Jack Kerouac, as Sal Paradise once said: "I like too many things and get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another till i drop. This is the night, what it does to you. I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion." And I think that's a rather apt description of my blog over the years, and perhaps the most perfect description of me in general that I've ever read. So that's what this blog is, a collection of the falling stars that are beckoning me at any time.
05 November 2006
I think a part of that whole attitude of slack that's been permeating me lately comes from the fact that I'm still here. I mean I'd wanted to be all moved and starting my struggle for some sort reasonable life in the adult world by now, but that hasn't happened yet because actually making a transatlantic move costs so bloody much especially when you're on the awful end of the currency exchange. I'm trying to not be entirely seat of my pants about it because even though I've family up north , I have to be able to survive on my own. And whilst I wait to be solvent enough to leave I feel trapped in limbo.
29 September 2006
Anyway I thought I would do a process series of posts on a piece I'm just starting work on. I'm still in my cellular material phase, but this one is going to be a print rather than a painting, so I thought that would be a good candidate for a process piece.
step 1: so I have a giant collection of microscopy photos of different types of cells. Whenever I'm thinking about starting another piece I scan through them looking for the general shapes or textures that I think will go well for whatever media I'm planning to work in. (oil paint, watercolour or linoleum carving prints. Though I've been thinking about screen prints lately as well) For this piece I decided on this tilia stem
step 2: once I've decided what image I want to work from, I take my chunk of linoleum and a pencil and sketch out first the basic arcs of what goes where and then fell in the detail. This is the first point where I ask myself why the hell I'm so into drawing such tedious intricate things :) (there will be many, many points during the carving process where I ask myself this. or in fact the painting process. I've started actually sketching out the images on my canvases now before I paint because it turns out nicer in the end than when I just did everything on the spur of the moment. I've just finished step 2 on this piece as you see below I've got my image and I'm all ready to start carving my lino.
To be continued as I get farther along.
06 September 2006
11 August 2006
Curator Tim Guthrie has attempted to fuse together informative and often poignant historical artifacts, archival materials and interactive displays with artworks which are at times technically skillful, but devoid of depth or contextual intensity and at others woefully cliched and resemblant of an artist's first experiments in different mediums. The result is visually cluttered and frustrating in its lack of artistic enlightenment on a subject that's been so prominently on the world's mind for the last 60 years, you wouldn't think it tough to find something to say on its relevance to our lives today.
It's a shame that the encaustic work 'Sworg Shot' is buried in the most easily missed corner of the gallery, as it is really the only painting with any complexity. Instead we find, in a position of prominence, 'Sabre Rattling,' an inexplicably cliche, five-foot digital painting printed on vinyl of a man on horseback carrying a sword and wearing a chemsuit gas mask (which I think might be the most embarrassingly naff artwork to come from a professional artist.) along with a painfully juvenile attempt to mix a mushroom cloud with religious icon. Guthrie's numerous encaustic and digital portraits are aesthetically pleasing, but do little to stimulate the mind or add relevance to the theme of the show.
Despite the failings of the art side of the equation to be moving, the historical side does provide depth and emotion and, at times, striking beauty. Throughout the gallery are several artifacts from the bombings of Japan; most displayed beneath blown glass bells which are as warped and alien looking as the melted, seared and broken items themselves. It's hard not to look at the charred remains of a child's tricycle and not think of the carefree times humanity itself has lost since the dawn of the nuclear age. Likewise, for all the assertations of the press releases that science and art are a dichotomy, it's easy to find artistic beauty in the film footage of the blasts from the US nuclear testing program whilst being awed by their destructive power.
One of the most successful art pieces in the show is actually an artistic re-invisioning of archival footage. 'Recalling Trinity' is an animated short featuring Robert Oppenheimer's thoughts on the first nuclear test, nicknamed Trinity. The animation invovles replacing archival footage with re-imagined frames recalling the current obsession with rotoscope animation, but the handpainted frames here give the work a frentic quality that reminds me of early Bill Plympton (though, of course, they lack the surreal humour of Plymptoons.)
It's in these pieces of history that the viewer is challenged to consider our current relationships with the nuclear and therefore they are as much art as they are science and far more powerful than any of the intentional art. The naivete of the Department of Defence's nuclear attack preparedness materials, advising 60s era families that hiding behind their sofa would somehow save them from a nuking seems an amusing collection until you remember the equally absurd materials put out only three years ago by Homeland Security, offering up duct tape and rubbish bags as a way to biological weapon/dirty bomb proof your home.
Nuclear Dichotomies also offers several attractively designed, highly informative and interactive displays outlining the history of the nuclear testing program in the United States, interviews with survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and various radio and film materials from the early Cold War era.
Better curating and some serious editing in the form of scrapping the vast majority of the portraits and paintings, which were too numerous and made for a very crowded and cramped feeling in the gallery in the first place, could have benefited the exhibition.
For what it's worth, my favourite piece was a series of viewmaster slides from the 50s and 60s of various vacation spots. They seem just like average tourist shots until you notice mushroom clouds looming ominously in the background behind oblivious tourists. They're all the more intriguing for the tension created in wondering if they're altered or merely amazingly spooky happenstance. Whether they're ferreted out or brilliantly subtle fakes, they almost make up for 'Sabre Rattling.'
25 July 2006
I've long been a fan of UK magazines over most American ones in certain areas. For instance I think Empire is one of the best mainstream movie mags and it makes me sad for all those years I was reading Movieline for my not so elitist fix (though there was something entertaining about trying to guess if an actor would pass my movieline test. Few ever did, because Movieline was really excellent at making everyone they interviewed come off as a completely self-obsessed asshole who was nowhere near as compelling as they thought they were. Henry Rollins was the big exception; he came off as a self-obsessed asshole who actually was as compelling as he thought he was, and the interview introduced me to the bit of cocktail trivia that is the fact that he keeps a piece of his best-friend's brain in a jar on his desk. I'm sure one day that will be a question on Jeopardy or Who Wants to Be a Millionaire or something, and then I will win, (or you, now that you've read it, or if you've selected me as your phone a friend lifeline) Anyway, I read Empire, I read Q, though technically my favourite music magazine is Resonance which is out of Seattle and thus American, however it's not a major magazine and thus not really what I'm about to discuss because smaller magazines tend to have better design or more freedom with content choices in general because they are more willing to experiment to get a reader base and also they haven't whored out to advertisers because they have to get a reader base before advertisers will want them to whore themselves out. Consequently the reason that I love Empire is because while they are a mainstream publication, rather than a scholarly film journal, they still have features and reviews of films, including classics, which talk seriously about the film theory aspects of films, including otherwise entertainment only blockbuster movies. In market-comparable film magazines on this side of hte Atlantic I find you either get overly serious or pretentiousness or pointless PR driven pap.
Today I picked up a UK Cosmo, there was already a US Cosmo in the drawer at work. I read the UK Cosmo and was struck at how much longer it took me to read through and how much more content it seemed to have. It takes about an hour with customer interruptions to read an American Cosmo. I don't really like American Cosmo it's just a bunch of sex-related rehashings of YM embarrassing moment stories, yet another description of that bold new sex move (the reverse cowgirl has been the ost popular selection for about 2 years running) that's somehow been bold and new for the last 15 years that I've been looking at that magazine, a horoscope about what everyone's best days to hook up with their co-workers are, some hot new trend that is the exact opposite of what they told you was hot last month, a vapid interview with a celebrity which now features some myspace meme style questionnaire that they all fill out with handwriting that looks like they've just graduated grade 8 and are excited about starting high school, and a few pictures of coked out whores in clothing that costs more than your rent and will never look good on anyone who is not a coked out whore. Oh wait I almost forgot now there are 8 or so pages of bland looking guys with surfer physiques and no shirts on and half of the content is targeted at men (presumably because half of Cosmo's readership is men who want to wank to the photos of coked out whores in pantaloons [and what the fuck is up with pataloons anyway?! Who? Who one day said at the meeting of the style council: 'You know, I was looking at some paintings of Sir Francis Drake and William Shakespeare and just admiring their poofy pants, I really think that this year's hot shorts style should be pantaloons.' Were they high?])
Basically I find it vapid and completely ads dominated. I felt a bit surprised reading the UK version because there seemed to be a lot more content and much of it was really useful to the sort of general person who reads a women's fashion mag. You know those of us that don't have 1200 dollars to put don on a single pocketbook and are not a size 0. I was curious though whether it was true or just a perception of more content so I counted pages of the 240 pages in the August American Cosmo only 115 of those pages contained actual content which is 48% conversely the UK version was 296 pages 136 of which had content (though the UK edition has a rather big classifieds section including several pages of career pages of companies hiring so if you knock those out the percentage climbs to 51% content, but counting all the pages that's only 46% and therefore actually less content to advertising than the US version just slightly.
First off it's pretty sickening that more than half of both magazines is taken up entirely by advertisements. What's most interesting is that there's a strong perception in me that there is significantly more content in the UK version (I was actually expecting them both to be vapid and ad-filled so it's not like I suddenly have a culture snobbery in this case) I've come to decide that a lot of it has to do with the design and layout decisions, at least as much as the choice of content. In the American edition, you have to wade through 16 pages of ads before you even come to the contents page while in the UK version it's on page 3. In the UK edition pages are laid out so that there's a lot of content on the right-hand side of a spread and when you flip those pages there's either continuing text, or the next story on the verso of that page whilst in the US version the layout favours sticking all content pages on the left on what is mentally seen as the back of the last page while the advertisements take up the right hand prime real estate in the spread. (Now I know we all read left to right in English, but the right side is still the prime real estate because one we don't read magazines like we do books, generally due to the format and two our eye wants to travel right anyway especially if there's a giant dominant image on that side as opposed to text.) Text is rarely carried across both sides of a single page so everything seems broken up by ads in a way it doesn't in the UK arrangement, because even if all the pages are separate single page stories carrying it over onto the backside of the page content-wise helps create an illusion of bigger chunks of content.
10 July 2006
This week's downloads (part 1):
nobody and mystic chords of memory-- tree colored see: what it is: Sweeping alt-country Americana mixed with electronic elements and hip hop that makes for a genuinely satisfying indie pop record, and a perfect addition to your summer soundtrack. Just listening to the tracks surrounds you in an aural version of hazy summer heat and floating idly in a canoe down the creek or lounging on a picnic blanket somewhere in a wooded clearing (or maybe I've been down the basement too long and I'm hallucinating the childhood I didn't actually live, but imagined I would have if only I could have lived in the books I read growing up.) I wouldn't be surprised if this album pops up on some year end best of lists.
Ed Harcourt-- the beautiful lie: Apparently, this chap is rather prolific. I don't know how I've missed him before, probably because I'm not the sort who usually downloads lush pop singer-songwriter type albums, mainly because that genre is full of utter shite (like James Blunt), but lately I've been more willing to give anything a shot, and this album is well worth it. What it is: the sort of sweet mainly acoustic pop album whose tracks you could imagine on a thoughtful gen-x romantic comedy's soundtrack. You'll likely like it if you like: M Ward, Tom Waits or The Eels My favourite songs: 'you only call me when you're drunk', 'I'm the drug' 'the last cigarette' and 'whirlwind in d minor'
Peeping Tom: You can always trust that a Mike Patton project will be different and interesting. They all sound slightly like an AM easy listening channel run through a perverterator, and would probably soundtrack a porn film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, but that's interesting right? Of course it is. Peeping Tom is actually a soundtrack of sorts, the project was inspired by the 1960 thriller. Collaborators include Amon Tobin, Dose One, Massive Attack, Kool Keith and Norah Jones. The Norah Jones track 'sucker' is genius. Made to be listened to: while driving downtown at night or at any party where you want to invoke a slightly seedy stripclub that for some reason is where to too hip to trend hop congregate. Best tracks: 'five seconds', 'mojo' and 'sucker'
quasi-- when the going gets dark Quasi remains a darker more sonically complex cynical and bitter Ben Folds five. The music is harder and less twee than before, but still unmistakably quasi. Best tracks: 'I don't know you anymore' and 'death culture blues'
casiotone for the painfully alone-- etiquette Owen Ashworth is sounding a bit scarily like Connor Oberst on his new album, well minus that obnoxious tremolo. If you think I'm kidding, listen to 'young shields.' Etiquette is a much slicker, more produced effort than the previous albums, the lofi casiotone is still there, but it sounds more like an instrument rather than a gimmick this time. Overall a really nice progression musically and a worthwhile album. best tracks: 'young shields', 'I love creedance' and 'bobby malone moves home'
Gomez-- how we operate: Gomez is one of those bands that I never got into despite the many times they were supposed to be on the cusp of being the next best thing. They still sound like they're on the cusp of being big, but I mean they sound like they're on the edge of being great, not that this album could put them into the big. Don't get me wrong, it's an alright album, though I think it sounds like it could have come out 10 years ago as much as today it has a kind of bland 90s alt-rock timelessness about it.
Keane-- Under the Iron Sea Dear Keane, Why do all the songs on your new album sound exactly alike? And why do they sound like they could also be on a Coldplay album? Is it because someone told you that the world needed more coldplay songs, but Chris Martin could only write so many at a time so you thought you'd bravely step in to fill the void we all felt? To be honest, I like Keane more than I like Coldplay, mainly because as soon as 'Yellow' hit the airwaves I immediately loathed Martin et al for making me want to puncture my eardrums. I'll probably not delete the album from my harddrive just in case I ever have one of those days where I need to wear a thin floaty blouse and khakis and walk through the rain in the park distressed about fucking up and mucking up a relationship with my soulmate, because we all know this would be the soundtrack for that montage that ends in a profoundly revealing makeout session while the synths swell to orchestral levels, and I'm certainly not doing the makeup makeout to coldplay.
29 June 2006
Superman Returns isn't really an action film, which is kind of odd considering that it's Superman. Whether you'll find it successful or a failure depends largely on whether you want it to be an action movie or whether you're more interested in Superman gaining some actual dimensionality. Either way the film never quite delivers on its potential, but it's not a dud.
I'll be honest, I've never liked Superman, he bores me. Superman has always been this one-dimensional American icon to me. He's got super powers, he's pretty much invincible, he's good and he lives in a world where good and evil aren't really complicated. Superman is good, Lex Luthor is bad. Where's the attraction in that? I like Spiderman, he's got the super powers, but he's also caught up in the messy complications of real life. He struggles with the weight of his responsibilities. His villains are often also friends and their motivations are more complicated than being greedy and wanting to rule the world. Batman, even better, not only does he have to wrestle with all the extremely dark and damaged emotions that come along with being human, but he doesn't even have super powers, just super wealth and a Sharper Image platinum catalogue.
I'm not a comic book fangirl, so I'll never be able to approach any of these franchises whilst thumbing through a back catalog trying to decide if some film decision is supposed to be sacrilege or not. I don't think I've watched any of the previous Superman films more than once and since I was about 10 years-old. I don't watch Smallville and I don't care. I will, however, be going to see the sequel whenever the decide to make it. Because despite the movies flaw (and there are several) Bryan Singer et al have finally delivered a Superman who's more than a caricature.
I've read a few reviews and found a pretty bizarre set of complaints people have had. My favourite has to be the guy complaining that Superman's super powers aren't realistic enough. He wanted to know how Superman could lift a giant rock out of the ocean and toss it into space, but he could barely stop the falling 777 from crashing into the ground. (personally, if you ask me, the answer is clearly that while he could just stop the falling plane on a dime if he wanted to, doing so probably would have crushed the plane and killed everyone on board. Obviously it takes a lot longer to stop a plane safely with minimal damage when you're dealing with velocity, structural details of the plane itself and the fact that the force of the reverse velocity is concentrated on only the small surface area of his two hands, but I'm not a scientist, what do I know?) If you're going to sit around and discuss scientific plausibilities in a Superhero movie a.) you probably need to look into some better hobbies and b.) shouldn't you be more concerned with the fact that a 777 goes all the way up into the upper atmosphere or possibly all the way into outer space and comes back down through it without exploding, burning up, being crushed by the pressure differences, or being detrimental to anyone on board and not only that, but Lois Lane doesn't have an oxygen mask on for at least 5 minutes whilst being thrown back and forth around the cabin but doesn't suffer from lack of oxygen nor does she lose consciousness at any time? Also no one vomits. (I'm pretty sure they call the plane that goes up high enough that people on board achieve anti-gravity is called the Vomit Comet for a reason) See I'm one of those people who can suspend disbelief for the big things; like guy who can fly, shoot laser beams and stop bullets with his eyes, but you have to keep the small details legitimate.
The movies big failure is its complete lack of inertia. Nothing ever gets rolling and instead of an engrossing movie we get a series of scenes that work all right as scenes, but never gel together into a single unit and thus the final product is kind of boring. There are either too many action scenes breaking into the engaging story of Superman coming back after just flying off on a whim to his destroyed homeworld for years to find that everyone has moved on, or is at least trying to; or too much Superman pining because his love was practical enough to build a new life for herself instead of just moping around waiting for him as he clearly thought she was going to taking screen time away from day saving and cgi flying sequences.
Kevin Spacey's Lex Luthor was rather disappointing to be honest. He kind of seemed like he didn't want to break out in that stereotypical Spacey quiet to psychotic anger mode, but couldn't quite decide what to do instead. Parker Posey was funny in that twitchy Parker Posey way, though her character is little more than the typical bad guy bimbo role (why can't writers, either screen or comic book, ever seem to write an interesting villain's girlfriend? There are sometimes interesting female villains but not real Lady MacBeth style bad guy girlfriends.) Kate Bosworth was fine as Lane, though all it really requires is having a halfway decent screen presence and not completely sucking as there isn't much written for her to actually have to act. In fact for a movie over 2 hours long, there didn't seem to be much dialogue at all. The only time a character spoke in an entire paragraph seems to be when Lex Luthor was summing up his nefarious plan. As for my opinion of Routh? I liked him. His take on Kent was more realistic, choosing to make him more the real life guy that no one really notices rather than a clumsy bumbling putz. (I've always thought that if Kent were such a klutz you'd notice he wasn't around.) His Superman is subtle.
So all in all a decent movie, not as good as the other franchise restoration film, Batman Begins, but nothing to shake a stick at. (and thankfully this one didn't start over at the beginning but just picked a point after the two ok films to move forward from. Personally I don't know hat I'm very happy about the decision to remake the first 2 Batman movies as the next films in the series. I liked the prequel, but there's nothing wrong with Batman, and it's going to be really hard, I think, to get a Joker who's as good as Nicholson.)
27 June 2006
You'd think I'd learn my lesson for unbridled enthusiasm of writers whose first novels explode with unique content and form, after all I've already suffered painful disillusionments with Irvine Welsh and Chuck Palahniuk, but old habits die hard and now I can add Douglas Coupland to the list of writers whose exciting, original voices have become tired and boring because their catalog becomes essentially just one novel over and over in an ever diminishing level of quality.
Perhaps I'm too hard on the dramatically different, holding it up to a standard that the conventional never has to achieve because it all sounded the same to begin with. I understand that originality of voice and vision doesn't mean a writer will be original from himself novel after novel, at least not in terms of style, but really, is it too much to ask for something new in terms of character? I think not.
Coupland's new novel, JPod, is essentially just Microserfs without the heart, originality or plausibility. Set in the world of videogame design instead of Microsoft and full of ridiculously stupid subplots, Jpod mistakes self-conscious farce for cleverness and self-referential arrogant twaddle for slyly acknowledging his own place in the culture he satirises.
The main character, his fellow programmers and other work related characters are well drawn and believable, but, then, he's been writing the same characters since Generation X hasn't he? A mildly eccentric, pop culture obsessed bunch of 20-somethings you wish here your friends with their oh-so-irreverent hijinx and culture dropping, but here these characters aren't authentic, they're the ones who've read every Coupland novel and wanted to be friends with those characters so badly, you're pretty sure that all of their wacky hijinx comes from a conscious decision to act like Coupland characters and he makes sure they mention him and his previous books so many times you can't forget. It's like a 400 page advertisement for his older, better novels. He even goes so far as to make himself a character in the novel.
It's not that the book is unreadable, quite the opposite, despite every scene and plot point seeming conspicuously written only to set up Coupland making fun of a buzzword or cultural phenomena (a trip to China seems to exist only so we could read that the original strain of SARS is now called SARS Classic and that China puts human rights victims who've made it big on CNN to work in sweat shops so they can charge Americans exorbitant prices on goods because they've been assembled by the Tiananmen Square tank guy)
The read is quick and you laugh along the way, but at the end you can't help but feel cheated. After all, you already own Microserfs did you really need another book about tech geeks in crap jobs they eventually quit to be mega-successful in the end, have dysfunctional families and quirky lives, especially one that's not remotely as well-written?
It all seems spelled out for you in the final chapter; this is just a contractual obligation and it's easier to write a pale imitation of a well-liked novel than it is to come up with something better or different. Like the abysmally awful pop albums made yearly to get musicians out of contracts, Jpod will be snapped up eagerly by legions of Coupland fans and, except for the few who have to have every novel for their collection, will grace the shelves of your local used book shop as quickly as Mariah Carey albums hit the overstock dollar bins at CD TradingPost.
Maybe for his next novel, Coupland can fictionalise Welsh and Palahniuk and skewer the publishing world where cult novelists puke out subpar novels and laugh off literary backlash at the ATM where they check their balances.
25 June 2006
The first gallery houses installations. Video interacts with objects and even the viewer as in the case of Gary Day, Russ Nordman and Anthony Trecek-King’s “The Book of Light and Dark,” a careful integration of print, animation and projection where the video projections are controlled by the page a book of prints is open to as the viewer looks through it.
David Zimmer’s brilliant LCD constructions feature videos of birds and bees in apothecary jars and odd scientific scopes, providing a creepy Victorian feel and a modern alternative to those dusty taxidermy animals in your grandfather’s attic. Zimmer’s best piece is the eerie and haunting “Sleeping Inside,” an antique wooden workbox from which Pascal Humbert’s melancholy music emanates whilst the LCD on top shows the fitful sleep of a man.
Phyllis Baldino’s “Cheeseboard/Not Cheeseboard” offers a witty exploration of form and function in everyday objects.
The back gallery featured mainly digital computer animation works including “Happenstance (part one of many parts)” by Gary Hill, but the room’s standout offering is Peter Campus’ analog “Edge of the Ocean.”
In Gallery Two, over ten TVs and two projectors provide a good mix of humorous and serious works from the psychedelic animation and horror film collage of Peter Burr and Christopher Doulgeris’ “Hooliganship: Go” to Mathieu Borysevicz’s funny meditations on media and social buzzwords.
Former Bemis resident Songyi Kim continues to demonstrate exceptional talent with “Polaroids.” Like Kim’s past works, “Polaroids” utilizes daily self portraits videotaped and edited to investigate identity and human experience in a visually poetic way, but here she uses the unique visual properties of the developing Polaroid print to introduce a ghostly and fragile quality.
One of the most shocking, but also the most diverse and enjoyable artists featured is Torsten Zenas Burns. Brilliantly bizarre and comical, spattered with rampant nudity and sometimes fake blood and looking like Stanislaw Lem on acid; Burns’ works, about an hour’s worth in all, revolve around the human experience: birth, death, our interactions with each other and our ever changing environments (also Zombies) set on a sci-fi space station. A naked Zombie soft shoes in the hygiene center and explains how he overcame his baser undead instinct to eat the crew and their families by munching on his own arm and deciding it wasn’t for him, crew members on ropes dance along the ceiling and manipulated footage culled from science programs set to Sarah McLachlan‘s “I Won’t Fear Love” all present a visually arresting look at the space-world his work exists in.
The monitor seemed neglected opening night, probably due to the substantial full frontal nudity and sexual connotations in some pieces, which is a shame because it’s definitely one of the most complex and satisfying works at the exhibition.
Also featured are two hours of work from William Wegman (better known for his portraits of his dogs, Man Ray and Fay Ray) and “The Order” from the third instalment of Matthew Barney’s seminal video series “The Cremaster Cycle.”
An impressive array of well-curated works, with something to offer the neophyte to video art and the well-versed alike, Signal Channel runs until August 12th and is one of this Summer’s must see exhibitions.
With their Bemis Underground show, Fragments and Details, Matt Walker and Matt Orand have solved the major failing that haunted their respective BFA Thesis showings last year—the interaction of art with the space around it and how the lack of consideration for that relationship can cripple an otherwise compelling work. Walker’s installations suffered from a lack of breathing room crowded into the available space in the UNO Gallery and while Orand’s Target Market had a solid concept and the decision to drag it out of UNO and exhibit it at Crossroads was fitting, but the result was dwarfed by the mall and looked less than impressive as a result.
The current show was built directly into the Underground and their consideration of the gallery space as an organic extension of the works not only shows, but ultimately makes the whole greater than the sum of its parts. It also doesn’t hurt that the Bemis Underground’s layout and construction perfectly compliment the air of abandonment and age the artists were working to create.
From the minute you enter the gallery door you are drawn into a relationship with the show and its pieces. As you descend the stairs you are surrounded by the jarring, mournful wail of a pipe organ’s lone chord while a stark white floodlight illuminates the pale branches of a tree suspended from the ceiling over the rusting skeleton of a wrought-iron crib and its love-eaten stuffed bear occupant.
The crib, and many of the pieces further in replicate the accidental art found in roadside dumpsites and like the myriad of questions and imagined explanations we ponder stumbling over an old pair of dentures on a deserted railroad track, the carefully arranged objects in Fragments & Details hint at the personal histories of their former owners and probe the viewer to consider how their own personal effects become imbued with their own stories.
Walker and Orand have constructed an environment where abandonment, decay and the gleam of nostalgia wander like ghosts in the shadows, created by exposed incandescent bulbs and a swirling collection of discarded spoons; the whispering of fan-blown leaves of old textbooks; the howl of the organ; the soft, musty smells of fresh-dug earth and rotting leaves. It’s this permeating mood, this created atmosphere that lifts the show as a whole above the successes or failures of its individual pieces; muting the heavy-handed contrivance of some arrangements like an enormous piles of clothes heaped on an old TV in front of which is the fishbowl and pennies that earlier featured in one of Walker’s thesis works and a junked car with a women’s nightgown strung up on its frame; strengthening the sense of quiet discovery in others like the window with a heavy muslin curtain that must be peered through to see the worn carousel horse hidden within.
Some of the stronger pieces include a worn mid-century parlor chair in front of a television with a silhouette scene of cowboys and Indians inside and a tree sitting inside an old deep freezer in an alcove made of candle-lit stained glass windows, which recall’s Yoko Ono’s trees growing from wooden caskets.
The most powerful piece is a carefully constructed broken-down porch with a ruined wicker loveseat and a battered, rusted screen door onto and through which is projected a photograph of a man at a front door. The piece is evocative, emotional, heavy with a life story and hauntingly beautiful.
Fragments & Details is one of the better shows to be housed at the Bemis Underground in its short history and is well worth making a point to check out. Should any of the donated abandoned items that make up the show’s raw materials speak to you, you could even bid on them at the auction scheduled as the closing event.
14 June 2006
If you're wondering, I'm refering to the Germany-Poland football match. I was, I confess, sort of rooting for Poland, at least to keep it a scoreless tie, and it was because the goaltending was so good. I have a soft spot for good goaltending. I think it's part of the international brotherhood of goaltenders, it doesn't matter which sport it is, we can all appreciate the position since we understand all that goes with it and that's why I think it's reprehensible in post game analysis for the commentators (OK so ESPN never has anything but shite commentary regardless of the sport involved, so one shouldn't expect less, I guess) to say that Boruc allowed the goal, as opposed to something that better reflected the fact that the goal was the result of a defensive lapse right in front of him and he didn't have much of a chance on. If it were a hockey game, my D would be getting some very black looks from me over letting a pretty fresh substitute set up mostly unguarded like that right in front.
Ah well, it's not like Germany didn't deserve to win the match, they spent almost the entire game in Poland's end, missed 2 empty nets in the first and not all that long before they finally scored in stoppage time were robbed by the crossbar twice in a row in rather amazing fashion.
The Stanley Cup finals are on tonight. I'm not sure who I'm rooting for though. I feel awfully at Edmonton's woes because it's a shame their loss of their go to goalie means that the finals haven't anywhere near the good fight they would otherwise have been, and it would be nice for a Canadian team to get the cup for once, though I don't particularly like the Oilers at least they aren't Toronto. On the other hand, I've always been a big fan of Mark Recchi and so even though I have a snobbish opinion of hockey in such tropical climates as Carolina I'd like to see him win the cup. It always seems like the cup finals end up being anti-climactic and nowhere near as good a battle as the previous rounds usually becuase of injury or because one conference is far stronger than the other. Or maybe it's because the biggest rivalries are always between teams within the conference and therefore the teams and everyone else cares more about winning the conference final than they do about the actual final.
It's that way in other sports too. I mean take a look at the (ironically named) World Series, the whole thing was about the Red Sox beating the Yankees, no one really cared so much about them winning the championship. The riots were for the defeat of New York. (Though of course the Subway Series should have been great if the Mets hadn't sunk into their usual under-achieving right at the wrong moment, but I'm a Mets fan, I'm used to the losing.) Maybe the major leagues should revamp the playoff set ups so that the two best teams have a chance to play for the championship rather than the 'best' from each conference, so there'd be a chance for those epic Detroit-Colorado series of the 90s to have been for the cup rather than just the conference championships. I mean everyone remembers those games, but who remembers Colorado-Florida in the finals? Exactly. (it's true I am so wildly eclectic as to love sports as much as artsy cultural things :) )
Edit: So, I was quite wrong about the Finals not being as exciting and hard-fought as they could be. In fact, they turned out to be one of the best Cup finals I've seen in over a decade. I was still glad Carolina won, but I'll concede that Edmonton probably deserved to win more and if it weren't for the fact that I really wanted Brindamour and Wesley and Dougie Weight to finally win a Cup, I would have been rooting for the Oilers.
07 June 2006
Speaking of books, I'm not sure what I'm going to do with mine. I've already faced up to the fact that there is no way I can take my ever growing library with me when I move. It's just not practical, both in terms of shipping costs and space. CDs aren't such a problem because I can just convert the ones I don't want to leave behind to MP3 and burn them to dvds as data files. My art stuff is going to be a painful process, I don't really want to face up to that yet (and I've still got months so I don't think I shall) I've already figured out that I'm going to sparate my books into the categories of essential, would like, and can get rid of. I'm definitely going to have to hit that task when I'm in a purging mood :) What I can't decide is how I want to go about getting rid of the ones that are going. I'd like to sell them and get at least a little cash if I could do it without a lot of hassle, but I have a feeling I'll end up donating them somewhere, and if I do I want them to go to the most good use.
08 April 2006
I was asked last night, during a serious-minded discussion about film, what my desert island five films were. I blame High Fidelity for this cultural obsession with narrowing everything down to five, I mean if you're really passionate about something, say film, how the hell do you narrow all the amazing things you seen over the years into five? and this question is really case in point. What's being asked is what films do you consider your all time favourites, the best, but what does that mean? The best what? Favourite what? It's a question asked in the middle of a serious discussion about film films, how well is it going to go over to say Revenge of the Nerds and still have people listen to you? I hedged, The films that I would want to have with me if I were stuck on a deserted island and could only have 5 films ever for the rest of my life are frankly not the same films I think are the greatest pieces of cinema ever made; they're the escapist, the funny, the movies. I mean if I'm stuck on a desert isle I probably don't want to be watching films about death and existenial crises no matter how brilliant they are, it's just not a desert isley kind of topic.
As for my real desert isle five (not demured so I don't look like a cinema philistine) they're all comedies by the way, it's probably the only category I could narrow down into 5 on the fly or at all even. I've watched all of these films a minimum of 20 times and never got sick of them so I think that's a good sign I could be trapped with only them on Tiki Tiki.
2. The Ref
3. The Life of Brian
4. Office Space
5. Revenge of the Nerds
In other cinema news .... oh dear, in imdb linking those movies, it has just come to my attention that someone is planning to do a remake of Revenge of the Nerds to be released next year. For the love of all that's good in the world, can we fucking stop making shitty remakes of movies? Also shitty big screen versions of shitty 70s tv shows that were only thought to be good in our memories becuase we were kids and hadn't developed actual taste yet? Seriously!
OK back to cinema that doesn't make me want to gouge my eyes out, I'm just back from seeing thank you for smoking which is easily one of the funniest and wittiest comedies that I've seen in years. It's one of those movies where practically every line is highly quotable and perfectly written and delivered. I miss those types of movies, maybe this will start a mini trend of smart comedy. Instead of 30 biracial buddy cop movies or neo-teen sex comedies or Will Ferrell vehicles where he plays the same dense kind of drunken slapstick punchline (and don't get me wrong Old School is great and Elf is probably the best film he'll ever do, but let's be honest for every one really funny film he or Vince Vaughn or even Ben Stiller these days makes there are 7 that suck) there can be 30 really well-written dark comedies that don't revolve around seeing someone hairy running naked. I also consider this movie ground-breaking in that the presence of Katie Holmes did not bother me, and she actually appeared to be holding her own, for the most part. I've always liked Aaron Eckhart, he always puts in a good performance and he's nothing short of perfect in this role.
07 April 2006
Kaneko's show is titled 'Beyond Butterfly' which, if you ask me, has nothing to do with anything at all other than Opera Omaha was putting on Madama Butterfly yet again this month (I have my own bone to pick about the recycle rate on the 'crowd pleasers' at Opera Omaha, but this isn't the time to do it)and the Opera commissioned Kaneko to design the sets and costumes (actually the one thing about the Opera that I'm impressed with is their willingness to take risks with the design and staging elements of their selections, even though the traditionalists that make up the critic's circle here rarely have anything positive to say about decisions like minimalist modern art Carmen sets) and I've never see so much high culture cross-marketing in my life: Sushi restaurants and Japanese Steakhouses creating Madama Butterfly 'inspired' signature dishes, a Madama Butterfly Saki shot/cocktail contest, all that's missing are plastic Pinkerton collector toys.
The works here are simple and clean. What makes the works so impressive are their giant scale. From an amazing 114x370.5 inch painting of straight and angled lines that covers an entire wall to 7 foot tall ceramic vases, to a pair of massive ceramic heads that sit in the gallery hall facing each other. In the back room are only three pieces made of stacked cast glass (one red, one yellow and one blue) sitting in their own pools of light and glowing with their colours (that's one of them in the photo there) They are my favourite pieces because they're more than just large, they're also intimate, they change based on how you approach them, where you stand and getting close to their heroic scale gives you more than just a good look at brush strokes.
The other gallery featured Kent Bellows, it's not really my kind of art. He's a painter and pencil artist (there were also a few lithographs of trees and roots which I was the most interested in of any of the numerous pieces on display) Bellows displays the kind of amazing talent at hyperrealism that I'm always left in awe of his skills if not excited by the finished pieces. His black and white pencil portraits are so expertly rendered that it's literally hard to tell they aren't photographs (and one of them is so perfect that if it weren't for the detail on the hair I would probably argue that it was a photo) Other than wishing I could draw half that well when it comes to trying to render something realistically, I didn't get much out of it. I don't really like hyper-realism when it comes to painting and drawing I'd rather just see a photograph.
05 April 2006
Friday was the opening of Fragments and Details; the bitter and the sweet at the Bemis Underground and I was quite pleasantly surprised by it, not only because I've been very under-impressed with most of the shows in the BU's short history, but because it was unlike what I would expect from Orand given the content of his thesis show last spring and because it really showed a vast improvement in execution.
(This blog doesn't go back far enough for an account of the thesis shows, but allow for this slight summary. Walker's was quite unmemorable, in fact I was only able to determine which pieces were his by process of which ones they weren't in thinking back over the Spring BFA show, though to be fair I was thoroughly not excited by that whole BFA class. Orand's was probably the most ambitious and interesting in concept, mostly video installations dealing with marketing and consumer culture exhibited in a declining shopping mall. The biggest issue for me with his thesis is that while he had a concept and a really decent piece or two, there was a total lack of actual interaction with the space in which it was installed and the space had an effect of making the viewer think 'is this all?' There was also an interesting incident at his thesis talk where he made comments to the effect of digital mediums are what art is now and everyone else was just making crafts, which I didn't hear first hand, but only in the recounting of the talk from the professor who had argued with him about the comments)
Given the installations in Orand's previous show and the alleged comments, I was really not expecting to walk down the stairs into the gallery to find a show devoid of video installations (the closest being a tv under a desk buried by a mountain of discarded clothes playing a calming blizzard of white noise snow and another piece projecting a vintage photograph of a man onto a battered rusting screendoor, very analog indeed) So I'm rather inclined to attribute the pieces in the show to Walker's aesthetic, but I really wish there was a show catalog to give me both names of the pieces and whose they are, somehow I can't imagine that every piece was a collaboration.
I always write about shows in my notebook before I start trying to write about them online, it helps me think and distill what I liked and didn't and what I've learned from an artist's standpoint from going to a show, but I've had to try to stop myself from writing about this one, it's like verbal dysentery because the longer I examine the show or its pieces the more totally confused I become about what the intentions were and whether it's good. In a way I think that that alone makes it a success, after all art is supposed to make you think even if it wasn't meant to make you ponder whether the sheer amount of contrivance and heavy-handedness in a good number of the installations was an almost Brechtian device or just the work of a pair of artists who are far too caught up in art-theory.
Overall I thought the leaps and bounds made in really considering how the environment of the gallery affects the experience of seeing the piece demonstrated the growth of both Walker and Orand as artists. While my own inner debate about how I personally interacted with each piece has sort of made me unable to decide whether they lived up to their concept or intent, I was rather taken by a few of the pieces and I think they did a bang up job creating an ambiance and a mood throughout the entire galleryspace. (I'll probably give a more indepth critique of individual pieces another day, I forgot to bring my camera with me to the gallery, so I don't have any photos, which I'd like to illustrate what I mean, so it shall have to wait)
So, if you're in the Omaha area, I suggest catching the show which runs until the 22nd 11am-5pm on fridays and saturdays (I think I'll be stopping by tomorrow with my camera. Also tomorrow is the opening of this semester's BFA Thesis show, which I'm expecting to be good (of course my friend Frances is Thesising so I'm excited for her).
11 March 2006
coverage via boingboing
My favourite part of the whole subject was probably the comment on the BoingBoing story from an anonymous reader who I hope never has any connections to intellectual property law:
I have to point out the irony of the NBC nastygram to youtube over the Natalie Portman video. From the moment I saw it, I knew the video was cribbed directly from Eazy-E -- the reference is made explicit in Natlie's closing line "no more quesitons." The song also cops a line from Sir Mix-A-Lot's song "Posse on Broadway" ("I got a def posse, you got a bunch of dudes..."). Apparently, profiting from this uncredited appropriation is completely fine when NBC does it, but when youtube chooses to post and credit SNL's work, making it a viral hit and perhaps getting some actual viewers for a faltering show, NBC releases the hounds. Nice, NBC, real nice. If I didn't love ths video so much, I would say Eazy-E's estate should nastygram NBC, just to bring the world full circle.
Anonymous is apparently behind the curve on what parody is. Cribbing lines from the source you are parodying is not in any way related to showing someone's copyrighted work without permission.
Should NBC have thrown a bitch-fit over youtube's providing of a clip to the public? Probably not, youtube was essentially providing their show with free publicity and if NBC wishes in the future to be the main host of viral clips, perhaps they should do a better job of anticipating the public's desires and providing a better selection so that people don't have to go elsewhere first.
Plus, the video doesn't deserve all this fuss anyway, it's not particularly funny. The only thing it really has going for it in terms of humour is 'Oh look, there's sweet little Natalie Portman acting like a gangsta rappa' The lyrics aren't that well put together and the videowork isn't all that strong. If this passes for the best of parodist humour, our standards have fallen quite low indeed. (and I suppose somewhere the Scary Movie franchise is at the forefront of the blame)
05 March 2006
So I went to see Nochnoi Dozor, (Night Watch for the non russian speakers) mainly because I've been waiting to see some Russian cinema that was actually visually exciting (I don't think the foreign film pipeline has put out any really exciting Russian cinematagraphy since Tarkovsky died, though there have been a few well written dramas) even though I heard that Fox butchered the original cut to make it more 'palatable' for American audiences. (no shocker there, Hollywood never trusts Americans to be able to appreciate a different aesthetic.)
Anyway, this isn't about my cinemaphile bitterness towards Hollywood, it's about film typography, specifically subtitle design. I guess this was the second movie (the first being Man on Fire, which I've actually not seen) to design the subtitles dynamically. I can't say that I'd like the approach in all foreign films, but for a highly visual action film, I thought the design was brilliant. (for those who haven't seen and don't know what the hell I'm talking about, the titles were not relegated to the bottom of the screen at all times, sometimes they were in different colours, sometimes they moved or dissipated or other such things) I've seen the film's approach to subtitling referred to as 'mildly irritating' or 'annoying' several times and I don't really get it because it seems to me like the choice to in keys places incorporate the subs into the visual frame of the movie actually solves one of the major problems of subtitling as we know it, which is that your eye locks onto reading the text at the expense of really taking in the image on the screen and appreciating the filmmaking.
04 March 2006
it's made of concrete and the radiant tubing of floor heating. I could totally see myself having some kind of industrial loft apartment with these on the walls.
01 March 2006
It's put me in a mood for spring cleaning. My desk will be thrilled when it gets its turn. I didn't do much spring cleaning today because, well, it was too nice to stay inside and clean (why is it spring cleaning anyway, when clearly winter is the month more suited to schlepping around inside? I know it's because spring makes us long to get all organised and buy stylish patio plates for all these garden parties we swear we're going to have until the bugs come out and it gets too hot and we just want to stay inside in the air conditioning til fall.)My spring cleaning start is of the digital variety. I've started going through the 1100 links I have on del.icio.us adding notes on what they are and deleting the dead or no longer interesting to me ones. It's turning out to be a major bit of work. Though not as big as my next order of business is going to be: cleaning up my hard drives, and that means the holy terror of my music collection. It's gotten enormous and there's a lot of stuff in there that's utter crap and I'll never listen to. I really need to back up my whole computer onto dvds, especially in advance of my move, so it's something that really needs to get done, but the idea of sifting through some 90 gigs of music is kind of unappealing.
Going through links I found the most brilliant stationary that is now so on my 'must have' list. I've always wanted to send people telegrams, it always seemed like such a fun way to communicate stop but, alas the age of telegram is quite dead. However 16 sparrows has provided a way to still achieve the aura just buy some of their telegram stationary and an old underwood and type up your own urgent missage. Only $8 for a set of six
28 February 2006
Anyway, lately I've been trying to find the perfect bento box. I wouldn't eat traditional bento lunches from it because I really just don't like sushi. I've tried, but just can't seem to like it. The eel was the only one I've ever had that didn't palatially gross me out, but eel is treyf and despite my quite lackadasical adherence to Jewish law, I do at least try to eat things that are kosher (ok if I do eat chicken, though these days I'm still almost entirely vegetarian, I won't avoid dairy, but I firmly maintain that I'm still technically correct because the letter of the Torah is that you can't eat an animal boiled in its mother's milk and since chickens don't produce milk it's a-ok to slap some cheese on them.) I want one because they seem like an efficient all in one lunch box. I'm having trouble finding one that is both microwave safe and aesthetically pleasing to me. So far all the microwave safe ones have been either too plain or full out cartoon-mania, I'm not so oppsed to cartoons, but I'd prefer something less in your face and less common than hello kitty. I want cute but grown up, I'm too near to 30 for a hello kitty lunch box since lunch boxes are definitely a work sort of thing.
I did run across this site on cute bento lunches the other day. Japanese mothers must have a lot of time on their hands to spend so much time, effort and creativity on something that's just going to be scarfed down at lunch time, but damn they're cute
the site I presume tells you what each visage is made out of, but I don't know Japanese so I just look at the photoes and think how cool it would be to open my lunch to that if I were 5. I'm also a little frightened by the large presence of sculpted hot dogs featured in the designs. Somehow in my mental image of the cool, healthy, efficient world of the Japan of my mind, I never imagined something as gross as cold hot dogs featuring into the diet.
27 February 2006
3 different styles of japanese stab bindings
a couple of views of a field sketchjournal. that's a 3 section binding called 'the rope' The chunks of space between each signature are on purpose so that it lays open well and when you add things to the pockets it doesn't bow out. The brown tage board on the spine prevents the spine from getting crushed due to the open space.
and this is a long-stitch demonstrating my love of toptgraphic map prints :)
24 January 2006
My mother said my US Passport photo made me look like a terrorist. I wouldn't go that far, I do think it looks like on par with the Nick Nolte mug shot, so you can imagine that I don't want a repeat of that on my British Passport. I had to get 3 sets of passport photos before I got one that didn't look unreasonably bad, I mean I'm not expecting a good shot it is a passport after all, but seriously nick nolte mugshot and the second set I was orange, I looked Indian (and I am one of the whitest white girls, usually when I'm in flash photography I glow like a flourescent tube I'm so white and reflective) I know it'll be cut off when it's actually in the passport, but I was amused that I was wearing my new threadless 'Communist party' t-shirt and you can even see Lenin with his birthday party hat on the photo.
I decided I'm going to try to try to sew myself some skirts because I hate most of the ones I run across at the stores. Plus it will force me to learn the sewing machine instead of hand sewing everything. So I bought a pattern for a simple A line skirt and also this skirt since the vogue patterns were 75% off. It's probably going to end up being a skirt that looks good on anyone but my body type, but it's kind of simple yet quirky which is definitely my style.
I went to Taste for a belated lunch and had edamame and a really good coconut chicken salad.
22 January 2006
The Joslyn loaned some pieces for the show, including an original William Blake piece. So I can actually say I've been in an exhibition with William Blake! the peice is actually like maybe 3 feet away from my book.
I decided that I want to try to go to a real restaurant once a week and have a nice meal, I eat so much cheap crap all the time, and it's so hard to cook when it's just me and I'm terrible about not eating leftovers. I pretty much just eat special K for breakfast and dinner and then something like cheese and crackers while at work. So I figure I can splurge on one good meal a week. I went to Jaipur today and had some good Indian food. I was going to have vindaloo to try to kill myself with spicyness, but the vindaloo has an onion base (and I was so impressed that my waiter actually took it upon himself to check with the cook to see if it was made with onions when I mentioned that I was allergic, I'm so used to finding out the hard and itchy way that something has onions in it. He got a 25% tip from me.) so I had something else that the waiter suggested that was totally onion free. I can't rememer what it was, but it was excellent also I had some naan bread with mint chutney.
19 January 2006
So my B plan is to look into getting a job temping (because temps make more money than I do) and possibly doing one of those couple week bartending schools and getting a parttime job bartending. Then not only would I make the 6K I need faster, but I'd also get some office and bartending experience for the CV which should help get an interim pay-the-rent job while I try to get myself a advertising or design position once I've moved.
I need to do something creative soon, I'm boring myself. I'm thinking about joining the printmaker's guild and paying for usage of the facilities for a few months. (maybe I can even sneak in some time figuring out the litho press)
16 January 2006
12 January 2006
What frustrates me about it is it puts me in a position where I either have to delay my holiday until I've enough to be able to afford looking for a new job when I I get back or waiting until I've got enough to just combine holiday with move. I don't know whether I've mentioned it, but I'm planning to move to London now that I've got my degree. I'm a dual citizen so at it's heart it's kind of on par for me with movieng to New York, at least as far as the picking up and throwing myself into a swim or drown position. The only really annoying problem/difference being that in that initial relocating stage my money is only worth about half as much so it takes twice as long to raise the sums I need to secure that I'll have a place to live and the raw necessities whilst I find even the most temporary of jobs.
And I admit that what I find most frustrating of all is that it's going to mean further delay in getting to meet Ben face to face. At this rate even if I only put it off long enough for the find a new job here buffer cash option we'll have been talking to each other for more than a year before we meet.
why can't I ever just have a plan run smoothly?
07 January 2006
My edition book for this semester turned out amazing, even better I think than i had envisioned it. It's been curated into an exhibition on the history of bookarts that's going to be running in conjunction with a travelling exhibit of an Illuminated bible that's going on at the Joslyn museum later this month. I'm excited as hell about that. I need to figure out how to best photograph it so I can post it up here.
I also sold my first print at the student art show, so the end of this semester has been really great for me and ego rewarding.
I really want it to be March so I can go visit Ben and get some kind of concrete idea of whether we get on in real life and whether or not there might be a possibility of some kind of future for us. I think the thing is that I like him enough from our emails and our phone conversations that I sort of feel in a limbo about it all, it's weird.