The show at Brooklynite Gallery in New York has now closed and I have an apology to make. Not to anybody specific, but to an imaginary idea of ‘American’ that has rattled around my head for years. As an attempt to mitigate my crime I’ll offer an excuse of sorts…
Because of my political beliefs and because of the ubiquity of popular American culture in my quarters of Europe I visited New York with very set prejudices against that country’s people. I was wrong and I apologise for my bigotry.
I enjoyed the hospitality and friendliness that I met from all quarters. The cordiality offered to shoppers, that seems so false when repeated as a set script in the UK branches of American chains, was as honestly meant as the “Bonne journée” I get in every shop in France. The willingness to help a lost tourist in New York is in stark contrast to the willingness to run away from the same in London. And the willingness to talk to a complete stranger over ridiculous reasons of artistic interest are another trait that connects the New Yorker far more to the mainland European than the Brit…
Obviously there was the all-pervasive consumer culture, the excesses of terrorism paranoia, and the tacky tourist kitsch that wound me up… but you can’t tar everything with the same brush can you? Something that had been easily done by myself in the past. I should extend my excuses for the things I hate on this side of the Atlantic to the other. In general people are people and they just want to get on – despite the attempted media programming.
So that apology made, I can only say that when the opportunity arises again to travel to America in general and New York in particular, I will go with less cynicism.
The gallery, in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, was surpassed only by the enthusiasm and support of its directors – Rae and Hope McGrath. I could rattle on about all that they did to make exhibiting as pleasurable and easy as possible but the list would go on for ever. But in my mind, the most important thing that they did, was to take a great deal of time out to take Colleen and I around all the parts of their city that every tourist should see – but most probably doesn’t. They showed us why they loved where they live and it was contagious; so thankyou to Rae and Hope. And thanks to the rest of the New York we briefly saw that made it such a memorable visit.
We will return at the soonest opportunity.