Monday, 18 February 2013

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

Okay, so this isn't really a post about the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (or le Musee des Beaux Arts), but I am going to talk a bit about it, and then I am going to talk more in depth about one particular work it holds.

I have visited the Museum of Fine Arts twice since moving to Montreal. It is a massive three buildings, containing a massive collection of art, ranging from ancient artifacts,  medieval works, through the renaissance, with a particular focus on Quebec art, and Modern Art (or Modern Quebec Art). It is at least a two hour trip if you want to look at it all (not including the special exhibition of the moment, which is usually pretty interesting. Still regret missing Renoir) and by the time you hit the gigantic display of chairs (yes, chairs) you're pretty exhausted.

Somewhere between the Renaissance and the collection of chairs, you hit a hallway of very abstract, very modern art (postmodern? my terminology is rusty). Off of these hallways are large galleries, containing more fascinating works of the weird and wonderful. I should say that I love modern/postmodern art (these are blurry blurry lines for me. Please don't be offended, art critics). I love interpreting it. I am drawn to it, in an effort to understand. And honestly, wildly paint splattered, multimedia, hectic presentations inspire more emotion in me than a well done rendition of a bowl of fruit. Just saying.

But then you come to this:

Old Enemy, New Victim by Tony Matelli
And your first reaction is one of absolute revulsion. I should say that it looks a lot more realistic an a lot more disturbing in person. The monkey are actually hairy, and in a yellow lighting that makes the wax look more like real skin.

Anyway, you stop, and feel absolute revulsion. This is cannibalism. This is murder. This is a bunch of monkey genitals and fat rolls all up in your grills. What the hell is this?

I'll admit, the first time I visited the museum, I quickly hurried off, not wanting to look at it any longer than I had to. The second time, however, was a different deal. I wanted to think about it. What the hell is this? And this time, I wanted an answer.

The interpretation of this piece is, I think, rather straightforward. These monkeys are society in a nutshell, the hate between classes. Poor social conditions, hunger, homelessness, drives some to commit acts of theft or murder against those that have more. The lean, through no fault of their own, can get mean, and begin to resent the affluent. This can be seen on a global scale as well. Why are first world countries so resented, America in particular? Because we are the world's morbidly obese apes. We get ALL the bananas.

And this moves in cycles, historically has moved in cycles--hence, I believe, the title of the work. Look back at the revolutions overthrowing monarchies over the centuries. Those without--the lean and hungry famine-struck apes--rebel against those with--the ruling class--destroying them absolutely (more or less). In the process, those leading the revolution, those demanding the most meat off of the bones of the bloated corpse of the overthrown become bloated themselves. Filled with power. And the cycle begins again.

I think that is what is so disturbing about these apes. They are us.
Or maybe its just the dangling balls.

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