Wednesday, December 23

A christmas memory

The brain may take advice, but not the heart, and love having no geography, knows no boundaries: weight and sink it deep, no matter, it will rise and find the surface: and why not? Any love is natural and beautiful that lies within a person’s nature; only hyprocrites would hold a man responsible for what he loves, emotional illiterates and those of righteous envy, who, in their agitated concern, mistake so frequently the arrow pointing to heaven for the one that leads to hell. —Truman Capote

Hear him reading here.

Monday, December 7

The flexible subject

I've been thinking again about the translation of the immaterial gesture as a means of identification, or sometimes as a shortcut of representing a whole of an identity (noting not much difference between the identifying gestures of representations of Catholic saints and the corporate logo as identifying the nature of a brand.) An example of this in the art world is the recent Francis Alÿs piece, Fabiola. Although referencing mechanical reproduction, each piece in the Fabiola project is made by hand (not the artist's, but a variant group of individuals of different skill levels.) "...Alÿs's collection produced copies of copies based on a 19th-century French/British, image/text hybrid, a fictionalization of an early Christian woman from Rome."

Wednesday, November 25

Consciousness of site

"Doug: How film and architecture present experience is somehow connected. You could say that walking inside a building is analogous to watching the first scene of a film — it's the obvious entry point. Then going down a hallway is like the transitional sequence. And then you might go into the first room, and there you maybe have the first encounter with the protagonist, et cetera."

"Greg: Totally. How many doors have you walked through today, literally? It's probably a couple dozen. And how many did you experience in a state of narrative attention? In architecture you have to make people understand that you want to communicate with them on that level. In film, on the other hand, the viewer's response is automatically attentive..."

Thursday, November 12

The emancipated spectator

"Since the advent of German Romanticism, the concept of theater has been associated with the idea of the living community. Theater appeared as a form of the aesthetic constitution of the community: the community as a way of occupying time and space, as a set of living gestures and attitudes, that stands before any kind of political form and institution; community as a performing body instead of an apparatus of forms and rules." -Ranciere

Alexander McQueen: Iconic Moments from Jean Hürxkens on Vimeo.

Thursday, November 5

Atlas sounds

I just read about the Taos Hum this afternoon, which is described by wikipedia as this: "The Hum is a generic name for a series of phenomena involving a persistent and invasive low-frequency humming noise not audible to all people. Hums have been reported in various geographical locations. In some cases a source has been located. A Hum on the Big Island of Hawaii, typically related to volcanic action, is heard in locations dozens of miles apart. The local Hawaiians also say the Hum is most often heard by men. The Hum is most often described as sounding somewhat like a distant idling diesel engine. Typically the Hum is difficult to detect with microphones, and its source and nature are hard to localize." A website dedicated to the Taos Hum includes sound files and maps can be found here.

Friday, October 2

Slowing the doors of perception

On the occasion of his 76th birthday, a reminder of why Phil Niblock should be included in the annals of minimalism. Here is a clip form a performance in 2009. An article from the Village Voice circa 1999 that helps illuminate the uninitiated can be found here.

Tuesday, August 25

Hunter gatherer

A riot of perfumes

In our culture of rational thinking, we tend to trust our sensory experiences more than anything else for how we understand the world around us. For most, the response to tasting a cupcake would be "sweet," to seeing the color of the sky would be "blue." Although we receive sensory information through distinct sensory organs, they become intimately intertwined once they enter the brain. Syn­aes­the­sia is a condition in which senses mingle, causing the synaesthete to taste colors, hear smells, etc. In Huysman's Á Rebours, Des Esseintes "indulges himself by playing a 'mouth organ' on which he can perform 'silent melodies and mute funeral marches' by releasing carefully calibrated amounts of various liqueurs on to his tongue, with 'each and every liqueur ... correspond[ing] in taste with the sound of a particular instrument.'" The painter Wassily Kandinsky believed that his paintings could be aurally as well as visually experienced, and he may not have been wrong.

Some instances extend beyond basic sensory perceptions. "A stu­dy in the Aug. 22 is­sue of the re­search jour­nal Con­scious­ness and Cog­ni­tion, for ex­am­ple, found that some peo­ple link time and space. One de­s­cribed De­cem­ber as a red ar­e­a lo­cat­ed at arm’s length to the left of their bod­y."
Lexical → gustatory synesthesia occurs when a phoneme of a word elicits a taste memory for the synaesthete. They literally taste words. A strange web of interconnectedness between senses and memories, as paths to experiences cross in the mind.

Monday, August 24

A watched clock

“The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once.”

Audible timekeeping was one of the earliest forms of communicating the time over long distances. The first clocks struck the hours, but had no faces from which the time could be read. Audible time signals allow for the communication of the time over great distances, in the dark or other situations of impaired visibility, and for those navigating at sea. A modern example (the hammer strikes the vase on the hour.)

Church bells were used to mark the canonical hours, in order to call the community to prayer.

Time was also marked by the firing of a time cannon or time gun. This still occurs in Edinburgh, Santiago and Capetown. They fire daily, but each at a different time.

This map was used to determine the exact time through location in relation to how fast the sound of the cannon traveled.

Friday, August 7

Incidental catharthsis

I saw this at the New Museum yesterday and was immediately intrigued. LeRoy Stevens visited 70 records stores in New York City to poll the employee's votes for best scream in a rock song. He took the results, edited them to only include the screams and put these together on "LeRoy Stevens: Favourite Record Screams" LP (the A side has the screams edited to be continuous; B side gives the listener a 10-second break between tracks.)

There is something very cathartic about screaming, either doing it or listening to it I guess all fundamental sounds in language, when broken down to sounds and not strung together to form words or sentences, are the purrs, grunts, hums and breaths of the human body. Throwing volume, pitch or any other sound that makes them seem emotive causes a very different, very intuitive response by the listener. Screaming is an ambiguous sound, its meaning derived from the context of the sonic event. The screams on this album range from rock to operatic sources. We know as listeners we are listening to a scream, but even with the context of the song removed we have a reading based on the delivery, style and history of what we recognize in the sound.

I kind of wish Stevens had removed the music and isolated the vocal tracks so that all we were left with was the sound of each yelp, but you can use the link above to listen to his work and make your own decision.

Thursday, August 6

The who and the what

Someone posted this link to Jacques Derrida speaking on the paralells between being and love. Four minutes of your day for a little philosophical meditation....

Tuesday, July 14

Oblique strategy


"In music, the burden is the drone or base in some musical instruments, and the pipe or part that plays it, such as a bagpipe or pedal point in an organ. Hence, the burden of song is that part repeated at the end of each stanza; i.e. the chorus or refrain. The term comes from the French bourdon, a staff or a pipe made in the form of a staff, imitating the gross murmurs of bees or drones."

Friday, July 10

retrorsum volantem

"Today the painter of space must, in fact, go into space to paint, but he must go there without trickery or deception, and not in an airplane, nor by parachute, nor in a rocket: he must go there on his own strength, using an autonomous, individual force; in short, he must be capable of levitation...Let's be honest, in order to paint space, I must put myself on the spot, in space itself."
Overcoming the Problematics of Art, 1959
"'Gravitropism' means growth in response to gravity...Gravity is the weakest known force, but is the most evident in our everyday life."
Against Gravitropism: Art and the Joys of Levitation, 2008

Tuesday, July 7

Search for a white whale

"Neurologist Oliver Sacks posits that human affinity for rhythm is fundamental, so much that a person's sense of rhythm cannot be lost in the way that music and language can (e.g. by stroke). In addition, he states that chimpanzees and other animals show no similar appreciation for rhythm."

A translation in one of the truest forms, as one fan's homage. I stumbled across a site of tablatures of drum tracks today, not a formal set of instructions from an authority but a forum where fans could post their own readings of what someone like John Bonham was playing during his solo for "Moby Dick." The written scores don't follow an exact formula (sometimes all the drums are shown, sometimes not; sometimes each drums part is a separate section of the score, etc.) Each tablature shows a real dedication and care for the original piece, so much so that the fan felt the need to write it out to share it with other fans, to allow them to re-enact the performance that they felt such an affinity to. When translating work, there is usually a concern regarding whether to preserve the spirit of the piece that its native language conveys or whether to take the original verbatim into its next form. That is from language to language. What if the responsibility is to take the piece from experience to text?

ps I read a related (in my mind, at least) piece regarding the translation of the first "psychological" Russian novel here, which does a very nice job indeed in expressing the problems faced by the translator.

pps This transcription of "Whole Lotta Love" shows a dedication the probably required a lot of viewing of "The Song Remains The Same" and "a ton of weed."

Saturday, July 4

Happy fourth


If you consider the likelihood of meeting someone who becomes a close, dear friend, it is something you could never anticipate. When I relocated to California, I had an idea of how my life would be: I would be in a committed relationship and have a job like the one I had in NYC. The reality that unfolded was that I met three unlikely friends that I'll probably be close to forever and I remembered what the direction of my life was going to be. I would never have thought that the outcome would be this. But then again, if you are open to the fact that this can happen, you never know.
This is from a past program, but it seems timely considering how many times I've moved in the past few years and all the people I've met. An episode of This American Life from February 13 that looks at the probability of meeting someone and the unlikely situations that bring people together. The episode looks at the cases of an American who pursues a lost love by singing Chinese Opera, two transgendered 8-year-olds who meet at a conference and a monologue on a boyfriend's girlfriend's boyfriend.

Monday, June 29

67 year-old doughnut

It crosses my mind every time I see it: why is there a giant dooughnut off the 405 freeway?

Programmatic or Mimic architecture was a design movement in the 1920's-1950's influenced by the growing car culture of Southern California and its unofficial title as home of all things cinematic. In an effort to reach an audience on the expanding number of freeways, buildings were designed with or as larger-than-life forms of caricatures, household objects or the food sold. Nicknamed "California Crazy," these buildings included a real estate office that looked like the Sphinx, a restaurant shaped like a hat and a hot dog stand shaped like, well, a giant hot dog. Hence the Randy's Donuts structure. Sadly, development has taken its toll on many of these figures in the landscape, which have now either been demolished or are in storage, whatever that means for a building.

If you'd like to see more, Jim Heinmann has compiled an interesting history of this style in his book California Crazy and Beyond: Roadside Vernacular. Laist also has a really good series of short writings on the history of Los Angeles, including the Ambassador Hotel (where the Cocoanut Grove was located and in whose kitchen Robert Kennedy was shot.)

Saturday, June 27

Once on this island

I visited the Schindler House this afternoon, which is part of the MAK Center for Art and Architecture. With the goal of offering programming that "challenges conventional notions of space," this satellite of the Austrian Museum of Applied Arts/Contemporary Art in Vienna is a unique international experiment.

A little history: Rudolph Schindler was an avant-garde Viennese architect who was deeply inspired by the work of Frank Lloyd Wright and the California landscape. Schindler, his wife Pauline and another couple decided to establish themselves in Los Angeles. The house was designed as "an expression of the independent but common goals of each of the individuals in the house, delineated with materials such as wood, canvas and poured concrete." The house is now used as an exhibition space for programming of the MAK Center, which presents to the public new ways of looking at and thinking about space.

The current exhibition, "The Isle," is an examination the "placelessness" of Kish, an Iranian Island in the Persian Gulf with status as a free trade zone. It is impossible to avoid the discomfiting amateur news footage of Iran right now. As the internet's floodgates open onto cellphone camera images and twitter updates, it is difficult to digest the minute-by-minute information coming from all sides. I feel like I need to immediately play catch-up in what brought us to this moment: the political history that preceded the election, the psychological state of the people at this time, the role that the United States has played and may play as we replay the cold war tensions of the past with Iran, North Korea and Pakistan. It never ceases to amaze me how the visual can present an easily navigable way to come to the same conclusions as an intense online reading session. Nasrin Tabatabai and Babak Afrassiabi use the history of non-development of Kish to make plain historical struggles in contemporary Iranian culture. Kish was positioned to be the next tourist destination in the east. Yet the unrealized attempts at modernization become "representations of (unfulfilled) desires." The artists use the experiences of these developers (architects interviews, magazine spreads, models, etc.) working with a client (in this case, an Islamic country) to make real an imposed identity of Kish. The exhibition shows how "geopolitical indecisiveness" has thwarted Kish's sense of place for the past 20 some years. As described in Pages Magazine (the related publication,) "the almost schizoid nature of the island is manifested through its designs and displays."

This is a elegant and thoughtful exhibition, examining architecture's role of planning space as it pertains to conflicting ideas of a country's idea of self. Its good to consider that the current protests are not a reactionary moment, but more likely a catalyzed event stemming from a longer history.

Friday, June 26

somewhere i have never travelled

Somehow, I forgot to post this awhile back.....I was asked to go as a show of support to a poetry reading a few months back, and I realized that my knee-jerk reaction was something like "Errrr.....I'll be uncomfortable and/or bored by being so close to someone theatrically reading about their own narcissistic difficulties."

Poetry. It seems like an outdated phrase that stirs up images of tufted neck ruffles and the backs of hands on the forehead. Its as if the poet, like the artist, takes that title because it safely signifies a heartbreaking, angry sensitivity to the world that a title like "prescription drug salesman" or "auto mechanPic" can't. In our mediated social connectivity, where the micro of emotional states are thrown out to an anonymous public as "status updates" or relationships are begun through a pre-screening process involving a series of generic yet quirky descriptions, something like poetry seems an anachronism. I should say before I go too far that I love poetry. It was one of my first loves. It was something I could experience in the privacy of my mind when I read it and would share sparingly with others because of how close to my bones it reached. Now, when written words are read and updated every 30 seconds in hypertext, where intonation and meditation are inferior to skimming to the point, I would guess that something like poetry appears archaic and weird.

Poetry may not follow the strict rules of its given language, but unlike text messages and tweets, poets delicately, deliberately and sometimes emotively, put their words in an order to draw out connotations for the reader or listener. Its a handling of the subtleties of language that frees it to say more than it denotes. (I would actually read and be touched by the poetry posted by the Transit Authority in NYC on the trains. And I would feel embarrassed. And never tell anyone.) I guess there is a perceived niävete in being that unguarded about how you feel at any given moment. It's not very adult if you cry during a budget meeting or tell your boss that you really appreciate how much he's taught you about time management or that you love the smile you get from the clerk at the grocery store, because its nice that someone is happy to see you buy grapefruits you never really eat. I suppose there was a time when writing seemed like a mediation of these relationships. But our wired emotional connectivity now has a crude directness that is not the same. I don't really see the haiku of tweets. And pop songs somehow don't hit the same nerve.

I went to the reading. I listened to the poets relate not only in their own words, but their own structure for those words, tales of missing limbs, boots talking to guns and road trips. Or what I should say is what its like to want something you can't have, to be separated and say goodbye to someone you were close to, and, when broken-hearted, list the ways and places that help you forget and heal you. And I was a tiny bit self-conscious, but I cried.

Thursday, June 25

Dream a little dream

I occasionally have very vivid dreams, so much so that I am very confused when I wake up in the morning. I also experience lucid dreaming, which doesn't make the differentiation between the unconscious meanderings of the mind and reality any easier. I've had trouble sleeping the past few years, so my dreams have been fewer, but I had a good run last week. Here is what I can recall of them.

Someone was trying to re-name me my name, but I knew it wasn't really my name, even though it looked and sounded like it. I was desperately trying to push the papers away but felt very helpless at this imposition of identity, or imposition from the outside of what my identity should be.

I saw Madonna and Guy Ritchie at a gas station in New York City fueling their car. We were chatting around the pump and I asked them what they were up to that day, which was apparently a secret to keep things low key. He said he couldn't tell me, but he could draw it for me. He pulled out a blue napkin and drew an upright fish with a sharpie. I realized they were going to the aquarium.

I noticed that my companion had grown two small, toe-like fingers on the side of his left hand. "When did those happen?" "Oh. Last night." "Are you going to see a doctor about this?" "I don't know."

I moved into a new apartment recently, a very large one. My therapist comes to my house to talk with me. My roommate comes in the room and sits next to her to join our conversation. He has grown blond dreads. I'm sure he doesn't understand who she is, but before I can say anything she starts rubbing her head against him like a cat. This eventually makes him feel uncomfortable and she stops, smiling like she's satisfied. A friend of his comes in and sits down. He's very disruptive and can't sit still. I ask them if she and I can be left alone for awhile and they walk out through the french doors. She tells me that the room is very, very cold so I bring her a blanket that my grandmother made me. I use another blanket that was made for my great-grandmother, which she tells me is very ugly. I tell her I like it very much. Another guy comes in, then leaves. A really grumpy girl comes in, says something rude into the phone, which we both laugh at, then she leaves. The t.v. is on, which distracts us and keeps us from talking. I begin to worry that my time with her is being wasted and disrupted and we are not getting anything done. It feels like we have nothing to say to each other. For a few minutes, I'm asked to take care of my roommate's baby. I'm good with the baby, but she is very busy and I'm nervous that she will start to cry or hit her head or something. She requires all of my attention. I give the baby to my therapist for a few minutes. She is good with her, but eventually I can tell that she really doesn't like children. I tell her my roommate, who is very young, is the father. I take the baby back and give her back to my roommate. The whole apartment feels chaotic and off. I feel like I'm just trying to respond to whatever comes in the room.

It is not necessary that you leave the house. Remain at your table and listen. Do not even listen, only wait. Do not even wait, be wholly still and alone. The world will present itself to you for its unmasking, it can do no other, in ecstasy it will writhe at your feet. FK, May 17, 1910

Monday, June 8

Ugly overload

Ugliness is so much more interesting than beauty, especially living in a country where we are bombarded with a visual of what is ideal just about everywhere we turn. What is beautiful is subjective to the individual, the culture, the species. This perfection can only exist in opposition of what is not that, what falls outside of that standard. The greatest thing about the ugly is that it's definition is so much looser than the beautiful; since it is not the ideal, it is free to be anything else. I was happy to find Ugly Overload, a blog dedicated to the impossibly strange-looking. Pictured above, the Sri Lankan Frogmouth.

Wednesday, June 3

Plant life

I find having plants to be a really enjoyable experience; not only look at and water, but touch their leaves and make them feel comfortable in their new home. I'm not talking to my new green friends yet, at least not that I'm aware of. I was walking around, examining the plants on the patio this morning and found what i thought was an unfurled leaf on a special nasturtium gifted us from a friend. So of course I touched it. "Ugh, that's not a leaf. That is a caterpillar eating my growing plant." My first instinct was to launch it off the porch, but I started to think about the arc of its life. I sadly have a moral dilemma at squashing an insect. They must have a purpose, too, but why do things like gnats exist?

Growing up back east, I remember the first hot day of the year was an event. Winter was cold and long. The weather would become a daily insult. By spring, my shoulders would hurt from having physically bracing myself against the weather for so long. The excitement of shedding the layers, of a bodily freedom not constricted by clothing, snow, cold, made that day the best of the whole year. It was nice to feel the warmth come from outside of a swaddling of coats and sweaters and scarves. What usually ruined this feeling was the bugs. Not a few crawling around, but swarms of them. The heat and humidity would tell them it was time, and they would hatch and rise and swarm over the grass. They were so small and plentiful and it was hard to keep track of where they were in relation to any part of me. They could be in my hair, fly into my nose, my mouth. It was unnerving. The desire to lay on the lawn was tempered greatly by the desire to not have a mouth full of flies.

After this first hot day, they would all be gone. My mother told me they only lived that one day, which I think was probably true, but I still think about it. Why would swarms of these things exist with no real purpose other than to fly around, make more of themselves, then die? The whole short life of these creatures seemed so pointlessly irritating to me.

So back to the caterpillar from this morning. I picked it up with a trowel and flung it into a nearby tree and I thought about the nature of it's life. A caterpillar is one stage in the life of a butterfly. I think we accept it as a different creature than it's adult form because of it's completely different nature: bulbous, inching along, always hungry. As an adult, a butterfly or moth may not even have a mouth, depending on the species. It may not eat at all. An elaborately decorated creature that flutters from plant to plant, unconsciously moving pollens. It mates, it lays eggs, it dies.

All of this life I thought about. I felt like I had been looking at this insect with the wrong perspective the entire time. Perhaps it's contribution to the relational universe was not something that it consciously did, but something that it could not help but do. It consumed what it could as a larvae, then used all of that energy to be in the world as an adult, pollinating my kitchen garden along the way. Whatever it contributed to my life, it was through it just being what it could not help to be. I'm sure there are a thousand greeting cards that share the above sentiment, but I'm glad that little thing reminded me that the sentiment is more than printed paper.

Sunday, May 31

Art and the everyday

A great blog whose subject is a nice visual conversation between two artist friends using images they've taken of instances from the everyday that resemble the work of more celebrated makers. Compare here.

Thursday, May 21

Character study

I can't explain exactly why I've always liked the work of Alice Neel. There is an awkwardness and niävete to her paintings that expresses an emotional state (of either the subject or the painter) that I'm attracted to and self-conscious about being attracted to at the same time. The impression given to me by Neel's paintings is similar to Edvard Munch, Ben Shahn or David Hockey. Social commentary in portraiture has moved much more towards photography as it's medium in the past fifty years, yet there is a quality in Neel's almost crude style and subject matter that is purely the effect of using paint. Peter Schjeldahl does a much better job than I talking about this with an audio slideshow on the New Yorker website today. If you are fortunate enough to be in the City this summer, Zwirner & Wurth and David Zwirner are both currently showing her work.

Wednesday, May 13

Box set

Another reason to love ubuweb: an online interactive of the seminal Aspen publication from the 1960s. Aspen was conceived of by Phyllis Johnson, a former editor of Women's Wear Daily, as an unbound magazine or publication beyond the printed page. Designed by artists, each box strove to share "culture along with play." Aspen proved to be ahead of it's time as a cultural document of the sixties (issues featured Fluxus, writers like Burroughs and Robbe-Grillet, free jazz, psychedelia, etc.) A genuinely inspired publication, it really gets in my head that a publisher was sympathetic and sensitive enough to artistic production at that time to support and share a project like this.

Monday, May 11

Summer school

I love this idea. I had a friend in college who would teach free Maya classes in a park somewhere in New York, as a way to remove socio-economic class and academic structure from learning. I always thought that act looked to the fundamentals of what teaching is: a sharing of information for the greater good, as hippie-ish as that sounds. TELIC in Los Angeles strives for the same thing through their Public School program, which works like this: "first, classes are proposed by the public (I want to learn this or I want to teach this); then, people have the opportunity to sign up for the classes (I also want to learn that); finally, when enough people have expressed interest, the school finds a teacher and offers the class to those who signed up." Upcoming classes this month include an Urban Plein Air Society; Vagabondism: Transience as a viable and sustainable creative action, historical models and resources; Pinata Making; a two-day Max MSP/PD workshop. Classes are almost always free. You have no excuse now for a lack of knowledge on LED displays.

Sunday, May 10

Inanimate exile

I've made a number of works over the years examining what factors constitute an identity. My earliest memories consist of the somewhat uncomfortable realization of difference of my family life to the rest of our upstate new york suburb. It was not so much what my family looked like that seemed markedly different from our friends and neighbors, it was how we did things. The mix of cultural traditions from both my parents combined with a weirdly progressive idea of how children should experience the world made for an upbringing that I was keenly aware of as unique at an early age. I think like most artists, I've looked at the broader scope of traditions and rituals that are in the world to help me understand why that was significant (for both the teachers and the students) and what the place of rituals really is for a group, whether it is an entire country like Japan or just the small group known as my immediate family.

I recently read an article in the New Yorker on the return of the Danilov bells, some of the last church bells to ring in Russia after the onset of Stalin's Great Purge. The bells found a home at Harvard's Lowell House for decades, rescued and moved there by an American philanthropist. As with any cultural object, how the bells were made and how they were used in their native country did not necessarily translate to Harvard campus life. In Russian history and culture, church bells are thought to have a sonic power, not only through their signification of piety but the physical sound's ability to influence the mind and body of the listener. This deep-rooted belief was enough for Stalin to decide to melt most bells down into cannons and have the monks shot. As much as this paranoia sounds like actions of a megalomaniac, it is not the first time that a new regime has decided to establish itself through the eradication of a symbolic person or object, but the forced removal of an everyday sound from the cultural landscape. After the 1917 revolution, many of the Slavic sounds and letters found in Russian were banned by the government in order to erase that history from the new Soviet life.

Despite this, some objects continue to ask to be used in some form and take on a life outside of their original intended one. After they were hung in Lowell house and after a failed attempt to bring a expert Russian bell ringer to Harvard to carry on their original use and sound, a group of students took an interest in the bells and integrated them into their campus life. Klappermeisters, a group of Harvard students who took an interest in house traditions, chose to ring the bells for football victories over Yale, etc. Although it seems ridiculous that these privileged twenty-somethings were using the bells (cast to produce an untuned "voice," an overlay of partial frequencies and vague references to traditional pitches) to play rudimentary tunes like "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star," the fact that a new group banded together to attempt to create a new tradition with them is significant. It is a testimony to the strange power of the objects and the desire for a commonality that defines a loose association around a common belief or idea. As I stated earlier, the traditions of my family were not quite Irish or Filipino, not quite conservative upstate suburb or off the grid progressive, but they were something we had all organically come to recognize as things we did. Although they did not hold the original significance and were perhaps somewhat silly at times (I'm not sure if it's deeply moving to have a butter lamb, but that is something that we do at Easter time,) I think the comfort of knowing that the ritual is ours and that we all understand that is important.

The Danilov bells made their voyage back to the Danilov monastery and were rung again on March 17. A new set of bells was cast for Harvard's Lowell House and installed in their place, not replicas of the old bells but not traditional western church bells either. Patriarch Kirill I described the return as a transition from "an epoch of destruction and an epoch of creation."

Wednesday, May 6

Well, I wonder....

"...our perceptions being made finer, so that for a moment our eyes can see and our ears can hear what is there about us always."

Last night I had the pleasure of attending a talk by David Wilson at the Hammer Museum (see below; I hate repeating myself and know that I often do.) I was curious to see what this would be like. I've never met the man, but feel like there is a public understanding that his work is of questionable authenticity and that the elaborate levels to which he goes to create belief in this research, along with the aesthetic of the Renaissance Cabinet of Curiosities, is what makes him a compelling artisan. I worried that he might actually address this sentiment in some way and burst the bubble. I was wrong to not have had faith.

Wilson modestly discussed his initial introduction into the world of archives and historical documents, which consisted of weekly visits with his father to talks at the Natural History Museum in Denver. He then screened a few excerpts from a film project he is working on with the Kabinet group in St. Petersburg, Russia. These historical biographies describe the lives and beliefs of figures like Nikolai Fekorovich Federov. He also previewed a series of early sketches imagining the details of space travel and a clip from a silent film from the 1920's depicting the same. The point of the lecture was to trace the history of what philosophies drove the Soviet Union to build rockets. Wilson's only expositions on this were through the narration of the film and a gleeful description of the details of the Museum's exhibitions related to it.

The presentation of these lovingly produced images of the post-Soviet landscape with a voice over describing the somewhat bohemian circumstances of these men was seductive. The films did not describe a time line of industrial development, but rather a growing communal philosophy that human imagination, even in its most extreme and seemingly outrageous forms, could forward our collective consciousness in the most beautiful way possible, reaching towards the heavens. I realized about halfway through that whether the factual information was true was totally irrelevant. Wilson uses the model of scientific authority only as a vehicle to get us to the really important stuff: these odd feats of industrialization are inextricably reflective of our fundamental beliefs on human interaction and our place in the universe.

I could not help but think about this all the way home. Everything can be researched and supported with details, facts, cell phone pictures, what have you. How important is this really? Whether David Wilson's scientific method is accurate or not is irrelevant; whether sketches of an imagined future were actually made in the 1920s doesn't really matter. In the end, sometimes it's not the details of what brought you to a place that are important, but that you are there. I think what makes his work so compelling to so many people is that he's talking about faith. Not specifically a religious or what have you kind, but a belief that maybe the universe and maybe just even other people will capably give you what you need, there is no way to force that into existence. Wilson has conceded that his work is "similar to what an audience experiences when watching a magical illusion performed." It is comforting to know that an artwork (or a life's work) can still elicit a cosmic sense of amazed admiration from something both surprising and strange.


"She might have compared her experience at that moment to the vague, alarmed consciousness that her life was taking on a new form, that she was undergoing a metamorphosis...Her whole world was in a state of convulsive change; the only thing she could say distinctly to herself was, that she must wait and think anew...This was the effect of her loss."Marian Evans, 1871

Tuesday, May 5


It's really true that you never know what you'll find posted about you on the internet....

Monday, May 4

We gonna ride

I've really liked the fact that I only know enough people and places in Los Angeles to have an active social calendar, not one on steroids, but this week is jam-packed. Tomorrow night, David Wilson will be doing a talk at the Hammer museum. Wilson founded the Museum of Jurassic Technology in Culver City, a space which looks at the experience of the museum-as-authority using the model of the Wünderkammer and reiterates the importance of a having a sense of awe. Even if you live 3000 miles away, I would highly recommend reading Lawrence Weschler's account of the museum.
Thursday night, Knifeandfork will hold another installment of their "Engagement Party" series at MOCA with "MOCA Grand Prix," a free event that "invites participants to race remote-control cars through MOCA’s current exhibition, 'A Changing Ratio: Painting and Sculpture from the Collection.'" There will be awards for fastest times for competitive-types and a cash bar for drunken competitive-types. This is my birthday, too, so make a promise to yourself to let me win a race.
While going to get some new treads today, I saw that the Fairfax Cinema will have a midnight screening of "The Goonies" this Friday. Remember the Cindy Lauper theme song for that?
And Sunday, Family will have a book signing and talk with Michael Schmelling for the launch of The Plan, his photographs of "12 private residences in the company of Disaster Masters, a New York-based company specializing in cleaning up homes and counseling compulsive hoarders." This is one of my favourite places in Los Angeles and I'm confident it will be an interesting, thoughtful and fun event.
Now, if anyone has anything for Saturday, let me know. Otherwise, rest is also a good thing.

Thursday, April 30

The floating city

Is the image more salient in the creation of our perceptions of place than the actual? I attended a lecture at the Hammer Museum last night on just this subject, with the artists Doug Aitken and Catherine Opie talking about their work in light of this idea. Both artists talk about space and place in their work: Opie by playing with the idea of the utopian in light of the actual in her photographs and Aitken by imagining a psychological state by activating the physical building. It was a great examination of the assumptions we still hold on to regarding the experiences of place (using the spectacle of the Beijing Olympics as a starting point.) The possibilities of technology to extend the capabilities of concrete objects, to make them more about their ideas through altering their objecthood, their communicated images through networks, is truly an amazing idea. Things that seemed fantastic in the past now seem plausible. I would guess that our ideas of "place" have been significantly influenced by virtual connectivity, which has, in turn, influenced how we construct it. What a feedback loop.
p.s. The picture above is from the NYTimes of the Venturi-designed Lieb house floating under the Brooklyn Bridge on its journey from Philadephia to New Jersey. The blog Strangeharvest has an interesting little blurb on that and a floating church, an early modern solution to migration.

Wednesday, April 29

Imitation of life

I just finished watching Charlie Kaufmann's Synechdoche, New York. A heart-aching film which I will not describe here. Some things are best left to the medium they are made in...

Saturday, April 25

Beach, bbq, bicycle

Art21: Art in the Twenty-First Century _ Memory
Video sent by hulu

The symbiosis of weather on both coasts had me thinking about memory and place (my Buffalo, my New York City, my San Francisco and my Los Angeles.) This section on memory from PBS's Art:21 series has a lovely discussion with Mike Kelly on recreating psychological spaces from what is important of our own experiences of them. Maybe watch it after you've partaken in whatever early summer rituals you are realizing today....
Art21: Art in the Twenty-First Century series page at
Artists explore how memory functions and how to frame the past in their work.

Friday, April 24

Tonight i will drink...

Somehow, it both looks and sounds more irreverently fun in French...


I own a car now, again, which in my teenage years would probably have been a right of passage and in my adult years is proving to be a huge object that I have to be responsible for locating and caring for. No, it is not a Citröen as imagined by an Italian sculptor/indurstrial designer; its really just a Volvo 740 made the year I left grade school. But I understand the sentiment that Barthes relates in his 1957 essay on the neomania of that particularly designed automobile. I realized when I started browsing Craigslist that not only did I need to know that the car would run, but also that I had an underlying expectation of what it would look like and I in it. The process of purchase is pretty painless: meeting with the owner, transferring the appropriate documents, insuring it and driving it away. The choice of what car to do this with is very different. I don't think there is a person in the world who doesn't agonize a little bit over what the signification of this thing that you essentially have to be seen in/with for x amount of years. I would guess that large American-made autos put forth a certain nationalism for some, while economical Japanese autos reflect a progressive practicality. The BMW is a safe, classic luxury vehicle and the Maserati a symbol of youthful virility (usually driven by someone who is neither of those things.) I feel a little ridiculous relating how I labored over what color my used, Craigslist auto would be (both interior and exterior) and what year and make it would be (1990s or 1960s?) My friend Rodrigo even joked that, depending on the vehicle, it might require a new wardrobe (white loafers with no socks if it were from the 1960s.) At any rate, I began to wonder if our heightened visual culture begat the increased use of visual signifiers to replace actual content in our perception of the world. Does it really matter what this vehicle looks like, or am I concerned regarding how the others will read my choice? Technology has become so much an extension of the physical body (cell phones, ipod, etc;) does that mean my car, too? Barthes' essay looks at how the initial change in visual design of machines (like autos) and our use of them has become more an "actualizing through this exorcism the very essence of petit-bourgeois advancement." Very much worth revisiting before you go put on a flowered dress and open the sunroof.

Tuesday, April 21

noise of art

If, like me, you are intensely curious about new media art yet completely overwhelmed by the sheer volume of its back catalogue, you may already be acquainted with Ubuweb. UbuWeb is a completely independent resource dedicated to all strains of the avant-garde, ethnopoetics, and outsider arts. It is an invaluable resource to sample the work of historical media artists, in particular sound and spoken poetics makers, which may otherwise be difficult to experience in traditional settings (like galleries or museums.) Most recently, they have added a catalog called "1000 avant garde films," a feature which hosts the work of filmmakers like Derek Jarman, Lev Manovich and Paul McCarthy. You now can decide how you really feel about Stockhausen or familiarize yourself with C. Spencer Yeh in the comfort of your own Bose headphones.

Peg leg liberty bell

I think this is going to end up being about learning to love Jeff Koons.....
I generally feel a sense of urgent anxiety when visiting museums to see the blockbuster exhibition/featured solo show/what-not that drew me there. The Los Angeles County Museum is a sprawling complex unto itself, so I was doubly-sure to allow enough time for each piece, wall text, slow moving tourist, docent group, etc. On this particular day, I guess we started walking up the stairs and the momentum dropped us one floor too far up. I don't usually plan for the unexpected, but I am glad to embrace it when it pops up in front of me.
LACMA is currently exhibiting work from the Broad Art Collection in one of their newish buildings and they have an impressive selection from artists like John Baldessari and Cy Twombly. But what I walked in to was a familiar shiny balloon dog and Michael Jackson's monkey. My introduction to Jeff Koons work has been in relation to silly adolescent artwork that glorifies all things kittenish and neon and spray-painted. But if I had not been beaten with a PaperRad stick for the past few years, I would never realize how smart Jeff Koons really is. Those kids had it wrong. Kitsch is certainly an easy route to take with an artwork, giving a very obvious point of entry for the viewer. What defines his work is his examination of the viewer's perceptions of these surfaces through changing things like scale, material, orientation. The baroque paintings take fragments of pop culture produced through a painstakingly exact hand process. A ceramic and gold figurine is scaled large, showing its faults in representation. Koons takes what appears fantastic and makes it unsettling by balancing its seductive qualities with its return of diminished satisfaction. I think that I finally appreciated how these works did not simply lampoon the bizarre objects that are perceived of as valuable by what is assumed to be the general populous; they bring into question our valuing of any object. They are, after all, million dollar objects particularly fabricated by an army of skilled artists and designers for an industry of museums and collectors not too different than any other market.
I was, again, completely surprised at my sudden attraction and appreciation of this work. Looking back, how weird is it that the museum employee that originally started talking to me about it was named Ishmael.....

Monday, April 20

Design crush: mike mills

Mike Mills (NOT to be confused with the silly member of R.E.M.) just keeps getting better and better every time I run across him ...I'm so excited to have the opportunity to see him in conversation with Alleged Gallery's Aaron Rose this Thursday, April 23 at Family on Fairfax. From the events page of their website:

"Join us for an intimate slide show and discussion with designer/filmmaker/artist Mike Mills to launch his new retrospective book, 'Graphics Films'.

Graphics Films is the first retrospective monograph on one of the hardest-working men in contemporary creative culture. For more than 15 years, Mike Mills' works in the fields of design and film have determined the visual landscape of our times. Graphics Films is a painstakingly produced document of Mills' career to date, including many never-before-seen examples of his works in graphic design, installation, publications and film projects. Past projects by Mills include music videos for Air ("Sexy Boy"), Blonde Redhead ("Top Ranking"), Yoko Ono ("Walking on Thin Ice") and Bran Van 3000 ("Afrodiziak") and album cover designs for the Beastie Boys (the Root Down EP), Sonic Youth (Washing Machine), Air (Moon Safari and Kelly Watch the Stars) and others. He has designed graphics and textiles for Marc Jacobs and created the identity for X-Girl Clothing, and has exhibited his unique graphic installations worldwide, with solo shows at Andrea Rosen Gallery in New York and Colette in Paris, among others. In 1996 Mills cofounded The Directors Bureau, a multidisciplinary production company, with Roman Coppola. Since then, he has directed an impressive slew of music videos and films including The Architecture of Reassurance (2000) and Paperboys (2001), both of which were official selections at the Sundance Film Festival. In 2004 he completed his first feature film, Thumbsucker (starring Keanu Reeves and Tilda Swinton), and he is currently at work on his second."

Here's a video he did for the band Le Rythmes Digitales:

Tuesday, April 14

Fortune of reversal

Question the universe about something, and miraculously I run into it in an unexpected way. This usually makes me feel pretty dumb, but at least I can be consoled by the fact that it is in the world. As a continuation of the previous post on the the rise in visibility of artwork from Africa, I saw two excellent shows recently of artists working in Ehtiopia and South Africa.

As I mentioned before, the work of William Kentridge at the SFMoma was fantastic. I allocated about two hours to spend with it, but ended up there for four. Kentridge's short films, video installations and animatronic "plays" display an expert use of screening in an art space. The relationship that ties different perspectives of different individuals living during and after apartheid gives the viewer a holistic look at the effects of universal government policies on the individual and the deep roots that these policies take in the psychology of the people.

The Santa Monica Museum of Art has the work of the Ethiopian multi-media artist Elias Sime currently on view. Sime's work is a polished mix of non-art materials that evoke the everyday with compositions that are both graphic and resonant of western painting traditions. A tonal white canvas was actually, on closer inspection, an embroidered swirl of line work that could have been made by Edvard Munch if stitching had replaced paint as his medium of choice. Primitive-looking carved chairs have varied-sized legs jutting out of the front of the seat and legs, as if the sitter were birthing them out of the wood. A self-taught artist who resurrects fragments found in the landscape of contemporary Ethiopia (sometimes collected by neighborhood children), Sime expertly expresses the cultural mash-up that becomes all too common as traditions of countries like Ethiopia are slowly subsumed into the hegemony of global popular culture.

"William Kentridge: Five Themes," San Francisco Moma, Mar 14-May 31, 2009.
"Elias Sime: Eye of the Needle, Eye of the Heart," Santa Monica Museum of Art, Jan 24-Apr 18, 2009.

Friday, March 27

Reversal of fortune

Why don't we see more art from the African continent in the gallery and museum circuit? It's a place that's been on our political radar for as long as I've been able to read a paper (See Sudan, Rwanda, South Africa and, more recently, Zimbabwe.) Art has made it's way to our Eurocentric exhibition spaces from locations like the Middle East and China, places considered in our consciousness as threatening politically or economically, or both. From what I understand from those native to these countries, there is a pressing urgency to preserve visual culture and respond to political instability and social issues through art.
Expats making work related to diasporic experiences, like Yinka Shonibare, have made a name for themselves. But, after seeing Simon Njami's presentation at UCLA on his experience organizing exhibitions like the Johannesburg Biennial and "Africa Remix," I had to wonder why this work was not something that I ran across more. My introduction to much of this work was through the curatorial practices of Okwui Enwezor for Documenta and, more recently, ICP in New York.
In that vein, the show I'm excited to see during my visit to San Francisco this weekend is the exhibition of the work of William Kentridge at SFMoma. Kentridge's drawings, sculptures, sets, animations and video installations express the complicated position of one who's daily life is part of a tumultuous racial history-in-the-making. Here's a taste of some of his animation.

Thursday, February 12


Identity Preserving Balaclava (all the warmth with none of the anonymity!) - More DIY How To Projects

Gleaning the cube

I read a fantastic article today in New York Magazine about the White Columns show "From the Archives: 40 years/40 artists," which is currently on view. Two things struck me as pretty interesting ideas put forth by the author. The first: Jerry Saltz's thoughts on the evolution of the gallery space into a visual presence itself. The New Museum's new digs is a good example of this: a beautiful space that does not feel like it houses the work it shows well. For a space that historically has been a fantastic laboratory for the cross-breeding of visual culture and socio-political thinking, it feels like the pressure of having a fancy building on the Bowery has really affected it's exhibitions and programming (i.e. a definite slant towards trendier work.) Anyway, it's refreshing to hear that there are voices in the art world who consider the space the work is in as much as the work itself.
Secondly: I love the idea of showing ephemera or revealing process, as this show appears to do. Saltz describes the gallery as "a test site" for new, experimental work and it's great that the gallery chooses to reiterate that by revealing that process. It reminds me of a "retrospective" of David Hammons' work at Triple Candie a few years back, which exhibited reproductions of varying quality of his catalog of work. It revealed the object in that the images were of artworks that could not be loaned due to monetary restraints, legal agreements and other bureaucratic hoops to be jumped through. The idea was illustrated for the viewer through the reproduction, as was the bureaucracy that prevented a small space like that to mount the show. In both cases, the importance of "test sites," especially at a time when the art world is positioned to reconfigure itself, can't be more relevant.

Wednesday, February 4

it's all around you

I attended a panel at USC on Monday night that is part of the series "Art in the Public Sphere" (I think it's a forum lecture series class for their arts grads.) At any rate, I was very excited to have the opportunity to hear Doug Aitken talk about his work, which he did in the way that someone whose tools for communication are visual as opposed to verbal (uh, read: somewhat tangental and very poetic; if words were too specific of a way to relate the slippery ideas he is trying to impress on the viewer.) I'll admit that my art crush has now been transferred from Sam Durant (sorry man) to Doug Aitken. The thing that seemed strange to me was the lack of video that he showed during his talk. I first saw his "Electric Earth" piece installed at the Whitney biennial and the thing that made it stand out from other emerging video work at the time was his fantastic sense of marrying the visual image to the audio, as well as a sensitivity to how the viewer experiences a projected work (thankfully, not on a monitor.) Aitken never seems to use the audio as a secondary sense, but as something that works in tandem with the visual experience (I think I've gushed about this before after seeing his "Migration" piece when I was still living in NYC.) At any rate, I really enjoyed hearing him talk about creating experiential work in his mystical and dry-humored way, and I've included the trailer for "Sleepwalkers" in case you've missed seeing how he works his magic in the past....
p.s. I also loved loved loved Ann Pasternack (of Creative Time); her enthusiasm and finesse for creating public art that was always a required see and opened up a community conversation has been one of my fondest memories of living back east and completely romanticized all my memories, making me want to get on a plane and go back there.

Sunday, February 1

I know a great pizza place in Los Angeles, but I can't tell you where it is because I've been told my legs will then be broken as I wait in an even longer line for food. It has very tasty eggplant and tomato pie and serves Moretti....

Most Wanted

I watched the film My Kid Could Paint That this morning and could not help but feel compelled by the discussion of what makes something genius and what makes something original. I've been reading Malcolm Gladwell's articles for the New Yorker the past year (I believe they culminated in Outliers) and have been thinking a lot about what may constitute genius, or even talent. Although the perception of talent seems to be that it is innate and apparent in the object itself, this documentary looks more to the fact that success comes from the context that the work exists in and the communication of that context. The gallerist, journalists and parents have much more to do with the sales of a four-year-olds artwork that the painting itself (Michael Kimmelman of the Times does a great job talking about that in this film.)
I thought the film would mostly look at art and the accepted perceptions of what defines it (which is what a four-year-old selling painters forces us to look at), but it is also looks at the story itself. , as it moved away from narrative and towards documenting the movements of the artist's gestures, now directly told the story of the artist and the personalities became part of the understanding of the work. The mythos around the object helped to dictate the understanding of it. Jackson Pollock became the James Dean of modern art. Most of the adults in this story seem to be projecting onto Marla and her paintings what they want from the worl of art. But as the filmmaker looks at all the forces surrounding the myth of the child painter Marla, he also looks at how the construction of his film adds to that myth by how it presents its subjects.
I couldn't help coming back to the mother's desire to protect her children from what she intrinsically felt were the pitfalls in the life of the child prodigy. The families desperation to have Marla's work validated as autonomous and original, without any outside coaching, becomes fully apparent when she pleads with the filmmaker to believe her, that it is of the utmost importance that he does. It made me realize that we forget the human once they have been put into the machine of a market.

support responsible abstraction

One of my favourite artists and graphic designers, Geoff Mcfetridge, will be showing work at the Seattle Art Museum's Olympic Sculpture Park from March until August.
Here's a video he did for the Whitest Boy Alive