23 August 2016

"The Artistic Temperament"





Verdict of the Peter Doig case that I posted about earlier. As well as a befuddlingly hilarious recap of the closing argumennts.

16 August 2016

Because















RIP, Bobby Hutcherson


^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^

{ Post-posting afternote: Yeah, I know, I exclusively drew from Hutcherson's early career. Shrug. There are a number (low number) of other notable vibraphonists throughout the history of jazz. But as far as depth, range, and flexibility, Hutcherson may've been the one who best demonstrated it's full potential as a non-novelty/surplus component of a jazz ensemble. Especially the way he used the instrument to bridge the melodic/percussive vs strictly-percussive properties of the piano and drums...best exhibited when he was working between an eccentric pianist/composer like Andrew Hill, and a drummer/composer (yes, that's "a thing," although very rarely) like Joe Chambers. Wonderfully guiding things in the right stretches and spaces; at others times -- espec as a sideman -- adding accentuations and highlights, or (as on the Henderson and Patton pieces above) helping drive the whole joint into rhythmic overdrive. }

07 August 2016

Dysattribution







"Last summer Woodridge resident Doug Fletcher was visiting his older brother, Bob, in Canada, when Bob mentioned that an artist he'd purchased a painting from in 1976 might now be 'kind of famous.' At least, that's what a friend had told him. [...] 
Bob now does construction work; Doug is a health-care recruiter and interfaith pastor. Neither of them is schooled in art, but upon viewing the painting Doug said he'd do some googling when he got home. A search for 'Pete Doige' came up empty. But as Bob's friend had suggested, Peter Doig—who was born in Scotland, lived in Canada as a teen in the 70s, made his name as an artist in London, and now lives in Trinidad —- was in fact very successful. Among other things, he'd broken the auction record for a living European artist when his painting White Canoe sold for $11.3 million at Sotheby's in 2007." [ from ]
* * * *
“Mr. Doig and his lawyers say they have identified the real artist, a man named Peter Edward Doige. He died in 2012, but his sister said he had attended Lakehead University, served time in Thunder Bay and painted. 
‘I believe that Mr. Fletcher is mistaken and that he actually met my brother, Peter, who I believe did this painting,’ the sister, Marilyn Doige Bovard, said in a court declaration. She said the work’s desert scene appeared to show the area in Arizona where her mother moved after a divorce and where her brother spent some time. She recognized, she said, the saguaro cactus in the painting. 
The prison’s former art teacher recognized a photograph of Ms. Bovard’s brother as a man who had been in his class and said he had watched him paint the painting, according to the teacher’s affidavit.”    [ from ]
* * * * 
"[Co-plaintiff/art dealer Peter] Bartlow, who helped bring the case against the artist, told artnet News in a phone interview that he believed Doig’s motive in disavowing the work is not to deny a criminal past but to disguise the fact that 'he can’t draw.' 
The Chicago dealer insists that Doig relies on using projections on the canvas. 'No critic has ever written this about it,' he acknowledged. 'The only reason I did is that I have this book of his by Phaidon of the painting in the Canadian National Gallery, and I was looking at it upside down. There’s a couple of shapes in it that are the same shapes located in our painting. I could see what he did.'"    
"Bartlow told artnet News in a phone conversation that Doig’s legal team has 'produced nothing of substance' since they first filed the suit in 2013. He continued, 'After all is said and done, we’d like to be awarded damages of at least $7 million and we want the painting declared a genuine Peter Doig painting. We have a very fair and smart judge.'" [ from  1 / 2 ].

Equalling: The potential of a bafflingly absurd legal precedent  being set in a Chicago courtroom on Monday.

03 August 2016

New Maps of Purgatory

Archival post: First published at ...And What 
Will Be Left of Them?, August 2011


A partial, off-the-cuff survey of middling 'Seventies science fiction films, in no particular order...




Logan's Run (1976)

We've seen the future and it's a shopping mall in Dallas, Texas. And yeah yeah -- it's better to burn up than to fade away. Effectively what we have here is the previous decade's generational war slogan of "Never trust anyone over thirty" extrapolated in to an extreme, resulting in the dystopic dénouement of the premise for Wild in the Streets.

Yet how humbling, how Romantically fatalistic -- in this, the year of the American bicentennial -- to see the nation's capitol as ruins, strewn with vines and all sorts of flora, patinaed by the elements to which they've returned. And Sir Peter Ustinov's wrinkles are a marvel to behold and to touch; the very embodiment of nature itself, if not of the authority and experience so thoughtlessly discarded by the cult of youth.

But nevermind the ageism angle, because Richard Pryor has the last word: "Looks like white people aren't counting on us being around."



Rollerball (1975)

The excesses of empire, sans vomitoriums. Key concept: Blood sport.





Westworld (1973)

The excesses of empire, alternate take; but perhaps this with vomitoriums (since the robot-populated adult amusement park had an Ancient Rome division). One of the advantages of this empire being that -- artificially, and merely for the sake of leisure -- one can colonize the past. Key concept: Hostile objects.





Phase IV (1974)

Effectively this borrows a premise that was put forth some years earlier in 2001: A Space Odyssey, that the human race is overdue to make an developmental leap, and that it need help from an outside party -- of extraterrestrial origin -- in order to take that next step in its evolution. And as in 2001, it puts that thesis across in a confusingly oblique way.

Exactly what the nature of this impasse might be, who can tell? But noted that the mathematician believes that everything can be quantified in numbers, and the ants -- in their own way -- prove him correct by demonstrating the power of collectivity. But don't look to a movie that pilfers much of its "action" from a nature documentary for any sort of clarity or coherence.


30 July 2016

Everything Falls Apart, Pt 2

Archival post: First published at ...And What 
Will Be Left of Them?, January 2011





A Sum of Possibilites: Gordon Matta-Clark and the Urban Landscape

When the artist Gordon Matta-Clark moved to New York City in 1969, the city as a whole wasn't in the best of economic shape. Declines in post-War manufacturing and shifts in the labor market, loss of jobs, economic stagnation, flight to the suburbs and a shrinking tax base, municipal mismanagement -- all of the problems that were affecting a number of major American cities were beginning to take a severe toll on the city of New York. Nevertheless, artists of every stripe continued to move into Manhattan -- visual artists, writers, and musicians who would play an instrumental role in shaping the City's cultural landscape over the next decade or so. With the real estate market in an extended freefall, many of them had no problems finding cheap and available places to live and work.

Such was the case with the neighborhood of the SoHo (then called the South Houston Industrial Area), a former sweatshop district where obsolete and derelict property was plentiful. Since the late 1950s, scores of artists had settled into the neighborhood, the property owners often letting many of them live there in an off-the-books capacity. This situation allowed Matta-Clark and his peers a number of unusual opportunities, the means of establishing and developing their own interconnected and mutually supportive cultural community. The anarchically-run co-op exhibition space at 112 Greene Street, which allowed artists to stage their own exhibits and performances, was one such example. Another communal anchor was the artist-run restaurant FOOD, which Matta-Clark -- along with his partner Caroline Goodden and several of their friends -- opened in 1971.


L-R: Tina Girouard, Caroline Goodden, and Gordon Matta-Clark 
in 1971, at the storefront that would soon become FOOD.


For Gordon Matta-Clark, making art was a fairly recent pursuit. He’d spent much of the 1960s unenthusiastically earning a degree in architecture at Cornell University. His grades throughout had been consistently poor, perhaps owing to the fact that in the course of this studies he discovered his own deep antipathy for the Modernist tenets of architecture and city planning that his professors adhered to as gospel. Only so much sterile formalism and blindly reckless idealism, Matta-Clark had reckoned. If there was any single experience that proved instructive and inspirational to him during his time at Cornell, it was when he met and spoke with the visiting artist Robert Smithson in early 1969 -- just one year before the latter would create his ambitious Spiral Jetty earthwork on the Great Salt Lake in Utah.




Robert Smithson was a voracious reader across a baffling broad array of disciplines and interests, not the least of which were geology and science fiction. He held a perverse aesthetic fascination for the vagaries of accelerated urban sprawl -- with terrain vague and rough-edged "non-place urban realms" where hapless juxtaposition of prefab modern civilization and the natural landscape resulted in curious new forms of desolation, upheaval, and disfiguration. ("Ruins in reverse," he'd called the suburban developments of his own native New Jersey.) A central idea for Smithson in the course of his own work and theorizing was that of entropy – the second law of thermodynamics that decreed that all entities and systems inevitably gave way to degeneration, decay, and disorder. As in nature, so too with man-made systems. Speaking in a 1973 interview, Smithson explained:

"...It seems that architects build in an isolated, self-contained, ahistorical way. They never seem to allow for any kind of relationships outside of their grand plan. And this seems to be true in economics, too. Economics seem to be isolated and self-contained and conceived of as cycles, so as to exclude the whole entropic process. There's every little consideration of natural resources in terms of what the landscape will look like after the mining operations or farming operations are completed. So that a kind of blindness ensues. ... And then suddenly they find themselves within a range of desolation and wonder how they got there."

His own art, he asserted, was the product of his own efforts at creating "a dialectics of entropic change." In many ways, his ideas coincided with a larger aesthetic shift that was transpiring in the late 1960s and early ‘70s -- new artistic practices and strategies in which artists favored Bataille over Kant, contingency over autonomy, the temporal and indeterminate over the transcendent. Instead of formalism, formlessness; instead of purity, dissipation.

It was Smithson's ideas on entropy and site-specific art that fascinated Matta-Clark when the two conversed in 1969, and it was those ideas that played an instrumental part in the latter's development as an artist. But whereas Smithson was interested in creating "new monuments" in the open expanses of the American landscape, Matta-Clark's prior education steered him in the direction of the nation's urban centers -- to the physical environment of the city itself.

Having grown up in New York City, Matta-Clark returned after an extended absence to find the city in the throes of decline. Speaking in a later interview, he recalled of his youth in Robert Moses’s Manhattan:

"As the City evolved in the Fifties and Sixties into a completely architectured International Style steel and concrete megalopolis. By contrast, great areas of what had been residential [space] were being abandoned. These areas were being left as demoralizing reminders of 'Exploit It or Leave It.' It is the prevalence of this wasteland phenomena that drew me to it."

As an artist Gordon Matta-Clark quickly gravitated to the idea of making art works that were connected to (and more often, arose from) urban topology, mutable space, communal life and cultural memory, property, the disconnect between architectural form and architecture as surplus commodity, as well as the varied economies of expansion and waste that existed in the urban landscape.



Top: Gordon Matta-Clark, "Pig Roast," at the Brooklyn Bridge Event, 1971
Gordon Matta-Clark, photo from Walls Paper series, c. 1972


In 1972 he began to set out to the city's blighted neighborhoods, seeking out the blocks of condemned and abandoned buildings. Sneaking into these buildings with saws and chisels and blowtorch, he made a series of precise and scattered incisions -- carving them up, rearticulating the architectural spaces, exposing their structural and material components. His friend and fellow artist Ned Smyth accompanied him on many of these excursions, helping lug tools and equipment and keeping an eye out for the police. As Smyth described it years later:

"We would break into abandoned buildings in the South Bronx and cut large, geometrically shaped pieces out of walls and floors, opening up the spaces. ...This was always scary, with blocks and blocks of empty, boarded-up buildings, haunted by junkies who would steal copper wire and pipe to sell as scrap to get money for drugs. ...We would haul all his saws and other tools, including a power generator, up into these building shells. Sometimes the apartments looked as if the occupants had simply walked out on their lives, leaving their furniture just as it was, their clothes hanging on hooks behind the doors."

Many of these early "cuttings" were done without permission and amounted to criminal trespassing. As early as 1970 Matta-Clark had drafted a proposal for such work and had been sending it out to various organizations and public officials, presenting himself as an artist who aimed to "make sculpture using the natural [sic] by-products of the land and people."



Top: Conical Intersect (Paris,1975) artist's execution & schematic.
Bottom: Conical Intersect, and Office Baroque (Antwerp, 1977)


Within a few years, however, Matta-Clark would gain permission to realize some of his projects, and during the years of 1972 to 1978 executed a number of site-specific dissections in several cities -- in  locations around New York and New Jersey, as well as in Genoa, Chicago, and Antwerp. Utilizing buildings that had been condemned or slated for demolition, the works were intended to exist for a brief period of time, fated -- like the structures themselves -- for a temporary existence.

On a symbolic or theoretical level, Gordon Matta-Clark's engagement with the discarded architecture of the contemporary city comprised a form of “urban reclamation.”5 As such, one might read it an inquest into the dialectical gaps between (use-)value and obsolescence, surplus and salvage; of architectural space as mere material and property and its role in framing or containing and channeling the intricacies of human activity, interaction, and experience -- cycles of births and deaths, moments of private joys or shared sorrows, of everyday life -- that transpired or are carried out within the spatial boundaries of a brute physical environment. In the end, it operated as an inquiry into the production of social space --- as it was perceived, conceived, and lived.6

Initially, Gordon Matta-Clark's proposal letters met with little response. He'd continue to send them out over the years. When he approached real estate developer Melvyn Kaufman in 1975, seeking to "collaborate" on a series of projects, Kaufman sniffingly responded:

"Someone said that dying gracefully is an art. Perhaps it is. But I do not like funerals, either as sad occasions or celebrations. I believe in the great demise but I believe in life more, and I resent the infringement of death processes prolonged as a devitalization of the living."

The castigating tone is amusing, as it seems Kaufman considered Matta-Clark's request as being part of a cynical and reprehensibly exploitative enterprise, accusing him of something akin to "playing in (or with) the ruins" of an ailing metropolis. Given the conditions at the time, one can imagine the reasons for Kaufman's consternation. After all, it was hardly an ideal time to be a real estate developer in NYC -- what, especially seeing how 1975 was also the year of the fed's famous "drop dead" decree. Hence Kaufman's pilings-on of funereal analogies. Morbid metaphors for a morbid and entropic time.

Neither Robert Smithson nor Gordon Matta-Clark would live to see the end of the decade. Smithson would die in a helicopter crash in 1973 while surveying the location for his next major project; and Matta-Clark died in 1978 of pancreatic cancer, at the age of 35, scarcely six years after he had begun his series of urban "cuttings" and fully embarked on his work as an artist. By that point, SoHo was already well on its way to becoming a different place than the one Matta-Clark and his friends had known and inhabited. New businesses would begin to move in, and shortly the neighborhood would start to "turn around." And in the decade that followed, it would become a cultural hub -- sweeping with restaurants and boutiques and a number of high-end art galleries that would all help fuel the moneyed-up, inflated art boom of the 1980s.


_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _


5. This idea of urban reclamation more or less falls into step with certain claims that have been made about graffiti -- that graffiti in the act of marking, tagging, and bombing constitutes a recuperative gesture against an alienating and anonymous environment. By some accounts, this sort of connection wasn't lost on Gordon Matta-Clark. He was enthralled by the tags and murals that he saw proliferating throughout New York City in the early 1970s. At one point in 1973, he drove his truck to a street festival in the South Bronx and invited residents to decorate the vehicle with spray paint as they saw fit. He later cut up the truck's body with a blowtorch, and exhibited select segments at a group exhibition. In the same year, he would also document murals on the city’s subway trains for a series of works called Photoglyphs.

6. In the two decades that followed his death, Matta-Clark's work received only fleeting and limited attention among art critics and historians. He did, however, become something of a mythic figure in architectural circles, where his work was viewed as an act of "deconstructing" architecture -- as a wholly aesthetic exercise. In more recent years, that narrow reading of Matta-Clark's work has been challenged by overdue accounts from art-historical quarters, with a number of critics pointing out the social ideas that fueled much of the artist's work.

29 July 2016

Everything Falls Apart, Pt. 1

Archival post: Originally published at ...And What Will Be Left of Them?,  January, 2011.





Certainly the End of Something or Other, It Seemed
"Do you think a city can control the way people live inside it? I mean, just the geography, the way the streets are laid out, the way the buildings are placed?"
"Of course it does," she said. […]
"Yeah...But thinking that live streets and windows are plotting and conniving to make you into something you're not, that's crazy, isn't it?"
"Yes," she said, "that's crazy--in a word."
- Samuel R. Delaney, Dhalgren

“Architects tend to be idealists and not dialecticians.”

- Robert Smithson

In 1975, science fiction author Samuel R. Delaney published his eleventh novel, Dhalgren. Weighing in at 800-plus pages, knottily metafictional, equally praised and reviled by readers and critics alike, Dhalgren would prompt comparison to another similar novel that had appeared only two years previously -- Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow. Commenting in an interview years later, Delaney countered, "Gravity's Rainbow is a fantasy about a war that most of its readers don't really remember, whereas Dhalgren is a fairly pointed dialogue with all the depressed and burned-out areas of America's great cities. ...To decide if Gravity's Rainbow is relevant, you have to spend time in a library. ...To see what Dhalgren is about, you only have to walk along a mile of your own town's inner city."1

In many respects, Dhalgren was very much a product of its time. The setting of Dhalgren involves a city -- a fictional city called Bellona that lay somewhere in the American Midwest, a city that has been cut off from the rest of the country by some mysterious and unexplained rupture in the space-time continuum. Post-apocalyptic, ethnically diverse, gang-infested, and pornographically rife with all nature of pansexual couplings, Bellona embodied the cultural phobias that many Americans held about the nation's metropolitan centers at the time -- represented many of the reasons that the white middle classes had fled in ever-increasing numbers to outlying suburbs over the two preceding decades. It was the sort of setting that would appear again and again in the years that followed, often in films of the "urban exploitation" nature; films like John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 and Escape from New York, The Warriors, Fort Apache: The Bronx.2  If this setting would had become a predictable cliché by decade’s end, it was a cliché that hinged on an underlying Hobbesian-Darwinistic dread that much of America had about the fate of its urban centers. As Richard Nixon had reputedly mused to his aides at some point in 1972, "Maybe New York shouldn’t survive. Maybe it should go through a cycle of destruction."




Another artifact of the era was the 1979 documentary 80 Blocks from Tiffany’s. Focusing on life among black and Puerto Rican gangs of the South Bronx, the film graphically illustrated the advanced urban decay and socio-economic breakdown that afflicted the South Bronx in the late 1960s and the 1970s. The film's very title is curiously awash in ironic implications. Firstly, in its highlighting of distance and economic disparities, but second in the way these disparities invoked a specter that haunted the history of modern urbanization from its very origins -- pointed to a social legacy that could be traced back to the "Haussmannization" of Paris in the previous century.

Eighteen years in the offing, Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann's redevelopment of Paris was the most ambitious and expensive undertaking of its sort in modern history, requiring inconceivable amounts of leveraged financial backing and a labor force that employed upwards to one-fifth of the city’s working population. It amounted to an infrastructural overhaul that completely transformed the city. The project required the dislocation of thousands of the city’s citizens, the course of which resulted in the destruction of numerous poor and lower-income neighborhoods (those potential pockets of political unrest in the Second Empire); in the end pushing much of that population into slums on the city’s margins. In the place of some of these demolished neighborhoods arose housing for the city's more affluent and middle-class residents, districts in which the broad avenues converged on a series of arrondissements and commercial hubs that included such newly-built department stores as Le Samaritaine and Le Bon Marché. Another artifact of the era was the 1979 documentary 80 Blocks from Tiffany’s. Focusing on life among black and Puerto Rican gangs of the South Bronx, the film graphically illustrated the advanced urban decay and socio-economic breakdown that afflicted the South Bronx in the late 1960s and the 1970s. The film's very title is curiously awash in ironic implications. Firstly, in its highlighting of distance and economic disparities, but second in the way these disparities invoked a specter that haunted the history of modern urbanization from its very origins -- pointed to a social legacy that could be traced back to the "Haussmannization" of Paris in the previous century.

Eighteen years in the offing, Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann's redevelopment of Paris was the most ambitious and expensive undertaking of its sort in modern history, requiring inconceivable amounts of leveraged financial backing and a labor force that employed upwards to one-fifth of the city’s working population. It amounted to an infrastructural overhaul that completely transformed the city. The project required the dislocation of thousands of the city’s citizens, the course of which resulted in the destruction of numerous poor and lower-income neighborhoods (those potential pockets of political unrest in the Second Empire); in the end pushing much of that population into slums on the city’s margins. In the place of some of these demolished neighborhoods arose housing for the city's more affluent and middle-class residents, districts in which the broad avenues converged on a series of arrondissements and commercial hubs that included such newly-built department stores as Le Samaritaine and Le Bon Marché.


Robert Moses: 'Look upon my works, ye haterz...'

Haussmann’s Paris would become a modern model city for urban planners the world over, and an inspiration to American twentieth-century men of vision such as Daniel Burnham, Frederick Law Olmsted, and Robert Moses. Hailed as a "master builder," it was Moses who presided over the extensive projects of city planning and urban renewal in New York City from the late 1920s through the 1970s. It was also his Cross-Bronx Expressway -- begun in the late 1940s and completed in 1972 -- that many critics blamed as the primary factor in the demise of the South Bronx. Between the Expressway and the compounding factors of "white flight," strained social services and budget cuts, and the city's policies of municipal redlining and "planned shrinkage," the neighborhood entered a steep downward economic spiral. Within the span of a few years, the blighted South Bronx would become -- as a sort of idée fixe in the public imagination -- the epitome of an "urban wasteland," a testament to the dysfunctionality, failure, and obsolescence of the modern city.3

By some accounts, the mid-1970s may well have marked the official end of the Modernist social vision. The demolition of the Pruitt-Igoe housing project by the city of St. Louis in 1972 was framed by many as de facto evidence of the failure of modern urban renewal and social engineering. That same year, architects Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour published the first edition of their anti-Modernist decree Learning from Las Vegas. The following year brought Daniel Bell’s The Coming of Post-Industrial Society. And in 1975, Robert Caro’s The Power Broker appeared -- a comprehensive and deeply critical account of the life and career of Robert Moses that met with a broad readership and would eventually land a Pulitzer.4  The ground was shifting, all that was solid was melting into air.


President Jimmy Carter visits the South Bronx, October, 1977.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _


1.   No doubt Delaney’s dismissive remarks will rankle some readers. So perhaps it should be pointed out that numerous critics have argued that Gravity’s Rainbow couldn't have been more crucial and timely. Publishing in the midst of the Watergate disclosures in 1973, the book's unstable narrative unfolds in a densely intertwining sprawl of conspiracy theories, shadowy global alliances, conflations of actual and speculative histories, the irresolution of its narrative and structural slippage embodying the paranoia of its milieu. As author and historian Andreas Killen summed it up, Gravity’s Rainbow is ultimately about how "the loss of historical consciousness becomes a function of image culture...and its rewriting of the past" in contemporary/postmodern America.

2.  To name just a few notable examples, admittedly.

3.  Sociologically, this all shaped up in a very tautological fashion. Advocates and apologists for increased suburbanization routinely pointed to the decline of inner-city conditions to argue for the increased relocation of jobs and families to the suburbs, conveniently ignoring the very same relocations were in part responsible for the conditions in question.

4.  Adding another pivotal book to this stack, Gayatri Spivak’s English translation of Jacques Derrida’s Of Grammatology appeared in 1976.


  © Blogger template 'Solitude' by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP