I have at least one friend who had a near-allergic reaction when I showed her this video, based on her deep loathing of these tubular balloon guys. I'm ambivalent on the issue. They certainly don't bother me, though I'm unsure why they would prompt anyone to, say, buy a car. In any case, I felt the urge to pull over to the side of the road and shoot this one and this WAS the song that was playing when I did so. I thought it turned out pretty well—nice setting with the trees, a few birds fly by in the beginning, the cars driving by somehow managed to punctuate the song, I managed to shake the camera on the lyrics "hit the highway like a battering ram," and, for an inanimate object, not a half bad performance.
"For his gallery exhibition at Hallwalls, Kevin returns to Buffalo with what has become an Award-Winning film, Erie, and an exhibition of objects and materials from his films. Central to the exhibition is the billboard, installed for three weeks south of Buffalo along Route 20, depicting an African-American auto worker and advertising jobs in the industry. Both a work of public art and an intervention into our Rust Belt landscape, the installation in an unsettling and uncanny way shed light on the history of our community and the sense of loss and anxiety felt by Americans and Auto Workers last summer. An aspect of his HARP residency, he will continue his work with students from the Buffalo Academy of Visual and Performing Arts to realize the creation and exhibition of materials that reflect the themes of Erie, AMC, and Costars—the process of filmmaking, and the role of visual culture on the migration of African-Americans and thus the shaping of American communities." — Carolyn Tennant, Media Arts Curator, Hallwalls
Buffalo Rising asks John Massier, "What's with this year's theme?"
"MiA Seeks Artists: Music is Art is seeking artists in all mediums to exhibit their work at the 2010 Music is Art Festival on September 11 at the Albright Knox Art Gallery grounds. Art must be original. Installation and live art proposals are also welcome. Send 2 low resolution (72dpi) images of your work to firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration. Please include your telephone number in the email. Take advantage of this rare opportunity to reach thousands of festival goers with your work while supporting an organization that makes a difference in the lives of thousands of young people."
"While Obama ended his speech with an exhortation for prayer, hope for divine intervention is no substitute for his own intercession. He could start running his administration with a 9/11 sense of urgency. And he could explain to the country exactly what the other side is offering as an alternative to his governance — non-governance that gives even more clout to irresponsible corporate giants like BP. As our most popular national politician, Obama still has power, within his White House and with the public, to effect change — should he exercise it."
"Yet he was never at ease. Even with nature he was tense and agonized. Early on, Burchfield concluded, as God once had, that Paradise meant no people, and he rarely painted any. He also learned that Hell was a society of one: himself. A natural ecstatic, he was also a chronic depressive: not a passive shut-down case, but a lamenter and yearner."
The Schadenfreude, The Schadenfreude...
Well, it's no Top Chef but more on that in a minute. So far, I've watched the first two episodes of Bravo's new pseudo-reality-game show/personality clusterfuck Work of Art and I give it a two thumbs up as a fluffy bit of summertime television. I haven't read any opinions on the show or really even talked to anyone about it yet, but I can guess that some people are less than thrilled with its built-in dumbing-down factor, where Art—that amazing, compulsive, often sublime process that millions of people are engaged in every day, often for their entire lives, toiling on the terrain of ideas—sometimes looks like just the latest mechanism through which radically different personality types can jockey for position, popularity, and affirmation. Did I mention it's a television show?
It would be misguided to get too uptight about it. Contemporary art rarely translates well on television—partly because video alters the spatial relationship of viewer to artwork, and rarely for the better. You will invariably be more moved in person. I've rarely seen televised art compellingly portrayed and I also suspect it's because the camera people shooting it don't know art. It's probably their latest video gig, between shooting kittens in trees and commercials for floor wax. And the forced brevity and speed of television doesn't allow for the space/time to really showcase the artistic process, its mistakes, its frustrations, its occasionally soaring heights. In their assignments for Work of Art, the artists are given fully a day and a half to realize a new piece. That's a hysterically short time frame and a curious one for a prerecorded show—why not just film it over the course of a year and really see what people can do? A day and a half, to many artists, can be crucial blankly-staring-at-the-wall time, the critical prologue to potential greatness.
Work of Art precisely mimics the structure of Top Chef—the pace, the editing, the shots, the music, the defendants/judges paradigm—and simply replaces art for food. After two episodes, I would say that food fares much better. Top Chef will be starting its seventh season this month and I've watched all of them. Twice. And I hardly ever cook. Some of its seasons have had more personality conflicts, some less, but all of them ultimately always come down to what's on the plate. If you've never seen it, I would suggest Season Six—the deepest lineup of great chefs in the whole series, borne out in particular by the four finalists—two of them brothers—who were ferociously competitive AND respectful of one another's talents. I thought it made for riveting television that I was sorry had to end. In its specific treatment of all the aesthetics of food—taste, invention, appearance—Top Chef (after only two episodes of Work of Art) is actually the real art show on Bravo. It acutely captures the thrill of creation, the need to be fully in the moment, and its sometimes sublime results. It reveres and celebrates those great moments, while not failing to point out all the various failures along the way. Sometimes one element, like not enough salt, will sink you.
But as I said, Work of Art is a tv show and I was pleasantly surprised at how charmingly entertaining it was. You've got a plethora of character types—the self-taught unschooled tattoo guy, the twentysomething hipster, the older woman with the hippie residue, the young African American with a street/pop culture vibe, the young gal who paints abstracts, the young gal who works with decorative elements, the young gal who's handy with tools and materials, the slightly older gal who's a conceptual artist, the good natured guy with professional, commercial art experience...you get the idea. Then there's the young, frazzled kid— think Good Will Hunting with OCD—whose work is sufficiently mature you wonder whether he's faking it and his entire participation in the program will be his art performance masterpiece.
The judges are fine and really have the impossible task of opining cogently while trying to be broad enough for a television audience. I thought Nao Bustamente's resolution to the project of creating a portrait of one of the other artists was fairly great and I think the judges faulted her inappropriately for not creating a representational portrait (a detail not specified when the assignment was described). Some of the work is fucking awful, some of it is promising for a day and half's work. For an interesting take on the show, it's worthwhile to read artnet's Jerry Saltz on his experience as a judge. He talks about a conversation with the young, unschooled painter that was cut from the show: "I squawked that he needed to stop falling back on the excuse that he was 'untrained.' I told him no one cares and that I’m "untrained," too -- I have no degrees and never went to writing school. Like most people in the art world, I’m basically making this up as I go. The art world is about trying to invent new definitions of skill."
If you're IN the art world—making it, writing about it, looking at it, buying it—don't expect the show to describe the universe you're in. It's a hyperkinetic slice of one angle of one percent of that world. It's really on the cusp of so-called reality television, which I prefer to think of as the genre of American Schadenfreude—it takes a group of people who have vocally expressed their inherent greatness and tosses them on a level playing field—or Roman arena of anxiety and desire—and repeatedly pokes them with a big stick to prompt and prolong the competition until The One remains standing, bloody but unbowed.
"The origins of the show can be traced to 2001, when Pedro Mateu-Gelabert, a sociologist researching the relationship between H.I.V. and drug use, first glimpsed the packets in an empty building in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, where addicts would shoot up. Immediately, he said, he was struck by the fact that the images on the glassine envelopes served as advertisements."
"The tension in Gaga’s self-presentation, far from being idiosyncratic or self-contradictory, epitomizes the situation of a certain class of comfortably affluent young women today. There’s a reason they love Gaga. On the one hand, they have been raised to understand themselves according to the old American dream, one that used to be beyond women’s grasp: the world is basically your oyster, and if you just believe in yourself, stay faithful to who you are, and work hard and cannily enough, you’ll get the pearl. On the other hand, there is more pressure on them than ever to care about being sexually attractive according to the reigning norms."
"In the early 1960s, when rock was swallowing popular culture and jazz clubs were taking few chances on the 'new thing' — as the developing avant-garde was then known — Mr. Dixon, who was known for the deep and almost liquid texture of his sound, fought to raise the profile of free improvisation and put more control into musicians’ hands."
"Onstage, Mr. Shider, known as Starchild or Diaperman (because of his fondness for performing dressed only in a loincloth), cut an outlandish figure, emphasized by his tie-dyed dreadlocks. But he delivered incendiary solos and impressively funky rhythm work on his guitar..."
For your Netflix queue...
(1998, dir. Gaspar Noe) I STAND ALONE
It's the brutally depressing tale of a middle aged French butcher and the deranged and desperate interior monologue that propels him through his deeply disappointing life. While nowhere near as violent as Noe's Irreversible (which is a masterpiece, albeit one that pushes the envelope of cinematic tolerance to the extreme), I Stand Alone is an absolutely harrowing film portrait of despair and loneliness. It's a film that doesn't make it easy to sympathize or empathize with its protagonist, but who said film needs to be easy? It spends a couple hours moving through a scary minefield of emotions until ending, paradoxically, on a note of tenderness...depending on your definition of "tenderness." HIGHLY recommended and highly disturbing—absolutely not for the faint of heart. Truly unsettling in every way and more than a little brilliant.
Something I listened to this week...
Summer means the Trojan box sets, which I listen to all year round, go into heavy rotation. They are uniformly excellent compilations of classic and obscure reggae. Late spring, it was the Upsetters box set in heavy rotation, August will likely be Rocksteady, but right now it's the Dub Box Set whomping and sliding and reverberating through the speakers. If you're at all fond of reggae, I suggest buying ANY one of the Trojan box sets at random and you will never be disappointed.
There is an ecstasy that marks the summit of life, and beyond which life cannot rise. And such is the paradox of living, this ecstasy comes when one is most alive, and it comes as a complete forgetfulness that one is alive.
— Jack London