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Beautiful-sounding, twisted logic from the antiwar sister of an American in Iraq:
Victory being out of the question at this point, the only democracy my brother is fighting for in Iraq is our democracy. The only constitution he is in Iraq fighting to defend is our Constitution. If my brother dies, it will not be for a mistake but rather because of his deeply held belief that the time it takes us as a people to figure out through democratic processes that we are wrong is more important than his own life.Great, lovely, but what about all the Iraqis he's helping to kill while we democratic idiots figure out what we did wrong? The essay in the Washington Post where this paragraph comes from is just comforting sophistry from someone stuck between the rock of her convictions and the hard place of her brother's participation in a war that has needlessly slaughtered people who never threatened the US. She's ultimately enabling his bad choices (or our leaders') with this desperate argument.
"Massively Huge" [mp3 removed]
Happy and e-piano-y tune for the holidays. The back story is I found this bunch of samples buried inside a Reaktor "groovebox" called Massive. (Not to be confused with Massive the synth, also from Native Instruments--but of course they will be.) The samples are supposed to be raw material for further slicing and granular weirdness in the beatbox context. I find that kind of music to be mushy, arty and same-y but I really liked the samples by themselves. So I moved them into a sampler and gave them pitches and wrote simple tunes for them. The piece has a kind of kitchen sink feel, with house music piano chords rubbing up against mangled electronic percussion stabs, but it moves along. The drum tracks are 3 different machines playing at once, two hardware and one soft.
(Similarities to London Elektricity are happily acknowledged, although breakbeats are hardly used.)
Headphones 2, a ceramic piece from my student days.
The New York police department now has a cable-car-like boxes for elevated surveillance, raised and lowered on extensible arms like fireman's ladders. They make appearances whereever crimes might occur--most recently that danger zone Times Square. Officially they're called Sky Watch; Curbed calls them the Towers of Fun. Portable prison camp turrets gets my vote. In a pinch they could probably be outfitted with those new microwave "crowd control" weapons, to complete the degradation of the citizenry. Police state, we're on it.
"Two Note Lead" [mp3 removed]
An exercise in musical minimalism using the Electribe RmkII, an instrument I've been neglecting as I learned my way around the Vermona analog drum machine. The Electribe, being an analog-modeling digital synth, has a more brittle, metallic sound, but that's not without its pleasures. I only used the machine's onboard sequencer for the "break" or second theme in the middle--everything else was performed in my computer's host sequencer, which plays the Electribe via MIDI. The played and internally sequenced parts were then sampled and overlayed inside the host; you can hear some phasing and detuning when two like parts are played simultaneously and crossfaded. The most time was spent on changing the settings of the Electribe's rhythm synthesizer voices, away from some fairly awful presets. The resulting piece has an "Assault on Precinct 13" feel--if I can be so presumptuous--but clangy and jangly (and more upbeat than the Carpenter).
Update: snipped out four bars in the middle.
"Entropic Funk" [mp3 removed]
A sequence I wrote is played with four Sidstation patches--Sharp Interval Lead, PWM1, Subloop, and Moonmachine (the last is the crunchy, high pitched one)--all run through the Mutator filter using a gate setting to shorten the envelope. These segments are recorded into the sequencer one at a time and overlapped with each other to create a kind of round and/or counterpoint. Also in the musical staff is a marimba sequence using the same notes phased and "fattened" in a sampler, and a drum pattern that comes and goes. As the title suggests, the piece starts off energetic and urban and gets more Subotnick-abstract but without losing the spine of a perky melody.
Headphone drawing by Marisa Olson - my remix.
The following exchange appeared in Houston's online magazine GlassTire back in 2001:
Tire Iron #6 3/15/2001
by Bill Davenport
I confess: I myself show at Inman Gallery, so if you feel that this invalidates my opinion of other work shown there, you can stop reading now.
John Pomara's glossy enameled panels are competent, affectless, impersonal. In the past I have used the phrase "toxic pond sludge" (I meant that in a good way) to describe Pomara's abstractions, but these new works at Inman gallery are cleaner. The panels are either black or white; the black ones suggesting nighttime landscapes, time-lapse photographs of headlights on a rain-slick city street. The proportions of the white panels suggest sheets of milky paper, squeegeed into horizontal zips like writing.
In both cases, the vertical orientation of the panel counteracts the horizontal stretch of the painting. Compare these works to Barnet Newman's: if Newman's vertical zips are the figure reduced to its essential gravity-defying assertion of existence, Pomara's horizontal streaks are the equivalent distillation of landscape, stretching flat and sliding sideways at high speed.
John Pomara, Pipeline, 2000
oil enamel on aluminum, 30 x 24 inches
Although they are emphatically about the glossy deliciousness of industrial paint, Pomara's works don't feel like paintings. Their exposed edges show that each is a thin sheet of aluminum laminated to birch plywood. The panels seem manufactured, not painted: the result of the impersonal operation of chance and technique.
The odd, syncopated hanging of the show does a lot for the work; irregular intervals between the panels make them into a sort of Morse code: intermittent, static-laden signals on the information superhighway. In the entranceway, a large black panel is hung next to a similar small one, upsetting one's expectations of typical gallery-style installation. The two panels have an odd relationship: a large and small version of the same thing, or possibly one close-up and one far away.
A discussion of Pomara's work is incomplete without referencing the very similar works of Houston artist Tad Griffin, Pomara's former student. Their co-existence is an opportunity to make subtle comparisons that highlight nuances of both artists' works, which are usually submerged. Here we are comparing, not pears and oranges, but Bosc vs. Bartlett. Both Griffin and Pomara swipe intermittent stripes of black and white paint across aluminum panels. Pomara's recent works are more pictorial: his streaks condense at the middle of the panel to imply depth, demarcating foreground, middle, and background; Griffin's all-over patterns are a depthless skin stretched across the surface of his paintings. Griffin's intervals are regular, but not mechanical; he is a man imitating a machine. Pomara's irregular compositions of stripes and gaps are the opposite: a painter using mechanical techniques to depersonalize his pictures. If we can collect one or two more Texas squeegee painters we'd have a school!
Response to Tire Iron #6 3/15/2001
Bill Davenport makes some good points about John Pomara's work. I have a couple of quibbles, and a thing or two to add. First, when I read that something is "competent, affectless, and impersonal," my first question is, why? I wish Davenport had gone more into the reasons a painter might deliberately work that way. My own theory is that many painters are still drawn to "the gesture," an unplanned, frequently exhilirating way of generating visual information, but are sick of the romantic action-painter myth left over from the '50s. The use of squeegees — or in Pomara's case, customized painter's shields — to blur and scrape away paint is a way of literally eradicating the gesture, but also adding another exciting, randomizing variable in the creation of a picture.
John Pomara, On Line, 2000
oil enamel on aluminum, 72 x 48 inches
This new variable suggests fresh content: the "impersonality" and "affectlessness" of the times, yes, but also a reference to the new visual landscape given to us by technology — "intermittent, static-laden signals on the information superhighway," as Davenport nicely puts it. There are plenty of interesting artists working in this territory: Stephen Ellis, John Zinsser, Bill Komoski, Shirley Kaneda, Mark Sheinkman, William Wood, Carl Fudge, Rochelle Feinstein, to name a few. Instead of the somewhat belittling "squeegee school," a better term would be mediated abstraction, referring to media in both the material and communications sense. This is an international tendency among painters, which both Pomara and Griffin are aware of and plugged into. And which, I might add, Pomara continues to work and evolve in. If we must compare Pomara and Griffin, a better job could be done. "Griffin is a man imitating a machine," Davenport says, while Pomara is "a painter using mechanical techniques to depersonalize his pictures." Isn't that a distinction without a difference? I'd say Pomara, with his succulent surfaces and all-too-human imperfections, is a man imitating a machine, while Griffin, with his high-polished control of every millimeter of a picture, is more like a machine imitating a man. (And I mean that in a good way.) - Tom Moody, New York
My reply has been edited slightly for punctuation and syntax. Some newer work by Pomara is referenced here. Earlier posts on him are here and here. With five and a half years' hindsight, I'd say that almost none of the painters mentioned in my reply represents much of a viable school any longer, except Pomara, who is busy morphing it into something else. Those *were* artists imitating machines, or a machine look, and little besides--that was probably not a good phrase to apply to him, because he's actually thinking below the surface of the computer, using processes of creative decomposition with imaging software to develop a new "pixelesque" iconography. His work belongs in the new media dialogue--painting is just a part of it.