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.)
Saturday, March 26, 2011
The idea's not to make a Poussin.  Poussin made Poussins.  A literal recreation of a period style -- or the appearance of a style's recreation -- equals kitsch, and definitely qualifies as a major aesthetic error (qv. Lempicka; Schnabel; late Picabia).  That said, I think it's entirely possible to make artworks that gesture toward other works, just as photographs gesture toward the things they depict.  This tendency can be more or less pronounced, and is currently better theorized in music than in the depictive arts (qv. DJ Shadow's Endtroducing... (1996) and J Dilla's Donuts (2006), among many, many others).
Friday, March 25, 2011
Poussin: bright splashes of complexly folded colored fabric set off against the landscape's paler greens, browns and blues.

The daughter (?) with the cellphone reminds me of a Poussin figure (turned sideways to the viewer, sloped shoulder and bent knee), but I can't place the picture.
Thursday, March 24, 2011

Coastal Motifs, 2011

I genuinely don't know what to make of this photograph. Part of me thinks it's terrible, a major aesthetic error.  But I like the torsion of the little boy's body and the family group at the far right.

Three groups of people in shared social space, deep in their own concerns and invisible to each other.  Only the camera looking at the landscape.
Ethel Wilson's "Hurry, Hurry"

"When the mountains beyond the city are covered with snow to their base, the late afternoon light falling obliquely from the west upon the long slopes discloses new contours.  For a few moments of time the austerity vanishes, and the mountains appear innocently folded in furry white.  Their daily look has gone.  For these few moments the slanting rays curiously discover each separate tree behind each separate tree in the infinite white forests.  Then the light fades, and the familiar mountains resume their daily look again.  The light has gone, but those who have seen it will remember."
We Were Kittens Once, and Young by Anna Holmes -- short, impeccibly well-written account of what it's like to live alongside (& love) animals whose lifespan is, cruelly, shorter than yours.

"It is not an exaggeration to say that, when I imagine what their deaths will be like, the scene plays out like the highlight reel from an actress’ Oscar-nominated performance. I don’t know how I am going to live without you, I whisper. They look back at me blankly and then go slack as I hover over them with a whimper that becomes a howling, crushing wail usually reserved for the loss of a child or a lover; a sort of base, primal grief that rattles you to your bones and frightens everyone in the room. It frightens me too — not just the fantasy but the present-day reality, a heaving that begins low in my abdomen and thunders slowly upward every time I catch a glimpse of a well-worn paw or brush the back of my hand over a soft underbelly. I feel it when I see them sleeping, their beautifully composed tight, little spirals of fur and ears and legs and tails; I feel it when I hear them moving, softly clacking up and down the apartment hallway or ker-thumping from the bed to the floor and back up again.

It feels crazy.

They’re just cats, after all."

Metropolitan (24), 2011

For my friend Owen Kydd, on the occasion of his exhibition of two new works -- Kingsway and Florence Avenue -- at Monte Clark Gallery, Toronto
Destroyer Live in Seattle

Yesterday's soundtrack on the mountain, facing the mountains in the sun.

New interview from Foam magazine by my friend Aaron Peck, accompanied by documentary photographs by Stephen Waddell.  I like the notion of "not seeing the picture you're making" right away, and the accompanying insight that minor shifts of perspective or the rearrangement of objects within the camera's field of view will neccessarily produce different pictures, ones that might be unthinkable upon first stumbling across a motif.

Cezanne's name keeps coming up in relation to photography. Opuntia fiscus-indica and Overland (both below) are my attempts to translate Cezanne's little pats-and-dabs of color into still photographs, pictures that are not so concerned with the specificity of a subject as they are with the abstract configuration of real space.  Cactus pads look a lot like colored brushstrokes.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Untitled figure study, 2011

Workshop, 2011
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Tonight's Youtube:

The Stylistics, Stop, Look, Listen to Your Heart

The Isley Brothers, Footsteps in the Dark
Monday, March 21, 2011


Relevant to certain "performed" photographs that appear here from time to time.

Meanwhile, in a similar vein...
Sunday, March 20, 2011
Saturday, March 19, 2011

Opuntia fiscus-indica, 2011
"The study was slowly lit up by the candle that was brought. Familiar details emerged: deer's antlers, shelves of books, the back of the stove with a vent that had long been in need of repair, his father's sofa, the big desk, an open book on the desk, a broken ashtray, a notebook with his handwriting. When he saw it all, he was overcome by a momentary doubt of the possibility of setting up that new life he had dreamed of on the way. All these traces of his life seemed to seize hold of him and say to him: 'No, you won't escape us and be different, you'll be the same as you were: with doubts, an eternal dissatisfaction with yourself, vain attempts to improve, and failures, and an eternal expectation of the happiness that has eluded you and is not possible for you.'"

(Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina, trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky)

Friday, March 18, 2011
VANCOUVER PASSPORT OFFICE:  You recently agreed to act as a reference for Mr. X?

CJB:  I did.

VPO:  What does Mr. X do?

CJB: Mr. X works in [LOCAL INDUSTRY]

VPO: Do you know where and when Mr. X was born?

CJB:  We've never discussed it, no.

VPO:  Can you describe Mr. X's personal appearance?

CJB:  Easily.  Mr. X. looks like a white version of the cartoon character "Shrek."

VPO:  Yeah, that's the guy.  Thanks very much!
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Destroyer and Blackout Beach (featuring @PFB's Carey Mercer) at the Commodore tonight!  Sold out show.  If you see me, the bald bearded old guy happily swaying and singing along to Suicide Demo For Kara Walker, come up & say hello.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Farewell Nate Dogg, great redeployer of yacht rock
Seth Klarman's Margin of Safety: Risk-Averse Value Investing Strategies for the Thoughtful Investor.  Out of print since 1991; actual copies start at $1150 US online.  For years I hoped one would wander through the door, or that I'd find one in Twin Falls, Idaho, or Henderson, Nevada, or in the big Savers outlet on East Charleston Boulevard.  No dice.  Then, today, this attractive PDF...
LADY CUSTOMER: Can I put my bags somewhere safe?

CJB:  How about behind the desk, up against the radiator that's not on?

LC:  Sure!

CJB:  Anything good in there?  Food?  Hard alcohol?  Pastries?

LC:  A hibernating coral snake.

The author in his stacks.  Courtesy Stasia's iPhone.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Not a "series," despite the titles.  Three autonomous photographs, shot over a three day period in Henderson, Nevada.

The articulation of "abstract" pictorial space through the depiction of real things.  nb. Cezanne.

Chocolate Factory Cactus Garden (3), 2011
"His music attains self-expression through the expression of selves. Voices contest, cajole, regret, argue, instruct, protest, entreat, give praise: not programmatic description but actual speech, captured in the moment. In every ensemble one hears the separate voices, and at the same time senses the enormous ear tuned in to all of them."
Monday, March 14, 2011

Robert Adams, South Denver, Colorado, 1980

Robert Adams, Longmont, Colorado, 1980

From the exhibition Summer Nights, Walking
Sunday, March 13, 2011

Trash, 2011
"For better or worse, I'm out there, and those are the circumstances."

Chocolate Factory Cactus Garden (2), 2011
Saturday, March 12, 2011

Chocolate Factory Cactus Garden, 2011

Big (for me); approx. 30" x 40".  This photograph, along with some others, will be on display at CSA Space in November 2011.
Friday, March 11, 2011
"Nobody pays me to do this. It is my own choice, to identify with detritus in a place that has declared war on unconvinced recyclers while erecting expensive memorials to the absence of memory."

(Iain Sinclair, Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire: A Confidential Report)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Blue, 2011
Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Studio, 2011

In a Greenhouse, 2011
Tuesday, March 08, 2011

La Cienega, 2011

I’m so live with it, look how I did it 
Been bullshittin' but I finally arrived with it 
I know it's late and I took all year but 
You can stop complainin' cause I’m finally here


Overland, 2011

King's, 2011
Monday, March 07, 2011

Edge of a Canyon, 2010-11
Sunday, March 06, 2011

Curtis Mayfield's Theme From Claudine

Tom Waits and Robert Frank, New York City, 1985, by Ted Barron

"[I] walked up to this scene, and I immediately recognized Robert Frank, because at that point I was probably looking at his photographs every day. I realized who he was photographing, and I made a few photographs while I was watching. I didn’t want to be in the way, and I didn’t want to become part of what was going on."

(viz. certain photographs that appear here from time to time)
Why The Archives Changed

A coding/formatting issue I don't really understand recently digested several weeks of historical posts, including an obituary for my late, much-missed friend Bruce Serafin.  The only fix for the bug is to switch the archives' frequency from monthly to weekly collation, which currently -- sigh -- produces a list approximately a hundred miles long.
"The desire, then, to rescue all failed works.  Yet it is, admittedly, a utopian fantasy: the idea that no part of the work is ultimately rejected.

Similarly, my refusal to abandon any former lover. When someone I loved and/or slept with turns up years later for lunch, now married, paternal, embarked upon a surprising vacation, my response is invariably one of pleasure. However fragile, I retrieve the utopian image: love is endless."

(Stan Persky, Buddy's)
Friday, March 04, 2011

Serious readership-survey questions:

1. How much would you happily pay for a doughnut made with premium ingredients?  (eg., something tasty, and of good quality, but not necessarily certified green, organic, or "locavore")

2.  What are some of your favorite doughnut flavors?

3.  Favorite doughnut spot in Vancouver?  Canada?  The US?

Replies of any length, even wise-ass ones, welcome.
"Congratulations ANODYNE INC.  You are the winning bidder on CORNER STORE, 2009 (4 WORKS)"

(via auctions)
Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Dig, 2011
Tuesday, March 01, 2011
Jorge Luis Borges' Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote
Why can't you see that a life in art and a life of mimicry
- it's the same thing!?!

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