Incandescent Phenomena
December 13, 2009, 2:30 am
Filed under: Aesthetics, art, Philosophy | Tags: , , , , , ,

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=

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.

Cross-posted at the brand-new tirado/thrown tumblr. Be sure to visit there, too!


Bidding the Summer Farewell: Revisiting Some of Its Finer Reads

Link dumps occupy an odd place in the blogging universe, and are to be treated alternately with curiosity, suspicion, and a modicum of heightened alertness.   For one, they are points of reference that fully haven’t been taken in by the poster of said links.  Had the person posting the link truly made the works they reference his/her own, then the poster could just as well dispense with the reference altogether and have the reference return as some artifact or remnant within another work the poster provides (preferably with a link if it’s online).

As with practically everything that is done here at tirado/thrown, the bullet points that follow are not meatballs, but barbecue: charred, gristly, messy, and nearly-indigestible.  However, as a way to look back at the summer that will have just passed on September 22, here are some links to short pieces to that helped make it worthwhile:

  • Boston’s master of experience, James Parker, dwells in the marrow of the MBTA’s scorned jewel, the Orange Line.  Incidentally, the line passes through our beloved Jamaica Plain, where tirado/thrown calls home. [Boston Globe]
  • Though tangled in the throes of a post-racial America (whatever that means), the term “Racism” has some words to offer the kind folks at We Are Respectable Negroes on its use and abuse.  [W.A.R.N]
  • Theory spares us from disasters:  A brilliant interview with Sylvere Lotringer, co-founder of that most abrasive and alluring of publishers, semiotext(e)  .  He speaks with Nina Power on art, the academy, thought, and theory’s ongoing relevance.  [frieze]
  • Our favorite blogs are the ones we are entirely jealous of when we come across them, leaving us wishing that this blog were only as good.  Planomenology is in fact one of those blogs that belong in the class ‘aspirational peers’. The posts can be lenghty at parts, but there’s some visceral and fascinating stuff going on there- not to be missed.  [Planomenology]
  • Another philosophy blog worth paying attention to:  The Inhumanities launches with a discussion of Matthew Callarco’s book, Zoographies, which is sitting on the shelf waiting to be read.  We wish we were better readers, as much as we value our idleness.  However, work towards an articulation of being that includes the world of animals and tilts its spears towards unseating anthropocentrism as a philosophical paradigm is an admirable and necessary task. [Inhumanities]
  • Having just mentioned in passing an outstanding blog with vegan links, we continue with a nod to our ethical impotence.   The New York Times discusses the Sonorense, the Chicano/Mexican contribution to the American hot dog landscape. How could something so wrong just be so good?  For our money, though, Daniel Hernandez’s LA Weekly piece on danger dogs from early 2008 remains the best treatment on the bacon-wrapped hot dog thus far. [NYT]
  • Over at Buddyhead (when was the last we read that???), Chris Checkman offers readers a passionate, bile-laced appraisal of James Carr, whose rendition of “Dark End of the Street” lets us know the Flying Burrito Brothers could conjure up the soul, but not like Carr.  Checkman (aka Papa John, the former host of KXLUs infamous Blues Hotel) should be read with Carr’s music playing loud.  Conveniently, the article has samples of Carr’s output to allow readers just that pleasure. [Buddyhead]
  • Our closer: What if Fantasy Island were actually set on Beirut’s Riviera instead of some tropical island?  We think that visitors would have been welcomed with the sounds in video Filastine Frequencies posted at his blog. There he invites us to imagine a Middle East not besmirched by crackpots, fanatics, and imperialists alike, and witness hybridity at its finest.  The video for the Bendaly Family’s “Do You Love Me?” also leads this post.  [Filastine Frequencies, with a big nod to WayneandWax]

Avoiding Lament with the Joy of the Unexpected

Mercury Fountain

It’s reasonable to suppose that a prompt report comes out of a moving encounter.  In that respect, I make a poor journalist.  But it also takes some time to make sense of what has moved the participant in an encounter.  

You & Me, Sometimes… is an exhibition obscuring the distinction between a private cabinet of curiosity and a curatorial project.  Sandra Antelo-Suarez, founder and editor of TRANS>, assembled an abundance of work and events from over twenty artists in the relatively small confines of a 1.5 floor gallery space.  In this collapse of idiosyncrasy and publicity was a play of discourse neither self-addressed nor intended towards an expectant public.  The press release was a friendly, colloquial, and outgoing letter from Antelo-Suarez to herself (“Sandy”) full of desire and warmth.  It’s a modified soliloquy ask its addressee to partake in her intense interest in the intersections of the social, political, and aesthetic.  The brief visits to the gallery bookending my short trip to New York City were among the most memorable and stimulating surprises.  You and Me, Sometimes… offered an opportunity to happen upon some new works and re-visit some familiar acquaintances in a renewed light. 

While there was more work than could be really taken in a short hour in the gallery, repeated visits were rewarded with events, stagings, and performances.  Among the work that I was able to take in , highlights included a mix of old and new.  Six of Francisco de Goya’s Caprichos lined the foyer’s main wall, including El sueno de la razon produce monstruos.  Arguably, these little pieces were the signs that informed the driving sensibility of You & Me, Sometimes…, where art lingers beside and cuts across quotidian existence.   (Could it be possible that these little pieces influenced the work of a certain Mexican printmaker born twenty-four years after Goya’s death?  Art historians, please let me know.) Paul Ramirez-Jonas‘s work dealt with the potentialities of communication amid the apparatus that purports to aid us in communicating.  (Hopefully, a quick piece on some of his pieces at the show will come in a later post.)  Various works by Alexander Calder in the show jump between formalist and political, such as Three Segments and and his ads protesting the Vietnam War and the abuses of power perpetrated by the Nixon administration. These currents cross in the model of Mercury Fountain on display aside the Caprichos.  Minerva Cuevas contributed her unflinching critiques of concentrated corporate wealth and colonialist power through her multi-media works, including a staging of the Mejor Vida Corporation‘s Donald McRonald intervention outside the Union Square McDonald’s on April 25.  Finally, Fresa Salvaje brought together selected sounds of forgotten latin music that became recognizable upon hearing, courtesy of Aldo Sanchez (aka DJ Papichulo) and Dulce Pinzón.  When not doing their selecting and spinning, Sanchez is an independent curator, and Pinzón is a photographer recognized for her outstanding 2006 photographs, Los Superheroes.  

Both the general form the show took and the variety of works and artists on display illuminate questions about the act of selecting pieces for display and their organization under the designation ‘taste’.   A couple of weeks ago, a short discussion concerning the connections between taste, knowledge, and experience prompted speculation the definition of the term ‘taste’.  Carolina pointed out “a possible relation between sabor (taste, flavor) and saber (knowledge). ¿A qué sabe? What does it taste like? Tasting as a form of knowledge.”  The connection is quite palpable in Spanish, but not so in English.  One does not say in English that a lemon knows sour.  (Jose Iraola’s Simultaneous Translation on display vaguely illustrates the phenomenon of how translation can turn into a game of telephone.)


This speculation on the relation between knowledge and experience quickly led down a rehashing of Kantian contradictions without resolution that were just unproductive.  But some further thinking and a serendipitous reading of The Origin of Philosophy by that philosophical Goya, José Ortega y Gasset, offered a possible clue.  In a discussion of the thinker as a social figure, he takes an effortless etymological detour into the common Indo-European root of the terms of wisdom, knowledge and savoring (tasting) that have left their traces in ourmodern languages.  His discussion suggests is that taste is less about a possessed knowledge, but an exposure to openness “…always referring, however, to a non-theoretical, still non-existent type of knowledge.” (116)   From this suggestion we can imply that taste is the possibility that artistic production can convey both the knowledge of producing beautiful sense experiences and sense experiences whose beauty make knowing more knowable.  And it’s that very simple possibility that resides throughout You & Me, Sometimes…: that contact with the very edge of another’s sensibility can yield knowledge about the world we inhabit and the way we approach it.

How can I not end a post without a video?  It’d be cruel of me to not do so.  It’s the least I can do to reward your having made it from one end of the post to the other without clicking out. Here’s some priceless footage of Camilo Sesto meeting his promotional obligations for a then freshly-cut record, Solo un Hombre.  Check out Fresa Salvaje.  You & Me, Sometimes… ends Saturday, May 3.

Late March NYC Weekender
March 27, 2008, 12:26 am
Filed under: art, Music, Rock | Tags: , , , , ,

Light Cycle Explosion

There are times when there’s enough available time to squeeze in a quick weekend jaunt. In this case, circumstances are such that a quick 36-hour trip to New York City is materializing. Since I’m expecting to arrive at around 3:30 or 4:00 on Saturday afternoon, I have to be hasty as to reach my first destination before it closes. And the weekend should be pretty busy from there. Some things I’m eager to check out on my short trip:

  • Anavan at Glasslands. L.A.-based Anavan counts among its members long-time KXLU DJ Bret Berg, whose rather quiet disposition contains a volatile admixture of near-mawkish camp and a keen ear for post-punk. His radio show Egg City is no longer, but he’s been actively nurturing his audiophilia at his blog, aptly titled Egg City Radio. Anavan’s music comes from a home-grown part of the L.A. underground that began sinking roots after the demise of Jabberjaw in the late 90s and found a home in places like the Smell.  Anavan channel the spirits of bands like Chicka-Chicka, the Fall, and Blank-Wave Arcade-era Faint and allow the dirty pop to follow as a result.
  • An evening and morning in Bushwick: That means staying with friends and visiting the panaderia to get a stash of pan dulce for the ride home and maybe, just maybe, grabbing some fruta, limon, y chile in the vicinity of Maria Hernandez park, where there’s likely to be plenty of activity on a late Sunday morning.
  • Cai Guo-Qiang- I Want to Believe at the Guggenheim: Since missing his show at MassMoCA in 2005, it’s been a priority to catch any exhibition of his that’s possible to attend. Luckily enough, this retrospective of his work is a great chance to take in a good sampling of his extensive and intricate body of work. Far better videos and samples of his various works than the one narrated by bloviating Guggenheim muckety-mucks can be found on his website, which contains a pretty comprehensive catalog of his projects.
  • The 2008 Whitney Biennial: There’s a chance I won’t make it, but it’s worth an attempt, mostly to see what people in the art world seem to be excited about in American contemporary art. Exposure to overwhelming amounts of work serve less to get me caught up than to realize the possibility that contemporary art is less about trends than to perpetually experience oneself as a beginner with limited opportunities to find a point of entry. L.A. seems to have some solid representation in the exhibition, with names like the Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black, Daniel Joseph Martinez, and Mario Ybarra Jr. included in the artist roster.

    All in all, it’s an art-intensive trip with possible fodder for future posts. I’m open to suggestions for a good place to eat lunch on the Upper East side between the Guggenheim and the Whitney on Sunday, or dinner between Chelsea and Brooklyn.

    Image Credit: Cai Guo-Qiang, Light Cycle: Explosion Project for Central Park, Central Park, New York, USA, 2003. Original location: www.caiguoqiang.com

    To see: Eddie Martinez at ZeiherSmith
    March 3, 2008, 7:03 pm
    Filed under: art | Tags: , ,

    Eddie’s work as an artist and curator is unrelenting. His main gestures involve breaking things down and building them up again; his obsession for giving objects and materials new uses shows in his work. During his stint in Boston in the early ’00s, he took his hustle nationally and curated The Russian Doll show, where he handed fifty or so visual artists a set of Russian Matryoshka dolls and asked them for their interpretations. It landed in Boston at the old Green Street Gallery.

    Perhaps he was inspired the by coming across the painted Matryoyshkas with images of political figures, celebrities, and pop-culture icons while trawling deep into Brookline or swerving past the kiosk in the middle of the hallway at the Prudential Center. But what was clear from the show was that Martinez saw the Matryoshka as possessing possibilites beyond their typical, decorative use and put into play their abilty to be very flexible means of representation. In essence, Martinez’ idea removed the dolls from their specifically folk context and allowed the doll’s figure to become a manipulable and plastic form.

    Since he left Boston for NYC in 2004,* I had come across reports of his activity, an illustration job here doing a cover for Copper Press, a possible advertising job somewhere else, some work featured in gallery shows, and that he had taken to painting. But overall, news on the Eddie Martinez front had been sporadic. So it was it was exciting to learn while flipping through the most recent issue of Artforum that Eddie is having a gallery show in New York this month, his second with the ZieherSmith Gallery: a full-page ad with a studio shot, no less.

    Not bad for a dude that was re-mixing priority mail labels by drawing on them, filling them in with color and splaying them out across the city and who, in a fit of frustration at what he saw was the onslaught of gentrification of Jamaica Plain back in 2002-3 by re-purposing a “Do Not Enter” sign. On it he affixed a previously-noted postage label of a short-beaked bird in flight donning a ball cap. On the sign’s bottom half he painted a cloud-shaped field of blue and drew a furry celestial gorilla at the bottom commenting “Let’s keep it blue-collar…”. Two days after he did his business, the sign was taken down and ceased being a note of caution.

    UntitledSo what to expect at Martinez’ next show? Paintings, it seems, many paintings and some assorted drawings and mixed media pieces alongside. Primitive and tender still lives sit alongside densely composed figures playing ping-pong . The paintings are deliberately coarse and elemental, thickly textured and communicating constant activity. Martinez’ figures speak with their eyes, whether those of the vigilant and suffering eagle in Untitled, or the confused, feverish, and intense visages found in Separate the Men from the Boys. His drawing and mixed media and paper work shown on the gallery’s website are busy, vibrant, and sometimes somber, but they have gathered objects at their center. It is indeterminate whether they are the artifacts collected from someone now lost or whether these objects are inventoried in anticipation of a coming event.

    The show at ZeiherSmith opens March 12.

    *Josh Glenn over at Brainiac today openly pondered what I was thinking when writing this post: Why does all of our local talent leave? Visit his column for his most recent tally.