Culture: November 2004 Archives

I rarely read the Public Editor column in the New York Times, but since Choire mentioned it I read it.

It's about the dropping of most of the listing pages, and the arrival of Choire's The Guide. To be honest, I hadn't really noticed, but apparently a lot of people have.

I think they should hire me to adapt the ArtCat infrastructure for a new listings system.

Some quotation:

Just a few weeks earlier, The Times had tossed the venerable columns of agate type that had filled so many pages of the Arts & Leisure section for so long, with as many as 300 cultural events acknowledged, however briefly, in a single edition. In what seemed to be their place, a single page featured slightly more than 20 cultural items, tucked in and around some less than enlightening photographs, under headlines so opaque as to be incomprehensible. Down the side of the page, in very large type, marched the days of the week. The items aligned next to each described a few events or productions scheduled for those particular days, but in several cases they were events that could also be enjoyed (or endured) on many other days. To many readers, this was not just confusing; it was replacing a symphony with a jingle.


Inside The Times, there were several knocks on the old listings: They were dull. They were so absent critical judgment that readers, said Arts & Leisure editor Jodi Kantor, were "lost in a sea of names and titles." Culture editor Jonathan Landman believed they were "cryptic and hard to use for all but highly expert arts consumers." Kantor, Landman and others assert that because much of the information was available elsewhere, the old listings were redundant, and therefore vestigial.

There may be something to these criticisms (I'll certainly go along with the dullness charge), but each bears the scent of journalistic arrogance. Journalists like to do journalism; they're much less excited by the compilation of largely uninflected data. The old listings required great care, but they called for neither enterprising reporting nor graceful style nor, really, for critical judgment. Kantor told me that "we find it hard to believe that those listings, so skimpy they didn't even list prices, created much of an audience for events." But that "lost in a sea of names and titles" argument is refuted by the results. If the listings didn't create much of an audience, why are audience-chasing producers so upset that they'd join, or even inspire, an organized protest effort?

Landman's only-for-experts argument is simply condescending. It also sounds like the view of someone who's not a terribly avid arts consumer. Sure, the average reader could stumble through much of the listings pages puzzled by references to obscure painters or outré theater companies or little-known dance troupes. But that same "inexpert" reader could open the paper on a Sunday morning, see a reference to a Chopin recital at a church in Murray Hill that afternoon, and extract a very pleasant day from it. Additionally, what Landman imprecisely calls "highly expert arts consumers" are not such rare creatures in New York. If you've already made the commitment to peruse the jazz listings, then it's likely you already know quite a bit about George Coleman and Lou Donaldson and Steve Turre. That doesn't take an expert; that takes a fan, and this city - cultural capital of the nation - is home to thousands upon thousands of fans.

Then there's The Guide - well intended, and somewhat improved with each passing week, but nonetheless an ill-conceived failure. Kantor says the range of items included "is a testament to the richness of New York's cultural life." But it's also testament to a narrowing down so severe, and so individualistic, that its arbitrariness is unnerving. I've got nothing against Choire Sicha, the author; the enormous range of arts events in New York filtered through the sensibility of a single individual wouldn't be any more useful if the sensibility was Edmund Wilson's. Interesting, sure, but it's simply wrong-headed to represent it as useful. And for a newspaper that considers itself the leader in cultural coverage, "useful" is an admirable goal.

It's a bit brutal toward Choire's gig (what did you expect from readers that complain when the Travel section writes too much about hotel rooms under $400 per night?), but I love the part about fans. That's how James and I describe ourselves. We get recognized by people because we show up at so many galleries and theater events, so when people ask if we're in the arts, we say, "No, we're art fans!"

My favorite regular event at DTW is Fresh Tracks, as I have said before.

It's described on the site as:

Created in 1965, Fresh Tracks is Dance Theater Workshop's longest-running series of new dance and performance. Featuring works by emerging choreographers and performance artists selected through open auditions by a panel that includes artists, producers and critics, the six artists selected possess unusual potential and striking imagination.

Fresh Tracks has helped to identify and launch the careers of such well-known choreographers as Bebe Miller, Molissa Fenley, Bill T. Jones, Wendy Perron, David Parsons, Donald Byrd and Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, among others.

We went tonight. The performers were Allen Body Group, Felicia Ballos, Jonah Bokaer, Jeremy Laverdure, Daniel Linehan, Yoko Sugimoto and Yuka Kikuchi. We went mostly because we know Felicia Ballos.

For us, the two best performances of the evening were the ones by Daniel Linehan and Felicia. Daniel Linehan's performance, titled Digested Noise, was a solo choreographed by him, with a (mostly) non-verbal sound accompaniment generated by him as well. There were grunts, hums, clicks, and the occasional word or phrase, such as "Go! Stay!" or what seemed to be a reference to an attack. It was dazzling. Watch for that name. He is a young one, having graduated from the University of Washington in Seattle last spring, and I would expect him to go far.

Felicia Ballos's work was titled Fragile Lodging. There was supposed to be a video component by Anna Craycroft, but there were technical difficulties and she performed without it. I don't want to insult anyone, but it felt like a complete work anyway. Her disjointed movements and vague, odd facial expressions (including gum-chewing) had the audience quite enthralled. Her face was so compelling in the performance that I had to remind myself that her body was doing things too and I couldn't only watch her face.

It repeats tomorrow night (Saturday) at 7:30. It's the best $20 you'll spend all weekend.

We won't be in Miami for the various art fairs in early December. We're boycotting the state right now.

However, if we were, our first stop woud be the Frisbee Art Fair.

[via Monya Rowe]

It's embarassing to admit that this is the first time I have read William Gibson's Neuromancer. Here is my favorite quote so far:

Blank walls, no windows, a single white-painted steel firedoor. The walls were coated with countless layers of white latex paint. Factory space. He knew this kind of room, this kind of building; the tenants would operate in the interzone where art wasn't quite crime, crime not quite art.

Here is his web page, complete with weblog.

charles_L_mee.jpg Charles Mee, playwright

James and I attended the Rhizome Blogging and the Arts event tonight. During the discussion, Lisa from CultureKitchen mentioned the concern about intellectual property and just letting art or writing be out there that scares so many artists and writers. I was reminded of the wonderful and generous playwright Charles Mee. His website, called the making project, has the complete texts of his plays. If you wish to perform them as written, or essentially as written, you have to get permission as they are copyrighted. Otherwise, if you want to use elements of them in your own work, they are free. To quote from the site:

Please feel free to take the plays from this website and use them as a resource for your own work: cut them up, rearrange them, rewrite them, throw things out, put things in, do whatever you like with them—don't just make a few cuts or rewrite a few passages, but pillage the plays and build your own entirely new piece out of the ruins—and then, please, put your own name to the work that results.

But, if you would like to perform the plays essentially or substantially as I have composed them, they are protected by copyright in the versions you read here, and you need to clear performance rights with...

James and I saw him at Wallsé when we were there with friends for one of the Monday night wine dinners (a bargain I might add). We were probably the only people in the place excited to see him. We didn't react as strongly to seeing Kristen Johnson at the next table...

If you prefer to read his plays via a real book, I recommend History Plays.

P.S. I'm going to turn comments back on for everything but political posts. Those attract too many right-wing idiots finding people to argue with via Google.

My favorite link so far to the new ArtCal is one from a discussion board in New Caledonia.

The title of this post is my favorite line from Tony Kushner's Homebody/Kabul.

I haven't been diligent about updating the openings calendar lately, as I was getting ready to launch my new and improved version, with information on recommended shows, not just openings. I present:


I apologize that there are no iCal or RSS feeds yet. Those are coming soon.

American Fine Arts closes its doors for good tonight. There is a closing party from 5-8 with performances. Be there.

530 West 22nd Street

Zach Feuer of LFL Gallery has bought out his partners and changed the name of the gallery to Zach Feuer Gallery. Note the page title at that link.

P.S. The Dana Schutz show up now is great. I think it's the best work I've seen from her.

P.P.S. We went to MoMA today for the members' preview. Expect posts on that subject from James and me later.

It's the talented young painter Dan Levenson. I saw the photo here on From the Floor, and then I looked up who owns the domain name. I think that's Orly Cogan standing next to him! We love her too.

I was looking at Casey Kaplan's web site just now. It's new. It's flash. It's awful.

Derek Jarman's manuscripts are featured in an exhibit titled The Writer in the Garden at the British Library. I read about it in The Guardian.

Some of his late manuscripts and notebooks - covers beautifully personalised with gold or black impasto, full of poems, jottings and memories - will be revealed this week at an exhibition at the British Library in London.

Jarman kept 16 volumes of diaries recounting the making of his garden at Prospect Cottage, on the Kent coastline, where he moved in 1988. Here he created a curious Eden in the most hostile, salt-caked, windswept environment imaginable, a strange garden full of twisted metal and driftwood, in the shadow of the Dungeness nuclear power station.

Much of the material from the notebooks was incorporated into his published diaries, Modern Nature, but the exquisite objects themselves, two of which the British Library has borrowed from Jarman's estate, have never before been seen in public.

Speaking of visual/film artists with a talent for the written word, last night we attended an event at PPOW featuring writers and artists inspired by the works (written and otherwise) of David Wojnarowicz. The main reason we attended was to see Matt Wolf's slide show on Wojnarowicz's "magic box" in his archives at NYU. It's amazing to realize that Matt is only 22. We have already seen several works by him, and even "invested" a small amount into his latest film project. It's titled I Feel Love -- Matt titles his latest films after Communards/Bronski Beat songs -- and has Andrew Cunanan as its subject.


DAVID WOJNAROWICZ Untitled (One day this kid . . .) 1990
photostat edition of 10 60 × 48 inches

No, this isn't a political post. Democracy Forever is the name of the current exhibit at Plum Blossoms, a gallery specializing in Asian art on 25th Street. We visited it for the first time last night, for a reception related to Asian Contemporary Art Week. The people at the gallery had used their connections well: there was a huge crowd of people from all around the New York art world and elsewhere.

It's a strong show, and there are more images on the web site, but I wanted to point out a couple of artists whose work I really liked. The first is Ji Dachun, who creates acrylic works on canvas of communist icons such as Mao and Stalin.

JiDaChun0562.jpg JI DACHUN
Zhong Nan-hai 0.8
Acrylic on canvas, 2004
43 × 43 inches (110 × 110 cm)

Zhong Nan-hai is the "Chinese Kremlin," a set of buildings once part of the Imperial Court that now serves as the headquarters of the Communist Party.

The other work is by an amazing collective called UNMASK, which creates domed sculptures featuring items of war and industrial devastation. I was told by Andrew Maerkle at the gallery that their "day jobs" are working on sculptures for public monuments. The image below is one of four globes. It appears to be mounted on a wall in the photograph, but they are on separate pedestals at the gallery.

The Shadowless
Installation of Four Units
plastic, stainless steel, fluorescent lights, 2004
4 pcs. each 26 × 26 × 53 inches
(4 pcs. each 65 × 65 × 135 cm)

The show is up through November 27.

On a related note, The Guardian has an interesting article on the state of contemporary art in China, particularly in Shanghai. We know a gallerist, Lothar Albrecht, who has a gallery in Beijing, but we haven't had a chance to talk to him about his adventures there.

MIX, the queer experimental film/video festival, is having a benefit on November 21, featuring various ticket levels, including silent and live art auctions, and a cabaret featuring Linda Simpson (creator of the My Comrade zine).

Artists, if you're interested in donating work, they would love to have it. James and I have discovered a number of new artists at such benefits. Here is the PDF donation form.


Queens International 2004 opens tomorrow at the Queens Museum, 3-6pm. We plan to be there.

All are invited as the Museum celebrates the opening of Queens International 2004 with an afternoon of music, dance and delectable fare that echoes the unique artistic flavor of Queens. Also, take advantage of the QMA book sale, a chance to purchase great books at a tremendous discount.

The second installment of Queens International attempts to take the pulse of the artistic climate of the nation's most ethnically diverse locale. Featuring 52 artists and two collaboratives, Queens International 2004 presents a dazzling array of work produced by artists working or living in the borough. Established and emerging artists working in a broad spectrum of tradtional and unorthodox media represent a vital artistic community that is evolving on a daily basis.

Check out the list of artists on the web page. There are a number of people that James and I have mentioned before, including Rosemarie Fiore and Shin il Kim.

The exhibition runs through February 6, 2005.

One of the best benefits in NYC for art buying is this Saturday, 3-8, at Artists Space. Hopefully I will be able to spend some of the money I'm saving in case we have to go into exile.

In no particular order other than north to south:

  • Despite the Sun at Foxy Production, 547 West 27th Street -- particularly the sculpture/paintings of Yuh-Shioh Wong.
  • Larissa Bates at Monya Rowe, 526 West 26th Street, 5th floor -- One of the best shows up in Chelsea right now, and I'm not just saying that because we own one of her works.
  • Valaire Van Slyck at Capsule, 521 West 26th Street -- paintings of the Detroit as "the physical manifestation of American failure." The next show there looks great. It's curated by Andrew Guenther.
  • Rob Thom at LFL, 530 West 24th Street -- for the drawings especially
  • Bozidar Brozda at HaswellEdiger, 465 West 23rd Street -- I'm thrilled to see a new gallery in Chelsea that's more like an edgy LES/Chinatown gallery than the typical Chelsea fare. The two partners are Angela Kotinkaduwa, former director of Maccarone Inc., and Samantha Tsao, former associate director of Thread Waxing Space. See the write-up by James. Also, it looks like there is a performance by Cola Freaks (Danish punk I believe) on November 11, 7:30-8:30.
  • Ina Diane Archer's video installation at Heido Cho, 522 West 23rd Street -- Ina creates films in which she inserts herself into older films, ranging from a medley of Richard Widmark films to early African-American Vitaphone films and Fassbinder's Fox and his Friends [Fassbinder's estate should sue Fox for having a fake news show called Fox and Friends]
  • Christy Rupp at Frederieke Taylor, 535 West 22nd Street -- I think the poster works are more effective than the sculpture, with quite good use of corporate logos and globalization themes. A lot of people try to work with these issues without making visually compelling art, but she pulls it off.

There are other shows worth seeing, but this is based on what I looked at over the last few days. James and I have already written about some other shows of note in Chelsea.

This looks like a great show at the Three Rivers Arts Festival gallery -- Daydream Nation, opening November 5, runs through January 1.

It includes Noah Lyon, Paper Rad and other people of note.


Noah is still on our "to buy" list. There isn't too much art there -- that's not possible -- but we need a bigger art budget.

I went to some galleries (more on that later), launched a web site for Joe Ovelman, got Joe mentioned on Wooster Collective, and had some business meetings for several new art-related web sites.

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

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