Aby Warburg, unconventional and still controversial art historian all these years later, made a trip to the Black Mesa in Arizona in 1896 and encountered the Hopi Indians. An expert on Florentine Renaissance art, he had his aha moment in realizing how similar the highly ritualized Hopi dances were to the elaborate court festivals held in Renaissance Italy, the intermedi. He spent much of his career exploring that essential insight (which was particularly challenging as he struggled with bouts of mental illness.)
Reading Warburg’s response to the Hopi dances brings up thoughts about ritual and pageantry in general. I have very little of it in my life, mostly by design. (I’m an artist who is more comfortable in the hermit’s cave than at a gala.) As close as I usually get is watching the HBO series Treme which has lovingly explored the extraordinarily ritualized and visually spectacular Mardi Gras traditions ranging from the Mardi Gras Indians to the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club to the Cajun Mardi Gras. (Just love that series.)
But there are exceptions to my ritual-free life of course, and this weekend was one of them. Joining the throng of a million or more yellow and black jerseyed fans—wildly cheering the slow moving phalanx of clunky amphibious duck boats festooned with waving young men and spewing confetti with abandon—is a ritual I never miss. Between the Patriots, Celtics, Red Sox and Bruins, Boston has been staging its own version of the highly ritualized intermedi pretty regularly over the last decade. Everyone knows the route, the best places to stand, what to wear, who to watch for, when to squeal. Everyone can come and everyone does. On this particular Saturday in June we did it again for a sport played on ice mostly by Canadians. But they are OUR Canadians, and the 39 year wait for another Bruins victory is finally over.
Now, back to the solitude and quiet of my studio.
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