“That’s what Mommy made for dinner,” the woman behind me said. The museum was crowded the way Sundays are. Like grocery stores and churches, we apprehensively prepare for the week and the rest of our lives, respectively. I would have ridiculed her — for her provincial and self-involved inclinations towards great art — but found it, now at this point in my life, very touching. A dollop of love hardened in my throat for this dumb person. She held her daughter against her side, the latter who even grazed my ear pointing at the painting the way children always point at referents, as if to convince the world there’s only one thing, to consolidate life’s erratic foci into a single point. “Our fish didn’t look like that!” the daughter said. “Okay but the lemon did.”
I imagined dinner last night at the Dumbdumbs: some dry salmon topped with sliced lemon and some steamed vegetables, maybe even a sprig of dill learned via Food Network, in a suburb forty minutes away from the city into which, today, this simple family ventured. Between penicillin and J. Crew, the world — a collective sentience rippling from our little girl’s finger — convinced us we needed to witness not just the representation of a representational event, but the surface on which the latter was described, and subsequently portrayed by many instances of the former. The docent would be coming over soon to tell us about Willem Claeszoon Heda, a Dutch “Golden Age” painter, and his innovation of the “late breakfast” genre (which proves that white people invented brunch back in the 1600s). Earnest illustration students from Korea would keenly sketch studies; laconic hot people on dates would try to impress each other with what they remember from their Art History elective; old people with bad vision and hearing would fumble with sensory aids; immigrant guards would watch this from the inner horror of vocational boredom; and this blogger, who can be an asshole, would find everything and everyone so trite. He’d scrape the back of his scalp for something he remembered from Baudrillard that turns everything into a sign, or signifier, or he can’t remember. At the most miserable time in this blogger’s life, he had a subscription to Artforum. It’s not dinner bitch, it’s Trompe-l’œil.
The guard heard the virtual camera shutter, was immediately at my side, and said “no cameras” with a twisted accent that sounded like the monster America is. Short of going Baudrillard on his ass and telling him simulation is merely imitation, or mimesis with intent, I feigned obsequiousness and put my iPhone back in my pocket. Little did he or his employers know this would be on the internet very soon. Baudrillard proposes that simulacra are copies of things eventually emptied of their original, an image orphaned from its canvas. Perhaps this is why we pay $25 dollars a ticket not including parking — to prove him wrong. There is a world in the shadow under the metal plate on which the fish rests. I was halfway out of the exhibition when I decided to turn back — to kind of seal in the vision of this lovely painting, to consume its “artness” under the lonely presumption that we are otherwise empty. Aesthetic hibernation. Maybe a part of me wanted to see the mother and girl again. Perhaps that’s all art was, and is: a vertical and pricey welcome mat that any retard can step inside and plop their sentimental life in. You see tits, you see fish, you see a soup can. It feels good to point, and to know you exist. Now a married couple are bickering over the still life. The argument is over whether or not the fish would have stunk during the painting of it. It’s actually a great point I’ve never considered: the ephemeral timeline of material things slowly being immortalized. The man says the painter probably just dealt with it. The woman says maybe the fish was only there at the beginning, and that everything else was made up. I felt so grateful I could only walk away.