At least it's better than that Third Reich shit he's been peddling
A space for errant ideas about and around film and art kept by Bradford Nordeen, a New York based writer and film programmer.
So much to catch up on!
Thursday boasted an art crawl which was slowed by an accidental after work nap. I had nothing but ambitions about the Lower East Side gallery thing, even if it wasn't entirely too clear what it was (in hindsight it was something to the tune of MOCA's Contemporaries, read: young bourgeois would-be collectors hob-nobbing, read: something that strode out of a Nicole Holofcener movie). As I got to my first destination, Participant Inc., my confusion was affirmed by their utterly fabulous director, Lia Gangitano. "You pay to walk about and get booze." "But, isn't that just an opening?" My question was met with a shrug and cigarette break and I was left to fend for myself with some delicious Michel Auder video work.
Auder's output dates back to the early portapack years of video. Since then, he has used the medium to document his daily life (which is of great interest when you happen to have been married to both Viva and Cindy Sherman). Well, Viva was on high (or just high) in the Participant exhibition "Keeping Busy: An Inaccurate Survey of Michel Auder," occupying more than one of the carefully positioned monitors sculpturally stacked to greet as you walk into the space. The back which typically serves as the screening wall (Lia's been screening amazing and challenging works for years, previously at Thread Waxing Space) is an on-demand space, set up with a catalogue of Auder's plethoric output for perusal - including his recent A Feature, which had a week-long run at Anthology. Some patrons with great taste selected a tape featuring Viva and Taylor Meade cooing over a young Gary Indiana. Indiana, Taylor informs us, came from a very rich family. So rich they started the state of Indiana. But they only give him money if he keeps the right company. Assuredly Viva and Meade would not be the "right" company in the eyes of these fictitious barons, but they kept me in the gallery for some time, listening to the pedantic ululations on offer from Auder's fine videography. (The other noteworthy snippet came as Viva lamented her inability to discern cultural heritage. "I can't even tell if someone's high, let alone Jewish.")
Next up was Envoy Enterprises, which has made quite the name for itself as a gay social space. The whole art craaawwl doubled as a marketing opp for alcoholic sponsors and Envoy's greatest piece was the collection of one-sip Pernod glasses jetisoned at the door to the gallery. I seriously thought the floor was the bar! Sure, Pernod is not for everyone, but this is free booze, here, people. Forgot my phone or else you would TOTALLY have a snap of that. Amazing.
We then stumbled upon DCKT Contemporary which showcased a rather noteworthy exhibition by a friend of D's from SF: Brion Nuda Rosch. I'd seen Rosch's work at the Pulse fair last Spring, and, at his strongest, the work is really something special. Rosch works with cut out retro pages from photography books (D joked he got a residency at Adobe books). Rosch cuts slits and other geometric patterns out of the nostalgic images and allows them to hang by the top of these slits on a nail in the gallery wall. Gravity turns these flat pages into frowns as they relax. There's an elegiac simplicity to the pieces, as they linger like battle flags of a forgotten war, suggesting a cognitive relationship with the banal imagery that is not specific, per se, but completely evocative. Rosch's decision to throw some color into the mix (turquoise walls and thin floor linings that drift farther onto the gallery floor, from time to time) is quite well played, adding a lightness to the graphic base of his work. But perhaps the time was not right to commit to both gallery spaces as works like Monument Struck Cactus and Past Laid out Before Us are somewhat clumsier and less confident the real zingers in the back room. And the sculptural objects are totally unnecessary.
And finally, we drifted into Zurcher gallery to be met by its director, Gwenolee Zurcher, sunnily perched amid the gallery. She smiled on as I walked in, the only one at the time. It felt odd in the arid NYC art climate. "Are you closed?" Zurcher's attitude is refreshing i.e. she's open. We had a nice chat about the rather strong, minimalist work on show by Sarah Rapson, a Dorset artist who works old-school art world references into her sleek, yet earthen sculptural works. There is a lot of seventies going on here, and she includes old art articles about Lee Lozano and other period references like the austere image that is rather unfortunately used to represent the show: an attempt to recapture a photograph by Robert Frank of a suit strolling down Lombard street. In the show, its enshrouded in a structural piece. As a card, it's isolated to the image and becomes another cold art object. And Zurcher is noteworthy for not being that type of gallery. The video in the back room, East Cliff is the most melodramatically concise, a grainy black-and-white film that depicts the artist lugging some Sisyphean suitcase away from the oncoming tide. It's at once hilarious and poignant. Maybe my read is one-note. Zurcher pretended like she didn't hear me when I made a comment about "the baggage" in the video. But, at the end of the night, all I wanted to do was kick back with Gwenolee. So nice, I hope one day we'll brunch.
Friday I went to this new-ish roving party that Sean B of Spank is throwing called Xanadude. It's was fun, alright, but ladies, I'm getting mighty sick of Public Assembly. Let's imaginate more please. Danced to some "Bad Girls" which got me shouting "Toot toot! Beep Beep!" for the rest of the evening which didn't last that long. They have this annoying dance-off with judges who eye you judgementally as you're just trying to let loose. So we went home.
Saturday, well... that you can read about HERE. (Empire Live Blogging!!)
And last night, I hung out with my filmmaker friend, Adam Keleman, and the lovely Sam Ashby (of Little Joe) again after Adam Baran (with whom I did Saturday's liveblogging) and Ira Sachs' Queer / Art / Film screening series. Last night was Faster Pussycat Kill! Kill! presented by Joe Gage. I haven't seen that movie in years, and does it hold up! Funny, though, the girls lost the cartoon edge that I maintained from my youthful viewing and were much more acidic this time around. Fabulous lines abound and I can hardly believe I forgot the scene in which Varla fucks the Vegetable to death with her car. That's truly one of the most sexually overcharged moments of any cinema. Gage, a porn auteur, was right; every single shot of the film is immaculately composed and considered. Really, a treasure. I didn't know this, but just like Samuel Fuller, Meyer was a war photographer (in Korea). Me, I've never seen any of Joe Gage's films (Kansas City Trucking Company) but after an insightful Q&A it made me want to go check some out.
As is the custom after Q/A/F, we convened at Julius', the oldest gay bar in New York, for some (read: too many) lime rickeys. We oggled the new Mattachine party poster which features Rock and Dorris kicking back, which led me to goad Adam K. to see my favorite Doris Day thriller Midnight Lace (1960) for the umpteenth time this week. I'll miss this Mattachine (the party thrown at Julius by PJ Deboy and John Cameron Mitchell - who was there last night and almost wacked me in the head whilst pointing out some photograph he had restored that now lurks on the dark wood walls of Julius, he is quite invested in that bar) which I would be sad about if I wasn't going upstate ALL WEEKEND! Haven't been out of the city in 6 months and it's driving me crazy. But before I go packing my mosquito netting, I'll leave you with a handy little just-learned lesson. No matter how much you drink the night before, down a gallon of water before you go to bed (not too fast, mind you). I should have woken up hating the world, I breezed into that morning meeting with style, class, and charm!
oh, I know you've already seen it, fag, but one more time, cause it's just SO darling
I really need to learn to start getting to things on time. Was hanging out with Sam Ashby who is stateside long enough to pollinate zine stands with his beautiful new fag film mag, Little Joe. Then I ran into Glitter Nation in an attempt to hear Genesis and the Lady Jaye Breyer P. Orridge spin a yarn at the new museum about cut-ups and Brion Gysin. No dice. Sold out. So sad. So instead I ate crab pizza and drank g&t's into this less-than-sweltering (now - thank GOD!) weather.
Mostly I write about movies but I've got this alternate persona that just wants to listen to pop music 24/7. I try to fight it! I try to listen to what the cool kids listen to. I download Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti. My boyfriend likes ceo/The Tough Alliance (which, alright, the latter is still pop). I bought that Fever Ray record. But back I plunge into the abyss of fabricated jouissance. After the cross-over hit of La Roux's 'Bulletproof' and Kylie's clocking in the top 20 here, Marina and the Diamonds have been giving the US a good deal of attention. She's hit the somewhat coveted position of Morning Becomes Eclectic. She's Welsh and she writes all of her music via piano, see. She can get away with doing stripped down versions of her songs better than Little Boots, who dropped in the UK one year prior to Marina (when I was living there), was tipped to become the next big thing, then... didn't. I guess Marina's been doing pretty well. She's been touring like mad both here and abroad. I saw her at Poisson Rouge earlier this year, but in a moment, she'll be at Webster Hall again. Too bad I'll be in Spain then.
But, you know what, it looks better like this:
That video would be directed by the same team who brought little life to Kelis' poor Flesh Tone which just opened with 7,833 album sales count in the states. Sorry Kels. Oh yeah, and Marina's trying to cash in on the whole Gaga thing in the states with her new single, a once-album-track I had on repeat for a long time. I don't really like session writer Greg Kurstin (Little Boots, Kylie, Dagonette, Sophie Ellis-Bextor), but he seemed to work well for this one:
And then, just because it's popped up again ever since she dropped the ball with a "Director's Cut" that surfaces for, like 13 hours on the production site Why Not? (who did Gregg Araki's second two Teen Apocalypse movies). Well... Grace Jones' new video has emerged again. You get to see her in the nude! As if we haven't seen that enough already. Enjoy. Especially those over in Istanbul and London for her performances - particularly you bastards at Loveboxxx. I am Jealous.
I saw the new Todd Solondz film at a screening on Wednesday. At least his other, recent works Storytelling and Palindromes angered me, but Life During Wartime merely bored me. There's a stellar cast (Allison Janney, Shirley Henderson, Paul Reubens, Charlotte Rampling) doing imitations and floundering (although, Rampling's press-on nails do turn in a truly brilliant performance!). Just not really amounting to anything. And then the film just ends. Mostly I've just been getting to sleep too late from watching Skins on Netflix after I get home. I avoided the show when I lived in London, but man, I'm just blown away, episode after episode...
Two different pictures, one strident message. I’ve watched, in the past few days, two summer movies that could not be more disparate in origin and form that sadly categorized a contemporary ethos of moral conservativism and family values. I sat dumbfounded but affirmed before Sex and the City 2, after the cloud of bile and hatred had more or less rendered the thing a quivering Carrie-on, beaten like a schoolchild who well deserved it. After a watch, I’d lend a blow too. Stirred in my critical rage, I related to friends repeatedly in the following days the sort of moral aggrandizing that Carrie and co. now parlayed. While most reviews tended to favor economic aspects which ridicule and goad our current impoverished climate, it was the very sex from which the film takes its title from (or perhaps I should say once took, it now seems more burdened by its moniker than defined). The matrimonial arrangements that began working into the show mid-life have changed its attitude to one of chaste judgements and privileged American condescension. When, in this sequel, one of the two gay characters divulges his extra-marital arrangements on the eve of his Connecticut wedding, “I get to cheat” is received with alarming abjection in the eyes of our “girls.” It’s no shock that Charlotte York is appalled. That’s been the long-riding humor of her character: her culpability. But Carrie too, the character who, on first introduction, was keen to have sex like a man, peers out at the flamboyant pederast, hand over mouth, with a jarring disbelief. Then Charlotte names the words that linger on America’s lips, “but this is marriage!”
Then Saturday I was shocked to discover reverberations of this mores in the swimmingly reviewed (and eagerly anticipated on my end) new offering from Lisa Cholodenko, The Kids Are All Right. A fabulously written, superbly acted, subtly executed picture that dissolves into a message of wholesome values, that render the "progressive" image of lesbian parenthood that purports to be the film’s primary subject all-but coincidental. This message is about family. The nuclear family. And all else is, quite literally, shut out in the cold. My shock arrives from these vehicles status as seemingly leftist (perhaps even progressive?) entertainment. A picture about lesbian moms who aren’t losing, beating or molesting their children can still only come from one camp, right? And yet the message hardening these summer affairs seems more at home in right-wing rings. The Are Kids All Right is a disheartening picture because of the finality of its claims. There is no space for alternative familial structures (or lifestyles) despite the whole lesbian mom scheme that would suggest a film about progressive community construction or open minded childrearing. Cause, Annette Benning, with her close cropped hair, money-earning-ness, alcoholic, domineering ways is offered in place of a father figure. Nic, the character, is a lesbian, but the role is the same. Plain and simple. Which leaves Julianne Moore’s Jules to be the free spirit, the housewife who secretly smokes cigarettes and dabbles in whimsical business deals with daddy’s money but ultimately can’t put her finger on anything long enough without fingering it then traipsing away. Both films confine their protagonists to heterosexist conscriptions of monogamy and guilt and structure their infidelities as earth shattering events, moral trespasses that threaten the sturdy and conventional lives they blissfully lead.
There’s a (smart) laugh a minute to be had in the film, until you see where it's headed. As with Cholodenko’s other films, there’s an amiable brew of messy issues and emotions that are - at least – dealt with. Which is more than one can say about most other contemporary films. I’m just so disappointed in where we end up. I was complaining in the previous post about straight white people writing about “alternative communities” but shit, apparently they need to because the “alternative communities” seem to be peddling values so steeped in tradition. It comes as no shock with Sex and the City 2. For so long that show has been about gay men writing for a large constituency of middle-to-upper-class straight white women. Which is to say, they write fantasy. Or, more particularly, the structure is a platform for a kind of masochism where the gay writers, directors, and aesthetes generate a world in which they would prefer to function as something other than themselves, a world which, very frequently, excises, derides or finds punch-lines in gay men such as themselves. Lindy West, in her hilarious and oft-quoted Stranger review describes the film as "essentially a home video of gay men playing with giant Barbie dolls."
But the problem with The Kids Are All Right runs deeper. It scares me more. Cholodenko's film doesn't need the placating formula of commercial consumer fantasy that SATC2 does (though it's kinda there in these expansive modernist and craftsman houses owned by even the slacker contingency). It's an independent film. It premiered at Sundance and will likely make under 10 million dollars in its theatrical run. It's a purpose film, adult cinema - the sort that used to be made in droves but is now reserved for "important" or daring voices. But there's a tremulous pitch to Cholodenko's "daring" tone. "[H]ad it been made in 1970," writes J. Hoberman in the Voice "it might have been an Echo Park Teorema, with everyone winding up in bed together." Instead, distributor Fine Line Features has launched an e-campaign that insists the benefits of bringing your children to The Kids. The cynic in me wants for the exploit of families in this campaign. Child ticket prices added onto the parents', like those pesky 3-D surcharges that exponenitally swell current Blockbuster fare. But what's worse is that, after watching this film, the campaign seems right at home. That you can bring your kids to The Kids so that they see just what lesbians are really like. They'll be assured to see that the Moms can do just as well as Mommie and Daddy. They'll see that they have the exact same longings, the exact some ups and the exact same downs. They'll see that lesbian identity, when layered upon the family unit is eclipsed by the roles there required. They'll likely think, "gee, they're just like us!"
There's three posts swimming in my head right now. Let this suffice until then. Should have been a performance of 'Get Outta My Way' ('When Dress Takes Over')...
I'm also really loving this song at present. In a summer that's really showing a dearth of good music, this has been on heavy rotation...
And cause I haven't posted this yet. I think, perhaps all future output should resemble this. I think this performance shows some of the most provocative (and productive) uses of popular culture that I've seen in a LONG LONG time. It's terrifying. It really makes me lose sleep. But my god, is it amazing...
I'm ill and using that as an excuse to let my mind wander all over the place. It's a good manner of thinking that is only further enabled by this swealtering heat all of New York (and other neighboring regions, I suppose) is being subjected to. I love illness for this reason, sitting in bed with movies playing and countless books piling up in sweat covered sheets. There's an image!
I've watched some rather delicious films lately, in my state of immune system innebriation. In an attempt at using my brain, I hit Sally Banes' Greenwich Village 1963: avant-garde performance and the effervescent body, a book I am truly interested in and have recently picked up from the library. But the chapter at hand was about community and family and there's just something that didn't sit right about (assumedly) straight academics writing about queer sociality and community building. So I tossed the book to the sheets after a dozen or so pages and found true delight in the William Castle / Joan Crawford re-pairing, I Saw What You Did, a tale about 2 bratty 60s girls in pants who prank call the wrong house. John Ireland has killed his wife, see, and is pestered to reenter matrimony with his neighbor, Ms. Crawford. But the real star of the film is the woodlands that surround Libby Mannering's (Andi Garrett) house. Her parents are away and the fog rolls in. It's all rather Night of the Hunter in that delicious, black-and-white studio-production-of-outdoors kind of way. Though, given the 60s teen slant, it's kinda like Gidget's being chased by Robert Mitchum/John Ireland. There's some swell music that punctures the tension with its pop-goofiness, and the closing shot/line is beyond priceless: "The window can be fixed but I don't think we'll be using the phone for a long time!"
I've been musing about writing something on Curtis Harrington for a while, so I watched one of his big-budget studio pictures, Games. It's a sleek little thriller. Jennifer Montgomery (Katherine Ross) is rich and beautiful and so, she should have known something was awry when she went and married poor Paul (James Caan). And you know its double trouble when Simone Signoret faints on your doorstep! She's a medium who likes to play games which leads to some pre-Shyamalmdksdjaglan plot twists. Blood's shed and there's a nod to long-time Harrington producer Roger Corman's Bucket of Blood when a corpse is covered in plaster and exhibited as a sculpture - or is he? Harrinton's movies are intersting because they don't hold up as Hollywood features, per se. He went to film school with Kenneth Anger and made avant-garde films before turning to large productions, and the latter efforts carry through the oneiric quality of his earlier trance films. His films are heavy on atmosphere and alien, dream sensations, but lite on the kind of causality that usually runs a major motion picture. This film works in quite a few plot points that enable Harrington to bring to the mainstream some fo the imagery and Occult content that Anger trafficked in with Inauguration of the Pleasuredome (in which Harrington performs) and Invocation of My Demon Brother.
Then, I tried watching some AWFUL movie with Ashton Kutcher and Michele Pfeiffer about some post-grief-counseling humping, but it was just tepid, so I switched gears. I'm not sure if it was inspired by noticing a chapter on Jarman in the new Dennis Cooper non-fiction collection Smothered In Hugs that I'm mulling over in my state of sickly stupor or if it was just a coincidence that I hit that chapters minutes after finishing the film, but I put on Edward II which I don't think I've watched since I was 16. I'm wary of Jarman. He was an early influence and a kind of transitional figure for my love of avant-garde cinema. You could get him on video and his pictures maintain a feature length format that allows for distribution, but his aesthetic culls from the avant-garde endeavors of Kenneth Anger and Gregory Markopoulos. After discovering that avant-garde, I dashed my teen idol for a good half-decade. I think I still very much like the ethos and aesthetic that surrounds Jarman. Cooper had some very insightful things to say - with regards to allowing the moments of pomp and pretense. Edward II is VERY heavy handed, but at a time when being heavy-handed felt necessary, important. It's a delicacy that has not survived in this era of film production, hell, of thought in general. The allegorical elements with the ACTUP-esque group that emerges in Jarman's film felt palpable at the time, I'm sure. Now it kind of feels strained, but I'm not sure whose the worse for it, me or the film.
I just hope I'm better in time for Predators
Drift on over to the Fanzine to read my epic re/overview of Kelis' career, including her recent stint as dance dive on the just-released Flesh Tone. The following quote, which I found today on MTV.com (I think?) didn't make its way to me in time to be part of my claim, but I think it speaks to the piece - and to Kelis' particular strength amid the other popstars out there. "I recorded it at home and I recorded it, like, literally laying on my couch. It's just the most comfortable way to possibly record an album with, like, snacks next to me," Kelis laughed. "It was awesome."
And as a nice little personal/geek out anecdote, I walked past her on the street today! All the stars felt well in alignment like in that John Cusack movie...
Strolled the Chelsea openings last night, mostly headed for Christmas in July show at Yvonne Lambert gallery. From the opening window with a whirling xmas tree that trashes is ornaments as they fly across the room, the show did not disappoint. Given the present climate of the artworld, it felt like Christmas was precisely the remedy to the malaise. Few Santas, surprisingly but a lot of trees and lights. Some gestures were forced than others (the red and green Lynda Benglis became a melted tree, or as d questioned "the wicked witch?" Not so much). We popped into Narcissister's neighboring performance in an exhibiition entitled Sirens, mid-go. I'm short and could not make out all that much beyond the wall of homospectators, but the palpable energy and wild gestural grace that we have come to expect from her were well intact. I became aware of her only recently through her fabulous, I'm Every Woman video in which she removes articles of clothing from her birth canal and slinkily slips them on. All to Chaka Kahn, of course. My only available sight last night - Ciss hurling herself against an adolescent bedroom set plastered with teenage male hearthrobs and a pin-up of her own plasticine presence (she wears a plastic mask and tits). She was undulating like a spastic stripper against these fliers, smoothing her fingers over her printed image, then later, over a rubber mask. I can't speak to the nuances of the content, precisely, but her performative agility was remarkable. Other Chelsea treats... not so much. I found myself remarking at one 27th street gallery, "Oh, I forgot... It's July!" Still. There's no excuse.Hopped over to Envoy Enterprises' Troll group show dedicated to works of art on trolling long enough to hear someone ask if "that's a Francis Bacon?" Then I had some dumplings.
Headed over to Sunshine cinema for the new Tilda Swinton movie, which didn't get very good reviews but looked sumptuous and was described as a remake of Pasolini's Teorema of sorts. This ponderous movie didn't so much irk me as leave me wanting. First-time feature filmmaker Luca Guadagnio knows how to close in on sumptuous objects like food, couture and jewels(or Tilda and her male costars), but he doesn't possess the grace for this glorious meditation on objecthood to amount to much. The film has some rather obtuse ideas about philosophy best summed up in a sequence that Fred Halstead did 10 times better in his LA Plays Itself (1972). Tilda and her truly beautiful beau make love in the wilderness. See, she's tethered to this family rooted in commerce (they're benevolent fabric factory owner) and he's a chef who brings out the essential flavors of earthy foods like eggplant. So when they fuck, Guadagnio's camera looms close on Tilda's imperfect form and white flesh, contrasted with images of the delicate creatures of nature, beetles, bugs and lovely things frolicking amongst the sunkist soil. Brooks run and grass sways. And then we cut to a business deal done over the London skyline. It's a cut so abrupt (though welcome from the plodding editing of the love scene) and obvious in its message that you lose interest in much of the auteur potential of the film, since all of the issues are handled with this clumsy literalness.
The bulbous ending has something of affect to it, but it SO wins this year's A Single Man award for attempting to employ OTT music to do the work for you. Swinton scampers up to the house, not unlike Laura Betti in Teorema, and there's some interesting energy exhibited in the film's closing, but the divide between these rose-tinted figures of emancipation (who clutch palms to their love-filled bellies as a solidarity pact) and the stoic Italian family is an argument placed in such obvious terms that it nullifies any of the pseudo-lofty ideas about love that Guadagnio might have. It made me yearn for the Carringtons, who, contrasted with this flic, did keep it all in the family - Blake and Crystal were at once both these things. Leaving Tilda to vanish into a gold-hued carpet as if a glint of love, herself, rematerializing, yes, literally, in the cave of love with her amore. Love love love...