Filed under: Aesthetics, art, Philosophy | Tags: art, Cai Guo-Qiang, ethics, Nancy, Ontology, taking-place, zones of undecidability
Cai Guo-Qiang, Self-Portrait: A Subjugated Soul, 1985/89
From the first time encountering this image, the associations with a handful concepts were inescapable. In one fell swoop, ideas of subjectivity, energy, temporality, the trace, eventality, halos, and (most interestingly) incandescence glisten in the flow of attention when standing before the Qiang’s image.
Multiple passages from Jean-Luc Nancy’s The Experience of Freedom speak to this flash of bundled energy in the act of taking-place or becoming that Qiang’s self-rendering seems to record. In one particular instance, Nancy writes of the ontological dimensions of freedom’s flare (82):
…freedom is itself nothingness, which does not negate itself properly speaking, but which, in an pre-or paradialectical figure of the negation of negation, affirms itself by making itself intense.
The intensification of the nothingness does not negate its nothing-ness: it concentrates it, accumulates the tension of the nothingness as nothingness (hollowing out the abyss, we cold say…), and carries it to the point of incandescence where it takes on the burst of an affirmation. With the burst–lightning and bursting, the burst of lightning–it is the strike of one time, the existing irruption of existence.
This radiance occurs at the border between the formless being that lays beyond representation and representations of humanity that take on a determinate form or another. It is the most basic point of our existence where ontological and ethical categories blur and come into play with each other.
Qiang’s gesture shows a trace of a human being that at a point in time glistens with a particular intensity, radiates heat and energy, and warps and bends the field around him. At some points the halo surrounding the figure crackles with electric flashes whose ardor match that of the body.
In the halo’s dark singes it is difficult to determine whether each ray is a wayward flash straying outward from the body or if the body is attempting to collect loose bits of energy from the surrounding environment to concentrate and make possible that blinding flash of light that burns the parchment of our world. The halo allows itself to radiate and dissipate outwards in a faint light to reveal the dark, unknown form that captivates our attention.
Filed under: art, Chicano, Los Angeles, Video | Tags: Alla, Eddie Martinez, Gary Garay, Josh Kun, Oscar Zeta Acosta
About a month ago, a discussion on the Art and Music of Post-Mexico by Josh Kun at Boston’s ICA got our juices flowing. More than that, it gave us some considerable material to reflect upon, which we hope to share sooner or later on our pages here at tirado/thrown. We hope to do so once we have a some more developed reflections ready to go.
Among the trove of exquisite finds Kun shared with those in attendance was the work of Gary Garay, whose evocative work retrieves and re-imagines some of the basic elements of Mexican-American life: paletas, Nike Cortez shoes, “Grandes Exitos” collections, sheepskin seat covers, brick cell phones, cinder blocks, pagers and so on. He’s got a wealth of images to offer from the sources he draws upon. A favorite of ours is The Last Buffalo (above), an ink drawing that almost immediately calls to mind the original Brown Buffalo, Oscar Zeta Acosta, and a painting by Eddie Martinez, Val Kilmer’s James Brown. One part celebration and another part lament, it appears to melancholically announce the loss and disappearance of the Chicano as a robust cultural figure in American life.
As a part of LACMA’s Phantom Sightings show–which we hope to check out when it arrives at New York’s Museo del Barrio in March 2010– the county museum has an interview with Garay that goes into how he treats his source material. More to come in time.
Filed under: art, Items | Tags: cosmos, forms, geometry, Maya, pyramids, virtuality
Rhizome, a favorite website here at tirado/thrown, directs our attention to these animated gifs from artist MDCCLXIV. At first, they resembled little more the Mayan temple’s ziggurat cousins to us. But a close eye on the way the images unfold rewarded us with the deceptively simple geometric patterns that give structures like those in Tikal the austere rigidity to peek their tops out over the jungle canopy. The contrast created by the crayon and pastel-colored gradations only heighten the possibility of grasping the geometry at work- breathing, pulsing, spinning, rising and falling. From the name of the series from which these pieces belong, “About the Field of Statistics”, there’s quite possibly some mathematical ontology to be had here.
The initial allure of these pieces comes on the heels of a day where chats, discussions, phone calls, and re-established connections with friends and relatives from Guatemala and Honduras occupied a great deal of time. They’re potent, abstract reminders of a land and culture that’s in our cells and are yet to discover here at tirado/thrown. On this occasion they were even more potent than photos of the pyramids themselves, in that their truth resided precisely in their rendering as virtual, which was more faithful to the nature of the highly mediated communicatons conducted via cell and internet than a photo or video of a temple itself (which served more as a secondary reference than anything).
Filed under: Architecture, art, Ideas, Music, Uncategorized | Tags: Animation, Architecture, Experience, Music, Sea and Cake, Sound and Vision, Video
Here at tirado/thrown, we heartily anticipate the end of the winter. With the clear light and the cold air, we’re slowly attempting to shed the frozen snow that stubbornly sticks to the ground here in Boston (but not before the upcoming Agamben post, though).
The Sea and Cake’s cover of David Bowie’s “Sound and Vision” is the perfect song for this time of year. They take on Bowie with a blast of cold Chicago air and fashion a tempered interpretation that does not threaten the original version’s excitement and buoyancy.
In an issue of loud paper a number of years ago, The Sea and Cake’s lead singer Sam Prekop professed his love for the work of Mies Van Der Rohe. Lines, glass, light, and steel, Van Der Rohe’s architecture trades in the very basic terms of experience and dwelling.
It’s not entirely surprising then, that the video above marshals high-modern experimental animation to offer a visual expereince well-coordinated with a song that is about experience, broadly conceived: wonder, awakening, anticipation, becoming alive, the senses sparkening and opening to the world. The above video is vitalism wrapped in the guise of a collected, though vibrant, formalism. Here’s to ushering the end of Winter.
UPDATE: A far better version of the video is up on Pitchfork.tv, which I recommend over the video I posted above.
Filed under: art, Flaneurie, Ideas, Poetry, Politics, Psychoanalysis, Uncategorized | Tags: City of Work, ICite, ideology, Language, meaning, Michael Lewy, Ontology, speculations, word clouds
The image above is from artist Micheal Lewy’s City of Work tumblr. (His website is well worth paying a visit.) It caught my attention in light of some reflections at ICite that I’ve been following at a distance concerning the phenomena of word clouds and their relation to language, poetry, politics, psyche, and symbolic efficiency. It started with this post, and has so far continued here and here. Juxtaposing the blog posts and Lewy’s work raised more questions than answers.
First, some questions regarding the relationship of Lewy’s piece to language, its social use, and the piece’s orientation as an artwork. If, as ICite argues, word clouds flatten sense and the possibilities of meaning (through ’marking a moment’, or being a form of secondary orality, a trace of chatter, or a positionless marker of intensity, etc.), does Lewy’s rendering of office lingo serve to pit this terminology against itself? In effect, the piece seems to expose the terminology’s flatness, its lack of tonality, and its reliance on the frequency and intensity of its use in our working lives. Could it be argued that Lewy’s piece is a parody of technical applications of language upon the seemingly neutral language of work?
A second group of questions arise with respect to discourse, psyche, ontology, and politics. Is workplace jargon an apparatus of master discourse reliant upon biopolitical coersion to acheive its politcal-economic ends? Does it not reveal that the language of work is not merely natural, but vulnerable to a decline in symbolic efficiency?
It would seem that Lewy’s ‘work cloud’ brings to sharper relief the contingent properties of social relations, capitalism included.
Filed under: art, Music, Rock, Video | Tags: Jamaica Plain, Neptune, Rock, Video, Zea Barker
Neptune is more than just a local favorite at tirado/thrown. Yes, the band’s record, Gong Lake was the subject of one the firsts posts on this blog. But Neptune more than just represent Jamaica Plain, the neighborhood this publication calls home. They are ceaseless laborers and innovators, entirely committed to their craft of making music with the instruments they create: equal parts luthiers, drum makers, metal smiths, sculptors, creators of things from found and unwanted objects, circuit benders, and songwriters. Neptune are heralds of a present time perpetually displaced and deferred, though already here.
Performed and produced by multi-disciplinarian Zea Barker, the video for Neptune’s Grey Shallows is a piece documenting effort, motion, position, and gesture suddenly seized and frustrated within the confines of limited space. An easy visual analogy for an existence trapped inside a cubicle? That would be one way to approach the video, but a little too easy and practical a metaphor.
Another way to consider the video is through the use of the scenery’s limited space, which conditions and binds Barker’s movements and frames her exertions. Her movements are alternately manic and elegant, frenetic and graceful, energetic and exhausted. All the while, Neptune’s track moves along, suddenly setting itself at a humming idle to seek out the next direction to carry its sound. From there the verse acts as a means for the song to measure where it stands in the field of sound. The chorus offers a temporary resolution by propelling the song out of boredom and stasis.
What seems to matter most is the dynamism dwelling between the opposite poles of activity and manner represented in vision and sound. With Grey Shallows, Barker and Neptune summon a thoroughly tactile, and at times uneasy, relationship with the environments they dwell in, making something out of what is otherwise seen as nothing or useless, with marvelous results.
Filed under: Aesthetics, Anthropology, art, Chicano, Latinos | Tags: border crossing, cybernetics, exhibition value, low riders, post-chicano, profanation, technology
Artist Ruben Ortiz Torres digs into his archives and offers his readers at For the Record a video piece entitled Custom Mambo (1992, 5 min., 13 sec). It’s a marvelous study replete with kaleidoscopic imagery and multiple juxtapositions: Mexican folk iconography with 1950s and 60s American pop culture symbols, dancing cars set against women dancing at car shows, signs of the dangerous, furtive, and panicked border crossings contrasting the relaxed, low-and-slow car cruise. Ortiz brings these signs of arrival into American consumer life, highlighting in them the desire for recognition in a cultural setting that relegates such ingenuity and communication to the margins of American culture. Custom Mambo also shows the technology of low-rider culture to be a kind of proto-cybernetics, giving cars the capacity to take on human qualities of gesture, movement, and storytelling beyond through aesthetic intervention. About these re-tooled, re-constituted wonders, Torres-Ortiz notes:
These “rides” constitute an effort to be noticed in a society that doesn’t want to see the people that ride them. I hope the video conveys the overwhelming experience of the Dyonisian “beauty” that escapes any notion of rationality and at the same time hints at some of the problems it raises.
Filed under: art, Latinos, Music, Politics, Rock | Tags: Chicanos, culture, El Vez, El Vez of Prez, emancipatory culture, Potentialities, Upcoming Shows
Wednesday started off decently enough when I picked up my free copy of the Weekly Dig at the Green Street T stop. Seeing a thumbnail of El Vez sporting the table of contents, I was eager to see what their writer had to say about Robert Lopez’s creation. What followed was a pretty good profile that I found lacking in the end. Then again, for how short the piece was, it was a decent try. The writer’s misuse of the term kitsch worked me up enough to ask whether anyone could get beyond the speechless wonder that comes with encountering El Vez for the first few times.
I’d argue that there’s nothing kitschy. Kitsch is possibly the last word to describe what’s at work in the El Vez character. He recovers certain cultural references from their being relegated to kitschiness. But I digress. Some of the more interesting points the Dig’s writer could have mentioned in reference to Lopez’s work in the guise of El Vez:
- Lopez’ contribution to punk rock history as a member of The Zeros, arguably the first Chicano punk rock band. They were hailed as “The Mexican Ramones”, and played at the Germs first show in 1977.
- Post-Zeros, Lopez moved to L.A. from his native Chula Vista and became keyboardist for Catholic Discipline, a ur-post punk outfit that counted Phranc (nee Susan Gottleib, whose own music would garner her the title of America’s Best Jewish Lesbian Folksinger) and writer Claude Bessy among its members. Footage of Catholic Discipline performing at the Hong Kong Cafe appeared in the quintessential film document of L.A. punk rock, “Decline of Western Civlization”.
- His curatorial and collecting work in the mid-80s with L.A.’s most recognized outre folk art gallery La Luz de Jesus, which ultimately served as the impetus for finally creating the El Vez character in 1988.
- The near cult-status of El Vez as an underground figure. Far from being a musical project, the El Vez juggernaut puts Lopez in the middle of some pretty fascinating goings-on. He’s been on hand to officiate the occasional wedding, such as those of Exene Cervenka and Anton LaVey’s gradson Stanton (suitably on 6/6/2006). In the latter event, El Vez took a turn towards the demonic, appropriately changing forms as Hell Vez, replete with a pitchfork staff and horns peeking out of his pompadour. He has been on hand to celebrate the achievements of burlesque dancers as MC of the Miss Exotic World Pageant in 2007. Even more amazing, he also helped send off fellow shape-shifting San Diegans Rocket from The Crypt during their final Halloween 2005 show, introducing Speedo, Petey X, Apollo 9, Ruby Mars and the rest prior to their blistering set. This is just aside from mentioning his regular performances that have had him sharing stages with Morrissey and Astrid Hadad, and play in the visually stunning west-coast cabaret/circus/dinner theater, Teatro Zinzanni. (It didn’t seem as if the Dig‘s profile writer wasn’t terribly aware of El Vez’s cabaret performances, but it was an acute observation.)
- El Vez’s place as a topic of various cultural studies that have caught the attention of academics in fields as varied as Chicano Studies, Popular Culture Studies, Queer and Women Studies and Comparative Literature. What remains to be thought is the manner in which the performance of the El Vez character bears philosophic meaning. As Lopez’s performance appeals to thinking in a multitude of disciplines and works in topics touching upon the idea of politics, language, social justice, identity, ethics and love, such a treatment is entirely possible.
- Lopez’s role as a primary source in recording the history of Latinos in American rock. He was a key figure in Seattle’s Experience Music Project’s current exhibit, American Sabor. Some impressions of the keynote address he took part in during April’s Pop Muisc Conference here, here, and here. (My thanks to Carolina Gonzalez at Sound Taste for the great coverage.)
- His multi-recording output that proves Lopez’s El Vez as a master of detrournement, taking on the shapes and images of rock history and popular, both in sound and image, from Bowie and Paul Simon, to The Clash and Brian Eno, from Mexican flyweight boxers and mambo kings to Santa Claus. Of course, his send ups of El Rey are as loving as Astrid Hadad’s take on Lucha Reyes.
Lopez’ genius lies in the way he works as a cultural super-collider, turning themes and references from various quarters on their heads giving them new relevance by enframing them in El Vez’s distinctly (and multiply) chicano perspective. Notice how Lopez uses El Vez by layering the chorus of James Brown’s I’m Black and I’m Proud over Public Enemy’s Welcome to the Terrordome. In the process, he takes issue with Chuck D’s dislike of Elvis from Fight the Power and internalizes J.B.’s pride in a way that shows a certain solidarity between African-Americans and Latinos in the U.S. In an act that only makes El Vez even more complex, Lopez gives the Elvis character the appearance of a militant in a camouflage jumpsuit and bandoleer, offering up the possibility that even one of the most commodified figures in the pop culture pantheon, The King of Rock and Roll, can speak the language of emancipation.
So my point? That the Dig’s profile could have benefitted from better advance intelligence.
Rant aside, El Rey de Rocanrol will be making his Boston campaign stop on Monday, August 11 at The Middle East in Cambridge. He’ll be doing his style-bending brand of politicking, brining along props, costumes, and a town hall format that will have you longing for the possibility that politics can be conducted in a manner that’s far better, more exciting, and Chicano-fied than we’re used to seeing in these parts.
Here’s some early punk rock-era footage of a pre-El Vez Robert Lopez (far right), quietly doing his work with the Zeros in 1977. See you at the show.