So, we were in New York a couple of weeks ago. It was an amazing experience, one of the main highlights being MoMA, specifically an exhibit by Francis Alÿs entitled “A Story of Deception”. The descriptions at the exhibit suggested that he was trying to capture the nebulous feeling of Mexico’s and by extension latin america’s interaction with modernity. There was a small constellation of nebulous feelings that seemed to bracket what he was trying to express. The feeling of always seeking, striving, but never really getting there, the feeling of doing a task very intently for a long period of time that to the outside observer seems pointful but when watched/performed to its conclusion is not so much so.
What I found so engaging about the art (and so disappointing about the wikipedia article about him) is that the curation brought out the ideas that the artist was trying to express. (And also sound installations that were done well.) I don’t know if it’s a failing of language, or an inability of most people to cogently express complex thoughts, but most of the modern art I’ve seen fell short of what I think it was capable of because the curation, or something else about the situation inhibited the meaning from coming out.
This is a long-winded way of getting to concept that is the title of this post, “The Desultory Beep”. “Desultory” was my favourite word for the week we were in New York, not least because I really liked to feel of the word, but also I think because it expresses a feeling that is difficult to express.
We were staying in a hotel in Manhattan, and it seemed that at all hours of the day and night, there was a near-constant chorus of honks from the street down below. (These very quickly became hilarious, but that is another story.) Every so often, there would be a chorus of honks, some sort of back and forth, then a last desultory beep to end it off.
But how do you express that feeling, of the last lonely, somewhat embarrassed, perhaps feeling slightly left-out beep?