Culture: February 2004 Archives

There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

-- From September 1, 1939 by W.H. Auden

James and I went to an amazing concert by the Orchestra of St. Luke's on Thursday night. Go read his account.

We went to a couple of openings on Wednesday night. James has the details.

We visited several things of note today. One closed today (Barbara Pollack at Sara Meltzer), but the others are still up.

First, Barbara Pollack, from the press release:

Video Wall: Sara Meltzer Gallery is proud to present Barbara Pollack's AIM. In this 3-channel video, four teenagers converse via AOL Instant Messenger. The monitors show the faces of the four participants—two boys and two girls—as they react and respond to this digital conversation. This video stems from an off-handed remark, "We don’t flirt at school, we wait until we get home and then IM each other," made by the son of the artist. In order to capture the humor, spontaneity and frankness of these conversations about sex and dating, Pollack used micro-cameras, a type of surveillance equipment now readily available and frequently used by parents to keep an eye on their children. The work demonstrates the impenetrability of the adolescent experience, even in this era when all forms of privacy seem to have been eliminated.

The gallery's next show looks quite interesting: Andrea Bowers's " Nonviolent Civil Disobedience Training" and "Damage" from Type A. We have a few videos of Type A, plus a diptych from the Twins Project.

I have mentioned Hiraki Sawa in the past.


2003 Digital video on DVD 7 minute 10 second loop

He has three new videos at James Cohan. I will probably go back to see them again. They are quite wonderful.

Francis Cape's new show opens tonight at Murray Guy. I love his architecturally-inspired art, and I'm not even that into architecture.


Slater Bradley, You're In High School Again, 2003-04, chromogenic print, 40 x 60 inches

Slater Bradley's "STONED & DETHRONED", his homage to Kurt Cobain show, opens tonight at Team Gallery. I found it really moving, and not just because I lived in Seattle in 1992. The press release/essay is brilliant. Also, Mr. Bradley curated a group show at Wallspace gallery that should be worth a visit. I haven't been yet.

Finally, the site hasn't been updated for the current show, but Axis Gallery has a group show of photography from South Africa. I love the gallery, and it's a great show. Go!

[Updated: a helpful person gave me the link to the Slater Bradley press release.]

Some interesting things I've read today:

Michael Bierut on The Final Decline and Total Collapse of the American Magazine Cover -- with a discussion of classic George Lois Esquire covers from the 60s, like the one with Muhammad Ali as St. Sebastian.

Tyler Green with tips and suggestions for galleries, inspired by this discussion at one of my new favorite weblogs,

I don't feel so hot, so posting is limited at the moment. Here is an interview with Melissa James Gibson, the playwright who wrote [sic] (which we loved) and now Suitcase, both produced at Soho Rep. We saw it last week and really enjoyed it, as did the rather actorly (Nina Hellman of The Civilans, David Greenspan, etc.) audience. Apparently, I should have written about this earlier, as tickets just went from $15 to $35. Still, it's probably worth going, and certainly is more worth your time than any Broadway crap.

There is an amazing, weird, disjointed quality to the dialogue in her plays. I had thought it was the way they are directed, but now that I've read the interview and seen an excerpt of the latest play, I realize that's the way they're written.

From the interview:

Rail: The idiosyncratic punctuation that you use for the character lines seems to offer an alternative to the more clichéd aspects of psychology in theater. Instead of rendering articulations of "emotion," your characters seem to follow a musical score; one that expresses more ephemeral aspects of inner thought through pattern and rhythm. How did you begin to use these stylistic conventions?

Gibson: I was just finding, more and more, that proper sentences and punctuation weren’t adequately expressing what was in my head, in terms of dialogue. Punctuation has its place, of course, but it can lessen the degree to which subtlety and contradiction and ambivalence reside in verbal communication. And since a play is a blueprint for an oral form, it just makes more sense to me, for my work, to keep the language open to the switching of tracks it must constantly accommodate. I’ve come to rely on carefully chosen capitalization, line breaks and what I half-jokingly call "actor intention tips," which basically alert the actor to the fact that the intention behind the line may be at odds with what actually is said. In terms of the rhythms of the words, I do sort of think of the line breaks as thought breaks. For me, these are just another signal to the actor about the patterns inside a character’s head. Obviously, I’m borrowing some of the tools of poetry and music, though I am, much to my sadness, neither a poet nor a musician. So maybe it’s like I’m operating a power saw without wearing safety goggles.

Rail: There is also a strong thread of narrative fragmentation running through your pieces. Your characters are often collecting found objects, listening to voices in the stairwell, seeing snippets of home video through windows. The stories are never really beginning or ending.

Gibson: Well, lives don’t behave. We are porous and susceptible beings and even when our intentions are definite we ineluctably veer. The veering is what interests me— that and the secret conversation that underlies every out loud one. I just feel such great affection for the evidence of our tragic, silly, smart and stupid selves.

Here is a sample of the play:

(Ring ring. Jen turns down the volume on the tape player and answers the phone.)

Is it
Bleaker or more bleak I can
never remember that rule Bleaker
doesn’t even sound like a word
when you say it in
isolation Try saying it Bleaker Bleaker Bleaker
Ew there’s a guy outside clipping his
toenails into the sewer Jen
are you there

I’m here I thought
you might be my advisor

Did you hear from your advisor

She’s trying to
Reach Me

(Sallie’s gaze has landed on an apartment in the building across the way, where the film is showing again. Sallie picks up a pair of binoculars and looks through them as she continues to converse. We see what she sees, a section of home movies from circa 1940:

A little girl, her father and her mother are sledding. The father wears a suit and overcoat, while the mother wears heels and a fur. They all take a turn on the sled.)

How do you know

She’s left

Uh oh

And yesterday I received a


Are you there

Sorry I got distracted
Someone across the way is watching some old
footage What did you receive

A letter Old

Home movies or
something What
sort of letter

She wanted to know where things
stood dissertation-wise

What did you tell her

It was a letter Sallie

(focused on the film)
Oh right
Isn’t it beautiful Jen I mean is
there anything more beautiful Jen than
people who dress in blatant disregard of their

Oh I don’t know blatancy is problematic if you ask me Blatancy makes me
nervous She
said she was going through a messy divorce


My advisor In her letter

That’s too bad

So she’s trying to straighten out her affairs so
to speak

So she can focus her energy on her messy

I guess She said attachment is a
nasty business


That’s a quote from her letter Attachment
Is A Nasty Business

Brooklyn Rail has a John Waters interview. Given that it's not the NY Times, it's a bit more about art than the other one.

Waters: Andy Warhol used to say his movies were better to think about than see. Well, this is true here too. In Eat Your Makeup there’s a scene that’s important where we do the entire Kennedy assassination, where Divine plays Jackie. Two years after it happened we shot it and people were really pissed off about it.

Rail: Just like after 9/11, you couldn’t do anything that related to it in content without being "respectful of the tragedy" or else you’re suddenly a national traitor and "unpatriotic."

Waters: Yup. And that’s what I’m saying, it was almost like that. Oh Andy [Warhol] would have. Andy would have done a beautiful painting of that— I think he would have. The rest of Eat Your Makeup is all right. It has some good stuff in it, but it’s a 40 minute film that should have been 15 minutes. I learned that as I went along. Now they can’t stop me from cutting. My movies now would be 10 minutes long if they didn’t stop me in the editing room. Just the good parts! That’s what this photo work is. Sometimes the good part is 1/24 of a frame. That’s really cutting it down. (Laughs).

I'm a city boy. In the big cities they've set it up so you can go to a park and be in a miniature countryside, but in the countryside they don't have any patches of big city, so I get very homesick.

-- Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol


Chalk Elephant, 2003
Fernando Carabajal
Chalk & glue

We saw work by this young artist on our trip to Mexico City. The gallery, Nina Menocal, has now put up a few images of his work. There aren't any good details of his drawings, but the photo of the table gives you a feel for how the project room looked.

I'm thinking about attending this. Are any of my readers? Have any of you been to it before?

Mim Udovith interviews John Waters for the NY Times.

UDOVITCH Do you think it's harder to be transgressive now than it used to be?

WATERS I've never tried to be. Transgressive — does that mean you change how people look at things? That would be the greatest flattery anyone could say to me. But I'm just setting out to do what I always do. First, I do it for myself. And then, maybe when you go to the movies after looking at my pictures, you can make your own movies in your mind. You can watch something and say well, that image could go here. You don't have to like the movie. You can look at the lamps.


UDOVITCH Do you feel you have any mentors?

WATERS Tennessee Williams made me realize that everything they told me in school was a lie and I didn't have to pay attention to it. Warhol certainly influenced me when he so wisely put homosexuality and drugs together, finally, where they belonged. Little Richard, because I wanted to be the white him in the hippie world. That's why I have this mustache. And Jean Genet, of course. I don't even remember that I named Divine after the character in "Our Lady of the Flowers," but I'm sure I did. They made me have the nerve to do what I wanted to do, so that I didn't care that I didn't fit in, that nobody else really liked what I liked when I was growing up.


John Waters
Jackie Copies Divine's Look

We went to the John Waters opening at the New Museum Saturday night. See the Holland Cotter NY Times review here.

It's the last show before it closes and work begins on the new building on the Bowery. I saw him a few times, but I didn't talk with him. I'll go back to watch the early films they're showing. I did see Gary Indiana, Andres Serrano, and many other artists and writers, including a few people from his films, plus many more who looked like they belonged in one. I heard Patty Hearst was there but I didn't see her.

It was a more interesting, and younger, crowd, than other New Museum events I have attended. I loved that the second floor was left empty for the big crowd to just have drinks and hang out. Every opening should have such a luxury of space.

This reminds me of an amusing John Waters story. In the early 1990s James and I saw Romper Stomper at Film Forum. It's a pretty disturbing movie about racist skinheads in Australia, with plenty of violence. If it hadn't had Russell Crowe in it, I doubt I would have gone to see it. During a lot of the worst violence, I could hear the person sitting right behind me giggling. When the lights came up I turned around to see who this idiot/madman might be. I wasn't annoyed anymore, in fact I was quite pleased, when that person turned out to be John Waters.

One other item: his new art book is amusing.

Tyler Green points out an interesting fact:

Matthew Barney's The Cremaster Cycle wasn't the Krensian success that the Guggenheim (and a compliant press corps) had claimed. Here's why: Cremaster drew 3,151 visitors a day to the GuggEnron. Meanwhile, the show immediately after Cremaster drew 3,314 visitors a da, outdrawing Cremaster by over 100 people a day. What outdrew Cremaster? A permanent collection hanging.

We've been to a few openings since we returned from Mexico City. Recommendations:

East of the Sun and West of the Moon, curated by Amie Scally at White Columns (no images up yet). We were there for the opening, which is not the best way to judge a show, but my favorite pieces in the show were the paintings by Clare Rojas. I found a web page with images of her work to give you an idea here. The other highlight at White Columns is the White Room show by William Crow. We finally met this charming young artist in person, after having gotten in touch with him when we bough some of his work at the Cynthia Broan $99 show.

The other show we attended last night was David Hilliard at Yancey Richardson. His multi-image works are technically brilliant and somehow haunting, as if they have narrative content that we can't quite guess.

The night before (Thursday) we went to the opening for Robert Beck at CRG Gallery. It's a pretty conceptual show, so you will want to read the press release, and maybe talk with Glenn McMillan, which is what I always do when I go. Even without the conceptual content, the pieces in the show are beautifully constructed objects.

This page is an archive of entries in the Culture category from February 2004.

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