Tuesday, December 20, 2011

sketchbook no. 9


i love seeing the whole neighborhood out and engaged with one another, which happens a lot on north mississippi avenue.  living here is like living in a small town, but with the class and sophistication of a city.

we would create a sort of mutual fund to benefit the neighborhood.  each participant would contribute a certain amount to participate.  the pool of money would then be invested in the stock market or a mutual fund.  any returns from the investment could then be set aside in a separate account which could be used should any participant have an emergency or need a certain amount of money.

the point would be to generate a fund so that should my car break down or my daughter need new braces or i get laid off from my job, i could go to the neighborhood, to the rest of the participants in the fund, and ask the community to help me.  the community would come together to decide how to help themselves, to decide how best to use any investment gain, to see who needs the most help.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


my friend the other was asking me if what the current movements in art were, or if there could be any new movements, new manifestos, new schools. and i've been catching up on artforum (i'm a few months behind,) so i thought i would share two quotes, from the beginning and end of a piece tim griffin wrote for artforum on the venice biennial.

by the bye, who else misses tim griffin as editor in chief of artforum?

from tim griffin's "Out of Time," artforum, september 2011

he begins:
"Among the more puzzling preoccupations of dialogues around art during the past five years has been 'the contemporary,' a seemingly self-evident description that, to date, has operated largely in reverse - that has been put forward, in other words, as a meaningful denomination and subject of inquiry in advance of any actual deductive relationship to the surrounding world. The hope, it would seem, is that the term employed by itself, and evocatively, will help tease out some general understanding of the conditions for artmaking and its reception today. Yet, unlikely as this might be the impulse is easy enough to fathom: Artists, art historians, curators, and critics alike wish to find historical trajectories in art today where none immediately announce themselves; a disorienting air of atemporality prevails instead. Indeed, the imperative for historical precedent or distinction becomes only more urgent in light of spectulative obsessions with the 'new' in a radically expanded art system whose borders have become so porous as to erode the very ideation of art. Hence, large-scale international exhibitions often tend these days toward long durees of low-grade curatorial anxiety, continually setting up historical counterpoints for recent artwork on the one hand - is modernism our antiquity? - and almost daring artists to cross the lines between artistic and larger social contexts on the other. If there is a substantive sense of 'the contemporary' to be employed here, it is likely the 'out-of-jointness' that philosopher Girogio Agamben ascribed to the term: Something is contemporary when it occupies time disjunctively, seeming always at once 'too soon' and 'too late,' or, more accurately in terms of art now, seeming to contain the seeds of its own anarchronism."

and he ends,
"...we would do well to take a closer look at Christian Marclay's The Clock,, 2010, which was awarded one of this year's Golden Lions. An absolute tour de force of research and editing, the piece plots every minute of a day by incorporating scenes from myriad films ranging widely in origin and genre, with each scenario being passed seamlessly to the next. Someone knocks on the door in one frame, and another person from a different film - an utterly changed time and place - answers. Or an alarm goes off in a mid-1950s bedroom, and someone from the 1970s awakes. Yet one must still, I think consider the position of the audience member viewing this film (moreover, this film about cinematic habits and behaviors oriented around time): One never quite lives in the moment being watched, but rather waits, always looking for whatever might be coming next. Or, to cite philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, "What we perceive as present is the vivid fringe of memory tinged with anticipation." Ironically, anachronism is our foundation. A more apt representation of art's position can hardly be found."

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

palestine and education, science, and culture

Yesterday, UNESCO voted and accepted the Palestinian bid for membership, thereby straining United States relations with the agency and the United Nations in general. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, promotes education, literacy, and gender equality worldwide and is also responsible for designating world heritage sites. The U.S. donates each year a large part of the UNESCO budget, funding almost a quarter of its budget actually. However, as UNESCO has now recognized Palestine as a full member and thus as a internationally recognized nation, the United States will now be forced to suspend contributions to the organization due to American legislation prohibiting involvment in any United Nations organization that supports any country not recognized by a state by the US, which in this case specifically means Palestine. As the Palestinians submitted their bid for membership, American ambassadors and representatives attempted to dissuade the Palestinians from continuing. As Palestine attempts to be recognized by the United Nations as a souvereign nation separate from Israel, US officials, including President Obama, denounced this move as premature. Though Israel and the PLO exchanged letters of recognition in 1993, the United States argues that any move toward peace must originate from direct negotiations between the two countries. American officials have not moved to change US legislation to allow continuing funding to UNESCO, and seem to express no sympathy with this Palestinian effort. Instead of going forward with this bid for full membership with UNESCO, the US has suggested having Palestine sign UNESCO conventions as a "non-state" observer, such as the European Union is recognized. This would potentially allow the organization to list World Heritage sites currently in Israeli control as Palestinian. But the EU is not a nation; it is an economic zone, thus I think the comparison made by this suggestion is bunk. Palestine wants nationhood and the "two-state solution" has been the ultimate goal in negotiations between Israel and Palestine for years. Why undermine that goal now? In part, I blame the election cycle. I blame pressure from the Israelis. I blame Obama's weakness. There is no reason the US government should renege on its its cultural, scientific, and educational obligations to the Palestinians and to the world due to pressure from Israel, a wealthy county to which we already contribute too much aid. I can think of no reason Obama would oppose UN recognition of Palestine, of Palestinian state-hood, of Palestinian involvement in UNESCO other than pressure from Israel and fear of alienation of Jewish voters in the upcoming presidential election. For a president who originally suggested the Palestinians move to achieve recognition from the UN, Obama needs to give back his Nobel peace prize if he is now going back on his word to ensure his own re-election.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

dharma of tony

When I told my friend friend that tony had passed away, Seth explained that he hadn’t known Antonio very well but thought he had seemed smart and talented. which struck me as an odd description. Certainly Tony had always been talented, hyper-intelligent, flamboyant. He spent too many hours awake digging through the internet for new artists, new music, new movements, the next big thing. His knowledge was rhizomatic, tendrils of attention ever spreading outward. Even when I first met him as we were students together studying visual art at the Alabama School of Fine Arts, Tony had been precociously smart and talented. One of the first pieces of art he produced for an assignment had been a work fashioned after Mike Kelly: a phallic column composed from stuffed animals stitched together and hung from the top of the stairwell, stretching nearly two stories in the air. We were awed from the beginning; we were inspired and scared. But “sweet?” Was that a good word to describe Tony? This was a young man who would slap me at random moments for no other reason than an as of then undisclosed infatuation with me. He would hit me, and pinch me, and bully me. Then he would walk away as if he had done nothing wrong. Some of his pranks weren’t as painful though and I would often find myself laughing with him. He would saunter through the sculpture studio, hands clasped behind his back holding a piece of glass. He would walk up to some random student diligently working on some art project, would ask the student about his or her day, compliment that student on the work being produced, the technique employed. Then would violently throw the piece of glass or mirror to the floor producing a loud shattering sound, causing the faces of the other students working to look up in alarm, maybe causing someone to mar the art on which he or she had been working. Yet before moving from Birmingham, Alabama to Portland, Oregon, I remember explaining to another credulous peer from ASFA that Tony changed a lot after graduating, after having lived in New York for two years and resettling for a bit back in Alabama. One of my last memories is of a house party in Montevallo Tony threw which my sister and I attended. Tony seemed that night, after knowing him so long, more subdued, more chill, nicer. He was sweet to my sister and me; not just loud, insulting, and over the top as we had always known him. He danced and conversed politely, if flamboyantly, with still the occasional outburst to keep everyone interested. I attributed some of his calm that night to the fact that Tony had finally taken to smoking pot, but I was hoping there was something more here. As my sister and I drove back to Birmingham late that night, I remember saying to her that Tony seemed changed, that perhaps he had “grown-up” finally, that perhaps we could stop worrying about him. I started worrying about Antonio when he first graduated ASFA and left Birmingham to attend the Cooper Union in New York. We had spent the last year obsessing over Matthew Barney, watching endless clips from the final installation of the Cremaster Cycle which had been released the year before. With a dictionary of symbols by our side, we watched the trailer to the Cremaster Cycle repeatedly, searching for clues to unlock its meaning and we thought, yes, this is it, this has to be it. It’s was clearly over the top, so detailed, so dense; in our mind Barney was the James Joyce of our time and this was his Ulysses. We wanted to understand it, to be experts in it, and ultimately to produce art at least as great. Tony also spent that final year obsessing over his senior art show for school, creating art non-stop, art that seemed to fill the entire school, his entire life, leaving no room for anything or anyone else. And he dreamed of the Cooper Union. He wanted it so bad. We made plans to go to New York together after he was accepted. Over a map of New York City we would discuss how he would attend the Cooper Union while I was to get a job and make art for a year while waiting to get accepted into a school in the city as well. We would scour apartment listings, looking for that perfect place where we could live together and make art together. Of course Tony was accepted to the Cooper Union. Of course. No one doubted at all that he would be. He worked too hard, was too talented to be declined. But after he received that big envelope with his letter of acceptance, I decided I should stay in Birmingham, study art history, finish college there, plan for graduate school. Antonio was disappointed, but seemed to understand. From New York I received dispatches from Tony, both from Tony and from other friends. He would explain to me the latest trends, which artists to watch for, what music to listen to. He introduced me to “relational aesthetics” which seemed fascinating to me and seemed hip to him. I finished college by writing my senior paper on this new form of communicative art, though by the time I finished that work, Tony was chastising me, explaining that relational aesthetics was already passé. But other unverified, apocryphal tales filtered down to me from New York as well. After Antonio’s second year in that northern city, I heard that he had been expelled from the Cooper Union. The story would change every time I heard it. From what I came to understand, bored with his foundation art classes at the Union, Tony had taken it upon himself to make larger impression upon the faculty and his peers. He wanted to create art more exciting. So for an assignment he decided to track his professor to her apartment, knock on her door, and throw a net over her, at which point he would capture her as part of a performance art piece. It didn’t end so brilliantly though: the professor punched him through the net, made him leave, and had him expelled from the Union. After his expulsion, Tony stayed with old friends from high school for a while, though eventually he moved back to Alabama, to his family and friends there. He stayed with one friend Kyle for while and she told me a story about how night after getting a job in the city, Tony was complaining about not having any money despite how hungry he was. Kyle looked at him and looked at the pay check in his hand and just asked why he didn’t cash his check. He explained he didn’t have a bank account, and despite that it was too late to go a bank anyhow. So she walked Tony out onto the street and pointed at the four neon signs glowing around them, reading “CASH CHECKS HERE,” thus solving his problem. He proceeded to order every item off a take-out menu and ate just a few bites of each dish. Tony also stayed with another buddy Marcus for a while. I ran into Marcus one night while he was visiting his family in Birmingham. Marcus explained that Tony was a good, if strange roommate. He slept out of the way in a corner of the kitchen, though his presence would some how seem to take up the entire apartment at strange times. Such as one night when Marcus woke up around one in the morning and found Tony in the kitchen wearing a blond wig with a tape recorder, singing along to the Smiths at the top of his lungs. My sister and I basically learned Tony had come back from New York when one night at a lecture by John Waters in Birmingham we were listening to the question and answer session and we heard a familiar voice ask a question of Waters. My sister and I were sitting in the mezzanine of the auditorium and could not see the questioner, but we knew that voice. The question, if there was one, seemed to ramble on for what seemed like ten minutes with prefaces and anecdotes and references to Dennis Cooper. It was him! It was Tony. He was back in town. That was years ago and perhaps some of the only connections we have had since then have been through friends Tony has introduced me to, connections of his also obsessed with Dennis Cooper’s blog. One of these friends in Houston contacted me after his death, to reconnect with me, to comment on how surreal his passing is. And that’s the best word to describe his sudden passing, especially when you have not been right there beside him these years: surreal. And it’s surreal who I’ve reconnected with since Antonio’s death, who have contacted me: friends from high school, friends from Birmingham, friends of Tony’s from his life in Montevallo. And it seems surreal that I was not right there with him as he died. From the time when I first met him, when he irritated me so greatly, to the time when we would spend hours together flipping through old copies of ArtForum, to the time when we dreamed of making art together in New York, to the past few years when his online presence has become unavoidable, it always seemed like his personality has been so great, so bright, so determined and irritating and fascinating and provocative that he would just always be in my life in some way or another, that at some point we would probably be working closely again together. Instead now I am left posting old photos of him and reminiscing about him with my sister and wishing we had been closer these past few years. I’m left with so many questions about his continentally remote death, with regret about how removed from each other that we have been these past couple years, and yet also with all this knowledge, all these references to obscure artists and musicians and movements and philosophers that could have only been transmitted to me through Tony.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

already bored by the next presidential election

obama yesterday announced the beginning of his 2012 campaign for reelection. obama said, "I'm going to need you even more this time than last time." yes, yes he will, though i'm not certain he will get that help. i'm not sure he'll be supported with the same enthusiasm as three years ago.

the new york times reports that "aids said they were eager to reach out to independent voters before republicans do." but this may be part of the problem. obama's moderate, neutral position has made him look a little ineffective. barak obama has been an accomplished president, especially considering the situation in which he found the country upon occupying the white house. i think he has supported historically important legislation such as the credit and banking reform bills, the TARP fund, the repeal of dadt; he has guided our miliary through the iraq and afghanistan wars while keeping exit a lodestar, no matter how dim, for our actions in those countries; he has been a figure of inspiration to the country and the world as a black american with a modest background and a name unusual to american politicals who nevertheless has made his way successfully in the world. barak obama will be remembered as significant to american history.

but at the same time, when they elected obama as president, americans were hoping to see a great transformation take place in this country. those who voted for obama, liberal, conservative, radical, independent, however, hoped to see pragmatic change, not the tepid, timid suggestions and support obama has this far put forward. his efforts have seemed half-hearted. this country wanted fireworks and got instead a few hopeful shots in the dark. so yes, obama does need the independent vote to gain reelction, as any president does, but he may need much more. he may have needed to do much more to rally the democratic base as he did previously.

during the last election it was independent voters who won him the election, but it was the truly liberal voters, the loyal democrats who found themselves charmed and energized and hopeful for the potential of this man; these were they who found themselves motivated to campaign, to give money, to canvas, to run voter registration drives, to care enough just to vote resulting in largest voter turnout in this country in decades.

the new york times reports that "the president's aides have set a goal of surpassing the $750 million he raised in 2008." i groan thinking about giving money to obama's campaign, about caring enough. do i want to see a republican win? absolutely not. but neither am i excited about another luke-warm second term for the obama administration. and if i'm already this unmotivated, unexcited by the beginning of the campaign season (election years are generally my favorite), how can i expect the rest of the democratic party to significantly rally, especially those young, idealistic young voters who came out in large numbers last election?

Monday, April 4, 2011


two days in a row, as i walked along the willamette, i found a hummingbird buzzing around the thorny blackberry vines that grow along the base. the bird had a a bright magenta face and chest; a shiny, seemingly unnatural color. it made a whistling sound at me like a child's musical instrument. it couldn't seem to make up its mind whether to be afraid of me or not.

although we usually talk three or four times a week, i have not heard from madre in three weeks. i think my sister told her i was angry at her. i had mentioned to her that i had recently started seeing someone about whom i was pretty excited. she had absolutely nothing to say on the subject and could not remember my having mentioned anything about him in subsequent conversations.

i've found myself buying a lot of flowers lately. mostly cheap bouquets of daffodils. my roommate owen reminds me that there are daffodils blooming in the front and back yards, but i always reply that i want to keep those flowers there, that they're pretty to see when one arrives home in the afternoon.

and the afternoon, the evening no longer sleep so peaceful. they're longer. i find myself thinking it's four when several hours have passes and it is now six. it's past seven-thirty as i type this and the sun is hardly finished setting. the lawn is green and yellow and orange with sunlight. the trees dotted white with flowers.

forbidden colors. finished reading the yukio mishima novel by this title. is homosexuality always a narcissistic performance or have the interstices between living and desire for the homosexual been relocated? why am i attracted to men and can i live an authentic life or will my existence always be a performance in reaction to heterosexual society?

i saw a snake near my office the other day. i hear rustling in the brown leaves near my feet, stopped, and when i searched the brown hues piled there, i found a small, skinny dark brown snake with a red line down its back. i'm sure i had disturbed its nap as it sunned itself in the rare light.

when we wake up from the winter, it's a perfect time to ask yourself exactly what you want, exactly what you expect from the coming seasons. last year i was young, younger than this year obviously, but i felt young, i acted young. i was young and immature and i went to rooster rock often and took off my clothes and lay in the sand, sunning. but maybe this year i won't be content to just sun. maybe i want something more. gardens and garden parties; iced tea; front porches; little white gloves; plans and progress. a sensible summer. fun but sensible. right? sometimes you grow up believing you want a certain thing and cannot know that you don't want it at all 'til you get there.

i have always dreamed of a house and a spouse; a garden with children; quotidian routine; chocolate cake for breakfast. but perhaps this is someone else's dream i just grew up dreaming? can i live an authentic life or will my existence always be a performance?

Monday, March 14, 2011

columbia river dreams

gray blurs on the other side of the glass as the city slips away from us in numerals. 48th. 64th. 82nd. gresham. the columbia. and we're outside portland. we are driving toward the gorge. and below the flash, below the blur, beyond the car, clinging to the unmoving momentum of the interior, a small green strip of algae or mold, some water loving plant highlights the window pane. life does just keep going, even here in the crack between glass and plastic life reaches up tentative fingers to the light.

carpeted. that's what the woods here at eagle creek in the columbia river gorge looks like. green moss and algae and lichen. green fir trees and green moss on alders and green lichen on rock beneath falling water. emerald; sea foam; carbon-based verdigris. not a yellow smog, a yellow smoke, but a white mist that licks the skin, that obscures the tops of hills, that moves and shifts and hides. even mid-winter, the pacific northwest is green and moving and alive.

joseph has taken me hiking with his friends, almost miles out and back, past little waterfalls, a stream, woods, and rock. a stendhal affect from nature, a natural synaesthetic experience. i love portland, but in the winter i find it sleepy and gray, hibernating, alcoholic, demure. but out here a quiet life covers everything hibernating, a slow energy, and i think, "why would anyone live in any other part of the country."

and i wish i knew what it is like to live in san francisco. portland is safe, practical, well-designed, efficient; portland's citizens are driven, quiet, polite, idealistic, sometimes quirky. but san francisco is vibrant, lively, irrational, colorful, beautiful. i love the mission with the chinese shopkeepers hocking cheap imports pushed next to mexican taquerias below hipsters walking to bars tucked in between it all. there's great art and music and crazy people. a whole mad city; a city i've been drawn to since i turned 15.

fun and beautiful and mad: san francisco would be amazing. and perhaps i could live there for years, struggle and be poor and crazy and drunk, but would that be me? or i am the practical but quirky, polite but cold, well-designed but still boring pacific northwesterner?

back at asfa, when i was eighteen, my friend antonio would say, "uzbeki boys smell of oranges and baking bread." we learned this from a picture in a book. and everything in the world seemed possible. there was so much to discover. from asfa we would go where we wanted for whatever reason we wanted. we would find ourselves in difficult places and yet the possibilities for life seemed endless. and now my perception is different. the trajectory of my future is still uncertain, but its arch more directed, more predictable. my tastes and attitudes are predictable. my daily actions are predictable. my desires and goals are predictable.

and in the end, or in this present, i want to define more parameters to that trajectory. i want to find myself secure: secure in working toward a career, in building a family, to coming home everyday and finding my cat in the garden, to planning a garden, to planning dinners with friends and having nights off, nights at home, nights reading and watching movies and reading and waking up early to coffee and the new york times, a bagel and a banana, the vitamins there on the plate. something planned and safe.

all this is what i want. it isn't bad, but at twenty-six, it is surprising that this is what i want from my life. so in the end, does that mean i start to nest down now, prepare for what could make me happy, or because there are so many years separating me from that pioneered existence, should i continue to live on the edge, without planning, drunk, mad, constantly in trouble, collapsing, and getting up half dead but wiser perhaps satisfied in the morning to do it all over again?

the emerald city that is the columbia river gorge is beautiful and one could live close to this beauty in portland forever, but there are some of us who need to see that mad light before we die, in san francisco and new york and tokyo and paris. what sort of temperament in the end do i want to own, for what sort of future arch do i push?