Friday, February 14, 2020

The Best Art I Saw This Week Was a GIF

It has been a hard week for my heart, not the medical one, the other one. I will leave it at that. A GIF is most effective when sent quickly as a reply, as if it were a card already in your hand, ready to throw down. I Googled “faceplant GIF” or “face-down GIF” on my phone, on my lunch break, to express to a friend in one little moving image how I was feeling, or more likely to avoid expressing seriously how I was feeling.

I found this stunning GIF of Superman. He is lying facedown by a pastoral wall, his body motionless, a detail emphasized by his cape blowing in the wind. I admit I was feeling raw anyway but when I saw it my heart (maybe the medical one) contracted. And it issued an electric impulse to my brain that became this thought: our love relationships serve the purpose of keeping our heart aware of itself.

Our other profound relationships, our friends, family, mentors, these relationships usually do not force us to feel the (not medical) heart in the same way our love relationships do, like a sickness even. In love, in the beginning or end or in times our love relationships struggle, the heart makes us aware of itself, a raw and frantic muscle. Falling in love, our heart feels lung-sized, swollen, electrified, pumped with endorphins and speed. In times of hurt, it feels like it took a major league pitch, stunning and bruising, concussing it. When it refuses to feel, it feels calcified, a small, cold stone. This GIF pressed on the bruised, fist-sized (not medical) muscle of my own heart saying “yes, it hurts right here.” I looked at the GIF all day.

The background in the GIF, which I assume was taken from an older–maybe water colored episode of Superman?–shows detail and distance. Beyond the dirt road, the wall, the row of trees, a ploughed field, there is a tree line. This is our world. I do not think of Superman cartoons as having particularly developed backgrounds, but the trees are so verdant and there is real air and atmosphere. I am drawn into that distance but here is Superman in his distinctive, primary colored costume, his muscles super-developed, and he has been knocked down. It could have been Kryptonite but it could have been something else, something more human. Anyway, he is hurt. Superman is hurt. 

If art is a designation, not market-made or requiring a special stamp, but determined by the way something lands in one's sensibility, this is the best art I have seen this week or month or maybe ever. I can’t stop looking at it even though it hurts.

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