After a leisurely breakfast at the yellow cafe, the three of us walked (Camilla clattered in her wooden heels) through the stone lined streets towards the river, ducking precipitously down under the bridge to the packed dirt Dean Path that paralleled the ivy lined river. It rushes cheerily along, about 15 feet wide, enjoyed by strollers, dog walkers, and people with Important Destinations.
Our Important Destination is the Modern Art Museum. Like the other museums I've visited, this one is small and elegant. The collection is not what I expected from its title. I suppose the word "Modern" also can mean "Contemporary."
I'm pretty sure they intentionally arranged the displays on the left hand side of the building to move from purely representational art through the shattering events of the 20th century to complete dissociation. It was like watching the process of a schizophrenic breakdown. Bodies become distorted, then detached. Henry Moore's sculptures detach shoulders entirely from hips. Art dribbled off the canvas, became thicker, more textured, colors became less vivid or more fully saturated. Shared public visions, nuanced or broad, are replaced by cries of despair or private musing.
More recently, it seems to me that fine art has become unmoored from any expectation. Anything from super-realism to full emotionalism to autistic motif repetition to cryptic layers of black shadow might appear. I find myself wishing that I could live another 200 years to see how this settles. In my opinion, the crumbling of the world order has not fully played out, as on the one hand, the developed nations must come to grips with loss of hegemony, and on the other hand, indigenous peoples must confront the presence of humans entirely outside of their mythologies.
I believe, but of course can't prove that as things continue to readjust they will never fully settle. The world is blessed with a myriad of functional cultures, which are being forcibly united through technology, the Internet, English, and capitalism, but none of these factors needs to penetrate fully into the depths of culture. People might raise their babies differently once they have access to vaccines or education, but you will still be able to tell the difference between Swaziland parenting and Russian parenting. It may be that everyone will own a pair of blue jeans but they will also feel a connection to the saris, bunads, or kimonos of their ancestors. In the same way, art will never again homogenize the way it did, say, in the Celtic monastery tradition. There might be global advertising fads, but there will also be fine art that is fully rooted in culture, personality, and history.
In the entryway, there was an anatomically precise twenty-foot resin sculpture of a newborn baby, still bloody from her recent ordeal, with one eye half open. The impact was intense. Babies hit us all, especially those whose hormones have been awakened through parenthood, in the instinctive part of our emotions.
Another high impact exhibit was of four lifelike resin sculptures of men in rumpled business suits, one with a stick in his hand behind two men on their hands and knees, and once facing them with a mirror in his hand. It looked like a Situation, a setup where the menace was undefined but palpable.
The final memorable piece, entitled War, was a shattered copy of Degas' touching sculpture of the 14 year old dancer (which I saw!! In Paris!!!). This one, though, was pregnant, with parts of her skin missing, some in an an anatomically believable way, others as though chunks of clay had fallen off. Wow.
Afterwards the three of us sat in the sun on the terrace, drinking tea, getting foot massages, and enjoying each others' company. My goodness! 3:30!
We galloped back home, stopping at a French cafe for some very good quiche.
After naps and chill in' we headed off for an evening of clubbing. You heard me right. Clubbing.
This is what the young and hip do in Edinburgh on a Saturday night. Also, this was St. Patrick's Day. The Old Town area, which is stony and staid by day, opens up at night. A couple days ago, I read an article in the Guardian saying that some shockingly high percentage of clobbers have accepted an unknown substance from a person they didn't trust and snorted it. I believe it. Buckets of alcohol flow, and remarkably convivial and mild mannered people crowd the streets and line up outside pubs. Everywhere is the smell of whiskey.
Me, I'm taking meds which don't mix with booze so I was a bit out of my element. At the pub where we met with Jelte's business team, it was totally hopping! Bodies pressed against bodies, and everyone wore a smile. I tried to enter into the spirit of things but failed. The noise level was such that I couldn't make out individual words, just tonal barks. The only person I could understand was Jelte's stunningly lovely sister, whom I could lip read. I felt a bit like a curmudgeonly old codger who needs a hearing aide. At 11, when everyone moved to the dance club, I took my aging carcass off to home.
The streets were magical, magical in the old sense of fey and unexpected and shadowed. Lights, colors, crowds and crowds of cheery youths, a marimba player, street people with their pit bulls settling down for the night, shouts and snatches of song, a quartet of women older and fatter than me in glittering green hats venturing out with maps clutched in hand. Not once during the 45 minute walk did I get a bad vibe.