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New York in March – Weather outside is frightful but inside so delightful


It rained, sleeted and snowed even, but we walked the High Line, ate at a nice noisy bistro downtown and loved drying off inside looking at some art.  All in all a pretty great 24 hours.

Friday, Mar. 15, 2013: The listing in the New Yorker was so intriguing Cate and I had to check it out. Experimental Philosophy, with 3D videos by experimental video maker Ben Coonley, at NYU. What on earth is experimental philosophy, we wondered, and how would it be captured in 3D video? Was someone pulling someone’s leg? Was it an art project?

Ben Cooney, Experimental Philosophy video, shown at NYU Friday, Mar. 15, 2013
Ben Cooney, Experimental Philosophy video, shown at NYU Friday, Mar. 15, 2013

What it turned out to be was a serious discussion about the new field of experimental philosophy, along with three hysterically wonderful videos that encapsulate the experiments and results. We learned that experimental philosophers act a lot like experimental psychologists (several questions from the audience challenged the philosophers on that point).  The difference lies in the problems they are studying.  Instead of measuring behavior rooted in the psyche (Pavlov, Milgram, Skinner and company) the philosophers dissect people’s responses to philoosophical questions like, for example, intentionality, and perception of happiness (read explanation here).

Ooh yah, the discussion was dry.  But the videos by Coonley are funny and winning.  Combining the rough-hewn format of industrial videos with the wink wink nod nod  sensibility of Stephen Colbert, Coonley, who acted in several of the videos and introduced each one to the audience, is having some fun — but not at the expense of the philosophers, who clearly embrace him and see him as a kind of collaborator!  Below is the first video we saw, which treats the concept of intentionality.  The less-than-three-minute video  is definitely worth a watch.

We stayed through the three videos, which played to a packed house of graduate-students in the NYU auditorium on Washington Place.  Then walked through the mist and had a pretty good meal at the noisy Asian bistro Spice near Union Square.  Back at the hotel we watched a little Grimm on tv (a Cate favorite) and sampled some chocolate with “a touch of sea salt” (who knew–it’s delicious!!)

Saturday, March 16, 2013: Breakfast at Penelope, a great, crunchy-granola establishment with pumpkin pancakes and bohemian atmosphere.  Only a 20-minute wait when we got there but who knows how long with a line out the door by the time we left. We met our friend, Vivian Ginzberg-Miller and walked over to the High Line to meet Cate.  Vivian and her husband Larry recently moved from Philly to New York, and Vivian hadn’t been on the High Line yet, so she was excited.  It was snowing and sleeting, and St. Patrick’s day festivities had already begun.  We ran into groups of green-clad people stumbling around.

Up on the High Line between 30th St. and 14th St. we saw some miniature art and even some flower buds! The mini-art is part of a new High Line project, Lilliput, of temporary art commissions sited without fanfare in whimsical locations that make you feel like you stumbled upon someone’s guerilla art project, until you see the label explaining it all.  The works are fun and it’s great to see art up there.  Speaking of which, at the lower end of the High Line, the new Whitney Museum is coming along.  It’s situated so close to the High Line that we wonder if there will be a connecting ramp for visitors to go seamlessly from museum to walkway and vice versa.

One work of art that was not part of the Lilliput series and is pretty stunning is El Anatsui’s Broken Bridge II, rusted tin and mirrors, a very eerie piece that makes the building it’s on disappear.

Back on terra firma we had lunch at Pastis, a bustling New Orleans-style bistro, then headed uptown to see a couple shows in Chelsea.  Two things were on my list:  Thomas Nozkowski at Pace (closed Mar. 23) and Zanele Muholi at Yancey Richardson (to April 6).  Both shows are big winners.  Nozkowski’s works vibrated on the walls, their dots, stripes and zig zag color patterns friendly as puppy dogs and equally full of energy.  Priced at $85,000 each with many sold, we all stood there and cheered at a master at the top of his game.  Muholi’s black and white portrait photographs, of lesbians and trans-gender people in Africa, are riveting.  People who face the world (and camera) with such fierceness and personality should be studied, and being surrounded by them in the gallery was like taking an anthropological journey.  The cloth patternings of the clothes and backgrounds in some of the pieces reminded me of the portrait photos of the great Malick Sidibe.

The final show we tumbled into is Mike Brodie’s A Period of Juvenile Prosperity, at Yossi Milo (to April 6).  The color photos in Brodie’s series are also anthropological.  Brodie is a rail rider, as in hopping on freight trains and riding them along with other young people who do the same.  His works, which have the intimacy of  an insider looking at friends, lovers and mates, are sometimes still and quiet (when the people are sleeping or resting) and sometimes akilter, when taken on a moving freight train.  There is a sense of loss embodied in the works, and I don’t think that’s just me looking at lost children and projecting my sadness on them.  The pictures are not playful, the people portrayed don’t really look like they are having fun.  Several of them are tattooed with FREE on their fingers, but the question is free from what and, really, you are free?  I was reminded of the works of Phil Jackson when I saw Brodie’s photos.  Phil is a skateboarder and took photos from within that community, although his works are joyous in comparison with Brodie’s. Brodie is a great find — don’t miss the show.