Yvonne Rainer

“She raises her glass…”

She raises her glass. “A toast,” she intones, “to the end of a year of infuriating, mindboggling, emotionally draining, stupid, senseless endless, mind destroying, frustrating maddening ungratifying unrewarding downright miserable bogus labor.” Hear hear.

Ignoring the apparent hyperbole, allow me to point out that previous concerns still lie in wait for her. Museums and dance, for instance. Visual artists and performance. Meaning and dance.

Despite the fact that the workings of her brain synapses may still lie in abeyance after all those miserable bogus labors, how can she forget that the gesture of raising a glass has meaning? She had already indicated that she wanted to go to sleep under Rousseau’s Sleeping Gypsy in the Museum of Modern Art and send all these issues into oblivion, for after you die, she said, you will never have to deal with them — she meant those issues — or those concerned with them again — or know how they — she meant the world, or at least that small part of it to which she was privy — you will never know, she said, how that world or small part of it will react to your disappearance, as though you ever could know any of this in any real sense. But then, she continues to muse, going to sleep in public has very different connotations depending on where you do it. For instance, going to sleep in a gallery of the Museum of Modern Art cannot be compared to going to sleep on the A train. Does anyone out there know Duke Ellington’s Take the A Train? She found the lyrics but doesn’t remember the melody. Someone want to take a whack at it? No? Then I will:

You must take the A train
To go sugar hill ‘way up in Harlem
If you miss the A train
You’ll find you’ve missed the quickest way to Harlem

Hurry, get on now it’s coming
Listen to those rails a thrumming
All ‘board get on the A train
Soon you will be on Sugar Hill in Harlem

Sugar Hill notwithstanding, going to sleep on the A train takes you down a social notch, does it not? These days, going to sleep on the A train means you’ve been looking for work without success, or working 14 hour days, or fighting with your spouse, or wishing you had more money, or feeling guilty about not being able to get your kids Christmas presents. Going to sleep on the A train means losing consciousness just long enough to send all that into oblivion.

Going to sleep in the Museum of Modern Art, on the other hand, is an entirely different proposition, isn’t it? Going to sleep in the Museum of Modern Art isn’t for everybody. Going to sleep in the Museum of Modern Art means that you have special connections. Going to sleep in the Museum of Modern Art means you’ll be protected rather than ejected. Then again, if you do it in the wrong part of the museum without proper authorization, you might get kicked out, unless… unless you know one of the guards or…or…

In any case, the point she was trying to make after raising her glass in a toast to the end of the miserable old year was that this nadir point in her life seemed to be offering two options: going to sleep on the A train and/or going to sleep in the Museum of Modern Art. Not that the one cancels out the other. The way the art institutions are going these days seems to encourage the most extravagant and desperate gestures. To wit:

Ladies and Gents, come one come all. Step right up and take a peek. Wonder of wonders, never the like to be seen anywhere in the world, before or since: real live bodies on display. They walk, they talk, they stare, they even sleep. STEP RIGHT UP and see for yourselves. That’s right, folks. We’re gonna have a big show right here. It’s not free but it’s gonna be worth your while. Just 25 bucks. Now my friends, you have a choice: You can stand there with your hands in your pockets and shake hands with the unemployed or you can come inside and see the show. You’re gonna see the freaks, the weirdos, the normal people, the desperados, the losers, the upper crust, even some NY Times critics. The world’s greatest gathering of human curiosities. They’re waiting for you on the inside, all real, all live, waiting just for you. 25 dollars, just 25 dollars. Just one minute left, one minute left to see it all for this special low price. The timer is ticking. I have to go in and start the show, and when I go it’s goodbye to this special price. Last call on the 30 dollar deal. Step right up. It’s showtime, my friends, SHOWTIME!