Dedicated to classics and hits.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Alchemy of Taste



  Romanticism and Post-Modernism have gone tag team crazy on art criticism, but in many ways the project of aesthetic criticism is more vital and important then ever.

  One major, and well noted impact of the Internet on Aesthetics is the creation of a multitude of parallel cultural universes that exist at the same time, everywhere and nowhere.  Much of artistic criticism (and theories critical of the project of criticism) developed in a binary world of "approved" and "disapproved" Art.
To take two important early modern/pre modern examples, there is the French Academy.  The French Academy was created in 1648 by Louis XIV, and its main purpose was to Judge "good" Art.  Every year they would have a Salon and artists would enter their works and a jury would "judge" the Art.

 This system was finally challenged in the 1870s by the French Impressionists when they established their own Salon des Refuses, a counter Salon consisting entirely of rejected and unsubmitted works of Art.  Many of these Artists became some of the most succesful Artists of the 20th century, and it's easy to see how people looking at this example would draw the conclusion that the project of "judging" art is ridiculous.

 The Impressionists and the Salon is an excellent example of the historically binary nature of Arts Criticism with Insider/Approved Art on one side and Outsider/Rejected art on the other.  Given that framework, you can hardly blame more then a hundred years of Romantic and Post Modern critics for rejecting the critical project itself.

 However, the times have changed, and cultural criticism no longer exists in a binary universe.  Gone are the days when Art had to exist as an either/or with critical opinion. Instead, there are now a seemingly infinite number of cultural universes where critical standards are either entirely absent because the Audience is uninterested in the aesthetics of the art they are consuming OR where criticism is specific to one cultural universe and is unable to cross boundaries in the historical tradition of universally appreciated Art.

 Criticism now plays a critical role in linking these parallel cultural universes and the impact of this linkage is to increase the potential Audience for any one Artist.  It is the critic, acting in a traditional (Pitchfork Album review) or non-traditional (Tumblr blogger retumblring a music video) that in fact generates these parallel universes- not the Artists themselves, for without the distinct Audience, the Art would essentially not exist.

  It's a sprawling, diverse and undisciplined group of voices to be sure which means that the role of any individual trying to grasp contemporary art aesthetics has a difficult to impossible task.  However, should any one person gain the ability to recognize art that exists in one universe that could be embraced by a parallel universe and then act to make that actually happen, that person essentially has an alchemical process to transmute the lead of unappreciated sub-cultural artistic products to something that is capable of supporting an individual of business for eternity.

  The key trait is the ability to recognize quality this among art with no present audience, it's the alchemy of taste.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Cleo From 5 to 7(1962) d. Agnes Varda

Cleo played by Corinne Marchard

Movie Review
Cleo From 5 to 7(1962)
 d. Agnes Varda
Criterion Collection #73

   I'm not a guy who is particularly into the French New Wave. Just because...if you look at the whole universe of art/film, French New Wave is just one thing.  There's no reason...to fetishize the French New Wave and Auteur theory.  Personally, I think Auteur theory is pretty ridiculous considering how many people work on a typical film.   Especially when you consider the number of so-called Auteurs who actually PAY for their films- even the best are usually working for a pay check.

  But Cleo From 5 to 7 is notable first, because Agnes Varda is a female director and second because the pace is snappy and fresh, and the lead actress, Corinne Marchand playing Cleopatra (or Cleo for short) a Parisian ye-ye girl who is confronting her own mortality while she waits the results of a bopsy for a potentially cancerous tumor.

  Cleo From 5 to 7 is shot in "real time" complete with title that break the movie into separate scenes of a specific time frame.   Cleo hangs out in her pad, goes to a cafe and plays her own song on the jukebox, hangs out with her friend the Artists model, goes to the park, hangs out with a soldier and FIN.

  But Cleo From 5 to 7 is not dull or boring- and don't tell me that all of Godard's films are actually watchable because THEY AREN'T.  Also the character of Cleo the Ye Ye girl is a compelling character- I love when the main character of films are artists. 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Temptation of Saint Anthony by Gustave Flaubert

The Temptation of Saint Anthony


































Book Review
The Temptation of Saint Anthony
by Gustave Flaubert
p. 1874
Translated by Lacadio Hearn
Introduction by Michel Foucault
Modern Library Paperback Classics

  Man all I had to see was "Introduction by Michel Foucault" to know that I was in for a raft of pretentious modernist bullshit.  The Temptation of Saint Anthony is one night in the life of the famous early Christian anchorite/hermit.  In 192 pages, Anthony is tormented by a variety of different spectres: fraility, the seven deadly sins, heresiarchs, martyrs, magicians, the gods, science, food, lust and death, monsters and of course, metamorphosis.

  The text has a dreamlike/surreal/poetic quality radically different from the naturalist/realist prose of Madame Bovary and Sentimental Education.  The Temptation of Saint Anthony was a book that Flaubert worked on his entire life.  At one point it was  supposed to be a play, and that early form shapes the resulting text, which, at times, reads exactly like a play.

  The translation by American Lacadio Hearn is also worth noting- his was the first English language translation, but prevailing mores in America prevented anyone from actually PUBLISHING his translation until the 1920s, and even then lines explicitly mentioning sexuality were cut out.  They have been restored here.

  The Temptation of Saint Anthony is perhaps interesting as a reference point for future works of surrealism and psychatry, but as a novel it is barely.  Obviously, Flaubert's prowess as a novelist is beyond question, and The Temptation of Saint Anthony is more a labor of love by a great author as supposed to an epic stand alone classic work.  You have to be interested in Flaubert and the subject of 19th century literature (and 20th century literature) to read The Temptation of Saint Anthony.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Max Havelaar by Multatuli

BURY ME AT POWELL'S BOOKS


































Book Review
Max Havelaar
Or the Coffee Auctions of the Dutch Trading Company
 by Multatuli
p. 1860

  This book was the hardest get on the list of 1001 Books To Read Before You Die, 2006 edition. According to my bibliography, I read books published in a the same year in September of last year.  That is almost nine months of trying to obtain a copy to read.  I finally located my copy at Powell's Book Store in Portland, which is the most amazing book store in the world.  The only Book Stores that come close are those on Charing Cross Road in London, and maybe the sadly defunct Cody's in Berkeley.  I could literally spend a lifetime in Powell's, and never get bored.  I've got a long history of hanging out in book stores and libraries, and it's fair to say that I regard the libraries of my youth with something regarding the same pleasure that a professional athlete regards the playing fields of their youth, and these days book stores are the closest I get.

I didn't end up purchasing Maldoror by Lautreamont



































         Max Havelaar is translated from the Dutch (strike 1)  and it's a "novel of social significance" (strike 2;)  strike 3 maybe are the very characteristics that made it interesting to me: a diversity of narrative voices and a willingness to insert lengthy poems and songs into what is supposed to be a book at the injustices suffered by the natives of Indonesia under their Dutch overlords in the early to mid 19th century.

 Havelaar is a higher ranking official in the Dutch Colonial Empire, but he is not happy about it.  Much the same way George Orwell would a century later, Eduord Dekker (the true name of author Multatuli,) used his time serving as an administrator in a colonial empire to criticize the injustices of the same regime.  According to the translator penned afterword in this edition, Dekker experienced the same events that Max Havelaar does in the book.

  Havelaar essentially seeks to expose certain unjust practices that the natives suffer at the hands of their (native) Administrators.  Specifically, the native overlords force the citizens to plant cash crops for free and then take those crops as their "due" and leave the natives to starve.  Havelaar is rewarded for his valiant attempts by being ostracized and fired.  Apparently, he never got over it.


  Besides the direct and obvious comparison to Orwell the other author to mention is Joseph Conrad.  Max Havelaar takes place in essentially the same universe as Joseph Conrad's Nostromo, and this book reminded me of that one.  Multatuli/Dekker has a more eccentric narrative voice then Conrad.
   

Monday, June 24, 2013

Dead Ringers (1988) d. David Cronenberg

The Instruments For Operating on Mutant Women from David Cronenberg's 1988 opus Dead Ringers.


Movie Review
Dead Ringers (1988)
 d. David Cronenberg
Criterion Collection #21

  I figured out that many of the Criterion Collection titles that are not available for free on Hulu Plus ARE available on Amazon Streaming Video for 2.99 so I'm like "Yeahhhhh."

 I've been actively trying to watch Dead Ringers since the Netflix revolution, but have been flummoxed.  I am heartened that several of Cronenberg's films are available via Amazon streaming video because he's a director where I'd like to say I'd seen all the hits.
Jeremy Irons playing Beverly Mantle right before he goes bananas and tries to use the above Instruments for Operating on Mutant Women on a non mutant woman.

 Dead Ringers was made in 1988.  Jeremy Irons turned in his stunning portrayal of accused murdered Claus Von Bulow in Reversal of Fortune the very next year, and it's hard for me to pick which performance is better that one or his role in Dead Ringers as identical twins, Beverly and Elliot Mantle, who are top gynecologists.

 Basically, Beverly falls for actress Claire Niveau and basically loses his shit, and takes his brother down with him. By "lose his shit" I mean becomes hardcore addicted to drugs, goes crazy and has his own set of macabre and Cronenbergian surgical tools/"Instruments for Operating on Mutant Women" made- and then uses them to ill, ill effect.

 The not-so-slow decent into insanity by first Beverly and then Elliot and then Beverly and Elliot together is classic Cronenberg and I enjoyed every minute of this classic. If you haven't seen it yet get it on Amazon streaming video for 2.99 WORTH EVERY PENNY.

  

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Show Review: Bestial Mouths @ The Void San Diego

Bestial Mouths press shot


Show Review:
 Bestial Mouths
@ The Void San Diego

  I think this is probably the first show I have gone to as a result of an email I received from a publicist at my catdirtrecords (at) yahoo email account in the history of this blog (since 2006!) and I wanted to memorialize the occations, and provide encouragement for more pitch emails sent to that particular email account.
Bestial Mouths live set up


 Here, it was the good people at Riot Act Media on whose mailing list I have found myself, and I read the release, thought "hmm...maybe I'll go that show;" and then went to that show.  There were several parts of the press release announcing this show and Bestial Mouths self titled LP that led me to tentatively mark this show a "maybe" on my calendar.
From a Bestial Mouths video.


 First of all, I know the guy who is putting out the LP- Carl ClanDestine over there in Scotland via Wales, and I support him and his projects. Second of all, the tour dates were legit:

06.23.13 - Los Angeles, CA @ The Troubadour w/ Austra
06.26.13 - San Francisco, CA @ The Independent w/ Austra

07.08.13 - New Orleans, LA @ Circle Bar
07.09.13 - Atlanta, GA @ DKA at 529
07.11.13 - Asheville, NC @ Broadways
07.14.13 - Philadelphia, PA @ Kung Fu Necktie
07.15.13 - Brooklyn, NY @ Glasslands
07.17.13 - New York, NY @ Nothing Changes at Home Sweet Home
07.21.13 - Cleveland, OH @ Grog Shop
07.22.13 - Detroit, NY @ Something Cold

 Also the band description made them sound like something different:

Pooling together a group of influences as diverse as its members, Bestial Mouths present a raw, synth-driven energy propelled by singer Lynette Cerezo's powerful vocals. Often likened to Diamanda Galas, Siouxsie Sioux or Lydia Lunch, Cerezo delivers each note with fury and abandon. Synthesists/keyboardists Christopher Myrick and Gustavo Aldana channel early industrial, EBM, goth and minimal synth pop in turns, blending harsh electronics and lush melodies. When fused to Aldana’s splintered programmed beats and the tribal rhythms and samples of drummer Jessica Reuter, the harmonics combine to breathe new life into post punk, weaving their own distinct creation in the process.

  I wasn't sure if there were going to be good, or if I would like them but why not give it a shot?  Regrettably has not heard very much of Bestial Mouths and attendance was low.  Bestial Mouths is not a band for the casual Saturday night bar crowd, but the people who did show up had a good understanding of what a combination of "Industrial, EBM, goth and minimal synth pop" should actually sound like. 

  The live set up was impressive for a band working in the world of goth/synth, with a live drummer. Calling it "minimal" is accurate and a good description. For example, a big difference between the sound of Bestial Mouths vs. a band like Chvches that has the same basic set up (two guys with keyboards supporting a female vocalist) is that Chvches sound could never be described as minimalist.   With Chvches, there were programmed tracks playing beneath the live vocals, whereas here my sense was that this either not happening or played a small part in generating the over all sound.

 Certainly if you are a fan of Diamanda Galas, Siouxsie Sioux or Lydia Lunch OR early industrial music OR analog/synth music, Bestial Mouths is worth a look see. Maybe check out the record next week when it comes out. The Void should be applauded for booking such an uncompromising and unknown artist on a Saturday night, it shows real courage and a distinct aesthetic vision, kudos.

 


Blog Archive