Sunday, January 11, 2009

Friday night met up with Ara Shirinyan, Andrew Maxwell, Aaron Kunin, Jacqueline Fauteux, Lilit Keshishyan and my wife Rita at Koko's Armenian, a restaurant run by Ara's genius chef of an uncle deep in the San Fernando Valley. Koko just sold the restaurant so this was to be our last meal there. I tried lamb brains for the first sort of had the taste and texture of tofu or a dense cottage cheese. Not bad. Perhaps needed a bit more spice. The lamb tongue was delicious if a little too thickly sliced for me. The quail was perfect, as was the beef and luleh kabob. We finished off our feast with a large branzino grilled over an open flame. I asked Aaron about his upcoming essay in Action Yes concerning the "gurlesque." Supposedly it looks at the trope of the "princess" as political theology in the poetry of Catherine Wagner and Brenda Coultas. Elsewhere at the table, everyone was discussing the Swedish vampire flick Let the Right One In and admiring Andrew and Jacqueline's new boy, Felix.

Saturday Rita and I drove down to Orange County to check out the California Biennial at OCMA. This year it was guest-curated by Lauri Firstenberg of LAX Art. Highlights included Daniel Joseph Martinez's life-size animatronic self-portrait that goes into epileptic fits every hour on the hour, entitled Call Me Ishmael; Mark Hagen's paintings of what appear to be found, crumpled up notes that say things like, "TO PSYCHIC UNDERWORLD: STOP ASTRAL TRAVELING TO MOLESTIDECEIVE OTHERS (ANIMALS TOO). ANIMALS ARE NOT MADE OF HATE. CEASE & DESIST"; an installation by Marco Rios that consisted of an entire room in which the ceiling was brought down to precisely the artist's height (64 inches); Anna Sew Hoy's site-specific sculptural installation made partly out of denim sewn into the shape of worms or snakes; Rodney McMillian's painting/sculptural hybrids; and Amanda Ross-Ho's large-scale assemblages made out of lean-to dry-wall with patterned holes cut into them, collaged with seemingly random magazine cut-outs and other bizarre objects. (Below is a detail from her work).
Then we made our way out to the OC "anti-mall" (not much anti- about it; mostly just hipster shops like Urban Outfitters, hair salons and cafes -- but probably the coolest place in town from the perspective of an Orange County teenager) where the artist Shana Lutker was performing her interactive piece, Hear it Here. Shana had hired two actors who wore headphones connected to two mics set up in the audience. The actors stood up on a stage and repeated anything that any audience member spoke into the mics, so essentially the audience was supplying the dialogue for an ongoing "play." The actors, however, would only repeat everything in a dry, uninflected monologue, so when I sang the lyrics to "Herod's Song" from Jesus Christ Superstar into the mic, what came back to me was a sort of menacing monologue demanding that Jesus walk on water and mocking his inability to perform miracles, which was kind of weird given that we were in Orange County, a hotbed of evangelicalism. Other audience members recounted dreams, gave shout-outs to their loved ones, or tried to make the actors say more or less funny things.

After that we headed over to Little India in Artesia for some Andhra Pradesh-style Indian food at Tirupathi Bhimas. Incredibly delicious and spicy thali plates tempered by pappadum and chapati bread...washed down with mango lassi. Yum! Below the restaurant there is an Indian ice cream shop called Saffron Spot where we both ate saffron flavored ice cream. Near the entrance there were a bunch of free books published by the Society for Krishna Consciousness. Most were based on the teachings of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. I picked one up called Chant and Be Happy: The Power of Mantra Meditation which consists mostly of interviews with George Harrison, John Lennon and Yoko Ono about the benefits of chanting Hare Krshna.

Drove back to Los Angeles and stopped by Chinatown in time to catch Kirsten Stoltmann's solo show at Cottage Home. Mostly incredibly colorful and densely layered collages that incorporate images of Lamborghinis and phrases like "MISUNDERSTOOD," "FAT MOM" or "LAVERNE IN THE BUTT SHIRLEY IN THE VAGINA." Some medium sized sculptures in the middle of the room looked like Oompa Loompa Land props from the 1970s version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The gallery literature describes her work thus: "This new body of work employs over-used and abused tropes of swinger pornography, suburban craft, sports car masculinity, meditational sculptures and Tourette’s like poetics. In an attempt to exercise New Age sentiment through self-loathing and inspirational denigration, Stoltmann's efforts at reflection are always thwarted by her passive aggressive sincerity, humor, and self-depreciation."

Then made our way over to the Steve Turner Gallery where Julia Meltzer and David Thorne, aka The Speculative Archive, had a show with sculptor Jeff Ono. Julia and David presented a series of photographic dyptichs "of recent cases," according to the gallery literature, "in which people have been stopped, questioned, detained or arrested because they were photographing or found to be in possession of a picture. The pictures in question--the ones that remain invisible--are of sensitive sites in the USA; bridges, banks, tourist attractions, state capitals, and power plants. In this series the unseen image is paired with a publicly available image that has been found on the internet." Spent some time up in the gallery offices previewing work by Eamon Ore-Giron (who has a show coming up at the end of March) -- collaged, cut-out and manipulated LP covers that will be framed or hung on the wall.

THEN -- geez, we did a lot yesterday -- went to the Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theater where we saw Gustav Deutsch's essay film, Film Ist. In 12 parts and about 3 hours long, the film is mostly collaged found footage -- Austrian instructional and industrial films, silent movies, archival reels, Méliès clips -- that investigates, well, what film is: as such its parts have titles such as "Movement and Time," "Light and Darkness," "Magic," "Conquest," "A Mirror," etc. Affective and highly recommended.

This afternoon met with Gabriela Jauregui about some upcoming readings at the PRB, then went straight to San Gabriel for a big hot bowl of bun rieu oc (Vietnamese crab and shrimp paste rice vermicelli noodles with periwinkles).

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