I'm back. Better than ever. And I have a bit of reverie--for the work of Peter Greenaway. I write because of a nice piece in the Times about his show at the Venice Biennale, which made me think of my happy accident a few years back of being in Amsterdam, in the Rijkmuseum, and stumbling upon his Nightwatching, which was utterly fantastic. His work has drawn a lot of ire over the years (once I recall a roomful of older composers giggling at me when I said I was a fan, in that "doesn't-HE-have-a-lot-to-learn-about-the-world" way, or the lobby of a cinema some years ago featuring very pretentious man discussing loudly how pretentious Mr. Greenaway was) but it is work to which I always return. Basically I think he might be the smartest man on the planet. To say I love most of his films (the day Prospero's Books or Drowning by Numbers finally become available on DVD will be expensive but wonderful) is an understatement. To me these films define what art can and even should do, a touchstone: they have unparalleled depth, seek to explore, go beyond their medium while not expecting to be noteworthy simply because they go beyond their medium, and are as learned and seeking as any work out there. And I love his themes, which include conspiracies (from the water tower to the deaths of composers by mysterious means), the body, sex, death, writing, blood, art, beauty and vomit--to him, there is little difference between these things. His operas with Andriessen are divine and strange (maybe Rosaand Writing to Vermeer will come to DVD on that same glorious day).
I am being general, because I've just not the weeks it would take to be specific.
To return to Nightwatching, it was an amazing "show" wherein the famous painting by Rembrandt was suspended in the middle of the room. The lights dimmed, and for twenty minutes an audio track played which told the story of this great work through illuminating certain bits of it from the front and from behind, turning a staid and unmovable image into a vivid storyboard (about, yes, a conspiracy contained within the work). It was breathtaking--and oddly unfilmable. (Which leads me to the point that Greenaway is always referred to as a filmmaker and yet he's not made a picture in years, focusing instead on installations like these). From what the article seems to say, the show at the Biennale sounds like this experience writ large. Alas, I'll not be there--unless a generous reader would like to fund my expedition!
Needless to say, it's nice to be back.