Postcard from New York VI: Doppelganger

October 26, 2009

There is a great moment in Paul Auster's 'New York Trilogy' (and Auster incidentally must live just a few blocks away from where I am writing this, being a Park Sloper too) when the narrator Daniel Quinn receives a middle of the night phone call to his lonely New York apartment. "Is that Paul Auster, of the Auster Detective Agency?”. The call sets off a chain of motion, in which confused identities - including that of the fictional Paul Auster (himself a New York novelist), the mythical detective Auster and the actual Paul Auster whose work of fiction we are reading - are implicated. It's something to do with Derrida, as it goes. 

Well...I kind of had a similar story. The other day as I was sitting with Alicia Jo Rabins (a very talented songwriter - solo and with 'Girls in Trouble' who I'll be performing with on November the 11th) in a Brooklyn bar and drinking coffee served by an alarmingly tactile French waiter, she mentioned a recent shoot with a photographer named Jason Rogers. She commended his work, and told me what a brilliant experience it was working with him. 'It would be great to have his details' I said, as the waiter stroked Alicia's hair with his outstretched tongue. 'No problem, I'll send them over' said Alicia, as I narrowly missed a tentacle. 

Lovely Alicia

Arriving home, and not having heard from Alicia yet with an email address, I decided to hit 'stalker's best friend' aka Google.  'Jason Rogers photographer New York' I typed and Bingo! I clicked the web link and revealed was a collection of wonderfully eerie landscapes, desolate, tender, funny. It reminded me of work by one of my all time favourite photographers, Richard Billingham 'Ray's a Laugh', and being in an efficient mood, I fired off an email: 

Hi Jason, 
        I found out about you via my friend Alicia Jo Rabins who I believe you did a shoot for just the other day. She had only great things to say about you and mentioned that you are in the process of building your portfolio...I wonder if you would consider taking some photos for me? 

The very next morning came a response: 

I would definitely be interested in discussing what kind of shoot you were looking for... 

but: 

I have to be honest with you though, I'm not sure I have done a shoot with Alicia.  I'm not sure if it matters to you, but I just wanted to be clear. Recommendations sometimes come from the most random of places...

Hmmm, could it be..the wrong Jason Rogers? Yes, turns out Alicia's was a Jason 'Rodgers' as I discovered the next day, also a NY photographer of repute.Yet this confusion of identities was one of those happy (very Austerian) serendipities. When, a few days later I arrived at Jason's apartment just a few minutes walk from my place, Daphne his 2 year old daughter is busy stroking the Lion King through the television glass. Somehow between Simba's song and the demanding affections of the family dog, Jason and I discovered a whole range of references and inspirations in common - my own doppelganger, just in a different artistic field. 

A couple of weeks on, the tiny new addition to the family (daughter no.2) came on her first ever cultural trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, (it's ok, we're in Park Slope, it will be ablative verb flash cards in a month or so...) with me, Jason and Jason's wife Sarah. We went there with the intention of exploring some ideas for the shoot, it was a great creative day, and thank God Sarah had a sense of direction to compensate for me and Jason's combined lack of one. (Jason did flag up the fact that Sarah might be just a smart 'n' sly cookie; seeing as the MMOA is circular, we would eventually arrive back at our projected place anyway, but she certainly pulled the trick off convincingly if so).

 

 

Start of the day at Cafe Regular/Sarah and the statues

It's strange seeing work by great artists 'in the flesh', kind of like meeting famous people, some of whom are surprisingly uncharismatic, others who are so much more appealing and attractive than expected. Weirdly Van Gogh's art, with it's wavy lines, stipplings and shifts of perspective left me feeling dazed but unmoved, and though Vermeer's paintings had remarkable luminosity, his chosen themes of comely housewives peeling apples in modest attitudes irritated me. It was other less revered artists that touched me most (maybe, unfairly it's to do with expectation); Pisarro's painting of poplar trees reminded me of brilliant autumn days after a strong rain fall where the air is thin and clear as glass and every leaf seems volted with it's own light from within. 

Like TS Eliot's line in the 4 Quartets:

Go, said the bird, for the leaves were full of children,
Hidden excitedly, containing laughter.
Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind
Cannot bear very much reality.

 

 

 

Spanish Gallery/Narcissus/Roxy Paine's Maelstrom
On the outside deck sprawled Roxy Paine's 'Maelstrom', a metallic sinuous sculpture that reminded me of a fig tree whose boughs reach into the ground and root themselves creating a maze, a prison or a shelter depending on your outlook. But they were also Wizard of Oz-like, their branches resembled clutching fingers and thumbs.  

Or Lepage's 'Joan of Arc',a work that elicited a mixed reaction from the snobby Salon critics: apparently the ghostly presence of the saints was seen to be at odds with the otherwise naturalistic style. Which goes to show how time-bound and close minded critics can be, as that's surely the real beauty in this work. Is Joan of Arc a visionary - or is she possessed? Are they saints real apparitions, or the figment of  furious, even insane imagination?

We emerged into the late afternoon sunlight, blinking, talking endlessly and attempting to decipher the many worlds - Egyptian, Japanese, Renaissance - we had briefly visited. Detectives following trails and tracks, about to give up the secrets of our next destination...

 

 

 

 

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