Wednesday, September 29, 2004


This is sort of an odd post script to yesterday’s item, in which an electronic-check-clearing law was described as a response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Today, with the parents in town, we went to the Museum of Fine Arts for the Josef Sudek photography exhibit and encountered another questionable echo of this defining moment of our time.

The watcher-over-art was alert. When my father, mother and Martina huddled in a corner for an intense discussion of one picture, she told them to stop touching “the painting.” My father shifted, leaning against the corner’s opposite wall. She told him he wasn’t allowed to be in the corner.

Later, in exactly the same corner, discussing exactly the same work, Martina and I fell into the same trap. We were told we were too close to “the painting.” (Don’t these museum guards have to pass some rudimentary test of knowledge to work around art?) Why, we asked. We were told, in fact, that these had been the rules since, and because of, 9/11.

A heartbeat passed in silence. A silent buzz of electricity passed between Martina and me. We could feel each other bristling. And together we questioned — I’m paraphrasing — what possible connection the terrorist hijackings of four planes, with the intention of bringing down icons of American capitalism and democracy, had to do with two rooms full of the intimate black-and-white works of Sudek, the “poet of Prague.”

She backed off minimally, but refused to acknowledge the absurdity of her reasoning. She told us to pursue it with her higher-ups.

Coming up next: The impact 9/11 has had on lining up to use the water fountain in the park. Al Qaeda’s effect on Christmas caroling. How to whistle without letting the terrorists win.

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