24 February 2007

Review: Armory Show

Had a great time at the Armory Show; highly recommended for those on or near NYC before it closes Monday evening. People consider it an overwhelming amount of art to see but for me (who once did 18 museums on the 5-day Paris pass) it is just almost enough, acting overwhelmed is just silly; next year I want to get an earlier jump on things and see one of the other fairs the same day. After the first 100 galleries a brief visual fatigue sets in followed by a state of hypnosis which I find conducive to optimal reception. Plus the international fashion show of it all.. here what crowds there are, which seem to disperse somewhat during the dinner hour, are not such a detriment, and some of the cell conversations are downright hilarious in an unintentional way.

Perhaps the most powerful canvas was Daniel Richter’s The Owner’s Historic Lesson (Zwirner), which shows the back of a diabolical-seeming figure in shadow with a gallery of hooded death masks in the audience, bringing to mind works by Ensor, Picabia, and others. The coloration and composition pulls off this concept, the red and white background features the black figure in the center, as the viewer sees the scene from the perspective of the black figure.

Sean Kelly had wonderful new paintings by Ilya Kabakov – villages on mountaintops with upside-down villages meeting them from the top of the canvases - what seemed a Utopian Magritte vision. Another highlight from an old favorite was Marcel Broodthaers’ 1960s canvas replicating the page layout of Mallarmé’s Un coup de Dés (the first edition of which can be seen at the Rutgers New Brunswick, NJ’s Zimmerli) with straight lines (Crousel, Paris).

Audi was one of the corporate sponsors, and several jokes (cries) were made at the expense of Mercedes: Dongwook Lee’s new sculptures that portrayed the medallion with a plastic female nude as the interior three-pointed star, and elsewhere a 1974 Piero Golia that linked the medallions together to make a ritualistic necklace. Along with Dongwook Lee in Arario’s (Beijing) impressive lineup was Wang Guangyi’s ‘Great Criticism - Art Museum No’ which utilizes socialist realism for the broad strokes of a manifesto.

It’s not an Armory Show unless viewers are shocked, and though many tried, including a bloody, sensual Paul McCarthy photographic sequence, or a neon ‘Shit’ that greeted visitors through the turnstiles, I did see shocked people regarding Tracey Emin’s neon construction consisting solely of an oval containing the words ‘People like you need to fuck people like me.’ What I liked about it is its relation to the commercial tradition of neon - if you are not being shameless, why use neon? Another propagandist work I was sold on was Erwin Worm’s canvas (Krinzinger, Vienna) ‘Support Hegel,’ with minimal figurative illustration.

Also utilizing the commercial tradition was Ulrich Strothjohann’s lit signs that rearranged wordings from their retail beginnings. The Aachen gallery showing him also had wonderful Mexican photos chronicling archeology ancient and modern; doesn’t everyone grow up there wanting to be in the Anthropology Museum, the big show?

The progeny theme continued with Diego Fernandez’s ‘Vulgi Fabulae (Rise of the Giant Witch Craze)’ which stuck Marilyn Monroe’s partially obscured head with what looked like a piece of prefab insulation on top of it, above a vintage volume of ‘Catholic Viewpoint on Overpopulation’ by Anthony Zimmerman SOD with a base of cutouts of various Hollywood stars among which only Salma Hayek was recognizable to me.

I give the folks at Enrique Guerrero, Mexico DF credit for downing robust amounts of tequila during the proceedings, bringing back fond memories from my thirsty days down there when produce merchants would ply me with free shots while I was sorting through corn and avocados. Their offerings did not disappoint; Enrique Jozin’s ‘Practica (Fifty 12-oz. cartridges)' was wooden figurative constructions with bullet holes, and Pablo Helguera chipped in with thought-provoking photo diaries and collages that sorted out globalization.

Politics was present but tended to not focus itself directly on current goings on: one worthy attention-getter was Thomas Hirshhorn’s large, grotesque installation ‘Outgrowth - Family,’ which represented without subtlety the word out there. Martha Rosler’s mid-80s multimedia ‘If it's too bad to be true, it could be DISINFORMATION’ (pictured) focused on media distortions in reportage of the Contra War. Lara Almarcegui (Pepe Cobo, Madrid) centers her compositions amid the overdevelopment of São Paolo, in on canvas cataloging the building materials used, in photographs showing the vain battle of flora to remain glorious. Another vision of an urban future is the cartoon-like canvas Rickshawpolis from a gallery in India.

Comic Strip, 1968

Unreal city, scooters hydroplaning on ant clusters, the undead razing their unworld. Objects in Id’s mirror may be closer to Le Pen than they appear. The master trades classical distance for caricature, only those parts of the third dimension capable of freedom. Pop goes Greenberg’s resistance to kitsch, giant green jolly goes Pop. I, Tiresias, old man in an Isis costume, saw the first six episodes of Captain Pugwash, gathered the rest. Who’s laughing now, a part united of press syndicate, all the way to the comic bank. It’s love flies like a bird, it’s death flies like a plane.

21 February 2007

Flamenco, 1995

We don’t line up for Il Confomista for the soft colors of Paris but for the hard lines of EUR, the state’s shilling also building Storaro’s Forbidden City. Architecture feeding on alienation as its sponsors tend to do. Here everyone passes through longing for a village but finds a Malevich. But it’s self the light favors, the essence that remains, becoming what we know when blinded by beacons.

Stroszek, 1977

The pathos here is cheap, the pathos is for the people. Loplop stuffed inside an Allegory of Music, nothing declared at customs. The rabbit as king of the fire that is never consumed. Follow the sunset West and it never leaves you, your proverbial kicks means the proverb never has to end. The social contract has won, the camera won’t smoke it out of its cave. I know why they hawk omniscience. Ski lifts are cyclical, time is home.

Band of Outsiders, 1964

I’d like to see a basketball game in a room of ancient sculptures, with an audience of prisoners. Replicas will do for starters, perhaps thereafter: the real ones would sound an apocalyptic note, a ritual of expenditure, Delacroix’s Death of Sardanapalus. I saw a kid prancing through a museum somewhat recently, with the requisite reproach from Mom: here the Band storms the palace, taking their own sarcophagus by force while the Horatii look on helplessly, a tomb where they’ll never belong.

Pierrot Lunaire, 'Mondestrunken'

Dance: Rudolph Nureyev; Choreography: Glen Tetley; Music: Arnold Schoenberg; Translation of Giraud Into German: Otto Erich Hertleben

‘...into the waves flows a flood of Spring, the silent horizon. The eye tastes countless desires as they swim against the flood. The wine which with the eyes we drink, spilling night into the waves. The poet, devoted, fills with potion, mind of sky...’ - Albert Giraud, 1884

Sunlight, carne vale

Melting snow makes separate offerings to different senses, ‘la boue est faite de nos pleurs.’ The birds have returned. I have no previous memory of being healthy in the cold weather: last year it was a minor but persistent fever, the year before a hernia I mistook for something more threatening, the year before I crossed into Presidio, TX just in time to see the pretty girls in the supermarkets with ashes on their foreheads. My emotions are free from memory, inventions!

Off the ballot

Dream last night: I had to write a press release that an actress/model that was constantly gone on hard drugs was going to forgo a run for the school board. I think she was not running, though it’s possible that she was entering the race; it’s a good thing I don’t have to actually write the press release.

Anna Nicole-related: probably, though I don’t turn on the tube someone related the hullabaloo to me last week and I descended into a dozen or more news stories. You can invent scenarios that are more descriptive of these United States, even less extreme, more revelatory ones, it’s just hard, as it’s supposed to be.

19 February 2007

Tales of summer

Though none of these would be among my top two dozen favorite movies, I have been watching Éric Rohmer films set in summer resort areas to take my mind off the weather, a pastime I recommend because, among other reasons, no cinematographer photographs summer better than Néstor Almendros, and these are all shot by him unless noted. These don’t include films (like Chloé in the Afternoon) which may take place in the summer, just beach films and, yes, I’m going to rank them now:

1. Claire’s Knee. Respecting and liking the main characters of a Rohmer film is not a necessary requirement for its enjoyment, even though some of his films (like, say, Boyfriends and Girlfriends) cannot overcome the mundane characters that inhabit them. This film revolves around three likable characters, a fourth, Claire, who is more distant, and ancillary characters whose contemptibility is convenient. Much is gained from the presence of the writer Aurora whose conversations with the male protagonist about the minutia of his caprices are essential to the end product. You can’t ask for a more pleasant visual evocation of summer than this photography of the Alpine Annecy lake region. The DVD includes a wonderful 1999 short film by writer-director-actress Edwidge Shakti called The Curve, filmed with Rohmer's supervision.

2. Pauline at the Beach. As Rohmer’s films attempt to accurately depict the romantic behavior of different regions of France, one expects a different result in this, a film about vacationers from Paris to a nearby coast (St-Malo - Granville region, with some exterior footage of Mont-St-Michel) than, say, Clermont-Ferrand (where My Night at Maud’s takes place including extended church footage). Rohmer himself is from Alsace (real name Scherer), but I don’t think he sets a film in Alsace, though I would like to see one.

Just saw this.. Didn’t remember much from previous viewings but this is an absolutely fascinating film. Like Rohmer’s best films, every character is essential to the dramatic tension of the film. 15-year-old Pauline stays with the older Marion, who snubs the romantic Pierre for the deceitful, mediocre Henri, who in turn mentors the young Sylvain, who had been flirting with Pauline. Spoiler alert: All the characters come off as contemptible except Pierre, who, since he’s the romantic protagonist, we expect to see win his sentimental payoff or at least follow him into dejection. Instead he disappears from the film completely in the last act and we are left with only the characters connected by a web of deception, followed by an epilogue which is likewise guided more by Rohmer’s perceptions of human behavior than sentimental cinematic conventions.

A Summer’s Tale. This is a very enjoyable film full of likable characters and some delightful sea shanties. It is set in Brittany, which makes for lush scenery and you can guess how the traditional Celtic setting affects the outcome of the film. Amiable musician Gaspard has to choose between three girls, two of whom are quite personable and one which is his snobby would-be girlfriend that has been avoiding him, and his indecision takes up 95% of the film. Shot by Diane Baratier, various scenes on Youtube without subtitles.

4. Summer (also The Green Ray). This film follows a sulking young vegetarian woman who feels (with justification) above other people that has no plans for her summer vacation, no boyfriend, and no one to travel with. The Aristotelian crisis is that she doesn’t have a plan for having fun. As you would expect this makes for fine cinema, starting in Paris and moving to the Alps and Biarritz. Shot by Sophie Maitigneux, co-written by the lead actress, with a lot of improvisation.

5. La Collectionneuse. In The Five Obstructions, a favorite of mine, Jørgen Leth describes this as his favorite Rohmer film while hiring its star, Patrick Bauchau, for his short film with no obstructions which he sets initially in Bauchau’s native Belgium. La Collectionneuse is Bauchau’s first break in what became a long film career. Claire’s Knee is his best performance from what I’ve seen, but here the film is set around a tension between Bauchau, the host of a St. Tropez villa and ‘The Collector,’ a female guest who beds a parade of guys he doesn’t like, a tension that doesn’t become all too dramatic for my tastes.

17 February 2007

What would you do without you?

15 February 2007

Clever parables

This evening I was putting together a long post on Zamyatin, and I never got the Wyndham Lewis book out to get the quote right. It’s the first ‘item’ on the Code of the Herdsman: “Never maltreat your own intelligence with parables. It is a method of herd-hypnotism.” Close enough.

The second item in the Code is about cleverness. Even though I had no idea where the idea for that ‘whose clever’ post came from at the time, I’m sure now it did come from faint memories of the passage “Do not admit cleverness, in any form, into your life.” You can write a three volume book going through all these statements and analyzing them.

I don’t agree with much of the Code, and the idea of a Code does sound scary coming from him, but it is full of his ability to cut through the BS and make you really think.

13 February 2007

Killer application

On Line: giving the rhetoric somewhere else to go... til it’s all gone.. Single file.. No stopping til it’s gone...came, saw, emptied...

12 February 2007

Shanna's Dusie trio

Am enjoying Shanna Compton’s wonderful poems in Dusie, which retain what’s striking about Down Spooky while rapidly developing new possibilities. ‘A Novel’ looked at first Stein-influenced exercise, but I am struck by how it proceeds initially as a chronicle of unrelated personas, and then proceeds to suggest very fragile hints of interrelationships between the sentences/ images presented. Wherever it comes from, it seems to resound with Imagism/Vorticism in how items are simply presented, with some Tropism in the estrangement of the component parts.

‘Bloody Intellect’ continues more in the vein of the ‘inside/ outside’ socio-themes of Down Spooky, with the oxymoronic title commenting abruptly on the character study of the poem, beginning with the question, ‘What’s intellect go to do..’ into the critique of getaway into concept. ‘We’re loving it’ captions her travel photos as a personal take on the old song of sense and landscape, the sort of subject matter and received syntax (thank you.., our official position..) that frames and amplifies what’s new to do here.

A joy to read these free, fun poems on a blah, Wintery Monday.. :)

11 February 2007

Poem comprised entirely of Three Stooges titles

he cooked his goose
Africa screams
so you won’t t-t-t-talk
hold that lion!

where’s the matador
malice in the palace
the choke’s on you

hand of death
hold that ghost

art trouble
pop goes the easel
it ain’t hay

10 February 2007

Electric ascension


I'll collect my thoughts until Ron posts something in a few days.

The elephant hand

I was trying to make sense of the second paragraph of Ryan’s post where discussion of individualism segways into crevaces and pillars, and it made me think of the Hindu elephants. This is a watercolor I’ve seen in Philly throughout my life, of a Rajasthani ‘composite elephant’ comprised of different animals. The one pictured is from the British library:

Elephants are pillars in Hindu sculpture as the guardian deities facing the eight compass directions are mounted on them. Thus there is no difference between a particle and a pillar.

Hindu myths say elephants were formed of water, and the elephant hand of Shiva, the one that points down at the highest foot, is the one that says that the elephant always steps into new terrain first, that the ego is a blip on the radar, but the self which is part of the whole of the universe is eternal.

09 February 2007

Lately (1) cabin fever trumps avoiding the cold and (2) there’s a lot of cool stuff going on, so I’ve been out a lot. Initially the cold nights gave me a headache, but my head is getting used to things and I know not to wear a baseball cap instead of a beanie. Tonight rocked: two free shows of poetry and music back to back, Flarf and three sets of jazz from the Ars Nova Workshop.

On the way to the Flarf show what sounded like gunshots went off at the hour of six, and I thought perchance it was Flarf-related and/or Chris Daniels was being set up as the patsy. When I got there I was glad everyone was okay. Ran a tad late and I expected standing room only for this verse-u-tainment event where I’d be staring at the monitor or the fireplace in the living room. No, ample empty seats. A cold night, but when they get tenure their audiences will increase threefold as will their backlash, a cadre of two dozen anonymous gradschool detractors with lame-sounding internet handles.

Had fun, laughed and guffawed a lot and got to see Gary, Sharon, Nada, and hear Mike Magee for the first time. & Rod’s one of my half dozen favorite living poets, for those who want me to make more declarative crit comments on this supposed poetry blog. The biggest laugh came when Gary said ‘Has Gary Sullivan dragged Charles Bernstein further than Bernstein dragged Charles Olson past the tree where Olson once dragged Ezra Pound? -Ron Silliman’ and I’m sure somewhere between 95% to 100% of the people laughing didn’t know that Ron Silliman actually did say it.

I have only had good things to say about Flarf, and what criticisms I have have been pretty well covered in a post by Gary last June in which he seemed to appropriate the arguments of several detractors he lambasted. You probably won’t see a flame war between the two of us, which would produce enough Hibernian argumentative rage to cause an East Coast blackout. As Ezra Pound once said: 'When you can build your own chair you release yourself from the whole Flarfian cycle.'

After the reading, duty to the Muses required me to rush over to the Rotunda after stuffing my face with a poor imitation of Mexican food. The first act was the Rova Sax Quartet, which I thought was to be the only show, and went on for about 45 minutes. The last number they did, Certain Space, was one of the best live compositions I’ve heard and I will note in this space when it is released on CD unless I am on a Himalayan mountain or thereabouts. They’ll be playing a not-free show Saturday night featuring additional cats including Andrea Parkins whose ‘Slippage’ I listen to repeatedly, which I may attend and will definitely be attended by a certain poetry blogger whose comments field I am known to frequent.

I had no idea that there would be three bands, and after the second I was tired and wanted to go home, and I thought the show was over anyway. After all, who wants to go on after the Rova Quartet? What can you do to top that? Mike Pride’s trio provided that answer, in an unforgettable OOOOMMMMMGGGGG moment for everyone present. I will comment on his From Bacteria to Boys CD, perhaps on this comment field below, when I listen to it, but you can just jump the gun and get it now. I have to note a superhuman alto sax by Darius Jones and inspired bass by Evan Lipson. My night became much less free as I was compelled to stock up on his recorded oeuvre, of which I have decided that I have to listen to the four selected discs for the first time in my car because my home stereo and Walkmen don’t have subwoofers. Luckily, my car stereo is configured (by me, a great way to fend off the temptation to get a new car, & and everyone says it’s the best they’ve heard) to sound like the inside of Art Blakey’s head during the late 50's, so this stuff fits right in.

06 February 2007

New releases

Have been enjoying the YouTube blogging thing because it's all right there, not involving the normal consumerist prompting that accompanies the recommendation of passive entertainments. But there’s six, count ‘em, six Satyajit Ray films coming out today: Mayanagar (The Big City), Charulata, Mahapurush (The Holy Man), Kapurush (The Coward), Nayak (The Hero), and Joi Baba Felunath (The Elephant God).

04 February 2007

Review: Who’s clever ‘07

As you may have guessed, being called clever by me is not a compliment. But part of being clever by my designation means not giving a damn what I think; I make sure of that. I don’t really have anyone particular in mind: What? Why? Last year some crafty people made it in.

Cause & effect

I’m sitting here in a chair now. I suspect if you saw me you’d understand me better than I understand myself, which is why for the moment you’re there and I’m here.

02 February 2007

Review: Music

My interest in Andy Gricevich’s work began with his comments on Silliman’s Blog and then extended to his poems, but I really hadn’t listened to the Prince Myshkins until last Thursday night. As I have lately acquired the taste for post-industrial towns in hilly valleys, I had been meaning to see the Lehigh Valley so I took Thursday off to day-trip there to see them play and hang with Andy and songwriter Rick Burkhardt.

The highlight of the visit was definitely the Myskins show, followed by a quick Sargent study painted for a friend of his at the Allentown Art Museum, early editions of Leaves of Grass at the Lehigh U gallery illustrating how its reception influenced successive cover design and Whitman’s self-image, and H.D.’s grave (like Jesus, she was born in Bethlehem). Gastronomically, the Valley is the Lyon of the Hot Dog, featuring the delicious natural casings of the Yocco's chain centered in Allentown and many unique establishments like Charlie’s Pool Room in Alpha, New Jersey, where two brothers make dogs with an inimitable sauce invented by their Hungarian grandmother in a building that was once the City Hall and whose hospitality and local history lectures enjoyably detained me for an hour and a half.

‘Tis not the time for me to explicate the reasons why I don’t listen to much political folk despite my civic passions, but I find a lot of it to be predictable, too dependent on the bogeymen du jour, and my favorite period of Dylan is right after he went electric, to make a few points briefly. However, the Myshkins two sets blew me away, both musically and lyrically. Rick’s accordian and Andy’s guitar were steeped in years of loving absorption in Kurt Weill’s rhythms, their use of physical comedy was meticulously crafted, and the lyrics were hilarious, insightful, and animated by the enigmas of citizenship and culture in our age of politics and media.

Lisa Jarnot’s evocation of the Fugs as a frame of comparison rings true to me in how they both utilize rapid fire melodies to give your mind plenty to think about and behold. Although they jokingly describe their work as intentionally temporary, each of their two albums is a stimulating capsule of a political era that, like the Fugs first two albums, holds up to extremely frequent listenings: Total Myshkin Awareness, which covers the W. years and Shiny Round Object, which harkens us back to the post-Seattle, post Contract for America era.