Sunday, April 26, 2015

Art All Night. Pittsburgh all over.

    Art All Night's the most Pittsburgh thing I know.
    Or knew.
    A giant building. A call to artists. Any and all. Bring your stuff, we'll show it. No curators, no frills. All night. Free. Music. Food. Thugs, suits, posers, welders, drinkers, lovers, actors, activists, grandmas and kids, pastors and proletariats come on down, start your engines. The city poured into a building to see what the city has made. 
     But it's 18 years old now and so popular it's packed with people more excited to BE at Art All Night than they are to look at all the art or ponder "who are all these weirdos", these normal people who still make art, than they are to ponder each other. 
    Ponder? Might sound like an app, but it's not. 
    It's a pity. The event has turned a corner. Going is the event. The art's become secondary. The culture's commented on. "How primitive and local." It's tourism. It's a cause.
      "I went to see the Mona Lisa", not  I saw the Mona Lisa. 
     "Just waitin here in line to drive up Lombard!" 
   "Writing to say I'm at the Grand Canyon! OMG!" not Jesus Mary mother of God look at that....
   It's odd how the primacy of attendance and reportage not experience have taken over behavior. Or maybe that's what popularity has always been. The projected aura, the rumor of a thing becoming stronger than it's actual aura. The perfume more important than the person.
   I walked thru the boredom of thousands of people supporting an idea- like folks walking around a park for heart disease, or liking something enough to think they've changed it- they came to Art all Night like people go to museums: not to look at art but to show that they support the idea of art. Which in a way, fights art itself. Art's not an idea it's an action, a happening between a person and an object. A gesture and a body. A voice and your heart. 
   And where could that bond be more important than at an uncurated show, a display of art that no one's filtered, or judged, or censored, that was hand delivered by children and retirees and odd balls to an old steel mill where anyone can stand and stare? It's one of a kind.
  It was. 
  And is that the fate of Pittsburgh? Or should I say "Pittsburgh"? The way of Pittsburgh, the way culture happens in this city, its active sense of itself? 
   A town that trusted more in the making of a thing than how it could be sold. 
  And what else is social media but the selling of everything? Its dispersal and by that dispersal its dilution? How do you sell a City? 
   Happiness for millions? What does that even mean when what you're really talking about is the happiness of the marketer tapping those millions. 
   What else is branding? 
    What's the old story? Guy finds an abandoned beach on an island off the coast of Wherever and on that beach is a shack where this graying sunburnt dude and his gorgeous wife make a fish stew for the locals and whoever happens by. And the guy tastes it ....and it's the best fish stew he's ever had. I mean ever. He's traveled and worked all over the world he's made millions and spent lots of that money trying to find vacation spots where no one else goes and food no one else has tasted and this, this stew is the best.
   So he tells the old dude- give me jar of your stew and I'm going to go back to the States and get a team together and we're gonna market this shit and make you millions man, we're gonna change the face of cooking, put you on tv, spread your magic around the globe and make you a powerful man. 
  Oh yeah?
   Yeah I mean it's gonna take some hard work up front from you , probably five or ten years working 70 hour weeks, touring, making appearances but we'll get there. 
   Yeah? What do we get in the end?
    Well shit man we'll be able to move to some abandoned beach town with a gorgeous women and do whatever we want. 
   So when I look up at the folks living on Troy Hill or Greenfield in their middle class homes with their astonishing views and ten minute commutes and solid public schools, I wonder what the Hell theyre gonna get after we sell Pittsburgh to the planners of the New East Liberty and North Point Breeze. 
   I wish we had the guts to live in the old one.
   To live up to the old one's ethics. 
   I wish I did. 



  1. Thank you. Been waiting for another story!

  2. Just came back from Barcelone. Few day's ago, someone ask me : Did you see the salamander? Yes I did, of course I did , The most famous salamander( how lucky she is) and incidentally Gaudi's fountain. At some places I saw cameras , smartphones, I was looking for eyes, i saw camera lens. Not the only one , a part of tourism...A côté de ça, le mariage de l'art et du tourisme est difficile mais il peut avoir le mérite de faire connaître....Sorry for the frenchglish and thank you for sharing.

  3. oof! david, i think you just summed up the decay of the entire country. we're kind of clueless & uncultured. i could pick up this rant & carry it even further ... but i won't. not here. ;)

    the premise of your post reminds me a little of a new york times article about the pacific crest trail by nicholas kristof ( apparently it's become the 405 freeway after the movie "wild" came out.

    don't get me wrong! i LOVED that movie! i dig cheryl strayed. i just have to shake my head about all the wannabe hikers coming out of the woodwork & clogging up the trails for the serious hikers who travailed big chunks of the PCT seeking solitude before "wild".

    this post also reminds me of those "10 secret hideaway paradises" articles that grate like cheese on me. it's like, pffft! well, they're not a secret anymore!

    as for us artisans, we're supposed to enjoy the creative process & not worry about the end result. still, we'd like to have our efforts appreciated anyway. but perhaps the creative process was squashed by the end result & all that can be gleaned from it. video killed the radio star.

    be well. :)

  4. Dear David,

    I have vivid pictures when I read your words ~ I really enjoy reading your writing, thank you.

    This piece reminds me of First Friday Art Walks here in Portland, Maine which I just wrote about. The city comes alive - I like seeing it all, taking it all in. So much talent, so much energy.
    I too have observed the "Going" being solely the event to many. Though, with Pittsburg’s event held in one building, and Portland’s throughout the city’s downtown, those who “just go” surely stand out more for you.

    Hopefully someday there’ll be a better blend between what it should be, and what it seems to be. What it used to be.
    I think there is a sort of celebration though in going - not only in seeing the work, but also each other - however, the focus should be more on the artists, the art. And share reactions to a piece, question, appreciate. Even look at silently together. See others ‘see’ the art. Whether people are in a group, on a date, or alone, I hope it evolves to where they are not just going ‘to be there’ but rather to really ‘BE' there to experience the art.

    I’ve thought a bit about how to be a piece of the puzzle to change this trend ~
    perhaps if more of us think aloud, really aloud, more often when observing art in crowds…
    you know, to draw their attention to the artwork, it may allow for them to connect with the piece or at least think about it for a moment - like leading a horse to water…
    and if that did not work, the excessive talking may annoy them to the point that they leave…
    I suppose whichever response it elicits would be just fine…

    Take care.

  5. I have never been in Pittsburgh... 😒 Someday I'll visit you! 😊