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Archive for October, 2013|Monthly archive page

Perfect Triad

In Art, Art Gallery blurbs from the future on 2013/10/30 at 19:15

Perfect Triad– 2039

A notable achievement in that it is nonrepresentational yet explicitly sexual, Triad began what the artist calls her “boudoir geometricies” series, the most famous of which is of course Quadrilateral Softswap.

Divinorium

In Art, Art Gallery blurbs from the future on 2013/10/29 at 21:04

Divinorium2035

The shell of this enormous tortoise is constructed entirely of Tarot cards, Ouija boards, pages from the I Ching, and daily horoscopes clipped from newspapers. Turtle shell bones were once also used in Chinese divination during the late Shang dynasty. Though his footsteps recede ever on behind him into the past, the tortoise’s eyes are looking ever forward into the future.

Portrait in Scat

In Art, Art Gallery blurbs from the future on 2013/10/28 at 22:18

Portrait in Scat – 2028

Postcards  decorated with small scale reproductions of famous paintings can be purchased in art gallery gift shops all over the world. After purchasing and ingesting several of these post cards from the gift shop at the Hong Kong Museum of Art the artist went home, waited until the next day, then used her own waste to paint this canvas. The artist asks “What is an artist? What is art?”

Semidemihepteract

In Art, Art Gallery blurbs from the future on 2013/10/28 at 21:54

Semidemihepteract – 2030

In this piece (part of the artists’ Hypercube series) the senses of self, time, and meaning are playfully manipulated in a way that is both disturbing and refreshing. As reflective surfaces, the facets of the structure’s interior make the work both static and participatory. The alignment of the work’s outer surfaces and entryways with the sun and the surrounding buildings gives the piece a dramatically shifting character that reveals new aspects of its beauty and intricacy in different parts of the day. You are encouraged to explore the work from the inside and return at different times to experience  the powerful effect of changing lighting on the structure.

Hypolithon

In Art, Art Gallery blurbs from the future on 2013/10/28 at 21:18

Hypolithon – 2019

The Inuktitut text in this piece translates to “your wife is ugly and your children are stupid.” The entire slab is made from fused and carved quartz crystals harvested by hand from the rocky polar deserts of the Canadian high Arctic where they provide habitat for a species of Archaea that thrives in harsh conditions. Sometimes harsh conditions reveal harsh truths.

Race, Gender, Croissants, and the Dangers of Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

In Art, Personal, Pop Culture on 2013/10/22 at 08:01

The previous time I recognized the song someone else was blasting out of their headphones next to me on the bus it was Katy Perry’s “Peacock.” Do the people who blast their music so loud know we can all hear it? I assumed this guy didn’t, because I can’t think of a more embarrassing song to be listening to, though his overall fabulousness and the way he bobbed his head to the beat made me think he probably didn’t care what some breeder like me would think of his musical taste. If I had to describe the thirty-something-year-old Perry fan in a word it would probably be…sassy.

This time was a little different. Again, I assumed the man next to me didn’t know I could hear his music. Again, I fantasized about getting his attention and warning him about the very real dangers of permanent hearing loss (Seriously kids, turn your music down). However, instead of merely being able to laugh off hearing someone sincerely enjoy a song that only exists to supply the least poetic phallic wordplay in recent memory, I actually was interested to know what was going through the mind of the person listening to Kanye West’s new album Yeezus with me. I’d heard one track before and recognized his voice on the material I wasn’t familiar with yet, and as we rode along and later when I listened to some of the tracks more closely through my own headphones, I reflected on hip-hop, fame, race, and misogyny.

I’m usually not one to let my impressions of an artist’s personality affect my appreciation of their work. I’m as amazed and disturbed by the implications of Tom Cruise’s ascent into religion-fuelled mania as anyone, but I still watched all the Mission: Impossible movies and enjoyed them because I think Tom Cruise is a good actor. However, hip-hop as a medium seems to demand a significant infusion of the artist’s personality into the work — most hip-hop artists talk about themselves more than anything else — and this makes it impossible for me to cut Kanye West the same slack as Tom Cruise.

Fundamentally I think my problem is that I just don’t get Kanye West. He’s an enigma. I want to believe that the idiotic bravado of a suburban kid who dropped out of art school to pursue hip-hop stardom is all an extremely successful, self-aware, Andy Kauffman-esque performance piece that I’m supposed to be laughing at. Only Kanye west could declare himself a god multiple times, rhyme massage with restaurant and croissant, and devote thirty seconds of track time to the sounds of panicked screaming all in the same song (I am a God) but still end up with a chart-topping album, and I can appreciate how amazing it is that he somehow pulled that off. I’m laughing, but I’m not sure if Kanye’s laughing with me, and even if he is, I don’t think we’re laughing at the same joke.

Thanks again to Stevie Driscoll

Thanks again to Stevie Driscoll

Just because Kanye West has only ever been arrested (along with his bodyguard) for assaulting paparazzi, he still, like many hip-hop artists, has something to say about the incarceration of huge numbers of African Americans. In “New Slaves” he draws our attention to the privately owned American prison system and their propensity to “lock niggas up.” Of course, if you’re expecting any deeper analysis of the issue or exploration of the experience of the prison-industrial system, you will be disappointed. Kanye West’s message to the DEA and Corrections Corporation of America employees (who he imagines safe in their homes in the Hamptons) is a threat of sexual violence against their wives:

“I’ll fuck your Hampton spouse, came on her Hampton blouse, and in her Hampton mouth.”

In fact, the entirety of “New Slaves” is tinged with the all too familiar misogyny that is displayed so unapologetically in far too much hip-hop, but especially notable in a song that begins with a remembrance of the artist’s mother:

“My momma was raised in the era when clean water was only served to the fairer skin.”

In the end, solid as Kanye’s skills as a producer may be (if you can ignore the hilarity of his lyrics, a lot of the album can be enjoyable), if I’m going to listen to hip-hop (be it by choice or otherwise), I’d  much rather listen to Binary Star, who also released a new album this year (their song “Wait” explores the African American experience of the prison industrial system in a far more visceral way than Kanye ever could, and though it still sadly descends into misogyny in the later verses, the end result is still far more interesting than Kanye throwing Maybach keys in “New Slaves”) or the always amazing Saul Williams.

La Vie En Rose

In Art, Personal, Politics, Pop Culture, World on 2013/10/12 at 18:48

The subject is reminding the viewer of the author’s presence, because they’re staring straight back at you…it creates an ethical problem in the viewer’s mind so then they’re confused and angry and disoriented. This is great because you’ve actually got them to think about the act of perception and how this imagery is produced and consumed.

— Richard Mosse, on The Enclave

Fashionable as a certain style of cultural illiteracy may be, I like to know about the cultural matrix the people who sit next to me on the bus might live in. I admit to being aware of the attention Miley Cyrus’ new image has received. Her performance at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards bears the distinction of being the most tweeted-about event in history at 360,000 tweets per minute. Concerned mothers everywhere are mourning the seemingly inevitable corruption of Hannah Montana. Sinead O’Conner has evidently appointed herself their leader, admonishing Cyrus, whom she calls a “precious young lady” with motherly wisdom like this:

Yes, I’m suggesting you don’t care for yourself. That has to change. You ought be protected…This is a dangerous world. We don’t encourage our daughters to walk around naked in it because it makes them prey for animals and less than animals…

Maybe my feminism is a bit off, but to me that reads as one of the more insidious types of rape apologetics.

A former child star somehow transformed into a 20 year old woman. This is presented to us as if it should confuse and anger us.

The full Cyrus experience — from Hannah Montana to what I believe has been dubbed correctly as a sort of poor-man’s Lady Gaga — does not surprise me. The phallic metaphors with a sledgehammer, the full nudity, the suggestive dancing, does not surprise me. It should not surprise anyoneWhen it comes to female sexuality, especially when it is youthful, America suffers from a prudish puritan tension between disdain and titillation. This is the reason why you even can make millions of dollars by showing a young woman in a sexual light in America in the first place.

Much has been said about the racial aspects of the VMA performance, much has been said about how Robin Thicke, the much older man onstage with Cyrus, escaped much attention, but there is something more to be considered. Am I alone in noting a not insignificant note of a different kind of disappointment in the popular discourse around Miley’s new image? Wasn’t part of the excitement and commentary on Miley at the VMAs a sort of embarrassment that, somehow, she wasn’t doing it right? She wasn’t being NuBritney enough? She’s cropping her hair short and sticking her tongue out, and though we know we are supposed to say we’re offended by the sexuality of her performance, we feel robbed that the sexiness is missing.

Miley Cyrus smoking fan art illustration by Stevie Driscoll

Illustration by Stevie Driscoll

Not all the concern has been about the danger to Miley Cyrus and women everywhere when we allow them to be depicted as sexual beings. (Remember, they become “prey.”) Miley Cyrus isn’t just refusing to cover up and quit with the dirty dancing, she’s also spreading reefer madness amongst America’s youth. The very profitable buzz around the New Miley plays off two separate problems with American culture that work in a similar way. There is a reason for the classic combination of drugs, sex and rock n’ roll. Just as the collective kitchen table of America still hasn’t figured out that by making the female form something illicit (something that must be hidden and protected from spoilage) we therefore make it seem that much more exciting, we see a similar stubborn myopia when it comes to drugs. Rather than dealing with abuse and addiction as physio-psycho-social problems, inebriation is criminalized and thus is created the black market for drugs. Rather than talking openly and honestly with our children and our society about sexuality, we make sex a taboo to be exploited by pornographers and their ilk.

I felt a strange existential dizziness as, looking into Miley Cyrus’ eyes, I reflected on what I had been reading about the situation in the Congo after watching a trailer for Richard Mosse’s film The Enclave. Embroiled in a decades–long series of conflicts that have left much of what is one of the most resource–rich regions in the world in what Mosse calls a “Hobbesian state,” the eastern region of the country in particular is known as the rape capital of the world and “the most dangerous place in the world to be a woman.”
Please watch the trailer.

The New Stars: Sixth Part

In Fiction, Short Stories, Uncategorized on 2013/10/04 at 19:42

Start with Part 1

The same sorrowful sun that painted the empty landscape behind Stentorius as he wrote was just rising over Villard Emmet. It warmed the foggy air of the small valley where the repurposed mechanician bot now lived and worked, about 250 million kilometres away.

The valley was carpeted with a soft new grass, all of it covered with tiny droplets of quickly evaporating dew. A light breeze swept over the hillocks and dales that spotted the area in front of the local Materials Repair and Recycling Facility.

Villard was admiring his new attachments, one of which he was in the process of using to meticulously clean and polish his front casing. He was used to the higher oxygenation of the air inside the elevators, which matched that of his new home quite closely, but the atmosphere in his new home was far more humid than anything he had experienced before. Close analysis had revealed a 0.2% increase in the rate of deterioration of his outer components. Still, Villard was happy. He felt a deep sense of purpose, even in his new position, which was admittedly not as challenging and interesting as his old work on the elevators.

There were no elevators on the new planet. The gravity was slightly higher, and it had a powerful but unstable magnetosphere. They would need hundreds of Villards working on a single elevator to keep it functional and safe, and the masters had decided it wasn’t worth it. A launch tower constructed on the peak of the highest mountain on the planet was used instead. Villard had wanted to work there, but had been assigned to a repair and recycling position instead. They had switched out most of his specialized equipment, but had left most of his structure essentially the same. No one was getting huge overhauls. The masters had deemed it inefficient. This made Villard happy. He still felt like himself.

Two figures appeared, walking slowly toward the facility. Villard turned to open the large door to the intake area. The two robots got closer and Villard could see a pronounced limp in one. He guessed at what his task here would be and started the warm up phase on the largest piece of equipment in the facility.

The recycler was ready for use by the time the two robots stopped and stood in the door of the intake area. Dented and scuffed, and scraping one mangled foot behind the other, the first robot wheezed and ticked in the morning stillness.

Two damaged robots

“Good morning! I’m Villard, your MRRF mechanician unit. Please explain the nature of your malfunction and instructions.”

“THREE THREE THREE SEVEN OK ELEVATION COORDINATES OK HELLO HELLO HELLO.”

Villard noticed a small tag affixed to one of the jabbering robot’s antennae. He snatched it with one attachment while several others restrained the robot as it started to quiver uncontrollably.

ROAD CONSTRUCTION UNIT – DAMAGED IN FALL – MALFUNCTIONING – TO BE RECYCLED

“Right this way if you please.” Villard guided him towards the recycler unit’s waiting doors. His voice was muffled by the doors as Villard closed them but he kept speaking gibberish to himself before a loud screeching and grinding noise silenced him. Villard filed the pink tag and turned to the second robot. A smaller unit equipped with two delicate manipulators and an immaculate cream-white casing, the robot was in fine condition but for an enormous crack in its skull-casing and a bent antenna.

“Please explain the nature of your malfunction and instructions.” Villard said cheerfully.

“Domestic unit. Cosmetic damage. Parts to be replaced.” The robot said in a soft voice.

“OK then. Please step into this storage area and power down.”

The robot silently obeyed. Once it had powered down Villard removed its head, which he also placed in the recycler. He filed a request for a new head, emptied the recycler, and went back to polishing his casing until more work arrived. Somewhere close by a small winged biote was singing in the branches of a fragrant tree.

 

Continued in Part 7