Sunday, June 7, 2015

Learn to Skate with NG


Learn to Skate follows a set path; a clear narrative, but at the same time is an attempt to subvert the narrative structure and even the documentary structure, if you want to take it further.
Whether or not Learn to Skate successfully subverts two very established structural pillars of film culture is not necessarily important, but hopefully it at least leaves a viewer wondering what the point was, and why they watched it, and what the pretty parts were supposed to mean. Documentaries, narratives, they do something, but they're not always much to do with a life. Learn to Skate is -- it's about disappointment, struggle, ephemerality, vapidness -- it has some of what's really going on in it.

"Technology moves towards the functionalist distinction and in that way transforms everything and transforms itself as well". De Certau is talking, to some extent, about the practice of writing in the passage -- writing as a self-containing technology, which separates increasingly from reality as it is practiced. Learn to Skate, if anything, is not separate from reality, despite my acting, despite the way people react to the camera. Everything in Learn to Skate really happened.

Monday, May 25, 2015


Stroszek:  a life of crime


Werner Herzog's Stroszek communicates, through a series of increasingly terrible events, the criminality of the quiet life. Stroszek is punished in Germany, for what, we aren't sure (I don't mean the prison system here; that element is more abstract -- I'm talking about the pimps who destroy his home and beat him up). Maybe it is because he is small, or because he's a little weird, or because the girl moves back in with him -- but I'd like to posit that it's only because he's there that he receives such brutal treatment -- because he doesn't do anything, and that's the worst thing someone can do.

We see this again when he moves to the united states. His home is repossessed by a banker who couldn't be, on the surface, farther from the pimps who destroyed Stroszek's life in Germany, yet plays essentially the same part -- he won't leave Stroszek alone, he invades his home, and eventually drives him out of it (or, in a more literal phrasing, drives Stroszek's home away from him). All because Stroszek is doing nothing -- he has nothing, he attempts to do nothings, he is floating in a sea of happening remaining unchanging.

My last thoughts of this brief post on Stroszek are on the cyclical nature of the film -- our static hero is released from captivity at the beginning of the film, reluctantly so, and by the end he is almost captured again, although this time he escapes with his life (this isn't meant to be a joke -- I've never understood that stupid expression, and I think it makes more sense to say "he escaped with his life" about a man who died). This implies a cyclical nature to Stroszek's life that is only concluded by his (probable) death.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Some videos I did for Clee McCracken's recent voice recital




 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Sue Coe: Drawing attention to what we ignore every day



graphicwitness.org, a site dedicated to “visual arts and social commentary” refers to Coe as “a ‘graphic witness’ to realities more often overlooked or avoided. She is a journalist who uses printed images in preference to words.” Coe, most often making prints or drawings, explores the nightmarish worlds of factory farming and meat packing, however, she is also known for work concerning the more humanitarian (rather than animal-oriented) issues of apartheid, sweatshops, prisons, AIDS, and war (http://www.graphicwitness.org/coe/prntsalewhois.htm).
                According to an earthislandjournal.org article about Coe, she grew up “next to a hog farm and slaughterhouse in Tamworth, England [… Coe] says she couldn’t help but make a connection between the mass slaughter of humans, represented by the two World War memorials in her town, and animal butchery.” Coe acknowledges that this comparison may seem extreme, but she believes that the way human beings treat animals sheds light on how human beings treat each other (http://www.earthisland.org/journal/index.php/eij/article/inside_the_abattoir). Coe was born in Tamsworth, Staffordshire, UK in 1951.
                Moma.org explains that Coe “uses the mistreatment of animals as a microcosm of society, exploring the negative aspects of capitalism and greed in symbolic and graphic terms. During this period Coe’s work became increasingly stark, using collage, drawing and painting in a style reminiscent of artists such as Otto Dix” (http://www.moma.org/collection/artist.php?artist_id=1170).
                Coe published two books dealing with the issue of meat in 2005 and 2006, called Dead Meat and Sheep of Fools, a Blab! respectively. Americanswhotellthetruth.org says that, in opening Coe’s books, “you will be sickened and sobered by what you see. Many of the images Coe creates to portray the horrors of factory-farming practices are gruesome and hard to look at; at the same time they reveal her commitment to using art to expose ‘realities in a way that stops us dead in our tracks’” (http://www.americanswhotellthetruth.org/portraits/sue-coe). In 1972 Coe moved to the U.S. and became an illustrator for the op-ed page of the New York Times, later contributing drawings to more publications such as Rolling Stone and The New Yorker. She’s authored four books in total.
                On Coe’s Cruel: "There is a spiritual terror, the promise of hell that makes them difficult to look at, and even more difficult to look away from." —Los Angeles Review of Books (http://www.orbooks.com/catalog/cruel)
                Coe also deals with racism, both domestically and in South Africa; she’s published a book about Malcom X (titled X) and many independent prints dealing with race. (http://www.flashpointmag.com/suecoe.htm)
Coe has received a lot of criticism for her politically charged work – many reviewers don’t believe that work that put Coe on top of a “moralistic soapbox” belong in museums, and that the world Coe’s work depicts is inaccurate; that "If the sexists and the racists and the awful rich are everywhere in charge of the capitalist Establishment, why is it that we so seldom see homophobic screeds, tracts against the homeless, or rightist propaganda in commercial galleries, or in the museums?"