My brain’s desktop, part one

I haven’t been doing much with my blog lately but, lo, golden week is upon us, so here now is an index of what I’ve been looking at, reading about, or wanting to write about lately. For the most part, I’m using my desktop as a guide here (it’s cluttered with jpegs I grab and don’t file). Some of this stuff I intend to write more about at some point, hopefully this week. But for the time being, and in the interest of cleaning up my desktops - mental and computorial (alas, not the physical one), the following assortment of jpegs, links, etc…

Sharon Stone visits Marina Abramovic at MOMA. I think I like this photo because I imagine Sharon Stone, the real, middle-aged woman, getting up, putting her hair back, going to a museum, committing to an unfamiliar art experience just like everyone else, open to it, unjaded. Maybe I just like thinking about this other person, this other Sharon Stone, whoever she is. Other than that, she just looks beautiful anyway, more so for the absence of make-up. The whole photo series (in which you’ll see some other recognizable faces) is fascinating just as a display of physiognomic variety. Okay, there is a white majority, but there might also be a female majority (as well as a fairly high quotient of art schoolers, if I’m any judge). As Ingmar Bergman knew, close-ups are always interesting - we never tire of the human face. Jerry Saltz, in his review of the exhibit, alert to this so-intrinsic-you-almost-miss-it content: “Abramovic gets you to understand why many animals hate being looked at by humans. There’s something powerful and uncanny and pure about an unbroken gaze.

Marina Abramovic herself, on the other hand… I’m not sure. If an up or down thumb were asked of me (just supposing), I don’t know which way I’d go. From photos I’ve seen and especially reading the online buzz about this exhibit, I can’t help feeling that were seeing self-imposed suffering and a strange kind of projected sainthood as spectacle, which makes me really uncomfortable about it. I’m not saying there’s nothing else there, just that that side of it, which is fundamental, annoys me. This I’ve been wanting to write more about, but I’m trying not to simply respond with my gut, my cynical gut, on this. I’m trying to give it the benefit of the doubt.

One thing that has to be positive (or does it?): people are talking about it, and talking about art. One discussion I found particularly interesting was the one below Jerry Saltz’s brief article for New York. I didn’t think the article itself was anything special, but Saltz held court on his own comments board, defending himself against a typically antagonistic crowd of posters and laying out not only a defense of the exhibit but practically a statement of principles for his critical practice. Frankly, I liked Jerry the engaged commenter more than Jerry the critic this time.

Still on the Abramovic topic…

Apparently, one performer in the show was dismissed for penile misconduct (ie. erection) at the family-friendly institution. Reading the metafilter messageboard, I came across this disquieting but ripe-for-John Waters-satire art-school tale:

"In one of my drawing classes we had a male model and a physiotherapist with a pack of Crayola washable markers for a lesson in anatomy: The physio used different colors to outline various muscle groups (e.g., the deltoid) and then had the model move to demonstrate how the muscle contracted and bulged in various ways (e.g., lifting his arm caused the deltoid to get shorter and wider, and this was easily visible with purple outline and contour lines).  Very useful demonstration, except that for the entire three hours, the model had a full erection, and a slow dribble of semen; occasionally he’d make a furtive gesture to wipe it away. Bizarrely, we all sat there for all three hours, pretending this wasn’t happening. On break, we made jokes about the leaky model, and then returned. In retrospect I think that it was the peculiar atmosphere of art school: This is art, and this the body, and everything it does (and that comes out of it) is natural and nothing to be ashamed of. So we spent three hours watching a man ejaculate. Fortunately that model wasn’t invited back."

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Recent Chris Ofili paintings. Still trying to find out what’s going on in these private little affairs. I kind of like them though.

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Old Comme des Garcons. Lumps and Bumps, 1997.

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Elizabeth Murray: The Lowdown. I was thinking about Murray and Bruce Nauman, two artists whose (totally polar) work didn’t appeal to me at first blush at all but which I’ve come to love. It’s nice to have your taste pried open now and again, to have to broaden your definition of what art is and what the right thing to do is.

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Fischli and Weiss, on the other hand, has always worked for me. (A midpoint between Murray and Nauman?) They seem fun when so much art has forsworn that frivolous commodity. They’re coming to Kanazawa for their first solo show in Asia in September. Can’t wait!

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Speaking of fun, here’s its opposite: the new International Style. Who made these paintings? No. Guess again? No. No, you’re never going to get it. They’re by Adrian Ghenie. But it could have been any one of a hundred artists (let alone countless hundreds of students) making paintings like this right now. A little bit Tuymans, a little Neo Rauch - I don’t know the exact recipe, but I know I see this everywhere and it’s already intensely lame. Let me guess: they’ve something to do with memory, history, and dreams. Very well done, and drab, drab, drab.

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30 Rock: the best thing being produced by the United States right now? Jane Krakowski (as Jenna Maroney) - and not Alec Baldwin - the best part of the show?

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Every month near my apartment there’s a market for antiques, junk, etc. Who knows what this item is for? I guess I’d hope it’s for displaying clothes. But weird.

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New Bolano story in the New Yorker. Strange and thrilling reading.

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I’m afraid of the future of Joan Rivers. Could her face be the apocalypse?



Kawakubo Rei, Comme des Garçons

"I am not conscious of any intellectual approach as such. My approach is simple. It is nothing other than what I am thinking at the time I make each piece of clothing, whether I think it is strong and beautiful. The result is something that other people decide."

Yeah, I admit it - I’ve been a smalltime fashion follower for the last several years, in as much as looking at pictures of runway shows for a few weeks out of the year is following fashion. It may have started from reading New Yorker style issue profiles of Rick Owens, Marc Jacobs, Alber Elbaz, etc, and then been nurtured watching Project Runway, one of the more talent-based and least cold-blooded reality shows out there. Whatever the origin of my interest was, because I know almost nothing about it, fashion holds the same fascination for me that jazz had when I first heard it and had no idea what was going on, what was good or bad, or what the rules were. One thing I know is that my fascination has nothing to do with clothing. It’s got more to do with, as I said, my remoteness from it, which makes it a mysterious and wonderful thing, with seeing imagination and far-flung craftsmanship find their way through the cracks of business (some people might balk at the idea of fashion being an art form, but is it any different from the film industry?), and with seeing how the shows themselves are sometimes like a kind of sullen, decadent theatre.

Comme des Garçons, Spring 2010.

some details

Among the handful of designers that I’ve been watching over the last several seasons is Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons. I guess you’d say her designs are way off in the conceptual corner of the industry. I have yet, anyway, to see anyone wearing anything remotely as alien on the street - and I live in Japan. Her Spring 2009 collection had geometric, architectural forms, and white wigs like down feathers bursting out of these black egg-like shapes; Fall 2009 saw cocoon-like wraps tightened around everything, somewhat constricting, but beautiful, like latter-day kimonos (video, part one here and part two here). The Spring 2010 clothes are hard to describe. Would it be an insult to say that some of the dresses look like aleatoric upholstery? The NY Times’ Cathy Horyn, an obvious fan, does a better job talking about them:

"Some of the collaged jackets and tailcoats consisted of more than 20 pieces of different fabrics: gray pinstripes, dotted velvet, brocades, black sequined scraps. And many of the pieces were shaped like a tailored shoulder, as if Ms. Kawakubo had collected the discarded shoulders in her studio. If you’ve ever seen such pieces lying around in a studio, you will know what I mean when I say they seem to possess their own energy."

Comme des Garçons, Fall 2009.

Comme des Garçons, Spring 2009.

Here is a short interview with Kawakubo, from which the quote at the top is taken, in Interview magazine. And here, if you can be bothered reading it in a flickr set, is a 2005 New Yorker article. Equally difficult to read, a big jpeg of a little interview in Vogue from 1987. She has a way of striking a tone at once modest and self-effacing and curtly haughty in interviews - and why shouldn’t she, I guess; a self-made bottom-up success, knows where she started and how she got where she is. A couple more little bits from the interviews:

"It’s not personality. It’s hard work. When Estée Lauder accepted her achievement award at the Fashion Group last fall she said she didn’t get where she got by chance. She worked. It’s the same with me. I worked hard every day. That’s all it is - a lot of hard work."

"It would have more meaning for me to hear what critics have to say if their values and their ways of living were deeper and more serious."

"There is surely worth in making simple things, and there is worth when utility is the concept. But art need not be bourgeois, necessarily. There is nothing bourgeois, for example, about hair artist Julien d’Ys great creation for this collection, where hair, hat, and makeup become one."

"Comme des Garçons has always traveled at its own pace and will continue to do so. In good times and bad times the company is more or less the same."



Saint Passionate

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priceless anecdotes drawn from my real experiences and souvenir jpegs of lost time

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