Archive for October, 2009


Thursday, October 8th, 2009


Grey, wet autumn day. Kinski on the stereo. Yesterday may have been the swan song of summer—hot and sunny and kids throwing themselves into the glittery Rhine while the adults took their beers in the sun along the riverfront like champs. This morning, however, taking our canine flâneur for  his early stroll, the church plaza down the street was slick with yellow leaves underfoot, and the trees looked thin in their glossy black coats. Shivers.

Have been traveling a bit: was in Bergen, Norway—among the muted North Sea fields of archipelagos that make up Western Norway—for a conference on biennials. For tales from that Fjord City, see my report for Frieze here. (My reviews of Thomas Schütte’s retrospective at Munich’s Haus der Kunst and the Basel Kunsthalle’s “Report on Probability” show are in Frieze‘s October issue as well.) Will be off to Paris soon for the Centre Pompidou’s New Festival, which coincides with FIAC, then to Venice, for Pamela Rosenkranz’s show at the Swiss Institute there. I also just did a studio visit for Art in America with Basel artist Emil Michael Klein, who has an excellent-looking show on view at Galerie Luis Campaña at the moment.

But the here and now: last night, reading Hans Ulrich Obrist’s book of interviews with Nancy Spero, I came across this delicious bit of LA bashing:

They’re talking about “utopias”:

Nancy Spero: Utopia, like heaven, is kind of boring in a way. In certain Scandinavian societies, it’s not exactly utopia, but it has been a bit more egalitarian, and the people have not suffered. But in terms of people’s happiness or this sense of well-being, there is still a realization that something’s missing. I personally think it’s due to human nature…

Leon Golub: … But if all of the causes, all of the sources, all of the irritations, all of the f-‘d up situations we’re always under—if you eliminate those, then what Nancy says is correct: life would be pretty boring. Everybody would have an optimum sex life, an optimum economic life, an optimum eating life. Everybody would be like everybody else.

Molly Nesbit: It sounds a bit like Southern California, doesn’t it?

Nancy Spero: Exactly. Southern California doesn’t have the rip that New York does. How could I produce my art in California?

Hans Ulrich Obrist: That’s why it’s so interesting that you say something is missing.

Molly Nesbit: That’s right. The idea of utopia could be summed up in this one sentence by Brecht, that something’s missing [“Aber etwas fehlt!” from B.B.’s libretto for “Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny.”].

It’s best to read this exchange whilst listening to, at loudest possible volume, Kinski’s “Crybaby Blowout,” which you might remember as the soundtrack  to “C.L.U.E., Part I” (2007), the amazing A.L. Steiner video (see a bit of it here) of robbinschilds dancing through America in a sequence of rainbow-hued thrift store finds. But, in any case, as someone who grew up in and then fled Southern Calfornia’s beachy locales, I agreed and disagreed with Nesbit simultaneously, of course. I mean, LA’s darkness is in direct proportion to its sunniness, which means it’s definitely got some rip. But the Spero exchange also made me think of my short spell in Norway, which was my first trip to Scandinavia. When I first checked into my hotel, prominent among the various tourist literature in my room was a note about the best jogging trails and gyms nearby. It was sweet, my hotel’s high hopes for me.

But sure enough, I saw so many people jogging through town over the next four days that I thought I was in LA for a second. Then there was the food: fish, steamed veggies, nary any carbs to be seen, except for a small pretty potato or two, sans butter. Then there was the surplus of beautiful blonds (when I asked my dad what I should bring him back, he answered, acerbically, I hope, “a beautiful blond”; spoken like a true Jewish mensch, no?). But with all the jogging, salmon, and blonds in the atmosphere, I thought for a second that Scandinavian duo Elmgreen & Dragset should make another one of their Prada Marfa-like transpositions: perhaps a Hollywood sign in the mountains overlooking Bergen’s fjord. Can’t you just see it now?