Archive for August, 2009


Monday, August 31st, 2009

Typescript from HARRY CREWS PAPERS, MS 3340,
Courtesy of Hargrett Rare Book & Manuscript Collection,
University of Georgia Libraries

Carleton Auditorium, University of Florida, Gainesville. ca. 1980,
Photo courtesy of Harry Crews


Fiction lecture, Audio file, Date unknown,
From HARRY CREWS PAPERS, MS 3340, Courtesy of Hargrett Rare Book
& Manuscript Collection, University of Georgia Libraries

In 1968 Harry Crews published THE GOSPEL SINGER, and in 2006 he published his 20th book, AN AMERICAN FAMILY: THE BABY WITH THE CURIOUS MARKINGS. Now retired from the University of Florida where he taught for thirty years, Crews often wrote as hard as he has often lived — “Like a house afire,” in his words. Nonetheless he has published two collections of essays and journalism in addition to his seventeen novels. He has also authored a play, BLOOD ISSUE, and his 1978 memoir A CHILDHOOD: THE BIOGRAPHY OF A PLACE is considered by many to be an American masterpiece. A Depression-era tenant farmer’s son, Crews grew up “in the worst hookworm and rickets part of Georgia,” where “stories were conversation, and conversation was stories.” For the past forty years he has lived in Gainesville, Florida, and he intends to keep writing “until the curtain comes down.”

Harry Crews’ collection of manuscripts and personal correspondence is housed in the University of Georgia’s Hargrett Rare Book & Manuscript Library, which submitted these materials. Thank you to Melissa Bass and Skip Hullet without whom this entry would not be possible.


Monday, August 31st, 2009


— In the early seventies I was a young man with a strong interest in art and photography. My upbringing however, had brought me in another direction, to the study of medical science. I was particularly interested in the “ways of the mind”. After highschool I decided to take on work as a nightguard at the local psychiatric hospital, before I started studying at the University of Oslo.

At night, most people sleep. If patients have trouble sleeping, they get medication, and they sleep. The mental hospital was a very quiet place at night, and at some point I took out my camera and took some photographs. I was interested in finding out how the place looked photographed. At the time this was more a result of boredom and experiment than a result of planning and thought. Still, a hospital is very much a hospital, even at night.

My interest in art and photography continued to grow, and finally, I chose that as my profession. After a year of photographic studies at Trent Polytechnic in Nottingham with Paul Hill, Thomas Joshua Cooper and Christopher Seiberling my ideas of photography were clearer.

Through the study of the history, and my own praxis, I had developed a vision, a belief that photographs may be found everywhere, a belief that it is possible to make interesting photographs anywhere as long as there is light. Hence I used to carry my camera around with me at all times.

At some point in the late seventies I realized that my first photographs from the mental asylum were powerful. I started to work as a nightguard again – but this time in order to make photographs from the asylum. I smuggled in my medium format Rolleiflex camera and a small tripod in my bag and continued to work night after night. I even took an occasional photograph of a patient and once posed myself, in my underwear. I told no one at the mental hospital what I was doing, most likely I would not have gotten a permission.

I started to take an interest in the surfaces, textures, the residue of the day gone by, the traces of the actions being performed during the daytime, the quality of the neon light at night. I started to see the loneliness of the place, especially during Christmas. The daytime staff put up the Christmas decoration in a rather arbitrary, sloppy fashion, and I focused on that during the night.

Gradually the photographs started to grow on me, and I was more able to see the story they tell.
I showed the work to Svein Christiansen, a friend who was also at that time the director of the Trondheim Art Museum, and he wanted me to do a show with that work. The first show took place in 1983. The book Asylum was published in 1987. The book had to be handbound and I could only afford to bind 400 copies. In the nineties the american gallerist Holly Solomon saw the book, and wanted to do a show in New York. We had another 100 books handbound for that show. Now the book is very hard to find, one was auctioned at Christie´s this spring.

After the first show I wanted to continue to work on the project, but I did not get any more nightshifts. Most likely the rumour had spread to the direction of the hospital, the photographs were probably considered bad publicity. I had to leave my project at that. Though I never published a photograph of a patient, the pictures are saturated with human emotion – they tell a sad story of loneliness, despair and pain.

Above, an unpublished self-portrait from ASYLUM.

Dag Alveng was born in Oslo in 1953. His work has been shown in solo and group shows around the world. His photographs are in the permanent collections of major museums in America and abroad, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum Folkwang, Essen; Sprengel Museum, Hannover; Stedeijk Museum, Amsterdam; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; Museet for Samtidskunst, Oslo; and Henie-Onstad Kunstsenter, Bærum. Alveng has published several books, among them ASYLUM (1987), THE SHIPYARD AT SOLHEIMSVIKEN (1990), LAYERS OF LIGHT (1995) and SUMMER LIGHT (2001). He has organized many exhibitions. Between 1986 and 1996 he commuted between Oslo and New York, and now lives in Oslo.


Monday, August 31st, 2009

ROSIE (2006)

— This is a cell phone portrait of my dog, Rosie, in a park in San Diego during the last year of her life. I was kind of obsessed with writing poems she appeared in always, but as the walks slowed and her strength weakened I just became obsessed with her death and her relationship to it. I mean I realize that is a romantic idea and that poets have long had romantic ideas about dogs and death i.e. Rilke, but as a figure who occupied my “I” for almost seventeen years it was at least a deeply experienced romanticism. Here I see her pondering her mortality. If a dog could do that she would either do it in terms of light or food, the presence or the lack of one or the other. I guess the dogs or people she is surrounded by also figure into the constellation of the dog’s identity but since I mostly walked her during the day it’s patterns seemed to be the place where both of our obsessions met. She virtually died eating; having had a handful of carne asada fed her just before she went into the room. Interestingly I’ve not so much gained weight as seen it shift since she died especially around my waist and hips. I could credit it to the damage driving does to a former and now again New York body, but I think it’s about the walks I took with her for nearly seventeen years and how they inadvertently consumed calories and so now in effect my body is a memorial to hers. I have a little dead dog wrapped around my waist and hips. So walking Rosie continues daily but the longer I live again in New York where I’m always more active I can feel her presence fading.

Eileen Myles’s collection of essays THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING ICELAND, for which they received a Warhol / Creative Capital grant is just out from Semiotext(e)/MIT. Eileen also writes novels (CHELSEA GIRLS, COOL FOR YOU) and libretti (HELL) and is mainly a poet (SORRY, TREE, NOT ME…) They ran St. Mark’s Poetry Project in the 80s. In 1992 they conducted an openly female write in campaign for President. They’re a Professor Emeritus of Writing & Literature at UC San Diego. They live in New York.


Monday, August 31st, 2009


— Somewhat recently, my ability to remember historical details has been impaired. I had forgotten that my grandmother died. One Saturday afternoon, I was sitting in a lecture when my phone vibrated. I looked down to see my cousin’s name. He lives in San Francisco, and we rarely speak. Surely he was calling to notify my immediate family and I of my 90-something-year-old grandmother’s passing.

The next morning, I spoke to my sister, “B. called me last night. I think he was calling to tell me that our grandmother died.” My sister answered, “but Lisa, she’s already dead.” I had forgotten. Apparently, it was just last year that he had called to let me know—and helped facilitate the ordering of a flower bouquet on our behalf, for the funeral.

Shortly after my cousin’s phone call, I was chitchatting with two people following the aforementioned lecture. We were talking about movies. I relayed that BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music), was to be screening Alain Robbe-Grillet films next week. I added, “Not the ones where he was the screen-writer, but the films that Robbe-Grillet wrote and directed himself, like L’Immortelle and Trans-Europ-Express.” One person in our trio then asked me if Robbe-Grillet was still alive. I answered, “…I think…so…didn’t he recently write a book called Repetition or something like that?”

The next morning, after I had spoken to my sister about my grandmother, I realized that Alain Robbe-Grillet was dead too. On the day he died, I had texted a friend with the following postmortem communiqué: “Robbe-Grillet died.” My friend and I had this morbid tradition of sending each other truncated “Who Died” texts every now and then (“Yves Saint Laurent died”, “Boris Yeltsin died”, “Bergman AND Antonioni died!”—dreading the “David Bowie died” text). But going back to Robbe-Grillet, the day of his death, I had read at least three obituaries from various sources.

Robbe-Grillet’s writing from the 1950’s and 60’s had inspired me for several consecutive years. I liked the way his novels rhythmically lulled me into a pensive and nonproductive state. In sharp contrast, my grandmother had barely any effect on me at all—we were not close. Even with the mediation of an expert translator (the Richard Howard equivalent for Cantonese!), I doubt I would have found much in common with her. But still, she was my last surviving grandparent, a minor historical detail to be remembered.

If we meet, feel free to remind me about all of the above.

Lisa Tan, TWO IN THE LABYRINTH, 2006, c-print

Lisa Tan received her B.A. from the University of Texas at El Paso and her M.F.A. from the University of Southern California (USC). She lives in Brooklyn, New York. Her work draws from personal and collective history, particularly in the realms of literature and cinema to deal with longing and loss as constant conditions of being. Many of Tan’s works involve an interest in the conditions of nighttime and solitude as experienced in the context of iconic urbanism. Her work is in the current issue of Blind Spot (#40), and has been recently exhibited at venues such as El Centro Cultural Montehermoso (Vitoria-Gasteiz) and Kadist Art Foundation (Paris). She spent last spring in Dijon doing a residency with Fonds Régional d’Art Contemporain – Région Bourgogne (FRAC Bourgogne).


Monday, August 31st, 2009


— When reeling in the line from art and pop what makes the environment so different today, as opposed to fifty or one hundred years ago, is that the real world of Web 2.0 keeps your mind in the ether. As images transfer to hands, file extensions get trashed and everything sourced, found, junked; then somehow materializes again. Putting everything back together, the image of the object never returns as it normally should. This makes perfect sense to me: it is the battle of representation rather than the reality itself that concerns me most. Things can always be a bit more insane.

Work in progress, 2009

Misha Hollenbach, one half of antipodean “life partnership” art / design / fashion / publishing / etc. team Perks and Mini (P.A.M.). Born last century. Lives and works in many languages, times and places. Feels the future holds the keys to the past.