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tom moody

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Robert Rauschenberg interviewed in the NY Times, Feb. 15:
Are dinner parties as good as they used to be in the bohemian '50s?

Of course not. The art world isn't interesting anymore, because when I lived in New York, the problems in the art world were my fault. But they no longer are. They're the fault of dealers, who are influencing the quality of art.

Reading that, many artists will say "Right on. F-ing dealers, they pick the shallowest work." But one could just as easily say "C'mon, Bob, like you and Jasper weren't jockeying for position back in the day. Whether something was 'your fault' wasn't an issue until a dealer put it in the pipeline." He's right about the dinner parties, though: Bohemia isn't as freewheeling in New York now. Everyone's juggling art and day jobs. Plus people can't smoke. It's still the best art town, though.

- tom moody 2-16-2004 8:47 pm [link]

Heads of David Koresh, from Mark Allen's weblog. The New York & Toronto perspective on the interactive computer game these came from is here; my photos of the heads in action accompany this post of Allen's about the Davidians' New York debut.

- tom moody 2-15-2004 9:57 am [link]

The Videogame Art Show That Wasn't Amusing

Tomorrow is the last day for the New Museum's videogame art show "Killer Instinct", not that it's recommended. I missed the Joe McKay/Kristin Lucas gaming show in the same location in 2001 (the museum's hard-to-hang-out-in Media Z Lounge) but I know some of the work (e.g., McKay's Audio Pong) and it's way more fun, and way less pretentious, than this. You are greeted at the entrance of "Killer Instinct" with a selection of Brody Condon's "fake screenshots," which are lackluster collages mounted on foamcor or sintra board1: I'm revealing my own ignorance/apathy that I don't know if it's the games or the shots that are "fake." Next you encounter a sub-Kenny Scharf, faux ultraviolet installation by Condon & Shih Chieh Huang consisting of agglomerations of plastic toys and containers of water (connected by myriad tubes) with some SEGA type game imagery not doing much on a screen. This looked like bad outsider art. Anne-Marie Schleiner's piece was frozen, the video in Eddo Stern's sculpture was barely moving, and in another Stern piece, the sound only worked in one earpiece in each of the two sets of headphones hanging from a duct-taped rack2 (different ears malfunctioned in each). The Cory Arcangel/Paul B. Davis hacked Nintendo cartridge piece was nice, but shoved over in a dark corner discouraging lingering. Tom Betts's big screen installation work of fragmented, negatively-inverted game elements was hyperactive and psychedelic, but didn't live up to the curators' hype:

[The work] explores how artists translate the aesthetics and tactics of gaming culture into real space and real time--and how this new kind of fluid cinematic "gaming space" affects participants' behavior and experience.
Mostly you stood there and worked three buttons until you figured out what formal elements were being manipulated by which buttons, and then you watched the light show. As far as "gaming space," as a friend pointed out, the console was set ridiculously far back from the screen so you never got the full-on immersive experience. Maybe that was the point, but it made it less entertaining. As for the ymRockers game music compilation, that would probably be more effective as a download or CD than a non-interactive art piece that you sit and listen to sequentially through headphones. I know I left out a few things but I wanted to get out of that show pronto so I didn't take notes. This was a perfect example of the type of hybrid exhibit with no appeal to either constituency it supposedly represents (too formally sloppy for the art world, too "deconstructed"--and not fun enough--for gamers). Way to go.

1. The board looked denser than foamcor but lighter than sintra, with some kind of metallic color around the edges(?) Just trying to be accurate in this on-the-fly reporting.

2. Again, it wasn't exactly duct tape, it just gave the same slapdash impression. Where the headphone wires entered the rack somebody had done a bad splice job with white electrician's tape. There's good nerdy and bad nerdy but this was the latter.

- tom moody 2-15-2004 12:16 am [link]

Here's a first stab at mixing some analog music (from vinyl) for a downloadable mp3: the Tuxedomoon Mini-Mix [.mp3 removed]. It's approximately 18 minutes, a 17 MB file. This favors broadband users, and I'm sorry, I've really been trying to keep this page surfer-friendly. Just consider the mix a bonus to the online music-crit below (yeah, I know, right).

Tuxedomoon was a kind of art-punk-cabaret band that emerged from late '70s San Francisco, specifically the scene around the Mabuhay Gardens and the Deaf Club: a time and place band member Blaine Reininger described as "our own Belle Epoque." Principal instruments were bass (that's a pun, sort of--the bassist is Peter Principle), sax, violin, keyboards, and rhythm box. Adjectives used to describe the band would be "innovative," "psychedelic" and "angsty." Three vocalists alternated on the singing chores and all sounded tortured, or suffering from post-breakdown ennui; all members were accomplished musicians downplaying their talent at the height of garage band streamlining. The band flowered during the postpunk era with a recording contract on the Residents' Ralph label, then relocated to Belgium before eventually drifting apart in the mid-'80s. In this selection I've somewhat slighted sax-and-keyboarder Steven Brown's contributions in favor of violinist Reininger's, but I love both. Here's the track listing; all songs are by the band unless noted:
"Volo Vivace" from Half-Mute (1980). Jazzy chamber music anchored in organ-and-synthesizer gloom. Principle's ultracool bass, playing counterpoint to a sequencer, supplies the rhythm.

"Incubus (Blue Suit)" from Desire (1981). Trippy scifi lyrics sung by Reininger, and you gotta love that beatbox.

"Crash" (flip side of Ralph 45 rpm "What Use") (1980). With its flailing drums, repetitive piano refrain, and filtered acid guitar, this is like proto-breakbeat techno. Never made it onto an album, but this is one of my favorite TM tracks. Guest guitarist Michael Belfer resurfaces on Reininger's solo LP described below.

"Birthday Song," from the Reininger solo outing Night Air (1983). Very '80s noir. Steven Brown's charmingly almost-inept sax makes an appearance here.

"Next to Nothing," 1977 rehearsal recording (from the Pinheads on the Move compilation, 1987). Singer and performance artist Winston Tong popped in and out of the TM lineup: his emotional vocals are featured here. The raw use of the analog synth here is inspiring, from the lurching, stop-and-start notes underneath the vocals to the ending where the sound hisses away in ever-rising pink noise increments. Gives me chills.

- tom moody 2-14-2004 6:05 am [link]

This "outsourcing of jobs" business--whether it's blue collar ones going to China or white collar ones going to India--should be a potent campaign issue. I'm betting that many workplaces have rumors going around that certain tasks will soon be sent overseas. Why should anyone trust their employers on this issue? As long as no government restrictions on the practice exist, the corporation's job is to maximize profits, so goodbye jobs. The Republicans are speaking out with their usual sensitivity to the problems of the middle class. You may have read that Gregory Mankiw, chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers, called outsourcing "just a new way of doing international trade." The White House hasn't criticized Mankiw's comment, "focusing on the belief he was espousing that freer global trade benefits workers and consumers in all countries, including the United States," according to a recent AP article. Mankiw said his remarks were "misinterpreted" and he meant to emphasize "the importance of knocking down trade barriers while helping workers who inevitably will lose their jobs to transition into other work," according to the same AP story. In other words, retraining them from computer programming to the intricacies of waiting tables. (Though in the current let's-automate-everything climate, even those jobs are in jeopardy.)

A lot of Democrats moved to the right on this issue during the Clinton years, embracing all that "free market" jabber. Whatever candidate the Democrats put up against Bush is going to be in the pocket of Big Business, so don't expect any change come 2005. What we need, though, is to move away from the kneejerk idea that "market wisdom" is the sole way to run a society. If the market were truly wise child labor wouldn't exist anywhere. Societies (meaning governments) always draw lines regarding what is acceptable behavior. What's needed, now that even the managerial class is feeling the sting of outsourcing, is a bigger national dialogue on the American way of doing business. To me, outsourcing combined with insane executive compensation is fouling our own nest, gradually destroying the communities which originally nurtured the multinationals. Which means, we need to start passing legislation limiting predatory levels of compensation (tying executive earnings to the overall health of the company, not just the perception of being a "mover"), taxing companies that outsource and using the money to create a national unemployment fund, and penalizing corporations that move offshore to evade these laws. Sharp intake of breath from Clintonians and Republicans alike--heresy!

- tom moody 2-13-2004 10:22 pm [link]

"Home Hip Hop," from Dragan Espenschied's Casio Gallery (guest photographer: Olia Lialina). The .gifs are rearranged here so you can see them horizontally: normally they play sequentially (in time)--hope that's OK. Espenschied is an artist, a musician (one-half of the home computer band Bodenstandig 2000), and an opinionated computer geek. His Dogma-manifesto-like wisdom on keeping things basic in computer publishing is persuasive: How to Correctly Print Low Resolution Screen Graphics makes me ashamed for putting up so many gnarly jpegs, riddled with "what professionals call 'bicubic mush.'" One could take issue with some of his rules of screen design, though: no matter how pure or innate a black screen is, it's oppressive to look at. So go ahead, call me an analog sissy for "trying to imitate paper." Other noteworthy Dragan projects are what he calls the Worst Drum Machine (which is to say, the best), and the Gameboy Camera Gallery. Especially intriguing on the latter page is the ultra-lo-res tour of a Camille Pisarro painting exhibition. If theorists from academia were still taking up causes in the art world, this might be of interest to them (unfortunately they've abandoned us to journalists).

- tom moody 2-11-2004 10:29 pm [link]

- tom moody 2-10-2004 11:38 pm [link]

Until today, this earlier post about the Iowa caucus still occupied the front page of this blog; since it was written, in the hoary, ancient days of January 25-26, the whole political landscape has changed. Back then, everything was "Dean Dean Dean" and now it's all "Kerry Kerry Kerry." The latter's pro-war vote will give him more credibility with Toby Keith's America, I guess, and he is at least now questioning Bush Jr.'s cred on defense issues. Without being for him, I can still say "let's hope he wins."

The same post discussed Alexander Cockburn's takedown of Errol Morris's film The Fog of War, and Cockburn has a few more thoughts today on Robert McNamara, specifically his 13 years at the World Bank. McNamara is reportedly unhappy that these glory years aren't mentioned in the movie, but Cockburn reminds us that sacking the Third World economically isn't any more noble than killing millions of Vietnamese, really.

In Vietnam, Agent Orange and napalm. Across the Third World, the bank underwrote "Green Revolution" technologies that the poorest peasants couldn't afford and that drenched land in pesticides and fertilizer. Vast infrastructural projects such as dams and kindred irrigation projects drove the poor from their lands, from Brazil to India. It was the malign parable of "modernization" written across the face of the Third World, with one catastrophe after another prompted by the destruction of traditional rural subsistence economies.
Regarding the McNamara/Morris tour to promote the movie, Cockburn says: "It's as though Eichmann had launched a series of lecture-circuit pillow fights with a complaisant biographer." I know Democratic centrist types are wont to bash Cockburn as an "old lefty"--a lot of them sided with power-nebbish Eric Alterman in his recent food fight with the Counterpunch editor--but Cockburn is still the more incisive writer, and more fun, too.

- tom moody 2-09-2004 4:30 am [link]