As a prelude to my bottomless pit experience at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco that featured the desecration of an upright piano, I’ll first provide readers with the necessary back story….
Following 8 days of Chanukah candle lighting, I found myself in search of meaningful things to do on Christmas day, knowing full well that virtually everything would be shut down on this nationwide holiday. (Count in corporate coffee centers such as Starbucks and Peet’s.)
On top of this slam dunk 99% draw down of eating out opportunities, I had to contend with a cultural cliche surrounding Jews like me, that we should go to the Chinese restaurant and celebrate a uniquely permanent welcome mat. (But to my dismay, many Chinese proprietors who were not of Buddhist persuasion, joined the masses, celebrating the birth of Christ, or they just didn’t think it worthwhile to stay open on a day when business drastically dwindled.)
As validation of the vast climate change in restaurant accessibility on the biggest holiday of the year, San Francisco’s Chinatown displayed countless signs of restaurant closure, while novelty shops were lit up and doing brisk business.
Meandering to the Hyatt Hotel on Market Street for a pit stop during the Chinatown romp that eventually produced a below street level Mandarin repast, my daughter and I were greeted by a colorful lounge-displayed Christmas tree. While it begged to be the centerpiece of a photo shoot, we were both plainly distracted by rotating hues of light beamed on a neighboring “ECLIPSE of anodized aluminum.” (This second floor light show was produced by Charles O. Perry–circa 1973)
Such artistic satiation should have been enough for one day, but we tempted an Ecumenical God of grace, by venturing over to the Jewish Contemporary Museum that was a stone’s throw from the AMC movie theater where we’d earlier taken in the film debut of JOY.
Starring Jennifer Lawrence, a film goddess who’s likely to land an Oscar nomination for her riveting performance, the movie was for me a cinematic work of art.
To fast forward the narrative to its riveting climax, I’ll admit that the most insalubrious escapade of the day was our DESCENT to the Contemporary Jewish Museum’s “interactive art exhibit” that enlisted an old upright piano, gutted of its strings–reduced to a basic typewriter. With each key stroke of its dead keys, a sterile set of percussive taps were produced that activated ink blots on a rolling paper canvas.
Witnessing this soul-less instrumental conversion was a “sacrilege” not worthy of a legitimate “musical” critique, though in fairness to Museum curators, there were a host of redeemed exhibits (in my opinion) that merited commendation. (These included early 20th Century labor struggles realized in lithographs and framed by the heading, “Chasing Justice.”)
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the ionic, bionic, and robotic displays interspersing those that fleshed out pioneers of labor and even the Rock n’ Roll era, were frankly a retread of a period when Milton Babbit, for example, put a generator on a concert stage absent a performer, and let it grunt away!
One might also lump into the scrap heap, three look alike vertical vacuums that were programmed to dance and drone through finite computer programming.
Finally, when all was said and done, a pleasing set of holiday adventures drowned out the type-written cacophony of a stringless piano, and a higher level substitution encompassed eye-catching displays of ECLIPSED color and cinematic technicolor that made our day memorable!
Merry Christmas to all!
The Contemporary Jewish Museum