Archive for May, 2010

Out of the Blue: Hopper, Scalapino

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

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“The rain hangs on women who out wearing folds that expanding are black velvet rain then. Neither forest or air are fractionation: The forest and long grass being silent, the fractionation, that isn’t the baby blue air either which quiet is later cobalt, is an oar in it. Same as the insurgents’ oar? Resistance. A factor of Violet née Chrysanthemum being sightless is her pretending sightless? The passersby can’t tell if she’s pretending … “

—Leslie Scalapino, “Floats Horse-floats or Horse-flows”

The lovely Linda Manz above, who might have been the subject of a Leslie Scalapino poem, at least when come from the weird and manic imagination of one Dennis Hopper, as in Out of the Blue, his 1980 treatment of seagull-strewn construction sites and blue-lit biker bars. Hopper’s massive concrete-and-aluminum compound in Venice Beach, around the corner from where I grew up, always freaked me out as a kid (though it might have been my introduction to a kind of watery architectural minimalism, a la the sun-struck imagination of Frank Gehry).

I came to Scalapino’s experimental poetics later, which are no less freaky than Hopper’s (as performed in Giant, in Easy Rider, in his arresting photographs from the 1960s and ’70s)—though less sullied by the moneyed Hollywood gutter, maybe. But both Hopper and Scalapino are gone, which seems sad for the world, suddenly destitute of their freakishly fervid, elegantly flagrant imagined worlds.

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Out of the blue
and into the black
They give you this,
but you pay for that
And once you’re gone,
you can never come back
When you’re out of the blue
and into the black.

—Neil Young, “Out of the Blue”

Apiculture

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

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“A thick layer of dead bees glimmering in the grass.”

—Aleksander Hemon

Weirdly drawn to this image of a beekeeper by Matthew Porter. The hazy quality and the woman’s face—a little sober, a little ardent—reminds me of certain 1960s or ’70s-era French film stills. And that outfit: both pastoral and sci-fi, like some back-to-the-land retro astronaut, she is. Or a character stepping from one of Éric Rohmer’s vineyard-laden landscapes into a shadowy apocalyptic scene from Chris Marker’s La Jetée. Perhaps it’s simply her look, with that round face, narrowed eyes, Jeanne d’Arc–hair, and oddly large, plastic hoop earrings laying insouciantly against her pale beekeeping habit, partially hidden behind the mesh face-covering blooming down from her hat.

This photo also recalls, somehow, Aleksander Hemon’s tragicomic passages about his family’s engagement with beekeeping in Bosnia, detailed in The Question of Bruno and some of the stories and books that followed. There’s some sweet, strange humor here of the Hemon or Robert Walser variety as well: those odd parcels she’s holding to her chest; one dark, manicured thumb-nail glinting quietly, the most subtle of A-OKs. She looks a bit like a young Agnes Varda, actually.

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Next month the Basel Stadtkino will show a program of Varda’s films—perhaps that is why she sprang to mind?—and on June 9 she will be in town for a talk, elegantly titled “Ein Abend mit Agnes Varda.” Ein Abend, indeed. Very excited. Have still not seen The Beaches of Agnes, with its Joan Jonas-esque collection of mirrors and people on a beach, and am so eager to.

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But back to the apiculture. Why are bees such a loaded metaphor? One thinks of Dickinson’s bees, of course, but there are others spiraling and orbiting and buzzing: Have been meaning to see this beautiful, dark film again—one of my mother’s favorites—by Victor Erice, El espíritu de la colmena (1973).

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And then the following poem, which has stayed with me for years and years. One reads it and then wants to tattoo it to some banner, fly it from the balconies and rooftops. Not exactly a freak flag, this, but an ode to family and love and the darkness underlying:

Bees

A man whose arms and shoulders
and hands and face and ears are covered with bees
says, I’ve never known such pain.
Another man comes over
with bees all over his hands—
only bees can get the other bees off.
The first man says again,
I’ve never known such pain.
The second man’s bees begin to pluck
the first grave yellow bees off, one by one.

—Jean Valentine

Forthcoming

Monday, May 17th, 2010

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New poems—”Fuel” and “The Fragments of Swennen”—in the loverly coined publication Muthafucka, edited by Mitch Taylor and designed by Cannibal Books. The mag also includes work by Forrest Gander, Alice Notley, Brenda Iijima, Phil Cordelli, Mohammed Khair-Eddine, and others.

Also, a feature on German artist-filmmaker Clemens von Wedemeyer will be in the summer issue of Kaleidoscope, while a long essay on Bertolt Brecht’s LA exile and poetry will appear in East of Borneo, an eagerly anticipated new mag from former CalArts editors of Afterall.

In the summertime issue of Frieze, look out for an article on the subtly riotous Swiss art scene and its (dis)contents. In the current issue, I have pieces on Gabriel Orozco at MoMA in New York; Ben Vautier‘s Fluxus stylings in Lyon; and Riot Grrrls, the seminal Sassy* magazine, seeing Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party installation at the UCLA Hammer Museum when I was 18 with my mom, and all that amazing ’90s-era American feminism that the 10th-anniversary edition of Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future (FSG, 2010) recalled for me.

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And, of course, reviewsreviewsreviews elsewhere.

*Images stolen from Style Rookie, as my much-pawed issues disappeared during a 1995 Ocean Avenue house-purging and Frieze‘s sadly are not on the web.

Radio (Raheem, Arthur, Etc.)

Monday, May 17th, 2010

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Let me tell you a story about right and wrong. The left hand and the right hand.
The left hand is hate. The right hand is love.

—Radio Raheem, Do the Right Thing (1989), dir. Spike Lee

Radio, Radio. A sound piece of mine is included in a survey of young Swiss artists called “Of Objects, Fields, and Mirrors,” on view at the Kunsthaus Glarus through August 15. The curators invited Radio Arthur, a Basel-based internet radio station run by Franziska Glozer and Lucie Kolb, who, in turn, invited me to create a sound work to include in the show. I did a talk for them on Valie Export for one of their previous programs, but this piece was somewhat less art historical. I wrote a long, essayistic poem—which variously touched on Virginia Woolf, Ben Vautier, Chekhov, dogs, parables, and a much-loved image of a surfer in sherbet hues by Ryan McGinley, naturally—and Paolo and I layered it on top of some of the freakish ambient storms that have been hitting Basel lately.

In any case, the invitation from Radio Arthur was lovely, particularly since the exhibition was a bit of a family affair: it was organized by guest curators Daniel Baumann (of Basel’s New Jerseyy [that’s two Y’s, people]) and Maja Wismer (of various pop-up bookstores in Latvia and elsewhere), and featured a slew of Basel/Zürich/Geneva folk and friends: Vittorio Brodmann, Emil Michael Klein, Tobias Madison, Provence, Pamela Rosenkranz, Emanuel Rossetti, Valentina Stieger, and Hannah Weinberger, among others.

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The opening on Saturday night was great, even if the foggy, mountainous climes of Glarus (home of literary giant Heidi, apparently) were streaked with rain and rain and rain. Standout works included an impromptu domestic duet in the foyer by artist and Kunsthalle Basel curator Annette Amberg (whose hovering line of potted, purple orchids were suspended against a long wall of glass next to a related vitrine about the forced exile of her Cambodian uncle, a well-known Modernist architect) and artist Kaspar Müller (who hung three enormous wind-chimes along the glass wall opposite).

Further inside, Dagmar Heppner’s huge, draped monochromatic cloth pieces descended from the ceiling into a crush of gorgeous fabric on the floor, and Tobias Kaspar offered a set of vitrines filled with triptychs of film stills of hands (open, stigmata, and folded) from Total Eclipse, the schmaltzy 1995 drama about Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine (which was directed by Agnieszka Holland, of Treme and The Wire fame). Cédric Eisenring and Thomas Julier’s trio of monitors presenting flags flapping in the wind, along with their Ed Ruscha–esque books of repeated, quotidian imagery, were also great.

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After the opening, we all headed to Langstrasse Bar in Zürich, where we danced in the small red room upstairs to fog machines and R&B until the very, very early morning hours. The plush, slightly dirty, red-velvet banquettes and potted palm trees and dim lighting always remind me of the hip-hop clubs we went to in Paris ten years ago when I was a wee lass; I always expect some Biggie Smalls freak with a French accent to emerge from a dank corner with a bottle of Cristal. Not so, though. Not so. Swiss-German accents all around, nary a bottle of Cristal to be found.

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Love Forever

Sunday, May 9th, 2010

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Two Poems by Paul Celan

For Blake Amelia Latimer, on Mother’s Day, 2010

O Little Root of a Dream

O little root of a dream

you hold me here
undermined by blood,
no longer visible to anyone,
property of death.

Curve a face
that there may be speech, of earth,
of ardor, of
things with eyes, even
here, where you read me blind,

even
here,
where you
refute me,
to the letter.

Translated by Heather McHugh and Nikolai Popov

In Front of a Candle

I formed the holder of gold,
as you told me to mother,
gold, out of which She comes,
a shade, to me, in the middle
of fracturing hours,
your
being-dead’s daughter.

Slender in shape,
a thin, almond-eyed shadow,
her mouth and her sex
danced round by creatures from sleep,
out of the cave of the gold,
she rises up,
to the summit of Now.

With night-dark-shrouded
lips,
I speak the Prayer:

In the name of the Three
who fight with each other, until
heaven reaches down into the graveyard of feeling,
in the name of the Three, whose rings
gleam on my finger, whenever
I loose the hair of the trees into the abyss,
so that the richer floods rush down through the deeps-

in the name of the first of the Three
who shrieked,
when he was called on to live,
where his word went before him,
in the name of the second, who watched it and wept,
in the name of the third, who piles
white stones in the middle –
I say you are free
of the amen that overpowers us,
of the ice-filled light at its rim,
there, where tower-high it enters the sea,
there, where the grey one, the dove
picks at the names
this side and that side of dying:
You still, you still, you still,
a dead woman’s child,
sealed to the No of my yearning,
wedded to a cleft in time
to which the mother-word led me,
so that a single spasm
would pass through the hand
that now, and now, grasps at my heart!

May Day

Saturday, May 1st, 2010

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“Yet not the sound of funerals but anti-funerals.”

—Hilary Mantel, Fludd (1989)