24 September 2017

Cargo Culting

Christopher D'Archangelo, Post No Art (c. 1975) as seen at documenta 14, Kassel, Germany.

via Thierry Geoffrey

Various graffiti, Athens, Greece. Summer, 2017.

07 September 2017


Honestly, back in the days when Julian Cope's Krautrocksampler doc became the Young Person's Guide to Same, I took issue with the author's assertion that German prog was part of a concerted effort to shed all all Anglo-American influences. True enough if you're listening to Neu!, Harmonia, Kraftwerk, Cluster, and Faust; but not much of the case at all when applied to most of their German prog contemporaries.

And not so true much early Can, either; which -- despite however adventurous it aiming to be -- still adhered to the arc set by Anglo-American psych/blues/"freak-out" models. But that would change soon enough , all such stuff was gradually stripped away and the music pared back to its base elements. Which is probably why Ege Bamyasi and Future Days remain the albums I most often revisit. With the former album, the band starts to shed the aforementioned baggage -- with Czukay's bass and Jaki Liebezeit's drums brought prominently into the foreground, guiding much of what transpires, mixed and crafted in a way that created an uncanny sense of sonic spatiality. The latter album followed further down that path -- far enough to achieve its own peculiar musical universe.

It was heartening to see Czukay paid proper tribute when the post-rave electronic music boom of the late 1990s came along -- his contributions as an e-musik pioneer widely recognized, thus giving him a second life with a new generation of listeners. I recall clips of him playing as festivals, bobbing and dancing around behind racks of new-gen gear, delighted that the world still kept offering him the means to further explore musical ideas that had gotten into his head from his early days as a Stockhausen student.

26 February 2017

La Trahison des Clercs, ed. #115

There are a number of reasons that my interest in following the present art world has flagged to almost complete indifference these past several years. I've grown to see little point in complaining, and increasingly think less and less abut it all. But R.M. Vaughan's critique of the recent Berlin Biennale, posted this past June at Art F City, echoes some of thoughts about it very well. The opening paragraphs provide you with a preview of the tenor of the entire thing:

"Since the last Berlin Biennale, Europe has undergone a currency and debt crisis, watched far right political entities grow from obscure clusters of nutjobs into massive populist movements, dealt, badly, with the millions of people fleeing conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa, and been subjected to terrifying and brutal acts of terrorism by all manner of extremists.

In all of these crises, Berlin, the capital of the EU’s richest and most politically powerful country has played a central and keynote-determining role.

I can thus think of no better way, given the circumstances, to reinforce the popular perception that contemporary art has nothing to say about the world that surrounds it than by hiring the NYC-based fashion bloggers DIS to curate the ninth edition of the Berlin Biennale. I have rarely seen such a profound case of not giving the people what they want, of so many heads so far up so many assholes.

Just walk away, Berlin. Go have a strong drink. Read a good mystery novel. Take too much MDMA and pee your slacks. Sit in an empty room and cry. Do anything but waste 26 Euros on the Berlin Biennale.

I am not arguing that every work of art must pay keen attention to (nor certainly attempt to resolve) world problems. But I cannot see the value of artworks that exist in and speak solely to a snarky, self-affirming vacuum either, as do almost all of the works I saw at the BB. There is so much avoidance of current problems on offer here that one could reasonably see the entire project as an act of retreat, even denial. It’s as if the world is too much for DIS and their assembled artists, so they’ve all gone back to the rec room to play video games."

Admittedly, Vaughan wasn't alone in this assessment, as negative reviews of the Biennale stacked up across the internet. But then there's Vaughan's review of a large exhibition of paintings by American artist Amy Feldman which appeared this past week. I recommend reading the whole thing, but the crunch comes in the final stretch:

"I showed a friend a selection of Feldman’s works, a friend who happens to be an accomplished novelist who grew up in poverty in the UK. His response was that all I was doing by showing him these lazy paintings was affirming his long-held suspicion that the art market really existed to give frivolous rich people a way to show off how much play money they have. Feldman’s paintings are that and that only – light amusement for jaded buyers.

The works have no redeeming qualities other than as oversized examples of how shitty and decadent times have become. Feldman’s paintings are the wall-based equivalent of hiring peasants to play at being peasants in your estate gardens, the extra chandeliers in the posh hotel lobby, the last dollops of gold and poured blue glass on King Tut’s 25 pound funeral mask, the extra season of Girls; flitting, careless excess and high-brow gluttony rendered into being with a gutting, lurid insincerity"
Easily the most acidic art reviews I've encountered since the bygone days when Gary Indiana used to occasionally contribute to The Village Voice.

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