Archive for January, 2012

Title Fever

Monday, January 16th, 2012

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I guess I am preoccupied with titles today (see my post on Chamberlain’s titles below), because two just jumped out at me: Vaginal Davis’s My Pussy Is Still in Los Angeles (I Only Live in Berlin) (2012) is excellent, right? It’s her upcoming performance as part of Pacific Standard Time, which today I am regretting not attending for perhaps the 6,989th time. More info here:

My Pussy Is Still in Los Angeles (I Only Live in Berlin) is a Lesbian Separatist tea party that will combine pre-recorded music, spoken-word narratives, and live performance to explore the utopian promise of Los Angeles and the dystopia of the late 1970s through the lens of the Woman’s Building, gender issues, and her own career as a performance artist. The event will also feature a high tea reception and the publication of a zine-a special signed artist’s book that chronicles and supplements  Davis’ performance. The tea party will unfold through the reading of letters (fictional and not) and the spinning of records that reflect upon the history of Los Angeles in relation to the counterculture performance scene, especially that of gay and transgender performers and the activities of the Woman’s Building. Designed as an homage that seeks to pay tribute to such pioneering culture workers, Davis’ piece seeks, in part, to fill the gaps in the performance history of LA by creating narratives for figures that are frequently overlooked or left out of the popular record. The biographical element is strong in the work, as Davis herself was just starting her career as a performer during the 70s in L.A. Vaginal Davis, My Pussy Is Still in Los Angeles (I Only Live in Berlin), Sunday, January 29, 1:00-3:30 PM, Bullocks Wilshire at Southwestern Law School, 3050 Wilshire Blvd, 2nd Floor , Los Angeles, CA 90010. Tickets: $50 (Limited edition, handmade, signed artist book and High Tea Party with finger foods, pink bubbles…)  Purchase tickets at www.westofrome.org/future.

And the other title? “Now I’m a Woman,” a poem by Cedar Sigo, who I looked up after missing his reading at the Oscar Tuazon opening at Eva Presenhuber in Zurich last week. On it’s own, the title is so-s0, but not so with the poem:

Now I’m a Woman

When you hear the knives ring
Turn the page.
I wonder why I am not
Myself of late, ridiculous glass edges
Turn back on themselves
And soon reveal
The hand of an apprentice
And godforsaken embarrassing torch,
Stormy back hallways
Out of the black and wooden theatres.
Crystal Waters plus her driver
Plus her entourage is still rolling out
Of the Sands, Atlantic City
On the soundtracks to shows
Held over at The Fairmount
She is throwing back shots
With the mafia. I have learned
To take apart this American Songbook
And very fortunately as I would take
My audience in confidence
Threads of gold fall closely together
Coming to break us off.
At the first of the shows
I sang this song
And in between I saw him in the hall,
What could I tell you?
“Someday we’ll build on a hilltop high.”

—Cedar Sigo

Chamberlain

Monday, January 16th, 2012

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Have been thinking about John Chamberlain since his death in December. I grew up encountering his colored sculptures of smashed car parts in the public collections around Southern California and disregarding them: they didn’t touch me. As an adolescent, I didn’t think much of them. (Which reminds me of an embarrassing incident in high school, when I said Emily Dickinson was too “cute” for me—god, my English teacher was a saint for not punching me.) Six years ago, I left New York for three months for Marfa, Texas, where I worked at the Chinati Foundation, giving tours of the collection, doing office work, stealing the white Bronco and heading to the natural springs some three hours away. There, I finally fell in love with Chamberlain.

At Chinati that year there was a temporary exhibition of his infamous foam sculptures from the 1960s and ’70s, and a smaller show of the stretchy panoramic photographs he began taking in the 1980s; there was a symposium about his larger oeuvre, drawing curators and historians including Richard Shiff, Klaus Kertess, and Donna De Salvo; and there was the magisterial Chamberlain Building, the former Marfa Wool and Mohair Building in the center of Marfa that held (and holds) twenty-two sculptures in painted and chromium-plated steel. These were the works I fell in love with, moving among them day after blue-painted day. Some of these sculptures are from a group of ten sculptures constructed on a ranch near Amarillo, Texas, between 1972 and 1975, which one can tell from their catchy place names belonging to the region:

Bushland-Marsh III, 1972-1973; Chili Terlingua, 1972-1974; Falfurrias (Marshmellow), 1972; Glasscock-Notrees, 1972-1974; International 500, 1972-1973; Iraan Crocket, 1972-1975; Panna Normanna, 1972; Papalote Goliad, 1972-1975; Tapawingo, 1972; I, Mencius, 1975; Patino Nuevo, 1975; Abba Funn, 1979; Four Polished Nails, 1979; Roxanne Loup, 1979; Small Monument to a Swiss Monument, 1979-1982; Tongue Pictures, 1979; Zia Lightnin’ Field Forever, 1979; Broken Toe, 1980-1981; Dumb Name (One for Maurice), 1980-1981; Kunststecher, 1977; Gondola Ezra Pound, 1982; Gondola William Carlos Williams, 1982.

Question: Do I love his “Gondola” sculptures (of which there is a wonderful group on permanent view at Dia:Beacon in New York) because they are named after poets, or because there are so great? Another question: Who wouldn’t fall in love with Chamberlain after reading the list above? There’s a great Robert Creeley poem about Chamberlain and their time together at Black Mountain College, but I think I prefer the artist’s own linguistic skill, when applied to his own works, more.

Nevertheless, a quote by Chamberlain in a long and rambling and perhaps drunk and definitely interesting interview he did for the Chinati symposium (where he never actually showed up, I seem to remember) has stayed in my head for years, and I finally placed it last week in a small poem I wrote for an anthology comprised of poems whose titles are gleaned from a 1853 book called The Traveler’s Vade Mecum; or Instantaneous Letter Writer. This book features more than 8,000 numbered sentences, which people in the nineteenth century could choose to communicate by simply telegraphing their number, saving some expense. The sentence/titles are invariably weird (though the one chosen for me is not so strange), and remind me in a way of Chamberlain’s own excellently odd, absurd, and evocative titles. In any case, my poem below, preceded by Tongue Pictures, 1979.

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It is a case of necessity.

That we take hold of the edge—orange-bright

As the tongue touching the knife—

And pull it closer. It edges away, as edges do.

O tacit, O implicit, the holes bespeak

The volumes: the sky.

Bespoke as the case of you: the field

Edged by highway and waterway

And mineral, where we do drink

You. The artist said: I liked it

Because it had no subject. The critic liked it

Because without a subject he could not

Criticize it. In some future present,

Foreign moons nod their heavy heads,

Continue their lucid grooming.

Later the sun in august argument

Between you, debating the gods of childhood

And adulthood, and how the whiplash

Of memory (so edgy) and its slim sister,

Meaning, might best

Betray you.

Wintering, // into /2

Sunday, January 8th, 2012

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Dirtyy Jerseyy

Sunday, January 8th, 2012

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From the Winter 2011/12 Kaleidoscope:

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