This week and weekend I'm preoccupied with the Orphans Film Symposium (dinner pictured above), and I've got a helpless case of the March Madness. You can read our Orphans blog here and check out our Flickr page too.
The big art show this week is the Armory Show. And I'm writing to say - don't do it. Don't go. The whole art fair thing has become incredibly bloated and boring. There is now a glut of international art fairs and, somehow, despite countless galleries and countless artists, one can never leave one of these exhibitions feeling satisfied - it's like a meal of tapas that just don't add up. As Roberta Smith's NY Times article states - "even without the falling dollar and nervous hedge funders, there is a point at which critical mass fosters inertia. There is nothing wrong with art fairs that fewer of them wouldn’t cure." The Armory Show has now bred nine simultaneous, self-contained, satellite art fairs spreading like so much mold under the kitchen counter. The 2008 Armory Show has mercifully shrunk in size, now occupying one pier instead of two, but they've increased their admission price - $30 for general admission. There is still too much on display. You never feel inspired or impressed. You end up just feeling exhausted, shoving through the crowds in search of some mythical special piece that can speak through the congestion and the noise. The most you can hope for is spotting David Byrne, as I did one Armory year. He seemed just as lost and puzzled as I was. What exactly were we doing there?
It's time for New Animals to get literal about its title. That's why I present today: New Animals of the Antarctic. Some giant sea creatures have been discovered on a recent trip around New Zealand's Antarctic waters. These include large sea spiders (!), jellyfish with 12-foot tentacles, huge sea snails, and 2-foot-wide starfish.
Last year, hundreds of other Antarctic sea species were discovered including the baby isopod Ceratoserolis pictured above. You can view more pictures of new deep sea species at National Geographic. And here's a genius book on strange creatures from the deep and for fun, a list of 10 horrible deep sea creatures.
The predictably panned Whitney Museum Biennial is now on display. The notion that the biennial reflects the current temperament of American art is always a fiction. Trying to corral 80+ artists (many fresh out of the warm womb of art school) into one space for a collective statement is an ambitious, if faulty, plot.
This year's biennial has a definite "facebook" social networking vibe. Several of the artists are actually collectives or bands that perform at the museum and the nearby co-opted Park Avenue Armory. Much of the art is of the scrappy, found, slapdash, salvaged variety seen in the New Museum's debut exhibit, Unmonumental. The intention may be on recycling and ecologically sound production, but the modesty of the materials make the work seem inconsequential. It's a knee-jerk reaction to the ever-expanding economic bubble of the art world. Many artists are keen to see this bubble pop, or at least see how far it can stretch to accommodate plywood, concrete, and chicken-wire.
Walking through the exhibition is a bit tiring as your eyes cruise over works that abandon care and craft. This carelessness, a childlike wanton aesthetic, is juxtaposed with photo-realistic painting from old guard Robert Bechtle and 'photos that look like paintings' from Melanie Schiff and Walead Beshty. The overall aesthetic is best summarized as "lessness" in this New Yorker article. The irony of a "lessness" aesthetic is heightened by the glut of artists on display. I left the show hankering for a good old exhibit of thoughtful paintings, some statement of unforced modesty, attention to craft, and visual beauty.
Read more -
NY Times Review
Time Magazine Review
The Congos - Fisherman
A friend once told me why reggae is his favorite music. He said reggae is like a Noah's Ark of musical genres - soul, gospel, blues, hip hop, electronic, experimental, psychedelic. Everything good goes into reggae's pot. Reggae is omnivorous.
Classic reggae producers, however, were often vegetarian. Vegetarianism was one of the tenets of the Rastafari movement. Classic reggae is loaded with references to rastafari such as Haile Selassie, Marcus Garvey, Jah, Babylon, and Zion. Such religious references and many dense, glorious sounds could be heard emanating from Lee "Scratch" Perry's Black Ark Studio in the 1970s.
Perry's Black Ark is responsible for some of the most innovative classic reggae recordings ever. Perry was able to overdub layers of weird effects with excellent precision on a dated, basic 4 track; surpassing competing producers using the very latest 16 track mixers. He produced several of his own records, along with favorites from Junior Murvin and The Congos. The music was personal, political, spiritual, avant-garde, and always compelling. It seemed Lee Perry could do no wrong behind the decks.
Black Ark studios burned to the ground in 1979. After some bizarre behavior (see this video), Lee Perry supposedly destroyed the studio himself to purge it of unclean spirits.
You can watch Perry and friends at work in the studio in this video, and here are a few select albums from Black Ark. And if you get the chance, definitely read this great article from the consistently brilliant Perfect Sound Forever. Quote from PSF - "Lee 'Scratch' Perry is one of a kind- we're talking about a (literally) insanely inspried producer/musician/singer/shaman who goes back to early sessions with Bob Marley to producing the Clash and putting out dozens of albums in as many guises- a self-professed lunatic from Jamaica who drops his draws at a press conference, brings a loaded gun on stage and burns down and floods his own studio. His madness premeates not just his public antics but the flood of LP's and CD's he's unleashed." Praise Jah.
After a very mild winter, spring is just around the corner here in NYC. Yesterday's weather was sunny and warm, and I spent several hours tidying up our backyard garden. We're lucky enough to have an outdoor space to call our own, but most New Yorkers don't have access to this nicety. However, many NY residents do have roof access. A green roof in NY is not only aesthetically pleasing, it can be a tremendous ecologically benefit.
Green roofs help to assimilate large amounts of rainwater, absorb air pollution, and reduce the "heat-island effect," in which cities remain hotter than the surrounding countryside. According to the EPA - "On hot summer days, the surface temperature of a vegetated rooftop can be cooler than the air temperature, whereas the surface of a traditional rooftop can be up to 90°F (50°C) warmer."
Green roofs have long been a staple in Newfoundland, the Faroe Islands, and various places in the North, where the heating and cooling benefits are a welcome addition to any home. Chicago and Atlanta are current pioneers in green roofs in the U.S. Chicago city hall claims a massive green roof. Anyone who's spent a sweltering summer in NYC can attest to the necessity of these green canopies. Read a nice green roof summary at Ecogeek.
Artist Seth Price's recommended essay on Dispersion got me thinking about the modes in which types of information - art, writing, thoughts, interests, speculations, questions - are disseminated today. I made some notes previously on duplication of imagery - of xeroxing. Dispersion can apply to biology, in the way a species propagates, or can apply to optics, in which a beam of white light is separated into its spectral components by a prism. The result is a rainbow.
My training is as a painter, but painting is something best appreciated in the physical moment. Site specific or stationary art is warranted and remains a valuable resource in a world increasingly dislocated by nebulous electronic communication. Much culture is now consumed privately. "Distributed media can be defined as social information circulating in theoretically unlimited quantities in the common market, stored or accessed via portable devices such as books and magazines, records and compact discs, videotapes and DVDs, personal computers and data diskettes." I find myself increasingly in favor of liberating ideas via production and subsequent reproduction and dispersion. "New animals" are created by the reproduction of information. They're let loose by vehicles of dispersion and separated by the four winds.
Where will this article land? Check the newly added Clustermap at the bottom of this page to find out.
Rosarium philosophorum - "Where we have spoken openly we have actually said nothing. But where we have written something in code and in pictures, we have concealed the truth..."
Photos: Above: Jeff Wall. A Sudden Gust of Wind (after Hokusai). 1993. Below: Katsushika Hokusai. Ejiri in Suruga Province (Sunshû Ejiri). 1830-33.
A very large Gustave Courbet exhibition is now on display at the Met. From the New Yorker - "Courbet's drenching seascapes should come with towels and his steaming nudes with towelettes. He revels in the quiddity of paint: moist dirt. His art isn't about life; it is life precipitated, with raucous panache. Nothing could be better therapy for a bodiless society of cybernetic narcissicisms than the mad wallow of this show." Nice one, Peter Schjeldahl of the New Yorker! A little cultural jab there at the end. This particular bodiless cybernetic narcissist can't wait to see the show.
If you haven't been over to Bibliodyssey, you really should click. It's a grab-bag of medieval, renaissance,and victorian hyper-real imagery floating in the ether of the world wide web. One day it's Biblical maps and Noah's family tree, and the next is a parade of anthropomorphic animal postcards.
For even more disjointed imagery, head over to FFFFound! where random users post randomer images. For a more focused approach, our friend at Tomorrowland has pointed to oSkope for all your image searching needs. oSkope presents an innovative search for images in Amazon, ebay, and flickr, and allows the user to drag, stack, flip, and enlargen to the heart's content. Viva la visual!
The Museum of Jurassic Technology in Los Angeles, California is one of the most miraculous and curious institutions in the United States. I visited the museum while staying with my brother in California. Early in the day, we had visited the Getty - Los Angeles' temple of art and winding gardens atop the hill overlooking Los Angeles. We viewed Jean-Baptiste Oudry's Painted Menagerie, a wonderful and bizarre collection of painted animal reproductions.
Our journey to the Museum of Jurassic Technology took us to a different side of town. The museum has an unassuming facade nestled between thai restaurants and tax offices on a typical LA street. Yet inside, the museum houses exhibitions on the rare, forgotten, and neglected elements of natural history. It's dark throughout the museum. Illumination is only warranted to highlight the exhibition pieces. Heavy velvet curtains partition the rooms. Telephones reside beside exhibits where dense explanations await your ear. Awestruck, we wander through the halls, observing spores that control the brains of ants, cryptic confessions to Mt. Wilson observatory concerning extraterrestrial contact, common holisitic remedies from the past such as mice on toast, micro-miniature sculptures that fit on the tip of a pin, and paintings of cosmonaut dogs from the Russian space program. We learn of the history and power of the Cat's Cradle, the crystal spheres of Anthanius Kircher, and novel approaches to mathematical concepts to bring new order to the world.
My brother turns to me - "It feels like this place is haunted." And I agree. Silence Here, the ghosts of the past speak. Ghosts from museums past, from dead pagan traditions, and from the roots of natural history. The museum is a colossal work of art, a monument to museums before they were museums - when they were known as Wunderkammern, as Cabinets of Curiosity.
A fascinating book by Lawrence Weschler, entitled Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonders, can help to orientate those uninitiated to the MJT's strange power and purpose. It comes highly recommended, as does a day spent within the confines of the Museum of Jurassic Technology when visiting Los Angeles, California.
My brother and I left the museum and re-entered the world just before dusk. We drove for a while in silence, contemplating our discoveries. We had inhaled the spore of the museum, our minds now guided by a new appreciation of history and the wonders of the natural world.