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A bunch of new movie preReviews are up; allow me to shamelessly self-plug and steer you towards my entries on Man on Fire, Peter Pan, and The Day After Tomorrow. The Peter Pan post is so topical I'm going to put up an excerpt here.
Remember the front page "asteroid hitting earth" stories that happened a few months before Deep Impact and Armageddon came out? Or the giant shark hooked off Montauk Point the summer Jaws 2 was released? (OK, the latter did happen, or they said it happened, but no reason you should know or remember it.) Call me a cynic, but I find it very strange that the media is gearing up for a Michael Jackson arrest frenzy just as Peter Pan is hitting theaters.The theory is, the film studio gives the DA a wad of cash to prosecute the suit, which will be very costly for the state, in exchange for wide dissemination of the lost boys/Never-Neverland meme at a time when a film about same, which doesn't look very good, is coming out. Sales of Jackson product will also increase. Lots of bucks at stake here. But of course Hollywood (filmmaking, law enforcement) could never be that corrupt. Or could it?
Also, while Sally McKay's preReview of Bridge on the River Kwai is well written and funny, the film must be defended as a kind of classic '60s antihero story. It's much more nuanced than you would think. True, there's a commando raid to blow up the bridge but for most of the movie's length Alec Guinness is keeping his fellow POWs sane by building the bridge. He wins a moral victory over the Japanese by showcasing British engineering skills and "stiff upper lip" resolve under demoralizing circumstances. (The film's ethnic politics still aren't very enlightened.) The problem is, he has so much pride in his work he nearly foils the commandos' mission. The latter must kill one of their own to make up for his pigheaded folly. Guinness' penetrating look when he's searching for evidence of sabotage and his mask of pain when he realizes what an idiot he's been are just unforgettable. The bridge, which would have been a real asset to the Southeast Asian locale after the war, is of course blown up, and when the POWs' physician surveys the ruined structure and all the bodies of principal characters lying around his only words are "Madness. Madness." (The last line of the film.) A more detailed synopsis is here.
Thanks to Tyler Green at Modern Art Notes for mentioning this page as an example of online art-writing. I've been enjoying his, too. In another recent post he mentions his dislike of John Currin and mocks the inevitable hagiographic Kimmelman review in the Times. Kimmelman invokes Paul Cadmus and I think that's exactly right: both artists are acerbically witty, with old master polish, but "minor" or "genre" figures. The difference is Currin's canvases are sold as the current high-priced ($400,000) "cutting edge": that's disturbing because it shows how retrograde the collector sensibility has become. Currin's work is mildly transgressive, eminently collectible, and assures the continuity of a certain line of American painting in museum collections: Sargent, Hopper, Cadmus, Tooker, Larry Rivers, Alex Katz, John Currin. Avant gardes come and go, modernist and postmodernist trends seem faddish, but the Painterly Tradition is preserved. John C, I hope you're very proud.
Dallas, 1982 (They Live), scan of a black and white photo. I stood at one end of a University Park strip center and took a roll of pictures with a telephoto lens. One thing that strikes me about this image now is how huge the cars are. Also, remember antennas? Geez. I thought they were streaks on the scan at first. This looks like a documentary photo from the '60s to me. Very strange time warp.
My Dream (I promise this won't be a habit.)
Last night I dreamed I was a Japanese salaryman, living by myself in a large two story house, and all the light bulbs kept failing. As soon as I screwed one in it would short out, and I was starting to get scared. I went upstairs to see if I could find some part of the house with light, and found a duplicate of myself lying face down on some nail-studded boards, awkwardly trying to wield a hammer. I've never dreamed of myself as Japanese before; the vibe here was distinctly Tetsuo the Iron Man meets Waiting for Godot. Weird. After I woke up, I got online and ordered a VHS copy of Tetsuo, but mostly because I want to own Greg Nickson's incomparable "Drum Struck" video, which is on the Fox/Lorber tape (the dream reminded me I've been meaning to do this).
I have been thinking a lot about going to Japan, though. One thing I want to do is visit the west coast (Akita or Yamagata) so I can eat hatahata. I found out about this from an episode of Patlabor: Mobile Police, where Captain Gotoh dispatches Izumi and Shinohara to Sakata (in Yamagata) for a mission and asks them to bring back a package of these fish as a souvenir, or "miyage." (see Anime Companion Supplement). "Where's my hatahata?" becomes a running joke in the show. At the end the crew has boiled his hatahata in a soup-pot and appears to be eating without him. I do not get the ending of that episode.
Update, 2013: Drumstruck is on Greg Nickson's vimeo.
Oswald Rising, 1988, oil on canvas, 66" X 47". When I lived in Dallas, "the city that killed Kennedy" AKA "the city of hate," I participated in a university gallery show coinciding with the 25th anniversary of the assassination. I made this painting for the show, whoops, sorry, to express my deep feelings about an event that changed America. It was reproduced in the Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Star Telegram and Art Papers. On the 40th anniversary I find it amazing that webloggers like Steve Gilliard still buy the "lone nut" theory (scroll down to "Conspiracy Theories" on 11/21/03). Even if you don't believe all the evidence pointing towards a second shooter on the Grassy Knoll, the idea that a sleazy mob wannabe like Jack Ruby would suddenly get an attack of morality and kill Oswald out of "revenge" just stretches credulity. I'm with Gore Vidal that the shooting of the President with his wife in the car, in full view of everyone, was "classic Palermo style"--that is, a mob hit. Help from crazy anti-Castro Cubans and rogue CIA agents shouldn't be ruled out either. Oliver Stone's 1991 film JFK is valuable not for its theory--that the military industrial complex whacked Kennedy because he was going to end the Vietnam War--but rather for its careful laying out of the many reasons the lone gunman hypothesis makes no sense.
Update to my previous post on the "A.B.C." video night at Deitch: It seemed strangely contradictory that Carly Ptak contributed the evening's most holistic performance (as a camcorder pans across images of the Great Outdoors, her voice hypnotically intones such Baba Ram Dassian commands as "look at the water, it's flowing neither forward nor backward, be a leaf in the water, just be here...") while at the same time, as a Duchampian found video finder, she offered the most out-of-synch-with-nature entry in the video program: a tape called Memorial Day 2000, which originally turned up in a West Michigan yard sale. The latter piece, shot by an anonymous camera holder, records a weekend of drinking, dancing, barbecuing, and bonfire-burning at a campground near the Michigan sandhills, attended solely by 20 and 30-something Midwesterners (no kids or anyone over 40) with the world's largest collection of RVs, ATVs, dirt bikes, and beer bongs. Kind of like an outdoor rave without a DJ, the event features vehicles chewing up the countryside, men wrestling in mud, a guy vomiting, and at the climax, a couch hurled onto the bonfire. To sensitive East Coast intellectual types, many of whom fled this kind of milieu, I'm guessing, the tape was a glimpse into the 9th circle of hell.
But maybe Ptak's two contributions aren't so far apart, on second thought. The TM piece isn't "nature" but electronically mediated nature, somewhat reminiscent of a soothing self help tape you could order online to get your fried head together. The electronic drones underlying the words were vaguely sinister and hardly "natural," in the sense of wind and babbling brooks (Ptak is one-half of the demonic noise act Nautical Almanac, after all). And as barbaric and eco-unfriendly as the Memorial Day revellers were, "at least they weren't at home clicking through the channels all weekend," as Ptak pointed out to me later. Their activities were a frenetic but ultimately non-violent coming together in search of...some kind of meaning? An attempt to reclaim lost communal rituals? And who's really in a position to judge them? When all was said and done, both performances reduced nature, or "natural experience," to phosphor dots on a screen, watched passively by a room full of people in their own search for collective meaning/entertainment/enlightenment.
Pictures from "A.B.C.", a.k.a. Another Bad Creation, a group night of video and performance curated by Cory Arcangel, at Deitch Projects, NY (last night, November 19, 2003). Featuring works created and/or found by Cory and Jamie Arcangel, BEIGE, Paper Rad, Seth Price, CELLmedia, Carly Ptak, LoVid and the shinths tour.
From the press release: "Taking its title from the early 90's teen pop band produced by Michael Bivins (of Biv10 entertainment), this night explores a style of video and performance best described as 'post cable access.' [V]ideo and live performance mash together in an almost imperceptible mix of quick cuts and poorly tracked VHS footage. Think accidental high-school videos, Salvation Army found tapes, awesome karaoke, anything originally recorded on a BETA tape, broken Nintendo games, blue screen ring tone hip-hop videos, and dance videos made with tin foil and spray paint. Th[e] night explores the side of homemade single channel video which is cheap, quick, and often embarrassing. Colliding to provide us with a clear picture of the ill fated 'home video revolution,' the foundations of A.B.C. are the celebration of the camcorder, the banality of everyday life, and a complete disregard for the medium."
Top to bottom: Carly Ptak, live video/sound/performance (a kind of transcendental meditation incantation with a spooky electro-bass pulse and the artist's face superimposed over leaves, rocks, river, and sky--rather disconcerting after a night of High Irony); LoVid, live video/sound/performance (playing their new video synth--sorry I didn't get more imagery in the shot); "Shinth," DIY performance with handmade electronic instrument built by Peter B. The Shinth tour was in the basement of Deitch's Wooster Street space; the video program ran upstairs for a continuous 90 minutes of big-screen projection. The flow of recorded videos and "pay no attention to those performers behind the curtain" live video was fairly seamless: I didn't realize till afterward that the Paper Rad performance (psychedelic nonZense literally phoned in through a stuffed talking bear telephone) was done live.