Archive for November, 2009

Eine kleine Nachtmusik

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

As my winter hibernations begin I find myself listening to Glenn Gould’s recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations more and more. No matter that the gold-and-blue torch of summer is gone, Glenn is humming through our afternoon-darkened rooms and I am at my desk. The recording reminds me of my mom’s house, where it was often on a kind of loop in the living room, the delicate clarity of its patterns tapping themselves out against the rows of watchful books lining the walls.

Glenn Gould, Dead at 50
by Emily Fragos

It is darker when I am.
I cannot tell, holding my hand
over one eye, if it is female there.

At six,
I multiplied endlessly
and began to feel close
to sacrifice.

The music took root
inside, like torture,
all tension, ritard, release.

It is in every part
of my body now, and there is not
room for me,

I have burned
all my capes, got rid of my papers.

“The North was, for Gould, a moral concept as well as an excursion to frozen wastelands. It meant an exploration of the unknown, a quest for serenity and peace. The Idea of North was the first in a trilogy of documentaries dealing with people outside the mainstream, people for whom apartness and solitude are sources of spiritual strength. The Idea of North held a particular appeal for Gould with its implications of solitude, winter darkness and cold weather, all of which he associated with purity.”

—The Glenn Gould Archive, Canadian Library and Archives, Ottawa, Canada


Monday, November 2nd, 2009


Just returned from Venice, Italy, which was—strangely, absurdly— my first trip there. It felt a bit like a homecoming, since I am from Venice, California, which was founded in 1905 by a tobacco magnate, Abbott Kinney, who had been inspired to create a “Venice of America,” complete with canals, gondolas, piers, and a beachfront boardwalk. The width and depth of the street I grew up on with my dad attests to the fact that it was once a canal, consequently drained in the late ’20s after Venice was annexed to the city of Los Angeles. In any case, if the differences between my hometown and the original Venezia were compelling and obvious, I still enjoyed the weirdness of Mr. Kinney’s enterprise and the madness of his transposition. But more on that later.

I just came across these amazing photos of the Venice oil fields in the 1930s in the Dossier Journal. By the time I was growing up they were mostly gone, but for a solitary derrick lonesomely working at the end of Winward Ave., next to the old Venice pavilion. My dad reminded me that it was without a pipeline, so shadowy trucks would once in a while pull up on the beach and cart away the the oil to unknown locales. I don’t remember this though, and must rely on Bertolt Brecht’s memorialization of the oil fields in his “Hollywood Elegies” (which I’ve mentioned earlier, and at length, here):

By the sea stand the oil derricks. Up the canyons
The gold prospectors’ bones lie bleaching. Their sons
Built the dream factories of Hollywood.
The four cities
Are filled with the oily smell
Of films.

Indeed, B. B.

While I was looking at the Dossier Journal, I also found this lovely pairing of a Wislawa Szymborska poem and the paintings of Agnieszka Brzezanska, who I was just with in Venice and whose recent show in Zurich, at Karma International, I reviewed in this month’s Frieze. Szymborska’s so deliberately terse and clear; I would never have thought to link her poetry with Agnieszka’s much dreamier work. But the pairing works, and beautifully.

But back to B. B. I am working on an essay right now about him—and the larger wave of German and European immigrants who fled the Third Reich and ended up in Los Angeles—for the new LA art magazine enterprise, East of Borneo (its Cal Arts editors are formerly of Afterall), so I was surprised to find a piece about his recent ubiquity in the November issue of Frieze as well. Scooped! Just kidding. Anyway, more on Venice, Italia, and the wonderful Pamela Rosenkranz show I saw at the Swiss Institute there, soon.