from November 1, 2003
It is with deep regret that I must report that our work on the problem of the shrinking world remains on hold.
Shortly after publishing my last column, I received a collect phone call from one of our interns in Louisiana. Calling from a parish jail in Cajun country, she requested that someone at MJTT come down and “bail us out.” Further probing on my part elicited a garbled story of which I can recall but one phrase, “under the influence,” interspersed by several giggles.
My commitment to the shrinking world project being what it is, I have sent a trusted associate to the detention center to free and chastise our young coworkers and enroll them in a course in the Cajun dialect, pidgin subspecies.
All this is not by way of explaining why there shall be no column this fortnight. Oh no! MJTT is always on the lookout for significant, socially responsible problems on which we can exercise our not-inconsiderable intellects.
We happened across just such a problem in the last edition of this periodical, in the piece by our editor, Arthur Unknown. The avid reader of these pages will recall that in his column, Mr. Unknown recounted his adventures riding about an art museum disguised as an invalid. The premise of his column was that the museum as we know it is an antiquated institution that is, among its other faults, hard on the feet.
MJTT accepts that premise. More, it has resolved to devote considerable thought to righting that and other wrongs by envisioning a new form of art museum.
In the neo-modern museum, the pictures are all spaced the same distance apart, regardless of their size and aesthetic appeal. Ten feet distant from the wall runs a small battery-run railroad track. On the track is placed a continuous set of chairs facing the walls at intervals of, say, fifteen (15) feet. The chairs are of course for the use of the patrons. This train of chairs will not move continuously but will start and stop every fifteen feet, for exactly one minute. Thus the patrons will be allowed to see each exhibit once, after which they will be swiftly moved to the next, so that no exhibit goes unseen by any art lover. Opera glasses are provided to each patron for a small rental fee, this for the purpose of reading the fine print on the wall explaining each exhibit. Alternatively: the patron may purchase a brochure with the same information. A third option. The patron may rent an earphones/recorder combo providing an aural explanation of each exhibit; this will save him/her the trouble of reading. The combo may be rented in four colors (mauve, forest green, gunpowder gray, forest-fire orange) and listened to in any of the six standard voices: soprano, mezzo, alto, tenor, baritone, bass, all recited by a singer who has performed a leading role at the Met a minimum of three times.
The chairs are equipped with a small foldout table for the use of those who wish to have purchased foodstuffs from the museum cafeteria. Indeed, the cafeteria is to be the first stop on the line. Those who prefer not to eat while engaged in art-loving may rent a small TV set providing a full panoply of channels in order to dispose of the time others will be spending in the cafeteria. The set may also be retained, at a modest extra cost, for possible use within the museum proper. This for the convenience of those whose tastes are repelled, for example, by the Late Impressionists or who are incapable of understanding why a large spray-painted canvas or a men’s urinal, however tastefully wrought, would be considered as art.
What about the problem of restrooms? Though the time it takes for the train to traverse the entire museum will be 75 minutes at the most, the Miles Junior Think Tank takes into account the sudden urges to which a substantial majority of flesh is heir. Thus each chair comes equipped with a button that, when depressed, allows the chair and the patron it bears to leave the train and descend into a basement, which is occupied by a variety of restrooms, each festooned with the early works of an up-and-coming artist. There are stalls at the door of each restroom. For a small fee, the patron may convey his/her chair to that stall. And of course the chair is also equipped with a button that, when again depressed, returns the patron to his/her proper position on the train. (The technical details of this arrangement are being outsourced to a group of brilliant but unemployed mechanical engineers.)
At the end of the line stands the art bookstore. It is here that the museum realizes a healthy cash flow. Each of the abovementioned chairs is equipped with a small computer that allows the individual patron to select from a menu of books he/she wishes to purchase; the decisions re purchases are to be made during the general pilgrimage through the museum proper. The problem of overstocked books is obviated by the use of the POD (print-on-demand) technology, which allows the book to be printed immediately after the avid patron has placed an order.
The neo-modern museum is the answer to the prayers not only of the soft-footed, but of those who have learned to live and thrive in contemporary times while maintaining their taste for the exquisite arts.