Past Present Future, Part One

(Photograph is collage I made from contents of Kapoor’s exhibit book, titled “Past Present Future”. The handwriting and thoughts are Kapoor’s own. “We have two outstanding attributes one is to believe the other is to relate. Art engages the need to believe great Art in its overwhelming ability to be intimate wraps us in relation.”

June 11, 2008

The first thing you notice when the big shiny doors of Boston’s ageless South Station swing open is the smell of the ocean.

In addition to everything else our founding fathers had—courage, vision, tenacity–they for sure had a good sense of smell. The busy, honking boulevard in front of you is called Atlantic Avenue.

In order to go to the Anish Kapoor exhibit, all one has to do is follow the scent of the sea. Down Atlantic Avenue past soaring skyscrapers on the right and left, you notice the facades of these buildings are all different shapes: rounded, cylindrical, squared, rectangles, sextangles…say, what? Well, you know a six sided building. (I wanted to make sure you were awake)

Boston has undergone in the past twenty years one of the most ambitious urban face-lifts ever conceived. Locals call it “The Big Dig”, others call it “The Big Boondoggle”.

Arteries and roads that used to channel folks and commerce into Boston now run “under” Boston instead of over Boston in elevated highways. To the old timer, one cannot but help noticing things in threes: light, light and light. Space, space and space. Color, color, color. And, oh yes, light light light.

Sandwiched in-between the line of skyscrapers is the occasional really old building, like the Boston Fire Department on the left or what is sadly left of the wooden, one story J.B. Hook Lobster Company. It burnt down last month taking with it two million dollars worth of lobsters.

You take a right where the Hook building used to be and go over an ancient draw bridge now dedicated to pedestrian traffic only. It crosses the Fort Point Channel and takes you officially into the Seaport section of the city. It is called Fan Pier. Boston’s Inner Harbor is on your left. Boston’s Logan airport, directly across the inner harbor, launches planes rising sharply and soundlessly into the sky every 60 seconds or so, and the newly opened (one year) Institute of Contemporary Art is a 10 minute straight walk.

The relatively new Court House is there, the Barking Crab restaurant is there. This one story wooden building appears to be the next candidate for a conflagration and was recently closed down by the Health department. Politics, the owners say. The developer of the Seaport wants to relocate them. They have great chowder.

Once past the noisy construction site for a luxury condominium and retail shop complex scheduled to open in 2010, you see the museum, all by its lonesome out there, its formidable odd self. It’s built right on the edge of the Inner Harbor. The design appears to be a marriage of box and ship. Along the outside of the largely square building are metal steps and railing that descend in stages to the bottom. They make me think of the rigging that old sailing ships had for the sailors to scramble upwards to set the sails.

I’ll leave it to art critics to tell you what it really looks like, but that’s my take on it.

Some guy wearing a Top Chef outfit and obviously from the Planet Big Deal is posing for a video camera crew. I know he is from the Planet Big Deal because his entourage includes a shiny Black Cadillac Escalade and another town car and who else travels with a video crew?

I pass behind the subjects (and into their video background) and give the camera a juanty wave, “Greetings from Planet Little Deal” my sardonic wave says as I disappear into the museum, get my lapel access ICA pin securely fashioned on my blue suit and press the elevator button and floor # 4 to rise to the exhibit.

Rise to a world, people, more ambitious than The Big Dig or any other earthly construction project. I rise to a world that I shall remember for the rest of my little planetary life.

People, I rise to Kapoor World.

(and you will, too, if I manage to get the words out right in Part Two tomorrow)

9 comments on “Past Present Future, Part One”

  1. The only time I’ve ever been near Boston was back in 2003. I blogged about one aspect of our trip in a recent freewriting post, if you’ll recall.

    My wife’s aunt lives in Carlisle, somewhat NW of Boston, so that’s as close as we got. I wish we’d had more time to actually venture into Boston. Based on your exquisite description of the area, my kids would have flipped. But that’s the thing with going on these types of massive event-oriented trips . . . there’s little time for just hanging out and exploring.

    Someday . . .

  2. I was last in Boston in 1980.

    I followed the freedom trail.

    Whenever I hear people are going to the States I always tell them Boston is worth a visit and they might want to check out the freedon trail, if it’s still there.

  3. Making that last comment got me thinking that maybe the Freedom trail was worn out and no longer visible.

    Then I thought about your mention of the smells.

    Then I thought perhaps Kapoor could re-mark the trail with powdered turmeric

    Then I thought that Kapoor could mark out an Indian trail with turmeric whilst dressed as an American Indian.

    I now have visions in my head of Kapoor in an American Indian costume with a trail of turmeric all around behind him where ever he has gone in Boston. Finally Kapoor symbolically throws Indian tea into Boston Harbour in solidarity with the American people.

    Must go to bed now.

  4. I can smell the salt, feel the space, hear your words on this very fine audio tour without headphones, of Boston.
    Planet Big Deal! As if YOU ever have to hope your words come out right….. ( did you grasp the loving sarcasm there? )

    I believe AND I relate to what you present.
    I’ve never been to Boston ( incredible, no? ) even though I lived in NYC my entire life. Now I’m sorry I haven’t.

  5. Hmmm I think if I were to ever live in a civilised country I’d be going to Art shows and exhibits every chance I got, hmmm… perhaps live in one? I can only but dream… Boston sounds incredible as well, from burnt lobster to crabs that bark, wooden buildings and my favourite… the ocean! Is it possible to drool for a place? because I’m drooling for the art already!

  6. I love Boston for so many reasons. It was lovely actually going through your post and seeing those places in my mind as you described them.

    The only thing I don’t like about Boston is the downtown pedestrians. Those people are nuts! Seriously. They just feel like they OWN the whole road and universe, and don’t even bother to look! Dang! Driving in the downtown area became more of a challenge to my poor nervous husband who nearly had a heart attack with the antics there.

    Otherwise its an amazing city full of art, class, style, real life, humanity, no class, it has it all.

    BTW… just how much is the Big Dig over budget by now???? Crazy!

  7. I’ve taken the kids to Boston many times, and I’ve always enjoyed it. I’ve even been too the same museum of which you speak. Boson is a great town to enjoy life in. During the summer.

    “To the old timer, one cannot but help noticing things in threes…” Do “old” people only notice things in threes? Not twos or fives? Young or middle aged people don’t experience this? You confuse me.

  8. We LOVE Boston and go any time we can justify the trip. It’s not too long by train for us and Short Stack loves the ride. We bring his toy trains for him to play with on the way down.

    Personally, I’m partial to the North End for a variety of reasons. The closeness of the community, listing to YOUNG people talking in Italian, the tight, winding streets and the cannoli. Let’s NOT forget the cannoli!

    We have a hidden gem of a place that we stay at, right in the heart of the old North End and when we stay there, it’s like waking up somewhere in Europe. We love it.

    BTW Razz, The Freedom Trail is still there and is still a great walk. When my kids get old enough to understand what it’s about, you can bet that we’ll be walking it. Until then… TO THE AQUARIUM!

    Turkish Prawn

  9. OK, people!! I had to finish Part II before I commented on this one for some reason.

    Tysdaddy: Someday will come, perhaps when you are speaking at some Writer’s Conference!
    Razzman: You may be sleep deprived but Kapoor might be the only sculptor who would actually use tumeric! No kidding. His early works were mounds of colored pigments! But, then, you probably knew that.
    Sanity: yes, I think you would be one going to all that this city offered. I suspect you’d find things that most locals are not aware of!
    Amber, I have stopped counting the budget overruns. I am one who says it was worth every bit of graft that got it built. And, yes, Boston pedestrians do rule the world. Hey, we helped birth the nation. Does that count for nothing??
    Twobuyfour, what I meant but didn’t write it clearly enough was that “oldtimers” were the ones who remembered the old Boston, the old Atlantic avenue covered by the elevated highways. So, that now, we walk down this street and cannot help but marvel (in threes) at light, space, color. I don’t think others who enter Boston for the first time with the new look could possibly imagine how dark it once was.

    Turkish: Yes to your European North End. Very true. Am delighted to know you feel so about Boston. Mention of the Aquarium reminds me of a photograph and story of several years ago. I may post it in the coming days.

    Bonnieluria, remember-wherever I’ve been, you’ve been. Yes, you’ve been to Boston and you like the chowder at the Barking Crab, too.

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