Sunday, December 31, 2006

Exit 06

W. H. Auden

Sir, no man’s enemy, forgiving all
But will his negative inversion, be prodigal:
Send to us power and light, a sovereign touch
Curing the intolerable neural itch,
The exhaustion of weaning, the liar’s quinsy,
And the distortions of ingrown virginity.
Prohibit sharply the rehearsed response
And gradually correct the coward’s stance;
Cover in time with beams those in retreat
That, spotted, they turn though the reverse were great;
Publish each healer that in city lives
Or country houses at the end of drives;
Harrow the house of the dead; look shining at
New styles of architecture, a change of heart.

Best wishes and new resolve for the year ahead.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

The $350 Billion Noose

I will refrain from a rant about the philistine nature of showing executions on television - something we somehow historically managed to avoid until this morning (FOX 3:55am). Instead I would like to express my exasperation at the continuing ability of the Pentagon and State Dept. to get everything wrong. I'm not simply speaking about morality, but about understanding the dynamics of the conflict (the Iraqi population) and ultimately misunderstanding the "enemy" because the enemy is an "other". We are in the middle of a civil war which we have helped to create and yet we still don't understand the rules of engagement, we don't seem to be able to understand the basics of this sectarian war. Why? Perhaps because we have too many wonks and painfully few regionalists in the ranks. In short we can't see the dynamics because we don't consider the "enemy" as an equal - but as an other, invisible and mysterious.

Here is how Saddam's execution plays into sectarian divisions:

The tribunal...had a unique sense of timing when choosing the day for Saddam's hanging. It was a slap in the face to Sunni Arabs. This weekend marks Eid al-Adha, the Holy Day of Sacrifice, on which Muslims commemorate the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son for God. Shiites celebrate it Sunday. Sunnis celebrate it Saturday -- and Iraqi law forbids executing the condemned on a major holiday. Hanging Saddam on Saturday was perceived by Sunni Arabs as the act of a Shiite government that had accepted the Shiite ritual calendar.

The timing also allowed Saddam, in his farewell address to Iraq, to pose as a "sacrifice" for his nation, an explicit reference to Eid al-Adha. The tribunal had given the old secular nationalist the chance to use religious language to play on the sympathies of the whole Iraqi public. (Juan Cole)

It is painful to watch as the situation bottoms out further and further and yet our ignorance charges full steam into the inferno.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Skid Marks: Here's to Hoping in a New Year

I have struggled with my inner desires to generate a long list of "Best Of's" that would mark me as cultured, cool and informed but alas decided that the end of the year should be focused on something a little more meaty just to close things out. The good lists can be found with Tyler Green and Ed Winkleman, as they pretty much cover the culture bases - both high and low. Other Music has my nods for music releases- pretty much spot on (Destroyer's Rubies!). I will just quickly say spend the money on Robert Polidori's After the Flood for all the reasons Tyler Green mentions and yes the DADA show was the best this year. Best blog? Definitely BLDGBLOG - a true force. Read as it as often as possible and you will be edified.

Two posts emerged over the last week - A Quick Comment About Ego (Bill Gusky) and Egoism and Altruism (Speaking of Ashes) that I want to really examine. Bill offers this observation and thoughtful question:

Some have replied that ego is the drive to make one's mark in the world. I suppose that's another side of ego, the side related more to a will to power and self-assertion.

The questions that this drive raises are, "What kind of mark, and where, and why?"

I'd think that the artist whose need to leave a mark on the world is the dominant drive should be asking him/herself the more basic question of why it's the dominant drive. What inner need does this drive to leave marks in the world satisfy?

In his response, Ashes cites David Graeber of Harper's (via Long Sunday) observation that Altruism and Egoism are instrinsically linked, simultaneously rising as a product of market economies. Graeber offers these 3 observations.

Neither Egoism nor Altruism is a natural urge; They in fact arise in relation to each other and neither would be conceivable without the market. (these terms extend beyond the behavioral and apply to the broader social systems and the institutions supporting them)
In the ancient world, for example, it is generally in the times and places that one sees the emergence of money and markets that one also sees the rise of world religions - Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam. If one sets aside a space and says, "Here you shall think only about acquiring material things for yourself," then it is hardly surprising that before long someone else will set aside a countervailing space and declare, in effect: "Yes, but here we must contemplate the fact that the self, and material things, are ultimately unimportant." It was these latter institutions, of course, that first developed our modern notions of charity. (Graeber)

The political right has always tried to enhance the division and thus claims to be the champion of both egoism and altruism simultaneously. The Left has tried to efface it. (in the context of American politics of the last 30 years)
In the United States, for example, the Republican Party is dominated by two ideological wings: the libertarians and the "Christian right." At one extreme, Republicans are free market fundamentalists and advocates of individual liberties (even if they see those liberties largely as a matter of consumer choice); on the other, they are fundamentalists of a more literal variety, suspicious of most individual liberties but enthusiastic about biblical injunctions, "family values," and charitable good works. At first glance it might seem remarkable that such an alliance manages to hold together at all (and certainly they have ongoing tensions, most famously over abortion). But, in fact, right-wing coalitions almost always take some variation of this form. One might say that the right's approach is to release the dogs of the market, throwing all traditional verities into disarray: and then, in the tumult of insecurity, offer themselves up as the last bastion of order and hierarchy, the stalwart defenders of the authority of churches and fathers against the barbarians they have themselves unleashed. A scam it may be, but it is a remarkably effective one; and one result is that the right ends up seeming to have a monopoly on value. It manages, one might say, to occupy both positions, on either side of the divide: extreme egoism and extreme altruism. (Graeber)
Alain of Long Sunday states that
in general, "the political left has attempted, in various ways, to eliminate class division by either creating economic systems that are not driven by profit (communism, co-operatives) or replacing private charity with the social safety net of the welfare state. In contrast, the right thrives by constantly reaffirming the antagonism, and even championing it".

I think that this is a valid observation. We always are taught about the class conflict bubbling up from the street, from the riff raff, but rarely does anyone speak of the hostilities manifested and perpetuated upon the masses by the elite. We see evidence in this with the Bush WhiteHouse - the most transparent instigators in ages -the tax cuts for the rich being the most obvious, but the message of class divisions extends to cultural institutions. A local NY example is Lincoln Center, which reinforces that the lower class has one role - to behold the elite. The cheaper seats do not face the orchestra but look towards the "gentle folk" below - the expensive seats.

The Real problem of the American left is that although it does try in certain ways to efface the division between egoism and altruism, value and values, it largely does so for its own children. This has allowed the Right, paradoxically, to represent itself as the champion of the working class.
They can imagine a scenario in which they might become rich but cannot possibly imagine one in which they, or any of their children, would become members of the intelligentsia.... A mechanic from Nebraska knows it is highly unlikely that his son or daughter will ever become an Enron executive. But it is possible. There is virtually no chance, however, that his child, no matter how talented, will ever become an international human-rights lawyer or a drama critic for the New York Times. Here we need to remember not just the changes in higher education but also the role of unpaid, or effectively unpaid, internships. It has become a fact of life in the United States that if one chooses a career for any reason other than salary, for the first year or two one will not be paid... The custom effectively seals off such a career for any poor student who actually does attain a liberal arts education. Such structures of exclusion had always existed, but in recent decades fences have become fortresses. (Graeber)
Alain feels that this claim seems counter-intuitive. "Progressives generally argue for policies that call for a fairer distribution of wealth and resources, along with programs that support working families having access to better health care and education. But Graeber's argument is more subtle - from the end of World War II through the late 60's and early 70's, vast resources were put into expanding access to higher education. This was done with the stated purpose of promoting social mobility, to provide the working class the opportunity to "move up" the economic ladder. But by the 1970's, there was an end to the expansion, just as college campuses were exploding with radical, anti-capitalist sentiment.

"Graeber believes the system offered many radicals a sort of "settlement." These folks became "reabsorbed into the university but set to work largely at training children of the elite." As education costs have increased exponentially, the number of working class students at major universities has been trending down for decades."

For an art eductaion context just look at the cost to attend Yale and Columbia and then compare that to the success rate of their MFA graduates to land prized residencies, top gallery recruitment, NY Times reviews, and the better university jobs around the country. Talent is not the unifying factor here - elite status is.

And so Alain asks, "Why do working-class Bush voters tend to resent intellectuals more than they do the rich?

Campus radicals set out to create a new society that destroyed the distinction between egoism and altruism, value and values. It did not work out, but they were, effectively, offered a kind of compensation: the privilege to use the university system to create lives that did so, in their own little way, to be supported in one's material needs while pursuing virtue, truth, and beauty, and, above all, to pass that privilege on to their own children. One cannot blame them for accepting the offer. But neither can one blame the rest of the country for hating them for it. Not because they reject the project: as I say, this is what America is all about. As I always tell activists engaged in the peace movement and counter-recruitment campaigns: why do working-class kids join the army anyway? Because, like any teenager, they want to escape the world of tedious work and meaningless consumerism, to live a life of adventure and camaraderie in which they believe they are doing something genuinely noble. They join the army because they want to be like you. (Graeber)
Speaking of Ashes brings up the point that so many working class kids join the ART army for similiar reasons - elevation, social validation and more recently, status as a marginal entertainment celebrity. It's a hard row to hoe being an artist but its lure is that it wears much better than working at Wal-Mart!

But back to what Gusky wants to know -"what inner drive does this mark-making want to satisfy? Is it just, again, escaping tedium and consumerism?" I think many of us share the same fear that largely and currently the answer is yes. The market mind almost defines that desire. The religious impulse towards creating has been dismissed and the pursuit of genius has been discarded so all that is left for many is escapism from the mundane realities of lower consumer identity and the precept that I will be chosen by the elite because I am special and therefore marketable to the ones who never had to escape in the first place (or so the assumption goes).

I am on the same pages as Ashes and Gusky, in wanting more art and less ego, more art where the artist is transparent. An art that calls upon meaning as living context, which is inclusive of all - the artist, audience, and the environment as the real participants, not simply the ego fatigued ubercollectors and taste makers of the artworld. This meaningful practice cannot be viewed as an exercise in ego or charity but a real thing for the purpose of answering the larger questions who we are and who we may be tomorrow. These are times of crisis and we need to get our act together and get serious about meaning and inclusion. The corporate model of the Museum whether it's Kimmleman's brand or the Krens affair will not make this boat float. That 1% doctrine will ultimately fail institutions and the public at large. Artists have to lead here along with conscientous gallerists, modest collectors and progressives within academia and the larger political body.

Going back again to Gusky's original question, I have to agree that the ego is largely a construct of the westernized mind, and in agrrement with Graeber that altruism is the bone handed out by the egoism of the elite. If I may borrow a phrase, A dog with a bone is less likely to bite! Altruism is ultimately a pacifier that only masks the problems of the lack of larger participation and in its current form only re-enforces class and education divisions within the artworld and by extension the political world. After all the market makes winners and losers and that's what "we' like about it.

I'll close with this thought by Ashes, "Ego-less art will be decidedly emasculated and profoundly personal, almost limp to those still carrying egos. But don't confuse its veracity by judging it with the Western Ego. It will have no borders and it won't carry well in glossy magazines. It will probably sell. Just not enough to impress."

Here's hoping the New Year will reveal some artists that are brave enough to leave their egos behind.

image: HLIB

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Final Appearance at the Apollo - today

The hardest working man in show biz will make a final appearance today at the Apollo. The immortal James Brown will lie in repose from 1pm to 8pm.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Re-entry - the airport pictures

Just getting back to the apple and hoping to catch up with things - other than the Gerry Ford love fest (who'd a thunk it????)We all apreciate airports as in-between places so here are my latest entries in a long line of airport observations. Note that these have not been doctored in photoshop - hard to believe but it is true :)

I really was surrounded by desks....

Friday, December 22, 2006

Walton Ford

Some of my contemporaries are just interested in talking about fashion or pornography. You have an American Apparel-style theory of making art, and I couldn’t be more bored with that. But that seems to be all that some painters seem to be interested in now.

And I think, “God, you know, look at what’s happening in the world. Is that your preoccupation: Celebrity, glamour and pornography? Is that really what we’re going to go down in flames celebrating?” - Walton Ford

Finally I see something about a show I've been wanting to post about! The Walton Ford interview at Artinfo is a decent intro into one of the most intelligent artists working right now. I was very much impressed and challenged by his current exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum.

For all the blagghing about Ron Mueck, this exhibit seems to have been overlooked - its superior to Mueck's I think. Why? Because it's really about something urgent - not that Mueck's show isn't good because it is - but Ford is on to some major topics (human culture/natural history) without being topical. Stylistically he has embarked on an incredible tightrope -he's pushing a very familiar (cliche) form of drawing into a conceptual and political arena without relying on tiresome irony. How these do not become political cartoons is stunning. The poetic dimension achieved here is far too often missing in works that aim for political coverage or toy with allegory. Quite simply, there is a hell of a lot payoff for the viewer!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Robert Fripp - let the power fall

So finally get down to the keyboard after yet another holiday party which to say the least is getting a bit tiresome but listening to a little Vince Guaraldi is calming my Christmas nerves. I guess it takes Charlie Brown music to do it - follow the muse I say! This post is really about Robert Fripp and his collaborations with Brian Eno - but ultimately about Fripp (not Charlie Brown).

Kazys has a post recognizing the amazing team that is Fripp/Eno and their enormous and graceful forays into ambiance, distortion and feedback, which Kazys rightly aligns as issues confronting network architects (See netlab) and by extention many artists making their way through our current wave of mutilation. If you don't know Evening Star you should buy it - then go for the lesser works - No Pussyfooting, and Equatorial Stars. They're good if you're a real head but Evening Star is the one -seminal art and an aural pleasure. Think of the soundtrack to Richter's Atlas or a subdued Butoh performance. It is a true space to think and feel - in other words it is art.

But this isn't a record review! What has me most enthralled is a link by Kazy's to Fripp's manifesto - Let The Power Fall. I'm just reading this for the first time so I'm pasting this here.

Let The Power Fall
By Robert Fripp

1 One can work within any structure.
2 One can work within any structure, some structures are more efficient
than others.
3 There is no structure which is universally appropriate.
4 Commitment to an aim within inappropriate structure will give rise to
the creation of an appropriate structure.
5 Apathy, ie passive commitment, within an appropriate structure will
effect its collapse.
6 Dogmatic attachment to the supposed merits of a particular structure
hinders the search for an appropriate structure.
7 There will be difficulty defining the appropriate structure because it
will be allways mobile, ie in process.

8 There should be no difficulty in defining aim.
9 The appropriate structure will recognise structures outside itself.
10 The appropriate structure can work within any large structure
11 Once the appropriate structure can work within any large structure,
some larger structure are more efficient than others.
12 There is no larger structure which is universally appropriate.
13 Commitment to an aim by an appropriate structure within a larger,
inappropriate structure will give rise to a large, appropriate structure.
14 The quantitive structure is affected by qualitative action

15 Qualitive action is not bound by number
16 Any small unit committed to qualitative action can affect radical
change on a scale outside its quantitative measure.
17 Quantative action works by violence and breeds reaction.
18 Qualitative action works works by example and invites reciprocation.
19 Reciprocation between independant structures is a framework of
interacting units which is itself a structure.
20 Any appropriate structure of interacting units can work within any
other structure of interacting units.
21 Once this is so, some structures of interacting units are more efficient
than others.

This is enormous so I won't try to make sense of it at the moment but plan to revisit it quite soon as certain posts recently seem to be hinting a similair thoughts.

Marlene Dumas

Why do you think art magazines do that?

They do it because they don’t care about painting. Most people in the art scene have no sense of what a painting is. That’s why art magazines have such terrible layouts, because they look at a painting as if it is a photograph, and it becomes a photograph in the reproduction. They can’t say they understand anything about painting. - Marlene Dumas
Not sure if anyone caught the Marlene Dumas interview on ArtInfo a couple of weeks back but it ha some tasty bits on being a painter and the frustrations she has with the art media as an artist. Dumas has taken over for Alex Katz Chair at Cooper Union and for my money one the greatest living painters. She's one of only a few painters that make me feel actual jealousy when veiwing particular works. Funny how she gets no play here in the States?? ...a travesty really.

Dumas on Teaching:

I see teaching as a very important thing, and not only because I teach them things, but also because we have a dialogue, and you see what you really want. You find things out. I still believe in the Socratic dialogue. Art is really something that you learn from being around people. My own experience in South Africa was that the art school was part of the university, so I learned such a lot in general, not just about painting. I am from a generation that seems to want to copyright their inventions, but I am not one of those artists who think they invented everything. You are part of a tradition. It’s the same as when people write books—they have read other books that they relate to. Painting is part of a visual tradition. The worst kind of artist is one who thinks they’re so wonderful because they don’t understand that there have been all these wonderful things done already, and that you exist in relation to that. Just because an artist from the past is dead doesn’t mean the work is dead. Art is something that relates you to the past, and hopefully to the present as well.

check the interview.

image: The Painter - Marlene Dumas

Monday, December 11, 2006

Attention artists -please do yourself the favor of checking out

This is the brainchild of artist (and blogger) Chris Jagers
and looks to be a highly professional online portfolio program that artists (and institutions) can use to present their work. Somehow between his teaching practice and studio practice Jagers has found the time to produce this - must be something in BBQ down there. makes it possible for you to upload your images and videos, label and organize them and have them constantly ready for review, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, Grant after glorius Grant!

Make changes instantly.
Password-protect your portfolio to control who sees it and when.
Stay in control long after your send-out date.

So check it out.

Hammer time

High Low welcomes the Hammer to the blogosphere!

Friday, December 08, 2006

109th Congress leaving - thankfully

The greatest collection of assholes ever assembled is finally leaving the building - no not pundits on Fox - the 109th Congress. Probably the worst in history with all due respect to the 1948 class. Muckraker has a nice a send off for the criminals we like to call Congressmen.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Cue Art Foundation: living on a tight budget

Tomorrow Cue is offering another seminar for artists :

Meeting Artists' Needs VI. Living on a Tight Budget
CUE Art Foundation (New York NY) VI. Living on a Tight Budget Wednesday,December 6, 2006, 6:30 – 8:00pm

Speaker: Galia Gichon, Down-to-earth Finance
Galia Gichon is an Independent Financial Expert who founded Down-to-earth Finance, a company dedicated to demystifying money management and investing for individuals. With over 13 years experience in financial services and an MBA in Finance, Ms Gichon has worked with hundreds of individuals and organizations. This results-oriented seminar will provide an action plan by giving practical exercises to help artists achieve financial freedom and reduce money stress. Ms. Gichon will give tips and ideas to help improve financial habits; she’ll go over the important parts of a credit report and how to improve the rating and will give advice on how to deal with credit card debt.

Where: at CUE Art Foundation located at 511 West 25th Street, New York, NY 10001 (betw. 10th and 11th Aves.) This lecture is FREE, but registration IS required.

To register, please call 212 206-3583 or send an email to including your name, mailing address, e-mail and telephone number. Seating is on a first-come-first serve basis. We will accommodate the first 50 attendees each evening, and provide standing room only thereafter.

CUE Art Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit arts organization that is dedicated to supporting under-recognized artists via a multi-faceted mission spanning the realms of gallery exhibitions, professional development programs and arts-in-education.
For further information please contact Kara Smith, Programs Assistant, at 212 206-3583 or send an email to

CUE Art Foundation's operations and programs are made possible with the generous support of foundations, corporations, government, individuals, and its membership. Programming assistance is provided in part with public funds from City of New York Department of Cultural Affairs and The New York State Council on the Arts through the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and the Experimental Television Center. Meeting Artists' Needs is supported in part by the Joan Mitchell Foundation and American Express Company.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Art Ark

As we head into the fever pitches of the Miami Monolith I thought I would give a shout out to all the hard working art handlers, installers and truck drivers who will be working themselves to the bone for $20/hr. Here's a dedication to what may be a perverse fantasy for some :)
Truck Load of Art - by Terry Allen
Once upon a time
Sometime ago back on the east coast
In New York City, to be exact
A bunch of artists and painters and
sculptors and musicians and
poets and writers and dancers
and architects
Started feeling real superior
to their ego-counter-parts
Out on the West Coast so
They all got together and decided
They would show those snotty surfer upstarts
A thing or two about the Big Apple

And they hired themselves a truck
It was a big, spanking new white-shiny
Chrome-plated cab-over
With mudflaps, stereo, tv, AM & FM radio,
Leather seats and a naugahide sleeper
All fresh
With new American Flag decals and "ART ARK"
Printed on the side of the door
With solid 24 karat gold leaf type

And they filled up this truck
With the most significant piles
And influential heaps of Art Work
To ever be assembled in Modern Times,
And it sent it West to chide
Cajole, humble and humiliate the Golden Bear.
And this is the true story of that truck

A Truckload of Art
From New York City
Came rollin down the road
Yeah the driver was singing
And the sunset was pretty
But the truck turned over
And she rolled off the road

Yeah a Truckload of Art

is burning near the highway
Precious objects are scattered
All over the ground
And it's a terrible sight
If a person were to see it
But there weren't nobody around

Yeah the driver went sailing
High in the sky
Landing in the gold lap of the Lord
Who smiled and then said
"Son, you're better off dead
Than haulin a truckload
full of hot avant-garde

Yes and important artwork

Was thrown burning to the ground
Tragically landing in the weeds
And the smoke could be seen
Ahhh for miles all around
Yeah but nobody knows what it means

Yes a Truckload of Art

Is burning near the highway
And it's a tough job for the highway patrol
Ahhh they'll soon see the smoke
An come runnin to poke
Then dig a deep ditch
And throw the arts in a hole

Yeah a Truckload of Art
Is burning near the highway
And it's raging far-out of control
And what the critics have cheered
Is now shattered and queered
And their noble reviews
Have been stewed on the road

* Ok so this song has little to do with Miami and everything to do with the East Coast/West Coast family feud (circa the late '60's) - still fun though.