Best Simon Schama Imitation Ever!

Here it is.

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And here’s the real Simon Schama effusing over a gallery room at the Tate Modern devoted to the canvases of Mark Rothko.

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Forgive me for being a Cretan, but I have never entirely “gotten” all the things that people, including Simon Schama, read into Rothko’s canvases.

I do admit they’re haunting, though. But is that because they’re functioning as Rorschach tests, and we’re being primed to see them as allegories for the dark rooms of the soul?

Or, to switch the metaphor, when Schama suggests that such a canvas as the one below mediates “eternity,” is this an emperor actually absent clothes?

File:No 61 Mark Rothko.jpg

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Rotate this Rothko canvas 90 degrees, and I suppose I see a blue version of the monolith in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Therefore, I’ll cue an off-rendition of Thus Spoke Zarathustra (apparently a student orchestra channeling John Cage in Nietzschean struggle with Wagner), and, as the music plays, have another look at the Rothko painting. Feel free to do the same. Maybe we’ll then apprehend, in our deepest selves, what Rothko was trying to do.

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OK. This is getting weird. I looked at the Rothko again and now think I see a representation of the struggle of night, hanging heavy over an ocean, to break into dawn. I’m on the beach. The sand is purple with cold. I think, “Immersed in this present chill, a victory for light is coming soon.” But I don’t want it. I prefer Rothko’s darkness. I recall Camus’s The Stranger. I’m suddenly Meursault; an emotional vampire; a man who will one day murder another man—an Arab man—on a beach under the stark glare of the sun and feel nothing.

Where’s the power in a Rothko canvas? In the canvas, or the imagination?

File:TheStranger BookCover3.jpg

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Image sources: Wikipedia.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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