Monday, June 30, 2008

Apocalypse Niagara Street / I Hate Amatuer Fireworks

The people in my neighborhood go nuts with the fireworks on and around the 4th of July (fireworks are illegal here). Last year we went around the corner to watch the amateur activities from the roof of our friend's three story building. We had a bird's eye view of what ended up being a three hour blitzkrieg of rockets, fire crackers and god knows what else. It was amazing how much money had been spent on fireworks by people who don't seem to have very much money. I was also surprised that people weren't at all bored with watching the exact same pyrotechnic event happen over and over again for hours. Random explosions continued until about 3 am, some of them were so deep and loud it was hard to believe they didn't leave craters in the ground. I absolutely hate being around these kinds of fireworks.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Mayflies at the sidedoor

I watched this one get caught in a spider web. I hope it had already mated.

This one got caught in a fragment of an old spider web.

Mayflies appeared today on the side of the house. Some years they show up in fairly large numbers, I only noticed a few today. Mayflies (by which I mean all species in Ephemeroptera) are known for only living a very short time, this is somewhat misleading as they live in an aquatic nymph stage for a year. Here is the Wikipedia breakdown:
Mayflies are insects which belong to the Order Ephemeroptera (from the Greek ephemerospteron = "wing", referring to the short life span of adults). They have been placed into an ancient group of insects termed the Paleoptera, which also contains the dragonflies and damselflies. They are aquatic insects whose immature stage (called naiad or, colloquially, nymph) usually lasts one year in fresh water. The adults are short-lived, from a few hours to a few days depending on the species. About 2,500 species are known worldwide, including about 630 species in North America. Common names for mayflies include "dayfly", "shadfly", "Green Bay Flies", "Canadian soldier", and "fishfly."

...The lifespan of an adult mayfly can vary from just 30 minutes to one day depending on the species. The primary function of the adult is reproduction; the mouthparts are vestigial, and the digestive system is filled with air..
The strangest thing about Mayflies is that they are the only order of insects that moult after they have developed functioning wings. The stage is called the subimago (the final moult is called the imago), and may last only a matter of hours. Cool, huh?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Wedding / Dia:Beacon / MassMoca

We went to a wedding downstate over the weekend and we took the opportunity to go to Dia:Beacon and (slightly out of our way, on the trip home) MassMoca. We had never been to either space before.

The scale of Dia:Beacon is pretty overwhelming, the building was built as the National Biscuit
Carton Making and Printing Plant in 1927, I think it is something like 400,000 square feet. The spaces are enormous and they are all lit by skylights which makes for interesting shifts in color in the monochrome work as the clouds go overhead. The first thing you see when you walk in is Imi Knoebel's 24 Colors – for Blinky , 1977, an installation of large, brightly colored, unusually shaped monochromatic paintings. The installation takes up a significant chunk of space and as far as monochromatic paintings go, this is as good as it gets (I generally take a dim view of this kind of art). I liked the Richard Serras, the Robert Smithson mirror pieces, Sol Lewitt's wall drawings (I pity the people that actually had to do the drawing) and Louise Bourgeois' giant spider, which, by the way, does not have a face! They also have one of the best John Chamberlains I've seen, the colors make me think of the Dukes of Hazzard's General Lee mashed up with Roscoe's police car, and the worst John Chamberlain, see below. The main space of the cavernous basement is currently hosting an installation of projections by Tacita Dean entitled: Merce Cunningham performs STILLNESS (in three movements) to John Cage’s composition 4'33" with Trevor Carlson, New York City, 28 April 2007 (six performances; six films, 2008. The installation consists of film loops of Merce Cunningham sitting in a chair doing nothing, the projections are very spaced out so that you have to walk through large areas of darkness to reach the light. I enjoyed the experience of being in the space.

NOTE: I got the following images from various places on the net, neither Dia:Beacon or Mass Moca allow photography. See more Beacon pix here.

Richard Serra



Sol Lewitt drawings

MassMoca was a bit more conventional, with the way it stages shows I liked some of what I saw in Badlands:New Horizons in Landscape, particularly the work of Vaughn Bell. The other group show, Eastern Standard: Western Artists in China, purported to be "[Western] artists addressing the complex issues facing China in the wake of industrialization and globalization." There was some interesting work in the show but you get the impression that being on the outside of Chinese society, the Western artists really are basically limited to making art work about architecture and the Three Rivers Dam. There is no sense in any of the work of how a Chinese person, might feel about all of those "Complex Issues."

I really liked Jenny Holzer's work when I was in High School, (she had a big show at the Albright-Knox in 1989, when I was 16), but over the years I have come to think of her "truisms" as a collection of dull platitudes, and I find her newer political work particularly irritating. At MassMoca, Holzer currently has a fantastic installation and some abysmal political work. The installation is a projection piece that scrolls the poems of Stanislaw Barañczak from two different directions across the room. There are enormous bean bag chairs for viewers to sit in and watch it all go by. It is difficult to read, but who cares, the visual effect of the type stretching and breaking across the surfaces of the room is amazing. Her other body of work consists of huge silk screens (on canvas) of Defense Department graphics from the planning of the Iraq invasion, and redacted documents from the war. This, to me, seems like the lowest kind of preaching to the choir, op-ed art.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Tiny Tims

A little while back I did a Google image search for "Tiny Tim." I was looking for the eccentric American singer, but of course his namesake, the Tiny Tim of Dicken's A Christmas Carol, dominated the results. I don't know why I find the compiled depictions of a lamed 5 year old boy so funny, but I do.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Watching "Control" (The Joy Division Biopic)

We just watched Control, the Anton Corbijn directed movie about Joy Division and more specifically, the story of lead singer Ian Curtis. The movie is shot in black and white and the cinematography is beautiful, just what you would expect from a photographer directing his first film. That being said, the movie is totally useless, in the way all biopics are. I would much rather have watched a well made documentary about Joy Division (there is one), where I could see original footage of their performances and interviews with the surviving band members etc. Instead in the biopic method you have to watch these performances recreated by actors, who may be very good at it, but who cares! I want to see the real thing. One of the all time worst biopics in this respect is Man on the Moon, Jim Carrey's portrayal of Andy Kaufman. What on earth is the point of watching somebody do a karaoke performance of a singularly bizarre comedian's routines? I like Joy Division, but I'm not a hardcore fan, I am however, a hardcore fan of The Smiths (also Mancs) and I can't imagine what a film treatment of their story could possibly do to expand my understanding of the band (who would play Morrissey?).

My two favorite music films, The Velvet Goldmine and 24 Hour Party People, both figure out ways to side step many of the problems and cliches of the biopic genre. The Velvet Goldmine creates fictional characters that closely resemble David Bowie and Iggy Pop, but by not pretending to be creating a factual depiction of what transpired the filmmakers are able to get to the essence of the story. They are also free to re-create the Glam scene as it might have existed in the imagination of a teenage fan.
24 Hour Party People also involves Joy Division in its telling of the story of Tony Wilson (Manchester television presenter, co-founder of Factory Records, Owner of La Hacienda night club, etc.). Steve Coogan, playing Wilson, talks directly to the audience and explains, at various points, what liberties the filmmakers have taken with leaving events, eye witness disagreements about how things happened and so on, it all works very well. See the movies.

Joy Division (the real band)


Check it.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Jacques Dutronc

I am not an expert on 60s French Pop, but I love it, I have around 350 songs from the period and I need more. That being the case, I was excited to find some French 45s yesterday at a used record/book store. One of them was the one pictured above by Jaques Dutronc, I was aware of Dutronc from his incredible song Le Responsable which was on the soundtrack for the movie CQ (not very good). After doing a little internet research I realize that there is a lot more to learn about this dude.

Of course, YouTube now allows you to see all sorts of performances that would have previously been obscured by time and geography, So check out this 1966 Dutronc "video" type performance, it's amazing:

Here he is filling in for Serge Gainsbourg
doing Comic Strip with Jane Birkin (that is some small dress):

And here is the
L'Hotesse de l'air, the song on the 45 above:

Kumataka / Mountain Hawk-eagle

I have always been curious about the raptor depicted in the two images below. I finally got around to figuring out what it is, (not terribly difficult in the age of the internet), I picked up some Japanese field guides when I was in Japan, which gave me the latin name. The species name is Spizaetus nipalensis, in Japanese it is called a Kumataka and in English it is known as a Mountain Hawk-eagle, a weirdly awkward, but kind of cool name.

Fukagawa Susaki Jumantsubo (5/1857) from the 100 Views of Edo series by Hiroshige

Kumataka catching a monkey, illustration from Nigiri Kobushi (The Clenched Fist) a Japanese manual for falconry published in 1750, I found the image in Japanese Book Illustration by Yu-Ying Brown, 1988

I am not sure about the title of this book (the only English says Field Best Encyclopedia vol. 8: Wild Birds in Japan) but it was one of the better photo based field guides I could find in Japan. The Kumataka is clutching a duck in the picture, just like it is clutching a monkey in the illustration.

This is the best illustration based field Guide that I found in Japan, it appears to be their closest approximation to the Sibley Guides here. The Kumataka is in the upper right. I like the cover.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Mark Kozelek

We went to Rochester to see Mark Kozelek (of Sun Kil Moon and Red House Painters) on Tuesday night. I found the above clip on YouTube, but it is basically exactly what the show looked like from our vantage point, I think he was even wearing the same clothes. I don't really know his songs very well but Colette is a big fan, if you were to look at the MK play counts on her iTunes you would see some ridiculously high numbers. I like his music, but it is extremely slow and probably better enjoyed while sitting in a chair (or a hammock). I find standing in clubs for that kind of music annoying, you end up thinking about your feet.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Wake Up People, Apes Are Not Monkeys!

I get really irritated when I hear people in the media failing to make a distinction between monkeys and apes. Just a few minutes ago I heard a radio story about the effort to get Cheeta (the chimp from the Tarzan movies, who, incredibly, is still alive at 76!) a star on the Hollywood walk of fame (it only seems fair, David Spade has a star). The reporter used the terms monkey and ape interchangeably. Can you imagine a news story about a squirrel where half the time the reporter referred to the squirrel as a porcupine? That is roughly as stupid as mixing up monkeys and apes.

Check out the forks in the tree, it would actually make more sense to use ape and human interchangeably.

Ape: Does not have tail

Monkey: Does have tail

Monday, June 9, 2008

A Navy Destroyer in Union Square 1917

I visit Shorpy: The 100 Year-Old Photography Blog almost everyday, they post a wonderfully random selection of old photography (click on the image to enlarge) I find the above image amazing, it's explained on the blog this way:
New York, 1917. "Landship Recruit on Union Square." The U.S.S. Recruit, a wooden battleship erected by the Navy, served as a World War I recruiting station at Union Square from 1917 to 1920, when it "set sail" for Coney Island. This is the first in a series of photographs depicting life around and aboard the landlocked boat. 5x7 glass negative, George Grantham Bain Collection.

Some Installation Shots / Going Home

We arrived back in Buffalo some time after 3 am this morning. We were on the 10:55 out of JFK, but due to thunderstorms in NY and bad weather in other places we were delayed by several hours. We were not happy, by the time we took the train out to the airport we were feeling drained by a full day out in the 90 plus heat. I can't take the New York Summer heat for too long, after a couple of days my skin starts breaking out in strange rashes (for those of you who have never met me, I am very pale). It's a relief to be home and to have my show up, but also a bit weird, I am not sure what to do with myself right now. Who knows, maybe I won't be able to stop killing spiders...

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Opening Night / Chelsea Hotel

The opening went well, there was a good turn out (a lot of B-lo expats), and the response to the work seemed pretty positive (of course people lie to your face when you are the artist, so who knows). Colette took the above pictures.

We have been staying at the Chelsea Hotel for the last two days in a small room with a shared bathroom, it's one of the cheapest rooms I could find in Manhattan. Fortunately the incredible history of the hotel turns the rundown condition of the room from minus into a plus. My only internet access has been in the lobby, so I have not had a chance to post as much as I would like. When I get home I have a bunch of things I want to write about the shows I have seen while in the city.

View from our window at the Chelsea Hotel