Saturday, June 18, 2016

A Visit

My cousins Turid (left) and Nils Christian (below) with me and my grandfather's sister Kat at my great-grandfather's summerhouse on Nesodden in 1949, when I was two.
My father’s father arrived in New York to stay in 1904. He’d lived and worked there earlier with his brother Nils, I surmised, reviewing records from Ellis Island. My cousin Astrid once speculated that the death of two siblings and a woman’s rejection sent him abroad for good. I joined his much-delayed return to Norway in 1949, when I was two. (My father was sent to live there for a year when he was eight, which was why he was always so close to the family.)

My great-grandfather, after whom both my grandfather and my father were named, was a publisher and insurance man whose pull-down maps swept northern Europe, lifting him and his family into the prosperous upper-middle class. My grandmother, who my grandfather met in New York, was from Stavanger. A cousin from that side is still alive, my sister told me—the last of my father’s generation. On his father’s side, the death of my cousin Elsie—the matriarch of that part of my family—marked the end. 

The ferry from Oslo to Nesoddtangen.
When I learned that she'd died at the age of 94, I decided to visit Nesodden, a “commune” and peninsula reached by ferry from Oslo, to attend her funeral and see my cousins. 

The house in Nesodden that I've visited episodically since I was six.
I stayed with my cousin Bente and her husband, Helge, who live in the house that Elsie and her husband Øistein built in 1951, using rammed earth—a novel technique at the time. When Bente and Helge took it over, it was in bad repair, and Helge has rebuilt it from stem to stern. It borders a riding academy and the house of another cousin, Margaretha, that takes up what was originally a single piece of land—large enough that there’s no sense that two houses now share it. 

The view from my bedroom around 11 p.m.
Although it wasn’t quite the summer solstice, it was still light at 10:30 p.m., and then light again by 4:00 a.m., I observed, snapped awake by jet lag the first few days. It turned out that I’d arrived on Whitsun, a national holiday that spilled into 17 May, Norway’s national day—a four-day break extended yet another day by Elsie’s rites. So my hosts and I had some time together. 

Drøbak harbor.
We went to Drøbak, a town that borders a narrow part of the Oslofjord where an officer bravely launched a cannon and torpedo attack on an invading German battleship, sinking it and delaying the invasion long enough for King Håkon and his family to flee to Britain. 

The island in the Oslofjord where Bente and Helge keep their sailboat.
We also went to a small island, partly covered with lilacs, where Bente and Helge keep their sailboat. 
The 17 May parade in Nesodden.
On 17 May, we watched the local parade and musical events, joining others from the family at Nesodden at a party in Bente’s garden. I met Bente’s daughter Henriette and her family first while they all marched together in the parade, but before that I'd waved to her from the woods near her house.

My great-grandfather's summerhouse.
The summerhouse in the 1890s, at the time of my great-grandparents' silver wedding anniversary.
The day before, Helge and I went for a walk with their dog. I mentioned the summerhouse of my great-grandfather and Helge first took me along the road to see it and then later into the woods to find the still-extant allée of linden trees that leads up to it from the back. I have childhood memories of this house, where members of my grandfather’s generation still summered when I was two and six. I must have cut through the woods to get there then, since it’s the shortest way from Bente and Helge’s house. Emerging from the allée, I saw Bente's daughter talking with a neighbor. Her house, built a few years ago, is on land that once belonged to my great-grandfather. Helge explained that all of it was originally owned by the church, and that the area is the oldest settled part of Nesodden.

The allée of linden trees leading to it.
Elsie’s funeral was on 18 May, at the Nesodden Church where the dead of this part of the family are buried. In the course of her long life, Elsie lost three sons and a grandson. Bente lost her husband Erik, the second of the sons to die, and their son Stian, whose death in a car crash after a year spent in America eerily repeated that of Nils Christian, the oldest son. Nils Christian spent his year in America with my family. He died in the same month as President Kennedy—10 November 1963. He still sometimes appears in my dreams, always 17 years old. The second son, Margaretha’s husband Georg, died when he was 50 of the same heart ailment that killed his younger brother. Only the youngest son, Sigurd, lives on. (He kindly showed me the 1890s summerhouse photo above.) This complicated and sad story culminates in one small area of the church’s cemetery where they're all buried. The infant daughter of Georg’s son Espen is buried nearby, and Elsie will join her and them.

At Elsie's funeral service.
I used to stay with Elsie and Øistein when they still lived in their house. During one visit, I woke up in the middle of the night with a clear sense that their dead son Erik had been with me, leaving a message for his father. The next morning, I told Øistein about it and gave him the message. He told me I was the third person to report such an encounter, and that the message—about Erik’s daughter—coincided with what he himself was thinking. Later, I walked over the cemetery to look at the graves and realized that I'd acquired a temporary clairvoyance from the encounter. In this state, I saw that Nils Christian was off to other things, but that Erik was present because of his daughter. There's something to be said, I felt, for having the dead with us, part of the community.

Some of Elsie's grandchildren and great-grandchildren at the wake.
I couldn’t follow the talks people gave at the funeral and the wake, but the tone of services for the aged dead is similar whereever there’s cultural affinity. The presiding priest, whose brother had a connection to Elsie dating back to World War II, beamed at me: “Ah, the American cousin!” At the wake, a woman came over, saying that she remembered me from a party at my great-grandfather’s summerhouse when I was six. “There were Americans and everyone was speaking English.” Apparently, it made an impression—this was 63 years ago! 

The funeral order of service.
When it came time to take Elsie to the waiting hearse (to be cremated before burial), the women of her grandchildren’s generation carried her coffin. I liked that gesture.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

A Trip East

In late August, I flew to New York to begin a 10-day trip that also took me to New Haven, Philadelphia, and Charlottesville. The occasions for it were my 50th high-school reunion, which I ended up skipping (long story), and a family wedding, which of course I attended. 

In New York, I had dinner with the architect and Columbia Professor Michael Bell, who I know from Berkeley. I also visited the new Whitney with my family friend Christine Van Lenten, and spent a day at the Met, where I had lunch with the curator Philip Hu of the St. Louis Art Museum. The Met had a retrospective of John Singer Sargent (shown above), and a hugely popular fashion exhibit (shown below). Besides all the famous portraits (of Henry James, for example), Sargent's late work, painted outdoors, was the most interesting. The exhibit conveyed the mounting price Sargent paid for being an in-demand portrait painter. The fashion show, parsed out across the Asian galleries, focused on how fashion designers used Asian and Asian-influenced films as inspiration. It was quite spectacular (and crowded, as it was the last weekend).

Thanks to my brother-in-law, Michael Opalak (shown below), who drove me back and forth to New Haven from Fairfield, I visited the Yale Art Center, with its small but quite good, studiously representative collection. Returning to Manhattan, I had dinner with the writer Cathy Lang Ho, the publicist Monica Schaffer, and Monica's husband Kevin at Les Enfants de Bohème, the Lower East Side restaurant that Cathy recently opened with her husband, Stefan Jonot. (It's their second in the neighborhood. Google Maps tried to take me to the old one.)

I really like the new Whitney, which seems for once to have been designed for its budget. It takes full advantage of its location, making constant reference to it without distracting from the art. The collection, which will be rotated through the galleries every three months, has some good things. As MoMA was between exhibits for the most part, I was glad to see it. The Whitney compensated for the Guggenheim, a disappointment this time despite an exhibit of new work by Doris Salcedo, and also for the Neue, which was between exhibits. I just missed the new Picasso sculpture show at MoMA. (Several friends subsequently extolled Salcedo, who won an important sculpture prize after I visited the Guggenheim. It's possible that I missed the details that one person noted as an aspect of her work, a case of failing to see the trees for the woods.)

In Philadelphia, I saw an Impressionist show and most of the rest of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, always worth a visit. I also saw the new Barnes (above), a very dialed-down, beautifully crafted building housing Barnes's personal collection, the placement of which is frozen in time. (He apparently altered it constantly.) The comparison I ended up making was to the Phillips Collection in Washington, DC. I think Duncan Phillips had the better eye, but Barnes did well in many respects, and his museum has some real surprises, like Van Gogh's postman. I didn't know it was there. Thanks to a friend, Vanessa Lew, who now lives in the city, I had dinner at two excellent local restaurants she suggested, Zahav and Vedge. The central core of Philadelphia is relatively compact, so I was able to walk from my hotel near Rittenhouse Square to one place or another.

Then I took a train down to Charlottesville, where my wife had rented two big houses - one for the senior members of the family and the other for the kids. The senior house (above), backed up against a hillside pasture, was a pleasure to stay in. Even the books on its shelves were well-chosen. After a week spent mostly in hotels, it was a relief to be back in a house.

The rehearsal dinner was at C&O, a restaurant downtown, while the ceremony was at a farm at the town edge, with a big barn for the reception. The weather cooperated, even turning a bit cooler. This was a big gathering for both families, united in their happiness for the bride, Alison Powers (above, dancing with my grandniece Marguerite), and groom, my third son Ross Parman (with Alison, below, at the rehearsal dinner). 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Some Days in Portugal

Portugal's ancient, place-rooted families, remnants of the aristocracy, were a target of the 1975 revolution, which initially went after the big landowners. The smaller ones escaped. One thinks of an aristocracy as a regressive force, but its innate appreciation for the land and its willingness to keep and cultivate it for the next generation are admirable. The place pictured here, Casa de Sezim, has been in the same family since 1376. The current owner is a worldly, cultured man whose father was a diplomat and whose daughter hopes to become a hotelier. Dependent on tourism and the wine market, he keeps his estate going, employing 14 people to run its different parts. The recession was tough, he said, but things are improving.
He was luckier than a woman we encountered the day before in Lemego, at the top of the Duoro Valley. Her family lost its much larger holding in the 1975 revolution, but she managed to buy it back from Seagram. The main house was in ruins, she said, and she had to restore and refurnish it. Today, it serves mainly as a wedding venue and destination for touring clubs. (A dozen Citroen DS21s were parked outside when we arrived - a club from Porto.)
My favorite of the towns and cities we visited was Coimbra, site of Portugal's oldest university. It remains the most prestigious, we heard later. Its heart, a large plaza defined by the oldest buildings, is nearly at the city's top - only the cathedral is higher up, but without the view. We stayed across the river at a palatial hotel with extensive, walled-in grounds and the best restaurant in town, according to Michelin. 
A close second was Porto, a more compact city than Lisbon, where we also stayed at the city's edge, in a former palace on the Duoro River, and had our best meal. Foz, which means mouth in Portuguese, is a district that borders the Atlantic coast. We rode along it in the cab, headed for one restaurant, but the best one was closer in. Within the core of the city, we found a famous bookstore, housed in a small, white art-nouveau building and organized around a winding stair. Like another bookstore I visited in Lisbon, the focus was on Portugal's voluminous literature, domestic and imported. The book covers alone are worth a careful look. Like Lisbon, too, Porto is a hilly city. We did better in Lisbon at making sense of the transit system, a combination of buses, trams, and a metro. Kathy took a bus from the center to Foz that was a very inexpensive, pleasant way to see the sights in that direction, she said.
We started in Lisbon and ended up there. It's a larger, more sprawling city than Porto, looking out at the large bay or estuary that forms its harbor off the Atlantic. The major buildings are on a grander scale, but the city still has its medieval castle, a staple dating back to the need to protect the city from the Moors. Next visit, we'll give it more time. We stayed at York House, near the antiquities museum overlooking the harbor - a former convent organized around a small, elevated terrace that provides a true respite from the city around it. As Michelin advises, don't sleep in the front rooms, as there's a loud nightclub just down the street. The first night, jet lagged anyway, we hardly slept, despite double-pane windows, until the last revelers drifted away.
Baroque is a theme in Portugal, especially in the churches. Often it's layered onto older buildings, expressing a new-found largesse. It gives the country the appearance of having been developed in spurts, brief moments when the money was flowing and the patrons' pockets were open. There's modern architecture here and there, but it's not abundant and relatively little of it is within the core of Lisbon and Porto. (This isn't true of the smaller cities, whose historic cores are typically much smaller.) It's part of what makes Portugal feel different. Italian cities are laden with history, but they're also inundated with tourism, sometimes seeming like museums. That's not true of Portugal.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Diary: Into Spring

In late autumn, contemplating winter, a heightened sense of the mortality of all living things strikes me. The corollary is also true: the appearance of spring reminds me of life's fecundity. In late March, at a wedding in the country, I heard the bridegroom voice aloud his desire to have children with his bride. These are our animal spirits, shared with our planetary cousins. Among humans, this urging now takes in every pairing - perhaps it always has, whether through "chemistry" or simply the love that extends across the generations. 

In his Thatcher-era political diary, Alan Clark sometimes interrupted his accounts of the goings-on of his fellow ministers to note a recurring desire to "start again," despite his expressed love for his wife. Leaving this in was of a piece with the frankness of the diary as a whole, but it pointed usefully to a propellant of our species that has its own imperatives, detached from reason and often from context. 

Americans are careless about birth control, I read. This is reflected in our rate of teenage pregnancies and a higher birth rate overall. Yes, I thought, that volatile combination of volition and fecundity. As a nation, we make no real provision for our carelessness, disregarding our demographic luck and making the aftermath as hard as possible. The Pro-Life movement is remarkably silent about doing much to help the children whose embryonic lives it sanctifies or the women it presses to carry them to full term. What about their raising?

Pope Francis, imperfect as he is, has proved to be emblematic of what we could think of as the Spirit of Spring, setting the dead quarrels aside to point to the obvious truths about our human condition. As an agrarian cult with a Dionysian god at its center, the Church has a superstitious, crops-may-fail attitude toward fecundity, but its instincts about life's preservation and cultivation - the Good Shepherd aspect of its godhead, reinforced by the mother goddess it worked in, with her own cult of forgiveness and intercession - are sound. Among those leading or proposing to lead us, this Spirit is otherwise absent. We are mostly in the grip of a wintry negligence, justifying its penury by citing its wars, its biases, and its books of accounts. In place of generosity, we get austerity.

Spring invites us to take life up again, not as a struggle, but as a productive outlet for our creative energies, so that we have something to harvest when inevitably the seasons change and life is again hemmed in. When the possibility of renewal that spring promises is cut off, those energies go elsewhere, usually with dire consequences. Here as elsewhere, renewal is too often perverted into fear and retribution, with whole communities tainted or blamed as "other." 

Spring makes me long for this to lift, and for humanity to return to its senses.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Diary: Into Winter

I always forget, heading east in February, how cold it gets. I did a quick inventory in Berkeley, bringing my warmest coat, a cap, scarf, and gloves. In Washington, D.C., where I went first, it was already obvious, walking a few blocks to "the best Indian restaurant on the planet," that I was inadequately equipped, but then it warmed up and I was mostly indoors or shuttled around on a bus. As I was leaving, the temperature rose to 50 degrees.

Surely, I thought, this is also happening in New York City? Somewhere in New Jersey, homing in on Newark, it became clear that I was on the express train into winter, leaving D.C.'s sunnier climes behind. 

Dutiful urban sort that I am, I took the 1 train from Penn Station and made my way to the hotel, a block west of the station at W. 79th Street. Later, I walked north on Broadway to a restaurant on W. 83rd Street, not a great distance, and found I was frozen solid, as the expression has it, and then frozen again on the return trip. The next morning, I could barely stir, but I managed to rouse myself. owing to noontime and afternoon obligations. Luckily, I remembered the hat - a black watch cap, as thin as the wool lining in my stupid coat, but just thick enough to stanch the vast flow of bodily of heat from the top of my head. (The night before, in 10-degree weather, a heat-sensitive photo would have revealed me as something like Vesuvius, floating up Broadway.)

Getting to MoMA involved a six-block walk from the 50th-Street station on Broadway. By then, it was spitting rain in icy pellets - snow, in reality, which lent a Breughel-like atmosphere to MoMA's garden courtyard. 

Once there, I made my way to 6 to see the Late Matisse show again, making two passes through it, as before. There were only two paintings on display that I really loved: a tall blue, green, and yellow nude; and a large painting toward the end, "Memory of Oceania," that inspired a sonnet when I first saw it. This is not to say that everything else isn't splendid, but it's not breathtaking owing to the constant exposure of the work, even on cards and stamps. This isn't Matisse's fault, of course, and MoMA can't really be blamed, either, for cashing in. The visual impression it gave is mostly decorative: if I had a whopping big house on the Riviera, late Matisse would fill the bill.

Some years ago - prior to the Taniguchi expansion - MoMA mounted a huge Matisse retrospective, drawing on its own and other collections. It was a stunner, revealing how great a painter Matisse was. Some of these paintings are on display in the Barr galleries on 5. a collection that recaps the MoMA of my youth, long before Glenn Lowry embarked on his scheme to occupy the entire block. 
Adjacent to "Late Matisse" on 6 was a new exhibit of contemporary art, some of which I liked. On 3, I believe, there was a new show of someone's collection of classical modern photographs - a master class, in essence. As the owner of a recently acquired Leica M-6 film camera, this was timely inspiration. These forays were accomplished before and after a lunch with a friend and colleague at The Modern, the swankiest of MoMA's restaurants. The menu was eclectic, I noted. "It's even odder upstairs," she said. On my own at MoMA, I eat at the café on 5, overlooking the sculpture garden. Compared to it, The Modern is uncrowded and unhurried, the sort of place you could get used to if you had cash to burn and a penthouse nearby. 

In theory, I'm angry with MoMA for destroying the Folk Art Museum - a gratuitous and unnecessary act. In reality, MoMA is MoMA, an unavoidable destination, much though I deplore its real estate ambitions and overall banality. It feels now precisely what certain moguls would aspire to for the cultured masses, a destination in a quasi-commercial sense - crowded with eye candy and onlookers. But for people-watching and social-media snaps, it can't be beat. And then there's the art. Let's face it, this is modernist heaven.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Diary: East Coast 2

The crowd at MoMA's Matisse exhibit.
I spent a weekend in Manhattan in mid-October, making the rounds of museums that - when I visited in early September - were universally between exhibits. My starting point was the Met, to which I went with an economist I met at breakfast on Saturday. We walked across Central Park and then saw the "Assyria to Iberia" exhibit and a smattering of the 19th- and 20th-century French. In between, we visited the roof garden, which I'd never seen. 

A bit of skyline visible from the Met's roof garden.
From there, we went to the Guggenheim. The big exhibit, Zero, documents an art movement of the same name active in France, Germany, and Holland in the first half the 1960s. I didn't remember it, nor did I find the work compelling. In my experience, the Guggenheim is hit or miss. Its permanent collections - early Kandinsky and Impressionist-to-modern European paintings - are always good. 

I went on alone to the Neue to see an exhibit of Schiele portraits. The Neue does a good job of conveying the biography and context, but the show is a mix - some exceptionally good things and the rest. This may be the fate of an artist who dies unexpectedly and relatively young - everything is kept, there's no possibility of the artist looking back. Perhaps to the detriment of both, there's a second Schiele exhibit in London, I read.

On Sunday, I went to MoMA to see the late Matisse show, mobbed, but as a member, I went through twice. The surprise at MoMA was a small exhibit of Dubuffet, an artist my mother liked. I was always skeptical, but these drawings have a lot of power and reveal a side of him I hadn't seen before. 

Dubuffet drawing at MoMA.
Next up was the Frick, to see again a collection that I really like. A sign asking patrons to limit their photography to the garden court brought this issue to mind. Both the Met and MoMA are permissive about photos - you can snap away as long as you're not using a flash, although some exhibits are out of bounds. At the end of my visit to the Frick, I took a photo of the garden outside the entry foyer and was reprimanded by a guard. Why the garden is out of bounds for photography is a mystery.

The Frick garden photo that earned me a reprimand.
Then back to the Met, where I learned on arrival that, as a member, I could preview the remarkable Cubism show, a bequest from Leonard Lauder that moves the Met solidly into MoMA territory. I can't say enough good things about this show, which includes work by Braque, Gris, Leger, and Picasso. It's especially good at showing how Braque and Picasso traded ideas and riffed on  their respective work. Gris was also a revelation. If you're in Manhattan this fall, be sure to see it. Because the work has had much less exposure, it had more impact on me than the late Matisse.

A pair of Greek or Roman eyes, from the Met.

I ended up in the Greek and Roman hall, which probably rivals the Frick these days as my favorite slice of art in New York City. Every walk through, I notice work I'd missed or something new about something seen before. The eyes above feel like the antecedent of a vitrine full of surreal objects seen at MoMA. 

Although I did a lot in two days, I always feel how much more there is. Two artist friends spent a year in Manhattan recently. I'm not sure I'd spend a year, but a longer visit would be desirable, to experience the city in a fuller sense.

Waiting for the downtown 1 at the W. 79th Street Station.

Part of what makes the city desirable is the way everything is connected. I habituate the same hotel - the wonderful Lucerne at W. 79th & Amsterdam - not least because the M79 and the 1 are close by. Armed with a Metrocard (when will there be transit pass that works globally?) it's pretty much a snap, although Sunday was cold enough that I cabbed to the Met from the Frick. (I hate cold weather, and Manhattan has the cab thing down. Uber, to which I'm addicted in SF, feels redundant there.)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Diary: East Coast

The western shore of Long Island Sound at Milford, CT.

I made a short trip east, 4 to 8 September, to attend a birthday dinner for my wife's younger sister. This was at a restaurant, L'Ondine, in the countryside near Danbury, CT. Beforehand, I spent a day in Manhattan, mostly at the Met. As if by common agreement, the city's main museums were rotating their exhibits, so my focus at the Met was on the Greek and Roman Hall and the French Impressionists upstairs. 

A Greek or Roman frieze, seen at the Met.

The Metropolitan is a remarkable museum. I first visited it in grade school, decades ago. Some curatorial hands have been at work, pruning the halls and galleries to clarify rather than overwhelm. Moving through the arc of Greek and Roman art and artifacts, with accompanying maps of those worlds of city-states and territories, some of them clearly uncharted, the proximity collapses time's distance, especially when what's viewed has a modern tone to it - whether of beauty, as above, or of design. 

A glass vessel, Greek or Roman, from the Met.

It's not accurate to style the European painting galleries as Impressionist or even French, but they dominate. The last time I was there, I was stunned by the quantitites of Gaugin, Monet, and Van Gogh lining the walls - too much Monet, I thought, but there are fewer now, laid out on a north-to-south route that starts on at the southwest corner and moves in a crisscross fashion to the opposite (east) side of this set of galleries. This, anyway, was my route, which took me back in time, suggesting that I should have walked the other way. One benefit of reverse chronology is that you see the influences more clearly - and how painters, including Monet and of course Picasso, shifted gears.

Georges Braque at the Met - a painter whose work I much admire.

The weather in Manhattan and vicinity was oppressive on Friday. While staying with friends in Stamford on Saturday, though, a big storm blew through - thunder and rain, repeated over the day and early evening. The birthday girl and her husband were late arriving at the restaurant because of the weather, but it had blown over by the time we all drove back. The storm broke the heat, so the next day - Sunday - was wonderful. We spent it at our friends' beach house at Milford, on Long Island Sound.

The Sound from my friends' beach house.

When I was in college, I sailed with my parents from Galesville, near Annapolis, to Martha's Vineyard on their 30-foot sloop. We went up through the Sound, but my Sunday visit gave me a chance to observe it from one vantage point. At Milford, the tide goes out 100 feet or more, exposing a sand bar. There's an island off of Milford to which one can walk at low tide. Apparently, a few people every summer misjudge the rising tide and drown while trying to get back. There's something peculiarly American, I think, about the fatalism with which this is viewed - the laissez-faire attitude that's been so dented by the fallout of litigation, yet survives here and there, to someone's peril.

Literally since winter turned to spring, I've been wanting to go to a beach, but the moment never materialized. I was properly grateful to find myself on one - mostly sitting with a drink in hand, in keeping with my phlegmatic nature. As the day ended, the huge moon of this brief season rose above the sound, making a trail in the water that grew brighter as the sun set. 

The moon rising over the Sound at Milford.

I spent the last day back in Manhattan, on E. 93rd Street, less than a block from the park. I looked in at the Neue Galerie - only the Klimt room was on view, but I bought a small book by Robert Musil at the bookstore (and earlier found a novella by Stendhal at another bookstore near to where I stayed). The Guggenheim was similarly shut down, the Futurism show on its way out. I saw the Kandinsky room and the permanent collection. 

Graphic by Mel Bochner at the Jewish Museum, Manhattan.

Walking back from the Guggenheim, I stopped in at the Jewish Museum, which I'd never visited. Unfortunately, I missed by a day the just-opened abstract show. The mix of didactic exhibits and others focused on contemporary art reminded me of the Museum of the City of New York, only more vertical and compact. Didactic exhibits tend to lose their spark after one viewing. If these ones are ever redone, the didactic could be smaller and experiential - more easily varied and updated; then the art and artifacts could come forward.