Nevermind laughter; hypnotism is contagious.
The last time I caught myself really struck by another museum-goer was a few months ago, at the MET in New York. There was someone in standing so still in front of Giovanni Battista Tiepolo’s The Triumph of Marius that I myself was stuck in a competing stupor.
Her motionless concentration was as beautiful as the museum’s own four-corned majesty. Her name was Amanda and she was at the museum doing research for her latest novel.
Months had passed and echoes from our random encounter remained as vivid as ever. To quench our curiosity, we decided to track Amanda down, ask her a few questions about who she really is, in order to trade in our ephemeral hypnosis for a more permanent attraction.
BATM: Tell us who you are and what keeps you busy when you’re not at the museum?
Hello, my name is Amanda Marie Burmaster. I’m usually occupied writing. I also move around too much and there’s an obtuse amount of cleaning that comes from frequently changing residences. So, I’m usually vacuuming, packing, reading anything and everything, writing and getting fired from jobs. I get fired often. Mama says it’s nothing to be proud of.
Why do you like museums?
When you’re at a museum no one can fire you. Nobody fires visitors.
It’s safe to assume that you didn’t expect to have your photo taken that day at the museum. Do you find museums to be unexpected places?
I don’t expect much. Sure, I talk to strangers all the time. It’s not creepy or anything. In fact, before you approached me, I had an interaction with an elderly gentleman and his wife. He was going on and on saying, “Tie my shoe!” No one was helping him and he got louder. He was really making a big stink about it and either his wife was deaf, didn’t want to bend down, or was feigning deafness, as to not hear him bitch like that, but regardless, it was apparent that his wife wasn’t going to tie his shoe. So, I obliged and bent down to tie his shoe.
Strangers are friends in disguise.
True. So me asking to take your photo, was that strange for you?
I thought you were going to ask me to tie your shoe! It was a Friday night, I remember. I was probably thinking something like, Christ. Am I gonna stand here in front of The Triumph of Marius, tying shoes all night? What a zany Friday night this is.
So why the MET on a Friday night?
O because it’s so impervious and bombastic. It’s got such rich history with its hotshot lineup of fine art. You bet it’s high quality. The MET can afford its rent on the Upper East Side every month without worry. It doesn’t get hungry or caught out in the rain. Tourists go there, shuffle about, and pay close attention to what’s inside the frame. If they get hungry, they can pay an arm and a leg and get a sandwich in the café. There’s even interactive maps and guided tours now, where you can put earphones on and have an automated voice tell you what each painting means or something, so your mind won’t be addled with heuristics or using your imagination.
So I take it you love to hate the MET?
When I think of friends that are artists, who are poor, have no real program, no guided tours or heuristics, can’t afford their rent, and are usually degraded by the anxiety of this, or if you just think about poor people, I think the MET is an awful silly place. Philanthropists will pay big bucks to preserve history-whatever that is- and at the same time, give the living, breathing bum a ½ rotten sandwich.
The MET must be a silly place, but I suppose that no one sees it that way. It’s sad and absurd if you think about it too long. Although, I think it’s swell that the MET is basically free admissions unlike the Guggenheim or MoMA.
Is this why you made the MET the setting for your novel?
So, the MET is a dissolute and absurd setting for a work of fiction, which in my opinion, is really marvelous for a story.
What’s a typical museum visit like when you’re doing research for your novel?
Beats me, I just sort of follow my nose. Everyday there’s a new calling. You just have to show up. Then who knows, you could be tying shoes all damned night. You never know. At least I don’t.
What would a night at the museum be like for you?
We could have a massive séance at midnight, conjuring up the Old Masters, kindly asking El Greco if he’ll play patty cake with Rembrandt.
I was particularly drawn to your flowy ensemble. Do you recall what you were wearing?
Hell if I know. I probably had on my usual artillery of bracelets and necklaces. Besides being a bleeding heart, I’m also utilitarian. It’s freezing in the museum. It’s sensible to have a covering of some sort.
What artist or piece of art touches your senses the most?
Besides watching, listening to people and aimlessly walking about…Hmmm. In the MET, I’m fond of Goya’s Manuel Osorio Manrique de Zuniga and Adriaen Isenbrant, Christ Crowned with Thorns (Ecce Home) and the Mourning Virgin. The whole Egyptian wing is terrific.
Otherwise, a few favorites: I like Mike Kelley’s Alma Pater (Wolverine Den) exhibit, he nailed the whole exhibit. Stanley Kubrick’s Space Odyssey. Jodorowsky’s Holy Mountain. Old Price is Right episodes with Rod Roddy as the announcer. I’ve been listening to a lot of African music from the early 1980s. Anything Raymond Pettibon. I think he’s just a dream.
Is there a museum you’d never return to? And which museum haven’t you been to that you’d absolutely love to check out.
Of course not. I guess I should say the Louvre. Until I find that museum where the walls are made of golden stardust and the paintings are granted wishes, where everyone’s a sweepstakes winner and everything is just cherry pie-I’ll settle for the Louvre. It sounds typical and contrived but yeah, the Louvre.
Anything else you’d ilke to add about yourself?
Plugging your product is the standard thing to do here. I’ll follow suit. So, if you’re in publishing and are interested in my work, let me know.
Thanks for your time, Babes at the Museum~