Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Shame [def, Websters]: A condition of disgrace or dishonor; ignominy.



I heard a TED talk recently, regarding shame. How shame, being or getting shamed, is a positive. I don't remember why it's a positive, so that's a negative. Shame on me for not remembering.

But sharing our shameful moments apparently leads to something or other -- probably self-knowledge, compassion, one of the usual suspects identified as our reward for enduring the really icky.

This weekend at The Huntington, I enjoyed the best time, visiting the galleries like a tourist, taking lots of pictures.



In the Green and Green furniture room, I composed a photo. Just about to press the shutter, a voice from across the room boomed, "MA'AM, TAKE YOUR PERSONAL ITEMS OFF THE ART!"

I looked around, we all looked around, to see who this idiot, this bumpkin, who placed items on the art might be.

And now we come to the moment of mortification.

Ok, here's the thing. The table didn't look like an elegant G&G table; it looked like just about every piece of furniture I own. A bit on the battered side, but functional. And no, I didn't put a Diet Coke and a pot of baked beans on the surface, just the Huntington's 3-panel brochure.

But still.

I melted into a pool of shame; realizing too late, that which I had taken for a table was not a table. That which looked like a table was art.

The guard added, her voice dripping with disgust, "AND NO PHOTOS ALLOWED."

About the photos, yes they are allowed, but I didn't argue with her. My sense of aesthetics had been questioned, and my answer had been all and most publicly wrong.



Which just goes to prove, you really can't take me anywhere. Worse still, I can't take me anywhere.

33 comments:

  1. lol...someone takes their job very seriously. One person's junk is another's treasure, as the saying goes. Glad you had a good time anyway and didn't wind up having a photo of your own good self taken by the local constabulary.

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  2. Oh my.

    Where's the guard with a sense of humor, when you need her!

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  3. Should have taken a picture of her to report her to her boss. Of course it's okay to take pictures.

    John and I were talking the other day about what it would be like if women ruled the world. Would we have shame instead of war?

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  4. Yes, there's nothing worse than getting dressed up for the occasion physically and mentally and finding you shouldn't have gone out at all.

    The issue of being able to take photographs in various settings is actually a serious one. All too often photographers are now being told they can't photograph something and more often than not they absolutely can. Or maybe she just enjoyed being the source of your mortification.

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  5. I feel your pain, er, shame. Been there. And when the art is so . . . realistic? . . . how is one to know? I'm waiting for someone to declare about 60% of Detroit an abstract expressionist exhibit, with some performance art going on in the alleys.

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  6. Since we're coming clean, I once accidentally sat on art at a museum in Rome. I'm still suffering from PTSD.

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  7. I got yelled at at the getty villa for pointing too close. Sigh

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  8. I also was reprimanded for pointing too closely to a painting. And another time I almost sat in what I thought was a chair, but was NOT a chair (even though it was placed by the wall near a doorway). Such a clever curator....

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  9. Well it's not like you hung your coat on the arm of a statue or something. And I bet that piece of furniture has had lots of stuff placed on it over the years before it became art. I got yelled at last year taking a photo of a giant ice cream cone at a booth at the Minnesota State Fair.

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  10. Oh the ignominy!!! What on earth led you to use a table as an - er - table? I doubt Greene and Greene would have minded. Some of those guards can really spoil a day out, can't they? I once got shouted at for getting too close to that Degas ballerina in the Norton Simon. But have you met the guard at the Huntington who wants to be chatty? She'll discuss the pictures with you and take you to the next room to show you her favorite. I wouldn't have minded except the paintings she liked were kitschy.

    I like your top photo - the man on the bench looks like Rodin's Thinker, and I love that shaft of light.

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  11. Oh yes, there's an extra E in Green. Mortification knows no bounds.

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  12. I used to love to go to the Elizabeth Gardener Museum in Boston where there are lots of unexpected places to sit and enjoy the art. But of course, you guessed it, I chose the one place off limits to derrières and got a very loud reprimand from a guard. I guess the fountain was art. Thank God I didn't through a coin in it. :)

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  13. Once, twice, thrice, fice - You're uncouth - couth you, I say!!

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  14. I listened to that TED talk and then BOUGHT one of the CDs. (I do think some people are more susceptible to shame than others.) Shame grows in silence and can't live in the light. Sharing what happened all of a sudden made that funny, and then everyone else gets to share their experiences, which makes it even better.

    Too serious?

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  15. Is this an artist's thing? I mean enduring shame to that degree? I'm definitely right with you there. Big deal . . . a brochure on a table. Ehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! And the guard's manner: she might as well have used a bullhorn, sounds like. Petra's right: Sure, you can take pictures there. I've taken loads at the Norton Simon, too. But shame . . . we artists overdo it, maybe. Why, I wonder. Maybe we should watch Curb Your Enthusiasm as a corrective.

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  16. Museum guards, like children, should be seen and not heard.

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  17. . . . and thanks for calling my attention to TED talks.

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  18. Some people don't have the humility to handle low paying jobs with perceived power.

    I suppose you could have pushed the envelope and told her you actually owned that piece...

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  19. Guard, she's not with me. I don't know her. And it doesn't seem she's from San Marino either!

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  20. smoking! They should be ashamed.

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  21. That was it, Janet! Like mold, those shaming moments grow in dark and damp recesses of the mind. Shine a bright light on the thing, and it shrivels and dies.

    (By the way, I volunteer once a month at The Huntington, tours and such, and if anyone crosses a line that shouldn't be crossed, a tap on the shoulder and a whisper in the ear is more than sufficient. You want people to leave the place enriched, not deflated.)

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  22. Just hoping this wasn't the guards idea of a little afternoon entertainment...perhaps yelling at you for putting the brochure on an ordinary table...giggling all the way to the break room at the scene of your unsuspecting and shamed self jumping back with an "oh no...I didn't know..." Planning the next practical joke to brighten up the otherwise ordinarily boring day... Shame, shame, shame on the guard!!!

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  23. Chieftess, your description is hilarious.

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  24. Think I'll send Larry David in on that particular guard's watch.

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  25. I once hurriedly drove through a cross walk while people were in it at the airport. A woman guard came over and yelled for all to hear that I was stupid and inconsiderate. Her attitude made be bristle inside and I completely ignored her. No shame that time but I'm the sensitive artist type and it doesn't take much to redden my face.

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  26. Just stopped by for a little normalcy, and now I learn that you can dress up, but you can't go out. Or maybe the guard was just having a bad hair day.

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  27. You can photograph the permanent collection - most museums allow for this. Traveling collections are a different beast. Depends on the contract the Huntington has entered into. The Greene and Greene is a different matter altogether - it sits about year after year. Yet the Huntington is really weird about allowing photos. I haven't a clue why. If I want one, Vic chats up the guard while I point and shoot.

    My weirdest Huntington guard encounter was when I was reprimanded for trying to photograph a show named (guessing) "From Desert to Paradise." After that confrontation, I left the exhibit to photograph the wall size advertisement on the other side....the one with text and title and usually an image related to the exhibition. Well, that REALLY pissed him off -especially when I decided to go with the Walter Benjamin argument that I wasn't photographing the original documents (lost in a chain of simulacrum) but a blown up graphic image printed on vinyl.

    That bombed too

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  28. I am easily mortified. A few weeks ago, I went to pick up my daughter from her singing lesson. I thought, "Oh. New porch furniture," only to find out I was standing at the house next door.

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  29. Oh, the shame stories... where do I begin? These anecdotes are all hilarious. Eternal Optimist - ha!

    So do you think the guard felt shame later that evening for acting like such a jackass to you? Nah, probably not.

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