Season Two of “Game of Thrones” is Coming

Now I know that no one comes here to get updates on the HBO series “Game of Thrones”. Why would you when the folks over at WIC.net do such a good job? Still, the inner geek in me can’t help but be excited by the trailer that debuted last Sunday.

 

The Barnes Foundation and Technology

Editor: This post was written about a year ago but was never posted. There is an update at the end of the post.

Recently, my wife and I watched “The Art of the Steal”, the excellent documentary about the disgraceful way in which the city of Philadelphia finally got its hands on the paintings of The Barnes Foundation. To be fair, it’s not really the city of Philadelphia that got its hands on the work. Rather its the moneyed elite who used its power to destroy the explicit wishes of Dr. Barnes in his will.

After watching the movie, my wife and I got tickets for The Barnes Foundation, which is still located in Lower Merion, Pennsylvania. The Barnes Foundation is slated to move to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in 2012. We felt it was important to see the works the way that Dr. Barnes intended them to be seen, before the entire collection is hijacked forever.

While the parts of the collection that we saw did not disappoint, we only found out when we arrived that it is no longer possible to view Matisse’s “Joy of Life” as the second floor is no longer open. Disappointed does not cover our feelings. “Joy of Life” may be the best known piece in the collection, a piece that most have seen even if they don’t know its name. Not being able to see the entire collection means that sometime after Barnes on the Parkway opens we will have to make the trip to Philly to view the collection again. After watching the movie we didn’t want to spend a dime ever again in Philly but we have no choice now. (I’m lobbying for exceptions for Geno’s Steaks and Pat’s King of Steaks.)

So what about technology? Only that this trip would never have happened twenty years ago or it would have happened much differently. We watched the movie on Netflix, streaming on our (my) PS3. We bought tickets on the Barnes Foundation website. We used our GPS to get us from Brooklyn to Lower Merion. I tried to use my smartphone to find a restaurant for lunch before we came back but we ended up doing it the old-fashioned way, selecting from what we were driving past.

Because change comes so slowly its easy to forget how different our lives are now than twenty years ago. No World Wide Web then, no cellphones, no GPS. I wouldn’t be writing about this in a blog and you wouldn’t be able to see it. No doubt the Barnes Foundation would still be moving to the Parkway but most of us would never have heard the story behind it. There is so much information out there now that its hard to imagine that there was every anything different.

Is there a day coming in the future in which we won’t even have to leave our couches to see something like the Barnes Foundation? Will there be no point in traveling to Philadelphia to see paintings in person when we can see lifelike reproductions on our computer screens (or whatever replaces them)?

I’m sure Dr. Barnes would be livid with what has happened to his foundation. But I also think that nothing stays the way we want it to. We could never have imagined the things that we take for granted now and most of us will live long enough to take for granted things that seem impossible to us now. Without progress, I never would have seen the Barnes Foundation save for by chance on a trip to Philadelphia.

Update: The “new campus” for the Barnes Foundation will open on May 19, 2012 on the Ben Franklin Parkway in downtown Philadelphia.

Kill Your Darlings

Note from yourhost: This piece contains spoilers about various television series.

Like probably anyone else that writes, I fall in love with things I write. Sometimes I re-read something and mentally pat myself on the back. (I don’t actually pat myself on the back because of my father’s constant warning from my childhood; “Don’t break your arm patting yourself on the back.) The only problem is that sometimes these sentences or phrases, even though they are really great, just don’t work with the rest. As noted author Stephen King advised, you have to “kill you darlings”. It is the mark of an artist that he or she knows what to include as well as what to take away.

Terrance Winter, showrunner of HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire”, is an artist who understands this. At the end of season two of the show, Mr. Winter made the decision to kill one of his darlings. In a conversation with the TV critic Alan Sepinwall, Winter made it clear that he and the other writers all wanted to keep the character of Jimmy Darmody alive. They just couldn’t find a dramatic justification for doing so. Contrast this with another show , “Sons of Anarchy”. While I have read Kurt Sutter’s explanation of why he wants to keep Clay Morrow around at least for next season because of the the potential for conflicts between Clay and Jax, it is difficult from a dramatic standpoint to understand why Clay lived. (I’m glad this blog is too small to get the attention of Sutter. He can be thin-skinned, especially from people like myself who are not qualified to render critical opinions.) Clay is Sutter’s darling and while there will likely be intriguing story lines next season involving Clay, he should have died this season.

Earlier this year, fans of the show “Game of Thrones” (who hadn’t read the books) were shocked when the de facto lead of the show, Ned Stark, was beheaded in the ninth episode of the first season. I was similarly shocked a few years earlier when I read that scene in the books. My friend who had recommended the series told me beforehand that “Martin plays for keeps”. My friend’s meaning, as I came to understand, is that everything is in play. From having read the entire series to date, it is clear that Martin has no issue with killing his darlings. (The two showrunners for “Game of Thrones” have stated that they hope to make it to a particular event which is the best example in the series so far of killing your darlings. I also hope they make it.)

Of course this doesn’t mean that the only way to be a real artist with regards to a TV series is to kill of a major character. Walter and Jesse are still going strong on “Breaking Bad”, Don and Peggy are still at the center of “Mad Men”. It just means that if you are going to keep them around then you’d better work out a plausible reason for them to make it. I think sometimes writers get so focused on where they want to get to that they don’t take as much care as needed to figure out how to get there. Sutter wanted Tara standing behind Jax while he held the gavel, among other things as an echo of a photo of Gemma and JT. But the way the story broke this past season, it feels like that could have happened a few episodes earlier.

Contrast this with season three of “Breaking Bad” when Vince Gilligan and his writers realized that they couldn’t figure out how to keep the cousins alive for the whole season as they originally planned. Instead the cousins were (for the most part) taken care of in episode seven of thirteen. After that, the writers scrambled to figure out the rest of the season. That the rest of the season was excellent is a testament to how killing your darlings can inspire something better.

“Homeland” is another series that figured out how to resolve the major conflict of its first season in a satisfying way. Some may feel that the resolution was obvious given that the showrunners wanted to continue with Brody and Carrie. That may be so, but Brody still does strap on the vest, still does walk up to the vice president and still does flip the switch to detonate the vest. That the wiring in the vest had malfunctioned is not a cheat. We needed to see Brody go through with his plan and we needed to see Brody next season. Problem solved. (If we really want to figure out how this could happen, remember that Brody wouldn’t hug his daughter while he was wearing the vest. Later, in the limo, Brody had difficulty getting his identification out of his jacket. Maybe it happened then. Or maybe it happened later when Brody was thrown to the ground or when he was hurried into the bunker. There’s enough room there to explain the malfunction.)

The best know that they need to kill their darlings. The best example ever? How about the final episode of “The Sopranos”.

The Best Movies of the Year

This time of the year is filled with top ten lists, simultaneously satisfying our cravings for lists and for groups of ten. (I wonder how people with more or less than ten fingers feel about this time of year.) In order to add my views, I now present my take on the best movies of the year.

The year in question is 2006. The rush to finish lists for the year that just ended is a bit silly. We need perspective to accurately judge what is best. Deciding too soon means that we end up trying to predict what we will still be thinking about in the future. So it has been a little over five years since 2006 ended. (Five is ten divided by two. See how that works.) What movies do I remember that came out in 2006?

Oh, and there are spoilers.

I remember laughing out loud during two movies from 2006. I laughed a lot during “Little Miss Sunshine”, no time harder than during the dance sequence at the Little Miss Sunshine Pageant. I’m not sure I remember everything about that movie but Abigail Breslin at the pageant was brilliant. I also laughed long and hard during “Borat”. I’m not sure I’ll ever watch it again and I’m pretty sure I won’t see another movie in which Sasha Baron Cohen employs this technique, but “Borat” was great.

I’m not always a fan of Almodovar. Sometimes I wonder if its because I’m not Spanish or gay or a woman. (I’m really not in Almodovar’s demographic.) However, beginning with “All About My Mother” in 1999, I feel more connected to Almodovar’s work. Either he’s changed or I have. In 2006, Almodovar released “Volver” featuring Penelope Cruz, in what I believe was her first Almodovar film since “All About My Mother”. “Volver” is on my list of my favorite Almodovar films, along with “All About My Mother”, “Talk to Her” and “Broken Embraces”.

In 2006 there was the Mexican Invasion, with three notable movies directed by Mexicans; “Pan’s Labyrinth”, “Children of Men” and “Babel”. “Pan’s Labyrinth” is thus far Guillermo Del Toro’s peak effort as a director. (A friend tells me that the vampire trilogy that Del Toro co-authored is brilliant. I’ll wait a little bit for some vampire detox.) “Children of Men” had a compelling premise and an fine performance by Clive Owen and the Battersea Power Station. Alfonso Cuaron had gained significant notoriety  with his previous two movies, “Y Tu Mama Tambien” and “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”. I’m not sure that “Children of Men” is better than “Harry Potter 4”. “Babel” was a marked improvement by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu over 2003’s “21 Grams” but he still has yet to surpass “Amores Perros” from 2000. At this point, it looks like the Mexican Invasion crested in 2006.

I also remember “Little Children” surpassing my expectations, especially given director Todd Field’s previous overrated directing effort, “In the Bedroom”. Jackie Earle Haley’s solution to his problem was a heart-breaking as could be, given that he was a sex offender. Plus, Patrick Wilson will forever be the Prom King. “The Departed” failed to meet expectations, possibly because they were too high to begin with, given the director (Scorsese), the source material (a well-regarded Hong Kong movie), the subject matter (gangsters) and the lead actors (Nicholson! Di Caprio! Damon!). As it turned out, the story was good but Scorsese failed to rein in Nicholson and it derails a significant part of the movie.

“The Lives of Other” and “Casino Royale” were two other movies that I remember enjoying. I can no longer remember the exact details of “The Lives of Others”. I just went to the most trusted source on the Internet, Wikipedia, and read the plot summary. That sounds really good. I can no longer remember if the story was rendered effectively, although I really liked the movie so it probably was. As for “Casino Royale”, the promise of the latest Bond re-boot that was contained in that movie lasted exactly until Bond arrived in Bolivia in the next installment, “Quantum of Solace”. I have low expectations for “Skyfall”, which is out later this year.

Daniel Craig is an interesting case as I first remember him in “Road to Perdition” in which he played the unworthy son of Paul Newman. Then I saw him play Ted Hughes. I never would have picked him as the next Bond. But Craig was great in “Layer Cake” (the first movie directed by Matthew Vaughn; he has yet to reach that level again). Suddenly he’s buff and is the new Bond and is probably a little too fit to be a credible Mikael Blomkvist. (Although it does explain why Lisbeth Salander is interested in him.) Interesting career so far and since he’s only a year older than me, he has a long time still to go. (Not surprisingly, I’ve only seen one movie featuring one of the three leads from “The Lives of Others”, “Unknown”, which featured Sebastian Koch in a small role. Hey, I was in a hotel and it was on HBO. What was I supposed to do?)

“Sleep No More” and Being Manipulated

“Sleep No More” is a play currently running in New York.

That is probably the most boring way to describe what is, to date, my most enjoyable theater experience in New York. “Sleep No More” is performed by Punchdrunk, a British site-specific theater company. I have no idea what else Punchdrunk has done. What they have done with “Sleep No More” is take over three abandoned warehouses on the west side of Manhattan and convert them into a 100,000 square foot set. Inside the set, which includes part of a 1920s era hotel, a lunatic asylum, a graveyard, an English high street and a lot more, Punchdrunk performs a play inspired by “Macbeth”.

If you are having trouble imaging how a play takes place on such a complex set, then I should add that the audience, wearing identical white Venetian carnival masks, wanders around the set during the three hours of the performance. You are allowed to wander in and out of rooms and up and down the (I think) six levels with only minimal interference from from stewards, wearing black Venetian carnival masks, who are standing silently throughout the set.

The actors are not wearing masks and they move around the set, interact with other actors and sometimes with the audience members and sometimes disappear through doors through which the audience is not allowed to pass. Certain scenes repeat themselves until the final shocking scene that ends the night. My wife and I went twice and combined we had four different experiences. Our friends have gone and they had different experiences. I still not sure what exactly happens or why and although I think I’ve visited every corner of the set there are a number of scenes that I’ve never experienced. There are other scenes I’ve experienced two or three times. It is weird and brilliant and disorienting and I can’t imagine it’s like anything else. It is so enjoyable that the run has been extended at least twice. It is the type of thing that makes you feel glad to live in New York and glad to have the types of friends who tell you about such things and glad to be able to tell other people about. My only misgiving is that it is so interesting that I bet there is someone who right now is trying to figure out how to bring this show or something like it to one of the casinos on the Las Vegas Strip.

The only problem that I had with “Sleep No More” is that it is my nature to start trying to bring order to the chaos. On my first visit, I was lucky enough to know very little about what I was getting into. I wandered around and was never completely sure what I was supposed to do or where I was supposed to go. When the performance was complete I was certain I’d experienced something great but I didn’t know why. It stayed in my head for days and when I learned that it was having the same effect on my wife we decided to see it again.

Armed with the knowledge from my previous visit, I set out to see new things and also see again some of the things that I’d seen the first time. I was a different participant than I’d been the first time. I started constructing what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go. I started noticing the stewards moving into place during certain scenes. I noticed props being put into place. I saw scenes repeated. In short, I started to notice the manipulation that goes into putting on “Sleep No More”.

As I’ve said before, all art is manipulation. The artist tries to get the audience to feel something. In some cases, the artist doesn’t want you to consider that there is an artist. “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.” Ideally, the artist would prefer you didn’t know there was a curtain. (Alternatively, in some art the point of the show is the curtain, or lack thereof.)

In trying to bring order to chaos, in trying to understand how I’m being manipulated, I subconsciously start taking myself out of the moment. It can be frustrating. While watching a movie I’m thinking about how the director got that shot or why the actor made that choice. When listening to music I start to notice how I’m being set up for the climax. Lucky for me, I don’t do this while I’m reading. It is a blessing as it allows me to be surprised when other readers think something is so obvious. (Of course Ned is his father. What?)

This is not to say that I am always successful at sussing things out. “Breaking Bad” has never let me behind the curtain. I still have no idea where Bon Iver is going once the song starts. But other times, like in my second trip to “Sleep No More”, I can’t not see what’s happening. I suspect if I went again that I’d deconstruct the entire show in my mind. So maybe it’s better to stop at twice.

If you haven’t seen it, see it at least once. If “Sleep No More” ever closes in New York (and never opens in Las Vegas) then you will have missed something unique.

Just Like Home

I have now lived in Europe for over three weeks. It is the longest I’ve ever been out of the country, beating my previous record of two weeks. It probably has not yet set in that I’m going to be here for a while, at least nine months or so not counting trips abroad, including back to the US. However, when I go to the US I won’t be staying in my apartment as it is currently occupied. For the time being, I will only truly be at home here in Europe.

This isn’t to say that this is a hardship. The apartment we are in is slightly larger than the one we have in Brooklyn, and there is an extra bedroom. There are windows in the front and back and even a small balcony. There is a flat screen TV and wireless Internet. I can say for certain that the apartment has exceeded my expectations. Still, it is not in Brooklyn. But the other night, I forgot that.

My wife and I were watching TV. Thanks to our VPN and sites like Hulu and Netflix, we are able to watch as much American TV as we have time for. The other night we were watching “Parks and Recreation” and “Fringe” and “Boardwalk Empire”. At one point I got off the couch and got something to eat from the kitchen. On my way back to the couch, I realized that I had forgotten that I was in Europe, at least at the conscious level. I could have been anywhere. It made me realize that the main thing I need to make me feel at home while living abroad is familiar television.

During my time here, more than one person has told me about a store that sells American products. I know these people mean well and can’t possibly know that I don’t need to see shelves of American junk food to feel better about being here. Reasonably priced Tabasco would be enough. One person told me that there is some kind of women’s club that my wife may want to join. (Not if all they talk about is their children.) Others have told me about bars or restaurants that feature American food or people or at least fanny packs and white sneakers, but we are eager to try restaurants where none of the food looks familiar. (I am trying to be sure not to eat horse.) But no one has mentioned how comforting watching American TV could be.

I think part of the reason that this hasn’t come up is that people here probably don’t love their TV shows like Americans do. So far I’ve met one person who has more than the 20 or so channels that you get with cable. He has satellite and he gets over 150 channels. I would feel more smug about how happy he is to have access to such a paltry amount of channels if Europe wasn’t already way ahead of the US with regards to cellphones. The Superior Technology Card will remain in my hand, at least until I visit a place with worse cellphone technology than the US. Maybe the Moon.

It also may not occur to people that it is possible to watch American TV while abroad. It was certainly my thought on a previous trip to Iceland when I discovered that Netflix won’t work there. Before coming here on this trip, my wife read about something called a VPN that could address this problem. I pretended I knew what she was talking about and then read up on what a VPN is. Basically, a VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a service that tricks the Internet into thinking you are in the US even when you (and your computer) are not. There are probably other uses for a VPN and there is probably a bunch of technical explanation for how this works but none of that matters. What is important is that with the VPN I can use Hulu, Netflix, and other legal sites to watch my favorite current American TV shows.

I am up to date on “Breaking Bad” and “Dexter”. I am looking forward to diving into “Homeland” and (eventually) the new season of “Mad Men”. True, I am now watching these things while drinking wine and eating a baguette, but it feels the same. While I am watching these things I could be anywhere, which means I could be in Brooklyn. We made sure to bring our clothes and certain other items that would remind us of home but the best thing we brought is the ability to watch our TV. It makes everything much easier.

Now I know there are people that don’t watch much TV and I know there are some people that don’t watch any TV at all. What advice do I have for those people who want to know how they can feel more at home while living abroad? None. What can I say to people who are obviously more sophisticated and more well-adjusted than I am? No doubt these superior people who already figured it all out. But for the rest of us who are dealing with foreign language fatigue and strange customs, TV is invaluable. If you are thinking of living abroad, sign up for Netflix and Hulu Plus and other legal sites and sign up for a VPN. Then just sit back and forget where you are.

I Have to Say His Name

Clarence Clemons died on June 18. As a long-time Springsteen fan, this was just as sad as the death of Danny Federici. Another part of what made Springsteen’s sound so distinctive is gone. I imagine that, as with Danny, Bruce will replace the Big Man. But just as without Danny, it won’t be the same.  It will be strange to have “Tenth Avenue Freeze-out” without the band introductions which would end with Clarence, and what is Scooter without the Big Man.

I’m not qualified to opine on the musicianship of Clarence. Mike Appel once said that Clarence could only play in a live setting and that he was terrible in the studio. One story is that Bruce had to take Clarence step by step through the solo in “Jungleland” in order to get the performance he wanted for the album. What I do know is that the sax was as important to the E Street sound as the organ and the accordion and the glockenspiel. It made sense to me that rock bands had a sax player, and I just assumed that they had to be black. (At that point I’d never seen Bobby Keys.)

One of my earliest non-musical memories of Clarence was a photo in Time magazine that showed Bruce and Clarence kissing on stage. I was a teenager when I saw this and the photo confused me. I was just a kid growing up in Vermont and two men kissing each other in public was confusing. As I got older, I was less confused by mundane things and remained a Springsteen fan. Clarence’s solos are part of the soundtrack of my life and things are a little bit better because I heard those solos.

In his concerts, Bruce would save Clarence for last when introducing the band. As with the other band members, he’d give Clarence nicknames, like the Minister of Soul and Secretary of the Brotherhood. Then he’d always end it the same.

“Do I have to say his name?”

His name was Clarence Clemons. Thanks, Clarence, and good-bye.

The Danger of Expectations

Recently, HBO aired a fourteen minute preview of the upcoming “Game of Thrones”, a series based on the first book of the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George RR Martin. The preview was only part of the long line of promotion that HBO has been providing in a effort to generate interest in the series and to reassure the hardcore fans out there. (Does science fiction and fantasy have anything other than hardcore fans?) I was introduced to the series a few years ago by a good friend and have been excited for the series ever since it was announced. I have read everything about the series and watched every preview and featurette. I am pumped for this series. So why, while watching the preview last night, which is basically the first fourteen minutes of the first episode, did I feel anxiety about how good the series will be?

The obvious answer is that those fourteen minutes weren’t any good, but that’s not the case. Aside from not caring for the look of Winterfell, I thought everything else looked spot on. I like the casting decisions and I thought that the pacing was very efficient, covering the prologue and half of the first chapter in one quarter of an episode. The initial critical feedback has been positive. So why was I worried? Simple. I have trouble just being in the present, enjoying what is happening now and not worrying about what may happen later.

With regard to “Game of Thrones” there is plenty for me to worry about. Will the series be any good? Will people who haven’t read the book like it? Will my wife like it? Will it get renewed for a second season? Will the things that I loved on the page have the same impact on the screen? How will I feel about the changes? How much will I have to explain to my wife while we are watching it? (The early answer is, quite a bit. Even in the preview last night my wife had questions.) The list goes on and on.

This is the way my mind works. This is why when I was at Old Trafford a few years ago, I didn’t enjoy the match as much as I wanted to. (United won.) This is why I end up feeling vaguely unsatisfied when I finally get to do something that I’ve always wanted to do. I’m always thinking ahead, trying (and failing) to anticipate the next thing.

But life isn’t about seeing it all coming. Life is about what happens to fuck up whatever plans you have. And life is about feeling that thing when it happens and riding it, whether its good or bad. I have trouble doing that when my expectations are too high. Yet I don’t have the discipline to stop myself from building those expectations. I’m not sure what the answer is but I need to deal with it as “Game of Thrones” is set to begin on April 17 and I really want to enjoy it. The memory of my vague unhappiness with the three “Lord of the Rings” movies is still fresh in my mind. It would be nice not to ruin something good for myself.

This Isn’t Your Living Room and Its Not Mine Either

I love movies. I the dark theater and the sense of anticipation right before the movie starts. I love the communal feeling, of experiencing something in a crowd that makes everyone laugh or cry (or just get misty) or scream. I love when you are walking out of a just finished great movie and you look at a total stranger and you see in that person’s eyes that he or she just had the same experience as you and you know that you both understand that something meaningful just took place. Watching a great movie is one of the pleasures of life. Still, I rarely go to the movies anymore.

I have many problems with going to the movies. For one, it’s impossible to know beforehand if the movie is going to be satisfying or not. I hate to sound like an old crank, but movies in New York are expensive and it’s disappointing to spend the money and then leave dissatisfied. But this never used to bother me, so what changed?

I think people changed. People now think its okay to talk during the movie as if they are in their own living room. They think its okay to put their feet on the back of your seat or kick your seat. They think its okay to make a lot of noise opening the packages of food that they smuggled in from outside the theater. In general, the behavior of the movie-going public has deteriorated to the point that I’m tense from the moment I sit down in the theater. I’m looking and listening before the movie starts, trying to figure out from where the problems are going to come. Maybe its confirmation bias, but it seems like the problems always come.

Another issue  is that watching movies at home has never been easier or more enjoyable. Movies are available on cable (on demand or at air time), or from the ether through Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, iTunes and no doubt a number of other services. And our TVs are much bigger now. My smallest TV (33″) may be embarrassingly small by today’s standards but it is significantly bigger than any previous TV that I owned. The picture quality in the movies I watch is HD. Plus, I still get all the other benefits of being at home that I always had; I can put my feet where I want, talk when I want (until the wife shushes me), I can pause the movie to use the bathroom or to get food or to send an important text. I miss the magic of the theater but there is a version of that magic in the home now.

The other great thing about watching at home is that the stakes are much lower. By not trying to make sure that I spend my movie money wisely, I am spared having to expose myself to the movie hype machine. I don’t need a bunch of articles and commercials and reviewers and friends telling me how great a movie is, raising my expectations to an unreasonable level. I can go into most movies with a clean slate, with little expectations. My wife and I recently watched two really good movies, “The Secret in Their Eyes” and “Dogtooth”. I had not heard of either movie and I recognized a total of one actor from the two movies combined. It didn’t matter. I watched “Red Road” a couple months ago, same thing. I started watching these movies with little to no expectation and was rewarded.

I’m not sure that I’ll ever completely stop going to the movies. At some point you want to join in the conversation, even if it means sitting through a movie like “Avatar”. Sometimes I want to be part of a community. The good thing is that watching a movie at home no longer means that you’re not part of a community. Thanks to the internet, a community is only always seconds away.

Is This Part of the Performance?

Last weekend we went to MoMA PS1 to see “Laurel Nakadate: Only the Lonely”. Ms. Nakadate is a performance artist who works in photographs, videos and feature-length films.

I’m never sure when I see the work of a performance artist where the performance ends and the viewing of the work begins. At “Only the Lonely” I couldn’t shake that I was part of an ongoing performance, like I would show up in some future Nakadate performance. The presence of Ms. Nakadate only added to the feeling.

The themes of Ms. Nakadate’s work seem to be voyeurism and loneliness. In one work, Ms. Nakadate, behind a camera, walks into the bedrooms of three women and suggests that they strip to the their underwear. Even though Ms. Nakadate’s voice can be clearly heard, the suggestions combined with the repeated reassurances that the girls are pretty builds up to an uncomfortable feeling that you are watching something that you shouldn’t.

Most of the walls in the exhibition are covered with photos of Ms. Nakadate crying, part of a series in which Ms. Nakadate took pictures of herself crying everyday for a year. While the photos made me wonder how someone could cry that much, my wife made a good point: “There’s always something to cry about.” Indeed, there is.

Not everything in the exhibition is as affecting as the videos of the three women or the crying photos. In “Love Hotel”, Ms. Nakadate is filmed in various Japanese hotels, which are used for discrete assignations, simulating the sexual acts she would be performing if only her lover were there. The soundtrack of the film is “Angel of the Morning” and as great as that song is it is not enough to make the video work. Then again, the audience not really knowing what the point often seems to be part of performance art.

On the whole, I recommend “Laurel Nakadate: Only the Lonely.” Her videos of dancing with middle-aged men to “Oops, I Did it Again” and of celebrating “her birthday” with three middle-aged men are interesting and worth seeing. Plus, MoMA PS1 is suggested donation so you can pay what you want.