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Gr8 Art! And Some Gr8 Parallels - Blather. Rants. Repeat.
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Gr8 Art! And Some Gr8 Parallels

Last night, I got through the ninth of the first-season Sense8 episodes.  It was perhaps the first one without the extreme violence that marked its predecessors, so I felt comfortable sharing some of it with Eleanor, who hasn't the stomach for such stuff.  There's a lot of introspection going on in just about every interaction- among the cluster members and between them and others, sensate and otherwise.  In one scene, though, they bring up a historical event from the worlds of art and supposed philanthropy.  You can view it with this clicky (the link is cued to the scene in question) if you don't mind the crap on the screen trying to steer you to probably a porn or malware site.

In short: the Mexican-based sensate Lito is talking- with SF-based Nomi and in flashback with his then-BF- about an artist named Diego Rivera, who was commissioned by John D. Rockefeller in the early 1930s to paint a mural for Rockefeller Center.  It was apparently too worker-friendly for JD's pals at the Club, so he asked him to change it- which Rivera did, putting Vladimir Lenin right into it. That led to Rockefeller having it destroyed.  (NPR's confirmation of the story can be read here.)

While this is a fascinating tale in and of itself, I found it even more telling in that the next generation of Rockefellers produced the same artistic homicide a generation later.  Once again, I tripped over this story which I'd never heard before back last April, when my Opening Day visit to Flushing, Queens took me on a detour onto the 1964-65 Worlds Fair grounds and my feet across this odd medallion on the path:



I wasn't aware of Warhol's connection to that Fair or its builder. When I got home, I quickly learned. The parallel is striking and a little chilling, as this 50th anniversary retrospective of it explains:

Though Andy Warhol was an outsized public figure, he created just one piece of public art. Chances are, you’ve never heard of it.

Fifty years ago this month, for a little over 48 hours, that Warhol mural—called “13 Most Wanted Men”—hung on the side of the Philip Johnson-designed New York State Pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair in Queens, New York. Its subject—agreed upon by the Fair committee a year in advance of its creation—was a series of enlarged mug shots of the New York City Police Department’s most wanted criminals of 1962, arranged in a checkerboard on the building’s concrete wall.

Yet when the faces of those alleged murderers and thieves, with their swollen eyes and shifty expressions, were no longer an idea but a 20-foot-tall mural on the side of a promotional building, New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, readying the launch of a presidential campaign and in no need of bad publicity, swiftly demanded they be whitewashed—or, in this case, silver-washed with the metallic paint Warhol favored.

Powerful billionaires exercising censoring authority over free expression.  Good thing THAT could never happen again in this Great America of ours, right?

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By the time I finished Episode 9, I was finally somewhat more sensate myself about another parallel which I'd totally missed up until then: the striking similarity of the arcs of this show and Orphan Black.

Granted, they tell the story differently- the Wachowskis and JMS with multiple actors in multiple venues- but the story is largely the same: Very different personalities, from all over the world, born on the same day and made self-aware all around the same time. They learn of each other, how to communicate with and bond with each other, and, little by little, of the backstory of how they came to be.  What nails it in episode 9, after initial confirmation of the concept in the previous one, is, well, we're getting spoilery here....



....is that the guy we first thought was just the Bad Guy Singular (played by Terrence Mann and in reviews referred to as "Whispers") is actually part of an Evil Conspiracy Organ-eye-zation much like Neolution-slash-Dyad-slash-Topside, with Whispers now having a medical title and the forces of law and corporate power behind him.  (Even stranger, for us locally, is that their name for this International Organisation of Evil is called the Biologic Preservation Organization, or BPO.  As that's the name of our local symphony orchestra, I'm going to have to check out Kleinhans Music Hall for evidence of lobotomy tools in the rehearsal room.)

Keeping in mind how Dr. Leekie wound up, I wouldn't mind seeing Whispers meeting a similar end. After all, Whisper Drive is the brand name of our own garage door opener;)

Both explore everything from science to sexuality in breakthrough ways.  And having such different and talented actors do it in one show, versus one utterly amazing actress doing it in the other, just points out how true the bonds are between these kindred spirits, no matter who portrays them.

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