Monday, November 29, 2010

The great Otis Clay tears it up in Brooklyn
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Recent reading:

Patti Smith, Just Kids

John Le Carre, Our Kind of Traitor

Gillian Rose, Melancholy Science: An Introduction to the Thought of Theodor W. Adorno

Gillian Tett, Fool's Gold: The Inside Story of J.P. Morgan and How Wall St. Greed Corrupted Its Bold Dream and Created a Financial Catastrophe

Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera, All the Devils Are Here: The Hidden History of the Financial Crisis

Marcel Hénaff, The Price of Truth: Gift, Money, and Philosophy
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Found Message on An Aesthetics Mailing List, c. 1996

Subject: Aesthetics: Getting Started

Hello to anyone out there with a spare moment. I am aspiring to become an aesthetician and am looking for advice/information.

I live in a suburb of Los Angeles and I am looking for a reputable place for my education. My particular interest lyes [sic] in the area of facial glycolic treatments.

Thanks to anyone who can offer any suggestions."
Pertinent to discussions of the last few days, and, to my mind, almost criminally unknown: Roger Seamon's "The Conceptual Dimension in Art and the Modern Theory of Artistic Value"  (Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 2001)

Early Christmas gift in the morning mail: Photography After Conceptual Art (nb. not "Conceptual photography")

Why aren't we all eagerly awaiting and discussing this?  OH YEAH: Kanye's new album; the weather; self-congratulatory-insider pats-on-the-back; fashion.

Dan's Chinatown
Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Take Duchamp.  For me, he is the most exemplary of the artists we call intermedia artists, or, more accurately, artists-in-general.  An artist-in-general is not designated by his or her practice of a specific metier, but moves freely and promiscuously between all the forms in the Western canon.  (Rauschenberg is an artist-in-general; so too are Elaine Sturtevant and Warhol and Yves Klein and Marcel Broodthaers and Rodney Graham and Beuys.  But these are the first names that come to mind when I think of the category, and Duchamp is the best of them).

Duchamp overthrew the tyranny of the "crafty hand."  He proved, definitively in my view, that art can not only be made, but designated, or, in his phrase, "chosen."  This doesn't mean that a work like his Fountain (above) is aesthetically better, or of higher quality, than a handmade sculpture like Michaelangelo's David because it is selected and not made.  What it does mean is that there is no longer any morphological basis for excluding a work like Fountain from the category called "art."  After Duchamp, anything and everything is at least potentially a work of art.  I say "potentially" because a work of art, even one made of radio waves or canned shit must still satisfy, must still demonstrate its aesthetic quality by surviving rigorous comparison with a broad group of peers.  It is not hard to "come up for the count" as art these days, but it is still hard -- must still be hard -- to count as good art.

Is Duchamp's Fountain a sculpture?  Yes, nominally.  Is it successful because of its sculptural qualities?  Or in spite of them?

Some of Fountain's defenders invoked its sculptural qualities to defend it against the Society of Independent Artists' skeptical jury: nice shape, glossy enamel finish, yadda yadda yadda.  Duchamp never did.  All his defenses of Mr. Richard Mutt's peculiar object stressed its significance as an object of aesthetic designation.  "Whether Mr Mutt made the fountain with his own hands or not has no importance. He CHOSE it. He took an article of life, placed it so that its useful significance disappeared under the new title and point of view – created a new thought for that object."  Which is not to say that Fountain's sculptural qualities are unimportant, only that to focus on them to the exclusion of all else elides the "new title and point of view" that Duchamp tied to Mott Iron Works' urinal like a thought balloon.

"Some Comments on the Claims Pro and Against Painting"

Painting as the most conspicuous of the "canonical forms": check.  But I don't agree with the assertion, made here and elsewhere, that the canonical forms are canonical because of the quality that inheres in them ("burdened by their own notions of quality...") as opposed to intermedia.  I've seen lots of bad painting, photography and sculpture over the years, and lots of bad intermedia too.  The "depictive arts" have a several hundred year head start on intermedia; the criteria that enable us to differentiate between depictive works of art, essentially saying, "This one is not as good as/is better than that one," have been auto-evolving for a long time.  Intermedia's criteria had a late start (I disagree that they are "suspended," or nonexistent) but are no less rigorous.  The works ask to be judged as something other than "canonical forms."  Example: Felix Gonzalez-Torres' offprints, lightbulb strings, and candy piles.  If I judge the offprints as "photographs," or the strings and piles as "sculptures" I reduce them through the application of these terms; their assimilation to the "canonical forms" elides those aspects of their presence which I might, if pressed, call "conceptual" and thus unique to them.  I cannot point to this precisely, as specific aspects of their form, but I intuitively sense that it is there, and that it is this quality that distinguishes Gonzalez-Torres' work from that of other sculptors like Judd or Tony Smith.

(Images: Edwin Dickinson, The Gas Tank, 1937; untitled Felix Gonzalez-Torres lightbulb string)
Monday, November 22, 2010

"The plaintiff owns commercial property near the intersection of Second Avenue and Ontario Street in Vancouver.  It says that Ontario Street between 2nd and 3rd avenues has become known as 'cash corner' because individuals looking for short term or temporary employment wait there each day to meet potential employers.  The plaintiff says that on weekday mornings up to 35 individuals, predominantly men, gather on the street, sidewalks, driveways and loading bays in the block.  Potential employers arrive in vehicles to negotiate wages with these day labourers and, if agreement is reached, usually transport them to job sites."
Saturday, November 20, 2010
Waste My Time, Please

INTOXIMICATED YOUNG GUY:  Got any Chucklowsky?

CJB:  Sorry, didn't catch the name. 

IYG:  Chucklowsky!

CJB:  And he or she is...?

IYG:  He's a famous American writer, man!

CJB:  Never heard of him.  Name's spelled...?

IYG:  Uh.  K-L-O-W. . . [PAUSE]  Fuck, I don't know!

CJB:  Are you thinking of Charles Bukowski?

IYG:  That's him!


IYG:  Huh.  You don't have of beat poetry of his.  That he did with the other guy.

CJB:  "Other guy"?

IYG:  Sorry man.  I've been drinking!

CJB:  You don't say.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Metropolitan (16), 2010
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Waste My Time, Please (Special Bonus Round)

JACKET COPY:  Using Your Thoughts to Change Your Life and the World.  Featured in THE LOST SYMBOL!

CUSTOMER:  Have you read this book?

CJB:  No.

CUSTOMER:  Why is that?
Waste My Time, Please

YOUNG WOMAN:  I need a real book expert!  This has been in my family for ages and I need to know what it's worth!  It's from the 1800s!

CJB:  Are you asking for an appraisal, or trying to sell the book to me?

YW:  An appraisal.

CJB:  That's a fee-based service, which is [$] an hour, with a half-hour minimum.  But...thirty second synopsis...this book is a single part of a multiple-volume series, it's missing its spine and half of its first free endpaper, and it looks like it's been stored in a gerbil's cage...

YW:  Five hundred bucks and it's yours!
Windblown silver sky, a few streaks of blue.  Orange rattling leaves.  A crow hops from branch to branch on the other side of the road, blown off-course by the gusts that keep sweeping in from the west.  Deflect, bump head on branch, correct course.  Flurry of black wings.  Today's so-called customers don't want to buy anything, they just want to share opinions that there's no polite reply to.  "I see Volume One of Remembrance of Things Past everywhere, but they're not printing Volume Two any more," says one guy.  "I know a fella who says he's read the whole thing.  Not much of an accomplishment, really." How am I supposed to answer this?  You just automatically disqualified yourself as a judge of...well, anything, really.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Deficit reduction 101, courtesy Anodyne HQ
Friday, November 12, 2010
"Elvid's smile widened, and Streeter saw a wonderful, terrible thing: the man's teeth weren't just too big or too many.  They were sharp."  (Stephen King, "Fair Extension," 2010)
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Hi, I Have Some Questions About Tonight's Reading?

CJB:  Go ahead.

VOICE ON PHONE:  Is the author going to be there?

CJB:  Reading from his book, yes.

VOP: But I don't have to buy a book...right?

CJB: Not if you don't want to, no.

VOP: Is there going to be free food?

CJB: The publisher might bring some, yes.

VOP: What about free beer? Or wine?

CJB: We'll be charging for those.


Metropolitan (14), 2010
Dan Nakamura's strings; brilliant winter light; fresh white snow on Crown; Grouse's turbine shining in the sun.
Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Walter: All right. Got one. Steely Dan.

Walt Jr: No.

Walter: Yes, absolutely. No, in terms of pure musicianship...I would put them up against any current band you can name.

Walt Jr: You wouldn't know any current bands.

Walter: That's besides the point.

Skyler: Have a good day, honey.

Walt Jr: You too.

Walter: Ah. Boz Scaggs. There's another one.

Skyler: Boz Scaggs...

Walt Jr: Whoever they are. Bye. Thanks for breakfast.

Skyler: Bye.

Walter: You're welcome. Listen, tell Louis to drive carefully.

Walt Jr: All right. [LEAVES ROOM]

Walter: Our son doesn't know who Boz Scaggs is. We have failed as parents.

Skyler: Come to think of it, I barely know who Boz Scaggs is.

Walter: Stop it.
Sunday, November 07, 2010

Metropolitan (13), 2010
Saturday, November 06, 2010
Dan Graham in conversation.  I totally disagree with one of the opinions presented as fact below, which, to his credit, Graham recognizes -- if honestly reported -- as ridiculous, correctly opposing Donald Judd's example, though he could have just as easily named Smithson's, or Ian Wallace's, or Fairfield Porter's.
Metro Sources

1.  Curb Your Enthusiasm

2.  The full-page details in Jeff Wall: Transparencies (Rizzoli, 1987)

3.  Fat City, dir. John Huston, cinematography Conrad Hall

4.  "I went to LA. I love the space and light and architecture and vegetation there." (Stephen Shore in conversation)

5. Owen Kydd, esp. Night

6.  My shyness

7.  Dan Graham on Dan Flavin's post-exhibition returns to the hardware store

8.  Pete's trees

9.  Bodies moving in space

10.  The way my depression lifts in sunlight

Metropolitan (10a), 2010
Hey Judith Griggs!  I want my tuna-surprise recipe back!
Friday, November 05, 2010
Kaputt's breezy faux-70s burbling ebb and flow; late white sunlight in the sky above the bakery; double rainbow out over the harbor.
Edge of Town at the Equinox, Robert Adams at the VAG and Stephen Waddell at Monte Clark: an uncommon amount of good photography on display around town right now.
Thursday, November 04, 2010

Seth on Doug Wright, beloved weekend cartoonist of my childhood, kindred spirit:

"In one memorable panel [Wright] drew a large complicated vista of a strip mall, the parking lot, the street behind the parking lot and finally the hills beyond – all of which perfectly captured the essence of just such a mid-twentieth-century location. Looking at this drawing is practically the same as visiting the place. As his backgrounds grew in complexity so did their 'sense of exactness.' The environment of the strip was, undoubtedly, his own house, his own neighbourhood and his own town. Wright was drawing the very world that I grew up in – the south-western Ontario of the sixties and seventies. Every carefully rendered detail is perfectly familiar to me: the ranch-style homes, the school yards, the corner stores – even the little things like the screen doors.


Earlier I used the term 'sense of exactness' to describe Wright’s drawings. That sense was never more acute than in his drawings of the post-war suburban environment. They evoke the very experience of being there. I can think of nothing else, not even photographs, that brings that world of my childhood back to me with such deeply felt longing. As I peer into his strips I see the essence of an era that no longer exists. The last breath of the early twentieth century mixing with the new world that is to come.

On occasion, Wright would focus his great rendering skills on a small poetic moment of everyday life such as a snowy winter morning or a dusky evening of fireworks or a sudden sun shower. These images never drew undue attention to themselves. They never slowed the strips down. Still, if you stopped and took the time to take them in you would feel their subtle beauty."
Monday, November 01, 2010

Metropolitan (11), 2010

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