#83: Dean Kissick (Spike Art Magazine)
Dean Kissick on The Food of New World Mall, Penelope Fitzgerald's The Blue Flower, The Most Magical View of the Most Beautiful City, and more.
Cool people like cool things, which is why we asked cool person Dean Kissick to come on Perfectly Imperfect & redistribute his good taste.
Dean Kissick is an art writer and the New York Editor for Spike Art Magazine, where his column, The Downward Spiral, comes out on the second Wednesday of each month. For the last five years his column has the covered the topics of our times, such as NFTs, Montez Press Radio, the memeification of reality and politics, ornithology, and how the Summer of Love brought us to this current moment. Whether it’s his Spike column, social media presence, or various podcasts appearances, he always has something interesting to say about art, culture, and the internet. Dean also has great taste and lucky for us, he's here to talk about what he’s been into.
Without further ado
New World Mall is amazing. Particularly the food court in the basement, with its 26 or so regional Chinese and East Asian food stalls. The best dish I’ve had here is Chong Qing Xiao Mian’s (look for stall 19) braised rib noodle soup with peanuts. It lights a gemlike vermilion flame inside you. Mala red and torn-coriander green. It makes your whole body tingle.
On your way home from New Earth, pick up a brown sugar pearl milk from Tiger Sugar’s stand by the subway. Tiger Sugar represents the bleeding edge of third-wave Taiwanese boba shops. They claim to have invented pearl milk: delicious, painterly cups of warm tapioca pearls, caramelized syrup and sweet cream. So much sugar it gives you a real body high, it spins you out.
The most magical view of the most beautiful city, for me, is the quiet overlook from the top of Parc de Belleville, below the painted and mosaiced arches. Few things are better than waking up on a clear summer’s day, picking up a coffee and a pain au chocolat, or an éclair, or Paris-Brest, from one of the neighborhood patisseries high up on Rue de Belleville, and strolling along Rue Piat until, by the Belvédère, the whole of Paris and the day opens shimmering up under you. There are guys selling weed, half-naked people sunning by the fountains. It’s a good place to have breakfast. Or, for lunch, a carrot salad from the Franprix, or at night some vin rouge.
A new version of an old song; an old song, “L’Amour Toujours” by Gigi D’Agostino, made slower and more lethargic by a teenage Lithuanian DJ. A song about dreams, about the things you’ve been waiting for, coming down to you, but only in your mind. A tale as old as time!
In London in the Noughties I never went to Italo disco clubs. But my buddy Joel, a fantastic furniture designer, did. He told me the first time he went, as a teenager, he was standing in line outside, hoping to get in, and an elegant lady stepped out of the club wearing a silk gown, smoking, walking a ferret on a leash. That’s how he knew he was in the right place.
D’Agostino wears a lot of hats. Often he dresses like a pilot. He’s been a mega Italo disco star since the Eighties, his music gives the feeling of driving around Tuscany at sunset in a sports car. His “Bitter Sweet Symphony” is sublime. The sound of Italy and England in perfect romantic harmony; Byron swimming to Shelley across the Bay of Poets.
Nestled in the heart of old Padua, a short train ride from Venice, the Cappella degli Scrovegni is a “thin place”, a place where our world grows closer to others; so close we can feel them, might reach out and touch them. Thin places are good, like blue flowers.
The chapel’s an unprepossessing medieval stone building of modest size. Before you go inside, you have to wait for 15 minutes while your body humidity is lowered. It’s important that you reserve a ticket in advance because they’re always sold out. Though when I visited I didn’t know this, and was able to sneak up to the chapel doors through the Augustinian monastery, where the guard kindly took pity on me. Inside is the most beautiful room in the cosmos. If you go now, right now, this summer, only ten visitors are allowed in at a time. You’ll never have such an opportunity again.
Painted by Giotto, the great Pre-Renaissance painter, maybe the greatest artist, its frescoes tell the story of Christ’s life, and of his mother Mary’s life, her role in our salvation. In this room you’re floating with the angels. You’re caught between worlds, out of time. The ceiling is blue and full of stars.
🎨 The Blue Flower I yearn for
The Blue Flower, a short perfect novel by Penelope Fitzgerald, was published in London in 1995 when she was 78 years old. It’s a dramatization of Friedrich von Hardenberg’s years as a struggling writer and student, from 1790 to 1797, before he made a name for himself as romantic symbolist poet Novalis, and tells the story of his infatuation with the very ordinary, childish 12-year-old Sophie von Kühn. He meets her when he’s 22 and falls in mystical love at first sight with her. Like many powerful novels, it’s a book of longing. What von Hardenberg really longs for however isn’t Sophie, but the “blue flower” he’s writing about. Some lines from the story he reads aloud:
“I have no craving to be rich, but I long to see the blue flower. It lies incessantly at my heart, and I can imagine and think about nothing else. Never did I feel like this before. It is as if until now I had been dreaming, or as if sleep had carried me into another world.”
The blue flower is what he’s been searching for his entire life but cannot find, will never find.
What it represents is not explained. It might be understood as a perfect moment of transcendental joy; or the Great Beauty, or the writing that gives meaning to life, the hope, which destroys us, the trembling, skipping longing for the infinite. The flower is different for all of us. The blue has never been seen. We could do with more vaulting romanticism I feel.
“The universe, after all,” thinks Friedrich, “is within us.”
Check out his column on Spike Art Magazine
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