29 October 2010

Tools Down

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24 October 2010

New Pastoralism

Curious bit of a ruminative spiel from artist Anthony Gormley, stumbled upon in a back issue of Conservation Bulletin from 2007. In a short piece titled "the Post-Industrial Sublime," Gromley offers:

"I can remember as a schoolboy walking northeast over the North Yorkshire Moors beyond Pickering and first seeing the Fylingdales early warning station -- three huge balls, alien objects in an open, windswept, heatherland with few paths and roads. They were blindingly white, interestingly indented and changed the landscape and the way one felt in it completely.

The post-war landscape of Britain has been transformed by three things: the motorway (with the concomitant loss of railways), the high-rise tower and the decline of manufacturing and the arrival of the megashed. You could also argue that the way we perceive and engage with the land has also changed -- fewer of us work with and in it, the land becoming something to be passed through, most usually in a car, where we are inoculated from direct contact by speed and steel. In the English picturesque, a landscape worthy of being painted had to have some aspect of the sublime (the untamed meeting the ordered) and an absence of evidence of work. It was considered important to have a ruin, castle or monument to help see it in a poetic way. Today we have escaped the 18th century’s decorum, but we still look on the land in remarkably historic ways. I would suggest that the network of motorways is our most potent unconscious monument and it, rather than the park, determines the way that we relate to the landscape of this dear overcrowded group of islands that we call home. I would suggest it is the hidden workings of the structures that we see from these motorways that have become at once the Gothic ruins and the elements of Burkian terror in our sublime, and that give our prospects their sense of beauty."

From there, Gormley takes the reader through a breif travelogue of the new English countryside -- one that includes the glories of the M1 motorway, the Drax power station, the field of towering radio ariels in Rugby and the "exhilarating Emsley Moor transmitter," etc.

Fair enough, I suppose; even if it isn't the most novel way of framing the topic. As a tour of "new monuments," the article's free of any sort of Warholian irony, and lacking in anything akin to Robert Smithson's perverse critical eccentricities. In the end, it' comes across as a bit vapid. Perhaps that latter suspicion is most hammered home when, in the final paragraphs, it appears that the entire article is a triumphalist bit of self-promotion for the artist's own "Angel of the North."

Full article here.

18 October 2010

S.I. 101

Situationist theory for beginners, circa the early 1980s...

Images and text from Larry Law's series of homemade pamphlets, "Spectacular Times." [ # ] [ # ]


I guess this makes for another installment of "The Ubiquity of Floral Wallpaper in the Former East Germany." This time, some selections from Martin Roemers's recent series Relics of the Cold War.

17 October 2010

Yo, Ozymandias!...

"Rome's got ruins. Athens's got ruins. Ours are bigger."

"Not since the last days of the Maya..."

"...Together they set off on the highway of the future, ...and drove it to the end of the line."

Ugch. Perhaps someone should've stuck to making music videos.If the opening montage sequence isn't enough to tip you off, this BBC doco by Julien Temple from earlier this year bears a distinct whiff of ham-handedness about it -- sensationalist, somewhat exploitative, playing to a diffuse and contradictory mesh of received myths and prejudices. For some reason, the old comedic line about the guy who "managed to grab hold of the wrong end of the stick and then used it to beat around the bush" comes naggingly to mind. As do some of Stephen Marche's recent comments on Oliver Stone, especially his barb about "intellectual laziness leavened...with casual irresponsibility."

Perhaps the most damning rejoinder from one Youtube viewer is: "Too much Eninem." But more to the point are those that point out that the thing is wildly one-sided and unnuanced, and suffers a deficit of academic input. Part of the problem might be that Temple is a bit late jumping on the bandwagon of a particular pop-culture trend/meme.

More thoughts on this later.

14 October 2010

Ear-Deep in Ersatz

            Table of Contents

            1       Feedback Song
            2       Girls Don't Count
            3       Autumn Leaves
            4       Black Mask
            5       In My Lifetime
            6       Abbagal, and Sleep Fantasy Dreams
            7       Another Reason
            8       The Hollow Men
            9       Forced Laugh
           10       We Are Time
           11       Mary's Operation
           12       Health & Efficiency

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Sometimes the sound of collapse and things falling apart makes absolute sense. It certainly did then. ("Ahhh...verité, at last.") Of course, the culture was far more mono- in those days. "Mono" as in -lithic, monopolizing all of the discursive channels and crowding most everything else out of the room. Finding something that might've actually meant or said something to you wasn't so easily done and required diligence on the part of the hungry and the bored.

At any rate...

::: download :::

High school music -- mine, anwyay. Ugh, was I ever so young? Most people's taste in music during those formative years largely sucks, anyway; and I'm certain that I was no exception in that respect. But I guess it beat listening to REO Speedwagon.

Still, it's stuff that undoubtedly warped my aesthetic sensibilities for life. The vintage here mostly being (I think) between 1979-1983, with the selection including what might seem to some like obvious choices.

As before: Short shelf-life on the active link.

11 October 2010

This Modern Life

Vintage dovetailing of lifestyle options, via the former GDR and Sweden.

The Stars, Our Destination

Over at Kosmograd, Martin Gittins writes about his recent rattling encounter with Jane and Louise Wilson's video installation "Proton, Unity, Energy, Blizzard." Dating from 2001, the work was trotted out this past year as an inclusion in the Gagosain gallery's Crash exhibition -- a collection of artworks that, in some way or another, touched on themes relevant to the work of author J. G. Ballard.

As Gittins details, the installation involves a visual exploration of the former launch sites and military grounds at Baikonur, Kazakhstan; the center of the Soviet space program which first put Yuri Gagarin into space.
Unfortunately, I've missed out on a lot of the Wilson twins' work because it's never circulated widely on these shores. But from I have encountered, this appears to part of thematic cycle that the Wilsons have revisited a few times throughout their career. First there was 1999's "Gamma," a very similar diptych video project filmed at Greenham Common, an abandoned RAF military installation in Berkshire, England. The following year, the Wilsons produced "Star City," which -- focusing on the "hidden city" and cosmonaut training center just north of Moscow -- served as a precursor to "Proton, Unity, Energy, Blizzard." They've also done works that incorporated former Stasi headquarters in East Germany, as well documented (à la Paul Virilio) the abandoned WWII bunkers along the coasts of Normandy.

A number of Jane and Louise Wilson's works touch upon the Cold War race for supremacy between the U.S. and the Soviet Union in the areas of weapons production and space exploration, and the massive resources that were annexed and created to bring these programs into being. Gittin cites a press release for "Star City," which states:

In their attempt to describe the psychology of the site, the Wilsons set out on an archeological quest, exploring the relics of recent history. They invite the viewer on a trip of discovery peppered with suspense and mystery, like chancing on a long forgotten city. They summon up the ghost of Communism and the utopian ideas formed during the Cold War and contrast them with the ‘run-down’ reality as visualised by the architectural setting. [...]

Viewers are caught up between juxtaposed shots of the same scene and images sliding across the four screens of the installation as the camera pans across the rooms and their contents. Feelings of discomfort and paranoia develop as the viewers positioned in the open cube of the screens are forced to be 'on constant alert … lest they miss something.' The endless loops of the roller coaster mystery tour through Star City create a 'sense of going somewhere and nowhere at once.'

While elsewhere, "Proton, Unity, Energy, Blizzard" is described as "a pure exploration of architecture." In this instance, the "pure architecture" in question is a purely functional one. "Black budgets" and the creation of secret cities and alternate societies -- all of it orchestrated and operating just beyond the periphery of everyday life, put in place (the ideology of the day had it) as the virtual-but-unmapped infrastructure that supported and insured the life of the primary/civilian society. So this thread of the Wilson twins' work amounts to a sort of Cold War "bunker archeology," effectively; one that engages the monsters under the bed of any child that grew up during those years. The spectral excesses of aspiring empires and the potential destruction and hegemony of power that they sought -- phantoms known, vaguely acknowledged, yet seldom spoken of in the public sphere.

I'd be curious to see the Wilsons do a project devoted the KGB's research into the possibilities of "psychic warfare." Instead, it appears one of their recent projects involved focusing on the the archives of Stanley Kubrick.

10 October 2010

East Side Stories

Ute Mahler. "Mecklenburg,1984." [ from ]

Gerhard Richter, unfurling the first-gen "Capitalist Realism"
aesthetic for West German art audiences. Berlin, 1966.

05 October 2010

False Start

Matthew Barney, in a scene from the suppressed Cremaster "prequel."

Apparently never included on the artist's CV, and for good reason...

Untitled (a.k.a. Cremaster 0.1)

The film opens with shots of a ball park, fully lit in the dark of the night. The stands are empty, and we see a solitary baseball player practicing in front on home plate, tossing balls in the air and hitting them into the darkness. Along the perimeter of the infield is the figure of the satyr Pan (played by Barney himself), who is dressed in clownish attire and is laying down the diamond's chalk lines. From an aerial shot, we are shown that the satyr is not outlining the boundaries of the diamond, but is instead using the chalk to draw an equation made up of unidentifiable alchemical glyphs. The figure of the satyr appears throughout the remainder of the film in a series of scattered, cut-away scenes in isolated locations, performing a variety of puzzling actions -- the most abstruse of which shows him stringing up a badminton net in an abandoned Air Force hangar.

From the sequence in the ballpark, the film cuts to series of shots following a pack of armored ocelots wearing as they roam the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. After that, we are transported to Times Square on New Years Eve in the year of 1945. The attending crowd is made up of nothing but sailors. The ceremony of the ascending sphere has been inverted, with a pair of balls descending -- rather than ascending -- the pole (representing, obviously, the descent of a pair of prenatal testicles) while the countdown is staged as a metaphor for the ominous Trinity countdown at Los Alamos. This latter metaphor of a doomsday clock is made clear by the blinding light that emanates from the base of the pole as the clock strikes midnight.

Next, we see a set of abandoned cargo docks along the Hudson illuminated by the intense light shining from the NYE ceremony in Manhattan. A female figure leads the ocelots in a communal dance. This is believed to represent a dance of doom as led by the goddess Shiva, a visual trope inspired by J. Robert Oppenheimer's famous quote from the Bhagavad Gītā. The accompanying dancers form a series of phalanxes and configurations, often lining up and returning to form the the letters X and Y.

Throughout the course of the film, we are treated to repeated shots of a mysterious figure standing on a sidewalk outside the Department of Justice in Washington D.C. in the middle of the night. He appears to be waiting for someone, and repeatedly checks his pocket watch -- a pocket watch that oozes a vaseline-like substance each time he closes the cover. At the film's conclusion, a limousine arrives and takes the figure to the Washington Monument. There he is greeted by the figure of the satyr who is dressed as an elevator attendant. The two enter the elevator and ascend to the Monument's upper deck.

By the artist's own laconic account, the film is an allegorical mediation of the nature of creation and destruction, and how they relate to masculinity as a biological and social construct. It runs 39 minutes in duration, and features cameo appearances by Mickey Roarke as Roy Cohn, Joe Delasandro as Joe DiMaggio, and Sinead O'Connor as the goddess Shiva, and costumes designed by Jean Paul Gaultier

According to various sources, the above project was completed in 1992 but was never officially released. The artist withheld it from circulation, reputed to have found the end result unsatisfactory and declaring that its symbolism was both too "muddled" and too "overt," and admitted that the whole thing was a rush-job that somewhat ill-conceived. While a pirated torrents was briefly leaked via Karagarga.net in 2007, few have actually seen the film. Those that have sate that it is a deeply flawed and abortive warm-up for Barney's much-heralded Cremaster Cycle, citing the usual references to "Un Chien Andalous" and David Lynch. One person who had scene the full film declared it crap, saying that that it looked like Barney had simply taken a headful of bad inspiration from watching the video for Bowie's "Ashes to Ashes" a few too many times.

04 October 2010


Film still from The White Bus, a 1966 short by Lindsey Anderson.

By way of the always intriguing Toys & Techniques.

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