In a comment on yesterday’s post about attention and excess, my OSU colleague Rick Livingston posted the poem Enough Music by Dorianne Laux:
Sometimes, when we’re on a long drive,
and we’ve talked enough and listened
to enough music and stopped twice,
once to eat, once to see the view,
we fall into this rhythm of silence.
It swings back and forth between us
like a rope over a lake.
Maybe it’s what we don’t say
that saves us.
I was thinking about this ‘less is more’ approach in terms of what I post on Minus Plato, while, last night, I was reading the catalogue for Pierre Bal-Blanc’s project Reversibility: A Theater of De-Creation.
Bal-Blanc describes the series of exhibitions as initiated by a “traumatic event” that took place in 2008: the destruction of a work by David Lamelas, Projection (The Screen Effect) (1967-2004) at Centre d’art contemporain de Brétigny.
When I saw the back cover of the book and the installation shot of the work Cleopatra by Italian artist Marcello Maloberti, I was immediately transported to another scene of destruction during an exhibition I saw of his work in Rome in 2012.
Part of Maloberti’s exhibition Blitz at MACRO was an unforgettable video of a performance at the museum, in which a group of people each smash a ceramic panther on the floor (here is a video clip of the work).
The MACRO store was giving away pieces of the smashed sculptures and I brought two pieces home, one for my partner Rebeka and one for my son, Eneko.
On seeing the back of Bal-Blanc’s book last night, I became acutely aware of how this bombastic, destructive work had completely overshadowed my memory of the rest of the exhibition. It is only after some digging online that I discovered that the Cleopatra work – a series of 13 altered Cleopatra brand cigarette packs, like the one below – was also part of Blitz.
The ensuing reversal of my memory made me think about why I was in Rome in the first place back in 2012. I was leading a study abroad trip and I visited MACRO on a day off from seeing ancient sites with the students. It just shows how far my work as a Classicist has changed now, as I prepare for another Rome trip with students this coming Spring, which now includes a visit to MACRO (both locations) and MAXXI in addition to the ancient sites as part of an exploration of the dynamic between the ancient topography of the city and contemporary art exhibitions.
Perhaps I will tell the students this story, both in MACRO as well on the site of the Temple of Venus Genetrix in the Forum of Caesar, which, as Appian tells us, included a statue of Cleopatra – still there in the beginning of the 1st century CE, but since destroyed:
Caesar built a temple to Venus Genetrix, which he vowed just before he fought Pompey at Pharsalus. He surrounded it with a space intended as a forum for the Romans, although not for commerce, but for the exercise of civic business (as in Persia, where people come to the forum to seek justice or to study the laws). Alongside the statue of Venus he placed a beautiful statue of Cleopatra, which stands there today [c. C2 AD]. Appian, Civil Wars 2.102