Archive for January, 2011


Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

— 3 very different images, a photo I bought recently of Laurel and Hardy in the UK, they undertook a number of tours after the war when their film career was more or less over and here they are pictured with I think cinema managers or executives from the Odeon chain, the guy in the middle looks like the director of the company, I can’t think of anyone in the 20th century I would have wanted to have my picture taken with more than Laurel and Hardy, an enveloppe/letter sent to me over christmas that took 2 weeks to arrive, lastly an almost impossibly colourful image of a crab, I just went to the Galapagos Islands for work if you can beleive it, and if you can’t take a good photo of nature there then you might as well give up as nothing runs away from you, not even crabs.

Jeremy Deller was born in 1966, in London, England. In 2004 he won the Turner Prize for MEMORY BUCKET, his documentary about George W. Bush’s hometown, Crawford, Texas and the siege in nearby Waco.


Tuesday, January 18th, 2011


— I recently received a commission to make documentary photographs somewhere in the United States. I have chosen as my location the place where I grew up, and where I shot much of my first film. Since I am no longer very familiar with the region, I have started doing research. To my intermittent regret, I keep few things from my distant past, aside from the negatives of photographs I took while I was in college, and a collection of books and records. Some of the survivors appear below.

The March 3, 1981 column World of the Unusual by “famed Romanian psychic” Pauline Bendit included the following item:

A woman kept her mother’s mummified body on a couch in her living room for 10 months and told stunned cops it was her voodoo doll. Police Chief Addison Woods of Massillon, Ohio, says he went to Helen Merry’s home after her uncle, Jim Harris, said she had been acting strangely. Jim said the woman wouldn’t let him in the house and worried about her mother, his sister. Cops said they entered the home and found Lena Merry, 83, dead on the couch. Her daughter, Helen, 60, told them the body was her voodoo doll and that she didn’t know where her mother was.

These women were once my neighbors. Every summer, I used to see Helen gathering dandelions in our yard. I was a child when I saw her for the first time, and she explained to me that the greens were good for salad. I thought that was odd, since my family’s salads were iceberg lettuce from the supermarket. I understood her name as “Miss Mary.” I didn’t know her correct surname until I read it in the newspaper. Apparently, her story got national attention, and not just in the tabloids. When I went away to college, I discovered that the only association anyone had with my home town was its famous “voodoo doll.” Helen Merry died in 1993 at age 73.

Semiotext(e), vol.4, no.1 (1981)

I didn’t see New York City until I was an adult. My parents spent part of their honeymoon in New York and didn’t enjoy it, so we never went there on family vacations. Had I any inkling of what disasters were in store, I would have lingered a while and soaked up the atmosphere of Times Square or the West Village. Instead, I haunted the Collective for Living Cinema, St. Mark’s Bookshop, and sometimes Lincoln Center. On one of my first trips to New York, I bought this issue of Semiotext(e). Of its contents I was most fascinated by the case study of a masochist who, under his “respectable” clothing, had been thoroughly tattooed and mutilated. When I saw Kathryn Bigelow deliver her acceptance speech at the Academy Awards ceremony of 2009, I thought of her name on the masthead of this journal and remembered that she had first come to Hollywood hoping to make a film adaptation of Georges Bataille’s Story of the Eye.

June 1983, Massillon, Ohio

I was in downtown Massillon shooting for a photography class when this kid asked me if I wanted to see a picture. I said yes, and he retrieved a creased “beaver shot” from his back pocket. The boy in the photograph must be nearly middle-aged by now. I wonder what has become of him, and I invent possibilities: he watches Fox News and disdains the “brown menace” of California, a place he barely knows; he sucks off married men he meets online and drinks at the area’s only gay bar, once called Booby’s Why Not Club, now surely called something else; he got the hell out of town, landed in the Inland Empire or the Metroplex, and searched in vain for decent work; he went to an Ivy League school, then worked as a producer in the adult video industry before it all went bust. In pursuit of the American Dream, he may have done all of the above, though not necessarily in the order listed.

Jess, ONCE UPON A TIME… FOR ROBERT, 1966, collage. In Michael Auping, JESS: PASTE-UPS (AND ASSEMBLIES) 1951-1983. (Sarasota: Ringling Museum of Art, 1983) p.77

During the 1980s, I saw a Jess exhibition at the Cleveland Museum of Art, and his work made a strong impression on me, but to this day, I still haven’t found a worthy use for its inspiration. At the time I wasn’t aware that Jess had dedicated Once Upon a Time… to his lover, the poet Robert Duncan. The two created a gay bohemian gesamtkunstwerk at various locations around San Francisco. When he was 17, Stan Brakhage stayed in their basement and had the transcendent experience that led to him becoming the great American filmmaker. Wallace Berman sought refuge in their house after the LAPD closed down his Ferus Gallery exhibition for alleged obscenity. Jess and Robert Duncan met in 1949, and they came to reside together at 3267 Twentieth Street in the Mission District until Duncan died in 1988. Jess passed away in 2004.

THE SMITHS, album released February 20, 1984 by Rough Trade Records (Rough 61)

The Smiths’ first album suggests the world of a working class youth with a taste for revenge. There is no role for him to play in the industrial wasteland where he was raised, so he writes his own story. He assumes poses that will be useful when fame and fortune beckon. He tries to avoid being beaten up or ground down. He wants to relive the old school days, this time with a sense of mastery. He relies on the favors of older men and ultimately resents the situation, or perhaps he only fantasizes about it. He rejects the advances of well-meaning female friends. He falls into the abyss of unrequited passion. A sense of menace pervades the scene, but the action remains unconsummated.

William E. Jones, born 1962 in Ohio, now lives and works in Los Angeles. His films and videos include MASSILLON, FINISHED, THE FALL OF COMMUNISM AS SEEN IN GAY PORNOGRAPHY and IS IT REALLY SO STRANGE?. His work has been shown at Tate Modern, Cinémathèque française, Musée du Louvre, International Film Festival Rotterdam, Sundance Film Festival, Whitney Museum of American Art and Museum of Modern Art, with retrospectives at Anthology Film Archives (2010), Austrian Film Museum and Oberhausen Film Festival (2011). His books include KILLED: REJECTED IMAGES OF THE FARM SECURITY ADMINISTRATION (2010) and HALSTED PLAYS HIMSELF, forthcoming in 2011.


Tuesday, January 18th, 2011


— Georgia Baptist Hospital is on Boulevard in the Old Fourth Ward of Atlanta. The Ward was home to Martin Luther King Jr.’s SCLC among many other outposts. I was born at this hospital and brought home by my mother in 1977 to Inman Park, the neighborhood just blocks to the east. The city was my home until age 19. Most of my hours wiled away within a few zip codes all on the east side of town—liberal pockets in, at that time, a Dixiecrat city.

It was my early metropolis, another side of Paris.

From top to bottom:
Ponce De Leon, 1983 photo George Mitchell
The Trolley Barn, Inman Park, circa 1978, photo Gale Mull
Elizabeth Street, Inman Park, circa 1978, photo Gale Mull
Elizabeth Street, Inman Park, circa 1978, photo Gale Mull
Elizabeth Street, Inman Park, circa 1978, photo Gale Mull
Elizabeth Street, Inman Park, circa 1978, photo Gale Mull
Gale, Holly Allen & Wayne Mull, Tom Tuten, photo Vivian Mull, Elizabeth Street, circa 1978
Elizabeth Street, Inman Park, circa 1978, photo Gale Mull
Elizabeth Street, Inman Park, circa 1978, photo Gale Mull
Elizabeth Street, Inman Park, circa 1978, photo Gale Mull
Elizabeth Street, Inman Park, circa 1978, photo Gale Mull
The right of way, 1983 photo George Mitchell
Plaza Drugs, 1983 photo George Mitchell
Outside Plaza Drugs, 1983 photo George Mitchell
A painting by J.J. of L.A., 1983 photo George Mitchell
J.J. of L.A., 1983 photo George Mitchell
From Inman Park to Cabbage Town, December 31, 2010, shot by the artist
Stratosphere House, Cabbage Town, December 31, 2010, shot by the artist
Stratosphere House, Cabbage Town, December 31, 2010, shot by the artist
Green’s Package Store, 1983 photo George Mitchell
Ponce De Leon, 1983 photo George Mitchell
La Femme au Perroquet, Edouard Manet, 1866, Collection Metropolitan Museum of Art

Carter Mull is an artist living and working in Los Angeles. His work addresses the intertwined relationships between consumption, time and everyday life via the production and exhibition of matrices of drawing, video, photography and installation.


Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

BILLY RUANE (1957 – 2010)

— Billy first appeared in my peripheral vision sometime in the mid eighties, looking like a junior law partner in the middle of a lost weekend: blazer, good shoes, trench coat if the weather required it, hair perpetually growing out of a respectable cut. I would see him at parties looking glazed, tie hanging loose or stuffed in his pocket, shirt unbuttoned to reveal a hairless chest, flushed from his spastic-balletic Cossack dancing. I got to know him a little when I was dating a motorcycle mechanic who he called on—weekly, it seemed—to patch up the scooter that got him around town. He would wheel his bashed-in Honda up to A—’s driveway after a late-night fender bender and then stay on talking to whoever was around. He could hold forth on a sweeping range of cultural topics… Hank Snow, covers of Hank Snow songs, snowshoeing, the snowy climes of Eastern Europe, until eventually he was extolling the healing properties of his favorite brand of Russian mineral water or critiquing Nabokov’s translation of Eugene Onegin. I got the idea that there was nothing about which he was not enthusiastic, or at least curious. His voice—stentorian, urgent, rushed—told me that his enthusiasm was shot through with mania.

I know now that Billy was a fixture on the Boston rock scene long before I met him, but I wasn’t really traveling in those circles yet, so I began with a different set of associations. My siblings and I were then still operating a rooming house our father had left us when he died, a large Queen Anne Victorian in a quiet West Cambridge neighborhood, which he bought in 1968 and filled up with rent-paying eccentrics. Throughout my childhood, we shared bathroom and kitchen privileges with graduate students, émigrés, intellectuals and pseudo-intellectuals, psychics and skeptics, melancholics, alcoholics, and psychotics. Many of them were permanently unattached men, often brilliant, who lived apart from the traffic of majority opinion and followed no career path of any normal kind. Our dining room was a salon, most active in the small hours, where they aired their counter-intuitive opinions about diet and medicine, government, culture—high, low, and other. Without thinking about it much, I understood Billy as someone who, though he didn’t, might have lived in our house.

When I saw one of our tenants around town there would be a slight hiccup, a momentary adjustment of the domestic/public alignment. It was something I felt with Billy as well. And I began seeing him everywhere: downstairs at Cheapo Records, or in the next aisle at the Russian grocery store, or coming out of the Hong Kong with bags of reeking food, or—this happened often—I would be at the Brattle Theater watching, let’s say, The Reckless Moment, and I’d hear raucous and inappropriate laughter from the dark balcony, and it would be Billy.

Once, he called up and invited me to a movie. We sat in the balcony. He’d brought along a knapsack bulging with bottles of beer, and he offered me one as we sat down. Soon, empties were clanking around at our feet, and my right ear rang with his inappropriate, shouting laughter. (And people were hissing at us in the dark. Let’s say the movie was In a Lonely Place.) He suggested we go for a bite to eat after, and he asked over cheeseburger specials if I wanted to be his girlfriend. I demurred. It wasn’t awkward exactly, but it broke my heart a little the way he looked at me: fondly but with disappointment, like maybe he had overestimated me. There were no hard feelings, though.

By that time, Billy had begun his legendary run booking music several nights a week at the Middle East restaurant. We all knew, even at the time, that we were living through a fertile period of club music, and that Billy was making a lot of it happen. Under the auspices of Helldorado Productions, Billy’s programming was astonishingly eclectic and sometimes visionary. He lived frugally on an allowance from his wealthy father and quietly subsidized his Middle East shows, padding guarantees for bands who needed gas money, or who had equipment stolen on the road, or who just hadn’t drawn the crowd he felt they deserved. It’s a story often told, and I wouldn’t be the one to tell it anyway. I spent my share of time in the back room at the Middle East, though, where he presided: greeting and kissing and dancing shamanically, screaming encouragements, taking the stage between acts to spin marathon toasts and free-associate from stacks of index cards (and, sometimes, to carry on shouting matches with off-mic staff members).

As for me, I was cocktail waitressing at Green Street Station in Jamaica Plain—a roadhouse on the gloomy fringe of the scene, popular with bikers and local drunks, or at least those who were sufficiently wet-brained or deaf to tolerate the all-ages metal shows. The air was heavy with the sadness of a thousand coke binges. Compared to the Middle East, it seemed like a terrible place to work, but it was all I could get. I wanted to tend bar, but the manager only hired his kickboxing buddies for that. I did a lot of languishing and fuming at Green Street. From my vantage point Billy’s Helldorado Productions cast an Apollonian glow. On my nights off I’d head over to Central Square, where I’d be greeted by Billy (if by no one else) like a visiting dignitary.

My solution, eventually, was to move out of town. We had long since gotten rid of the rooming house, and the tenants had scattered or been reabsorbed into the city. Many old friendships didn’t hold up, but Billy, in his way, was constant. I’d run into him on the street or in a bar, or I’d stop by his apartment and find him amid the teetering stacks of VHS tapes and Chinese take-out containers, and he would press into my hand one of his wonderful mixtapes, annotated in tiny Helldorado font: music for the drive home. India Adams, George Shearing, T.S.O.P., Terry Allen.

Once, I dropped in on Billy’s Monday night show at the Green Street Grill (the one in Central Square, not my old haunt, which had since become an Irish pub, then the world’s most sinister preschool, until finally it was knocked down to make room for condominiums.) Billy spotted me from the stage and worked me into his introduction: “A special surprise guest tonight, Ladies and Gentlemen, all the way from Philadelphia, Miss Mimi Lipson. Give her a hand, people.”

The thing to remember here is that I was one of hundreds, maybe thousands of people who got the royal treatment from Billy Ruane.

Fifteen years went by in snapshots. Sometimes Billy was doing well, sometimes not. There were occasional phone calls, a few inexplicably angry ones, but he was always glad to see me. Once, for no apparent reason, he wired me $300 Western Union. I called him and told him I wouldn’t accept the money. I was a little hurt, actually; it felt like the friendship equivalent of a $50 bill on the dresser. But I came to realize that, as he became less involved in booking music, his epic generosity took on other forms. When I saw him now, he always seemed to be buying rounds for his ever-expanding public. His father bought him a condominium, but he let friends stay there and kept to the teetering stacks and leaky roof of his old apartment. Eventually, I took him up on his repeated offer and stayed at the condo myself.

Billy was sitting at his computer in his apartment in Cambridge the night his heart gave out, probably weakened by decades of guzzling caffeine pills, prescription speed, and mega-doses of B vitamins. Within hours, the Internet was crowded with reactions to his death. A vigil was announced, and a wake, and plans were set in motion for a memorial. I was in another city, seeing the events unfold on my own computer screen. I googled, refreshed, clicked on links, looking for consolation. After a few days, though, I began to sense my own Billy Ruane vanishing in a snow globe of public commentary.
The last time I saw him was New Years Eve at the Plough and Stars. He was wearing a black overcoat and, as always, a plungingly unbuttoned shirt. His hair was brushed back from his bloated face in two white crests. I introduced him to my boyfriend and tried, unsuccessfully, to buy him a drink. Later, my boyfriend said Billy reminded him of an old Tammany Hall ward heeler. Actually, that’s not a bad analogy for the thing that Billy did. Look through the comment threads, the bouquets left on his Facebook ™ Wall ™. You’ll see there a tag cloud of corporeality: Billy Ruane conjured by kiss, laugh, dance, sweat and stubble.

This is what we’ve lost: a physical, door-to-door kind of scene-building that will never rule the day again in this age of so-called social media. I refer not just to his tireless distribution of Middle East fliers in six-point font, his mixtape cassettes and free drinks, but also the stubble, the sweat, the crazy spastic dancing, the hooting laugh, the persistent odor of fried won tons that collectively, urgently signified: Billy Ruane.

All images by Wayne Valdez.

Mimi Lipson was born in Ithaca, NY in 1965 and grew up in Cambridge, MA. She currently lives in Kingston, NY. She works at Bard College, writes, and makes rather unusual stained glass. Her chapbook FOOD & BEVERAGE is available from All-Seeing Eye Press.


Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

ONDAK 1972/2010

Roman Ondák was born in 1966, in Zilina, Slovakia. He is currently considered one of the most significant representatives of neo-conceptual strategies. He was a DAAD scholarship holder in Berlin (2007 – 2008) and he has presented his projects at individual exhibitions, among others, at Kunstverein Cologne (2004), Tate Modern, London (2006), Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich (2007), Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco (2008) and Museum of Modern Art, New York (2009). His works have been displayed in many group exhibitions and projects including Manifesta (1996 and 2000), Utopia Station at the 50th Venice Biennial (2003), Sao Paulo Biennale (2006), and at Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2005) and Centre George Pompidou, Paris (2009), etc.