Wordgame: Anselm

I’m not the type of person who can walk into an major art gallery and name all the artists. I appreciate art. I have, to a very limited extent, studied art. But I’ve never been very pro-active about the whos and whats and wheres.

Anselm Kiefer, though, left an impression.

I saw a piece by Anselm Kiefer on a school trip to London and I was awestruck. I couldn’t articulate why, exactly. I just was. In love, and in awe, and in pain. I didn’t know anything about the artist, or have any clue of what the piece was, but it didn’t matter. He had me. And follow-up research confirmed my bias. But I didn’t honour the connection; I left it at that.

Ten years later, in Forth Worth, Texas, I entered the Modern Art Museum, and as soon as I rounded the first bend, my feet glided, hastily and of their own volition, across the gallery floor, toward a large canvas on the opposite wall. Anselm Kiefer, my entire body whispered with reverence. I’m gonna feel really fucking stupid if it isn’t, just a tiny little part of my brain warned with trepidation.

It was.

And the date I had left standing at the other end of the gallery, with no explanation, was enamoured with the display.

Do I think that might have been why, the next day, as I was heading to catch my train, he asked me to stay with him, despite the fact we’d met only three days ago? And do I think that might have been why, for months afterwards, he sent me messages to tell me of his plans to improve himself and his life, in what seemed like a desperate attempt to win me over? Well, yeah, actually.

If humans can project emotion – and they can – what I was projecting in that moment was profound. Vibrant, intense, ecstatic, pure. It was beyond me as much as it was within me. And if he caught it, well, that would be it. It’s the kind of thing you would chase.

Picture postcard

As I had failed to capitalise on the actual opportunity, I decided to pull the thread of my art show attraction in the comfort of my own bed.

And, no, I don’t mean by masturbating, I mean by lying in the dark coming up with ideas.

I followed the pathways my brain wanted to pursue. Naturally, the primary problem it wanted to solve was how to find this person, so that it could have a second chance at probably not talking to them. It wanted to find out who they were, so that it could orchestrate the best chance at happening upon them. Very familiar territory. I’m an internet sleuth in recovery, so I nixed that line of inquiry pretty sharpish. But then I have nothing to go on, my petulant brain did wail. Well, if you’ve got patience, Brain, there’s a pretty obvious way you might see him again – by attending a similar such art show in the future.

And then I had what I needed. Because, actually, something that is apparently far more engaging to my brain than devising plans to meet this stranger it liked the look of, is planning a piece to submit to the next art auction. Especially when it’s a silly, tongue-in-cheek piece that I can whip up in half an hour.

Much like emotions, I have learned that whims and attractions are best submitted to, rather than repressed. So long as you can set your expectations and interpretations aside. Because, at least in my experience, they don’t usually take you where you think they will, but they definitely take you somewhere you want to go.

And those destinations may not turn out to be satisfying to anyone other than yourself. But I think we, as a collective, need to get a whole lot more comfortable with that outcome. And I, as an individual, most certainly do.

Pulling the thread

I went to a silent art auction last night at a local university, amidst a raging British storm. That is, a fairly-mild-by-all-accounts-but-exciting-to-us-folk-who-don’t-experience-real-storms storm. My friend had submitted a piece and so we turned up to represent. It was unexpectedly packed to the brim with art students. Not that we had any idea what to expect, but it was bustling. Decidedly COVID-unsafe. And we were most definitely outsiders, but I doubt anyone was paying attention.

We made a circuit of the corridor where the pieces were displayed. My friends made a few bids. I did not. And then, as we were nearing the end of our lap, a man walked in. Floppy hair, undercut, self-effacing demeanour – yeah I’m into it. Our lap took us past him and, after a couple of mutual glances, I suspected he was into it too. He changed his trajectory to hover near me. Fucking palpable. The thing is, I am alarmingly age-blind, and I thought it best to make the assumption that he was, in fact, undergraduate age. So, when somebody wanted to get past me, I took the oportunity to spook, and headed back to the safety of my group. We continued to orbit each other loosely. A few more demure glances. Indecision. And then my friend made the let’s leave gesture, and we were gone.

I now regret this. I feel I have unfinished business. The tension remains unresolved. My mind is looking for ways to resolve it. I want to find out what I was into. Because, the truth is, I’m not often into it these days. I wish I had pulled the thread with a spirit of curiosity. Who is he? What could I have learned? Where could it have taken me? How long is the thread?

I think part of the problem is that I am many-times-burned by this inexplicable pull towards people. I don’t trust myself to handle it with grace. I love it in theory, but in practice it feels dangerous. But that was a past self, who consistently misinterpreted and overblew the pull. I have a much healthier conception of attraction at this point. I need to figure out how to exercise it because, as it is, I’m cutting off a really delightful part of life. Pulling the thread would be so much more fun than ignoring it.