4/24/2009 3:56:00 PM
In the film Guest of Cindy Sherman, the photographer's former lover set out to tell the story of an art star, but, according to a critic writing in The American Prospect, winds up presenting a "creepy, cringe-inducing rehash of a relationship's failure, told through intimate home-movie footage and the annotations of friends. Importantly—albeit inadvertently—it is also a film that illustrates the misogyny still pervasive in the art world today, a misogyny that Hasegawa-Overacker both records and exudes."
Sherman’s work questions the role and representation of women in society, and Hasegawa-Overacker's argument, as presented in The American Prospect, is that "the market swung once wildly in the direction of the macho, so the swing toward the feminine represented by Sherman's enduring success must be some sort of overcorrection."
Beyond the strange world of Hasegawa-Overacker's film, that feminine swing is still evident in the art world. The up-and-coming, 24-year-old UK photographer and painter Sarah Maple is feeding an art world buzz. Maple grew up in southern England struggling with her Muslim/western identity and explores that identity in her art. Having been compared to Cindy Sherman, her provocative work explores sexuality, feminism, religion and culture, and she has been making headlines since her first solo exhibition “This Artist Blows” in London in 2008, as featured in Red Pepper.
Some of her paintings were so controversial that a gallery showing them was vandalized and put under police surveillance. The painting which received the most heated debate within some Muslim communities depicts the artist in a headscarf cradling a baby piglet. In her piece I Love Orgasms, black fabric covers her entire face and body except a small slit for the eyes and a white pin exclaiming, you guessed it, “I love orgasms” on her chest. In an interview with Red Pepper about the themes of religion and sexuality in her art, Maple explains “a lot of my work is quite cathartic it gives me the opportunity to explore the sorts of things I wouldn’t explore in my actual life. I can use art as an outlet—especially with sexuality.”
As for the Sherman connection, she brushes it off: "Yeah, it’s funny, everyone says Cindy Sherman to me and I’ve never looked at her work. I know of her because everyone keeps saying Cindy Sherman, Cindy Sherman. So I’ve looked at her and now I quite like it. People think I’m trying to copy her, but I’m not. I’m not really even familiar with her work."
Sources: The Amerian Prospect, Red Pepper
Top, Cindy Sherman Untitled #132. Image by hragvartanian licensed under Creative Commons.
Bottom, Passport by Sarah Maple. Image by libbyrosof licensend under Creative Commons.
4/20/2009 8:39:28 AM
Alt Wire is a morning digest of links and information collected and explained by a different guest blogger every weekday. Today's guest is Roger White, co-editor of the contemporary art journal Paper Monument. We asked him for five links and here's what he came up with:
Mystical, Creative Acts: Collaborative poetry duo Jon Cotner and Andy Fitch recently guest-edited an issue of the online poetics journal Interval(le)s, centered on the idea of transcription. It’s a wonderful, formidable document—and only possible on the internet. The mammoth project contains thousands of PDF-ed pages of transcription-based prose and poetry (and a little bit of art), and none of it—from Kenneth Goldsmith’s Celexa® (citalopram hydrobromide) Tablets/Oral Solution (20 pages of drug warnings and pharmaceutical legalese) to Eileen Myles’s Myles/Driving (a notation of words and phrases uttered by the author while driving alone in Los Angeles)—is going to make Oprah’s Book Club any time soon. But the reward for investing your time with these often-demanding texts is this: paying attention to people who pay attention to speaking and writing makes you pay more attention to speaking and writing yourself. After perusing Cotner and Fitch’s journal, everything from sending a text message to ordering a sandwich will seem like a mystical, creative act.
The Myth of Artist Privilege: Working Artists and the Greater Economy (W.A.G.E.) is a recently-formed arts activist organization created to bring attention to—and transform—some lousy economic practices on the part of contemporary art institutions in particular, and the situation of art workers in general: people on whom a multimillion dollar industry is based, and who often never see any actual financial returns from it. You may ask: do artists have it so rough? Well, no more or less rough than other labor forces in the United States without job security, health care, a union, or political visibility. W.A.G.E. is interesting both in its campaign to dismantle the myth of the artist as a privileged fauxhemian, and in the fact that its constituency is looking less like an exotic subculture and more like a possibly very accurate representation of tomorrow’s American workforce.
Volunteer Critical Sleuthing: There are always more good paintings being made than there are places to see them. As the contemporary art market contracts and galleries go out of business, art blogs are going to become even more important simply as exhibition venues. And while looking at a painting as a JPEG is even worse than listening to a record as an MP3, these are desperate times and I’ll take what I can get. Two New York painting-centric blogs, Anaba and The Old Gold, are consistently surprising and accessible documents of the medium and its practitioners. Both are highly idiosyncratic, interspersing things you’ll probably see in commercial galleries with things you’ll probably never see anywhere else. Martin Bromirski and Jon Lutz, respectively, do a tremendous amount of volunteer critical sleuthing, sometimes tracking under-known artists for years in a valiant attempt to patch the gaps in the ongoing history of painting.
Unusual Phobias: Trying to find a word for “the fear of everything,” I came across Unusual Phobias, a decidedly non-professional but meticulous survey of the world of irrational dreads. Based on user-submitted accounts of personal, “not-psychologically recognized” phobias, the site indexes a host of bogies ranging from banal objects—crickets, rice puddings, and necklace jewelry clasps—to improbable situations—gravity reversing itself, waking up during surgery, or becoming a ghost. While there’s a certain amount of one-upsmanship in the confessional accounts posted, and some of them are blatant piss-takes (fear of Thousand Island dressing?), the site does confirm an unnerving truth: no matter what it is, someone, somewhere, is afraid of it.
The Indexer: The good thing about the internet is all the information. That’s also the bad thing, as it turns out, and historians of the future will look back on our era and shudder at the crimes against information science perpetuated every day on the web. Luckily, the Society of Indexers has been working since 1953 to promote clarity and rigor in this field, and they’re not stopping, not even when print is completely dead. The Indexer, their semi-annual journal, is online and picking up the gauntlet thrown down to informatics by the eventual digitization of all printed matter. The Indexer couldn’t be more out of step with the laissez-faire spirit of digital information economies, and that’s a good thing: somebody needs to regulate all this data. Articles on the indexing of Chinese personal names, creating searchable databases for digitized films, and the perennial problem of the word The in indexing the titles of works of art, all speak to a drive for order which will keep pace with the challenges of the future.
Bio: Roger White is a painter and co-editor of the contemporary art journal Paper Monument. He exhibits his work at the Rachel Uffner Gallery in New York.
Previous Alt Wire Guests:
Dan Sinker, Phil Yu, Matt Novak, Jason Marsh, David LaBounty, Jen Angel, Will Braun, Regan Hofmann, Josh Breitbart, Andrew Lam, Jessica Valenti, Jessica Hoffmann, Noah Scalin, Rinku Sen, Paddy Johnson, Melissa Mcewan, Fatemeh Fakhraie , Joe Biel, Anne Elizabeth Moore
4/14/2009 2:45:48 PM
Schools across the country are cutting back on arts funding. Many have focused resources on standardized test taking, and with the current budget crisis looming, the trend away from the arts shows no sign of changing direction.
To make the case for more arts funding, some experts argue that music, dance, theater, and visual arts can help out in other academic areas. They cite studies like the “Mozart Effect” saying that listening to classical music can boost people’s intelligence.
This is the wrong tactic, according to experts quoted in Greater Good magazine. If the results of these studies are called into question, as they were in the case of the “Mozart Effect,” the argument for arts funding is diminished. Even if scientists question whether or not the arts improve other academic achievement, that doesn’t make the arts any less important.
Leave the science to the scientists, say the critics. Instead of citing studies, the case for the arts is strongest in areas that are hardest to quantify. Ideally, the arts allow students to connect with emotions and to look at something they produce as a piece of art (no small achievement). The arts also provide a chance at connecting with children who aren’t engaged by other areas of academia. None of that, however, is likely to show up in test results from a lab.
Image by Beth Kanter, licensed under Creative Commons.
Source: Greater Good
4/13/2009 4:20:53 PM
The avant-garde record label ESP Disk helped blow the lid off mainstream jazz back in the ’60s and '70s, bringing the far-out free-jazz sounds of Albert Ayler, Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, and other artists to adventurous listeners. Canada’s Musicworks (article not available online) reports on the label’s resurgence in recent years since founder Bernard Stollman reactivated it, releasing new recordings and reissuing the original catalog.
“The first ESP discs could look dangerous and provisional,” writes Stuart Broomer in Musicworks' Winter 2008 issue. “The music could sound dangerous as well.”
Broomer rightfully celebrates Spiritual Unity, Ayler’s first U.S. release and ESP’s first recording, describing Ayler’s “coruscating saxophone solos … with great roaring renditions of diatonic folk themes that suddenly turned into wails and honks and runs … .” And he notes the ESP back catalog contains “undeniable masterpieces” such as Ornette Coleman’s Town Hall. But he also encourages listeners to look past obvious ESP touchstones to “the less appreciated and sometimes most visionary of the original releases, as well as some very select new recordings”—notably Solar Forge by Totem and Expedition by Hans Tammen, Alfred Harth, Chris Dahlgren, and Jay Rosen.
Bernard Stollman recently spoke to All About Jazz, and anyone who’s into non-smooth jazz should read the interview, in which he discusses ESP's revival, archival projects like the label's new Charlie Parker box set, and his search for "truth and beauty." Here’s a taste:
On his approach to running the label: “It is a matter of spirit. The word I never hear around me is the word entertainment. These are not entertainers. They are thinkers. They are philosophers, and they are working toward some kind of higher—it is a language that is not explainable. I couldn’t explain it to you no matter how long I tried.”
On recorded music: “I think music should be experienced as a live phenomenon. We've frozen a second of their life, but the artist continues performing, creating, changing. It is just a reflection of what is possible. No more than that. Again, not an entertainment medium. I don’t think people should listen to these records. I think they should hear them, but as far as repeat listening? I don’t know how often they should repeat listening. It is about being stimulated, turned on, and inspired.”
On the state of music: “There is a current generation that represents the world as it is today and their music is just as inspiring, influential, innovative, and interesting as any other era I have lived through. Imagination, inspiration have not left the world.”
Sources: Musicworks, All About Jazz, ESP Disk
Image by Howard Bernstein, courtesy of ESP Disk.
4/13/2009 2:41:35 PM
Chickasaw composer Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate uses traditional Native American tunes as raw material, fusing them with old-fashioned classical forms like the fugue and the sonata.
In an interview with New Music Box, Tate discusses his approach to composition and his place in the history of both Chickasaw tradition and Western classical music.
Tate points out that, while he may be unique as a composer, the basic idea of synthesizing Native American culture with non-indigenous influences is hardly new. “The two things that Indians are known for the most are beadwork and horses, neither of which is originally from here.”
Similarly, Tate explains how his compositions fit into the tradition of several hundred years of classical music, which began, as he explains it, “with monks in a Catholic church…These guys were singing traditional tunes. I equate that with the traditional music of my tribe: It’s the old music of a culture, a certain group of people with a standard set of tunes and music that was used for the mass and different occasions and that was it…Then what happened was they started writing it down. That was the birth of what we call classical music…Now that you’ve got it down on paper, you can actually do what is so unique to classical music and that is the idea of abstracting your own music…So I don’t see it as assimilating Western music. I see it as participating in this way of classical abstraction…Once you start to reinterpret it, it’s not the same music. But like I said, I think you try to, at least I do, keep this ethos of the traditional music in the final product.”
Audio excerpts of many of Tate’s compositions are available on his website.
Source: New Music Box
4/13/2009 12:51:06 PM
Global street artist Above’s recent piece, Easter AIG Hunt, skewers corporate bailout culture by imagining a Wall Street type stealing eggs from crying children.
For more information on Above, read this profile in the San Francisco Chronicle, visit his website, or check out videos from his world tour from Wooster Collective.
EASTER AIG HUNT
Source: Wooster Collective
4/13/2009 12:25:44 PM
Legendary Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, California, which has been around since Creedence Clearwater Revival recorded their first hit in 1968, and was once dubbed a “multi-media powerhouse” in the 1970s, has transformed itself in the midst of proliferation of DIY home recording technology and opens its doors—wide—to the public.
The East Bay Monthly describes the forward-thinking, community-oriented facelift happening at Fantasy. A recent building ownership change in 2007 prompted rumors of the studio’s impending closure. Instead, armed with a mission to modernize and expand their services preserving their cadre of skilled technicians, they invited artists and groups (like the local Berkeley High jazz band) to come in for free or discounted recording time.
"What we’re trying to do is not fashion ourselves as a studio," explains Fantasy's managing producer Jeffrey Wood explains: "but as a creative project."
Source: The East Bay Monthly
4/13/2009 12:08:47 PM
The “Marsalis mafia” of young musical neoconservatives who took jazz by storm in the ’80s keep making vibrant, piquant music that both challenges and enriches tradition. (If only the political neocons had half as much sense and historical scholarship.) On Watts, drummer “Tain” Watts delivers original compositions that variously enable saxophonist Branford Marsalis and trumpeter Terence Blanchard to joust over rugged post-bop and revel in their New Orleans heritage. Watts is a creatively turbulent timekeeper who pays heed to the tom-tom and bass drums as much as to the cymbals and snares. He turns himself up in the mix and completes the quartet with stentorian superbassist Christian McBride as a worthy rhythmic foil.
This review is from the March-April 2009 issue of Utne Reader.
Listen Now to a Streaming Track:
Katrina James by Jeff "Tain" Watts
4/9/2009 1:46:01 PM
Providing welcome relief from a parade of bleak economic tales, a recent piece in The Dubliner entitled “Will Art Outlast the Recession?” (article not available online) asserts that the recent downturn may actually be a boon for the art world.
Art market sales are returning to “normality,” according to one auctioneer cited (normality equates to the 50 to 60% sales made by auctioneers in 2000, before the market was “driven by greed and speculation”). Financial troubles, it seems, are less of a detriment to business than simply finding enough quality work to sell.
The piece cites art critic Waldemar Janusczak, who says the recession hitting the art world is akin to the occasional fires that help forests strengthen, regenerate and return to their essence. They also put it in slightly more straightforward terms: “People will no longer pay silly sums for second-rate or gimmicky pictures…They will evaluate the work for itself, and that is a good thing.”
Image by Richard Cornish, licensed under Creative Commons.
4/8/2009 11:41:22 AM
For poets Bassey Ikpi and Giles Li, spoken utterance has the undeniable power to create bonds between people across physical and social divides. These two artists came up during the re-emergence of the contemporary spoken word scene, when groups like the Nuyoricans and programs like HBO's Def Poetry Jam brought the art form to a wide audience. Like many performance artists, Boston-based Li and D.C.-based Ikpi developed their craft as a means for expression, a way to share in a commonality of viewpoint and emotion with a live audience. And now, even as Ikpi has graced Def Poetry Jam five times and Li has established the Boston Progress Arts Collective and toured the country, their success hasn't deterred them from that original impulse. They still write from that place of wanting to be heard.
Read the entire piece: Spoken-Word Artists Bassey Ikpi and Giles Li Tell It Like It Is
Photo of Giles Li by FireBox Photography
Giles Li performs his spoken-word poetry
Poet Bassey Ikpi on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam:
4/6/2009 12:35:48 PM
Internationally, Baaba Maal is one of Africa’s most renowned musicians. Inside his native Senegal, Baaba Maal’s role is more like an elder statesman and conflict mediator. Where he grew up in northern Senegal, Rachel Aspden writes for the New Statesman, “Master musicians become community leaders, spokesmen and arbiters of disputes; hence the audiences that queue to consult Baaba Maal after a show.”
Unlike the celebrity activists of Western culture, Baaba Maal’s roots his social work in Senagalese tradition. “We’re all part of the same community,” he says, “we just sit down and talk together.”
To watch a clip of Baaba Maal’s music, click on the video below:
4/6/2009 11:36:46 AM
On March 1, 1981, Irish Republican Army member Bobby Sands led a hunger strike in Northern Ireland’s Maze Prison. Sixty-six days later, he died at the age of 27, a shriveled-up version of his former self. British director Steve McQueen’s chilling, superbly crafted vision of the events leading up to Sands’ death doesn’t conform to predicable patterns of political filmmaking. The movie unfolds in distinct, commanding vignettes ranging from the elegiac (a prisoner’s hand caresses a bee) to the heart-thumpingly brutal (when riot police crack down on the inmates). Hunger does not simply chronicle a historic act of protest; it renders it timeless and transcendent.
This review is from the March-April 2009 issue of Utne Reader.
4/1/2009 2:11:33 PM
“Not the least wonder of science is its ability to convert shellac—excreted by an insect—into a vehicle for profound emotional experience,” wrote research physicist George R. Harrison in the November 1938 issue of Technology Review. The January/February 2009 issue resurrects his spirited description of the industrial process behind phonographs and his prescient thoughts on the ways improved recording technology could change the art of music making.
“The sight of hundreds of steam-heated presses stamping out phonograph records is likely to give rise to that exaltation which is occasionally felt on viewing one of man’s accomplishments in fashioning nature to his ends…At one moment we see a mass of dough; 30 seconds later it emerges from the press transformed—the “Prelude to Lohengrin”!
“At least one scientist with a musical bent, who possesses a home sound recorder, has gone so far as to play string quartets with himself…If the quality of the recording can be made such that the music does not lose appreciably by successive re-recordings, the only limitation on any performer who wishes to make a full orchestral rendition by himself should be his own virtuosity! Of course there is also the less pleasing possibility that an amateur tenor might equally well thus take advantage of the wonders of science and produce his own barbershop chords.”
Listen to an 1897 gramophone recording below:
A Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight
Image by sogni hal, licensed under Creative Commons.
4/1/2009 11:39:54 AM
Shakespeare wrote that music is the food of love, but for new booking and promotions group Substance, music is also the food of protest. This ambitious new organization envisions a fresh model of activism, one which utilizes multidisciplinary arts events as a means for drawing new audiences to political and social causes. Think of it as music with a heaping side of activism.
Substance member Jim Forrey describes their work in this way: “[The concert] brings someone to a political event, and they don’t even know it’s a political event.” This “build it and they will come” belief was realized at the organization’s inaugural event, Manifestation, which took place at the historic First Avenue nightclub in Minneapolis this past weekend.
Manifestation brought together a diverse blend of local and national music acts, as well as community-based political and social activist organizations. New York hip-hop and spoken word artist Sage Francis headlined, while Building Better Bombs, B. Dolan, and the God Damn Doo Wop Band also performed. A capacity crowd of young people swelled the building and looked to be having a great time.
Lining the main floor were tables plying various social and environmental causes, from Oxfam America and United Students Against Sweatshops to Planned Parenthood and Alaska Wilderness League. Underneath the bars stood “Zero Waste” stations, with separate trash and recycling receptacles. Near the back corner, visual artists were painting large-scale works of art on the spot.
It all made tangible Substance’s vision of “rethinking what has become a standard preacher-and-congregation model of art and music as activism” in order to “engage, inspire, and involve concertgoers in urgent movements for tangible change.”
Looking out over the impressive turnout, Substance organizer Nolan Morice seemed pleased and encouraged. When asked if the evening had brought any unforeseen problems, he replied, “The only thing unexpected has been that nothing unexpected has happened.”
Manifestation builds on the energy and enthusiasm that Substance created with the Ripple Effect event at last year’s Republican National Convention, which featured Rage Against the Machine.
“I never would’ve dreamed we could pull something like that off,” Forrey says in reference to the Ripple Effect. “We learned that if you stay focused and don’t listen to the naysayers, you can achieve anything.”
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