08 January 2015

Politics Aside

"You know what the real problem with Bourdieu was? The real problem with Bourdieu was that he was a schmuck. Power hungry and mean in spirit and obsessed with career."

- Howard S. Becker, via

24 December 2014

"Alt Canon" Interlude

Who remembers this Bostonian lot? Anyone?

Can't say I paid 'em much attention at the time, and the only reason I’m prompted to remember them now (seasonal serendipity aside) is in the context of some bantering assessmental blahblah Simon & I have been having. Simon recently returned to the topic of what he’s previously dubbed the Era of Bad British Music, circa the mid-1980s. Simon remarks that he might follow it up by switching shores and reflecting on the “college rock” phenom in the U.S. during the years in question.

Which is why I thought of the above, because they were very much of that era. If memory serves, the debut LP made them critics’ darlings -- enthusiasm issuing forth from major and minor publications alike, from Rolling Stone to Forced Exposure, making them candidates for the Most Promising New Indie Act of the Year. But the tide turned sharply, and their follow-up album was unanimously panned by the same publications, and the critics’ affections gravitated to (say) Galaxie 500, instead. The band would, I believe, soldier on for a few more years before morphing into '90s loungecore outfit Combustible Edison.

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22 December 2014

Crooning on Venus: Coda

A couple of final additions, this time dealing with vocals as augmented, processed, whathaveyou, by technological means...

Max Neuhaus’s “Radio Net,” circa 1977. In which Neuhaus utilized the patched feed network of National Public Radio (then still a marginal fledgling outfit -- in terms of listenership and production) to create a two-hour “crowd-sourced” audio piece in real time. Listeners in various broadcast regions scattered about the U.S. were invited to phone in to their local affiliate and whistle or mutter or sing into their telephones.The participation by Neuhaus in realtime. The above documentation of the event recently turned on Vimeo, and the full audio can be heard at -- where else? -- Ubuweb.

Belatedly seeing some visual documentation of the thing, it’s very very quaint to look at the technical gear involved. Like the headsets, which look like the sort that NASA Cape Canaveral personnel had worn circa the Apollo 11 mission.

^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^

ASlo: An odd & charming obscurity from some 14 years ago, back when I was DJ'ing on radio, for a time doing a show that trafficked heavily in marginal and "autre" electronic fare. A few releases from the Pittsburgh-baased label Kracfive caught my ear; and at the time the promo crossed my path, I was bemused by this project -- which was (I gather) a collaboration by the three artists who made up the label's roster. An album wholly devoted to wonky IDM/laptop fckcery/DIY "glitch-hop" compositions piece together from nothing other than vocal sample. Revisiting it again, I find that it's the loosest, least structured & rhythmically-minded tracks which hold up best...

And as a "Bonus beats" addition,...

Original Instrument - 'Coughio'

...Which came to mind in another context a while back.

13 December 2014

Crooning on Venus: Sidenotes

International Outreach

From the December edition of e-flux journal, "American Tutti-Frutti," in which Porter McCray offers a historical overview of the founding of MoMA and the role it played in promoting American art abroad during the Cold War era. Topics covered: Alfred Barr's "torpedo" diagram, Jackson Pollock in Belgrade, as well as the ill-fated "Advancing American Art" touring exhibition which I wrote about some time ago.

The essay is apparently part of an e-flux hosted event entitled "The Unmaking of Art." Thing is, note the chronology offered in the preface to the essay, and you'll note that McCray -- the former director of MoMA's International Program during the years in question -- died some 14 years ago, yet is still listed as presenting at the event. Best I can make of that is that yet another example of e-flux related events in which presentations are given by people assuming the persona of certain historical artistic figure; such as Gertrude Stein and Alfred Barr on this occasion, and the appearance of a Walter Benjamin impersonator on several others. In fact, the McCray essay dovetails very well with "Walter Benjamin" essay "The Making of Americans," which e-flux published back in autumn of last year. And it appears that the "Walter Benjamin" n question recently published a volume of collected writings.

The theme of the latest edition is that of the function of the museum in contemporary society. In relation to the McCray essay, there's Arseny Zhilyaev's "Conceptual Realism: The Vulgar Freedom of Avant-Garde Museum Work," about Soviet museum culture in the decades following the Bolshevik Revolution. Early in the piece, Zhilyaev writes:

“...Many of the practices of contemporary art were anticipated by the historical avant-garde and its radical explosion of the 1910s–’30s, albeit in 'laboratory mode.' Right now, there is no actual social basis that would allow us to talk about the expansion of democracy’s borders and a new avant-garde project. But the practice of combining artistic and curatorial positions is still highly productive, in terms of problematizing the exhibition as a special form and medium of contemporary art — a medium which is based on hidden and deep rules of social organization. At that, they not only are productive, but also may potentially lead to the radicalization of the primary impulse of the whole modernist project with its present contemporary art condition.

"We are in fact already witnessing such a tendency. Thus, it is an increasingly frequent occasion nowadays that art historians have started to describe art history as the history of exhibitions, and not that of individual artistic statements. And often, these artistic statements themselves appropriate the expositional practices of the curators, not to mention the rather widespread practice of an artist acting as a curator of an essentially curatorial exhibition.”

Some hazily broad assertions, there; some of which begging for illustrative examples. And while its debatable that "art historians" (in any supposed lumpen sense) increasingly see art history as a lineage of landmark exhibitions, it's certainly been a growing trend among the curatorial sector of the artworld over the past two decades.

11 December 2014

Crooning on Venus, Pt. 3

Mouth music: Biased former Chicago scenester edition. Can't believe Robert didn't leap to mind sooner. Tsk.

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