29 April 2008

not supposed to be cool

"They looked at me like I wasn't cool. I thought, 'This is a library -- we're not supposed to be cool.'"
-- Matt Taunton, 28-year old postdoc at British Library, quoted in N.Y. times in article about crowds in the British Library reading rooms, too many of whom are giggling, texting, flirting, and I guess just being cool. cf "London journal" on April 28, 2008, p. A10 in the NYC late edition. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/28/world/europe/28library.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=british+library&st=nyt&oref=slogin

27 April 2008

Bombay TV

Kudos to Elaine Paul for discovering Bombay TV! http://www.flytobollywood.com/ You too can be a famous moviemaker!?!

music, art and dance, oh my

Pretty splendiferous weekend for the arts for me though it ended with someone booing at the Joyce. They must have read that article in the Times a month or two ago about booing.

Friday night was an American Composers Orchestra concert at Zankel Hall, with works by Charles Mason, Jonathan Dawe, Anna Clyne, Peter Heller, Dan Trueman, and Ned McGowan. Charles Mason's "Additions" was lovely in the granular modern style. Don't know if granular is the right word but it's that distinct note business, not all mellifluous with huge string bowing. "Armide" by Jonathan Dawe was a blend of Lully and laptop, in the wonderful cacophonous modern style. Anna Clyne's "Tender hooks" mixed the orchestra with one laptop doing music and another doing graphics. After intermission, a bit of nice interlude with Peter Heller's "Fanfare for Mary," a brass quintet. On to Dan Trueman's "Silicon/carbon." Two laptops isn't enough; let's go for 8 and the PLork (Princeton Laptop Orchestra). The evening ended with Ned McGowan, his big contrabass flute constructed of PVC and "Bantammer swing." I liked it all and was bubbling as I boarded the subway train with my colleague Andrea Harpole who was coming from Art Students League.

During intermission, I read my brother's presentation that he did last week at the Bergren Forum at Alfred University. It's a history of Seventh Day Baptists in Alfred and elsewhere. A cousin of my mother died recently and she called herself an SDB by culture if not by faith. That's pretty close to my story too.

Saturday's gallery hopping started with the Anh-My Lê show at Murray Guy. Really incredible, especially a very green one with a frieze of soldiers in camo, at rest in a forest glade. The soldiers are like a group of saints in a medieval or renaissance painting: a variety of poses, facial expressions, still but something important is in the air. I talked to Janice Guy and Margaret Murray quite a while about the works. This series of works is in color, large prints (maybe 30 by 45 inches), and it evokes much thought about the military machine. The views are all of military installations or activities. The last show was views of Twentynine Palms, a base in California, and was all in black-and-white, rich and dusty.

When I got to Matthew Marks for the Hujar show, I found another renaissance painting: a naked man with a sheet over his shoulders, the light hitting the fabric in a beautiful way. There was also the wonderful portrait of Charles Ludlum with a dotted veil over most of his face; the dots look rather like queer eyes, giving the portrait a surreal cast. Of course, looking at Hujar's photos is bittersweet since he died of AIDS.

With 250 or however many galleries in West Chelsea, there's no way you're going to get to all of them. I had started up that way with Murray Guy, Hujar, and Scott Treleaven on the list, figuring I'd stop at galleries until I got tuckered out. As always, there was at least one real find.

Today's unexpected find was the Bruce High Quality Foundation Retrospective at Susan Inglett Gallery. The work in the window attracted and repelled me but I decided to go in. In the back room was a film being projected way up high on the wall. I started watching it and got drawn into it. Part of the text was "this is public art, this is collaboration" as the same or contrasting images flashed by, e.g., the Iwo Jima photo/sculpture. With all the thinking I've been doing about social computing, and all the talk of strategic planning at work, this collaboration/public art stuff was mesmerizing. Great comparisons. You can find out more about them at http://www.thebrucehighqualityfoundation.com/Site/HOME.html or buy the catalog ($20 at the gallery) which includes a substantial section on the film with much (if not all) of the text. Maybe you had to be there but then the BHQF is dedicated to finding an alternative to everything.

Also on the worth going to list: Thomas Nozkowski at PaceWildenstein; Gary Panter at Clementine (I especially liked the little quonset hut model in the back); "Disavowal (Mark Wyse)" at Wallspace (very intriguing comparisons of photos, via reproductions, so of course you may now think Benjaminian thoughts); Gregory Crewdson at Luhring Augustine (interesting contrast with Anh-My Lê who I'll take any day). The Treleaven show was not so amusing.

I figured if I was going to walk up to see the Dargerism show at the American Folk Art Museum, I might as well stop at Exit Art on the way. Didn't know what the show was but found them in the second or third day of a silent auction. Audrey Christensen (archivist and former MoMA library assistant) was there so we got to talk for a while. She mentioned the EPA (environmental something) show downstairs and there was a wonderful video of some people in black garbage bags doing street interventions. Can't decide if it was wonderful, activist or just "Candid Camera." She also mentioned that Bruce High Quality was a special friend of Exit Art and they will be doing something special at their Williamsburg gallery sometime soon so I guess I better stay tuned.

There are some good things in the Dargerism show: Anthony Goicolea's films; Amy Cutler's works looking a bit like Marcel Dzama whose show I saw at Zwirner a week or two ago; very unsettling Justin Lieberman "Thank heaven for little girls" which mixes Jock Sturges little naked girls on defigured Darger backgrounds. The "Asa Ames, occuptation sculpturing" show upstairs was quite nice.

That evening, I went to the Seán Curran concert at Dance Theater Workshop. The first piece was set to Wuorinen music and the dancers dressed in little undies. Quite lovely. Sound for the second piece mixed Handel arias with taped apologies from The Apology Line, probably my favorite piece. One of the male dancers could move and extend his limbs in a most wonderful manner. The third piece with live music by a very downtown cellist was best liked by the Times reviewer (read it after!) but not by me. I don't deny its energy.

As I read the papers this morning (that's the Sunday paper and some of last week's that were still unread), I noted the description of the Scapino Ballet Rotterdam run at the Joyce. I'm awfully glad I went. The first piece was seven men dancing on artificial turf, together, apart, in sync, in mock battle. Then a solo. The next one was "The brides" and was set to Stravinsky's "Les noces" but such a "raw interpretation" (program notes) that you'd have thought it Southeast Asian folk music. Or maybe it was the compelling face of dancer Sherida Lie. The last piece is described in the program as "mysterious, dramatic and absurd." Animal-like gestures, leaves on the dancer's bodies falling off. I was surprised by the booing (though it seemed fairly singular).

And now I'm sitting at the computer. I should be working on the review of the year in art cataloging (time is running out, the ARLIS/NA conference starts real soon) but I'm still ruminating about all that stuff. My brother and I were having a chat about living in Alfred and I said I could do it. He said: YOU?!?! (my punctuation). I do think I could. And that leads me to pass on an interesting statistic from the good Rachel Donadio essay at the back of today's NYTBR. She says that a recent report from the NEA found that 53% of Americans hadn't read a book in the previous year. I know that academia and museumia are not the real world but 53% had NOT read a book in the last year. I'm stunned. At the same time, more books are being published and, oops, 175,000 new blogs are started every day. By the by, the title of the essay is "You're an author? Me too!"

Now I gotta go get a ticket for "It is not the homosexual who is perverse, but the society in which he lives" by Rosa von Praunheim which is playing in the spirit of 1968 festival at Lincoln Center.

25 April 2008

polemical postcards &c

As we were leaving the restaurant, Tony White mentioned the book Some forms of availability: critical passages on the book and publication by Simon Cutts that he happened to be carrying. The cataloging is weird (classed in PR6053 as if it were "just" a work of literature; only "Publishers and publishing" for subject headings) but the book looks very interesting. I'm especially intrigued by the "Polemical postcards" chapter which illustrates several "attempts at a cryptic use of this form over the years." But then I love postcards of all kinds: those with enigmatic or ironic texts, those without text, but mostly those that match or mismatch something that has happened. Sharon Chickanzeff sent me a card saying she was coming back to town and was going to get a donkey named Walter (for our long-standing devotion to Walter B.) and I happened to have a go-card for the Wild Burro Preservation and Rescue Project. Wild Walter, indeed.

15 April 2008

Vote Debs in '08!

One of my co-workers just dropped off a little card on my desk with the slogan: I'd rather vote for something I want and not get it, than vote for something I don't want and get it. It's part of a May Day celebration on the part of Pack of Other(s): an other theater company. http://www.packofothers.org/votedebs

ungers and pasolini

Last week at MoMA, I looked at one of the newer books in the regular backlog, i.e., O.M. Ungers: Kosmos der Architektur (Hatje Cantz, 2006). When I checked our catalog, I discovered that NYU didn't have it but NYSID had the English translation. It has some wonderful photos of the library space that Ungers built on his brutalist house in Berlin as well as the recent house that he had built in the countryside. The library space is very central in plan and has those great classical proportions that Ungers does so well. The space also includes busts by Ian Hamilton Finlay. Really a beautiful space. The exterior of the house in Berlin is fine too and, according to the book, was so exemplary that Reyner Banham included it in his The new brutalism.

When I started this, I wasn't thinking of the connection on the word brutal but the other interior space that rose from my reading in the last few days was an article in the Times style magazine on design from a couple weeks ago. It describes how Manuela Pavesi has bought and is refurbishing the Villa Zani outside Mantua which served as a setting for Pasolini's "Salò" which I saw not too long ago at Lincoln Center. The setting is deliciously decadent, the action is brutal though the thought action speaks more loudly than the physical action. It's about some Italian fascists who kidnap some young women and men and torture them emotionally and bodily while also listening to Sade-like tales and esoteric songs. The article may be found at:

New brutalist architecture was in high swing in the mid-late 1960s when I was in college. Davis Brody designed a wonderful science building for the New Paltz campus that was rather in the style of Le Corbusier's Convent of La Tourette. I was dumbstruck by the beauty of the materials: raw concrete, staircases sticking out from the main block of the building. That brutalist concrete, alas, didn't always age well. The Ungers house is more brick than concrete and in the book looks rather like a deconstructivist predecessor with cubic shapes. More like other Corbusier works of the brick and concrete style.

13 April 2008

Shermaniana exhibition (1994?)

Elaine Paul put a wonderful postcard picture of the Hotel Sherman in Chicago on a Facebook page (yes, that page). I was teasing back and forth with her about that picture and other things and mentioned the Shermaniana exhibition in the Amon Carter Museum Library when I worked there.

The library reading room had a vitrine or two in which we usually displayed some books or other objects that related to one or more of the exhibitions in the galleries. They were usually pretty high class. As the display was getting stale or the shows were changing in the galleries, Milan Hughston would engage us in a discussion of what should be next. If the discussion wasn't going much of anywhere, I'd volunteer an exhibition of Shermaniana. Milan would giggle and say something along the lines of "I don't think so."

One year (1994, I think), it was mid-late March when we were having the "next?" conversation. I offered the Shermaniana again. Milan laughed. A bit later, I chatted with some colleagues and said we could do it as an April Fool's gift for Milan. On the morning of the first, we traded out whatever had been there and put in the Shermaniana. We waited for Milan's arrival, all but giggling out loud. We were doing the normal morning ritual of coffee and New York Times. Milan got up to go over toward the reading room desk and then started veering toward the vitrine with a "what's this?"

Well, it turns out that Milan loved the Shermaniana show and led several museum staff members over to see it. I had thoughtfully included a few items from Sherman, Texas. After its week's run and the show had been dismantled, we realized that we forgot to photographically document it. Perhaps when I get thoroughly modern and have a digital camera, I will take some pictures of the stuff and recreate it in the digital world.

And that reminds me of the virtual recreation of the Otto Ege manuscripts, one of the highlights of the Banff ARLIS/NA conference for me. http://library2.usask.ca/ege/ During the panel on the Ege reconstruction, I gasped as I saw another leaf from one of "my" books. Manuscript leaves were cheap when I was in grad school; most of my leaves were in the $15 range, some a bit less, none a whole lot more. No gilding, only one face, but lots of lovely writing and some exquisite red-and-blue linear marginalia.

10 April 2008

small worlds colliding softly

It's such a small world except when it's not. I recently finished reading Dr. Kimball & Mr. Jefferson about Fiske Kimball who wrote a lot on Thomas Jefferson and other early American architects, as well as serving as director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Kimball is also the name behind the art library at UVa.

At a lecture last week by John Harris on the destruction of the English country house, Harris talked about Kimball and his acquisition of rooms from country homes as the houses were dismantled in the decades before and after 1900. Now, at the Morgan when I went to grab backlog books to catalog, one of the items was Triumph on Fairmount: Fiske Kimball and the Philadelphia Museum of Art by George and Mary Roberts (Lippincott, 1959) with a clipping inside. The clipping is an editorial by A.F. (probably Alfred Frankfurter from Art news, about 1955) extolling Kimball and entitled "The model of a modern museum director." It ends: "American museums need uncompromising, dictatorial, passionate lovers of art as never before." Hmm.

On the back of the leaf is a page of small reproductions of paintings with horses in them, including Parmigianino's wonderful "St. Paul" which I saw at the Kunsthistorischesmuseum in Vienna a couple years ago. And at the reference desk yesterday, Colin Eisler extolled the virtues of Bobst Library which when he started at NYU (50 years ago) was quite pitiful. I guess the connection of all that is Sharon Chickanzeff, great friend, admirer of Eisler, fellow traveler to Venice, lover of ponies, gifter of scarf before Viennese trip.

07 April 2008


The artist talk at Artists Space on Saturday afternoon -- "Mirror-Travel in the Motor City: A Conversation between Edgar Arceneaux and Julian Myers" -- looked rather interesting but wasn't so great. I had hoped for some compelling talk about Detroit as an art site with memories of the day-trip Christie and I took when she lived in Ann Arbor. The talk ended up being lots of Myers and not much of Arceneaux, not even much of Detroit. On the other hand, the Google Earth projection of the route between Heizer's desert project and the corner of Rosa Parks and Clairmont was pretty wonderful and played in the background during the talk. As the talk drew to a close at about 7:43 (the clock timer), I raced out and over to the Christopher Street pier for the 8 pm viewing of "Muhheakantuck: everything has a name" by Matthew Buckingham, sponsored by Creative Time. Watching the film as we went on a loop from the pier over toward Red Hook and back was incredible. The film slots had sold out but the Creative Time folks said that one should show up and they'd try to accommodate everyone. I was about the last person on the 8 pm boat but I am so glad I went. As the film went left to right at the front of the cabin, the waterfronts (NJ and NYC) went front to back. It was mesmerizing, aided by the pleasant drone of Buckingham's narrative about the Lenape and the Europeans. At the moment, Murray Guy -- http://murrayguy.com/ -- has a Buckingham show up.

A footnote or two from the Sunday paper:

* The special magazine section was on real estate. The cover had an aerial view of an exploded house construction process. There's an ampersand on the truck in the lower left, just a plain ampersand. The power of Helvetica and advertising: I see Crate & Barrel.

* Speaking of advertising, there's been a series of small ads with an old VW and some speech-bubble along the lines of "The people want peace and justice." That's not really one of them. One day, there was a bigger ad that VW was going to bring us a new revolution. No details but it all seemed pretty groovy.

* "Americans drink more bottled water than beer. But they consume more soda than bottled water and beer combined. And nearly 70 percent of that soda contains sugar in one form or another." No, tap water's fine. Thanks.

04 April 2008

missing transactions

52 Transactions by Kathy Slade - $20
Published by Trapp Editions/Sigurdardottir, in conjunction with Slade's year-long performance, "Fifty-Two Weeks of Transactions at the Lending Library." From September 7, 2006, to August 30, 2007, Slade borrowed one book per week from the main branch of the Vancouver Public Library. The transaction receipts have been compiled into an artists' book, representing one year of the artist's reading. As the book's endnotes explain, 1 transaction slip is missing due to a computer malfunction, and 6 more are missing due to a civic strike, resulting in 7 blank pages. Edition of 500.

--from an Art Metropole emailing of available "Lost & Found: Art addressing absence and discovery" http://artmetropole.com/

03 April 2008

immediate gratification

In the Times a couple days ago, there was a column by David Carr on "The media equation." He started with his visit to the Times Square Virgin Megastore where the old people were looking at CDs and the younger people were at the listening posts. And only three people were in the book section "including the old guy with the long coat and beard who seems to be in every bookstore." (He saw me?) Carr talks about the ease and customization of downloading a music file and how folks said MP3 files would be rejected because they weren't very high fidelity. Well, it turned out that "good enough was good enough." And there are the same thoughts about books. Carr doesn't mention it but I drifted off to thoughts of using Power Point to put together your art history lecture. It's so easy and the pictures aren't going to be like the originals anyway so why pretend?

Carr quotes Clay Shirky quite a bit because Shirky just brought out a new book entitled Here comes everybody: the power of organizing without organizations. Of course there's something ironic about a thinker like Shirky publishing a tangible book-length print resource. By the way, Strand had three review copies last week ... though only two by the time I left the store. My little bit of "I want it now" even though I'm reading Dr. Kimball and Mr. Jefferson at the moment. At last night's lecture by John Harris on "The destruction of the country house," he mentioned Fiske Kimball's purchase of rooms for the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the 1920s, some of which were later discovered to be composite fabrications.

Carr = http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/31/business/media/31carr.html?_r=1&sq=media%20connection&st=nyt&adxnnl=1&oref=slogin&scp=4&adxnnlx=1207227780-OTZqaBVOBRIVEfltxz/jTw (oy!? I found it by searching "media equation" at nytimes.com)

Shirky's Everybody = http://www.shirky.com/herecomeseverybody/