Day: February 6th, 2007

To sleep, perchance to dream

Tuesday, February 6th, 2007 | All Things, Arts, Eats, Film

SN just didn’t trust that the vegetarian ramen broth at Menchanko Tei was entirely pork-free, so we decamped a few doors west to Tang Pavilion, a restaurant I must have walked past dozens of times without ever dining inside even once.

I tend to eat my Chinese meals in Chinatown (Downtown Manhattan or Flushing); the Midtown focus on such niceties as a sommelier and dining room captain don’t particularly enhance a meal for me, and in some ways, almost detract from my enjoyment of the authentic pleasures. Which is certainly not to say that some solid Chinese food can’t be had outside of the ethnic enclaves. I like a pretty room as much as the next person; I suppose I’m usually just more focused on the food than on the decor.

Tang Pavilion’s reviews vary pretty widely, so I was entirely unsurprised by the average-ness of my meal that night. To be fair, I did not order from the recommended Shanghai menu, which features such chef specialties as braised baby eel and drunken chicken. If nothing else, though, the hushed calm of the dining room (free of clanking dishes and shouting waiters) gave us a chance to catch up in relative peace.

After dinner, I was among the few intrepid (read: foolhardy) enough to brave the frigid temperatures to check out multimedial artist Doug Aitkin’s sleepwalkers at the MoMA. The museum partnered with Creative Time, a New York-based public art organization, to commission, curate and present the large-scale installation. From January 16 through February 12, Aitken made a canvas of MoMA’s exterior walls, projecting the interwoven stories of five city dwellers on eight fa├žades, transforming the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden into a vast outdoor multiplex.

Sleepwalkers

Each of the film vignettes follows a single character through one night in New York City, taking viewers to diverse locations throughout the city’s five boroughs, including the abandoned 19th century Atlantic Avenue subway tunnel, the heliport atop the MetLife Building (closed after a fatal 1977 accident back when it was known as the PanAm Building), a postal sorting facility in Queens, an ice skating rink in Staten Island, and behind the neon lights of Times Square. The characters move from the solitude of their personal and professional lives into the chaotic richness of their urban existence: a businessman, a busker, a postal worker, an office worker, and a maintenance man. The New Yorkers are played by Donald Sutherland, Tilda Swinton, Chan Marshall (Cat Power — hurray!), Seu Jorge, and street drummer Ryan Donowho (whom Aitken met in the subway.) The films taken as a whole have the feel of an urban symphony for the digital era, its characters rendered through the cityscape itself, silent but for the real-life soundtrack of the shouts, murmurs, rumbling cars and shuffling feet — and tonight: chattering teeth — of Midtown.

Sleepwalkers

Sleepwalkers

Sleepwalkers

Sleepwalkers

Sleepwalkers

Aitken gives the banal moments a surreal beauty, underscoring the loneliness and forced connectedness of urban life: utter hopelessness and ultimate possibility, ever-reaching connectedness and aching loneliness.

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