post by Rachel Pastan
Last week I wrote about ICA‘s summer shows closing; this week we’re more focused on opening the new, a shift that seemed to happen early Tuesday afternoon. On Tuesday morning, when I poked my head into the downstairs gallery, all I could see were sealed up crates and a push broom leaning up against the wall. When I stopped by later, though, Paul and Robert were in there untaping boxes. The first material for Blowing on a Hairy Shoulder / Grief Hunters had arrived.
“Look at this,” Robert said. He held up a baseball cap with a slogan reading, “I wish I could afford a Borsalino like my son in Kollel.” The hat, along with the other things in the boxes, is for a scatter piece by Eli Petel, a Tel Aviv artist who works in video and installation. I don’t know what a Borsalino is—a car? A stereo? A fancy golf club? And where is Kollel? The joke seems to be that the words are in English but we English speakers can’t parse them, we can only try to glork the meaning from context.
Other items emerge: Mendelssohn LPs, an expired passport, an old coin, a hand broom you might use to sweep a hearth. What can we guess about Eli Petel (or the persona he’s constructed) from this assortment? Is he nostalgic for the past, or does he maybe want to sweep it away?
And what is a Borsalino? I ask Jenna if she knows.
“Maybe people who hang out at the Bourse in Old City?” she suggests.
Out in the lobby, Paul and Jacob are wheeling carts with boxes holding the work Alex Da Corte made for a show that just closed in the Project Space. Alex was in yesterday to de-install it, after which (I’m told) everyone was covered with baby powder. Before I can find out why, Eliza comes down the stairs with news of some problem with the carpet that’s being installed in the auditorium. Robert goes off to investigate.
Yes, ICA’s auditorium is getting a makeover! Earlier this summer, Thom painted its walls a lovely gray. Next time you come for a program, we should have new, more comfortable chairs as well. I could write a whole blog post, actually, about the Quest for the Perfect Chair. Or possibly a novella.
Upstairs again, I ask William what he thinks about the Borsalino. “A plumbing thing,” he guesses. “Or something you wear around your neck. Or maybe a hat.” He’s in the conference room, where the programming people are getting ready for their weekly meeting. On the agenda: revamping our Guide by Cell. Call me biased, but ICA does a wicked job with this bit of auditory interpretation. Still, it’s on the table for an upgrade. They talk logistics: different platforms for recording the speakers, the best time to get people to sit down and tape a segment. Robert, finished with the carpet crisis, asks, “Do we think we should choose the show that’s hardest to understand to focus on for Guide by Cell?” Which fall show would that be, anyway? It’s not as easy a question to answer as you might think.
Snacks are always an important topic at programming meetings. At this one we discuss what to serve at the reception for graduate students we’re hosting in a couple of weeks, and where to serve it. Wine or beer? (Wine.) Auditorium or terrace? (Auditorium first for a quick slide presentation, then up onto the terrace for snacks.)
“I was thinking about a DiBruno’s mediterranean tray,” Jenna says.
“Is that the one with candied pecans?” William says.
“Tell the story about when you had that allergic reaction to nitrates,” Kate says.
“The next agenda item is front desk coverage,” Alex says.
I ask Alex if she knows what a Borsalino is.
“A kind a cheese?”
Back downstairs, the Eli Petel unpacking is going well.
Grace carefully records each item: every coin, every stick, every scrap of paper. My eye snags on that hat again, and I go back upstairs to Google it.
A hat! A Borasalino is a special, name-brand hat, like a Stetson. An Italian company, Borsalino is known for its fedoras made of felt made from Belgian rabbit fur. So, Petel’s hat is self-referential, like the T-shirt that tells everyone that all you got was this lousy T-shirt.
And Kollel? That one you’re going to have to look up for yourself. Or maybe come by ICA and ask William.
“I told you a Borsalino was a hat,” William says.
What can I say? William is always right.
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