Vibskov And Franco Spark An Existential Crisis For Ana Finel Honigman

“Lately, I have been musing a lot about correlations between youth and maturity. I started teaching again this week and my new, strikingly polished students are largely disdainful of the James Franco show at Peres Projects’ Berlin galleries. In Franco’s first solo European show, he presents four years’ worth of sculptures, photographs, clutter-art installations and student-style films, to which my students delivered sensible and worldly critiques. In contrast, I giddily appreciate how perfectly Franco’s “The Dangerous Book Four Boys” demonstrates the delicate imbalance between age, accomplishment and wisdom. My students ruminated on whether Franco’s work represents a total absence of values in the art world. But I think that his art is authentically interesting because it can stimulate a real discussion, in the classroom but hopefully anywhere, about the nature of learning. I interpret Franco’s show as a puckish play on our culture’s educational goals, with the Montessori method validating experimentation over instruction and every child being treated like a little star.

I brought my best friend, David Nicholson, to the opening. The centerpiece of the show in the Kreuzberg gallery is a wood house with three sides of the interior serving as screens for a film of the same house burning. I teased David that it’s called “The Burning House of Intellect.” A few months ago, David inadvertently lent me Jacques Barzun’s searingly insightful critique of education, “The House of Intellect.” Although it was written in 1959, Barzun’s overview of indulgent teachers, lax standards, floppy objectives and fear of authority actually makes me blush. My immediate embarrassment arises because David embodies the antithesis of these problems and I’m not sure whether that is despite, or because, he left school. But I also am just beginning my second semester as a teacher and I’m really concerned about how to correct my bad classroom habits while staying true to my personality and ideas. For example: I really do think that Franco’s installation is a warm and illuminating demonstration of these issues.

But I also obsessed with this topic because I just had a fling with a remarkable young man whose genuine emotional maturity highlights the limitations of my own precocious youth. I’ve always suspected that the real problem with growing up fast is you often never truly mature.

While my boy/friend was quick to admit his naïveté, he is also level-headed and keen to preserve his innocence. At his age, I was already jaded, brassy, spoiled and overly proud of my sophistication. Yet I haven’t really retained enough of the references that I flaunted then and I definitely still lack the gift of genuine emotional sensitivity demonstrated by my new friend. I figured that we’d have a fluffy and fun little affair and I kept toying around with him, sometimes bullyingly and usually brattily, whereas he is admirably self-aware enough to know he needs something more serious. I could probably learn a lot from him.

Plus, he was sitting next to me at the Henrik Vibskov during Copenhagen Fashion Week. Vibskov’s brilliantly bizarre show climaxed in a perfect metaphor for my impression of my friend. Vibskov’s collection was a composed of his signature diaphanous layers of vibrant prints. The male and female models wore intricately crafted jewelers’ glasses and fez-shaped hats. Their garments ranged from billowing grey and yellow dresses gathered at the waist with loose belts, long-Johns with Aztec-prints, thick wool coats and leggings with beautifully matched contrasting blocks of color. The show’s location was an empty warehouse and the models walked around a long red and grey table with matching chairs and puffy pods made from parachute material. Two men with full ginger beards and identical red thermal suits joined the models down the catwalk towards the show’s end, while the models themselves took their seats holding a plate with red ice and a hair-dryer in each in their hands. The two helpers then opened each pod and removed a pretty, flourishing, green house-plant.

Somehow, the scene resonated with me since my new friend was seated beside me on his first week of fashion shows and his first major trip abroad with a random lover. It felt at that moment as though he was emerging from his cocoon as a very healthy and vibrant young person.” Ana Finel

Hendrik Vibskov is exclusive to 4.

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