21 July 2011

...Versus Getting Away from It (Some Afterthoughts on the Prior Post)

And there are a lot reasons why cinematic treatments of art are often so terrible. One is that seems that the people who write these films don't understand their subject matter, or grossly misjudge how to get it across on film. Usually you get some naively starry-eyed romanticization of it all, or some pathetically misfired attempt at satirizing the artworld and how it supposedly operates. (Or in some instances, a deeply confused combination of the two.) The video above somewhat follows in this latter mould, but unlike most art-related films I can think of, it's actually somewhat enjoyable to watch.

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The parodic gist of the Modeselektor video brings to mind the recent craze for art fairs, since that's obviously what helped inspire the thing. I went to a few art fairs back in the mid-to-late 1990s, and soon decided that I'd be better off avoiding them as much as possible in the future. Little did I know at the time that they were about to become the "wave of the future." And in recent years, a lot of critics and artists and various artworld people have decried the rise of the art fair. Reputedly a lot of gallerists hate them too, but feel that they're a "necessary evil" in keeping their businesses operating and economically afloat.


W. Kasper said...

Maybe bad films about art are due to misunderstanding the subject (although I'm a fan of Kirk cutting his ear off behind lush, luminous set design after Anthony Quinn's hightailed it to Tahiti).

But how does that explain terrible movies by Robert Longo and Julian Schnabel? They definitely ain't no Minnelli.

Greyhoos said...

Good question.

What you're talking about was the offshoot of the whole '80s "uptown" artboom -- all the overnight blockbuster artists. A group of artists who were huge at the time, but (despite the fact that their works still supposedly sells) quickly suffered a downgrading in canonical statii once the '80s art/market bubble (and all its accompanying hype) deflated.

They were po-mo, drawing from a range of cultural/multidisciplinary sources....so why not let 'em try their hand at film? (Yes, I guess you could say there was a bit of "branding" afoot with the whole enterprise.)

And it did seem to all be tied to the "uptown" set. The "downtown"/East Village scene cranked out its own films -- but that was all part of the DIY/underground/"no wave" film movement.

And if I recall David Salle (anyone remember him?) was also allowed to make a movie. I remember that all the reviews (what few there were) said it was terrible.

The odd one out here was Cindy Sherman. Someone eventually offered her the chance to make a movie. She chose to make a slasher film. At the time I thought it sounded very appropriate, too perfect. But as things turned out, it was only a good idea on paper, because the film wound up being (I thought) quite dull and tedious.

Greyhoos said...

All of which reminds me...

Schnabel's rep took major hits when the bubble collapsed. Before he started making films, he floundered around a bit, trying his hand at other things, saying in interviews that he was feeling "insecure." Somewhere in the course of all that, he hooked up with Bill Laswell, which resulted in this ghastly item...


W. Kasper said...

Ach - Bill Laswell. Involved in some great stuff despite himself! And i don't care what anyone says - Basquait's hiphop records sucked.

I never knew Sherman made a film. Wasn't Mary Harron a visual artist? I hear Steve MqQueen's 'Hunger' is impressive, although I haven't seen it yet.

Then there's the various photographers, animators, cartoonists etc. who become film-makers. A lot of whom end making films that are just live-action photographs, cartoons etc. (although I like some of 'em - don't get me wrong. Frank Tashlin rocks).

Greyhoos said...

The handful of Laswell-produced records that I've ever liked were the very few where I'm amazed that he somehow managed to NOT fuck them up. Sly & Robbie's Riddim Killers leaps to mind, closely following Henry Threadgill's Too Much Sugar.... There are a few others, but since the mid-'80s I've always thought his name meant a kiss of death.

And I've long been curious about Steve McQueen's work, having read a lot about it that made me really curious. But there's the transatlantic lag. if you live outside NYC, opps to see his work are few to none. I should scout and see if there' are pirated posts somewhere.

W. Kasper said...

Well that was Sly and Robbie - they weren't exactly of production chops themselves, so maybe they just left Bill to his bong and gave him a cheque when the session was over.

I do remember how my personal animosity against the whole 'remixology' hype came when BIll was allowed to use his boxing gloves on the work of Can and Miles Davis - soupy triphop mush, anyone? Would you like that more compressed?

Greyhoos said...

Best dis of the guy that comes to memory: The "Invisible Jukebox" column in The Wire mag from about a decade ago ago. The session's subject was some Euro jazz/improv musician that I was unfamiliar with. At one point they played him a track from the Massacre album. First words out of his mouth were, "Sounds like the bass player should've shown up for rehearsals."

All of that aside, a number of the Last Exit albums are pretty decent.

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