Mmmm? In Art Papers, the artist Evan Levy tells the story of visiting The Chinati Foundation, Donald Judd’s minimalist mecca in Marfa, Texas. He found “a flaw, a missing corner, in one of the concrete sculptures,” which Judd placed in the field beyond his converted army warehouses. Later, Levy discovered a meteorite nearby, and wondered if it’s “the only intergalactic rock to have struck a work of modern art?” He built a show around it, apparently.
It sounds implausible to me, and not just because he was supposedly forbidden to take any pictures of the sculpture. (I have all kinds of pictures from my trip to Marfa.) But ask him yourself next week. He’s giving a promisingly titled artist’s talk, ennui & asteroids, Sunday June 14th at 2pm at the Sandler Hudson Gallery in Atlanta.
[Bonus alliterative update: Memories of Making Movies in Marfa]
The Cremaster Cycle is now playing in LA, Berkeley, SF, and Chicago. Wider exposure goes hand in hand with wider discussion, as these two very interesting links show:
Wayne Bremser’s article, “Matthew Barney versus Donkey Kong”, for the video game magazine GameGirl Advance takes a look at video game character, mythological, spatial and narrative elements in Cremaster 3. That’s the one where Barney’s character scales the levels of the Guggenheim, passing various obstacles along the way. The hermetic logic of Mario’s quest stacks up well against the esoteric, Freemason-inspired obstacles the Entered Apprentice confronts in C3. Bremsen loses me a bit, though, in his critique of the current Guggenheim installation-as-interface.
I once compared Mario to Gerry, Gus Van Sant’s nearly dialogue-free desert movie, which is similar to C3 in another way: some people had a hard time staying until the end. Anyway, the idea that everything we need to know, we learned playing Super Mario holds great appeal for me.
For a very thoughtful, engaging, film-savvy discussion, check out Scott Foundas’ interview with Matthew Barney on Indiewire. While all the hype’s about finally being able to see the Cycle in “proper” (i.e., numerical) order, Foundas puts forward an interesting argument for watching them chronologically. The ambition and production values evolve, obviously, but you can also see shifts in the visual language Barney references, from sports broadcasting (C4, C1) to narrative film (C2, C3).
Once the films are done, the tendency is to see them as the objective; their form overpowering their function (at least for Barney). His discussion here of the films as object generators sounds more persuasive and interesting than in any other interview I’ve read. And this explanation of the limited edition laserdisc distribution model puts the horse back in front of the cart
Barney: Part of it had to do with figuring out a way to fund it. Looking to the thing we knew best, which was how to edition and distribute artwork, that’s what we did. We made an edition of 10 out of the [first] film, divided the budget by 10 and sold it for that. So, at least the film would break even and the work that was generated out of it could start to fund the following film.
Unless I missed the evite, the world didn’t end Thursday. (And even if it did, Armageddon’s no reason to stop weblogging.)
The Pana Wavers above are using mirrors to deflect scalar waves, not just to create wonderful photos. There are more in Mainichi Daily News‘s Pana Wave photo special. [It reminds me that our inaugural Netflix movie was, fittingly, Agnes Varda’s wonderful obsessed-with-death-in-long-lost-Paris film Cleo de 5 a 7, the Criterion edition. Varda uses mirrors beautifully through most of the film, at least until the superstitious Cleo breaks one. It’s 1960, B&W, and all the cars in Paris were Citroens. Heaven.
Anyway, here are a couple of 1959 (!!) photos I said I’d post, from Yukio Futagawa’s stunning Nihon no Minka, a painfully rare book on Japan’s long-lost rural architecture. They’re old, but eerily topical: a rural road, a house with a powerline. Is it just me, or does reliving the 1950’s suddenly not seem like a bad thing, at least aesthetically?
I probably shouldn’t post this until I get mine, but the artist Maurizio Cattelan created this shirt in a limited edition of 48. It’s for sale at Printed Matter, the cool-since-a-long-time-ago artists’ bookstore in Chelsea.
Update: Jeff Jarvis wondered, rightly, if the shirt actually said “I” and “New York” (the heart, I can read). An interesting question, and not. It wouldn’t be beyond Maurizio to use illegible/nonsensical script. As it turns out, at Social Design Notes, John recreated a flyer he saw in the EV around Sept. 11. To this unaccustomed eye, the scripts are, indeed, different. But whether it reads “New York,” “NY,” “Now Yak,” or “Newark,” I can’t say. FWIW, Japlish or Engrish, the Japanese mangling of English is a more powerful phenomenon than the corollary, Americans randomly tattooing themselves with Japanese characters they don’t understand.
I’m busy with some offline writing (just wait and see), but in the mean time, I felt the gaijin‘s obligation to provide some context for the recent one-eyebrow-raising >> reach-for-the-doorlocks reports of that road-trippin’ Japanese cult, Pana Wave Laboratory. Their site is only in Japanese
First the bad news: despite the promising name, the cult makes its money from herbal supplements and water purifiers. So no trip-hop CD is in the works.
Now that that’s out of the way, the world will end tomorrow. “[Armageddon] will be caused when electromagnetic waves strike the Japanese archipelago and the delicate gravitational balance between the Andromeda nebula and other nebulas is altered,” warns Chino, Pana Wave’s leader. (from a great Mainichi Daily News article, with pictures. SMH has another caravan pic. Cult critic Rick Ross has a Panawave news page. This message board is for people waiting for Zeta Planet X to arrive and reverse the earth’s poles. It’s due tomorrow, too. Busy day.)
Did I say tomorrow? Japan’s 12 hours ahead of the east coast right now, so it may end by lunch. Chino didn’t say what timezone she’s calculating from.
In neighboring Yamanashi, Pana Wave built a complex of Armageddon-proofed Fuller domes (Erecta, the manufacturer, issued an online disclaimer.) and filled them with animals (13 dogs, 70 cats, crows, a mini-pig, and an iguana). But then they went on the road, MDN reports, to save Chino from deadly EM waves. These aren’t normal EM waves, though, they’re called scalar waves, theorized by Nikolai Tesla. They’re produced by power lines, which Pana Wave has painstakingly sketched out. In grand Japanese tradition, Pana Wave also created a simple, explanatory cartoon of friendly EM waves combining into evil scalar waves (the mean red one says, “I’m a scalar wave!”). Interestingly, at the April 2000 INET-Congress in Bregenz, Austria, one Prof. Konstantin Meyl announced he’d actually produced scalar waves using Tesla’s methods. (See a critique here.)
Pana Wavers wear all white and drape white cloth all around them, deflecting scalar waves with mirrors. Chino et al are seeking a place, any place, where they can escape what they see as an ecologically disastrous paved, wired grid. Right now, they’re draped out in Hachiman, a tiny rural town in Gifu, an area of central Japan where I happened to live (another story). Here is an official Powers of Ten-style map of Gifu, which, coincidentally, places Hachiman at the center of the world.
[The mountainous regions of Gifu have some of the last, best examples of classical Japanese farmhouses, known as minka. The greatest architecture photo book I know is Nihon no Minka, by GA’s Yukio Futagawa. Around 440 pages of gorgeous 1950’s B&W photos of traditional Japanese architecture, 99% of it gone by now. Remarkable images of unpaved roads, thatched roofs, and nearly power-line-free vistas. Published in 1962, and reworked in 1980 into Traditional Japanese Houses. I bought the only original I ever saw, at Roth Horowitz. When it was still on Thompson, Perimeter had the reissue. If anyone has the original, it’d be Book Cellar Amus in Osaka. That guy has everything. If the world doesn’t end, I’ll scan some images.]
Of course, no apocalyptic cult story would be complete without a media-darling seal. Tama-chan wandered into a polluted Tokyo river last August, and became a cuddly symbol of Japan’s need to face its environmental problems. Pana Wave revealed they were behind controversial failed attempts to capture Tama-chan, who, Chino warns, is the only one who can save us now. [hmm Leia wore white, too. Coincidence?]
In the mean time, the art world’s own Tesla Girl, the heiress Mariko Mori, just opened Wave UFO at 56th & Madison. She’s collecting brainwaves and projecting a mind control video inside this pod. From the brochure: “Wave UFO seamlessly unites actual individual physical experiences with Mori’s singular vision of a cosmic dream world.” It was first exhibited at the Kunsthaus…in Bregenz.
On a different (?) note: For an absolutely riveting collection of interviews with both survivors and attackers of the 1995 Aum Shinrikyo subway gassing, read Haruki Murakami’s Underground. One reviewer says, “Unlike a journalist, Murakami doesn’t force these searing narratives into tidy equations of cause and effect, good and evil, but rather allows contradictions and ambiguity to stand, thus presenting unadorned the shocking truth of the diabolical and brutal manner in which ordinary lives were derailed or destroyed.”
See Landscape Escape a group show at the Crosby street SlingShotProject. Of special note: John Powers’ headscratchingly beautiful sculpture, Daisy Cutter (above); Raphael Renaud’s paintings of Marseilles, Cairo, Sao Paulo (which reminded me a bit of RIchter’s late 60’s Townscapes); and John Cliett’s memorable (literally) photos of deMaria’s Lightning Field. Read an incredible interview at Cabinet about taking them. Unfortunately, the show closed Sunday.
See artist Robert Melee’s incredible performance, This is for you, starring a diverse troupe of dancers made up like the main subject of Melee’s video, photographs, and installation works, Mommy. Mommy is played (to frequently disturbing effect) by the artist’s mother. It’s at Judson Memorial Church on Wash. Sq., at 8pm. Tonight. So you missed that one, too. And the Costume Institute Ball’s over…
OK, here’s one you still have time for. Check out the addition to my Amazon lists, Books I’ve Read by Tycoons I’ve Known [with props to Monkey Disaster’s Lists-As-Entertainment program]
I’m in the last minute throes of editing the AM screenplay before dropping it off for a serious reading. Here are some movie and artsite suggestions to occupy you. A little “Look over there!” handwaving, so you won’t notice a slight drop in posting in front of you.
Some fine art weblogs have come my way:
In an article in the Village Voice, Kate Mattingly gives new details of a disturbing casualty in the US government’s campaign for Homeland Security: the increasing difficulty and expense of securing visas for international artists and performers is keeping more of them out of the US and causing arts organizers to give up scheduling non-US programming.
Here’s the visa application process under the Dept. of Homeland Security:
New background checks >> bigger backlogs >> longer/impossible turnaround times >> fallback to once-optional, prohibitively expensive Premium Processing Fees >> non-profits sunk by $1,000/petition fees originally meant for the tech industry >> artists may not get approved anyway>> dance, music, art, film, theater organizations give up programming international talent.
An example cited in the article: Visa applications for an 11-engagement BAM Next Wave Festival cost $29,304, compared to $600 in peaceable 1988, with the possibility that some artists are still denied visas.
One of the first to pay the cultural price of harshened visa policies was last year’s New York Film Festival. As I posted then, Abbas Kiarostami was prevented from attending his film’s US premier, and the Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki decided to boycott in solidarity. (“If the present government of the United States of America does not want an Iranian, they will hardly have any use for a Finn, either. We do not even have the oil.”)
When the photographer Thomas Struth spoke to a small group of collectors and curators in February, he wondered aloud about the possibility of the highly influential people who participate in the art world–collectors, trustees, sponsors, artists–working in concert to prevent the war in Iraq. Private opinion over the war was probably too divided for such an effort to be made, though.
But creating an effective and affordable way for internationally recognized artists and performers to visit the United States and contribute to our own cultural production seems like a cause worth working the phones for.
Go right now, before it closes. You’ve got three minutes. Just after 8:00, there wasn’t any line at all. Galleries were crowded at first. Seeing the drawings required surrendering your personal space in this strange, silent, dance, like having to get out of a hundred elevators. But the throngs fell away, and when we left at 9:30, artist friends were sauntering back for a leisurely second lap.
Generally avoiding television “coverage” of the war, but some images inevitably bleed in. Here is some art that’s been on my mind as a result. [Also, gmtPlus9 went black in Japan and posted some war-related art. Thanks, Travelers Diagram.]
Blast, from a series of photographs
by Naoya Hatakeyama, image: LA Galerie
Nacht 1, II by Thomas Ruff, who began using nightvision after
the technology was popularized in Gulf War I (GWI), image: ZKM.de
Olivier Silva, Foreign Legion 2000-2002, ongoing, by Rineke Dijkstra,
who is photographing one man through his term of
service in the French Foreign Legion. images: Galerie Jan Mot
Hmm. JP, DE, FR, NL. I just noticed these are all from countries who know war firsthand, on their own soil.
OK, before I talk about how seeing The Cremaster Cycle straight through changed my understanding of Matthew Barney’s work, let me get a couple of things out of the way:
1) FLW didn’t design those theater chairs to be sat in at all, much less for eight hours in one day Aggressive, non-user-centered architecture should be taken out and shot.
2) Best overheard comment after Cremaster 1, when a guy at a suddenly partially visible urinal complained that the mens room door was being propped open by the line: “We just spent 45 minutes in someone’s ovaries. I’m sure no one cares about seeing you take a piss.”
3) I don’t know what country you’re from, and frankly, I don’t care. On this island, we keep our hands off the freakin’ art, especially when there are signs and guards at every piece. And if you pull the dumb foreigner shtick every time a guard tells you not to touch something, I’ll bust you again.
3.1) I swear, between this show and the MoMA QNS opening, I may never loan anything I own to a museum again.
3.2) What really makes me mad, is that now I’m all jingoistic, when I should just be anti-B&T. Oy, the world we live in…
Net net: Matthew Barney’s films are worth seeing, again, and in order. They’re the strongest expression of what he’s doing. He may call himself a sculptor, but that’s just a numbers game. He clearly exerts phenomenal time/effort/thought on materials, objects and spaces; but the experience of his sculptures pales to that of the films (and the experience of sculpture-in-film). Likewise, his drawings–which are small, precious, slight, almost invisible–get subsumed by their giant sculpted vitrines.
An extremely useful/interesting educational aid is The
Gospel Cremaster Cycle (According to Neville Wakefield), an exhaustive catalog/glossary which functions like an encyclopedia of Barney’s universe. It weighs like a hundred pounds, though, so plan be home when it ships; you don’t want to carry it back from the post office (or the Guggenheim, for that matter).
There are a few exceptions: I found the flags and banners interesting, and some metal objects (e.g., the Masonic tools from C3) are exquisite. The mirrored saddle is in a class by itself (yeah, there are at least two, but only one’s on exhibit). [An art market side note: I don’t know, but a significant number of the C3 work is large, institution-sized, and all “courtesy Barbara Gladstone Gallery,” almost as if it’s a showroom for out-of-town curators. All that’s missing is a “to the trade only” sign in the window.]
As for the photographs, which I’d liked best going in, most feel inexplicably lifeless compared to the films they came from. Barney can create absolutely stunning images, but they’re on film, where stunning often morphs into mesmerizing. It’s telling that while the photos reproduce very well, I could only find one image of a Barney vitrine online–from an auction report; even though they’re display cases, these non-filmic sculptures seem innoculated against reproduction.
The films hold up very well, but as film-as-art, not art-as-film. Consecutive viewing (as opposed to the in order they were made) strengthens both their thematic/narrative and their visual impact. I was surprised to realize how many elements are from Barney’s own life/world/story; it was unexpectedly personal, as opposed to issue/metaphor-driven.
In his review, J. Hoberman says that the press screenings for the whole Cycle were sparsely attended; he (like everyone else, he concludes) prefers the ambient, less demanding mode of watching a few minutes on the gallery flatscreens. “One scarcely staggers from this six-and-a-half-hour magnum opus inclined to proclaim the second coming of David Lynch�or even Julian Schnabel,” he writes, in full “when you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail” mode.
Which makes Barney’s claim to be a sculptor, not a filmmaker, relevant. He’s asserting his identity as an artist. Cremaster 2, which Hoberman slammed the hardest as a film, is one of the most haunting and beautiful works of art I’ve seen. Jeremy Blake told me Paul Thomas Anderson had asked him, “Man, why do artists have their heads so far up their asses sometimes?” “They like the smell,” Jeremy deadpanned. “But seriously, it’s introspection. Contemplation. You should try it sometime.”
In my budding filmmaker mode, I had had some of the same complaints as Hoberman (ie., simplistic camera angles, AWOL editing), but his glib dismissal of Cremaster says more about the diminished expectations and limits of film. Sure, movie directors think they’re God, and Barney’s conjured up a complete, system of symbols and myths that’d make the Catholic Church proud. Whether that means he thinks he’s God, Jesus, or the Pope, I can’t say, but at least he isn’t the second coming of Julian Schnabel.
I’m watching the entire Cremaster Cycle today, a Friday feature of the Guggenheim show. In the mean time, Matthew Barney’s site, Cremaster.net, is up and running. Check out the trailer; it’s beautiful. And it doesn’t take all day (unless you’re on a dialup).
In the mean time, brace yourself and go see Olivier Assayas’ Demonlover tomorrow at Lincoln Center’s Rendez-Vous with French Cinema series (or, if you insist, Rendez-vous with Freedom Cinema series. Assayas will be at the screeningNow who’s all PC?) Read about it in Film Comment, where Gavin Smith saw it at Cannes. Smith called it the best undistributed film of 2002. Assayas’ll be there. Order tickets online, if you can. Yesterday’s screening sold out++. Assayas was there yesterday, too, and we talked a bit about collaborating with anime studios, CG’ers, and Sonic Youth.
A NYT article about Cockeyed‘s great barcode hack, written by David F. Gallagher (the Lightning Field one, not the shirtless one. “F.” must stand for “fully clothed.” David, you have my sympathies. At least you’re going up against a real person. I’m still being out-Googled by an ad-agency caricature, an off-the-air bunny puppet, and a friend of Dharma, two if you count Greg Louganis.)
Rob Cockerham is distributing clones of his Safeway card online, thereby commenting on/thwarting the supermarket’s tracking him and and “his” purchases (which “he” now makes in stores all over the country, as far as Safeway knows, anyway).
Interesting that this article appears in the Times. Whenever I’m traveling and airdrop into a netcafe, or login to nytimes.com from someone else’s computer, I’ve always saved my login info on that machine. Over the years, I’ve wondered what the Times thought of my appearing in dozens of places at once. (They had enough, I guess; a few months ago, they started expiring their cookies after 30 days.)
Other barcode links: Peter Coffin’s Free Biennial art project, Scott Blake’s Barcode Art site [both via Wooster Collective] And in the view of many End Time pundits, barcodes are the “mark of the beast.” Left Behind’s 8th book was called The Mark, as this Australian
US Attorney/curator with posters of Rothko, Bacon, deKooning and either Twombly or Clemente,
purchased by Sam Waksal with an 8.25% discount, at least.
In the grand tradition of deposed CEO’s, but with downtown sensibility (and far better taste), Sam Waksal pleaded guilty to evading sales tax on $15 million in paintings he purchased through a major New York dealer. It was the old, “send it to my factory in NJ, nah, just fax the invoice there” ploy, which has been tripping up art world naifs since the 80’s, at least. (Clearly, it’s worth it to work it and get your 10% discount from the dealer instead.) Waksal’s lawyer tells the Washington Post that his client was “not the architect of the scheme.” Yow.
Since no report names all nine works involved, here it is, a greg.org exclusive:
That adds up to $14,960,000. Any guess what the last, $40,000 work could be? According to the Times, it’s Richard Serra. His sculptures can go for more than $1m, but $40k for a painting is doable. What’s more, these last three artists show with the Dealer. Waksal can brag about the sweet deal he got on them, all while paying the Dealer super-retail for what amounts to personal shopping.
[Update: The NYPost pegs Waksal’s total at $15.31 million, which means the Serra was $350,000. That sounds like Sam didn’t even get a discount on the in-house stuff. No wonder he’s fingering The Dealer. Update #2: Turns out the Serra was titled, The American flag is not an object of worship. Don’t let FoxNews get wind of that sale.]