Friday, July 29, 2011
Monday, May 16, 2011
This weekend on Technicolor Island (and adjacent burrough)
It was a week of open studios in New York, starting with ISCP and rolling over to LMCC. I wasn't that attentive at ISCP, I must admit, other than a video that D joked that I just liked because it looked like the fabulous Narcissister video I'll be screening at the next Dirty Looks, I wasn't taken to too much of what I saw, but there was very little moving image-based work . After a mull around the studios, I headed over to my pal Mark Golamco's studio to drink some beers and watch Vaginal Davis' Fertile La Toya Jackson "Akshunist Video Magazine." Which left the two of us in tears - to say the least. I will be including her Barbi Twins skit in the next DL also, though it pains me to leave out the wonderful opening sequence in which Vag plays a t.v. host, over-emphasizing every line, every feminine gesture, with a painfully wide white smile. Then Mark gave me this fab striped Diane Von Furstenberg jumpsuit that he's had for years and I felt very lucky, indeed, to have such good friends.
The next evening we headed over to the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council for their open studios as my friend, Rachel Mason was performing with the fabulous video artist Shana Moulton. We got there en retard, as they say, and Rachel was knee deep in her song, 'Mrs. Eyes' - and people! I had to crane my head through the door just to get a peep. Not a very gracious thing to do, I suppose when you're prone to wearing hats. Once Rachel finished her song, some people cleared out so I made my way in to view the remaining performance. Moulton, whose imagery is culled from more California hippy sects, launched into a great projection based piece in which she is instructed to gaze deep into one of those horrible posters from the early 90s - Magic Eye, google informs, which I could never even see with young eyes. Anyway, Moulton slits the projection scrim and dives into the poster itself where she's joined by animated animals who wave at her and in the grand tradition of Southern California artists (a segment to which I marginally include myself - I always wave at dogs) she waves back. After the performance we made our way around the other studios where we ran into Molly Dillworth, Lillian Gerson and Roddy Schrock. I ran into a certain gallerist who maintains a gallery upstate and he started to extend an invitation to go up there but then... kind of changed his mind mid sentence. I smirked at the awkward moment and talked full-stop as I'm apt to do. I was feeling anti-social so I made my way home, only diverted by the intoxicating odors from Goodburger.
The following day I played host to a Eurovision party! But, in rare form, I had to dash to Gladstone to see the rare program of Jack Smith films that Penny Arcade was presenting. It was great to see all of these wonderful children gathered to take in Jack's work (but enough with the fucking iphone snaps mid-film, thanks). Penny was very good and humble in her Jack tirades (the best of which involved Jack's complete devotion to ice cream and an upstate jaunt on which he regaled a confounded truckstop creamery staff by granting them the perfect recipe for a malted). The first film, The Yellow Sequence (1963) was obviously shot during the filming of Normal Love featuring the mongol child who dashes all of the cake creatures in the latter film, cavorting with yellow flowers and a particularly made-up creature perched in and atop a car. Befittingly the predominant color pallet was... yellow. The film gave you such a rich understanding of what a specific and meticulous compositionalist Smith was, with layer after layer of bead, glitter, lace, parasol, flower upon flower. Only 3 or four people might occupy the outdoor garbage heap, closely cropped in Smith's camera, but it feels like the world. Film number two was Jungle Island AKA Reefers of Technicolor Island (1967), which Penny informed is footage used for performance backings. God knows why. This was the standout of the program by miles, though it doesn't appear in Hoberman's book on Smith's cinema for some reason. For me, with Jungle Island Jack achieved his dream to make a Maria Montez movie without the petty confines of narrative. Clutter, fountains and muck makes up the exotic island of the films title, again in closely cropped, carefully studied shots - sometimes double exposed in a less aesthetic level than Rice's Chumlum. Mario Montez is on on the tropical revelry, of course, looking majestic and statuesque. And she's got a love interest of sorts who wears about as many pearls and scarves as she. But the real pleasure to be had is just the investment in the flowing imagery, which builds as densely and gorgeously as any Universal flic. In the final sequence Mario and mate are roofside, cropped in so close you can feign for a moment some tropical fantasia until you catch glimpse of a water tower behind them. Then an airplane careens above head. It's a truly exceptional film, ripe for rediscovery. Two more treat included I Was a Male Yvonne DeCarlo for the Lucky Landlord Underground (1967-70s), a self-mythologizing film where Smith cavorts and autographs a midget/small child's glossy of that most famous photo of him with the dagger. Before this, however, we see some of this most lusciously shot, smokey images of creatues, sprawling in a kitchen, decorated with headdresses so big I thought to myself, "now this is what Where The Wild Things Are should have been." Hot Air Specialists was a document of a kind of drag performance that Jack enacted in his huge red wig.
Then I had my Eurovision party where we really didn't watch all that much of Eurovision due to Brooklyn internet blackouts. But we made due and thanks in large part to the wonderful creatures that spilled into every corner of the not-all-that-large apartment (without spilling their drinks, bless!) the night was a blast.
However, the day after.... I nursed on a Mildred Pierce screener (Meh-ldred, it shoulda been called) and eventually made my way to the launch party for the newest issue of Adam Shecter's print project 2Up at SilverShed (where DL will take up residence July and August) where Adam (who just curated a show about the apocalypse at Eleven Rivington gallery with a sure to-be-fab show that will open on the day the world is meant to end) bared his bicep for me and showed off his AMAZE photorealist David Niven tattoo. Swoon. Joe Winter was one of the artists contributing to the poster and he liked my new Red Sonja bracelette, which is nice of him. I had a nice long sit down with Glen Fogel where we talked about karaoke and phallices. Then I made it over to Eyebeam for this Design Week Moleskin event with D and his friends Roddy and fellow curator Sally Szwed where we pilfered these really overtly organic carroty things and green dipping sauces called things like goddess. At least they had prosecco that killed the final pangs of alcohol-related morning sickness. I had fish and chips for dinner at some bullshit fish place on Graham ave back in Brooklyn and turned in early from lack of sleep the night prior.
Monday, May 09, 2011
NYC Gallery Week vs. New Ideas
Saturday, April 09, 2011
Out Monday with an album following suit. Oh, this is Sally Shapiro's producer. And Sally Shapiro, as you may or may not know, is my god.
Friday, April 08, 2011
Where Teardrops Fly
In my unending quest to revel in and understand the progression of the woman's picture, I watched one of the biggest hits of this century, in that regard, anyway - The Notebook. It had been in my Que for some time and I had flirted with the idea of torturing D with it, but last night, I found an opportunity to indulge.
Of course it would be moot to regale the film with its conservative trappings. It's a contemporary melodrama, and as Peter Brooks clearly states in The Melodramatic Imagination, melodrama is fundamentally conservative since it stages a returning-to of conventional or conservative values that have been marred or transgressed. It's still peculiar in certain aesthetic decisions how this conservativism is played out. The most surface qualm is the film's treatment of black figures. In the film's past (most of it takes place in the early 40s), the black maid adopts a mammy voice and countenance. There's a scene in which Ryan Gosling engages in a jig with a little poor black kid. This scene is obviously intended to indicate the abject poverty that Gosling maintains. You can placate yourself by reminding that, "this is the past and this is how they choose to represent it." But then when you flash forward to the nursing home, where our elderly couple (James Garner and Gena Rowlands) are looked after by an exclusively black staff, things become a tad less tidy.
Besides this blaring faux pas, there's little by way of conflict. The film struck me as decidedly post-modern in the way power roles are delineated. The adorable Ryan Gosling is cast merely to brood, a projection of some female fantasy in which boys gestate in abeyance for their lost ladies, ever hoping they'll return. He refurbishes this big, stately white mansion (see, it's ALL about reparation), to such a degree that he event claims at one point that his efforts borderline madness. And in his large white house he longs for Rachel McAdams.
There's lots of women's picture conventions being tossed about here - summer flings, wicked parents, stolen letters, pining. But it's odd that the ultimate weight of the film is carried by our elderly couple. Really, the historical story is about as milquetoast as its actors and, when they just sort of end up together for the rest of their lives with little fuss, you're like "Where's the story there?"
There isn't one. The story rests in their older incarnations who are fighting a failing heart (in the strong body of the man) and dementia (ah, the pathology of woman). She shouldn't come to at all, but every day he reads to her from this book of their life together. She wrote it before the onset so he could remind her. And, as if by miracle (a rather poorly rendered miracle by cinematic conventions, I must say), she returns to him for little stolen periods - five or so minutes at best. And let the teardrops fall.
Which they did. I'd be lying if I told you I didn't cry. But as I did, I posted on facebook something I said to myself, "Me, crying: And it wasn't even a compelling story!" There's a lot of theory about there about crying at movies - most of which I've read. What struck me as really bizarre here, and inept despite my waterworks, was how death or finality as this looming phobic enterprise is the impetus for all of this sobbing. This narrative of a couple who spend their entire lives together moaning because they must part. It's not a big stretch to feel not sorry for them. This is no Peter Ibbetson in which the dreamland and, ultimately, heaven is the only space in which they can be together. No, what is really the crux of all this drama is just finality and death. All things end. Which seems really moot and unimpressive on paper, but I suppose it still works. And here, it's spiritual moment of attainment is not even plausible. There's all this talk floating around about miracles, about how, when Rowlands recalls her life-long love in her breaks from dementia, it's "a miracle." While I'm sure it's really wonderful, these moments of reparation, director kin de Cassavetes embellishes these scenes with no pomp or flourish, so that they read on film more banal than divine. Cause without these elements, the film's close, where the couple lay side by side and decide that their love is strong enough to lead them off this mortal coil in unison, you just don't buy it. Nothing has prepared us for this rowing finale. Except, of course, our hope that even in death we are full of life.
As I type, across the street, a funeral procession is going with two white horses, like the scene from Imitation of Life. Initially I cynically wondered to myself whether the funeral directors didn't have an Annie package. But then I realized that this person, dying in 2011, could possibly have seen Annie's funeral and that this could be an approximation. Perhaps it's not. But it's a haunting idea considering the obsession/fear with and of death that The Notebook parades as the romantic comedy of the decade.
Sunday, April 03, 2011
Well another Dirty Looks under the belt. This event saw an amazing turnout, with something to the tune of 80 people showing up for Ulrike Ottinger's Madame X - An Absolute Ruler. f.p. boué's exhibition currently up at Participant featured a black and gray ziggurat on which folks perched for the film. There to introduce, Gary Indiana shared some amazing insights in our dialogue. Gary's really a lovely individual, it was great to have him come out (and great to see him read new work the night prior at St. Mark's books). Filmmakers Larin Sullivan and Adam Keleman showed up, as did curators Buzz Slutzky, Joseph Whitt, Bryce Renninger artists Mark Golamco, Aryn Zev and writers Louis Jordan and Masha Tupitsyn, to name but a few. People seemed genuinely entranced, though at 2 1/2 hours, I fret that some attested to the Time Out blurb on the event, that Madame "will delight the converted and annoy the mighty fuck out of everybody else." It's tricky to program an epic lesbian pirate adventure on a school night and not have some drop off. That factor, the drop off, is understandable, especially given Dirty Looks educational focus, but it's still something vexing that I am grappling with as a curator.
The next night I had early evening (happy hour, I suppose they call it) drinks with a new friend, writer Louis Jordan, who is hard at work on an article surrounding Tuesday Weld. An apt subject. I sipped on Lime Rickies at Julius as Louis regaled me with the details of her life. I shared with him the sordid details of these wacky, mildly related recent finds, The Mafu Cage and The Manitou. And of course I built up the new Britney. We drifted over to the home Mr. Jordan shares with Wilson Kidde to watch a Maria Montez movie that I had never seen! For shame. In this one, Gypsy Wildcat, Maria's a gypsy. Black hair never suited her that well, though she does have a marvelous dance with a tamborine and turns in some very potent acting. "She moves and acts in this one!" I hollered. But the bootleg dvd stalled midway and I had to move on. I really couldn't get over the transition from exotic sands to gypsy caravans also, to a probably annoying tune.
I met up with friends at a Marc Jacobs party. My pal Hayley works there. We drank some free specialty cocktails that somehow all tasted like amoxicillin. But they were free. Which always gets me into trouble. Too many people remarked vaguely at my plaid baseball cap. A long and turbulent night began that found us at the Triple Canopy party at NP Contemporary Art Center then over to Urge and the Boiler Room, where I finally had to resign. On my trip back home, I slipped on the wet subway stairs and landed on my tush, a fall that's left me in great pain for these past couple days, and left an imprint of the zipper teeth to my Commes Des Garçons wallet in my ass. At first there wasn't a bruise and I complained to Lia at Participant that if I was witnessing the pain, I would prefer that there be visual proof. The next day, I got my wish.
On Friday, I attended the benefit for Birdsong Micropress at Brooklyn Fire Proof, which featured a performance by my friend Zan's band Little Victory. It was good to see the ever ravishing Tommy Pico, who just returned from a Southern road trip. I talked about Dodie Bellamy (who was just in town reading from her fabulous new book, The Buddhist) and Radical Fairies with Max Steel and Daniel Sander outside, both of whom contribute to the Birdsong zines under noms de plumes. When I got home around 1 or so, D was watching Alien 3, you know, the super nihilistic one that starts with the autopsy of her surrogate child, so I went into the bedroom to watch some Drop Dead Diva and promptly passed out.
The weather smiled on us this New York weekend, so I took to the streets, well, galleries, with D and my curator friend, Herbert Mendoza. I actually like taking a back seat when we do these gallery hops. Both Herbert and D make little maps and I let them show me around. Never before have I been in such a place of such little investment in visual art. Maybe it's a lack of interest in the community. Cause I always have something to say.
We sipped margaritas in the tacky little Mexican place on 23rd thinking through the shows afterwards - three shows in particular that seemed to dash totemic issues consumerism and colonialism, all installed in high end gallery spaces. Does the moneyed environs of a space like Yvonne Lambert dismantle some of the charge behind Nick Van Woert's drip busts? In the pieces, Woert (an American artist despite the Euro airs of his name) drizzles colorful, plasticine materials on the backs of classical busts. The goo collects in a gratifying pool, which, when placed vertical, become somewhat glorious circular whorls. There a kind of clever material iconoclasm at work in these pieces (Woert's other sculptural objects in the main room are decidedly youthful endeavors that showcase an excitable artist in need of some editing skills) though the delicious fetishism of the shiny plastic tends to undercut the conceptual disavowal that these pieces tend to suggest. Josephine Meckseper's exhibition at The FLAG Art Foundation continues her reign of great shows, installing vitrines, mirrored pedestals and mirrored wall racks that offer sexy objects, total signifiers of 80s consumption all with a kind of hoaky Claire's Boutique quality to them. Mecksepers work just radiates sexiness, seducing the viewer into this courtship of objects. But how much is this representation of erotic consumer sensibilities destabalizes consumerism and how much of it just hitches a ride on the object's potential for fetishistic gratification? I LOVE Meckseper's shows, her aesthetic is startlingly confident, though the critical potential of these works, which are sold before they even leave her studio, lurks in a more uncertain space for me.
Surely the most heated topic over our frozen margaritas was the colonialism sent up in Folkert de Jong's installation at James Cohan Gallery. Operation Harmony employs Styrofoam and polyurethane to mold sleek, Disney-esque creatures, Dutchmen and monkeys. The title piece, which borrows from Mondrian and Jan de Baen’s painting “The mutilated corpses of the de Witt brothers, hanging on the Vijverberg in the Hague” from 1672, graphically pierces the black bodies of these brothers with severe, modernist pink foam. The Dutchmen in the front room brandish booty in the form of tacky blue plastic pearls. They smile grimly. How effective is expensive art aimed at making buyers feel bad about their own colonial history. That was the question at the table. It seems like many of the artists to take to task colonial history in the contemporary art world, are also some of the most blazing new big money art stars. Thinking to the 2005 piece written by A. O. Scott for the New York Times ("The Discreet Masochism of the Bourgeoisie") that observed a cinematic trend for targeting art house (bourgeois) cinemagoers with "feel bad" movies (like Caché or Maderlay) aimed at their own political involvements or histories. I argued that the representation of this colonial shadow renders that guilt in a commoditizable, which is to say, abstract form. And it stultifies the charge of the original guilt. Which may be somewhat cynical of me. They did not have very good guacamole at the restaurant.
We visited a fete staged by Zane Louis, who was recently included in a Whitney exhibition timed for the groundbreaking of their Meat Packing District space. Guess what it's called? "Groundbreakers." After some white wine was sipped, we dipped over to our friend, Mark Golamco's studio in the same building, where he was preparing a new woodcarving piece and got into a heated debate over, oh, you know, everything. I left somewhat early and watched Kylie Minogue videos into the early morning.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Fatale Attraction: Oh, the new Britney!
Summer found its jamz early this year. Always a tricky proposition – the summer dance record. Of all the figures on the horizon, I find great surprise in offering that Britney Spears may have beaten any followers to the punch. Spears has turned in a new album brimming with contemporary dance floor marvels that sound more aimed at the shores of Ibiza than her older demographic, currently reigned by Nicki Minaj. Femme Fatale is a near flawless collection of pop-dance songs, with blinding production and a crafty redirect of Spears’ dubious public image. The new Britney’s as polished as ever, but it’s clear that in her newfound frankness there’s but one thing on her “dirty mind”: sex. Fucking, burning, hit me one more time, baby, turn me “inside out.” And for what feels like the first time, it’s all forefront. No nuance. No shame. Listen to the album’s most impressive moment, the Bloodyshy and Avant produced “How I Roll,” as Spears purrs most casually “I could be your fuck tonight.” It’s a lyric that really makes you track back in your iTunes to make sure you heard right. In part because she’s so matter of fact about the statement. Amidst the whirring digital blips and blops of the song this sex sounds excitingly banal. Where most pop starlets would deliver such a lyric like wasn’t-that-very-bold-of-me? Spears attitude echoes the overall agenda of the album. Which has all the fun in the world, arranging a litany of sex scenarios and drunken encounters, with no error found in such behavior but – more importantly – no real zeal in it, either. It’s, like, just good sex. Ya know? There’s no crazy Rihanna sex as metaphor / isn’t sex a mindfuck songs. Spears’ sex sounds so wonderfully pragmatic, terse in the way that only a truly great pop albums can achieve.
To me, the contemporary benchmark is still Kylie Minogue’s Fever album. Whether it was club thumper (“In Your Eyes”), trance number (“Love Affair”) or ballad-esque (“Fragile”), all the Fever songs were processed with the same tin-y tone, as though the album came out fully articulated, crafted like resin. A friend once described the sound favorably like thanksgiving cranberry sauce that, once served, still shows the ridges of its can. As the video for her smash hit “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” suggests, the Fever sound was post-disco pop that came from a fictional, futuristic city of filled with dancing hot robots. What’s more it was a modest album, concise. It doesn’t attempt at epic proportions, but maintains a consistency, a genericness, even. Like the CG city in what was likely Minogue’s most expensive video, it all seems a little cheap, but “cheap” like the Euro pop idiom from which the album emerged. Pitchfork Music tried to be all highfalutin when it came out and reviewed it as a new brand of adult pop music, some kind of lite contemporary fodder. Which is bull because that album was the same brand of euro dance music presented every year at Eurovision but, unlike most of those bombastic eye-rollers, these tunes showed commendable restraint or rigor. It’s generic sound was a finely tuned tone. As is the case with Femme Fatale, Fever came on the back of a startlingly successful comeback album, Light Years, in which Kylie shimmied back into the hearts of the British public in skimpy hot pants. That record was camp disco. Recorded and released over a year on the back of those pants, Fever was the expediently honed result of a finely-tuned market product and creative team.
The team behind Britney’s current endeavor is nothing new either. Longstanding heavyweight Max Martin (who fashioned Brit’s first hit, “…Baby One More Time” and recently breathed thrilling trills into Robyn’s “Time Machine”), “Toxic” hitwriters Bloodshy and Avant (who’ve worked with Spears since 2003) and relative newcomer Dr. Luke – who appeared on Spears’ prior album Circus. The only brand-new producer strikes out, the disappointingly ubiquitous will.i.am, whose “Big Fat Bass” continues his malodorous brand, which casts the artist as without a subject space, instead as a mechanical “MegaNigga.”
Like any convention, pop has its systems of logic and structural principles. It can be tricky to work within the idiom, since originality must also conform to certain formulae in order to produce a pleasurable listen for the consumer. What’s delightful about Femme Fatale is how it unpretentiously ropes in underground musical styles and theatrical arena pop to blend perfectly with its lyrics. Those lyrics which have evolved from the youthful follies of teen Britney, given the greater allowance for sexual explicitness from mainstream artists like Ke$ha and Rihanna, so that Britney now brings to the fore what was always subtextual in her music.
Femme Fatale pack inevery relevant variety of dance music available, every de riguer sound. All of the effects and innovations that you’ve heard for months, all funneled into one taut pop gem. Bless Gaga for making the typically Euro-phobic American audiences fine with the trashier depths of this sound. And bless Spears for removing Gaga’s pretense. The most surprising ground broken here is the use of Dubstep, a South London underground club music style brought to the mainstream by La Roux and currently popping up in the sounds of Rihanna and Ke$ha. This grimey DIY genre gives an impressive edge to Spears – the round depths of dubstep’s warbling bass and the emphasis on churning treble seems to flesh out the sultry lyrics. Which is not to say that it’s a dubstep album. No, these producers spear the appealing elements of dubstep and set them loose on otherwise catchy pop tunes. With all of these genres floating about, it’s a testament to those producers that Femme Fatale is startlingly consistent from start to finish. It’s a seamless album that marvels at its own mass produced dexterity. My boyfriend frowned in disappointment when he saw the cover, a really stylized headshot of Britney with her blond hair spilling all over the place. “Safe” was the word he used to dismiss the image, but that’s the rule of the game, the whole reason in the Spears product. Now she can inflect her glossy tunes with hoodwinks as an imperfect diva, but the vehicle must show no signs of breaking, is so obviously beyond “her” at this point.
First breath of the album was breathed in a weighty teaser campaign that featured fourteen 10 second youtube clips for Britney’s lead single, “Hold It Against Me,” a song that bears so many entendres that it nearly spirals out of control, in a reverse movement from the Comet Britney that crashes to earth in its kitchen sink promo video. Of course, the song is a smart appeal to an audience that might have grown weary of this popstar’s pop music in the wake of her VERY public breakdown and marital woes. She peers into the camera, planefaced, imploring her lingering fanbase, “Would you hold it against me?” as clips from her past videos play on a Matrix-y column of Sony monitors. All the Britneys that have come before writhe and remind of more idyllic, devoted Britney. But that thought slips away like a lace nightie once she admits that, “you feel like paradise and I need a vacation tonight.” Brit’s obviously got more carnal thoughts in mind, “so if I said I want your body now, would you hold it against me?” Of course, a dirtier mind could also take a hint from the album’s erogenous tone and question to what she is actually referring with the song’s titular “it.”
The video features 6 outfits and basically there’s an edit on every beat of this high-octane number. There’s a Britney that models her product placement brands in a gesture just as forefront about the consumer demands of a popstar as she is about her sexual rapaciousness. The video serves as a frank cross-promotional ad for her perfume, a cosmetics line and Sony monitors. Then she’s in a two story tall white dress, suggestively spewing neon paint from the tips of her paint-gloves. The dubstep breakdown before the surging final chorus is a moment of rupture in the song’s pulsations. Top loading the tune with remarkably gratifying dance clichés, this breakdown is not merely kitchen sink, it showcases an adept use of style and timing. In the video Britney battles with her inner demons, literally sparring in stilettos with her double. The final chorus delivers pure Brit, a concert video-esque straight-forward powerdance with a crew of ripped black-leather-clad male dancers. Smoke cannons shoot plumes skyward and confetti rains down as Britney works her body triple time in muscularly choreographed undulations.
The second single, “Till The World Ends,” which opens the album, is perhaps a tad more predictable. Ravey with a wordless chant chorus, Brit promises to “get you off with a touch dancing in the dark” and to “blow your mind tonight.” More dubstep bass lines bring thrill to the table in a song strictly about “dancing” (till the world ends, of course). The delicious “Inside Out” is about being unable to break up with your boyfriend because you keep having really good break up sex every time you meet to break it off. “Let’s just give it up and get down. Won’t you give me something to remember? Baby shut your mouth and turn me inside out.” It’s a loose, low-tempo song, obviously penned for Brit, since it features references to two of her earlier hits “Crazy” and “…Baby One More Time.” “I Wanna Go” brings the pulse back up with a buoyant chorus that confesses “I wanna go all the way taking out my freak tonight. I wanna show all the dirt I’ve got running through my mind.” While “How I Roll” features the signature barrage of varied sounds that Bloodshy and Avant pour into their productions. Champagne corks pop and an auto-tune duets with Britney’s tequila (on the rocks!) induced trip “downtown, where my posse’s at. Coz I got nine lives like a kitty cat.” It’s a youthful, breezy song that glitters perhaps more brightly than any other moment on the album.
The dubstep continues on “(Drop Dead) Beautiful,” produced by Benny Blanco and Ammo whose obligatory female rap vocal (provided by Sabi) has a welcomed 90s tinge to it. Like Monie Love’s rap on Whitney Houston’s “My Name Is Not Susan,” it kinda feels more like a box being checked than necessary, thought it doesn’t detract, none. It gives Britney a personality to play off of as the two chuckle and cat call men, “your body looks so sick I think I caught the flu.” "Trip To Your Heart" is a smartly produced album track by Bloodshy and Avant that echoes their song for Kylie Minogue from the X album, “Speakerphone” in its listing of bodyparts (eyes, arms, lips, tongue). Though Britney never names the sex parts obviously on her mind here, the constant tease is fun. The low-fi sound of “Gasoline” is a nice diversion (her heart “only runs on supreme”), though the album ends on a slightly off note. The low-tempo “Criminal” is something of a grower. I’ve taken to the tune, and there’s an obviousness star textual element to the track in which Brit appeals, “Mama, I’m in love with a criminal but this kind of love isn’t rational, it’s physical.”
It’s SUCH an easy listen and a delight. Femme Fatale never shoots for epic stature and because of it Brit’s produced one of her most accomplished records to date. iTunes informs me that I’ve sped through the rounds nearly 40 times now, and I’m sure there’s tons more where that came from. Beach time jams and soundtracks for my tequila on the rocks. This is the most manufactured and professional type of ribaldry I can think of. Can you hold it against me?
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Madame X - An Absolute Ruler
We heard you’re going to Madame X. What are your reasons?
The wrinkles and creases on our faces are the registration of the great passions, vices, incites that called on us but we, the masters, were not home…
No, that’s not it.
I’m tired of the harsh light of success that rewards me with the revelation of my own mediocrity. I wish to escape from a crystallized identity, from the responsibilities of a canny maturity, which tells me to make the right moves at the right time. I wish to escape from the imperative of the next logical step in the upward mobilization of my talent and material expectations. All this in the name of a historical process that proliferates its refinements as some kind of inevitable social artistic progress. I am tired of the cycle of work, recognition, and more work imposed on me in the name of this progress. Perhaps you will say, “She has lost faith in her creative impulse.” Yes, of course that follows, for does not the product of this impulse also reflect a misguided faith in artistic progress to say nothing of the opposite side of that progressive currency – a despairing sentimentality and sense of loss. Read paragraph bottom in Sentimental Education:
“Having helped certain contemporary masters at the outset of their careers, the picture dealer, as a man who believed in progress, had tried to increase his profits while at the same time maintaining his artistic pretentions. His aim was the emancipation of the arts, the sublime at a popular price. All the Paris luxury trades came under his influence which was good in small matters but baneful when larger issues were involved. With his passion for pandering to the public, he led able artists astray, corrupted the strong, exhausted the weak and bestowed fame on the second-rate controlling their destinies by means of his connections and his magazine.”
Aaa… why kick a dead horse?
Let me go on: I can no longer accept public recognition for work that has been produced in the utmost desperation. And finally, I wish to escape from the oppression of a love that in itself has served as a distraction from the vicissitudes and discipline required of creative work. I have tried to immerse myself in erotic passion as a substitute for creative disillusionment. I had become bored and empty. I looked to passion. I LOOKED TO PASSION TO FILL ME UP AGAIN. And this time I felt a kind of recklessness. I didn’t want to think about the outcome or that my ardor might have painful consequences for all three of us. So I am fleeing from all this. From the obligations of a profession that no longer interests me, from a passion that could not consume me, and from my own emptiness. I don’t care where the ship goes. Satisfied?
-Josephine de Collage played by Yvonne Rainer
Ulrike Ottinger’s films are thrilling. Madcap and absurdist, they compile bizarre costumery, corny sound effects, oblique narratives and vaduvillian acting styles to create strange worlds of sexual intrigue. Surrealist histrionics might seem a peculiar platform for second-wave feminism. The crew aboard Chinese Orlando strikes a defiant tone, but the arbitrariness or impulsive nature of Madame X’s narrative progression can appear at odds with the earnest reasoning that characterizes the second-wave for most. In this sprawling feature, in which performances explode and quell and scenes seem scripted on the fly, where are the staunchly organized arguments and political tracts evinced in other feminist plights of the era?
In an issue of Afterall dedicated to Ottinger, Hildegund Amanshauser observes how Ottinger’s films “resist linear readings” instead “interweav[ing] multiple layers of meaning.” Instead of causal storytelling – the narrative tactic of dominant cinemas – Ottinger’s movies exist on a plane where meanings intersect, where cultural rituals, social conventions, and even time itself spills from one climate, one gender onto another in an echolalic narrative zone. Characters die and then reemerge in the following scene, sets shrink before their obvious, real-life settings, outfits steal entire scenes. This fluidity of meaning and anti-hierarchal structuring is Ottinger’s most exciting political tool. Dashing normative expectations for a straight-forward story arc, Madame X is a playful remedy to hegemony. And it’s all the more thrilling that Ottinger employs humor to engage her politic.
Cause it’s funny; Madame X is absurd. And that’s intentional. It’s something that gets lost in the translation to Ottinger’s obvious heir, Matthew Barney, where the patriarchal value systems that Ottinger so fiercely opposes, come flooding back with a vengeance. There’s a incredulous joy to be had when watching the star-headed Omega Zentauri performing a ritual dance in her silver wings and whirligig hat, as the crew prepare to slaughter a troupe of bourgeois boaters who have invited Madame X onboard for a bemusing sideshow. Zentauri bobs up and down, flapping her silver wings at the self-serious member of the leisure cruise, who turns his back on her in fatigue. Of course, the joke is on them and Madame X partakes in a murderous plundering of their luxurious means, retribution for their haughty insolence.
Madame X creates a new kind of sadistic dictatorship aboard the Chinese Orlando. She is the erotic enforcer, an architectural menace. An embrace could lead to sexual jouissance or dismemberment depending upon her animalistic mood. Such are the ways of power structures, Ottinger intones. But this new matriarchy is designed to ring beyond the bows of her ship. As Karsten Witte writes, “This film shows not a trace of fearfulness. On the contrary, it is calculated to evoke fear in those who put up resistance against the fascination of this ritualized and totally aestheticized power.” Like each of these women who respond to Madame X’s printed proclamation, it’s easy to become swept up in these thrilling exploits. The impulsive behavior of actors, script and scene frees up the film, creating a cinematic space no longer ruled by normative structuring principles. The film itself becomes a vibrant throes to become lost in. It dashes most formal devices employed by narrative feature filmmaking – including, in large portions, sync sound. Without a masterful understanding of structure, the viewer becomes lost in the film’s rhythmic unfolding of scenes, as if riding the waves that crash against Chinese Orlando.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
okay, so SO much has happened in the last week that I have paid about as much attention to this blog as that family in Oklahoma did to their kids. The past week was The Armory Show week in New York, with its proliferation of off-shoot art fairs, so my ass hustled a week-long blog for TheFanzine.com. After that, I was understandably exhausted. I made a lot of friends but the last thing I wanted to do come Monday morn' was talk to folks, and so I engaged in the kind of recharging that always helps to get me back on my feet. I watched five movies. Mostly from bed.
1. It Came from Kuchar. Still high off of (amongst other things) the Volta exhibition of George Kuchar's photographs - the booth bestowed with the Golden Fag award (aka best in show) by Art Fag City - I settled into Jennifer Kroot's 2009 documentary about the fabulous brothers, George and Mike, who made loving 8mm approximations of the Hollywood pictures they encountered growing up in the Bronx. It's a very well assembled documentary that even plays up the brothers' propensity for repeating themselves; one scene intercuts between a singular story recounted nearly verbatim by either brother. It's a situation mirrored by my recent attendance at a panel discussion between George and curator Ed Halter. George told many of the stories contained in the film, with less reserve. But, at the end of the day, the film is great to just watch George work with his students at SFAI as they toil on their yearly creature feature.
2. Did You Hear About the Morgans? Industrial filmmaking at its most dire. Lazy, thoughtless and chemistry-free, Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker play off their hum-drum star texts (cheating Brit and Uptown power Jewess, respectively) to produce little fizzle in this clunker. Then fairytale ending, which combines pregnancy, a thus redundant adopted Chinese baby and a palatial Central Park West apartment spins a fantasy narrative while sickening, far more honest and original than any of the preceding hour and twenty minutes.
3. The Manitou THRILL OF THE NIGHT. I can't help but recount the premise of this true delight to everyone I've wandered across since my viewing. A woman discovers that the cyst on her neck is actually a fetus that contains the reincarnation of a Native American medicine man! AMAZING. And there to make it more amazing is Tony Curtis! Circe 1978 Tony Curtis playing a cassa nova. MORE AMAZING. The ending must truly be seen to be believed when, after the medicine man is born, rational white man magic is used to defeat the midget witch doctor when channeled through the palms of its topless... mother?
5. Disclosure I have to say, Disclosure is a really disturbing film. From it sputters the death rattle of popular feminism. When Demi Moore's disarming leads to a final victorious ain't-life-grand close-up of Michael Douglas, as his white face beams privilege from his corporate office, and this is the projected "happy ending," with accompanying revelry music, I was more than unsettled. But by then it was 2:30 and I just slumped off to bed.
Monday, February 28, 2011
Driven, angrily and otherwise...
I can't even begin to describe the madness that was this past week. And, it being art week in NYC, there will be no rest for the wicked this week. On Tuesday I attended the QT series that Nicholas Boggs curates, where Wayne Koestenbaum was reading alongside Ronaldo V. Wilson. In truth, I have not read Koestenbaum's work. His Jackie Under My Skin has been sitting on my to-be-read pile since D's parents gave it to me for Christmas last year. He read a poem commissioned by the Viennese gallery Coco called 'Didactic Poem.' We were treated to a visual accompaniment, a projected slide-show of Koestenbaum's own vibrant recent efforts in painting and digital image grabs. Sal Mineo dominated most of the non-painterly textual and visual imagery. Koestenbaum invaded the Didactic format - one which he himself proclaimed no affinity for. Sliding surprising and incongruous images upon one another in unlikely couplets, the reading was a fascinating one. After that, I drifted with my fellow attendees - curator Joseph Whitt, writer Frank J Miles and artist Anthony Thorton to what would be the first of a seemingly week-long Boiler Room residency, marveling at the back to back play of extended tracks by Miss Sophie Ellis-Bextor.
Wednesday was, of course, the newest installment of my monthly screening series, Dirty Looks. There was no blizzard this time (though that hardly held them back before) and fifty or so attendees descended upon Participant Inc. for this admix of experimental cinema and pornography. Fred Halsted's The Sex Garage was received very warmly by the cold crowd (we only have space heaters at our disposal, in lieu of central air - an effect which Zach Cole later suggested transported these dirty lookers back to the underground film screenings of yesteryear, where these films were projected in second-run theaters and dingy basements). Well, William E. Jones' Finished followed. It was, in fact, the first time I'd even seen a print of the film - having always engaged with this marvelous title on video. Special thank yous to our wonderful projectionist Sarah Halpern and to MIX NYC master Stephen Kent Jusick for his generosity. I shared many great conversations afterwards with writers Masha Tupitsyn and Robert Smith, Next Film Fest director Bryce Renninger, and artists Roddy Shrock, Mark Golamco, Jake Davidson, Annie Yalon, Chad Dilley and Aryn Zev. Participant director Lia Gangitano confessed to me that The Sex Garage contain a first for her - she'd never seen a man fuck a motorcycle before! In truth, this was a surprise for anyone familiar with Lia's curatorial tastes. As always, I'm happy to oblige. When all was said and done, we reconvened on the Boiler Room for round two of antics - less the Bextor, sadly, who I could not find on the large smart-phone-shaped jukebox. I just could not be more pleased that people are coming out to engage with this work.
The following day I woke up and spent the morning in bed with Gary Indiana's new collection of early writings published by Semiotext(e), Last Seen Entering the Biltmore. I spent some time attempting (in vain) to secure the next title for Dirty Looks but then dashed out of the house. I had to clean up, return the film, do a little shopping. I had one of those charming New York afternoons just drifting about the city and stumbling into people I know. At 6pm I went over to Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts, where D was co-hosting Welcome Artists, a curatorial project with Sally Szwed. The gist is that we're all bushy-tailed when we show up to this sometimes-very-difficult city, so these curators devised a social atmosphere in which newcomers can be introduced not only to their peers, but to curators, institutional directors, writers and the like. Well I liked the delicious wine provided by BOE in Brooklyn... and a handful of artists of course. I may have gone a little overboard with the confetti - hurling it at artists and curators, alike - but really, isn't that what a fete is for?
The following day we hit up a matinee for the UTTERLY LOVABLE NEW NICOLAS CAGE MOVIE. My god was it good. The thing was made for people to like it, for folks to reel and get swept up in the drunken swagger that is its tone. Drive Angry launches at you, in full 3D the tale of a daddy who busts outta hell to avenge the death of his daughter and soon-to-be sacrifice of his infant granddaughter at the hands of none-other-than the peoples' temple leader, Jim Jones. Well... it's not really Jones by name, but by image there is no denying. Amber Heard does a very sufficient job in her teensy shorts and there's a fabulous scene in which a fully clothed Cage kills and army of Satanic peoples' templers mid-fuck with a floozy blond, one finger on the trigger, the other curled around a bottle of JD. Yes. In truth, the film flags slightly in the middle, though it's brought back to life - heh - by the final death sequence in which Jones is hoisted up, á la Messiah, and... implodes into a afterlifeless void as rendered by stoned college freshmen?? It truly must be seen to be believed. In 3D.
We saw the matinee because one of D and my good friends, Scott Kiernan - who runs the gallery Louis V E.S.P. at which we've both had shows (I recreated Luther Price's Meat installation there last May) and at which I hosted that recent television show E.S.P. TV - had a solo show, Once Around the Block (Twice), at Nurtureart in Bushwick. The opening was great, even though there was some last minute drama in which Scott's paintings wouldn't fit through the door. Then we went to see Max Steele and Daniel Sander's band B0dy H1gh perform at Clump at Bushwick's Beauty Bar. Or am I supposed to use their performative pseudonym's Billy Cheer and Daniel Portland? One never can tell
I really wanted to make it out to the new Pin Ups launch for "Seth" at Printed Matter, because Christopher Shultz who publishes the thing is such a supportive dear-heart, but a boy can only do so much. After an afternoon coffee with an exciting upcoming artist for Dirty Looks, I headed over to Millenium Film Workshop where my former mentor, Lewis Klahr, was screening his recent series, Prolix Satori, more cut and paste collage works. The screening was really great - a fortunate technical foible saw Lew screen the two films he showed at last year's Views from the Avant-Garde, in lieu of his (immaculate) False Aging. While that's a totally heartbreaking film, I'd only seen the others the once and settled in for this treat. He finished his night with the 20-minute narrative (ish) film Lethe a really stunning film (which I sometime wish he'd bring to the front of the program). This, he explained was what he had set out to make when he picked up the super8 camera some 32 years prior. Lethe is a very intricate film, dipping and out of narrative coherence. The plot is (literally) torn from the pages of a 40s comic with scientists in lab coats and one blond-haired vixen. Everything goes horribly wrong in their affairs, though it's never quite clear what is allegorical and what "actually" occurs. Not that mimesis is ever the point. The room was full of great filmmakers in their own rights - Peggy Awesh, MM Serra, Abigail Child, Ken and Flo Jacobs and Views curator Mark McElhatten. Lew even plugged me when Abigail asked about one film, explaining how in a studio visit I made comment about his use of the Velvet Underground's "Pale Blue Eyes" that is was too loaded, and so it drove him to create a new film with the identical imagery but a brand new soundtrack. I blushed.
Later that night D and I met up with our friends Herbert, Chad, Mark, Jessica and Roddy and we danced the night away at a party called Gayface. All started out alright, but the music quickly drifted. By the time they played 'Party In the USA' for a second time, it was clear that the party was, in fact, elsewhere to be had. So we bumped into some kids at Metropolitan where my tired ass did not relent until 4-ish, knowing, all-the-while that I was meant to play host to a crew of friends the following morning for my signature bearded french toast (that's french toast with crushed up cornflakes). Well, everything got made and we quickly scurried over to Dan Callahan and Keith Uhlich's Oscar party with my roommate, filmmaker Adam Keleman and friend - who also happens to be a filmmaker named Adam - Adam Baran. See, Keith and Dan are some widely published film folks so the air was thick with anticipation and ire for these awards. The whole ceremony was just appallingly boring, don't you think? And it didn't help that Dan goaded me on that I'd just missed Sharon Stone's red carpet traipse when I arrived. Not once more would that heavenly face grace the screen that evening. Instead we had Anne Hathaway. Well then... I did meet some delightful folks and ate some very yummy macaroni and cheese that I swear someone poured truffle oil into. So all was not lost, even if you're Annette Benning.
This week stay tuned to The Fanzine where I will be covering Art Week, NYC 2011 beginning tonight with the opening of Salon Zürcher, an alternative individual-minded approach to the whole art fair thing. More soon...
Monday, February 21, 2011
It was one of life's uncanny moments. William E. Jones' experimental documentary Finished was and continues to be a key movie to my aesthetic development. One of those films that is at once shockingly new but so great a fit that it comes only naturally, like, some strangely reminiscent text. I was still laboring at an art career when Jones' film was recommended to me by a friend who had curated it into a series. He told me of its premise - a first-person account from a man who becomes enamored with an ill-fated porn star's image, obsessively mulling over the details of his short life, squinting into the dots of his print matrix and at the fuzzy analogue video image in an attempt to get closer to the "real" Alan Lambert, should such a thing exist. It was probably another year before I saw the movie, itself. And I saw it on video. I kind of can't imagine it in any other format. Released for home consumption by Facets, the tape, which combines source 16mm footage with carefully edited clips ripped from Lambert's porn titles, reminded me of the bootleg tapes I would dupe - New Queer Cinema titles, mostly - in my teenage basement in Missouri. The cassettes would be labeled with a piece of tape, or sometimes just black marker on black plastic. As Lucas Hilderbrand has beautifully observed in his book on the medium, there was feeling of "inherent vice" to the analogue format, something licentious and pirate, and Jones' Finished seemed to epitomize that furtive quality. Like the audio cassette, VHS felt far from finite. Not only does Jones rip Lambert's image from the films, but he takes them for a ride, building a personal narrative, a political investigation around market sex and the rhetoric of his images. Further, the VHS format, in Jones' case, made this cinematic diary feel more intimate, a direct address to the singular viewer. A confession on stolen hours.
I've since become very familiar with the whole of Jones' ouevre, but Finished maintains this wonderfully intimate quality, for me. Finished showcased how the personal essay format could open out to include a seemingly infinite number of topical issues, vital to both the filmmaker and viewer. In the film, Jones uses his obsession to address issues as diverse as a Southern ban on interracial sex sequences, theories of consumerism, the crippling physical expectations of porn actors and the power dynamics that these stagnant roles bolster. It's a touching movie, cause you can tell it was really love, but also one of loss and, ultimately, disappointment as Jones finds out that his fantasy creature is not just something of a wack job, but in a decidedly 90s dance around mediatized images, that the Alan Lambert that he fell for never really existed at all. It's the disappointment latent in pop consumerism, where that ecstatic face promises more than it could ever really yield. Lambert's eventual occult underpinnings only highlight more prolifically the divide between the figure and ideal.
The film was important to me as a text, since it embraces irrational obsession with an analytic mind. I was a video artist dallying in the essay format at the time and this visual approach towards information struck a chord. Jones' inquiry yields an abundance of information, presented in logical, but also haphazard ways. Jones' narrator is quick to find value in coincidence, as evinced by the counter-text of the film, Meet John Doe. Finished is a bittersweet movie totally of its time. It's unsturdy, too experimental for the indie film scene, but with a distribution pattern that distanced itself from the artworld of its period. I like to think of the film as emerging in that wonderful moment where subversive film titles were being released on home video and giving their avid consumers tastes of something thrilling, experimental and more expansive than the traditional capitalist products that were out there. It was this weird dissemination of a protest ethos, where charged titles could be picked up by isolated viewers the nation over, and transmit the thrill of their counter-narrative. As Jones did in Lambert, I found a counterpart in Jones who thought through his impulsive desires, yearning to discern the point or source of this fan frenzy. But unlike Jones' narrative, my subject has never disappointed.
Finished will screen with Fred Halsted's The Sex Garage at my screening series, Dirty Looks Wednesday, February 23rd at 8pm. Participant Inc. 253 E. Houston.