Matte’s Blog

Van Gogh

No, I’m not talking about the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam, nor really about Vincent himself. Rather, it’s San Francisco’s “Immersive Van Gogh” show in the cavernous former home of Fillmore West. As befits the Fillmore, there is a musical accompaniment that draws from classical music through rock and roll, pausing briefly at “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien“.  For the video, the show employs some 40 projectors to paint the walls and floor with continuously moving images from Van Gogh’s paintings. It lasts about 40 minutes and is on a loop, and when you enter you are discreetly ushered to the edge of one of the rooms and can slither out into the room to select your vantage point. Actually, even though I noticed quite a few people wandering about during the show, I didn’t realize at the time that moving to different vantages could well increase your enjoyment.

My friend Bob took me there last month; and I quite enjoyed it, at least partly because I’d made a point of not reading any news or reviews about the show so as to go in tabula rasa.

Just as well I didn’t read up ahead of time because when I look now, the reviews range from laudatory to bloodthirsty, overwhelmingly at the ends of that scale. In the former case, there’s the review in the San Francisco ChronicleInside the First Day of SF’s Trippy Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit” by Dan Gentile.

Gentile clearly enjoyed himself at the show; and his review is packed with informative detail that, now that I think about it, would not have detracted from my enjoyment if I’d read it before the show. On the other hand, there’s KQED’s Sarah Hotchkiss’ “Why Did I Gogh?” She writes well, very well, so she’s a pleasure to read. That said, don’t cross her because she’s quite capable flaying you alive. She’s a very knowledgeable purist, and she tears the show apart on technical grounds about which I can find no disagreement because she’s right on all of them. The only flaw I can pick occurs at the very end when she says she could detect no “feelings of glee” in other audience members. OK, I get a whiff of projection there. I admit that I was enjoying the show too much to closely track the reactions of other audience members, but I am absolutely clear that I’d have noticed if others were vocalizing disagreement or storming from the venue in outrage. They weren’t. And still, reading her beforehand would have seriously lessened my enjoyment.

So what it boils down to is that my bliss, and that many others in the audience, was made possible by our ignorance. Isn’t the first time this has happened to me. For damn sure I recall many occasions during which I was disappointed in performances because I knew too much in advance and allowed my expectations to smother the enjoyment. OK, and it was not just pure ignorance. Part of my enjoyment was due to my willingness to sit back and enjoy something new and different.

Of course now that I’m forgetting so much, what I know in advance is less likely to be a problem, there being so little of it. This morning I stopped to schmooze with my homeless friend down at the corner of Virginia and Mission. We were talking about the book he’s currently reading, and he observed that he was enjoying it in spite of its being written by a woman. Naturally, I pounced on that.

But then, after raving at length about Joan Didion and Annie Proulx, I could remember the titles of three novels but not the name of the woman currently at the top of my 21st Century Favorites list. Forgive me, Margaret.

Meanwhile, totally changing the subject, sometimes California out-californicates itself, as in the following case from my favorite supermarket:

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  1. ckm3
    Posted 7 December 2013 at 09:18 | Permalink

    For most people, what stays in Las Vegas is the money.

    Most excellent turning of the phrase

    • Matte Gray
      Posted 7 December 2013 at 14:26 | Permalink

      Many thanks.

  2. Chimpus_Dorkus
    Posted 21 December 2013 at 19:59 | Permalink

    Ouch. Poor bb, here’s hoping you have some good holidays etc to cheer you up and a speedy recovery.
    Be careful, will ya?!?

    • Matte Gray
      Posted 21 December 2013 at 20:50 | Permalink

      The holidays are most definitely cheerful, the recovery is progressing apace, and the caution level has been dramatically increased.

  3. Posted 24 January 2014 at 12:08 | Permalink

    Thank you for remembering Barry. And for loving him, as I did. I am glad he got to see a loving face before he died. You are right, he wanted to go out on his terms and it was never going to be pretty. Barry, even though he’d be cleaned up, was always disappointed after falling or having a heart attack, being picked up by ambulance, treated and then dumped right back onto the streets… He gave up hope for a place indoors after realizing that even that level of frailty was not enough to deserve housing in this city. he did admit to me he would have preferred to live inside. As you said, he was not crazy. 🙂 Again, thanks for the love and kindness you and others showed him. I know he appreciated it.

    • Matte Gray
      Posted 24 January 2014 at 12:26 | Permalink

      Since i wrote that account i’ve been back to the makeshift shrine several times and have talked with folks who knew him longer than i, people who were also there the afternoon before he died and to whom he also expressed very clearly that he did not want to go to the hospital. Some of the people who knew him better are organizing a little wake for him on the 1st of February, and i’ll post more details here as i learn them. Meanwhile, a useful resource is, with an article on 22 Jan that has extensive comments.

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