Archive for May, 2009


Saturday, May 30th, 2009


— I made these photographs of foreclosed homes back in the mid-90s in Los Angeles —
the City of Dreams. I have always been haunted by these places, thinking of all the broken
lives, and how they mirrored my own unstable childhood.

When I made these images I was interested in places that were ultimately about people.

Homes and home loans are at the heart of our seriously troubled economic situation. 

Walls do talk. I hope these images get at this state we are in, in their own quiet way. 

Todd Hido is a San Francisco Bay Area-based artist whose work has been featured in Artforum, The New York Times Magazine, The Face and I-D amongst others. His photographs are in the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum, New York, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. In 2001 an award winning monograph of his work titled, HOUSE HUNTING, was published by Nazraeli Press. Since then he has had several other books published, the latest being BETWEEN THE TWO in 2007. He is an adjunct professor at the California College of Art, San Francisco, California.


Saturday, May 30th, 2009


His family supports him; comradery between he and his fellow racers is strong. We all need challenge and inspiration in our lives. Bruce Jr. finds it on Friday nights at the dirt track in Ventura, California.

Keith Malloy can surf anything and everything from 2′ to 25′ waves. For many years he competed on the professional circuit, but eventually decided that traveling and surfing with his brothers and friends, making movies and having the freedom to go anywhere in the world on short notice for a huge swell was more to his liking. As an ambassador for Patagonia, together with his brothers Chris and Dan, Keith has been able to focus on various eco-friendly projects such as reviewing surfboard construction techniques, exploring the use of recycled materials and supporting coastal conservation efforts.


Saturday, May 30th, 2009


— Hunter S. Thompson and I were professional acquaintances for about 20 years. Along with Nick Tosches, James Walcott, Grover Lewis, Lester Bangs, Robert Christgau, John Morthland, Chet Flippo and other speedy typists, we were what they used to call “new journalists”—free-style purveyors of “cultural reportage.” We wrote for the same magazines about subjects with the shelf life of milk. We prowled the same airports and lived the same sort of poorly regulated, profligate lives. Hunter, as it turned out, became famous for living this sort of life. Not one of us begrudged him his fame, since the toxicity of lurid fame was our one true subject. As Lester Bangs put it, our job was to report back to the kids in Omaha about the dead girl in the lobby. So if Hunter, who, like us, had seen the blood on the curtains, wanted to be Mick Jagger, he was welcome to it. And he had a right, because Hunter Thompson was a very good writer, a wonderful writer, in fact, for a one-trick-pony who did lyric bile, fear, loathing and rabid denunciation without much else in his quiver.

Given the times, of course, lyric bile was usually sufficient, but, as a writer and a person, Hunter was never in a place you wanted to be. It was no fun, and Hunter himself, whose life was redolent with opportunities for fun, never seemed to be having any, unless he was laying waste to something or someone. While you were chatting up the Valkyrie in the fuzzy, scoop-neck sweater that could barely contain her awesome, quivering breasts, Hunter was spraying the room with a fire extinguisher. This sort of jackass intervention was extremely exasperating. Eventually it became sad or disgusting depending on your generosity.

So if we, his fellow scribblers, begrudged Hunter anything, it was not his lifestyle. It was his writing about his lifestyle and, in the process, outing of our lifestyles by telling people what we were doing. There are some creatures who like to dance but do not like the light, and, for nearly a decade, before Hunter became a “name”—before “rock writer” became a part you played in the alley behind some concert hall—we were all invisible, a tribe of happy, insatiable shadows on the loose. We had all the perks of fame and none of the grief. We got the planes, the limos, the hotels, the good money and the back stage passes. We got the free cocaine, the speed, the smack and the barbits. We got the buffet, the tour jackets, the balconies and the beautiful girls (more of these than you can possibly imagine) that we selected after the band but before the roadies. Best of all, we got to write about music, to live in a bubble of music and music was a subject that never aroused Hunter Thompsons’s passion. He liked rich folks. If they were rich musicians, fine. He liked power players, Johnny Depp, racecar drivers, gun nuts, Hells Angels and politicians.

Hunter wanted to be the Sheriff of Aspen. We wanted to be Robin Hood’s merry men, because, being an inconspicuous merry man meant that when you were finally sated and demented, having sampled the spicy gruel of American celebrity, you could, if you wanted to, put on a Lakers cap and stroll away, just disappear into the night. Jimmy Page couldn’t do this, so he disappeared into his castle. So, when Hunter himself finally disappeared, when he shot himself, my first reaction was that it might have been slightly more respectful of the living had Hunter, who loved explosions, just strolled away into the woods and blown himself into slightly smaller bits. He chose otherwise, of course, and in the days after he died, a couple of journalists called for quotes. I told them that I liked Hunter as much as a lover could like a hater; from which I hoped they could infer that I meant “not very much.”

I did respect the dude, however, so, in his wake, I re-read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I found it as icky now as it did then. Laying the book aside I found myself, for the first time, feeling sympathy for Johnny Depp. My first beef with the book is that nothing happens in it that requires the city of Las Vegas as a setting. There’s no gambling. There are no money rolls, no whales, no whores, no crap tables, no showgirls and no scumbag hustlers. In fact, rereading the book now, at home in Las Vegas, it feels as if Hunter is simply not up to sharing the stage with the local color, no matter how vivid he might have felt. There is, however, a lot of desert highway in Hunter’s book, a lot of blistering Mohave, which Hunter mistakes for the landscape of the American soul. This is way too Hollywood to me. I love the Mohave and there are emptier and more desolate places in Providence, Rhode Island.

At any rate, the events in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas could have taken place in any American city during the seventies–and they did, because there were no places then, just blur and drift–just cash transactions, night flights, smoking sections and no airport security. One night in the seventies, I climbed on a little plane to fly from Denver to Aspen. I noticed a songwriter friend of mine curled up in a front row. I stuck out my hand and said it was nice to see him. He made a tiny little wave, and said softly, “Excuse my manners, dude, but I’m just about to die.” I nodded in sympathy and walked past him into the dark plane, quite unaware they he was actually dying, remembering an afternoon in New York when I traded Lowell George’s phone number to a girl in the songwriter’s entourage for a bag of blow. Not my finest hour, although all the girl wanted to do was to fuck Lowell. That night on the plane, I ended up in the back row with two ski bunnies, sharing bumps to the shivering hum of the props in the cold air. When we landed in Aspen, a guy in a chauffeur’s uniform came on board. He lifted my friend out his seat and carried him down to a limo that was waiting on the tarmac. I waved good-bye to the receding taillights, then set off into the swirling, midnight snow after the ski bunnies.

That was the seventies—limos, homos, bimbos, resort communities and cavernous stadiums—the whole culture in a giant, technicolor Cuisenart, whipping by, and I did love it so. Thinking back now, I can’t help but feel that Hunter missed a lot of the stagy grandeur or had no taste for it. He never seemed to have much use for bimbos, or homos, like my songwriter friend, or even for casual romance. I did meet a porn star friend of Hunter’s one night at a dinner in Vail. Her name was Sharon Mitchell and she was a handsome and intelligent woman who now runs an AIDS clinic in Los Angeles. Hunter treated her with the kind of sullen disdain that was what you might expect from a boho snob with a hysterical loathing for working stiffs and service personnel. This remains inexplicable to me to this day. In Hunter’s Vegas book, the waiter at the Polo Lounge is a dwarf; the store clerk is a mongoloid; the room service waiter is a reptile; the lady at check-in is a gorgon, and I hate this. Savaging the weak is not funny, even if you’re purportedly “tripping.” Also, as a matter of journalistic practice, these working stiffs are invariably the sources from whom you get the story, because Lou Reed, for all his candor, is not going to share with a journalist his late night room service order for KY Jelly.

So, finally, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas feels feverish, squirmy, and genuinely afraid of itself. In this book, as elsewhere, one gets the sense that Hunter never really found his place, that he never really got over the La-Di-Da South, the Derby Cocktail Soiree, the Tea Dance and the strut of Southern Manhood. The manners were gone, of course, but the raw, hot, dirt plantation sense of empowerment remained. One night at a wedding in New Orleans, a cultured woman from Thompson’s part of the South, told me how easily she could imagine Hunter a hundred years ago as a Civil War dandy, in his whale-bone corset, his tailored uniform, his flowing locks, his riding crop, his silver flask and his dueling pistols always at the ready to defend his “honor.”

I could never quite make that leap but I could see the puritan do-gooder with a gun, and I can’t help feeling the bleak shadow of puritan revenge in Thomson’s Vegas narrative, during which the author describes himself committing a whole cornucopia of transgressions and felonies. He drives recklessly, wrecks cars, totes guns, drops acid, snorts coke, sniffs ether and smokes ganja. He insults civilians, walks checks, abandons rentals and dodges tabs at fancy hotels. All of these Mister Toad behaviors, I shamefully admit, were pretty much de rigueur for “cultural reporters” in those years. The strange thing is that, for all the crime and bad manners, for all the macho self-aggrandizement, there is no sin in Hunter’s “Sin City,” and, minus sin, Hunter’s Vegas tastes like sucking pennies.

In fact, there is no sex at all in “Fear and Loathing,” nor is there sex in any of Hunter S. Thompson’s writings, no encounters with whores, homos, bimbos, ex-wives, divorcees or members of the wait staff, and this glaring omission profoundly distorts the milieu he purports to portray. In fact, Hunter’s writing repudiates the primary vibe of the zeitgeist, because the post-flower-child seventies, I can assure you, were very, very sexy all the time—even sexier at night and a whole lot sexier in Las Vegas. In those days, one did not go out on the road with Aerosmith or even Hubert Humphrey to huff glue with celebrities. That is a contemporary kink. You went out there to bathe in the dazzled libido of shiny America—to promenade down glimmering streets with crazy girls in torn t-shirts under a blood-red sky—but not Hunter S. Thompson. Hunter hated it all, and this body hate , I suspect, made him the bard of choice for looky-no-touchy, “Less than Zero” America—the era of Post-Sex-Global-Fury—the age of AIDS and herpes, silicone and botox. This makes Thompson prescient, I guess, Jeff Skilling, avant le lettre, arrogant, wasted, drooling and snarling at the waiter. Oh, please, darling.

Dave Hickey is a writer of fiction and cultural criticism. He writes a monthly column for Art in America called Revisions and has served as Contributing Editor to The Texas Observer, The Village Voice, Art Issues, Parkett and Context. His work has appeared in Rolling Stone, Art News, Artforum, Interview, Harpers, Vanity Fair, The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times. His published books include PRIOR CONVICTIONS, THE INVISIBLE DRAGON: FOUR ESSAYS ON BEAUTY, AIR GUITAR: ESSAYS ON ART AND DEMOCRACY and STARDUMB. Future publications include CONNOISSEUR OF WAVES: MORE ESSAYS ON ART AND DEMOCRACY, FEINT OF HEART: ESSAYS ON INDIVIDUAL ARTISTS and PAGAN AMERICA. Hickey was recently awarded a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship for 2002-2007 and received a Peabody Award in 2007 for his work as Project Advisor and Associate Producer for Ric Burns’ PBS documentary on Andy Warhol. Hickey presently holds the position of Schaeffer Professor of Modern Letters at the University of Nevada Las Vegas.


Saturday, May 30th, 2009

As above, so below. I keep coming across this line in books and even in the occasional pop song. The passage frequently pops up in occult and new age writing. It is a dictum taken from a longer passage of the Emerald Tablet attributed to the Egyptian sage Hermes Trismegistus. The Emerald Tablet was a crucial text used by medieval alchemists and Hermetic orders/secret societies such as the Rosicrucians.

As above, so below: The concept is elegant and simple. We are each an expression of the universe and the universe is an expression of each one of us. In order to understand the microcosm one has to understand the macrocosm, and vice versa. What happens on one level influences every other level.

Der Blaue Reiter, a group of painters working in early twentieth century Germany approached art making as a spiritual vehicle. One of the founding members, Wassily Kandinsky sought to unite the microcosm and macrocosm through ritual, i.e., art. Together with other members of Der Blaue Reiter, Kandinsky embraced the notion of synaesthesia: the condition where senses blend such as hearing a painting or seeing music. Kandinsky was so moved by his own synaesthetic experience during a performance of Richard Wagner’s opera Lohengrin that he cites it as one of the main motives behind becoming an artist. Paul Klee painted ‘fugues’ and ‘polyphonic paintings’ which he viewed as visual expressions of musical spaces through time (tempo). I’ve always been fascinated by total environments, which are capable of transporting you to non-ordinary, heightened, and synaesthetic states. Churches and nightclubs are both spaces charged via multi-sensory media; smoke-filtered colored light; incense/perfume; music; and costume.

Perhaps making art is a method of materially manifesting ideas and ineffable occurrences that exist on the ethereal plane, such as the Akasha. As above, so below. Clusters of light, thought and material aggregate or pass through one another. The boundaries separating ideas, senses and bodies are translucent and permeable.

A friend of mine in London, Susan Finlay turned me on to the British surrealist artist/occultist Ithell Colquhoun. Susan thought that I would prefer Colquhoun’s later abstract and empyreal images to the surrealist, pictorial work for which she is better known. She’s right. For Colquhoun, art and magic were indistinguishable. Her writing, painting and life were inextricably linked to her spiritual explorations. I’m intrigued by the covers of Colquhoun’s esoteric books. The Living Stones (1957), for example, is a cryptic title with an enigmatic design. I am intrigued by the overt femaleness in its symbolism. As a pagan, Colquhoun recognized and drew inspiration from the living energy found in all objects that she came across in the natural world. Based for most of her life in Cornwall, Ithell Colquhoun gave to the magical traditions in Britain: the land of ley lines and sacred stone formations.

Although crop circles appear throughout the world, they are associated with southern England in particular. Somehow this makes sense to me. As inexplicable phenomena go, there seems to be a particularly British air about them; eccentric, downplayed; witty even. I relate to writer/prophet Daniel Pinchbeck’s take on crop circles. Across the cultural spectrum, very little serious attention is paid to them. This is most likely due to the connotations made with pranksters and hoaxes, which hover directly overhead the crop circles. Of course there are many examples of crop circles, which fail to capture my imagination because of crude execution or because they communicate with written words or obvious pictorial symbols culled from popular culture (clichéd alien portraits and stickmen come to mind). They are made rather than appear. As visual communication, these examples fail to work beyond an obvious, one-dimensional way. There are however many more instances of incredibly complex, elegant, and perfectly executed abstract patterns. They seem to hum in the way that perfect, mathematical resolutions hum. They are ‘true’ in the way that tonic chords are ‘true’ in music. There are some crop circle visitors who claim to actually hear a hum emanating from the earth and the plants. Others claim to see floating beads of light. The patterns are harmonically pure visual configurations. True synaesthesia.

In the same way that Pinchbeck reflects, I also can not fathom why crop circles have been overlooked by the contemporary critical art world. Either they represent the artistic expression of non-human, intelligent beings (fascinating) or else they are the (collaborative) work of incredibly skilled and anonymous land artists working in the tradition of Robert Smithson or Richard Long (equally fascinating). Their anonymity and choice of medium allow these artists to completely evade the market driven, commodity based art world. Their impetus to make art seems to come exclusively from a desire to imprint complex, beautiful patterns on the Earth, perhaps to delight an audience, perhaps not.

Or perhaps crop circles just simply appear.

Steven Gontarski, May 2009, Long Beach, California

Steven Gontarski’s work has been featured in various solo and group exhibitions internationally including Le Consortium Dijon, Groninger Museum, Kunsthalle Wien and ICA London. He has produced permanent public works in Chaucenne, France, Paddington Central, London and Central St Giles, London (forthcoming, 2010). Concurrent to art making, he is actively involved in local community service and gardening.


Robert Fludd, title page of SUMMUM BONUM,
Frankfurt, 1629

DER BLAUER REITER almanac, 1912

Paul Klee, ROSEGARDEN, oil and ink
on paper and cardboard, 1920

Ithell Colquhoun, THE LIVING STONES, 1957

Ithell Colquhoun, L’ASCENSION,
mixed media on paper, 1974

Woodborough crop circle, England

Triskelion crop circle, England

Steven Gontarski, LUNAR OB 01,
fiberglass perspex, 2008

Steven Gontarski, LUNAR OB 02,
fiberglass perspex, 2008

Steven Gontarski, NEB 02,
colored pencil on paper, 2008

Steven Gontarski, NEB 06,
colored pencil on paper, 2008

Steven Gontarski, NEB 07,
colored pencil on paper, 2008


Saturday, May 30th, 2009

— I became interested in Cajuns in the late 50s when I was a student in New Orleans and wandered Westward, deep into Bayou and prairie country, discovering a dance hall deep in the woods where no one spoke English and the waiters wore revolvers. The dancing was hot and the beer icy cold. Fifteen years later, I met musician Dewey Balfa and his brothers at the folk festival at University of Chicago and shared Louisiana moonshine with them in their dressing room. I said I really liked their music and would like to do a film with them. They invited me down and I went.

Once there, I met Marc Savoy, who is at the core of Spend It All and ended up in three other films of mine on Cajuns and Creoles of SW Louisiana. Now, nearly 40 years later, Mark and I are performing / presenting in the Ozarks at an annual film festival there in 2010. Most of the band will be his wife and children.

Elsewhere D.L. Menard aka the Cajun Hank Williams spices up J’ai Ete Au Bal with his songs and manufactures handmade rocking chairs. D.L. actually met Hank Williams and asked him how long he takes to write a song. Hank replied “about 20-30 minutes.” Astounded, D.L. sat down to write a song, and in 20 minutes came up with his big hit Through the Back Door.

Les Blank was born in Tampa, Florida. His first independent films comprised a series of intimate glimpses into the lives and music of passionate people living at the periphery of American society — a series that grew to include rural Louisiana’s French musicians and cooks. Since then, major retrospectives of Les Blank’s films have been mounted at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Cinematheque Francais in Paris and as part of a major retrospective of his work at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, among others. In 1990 Les Blank received the American Film Institute’s Maya Deren Award for outstanding lifetime achievement as an independent filmmaker. In 2005 Criterion released a special edition of Les Blank’s extraordinary documentary BURDEN OF DREAMS — a unique look into the massively chaotic production of Werner Herzog’s epic FITZCARRALDO. The Criterion release includes the self-explanatory 20-minute short WERNER HERZOG EATS HIS SHOE.


Friday, May 1st, 2009


— The first songs I knew, got into, remembered without trying were all culled from the few audio cassettes my father owned that resided between the wheelhouse of his fishing boat, The Marie Glen Valena, and the glove compartment of our Ford Falcon. The combination of a moving vehicle and the right (frequently wrong) song was like extra company, the neutral family member no one disagreed with. All those albums: Tom Waits, The Heart of Saturday Night; The Eagles Greatest Hits; AC/DC’s Back in Black and Dire Straits, Love Over Gold, are time machines for me, with individual songs containing ‘adult’ emotions and narratives that I’ve only just caught up with. My brothers and I knew from The Eagles, for example, that “city girls just seem to find out early, how to open doors with just a smile” long before we had any real reference for the words city or girls.

My grandparents only listened to opera and classical music, and generally only in the afternoons when they rested or in the car when running errands. I’d be talking with my brother, asking questions, and my grandfather would say, “Ricky, do you like music? You like good music right?” and I’d say, “Yeah, I like music,” and he’d get this stupid grin and say “Well shut up then!” This exchange happened every other day.

The morning I received the news that he’d died, I just went back to bed broken and played Simon Joyner’s Songs for the New Year over and over. It seemed like the only record I owned that was melancholy enough to keep me company, keep me as miserable as I wanted to be, and help me get out all the water before I had to face anyone. Listening now it seems more optimistic lyrically – the words just happen to be moored to music that keeps them down. It’s as if the recording itself, after failing to rise, has conceded to staying in bed for the day.

I’d like to lie down on the ocean
And clear the city from my lungs
Sometimes it rains while I’m drifting
But then I’m dried off by the sun

When something’s done you need a song. When I worked for my brother Lobster fishing, he would blast the music across the deck from the wheelhouse only after the last pots had been collected/baited and returned to the sea, and it was time to stream home. By that time the tapes were long gone and it was all radio. I’d hose down the deck mats and stack all the gear away neatly at breakneck speed for the reward of extracting myself out of my oilskins and boots, so I could sit up in the wheelhouse with the hum of the engine and radio hits tempered by the summer glare and the knowledge that the rest of the day was mine to burn. So I loved the radio, forgave the obnoxious morning banter between songs, allowed it to soothe the morning’s exhaustion and fill the remote silence in the cabin between Pierre and I. One morning the song Zombie by The Cranberries came on, the volume escalating, and I turned back from the deck to see my brother at the wheel banging his head back and forth out of time…the hilarious movements of a reformed metal head adrift with responsibility.

What’s in your head, in your head?
Zombie, zombie, zombie

I’m not even sure if it’s okay to listen to the Arcade Fire as a contemporary adult, but my wife started this tradition years back – of washing them through our speakers to mark the end of a struggle with a particular painting, or celebrate the completion of a group of work for an exhibition. Occasionally the ritual is applied to my studio accomplishments also, and yes, sometimes there is dancing. Of late The Fire has been replaced with Phoenix’s new album, in an attempt to bring summer nearer. But generally anything with an overtly triumphant tone, an uncomfortable uplifting feeling works.

People say that your dreams
are the only things that save ya.
Come on baby in our dreams,
we can live on misbehaviour.

Back when I was reaching out, feeling out the prospect of this perfectly serviceable friendship turning into something more romantic, I reverted back to the mix tape (actually a mix cd) as messenger. In a bold move I threw everything into that pot, everything short of ‘I just called to say….’ After all I didn’t write the songs and couldn’t be held accountable for them giving the wrong impression were the message not reciprocated. Winter by the Rolling Stones from the album Goat’s Head Soup was the first track on the compilation, and it was also repeated at the end of the mix. Call it maximum glitch, or the Tonight’s the Night approach*. At the time every line seemed an appropriate reconstitution of my own desires. Enduring winter in London was killing me. There’s a real longing in Jagger’s delivery that comes from the exhaustion of being without – waiting for the seasonal obstacle to pass in anticipation of a new cycle, a new someone to occur. I could never decide if the words were ‘sometimes I wanna wrap my cord around you’ or ‘coat around you’ (I’m now pretty sure it’s coat); in any case ‘sometimes I wanna head to California, sometimes I wanna keep you warm, warm, warm’ follows, the point being you had to be right beside someone in order to provide that kind of warmth. I never owned up to purposefully repeating the song, dodging the subject until the magic of the mix had taken hold and the confession could become part of a more permanent (LA) story.

And I hope it’s sure gonna be a long hot summer,
and a lot of love will be burning bright.

Some records arrive at the right moment both personally and collectively. At the time of writing I’ve been searching for some resolution to seemingly irreconcilable conflicts within my family, and the whole time Bill Callahan’s latest album Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle has been guiding me through. A prisoner of my car stereo, I return to my car, turn the ignition over and the album is automatically there, “you again” I think. Calm and direct, it has managed to keep me floating above the weirdness, perhaps because the album seems to be a personal evaluation/evolution of sorts, Callahan singing back to himself from a distance, leaving me thinking in the space between his well chosen words. I’ve also been reading Reveries of the Solitary Walker by Rousseau, and finding parallels with Callahan’s guarded and clever message – a message that’s always seemed so independent from the necessity of peers and the charms of conventional communication. It asks as many questions as it makes statements and in doing so activates the listener as participant, as accessory to the production. For me it holds a unique currency within the Smog archive. There’s something more inclusive in the tone this time around, a frankness to the lyrics promoting a simple wisdom without leaning too heavily on irony to remain intact. The personal played plural.

I used to be darker, then I got lighter,
then I got dark again

* Alternate versions of the song Tonight’s the Night, open and end Neil Young’s album of the same title released in 1975.

Ricky Swallow
Los Angeles, April 2009

Ricky Swallow is an Australian born artist living and working in Los Angeles. His detailed sculptures and installations explore the inexorable passage of time, and the enduring nature of objects. Swallow represented Australia in the 2005 Venice Biennale, and has recently participated in exhibitions at PS1, New York, The Douglas Hyde Gallery in Dublin, Yokohama Museum of Art, and the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.


The Eagles, THEIR GREATEST HITS, 1971-1975

Raymond Rochecouste, 1918-1997

Simon Joyner, SONGS FOR THE NEW YEAR, 1996

Studio detail

Studio detail

Rolling Stones, GOATS HEAD SOUP, 1973

Studio detail


Swallow’s record caddy


Friday, May 1st, 2009

Ink on notecard, 5 x 8 inches

Rubber stamp on four sheets of paper, 7.25 x 6.75 inches

Rubber stamp on graph paper, 9.75 x 7.25 inches

Chalk on paint on wall, 72 x 48 inches

Rubber stamp on graph paper, 9.75 x 7.25 inches

Oil on paper, 22 x 30 inches

Oil on canvas, 18 x 24 inches

Ink on paper, 11 x 8.5 inches

Oil on canvas, 60 x 45 inches

Rubber stamp paper, 11 x 8.5 inches

Oil on canvas, 60 x 45 inches

Oil on canvas, 18 x 24 inches

Mel Bochner was born in Pittsburgh, PA, in 1940.
He lives and works in New York.


Friday, May 1st, 2009

— Recently I have been informed that sometime in the near future I will be confronted, if that is the right word, which it probably isn’t, with the re-release of my first novel, Nog, followed in rapid order by two other novels, Flats and Quake. All three novels were written in the late nineteen sixties and early seventies, as far as I, or should I say, Nog, can remember. In the spirit of not knowing where this paragraph or contribution or possibly memories are electronically flying off to, or who it is that they might be addressed to, or why, I offer up the first paragraph of Nog. I have no traditional memory of who I was in those unhinged, free-for-all deluded days, nor, for that matter who I, or Nog, might be perceived now, although that isn’t really true and certainly not relevant. Or is it? At least I can be assured that nothing in particular and certainly nothing in general, is true inside this long-winded paragraph, a reassurance that offers a certain momentary relief. Such confusions, however deliberately perverse, allow Nog, or at least the memory of Nog, after forty or so years, to ruminate on himself, and where he might be crouched these days, burdened as he was and no doubt still is, with deliberate strategies bent on demolishing prescribed conventions of story telling, conventions which, for the most part assume that omniscient narratives are more comfortably accessible and authentic if arranged in linear progressions, insisting on a beginning, middle and satisfying conclusion, rather than allowing for a spontaneous process or non-process, one that involves Nog’s journey, a journey that consists of circular or cyclical chords that much like a manic jazz improviser exist furiously and exuberantly inside the present moment, establishing in their flow invented rhythms and unexplained shadows, illuminations that exist only to revolve endlessly around themselves. But to come back to Nog, not that Nog is or ever was away from Nog, given his engagement towards uncovering the illusions of self, or what used to be the ‘self’, as far as he can remember. In his desperation to free himself from the arrogance of omniscient reporting, Nog insists on releasing himself from what went on before, in order to free himself from what is going on now. In this way Nog defends himself from the agony of mechanical entertainment, agonies that, in his mind, always try to please and satisfy the reader, not that there are any readers, not now, or then. Nog’s promise to himself was to turn off, or delay or if not that, at least sabotage invented arrangements of words and used up insights, preferring out desperation to rely on a rush of elliptical passages arriving nowhere in particular, but still arriving, somewhere, anywhere, even if that somewhere is nowhere: a process that, along the way, embraces secret internal delights and obscure shadows; ironic surprises and humorous redundancies that seek to avoid, the literary stench of old fashioned information; information that is good, bad or indifferent, but that seeks to imprison him inside structural arrangements of time and space, which is not to say that Nog falls back on a nihilist or solipsistic view. Rather he embraces a spontaneous flux, a flux whose echoes are perfectly acceptable, given that such a flow releases egoic imprints of memory and narrative authority, imprints that depend on the illusions of memories for their location, and thus, even, perhaps, point towards false deliverance and redemption. No doubt Nog, despite his lack of ambitions, misses the usual attachments that make up recreational enjoyments and dramas, a lack which makes him attempt to corral them once again. But such attempts inevitably fail, leaving Nog even more exhausted than when he began and yet more determined than ever to push forward his attempts at inventing and re-inventing himself, In the end, or what passes for the end, he embraces his own drift, content to romp along for its own sake, and yet, despite all his efforts, coming back again and again, full circle, as it were, to himself, or what passes for himself. In this way, after all is said and done, Nog manages to breathe in and out, for his own sake, with no rewards in sight, continuing his hopeless journey to nowhere, walking and waiting at the same time, as if he has already arrived, only to find himself starting off again, towards nowhere in particular. Or so it seems.

Yesterday afternoon a girl walked by the window and stopped for sea shells. I was wrenched out of two months of calm. Nothing more than that, certainly, nothing ecstatic or even interesting, but very silent and even, as those periods have become for me. I had been breathing in and out, out and in, calmly, grateful for once to do just that, staring at the waves plopping in, successful at thinking almost nothing, handling easily the three memories I have manufactured, when that girl stooped for sea shells. There was something about her large breasts under her faded blue tee shirt, the quick way she bent down, her firm legs in their rolled-up white jeans, her thin ankles — it was her feet, actually; they seemed for a brief, painful moment to be elegant. It was that thin-boned brittle moment with her feet that did it, that touched some spot that I had forgotten to smother. The way those thin feet remained planted, yet shifting slightly in the sand as she bent down quickly for a clam shell, sent my heart thumping, my mouth dry, no exaggeration, there was something gay and insane about that tiny gesture because it had nothing to do with her.

NOG, Lynn Davis, 2009

Rudy Wurlitzer is an American novelist and screenwriter. While he is best known for his classic screenplays TWO-LANE BLACKTOP and PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID, Wurlitzer also co-directed CANDY MOUNTAIN with Robert Frank and has written over half a dozen produced films. Wurlitzer has authored five novels, including his most recent DROP EDGE OF YONDER, and one non-fiction book, HARD TRAVEL TO SACRED PLACES. His classic first novel NOG will be re-released this summer by independent New York publisher Two Dollar Radio, followed in short order by two other early novels, FLATS and QUAKE.


Friday, May 1st, 2009

Tiny is now almost forty-years-old and she has 10 children. As an April Fool’s joke she called to say that she was again pregnant — but it was just a joke.

“TINY” IN HER HALLOWEEN COSTUME, Seattle, Washington 1983

Mary Ellen Mark has achieved worldwide visibility through her numerous books,
exhibitions and editorial magazine work. She is recognized as one of our most
respected and influential photographers. Her images of our world’s diverse
cultures have become landmarks in the field of documentary photography and
her photo essay on runaway children in Seattle became the basis of the academy
award nominated film STREETWISE, directed and photographed by her husband,
Martin Be.

out now on Phaidon.


Friday, May 1st, 2009

AMANDA, 2008, New York, unedited

Above are 54 frames that I pulled out of a random folder on my computer. Edit down to the one shot that you think I will pick. Email your selection with the subject line CONTEST to I’ll send a signed and numbered print to the first two people to make the right choice.

06 May 2009
Thanks to everyone for sending in their choice. The winning entries, image IMG_7506, were sent by

Arthur from Astoria, NY and Alec from NYC.

Richard Kern has lived and worked in New York City since 1979. In the eighties, he produced a series of short films that now are recognized as the central works of the movement now known as the Cinema of Transgression. In the 90’s he switched to photography full time and occasionally directed music videos for bands like Sonic Youth and Marilyn Manson. Kern has published nine books and is a regular contributor to a variety of international publications.