May 12, 2017

This is so much better than that pineapple on the subject of whether putting something in a museum makes it art.

Please watch the video before forming an opinion — "Sara Berman's Closet."
This exhibition represents Berman's life from 1982 to 2004, when she lived by herself in a small apartment in Greenwich Village. In her closet Berman lovingly organized her shoes, clothes, linens, beauty products, luggage, and other necessities. Although the clothing is of various tints—including cream, ivory, and ecru—it gives the impression of being all white.

With its neatly arranged stacks of starched and precisely folded clothing, the closet is presented as a small period room in dialogue with The Met's recently installed Worsham-Rockefeller Dressing Room from 1882, which features clothing from the 1880s of the type that Arabella Worsham, a wealthy art patroness, might have worn....
I got there via this NYT piece, "When the Gospel of Minimalism Collides With Daily Life," which is mostly about a lifestyle blogger who had a house decorated in a cluttered style, then had a minimalism epiphany, then readjusted back toward slightly cluttered.
According to the sociologist Joel Stillerman, author of “The Sociology of Consumption,” among certain educated, upper-middle-class segments of the United States and other Western societies, there is a connection between minimalist design and a quest for well-being. But minimalism is also meant to project taste, refinement and aesthetic knowledge. “These people,” he said, “are making the statement that ‘I can afford to have less. I appreciate books and travel and good meals.’”

Mr. Stillerman calls these post-materialist values; in other words, simplicity as a form of cultural capital. This concept is evident in a current exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, “Sara Berman’s Closet”....

Still, critics chide minimalists for a kind of faux self-discipline. After all, if you can afford to toss your stuff, you can probably reacquire it should you change your mind....
I got to that NYT piece through Instapundit, who reacted to the description of the blogger's minimalism phase: "She went full-on Dwell, even building a chicken coop, the de rigueur symbol of suburban simplicity, in the backyard." Glenn's comment was: "[I]f you think having a chicken coop is about 'simplicity,' it’s because you’ve never kept chickens."

It's about wanting something that "minimalism" or "simplicity" isn't really the right word for. Those words hide the real psychology going on, which I assume varies from person to person. It could be a desire for control, a fetishization of purity, a fantasy of authenticity, a need for something like religion, a solution to aimless anxiety.

35 comments:

JohnAnnArbor said...

You never hear about people keeping turkeys as a hobby, only chickens.

And why aren't turkey eggs a thing in stores?

Bob Ellison said...

I've kept a dozen chickens. They're quite easy. Much less work than a dog.

Earnest Prole said...

I take back what I said in the other thread: This is the Whitest Thing I have ever seen.

whitney said...

It's along the lines of "clean" eating. I have heard a couple people say to me recently that they are trying to eat "clean". Maybe there is something besides the obvious but I find the whole food obsession so boring I just say "That's great!" and get away as quickly as possible. Tedious

Ann Althouse said...

Now, I'm thinking of that Geraldine Page character in the Woody Allen movie "Interiors." She was big on minimalist interior decorating with lots of white and she made herself and everyone else crazy.

Ann Althouse said...

"I've kept a dozen chickens. They're quite easy. Much less work than a dog."

Well, don't get a dog either if you want simplicity.

The first rule of living in a small uncluttered space has got to be no pets. Yet I see things about people who blog the supposedly good life from their camper van and they've got a dog with them. Absurd.

David said...

How do you readjust to less clutter? In my experience it is impossible.

John said...

Seems like phart to me

John Henry

MSG said...

The paired exhibits derive some value from their relevance to cultural history and anthropology, and there would be little controversy if they were at the New-York Historical Society. But if the exhibits are "art," I think they are the kind of art that better belongs at the Cooper Hewitt design museum than at the Metropolitan. I imagine that the Metropolitan would say that my opinion is a disparagement of their artistic quality. But it is only a disparagement to the extent that one considers Cooper Hewitt's artistic domain as inferior to the Metropolitan's.

David Baker said...

The previous holder of my P.O. box in rural Florida was a chicken farmer. I know this because chicken magazines kept arriving in my box long after he was gone. In fact, a large community of information kept coming and coming, which in time, albeit casually, the virtual concert of chicken-data turned me into an expert - by just standing there, speed-reading the various publications and newsletters before depositing it in the P.O. trash container. Btw, it's amazing how many various animals prey on chickens - especially if your hens don't have trees to escape to.

This all started roughly 30 years ago, and finally, the stuff stopped coming about 10 years ago. Although every 6 months or so I receive a postcard reminding me that they're still thinking of "me." Suggesting that maybe I missed my true calling. I did think about my own chicken newsletter, for beginners. Explaining things like the comparative cost of eggs; store-bought vs. backyard coop. Based on my informed calculations, a dozen eggs from your backyard coop will cost anywhere from $30 to $42 a dozen. And in a blind study, your taste-buds will never detect the difference.

David said...

My son raised chickens for several years. Free range. 60-80 in the flock, delicious eggs (which he sold to local restaurants). The hens learned to climb trees for safety. Dirty things. Amazing quantities of poop all over the yard.

Each Spring he would get a new batch of chicks to replace the inevitable attrition. They arrived by mail order. The Post Office insisted on a cell number because they wanted to deliver the things immediately, if not sooner.

Chicks by mail delivery. I was quite surprised by that. Kind of undermined the rusticity.

The chicks were all female. The males were slaughtered before delivery. Used for fertilizer and (drum roll) chicken feed.

Megaera said...

I rather liked the woman in the NYT story who apparently forced her family into some kind of tiny-house setup, only to find that she couldn't write/blog in all that enforced proximity so she built a separate studio JUST FOR HERSELF so she could be alone to write. Guess everyone else in the family just got to suck it up and rub elbows while she went off to do her "RoomOfOne'sOwn" thang. And then there are the Minimalist/TinyHouse aficionados who, if you dig a little deeper into their narratives, all seem to have separate storage units for all the impedimenta they actually couldn't bear to part with... now, I would think that sort of defeats the whole purpose of the exercise, but hey, that's just me.

David said...

"And why aren't turkey eggs a thing in stores?"

Economics. Think of how much you have to feed a turkey before it is ready to lay eggs vs. a chicken. And while it is laying. Think also of the space turkeys need and the amount of turkey shit.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

I would suggest that things like the closet and the pineapple are not art but artifacts, like a lot of other stuff that is collected in museums.

Paddy O said...

David Baker, your comment about starting a newsletter about chicken-raising reminded me, admittedly unfairly, of Mark Twain's great short story "How I edited an agricultural paper once."

Earnest Prole said...

All joking aside, this all-white minimalist thing seems to afflict middle- to upper-middle-class American white women with a vengeance, and I think your hypotheses -- “a desire for control, a fetishization of purity, a fantasy of authenticity, a need for something like religion, a solution to aimless anxiety” -- are dead on. It’s profoundly curious that the women with the greatest power and freedom of all women in all of human history also happen to be so darn unhappy.

buwaya said...

My preferred environment and decorative scheme.

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/7e/6d/a1/7e6da197a0ea7a4f384e1851d196952f.jpg

Mariano Fortuny, The Print Collector, 1863

My preferred party clothes, for that matter - and not a bad likeness -

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/bc/05/bb/bc05bb205b89905bb1d714c2e912fc1e.jpg

Mariano Fortuny, La Vicaria (the Vicarage), 1870

Bob Boyd said...

"A got there..."

You're even starting to talk like us hillbillies, Professor.

Bob Boyd said...

And then there was Fibber McGee's closet.

Down Valley Scum said...

The shoes should be facing toe in.

buwaya said...

Authenticity is unlikely to be minimalist, unless we are dealing with a certain few civilizations. Ornate is more authentically the thing, usually, if only in aspiration.
And truly authentic ornate requires great craftsmanship.

Lucien said...

To be fair, a dog is much simpler than a child. And the dog's love is always unconditional, while the child's love starts growing conditions from about 10 years old and onward.

TML said...

Concerned about the globe. Did they just add that in there for "color?"

But, yes, a beautiful thing.

Fernandinande said...

Please watch the video before forming an opinion

Unconstitutional.

Fred Drinkwater said...

Lucien:
I once asserted (as a parent of 2) to a parent of 1, that "You should have another. Two is no more work than one, and you are already handling that."
"Huh?"
"One child takes up all your time, right? Two children also take up all your time. So two's no more work than one. That's logic."

funsize said...

Sometimes its just nice to have fewer things to move, clean, and maintain. Sometimes its about spending less money on things you never needed in the first place. Minimalism isn't a contest to see who has the fewest things or the emptiest house. Nor do the things you have have to be boring or ugly. (yes, there are people who take it there, because there are people who will always have to be the Most X)

The Godfather said...

My late ex-wife, the art historian, objected when I said of something, That's not art! She opined that if the person who created it calls it art, then accept it as art, and then judge whether or not it's good art. I judge that the closet is not good art. I imagine, though, that Andrew Wyeth could have created good or even great art from it. Or think what Raphaelle Peale could have done with a painting of the old lady standing in front of her closet! (I'm thinking of his painting of Rubens Peale With The Geranium.)

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

My wife got involved in a minimalist group on Facebook. She was hoping to find tips on organizing the house, but quit when the members (mostly women) started talking about giving up deodorant and chewing sticks (that they bought on Amazon, no less) to clean their teeth instead of brushing. At the time my wife quit one woman was on week two of a minimalist makeover of her elderly parents home while they were on vacation for three weeks.

David Baker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Baker said...

Paddy O, and fairly I say; "Google" enables just about anyone to write/edit/publish just about anything today. Imagine if Twain had such resources. Although with his talent back in the day, he could write/publish just about anything.

But the internet also has, depending on your POV, drawbacks. Like when years ago I wrote a certain passage about the restaurant business in NYC during the 60's, and wherein I blithely observed that "waitresses" are often found waiting tables in the city's red-leather, uptown steak houses.

Well, you should'a heard the ruckus. Like this one illiterate union guy; "There ain't no effin WAITRESSES in no effin New York steak joints, you effin...!"

Despite his obvious lack of refinement and education, Union-Guy was right. So I changed the passage to "coffee shops." (And then took a day job)

Gerard Grosso said...

"...."minimalism" or "simplicity" .....could be a desire for control, a fetishization of purity, a fantasy of authenticity, a need for something like religion, a solution to aimless anxiety....."

OK....No question in my mind, I vote for "a fantasy of authenticity"!...along with a good backing of daily full-service maid/cleaning care, etc

Sebastian said...

"It could be a desire for control, a fetishization of purity, a fantasy of authenticity, a need for something like religion, a solution to aimless anxiety." Yep, it could be anything. It could also be a combination of things. There could be no particular reason. But "something like religion" covers a lot of ground, so it'll do.

n.n said...

I have a sock drawer that demonstrates the unparalleled mystery of chaos with indiscernible geometric patterns that span the color spectrum. They are all white, but exquisitely distributed.

mockturtle said...

I'm a minimalist--at least moderately. It's due entirely to a desire to simplify my life and space. Nothing more profound nor neurotic than that.

traditionalguy said...

Feng Shui for a small closet. That's very interesting.