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31 May 2012

The 'Anti-' Aesthetic

Was there any nihilistic impetus behind this?

CHUCK CLOSE:  Ad Reinhardt was to me the most important figure. He had more influence on me than anybody. He made the choice not to do something a positive decision. He would make these lists about what you can't do and that seems very nihilistic and negative. On the other hand, that became a set of limitations that opened things up. You ended up freed to be intuitive by a rigorous system. It's not the straight-line type of development, though. The problem with art history is its 'Old Testament' version of things -- so-and-so begat so-and-so, and so forth. It's as if you got on the train and got off on the other end. ...

CHRISTOPHER WOOL:  [...] In a way, Reinhardt was a lot like Warhol. You never quite knew when he was being ironic. I think it's different from this reductive aestheticism. I define myself in my work by reducing the things I don't want -- it seems impossible to know when to say 'yes,' but I know what I can say 'no' to.

...You take color out, you take gesture out -- and then later you can put them back in. But it's easier to define things by what they're not than by what they are, which is what Reinhardt was doing, and what Warhol did so incredibly well on so many levels -- and then of course pretended that he wasn't. [...]

CC:  One of the most liberating things is how often painting is declared dead. It's a very bizarre thing to be doing at this point in history. I've been around long enough for painting to be declared dead and resurrected five or six times. Whenever painting is declared dead is a great time to make paintings.

CW:  I wish someone would declare it dead this week. [Laughs] It always seems to have the most possibilities when people are saying that. ...Accepting the limitations sets up the boundaries -- some simple, basic ways in which you know it's painting and not something else. It makes it easier.

But you never questioned the premise of becoming a painter?

CW:  No. The parameters of painting are not any more limiting than other art activities -- they are actually much more to the point. All that crap about painting being 'complicit' or whatever is ridiculous, because all the other media that are supposedly non-complicit ultimately embody the same problematics. You accept the limitations as givens and then go on. [...]

CC:  It is very different for younger artists now, because they are choosing painting as an option over all the other forms, like installation. When I was a student being an artist meant being a painter.

CW:  That's not completely true, because many artists of your generation were the first to do nonpainting, nonsculptural things. I certainly grew up aware of that generation. At any time we could have easily chosen another course.

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Excerpts from a 1996 discussion between Chuck Close, Philip Taaffe, Sue Williams, and Christopher Wool, as moderated by Allan Schwartzman. [ Source ]

30 May 2012

Seats of Higher Learning


> From Gdeleuze@vincennesVIII.fr.edu
> Cher Felix, What do you reckon to this:
>"It is at work everywhere, functioning smoothly at times, at other times in fits and starts.
>It breathes, it heats, it eats. It shits and fucks. What a mistake ever to have said an email. >Everywhere it is the machine of emails - emails driving other emails, emails being driven by
>other emails, with all the necessary couplings and connections. A timetabling email is
>plugged into a head of department email: the one produces a flow of abuse that the other
>interrupts. The student complaint is an email that produces a committee procedure email,
>and coupled to it the suspension of employment email, following which by a machinic logic,
>the divorce settlement email, articulating to the notification of public obscenity email (i was >actually really sorry to hear about that btw) followed by the sectioning under the Mental Health
>Act email. Truly: the mail-server that is the 'average working academic' is a node wavering >between several functions which…."
>That sort of thing? Any good?

From schizo@haguattari.org
Hey Gilles! OMG totally sorry - only just found this! - it went to junk - not sure why. Guess it’s too late now?
x f

via Department of Omnishambles

29 May 2012

Scattering Ground

Photos: David Schalliol

Ben Austen, in "The Last Tower: The Decline and Fall of Public Housing," printed in the latest issue of Harper's:

"Unlike the low-rises, Chicago’s tower-and-garden projects were built primarily for the rush of black migrants from the South. There were 278,000 African Americans in Chicago in 1940; by 1960, there were 813,000. White aldermen refused to allow public-housing construction in their wards, so the new projects were set within the city's existing 'black belt.' Elizabeth Wood, the progressive head of the [Chicago Housing Authority], saw an opportunity to replace the area’s dangerous tenements. The projects, she said, would be 'bold and comprehensive,' forming more than mere 'islands in a wilderness of slums.' Even the austerity of their modernist designs—now an emblem of the impersonal warehousing of the poor—then heralded all the promise of a refreshingly new age.

But Chicago's projects were underfunded and poorly maintained almost from the start. The ratio of children to adults in these developments was ruinously high, and well-intentioned laws regarding maximal allowable income for public-housing residents ultimately forced out the most stable rent payers in the population. The projects were further undone by gangs, crack, and a federal drug policy that turned many residents into felons. By 1995, Chicago housing projects made up eleven of the country’s fifteen poorest Census tracts."

Austen details the demolition of the last of the remaining high-rise towers from Chicago's infamous near west-side project, the dispersal of its residents, and the various failings of the city's Plan for Transformation. I got to see the city carry out said transformative plan over the course of the seventeen years that I lived in Chicago, starting with the dynamiting or dismantling of various complexes that stood in various neighborhoods along the south side. And the location of my last on-site freelance gig in the city fell just a few blocks south of Cabrini (which was visible from the fourth-floor window) as the last of the towers were being taken apart. One thing that became very clear early in this years-long project was something that Austen details in his article -- that the City largely failed to deliver on the second phase of its Plan, that being to relocate residents of the communities, to help them find alternate housing and transition into life outside the projects. The result being that a majority of these former residents were effectively dumped on the streets, and you saw the effects of this spilling over into many neighborhoods throughout the city. The why and how of the City's having failed to see this part of the Plan through seemed a glaringly obvious question; but it was a question that I don't recall being asked publicly throughout those years.

All of this, of course, coinciding with a huge amount of real estate development and speculation, to the run-up to the housing bubble and its inevitable bursting, in a city whose definition of what constituted "affordable housing" climbed to well outside the financial reach of most lower middle-class residents.

The article also gets at the heart of something some friends and I were discussing over drinks a few weeks ago. With one in the group posing the question: How long does it take for a public institution (i.e.: housing, education, assistance, etc.) to be continually hamstrung and handicapped, underfunded and undermined, effectively sabotaged by the tug-of-war ideological wranglings of policy makers before the public as a whole loses all faith in said public institution, writing it off as a "failure?" Fifteen years, twenty years...a full generation?

23 May 2012

D Constructive

Today was Robert Moog's birthday, born something 78 years ago today. Anyway, here's to perverting & misusing technology, using it in ways it wasn't meant to be used. And all the wonders such stuff affords us. And that there's way more to Tha Dee than so-called ruin porn. Even tho' the above could've used with a few fewer shots of dudes slapping wax on turntables, and maybe more of some vintage clips like this and this.

21 May 2012


Sure, most of the work is over a decade old; but still, I suppose it makes sense -- in terms of the type of sense a certain market follows -- that White Cube would see fit to send the stuff to Hong Kong. "Mao was a cultured poet. Hitler was a petit bourgeois. His taste, concerning art, was really bad." Makes for a handy pull-quote, I suppose. But I still can't get past the fact that the work bears the same off-handed, by-the-numbers character as the series/exhibition's title. Tempted to say that for those who were inclined to side with Benjamin Buchloh's charge that Kiefer was guilty of letting his work devolve into mere "polit-kitsch," the artist (in this instance) handed them a strong bit of evidence to bolster the verdict.

17 May 2012

Only Connect

Once upon a time, for about -- more or less -- a decade I listened to almost nothing that would generally be considered "rock." Not that I'm bragging about it or anything, it's just that my ears were turned a number of elsewheres at the time. This bunch (above) were about the only big exception, if not the only band to significantly punch through my wall of "whatever." I remember this song registering quite strongly with me at the time I first heard it. Thing is, revisiting it again after a good many years later, it seems about 10 times more pertinent now than it did then.


Above we have images of one of bigger hits of the Spring 2011 exhibition season, the installation "The Recovery of Discovery" by the artist Cyprien Gaillard, which was exhibited at the KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin back last March.

The work consisted of boxes of (room-temp) beer stacked in the form of a four-sided pyramid, amounting to some seventy-two thousand bottles in total. With an apparent come-one-come-all door policy for the gallery, crowds were allowed to freely collect and linger in the gallery -- to climb and sit on the structure, to raid its contents as they saw fit. "The audience became its own event," Hal Foster wrote in Artforum, noting that the open invitation "attract[ed] a crowd above the denizens of the art world." Speaking with KW Institute curator Susanne Pfeffer in an interview in Flash Art last year, Gaillard said of the installation...

CG: This is why we love ruins so much. Because they tell us we survive, we made it. They are de­caying but we survive. I am here and that’s great. That’s what a lot of modern buildings don’t tell you. They don’t tell you where you are.

SP: This might also be linked to the question of the social impact the pyramid at KW had. Did you expect that?

CG: I was secretly hoping it. I was hoping that younger people who have never stepped foot in a museum would come. All these high school kids coming here, and how many times did we see people barfing in the court yard? Then, just going back to the parents all drunk… I can’t even imagine what they would say coming back home. Why are you drunk?' 'I was in a museum! I spent the whole day in a museum!' What kind of museum would promote such things? I’m still amazed that we were able to pull off such a thing. ...I don’t know how difficult it was on your side, because I know I was walking in there and it was complete anarchy and smashing bottles and people smoking and drinking, homeless people, unemployed people, people still climbing, this whole idea of broken glass everywhere, and the staff not being able to control it.

All of which, of course, is the sort of thing that's bound to attract a lot of attention, to get people talking. Fairly straightforward, in a way -- offering a bacchanalian twist on another artworld crowd-pleaser of some years ago, Felix Gonzales-Torres's pile of candy circa 1991.*  Yet on the other hand, I find the work intriguing because of the way it's subtly rich with a number of cleverly layered geopolitical and aesthetic references.

There's the archeological angle, for starters. In speaking of ruins in the Flash Art discussion, Gaillard wasn't only referring to the eventual decimated state of the installation at the end of its run, but also to what inspired the work in the first place -- the Pergamon Altar, which is housed nearby on Museum Island in Berlin. In much the same way that the Pergamon Alter was reconstructed in an indoor setting, Gaillard has erected his own facsimile of a ziggurat -- a structure that not only invokes the waning and pillaging of empires, but also summons the thought of the current situation in Iraq by way of ancient Sumeria. And then there's the matter of the beer itself, a brand of pilsner called Efes imported from Turkey, which in turn alludes to issues of global capital and immigration -- bringing to mind not only Germany's decades-long difficult relationship with its labor force of Turkish gastarbeiters, but also the recent rhetoric of a "clash of cultures" and the swerve toward anti-immigrant sentiment and legislation throughout parts of Europe over the past ten years. And whether the result of sheer coincidence or not, the beer's packaging triggers its own set of significations. Primarily there's the fact that certain shades of blue have long carried an Old-World Orientalist association with the Middle East -- specifically those of turquoise and lapis lazuli.

It's on that specific shade of blue that thoughts turn toward art-historical references and precedents -- of how the piece involves a collision of aesthetic notions involving purity and impermanence, endurance and ephemerality. More obviously, there's the thought of Yves Klein's International Blue. But at the same time, the installation's basic physical form also connotes mind the severe and pristine formalism of Minimalist art, specifically as carried out in some of Sol LeWitt's geometrical permutations. Then there's the ghost of process-oriented Conceptualist practices lurking in the wings; those late '60s manifestations that resulted in explorations of "anti-form" and the "dematerialization of the art object."

In relation to the latter, Gaillard says the piece was partially inspired by the work of Robert Smithson, by Smithson's fascination with entropic processes. In a way, "The Recovery of Discovery" follows from the Duchampian logic that it is the viewer who completes the work the work of art, in this instance the interaction of the audience with the work leads to the works completion by an act of undoing; an undoing brought about by active human agency (rather than the erosion brought about by natural or elemental forces). This, in turn, raises question regarding civic and societal dynamics. As Hal Foster wrote of the piece:

"Certainly the nasty remains of the installation did not present a rosy idea of community. For foregrounded here was not so much the irreducible antagonism in the social that relational aesthetics is said to gloss over, but rather the psychic instability of the crowd...an instability that rendered the installation insecure as both structure and event."

Naturally, because when you throw a party and everyone's welcome, you can expect any number of things might happen -- broken furniture, maybe a punch-up or two, all variety of messes, and the likelihood that no one will be mensch enough to offer to return the next day and help you clean up. And pertinent to "current events," Foster sees fit to additionally point out:

"The Efes cost forty thousand euros, which were paid, indirectly, by German taxpayers, who would soon balk at a further bailout of Greece – another act that many Germans regard as one of self-preservation and many Greeks as one of destruction."

There you have it -- wanton consumption meets reification. So it goes in the contemporary realm of the civic.

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*  There is, naturally, yet another art-world dimension to this -- that being the common practice of Friday evening openings in gallery districts. The "gallery walk" sort where galleries throw open there doors for all & sundry, and people roam the sidewalks going from venue to venue, generous helping themselves to the free wine and beer on offer, giving the wares on display a quick galnce-over while socializing and getting a buzz on.

16 May 2012

Because (Again)

Well yeah, I sort of neglected to say anything about Donald 'Duck' Dunn earlier. Actually I sort-of didn't, because by the time I got around a keyboard that evening I'd already had a few drinks, meaning anything I might've said on the matter was most likely to snowball into some big who-cares faux-musicological rant that flaunted my red-dirt prejudices with such stuff, something along the lines of blahblahblah Stax, blahblah Memphis being a close second to New Orleans, and blahblahblah understatement being so underrated as a true essence of art, and blahblahblah dude knew how to keep it simple and still expertly nailing the groove very squarely and etc.

And now that news has gone out of Chuck Brown's passing, I could do likewise. Somethingsomethingsomething about the first (if not only) example of DC go-go to top the charts (if not make it into the charts, period), and somethingsomething about the importance of homegrown local isht somethingsomething as a counterpoint to the increased corporatized blandification of the cultural landscape, and somethingsomething about how so much music in the 1980s sucked, and somethingsomething about keeping the funk alive by steering it in the opposite direction, back deeply into the domain of the polyrhythmic where needs to be, where it never should've left, where the job gets most thoroughly done, and etc etc.

So there you have it, so much for testifying. I'm not even sure why I bother, since eulogizing is clearly not my format. Perhaps better just to gradually work my way through a bottle of wine while spinning some LPs that I haven't spun in a little while, instead. But to cover some of the neglected backlog, here's some bonus beats...

Somewhere Between the Empirical and the Essential

I guess at this point it's a given that the whole hauntology matter has run its course, becoming a rapidly shrinking speck in the rearview mirror. In a piece over at 3AM, Liam Sprod offers a backward glance, and it's a fairly strong overview of the matter.

As to the point of whether the esthetes misconstrued or misappropriated the gist of Derrida's original argument, it all makes for a moot point, since Derrida offered it in his unpacking of Fuliyama's "The End of History?", which in itself may or may not matter since (as I understand it) Fukiyama later claimed that everyone -- Derrida and neo-con triumphalists alike – had misread his original thesis.

At one point says of hauntology as a musical aesthetic:

"...For in falling into the trap of repeating an anachronistic desire for a future that is lost, this form of hauntology misses the essential nature of this future as always-already lost."

I don't recall anyone ever asserting otherwise. Which is why so much hauntological fare harkens back to source material of a certain vintage and ironically flirts with evocations of nostalgia and childhood. If anything, it serves as a deeply skeptical and circumspective response to the fatalism embodied in the end-of-history verdict as it has been bandied about in recent decades.

At yet another part of the essay, Sprod offers:

"The answer lies not in repeating lost gestures, methods and sounds or calling for a failed utopianism, but in rethinking the very possibility of the lostness of that temporality itself."

Which is how I understood it all along. It's the nature of that form and of the type of circumspection I mentioned above; of a certain type of wariness or gnosticism. The sort that brings to mind something I recalled and starting thinking about a few days ago. For an unrelated reason, I recalled Homi K. Bhabha's notion of "the Unbuilt" from some years ago, and it's basis in some remarks made by Wittgenstein in Culture and Value:

"Our civilization is characterized by the word 'progress.''Progress' is its form rather than making progress being one of its features. Typically it constructs. It is occupied with building an ever more complicated structure. And even clarity is sought only as a means to this end, not as an end it itself. ...I am not interested in constructing a building, so much as in having a perspicuous view of the foundations of possible buildings."

Bhabha, when he first put the notion forward, was speaking in the context of discussing possible memorials and monuments. Which may be fitting in a way, since nothing usually spells death and decline like an ideology that proclaims itself as having achieved its own teleological aims.

15 May 2012

World on the Wane

Images by Charles Fréger, from his recent series Wilder Mann ou la figure du sauvage. [ # ] [ # ]

12 May 2012

The Indebted Eye

FYI, in case you'd missed it: After a long working sabbatical, Evan Calder Williams recently returned to online scribing with a revival of his prior blog over at The New Inquiry. Meaning more of Williams's tangents on film, literature, and politics, such his recent contemplation of The Next Bubble to Burst in the form of "Snake Plissken’s Letter to Sallie Mae Student Loan Services."

10 May 2012

Currently Under Construction

Selections from the blog I Collect Soviet Books. The author of which, it appears, has recently come into possession of many copies of U.S.S.R. in Construction. Originally established by the writer Maxim Gorky, the magazine was published throughout the 1930s, and (as you can probably deduce from the spreads above) was part of a state propaganda campaign to promote Stalin's series of Five-Year Plans.

That aside, the magazine was also notable because the publishers called upon many leading Russian photographers and designers of the era to provide and shape content; which at times included El Lissitzky and his wife Sophie Lissitzky-Küppers, as well as the husband-and-wife team of Alexander Rodchenko and Varvara Stepanova. This last fact is more than a little ironic, seeing how a number of these artists were at the forefront of the Constructivist avant-garde movement during the prior years. Ironic, because the publication would also (eventuallY) ecome an instrument for promoting the Kremlin's shifting aesthetic policy under Stalin -- a shift away from "decadent" avant-gardisms such as Constructivism and towards Social Realism as the official art of the Soviet state. John Heartfield also contributed to the magazine during its later years.

Throughout the various issues you see many of the common visual tropes of Russian photography and graphic design (as well as typography) of that era. First there's the low-angle shot -- the heroic framing of the isolated figure (be it a persons, buildings, monument or machine). These often combined and montaged with the wide-angle, aerial views -- meant to depict and convey not only the scope of a huge collective enterprise, but also the scale of the country's efforts toward modernization. And as the author of the I Collect blog notes, there's also the glorification of Soviet expansion into various provinces, as well as the appearance by an occasion figure who would later be airbrushed out of the history books.

Upon further googling, it appears that the University of Saskatchewan has an incomplete collection of the journal, with full credits and PDF scans of each issue that they've obtained. Here's a couple from the fourth issue, as laid out by Rodchenko and Stepanova...

The above are (I presume) from the international edition of the journal, which was printed in a multi-lingual editions. If you run searches on the thing, you find conflicting information as far as the dates and enumeration of issues. It appears that the Russian edition may have featured different topics, covers, etcetera from those printed for audiences outside the Soviet Union. For instance, there's a seventh issue in Russian (dated 193_) devoted to the life and work of poet Vladimir Mayakovsky, also designed by Rodchenko...

Of which there's a gallery of scans for the issue here. There's also several galleries extensively devoted exclusively to the graphics of the publication here if you scroll to the bottom of the page.

08 May 2012

The Predicament of Culture (Small Things in a Big Landscape)

"...Actually there's an academic area of study and research devoted to that sort of thing. It's called 'psychoacoustics.'"

What, is that the study for when someone thinks they hear voices in their head?

"Haha, you're cute. But no, it's about the study of how the brain processes sound, the way it receives and interprets it...makes sense of it as sensory input. Some researchers in the field have done things like what you're talking about..."

As far as the 'semantics' of sound are concerned?

"Sort of, I guess...something along those lines. They'll go into some deeply landlocked desert region -- like, for instance, some place in driest parts of Africa -- some place where the locals aren't likely to have experienced large bodies of water. And then they put headphones on them or whatever and play them recordings of the sound of flowing water -- 'babbling brooks' and noisier forms of water -- and they ask them what they make of it. And the answer is usually that the person listening to it can't identify what the sound is, it falls outside their experience, but they find it very pleasant....very soothing, whatever it is."

Sounds absolutely fascinating, I'd love to read some of that. Is there a journal?

"That sort of research isn't typical in the field. It tends to be incredibly dry. The bulk of the literature is deeply esoteric -- extremely technical and academically abstract. Definitely no way to access any of it from a casual, 'layman's' perspective. Even I can't begin to crack the terminology."


images: Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook, Two Planets series, 2008-2011.

Interlude / Postscript

Related to the below, natch.


"Librarians objected to Night Kitchen because the boy is nude. They told me you can't have a penis in a book for children; it frightens them. Yet parents take their children to museums where they see Roman statues with their dicks broken off. You'd think that would frighten them more. But 'Art' is somehow desexualized in people's minds. My God, that would make the great artists vomit. ...In this country...we prefer the blur, the figleaf, the diaper."

"Contrary to most of the propaganda in books for the young, childhood is only partly a time of innocence. It is, in my opinion, a time of seriousness, bewilderment, and a good deal of suffering. It's also possibly the best of all times. Imagination for the child is the miraculous, freewheeling device he uses to course his way through the problems of every day. It's the normal and healthy outlet for corrosive emotions ...the positive and appropriate channeling of overwhelming and, to a child, inappropriate feelings. It is through fantasy that children achieve catharsis."
-- Maurice Sendak

03 May 2012

Thus and sundry

  • For a number of readers, most if not all of this here will prompt nothing more than a sarcastic "Duh." But judging from the comments section (which I really don't advise reading), it provokes a lot of genuine "Duh" with the site's usual readership. All of which only serves to buttress the author's points and purpose. [See also.]
  • Speaking of "hipsters," Pere Lebrun's recent exercise in Whatever-ing deeply amused. If I'm not mistake, the gallery has grown a couple of times since it was originally posted. He also brings this to my attention, which I previously knew nothing about. Apparently it was something Charlie Brooker was involved with about seven years ago. And yeah, looks like certain things weren't specific to these shores, because it all seems too familiar.
  • Alex Niven edits The Oxonian Review and also contributes to both the Guardian and to the same group-effort 'Decades blogs' where I sometimes post. He also recently published a book entitled Folk Opposition via the Zer0 imprint. Zer0 is a UK affair and copies don't circulate too widely throughout my neck of the woods, so I've yet to actually read it. But I've been doing a little research lately on the history and politics of the American folk movement(s) of the mid-twentieth century, Alex's book has had me intrigued and I'll have to hunt down a copy.

    Alex was recently interviewed about his book over at the New Left Project's site. Speaking of the country's recent "Tory moment," he observes:

    "For me, folk culture should mean a working class culture, even if that can be contested and qualified. It’s very difficult to put a label on any demographic at all these days, but there has to be some attempt to do that. To me, it seemed that ‘folk’ might be one heuristic way of doing that, even if it’s not completely satisfactory. My sense was that when Cameron came into power in 2010 this would create the room for the resurgence of an opposition that had been kept in check by New Labour. Cameron coming into power and making some aggressively right-wing moves opened up the space for the revival of an opposition. So ‘folk opposition’ is about seizing the old left and working class culture and seeing what we can do with it, trying to aggregate and synthesise it in some way."

    And in relation to the emergence of recent "nu-folk" popsters in the U.K.:

    "The folk revival that occurred between the 1950s and 1970s suffered from a lot of the accusations that you could throw at nu-folk: it was middle-class or it was just a leisure activity. I don’t think that’s true. It was much more positive, based around a network of folk clubs and was geographically diverse, whereas nu-folk is very London-based. And of course it wasn’t just folk music: all countercultural music – punk, reggae, rave – once relied on these widespread networks and embedded contexts. The problem now is one of cultural space: where do you perform? The high streets, pubs and clubs have been colonised by the global market. It’s difficult now because there aren’t the spaces there were in the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s. We need a music supporters’ trust perhaps."

    Admittedly, Niven discusses a number of U.K.-specif cultural manifestations (the "nu-folk" thing, Raoul Moat, Football Supporters' Trusts, Blue Labour, etc.) that may be lost on some American readers; but I think many of the larger issues he talks about transcend the context -- particularly those that deal with cultural representation and marginalization, as well as Raymond Williams's idea of the necessity of a "common culture."

02 May 2012

On Location, II

Over the (roughly) 17 years that I lived in Chicago, I watched as the city kind of went apeshit with renaming various streets and boulevards after famous figures -- a profusion of brown signs attached to streetposts at a 90-degree angle, declaring a particular stretch of asphalt Such-and-Such Honorary Way.

Some examples: A span of street that runs past what used to be the city's notorious Cabrini Green housing project bacame Curtis Mayfield Avenue. There's a short block in the Wicker Park neighborhood that was renamed Nelson Algren Way. Another stretch of road just west of downtown was rechristened Frankie Knuckles Way (which included an explanatory "The Godfather of House Music" for the unknowing). Up in "Indiatown" on the city's northwest side, the main east-west drag of Devon switches from Sheikh Mujib Way to Mahatma Gandhi Way and then eventually to Golda Meir Way as the population changes.

I'm not sure what the criteria was for getting a street honorarily renamed, but it must've been quite easy, as these brown signs proliferated all over the city. By the latter half of the noughties, the city began to reconsider the practice, as it appeared that the signs and renamings were causing too much confusion at the 911 call center.

But there are plenty of notable Chicagoans who I'm sure will never receive the homage. For numerous reasons, I'm sure there'll never be a Philip K. Dick Way. And I'm likewise sure there'll never be a Haskell Wexler Way, either. As lovely as he made the city look during the title sequence of Medium Cool, almost every frame of the rest of the film has the appearance of a grand-scale sociological meltdown in the offing -- dysfunctional, dystopic, proto-apocalyptic in a sense that's almost Ballardian. Of course, much of the credit for that should go to then-mayor Richard J. Daley, the CPD, and the National Guard. But still...

01 May 2012

Everybody Else But Me

By now we all know that Abstract Expressionism was a CIA front. No surprise there, because Jackson Pollock's work embodied American freedom (dammit). Which was why after 1956 Pollock lived out his life in luxury. He bought some property in Colorado, never had to so much look at paint can again, never had to agonize over dick for the rest of his days. Ornette Coleman, being an unwitting stooge to the program, would continue the operation -- going so far as to call one of his albums Free Jazz, with said album sporting a Pollock painting on the cover. Isht put a bug up Leonid Brezhnev's ass like you wouldn't believe. Unfortunately, Coleman was (pardon the pun) a "free" agent...a dupe. He was never on the payroll proper, he never realized that the same policy that covered inarticulate paint-slingers from Wyoming might not extend the same largess to a soft-spoken, non-caucasoid note-spatterer from Texas. The CIA didn't wasn't so enlightened about having it's EOE ducks in a row back in those days, so where else can a dude go from there but to Harlem? Here's to being ahead of your time, yet still being behind it...or something like that.

And those who claimed Coleman was a "charlatan" were actually part of a covert psych-ops campaign; one that supposed to throw people off and smokescreen the origins of the first (real) operation. It paid off handsomely, too -- because Brezhnev and his politburo didn't know to collectively shit or wind their wristwatches by that point.

Anyway, anyway, enough with the sarcasm. The clip above is new to me, though the person who kindly posted it cross-ref's it with the Roland Kirk/John Cage film (also by Dick Fontaine) that's been circulating (thank you internet) for several years now. I found the Who's Crazy? LPs many years ago -- back when I was in college -- but haven't revisited them in a forever. Coleman switching out between sax and trumpet and violin, to maximum deliriating effect. Executed as the soundtrack for some obscure European film that supposedly had some Living Theater connection. Coleman reworked some of the resulting material for his Blue Note album The Empty Foxhole less than a year later, letting his ten-year-old son Denardo step in to bang away on a drumkit at times. The latter outing being, if I recall, mostly an abridged and weaker version of the former.

Not that anyone noticed, except for Brezhnev and the apparatchiks in the politburo. Man, they hated it. Plus, The Empty Foxhole had even more of that slapdash "free"-style American paint-y stuff on the cover, and it came out when the whole Vietnam thing was building. Far from a subtle message, that. Plus it was all Chinese music to begin with, wasn't it? So what more evidence do you need? It all fits, once you think about it.

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