Friday, June 17, 2011

So. Much. Walking.

Oh my goodness.  So today, our museum culture seminar took us to AW Asia and the Rubin Museum.  Sounds good right?  Yeah, well first I had to get there.  AW Asia is 2 miles (ok, so technically it's only 1.8 miles, but I'm going for drama here, alright?) northwest of my dorm.  Most of the subways run north-south.  So I ended up walking there.  I mean, it's not a big deal, but I wasn't psyched about it.  Ok, let's face it, I miss my car, Henry.  Anyway, enough of my complaining, I will get to the good stuff...

First we visited AW Asia which, as the director explained to us, is not a gallery...though there is art on the walls and such.  They promote the acceptance and advancement of contemporary Chinese art.  There are a lot of political issues surrounding Chinese contemporary art and currently at the forefront of these controversies is artist Ai Weiwei (pronounced Eye Way-way).  As it so happens, Ai Weiwei currently has a public art exhibition in New York City: Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads.  The director of AW Asia was very insistent about us going to see the art before it is taken down next month.  I will probably go sometime soon.

We then headed over to the Rubin.  Now this place was more my style.  The Rubin Museum is dedicated to displaying the art of the Himalayas (which, as our tour guide informed us, is actually pronounced Him-awl-yaas).  Thus, it was primarily Buddhist and Hindu art, and you know how I love it when you mix art and religion.  What is interesting about this art, especially Buddhist art, is that it is often meant to be seen by only those who had come so far in their practice of Buddhism.  This made me think of an article I included in a paper I wrote last semester about religious information seeking.  The article, "Some Remarks on Information and Religion", discusses the way religious information has changed and that information that was once privy only to those serious about and had reached a certain point in their religious training is now available to the masses - something that is even more true now with the access to knowledge that the internet lends (the article was written in 1989).  At one point, our Rubin tour guide took us into an exhibit of the museum and told us that we shouldn't really be seeing this, that these murals were not meant for our eyes but for those of high rank in the Buddhist community.  He said that a few years ago, a man went in and secretly photographed all of the murals and the Rubin made the high-quality facsimiles upon which we were gazing.  I found this to be terribly disrespectful (don't worry, it gets better).  Not only that this man had gone in and taken photographs of sacred art which he was not supposed to do, but also that the Rubin, a seemingly upstanding museum which otherwise appears to have a great respect and reverence for this art, would display it (and specifically prohibit the photography of, which seemed quite hypocritical).  Thus, my friend and I took it up with one of the other museum employees that we met and she assured us that that one guy did actually have permission to photograph the art and that it is very different for people like us (read: not Buddhists) to see the art than it is for it to be revealed to a practicing Buddhist.  We were greatly relieved to hear this.  Apparently, our tour guide was trying to make the exhibit a bit more interesting but I was actually a bit upset about the seemingly insensitive nature of it.  In any case, I hope to go back to the Rubin soon to see all of it at my own pace...and when I haven't already walked 3 miles.

Today's mileage: 5.80 mi

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