Saturday, April 02, 2011


To Hop, a new animated film by the writers of Despicable Me.  Unclassifiable.  Nods to Gene Wilder's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; to Harvey; to Despicable Me's little yellow minions and breathless clockwork pacing; to ninja movies; Blake Edwards; A Charlie Brown Christmas and to every bad live action holiday special ever recorded.  Guest appearances by Chelsea Handler, Hugh Hefner, Russell Brand and the Blind Boys of Alabama.  Also The Hoff.  The kids around us loved it.  So did the extremely stoned woman five seats over.  Not the best film I've ever seen, but one with a good heart, a highly idiosyncratic individual vision made from inside a system that discourages the production of same, and one that held our attention all the way through.
Friday, April 01, 2011

Farewell Peter B. Howard, legendary US bookseller, exemplary role model

"This often brusque and cantankerous (yet supremely sensitive) individual..."
Thursday, March 31, 2011
Steve Coll on Libya: Don't Arm The Rebels

"The rationale for French, British, and American intervention in Libya was humanitarian. Qaddafi said he would slaughter Benghazi’s citizens; he had the means and opportunity to do so; he had a track record that suggested his rhetoric should be taken seriously. In those circumstances, intervention under international law was justified."


"It might be justifiable to arm the rebels if that were only way to achieve the humanitarian objectives of the intervention. Yet there isn’t any evidence that it would be necessary to do so to defend Benghazi as a sanctuary. It seems clear that Benghazi can be defended from the air by NATO, even if that requires enforcing 'no-drive' zones occasionally. That may be expensive and the aerial operations may last longer than American or European publics might wish, but if those are the decisive points then the intervention should not have been undertaken in the first place and Benghazi’s civilians should have been left to their fate; the high cost and indefinite duration of the aerial intervention was completely predictable. It cannot be policy to protect the lives of tens of thousands of Libyan civilians only if the intervention meets certain standards of cost effectiveness from week to week."


"[C]onducting [weapons] training and supply, covertly or overtly, would turn the Obama Administration’s intervention from a humanitarian action designed to protect civilians into the promotion of proxy war devoted to regime change, with civilians as prospective collateral damage.

There is time to try to force out Qaddafi by enforcing the no-fly, no-drive zone; enforcing sanctions; and increasing the political pressure on his regime. If it is really necessary to do something more ruthless in order to overthrow him in a timely way, then it would be better to use the elasticity of the U.N. resolution, and the cover of air strikes, to target precisely culpable regime commanders or facilities the Libyan leader values, while quietly communicating ultimatums to Qaddafi and his sons. Precise NATO bombing in Belgrade during the Kosovo conflict persuaded Slobodan Milosevic to give up a lot faster than the operations of the Kosovo Liberation Army ever would have—and the K.L.A. looked like the Wehrmacht in comparison to the rebels who have been racing up and down Libya’s highways in recent days.

It might not be illegal to arm the Libyan rebels at this stage, but it would be wrong, unnecessary, impractical, and self-defeating."

Mimic, 1982

"The actors and the pho­tog­ra­pher spent some time rehears­ing the shot: first Jeff put a piece of tape on the sidewalk to indi­cate the place at which Tom was sup­posed to make the racist ges­ture, but it was impos­si­ble to coor­di­nate the walk so that all three peo­ple ended up in the right place at the right time, so after many rehearsals, dur­ing which Tom and Rod mut­tered curses and racial slurs at each other to get in the mood, they set­tled on a start­ing point and then three steps and then the ges­ture and then the shot, and please, every­one, no more laugh­ing."
Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Drift, 2011
Some early Scott McFarland garden photographs, along with a text of mine from 2001.  Some of the foliage studies are extraordinarily complicated, and worth enlarging.  Is that a magnolia, third from the top?  Check!

"Though McFarland’s portrait studies are compelling, for me, the real strength of the series lies in its remarkable still photographs of garden plants. The gardens are not native gardens; the plants they contain arrived on the west coast at different points in time. The plants are rendered into simultaneous visibility by each moment of exposure, but each plant represents a different historical moment. In this way, the photographs present the illusion of a moment of seamless time, implying that each depicted form has always been continuous with the other, much as we perceive the night sky as a seamless, simultaneous image, when in fact it is composed of bits of light arriving at different moments, gathered up and arrested as a pattern. The gardens are like models of a hybrid culture composed of native species and [more] recent arrivals."
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Elaine Sturtevant Interviewed By Hans Ulrich Obrist

ES:  There’s a big difference in repeating in the sense of Deleuze, and copying. Firstly, a copy must be absolutely of the same intention as the original, whereas my work deals with an interior movement, and repetition as difference.


ES:  Ready-mades are such a hot topic right now. For instance, I had one artist approach me and say she did ready-made art. I wondered how that was possible since her art was not readymade at all. Then she said, “No. I’m a ready-made artist.” I then wondered what that meant and how it worked. She said, “Oh, I don’t know, my dealer told me to say that” [laughs]. So I think we’re in a lot of trouble here. It’s a way to attach to things – you can do this, you can do that, you can do remake, re-copy, ready-made, or any other cliché word....

Theodor W. Adorno, Aesthetic Theory
Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina, trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonksy
Jody Heymann, Profit at the Bottom of the Ladder: Creating Value by Investing in Your Workforce

Watching (with L.):

The Wire, Season 1

Lots of fun at parties, all appearances to the contrary

A Heterogeneity, 2011

The last of several photographs made at the Huntington Desert Garden in San Marino, California, from autumn 2010 through spring 2011.  Big; approx. 20" x 24".

My cactus photographs -- variously shot in Arizona; Nevada; California and Florida -- are abstract compositions made with real things.  But the cactus pictures shot at the Huntington specifically refer to Scott McFarland's Empire (2006), a series of digital collages that radically recompose the space of the Desert Garden to striking effect, collapsing temporal and physical distance within the space of unique, ostensibly "seamless" images.

For reasons I don't yet fully understand, my practice oscillates between what I'll call "autonomous" pictures (like San Marino Magnolia, immediately below) and "performed" or "mimetic" photographs like A Heterogeneity or Blind, pictures made in or around the locations where artworks that are particularly important to me were also made.  

By and large, people, even those close to me, don't get the "performed" pictures; they're either regarded as vaguely creepy-tourist or parodic, though I intend them as neither.

A lightly edited representative exchange with my photographer friend Jamie Tolagson

JT: I'm confused on how you relate this kind of direct referencing to your conception of your personal practice though. I don't mean this as an insult, I mean I really am not sure what you are aiming for with that side of your work, beyond a kind of study, or research into ways of picture making that appeal to you. Is it that straightforward? I'm just curious if maybe there is something more that I'm missing out on. A reason that you are not just exploring the kinds of pictures McFarland makes, but shooting in the actual places they were made.

CJB: One of the best parts of being able to visit the locations where photos I admire were made is being able to figure out what choices were made to make those pictures: what was excluded; what was retained; what was emphasized, etc.  Example: the kids' tire fort in War Game comes from the recycling bin out back of the tire shop across the alley from the vacant lot depicted in the photograph.  A picture is a stopped moment but site research suggests, or implies, a before or after to that moment that helps explicate, or extend it.  I like that the Metropolitans can be panned in every direction, zoomed in, out, etc. so that one can see the choices I made, for better or worse.  The pictures' context is immediately available to viewers.

I think a lot of my own nature involves consciously applying the decision-making processes of people I admire (Buffett; Wall; Judd; McFarland; lots of others) to situations in my own life.  It's a little weird, but it helped me start the [bookstore], start writing art criticism, open a gallery, start making pictures, etc.  I think that, at least on a subconscious level, I'm trying to "perform" the photographic decision-making of JW, SMcF, etc. as I understand it, much as Evans "performed" photojournalism or Ruscha "performed" photo-amateurism.  I don't think this makes the pictures made this way better or more aesthetically successful than those made by more conventional means, but it's faithful to my own nature.  Maybe in time the process will lead somewhere that I never could have anticipated at the outset.  It does seem to routinely confuse and upset people, though, which might be reason enough to keep on with it.  As always, Elaine Sturtevant's example is important, and comforting; though I haven't written about her work at length, she's probably as important to my thinking about art these days as Wall or Judd.


San Marino Magnolia, 2011
Juan Cole's Open Letter to the Left on Libya

"Some have charged that the Libya action has a Neoconservative political odor. But the Neoconservatives hate the United Nations and wanted to destroy it. They went to war on Iraq despite the lack of UNSC authorization, in a way that clearly contravened the UN Charter. Their spokesman and briefly the ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, actually at one point denied that the United Nations even existed. The Neoconservatives loved deploying American muscle unilaterally, and rubbing it in everyone’s face. Those who would not go along were subjected to petty harassment. France, then deputy secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz pledged, would be 'punished' for declining to fall on Iraq at Washington’s whim. The Libya action, in contrast, observes all the norms of international law and multilateral consultation that the Neoconservatives despise. There is no pettiness. Germany is not ‘punished’ for not going along. Moreover, the Neoconservatives wanted to exercise primarily Anglo-American military might in the service of harming the public sector and enforced ‘shock therapy’ privatization so as to open the conquered country to Western corporate penetration. All this social engineering required boots on the ground, a land invasion and occupation. Mere limited aerial bombardment cannot effect the sort of extreme-capitalist revolution they seek."


"The UN Security Council is not a court, and does not function by precedent. It is a political body, and works by political will. Its members are not constrained to do elsewhere what they are doing in Libya unless they so please, and the veto of the five permanent members ensures that a resolution like 1973 will be rare. But if a precedent is indeed being set that if you rule a country and send tank brigades to murder large numbers of civilian dissidents, you will see your armor bombed to smithereens, I can’t see what is wrong with that."


"It is possible to reason our way through, on a case-by-case basis, to an ethical progressive position that supports the ordinary folk in their travails in places like Libya. If we just don’t care if the people of Benghazi are subjected to murder and repression on a vast scale, we aren’t people of the Left. We should avoid making ‘foreign intervention’ an absolute taboo the way the Right makes abortion an absolute taboo if doing so makes us heartless (inflexible a priori positions often lead to heartlessness). It is now easy to forget that Winston Churchill held absolutely odious positions from a Left point of view and was an insufferable colonialist who opposed letting India go in 1947. His writings are full of racial stereotypes that are deeply offensive when read today. Some of his interventions were nevertheless noble and were almost universally supported by the Left of his day. The UN allies now rolling back Qaddafi are doing a good thing, whatever you think of some of their individual leaders."

Shuffle Diplomacy

Via Ticketmaster:

"Dear CJBRAYSHAW: Confirming Jul 02 2011 Seattle, WA WaMu Theater Jul 03 2011 Portland, OR Arlene Schnitzer Hall"

"So you think this is love?"
Yes, I guess so...

WELCOME to world wide famous Sokoblovsky Farms: the best and only breeders of Petite Lap Giraffes

(via L., at 3:24am)

@bronxzooscobra: I want to thank those animals from the movie "Madagascar." They were a real inspiration.

@bronxzooscobra: Dear NYC, apples and snakes have gone together since the beginning.

@bronxzooscobra: Holding very still in the snake exhibit at the Museum of Natural History. This is gonna be hilarious!

@bronxzooscobra: Gonna listen to some Jazz tonight. You know I love some great flute work. Do they provide it or is it bring your own basket?

@bronxzooscobra: Now I'm down in Tribeca right next to DeNiro.

@bronxzooscobra: It's getting pretty cold out. I think it's probably time to crash. Oh look, an apartment window someone left open just a crack. Perfect!

[Mostly retweets, with one of my own invention]
Monday, March 28, 2011

World of Reptiles Temporary Closure

"We understand [...] that everyone wants us to find the missing snake."

(via L.)

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