Comment from 'Lene 2002 Aug 03

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From: 'Lene
Date: 2002 Aug 03
Subj: A world made of blank objects with no history or context

Your web page says:

"A piece by Duchamp included a miniature urinal. I assumed that the urinal had been specially made for the piece, yet referred to the ready-made "Fountain." Was this mini-urinal supposed to be interesting because it wasn't ready-made? If I'd been French, I could have shrugged and said, "Absurd," and been done with it. Being an American, I instead said, "Screw this," and walked away."

And thus you missed out on the punch line of one of the biggest jokes of modern art.

> I shrugged. I left.

So you missed out on the mummified bones with icky bits of flesh stuck to them in the lavish, velvet-lined boxes, and a reflection on how morbid Catholics can be.

> But what else was I going to do with myself?
> It dawned on me that I'd come to France for no good reason.
> It didn't entertain me.
> The ferry ride wasn't very interesting. It took most of the day, and much of the time we were too far from land to see much.

The fact that I perform research tasks professionally may bias me, but it seems you bumbled through your trip without any foreknowledge of where you were going. You didn't study French, or prioritize your time based on available information, or read about the significance of what you would be looking at in English while you were back home. The world is difficult enough to interpret without going out of your way to avoid knowing about it.

If you go to a cathedral, it just looks like a big building made of stone, with fancy windows. Is there more to it than that? Hell yes, but no one is going to grab you by the throat and force you to know that people you've read about are buried there; that it took 500 years to build and collapsed twice, killing dozens; that it was the scene of a conspiracy to overthrow the monarchy in 1568; that what is believe to be Jesus' thumb bone is in the box behind the altar; that Joan of Arc had a vision here that led to a bloody victory the next week; that there's a secret passage in the tower; that your cousin is named after its patron saint; or that your parents visited in the 1960s and decided then and there to get married.

You PREFER to see it simply as a big building made of stone, with fancy windows. Which is fine, but sad to read about.

So I told her:
I promise not to feel sad about the fact that you didn't research Edouard Branly, his coherers and their role in the history of wireless communication and RADAR, the usual nationalistic debate about which country's scientist developed wireless communication (muddied by the fact that Marconi's first efforts were in Italy)-- I promise this, only if you cheer up about me not researching the history and/or contents of Notre Dame.