Art, Urban livingMark Rudio


Art, Urban livingMark Rudio
After having a pretty tasty lunch at Farm:Table the Femme Fatale and I went to view the recently opened exhibit at SFMOMA called Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance, and the Camera Since 1870.

To say this is a subject which interests me tremendously would be understating the fact. Living in a small, crowded city, you have two choices as I see it: you can ignore the fact that people are watching you and choose not to acknowledge them, pretending you actually have some anonymity here (which you don't), or you can watch them and understand you too, are being watched by others. This requires tacit acceptance that there is little in the City which goes unnoticed by someone. It's creepy, but it's also a tether to reality, and perhaps a community.

Harry Callahan, Atlanta, 1984

I live in a twenty-story building which is across the street from my previous apartment. I could sit in the living room of my old place and see into about twenty of the apartments in this building. I'd guess there are about 55 apartments in this building that can easily observe what happens in my former place if the curtains aren't drawn. For the record, I live in the rear of the building and can't see into my old apartment, which I think would be very, very interesting.

One day a few months after I moved here I was explaining where I used to live to a neighbor in the building, whose apartment faces my old one. As I was telling him about my former apartment he asked some questions, and suddenly a look of embarrassment came over his face and he got very quiet. I could tell he had seen something happen in my old place. This was all the more awkward because he knew an ex-girlfriend of mine professionally, who I was dating when I lived there. The conversation quickly ended, and I no longer point out my old apartment to my neighbors, though it's now been more than three years since I moved.

I used to date a woman who lived in an apartment building similar in size to this one, but over in Pacific Heights. I often found myself seated at her window watching people as I waited for her to get ready. On more than one occasion I noticed a striking woman enter the building across the street. Lights would then come on in a flat but there was never anything to see- just the woman entering or leaving the building. I asked the one I was dating if she knew anything about the one across the street- going so far as to point her out one night. She replied she'd noticed her too, really liked her clothes, seemed a bit mysterious in an Avengers-era Diana Rigg-way, but other than that she knew nothing.

Garry Winogrand, New York, 1969
A year later I placed a personal ad in the SF Weekly. It received only one response, which really didn't surprise me so much as disappoint me. We soon made a blind date for a drink at Enrico's. Two weeks later I was amazed to find myself in the flat of the woman I used to watch come and go from an apartment across the street. From her flat we would sit in the window and spend entire evenings entertained by goings-on of her neighbors across the street. The woman from whose apartment I used to watch the woman I was now dating dated had moved by this time. I could tell because I could easily see into that apartment. I swear this is a true story and I have some others in a similar vein I could relate as well.

But enough about me- this was supposed to be about the exhibit at the MOMA. Well, it's quite good and covers a lot of ground, ranging from surveillance tapes of numerous types, including Andy Warhol's Blowjob playing high in a corner (you have to look in a place you wouldn't normally look to see it- in other words, non-voyeurs may miss it altogether), vintage nudes, upskirts, paparazzi, news photos- there is really quite an array to see and much of it disturbing to view- there are a number of very grisly photos. It will be on the 4th floor of the museum through April 17, 2001.

Sadly, the museum won't let you takes pictures inside the exhibit. Something about this greatly offends me.  It's an excellent exhibit. Don't miss the Cartier-Bresson exhibit one floor below, which makes a perfect compliment.