Saturday, April 28, 2012

Museum Guards

Fred Wilson, Museum Guards at the Whitney Museum, seen at the Whitney Biennial, April 27, 2012

They keep the art from escaping
Tapping their billy clubs
In case of a fight
Between the beautiful patrons
And the wolf-whistling art.

Big hands reach out as if to help you
But it’s only to keep you from touching
What you feel you need to touch.
They turn their lips to your ears
With reconnaissance walkie-talkies in their hands
But it’s not to explain, only to ask you to shut up.

They stand in front of curtains,
Daring you to go inside,
For you know they will monitor
Every pompous out-of-your-ass statement
Concerning the defenseless on the official walls.
You are theirs
In there.

They come in a variety of poses:
The wrestler, the backhanded priest,
The praying mantis,
And they come with a repertoire of moves:
The spear to keep you from climbing near
The computer parts covered in goo;
The wag so you won’t have to try to go up
The bare plywood stairs to nowhere;
The block to keep you from catching a glimpse
Of Leonard Peltier’s horses in snow.

Their job is to protect what they despise
And despise what they might wish to protect.
Jackson Pollock despite his size could never cut it
As one of them,
The constricting yin to the art’s freeing yang,
The enforcers of taste
For “militant nostalgia,” “palimpsestic billboards,”
“radically unpretentious epics of everyday lives and their unsated
(Applied to poetry randomly generated out of in-box spam).

They make sure that you don’t love or hate
Anything placed so precariously in this space,
Instead to just do your time, and be whisked away
To the land promised one room beyond,
Only to find at the end their kind hands
Open at the radioactive exit sign.


Hannah Stephenson said...

I loved this one. And what a terrific image...

I was reprimanded in an LA museum (I think the MOCA, which I still love) for carrying around a tiny notebook and pen. They said pens were not permitted, so I asked what I was supposed to use....they gave me one of those little golf pencils :).

the walking man said...

I'm with Hannah--enjoyed this very much. Personal experience with museum guards was at one time extensive but they never could tell ME to not touch the art seeing as I was the one installing it. But yes they certainly came to an opinion on everything they saw every day, the art police...that installation of the uniforms is a great setting for this piece.

Anonymous said...

But they could not guard against everything. Good job, sir.

Great use of contrasting concept throughout. My two favorites:

1. "out of in-box"

2. "land promised" before the exit

Also: Despise/despite made a killer scheme.

Anonymous said...

when you put your greasy fingers on the painting to feel its surface you start to destroy it, ask any conservationist. when you wander through the gallery with food or drink or liquid writing instruments you may inadvertently mark a million dollar work of art. we don't know who you are or your intentions, so don't go near the works of art unless the artist wants you to.