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Kristin Lucas, Joe McKay, and Buddy the Chinchilla driving to Dover, Delaware (photo: Kristin Lucas)
Bloggy has kindly excerpted Helen Thomas' grilling of Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer from the White House press briefing transcript, which was linked to by cursor.org yesterday. She asks the pertinent question: "Have [the Iraqis] laid [a] glove on you, or on the United States, in 11 years?" and Fleischer dithers in response. As troops of our "volunteer" army, aggressively recruited from schools where kids don't have a lot of career choice, are shipped overseas for the latest slaughter, and as the economy stalls while we all wait to see if George "Dry Hole" Bush's latest gamble is going to pay off, a lot more people should be asking this question.
Meanwhile, the left dithers about whether it was proper for a few Communists to be involved with the protests last fall, and everyone else is too scared or broke to get on a bus to demonstrate. Oh yeah, and I guess there are people out in the red states applauding the imminent demise of the TV Baddie of the Week. As Bush has proved by substituting Saddam for Osama, these villains are absolutely interchangeable.
Sorry, but this news of troop movements and pictures of girls kissing Marines at airports has put me in a really glum mood.
Tonight I attended an evening of electronic/noise performances, organized by LoVid at Gale-Martin Fine Art in lower Chelsea. The theme was "artists working with homemade electronics and electronic signals," and the vibe lay somewhere between that photo of Microsoft employees circa 1975, fashionwise, and a Survival Research Labs performance in 1986, intensity level-wise. Cory Arcangel began with a Power Point presentation about the history of Motorola 6502 chip, used in Apples, Commodores, etc., which "made low cost home computing possible." He then gave an amusing, faux-sloppily illustrated step by step procedure for his Nintendo cartridge hacks, which involves busting open the cartridge and adding to/deleting from the existing chip with an emulator program (to write code compatible with the Nintendo software) and a chip burner (to put the new code on a chip, which is then soldered into the cartridge). On display were two of his recent efforts, an abstract honeycomb version of an old-school shoot-and-run game, and an ambient video of slowly scrolling cartoon clouds, all that remained after subtracting out most of a Mario Bros. game. Following Arcangel's lecture, which drew appreciative laughs, Gavin R. Russom & Delia R. Gonzalez set everyone's teeth on edge for about a half hour with a dense, wall-of-sound feedback assault, produced with bolted-together analog equipment. Both musicians performed in a kneeling position, with two of the crudest portraits on canvas I've ever seen obscuring the control consoles. This was OK but too long. Next was LoVid (Tali Hinkis and Kyle Lapidus), a really tasty combination of knob twiddling sound and fucked-raster video. Some exceptional psychedelic static patterns projected while the music blurted and coughed. The last performance I stayed for was Nautical Almanac, a kind of Frankenstein synthesis of soldered analog patch bays and hacked Casio-type digital instruments. The two performers did primal scream spazz-outs with mikes in their mouths (a la Lux Interior of the Cramps); the sounds that emerged from the alligator-clip-sprouting instruments were as unpredictable, rapidfire, and sophisticated as stuff from the Miami (Schematic) glitch school, but really raunched-out and ball busting. It was nice seeing/hearing all this chaos inside the denuded white walls of one those monster Chelsea art-boxes. Great evening.
Thanks to bloggy for linking to my site. The posts on his page are much more wide-ranging and culturally evolved than the ones here. He (Barry) is a flaneur in the inquisitive, Baudelairean sense, soaking in what New York and the larger Web world have to offer in terms of art, music, books, you name it. He's also politically astute, and especially good at close reading of the media for its quirky little habits, such as reportorial bias and blind subservience to the power structure.
He's also one of the few people in cyberspace tracking the art world. A few posts back, he lamented the shortage of New York art blogs, and it's true. There are websites galore but not much journal-cum-critical writing that I'm aware of. Artnet.com has had "artist's diary" columns come and go, but they're often larded with malicious gossip or trivialized by constantly quoting prices of art objects. (Sorry, Walter, but the mercantilism is really annoying!)
I started this weblog two years ago next month, and have watched in amazement as blogging has transformed the political world (e.g., the demise of Trent Lott), while at the same time having nil effect on the art world. Artists and dealers are still obsessed with print magazines as the ultimate validation for their efforts. But then even with print media, if I can generalize horribly, art worlders are less interested in batting ideas back and forth than having a piece of stamped parchment that says This Is Important Work. Dealers will put a 100-word semi-diss by NY Times writer Grace Glueck in an artist's book over a thoughtful 500 word review from an obscure magazine (as you may have guessed, my writing's hit the cutting room floor this way). As an artist, of course, I would include both articles!
I created a slide show called the "New Jersey Wasteland Tour" that I hope you'll check out here. I took the pics with a digital camera (and later wrote accompanying blurbs) in a panic that the little "zone of rot" I frequently walk through was about to be fixed up by the city and/or state. The emphasis here is on Decrepitude and Folly, but I also find this area (between Jersey City and Liberty State Park) to be sort of beautiful. I've got shots of the Morris Canal at its toxic/fecal best, the Statue of Liberty from the viewpoint of a "Hazardous Materials Area," and some belated documentation of the parking lot that was hastily put in and removed in the patronage free-for-all that followed 9/11.
For my New Year's resolution, I promise this year to be nicer and more temperate politically in my posts.
I mean, how about that twisted, Nixon-era relic Donald Rumsfeld, boasting that the U.S. can fight two wars simultaneously, neither of which has anything to do with bagging the Twin Towers murderers? We wouldn't be talking about any wars if the administration was halfway competent. The "axis of evil" rhetoric is what got us to this point with Korea, and Iraq is another fight we're picking.
One of the secretaries where I work said that when Rumsfeld was on TV during the Afghanistan bombing, a lot of women thought he was "hot." Sorry to be patronizing here, but c'mon, ladies! Is it that he's a confident Daddy figure, or is it the edge of violence that makes him so attractive? I mean, grow up.
Eric Heist has street cred to spare as a guiding force (with Laura Parnes) behind the Brooklyn nonprofit Momenta Art, consistently one of the best and smartest of the Williamsburg spaces. That rep climbed a few more notches last year when he collaborated with musician/poet/shaman/malevolent pixie Genesis P-Orridge, of Throbbing Gristle/Psychic TV fame (as a TG fan from way back, I admit I was jealous). The pair did a 2-person show at Team Gallery in Manhattan, a kind of punk/psychedelic boutique entered through a womblike tunnel. It was a bit too DIY for my taste--more like a Happening set than a stand-alone exhibit, but then I missed the packed opening, so I really didn't get the full flavor of the event.
The new work in Heist's studio continues some of the themes of the Team show (and an earlier solo at Feed): an interest in crawlspaces and secret chambers, the street agitprop of band posters and handbills, and a Heist specialty, an obsession with the trimmings of multinational capitalism. When I visited, we looked at three installations, all incorporating fixtures from the modern office suite, heavy on the black formica. The first is a reception desk, of the type used by art galleries (including Momenta) to keep employees discreetly hidden from view. On the wall behind this structure framed prints depict business suited executives shaking hands and giving meetings--real annual report stuff, only done in garish black light colors with cheesy flocked surfaces. What's most noteworthy about the piece, though, is that down where the receptionist's legs would be, the formica has been replaced by a large cardboard box, with ratty blankets lining the bottom. Maybe you have a co-worker that likes to curl up under a desk and nap during "down time" ( I know I do), and this would be the perfect place, except it looks vaguely unsanitary.
The piece (and another one like it, resembling a corporate boardroom table, which may or may not end up including some porno in the box) is an oxymoron, a big exquisite corpse, grafting together sleek office fixtures with the repressed Other of makeshift homeless shelters. Somehow all this avoids being didactic, though. Perhaps because it appeals to the child in all of us who remembers playing in cardboard tunnels. William Gibson also exploits this nostalgic feeling in his last novel All Tomorrow's Parties, which has several characters living in boxes in a Japanese train station. There is a tension in both cases between bourgeois fantasies of escape into a "romantic" lower class world and the very real fear of it happening involuntarily in the Bush Economy.
Continuing the "invisible office" theme were some really nice muted pencil drawings depicting janitorial cleaning equipment in lonely corporate hallways, and a sculpture of a custodian's door, which opens incongruously onto a disco diorama. The latter piece also holds out some suggestion of escape, this time into a world of coked-up sensuality, but it's really only exchanging one kind of regulated, commodified activity for another. (But what lies beyond the disco?) Through his use of the boxes-within-boxes motif, Heist's work is ultimately about the impossibility of escape: even we gallerygoers, hoping to use art as a refuge from the micromanaged environments where most of us spend our time, aren't going anywhere--until we wake up one morning in that cardboard box.
Breakfast Room, ink on cut paper, product packaging, map pins, 95" X 45" X 16"