Monday, February 12, 2007

From: at home she feels like a tourist

Southern Gothic Pyramid

It's something of a civic sport in Memphis to propose new ideas for the Pyramid, that giant empty white elephant that nonetheless occupies an iconic place in our skyline. Memphians debate whether Bass Pro will actually take over the building, and perhaps more importantly, whether Bass Pro actually should take over the building. We ask ourselves whether an aquariam would better serve the space and the city. Some have proposed an indoor amusement park; others prefer a museum; a few have suggested a casino (please, God, no!) Finding the art museums in Memphis rather disappointing, especially in the department of modern art, and being generally a geeky, arty type, I was instantly supportive of the art museum idea - not that there's any chance of this happening, but purely as a fantasy. I imagined an elegant modern art museum in that ancient structure, a clever juxtaposition of old and new, the sort of attraction which would lure an edgier crowd to downtown Memphis.

An iconic building in the Memphis skyline really should be a public space, not a glorified fishing store. Ideally, it should be educational in some manner, a genuine cultural attraction. But perhaps I should be more creative with my thinking. There are modern and contemporary art museums in dozens of cities across America and the world. I would still love to see one in Memphis, but perhaps an iconic Memphis building should house something a little more culturally specific, something which captures the spirit and soul of Memphis. Many Memphis museums, art galleries, and cultural spaces cultivate this city's keen sense of place by chronicling, commemorating, or displaying local culture: the Stax Museum, the Rock n' Soul Museum, the Center for Southern Folklore, etc etc. So in the spirit of absolutely delusional fantasy, I propose the following idea for the Pyramid:


Consider the endless possibilities. A lending library and a bookstore focusing upon literary Southern gothic, featuring Flannery O'Connor and William Faulkner and Cormac McCarthy and all the usual suspects. A visual arts wing, displaying paintings and photography capturing the haunted darkness and the heart of darkness of the American South. A theater for periodic film showings of classics like A Streetcar Named Desire and newer versions of the genre like Undertow. Perhaps a historical wing could examine the ghastly true tales which have inspired the genre. This would make for a fascinating, unique, apropos, and genuinely significant space. I could imagine scholars and aspiring writers and those with vaguely morbid sensibilities descending upon Memphis to visit such a singular attraction. It would fit perfectly into Memphis' own manner of confronting its past: proud of the Southern heritage but also painfully and admirably willing to lay bare the grotesque scars and the ghastliness.

The pyramid would be an ideal space for an exploration of the Southern gothic sensibility. The ancient Egyptians had their own bizarre and often grotesque mythology, and pyramids signify opulence, tombs, and death. What better place to unearth the ghosts of the South and celebrate the region's sublime cultural singularity?

If nothing else, it would surely be a better use of public funds than a new stadium...

posted by fearlessvk

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