Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Polidori and Katrina

As Katrina has been on my mind alot for the last year and obviously this week, it was not such a surprise to learn that Robert Polidori has a new series of New Orleans centered on the disaster. The pictures are due for exhibition this fall at the MET. There is a short interview with the photographer at Art:INFO. Several knockout thumbnails are included of homes decomposing in the aftermath of the storm throughout this past year. They are beautiful, horrifying and fascinating works. Poverty and decay seem to have a way of preserving the strangness of the "past". Polidori has some interesting insights into artmaking and photography.

Here's a sample of the interview:

Something that has always struck me about the high level of detail that you’re talking about in your work is that it allows you to make your pictures more telling in psychological terms.

Yes, I think so. When images are soft, they just remain evocative, or in your imagination. You get a mood, and it remains on the emotional level. The viewer has to put more of him or herself into it. When there is more detail, it’s like that old expression: There’s no fiction stranger than reality. Reality will compose the most extreme paradoxes and contradictions and adjacencies, which can’t be understood.

So detail gives you more mental work to do. There are more things to look at, which suggest more and more questions. All that mood is still there anyway, so it’s like the double-punch effect. It’s a question of keeping the mind occupied while the emotions are being silently manipulated on the back burner. I just think it makes for a richer experience. And it has the added value of being a more accurate historical record. So you have something for everybody.

And how does that relate to the pictorial sophistication of your images?

I’m not one of these artists who’s making art about the processes or the rules of art-making. I’m not interested in that. I think that that’s been gone through, and I think that it’s one dimensional. It’s not about art-making. However, there are aesthetic principals there, pictorially speaking. The grammar of my pictorialism comes from pre-Renaissance and Renaissance perspective, because all of that stuff is built into modern lenses. So that is assumed in the technology that I use.

What would you say was your basic reason for taking photographs?

I don’t take photographs because I love doing it (though I don’t hate it). Some photographers are in love with the process of taking a picture. Psychologically, I’m more interested in the situations that taking the picture puts me through, and what it forces me to witness. I really do it because I want that picture. It’s like I’m collecting evidence, like a detective looking to solve a case. I don’t mean that literally, but I use it as a simile. It’s a thing about phenomena and asking questions. And answering some, but not answering all of them.

Yes, I see that. It’s like you were saying earlier about reality’s paradoxes. It seems to me that this is what makes these New Orleans pictures so poignant. Each image presents the evidence of someone’s neat and ordered life that’s just been turned upside down.

Yes, it’s imploded. I’m interested in interiors, and I have been for a long time, simply because they’re indices of individuals’ personal values. They tell you a lot about the individual. Like I’ve said before, to me interiors are both metaphors and catalysts for states of being. You can take a portrait of somebody, and you might have a feeling looking at their face, but you know less things about them by looking at their face than you do when you look at the way that they compose their own interior space. What interests me are their values.

image: Robert Polidori

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

file under ROCK: D.jr

J, Murph and Lou descended last night like a fury. Mascis is a white haired wizard, a true guitar God! Damn it was amazing! For the old geezers "Forget the Swan" was definitely the highlight.


*Please note. Tonight is Spike Lee's When The Levees Broke on HBO. I saw it last week and it is frankly his greatest artistic achievement, heroic actually. For every American, a stark reminder of our national shame and our fragile nature. Warning, this is real documentary so be prepared to get upset. Think of these people when you vote in November and don't forget those in the Gulf Coast.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Those "dirty" words

There's great little piece at the
Philadelphia Enquirer on the use of dirty words and the wild variations from culture to culture. Its seems, universally that people like to use sexual words to express their anger or agression towards another. It seems that most taboo expression is rooted in spiritual superstition and elaborate rules about mixing sex and speech. For Americans,
FUCK is still the supreme being as if we needed reminding. What I didn't know is that word is 1000 years old and pretty much the king of the hill for the last 400 years. It has nothing to do with "for unlawful carnal knowledge"! The sad part is, that experts are concerned that its over usage may deem it mute. Wouldn't that be horrible!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Computer World

Chris Jagers just turned me on to the Computer History Museum
and its Internet History exhibition. The drawings / sketches for the preliminary designs of the "Arpanet" are amazing and wildly simple when compared to what we have come to know and use as the internet today. In addition there are some cool code thumbnails and of course the always super "sci-ficomputer systems of the 1960's and 1970's. You really have to go through each decade to see how such a simple network idea can blossom. Artist's should really look closely at this as it certainly relates to how ideas develop "outward" The show is truly quite fascinating stuff when you consider the creativity involved. I'm amazed at the nostalgia I have for the machines too- most of which I have never even used!

This is another excellent compendium to these earlier posts:
15 Megs of Fame and the Pew Blogger Survey.

image: Computer Magazine 1979

Virgin Alert

Yes Mary has arrived once again and her chosen medium? it's not wood, it's not a mushroom, -It's a chocolate dripping!

FOUNTAIN VALLEY, California (AP) -- Workers at a chocolate company have discovered a 2-inch-tall (5-centimeter-tall) column of chocolate drippings

Just when you start to loose faith in the world....

here's the link at CNN for the full disclosure.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Be a dripper

go ahead, meet your inner Pollock
(hint-just move your cursor or any key)

A collage for Sunday

Thursday, August 10, 2006

James Castle:Structures

James Castle:not casted for ArtStar

“if one spends a long time in a room with only one object, that object becomes a little god” – Tony Smith
In continuing with combing the studio for “tasty bits” I came across some images by an artist that works quite differently from me but as I begin to get more involved with collage as part of my practice, I see that these pieces are rubbing off in some invisible ways.

The artist is James Castle, now deceased since the 1970’s – from rural Idaho. What’s remarkable aside from the staggering consistency within the work is that Castle was deaf and unable to speak or sign - for his entire 77 years. His time was mostly spent making objects and drawings from found materials, cardboard, string, paper and soot. His was a lifetime devoted to art and spending most of that time alone with simple objects – a bed, a chair, a stove. An American monastic vision for sure. I’m just struck by how simple and emotional these works are and how they actually feel formidable despite being made of the most fragile and tattered things. You see every decision yet each piece feels like it was born – always just as it is.

Its tough to choose these but here’s a small sample:

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Apparition

So with some time off this week I have managed to get back to the paint. It's been a good few days and I'm starting to get that edge back, the sense and focus that only comes from daily practice. It hasn't been easy with all the international calamity that continues to creep and seep into every crevice - and the movie being filmed on my block only adds to the cacophony - but some brights spots have emerged such as the Ned LaMont victory and well being able to paint regularly. With 10 hour days in studio you get to shuffle through yer shit - figuratively and literally - always coming upon some arcane part of your history.

The image above has been with me in my studio for roughly 12 years, pinned onto and under various competing pictures and ephemera for the purpose of clueing me into something when I get stumped. I haven't noticed it much lately but today it jumped forth as it has many many times before.

The painting is titled, La Cena and is by the Spanish realist, Antonio Lopez Garcia. I've never seen it in person though I have seen a dozen or so paintings of his in the flesh. Doesn't seem to matter though because it always feels real even as a color copy - something I'd argue to be fascinating in itself.

At the time of this reproduction the work was unfinisihed, and I personally hope it is still just as unfinished/finished as it appears here. It's a masterpiece. That being said, I could see it continuing on its journey forever, changing each season for the entire duration of the artist's life. Always holding some new light, a variation here and there, cradling a new edge of investigation. The same scene forever still but always moving in place. The phenoma themselves fully seen and continually reassesed, painstakingly. It is such an anti-media piece, this is the no-frills Spanish painting tradition.

There is generosity in this picture, the slightest detail is given great egalatarian regard. Everything matters here, the tiny flourishes and modulated pigments are graces in themselves- interlocking, never shouting, always becoming the everyday, always inconclusive. Which is to say the real event.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Beliefs: The War(s) no one can win

It’s been record heat the last two weeks nationwide and admittedly, last week in NYC felt like hell at times. Staying focused and for that matter hopeful hasn’t been easy with many personal setbacks and no less a new battle with Verizon, an old nemesis when it comes to consistent communications. Needless to say I have been beset by negativity and at times despair over being a working artist who is frankly not getting ahead – yet trapped in a maze of constant activity, where the pursuit of intangibles feels so obscured by the daily grind of work, commuting, and bill paying.

But I’m lucky, as most of us are, quite lucky, quite privileged in many or all regards. Sure I have a nameless role in an organization that supports artists across the country and the world at large- an occupation where I am under payed, overworked, and never appreciated by all parties involved in the equation. I can say the same for most of my co-workers on that front too. I am however alive today. I am not maimed by the bombs that are destroying countless lives throughout Lebanon, Iraq, and Israel.

Countless blogs have been posting from within and without Lebanon over these last 3 weeks and to read them is sobering – achingly sobering. The same can be said of the Iraqi blogs that have been able to maintain themselves through 3 years of endless bloodshed and broken promises. These are testimony to the human spirit in contrast to the nightmare of human political enterprise.

In the course of these 3 weeks I have seen a groundswell of anti-Israeli graffiti spring up around me. It’s plastered all over the subways, in the elevators and hallways of the buildings that are part of my normal routine. Somewhat reminiscent of similiarly angry tags that sprouted from the 911 tragedy – political critique bordering on hate and some outright hate.

Its hard to even fathom what Israeli generals think they are accomplishing with a brutal campaign against civilians or what Hezbollah thought they would succeed in doing with that ill advised “border crossing” three weeks back. On one level it was surely a test of PM Olmert, to see what the new guy was made of. Well now we know, an iron fist. It seems a marked departure for one of the architects of the Gaza West Bank pullout. It’s difficult to watch the agony of the civilians in Lebanon. They have now suffered decades, prisoners to other people’s wars- Syrian, Palestianian, Iranian, Israeli. Historically, today seems all too familiar for such a small country.

As the shelling continues Pope Benedict and Ayatollah Sistani have both repeatedly called for a ceasefire. Both have been met with silence and perhaps a political lesson. The real powers don’t want to hear from them unless they can be used in a rhetorical moral battle to stir up unmitigated hate from the unwashed masses. If it’s a call for peace or level headedness, then these men are quickly reminded of how antiquated their social and spiritual role actually is within the world of real politik. It’s a disgrace in itself as both represent millions – singularly and collectively.

So what is behind this – a war which seems more planned than reactionary?
Is it the Judeo-Christian hate machine unleashed as so many taggers want to purport? Doubtful as an awfully large number of Christians are the victims. These are a segment of Middle Eastern culture almost always forgotten by the right and left, and far too often squeezed out by the competing interests of Sunni, Shia and Israeli. Where are all the evangelicals- Dobson, Falwell, Robertson? Only the Pope has spoken for these people. I presume the rest are consumed by their Christian-Zionism, their lust for armageddon. Their peculiar brand of nihilism wants more than anything to find secret knowledge within the events of this war – that secret knowledge being arcane “prophesy”. This theological/political obsession of “end times” precludes them from seeing the human tragedy that is unfolding at an alarming pace.

What does feel likely to me about all of this is that this is perhaps the first real all out war over resources. This will become regional quickly. A lot of parts of the puzzle are coming together now. This is a core versus periphery conflict and the prize is natural gas and oil reserves. Iran has the second highest of both in the entire world.

Look at some recent events. The Saudis just made two multi $billion arms deals with France and the US. Iran has made similar deals with Russia and Venezuela.
China has wooed Iran as well, making efforts to step up its presence in the Middle East as well oil rich areas of Africa. You can feel the polarization happening pretty quickly. India is a player here too. Iran, by luck or sly design is ready to make a push to be the regional power. It is their historic time and in some Shia minds, a theological destiny to reclaim the upper hand within Islam itself. The Saudis seem to be stockpiling as a precaution as they and Israel are the only true roadblocks to Iranian regional dominance.

Iran knows where they fit on the Neo-Con roadmap – the bull’s eye. Thus they have made fast friends with Security Council members, China and Russia. It’s not just about business and nuclear power, but political clout and personal protection. This all is a prelude to war with Iran – you can count on that war unless cooler heads come to surface. The stakes are high – energy supremacy for the next 40 years.

So what of Israel? Well many of my Israeli friends will quickly say this is about their own survival and that Olmert is just showing their strength (and I’d argue their weakness). I know several people who will perhaps be called up from reserves if this doesn’t stop soon. Many of their peers already have. It’s a depressing thought.

Israel has its personal reasons, its grudge against Hezbollah(and by extension Hamas) but who is allowing this to continue on? The Neo-Con agenda as executed by various principals here in the US and Britain. It’s a gamble for sure. They think that through destruction they can implement their utopia of proxy states. Funny how they repeatedly like to gamble with innocent lives and if it fails? Well then just retreat to some think tank or corporate board unscathed.

Lebanon is the direct ticket to Syria and the quite weak Assad. If Syria can be dismantled along with Lebanon then it creates a vacuum (one which will bite us in the ass) that can be filled by pro-US/EU interests as a counter point to Iran.
When will people learn that this never works? It simply creates more enemies and failed states. All these plans are implicitly immoral and incompetently executed to add insult to injury. Regular people suffer – and for generations. It’s a dangerous game for all players because the balance and luck can quickly tip out of control. The Middle East is full of angry, impoverished people – most under the age of 30. These forces can quickly be armed by outside interests of all stripes.

If only Democracy were the goal – but that’s just the tag line to mask the drive for natural resources. Democratization comes about culturally, not militarily.
We’re obviously running out of natural resources. Allies are no longer enough. Corporate interests want direct control of the oil and more importantly gas resources. That is the only sure way to manage the coming energy demand and remain profitable. It’s pretty obvious that was the Cheney doctrine in Iraq and Halliburton/KBR’s no bid monopoly on the oil wells and pipelines. I’m sure it informed his request of President Clinton, while CEO of Halliburton, to end the sanctions against Iraq and his request to open up talks with Iran for the purpose of energy trade. If only this energy were put into renewable energy, diplomacy and technology.

There is an irony here within the Neo-Con Middle East agenda. The invasion of Iraq actually produced a desired effect. Iran was rattled, and through the Swiss sought to go to the table with the Administration and the State Department. It could have been an opportunity to quell nuclear ambitions and make progress on other fronts. Our arrogant leadership rebuffed. Around this time Syria also leaves Lebanon as its foreign controller signaling its own political weakness within the region and its fear of invasion -a situation that is now become obsolete and squandered. Why? Because months later due to lack of forces and leadership, we became bogged down in a sectarian/civil war in Iraq. Iran has realized its new position as a leader with few restraints. Syria now thinks it acted too quickly and Assad has internal political pressure to reassert Syrian influence in Lebanon. Our military is now surrounded by enemies and battered after 3 years of futile fighting and rebuilding within Iraq. Israel is sending a message of defiance to its neighbors – do not seize the opportunity to assert regional dominance.

Meanwhile back in America, 50% of the population is still pre-occupied with those missing WMD’s that Saddam so skillfully hid or whether or not the attacks in Haifa are Biblical prophesy.

Israel seems to be making the same mistakes of the Bush camp, destroying so many innocent lives while killing any prospects of public agreement. These words seem to have been forgotten and need to be reconsidered.

Israeli PM Ehud Olmert, while Mayor of Jerusalem:
"Political leaders can help change the psychological climate which affects the quality of relationships among people." His speech concluded with reflections on the importance of political process in overcoming differences: "How are fears born? They are born because of differences in tradition and history; they are born because of differences in emotional, political and national circumstances. Because of such differences, people fear they cannot live together. If we are to overcome such fear, a credible and healthy political process must be carefully and painfully developed. A political process that does not aim to change the other or to overcome differences, but that allows each side to live peacefully in spite of their differences."
In closing, I think is a helpful read, Ending the Neo-Conservative Nightmare, by Daniel Levy.

Here's a place to help those suffering in Beirut.

image: Dan Perjovschi

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

and don't forget..

...that this is the person speaking for us right now during a very serious meltdown in the Middle East.

Karen Hughes, is the official in charge of public diplomacy to the Muslim world. How many miles from Normal now?