Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Authors on Artists: LK Shaw on Meggie Green

Walking through fields alone, listening to music through headphones, I suddenly remembered a screenshot I had taken whilst watching some BBC art documentary several months ago. I couldn't remember what the film was about or who the painting was by, I could only remember the words, which read:

In the dim, 4pm, November light, the fields I was walking through, to take a break from writing at my computer, seemed in comparison (to everything inside of the computer) to be, just that; completely ordinary. Everything was grey and dying and there was barely any movement, just the occasional murder of crows flying overhead, somewhat ominously. I returned to my screen and googled the painting.  It's called 'Lordship Lane Station, Dulwich', and is by Camille Pissarro. Although the details of the painting are irrelevant to this particular discourse. I was mostly just interested in the subtitle. 

It takes great sensitivity to enjoy a place as ordinary as this

The next day around the same time, I went out to walk around again, determined to process thoughts I could write down coherently when I returned to my computer. This time though, two things happened which were very different from the previous afternoon. The first, was that I was listening to the Elvis Costello album, 'All This Useless Beauty', and the title track was repeatedly asking me the question,

What shall we do with all this useless beauty?

The second was that the sky had somehow transformed from yesterday's grey mass of never ending cloud, into today's enormous, magnificent light show of blues and purples and oranges. The size of it, incomprehensible. The nonchalance of its contrast, almost laughable. I held my phone up to photograph the fading sun and wrote;

This, being the sunset. The passing of time. The turning of the Earth.

 It occurred to me that there can be something extraordinary in every place, if the light catches it just the right way. As Elvis continued to ask, 'What shall we do with all this useless beauty?', my thoughts turned to the work of Meggie Green, who, it seems to me, has developed a  distinctive style, rooted in catharsis, which like the sunlight I saw this afternoon, transforms the ordinary into the fantastic and even the magical. 

With regard to all of this useless beauty, she laughs. 


Sadness and heartache are often central to the foundations of Meggie's work, but her response is always merry and optimistic.  It's really hard to believe, 'Everything is different now, it's different and it's awful' (words attributed to her grandma), when she presents the idea so playfully. Her work acknowledges pain and then immediately distracts us from it. 
Likewise in her 'PICK ME' embroidery, the image of the claw which looms down over choppy waters, completely missing the girl behind the glass, is humorous and  childlike at first glance, but the words stitched above the machine, confirm the presence of a helpless, human desire for something or somebody out of reach. The thing about those claw games is that we don't expect to win anything, but we keep taking a chance on them in hopes that maybe one day we finally will do. Meggie's work is characteristically hopeful. And the great sensitivity described in reference to Pissarro's painting is always present in her art. There's a certain kindness and sincerity to her work, which is so often missing from contemporary culture. It feels reassuring to me. 

It is in her videos though, that the true scope of her expression can really be seen. Meggie made the popular book trailers for Mira Gonzalez's  'I will never be beautiful enough to make us beautiful together' and Richard Chiem's, 'You Private Person'. But her vimeo channel  also features many other short productions, including these two particularly charming and personal pieces.

'goddamnit michael'

'i am going to drive around for a while and i want to stay with you if you want that too'

Her work allows us to feel overwhelmingly happy, whilst communicating vulnerability and sincerity. And her devotion to highlighting what is beautiful in life is so compelling, largely, I think, because she shows us the simple things which we should already be able to see. She shines some more light on the ordinary, and she handles it with a great sensitivity. And aside from all of that, it is consistently fun, which I don't believe is something that should ever be taken for granted.

You can see more work by Meggie Green on  her tumblr & in Shabby Doll House, where she has also published prose. Her instagram account is a beautifully curated catalog of daily life. 

And I will leave you to ponder this 'very true embroidery #2'.


LK Shaw is the founding editor of Shabby Doll House

Monday, November 04, 2013

Zak Smith's "[67] Tips For Art Critics"

In case you missed it, last night the painter and porn star Zak Smith (@ZakSmithSabbath) tweeted 67 tips for art critics. Here they are:

1. Assume any young artist you _don't_ write about will die of starvation tomorrow. (They won't, but their art might.)
2. In the time it takes you to go to an art opening, you could have seen hundreds, maybe thousands of artworks online...
...go to the opening, drink their beer, then go home and look at art. 
3. Stop using Events as reasons to write about artists...
...that just privileges the ones lucky or rich enough to be having events. 
5. DeviantArt
6. Stop asking for artist's statements. If the statement makes you like the art more, it sucks and so do you.
7. Go to art fairs. MOVE FAST. Talk to no-one. When you find good art, demand to be alone with it for an hour.
8. Interview artists. Ask questions _about the art_ not about where they grew up or what they named their dog.
9. If Andy Warhol could have made it, do not write about it
10. Look at things that are just there for free: teatrays, pickles, pigeons. If the art is like that, don't write about it.
11. Given a choice between "What the artist I like said is crazy" or "What the artist I like said is over my head" assume the latter & ask
12. Realize that if you can't say a thing in clear English, you don't understand it. Do not write in IAE
13. Never say an artist "undermines" anything that you didn't even believe when you walked into the show.
14. Never reward an artist for broadcasting stuff _you already knew_ to a bunch of other gallery-goers.
15. If you need context, it sucks.
16. If the artist hired someone to make their art for them, go find THAT kid and make THEM famous.
17. Interview art students & assistants to find out who is pretending to make their own art but doesn't. Out them. Destroy them.
19. Realize that the subject of a work of art is easy to write about & the style isn't. Don't waste time writing about the subject.
20. If reality TV, Netflix documentaries, Vice, Youtube or anybody else are already doing what the art does better, don't write about it.
21. Never waste column inches saying something obvious from the picture accompanying the column.
22. Realize the best & most honest way to talk about the art is to reproduce it. Demand your editor include lots of pictures, good ones.
23. Do not go and take a shitty snapshot. The gallery and artist have really good pictures, ask for them.
24. You see wonderful art:but,fuck,it has no story Do NOT build a story Close your eyes. You are Baudelaire. Rebuild the experience in words
25. If all the art does is show rich old people things in a gallery poor young people already knew outside the gallery, don't write about it
26. Great artists can be born, ignored all their lives, and die. That can happen. Realize that does happen. Moby Dick was a failure.
27. If you're writing about an artist, you're doing PR for them if you want to or not. Your loyalty should be to the truth.
28. Ask installation artists where the money to put their show together came from.
29. Do not reward art just for being big. More generally: do not reward artists just for being rich or beloved by the rich.
30. Start a band or do some music journalism. It will free you of the obligation to try to meet people to sleep with at art openings.
31. Sometimes students make the best art. Sometimes 17 year olds who can't afford art school make the best art Galleries won't tell you this
32. Realize all group shows are bullshit. Use them for what they are: mercenary opportunities to get the folks you like in front of people
33. Don't pretend your opinion is fact. Instead: if you want authority, state your prejudices upfront. Like so:
34. Read: David Thomson's Biographical Dictionary of Film (that's how you describe people)
35. Read Borges "Collected Nonfictions" & David Foster Wallace's "Tense Present" & Orwell's "Politics & the English Language"
36. Read Lolita. This is the best & most extended work of art criticism in the world. Humbert is the critic, Lolita is the art. Be careful.
37. When in the presence of beauty or talent, be humbled by the realization that it is unknowable & bigger than you OR the artist.
38. If all the kids like it and all the grown-ups don't, the kids are right.
39. You can chip away, but you can't know it all. Mathematicians admit there might always be another solution
40. Don't look for messages or meaning. Everything has tremendous meaning. Look at art like food: it's tasty--find out how it got that way.
41. Read Susan Sontag "Against Interpretation" & at least one essay by Sarah Horrocks on some comic book you never heard of
42. Read David Sedaris' 12 Moments In the Life Of The Artist. Use it as a gut check: am I one of these assholes? Why not?
43. The artist's goals and intentions don't matter in evaluating the art any more than the baker's in evaluating a cake
44. The wall text is there for people who hate art but feel class anxiety telling them they shouldn't. Ignore it.
45. If it tastes good, it IS good as far as you will ever know. If it tastes bad, it IS bad as far as you will ever know.
46. Once you read 12 Moments in the life... read Thorsten Veblen's Theory of the Leisure Class. You write about Veblen goods. Don't forget.
47. If you are interested in the artist:go be interested, write a book But it won't tell you if the art's good or bad.
48. Abstract art had a very short heyday because critics had a hard time writing about it: no subjects to grab on to. Be better than them.
49. Go to the little church in Rome where they keep The Ecstasy of St Teresa. If it isn't at least that good, don't write about it.
50. If you don't know, don't _guess_. Ask. You are, after all, a journalist.
51. "Important" just means "influential" which just means "easy to copy". None of those words mean "good".
52. Never ascribe to simultaneous spontaneous mystical agreement what can be explained by capitalism.
53. Vasari started a tradition of art criticism where the Renaissance was a sort of TSA gate you had to go through to get to "real" art...
...for 100 years, hard-working art historians have been tryna correct that mistake. Listen to them. If you don't know who Bihzad is, learn.
54. Once a year read a major article in that month's Artforum. Then ask everyone you meet in the art world if they read it.
(they didn't read it, but it'll give you a sense of proportion to realize they didn't)
55. Remember the art isn't just competing with other art, it's competing with everything else you could do that day. It must win anyway.
56. Remember the current critical consensus was formed by people who are so high they still like jazz. Drugs make boring things interesting.
57. Never trust an artist, critic, or curator who says they are "interested in problems..." that they aren't actually trying to solve.
58. The gallery business survives by claiming they found a genius once a month. The excuse is "Well they might be...test of time"...
...(There is no test of time)
59. ..and even if there was: a world where it's in nobody powerful's interest for art to ever depreciate short circuits any test of time
60. When there is corruption or injustice artists & dealers cannot afford to name names. Not even Banksy names names. You can. Do it.
61. Right now some would-be great artist is exhausted from just spending 12 hours making an elf ear for some tv show. Realize that happens.
62. Arthut Danto said The Polish Rider was deeper and more searching than a random agglomeration of paint that happened to look...
...exactly like The Polish Rider. And he _still had a job_ afterwards. So: the bar's pretty low.
63. Don't say "we" unless you've read a lot of neuroscience.
64. If it looks like a prop or film still from a movie the artist wishes they'd made but didn't, don't write about it.
66. It's 2013 so everyone gets to be told what artists have been told since the '60s..
...your ability to get noticed is not just more important than your job, it IS your job. You enjoying that? Is it making your work better?
67. Anything can ignite debate with a high enough ratio of how loud you are to how boring it is.
...thank you. Now if you'll excuse us, we're going to get some noodles See you next time.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Authors on Artists: Thais Benoit on Mattie Hillock

Mattie Hillock and New Media
by Thais Benoit

Alt Lit first attracted me because it seemed to be something that my friend, and his friends were doing for fun-not a highbrow, English major kind of thing; instead this small community of internet writers flew under the radar, and was full of talented, dedicated people creating experimental digital poetry and memes.  Though my passion for writing often consumed most of my time, I noticed that the Net Art movement is similarly comprised of digital artists who not only circumvent the status quo, but also carry incredible talent with work ahead of its time.

Mattie Hillock is what is called a net, or new media artist.  His work is completely digital, created with programming, and software; his style is minimal but conceptually heavy, either making you smile, or causing pause.  Integrating multiple digital tools to create fine art is newer territory, and difficult for some to categorize with conventional ideas of art; however, while new media faces the challenges of physical actualization and permanence, it is no different from other visual art except in the tools used to create.

Showing prints of digitally created works, or using projectors to display moving images in galleries allows for a more traditional display of work.  Akin to the painter perfecting command of the brush, or the steady hand of a seasoned artist, the technical expertise of net artists rivals web designers and software developers.  Hillock creates art with two computers, an iPad, iPhone applications and software, as well as music and video equipment.  He bounces from tool to tool, and program to program, all with a specific focus, mixing tools and content like a mad scientist.
One of Hillock’s pieces will be shown on Cloaque, a Spanish art blog that showcases some New Media art.  Hillock utilizes parallax scrolling, an arguably trendy feature used in many commercial websites, in a new way - to allow a playful interaction between the user and the work itself.  The user controls the pace and flow of objects across the screen; the urge to scroll up and down, toying with the moving figures, it encourages exploration and curiosity.  I think this kind of interactivity will bring new media artists to the forefront of pop and net culture because it allows for the work to feel shared among many instead of framed, displayed idolism.  

Selection from Hillock and net artist Systaime's collaboration Meme Art History and painted by Jeanette Hayes, September 2013
Not all of Hillock’s art is based on movement, though much of his work are .gif or .mov files.  In fact some of his work shies away from movement and embraces a more static, sculptural, and fixed form.  The 1st Exhibition piece seems like a virtual gallery space, where three, or even four, different pieces greet the user upon entering the website.  The painterly blues and blacks stretch around what could be confused for a canvas.  It’s no surprise that more traditional artists look to new media artists for ideas.  Popular painter Jeanette Hayes has turned one of Hillock’s digital memes into a painting, showing in Rome.  At what point will the painting no longer need to be painted, when many trends in painting and sculpture occur and originate online?  Some may argue that young artists working with traditional forms find inspiration in digital art because of generational norms: everyone on earth under age - - was born with Internet. It is normal to find cultural changes influencing artistic movements, and we should expect to see the net in all forms of art: one must wonder though, when will the digital work not need to be realized in another, traditional form?

1st Exhibition, September 2013
Dismissing much of what can be considered Net Art is easy if one considers the wide scope of digital content labeled as art online. Most digital works do not force the viewer, or user, to either connect or interact with the piece.  Tumblr is full of unique and eye catching .gifs or moving image pieces, yet what Hillock and his colleagues create holds true to many conventional art world standards while also pushing the limits of what defines modern fine art.  

Irma Hillock, The Jogging, August 2013

Some of Hillock’s attention has come through the popular Tumblr blog The Jogging, with a collection of tongue and cheek memes.  Signing with ∑ symbol as a kind of Samoo artist tag, Hillock maintains a strong social media presence. These connections remain a vital part of his promotional efforts, as they do for any artist, business, or brand on the internet.  Other internet-housed upcoming shows include Mon3y, a rotation on Cloaque, and participation in The Wrong New Digital Art Biennale. View his work IRL at an upcoming show at Outlet Gallery in Brooklyn, NY.


Thais Benoit is a writer, librarian, and graduate student.  Her work has been featured in theNewerYork, SPAMM Dulce, Metazen (forthcoming), Shabby Doll House, The Mall Lit Mag, and Haters Rag.  A NAP eChap of her poetry titled Obliterate These Items from the Beginning of Time was released this spring. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Authors on Artists: Grant Maierhofer on Pain

Artists Utilizing Pain in Various Forms
by Grant Maierhofer

Marina Abramović - Rhythm O

Initially when I spoke with Christopher Higgs about the potential of putting together a brief meditation for his "Authors on Artists" series, my mind became flooded with images of the past few months; musicians and performance artists using their work to hurt themselves, authors at readings screaming and forcing themselves through words in awkward breaths, monks self-immolating, and myself walking for miles listening to music like Hoax, or Death Grips, or even Mahler’s first symphony while shadowboxing or crushing an empty can of soda until my hand begins to bleed. All of these things came to me, and I sat down to write. What came out was little more than garbled nonsense, but the germ of an idea seemed to stick.             

With the publication of my novel just on the horizon now, and two poetry chapbooks published earlier this year, the potential of reading in physical environments rather than sharing work digitally has been a great curiosity of mine. Tied with this, I think, is a bit of teenage nostalgia for basement punk shows and such wherein I first saw art screamed in the face of listeners, rather than humbly presented, wherein I first saw artists willing to physically put themselves through something to achieve an end result higher than mere recording would allow. 
All of this considered, I’ve decided it’s best to make a list. I try to shy away from lists as much as possible, what with sites like Buzzfeed et al it can really tend towards uninteresting tripe if your first journalistic decision is to make a list to convey thoughts, but here it seems the best way to organize the artists of late who’ve most inspired me.

John Maus. Perhaps one of the most innovative musicians to utilize the potential of electronics in recent memory, Maus has been hard at work for quite some time. I was first introduced to his work by friend and musician Lorn, who occupies a similar philosophical place to Maus, though their music sounds completely different for the most part. Riffing on cheesy 80s film scores just as much as the classical tradition—Maus has degrees in Music and Philosophy and if I’m not mistaken studied with Slavoj Zizek a bit—it might be the last thing you’d expect to find a raw punk energy in Maus’ sound, and yet with tracks like “My Hatred is Magnificent,” and “Cop Killer,” it’s obvious that anger is pretty essential to his process. Aside from that, however, is the man’s live performance. He typically sets up a small device to play instrumentals, and between singing his lyrics in a Scott Walker-esque croon, will scream at the top of his lungs and hit himself—hard—in the face. Perhaps the thing I like most about this guy is the complete separation between experiencing the music itself—i.e. sitting around listening to it on headphones, etc.—and his live show. Where punk music in the strictest sense implies that its live shows are going to contain some anger, violence, and likely some self-abuse, with Maus it comes as a surprise and is perhaps thus more risky.  It’s like a book of poetry from Norman Mailer. You don’t expect it and as a result you spend the whole time thinking about what the hell poetry might actually be; except with Maus you’re wondering where performance starts and ends, and how the hell so many musicians get by presenting less than a quarter the enthusiasm of his shows. 

Chris Burden. This one’s fairly obvious, I guess, if you’re into this sort of thing. Burden has been active in the art/performance art world since the 70s and has done everything from creating his own (completely fucked) late night commercials to nailing himself to a Volkswagen in a modern-day crucifixion that fans could witness at Speedway Avenue in Los Angeles. He’s still active today but much of his previous self-torture has fallen away in favor of installation pieces and sculptures, and that’s fine. I don’t really think self-torture becomes the aged, and I rather enjoy his later work, but there’s something absolutely infectious about the early pieces, particularly Shoot, wherein—Aha!—the artist stands against a wall and gets shot in the arm, and Through a Night Softly, one of the aforementioned commercials where Burden—his hands tied behind his back—crawls across broken glass in a dark room for a few seconds. Nowadays it might be hard to accept this sort of thing with shows like Fear Factor and Jackass already things of the past, but if you let yourself be consumed by the world presented in this vintage, almost home video footage, it’s hard not to feel something a bit more sincere than an exhibitionist rush. I learned recently that Burden provided a common artistic interest between members of the group Death Grips, which if you look at their video work and watch their performances makes a degree of sense. It requires a bit of nostalgia, I guess, but to me the sort of person who sees the limitations of art and decides to go straight in for the gore is still noteworthy in our highly desensitized times. Further, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been curious to have a friend shoot me in the arm, or leg, or something, just to see how it feels, how it changes you. I guess I figure if we’re going to be a society that provides guns and antidepressants in equally massive doses, why not see just how far we can go?

Sunn O))), or Malefic. I include the band itself because when I first saw Sunn O))), at fifteen, in a museum alongside Boris, I couldn’t stop thinking of the fact that I was some seventy-five feet back from the amplifiers, and they were only inches away. There’s an element of masochism, and torture, in much of Stephen O’Malley’s work, but it’s in seeing them live that you understand just how far it really goes. They don’t want to merely hurt the audience with loud, incessant, seemingly random drones, but they want to welcome you into a world of shit and use their amplifiers to reach some lower state of consciousness, some universe outside our own where screams and vibrations dictate your every move. In mentioning Malefic (Scott Conner, of Xasthur), however, I’m of course referring to the recording of Black One, and the notorious story of locking the claustrophobic singer into a coffin to record the vocals for “Báthory Erzsébet”. Whether this is true and provable seems immaterial, as this rumor has become essential to the mythology that is Sunn O))). It isn’t just the imagery conjured up by a black metal singer locking himself in a coffin to achieve the desired register for a particular song, but the idea that he’s also claustrophobic that I find so captivating. There’s something in Sunn O)))’s music that seems rather claustrophobic, and if you commit yourself to it you’re in for hours of complete mental turmoil that puts you in a better place than years of therapy might. While punk musicians sought to dissect their instruments and scream louder than was then accepted to find something new, Sunn O)))—on this record especially—has abandoned the small scale of the past to impose new heights of sonic violence onto their ears and, in turn, ours.

GG Allin. I can’t really make a list of this nature without mentioning him. Although his later music kind of loses me, I don’t think I listened to The Jabbers and his early stuff because of the sound alone. Allin is one that—at least now, after the dust has settled—shoves his myth in your face along with his sounds and you either get swept up in it or you could care less. For a moment there I sort of became obsessed. While there are artists making things vastly more interesting with infinitely better things to say about our world, GG Allin is one that tortured himself and openly hated the world before there was really a container for that sort of thing. He quickly wore out his welcome and wound up regurgitating a lot of unimpressive garbage before inevitably overdosing, but for a while there he tapped into something interesting. Marilyn Manson, to name one of Allin’s many offspring, obviously has more interest in presenting music that enhances the message and imagery rather than just serving as an excuse for another performance, but without the precedent of Allin’s insanity the public fascination with this sort of outlier likely wouldn’t have been such that Manson could’ve reached so many miserable kids in the 90s. I welcome the anger. I welcome the disgust. I even welcome the sentiment that if he hadn’t done what he did he probably would’ve been a serial killer. I don’t doubt him when I see him tell Jerry Springer this on national television, and I’m grateful that a potential mass murderer instead became a punk rock musician. Still an asshole, sure, and not one of the better punk rock musicians to ever pick up an instrument, but in retrospect what a fascinating body of work he left behind (his life) for idiots like me to pore over at three in the morning.

Darby Crash.  Kind of tough to mention him just after Allin, but considering they made that godawful Germs movie with the guy from that Mandy Moore thing, I feel like I can’t go on without mentioning him. Darby Crash, while not an intellectual powerhouse on par with an artist like Maus or Burden, did serve as a sort of benchmark for self-destruction and alcoholism in the early hardcore scene in Los Angeles. In addition to this, The Germs made some of the best music of that vintage and Crash’s lyrics can actually tend towards the artful, and quasi-interesting. He’s a bit nuts, and in his lifetime probably didn’t do much beyond drink stolen beers and light farts on fire, but I implore you to find me a fan of this era of punk rock who doesn’t immediately recall the iconic moments in Penelope Spheeris’ The Decline of Western Civilization when Crash stumbles around begging the crowd for beers, or sits in his kitchen recalling old battles. While the struggle with addiction puts the bulk of his work into question—i.e., would he have been so interested in torturing himself if he wasn’t a drunk savage?—he still created a niche for later musicians like Kurt Cobain et al to incorporate self-hatred and spastic, childlike screaming into their performances where this might not otherwise have been the case.

Vito Acconci. I already posted a long ode to Acconci on Dennis Cooper’s blog, so I won’t get into too much detail here, but I felt like mentioning the more shameful and self-deprecating elements of Acconci’s work that I maybe only hinted at in the previous post. I’m thinking here mainly of Seedbed, a piece where Acconci installed himself between a quickly-assembled ‘ramp’ and masturbated for hours in a gallery while talking to the crowd of onlookers. While this isn’t exactly an example of self-torture—depending on how you masturbate, I guess—I do find the idea of a self-imposed microscope-while-jacking-off rather fascinating in its ability to degrade the artist to little more than a teenager who’s been caught by his parents. While you can in turn argue that the piece goes much farther in dissecting sexuality and what we’re actually doing while masturbating, I think guilt and shame has a great deal to do with it as well. On one end of the spectrum, say, you’ve got lead singers in punk bands smashing the microphone against their faces in an environment where that’s sort of expected, and encouraged, and on the other you’ve got this long-haired well-read performance artist huddling beneath a slab of wood touching himself and talking to a room full of strangers, welcoming any reactions they may have. Both sides have their elements of self-torture, or personally applied pain—whether internal and emotional or external and purely physical—and both require the artist to step outside of conventional performance and transcend the work itself.

And finally, before presenting a slew of imagery related to all I’ve just recounted, I’ll include this portion of the initial piece I wrote, as it gets to the heart—sort of—of why I find all this so interesting.
I need artists and artworks that torture the creator(s) in random unscripted ways. I need flaws and anxiety, real humanity thrusting itself in my face covered in blood and sweat and beneath it all let me have the theory; acknowledge, say, that Acconci studied immensely to become the artist he became, but afterward let’s watch the lunatic masturbate and drink too much coffee. Let’s hurt ourselves and see what pans out! Let’s walk down the road mumbling to ourselves and screaming and when somebody stops to offer help let’s ignore them for just a moment longer to know that we aren’t mere shapeless American Turds with all the depth of our flatscreened appendages, that we still might walk with Roy Batty and see attack ships on fire off the Shoulder of Orion…please let’s.

I’ve thought about it too much lately. The publication of my book has brought it about. I don’t reject the notion of a presence. I accept this, I just quite like the idea of presenting a studied presence based on previous figures I’ve admired, people who weren’t afraid to fall apart on stage or hurt themselves or sling shit to get their point across. I need thrown fists and knives to make it real. I can’t explain it, in fact I doubt even those most learned performers could truly encapsulate what it means to drag a knife across your flesh in a museum setting, they just know it matters more than anything else they could come up with; or at the very least it attracted them the most.
In some ways it has to do with the fact that this book has existed in some form or another on my shelf for years. I’ve written and rewritten the thing and thus have no interest in meeting a world in quiet librarian moods to ponder influence, I’m ready to scream and break myself for the thing, hurt myself and let you know we aren’t dead yet.
Most writers renounce the prospect of holding readings, see it as little more than pandering to some elusive ‘reader’ they’ll never really meet anyway so why bother, and I accept this too. I understand Cormac McCarthy and even applaud his reluctance to teach to a room full of undergraduates the stuff he worked so tirelessly to cultivate. What’s more, those writers we’ve never once heard read in public are no less stimulating and profound because of their separation between the printed text, and the author who wrote it; I suppose it just comes down to a matter of preference.
For myself, I’ve never let go of the wondrous spectacle of watching passionate lunatics torture themselves to get the job done. I’m fifteen again and watching the guitarist for the Formaldehyde Junkies scream the lyrics to Discharge’s ‘Decontrol’ in a shitty Minneapolis basement long before the rest of the band joins him. I’m 22 and watching John Maus videos where for all the theory and education he still sees fit to simply come out on stage and scream his lyrics and swat himself violently in the face to achieve some desired effect. I’m 23 and walking around my neighborhood listening to Death Grips scowling at traffic crushing an empty can in my palm until it draws blood and even then I keep on walking for miles imagining Frederick Exley in A Fan’s Notes doing something similar and just before I collapse a small hint of catharsis presents itself and I agree to go on living.
Why should performance be a part of it? Well, to again riff on John Maus and the fact that each release of his is highly calculated and together, what would be more boring for the artist himself than to simply walk out each night attempting to recreate that thing from so long ago? In this respect, one might choose simply to let the work speak for itself and fuck off into the woods until inspiration strikes again, and this of course is perfectly alright, but some of us want to see how far we can stretch the work, until it’s broken and we’re Lost Boys and Girls eating mud and dragging our fists on pavement imagining Michael Douglas in Falling Down just before he exits his vehicle and everything suddenly becomes real.
I think of Bas Jan Ader and his tragic ‘death’ while sailing across the Atlantic Ocean, all something he created as an artwork, something to satisfy some buried nerve. Just how far is enough when it comes to letting your work completely subsume your life and devoting yourself to the elusive idea of art. I’m just not sure, but I’m not there yet. It’s buried inside me like the midnight waves that swallowed Ader and the spit of an unruly audience covering Marina Abramovic or Allin. Wanted spit. Requested spit that suddenly shatters the wall between maker and audience.
I think of M. Kitchell and a reading video I saw recently wherein he begins by reading a compelling story about a mythic dwelling in the woods, and by the end of the video he’s being slapped aggressively on his ass by a partner clad in dark glasses and baseball cap, wearing leather gloves. I think of Foucault and his notorious visits to the S & M palaces in San Francisco
Would we have any of the works of these artists to sit and pore over if at some point they hadn’t committed themselves violently, ritualistically to their craft? I hardly think so. In fact, I wouldn’t feel the least bit interested in reading Discipline and Punish if I hadn’t also heard that Foucault got into philosophy because he wanted to have sex with boys in his class who seemed smarter than him. I wouldn’t be so compelled to study the works of Acconci if I didn’t in turn know that he desired to live his art just as much as he hoped to make it. And further, I wouldn’t care in the slightest about hearing new music from Death Grips or Hoax or John Maus if I didn’t know that their tours would provide audiences with a dose of humanity at its most basic, and essential form. 

Grant Maierhofer is the author of Ode to a Vincent Gallo Nightingale (Drunk Uncle/Black Coffee Press)and The Persistence of Crows (Tiny TOE Press). His work has appeared in Split Lip MagazineGestureBrawler Lit, and We Feel Pretty. He’s a frequent contributor to HTMLGIANT and Delphian Inc. He lives in Wisconsin.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Guest Curator: Mike Young

Between mountains and years, I’ve been fortunate enough to come into contact with some terrific visual art while swinging the captain’s wheel at NOÖ Journal and Magic Helicopter Press. This list represents a splash of top notch people from our right-now and the archives. For each, the first piece is one that appeared in something NOÖ / Magic Helicopter related, and then the rest are some sweet extracts from their wider work.


 “The wings say war,” she says. “But maybe this part says something else.” She pokes the fat abdomen, the drum-like tymbal, the thorax. — Beth Thomas, “Emerging Like Nymphs

Kelly Schirmann

Lauren Cohen
Roger Ballen
Zack Sternwalker
I looked at him and, I don’t know, I didn’t want to tell him about his acne problem cause I like the acne on his face and I like the acne on his ass and I like the other acne on him too. And I told him I like it when he lets me pick his acne and I like it when he lets me pick his face and the other things like his scalp. So, I said: What? Uh, what does the AIDS look like? — Steven Trull, “You’re Dust
I saw you at the astronaut fair and your parted hair was everywhere. Your beautiful hair is a mixture of your father’s and your mother’s hair. I used to sing about my crops but I got a lot of flack. Zack Sternwalker, “Walletsize Photos of Dead Paraplegic People Make You Tear Up and Lose Precious Vitamin C
Evah Fan