Wide Awake in Wonderland

We’re only dancing on this earth for a short while

Sometimes a cigar is a penis covered in brains October 2, 2008

Something Viennese
Something Viennese

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that the town that gave us Sigmund Freud seems to have some serious issues with sex.

As I’ve mentioned before, I can only take so many paintings of Jesus or examples of the horrors of communism and the Holocaust before my brain turns to goo. However, let me loose on some Roman ruins or modern art, and I can go all day.

Or so I thought. Having spent a chunk of the day in the Museumsquartier here in Vienna, I’m no longer feeling so bold and invincible. I visited two of the museums– the Leopold and The Museum Moderner Kunst (MUMOK). The Leopold I went to for the Klimts. I don’t know about you, but there’s something so loving and vibrant and alive about his work, that I always feel cheered by looking at a Gustav Klimt. There’s a lot of nakedness, but it tends to be celebratory or even adoring. It’s the kind of art you can put in your living room.

Then you enter the MOMUK, and the worm turns. As far as I could tell, they don’t have any Rothkos or Pollocks, but what pulled me in was an exhibition called, “Bad Art, Good Painting.” I had read this article about John Currin early this year in the New Yorker. He’s a contemporary artist that applies classical painting techniques to his criticism of modern society, and to a great degree, to internet porn. So they’re like gorgeous oil paintings in the style of the masters…but of vulgar or exaggerated (like a lot of women with huge fake 48DDD boobs) stuff. I immediately recognized one of the paintings on the poster (Thanksgiving, featuring his wife at three different ages), so I was kind of fascinated to see his work in person.

That part was cool.

Unfortunately for me, it was “bring your screaming, yelling, incorrigibly obnoxious middle-schooler to the super-sexed up modern art museum” day. Needless to say, they were very excited to not be at school. Otherwise, minus some semi-disturbing movies they discovered in the basement level, they couldn’t give a rats @ss about the art. This was both a relief, and kind of surprising, considering some of it. I suppose they felt as awkward as I did.

As for the highlight of the day (despite the “Me Tarzan, You Jane” exhibition name of “Bad Art, Good Paintings”), what I found particularly interesting were the pieces by Julian Schnabel. I know him more as a filmmaker than an artist, and I wasn’t familiar with his work. I guess he’s famous for his plate art (which I’d never seen), and the size, scale, and subject matter were compelling. I also liked this guy Asger Jorn who bought cheesy paintings at garage and estate sales and painted over them. it was kind of disrespectful and funny at the same time. I took some pictures, and I swear I’ll post them one of these days…


(The Asger Jorn painting I promised. I find this amusing.)

Then it was time to descend to the lower levels for ‘The Factory’, and that’s when things get weird. Like serial killer art weird. Words fail me, but I started out thinking, “Wow. That’s disturbed. Or f-ed up. Or just wrong” and then I started averting my eyes and hoping to stumble into an exit. Or down a flight of stairs. Whatever.

There were things like videos of people mutilating themselves. And some seriously creepy stuff done to women. And male genitalia. Like male genitalia surrounded by brains. I don’t know whose brains or whats brains, but brains. It was messed up overall. Seriously, some John Wayne Gacy clown art would have fit in very comfortably at the MUMOK.

All I can say, is that from the looks of things, the Viennese are grappling with some serious issues. Dr. Freud, get in line for reincarnation, because they need you. Bad.

As for me, I just hope I don’t have nightmares. I once had an acupuncturist suggest that my stress levels were tied to my great love of the Law and Order TV show (the original, with Jerry Orbach as Lenny, although I will watch the other derivations in a pinch). And that even though it wasn’t real (although it is ‘ripped from the headlines’) that watching all that bad stuff happen was messing me up (basically). It that’s the case, I could use an exorcism to purge what I’ve seen today.

I paid 17 euros to look at THIS!?

I paid 17 euros to look at THIS!?

After escaping the sadomasochistic horrors of the local Viennese modern art scene, I headed for the museum shop. I love museum shops, and the MUMOK didn’t let me down. Actually, it did, but in a good way. It was more or less like the knick knack section of your average Urban Outfitters (they had the Jesus band aids I bought there – only five times more expensive).

Thus, the only thing I was drawn to were these weird toys called “Parasite Pals.” In particular, they had this super cheap (as in cheaply made. The price tag? Not so cheap) “Zzeezz the BedBug” flashlight. Bedbugs are nocturnal, so I guess this was to root them out? Only it didn’t work, so maybe not?

Anyway, what made it so funny was the awkward English explanation, “Here is the girl with small friends of life present for always. Some irritation she finds with them, but much fun and love is to be shared!”

As for Zzeezz himself, it is explained, ‘Zzeezz is happy to be living inside the bed. He is always tired from many biting.”

So true, so true. So many biting. So many blood. It’s a hard knock life for a bedbug.

In the morning I head to Budapest, and I am truly freaking excited about it. Last time I was there, I got so overwhelmed I more or less high-tailed it out within hours. But from everything I’ve read, I think it will be super cool.

In particular, the Turkish baths. Having carried about 40% of my body weight on my back for the last two months, I am looking forward to it! Tomorrow it’s women-only at the Kiraly baths, and then I’m thinking of hitting the Rudas baths on Sunday before my night train (I like to be stress-free before giving would-be train thieves the American beat down). I’ve never been to a Turkish bath before, so I was very relived to pick up these quick tips on the Hungarian Tourist Board website:


  • Involuntary urination or defecation problems
  • Infectious diseases
  • Virulent phase of locomotor diseases
  • Tumour diseases

I’m blissfully unaware of any tumour diseases (I’ve said it before – ignorance IS bliss!!), and hopefully my locomotor diseases remain non-virulent, and I’m given the green light to soak it up. Assuming all goes well, you can look forward to my ultra-mellow, mineral-rich update manana from Budapest, where hopefully a cigar is just a cigar…



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