Today, we visited the Fundacio Miro (www.bcn.fjmiro.es), which is
deceptively close to our hotel. I say deceptively, because, while it was
the shortest walk we’ve taken so far on this trip, it’s
straight up hill from here. We made the mistake of this being the first
morning that we’ve skipped breakfast, which made it extra
frustrating. I can feel myself getting older. I can’t remember a time
five years ago when I lamented not having eaten breakfast.

I really enjoy museums that are dedicated to a single artist. We saw works
spanning from when Miro was eight years old to around the time he died.
I’m far from what you would call an art enthusiast, and I’m
horribly ignorant by most counts, but a format like this allows me to walk
through and observe—in a very obvious way—how the artist
changed over time.

This is the second such museum I’ve visited—the first being the
Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam (www.vangoghmuseum.nl). We made a
failed attempt to see the Edvard Munch Museum (www.museumsnett.no/munchmuseet)
in Oslo, but after a long (and also fully uphill) walk, it was closed.
Disappointing, but not nearly as much as our post-5-mile-walk view of the
Brandenburg Gate (www.dailysoft.com/east-berlin/mitte/bgate.htm),
covered for construction and featuring a cartoonish, life sized
picture of the monument.

Something I noticed as a potential pattern today is that many of the great
20th century artists started off in realism and ended in the Avant Garde.
This doesn’t apply to just painting, but also to music and writing
(at least). A notable musical example is Albert Ayler (www.ayler.supanet.com), bebop-esque
saxophonist who ended his career playing purely emotional, energized music
rendered in a loose framework more reminiscent of the world’s
national anthems than jazz standards, or Arnold Schoenberg, the founder of
atonal music in the Western classical tradition. As I walked through the
Miro museum, I thought a lot about why this happens. And—a longer
topic I won’t get into—how this might apply to computer
programming, if you buy into the idea that programming is an art form. More
on this later…

Something that specifically caught my attention about Miro is that, as a
lover of poetry, he wanted to find a way to express poetry through visual
art. He was quoted (though I’m not sure of the exact quote nor the
source since I read it in the museum) as saying that he both blurred the
distinction between art and poetry and appreciated poetry in terms of its
potential visual representations. I would normally dismiss this kind of
talk as the pretentious ramblings of a self-obssessed "Artiste",
but Miro actually took some apparent steps to realize his desire to merge
poetry and art. Over time (crystalizing in the early
1930’s—which seems to be my favorite period of his work) he
developed an iconographic vocabulary or "visual language" which
formed the basis of most of his work for the rest of his life. With this
"language", he developed visual "poems" that presumably
had some meaning beyond the abstract shapes, colors, and textures that we
laypeople see when we look at them. I searched the museum book shop for a
"Miro Visual Phrasebook" but didn’t find one (though we
did find some placemats with pictures and their associated meanings
in French). It’s possible (though beside the point, really) that
I’m making more of this than Miro did, but the idea of a visual (or
audial, for that matter) meta-language for embedding meaning in art has a
definite appeal to the musician/computer-geek/wannabe-linguist in me.

As a composer (of music), I was always annoyed by conversations that
started with: "What are you trying to say with this
piece?" Nothing. I’m not trying to say anything.
It’s music, I thought. In fact, I was particularily impressed
today by the fact that many of Miro’s paintings are titled
"Painting". In the same vein, my last piece of music was called
"Quartet". But, with Miro’s meta-language, maybe his
paintings really are "saying something" in the literal
sense. Why not? The challenge of marrying the encoded meaning and the
aesthetic and more fuzzy aspects of the piece would be especially
interesting. Maybe this is what David Morgan-Mar had in mind when he
created the Piet Programming Language (www.dangermouse.net/esoteric/piet.html),
in which programs are "written" as digital abstract art.

As an aside, there was one painting in the entire exhibit that drew my
attention more than any other. I saw it from across the room and had to
wait behind a crowd of people who were chatting before getting a close
look. I was a bit surprised when Kelly read the title to me:

Man and Woman in Front of a Pile of Excrement

Wouldn’t ya know I would pick a picture of excrement to be interested
in.

Perhaps tomorrow we’ll tour the Picasso museum.