I hate the Guggenheim. The NY museum has become a global franchise. Their policy is "more is more" - their emphasis is on revenue. They make new buildings, rather than putting anything worthwhile inside them. Frank Lloyd Wright's monster on Fifth Avenue is a monument to the vanity of Wright and Guggenheim and a cruel joke to any visitor attempting to climb up the entire spiral. It dwarfs most art displayed within, and it mocks the ambition of any two dimensional artwork - ironic considering it was originally built as a showroom for Guggenheim's collection of non-representational paintings.

It takes an artist like Cai Guo-Qiang to really make a visitor forget how much the Guggenheim sucks. Guo-Qiang does his best to conquer Wright's space. This mid career retrospective entitled I Want To Believe features exploding cars, gunpowder drawings, indoor boat rides, and faux animals blasted with arrows. Guggenheim loves blockbuster exhibitions and this fits the bill. But Guo-Qiang's art is too wonderful to get caught up in the politics. The tiger here speaks to extinction, man's battle with nature, and colonial defilement. An interesting contrast to the Guggenheim franchise's ambitions.



Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Tupelo

I don't know if it's the weather or the time of year, but I've been listening to a lot of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. All of the albums are terrific in their own right, and the live performances are a revelation, a bombastic revival with Cave leading the charge, stomping on stage, and hypnotizing all in attendance. Cave has a new album due March 3 - DIG, LAZARUS, DIG!!!, and his March NY show is already sold out.

From the Bad Seeds website - "Nick Cave described the characters on DIG, LAZARUS, DIG!!! as "asleep, unconscious, or dead." These video vignettes build on the theme with the band performing a seance. Cave worked with British visual artists and videographers Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard on the videos. The concept came out of a common interest in spiritualism and Houdini, the great debunker of fake mediums, who, according to Cave, "visited him in the form of a ghost while writing 'Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!"



Your blogger, PJS, has a new job, a thesis, and a film symposium to organize. But I'm gonna try to squeeze this one in:
NYU Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures presents: Graduate Student Workshop

Ghost as a Trope
Saturday, February 23, 1:00-7:00
Die Kleinen von den Meinen (Mephistopheles) Or What art thou? (Horatio)

"Broadening out from literary and cinematic case studies the workshop will explore the nature of ghostly figures and ways in which they could lend authority to previously silenced voices. The time framework stretches from the early "sightings" in Shakespeare's "Hamlet" deep into current implications, a time in which a return of that which returns becomes progressively more apparent."

Participants: Sue de Beer (NYU), Nicola Behrmann (NYU), Frauke Berndt (University of Chicago), Janelle Blankenship (University of Western Ontario), Sladja Blazan (NYU/Humboldt University Berlin), Jeff Champlin (NYU), Eckart Goebel (NYU), Alicja Kowalska (NYU), Natalie Nagel (NYU), Avital Ronell (NYU), Robert Stockhammer (Ludwig Maximilan Universität München), Brigitte Weingart (Columbia University) and further graduate students.

I doubt they'll be checking student IDs at Deutsches Haus, so don't worry if you're not an NYU student. It's at 42 Washington Mews that cool little alley of a street, not available on google street view.



This Thursday, the 21st of February, D. Graham Burnett will be speaking about his new book - Trying Leviathan: The Nineteenth-Century New York Court Case That Put the Whale on Trial and Challenged the Order of Nature . The book concerns the 1818 case of Maurice v. Judd in which a Manhattan court attempted to decide if a whale was a fish or a mammal. From the Cabinet magazine interview: "The issues at play in the trial—human taxonomy, oceanic monstrosity, the interpretation of Genesis, atheistical French philosophy, power politics in the early Republic—turned a minor legal fracas into a major sensation."

This event will take place at Book Culture located at 536 W. 112th Street, Manhattan. Announcement (PDF)



John Fahey - Wine and Roses

It's sunday morning, a little gray outside, and I'm feeling comfortably rough from that Northern Soul dance party last night. John Fahey is playing on the stereo. John Fahey (1931-2001) preferred to label himself as an American Primitive guitarist. His music is comprised of solo guitar, no additional instruments, no obtrusive vocals. He borrowed heavily from the past - inspired by Bill Monroe and Blind Willie Johnson, and influenced by Indian ragas and classical melodies. His winding compositions conjure the ghosts of dusty old vinyl, and yet they still sound fresh and novel today. Fahey concocted an elaborate persona for the public, sometimes exchanging his given name for the alias Blind Joe Death and supplying copious album linear notes that blended autobiographical fact and fiction.

"Was he the drunk that people saw piss against a mountain in front of an entire audience of folk festival goers? He was once. Was he the man who wrote an impenetrably abstruse column in Guitar Player that was half in German? Yes, he was. Was he a legend, an enigma, a man whose contribution will grow and be felt as long as we have ears to hear? Emphatically, yes. His solo music, his D.I.Y. independence, his musical scholarship, were all, dare I say it, ahead of their time." - From Nelscline.com

Read this great piece from Perfect Sound Forever: The Persecutions & Resurrections of Blind Joe Death (revised) by Byron Coley.



Television painting by my classmate Neil Calendar. Neil now lives in Kentucky. This is an actual painting. Neil has turned his critical, obsessive eye toward rendering television static. This is photo-realistic painting in order to revision how we see the television. It causes the viewer to flicker between the act of looking at painting and the act of looking at television. Seeing a television painting in a gallery plays with our expectations of viewing art in public by presenting what we view in private - late at night, half asleep - a dim, cool glow, and soft white-noise filling the room.



I was very happy to stroll into the Strand today and procure an old copy of The Secret Museum of Mankind. Here is a book published around 1935 that contains no author, no copyright, no index. A cryptic Manhattan House, New York is given as publisher. No such publisher is known to have existed. And yet here is this book, 564 pages of photographs of the weirdest human specimens from around the world. There is no text outside of the brief captions, and the captions are enigmatic and dated. This is unapologetic pop anthropology.

One Ian Macky has dutifully scanned the entire Secret Museum for your internet browsing. And here's an old article from the Voice about the book and ethnomusicology: The Gone World by Erik Davis.



I came home on this snowy NY night to find a special package with my name on it. A delivery from Bloomington, IN! It was an amazing present from my bff Amy. Steven Martin as a wild and crazy guy embroidered handsomely on a homemade pillow! How awesome is that? Amy is incredible. She makes underwear and shirts for guys and gals under the name Panther by Hand. She just did these pillows of comedians from the 70s for an art show. Check out her new blog and etsy shop!

Panther by Hand Blog
Panther by Hand Etsy Shop



Frank Ferrera - A Ukele Song

The Climax Golden Twins are a duo that invest themselves in sundry projects in film, radio, museums, etc. Their latest is a compilation of 78 rpm recordings from around the world compiled on two compact discs entitled Victrola Favorites. The music includes Burmese guitars, Chinese Opera, Persian folk songs, Fado, Hillbilly, Jazz, and Blues from the 1920s-50s. The discs are nested in a cloth-bound, 144 book full of color photographs and illustrations, a visual companion to the rare music within. It's a nice little tome to behold.

Victrola Favorites is issued by Dust-to-Digital. This label produces some nice reissues, and I'm quite keen on the idea of new media preserving ephemeral artifacts from by-gone days. These recordings were the entertainment of another era and a peek into the cultural history of the time. How did the public consider these ethnographic samplings from around the globe? Simple amusing jaunts into the world of the other? To a modern listener, the recordings are a distant, disconnected echo. And yet, through the crackle, they still present an empathetic sound.



This last week a man in a polar bear suit was arrested in front of the US Department of the Interior. He was protesting the reluctance of the government to list polar bears on the Endangered Species Act due to global warming. "The U.S. Geological Survey released a report this past September predicting that if current warming projections continue, two-thirds of the world’s polar bears will likely be extinct by 2050, including all of the polar bears in Alaska." - Greenpeace Post

Read more:
Boing Boing Post
Greenpeace Blog Post
Bulletin from US Fish and Wildlife Service, January 7, 2008



Arthur Russell - A Little Lost

Arthur Russell was a humble, yet fearless pilgrim in the world of sound. Classically trained on the cello, Russell lodged himself in the music scene of 1970s New York. He saw no borders between musical genres, and he floated between reverb doused cello song/prayers to cowbell, shaker disco tracks. He tragically died of aids in 1992. His music is still being discovered by new listeners. Russell worked compulsively and his songs were always in a state of flux. His music is a constant reminder of the wonder and invention to be discovered in sound.

A new documentary on Russell is now complete and currently screening in Berlin. Be sure to view the trailer -
Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur Russell

And a wonderful New Yorker Article on Russell



Burning Spear - Marcus Garvey

Marcus Garvey (1887-1940)
Bright and bold, ambitious and controversial, Marcus Garvey's legacy borders on tall tale - he's praised as an important prophet in rastafarianism. But his deeds and accomplishments were very real. Born in Jamaica, he attended school and read from his father's massive library. He traveled around the world - Central America, London (where he attended Birkbeck College), and later America. He formed the Universal Negro Improvement Association which would later claim a million members in the 1920s in hundreds of factions. During his time in Harlem, a New York District Attorney attempted an assassination of Garvey. In 1920, Garvey spoke to a crowd of 25,000 in Madison Square Garden. His grand plan was for African descendants to become masters of their own destinies, captains of their own industries. This included the Black Star Line, which would cargo goods and passengers to Africa. Garvey saw Africa as a home and a beacon for those of African descent, a place to reclaim from colonialists. Part poet, part prophet, the radical Marcus Garvey.
More on Garvey



Declaration of Intent (1968): "1. The artist may construct the piece. 2. The piece may be fabricated. 3. The piece need not be built. [Each being equal and consistent with the intent of the artist the decision as to condition rests with the receiver upon the occasion of receivership]"

Lawrence Weiner has stuck to this declaration. His art is mostly constructed from words. These words appear in a variety of mediums, a great deal of the work appears on walls. In 1968, he wrote Statements, a compendium of proposed pieces. In the same year, he contributed to the Xeroxbook, a photocopy collection by various conceptual artists. Weiner wanted to move away from objects, and towards universal truths.

This is the last week to catch his retrospective at the Whitney. Show ends February 10th. Here's the mini site.



Alva Noto - Haliod Xerrox Copy 11

Photocopying, or "xeroxing," is ubiquitous. It seems conventional today. Need a copy of a paper? - xerox it. And yet, the necessity of multiple hard copies of documents is quickly growing obsolete. Information is increasingly digital. Like this blog for instance - it's all electronic information - not a photocopied zine. But what is a copy? Is a copy exact to its original? If they are exact, is originality valid? Socrates held that physical objects are just a shadow of their "ideal" or "perfect" forms. Plato's theory of Forms continues this line by distinguishing material form versus the perfect capital 'F' Form. Physical form is just a copy, another addition to the original grandaddy concept of that Form. Your favorite coffee mug is just a form that is born from the ideal Form, the concept of a mug. A Form is a perfect object, but, for the most part, we just sense form - we know only copies.

Photocopying (aka Xerography or electrophotography) was developed by Chester Carlson in 1938. The Xerox company had been struggling for years in the development of a photocopier. But the company received a tremendous boon with the 1959 release of the Xerox 914.

Photocopying tends to deteriorate the quality of the image with each copy. Sound artist Carsten Nicolai aka Alva Noto attempted to test this deterioration of quality in the form of sound. From boomkat - "Together with Christoph Brünggel, Nicolai designed a 'sample transformer' which would take audio fragments and manipulate them beyond recognition, taking something familiar and de-familiarising it." Everyday samples (telephone hold music, jingles, light entertainment) and digital errors, old fashioned modem transfers, and fax tones were copied beyond recognition into a new sound. In my opinion, a beautiful new sound - a new form.