Ms. Vedral Goes to Washington: Glasses Off, Lights Out, Song 1

Author’s note: I’m about to mix up some metaphors here. In previous posts, I’ve referred to DC as a nerdy guy and also as the girl next door. Since I’m assuming you’re reading this at work because someone posted it as their g-chat status, I’ll refrain from getting into a discussion about the social constructs of gender roles and identity and just say “sorry for any confusion, thanks for reading.”

You know that movie moment, most often captured in high-school films from the 80’s, when the poorly-dressed smart guy finally listens to the advice of his best friend (usually a tomboy who’s waiting for him to realize that love has been standing in front of him all this time) and gets some kind of leather jacket, a set of contacts and a new haircut? And then the girl he likes (usually a super popular, pretty/mean girl who is starting to think that there’s more to life than football and shopping…like books and being nice) finally notices him, only she’s changed a little and he’s changed a little and they find both love and common ground.
Just like the classic film, Grease 2.
For me, Song 1 at the Hirshhorn was that movie moment.
About Song 1:
I don’t know what I could tell you about it that you haven’t read in other blogs, papers, magazines, etc. Doug Aitken’s film is utterly beautiful, projected 360 degrees around the Hirshhorn. It features multiple versions of “I Only Have Eyes for You” while various actors (Tilda Swinton for one) and non-actors lip-sync in a range of scenarios. My favorite was a hipster chick walking down the stairs. Her footsteps and shaking keys comprised the song’s percussion.  There’s no way to see the whole thing from one vantage point, so I guess I need to go back a few more times to see it from different angles. Sigh.

About the experience:
I went on a Friday night. If Song 1 were being projected off MoMA or the Whitney, there’d be no way that I could find any place to stand and watch for more than four seconds. Because in New York, you can’t just decide to go to a cool exhibit on a Friday night and have a meaningful experience without being joined by a bajillion people who also had the same idea and also want to have a meaningful experience and will push and shove until they do.

For example, this past December, I went to a Christmas tree lighting a few blocks from my apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and there must have been about 3,000 people there with me. You couldn’t see or hear anything if you hadn’t camped out a few hours in advance.

Up until two months ago, I never knew that there was any other way to live.

So, as I stepped out of the Metro I could hear the song faintly playing from all around the Mall. As I walked closer, the music grew louder and clearer.  Everything was still, except for the song. There was even a “Moonstruck” moon out (or Cosmo’s moon). The night was clear and beautiful.

And there was hardly anyone in sight (Mom, if you’re reading this stop freaking out. It was all totally safe). No pushing. No shoving.

I met up with my friend, who is also from New York and has been much more skeptical about DC’s potential for cool than I have been. Yet as we watched, both dressed in our New York black and gray, the moon and the stars and the quiet all conspired to saturate us with the city.

Oh, DC.

Not many New Yorkers will say this (and I expect to get some hate and consternation from my city friends who read this post), but DC, I’m sorry for comparing you to New York. I don’t need another New York–I have one of those and I always will. But my neurotic, stressed-out, over-achieving soul needs a DC. I need a laid back, nerdy, fun-loving city that doesn’t make me thank it for the privilege of living there. I’m sure one day I’ll come back and I’ll appreciate the craziness and the competition and the stress of my hometown. But right now…dare I say it? I love DC.
That night at the Hirshhorn,  DC showed up, in his leather jacket, contacts and new haircut, only he’d been great all along. I just couldn’t see it until then.

Written by Juliet Vedral.  Follow her on Twitter.


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