Saturday, April 09, 2011

Something Special

Out Monday with an album following suit. Oh, this is Sally Shapiro's producer. And Sally Shapiro, as you may or may not know, is my god.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Where Teardrops Fly

In my unending quest to revel in and understand the progression of the woman's picture, I watched one of the biggest hits of this century, in that regard, anyway - The Notebook. It had been in my Que for some time and I had flirted with the idea of torturing D with it, but last night, I found an opportunity to indulge.

Of course it would be moot to regale the film with its conservative trappings. It's a contemporary melodrama, and as Peter Brooks clearly states in The Melodramatic Imagination, melodrama is fundamentally conservative since it stages a returning-to of conventional or conservative values that have been marred or transgressed. It's still peculiar in certain aesthetic decisions how this conservativism is played out. The most surface qualm is the film's treatment of black figures. In the film's past (most of it takes place in the early 40s), the black maid adopts a mammy voice and countenance. There's a scene in which Ryan Gosling engages in a jig with a little poor black kid. This scene is obviously intended to indicate the abject poverty that Gosling maintains. You can placate yourself by reminding that, "this is the past and this is how they choose to represent it." But then when you flash forward to the nursing home, where our elderly couple (James Garner and Gena Rowlands) are looked after by an exclusively black staff, things become a tad less tidy.

Besides this blaring faux pas, there's little by way of conflict. The film struck me as decidedly post-modern in the way power roles are delineated. The adorable Ryan Gosling is cast merely to brood, a projection of some female fantasy in which boys gestate in abeyance for their lost ladies, ever hoping they'll return. He refurbishes this big, stately white mansion (see, it's ALL about reparation), to such a degree that he event claims at one point that his efforts borderline madness. And in his large white house he longs for Rachel McAdams.

There's lots of women's picture conventions being tossed about here - summer flings, wicked parents, stolen letters, pining. But it's odd that the ultimate weight of the film is carried by our elderly couple. Really, the historical story is about as milquetoast as its actors and, when they just sort of end up together for the rest of their lives with little fuss, you're like "Where's the story there?"

There isn't one. The story rests in their older incarnations who are fighting a failing heart (in the strong body of the man) and dementia (ah, the pathology of woman). She shouldn't come to at all, but every day he reads to her from this book of their life together. She wrote it before the onset so he could remind her. And, as if by miracle (a rather poorly rendered miracle by cinematic conventions, I must say), she returns to him for little stolen periods - five or so minutes at best. And let the teardrops fall.

Which they did. I'd be lying if I told you I didn't cry. But as I did, I posted on facebook something I said to myself, "Me, crying: And it wasn't even a compelling story!" There's a lot of theory about there about crying at movies - most of which I've read. What struck me as really bizarre here, and inept despite my waterworks, was how death or finality as this looming phobic enterprise is the impetus for all of this sobbing. This narrative of a couple who spend their entire lives together moaning because they must part. It's not a big stretch to feel not sorry for them. This is no Peter Ibbetson in which the dreamland and, ultimately, heaven is the only space in which they can be together. No, what is really the crux of all this drama is just finality and death. All things end. Which seems really moot and unimpressive on paper, but I suppose it still works. And here, it's spiritual moment of attainment is not even plausible. There's all this talk floating around about miracles, about how, when Rowlands recalls her life-long love in her breaks from dementia, it's "a miracle." While I'm sure it's really wonderful, these moments of reparation, director kin de Cassavetes embellishes these scenes with no pomp or flourish, so that they read on film more banal than divine. Cause without these elements, the film's close, where the couple lay side by side and decide that their love is strong enough to lead them off this mortal coil in unison, you just don't buy it. Nothing has prepared us for this rowing finale. Except, of course, our hope that even in death we are full of life.

As I type, across the street, a funeral procession is going with two white horses, like the scene from Imitation of Life. Initially I cynically wondered to myself whether the funeral directors didn't have an Annie package. But then I realized that this person, dying in 2011, could possibly have seen Annie's funeral and that this could be an approximation. Perhaps it's not. But it's a haunting idea considering the obsession/fear with and of death that The Notebook parades as the romantic comedy of the decade.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

April Fool...

Well another Dirty Looks under the belt. This event saw an amazing turnout, with something to the tune of 80 people showing up for Ulrike Ottinger's Madame X - An Absolute Ruler. f.p. boué's exhibition currently up at Participant featured a black and gray ziggurat on which folks perched for the film. There to introduce, Gary Indiana shared some amazing insights in our dialogue. Gary's really a lovely individual, it was great to have him come out (and great to see him read new work the night prior at St. Mark's books). Filmmakers Larin Sullivan and Adam Keleman showed up, as did curators Buzz Slutzky, Joseph Whitt, Bryce Renninger artists Mark Golamco, Aryn Zev and writers Louis Jordan and Masha Tupitsyn, to name but a few. People seemed genuinely entranced, though at 2 1/2 hours, I fret that some attested to the Time Out blurb on the event, that Madame "will delight the converted and annoy the mighty fuck out of everybody else." It's tricky to program an epic lesbian pirate adventure on a school night and not have some drop off. That factor, the drop off, is understandable, especially given Dirty Looks educational focus, but it's still something vexing that I am grappling with as a curator.

The next night I had early evening (happy hour, I suppose they call it) drinks with a new friend, writer Louis Jordan, who is hard at work on an article surrounding Tuesday Weld. An apt subject. I sipped on Lime Rickies at Julius as Louis regaled me with the details of her life. I shared with him the sordid details of these wacky, mildly related recent finds, The Mafu Cage and The Manitou. And of course I built up the new Britney. We drifted over to the home Mr. Jordan shares with Wilson Kidde to watch a Maria Montez movie that I had never seen! For shame. In this one, Gypsy Wildcat, Maria's a gypsy. Black hair never suited her that well, though she does have a marvelous dance with a tamborine and turns in some very potent acting. "She moves and acts in this one!" I hollered. But the bootleg dvd stalled midway and I had to move on. I really couldn't get over the transition from exotic sands to gypsy caravans also, to a probably annoying tune.

I met up with friends at a Marc Jacobs party. My pal Hayley works there. We drank some free specialty cocktails that somehow all tasted like amoxicillin. But they were free. Which always gets me into trouble. Too many people remarked vaguely at my plaid baseball cap. A long and turbulent night began that found us at the Triple Canopy party at NP Contemporary Art Center then over to Urge and the Boiler Room, where I finally had to resign. On my trip back home, I slipped on the wet subway stairs and landed on my tush, a fall that's left me in great pain for these past couple days, and left an imprint of the zipper teeth to my Commes Des Garçons wallet in my ass. At first there wasn't a bruise and I complained to Lia at Participant that if I was witnessing the pain, I would prefer that there be visual proof. The next day, I got my wish.

On Friday, I attended the benefit for Birdsong Micropress at Brooklyn Fire Proof, which featured a performance by my friend Zan's band Little Victory. It was good to see the ever ravishing Tommy Pico, who just returned from a Southern road trip. I talked about Dodie Bellamy (who was just in town reading from her fabulous new book, The Buddhist) and Radical Fairies with Max Steel and Daniel Sander outside, both of whom contribute to the Birdsong zines under noms de plumes. When I got home around 1 or so, D was watching Alien 3, you know, the super nihilistic one that starts with the autopsy of her surrogate child, so I went into the bedroom to watch some Drop Dead Diva and promptly passed out.

The weather smiled on us this New York weekend, so I took to the streets, well, galleries, with D and my curator friend, Herbert Mendoza. I actually like taking a back seat when we do these gallery hops. Both Herbert and D make little maps and I let them show me around. Never before have I been in such a place of such little investment in visual art. Maybe it's a lack of interest in the community. Cause I always have something to say.

We sipped margaritas in the tacky little Mexican place on 23rd thinking through the shows afterwards - three shows in particular that seemed to dash totemic issues consumerism and colonialism, all installed in high end gallery spaces. Does the moneyed environs of a space like Yvonne Lambert dismantle some of the charge behind Nick Van Woert's drip busts? In the pieces, Woert (an American artist despite the Euro airs of his name) drizzles colorful, plasticine materials on the backs of classical busts. The goo collects in a gratifying pool, which, when placed vertical, become somewhat glorious circular whorls. There a kind of clever material iconoclasm at work in these pieces (Woert's other sculptural objects in the main room are decidedly youthful endeavors that showcase an excitable artist in need of some editing skills) though the delicious fetishism of the shiny plastic tends to undercut the conceptual disavowal that these pieces tend to suggest. Josephine Meckseper's exhibition at The FLAG Art Foundation continues her reign of great shows, installing vitrines, mirrored pedestals and mirrored wall racks that offer sexy objects, total signifiers of 80s consumption all with a kind of hoaky Claire's Boutique quality to them. Mecksepers work just radiates sexiness, seducing the viewer into this courtship of objects. But how much is this representation of erotic consumer sensibilities destabalizes consumerism and how much of it just hitches a ride on the object's potential for fetishistic gratification? I LOVE Meckseper's shows, her aesthetic is startlingly confident, though the critical potential of these works, which are sold before they even leave her studio, lurks in a more uncertain space for me.

Surely the most heated topic over our frozen margaritas was the colonialism sent up in Folkert de Jong's installation at James Cohan Gallery. Operation Harmony employs Styrofoam and polyurethane to mold sleek, Disney-esque creatures, Dutchmen and monkeys. The title piece, which borrows from Mondrian and Jan de Baen’s painting “The mutilated corpses of the de Witt brothers, hanging on the Vijverberg in the Hague” from 1672, graphically pierces the black bodies of these brothers with severe, modernist pink foam. The Dutchmen in the front room brandish booty in the form of tacky blue plastic pearls. They smile grimly. How effective is expensive art aimed at making buyers feel bad about their own colonial history. That was the question at the table. It seems like many of the artists to take to task colonial history in the contemporary art world, are also some of the most blazing new big money art stars. Thinking to the 2005 piece written by A. O. Scott for the New York Times ("The Discreet Masochism of the Bourgeoisie") that observed a cinematic trend for targeting art house (bourgeois) cinemagoers with "feel bad" movies (like Caché or Maderlay) aimed at their own political involvements or histories. I argued that the representation of this colonial shadow renders that guilt in a commoditizable, which is to say, abstract form. And it stultifies the charge of the original guilt. Which may be somewhat cynical of me. They did not have very good guacamole at the restaurant.

We visited a fete staged by Zane Louis, who was recently included in a Whitney exhibition timed for the groundbreaking of their Meat Packing District space. Guess what it's called? "Groundbreakers." After some white wine was sipped, we dipped over to our friend, Mark Golamco's studio in the same building, where he was preparing a new woodcarving piece and got into a heated debate over, oh, you know, everything. I left somewhat early and watched Kylie Minogue videos into the early morning.