Archive for June, 2012


Friday, June 22nd, 2012

— I grew up in Miami in the 1970s. My father used to come home early in the mornings after a long night of overtime, unclip the holster from his belt, pour himself a tall glass of milk and say, “Ah crime pays.” My mom carried her holster in her purse and in a pinch was as likely to pull out a ratty hairbrush as a 38. My dad worked the midnight shift. His car had Dade Country Crime Scene painted on the sides. My mom was an undercover narcotics agent and always had a different car – ones that were non-descript and which apparently you were not supposed to transport children in. I know this because my sister and I did a lot of crouching on the floor when we would enter certain parking lots. We would stay hunched over- mind you I was probably three feet tall at the time and my hunching was unnecessary- and move quickly into our own car where we again would lay low until we were outside the parking lot. Suitcases might appear from a trunk and be moved to another waiting car. Despite my parents line of work, despite the influx of Cuban exiles and boatloads of Haitian refugees floating up on the shores and despite Miami being the murder capital of the country – it seemed a pretty dull place to grow up. I remember Thurston Moore recalling when he was visiting Miami in those years, seeing an ad in the Herald that said, “if anyone has heard of The Clash, please call me”. That really gets across the isolation and general feeling of being a teenager in an endless string of sunny days in a city of retired people.

Through out the late 60s and all through the 70s, I spent a lot of time on Miami Beach – first with my grandparents and later as a teenager taking my first photos. Somewhere in the early 80’s, having secured a job at Peaches Records and Tapes, I quit The Clog Shop on 163rd street and dropped out of high school. I was no longer living at either of my parent’s houses (they divorced when I was eight) but was bouncing around between my friend’s parents houses, my grandmother’s condo in a retirement village and pretty much blowing it in every situation I landed. The order of things gets a little foggy here but I did get my GED and enrolled in Miami Dade Community College. I got a little apartment in North Miami for a brief spell and through all the haze and chaos of those years I continued to photograph Miami Beach. Then, encouraged by the sixteen dollars I won in the Miami Dade Community College photography contest, I headed north.

I had gotten a ride to Boston and was staying at a friend’s apartment. I experienced my first snow and randomly met a bunch of punker art-school kids. They seemed to have it all going on. Thrift store dresses, army boots and shaved heads. I had no idea how old they were, I had no idea what punks were, they just seemed to be from mars (as it turned out they were from Martha’s Vineyard and weren’t actually very punk in their musical taste but more into records like The English Beat and Rock-a-Billy tunes by the Collins Kids) All my life I had suspected cool shit was going on all over the place if you could just get yourself north of Tallahassee and it was all proving true. I knew these kids (if they even were kids) were better educated, more cultured, and just generally better for having grown up someplace other than Florida. Within a week of being in Boston I enrolled in night classes at Mass Art and when I was invited to flop on a couple of the art-school kids couch, I was so totally fearful of them seeing my corny Miami photos that I destroyed them all. I remember tearing them up and throwing them in a dumpster on my way to buy some plaid trousers. I felt a real need to disassociate myself with all things Miami especially since the old timers and the Mahjong scene was being quickly replaced by Miami Vice, body builders and super tanned rollerbladers.

I can’t recall exactly where I first discovered Andy Sweet’s photos but it wasn’t long after moving north, probably in some bookstore in Boston. In any case, seeing images of Miami Beach in a different context had a real effect. I can still conjure up the physical pain I got in my gut. Seeing Sweet’s photographs outside the glare of Miami, I realized that my own photos were probably, some of them at least, possibly pretty ok, maybe even good. They were at the very least pictures of a unique time and place that was already fading away. If only, back when I was out there on Ocean Drive, with my Pentax K-1000 – If only I could have stumbled into Andy Sweet’s photographs or for that matter Stephen Shore’s. Even if I had just seen some little bit of good art as a kid I think I could have had a whole different experience. If I had met anyone, just any one person along the way that had heard of The Clash those years could have all been so different.

Andy Sweet was murdered in 1982 in the City of Miami Beach in The Carmel Villas Apartment Complex. He was stabbed 29 times. Approximately 99 color photographs were taken from the scene. My dad sent me a copy of the crime scene report; blood splatters run at a 45 degree angle, two ashtrays are over turned, there is a wooden box on the bed, TV is tuned to channel 7…

Twenty years after Sweet’s murder a local storage facility lost all the negatives of his work. His parents rented the space which advertised “Museum Quality Storage” for 10 years, paying the $25 a month fee until they received a notice alerting them that the five boxes of negatives could not be located. The Sweet family was paid $1 per box in keeping with the agreement they signed in 1992.

After you get some distance from a place, you realize there were some things you liked after all. And one of those things for me was the Miami Beach that is represented in Sweet’s photography. These photos come from the now out-of-print book entitled MIAMI BEACH.

Kelly Reichardt was born in 1964 in Miami, Florida. She lives and works in New York City. Her feature debut RIVER OF GRASS (1994) was acknowledged at many international festivals. Her second feature, OLD JOY (2006), won a Tiger Award at the 2007 Rotterdam Festival. WENDY AND LUCY (2008) had its premiere in Cannes and her most recent film, MEEKS CUTOFF (2010), premiered as part of the Official Section at Venice Film Festival. In the 2012 her work was included in the Whitney Biennial. Reichardt is currently Artist-in-Residence in Film and Electronic Arts at Bard College, New York.


Friday, June 22nd, 2012

— In the past eight years I’ve spent a lot of time in Columbus, Ohio, at the home of Bernard and Linda Beck. Bernard and Linda’s house is a record of their life together – it is full of emotional portraits they’ve made of each other and of themselves, as well as portraits (of self, mother, father) by their daughter Bianca. Their house was formerly a duplex, so it has a nearly symmetrical structure – every room has its double on the other side. This doubling is continued and amplified throughout the house as the family members are mirrored and echoed in various portraits.

This is a song that Linda recorded in the eighties with Eric Shinn and Lucy Jimison:


And these are some more of Bernard’s paintings:

The initial impact of Bernard’s paintings is strong and sudden. As objects and images they often appear to be quite blunt or direct – their space is compressed, their subjects are immediately and centrally present, their colors and contrast are vivid and clear – but over time this frankness is transformed into something else: a chain of questions. “How did this painting come to be? What space is this? Where am I now and how with these figures, these things?” The paintings grow in my mind and in front of me, becoming gradually more potent and more fascinating.

The language in Linda’s songs is always clear and classical and intense. The songs themselves are formally and sonically seductive – alive and catchy, full of beguiling musical details – yet within them I am slowly led to the same sorts of questions and sensations that I find in Bernard’s paintings. I become gently disoriented, even in the midst of familiar words and feelings and musical structures. In Linda’s songs (as in Bernard’s paintings) things are always somewhat strange to begin with, but this strangeness changes and vibrates in new ways as time is spent within it.

For the past year Bianca and I have been staying in the home of Tuli Kupferberg and Sylvia Topp. Tuli was an artist and poet and performer – he was involved in a lot of wild and intelligent and positive things in his life, but he’s best known for his activities as a member of the band The Fugs. He passed away in 2010 and left behind an apartment full of books, as well as an archive of writings, drawings, and recordings of various sorts. Tuli’s daughter Samara and her boyfriend Brendan have been organizing all these things for a while now, but when they moved to Maine last year no one was living in the apartment, so Samara asked us if we’d like to stay here.

This is a recording that Tuli made sometime close to the end of his life:


One night Samara, Brendan, Bianca, and I were listening to some of Tuli’s cassette tapes and we found this song. Tuli would record one song idea at the beginning of a cassette and leave the rest of the tape blank. A lot of his songs are about mortality, so this relationship between song and silence is both apt and intense. It was amazing that night to hear Tuli’s voice come so roughly to life and then slip abruptly into the hiss of blank tape.

While we’ve lived here I’ve also thought a lot about these drawings that Tuli made in the fifties. It’s hard to grasp them by saying what they are – they resemble simultaneously journals and poems, cartoons and jokes, stories and notations. They are all these things, drawn out in an elliptical near-narrative way. Each one is a time warp – spending time with them is similar to the experience of living here in this apartment that feels like another, lost version of New York. I look at these drawings and wonder “Is this what life was like then? Is it like this now?”

Josh Brand was born in 1980 in Elkhorn, Wisconsin. He lives and works in New York City, where his art was included in the 2010 Whitney Biennial. One-person exhibitions of Brand’s photographs have been presented at White Columns, NY; Herald St, London; and Misako & Rosen, Tokyo. His most recent show was “Nature” at Herald St in January 2012. He is a member, with Richard Aldrich, Peter Mandradjieff, and Zak Prekop, of the band Hurray.


Friday, June 22nd, 2012


— Walter Benjamin had it wrong when he spoke of the loss of “aura” in the age of mechanical reproduction. In his essay, film has all the radiance of a postcard. Perhaps he was always wrong? In that place, time, audience, projection speed and print damage meant each screening could have its unique flavor and memory. Seeing Hollywood features in the balcony of a Newark, New Jersey downtown theater, its floor crunchy with popcorn, sticky with candy and noisy with audiences who did not hesitate to speak back to the screen, is one such example. Experiencing Do The Right Thing in a spic & span New Jersey shopping mall with a largely white audience who walked out head bowed is another. Going to a drive-in movie as a pre-teen where the prints were so beat up and “reproduced,” the advertised pizza looked like nothing but a bloody bruise slipping off the screen – hysteric materiality – unforgettable.

Now, with the rise of digital reproduction, its endless and presuming exact cloning – it appears film has become rarer and rarer, and thus, full of aura. Film has no longer the pretense of an infinitely repeatable production but exists as a nearly extinct species. Its glories renewed, revived and praised when a preserved print is shown – shockingly precise and at full resolution – a silky shine clinging to its industrial past. Not so much nostalgic, though there is some of that operative – but rather, a physicality, a depth, a “look” that neither video, HD, nor digital can project. The rise of these new technologies successfully redefine film: celluloid as industry is defunct, hail celluloid as art!

Examples abound. The print itself becoming rarer and rarer as stocks go out of production – whether Kodachrome, acetate print stock altogether, or reversal ultimately. The print becomes unreproduceable. Films that were shot in or printed in Kodachrome can be so no longer. Thus, the five copies of my film Ornamentals (1977) are now a limited edition. Or Nathaniel Dorsky, an artist who has shot Kodachrome exclusively, is experimenting with other film stocks but cannot get the same contrast or reds that that original camera stock contained. As aspects of prints fade, much as a painting might crack or become dirty over time, the film begins to disappear. The 100-year history of film is chockablock with lost originals and/or prints and now, prints can’t always be recovered because of fading or breakage. Such an example, Mutiny (1982) used workprint to cut in with reversal original. Workprint was/is developed differently than original. It is not intended to last and indeed it has not. It has gone red – the magenta that celluloid aspires to (as with tulips, whose original color is red). This means there is difficulty in getting the footage to what it was; this means only one print remains without scratches, cuts or broken sprockets. Thus Mutiny is a mono-print, the only print. The implications are large: I hesitate to show it except at forums where the projection is controlled and I am in attendance. Suddenly a populist medium has become that of the specialist.

Perhaps in the more rarified atmosphere of the art film, the experimental film or independent film, this has always been the case. Many prints of Report (1967), which Bruce Conner distributed personally, were actually monoprints, in that he would tinker with individual prints extensively. I have seen at least four different versions in which the montage changes, sometimes in length, sometimes in the image itself. It was a privilege to buy one of these prints that had its cut-ups intact.

Then again prints get scratched. They are such “tender” vehicles of image and emotion (however deep their impact). The scratches disturb rhythms, undo meaning, destroy aesthetics. And there might very well be no existent negative. The film/digital divide makes me think of the divisions between oil painting and acrylic from the mid-twentieth century. I can only hope that just as oil painting survived with small producers, celluloid will as well. Am I being unjustifiably optimistic?

Ironically film is, in some ways, cheaper than digital: does not need computers that change every year, does not need ever-changing software or more memory. Instead its mechanical machines last for 20, even 30 years, and do just as well as they did in their original state. It was Arthur Jafa (aka “AJ,” marvelous cameraman for Daughters of the Dust and Crooklyn) who taught me how to make video look like film. I told my students video could do this. But I lied. Recently shooting film I realized how wrong I was. As of now, film remains, what AJ calls, the gold standard of image making—what “is considered definitive.” A nineteenth century relic then, or is film the definitive icon?

When one sees film, the image shudders, there is a little shake as the film moves through its sprockets – it reflects tenderness, fragility, mortality. Like rockets blasting into space, it has hubris and a mortal life. It recovers and uncovers a world. Like the touch of a lover, it has a remembered feel, smoothness and depth, a purity of complex light. It is silky without flatness. It won’t let go. Perhaps because we grew up with this form of representation, one can’t imagine a world without this satisfaction. How could the blank faces of corporate bottom lines allow this to happen? How could machines replace older machines with less authenticity? How is memory erased? Is the future not a projection in a community space, but rather individual peeks at Vimeo? How can the medium go extinct and yet continue its message?

Personally, I can’t let celluloid go. It’s too much fun. The little yellow packages, that like taxis, take you to and fro over the globe and inside communities, architecture, places and peoples. Film challenges you to lug that camera into the world, to observe exactly, succinctly. Not surveillance, but selection. Not anything goes, but everything possible. Not turn on switch and go, but turn on and attend. You find a corner in shadow to change the film and not expose the “daylight” rolls. You remove carefully the pieces that get “left” in the Bolex. You read a light meter and decide whether to shoot for the shadows or for the light. You refocus. These are skills, attitudes, a philosophy of seeing – that will be lost to automatic switches. But it need not be a battle, no need for automatons.

My memories include that of hand-developing reversal film: when the strip of film comes out of its first “bath” in chemicals, it is a negative image covered with a milky caul. A shock of light (a bulb in our set-up) undoes the caul, reverses the negative image and a positive appears: ethereal, shiny, gorgeous, miraculous.

Alternative to such alchemy – I remember getting a print back from a submission (yes we sent prints themselves!) with a deep scratch down the entire film. Or a print coming back with surrealistic timing, the lab having made a mistake. And of course no DVD to mail in when a curator requests same, no Vimeo for programmers to watch in their considerations. Yes. There is gain as well as loss. No doubt.

So – I say hello to digi-land but I reject it too or want to. We are all taken by our corporate sponsors: so clear and so debilitating. My art determined by digi-world where previously it was determined by Kodak? Perhaps yes, yet the digital cameras, the Canon for example, designed to resemble film, makes China look like Staten Island. Film becomes nostalgic, an effect in corporate software – that removes difference and flattens the affect of the person behind the camera.

Am I being nostalgic myself? Writing evolves – stick in dust, stone, ink, pencil, typewriter, computer – and yes there is that difference and it makes a difference. The means reorders my attachment1. All those years of cut and paste and now there is copy and paste. Digital editing serves as both optical printer and editor. The computer supplies you with a copy machine. NO resistance to multiplication. We are industry and industry is us. We are condensed, packaged, replicated (?) for the future. We mediate the medium. We are the mediating heart of the world we are analyzing and inventing. We are pushing the hearts of the world in and out again, pumping, pulsing, perturbed, perplexed, persistent.2

1From my poem LUST, in A MOTIVE FOR MAYHEM, Potes & Poets Press, 1989
2With hat off to Guy Maddin’s 2000 short film HEARTS OF THE WORLD

Abigail Child was born in 1948 in Newark, New Jersey. She has been at the forefront of experimental writing and media since the 1980s, having completed more than thirty film/video works and installations, and written 6 books. An acknowledged pioneer in montage, Child addresses the interplay between sound and image. Her major projects include IS THIS WHAT YOU WERE BORN FOR?: a 9 year, 7-part work; B/SIDE: a film that negotiates the politics of internal colonialism; 8 MILLION: a collaboration with avant-percussionist Ikue Mori that re-defines “music video”; THE SUBURBAN TRILOGY: a modular digi-film that prismatically examines a politics of place and identity; and MIRRORWORLDS: a multi-screen installation that incorporates parts of Child’s “foreign film” series to explore narrative excess. Her most recent film, A SHAPE OF ERROR is constructed as an imaginary home movie of the life of Mary Shelley.

Winner of the Rome Prize (2009-10), a Radcliffe Institute Fellowship (2005), Guggenheim (1996) and Fulbright Fellowships (1993), and the Stan Brakhage Award (2011), as well as participating in two Whitney Museum of American Art Biennials, (1989 and 1997) Child has had numerous retrospectives worldwide. These include Buena Vista Center in San Francisco, Anthology Film Archive (in conjunction with The New Museum, NY), Harvard Cinematheque, Reservoir, Switzerland, EXIS Korea and most recently at the Cinoteca in Rome. Her work has been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art NY, the Whitney Museum, Centre Pompidou, Museo Reina Sofia, and in numerous international film festivals, including New York, Rotterdam, Locarno and London. Harvard University Cinematheque has created an Abigail Child Collection dedicated to preserving and exhibiting her work.

Child is also the author of five books of poetry, among them A MOTIVE FOR MAYHEM, SCATTER MATRIX AND ARTIFICIAL MEMORY, and a book of critical writings: THIS IS CALLED MOVING: A CRITICAL POETICS OF FILM (University of Alabama Press, 2005). As a teacher at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Child has been instrumental in building an interdisciplinary media/film program.


Photo from PREFACES (1981)
by Abigail Child


Friday, June 22nd, 2012

— Here are two photos. One is a photo of my sister at a show of mine and the other is of my cat in my fathers garden. Both are from the this Spring.

Jacob Kassay was born in 1984, in Buffalo, New York. He lives and works in Los Angeles and New York. Solo shows include Art: Concept, Paris; Collezione Maramotti, Reggio Emilia, Italy; Institute of Contemporary Arts, London; Eleven Rivington, New York; and Kitchen Distribution, Buffalo, New York.


Friday, June 22nd, 2012

Pioneer performance artist, Barbara T. Smith began her body-oriented work in 1965. By ‘68 she was creating powerful transformational performances and has continued to the present. The work often externalizes her inner psychic material in mythic rituals, based on issues of gender, spirituality, and sexuality and are integrated with larger cosmic laws and structures. Many pieces are intimate, personal and participatory often extending over many days. Since 1964 has also produced collages, prints, paintings, drawings and sculpturesfrequently related to her performances. Smith has performed throughout the U.S. and abroad and has taught at universities and art institutions around the world. A recipient of several awards and grants, Smith was a founding member of many alternative spaces in L.A. She was included in OUT OF ACTION: BETWEEN THE PERFORMANCE AND OBJECT, 1949-1979 at MOCA (1998); the survey show of L.A. artists at the Pompidou in Paris (2007); and WACK! ART AND THE FEMINIST REVOLUTION (2007) first at MOCA, later at PS1 in New York. In 2008 she had a solo show at Galerie Parisa Kind, Frankfurt and was included in the major Oslo exhibition called WHATEVER HAPPENED TO SEX IN SCANDINAVIA. Her work was included in eight PACIFIC STANDARD TIME (2011-12) exhibitions addressing the histories of performance, feminist art in Los Angeles.