Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Note to self: Dan Graham and Rodney Graham are two entirely different people.

Friday, July 23, 2004

An art professor friend of mine is teaching a course on "The Eighties" next quarter and wants to include at least five films. Blade Runner is out because it's over-taught already and apparantly today's college freshmen find it incredibly boring (it lacks any Will Smith-style fistfighting, and most kids don't get the noir references). Derek Jarman's Jubilee is a possibility, but it seems more late 70s than full-on 80s in its references. I suggested that if he really wanted to show an 80s film, he should go with something like Rambo or Top Gun, but he really wants to stick to "paranoiac" 80s films. So with the "paranoiac" in mind we came up with
  • Repo Man
  • Videodrome
  • Blue Velvet
And that's all we could muster. Brazil was mentioned and rejected. If anyone has any ideas, please comment.
Several new albums that I’d like to share with you:
  • The Fiery Furnaces, Blueberry Boat. From what I can tell the songs on this album are an extended riff on the Who’s A Quick One While He’s Away, The Kinks’ Village Green Preservation Society, psychedelic singer-songwriting, & the Carpenters. Brother-Sister duo sound nothing like the Hype Strypes. Haven’t heard the first album, hear it’s more bluesy.
  • Devendra Banhart, Rejoicing in the Hands. A unique voice that requires getting used to, somewhere between Bert Jansch and Billie Holliday. Songs for folk folk.
  • Animal Collective, Tung Songs. The most interesting avant-rock I’ve heard this year. Campfire sing-alongs, beach bum melodies, Julio-down-by-the-schoolyard ethnographies.
  • Deerhoof, Milk Man. The latest in a long line of micro-masterpieces. Precision pop-a-wheelies.
  • Bill Fay, From the Bottom of an Old Grandfather Clock. I heard this in a store in Manhattan and felt compelled to order this import-only record, made in the early 70s. British folk-psychedelia with the Beatles looking over his shoulder. Shouldn’t be good but is.
  • Madvillain, Madvillainy. MF Doom and Madlib doin' it. As my friend Angelica says, “hip-hop for grownups.” S/FJ nails it at the New Yorker, Doom’s Day.
  • Azita, Life on the Fly. An uncanny homage to Steely Dan from the former Scissor Girl. Listen to the track on her website and tell me she's not a Donald Fagen follower.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

There's a great used bookstore near the NuArt Theatre and Cinefile video store in West Los Angeles called Alias which stays open until 11 o’clock every night, a rarity in these parts. I always find something interesting or useful there, the prices are reasonable, and the Scandinavian brothers who run the place are great conversationalists. Recently I’ve been scouring the city for old literary journals (which are not so easy to find; those that read journals don’t often part with them and many used booksellers refuse to buy them) so I was pleased to find a few at Alias last week.

Caterpillar # 12 from July 1970, edited by Clayton Eshleman with a great cover collage by Robin Blaser. Contributors are Robin Blaser, Jack Spicer, and Stan Persky.

Barney #1 from 1981, edited by Jack Skelley with cover art by Eric Fisher. Billed “the Modern Stone Age Magazine” the premier issue has contributions from Bob Flanagan, Dennis Cooper, Elaine Equi, Jerome Sala, Benjamin Weissman, Amy Gerstler, Ron Padgett, Michael Silverblatt and others with whom I’m less familiar.

Transition Forty-Eight #1 from January 1948 edited by Georges Duthuit. The object of this journal, according to the editorial statement, is to “assemble for the English-speaking world the best of French art and thought, whatever the style and whatever the application.” The contributors to this issue include Jean-Paul Sartre, Rene Char, Antonin Artaud, and Georges Bataille. The issue begins with rambling post-Surrealist essay by Duthuit called “Sartre’s Last Class”, which begins, “A duel between men of letters, the last perhaps, for we are being watched, gentlemen, and not indulgently!"

Also picked up a Signature anthology of mostly UK writing which includes Samuel Beckett, Eva Figes, Aiden Higgens, and Eugene Ionesco, as well as Donald Barthelme's The Dead Father.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Distressing is one word I would use to describe The Corporation, a new documentary by Jennifer Abbot and Mark Achbar now in distribution. Other words would also begin with the dis prefix, and maybe the mis and mal prefixes as well. To my mind this film was much more effective than Fahrenheit 9/11 (although it’s probably an unfair comparison: Corporation is much broader in its critique than F 9/11, going after capitalism in general rather than Dubya in particular). It’s a meaty film, filled with all kinds of disgusting morsels and piggish maneuvers (for instance, Bechtel Corporation’s attempted privatization of water in Bolivia -- which would have made it illegal for villagers to collect even rain water -- and covert marketing campaigns). I didn’t learn anything new exactly, but the visual and rhetorical force of the film left me swooning. I kept an eye open for mention of any tech companies. Microsoft and Yahoo were mentioned in passing (“aggressive” was the term someone used for the Gates Machine), e-Bay's logo flashed on screen a few times, Xerox and Amazon came in for some ethical violations, there was a segment on the IBM-Nazi link, but there was absolutely no mention of Google. Which brought to mind Google’s motto: “Don’t Be Evil.” I know that many workers at Google take this phrase to heart (and now is the time I should mention I work at Google), but I wonder if it somehow operates as a marketing-tag in addition to a company goal. To what extent has Google successfully branded itself as a non-evil corporation? Can a company live up to its ideals if its ideals have become ad copy?

Thursday, July 15, 2004

My absence from the blogosphere (how I hate that word) is justifiable. Chalk it up to other priorities. I had meant this blog to be a live journal of various cultural events and artifacts, but events have come and gone and I regret my inattention. Herewith are a few things.

My recent visit to New York City provided an opportunity to catch a few exhibitions.

From Sue De Beer's Hans und Grete

The Whitney Biennial. Highlights included work by Ernesto Caivano (whose dream-birds mind-meld the fantasy art of Brian Froud), Sue de Beer (Dennis Cooper must love her), Robyn O’Neil (so lonesome), Chloe Piene, Aïda Ruilova (lifting Lung Leg), and Catherine Sullivan. Hmmm. Surveying this list, I see I have a lotta love for drawing and video. Well, harrumph! None of the painting really excited me; with the exception, perhaps, of Julie Mehretu, with whom I’m still wrestling. Her elephantitic canvases seem too slick on approach.

Singular Forms (Sometimes Repeated)
at the Guggenheim. My first face-to-face with the Gug – Lloyd Wright seemed much more a presence than Rauschenberg, Judd, Ryman, et al. I prefer Judd out in Marfa and environs. Flavin always fells me, though. The most successful installations were those that were given room (and given rooms): Robert Irwin’s Varese Scrim, whose false wall truly astonished me, and Rachel Whiteread’s Untitled (One Hundred Spaces), the minimalist’s graveyard.

Open House: Working in Brooklyn at the Brooklyn Museum. Should have made some notes closer to seeing this one, it’s flown my noggin now. I was greatly disturbed by the evident militarization of New York; as we ascended from the subway at the Brooklyn Museum, a small army of policemen in swat gear and rifles-at-the-ready watched and smiled.

Closer to home, MOCA trots out A Minimal Future? Art As Object 1958-1968, while across town LACMA ones them up with Beyond Geometry: Experiments in Form 1940s-70s. Regarding Art As Object, I’d have to agree with Yve-Alain Bois, who writes in Art Forum, “Regrettably, the show offers not the tiniest bit of scenario. No chronology, no typology, no label explanations whatsoever, resulting in an exasperating feeling of pure randomness for anyone not already in the loop.” How was little old me to know that “the juxtaposition of the hideously decorative pastel-painted, canvas-covered beams by Judy Chicago with a series of Robert Smithson's jejune early geometric objects (in poor physical shape)” was chosen because they were “side by side at the famous ‘Primary Structures’ show of 1966”? Beyond Geometry is large and expansive, as its name suggests. Almost as great as the art was hearing random public reaction to it. “Disgusting!” cried a woman staring at a Judd box. Another, staring at the photo documentation of Eleanor Antin’s Carving: A Traditional Sculpture, which documents the artist’s gradual loss of weight: “Don’t bother looking at this one, honey. It’s just a naked girl repeated over and over, for no discernable purpose.” Lots of folks were there though. I’m taking my mom this weekend.
Harlequin Knights' one year anniversary came and went on June 14.
Overheard at le coffee shop this morning:

- Those Andy Warhol icons on your laptop are so passe.
- What? Warhol is cooler than Metal!