Paul (ace_combs) wrote,

The goldenrod is coming into bloom. And the Queen Anne's lace has cupped. Here, in the prairie, that means Summer's fading. The air is drier, the nights are cooler, and the first wood smoke wafts...

New photo sets on flickr:
Building, slowly, the following:
Chicago Public Sculpture.
Jean Dubuffet: Monument a la Bete Debout

Jack Kerouac and the End of America
So, yeah, I picked up a collection of his work, and 3 cd's on which he was recorded while reading poetry.* It was the first time that I had heard his voice: East Coast, cadence alternately halting and rolling, obviously connected to the mind that formed the words given to the voice.

I tried to read Kerouac aloud - imitating the man's own speech - when the nephew was in town. "Stop! Stop! It's horrible!" he yelled at me, "I wanted a story, but not that!"

In any case, my real interest in Kerouac stemmed from his role in the development of a consciously "outsider" or "alternative" American movement - post WWI.

Two quotes, (A), (B), from Kerouac's About the Beat Generation, 1957:

(A) "In actuality there was only a handful of real hip swinging cats and what there was vanished mighty swiftly during the Korean War when (and after) a sinsiter new kind of efficiency appeared in America, maybe it was the result of the universalization of Television and nothing else... but the beat characters after 1950 vanished into jails and madhouses, or were shamed into silent conformity,** the generation itself was shortlived and small in number."

(B) "It never meant juvenile delinquents, it meant characters of a special spirituality who didn't gang up but were solitary Bartelbies staring out the dead wall window of our civilization- the subterraneans heroes who'd finally turned from the "freedom" machine of the West..."

In that period between WWI and, say, the mid 80's, we had a series of "counter-cultural" movements that, each in their turn, emphasized the act of breaking from the ongoing processes of integration, homogenization, and, yes, commercialization, that ran parallel our exploding technical capacity to communicate and manufacture.
Ex-Pats/Lost Generation [F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway] to
Beats [Kerouac, Ginsburg] to
Hippies to
Punks (this is a terrible article; wikipedia at its worst...),
and then you lost me...

Post WWI there was a change; I don't think it's an arbitrary date: investigate the rise in American military/industrial power, mechanization of warfare, corollary developments in flight, etc.. If the War ran from 1914-1918, maybe the American century was/is 1914-2014; the midpoint (50 year rise, after which the fall began) would be 1964 - the same year that the Gulf of Tonkin incident was used to commit us to (un)war in Vietnam. 1989 would mark the center of the period of decline; 1989 was Bush Sr's first year in office. It works for me.

Roughly, 1990 to the present day I have watched the "fight" go out of the American people. Materialism seems to have triumphed: the myth of scientific progress is repeated, while the vast majority of life on the planet is extinguished for want of healthy food to eat, clean water to drink, minimal care during pregnancy/birth, and basic sanitation - all of which we have the necessary technology to repair. But, no. Visual art, music, fashion, politics - all recycled: sampling and repeating that which has already been. Reagan [1980-1988] won office with a bold vision: looking backward, back before 1964, back before Vietnam, back to the 'good old days' of the 1950's - when America was rising towards her zenith. Well, it all ended with Kennedy looking up at the moon, didn't it? In 1963 he was assassinated. And now?***

I am pained, nightly, by the images broadcast on BBC World News. BBC-Tavis Smiley-Charlie Rose: that's been the routine. Images: 70, 80, 90 year old men and women being carried from the rubble that was a home; children's bodies lying still under tarps; the guy from Boston who moved to Israel, his feet still on the pedals of the bicycle he was riding when the rocket landed.

Well, these people are a part my family: Lebanon and Israel. I refuse to discuss the issue in any other terms. The violence is wrong, period. I am completely opposed to all of it.

It's a horror, you know, to cause the innocent to suffer. "Where is the humanity?" a woman cried out, her child beside her.

Muslim, Jew, or Christian, where does the responsibility lie:
(1)the man who gave the order that the bomb should be dropped;
(2)the man who dropped the bomb;
(3)the man who made the bomb that was dropped;
(4)the man who provided the design to the maker of the bomb;
(5)the man who wrote the book that inspired the order to drop the bomb.

The Modern History of the Arab-Israeli Conflict: Five Periods

1914-1918 World War One; T.E. Lawrence, et al, encourage Arab revolt againt the Turks.
1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement
1917 Balfour Declaration
1919-1945 Mandate System establishes European "tutelage" of Mideast
1938-1945 World War Two; The Holocaust
1943 Lebanon (independent) created as French mandate ends, Syrian troops leave
1947 British leave Palestine to U.N.
1948 Israel (re) founded (first P.M. David Ben-Gurion)
1948-1949 First Arab-Israeli War
1952 Gamal Abdel Nasser comes to power in Egypt
1956 Egypt (Soviet Union) nationalzes Suez Canal - attacks Israel (Britain, France)
1956 U.N peacekeeping force separates Egypt/Israel
1973 Egypt, Syria attack Israel
1977 Anwar el-Sadat, President of Egypt, flies to Israel meetin Parliament, P.M. Menachem Begin
1978 Camp David Accords between Sadat/Begin, via Jimmy Carter
1981 Anwar el-Sadat assassinated by a Muslim extremist
1982 Israel invades Lebanon - to strike at P.L.O.
1993 "Oslo Accords" Israeli/P.L.O. mutual recognition, Palestinian self-rule
1995 PM Rabin assassinated by a Jewish extremist

Prior to the First World War, the Ottoman Turks had controlled a portion of southeastern Europe, southwestern Asia, and northeastern Africa for several centuries. After the Ottoman Empire sided with Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire in WWI, agents of the Allied Powers - especially the British - sought to weaken the Turks by provoking their subjects to rebellion. (Striking at your enemy through the use of another people is characteristic of conflict in the region to this day.)

Most probably for the purpose of winning the War, the British promised, essentially, everything to everyone: (1) to the various Arab speaking people of the region: indepedence; (2) to the French: post-war Anglo-Franco control of the entire region; (3) to the Zionist movement: support for a Jewish homeland in the territory called Palestine.

Post WWI, the British and the French did divide the region of the Mideast (all of the Ottoman Empire, but for Turkey proper) between themselves - establishing borders according to their own purposes. While Palestine was governed by the British, the French carved the territory of Lebanon from Syria; both territories (Lebanon and Syria) remained under French rule.

During the 50's, 60's, and 70's, i.e., the Cold War, the greater powers in the world fought each other via surrogates. The Soviet Union supplied arms and advisors to the Arab speaking peoples; the British, French, and later the Americans, supported Israel.

(Post)Modern Art
A month ago? Two months ago? I hit to the Museum of Contemporary Art. Patty Chang: sculpture and video installation dealing with the myth of "Shangri La." I walked up to Patty's piece - a huge sort of jagged pyramid, faced with glass - and a female security guard walked up to me. She reached out, extending a pair of white gloves. Along with the gloves came an invitation to "turn" Patty's mirrored pyramid; it was mounted on a pivot of some sort. So, yeah, I put on the gloves, laid hands on the piece, and began to circle Kaaba. With each pace, a crowd grew about me. After one full revolution, I had 50 spectators. Or, Patty had 50, and I had become a part of the artwork. Powerful spotlights mounted overhead shown down on the piece, casting reflections about the room. The effect was not unlike the infamous "disco ball" of the 70's.

I put together a few recycled 5 gallon buckets at the beginning of the season - using compost that I had made, last year. A Roma tomato plant went in one of the buckets, a Big Boy hybrid in another. The plum has bourne fruit abundantly; the hybrid's limped and withered along.

Though I lost my (20x50) vegetable garden plot when my sister moved to Texas, my wildflower project at the Mom's place has matured; it now hosts a good variety of insects, birds, and small animals.

From the library shelves: Art Today, by Edward-Lucie Smith. Art of the Post-Modern Era, by Irving Sandler.

I'm still not certain that there is any such thing as "Post Modernism." A fair number of people will repeat almost anything, if they believe that they stand to gain (status/wealth/etc) as a result of their repetition. To the degree that university is structured for the purpose of maintaining certain paradigms, such people do well in university.

One reads Derrida, or Foucault, or, for that matter, Nietzsche; the number of overt, and covert, references to Xenophon, Plato, Aristotle, et al, is striking. So that it would seem silly to suggest that one possessed any real understanding of Derrida/Foucault/Nietzsche/et al without having read Xenophon/Plato/Aristotle/et al.

But the situation is even more horrible: "important" professors, authors, and other such people, not only avoid The Classics, but, too, it is not uncommon to find that they've read only summaries of the (postmodern?) authors who comment upon the The Classics. Right? Follow?

[* I ended up returning the materials to the library a few days late...and paying $2 U.S. in fines. Generally speaking, I feel good about giving my money to libraries. The public library is, I think, one the best things that we, as a species, have done.]

[** I think that "...shamed into silent conformity," sounds not unlike the social machinery at work in Alexis de Tocqueville's "Tyranny of the Majority." See Part II, Chapter 7, Democracy in America. ]

[*** RANT: 1980 to the present, a period of 26 years, two families, Bush and Clinton, have been, as President or Vice President, in the White House. "'re so boring; boring, boring, boring; always tape machine recording; i've heard all this before; i've heard all this before; your emotions make you a monster." Vote for Hillary in the next election? "It's time for a change." My ass.]

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"The public library is, I think, one the best things that we, as a species, have done."

Amen. Berkeley rawks the library system...we even have a tool lending library. I had to borrow a rebar bender a couple weeks ago.
Because you, in the SFBA, are Communists. But, seriously, what was the "bender" used for? Making art? Practicing for the ironworker's union exam?
i enjoyed those pictures. thanks. but - and this is how i 'piss off' people - do you feel any ambivalence about: tickets, ticket prices, the fact that it's 20 years old, the high prices (time/money/energy invested) coupled with the age of the festival resulting in the attraction of relatively affluent people who express their conformity by participating in such events, etc.

ok, i'm not questioning your 'authenticity' or whatever. i'm being serious, because you are at least *close* to my advanced age. and my memory of the thing from art school, 20 years ago, was: post-minimal, quasi-satanic, performance art...or something similar.

and it's like the kid in the RAMONES t-shirt who gives me the look, like: "you're not cool!" and i want to yell: "I saw the RAMONES play live WHEN YOU WERE WEARING DIAPERS!" because (per the post, above) that music is late 70's, early 80's, recycled.

serious thoughts, please. and i know i'm asking a lot - as a person who just doesn't GIVE GIVE GIVE on-line, anymore.

ok? lay it out: totally cool, wouldn't change a thing. or, have you seen stuff that irked you? over-sexual? over-commercial? etc.
I'm a questioning person by nature as well so your comments don't piss me off, tho I do have a gut reaction of "don't knock it till you try it".

(this may be a long post so hang on)

I'm super curious about your "over-sexual" comment. Wondering what you might be thinking and what you saw that made you think that. I don't totally understand what you mean by this.

There are groups of people who host sex/sexuality related events, but it's all behind closed tents. There are lots of beautiful people walking around in little to no clothes...but there are lots of people doing that period (its' damn hot there yo!). I think that many people want to explore the ideal of freedom while they're there and getting naked is one way to do that, but nakedness and sex are two different things. On a personal level I've had some great makeout sessions BM but never felt like having sex, tho I always feel incredibly sexy while I'm there even when covered in dust. This is mighty fine by me. ;-)

I don't think the cost prohibits low income people from attending. The first time I went I was totally broke. I've always been a strong believer in 'if you have the will you will find a way'. I understand that the costs are high and agree that it sucks, but at the same time I think the benefits are huge, such as more funded art and no corporate sponsorship bullshit. I think their staggered ticket prices is a fair way to deter generic party yahoos and until I can think of a better way I won't complain. There are ways to get free tickets (help on art projects) again, if someone really wanted to go and was willing to put some effort into making it happen they can go.

In some ways I consider getting a ticket a test of faith. If you can't somehow pull together the resources to attend then you probably aren't ready to go. It's not like a party or concert where you can buy food and beverages once you arrive.

On a base level BM is still all about performance art. You can't expect to attend and do nothing and walk away thinking you had an amazing time. It takes effort and imagination, even if that's just getting there (getting there CAN be work) and setting out a lawn chair on the esplanade to watch the world go by. If you adore people watching that's all it would take to be blown away....but most people do want more.

I think the majority of people who attend get the gist that they need to challenge themselves to do something, and because it's an environment that's been built up to support the wacky, inane, and artistic...that's what people tend to do. In that respect you could say that we're all conforming because we're all being wacky, but it's bullshit to think that everyone there is all the same or that it's not different from everyday life. As Daft Punk states...we are humans after all (god how I love Daft Punk). There are highs and lows, problems and wonderful surprises, and even certainly fashion trends...but it is still an experience that I feel is wholly unique.

Nothing else comes close, and I think a big part of that is the environment. The whole event is layer upon layer of challenge but I do feel that all of this builds up as part of the ritual and experience of being there.

It's REALLY freaking hard to explain all my thoughts on this because there is so much that goes on and so many facets to how it can be perceived. I don't think it's quite possible to share the reality of it through media or stories (and I think the general mass media does a poor job of it) have to attend to really understand it, yet I also feel that it is NOT for everyone. If you cannot walk into it without grasping the concept of radical self-reliance, or let go of expectations, then you're probably not going to enjoy it.

(to be continued...)
You do see all kinds of people...from little kids and babies, to grandparents and everyone in between. This year I camped with a group of friends that ranged in age from six to seventy two. You can look at people while you're there and label them if you want...oh there's the naked hippy guy, there's the hot raver chick, there's the gearhead red neck, or the frat boys, etc...but these folks are all camping next to each other and for the most part breaking bread together and helping each other when least expected (and definitely going out of their way to help when needed), and all while pushing their creative boundaries (or at least trying too). It's a community with neighborhoods, but it's definitely not similiar to any other city you'd every visit.

Some people are realy fanatic about it but I wouldn't say that I am, yet I adore it. I don't go every year but I can certainly see myself returning every now and then. There are definitely some aspects of it that I don't enjoy, and even a few little things that could piss me off if I let them...but they are few and far between and really not that important. I like to go for many reasons, but the main one is that it is both a challenge and a release, forcing me to think and relax at the same time. It's like hitting the reset button emotionally, mentally, and physically.

I don't know if any of this really answers your questions, but it's a lot of what I think about when trying to describe my experiences there.
Totally read the whole response, several times. Loved it, too. You, Austin, Kini, and a few others, will shoot straight: sharing ideas, and not being too shy about telling me if I 'come across' like a jerk. I respect that, so much. I asked because I know that it's something that you're passionate about, and informed about. And I hate things and people being thought above/beyond question. Too, I understand that for a lot of people - people whom I like and respect - the BM Festival is something important. Not everything is right for everyone; not everything needs to make me, Paul, happy, to be good. Said. Done.

Two references:
(2) And from the Kerouac quote (A) above: "...a sinsiter new kind of efficiency appeared in America, maybe it was the result of the universalization of Television,"

The thought in ref. (1) being that things tend to reduce to violence and/or sexuality. And the the thought in ref. (2) being that the internet has - to an even greater degree than television - created a sense of what 'ought' to be.

The first images from the festival that I encountered were little photographs, taken by other artists/students. The small number of images circulating, the narrowness of the scope of that circulation, etc., added to the sense of mystery. And only making the committment to attend resolved the mystery.

Now, it is not so much a journey into the unknown.

I think back to an invitation to go to a GG Allin show
and asking what would happen. The response: "Don't know. Maybe lots of stuff."

A meaning filled flashback, GG, because it is good to wonder just how far something can be taken.

Punk took music out of the massive arena; performance took art out/off of the traditional gallery space/wall. To what degree, I wonder, has BM become the institution - even as Punk, or Performance, have become such things themselves. Do people know the rules - and compete: Mr. & Ms. Sexy 2006, etc.

I wonder, too, what the 'next thing' would look like. Where the mystery would still be.

One of the resons that I've not been putting too much time/energy into the net is that I've been working so hard on my own sculpture. And I think a lot about the evolution of our (species collectively) products/thought/etc.

OK, I am totally out of time. THANKS! P.
at some point things evolve or they die, and the transition often means heading off in multiple varying paths. one thing turning into many new things. exploring the paths and the mystery inside yourself opens new doors that lead to more. wandering new roads, reaching out to others, is always good food for the soul.
Magazine: Art in America, June-July, 2006 by Anthony Haden-Guest

Trying to keep up on the 'current scene,' I've been reading Art Forum, Art News, Art in America, etc. In that issue of Art in America, above, the author argued (my own crude summary, here) that BM ought to be taken seriously - as an Art event. ART - capital letters, Fine Art...

Everything above (sort of) ties together for me: What is 'cutting edge?' Are we using terms like 'post modernism' to cover our own ignorance - or inability to make sense of the 'pluralism' in contemporary visual art? Are we too conscious of what everyone else is doing - and too disconnected from what is important to us - and for us? Blah-Blah-Blah.

p.s. GG is too much for me. Maybe, everything that leaves the stage and confronts me is too much for me. Last night was the 'quasi-official' start of the 'Art Season' in Chicago. And the crowds were too big - and I can't deal with crowds. I think that - as a result of a number of experiences - my trust of my fellow humans is not so strong. Much of what is written, or linked, above, is anti-herd, anti-crowd.

p.p.s. intersting thought you had: maybe there won't be one new thing that evolves, but rather many/several new things. what is troubling, for me, is that those, 'many/several new things,' inevitably compete for time/energy/attention. And it's then that the problems with the base appeals to sexuality/violence are most evident, as they sway the greatest number of weak minds...

p.p.p.s. I am now banning myself from any further comment/reply. Seriously. Enough.

BM has certainly inspired a big movement in large scale metal sculpture as well as pushing the boundaries of how viewers intereact with art...most pieces on the playa are designed to be played with (ridden, moved, pushed, pulled, climbed, etc). It's also about interaction with the elements and temporary installation, the idea of sculpture as performance. At some point the piece may become something different (through the affects of being handled, or simply being in the wind and heat), or if it's burned that itself is a whole new creation/installation.

I wouldn't necessarily say this is cutting edge, but the event definitely provides inspiration, support, AND money to artists...but there are obviously other people in other places doing amazingly cool things as well. The event is more of a tool or a space for people to congregate and inspire each other, and I think the environment really pushes you to let go.

I've talked a lot with folks this year about how I'd love to see more BM style art/performances happening in the everyday world. I'm starting to see that happen. I know the San Francisco arts council is working to bring temporary installations into the city, though it is often a long slow process dealing with budgeting and permits.

Anyway, as I said before nothing is perfect...if I wanted to nitpick I could probably find a lot to complain about but it's insignificant compared to the all positive things I see and experience there.

No need to respond if you feel tapped out on this. ;-)

Btw...some of my all-time fav BM art is Michael Christian's metalwork and David Best's temple buildings. This year I was totally in love with the Neverwas Haul (a 3 story Victorian style art car). They had some trouble getting it running so the Steamworks campers hauled it around with an old Case steam engine.
I love your megaposts, just wish we'd hear from you more often.

Nice garden.
thanks. the last three updates, here, have been made at 2 month intervals. i am disconnected from the on-line world. when i return, i have thought too much, over-written, and find myself looking down at a figurative tangle of verbal twine.

(1) infrequent updates
(2) lengthy updates
(3) only females comment

(4) whether positive or negative, i've been getting a lot of anonymous stuff. a fair number of people - or one active person with multiple personalities - seem to have something to say, but they want to keep a distance.
Good tellin' PG. You elusive sausage, WHERE YOU BIN?
dude, i totally hate sausage.
ha, me too. AND I'M NOT A DUDE, DUDE. I'm a laaaady.

I'm a lady and a dude....but then I grew up in California.
ha well, you know, truth be told, i'm neither!
The English spread their cooking to weaken colonial resistance, I am certain. God those 'banger' things that they scarf down are hideous!!! I can't believe that everyone in the UK just doesn't drop dead after breakfast.
happy birthday duuuuuuuude! :D
and happy birthday to you, too.
Cheers old chap - hope it was a good one for ya!