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The thought train that would not die. I added the following paragraph as an afterthought to my essay on Jim Lewis' Slate piece on William Eggleston (that's four prepositional phrases in sequence!):
It may well be that Eggleston's "breakthrough" enabled photo departments to collect color photos for the first time, but this is really a minor achievement, important only within the rigid, internecine structure of the contemporary art museum, since color photography *was* being collected a few doors down the hall, in the painting department. Thus, what he really did was give photographers who wanted to use color permission to do something, a handful of years early, that artists were already doing. But to be important, we expect artists to rewrite the rules of the game, not just a few intramural regulations.
If I had to pick a "great man" it would probably be [Richard] Prince, for finally, belatedly extending the logic of Duchamp and Pop art to photography (and being a malicious wit). The reason breaking the color barrier was important was that at last photography could be as permeable to the everyday (commercial, media-defined) world as painting had become under Warhol. More than a color progenitor, it might be interesting to think of Eggleston as a proto-appropriator, photographing banal commercial subject matter in a landscape setting before Prince et al came along and just removed the setting. But that's a stretch--I still think Eggleston is mainly an art photographer, whose principal contribution is injecting the poetry of color field painting into mechanically produced images.
And what comes after Prince? Found vernacular photography, culled from the internet and smartly curated. Highly recommended is a book series called Useful Photography. It's some Dutch curators (artists?) compiling photographs taken from a wide range of sources. Issue #2 is all pictures of things people are selling on ebay. It's mostly abject crap lying on blankets--stereo speakers, model kits, old shoes and hats--but the photos are magical, and all they seem really sophisticated in this context. Here's what the authors wrote on the back cover (the book's sole bit of text):
MANY THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE NOW OWN A DIGITAL CAMERA. MANY THOUSANDS MORE SELL THEIR PERSONAL ITEMS THROUGH EBAY EVERY DAY. EVERYONE IS A PHOTOGRAPHER AND ALL THEIR HOMES ARE STUDIOS.
The folks behind this project are Hans Aarsman, Claudie de Cleen, Julian Germain, Erik Kessels, and Hans Van Der Meer. Buy the book! Eschew photo fetishism!
Here are some concert photos from PSYCH-OUT 2K3, taken by Aya Kanai. Top to bottom: Nautical Almanac, Extreme Animalz, LoVid.
More artist web pages: Some stalwart art types are still troubled that digital painter Claire Corey's work is "just abstraction" (i.e., no hidden messages saying "smash the state"), but that's like saying Stravinsky is just a composer. Scott Hug included one of her paintings in the second issue of K48 with a handwritten prescription for Ritalin on the page opposite, because the work is so psychedelified. Claire had a show recently at the Aldrich Museum--here are a couple of installation shots. (And I have to say that Bonnie Collura sculpture in the foreground looks intriguingly abject. The poor woman got trashed recently by Roberta Smith in the Times, after a lot of too-early hype, as if to say, with a diabolical laugh, "We made you; we can unmake you.")
The artist web pages highlighted here the past few weeks are very smooth and professional looking, but of course work can be presented "badly" and reflect a certain personality or attitude. For example, I really like this dirt style page by British artist Jon Davey. Check out his photos of "réadymades," and many good links.
Oh, yes, and speaking of Claire Corey again, I redesigned the page documenting the exhibit we were in at the Aldrich in 2000 called "Ink Jet" (with Matt Chansky), adding more pictures. This groundbreaking event left press, curators, and even our fellow artists largely speechless. ("Is this good?" "We don't know." mumble mumble.)
Die Mensch Maschine, 2003, jpeg
Bush vs. Zeon Pigs. I missed the press conference, but a friend reports that GWB looked like John Gill on the original Star Trek series, "kept drugged by his Jacobin lieutenants while they recreated the Third Reich." The difference, though, was that Gill was actually a good, albeit doped up guy, who was sequestered in a locked studio and never interacted with the press, and here, from what it sounds like, the reporters had rifles pointed at them from off camera to keep them on script (with the occasional token "hard question" for credibility). This inspired a daydream where one of those gutless bastards actually stood up and said, at the beginning of the Q&A:
"Excuse me, Mr. President, but you didn't let Helen Thomas ask the first question. That's been something of a tradition here for six Presidencies, and all of us feel as a matter of protocol you should do it. Otherwise you'll get no more questions from us tonight." (Murmured assent from press corps.)
If this person wasn't immediately felled by an Ekosian bullet, the Boy Emperor would be forced to deal on camera with this unexpected revolt, and we might get to see him in a full blown alcoholic rage. The press conference would be a disaster, Bush's poll numbers would plummet, the troops would be recalled...
And then I woke up.
Last night (March 6) I attended PSYCH-OUT 2K3 at Anthology Film Archives, which was part of the New York Underground Film Festival. Here's the blurb from the organizers, followed by my notes:
BEIGE and Seth Price Collective present:
Cartoons & consumer electronics in the 70s and 80s were bigger and trashier than ever and they had freaked kids out to the point of a whole generation got A.D.D. so now they are older and freak every person else out using this same old throw-away trash shit culture mind warp reversal....MESSY. You're either with us or against us.... Never fess.
PSYCH-OUT 2K3 = one night only live performance freak out featuring live music/video by the Extreme Animalz / PAPER RAD crew, NAUTICAL ALMANAC, and LOVID
In between bands there are videos by Leif GOLDBERG and Matt BRINKMAN, Forcefield (from the archives), Devin FLYNN, MUMBLEBOY, Ray Sweeten, Andy PULS, Seth PRICE/Michael SMITH WEB INFANTILISM, Billy Grant and Joe Grillo, US Military Games and anon. Commodore n64 video HACKERZ. MTV circa 1990,
That's LoVid in my underexposed photo at the top of the post, with Kyle Lapidus standing on the right wearing a video monitor cap and Tali Hinkis, also capped, disappearing into the murk on the left. They video-projected sizzling static patterns made in real time with a sound interface that disturbs the raster scan in the guts of the TV; these minimal-but-eye-assaulting patterns towered behind them on a fifteen foot screen. Nautical Almanac and Extreme Animalz also played live, with prerecorded video accompaniment. Extreme Animalz (logo above right) is an offshoot of PAPER RAD, out of Providence RI: to get a flavor of their visual presentation, check out the dense psychedelic jungle of blinking gifs on this home page (while you're there, be sure to look at the cartoons). Nautical Almanac's video was more performance based, with the two masked artists doing eccentric body art type things (e.g., trying to climb into a cabinet wearing a leg brace) inside a ruined building at night. Think Paul McCarthy meets the Blair Witch Project. Their music, which I described here, is intense, bleeding-edge noize that synched well with the frenetic video.
In between acts a variety of short vids rolled: a lot of high-speed, insanely pigmented hallucinations, as promised, heavy on recycled/mutated kid imagery: Ronald McDonald on acid, My Little Pony in slo-mo, and some butt-awful karaoke footage. Other highlights included video art legend Michael Smith in full-on diaper mode destroying a birthday cake and blowing on a noisemaker till he got bored, an Army training film defaced with an 8-bit "PSYCH-OUT 2K3" logo (right on), and Devin Flynn's manic vision of everything in the world competing with everything else. One video really stood out, enough that I want to describe it in a separate post: a ten minute work called Assassins Ride, by Forcefield, another Providence collective which has apparently broken up recently in the (disgusted?) wake of the Whitney/Artforum/NYTimes' drive to turn them into stars. In this eerie piece, three masked figures in overcoats stand around a trash barrel fire, unmoving, while an industrial/tech score pulses. The fire flares erratically, and every so often the screen fills with glowing green light, as if some weird energy is breaking through From Beyond. The mood is hypnotic and unsettling. More later, but above is a frame I snapped off my TV at home, after I picked up a copy of the tape.
[More (or rather, better) images from this event, taken by Aya Kanai, are here.]
I gave Richard Prince a hard time in that last post--yeah, really threw a spanner in his career path--but I like his work, just not those upstate NY photos. The framed celebrity pics and collectibles in a recent Barbara Gladstone show (hmm, a lot of black and white there) were smart and hilarious. Also, he has a great "cranky man" interview in the March 2003 Artforum. Here are some excerpts:
Did you feel a kinship to the artists in the "Pictures" show?
I've never said this before, but Doug Crimp actually asked me to be in that show. I read his essay and told him it was for shit, that it sounded like Roland Barthes. We haven't spoken since.
Do you think the critics [in the '80s] understood what you were doing?
I wasn't aware that there was much critical writing in the '80s about my work. I think people were more focused on David Salle, Schnabel, Fischl, Cindy Sherman, Jenny Holzer.
Well, I remember one person gushing about your work's "complete eventlessness."
That sounds like cartoon language. Kind of like when Susan Sontag describes taking a photograph as a "soft murder."