Friday, April 4, 2008

naive melody

Yesterday, my day began listening to the radio and on the radio, they, mysterious they, played my favorite Talking Heads song, played one of my favorites of any songs, played "This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)". It is such a beautiful song. There is that lovely instrumentation that builds for a while, slowly and relaxed in its knowledge that David Byrne is about to declare, this beautiful knowledge of happiness, somehow finding it, having been lost, having shifted physical locations and places a lot, and after all this shifting about feeling in the place you are now that it is the right space, the place, home, finding it.

I was with Megan C. once at a straight dive bar in the East Village, Blue and Gold, probably about four years ago, when I heard this song for the first time. I lost all interest in the conversation, in the bar, when this song came on and had to know more about it. It really spoke to me at that point, feeling a bit lost in a big city I had just moved to and where I knew very few people but which for whatever reasons I felt was home, or would be, that I wanted it to be, and I ran to the jukebox to see what album it was on. Shortly thereafter, I purchased the album, Stop Making Sense, and played this one song over and over again on repeat.

So it was such a joy yesterday to hear this song being played on the radio, such a joy because I had been transitioning between mental states recently and in the past few days have come to feel more sure about certain things, more at ease, more at home, seeming more sure of the place.

I got really drunk yesterday and that wasn't the place. I went to the Ryan McGinley opening, "I Know Where the Summer Goes," at Team Gallery. Also not the place, though for some people certainly the place, for quite a lot of some people. The gallery was packed, overflowing out on to the sidewalk, pretty young things all done up really nicely, more than a few catching my eye, those same more than a few also making me feel slightly too self-conscious, a bit stoned I was. The art was good in some ways but the problematic aspects of it were too much for me to discount, to recognize the work as good. There are really beautiful shots in the show, chief among them "Laura (Thunderstorm)", which with his snapshot-style odd framing provokes some feelings, the a-ha that's beautiful, that moment, that way of looking at that moment, that would not be there with a more traditional subject setup within the frame, something resembling more traditional portraiture rather than the snapshot documentary qualities of his work.

And yet that same quality, though McGinley does it very successfully and artfully, is also so tiring. It might have been tiring even after Goldin, after Clark, and after Tillmans, but after Lastnightsparty, Cobrasnake, and countless other nightlife photo blogs, not to mention Flickr, interestingly framed snapshots of hip people can become a little bland - oh, another person who has beautiful friends that like to take pictures of themselves being rowdy and reckless with their youth. Great. So being grouped with that type of photography, McGinley has been increasingly trying to ascend that grouping by making more and more artful photographs, saturating them with color, blurring them, making them look more and more intentional. And the effect is done to success. His photographs are getting nicer and nicer.

But the show and its setting, this gallery packed with really beautiful people, brought forth the problem of this show's subjects, this pack of skinny white kids. Seeing all these photographs bunched together of eroticized skinny (and I mean skinny) white kids was really fucking tiring, that it was this very specific idea of beauty that got voice in this show. Brown bodies and people with even a little bit of body fat did not exist in this vision of American youth. The show reminded me a lot of the work of Bruce Weber. Stylistically and technique-wise the two photographers could not be much more different, Weber famed for his black and white portraits of white jocks playing in the American landscape for Abercrombie & Fitch. But yet here in McGinley's photographs, a similar tune is being strummed, this idea of the beauty of youth (a particular variety, yes) and situating that within spaces, physical landscapes, somehow very American, that the two are tied, this muted nationalist merging of lithe, white bodies and this majestic physical landscape that is the American countryside. Weber's work and this show of McGinley's have that in common, and even though McGinley's American Apparel-type models hew closer to my own sexual desires these days than Weber's beefcakes, it is still very distressing. It is distressing that this photographer, young and gay, having grown up in New York, has this show of models he chose for this project and all of whom are not only all white, distressing enough, but who are all model skinny. When one particular type of body is shown, when other types are completely excluded altogether, it gives that one type authority, a desirability, as if it is worth being shown and worth being eroticized at the exculsion of other types. So I left that show a bit mad that despite people being smart for the most part, I am still part of this scene, this city, this world, that has fucked-up ideas about the body and about beauty and that we are still not there, that we haven't found the place.

I left there, wandered with some friends across town, here and there and there, drinking across the East Village, the Lower East Side, and the West Village, making some shape, a smile perhaps, across the bottom of that island, Manhattan. I ended up at Julius' for the Mattachine party, listened to some lovely seventies tunes, chatted with some people, and then went home with Diego whom I had run into there.

Things between us are nice again, sweet. There is a greater awareness, a sensitivity, after the tension of last week, and it was pleasant to go home with him. Lying in his bed, having sex, music was playing on his computer throughout, and at some point, the day coming full circle, that it was not just a fluke hearing it in the morning, that I was supposed to, that this must be the place, it came on his playlist, me never having talked to him before about this song, "This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)". I kissed him with a heightened desire for him, so happy that this song was playing, so happy that this person would be playing this song.

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