid?

—?

becauseasaWesternviewer,myeyesweretrainedtotravelfromlefttoright。

Munchhadrealizedthattheshadowcouldnotprecedethe?

girl。

Theproblemwiththeprojectionfree-for-allthatwesawafewdayslaterwasn’tjustthattheexhibitwastoosparselyattendedandunder-produced,thoughthatdidn’thelp。

ItwasthatafterseeingMunch’swork,whichissensualinbothformandcontent,mostoftheprojectionsfeltsterile,inhuman,uninteresting。

Theblueshippingcontainersdrapedinwhiteclothfeaturedprojectionsof?

—?

forinstance?

—?

greengearsonablackbackground,shifting。

Somefootageofwhatappearedtobeaninterpretivedancepiecewithtext-speaklingoabout“gettingarealjob”onit。

Saidtext-speaklingoused“payed”for“paid”butIwasn’tsureifthatwasdeliberatechoiceoranon-native-speaker-of-Englishissue。

Alotofdancing,actually,fromablack-and-whiteoutlineofananimatronic-lookingballerina,towhatappearedtobeapolka。

Awould-befireplaceofblueflame。

Acamcorderturnedontheaudience。

Youcouldtellwhogottherefirstbecausethosepeoplehadsetupintheshippingcontainers,whereitwasdarker。

TheshippingcontainersthemselveswereplacedinacomplexH-likeformation,withseveralblankwhitesheetsdrapeddownforartistswhodidn’t?

come。

IwashaltedseveraltimesinfrontofpaintingsthatdemandedmyattentionattheMunchMuseum;notsobehindtheOslooperahouse。

Theonlythingthatstuckoutwasthewomanwhohadsetherselfinfrontofthesoccermatch,whichistosay,themostorganicprojection。

Thedigitalexhibitsweretextureless,unsatisfying?

—?

likemostvideoartI’veseen。

Worse:theywere?

boring。

Irememberreading,insomeformativeteenageaestheticperiod,somethingabouthowartiswhatyouwanttostealordestroy。

Thesedays,Ifindthatalittlebitsimplistic,butitcapturesthespiritofthething:evokinganemotion,makingyourviewer?

feel。

Andsogreatartismanipulative。

Todothatwell,theremustbeatheoryofmind。

Whatpartsoftheviewerhavetobetuggedorpushedinordertomakethemexperiencewhatyouwantthemto?

feel?

TheScreamcapturedwhataphotorealisticpaintingofasunsetdoesn’t?

—?

thesenseofpanicandcacophonyMunchfelt,his“huge,extraordinaryscream。

”Munch’saestheticphilosophytooktheenvironmenthisviewersinhabitseriously。

OnedayIhopetoseedigitalartdothe?

same。

1PaulRozinandCarolNemeroff’s“Hitler’ssweater”experimentsareamuchmoreconvincingexplanationofthehalooftheoriginalanyway。

There’sacogentexplanationoftheexperimentsinHeuristicsandBiases:ThePsychologyofIntuitiveJudgement,ed。

Kahneman,forpeoplewhoareinterestedinthatkindof?

thing。

2Aswell,lithographsweremadein1895?

—?

just“asmallnumberofprints”exist,oneatMoMA,anotheratThe?

Met。

3PerPrideaux:“Hisperfectbeauty,whichhadservedassomedegreeofconsolationandasourceofsecretprideagainstthewormofinsanityeatingitswaywithin,wasdisfigured…。

Fortherestofhislifehehidhis?

finger。



ElizabethLopattoisasciencereporterforBloombergNews。

FollowheronTwitter。

ImagescourtesyoftheMunch?