Monday, February 28, 2011

Driven, angrily and otherwise...

I can't even begin to describe the madness that was this past week. And, it being art week in NYC, there will be no rest for the wicked this week. On Tuesday I attended the QT series that Nicholas Boggs curates, where Wayne Koestenbaum was reading alongside Ronaldo V. Wilson. In truth, I have not read Koestenbaum's work. His Jackie Under My Skin has been sitting on my to-be-read pile since D's parents gave it to me for Christmas last year. He read a poem commissioned by the Viennese gallery Coco called 'Didactic Poem.' We were treated to a visual accompaniment, a projected slide-show of Koestenbaum's own vibrant recent efforts in painting and digital image grabs. Sal Mineo dominated most of the non-painterly textual and visual imagery. Koestenbaum invaded the Didactic format - one which he himself proclaimed no affinity for. Sliding surprising and incongruous images upon one another in unlikely couplets, the reading was a fascinating one. After that, I drifted with my fellow attendees - curator Joseph Whitt, writer Frank J Miles and artist Anthony Thorton to what would be the first of a seemingly week-long Boiler Room residency, marveling at the back to back play of extended tracks by Miss Sophie Ellis-Bextor.

Wednesday was, of course, the newest installment of my monthly screening series, Dirty Looks. There was no blizzard this time (though that hardly held them back before) and fifty or so attendees descended upon Participant Inc. for this admix of experimental cinema and pornography. Fred Halsted's The Sex Garage was received very warmly by the cold crowd (we only have space heaters at our disposal, in lieu of central air - an effect which Zach Cole later suggested transported these dirty lookers back to the underground film screenings of yesteryear, where these films were projected in second-run theaters and dingy basements). Well, William E. Jones' Finished followed. It was, in fact, the first time I'd even seen a print of the film - having always engaged with this marvelous title on video. Special thank yous to our wonderful projectionist Sarah Halpern and to MIX NYC master Stephen Kent Jusick for his generosity. I shared many great conversations afterwards with writers Masha Tupitsyn and Robert Smith, Next Film Fest director Bryce Renninger, and artists Roddy Shrock, Mark Golamco, Jake Davidson, Annie Yalon, Chad Dilley and Aryn Zev. Participant director Lia Gangitano confessed to me that The Sex Garage contain a first for her - she'd never seen a man fuck a motorcycle before! In truth, this was a surprise for anyone familiar with Lia's curatorial tastes. As always, I'm happy to oblige. When all was said and done, we reconvened on the Boiler Room for round two of antics - less the Bextor, sadly, who I could not find on the large smart-phone-shaped jukebox. I just could not be more pleased that people are coming out to engage with this work.

The following day I woke up and spent the morning in bed with Gary Indiana's new collection of early writings published by Semiotext(e), Last Seen Entering the Biltmore. I spent some time attempting (in vain) to secure the next title for Dirty Looks but then dashed out of the house. I had to clean up, return the film, do a little shopping. I had one of those charming New York afternoons just drifting about the city and stumbling into people I know. At 6pm I went over to Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts, where D was co-hosting Welcome Artists, a curatorial project with Sally Szwed. The gist is that we're all bushy-tailed when we show up to this sometimes-very-difficult city, so these curators devised a social atmosphere in which newcomers can be introduced not only to their peers, but to curators, institutional directors, writers and the like. Well I liked the delicious wine provided by BOE in Brooklyn... and a handful of artists of course. I may have gone a little overboard with the confetti - hurling it at artists and curators, alike - but really, isn't that what a fete is for?

The following day we hit up a matinee for the UTTERLY LOVABLE NEW NICOLAS CAGE MOVIE. My god was it good. The thing was made for people to like it, for folks to reel and get swept up in the drunken swagger that is its tone. Drive Angry launches at you, in full 3D the tale of a daddy who busts outta hell to avenge the death of his daughter and soon-to-be sacrifice of his infant granddaughter at the hands of none-other-than the peoples' temple leader, Jim Jones. Well... it's not really Jones by name, but by image there is no denying. Amber Heard does a very sufficient job in her teensy shorts and there's a fabulous scene in which a fully clothed Cage kills and army of Satanic peoples' templers mid-fuck with a floozy blond, one finger on the trigger, the other curled around a bottle of JD. Yes. In truth, the film flags slightly in the middle, though it's brought back to life - heh - by the final death sequence in which Jones is hoisted up, á la Messiah, and... implodes into a afterlifeless void as rendered by stoned college freshmen?? It truly must be seen to be believed. In 3D.

We saw the matinee because one of D and my good friends, Scott Kiernan - who runs the gallery Louis V E.S.P. at which we've both had shows (I recreated Luther Price's Meat installation there last May) and at which I hosted that recent television show E.S.P. TV - had a solo show, Once Around the Block (Twice), at Nurtureart in Bushwick. The opening was great, even though there was some last minute drama in which Scott's paintings wouldn't fit through the door. Then we went to see Max Steele and Daniel Sander's band B0dy H1gh perform at Clump at Bushwick's Beauty Bar. Or am I supposed to use their performative pseudonym's Billy Cheer and Daniel Portland? One never can tell

I really wanted to make it out to the new Pin Ups launch for "Seth" at Printed Matter, because Christopher Shultz who publishes the thing is such a supportive dear-heart, but a boy can only do so much. After an afternoon coffee with an exciting upcoming artist for Dirty Looks, I headed over to Millenium Film Workshop where my former mentor, Lewis Klahr, was screening his recent series, Prolix Satori, more cut and paste collage works. The screening was really great - a fortunate technical foible saw Lew screen the two films he showed at last year's Views from the Avant-Garde, in lieu of his (immaculate) False Aging. While that's a totally heartbreaking film, I'd only seen the others the once and settled in for this treat. He finished his night with the 20-minute narrative (ish) film Lethe a really stunning film (which I sometime wish he'd bring to the front of the program). This, he explained was what he had set out to make when he picked up the super8 camera some 32 years prior. Lethe is a very intricate film, dipping and out of narrative coherence. The plot is (literally) torn from the pages of a 40s comic with scientists in lab coats and one blond-haired vixen. Everything goes horribly wrong in their affairs, though it's never quite clear what is allegorical and what "actually" occurs. Not that mimesis is ever the point. The room was full of great filmmakers in their own rights - Peggy Awesh, MM Serra, Abigail Child, Ken and Flo Jacobs and Views curator Mark McElhatten. Lew even plugged me when Abigail asked about one film, explaining how in a studio visit I made comment about his use of the Velvet Underground's "Pale Blue Eyes" that is was too loaded, and so it drove him to create a new film with the identical imagery but a brand new soundtrack. I blushed.

Later that night D and I met up with our friends Herbert, Chad, Mark, Jessica and Roddy and we danced the night away at a party called Gayface. All started out alright, but the music quickly drifted. By the time they played 'Party In the USA' for a second time, it was clear that the party was, in fact, elsewhere to be had. So we bumped into some kids at Metropolitan where my tired ass did not relent until 4-ish, knowing, all-the-while that I was meant to play host to a crew of friends the following morning for my signature bearded french toast (that's french toast with crushed up cornflakes). Well, everything got made and we quickly scurried over to Dan Callahan and Keith Uhlich's Oscar party with my roommate, filmmaker Adam Keleman and friend - who also happens to be a filmmaker named Adam - Adam Baran. See, Keith and Dan are some widely published film folks so the air was thick with anticipation and ire for these awards. The whole ceremony was just appallingly boring, don't you think? And it didn't help that Dan goaded me on that I'd just missed Sharon Stone's red carpet traipse when I arrived. Not once more would that heavenly face grace the screen that evening. Instead we had Anne Hathaway. Well then... I did meet some delightful folks and ate some very yummy macaroni and cheese that I swear someone poured truffle oil into. So all was not lost, even if you're Annette Benning.

This week stay tuned to The Fanzine where I will be covering Art Week, NYC 2011 beginning tonight with the opening of Salon Zürcher, an alternative individual-minded approach to the whole art fair thing. More soon...

Monday, February 21, 2011

Finished Symphony

It was one of life's uncanny moments. William E. Jones' experimental documentary Finished was and continues to be a key movie to my aesthetic development. One of those films that is at once shockingly new but so great a fit that it comes only naturally, like, some strangely reminiscent text. I was still laboring at an art career when Jones' film was recommended to me by a friend who had curated it into a series. He told me of its premise - a first-person account from a man who becomes enamored with an ill-fated porn star's image, obsessively mulling over the details of his short life, squinting into the dots of his print matrix and at the fuzzy analogue video image in an attempt to get closer to the "real" Alan Lambert, should such a thing exist. It was probably another year before I saw the movie, itself. And I saw it on video. I kind of can't imagine it in any other format. Released for home consumption by Facets, the tape, which combines source 16mm footage with carefully edited clips ripped from Lambert's porn titles, reminded me of the bootleg tapes I would dupe - New Queer Cinema titles, mostly - in my teenage basement in Missouri. The cassettes would be labeled with a piece of tape, or sometimes just black marker on black plastic. As Lucas Hilderbrand has beautifully observed in his book on the medium, there was feeling of "inherent vice" to the analogue format, something licentious and pirate, and Jones' Finished seemed to epitomize that furtive quality. Like the audio cassette, VHS felt far from finite. Not only does Jones rip Lambert's image from the films, but he takes them for a ride, building a personal narrative, a political investigation around market sex and the rhetoric of his images. Further, the VHS format, in Jones' case, made this cinematic diary feel more intimate, a direct address to the singular viewer. A confession on stolen hours.

I've since become very familiar with the whole of Jones' ouevre, but Finished maintains this wonderfully intimate quality, for me. Finished showcased how the personal essay format could open out to include a seemingly infinite number of topical issues, vital to both the filmmaker and viewer. In the film, Jones uses his obsession to address issues as diverse as a Southern ban on interracial sex sequences, theories of consumerism, the crippling physical expectations of porn actors and the power dynamics that these stagnant roles bolster. It's a touching movie, cause you can tell it was really love, but also one of loss and, ultimately, disappointment as Jones finds out that his fantasy creature is not just something of a wack job, but in a decidedly 90s dance around mediatized images, that the Alan Lambert that he fell for never really existed at all. It's the disappointment latent in pop consumerism, where that ecstatic face promises more than it could ever really yield. Lambert's eventual occult underpinnings only highlight more prolifically the divide between the figure and ideal.

The film was important to me as a text, since it embraces irrational obsession with an analytic mind. I was a video artist dallying in the essay format at the time and this visual approach towards information struck a chord. Jones' inquiry yields an abundance of information, presented in logical, but also haphazard ways. Jones' narrator is quick to find value in coincidence, as evinced by the counter-text of the film, Meet John Doe. Finished is a bittersweet movie totally of its time. It's unsturdy, too experimental for the indie film scene, but with a distribution pattern that distanced itself from the artworld of its period. I like to think of the film as emerging in that wonderful moment where subversive film titles were being released on home video and giving their avid consumers tastes of something thrilling, experimental and more expansive than the traditional capitalist products that were out there. It was this weird dissemination of a protest ethos, where charged titles could be picked up by isolated viewers the nation over, and transmit the thrill of their counter-narrative. As Jones did in Lambert, I found a counterpart in Jones who thought through his impulsive desires, yearning to discern the point or source of this fan frenzy. But unlike Jones' narrative, my subject has never disappointed.

Finished will screen with Fred Halsted's The Sex Garage at my screening series, Dirty Looks Wednesday, February 23rd at 8pm. Participant Inc. 253 E. Houston.

Nova, finally.

watch it large.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

"At Moments Like This He Feels Farthest Away"

Once you get past the rather irksome security check point a wonderful treat awaits you at the Fales Library and Special Collections gallery. On display until April 29th is a wonderful realization of a window installation commissioned by NYU's Grey Gallery in 1983, then censored before its completion. At the time, Tim Dlugos was a young poet on-the-rise in the Manhattan poetry scene and Philip Monaghan was a trained painter serving as artistic director for fashion haus, Fiorucci. Beginning with Dlugos' crowd fave, "Gilligan's Island," a personal poem which mashed-up imagery from the namesake T.V. show, the Kennedy assassination, Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds and Dlucos own memories of angsty queer teen longing, Monaghan was to create a space that embodied and expanded Dlugos work in painting. As it turned out, the Grey deemed Dlugos' two-line mention of masturbation entirely too much for 1980s public consumption, and shuttered the whole idea, until now.

Entering the gallery through the narrow corridor, you're met with a rather unfortunate homage to the text. A wall-sized shiny plasticine reprint of the poem bubbles and crinkles on its matching grey wall. With light grey type on a dark grey backing, there's too little tonal distinction between the back and foreground. Impossible to read, the gesture is further troubled by an ipod shuffle deck mounted on the wall, where Dlugos (I presume) reads the piece aloud. I, for one, cannot read a text while someone else is talking at me. Perhaps a better choice would have been to privilege the audio, a more precious fragment from our recent past than some badly reproduced wallscreen.

Passing the peculiar larger-than-life photograph of a goofy Dlucos in suit and tie, you enter the gallery and suddenly everything comes into focus. Over 54 uniform panels (18" x 24") Monaghan covers all of the wild imagery that Dlugos wearves through his poem. Images where Jackie O mounts The Professor. Ginger - or is that Tippi - looks on, in total fright. The Gilligan's Island logo is trained in the same site as that limousine. Time has afforded an additional process to convey the assemblage nature of this narrative. Beneath the surface of Monaghan's vibrant and youthful painting strokes are inkjet prints of images mostly ripped from the T.V. show, swathed in the candy hued-paints that create this gay teen psyche.

The paintings are installed uniformly, positioned somewhere between comic book panels and salon-sytle hanging. Their excitable imagery thankfully shies from direct representation, more striving to evoke the ethos of Dlugos wonderful poem. I'm not so familiar with the particulars of Gilligan's Island, but Dlugos mines key sequences, presenting them as gospel, as if their momentous importance is etched into an entire pop subconscious. "From the water comes a thick and eerie tropical silence," near the end of the poem. "The famous conversation is about to start." There's a flippant self-reflexivity to the language that situates us in the space, but just as quickly careens us out to the loveseat, to the red velvet of the theater. Elsewhere, "Rod Taylor and Tippi Hedren are totally concerned. They realize that something terrible is happening. Each has been savagely attacked by a wild songbird within the last twenty-four hours. Outside their window thousands of birds have gathered in anticipation of the famous school-yard scene."

Devoid of medial mimesis in the 1960s, these queer role models and erotic icons were stolen, adopted, projections. Tippi, Jackie and Ginger are Dlugos, are Oedipal mothers. And The Professor is the dream lover. Is our dream lover. The trauma begotten by the assassination, stirring in the allegorical heart of The Birds, is a ripe one for any a teen faggot, wetting his hand and rubbing one out in daydreams of the boy two rows back in government class. It's like Michael Moon, writing about gay children from earlier generations who took delight in the gendered excesses of Maria Montez and Jayne Mansfield, only in Dlucos swirling cosmology, these figures that inspire a shared breathlessness ebb a bizarre 1960s-brand of pop normalcy. Each figure seems, to me, stoicly banal. Instead, their wildness is in these juxtapositions. Monaghan's works are the hyroglyphs for this rag-tag manner of collective dreaming. And the paintings depict the beautiful and uncanny shock at the realization of a shared gay experience. That the fantasy of one isolated faggot in Dallas, TX is gripping another thousands of miles away. "I realized that I had always had the same feelings," Monaghan writes in the sensational complimentary catalogue that accompanies the show. His paintings are raw, exciting, loving. I'm not sure I'd find them enchanting individually, outside this setting, but as an installation, Monaghan's work is dazzlingly successful. It's a glimpse into a creative space drunk on the erotics and kindred devotions of this shared subconscious fantasy. This firey island where teens of the particular moment that the poem recalls - 1964 - had to read through popular fictions, inserting themselves in the cracks of these sources.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Saturday, February 12, 2011

how do you spell Queen?

Tuesday. Two shows, on neighboring blocks but worlds apart. On some bed ridden week-day chatter with a friend a few days prior, I was sent a mildly pornogrpahic image of two boys occupying the same fashion-y white dress, one giving the other a blowjob. She'd (my chat friend) just come across the image and didn't know it's maker. She found it way hot. We guessed at the nationality of these boys - I guessed French or German while she was way off the mark with British. Well, it turns out the boys over at Gayletter knew - of course! - and recommended Luigi and Luca's (Italian, duh) exhibition at Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation on Tuesday night. The exhibition was the sort of affair you're meant to just accept given the "Foundation's" self-designation as a venue for thriving gay culture, but I could barely keep my cool in a room flanked by lusty collectors ogling fashion photographs of a hot couple fellating each another and shelling out cash for the sake of "art". The economic arrangement of the show assured that all (most) tastes and price-ranges were accounted for, with a hot-lighted vitrine displaying more edition oriented formats as opposed to those larger works that also graced the walls. And boi was stuff selling. Everything, I know, has its place, and if the "gay community" would like to perpetuate this material being exhibited as its chosen "fine art," than so be it. I'd prefer to call the work ephemera of visual culture. This preferential treatment of commoditizable desire (aka, where desire for the subject becomes equated with the overall value of the work) was what drained the life out of queer cinema in the 90s, so I have a particular axe to grind. To me, the work on the walls was decorative accents, collectables towards the construction of A-Gay lifestyle. I'd imagine it was an art opening those boys on the Logo show A-List would attend. And maybe there's something way positivistic to say about the ability to establish and sustain a kind of gay capitalism for the furthering of gay image production and visual culture. As the Gayletter boys tweeted at the show, there were a great number of NYC queer art mavens on parade - my friend, Max Steele and his counterpart Daniel Portland from band B0dy H1, Gio Black Peter, and, of course, those darling Gayletter boys themselves. Still, I felt completely at odds in this "community" affair as the foundation would have it, atomized apart from this market segment.

So, I guess I headed over to "my" show, which was a total mind-fuck. The Swiss Institute - hot off their Chris Kraus reading - was opening with photographs by Karlheinz Weinberger, a Swiss photographer who took physique pictorials in the 1950s and documented a 1950s counter-cultural trend in Switzerland - gangs who took up American iconography with a polyamorous ferocity: Little Richard, Elvis, James Dean, Hells Angels, Nazism - well, I guess that's not really American. Like the Bikers in Kenneth Anger's Scorpio Rising, the subjects of the exhibition, "Intimate Stranger" work with loaded visual signifiers in an echolalia of attitude. Not only do the counter-culture carnies in Weinberger's photographs tote these cultural referents, they fashion their own rag-tag regalia by pasting magazine cut-outs on 7" brass belt-buckles, self fashioning horseshoe codpieces and lacing screws through the flies of too-tight jeans. The fandom on offer here isn't a kind of fidelitous obsession, it's an immediate and beautiful kind of devotion to a mythical foreignicity, a lifestyle that in America was really only an ideal, never a possibility. When Kenneth Anger returned from an 8-year stint in Paris, he made Scorpio Rising because he discovered an alien America, an America driven by these new rebel images that (particularly in Anger's work) flirted like a pop-cultural Thanatos. There's a palpable mix of femme eroticism and violence in Weinberger's images, as these tough guys with swastika armbands and facial scars, pout and pose like drag contestants before a backdrop. The Institute was smart to offer cans of Budweiser for the opening and the hipster attire of various crowd members made the show feel immersive. I met filmmaker Theis Ulrik Jessen in the lobby and also wrangled a press copy of Rizzoli's accompanying catalogue: Rebel Youth with a forward by John Waters. Review forthcoming. THE SHOW IS A MUST-SEE.

On Wednesday I showed off my culinary skills to some lovely writers and film folk for my first formal dinner party at our E Williamsburg abode. Yes, girl, I tried my best to expand these Bachelor cooking techniques to include chicken and dumplings and pumpkin pie - and from scratch! Well, I came away with a laundry list of movie recommendations... though most mysteriously involve actresses having sex with monkeys.

On Thursday I had a beautiful New York day. Just having received the flyers for the upcoming William E. Jones / Fred Halsted edition of Dirty Looks, I went to go flyer my life away, all over town. It's very icy here, but when you're on the move, it don't feel that bad. First stop, I picked up some new black jeans that I was having altered and walked them to Participant, where Lia Gangitano was revving up for a the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston's College Art Association reception. CAA is having their mega-conference in New York right now and I'm not going. I even worked there last year, so getting in on a dime wouldn't be an issue. I'm just in a really oppositional mood to academia at the moment - which filmmaker and queer ambassador Ira Sachs chided me over later that night - but I'm getting ahead of myself. I changed into my new jeans in the Participant bathroom since the holes in my uniform black jeans were really getting dire and popped out only to run into Photi on the street, director of Callicoon Gallery. He's so nice. I dropped flyers off at the Quad, at Kim's video. I tried Anthology but they weren't open. Basically, I walked across town on a brisk but lovely sunny Thursday, stopping by Zürcher Studio, to chat up the gallery assistant about their impending art fair alternative, Salon Zürcher, a more individual response to the Armory Art Fair week. Popping into various other institutions to drop off my cards, I finally settled into a cafe in the West Village where my friend works and we kibitzed for an hour or so until I made way to the opening of I <3 Boy a new book launching at The Powerhouse, in Dumbo. The opening was sufficiently mobbed and I was able to catch up with Timmy Pico, tireless harbringer of Birdsong Mag. Tommy's moving to Paris - lucky - for the summer, to beat the heat (and hopefully some Parisian boys while he's at it). I think tommy's micropress efforts with the zine are great - and will only improve with an international ratchet on the belt.

Attending with my friend Herbert, he convinced me to go back to Julius cause I read an invite wrong and though that the CAA Queer Art Caucus social was Thursday night. So we went and had burgers, trying to figure out who was CAA. None were. It was Friday night. Silly me. But we were joined by my friend Chad and a present surprise found Ira Sachs and his lovely BF, artsist Boris Torres, who I've heard so much of but never met, stopping by. I had a lovely chat with Ira, who I've been quite fond of ever since I wrote a piece on his Charles Ludlam evening at Queer/Art/Film. A truly staunch supporter of queer community politics, Ira's always a great conversationalist and very supportive. Suffice to say, what was meant as a quiet evening ended at 4 am.

Which left me a wreck for Friday. Though I was able to make it to my friend, Zackary Drucker's presentation with Flawless Sabrina of Zackary's new film, 'At Least You Know You Exist' and the 1968 documentary starring Flawless, The Queen alongside Joe Jeffrey's 'The Queen: After Party Outtakes.' The West village LGBT center, which hosted the event, was PACKED. Hundreds of people turned out for this event. Attending the screening, you're privy to a kind of kindred love affair between Zackary and Sabrina. To me, true queens are the ladies who don't shut themselves off inside a role, but are constantly changing, learning and teaching, which is something that Flawless highlighted in her conversation. Zackary's film looked immaculate shot in 16mm on a wind-up Bolex. It's more a rumination too, and the difference between Flawless' performative hijinx and Zackary's high-gloss modeling does stand out. Like many contemporary artists, Zackary's body (and body of work) has become more a platform to discuss a queer (trans) history and how that has shifted over the years. It's become decidedly more marketable as a cultural product, a trait always in evidence through Zackary's haute couture stylings. But to deride this is missing the point, which is celebratory and educational - like William E. Jones, Zackary is manning an archive and attempting to work these personal histories into his film, performance and photographic practice. A highlight of the evening came when a question emerged from the audience regarding Zackary's nude performance in the film. "That was so erotic," a female commentator asked, "is that the first time you've been nude in film?" Ever the performer, Zackary allowed a slight pause to become pregnant before extolling, "It's not the first time..." "And hopefully it's not the last," cooed Flawless.

The straight-forward doc couldn't help but make me think of Rupaul's Drag Race, which is really very good this season. I've been joking recently that I don't know how I know life without it! But The Queen exists as both a cultural artifact while conversely showcasing how quite a bit seems rather unchanged. Of course, the idea of pageantry is really conservative, so the almost identical format from this 1968 Town Hall performance to Ru's stage presentations is not a huge shock. There's a pretense towards agency in Ru's show, where the girls must exhibit creativity in overcoming challenges, though it's frequently thwarted, as in the case of that odious winner last year, who displayed the same kind of flaccid "realness" mimicry that Queen winner Harlot exhibited onstage. In street footage, Harlot was fascinating, but the kind of messy identity politics that are frequently bubbling under popular drag contests still exhibit some ugly shadows of hetero envy 40-some-odd years later.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Body Talks

Sometimes when life hands you a wild juxtaposition, you just have to play it as it lays. On Friday night, I attended my friend Larin Sullivan's 30th birthday party - it was Love Boat, or rather Lez Boat themed. Perhaps more importantly, it was literally two blocks from home so I spent much of the evening working on projects. Then D reminded me that Netflix came. I rushed to the little red envelope, knowing its contents. Tearing it open I popped on our evening's entertainment: The Twilight Saga: Eclipse. Now, I'd seen the last one a while back, even wrote of it on these pages. I'm no fan to the series, really. Never read the books, but as someone deeply invested in pop cultural forms, I'm more than happy to follow Bella and her occult posse into the dimmest Pacific Northwest forest and back.

It seems difficult to fathom, but things have become decidedly more industrial this go-around. And it's tricky to pinpoint why, but the kids are remarkably less sexy. Orbiting in their own cosmologies, these actors don't even seem to be participating in a film, but revealing their make-up and hair perf forms for a worldwide mirror. Perhaps its because the respective frankness and pop-existentialism that characterized these poorly fleshed out male love interests have become more punchlines than signatures. Constant in-jokes riddle the script, which jibes at hottie werewolf Jake, "don't you own a shirt?" so apt is this actor to parade his lupine physique. When Bella braves frostbite, Jake cuddles up to warm her, even though she's betrothed to the vampire because, "you know I'm hotter than you."

And he's right; R Pat has never looked so uncomfortable and pained. His Edward displays nothing but a desperate, whiny devotion to this all-important Bella (one must ask oneself why everyone goes to all this trouble for one maudlin little brunette). But these in-jokes save the day. These jokes reach beyond the bizarrely connect-the-dots script. Oh, Eclipse is a surprisingly enjoyable watch, it's absurd as hell, but I was riveted. It's really Soap logic - and that I adore. But these jokes, almost Shakespearean in their address to a world beyond the diegesis, hood-wink a thriving international audience of tweens to whom this conservative cosmos has become gospel. They create a metatextual layer on this series so that it becomes participatory, so that giggles can run though the audience, giggles that acknowledge space beyond of the dour perimeter of the Pacific Northwest.

The following evening, I engaged in a different participatory event, no less rabid or targeted in its market (way gay). She's come a long way since last summer's gig at Webster Hall, whose bill she shared with Kelis, but Swedish pop diva Robyn sold out the Radio City Music Hall, delivering to a packed homophilic house - the largest, she beamed, that she's ever drawn, by herself. Everything was bare-bones in an endearing way. Her two opening acts were solo performers, one of whom sang exclusively to a tape (the meh Natalia Kills). Two large pinwheels were Robyn's sole decoration. But she brought the crowd roaring to its feet as she entered the stage in a doctored fireman's jacket and platform Timberlands, launching into her Max Martin-produced 'Time Machine.'

Of course, the thrill of the night was the stellar single, 'Dancing on my Own,' which, as in last July's performance, came very early on in the set. I imagine it's what opening night at Eclipse felt like. The entire crowd just swills together on the thrill of hearing this, their song. It's a loner song, so it's your song, which makes it feel all the more ecstatic when 5 or so thousand people tap into this with you, sharing your unmitigated delight. And Robyn works hard to make her set feel all about you. She has the rare quality of a performer who can address an audience and make it feel direct, intimate. Diana Ross has that, too. She takes every opportunity, 3 or 4 times a song, to visit with the front row, dipping her hand in or slipping down into the pit. Last night she tore up the rafters alongside the theater, all the way up to the balcony, throwing herself into the gaping arms of those fans who only made it second tier. She don't care!

In truth, it was a slightly less taut show than the one that she performed with Kelis. Her performance style is nothing short of buoyant - she jumps, runs, dances like a little Swedish she-devil, all without missing a note (last night she even toppled over, falling on her butt during 'Call Your Girlfriend' - there too without a second's lag). But she's also been touring an entire year now, and there's a mild fatigue there. She's performing material, mostly culled from the Body Talk series, with all of Part 3 on offer. She sounds good, looks good, but, as in Eclipse, it's the moments where she dips outside the idiom and just revels at her accomplishments with her fans that makes the evening so memorable. Her smile cuts through the music, this dancing and joy feels like the point, the music a platform for it.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Winter Doldrums

A week of icy eventage. A combination of mild warmth and ice rain makes every surface here glazed in a swath of silvery white, resembling either marshmallow fluff or a Cocteau Twins album cover. It's beautiful when you're not falling on it.

On Sunday I went to the Swiss Institute where Chris Kraus read with Jeremy Sigler in celebration of her new book "Where Art Belongs." She read the last piece which had some startling connections to D - in the piece she weaves a fantasy narrative around a boy jerking off in a photograph. His name is Derek, she decides, and she's reading the same William Gibson novel that D read last summer - while we were in similarly sunnied climes. Just one of those momentary things. There were lots of people there and I FINALLY got a chance to talk to Chris face to face, afterwards. We've been emailing one another for years now. She was shocked that I had the original edition of I Love Dick, the one with her hilarious glamor shot on the back cover. We got a brief coffee and kibitzed about hating London and changes in the LA art scene.

A coffee followed the next day with curator Joseph Whitt (whom I adore) and we decided to collaborate with me writing a chapbook for his new micropress, T.M.I. Love it. Later that night, I went over to the Half King to listen to poetry and lust over issues of Bomb, now that we've let our subscription lapse. Justin Taylor, Dorothea Lasky, Ben Mirov and Luke Degnan read, and I was particularly taken with Lasky's work. She looked out to the crowd, for some reason isolating me when she asked "I hope you like Sylvia Plath." I do, but didn't respond to such a generally issued question. She took this as a no and delivered some stand-up comic retort. Then we scuttled over to the Annie O Music series at the Cooper Square hotel for an evening hosted by the gallery that I am curating Dirty Looks for, Participant Inc. Death Vessel played - a decidedly more country outfit than the name might suggest. Eileen Myles, Matthew Higgs, Gary Indiana were there and I chatted up Conrad Ventur about - what else - Warhol cinema and had a brief chat with Photi Giovanis, who runs Callicoon gallery in Callicoon New York. Participant director Lia Gangitano looked great - not wearing her fur vest and leather jacket uniform, but a strappy dress. The view up in the main sweet of the Cooper was really amazing.

It's ice raining here, so I didn't leave the house on Tuesday. I was meant to have plans but they fell through and I got a take-out burrito and watched Joan Crawford and Clark Gable roam the jungles in Strange Cargo which was kind of not that great. The next night I got sushi with a friend and set up shop at the Boiler Room, running into friends and strangers.

Last night I headed over to NP Contemporary Art Center to meet up with a crew of curators - Joseph and Herbert Mendoza - to check out Thomas Dozol's show. See, he's Michael Stipe's boyfriend and there was Michael, in attendance, and wearing some rather scraggly facial hair. John Giorno was also present WITH KIM CATRALL. Sadly, like that time I ate a burrito for an entire meal sitting next to Paul Rudd at El Conquistador in LA and never noticed, I totally missed Kim. But thems the ropes. We hung around long enough to find out from gallery director Wesley Stokes that my new thrift store shoes are made by Pharrell. Though here in the photo, D models them. Then we headed over to P.P.O.W. to see their new space in the Yancey Richardson/Electronic Arts Intermix building. We were promptly given the tour by director Jamie Sterns who was SO in her element, whisking us about abruptly with an energy level that was never short of amazing.

Jamie and Joseph

Grabbing a slice at the new Artichoke pizza, we cabbed it over to Julius for a new party Stache Bash where we were given surrogate staches which I modeled for the remainder of the evening. We parted ways with Herbert, since we were on a mission - see, Joseph had never been to Nowhere or Phoenix, New York gay bars that I suppose are "alternative" (whatever that means) but have always been a part of my NY landscape even on visits. So we probably drank too much and courted a visitation from a drunken mary at every bar, to the tune that I joked with Joseph this morning that our night was something like A Christmas Carrol. Jewelry designer Blue Bayer was by far the most endearing - or maybe I was just so far gone at that point. I can recall his calm loving demeanor this morning, so I guess that says something.

D, Herbert and Joseph

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Isn't the internet a beautiful thing?