Museum of Modern Gravel

Years ago, Steve and I visited the Art Gallery of Ontario, in Toronto. Among the works in the modern art exhibition wing was a conical pile of small grey stones, about three feet high. Steve rolled his eyes.

‘It doesn’t speak to you?’ I asked.

‘It’s gravel,’ he said, his voice full of disgust. ‘I can see it in my driveway.’

Now whenever I’m at a museum and see any pile of rocks, I send Steve a picture, so he knows he’s missing out.
Ashley Kalagian Blunt poses with rocksNational Gallery of Victoria, 2018, artist unknown

Xu Zhen installation Calm
Xu Zhen’s ‘Calm’

When I visited White Rabbit Gallery recently, I went with a friend. I was delighted to see a large pile of rubble spread across one floor, and even more delighted when I noticed the pile gently rising and falling, as though it were breathing.

My friend flitted among the exhibitions like a hummingbird. ‘I don’t like modern art,’ she said. ‘These artists do stupid things.’

On the second level, a museum volunteer stopped us. ‘I need to warn you that one of the exhibits here is very graphic, so you may want to avoid it,’ she said, gesturing to the space behind her. ‘The rest of the floor is fine.’

I went straight to the work she’d pointed out. My friend followed a little slower. It was a series of photographs and a video featuring the artist He Yunchang.

He had asked his friends to vote on whether he should have an incision cut from his knee up to his collar bone without anesthetic. They voted yes, by a narrow majority (some abstained).

The series of photos showed Yunchang naked, undergoing the procedure, his friends in the room. He did this, he said, to represent the suffering of the people under the Chinese government, titling the work ‘One Metre of Democracy’.

‘It’s stupid to have yourself cut open while your friends watch, to take pictures of your wound bleeding,’ I said. ‘But if you do it to make others think about something important, I think that’s interesting, at the very least.’

Even a pile of non-breathing gravel is interesting, I think, even if it doesn’t directly symbolise injustice or ruthless self-interest or the corrupting forces of capitalism.

Though if I were a visual artist, I’d be more inclined to create works like Shen Shaomin’s  ‘Laboratory – Three-Headed, Six-Armed Superman’.
Shen Shaomin, Laboratory Three-Headed, Six-Armed Superman
Shaomin envisions a future in which animals will take the place of humans, ‘and the world will be dominated by strange or mutated life-forms.’

I might not have three heads, but some days it feels like the world is dominated by strange and mutated life-forms already, and for some reason we keep voting them into office.

 

7 tips to stave off divorce

wedding

Don’t go to bed angry
Instead, stay awake fighting for days, ultra-marathon style. A mention in the Guinness Book of World Records for Longest Marital Showdown is a sure way to reignite the flame.

Spice up your love life
Cardamom. Paprika. Basil. Turmeric. These are all things you should not put on your genitals, unless you are aroused by emergency medical fees.

Listen to each other
Sure, you’ve been hearing this person drone on forever about the refrigerator’s mould situation and the way Helen in accounts payable cracks her knuckles during staff meetings and that one ingrown toenail. But tuning out means you’ve given up on your spouse’s ability to surprise you. Make the effort to really listen: it may turn out the refrigerator is also leaking freon, or Helen in accounts payable has been replaced by a man whose nose hair touches his upper lip, or the doctor said that toenail has caused an infection, leading to life-threatening septicaemia. By paying close attention, you will learn intimate details that could distress and haunt you for the rest of your life

Have a regular date night
Why argue at home when you can take that shit public?

Communicate
With so many avenues of communication available, there’s no excuse for poor communication with your spouse. Don’t limit yourselves to Facebook and Twitter: get creative with Snapchat, Pinterest and Vine. By sharing every waking minute, you’ll not only know exactly what’s going on with each other, you’ll also create an archived testament to an incredible marriage spent mostly staring at your phones.

Avoid seeing each other naked
Seeing your spouse naked too often can dampen any excitement this once provided. Except for your semi-annual mutually unsatisfying horizontal romp, work together to hide yourselves and maintain the mystery of exactly how much your youth has deteriorated. Stables sell horse blinders.

Agree to disagree
And make a really big deal of it.