Friday, May 23, 2008

Darth Vader is Bob Dylan

So I saw the film La Dolce Vita by Fellini a little while ago, and it was good, and as my Netflix note indicated it featured an extended cameo by Nico of Velvet Underground fame.  Her voice always cracks me up. The next movie I had to watch was Factory Girl, by George Hickenlooper, which is about Warhol superstar Edie Sedgewick, and features someone portraying Nico.  Her imitation of Nico's voice cracked me up, too.  It also features Hayden Christinasen as who is ostensibly supposed to be Bob Dylan.  Yeah.  Darth Vader is Dylan.  Anywho, the next movie I have to watch is I'm Not There where several different people portray Dylan.  I've avoided watching it because I do not wish the hyperreality of this peculiar cinematic situation to end just yet.  Furthermore, I understand that someone in that film portrays a character that is supposed to be Edie Sedgewick, but, like Christiansen's Dylan, has a different name.  So I waited.

I sit down at my computer to read a scanned copy of one of the later issues of classic 80's out of print comic Miracleman.  I'm still reeling over Alan Moore's original issues (better than Watchmen) and sit down to read one of the Neil Gaiman-penned stories, and who is one of the main characters of this particular issue?  Andy-fucking-Warhol.  No shit.  It won't end.  I went from seeing Nico playing someone named Nico in a movie, to seeing someone play her in a movie with someone playing Warhol, and Dylan, and Sedgewick to holding off watching someone else playing Sedgewick and 7 other people playing Dylan, only to have Warhol show up in a comic book I'm reading instead.

What does it all mean?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

A Haunting Wave of Slow Burning Love

So I paid my respects at MOCA and LACMA to Rauschenberg....we are fortunate that some fantastic pieces are here in the City of Angels at this very moment. So this post is about the music I seem to have been getting a lot of mileage out of lately.

Portishead -- 3rd -- So I managed to obtain this a couple months in advance and forced some of my friends to listen to its brilliance. Specifically the last 30 seconds of the 8th track ("Machine Gun"). The Blade Runner-esque Vangelis style synthesizers lay waste to my soul every time. A haunting wave of slow-burning love from beginning to end.

No Age -- Nouns -- I missed their free show at the library with Mika Miko....shameful, really, I walk to it every other day. An increase in accessibility from Weirdo Rippers, but their representin' LA and local music haunt The Smell while they're blowing up. Good shit, though it all kinds of blends together sometimes.

The Smell -- Sometimes its lame, sometimes its cool, sometimes it destroys the fucking universe (Monotonix, anyone?). Best locals I've seen so far was Her Girl Friday, and they already broke up. Its down the street, its arty, noisy rock, its five dollars every time. Word.

Monotonix -- Power trio from Israel. Showed up on a Tuesday night at the Smell and went super-fucking-nova. Last number had me and some of the other audience members holding the bass drum over our heads with the drummer IN IT continuing to pound the song out. Best. Live. Show. Ever. 5 bucks. CD's ok.

Magazine -- Late 70's British band. They are to the Buzzcocks what PiL is to the Sex Pistols. Sort of. First track on Real Life I cannot get sick of. Nor the last track of Second Hand Daylight. Who hasn't been looking for a song that has a chorus of "I will drug you and fuck you?"

Captain Beefheart -- Don't get into Beefheart unless you're prepared to realize that Tom Waits is overrated. Cuz this is who Waits' been doing a watered-down imitation of for the past 30 years. This dude was too weird for Zappa, apparently. I dig it. Trout Mask Replica. Lick My Decals Off, Baby. Bat Chain Puller. Yeah.

Crystal Castles -- Their full length is out, and its good. I play it during the Photoshop class I teach.

McAllistar's Hostile Makeover -- This is radio show on KXLU on Thursday mornings that I roll with during Photoshop class. Her play list is from some other amazing planet, and KXLU in general is a great LA station for discovering new music

Marnie Stern -- Imagine if Lighting Bolt and Sleater-Kinney somehow all had a baby together and it learned to finger-tap on guitar Eddie Van Halen style, but was all avant-garde and arty. Marnie Stern's full length, In Advance of the Broken Arm will show you what that sounds like. New album is on the way, apparently.

Pandora radio -- It works too well, sometimes. I can't get anything done when its on, because I keep hearing new stuff I want to know more about. I've started a list that will break my budget if I walk into Amobea records with it. "Excuse me, do you have any Melk the G6-49?"

The Dismemberment Plan -- Anther broke up band I've discovered. Emergency & I from '99 is one the closest things I've found that sounds like Karate, one of my all time other broke-up favorites.

Maybe I'll talk about movies next............

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Rauschenberg

So.  Rauschenberg.  When I was in community college, say, '98 or '99, (where does the time go...?) this big Rauschenberg retrospective happened in Houston.  My mind was in the beginnings of the expansion of experiencing art, in the larger sense, and Rauschenberg was something that I had only experienced through textbooks.  A group of students from San Antonio College including me got a school van and a faculty member and made the trip to Houston to knock out this city-wide show.  The Houston Museum of Fine Arts, the Contemporary Art Museum, and the Menil Collection were all part of this massive show of the Texas native.  I stood in front of Bed, the Erased De Kooning drawing, the weird kinetic and theatre based stuff, the 1/4 Mile Furlough piece, and more recent print works.  I had never been to Houston, never been to a real big, modern art museum, never stood in front of a historical, important, key work of contemporary art by a living artist, much less one from my home state, a state whose borders pretty much defined my entire world at that point.  

Rauschenberg has never fallen out of favor with me; I have never been hesitant to admit him as an influence, as an inspiration, or as being a fan of him.  It is easy, when being involved with artists, and in the art world, to take stock of the accepted pantheon and then dismiss it for the new, for the momentous.  As it is with the mission of the avant-garde, that is a vital and important tactic in the dialogue.  Let us not forget, however, that the average person who participates in this culture, while assimilated perhaps to the trickled-down ideas and imagery that one such as Rauschenberg brought forth as art, they as a whole remained uninformed about the man, the life, and the work that is responsible for it.  Artists especially should remain cognizant of the grand narrative of art history they participate in, especially if who they deem to be the protagonists of it are still alive to contribute to it.  Even if it seems their story has been told, the cachet earned in their previous contributions are legitimate criteria for evaluation of their later work.

To understand any contemporary art today, fully, and with maximum cognizance, one must understand the context that a force of nature such as Robert Rauschenberg occupied.  Anyone claiming the title of artist in the 21st century are heirs of him and his ideas, whether they know it or not.  It is this unconscious derivation of ideas that, in my opinion, cement the brilliance of those ideas, and their originators.  

 

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Frustratingly Elliptical

SS Inspiration seems to have lost its course for now, so I thought I'd talk about the (growing) pile of books by my bed, among other things.

The Complete Ballad of Halo Jones by Alan Moore and Ian Gibson -- Early 2000 AD era Moore, my secret British comics desire is Grant Morrison's Zenith, but I've only ever found copies on eBay for insulting amounts.  So far Halo Jones is just a catchy, 80's style post-apocalyptic sci-fi ride-along, but already a single brilliant reference -- they watch a TV show called "John Cage, Atonal Avenger" -- has reminded me that where there is Moore, there is always more.  Hey, a pun!

Free Culture by Lawrence Lessig -- I can't get on the internet without running into the ongoing fight to redefine intellectual property laws, "piracy" and copyright.  This is all under the banner of the Free Culture movement, and this is the book that much of their argument is based on.  Being an artist who makes use of public domain material with the express purpose of highlighting the wonderful idea behind why public domain exists, it seemed I should do my homework on the current state of that issue.  Any fan of NegativlandKieron Dwyer (and the reason I don't drink Starbucks), music downloads, or postmodernism in general may want to look into this.  It has a fundamental relationship, at least on a philosophic level, to.....

The Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord -- Finally decided to get down to reading all of this, and its interesting to see how its all divided into a series of discreet chunks, or "theses".  Less a single structured book than it is a series of short, heady declarations.  His style of wording them (at least in translation) is at times frustratingly elliptical, and the lack of specific examples in an effort to universalize his theory makes for a suspicious vagueness.  I dig it.  Its no doubt those very qualities that have made it classic reading for us artsy-fartsy types.

Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon and A Gravity's Rainbow Companion by Steven Weisenburger -- So I've been hacking away at this one since December, and so far it has been worth the journey.  Weisenburger's book has been indispensable, as what seems like nonsense language in the novel is actually thoroughly researched technical jargon relating to military conventions, chemistry, WWII British pop culture, engineering, Pavlovian psychology, the German language, Herero tribal culture, and much, much more.  Weisenburger has found the books Pynchon used to grab all of this info, and sets you up before each episode in the book. The novel does have an overall structure, it does have an overall theme, it does have a central plot.  Its homework to start to assimilate the experience of this book, but man is it a satisfying mindfuck.  I can only deal with one episode a week or so -- I'm a bit more than halfway through it. I fancy I'll tackle Ulysses in the same manner....

Glomp 9 -- Finnish avant-garde comics extravaganza.  A big, sexy, colorful tome that silences the withdrawal from no Kramer's Ergot coming out the past two years.  There's a whole deep important sphere of influence regarding the Euro art comics scene, and the American contingent, and Fort Thunder, and I think it all starts with Gary Panter, somehow.  Someone has got to be writing a thesis on this.  My sister got me a book on Euro comics for my birthday that's on the way.  Perhaps that will fill in the missing part of the puzzle.....

3 books on Francis Bacon -- The painter, not the writer (though they were related).  My own work, at least in my head, seems to have arrived at a place reminiscent of the images that sprang from this drunken master.  Much of what he says about his paintings seem to coincide with my own thoughts about imagery relating to the body, and the Figure (capital f) in art.  Painters paint with their bodies (duh), our bodies are the medium of all our thoughts and actions, it follows that representations of figures would be a basic concern in art.  All of my dealings with the cyborg idea in the work of late has led me to Bacon, some of whose forms and masses resemble pink, fleshy counterparts to the plastic robo-figures that have been popping up in my drawings for an upcoming installation.  I wanted to immediately inundate myself with his work so I wouldn't fool myself into some myth of originality with what I plan to do; only now that I've seen what I thought I was seeing in my head can I have the confidence to create something that is now more consciously informed and challenged....does that make sense?

There's much more, or course.....books, music, movies....more blogging later.   

 

 

Friday, May 2, 2008

Dark Hand and Lamplight

So last night me and JJ had the delightful pleasure of witnessing a performance by the duo of Shary Boyle and Doug Paisley, AKA Dark Hand and Lamplight.  Our advocating of the work of Boyle began more than two years ago, when me and JJ attended one of the fabled Kramers Ergot nights at the Hammer Museum, on the occasion of the Masters of American Comics Show, back in the day.  A handful of people that night had their minds blown and their faces melted by the cosmic shenanigans of Shary's live overhead projector animations set to music, concluding with a dance performance incorporating a mirrored bodysuit turning her into a living disco ball.  Never have me and JJ looked at each other in stunned disbelief so many times at an art event.  Afterwards we approached the event organizer, Sammy Harkham, in speechless disbelief, as he simply replied to the looks on our faces with, "Her name is SHARY BOYLE...we got books on sale over there."

Courtesy of Harkham and his fantastic Family store across the street, he brought Boyle and her new partner in amazingness, Doug Paisley, to the Silent Movie Theatre on Fairfax last night.  She has traded in the psychedelic freakout vibe for a new folky, americana tip with the addition of Paisley, which has made for an interesting evolution.  Her live animations now accompany the Townes Van Zandt-esque crooning of Paisley's songs, who's haunting lyrics and delivery could have held the audience alone.  With Boyle the parts now add up to a whole that culminates in one of the more unique and memorable experiences this viewer has ever had in regards to performance, music, and art.  

Boyle's other art endeavors would put her into my A-list category even without the performances. Her drawings andsculpture are rife with bizarre sexual imagery that seems as if it was imagined by the shared dreams of pixies, nymphs, and fawns.  She is featured in the last Kramers Ergot book, and JJ is now the proud owner of two of her monographs, as she was more than happy to sell one to us last night.  The performance epilogue featured a reception out back with free beer (which officially made it an art opening) and we took the opportunity to chat up Shary and Doug, specifically about LA, and how much it offers for artists and art fans in terms of its variety and access.  

Dark Hand and Lamplight will be performing again this Wednesday at the Hammer Museum.  She said this performance will feature a more elaborate setup than last nights.  I'll be there.  You should be too.