Leonard Cohen: A Crack in Everything
“Leonard Cohen: A Crack in Everything” is a multimedia exhibit originally mounted at the Musée d’art contemporarie de Montréal (MAC) in November 2017. Currently at the Jewish Museum in New York, it remains there until September 8, 2019 when it will continue its worldwide tour, with upcoming stops at Copenhagen and San Francisco. Don’t miss it!
The exhibit is a feather in the cap of the ‘influencers’ at the museum who made the decision to bring it to New York—one of those rare moments when museum directors step away from the ordinary to give you the extraordinary.
What’s it All About?
The installation consists of commissioned works by international artists paying tribute to Cohen’s music, poetry and lyrics. Most outstanding is “Passing Through” by Kara Blake, a dazzling 360-degree video production featuring clips from 50 years of Cohen’s performances on stage. If you’ve never seen him in concert, now’s the time. And should you arrive early, you might snag one of those beanbag-chairs up close to the screen, a down-home way to enjoy a world-class concert. If not, there are benches and, understandably, plenty of standees.
The exhibition, spread over two floors, likewise includes an intriguing audio installation where visitors can hum “Hallelujah,” into microphones and be connected with others humming the same tune around the world. It was surprising to see how many voices (345) were humming along with me, and I with them. At eleven o’clock in the morning. Take a seat on a doughnut-shaped platform, pick up a hanging microphone, and start humming.
The curators, John Zeppetelli and Victor Schiffman, are delighted with its premier in New York, as it was here in the ‘60s that Leonard Cohen, a young songwriter, met Lou Reed and Bob Dylan. And it was here, too, at the Hotel Chelsea on West 23rd Street that Cohen met and had an affair with Janis Joplin who, when he saw her in the lobby and asked if she was waiting for someone, replied: “Yes, I’m waiting for Kris Kristofferson.” To which Cohen replied: “Little Lady, this is your lucky night.”
After her death, Cohen wrote “Hotel Chelsea” as an elegy for Joplin, and to hear him—head slightly bowed, hands cradling the microphone as you might a child’s face—talk about her, it’s as if you’re in the lobby of the Hotel Chelsea talking with him, one-on-one.
For more than six decades, Leonard Cohen (1934-2016) reminded us of what it meant to be human, to love and to lose with “Bird on a Wire,” “Suzanne,” “I’m Your Man,” and “Hallelujah,” which became a pop music standard. And then there’s “Marianne,” honoring the young Norwegian woman—blonde, beautiful and affectionate—who for nearly a decade in the 60s was his muse and girlfriend. Until she left him. Three years ago, shortly before her death, Cohen found out about her condition and wrote:
"Well, Marianne, it’s come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon. Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine. And you know that I’ve always loved you for your beauty and your wisdom, but I don’t need to say anything more about that because you know all about that. But now, I just want to wish you a very good journey. Goodbye old friend. Endless love, see you.”
Marianne Jensen (later Ihlen) died 29 July 2016 and, true to his premonition, Leonard Cohen followed her on 7 November 2016. I hope she was waiting for him.
Until his death in 2016 at age 82, Cohen was actively touring and recording, musing on life and love and all its complications—delivered in that distinctive Jimmy Durante gravelly voice of his, his way of talk-singing to the rest of us. In that way, he modeled authenticity and allowed us to see his woundedness.
Remembering Leonard Cohen
Never having seen him in person, I walked into the show excited by the prospect of hearing and seeing him in concert and walked out with a tear in my eye. As did everybody. It’s a moving experience—visually, spiritually and sensually. As was Leonard Cohen’s music. Thank you, Leonard for the songs and the willingness to share your vulnerabilities.
If you’d like to hear his tribute to Marianne, “So Long, Marianne”, click here. If an ad pops up, click on it and you will be able to ‘skip ad’ in five seconds. The brief wait is well worth it.
As for seeing “Leonard Cohen: A Crack in Everything,” best to purchase tickets over the web in advance: www.jewishmuseum.org. And should you need reinforcements after the performance, the fabled Russ & Daughters has an uptown outpost at the museum.
So, that’s all from your trusty correspondent for this week. But not before I wish all those great Moms out there a most Happy Mother’s Day. Here’s a bouquet of gorgeous blooms from my house to yours. You deserve it!
Hope to see you soon, mes amis, when I’ll have the coffee ready…à bientôt. Until then, may life be good to you.
Remember, sharing is caring..Merci beaucoup.