Perambulating the Bounds

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Erin Hewgley’s Hair

Sometimes it seems like I’m always writing a “you’ve got a few days to see this” piece, but I guess that’s just a reflection of time’s linear features. This time it’s Erin Hewgley, who has a solo show at the Secret Show space at 310 Chestnut Street. The show should be up through Saturday, and I think the gallery is open in the afternoons.

I’ve written before about how wrenching her art is compared to a lot of what you see in Nashville, with a latex piece in the Fragile Species show that refers to a rape she suffered. It shows a woman’s torso, cut off at the belly, arms, and neck, like a piece of meat or the results of some horrible surgical experiment. This show has a couple of pieces in that vein, “Maybe” and “Show Pony Saddle.” The latter cobbles together sections of latex into a saddle, the form of a woman’s chest serving as the seat, strands of hair hanging down as tassels, and models of teeth hung as stirrups. “Maybe” is more abstract, possibly a woman’s butt and lower back, hung on the wall like a trophy. Like “Use It” in the Frist’s Fragile Species show (and at earlier shows), this piece may be more horrifying because it exists also as an integral, abstract, even sleek form. “Show Pony Saddle” more literal and more disjointed visually.

The show also includes several pieces using hair: three locks of red, blonde, and brown hair sticking from the wall like something to pull on (“Step Right Up”), a delicate and messy handing piece that strings nodes made from hair along cords of latex, with something dripping down onto the floor (“A History”).

“Conciliation” is, I’m pretty sure, more recently done, and it constitutes the major piece in the show. A large, maybe queen-sized wooden bed frame is covered with a single, thin sheet of blond hair matted or rolled together. The hair drapes the entire bed, like sheets put over furniture when a house is “closed up.” It is ghostly, semi-transparent and shot through with swirling patterns from the bunches of hair. It constitutes the ultimate in domesticity, using a woman’s own hair to provide comforting linens, and its opposite, an accretion of shed hair that has gotten completely out of control. Hewgley has blond hair herself, and I assume some of the hair is her own, so like the other more wrenching pieces there is this clear way she puts her body into the work.

On Tuesday evening, there was a concert by vocalist Carol Genetti, saxophonist Jack Wright, and percussionist Jon Mueller. They positioned themselves around the room, and their music was a very suitable aural complement to the bed. The trio worked with small sounds, modulated within a small range, making the most of ghostly overtones. Like Hewgley in this work, they built a subtle texture out of a thin, ephemeral material.

I think this might be Hewgley’s first solo show in Nashville, and it comes as she leaves town to take a graduate fellowship at Ohio State. This is undoubtedly a good move for her, but my sense is that in her time in Nashville she has been influential. She provides a prime model of art that can give a full-on gut punch, and her use of materials – latex, hair, goopy stuff – has inspired other artists in town, or at least provides encouragement by working in parallel ways.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Explosions (More From DC)

It’s getting to be a while since my visit to the DC galleries, but there is more stuff to write about. Tonight I want to mention a show at 1515 14th St. at G Fine Art, down the hall from Jiha Moon’s show (http://gfineartdc.com/ has a page on the show). The show was titled “Blasts” and consisted of paintings and drawings that dealt with things blowing up. According to Annie Gawlak, the show jumped off from a large work by Maggie Michael. She was another artist in the Trawick Prize show in Bethesda. Her pieces there were tangles of lines and color in ink and paint that formed a cluster and then seemed to spit tendrils out. Within the forms are more precisely drawn forms of breasts and testes. Some of the color lines were applied like spray paint, giving the pieces the quickly made feel of graffiti. The three pieces in Bethesda were in a series called “Worse for the Better,” and as I recall from her statement they were a response to “global events.” A very abstract response, but also really unabstract and emotional.

The pieces in Bethesda were maybe 36” by 24”. The show at G Fine Art included a piece of hers that took the scale way up, to 107” by 263”. It was still on paper, and used the same materials, ink, enamel, pencil, and charcoal, but at this scale she pours out nearly whole bottles of ink, and the centrifugal force of the lines emanating from the central tangle tears across the wall with apocalyptic energy (http://gfineartdc.com/show_sept05/show_sept05_8.jpg). It reminded me of Julie Mehretu in shape, scale, and energy, and in the building up of large gestures from small, sometimes finely rendered details.

Among the other works there were pictures of buildings being imploded, and a bridge exploding. I particularly liked a painting by Joy Garnett, “Jog” that showed a man wearing a face mask jogging across some flat industrial wasteland, three plumes of flame rising behind him (http://gfineartdc.com/show_sept05/show_sept05_7.jpg). Apparently the artist often bases her paintings on news reports of disasters. What interested me in this painting was the setting in this industrial sacrifice zone. It’s an environment that occupies a fair amount of US territory, especially in places like coastal Texas or chemical alley in Louisiana, but doesn’t make it into paintings. There are some landscapes by Rackstraw Downes at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston that portray highways and industrial structures that look like the kind of thing you would see in some place like LaPorte, Texas.

Rosemarie Fiore has a couple of drawings that use exploded fireworks (http://gfineartdc.com/show_sept05/show_sept05_6.jpg). This is one of those techniques that is so associated with a single individual, Cai Guo-Qiang, that it makes for a strange experience seeing someone else use it. Getting anywhere near the technique seems derivative. It reminds me of seeing Nashvillian Cherry Smith-Bell’s silhouette cutouts – Kara Walker seemed to overshadow the work, although Smith-Bell was doing something different from Walker, and Fiore’s abstractions are plenty different from Cai’s projects.

If Maggie Michael’s big piece was the jumping off point for the curator, of course that partly lay in the purely physical terms of the work’s audacious presence. I think her emotional-political motives are a core also, expressing a sense of something apocalyptic in the air. I’m confident the apocalyptic is not in this case an attachment to the Biblical Second Coming, and while I would expect the backdrop of past and potential terrorist attacks to be part of the idea, I think work like this goes to a kind of internal, spiritual apocalypse brought on by the shock of the interaction of private senses of desire and the work, and elements in politics and society that seem effectively aligned to mow down beauty and pleasure. The world seems controlled by people who would be just as glad to knock it down. George Bush and his associates did not create global warning – no, we’ve been working on that a long time. But they seem to favor it, and any other trend that intuitively seems unhealthy and unwise. One reaction is a sort of full-persona scream, and it comes out in paint and ink tangling into bunches that take on the appearance of disemboweled organs and then thrust out across wide expanses of space.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Carol Genetti In Nashville This Tuesday

Carol is a friend of mine from Chicago and one of the leading vocal improvisers in the country. She’s touring in a trio with saxophonist Jack Wright and percussionist Jon Mueller, and they are playing at the Secret Show space at 310 Chestnut St. this Tuesday. And Springgarden Music has a bunch of clips of Carol’s music, including the trio with Mueller and Wright http://www.springgardenmusic.com/sounds.html.

She does wordless improvisation that goes after the voice as a generator of a wide range of sounds, like free improv instrumentalists. You can hear some specific sources for her techniques, like Tuvan throat singing or Bulgarian vocalisms, and Carol has been studying Indian singing for a few years at least. There’s also the influence of vernacular vocalisms like rural “hollering” and contemporary classical vocal performers like Jaap Blonk or Joan LaBarbera. And Carol has a great sense of humor – she’s not afraid of the fact that silliness is one aspect of the sounds, which is true for any improvised music. It’s an aesthetic Steve Lacy would have understood, who realized sometimes a soprano saxophone sounds like a duck.

Carol came to this out of a performance studies background at the School of the Art Institute. The earliest piece of hers I knew about (and played on) was a puppet performance that had real breadth in its content. The piece has stuck with me, and over the years I’ve had a growing sense of how much was going on in it. Most of her performances now are more purely sound-oriented, but I think the art school training is there somewhere, probably in some sense of sculpting and shaping sound, and not seeing it so much in linear and mathematical terms.

To give an idea of what she does, here’s a rundown of her recordings – these are the ones I have. She’s also done one for Statisfield (their website has a blurb on Carol: http://www.stasisfield.com/artists/carolgenetti.html ) and been on a couple of compilations or various artists things.

Animus: duets with Eric Leonardson, who plays invented instrument that have their roots in percussion but with more tonal qualities. The rhythmic drive of his playing was an excellent foil for Carol’s inventiveness, and at the time they were playing together a lot and you can hear that familiarity in the level of coordination between their sounds and actions.

In the Garden of Earthly Delights, duets with cellist Bob Marsh. It seems like Carol often does well to be paired with a bass or cello – they have the range to mix up with her voice, but can also occupy a different timbral area.

The Shattering, various groupings from the year Carol appeared at Baltimore’s High Zero festival. These performances involve more momentary encounters and more sound mass, keeping everything in a higher energy mode. It also includes a number of cuts with Jack.

Sense of Hearing: mostly duets with bassist Damon Smith, some also including cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm. Smith is a really strong, inventive bass player from the Bay area, and like the recording with Marsh the combination of voice and low strings is a good place to start. It’s also really well-recorded, or at least it comes off well on the iPod.

Here’s an interview Woody Sullender did with Carol: http://www.deadceo.com/interview_Carol.html.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Jin Soo Kim at Vandy

This show by a faculty member at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago is closing next Friday and worth seeing if you haven’t gotten a chance yet. Kim has taken over the one room of Vandy’s Fine Arts Gallery with an installation that combines her own sound-oriented sculpture with a bunch of works appropriated from the Vanderbilt collection.

The partition that usually creates a sort of back room has been removed, and Kim runs a series of metal tubes shaped like train tunnels along the floor – 8 black sections that zig zag across the space. Inside them she installed speakers that emit sounds like a clock ticking, bells ringing, glass breaking, metal plates hitting each other. Discrete sounds come from different sections of the sculpture and occur at different frequencies. The clock ticking sound is continuous, although its tempo varies, and then from other parts of the room the sound environment gets punctuated periodically by more concentrated pops or bursts of sound. The speakers are well hidden in the tubes, and some of the positioning tends to throw the sound a bit, disconnecting the sound from the visual element. The sounds are very clear, and have nice density. Care went into their recording and reproduction.

All around the room Kim arranged sculptures from Vandy’s collection. It is a pleasure in itself to see the variety in these pieces that Vanderbilt cannot display normally. The emphasis is heaviest on Asian, European, and Pre-Columbian pieces that vary in styles, materials, and time periods. There are distinct groupings, like one case that includes 4 versions of Christ on the Cross and is flanked by larger pieces showing a pieta and Christ after the descent from the Cross. The crucifix images are grouped with figures from other cultures, like a series of Pre-Columbian Mexican figures that are stylized almost to the extent of Cycladic figures. They face another case that includes mostly vessels, and another wall is lined by 7 Asian figures – Buddha, Lakshmi, temple guardians. In the center of the room sits a single pristine Greco-Roman marble head of a girl.

The train tunnel tracking across the floor makes travel an obvious starting point for what you see and hear. The sounds portray an overlaid sense of experience, in which you perceive multiple things happening, sometimes more signals coming in, sometimes fewer. The uncertain pacing of sound events, and their clear, discrete timbral character encourages attentiveness. As you spend time listening to it, you start to hear other things, like the hum of building systems, and run into small difficulties like figuring out if the distant sound of someone whistling is on the recording or in a room elsewhere in the building. The more you tune in, the more potential for disorientation, like looking at a mirror too long.

The sculptures from the collection and their arrangement are clearly integral to the work. Kim acts as a traveler within this collection, appropriating images and making up her own associations and organization of them. She pulls together things that are far apart in time and space but within her consciousness, or the viewer’s, they become associated. Members of a Christian congregation may see Christ on the Cross as a very specific theological signifier, possessed of power and truth above all others, even as a rallying point. In Kim’s eyes it is a representation of the human figure in a certain posture, possessed of emotional content similar to or disparate from other human figures.

A traveler doesn’t make of an experience what the locals do, and often receives things out of order. That’s pretty much what happens with the sculptures in this show.

Beyond the references to travel and the experience of places through motion, there is also a ceremonial quality to the space. The placement and abstractness of sounds promote a meditative frame of mind. The first image you see is a bronze incense holder from Thailand adorned with four seated buddhas, the sort of thing you would use in a ceremony or private. The ceremonialism of the exhibit is subtle and even haphazard, but in this it ends up more like something that could inform one’s experience of daily life.

This show is only up for the next 7 days, but worth a trip – if for no other reason than the chance to see these prizes from the Vandy collection, although the installation has plenty of merit.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Peter Eisenman at Vanderbilt Tomorrow

Architect Eisenman is giving a lecture tomorrow afternoon (Friday, 9/23) at 4:00 in the ballroom of the Student Life Center. He counts as a really major figure in the culture today. A building like the Wexner Center in Columbus (which is undergoing some repairs: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/18/arts/design/18pogr.html) represents the really disruptive potential of post-modern architecture, before it got taken over as a matter of decorative motifs in corporate architecture. The Wexner stimulates your mind just being there and is fun to walk through. But what pushes Eisenman to another plane is his Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, finished this year (http://www.war-memorial.net/mem_det.asp?ID=104, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/germans/memorial/ ). It starts off with huge significance just being what it is where it is, but the descriptions of it (I have not been to Berlin) all sound like he has created a powerful space that does important work in capturing and preserving the moral and spiritual dimensions of the Holocaust for Europe, the West, and humanity. His talk at Vandy is titled “Architecture Matters,” and he has a pretty indisputable claim to authority on that topic.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Jiha Moon

Usually when I’m in DC and have time to look at art, I head downtown to the big museums. I keep going back to the galleries in the old building of the National Gallery because you never know when you’ll get your next chance to stand in front of a Titian, Van Eyck, Vermeer, Rembrandt, Giotto. When you live outside the kind of place that has such paintings on hand, you are aware of what privilege is involved. And the great wealth behind it.

This Saturday in DC I finally got to the gallery district on 14th Street. I actually started out in Bethesda, at a little gallery where my mother is involved, Creative Partners. They were showing the winners of an annual prize competition in Bethesda, the Trawick Prize. The show had a surprisingly “downtown” look, and it turned out half of them are showing simultaneously in the downtown galleries. No doubt it has to do with the choice of jurors, who included the director of one of those galleries. It was a bit cozy, but seeing the same people in multiple related venues gave a sense of a coherent scene.

The prize winner in Bethesda was a woman named Jiha Moon who draws/paints in a style that includes part Korean ink paintings, Renaissance etchings, pop culture flatness, and rich color abstraction. She also has a show running at the Curator’s Office on 14th Street.

http://www.curatorsoffice.com/gallery/moon/pr_moon.htm

http://registry.whitecolumns.org/view_artist.php?artist=187

Many of the pictures are built on a base of forms within a narrow color range of sepia or blue, sometimes the color of mimeograph paper. Within and on top of this ground she inserts elements in other colors of ink, or patterns in acrylic that pop off the surface. Some of the work is done on silk, and some pieces on a multicolored traditional Korean ceremonial cloth. Like Degas, she plays hard and soft, organic and geometric against each other. On the White Columns site there’s a reproduction of one of the works in the Bethesda exhibit, Lucky Red Cedar, and you see among the loosely sketched clouds and trees limbs a series of straight, fine, hard edge lines. Within the billowing, atmospheric forms there are passages of fine point draftsmanship. All in all, the pictures are lovely and complex.

It was easy to get the sense that Jiha Moon is on the verge of emerging in some way. Two shows, whispering about a curator from the Hirshhorn looking into acquiring a piece for the museum, a couple of articles in the post. Then again, it may just be the fine work of the curator Andrea Pollan, who is representing Moon through the Curator’s Office. Still, this is one of those cases where it will be interesting to see if the artist gets more attention – inclusion in biennials, writeups in the big mags.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Motion in Constrained Space, Pt 2

The bus-based performance was sponsored by the DC Fringe Festival, which is premiering next summer; they scheduled a full day of performances at this festival as an advertisement. Later on Saturday afternoon I caught a couple of more dance performances.

First was the last part of a contact improvisation by Daniel Burkholder and Sharon Mansur, two of the more accomplished dancers in DC. It was a very inventive and funny performance, that included commandeering the event’s sign and balloon from in front of the venue and then kicking it around the room. At one point Mansur sat in an open chair and let Burkholder perform solo, shaking her head in disapproval from time to time. Another bit started when someone walked into the performance and Burkholder started walking behind him, then kept with that same walk and took it out onto the sidewalk. At the end, he inducted another audience member into the show, making her hold his foot and dragging her out of the chair. The humorous stuff came along with extremely fluid duet movement as the two did the problem-solving of contact improvisation where the dancers figure out how to respond to the form of each contact and come up with ways to transform it and move through it into new shapes and positions. Experience shows itself in speed of thought as much as in physical range, although these things are related. Also, the form pushes thought, as there is always the unpredictable element of the contact from another person that gives the dancer something to respond to. In improvisation without a lot of contact, like the bus piece, each dancer seems to figure out what to do next a bit more on their own.

Burkholder and Mansur were followed by material from a piece by Jane Jerardi that she and two other dancers, Brian Buck and Nicholette Routhier (I may not have her name right), are preparing for a full-length performance in October, called “Efficiency.” She is working with the UK electronic musician Scanner, and that sounds great.

This performance (and the duet before it) occurred in a vacant, unfinished storefront in a recently built building. The interior has concrete floors, cinder block walls, high ceilings, and exposed building systems. It also has a bay storefront window, and this area was the focus of the performance. They set some chairs for the audience out on the sidewalk looking in through the window, to sandwich the performance between two halves of audience.

The dancers were dressed in ties and similar blue shirts on black tops, a reference to the workplace. The piece, or at least this improvisation based on some of its material, had several sections with nice cross-combinations of different tempo movement, and references to counting and measurement. Based on the title, I took a lot of it as a reference to the social regulation of time and motion, and its analogies in the techniques and control required for dance and choreography.

Here’s information on the full performance of Jerardi’s piece in October: http://www.wpas.org/performances/event.php?id=150. This page doesn’t mention it, but the evening is going to include a collaboration between Scanner and American sound artist Stephen Vitiello.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Motion in Constrained Space, Pt 1

After a couple of weeks of all work and no play, I had a day in DC today with more than enough to report on. DC’s galleries opened shows last week, and a festival downtown with a bunch of dance improvisation performances.

Ginger Wagg performed a piece, “Spill,” with Jane Jerardi on a city bus, music provided by my friend Jonathan Morris (Jon I’ve performed with a few times, Jane I got a chance to play with once a couple of years ago). The bus was parked and decked out with long cloth made from strips of bright fabric strips and cord knotted together. The cloth poured out of the bus’ doors, and ran up through the open skylight, letting you know that the bus had been appropriated for purposes other than transportation.

The performance eased into gear, with recorded music going well before Jon started playing clarinet, and even then it was small sounds. During this time the audience, or passers-by, negotiated their interaction with the performance: should I get on the bus? Will it be moving? Has the performance started? Setting the performance on a bus takes the audience completely out of familiar patterns for their role – where to sit, what to look for. During this time, even after Jon started playing, people were talking some, one guy even made a cell phone call.

Dancers in DC seem to have a strong interest in setting up performances that upset the relationship between audience and performers. I’ve seen Jerardi working with Daniel Burkholder in an Art-O-Matic performance that kept shifting the audience around, including putting everyone into a small room and sending the dancers in. This performance on the bus continued in this line.

As Wagg and Jerardi got going, the setting provided four kinds of logics to follow: gestures taking off from typical public behaviors on a bus, like looking out the window or peeking at another rider; exploring the specific spatial geometries of the bus and its surroundings; the interaction of the dancers; and work with the primary added props, the three very long strands of knotted fabric.

I found the most engaging parts to be their play with the space. The dancers would crawl and tumble along the floors of the bus, they drooped out of the doors onto the street, or laid down along interior ledges. Wagg put her head into the space between the open door and the windows, and also danced a sort of solo in a space defined by a divider right next to the door. The dancers and Jon moved in and out of the bus, even coming around behind and looking in. For those people sitting in the bus, you became the observed.

The boundaries of the performance space were up for grabs. Wherever the dancers or fabric went became part of the space. At one point Wagg gathered up the fabric, rolled it up and unfurled it out onto the sidewalk outside the bus, maybe 10 feet (one of the things that happens with props like this fabric is a sort of chore-like activity: roll up fabric, lay it out, move it around). She crawled out onto the fabric and lay in the middle of the sidewalk, forcing a pronounced change in the foot traffic outside the bus, or drafting the passers-by into the audience.

The performance extended for almost an hour. I was interested to see how this would play out over such an extended time. It turned out I was the only audience member to sit through the whole thing – the setting encouraged coming and going. The performance felt more like a series of actions, rather than something with a single strong structure or dramatic shape. It was loose, casual, but that seemed right for the day and the overall event. There were not surprisingly spots that dragged until the next action presented itself.

I liked the match of the dancers. Wagg and Jerardi have similar hair color and length, but contrast in body type. Wagg’s body and face are governed by rounder forms, while Jerardi has a more linear build, like the straight line her nose forms to her face. They didn’t interact too much in the performance, again a function of the space which invited each to stake out different sub-sections of the bus.

There were some problems with the sound element. In addition to Jon’s playing, there were three pre-recorded loops: field sounds from transit systems, sounds taken from handling balloons, and dialogue from some movies. The first two worked well, but the last was distracting. It included stuff from National Lampoon’s Vacation, Ghostbusters, and maybe Sleeper which called attention to itself but seemed a lot less interesting than the performance. Jon’s playing on clarinet, conch, and percussion got lost in it at times, and I think it would have worked better just with the more abstract pre-recorded sections.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

My New Orleans post

I can’t see a way to avoid talking about New Orleans. It slips into every conversation unless you make a conscious decision to stay away from it. The sense of loss spreads like flood waters, seeping into more parts of your psyche as the days go by.

Before you say anything, you have acknowledge the dire suffering of the people stuck in the city, overwhelming black and poor, victims of poverty and a passive daily racism that we gloss over with a lack of overt legal segregation and old-style lynchings. The events of this week accuse our society in many ways. One thing that has struck me is how we have structured a society absolutely devoid of mutualness that would lead to the construction of institutions to can serve people. We issue an evacuation warning, but there is never a thought given to providing buses and a place to stay for those who can’t afford it. We just issue the order and then you’re on your own. It never occurs to us in a collective way that we need to have a government to make sure everyone has the chance to evacuate. I don’t think New Orleans is different from any other city or jurisdiction. This week shows the limits of individualism taken as a principle for governing (or not-governing). Personal responsibility is not enough. A good society also needs mutual responsibility.

In light of this suffering, the trauma these people are living through today and the everyday neglect this crisis reveals, reflections on one’s personal loss in the New Orleans disaster are very self-indulgent. Sad to say, given the pain in the world, the very act of writing about art – ever - is self-indulgent. I do it anyway.

There are so many losses realized or feared in this flood, the aesthetic is one dimension. New Orleans has several fine museums, the Odgen Museum, the New Orleans Museum of Art, and Contemporary Arts Center. I had assumed the worst about the collections, that they had been flooded or were going to be covered in mold in abandoned un-air conditioned galleries, but what I’ve been able to glean from the internet is more encouraging. http://www.aam-us.org/aamlatest/news/HurricaneFirstReports.cfm It sounds like the Museum of Art is on a little hill and has a generator and staff; if they can hold out they may be OK. As I recall, the galleries in the Ogden were on the upper floors and from satellite maps I’m not sure the flooding was too bad right where the museum is. I suppose they have a generator and staff on site but who knows. I’ve seen nothing so far on the Contemporary Art Center in the warehouse district.

Even if the buildings and collections are OK for now, these venues are just like the people, you wonder if they will be able to come back after this all gets cleaned up. Assuming it is possible to get the buildings back on line, there’s still the possibility that the economic disruption of this storm could put some of the institutions out of business. Art organizations do not always have the most solid finances.

The bigger issue comes down to whether the city can return to what it was before given the likely economic fallout. One time I walked into a gallery in the French Quarter and saw one of Richard Painter’s burnt wood paintings on the wall. It is always a pleasure to see a familiar artist like that out of the context I associate them with (in this case Zeitgeist gallery). It is hard to imagine that New Orleans surviving, the walkable city made up of all these living entities, galleries, cafes, and shops tucked together. Even if the buildings survive, I would think the businesses that make the city a living place would take a heavy hit from the sustained loss of commerce. It is the organic quality of businesses and people wanting to be together in a city that vitiate it, unlike the core of so many sunbelt cities.

The greatest potential aesthetic loss is the loss of the city itself, both the architecture and the way people lived in that architecture. Maybe the buildings in many parts of town are fine, and where buildings have been compromised they will be reconstructed as they are, like a European city after the war. That seems more likely in the upscale areas, but part of the pleasure of New Orleans are its stretches of neighborhoods built with a distinct vernacular architecture and urban rhythm. It all seems to go together to sustain traditions, like Mardi Gras and brass bands. Hard to see the money going into rebuilding all the neighborhoods as they are. And even if there is a desire to preserve the architecture of the most visible neighborhoods, will the money be available in an economy increasingly stressed from oil prices, competition, polarization of income, etc. If not, the rebuilding could end up with something not too different from any sunbelt city that has suffered the slow ravages of unchecked suburbanization and urban obsolescence. Another possibility I’ve heard is that redevelopment will be move forward in the most tourist-friendly way possible, resulting in a theme park. Times Square. The best defense against that will be the will of New Orleansites to get back to their city.

Right now the overwhelming sense my wife and I have is that the city just can’t get back to what it was, and that was something to which we both had become very attached. I hope we are wrong.