Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Two or Three Things I Wish I Knew

I don’t know about you, but I’m totally depressed about the primaries. I feel tricked, trampled, outraged. But, I don’t even know how to fight anymore. I think I’ve lost hope.

This helps maybe: Here are the fifteen finalists for the Obama ad competition. They’re all good, I think. Although I still like a Jew, a black guy and a priest walk into a bar…

So what about art? What’s it supposed to do? Not talk about the primaries, for sure. Because topical art gets old as fast as Jeremiah Wright.

But art can talk about struggle. It can talk about deception. It can also present other ways of seeing things. A president could do that too, but probably won’t in our lifetime.

On a brighter note, there’s a month-long Godard film festival at Film Forum starting Friday to commemorate the 1968 protests in France. Now there’s someone who knows never to think mainstream politics will be different.

Coming up on Tuesday and Wednesday is Two or Three Things I Know About Her, an overwhelming visual essay on uncontrollable societal change, the role language plays in maintaining the status quo, and of course, film and fiction. It includes the most beautiful cosmic image sequence of espresso foam popping and twirling in a cup. It’s as powerful as metaphor gets.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Two Sides of Artist's Life

I found some drawings I made more than a year ago, and lo and behold, I still like them. They're a series of trees. 11 x 15, and here are three. I may continue. Feedback always appreciated.

On the more conceptual side of things, here is a list of applications I submitted over the past year (they could be drawings). The names crossed out represent rejections. If there is no mark, I haven't heard from them. The applications circled in red represent an acceptance.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

lost your momentum?

I spent about four hours yesterday afternoon not working or enjoying the sun, not planning my future or paying bills, but watching homemade Obama ads. It’s totally addictive.

The competition, launched by, is what grassroots organizing looks like in our times. You can watch one submission after another – from the professional to the DIY – and vote. A Hollywood panel will judge 15 finalists and the winning ad will air on national TV. I’ve been laughing out loud at times, and, I confess, have even teared up.

So far,this hilarious spot is my favorite:

Polls open through Sunday.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Dare you

Prove me wrong, please!

I don’t think there’s any way a woman can be both an artist and a mother.

To be an artist you need to be able to de-schedule, to stay up late, to extend hours, to break rules. You need to get into your own mind-space without interruption. You need to be able to go out on a limb.

To be a mother is the opposite. Your life is thoroughly routinized. Interruptions are a way of life. You need to absorb, echo, hold the life of a dependent little thing. You need to be the kid’s boundaries.

In art, you need to break down boundaries.

When you’re a mother, being an artist feels selfish.
When you’re an artist, being a mother is suicide.

When I was a kid, we had to tiptoe around my friend’s SoHo loft, because her father’s huge studio was behind the living room door. He came out for dinner. Her mother came home from her job as a corporate lawyer around then. There was a young au pair from Europe.

Prove me wrong. I know about Elizabeth Murray and Sally Mann, and, and, and, so bringing them up isn’t good enough.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Being hypnotized has scary connotations. We think of people barking. In many ways, Matt Mullican’s performances feed into this myth.

But, we go in and out of hypnotic states all the time. For example, when we watch a movie, we’re carried into another narrative reality. Or when we go on a shopping spree, we zone into clothes. Sometimes we enter a trance state by choice, sometimes by habit. Being hypnotized is really no more than being in a different state of consciousness.

I would say meditation is a form of hypnotism, one that is induced by concentration and relaxation and involves a release of a vast array of feelings and thoughts. When we meditate, we let things rise up, but we play no other role than observer.

I really want to see the Dhamma Brothers, the documentary about an intensive meditation retreat in a maximum security prison in Alabama. How beautiful is this still above?

I’ve always noticed that when I’m drawing or filming or video editing, I enter a meditative/trance state. In the great staple Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, it’s called right-brain activity. So many names for the same thing really.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Him as artist (addendum)

So, according to my shrink (yes, I used my time to talk about this), Matt Mullican in the trance state is not releasing his id, he's not uncovering the unconscious. In fact, he's disassociating, which means he's separating two (or more) parts of his whole. I believe this is also what happens with schizophrenics.

Now, this is a psychoanalytical perspective. I'm sure there's a magic mushroom perspective, a buddhist perspective and also a chanelling other spirits perspective...

Him as artist

Last week I attended Matt Mullican’s artist’s talk at Exit Art, intrigued by his experiments making drawings while under hypnosis. Some are on view at the Whitney Biennial.

For the almost two-hours, he was in a trance state, although not a deep one, and traced his evolution as an artist. Since the 1970s he has been exploring his inner reality, which he has externalized like a personal cosmology. These take the form of diagrams, outdoor floor maps, poster-signs, and now, performance.

While I find the drawings beautiful, the performance we viewed was shocking. Taken over by what he call “him,” he obsessively kissed the wall, slapped his head, took imagined showers, cried “no” in anguish, only to immediately declare that he felt great. This was his unconscious, his buried self, unmediated. But, it comes off as seriously mentally ill.

What’s the point? I’m not entirely sure. Perhaps to call public attention to the idea of the unconscious, of layers of what we call reality. To what end? I suppose, to expand our sense of self.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Referencing the French Guys

On my Saturday tour through Chelsea, I thoroughly enjoyed Whiting Tennis’s collages and sculptures at Derek Eller. I also thoroughly enjoy his name.

This is refreshingly subdued, modestly-scaled work that presents unusual, richly textured structures and flattened landscapes that are reminiscent of Cubism and especially Georges Braques. See:

I was lucky enough to be with someone who got us into the back room, where we viewed ugly-beautiful paintings by André Ethier:

These are also intimate in scale and reminded me of Georges Roualt. See:

Monday, April 7, 2008

Art Angel

I had a minor epiphany the other day. I don’t think epiphanies can be minor, but it seems so obvious to me now, that I feel like qualifying it.

The art world will conquer. The only way to survive is to find a like-minded niche that feels like a community. What I’m saying is, you can’t do it alone, you need other people. So, all you can do is seek out other people you can relate to.

Will you be conquered anyway? Probably. But misery loves company.

As it seems to be turning out, I’m finding allies at the intersection of art and publishing. As much as I’ve tried to separate my income (translation) from my art, the two seem to be colliding. And it’s not so bad. The less I resist text, writing, catalogues, proofreading, incomprehensible art speak, the more it may feed my visual work and network.

They all say it, but it’s true: it all comes down to working with what you have.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

When lost, turn to food

I haven’t written about contemporary visual art recently because I really can’t find anything positive – even in a constructive criticism way - to say about it right now. And I think it’s probably more enjoyable to read a blog that likes art than hates it. Which is probably why I return to Heart As Arena. The dude loves art.

This thought came to me as I was reading an article in this week’s New Yorker about the feud that boiled between François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Goddard, who both launched the French New Wave as friends. Page after page, you learn of their discord, of their public denouncements of each other, of their enduring conflict. In the end, though, it’s boring. I’d rather just read about the films themselves. Or about the ideas of these auteurs.

That said, there’s nothing I hate more than a Pollyana, a person with no critical eye.

So, instead of a negative post today, check out this cake that my friend made. Crepe layer cake with homemade dulce de leche and pink food coloring (organic). My very own Martin Parr: