March 29, 2007

Heads Up

Good Stuff, read it all:

1. Clive James writes about Rilke, using Brecht as a foil for contrast:

In the long run, there was no reversing the erosion of Brecht's shamanic prestige as the personification of radical theater. It had been apparent since The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui that Brecht had never had any intention of telling the truth about the central facts of politics in his own time. He knew what the truth was: Nobody knew better, he just wasn't going to bring it in, even by implication. Above all, the main truth was left out. According to his dramatic works, Nazism, not just at the beginning but throughout its career, existed because capitalism willed it so, and communism was the soul of freedom. In the end, there was no considerable audience left anywhere, West or East, for such a fantastic interpretation, and Brecht's reputation as a seer melted away in good time to be replaced by a contrary reputation based on the repellent details of his real-life biography.

He emerged as an ice-cold, ruthless, self-serving egomaniac contemptuous of all decencies, and especially pitiless to the women who made the mistake of paying him allegiance. Even people who admired his work have given pen-portraits that turn the stomach. Yet somewhere in between the thoroughgoing con man Brecht was in real life and the hollow prophet he was as a man of the didactic theatre, Brecht was a great poet.

2. Alvaro Vargas Llosa (a Catalan?) writes about the film "The Lives of Others" and points up the central weakness of totalitarianism:

The German film focuses on Gerd Wiesler, a captain in the Stasi, East Germany's feared secret police, five years before the fall of the Berlin Wall. He is ordered to spy on a playwright and his actress girlfriend simply because the minister in charge of culture lusts for the lady and needs an excuse to put the writer away in order to clear the path. Through a tantalizing series of small twists and turns in which what is not said is more important than what is, the plot leads us toward the moral awakening of Wiesler. As he records the details of the playwright's and his girlfriend's lives, the gray, obedient bureaucrat discovers in himself a humane depth to which nothing in his ideological rigidity or in the chilling machinery he efficiently serves seemed to predispose him. This moral awakening is intimate and unassuming, and it leads Wiesler to an act of quiet heroism that will save his intended victim from the fate that the minister wishes for him without leaving traces or claiming credit for his actions later on.

What "The Lives of Others'' reminds us of -- and the reason it is such a timeless work of art -- is that man is capable of totalitarianism, but not perfect totalitarianism. Even when all the pegs are in place, something will alter the clockwork mechanism of the regime. That ``something'' is human nature, pure and simple. Nobody in the film is a perfect totalitarian in the sense that no one -- not the bosses, not the servants, not the victims -- acts in the way that the logic of the system dictates they should act in any given circumstance. There will be moments of weakness in the least humane of despots and moments of fortitude in the most hopeless victims that will shatter the perfect order of the totalitarian system.
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Works on Paper



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(UAV) Unmanned Art Vehicle

I've been nursing a thought about the direction in which we are flying in our artworld, how extreme everything is in terms of sheer population, skyrocketing money, the hectic density of information, everything hyperextended, the fog of hype in epic proportions. I've been thinking that our artworld could be compared to contemporary aviation, military aviation that is:

...Over the last decade, more powerful engines, and computer assisted flight controls, have enabled fighters to not only execute increasingly violent maneuvers, but to do it more quickly and in different directions. Because of this, medical doctors have gotten involved in the design of these aircraft, and of the simulators as well. This is because the flight control systems have to be designed so that the aircraft cannot easily make a maneuver that the pilot cannot handle.

For over half a century, aircraft have been capable to executing maneuvers, usually sharp turns while moving at high speeds, that create a gravitational force (g-force) that causes the pilot to black out. If a pilot is properly equipped, with special flight suits that use small liquid or air filled bladders to help prevent blood from rushing from the brain, and causing a blackout, during high g force maneuvers, a g-force nine times normal gravity ("9 gs") can be tolerated.

In the last few decades, computer assisted flight controls have been developed that prevent the pilot from executing a maneuver that would exceed 9 gs. But as aircraft become faster and more agile, there were more directions the aircraft can be going while pulling lots of gs. Pilots now have to worry about neck injuries, if they execute certain maneuvers without positioning their head just so. Just another thing to keep in mind during a dog fight...

The ultimate solution to this medical problem is to use UAVs for air-to-air combat. That's under development, and has been for several decades. The current concept is to have a human pilot remotely controlling a UAV fighter. This was tried as long ago as the 1970s, and found to work quite well. But reliability and security (maintaining the radio link) issues have delayed the arrival of UAV fighters. Senior air force officers (most of them fighter pilots) have not been terribly enthusiastic about this particular new technology. But the fact is that it's becoming too expensive, and dangerous, to keep humans on board combat aircraft.

(Strategy Page.)

Phoning it in.
Consider if you will that like today's flying machine, the art world machine is operating at performance levels that exceed the human capacity to withstand its intensity. Maybe it's best to operate a career remotely? What does this mean? I don't know exactly, I'm scratching an itch here, people. We make avatars in video games and Second Life, can there be a separation between a human artworld and a machine world into which we extend our senses into via prosthesis (there's that word again). Might this mean living a simple human life of direct contact (words from mouth to ear, hands leaving imprints in art materials...), and another world accessed by email and teleconferencing and instructions relayed to fabricators around the world...

Funny. This blog itself is an emmisary of sorts, between these two worlds.

I find myself echoing the structure of a theme I cooked up as I came out of undergrad school, "Parallel Cities" (pedestrian cities and car cities), where I recognize this strange new world we are creating, how it is a creature of the imagination and increasingly strange it has become compared to the physical, durable, temporal world of human limits. Parallel Cities was a way to keep both worlds and find how they compliment each other by looking for a proper arena for the exercise of their natures. I truck this old pet theory of mine out in this blogpost in order to suggest that we might be making a Parallel Cities within the artworld. The danger I propose that we are facing today is a kind of internecine war. It would be a shame if we lost sight of how each realm interlocks with the other.

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March 28, 2007

Works on Paper



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I've been thinking about scale (a reference to Steve LaRose's recent post on this topic, scroll down into the comments for my longwindery), paint as materiality and what happens when it's image is transmitted via this prosthesis (the word "prosthesis" --I've been highjacking this word to describe a tool we fashion to extend the limits of our physical existence; in this case: digital cameras, ocmputers and the internet)...

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Works on Paper



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Meanwhile, back on Saturn...


A mysterious giant hexagon lies above Saturn's north pole, captured by cameras on Nasa's Cassini Orbiter.

Spanning 25,000km - equivalent to the width of two planet Earths - the bizarre geometric feature appears to remain virtually still in the atmosphere as clouds swirl around it.

UPDATE: via the Speculist, a video and scale info: 4 earths would fit inside the hexagon.

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March 27, 2007

Flesh on the Bone

Earlier this month, I clipped a few paragraphs from an article printed in the Boston Globe and now many other places (Out of the Box) written by , a painter living in London and I jotted a quick note in the blogpost: "I found problems here and there amidst very sharp and insightful paragraphs. His concluding device announcing a "practical avant-garde" goes clunk for me but I'm keen to see more of Dushko Petrovich's work in the future." (You can find more of Dushko's writing at n+1 and paper monument.) It was one of those drive-by critiques, sketchy but in such cases I hope that a minimal level of craft balances the edge that looks for blood. It's hard to shake off the mentality inbred by the previous generation where one's missives are projected incognito, writers in paper media didn't get to connect so easily with the readership. Now, everyone is a reader and a writer, and this particular writer wrote back:


Thank you for quoting me on your blog. Your short comments reflected my own feelings about the piece, and while I am grateful to you for emphasizing the good parts, you should also feel free to go into more detail about your doubts. It would probably save me the trouble!

If you want to read more of what I've written, or see paintings, let me know.


Ah so. Now, I had to put some flesh on the bone. Dushko Petrovich and I corresponded a bit and he sent come images of his paintings
"Dennis, I don't know how you want to display these, but I basically make little paintings (11"x14"") and then really big ones (7' x 8 1/2')
and finally I asked if it was alright to post our exchange in the blog.
Here it is:

It was perhaps an erroneous? assumption that typing a message in the blind would allow me to be brusk (perhaps) with your piece, "Out of the box".? ?A note posted on the fly alerting friends to read an interesting article is not a review... however, any doubts that I may have imparted publicly about your work should have more flesh on it.? My apologies for that.??

Boiling it down, there are three aspects about your essay that I would like to focus on:

1.)? There is an implication that you have a perspective as a painter that might provide a lens that will illuminate the hurly burly of our dynamically changing artworld.? Initially, you connected painting to practicality.? Does this mean that painting has a grounding that other art forms do not have?? Will your essay only touch the painters among us?? Should it?

I just think that a painting is a pretty practical, efficient, time-tested means of expression. I'm also partial to oil paint, because of its versatility and durablity. (I think it was Neil Welliver who said : "It stays wet and it stays put.") If painting offers a special perspective, it is because it has hundreds of years of accmoplishment to test itself against, so it can (if it wants to) have some pretty powerful standards. Video art, whetever its merits, cannot claim this. Within what you call a dynamically changing art world, I would also point to painting's slowness as something that gives it a vantage point. I am still fleshing these things out, but I just wanted to give you a sense of my thinking here.
2.)? Paragraphs 5/6 to 12ish comprise a summation of art history.? I agree that it is important to set out a normative interpretation of art history, the modern to postmodern era... especially the latter. ?This is a tough task indeed, and credit to you for taking it on.? Most people in our artworld would avoid the subject, claiming that any generalization would do violence to a core tenant of the postmodern era:? the damning exception that implicates the authoritarian impulse inherent in modernism.? Of course I reject this limitation and I am guessing that you do too, since you have taken on the task of standing back to look critically over the past fifty to one hundred years.? Bravo!?

Your device of the rectangle is brilliant, elegant.

But what I am saying is that your rendition was perhaps too succinct.? The story of contemporary art is tough enough for lay people... I am afraid that they might get lost even with the compass you provided them.? The story of the rectangle still had too much detail, a forest lost in the trees.? It is like a buck knife and a piece of flint:? one can indeed survive in the wild with these tools, but a slight elaboration might help the less adept among us.

And for us insiders, it was too scattershot, skipping on rocks across a big pond.? Everyone will have a favorite rock that must be touched upon for the passage to have a ring of truth to it.? Few will agree which trajectory is best.? The only artist's hearts you might touch are the ones whose soft spot is rectangular.

Well, I could say that the 1500 word newspaper article is a difficult form, and that the speech was initially given knowing that there would be a q&a afterwards, , but I should also mention that I like that kind of aphoristic description and would probably choose it even if someone offered me 3000 words or a longer speech. Part of that is personality, but part is profession. I'm not an art historian, and I'm not an academic, and I never make that kind of claim. My authority, if I have any, is just the fact that I have noticed something that might resonate with others.

No doubt a lot of people have no idea what I'm talking about (I got a very sweet letter of admiration from a painter in Canada who was so glad to see me championing "triangles."), and no doubt a lot of professinals think I'm out of line, but those are just the risks of a middle path. I'm in it for the careful readers, and for the people who value a synthetic vision. In an era of neurotic specialization, I think some people need the reverse. So, yeah, I'm sure I lost people, and I didn't finish all my points, etc, but it's just one in a series of essays, and now I'm thinking about the next ones.

Of course, I truck out this part of my critique because I have a pet theory, my own schema... and I can only feel some trepidation in offering it to you.? I do not mean to arrogantly assert my own system, but only to offer it as an object example.? What is more important here is to emphasize the use of a comprehensible and hopefully decisive image of recent art history:? the modern into the postmodern.? I scribbled out a crude compass of my own in the blogpost "Be Mistrustful of History":
I will read this, I promise, but I can't fill my head with it right now because I am editing seven things at once for the magazine. In a week, I will have my head back.
3.)? I identify strongly with your imperative to orient towards the affirmative and turn away from the strategies of negation that have been the legacy of the past 50 years of contemporary art.? I especially enjoy your call to bust the coagulation of "schools, publications, galleries, or even museums?" and invent other modalities of sharing the experience of art.??

Your indictment of careerism is supremely important, especially now when Paul Schimmel's "Public Offerings" prophesied that the imaginative-vision-invested art object has been eclipsed by the marketplace and artists have become branded manufacturers.? Cart leads horse.??

I admire the sandwich of grounded practicality and exotic leading edginess.

But like I wrote initially, I feel that "a practical avant-garde" doesn't have wings.? I think that the circle that we must square must somehow surmount the paradigm of the postmodern era and the modern era together.? Admittedly, this is a tough endeavor since the conceptualization must be on three levels:? the modern, the postmodern and the one that is suggested will supersede it.??Like the shift in dimensions from one to two to three to four, each must be an agile flip that incorporates the one below towards the one above.? Models centered on painting and avant-gardedness and practicality will be too easily rejected by those of us who work in the more ethereal or exotic arenas (performance, video, conceptual, whatever)... and perhaps rightfully so.

Well, you're definitely on to something here, and we'll proabaly get to watch it all play itself out, no?
And this tracks back to issue number one above.? Painting alone might be too territorial for the job at hand.??The project of undertaking the critical analysis of a critical era (postmodernity) and suggesting a new paradigm for the coming era is too important to risk dismissal as reactionary "dumb as a painter" cliches (not yours, theirs).? We can't fight just for painting, but for all modalities of art making... even as -or despite the fact that- we ourselves believe painting to be the best and brightest of them all.? Furthermore, tomorrow's painting itself needs to be able to absorb and ingest the significance of the art forms that eclipsed it in the recent era.
I don't think painting is "one option among many" in artmaking, but I'll have to go into that another time. I also don't think it's the only way. It's more like the electric guitar is to rock and roll, no?

Posted by Dennis at 11:42 AM | Comments (0)

March 25, 2007

Sandmonkey in Trouble

Some pretty intense stuff is happening in Sandmonkey's Egypt right now:

Now what? How do I end this? Do I tell you how depressed I am at the moment? How this signals the end of the dream of a democratic Egypt? No point there. Anyone who has been following this blog knows that democracy is dying around here. The truth of the matter is, I am really mad, really really fuckin mad, at the egyptian people, whom we risk our lives for. I am mad at them for not caring, for accepting the roles of sheep, for not fighting for their rights and not doing anything while they see what we go through in order to fight for those same rights that they know they need and lack. I am mad at them for just standing there while they could hear the screams of women getting beat up in front of them, and not even voicing an objection. I am mad at them for the looks of fear in their eyes while we passed by, as if they are afraid to be tainted by us or something.But, between you and me, none of that is the main reason why I am really hating them right now.
The real reason is simple: Where does the government, the corrupt ministers, the ruthless SS officers and their soldiers come from? Aren't they egyptians? Don't they come from egyptian families and households? Aren't they born and raised here like the rest of us? Well, what does that exactly say about us? Whether we like it or not, the government is a reflection of the people. So if the government is ruthless, corrupt and dictatorial, what does that say about the people? What does it say about the parents of the police officers that order their soldiers to beat up and sexually assault women? What does it say about the families of those corrupt government officials who sign away our future and that of our children for a bunch of dirty money? What does it say about a nation that produces such a government, and accepts it, even as it plunders the country and enslaves its people?
Maybe the government is right: Maybe we don't deserve Democracy. Maybe we don't deserve our rights. Maybe we deserve everything that happens to us. We, as people, seem to lack the sense of self-respect and dignity that makes the human being demand his/her right, so how do we expect the government to respect us or give us those rights? We clearly don't deserve them. We clearly deserve to have our rights stolen, our friends imprisoned, and our women assaulted. Cause, otherwise, how would you explain how accepting we are of those things?

Maybe we don't deserve any better.

For the first time ever, I will go to sleep feeling utter hatred and disdain for my countrymen, while my heart weeps silently for my country!

I hope that none of you, ever, gets to experience that feeling!


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Urbanism for Knuckleheads

Gawker saw fit to swipe at LA in today's NYTimes article about Los Angeles: The Art?s Here. Where?s the Crowd?, but at least the title of their blogpost is memorable: "In Los Angeles, No One Can Hear You Problematize the Temporality of Performance". So snarky, but good snark has a ring of truth and Gawker has me coming back for more. As for Edward Wyatt's piece for the Times, typically, all such articles must begin with a quote from LA's Jedi master aka "the Yeti":

JOHN BALDESSARI, the conceptual artist who has long made his home here, for years gave his college art students one piece of advice when they graduated: Go to New York, the capital of the art world.

Now, however, Mr. Baldessari has a different view. ?I don?t think it matters,? he said recently. ?More and more young artists leave school and stay here. The opportunities are better, and the cost of living is cheaper. People involved in art regularly come to L.A. It really doesn?t matter if they live in New York or L.A.?

New York will always be the biggest art city in the world but nowadays with artists pushed to the edge of Brooklyn, peering into the Bronx, people over there are beginning to think that if you have to live across the river, it is beginning not to matter just how far across a river you go. Los Angeles has been attracting young artists out of school since the end of the 90's (I was about five years early on the trend, story of my life). Some call it bohemian. I have trouble with the term because of its Marxist heritage, that being bohemian can mean so many other things: good (productive) and bad (the sorrowful waste of human potential, define it as you will). Let's call them knuckleheads in the positive sense, artists who are trying out new stuff, who need time to do it and not be forced to work that time off merely trying to pay the rent.

I've always thought that artists (especially young ones straight out of school) need cheap rent to have the proper... let's call it research and development time... to find their affinities. (P.A.#1). New York had churned out about five or more generations of knuckleheaded funk out into the artworld and my guess is that graduating art students all over the country and increasingly, all over the world, have been considering the possibility that they might find the best bohemian jungle to make their own affinities vivid elsewhere.

Ultimately, an artist's choice of which city or town to settle into is a personal one. Of course there are artworlds in Portland, Seattle, Houston, Chicago... but absent personal issues, it's best to select the biggest one of the bunch. Consider the options. Chicago is the king of the midland ciites and yet they still suffer paralytic self doubt about what they might amount to as an world class art city. Do they know that Houston nips hard at their heels for preeminant art city status in the heartland? With the Glassel school feeding artists into the community with their residency program, Houston has a perennial spring gushing with knuckleheaded activity. (Besides, Chicago is too big of a city to be the king of a mere heartland, and that might be the source of their discontent. ) Dallas has an excellent top end (museums, institutions), a decent middle (higher priced galleries) and no bottom end to speak of. After Angstrom gallery grew up, a couple of galleries has taken position so I've heard... but still, the heartbeat is faint. Actually, Miami is starting to look good with respect to this criteria. And then there's San Francisco... which is probably like Boston, as far as I've heard --that there is an abundance of history and culture and everything except young ones to stir up the muck, trying new things. That's because it's damn expensive to live there and not much going on once you do.

No, the logical choice wouldn't be those exceptional cities, but it might be the exception to exceptional cities, the LA-LA-land of freeway shootouts, crystal meth, car chases... OJ Simpson great and fallen. John Fante nailed the city when he wrote: ?you pretty town I loved you so much, you sad flower in the sand, you pretty town ...?. Heaven and hell in one spot: "Day of the Locust", ashrams, cults and the Case Study Houses. The many reasons why people hate LA are underpinning its advantage: low rent. And low rent adjacent high rent is better.

One would think that with Hollywood and the legacy of the filmic arts, there would be a preponderance of collectors here, but this has not yet... yet... materialized. This is the great hope of this city: that the media people will wake up and discover contemporary art and start competing collections. This, the golden grail of the LA artworld. My theory: Hollywood celebrities don't need to collect art, for they are art, every other art form is in second place. LA is a small art city in terms of the business and New York thunders by comparison. LA has no annual art fair to speak of, the collector base is tiny, and we're 6 hours and a thousand euros farther away as far as Europe is concerned... LA art business sucks. Which is also why LA is most interesting in this respect: the preponderance of artists, we're bottom heavy with them. There's lots of knuckleheaded funk over here.

(Cute. I wonder if our Jedi Master thinks so?)
Snark aside, Gawker should bear in mind the words of their own chosen "hounddog-eyed" philosopher, Chris North:
"What makes me really sick is how New York now looks like a bad imitation of Sex and the City. Meatpacking is a good example of just how fucked up it is. You can't have a city that's interesting where the only people living in it are rich," Chris Noth told New York mag, echoing his earlier anti-Meatpacking sentiments?you know, the ones we recently used to justify breaking our ban on stalker sightings of the hounddog-eyed 'star.' He's repetitive, yes, but the thing is, he just gets righter!

Of course, there's always Berlin.

UPDATE: Talking to a friend, who has recently moved to New York, and we were comparing the two artworlds, NYv.s.LA.: "People are too closed over here, as they guard their little fiefdoms. In NY, so much is going on, people are making things happen. They're wide open by comparison. LA is like a big high school."

Yup. That, too.


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March 23, 2007

Works on Paper

Again with feeling.

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Modern Lovers

The Glendale Community College Gallery presents:

'MODERN LOVERS', curated by Kathryn Andrews
March 24th - May 5th, 2007
We come out of winter into our final show of the 2006-2007 academic year, ?Modern Lovers?, organized by Kathryn Andrews, a Los Angeles based artist. Andrews exhibited in our gallery as recently as last June, in the show ?Summer Suite?, which also featured the work of Hadley Holliday and Emily Newman.

?Modern Lovers? is about the traces of so-called aesthetic modernism Andrews perceives in the artwork of her peers. By juxtaposing pieces rife with overtly anachronistic construction strategies and references, she wishes to force the question, ?Why this now?? Contemporary artists? romance with modernism is difficult to deny ? simply walk through Chinatown galleries on a Saturday afternoon. Takes on geometric abstraction, gestural painting, and mid-century figurative and minimal sculpture abound, as contemporary artists continue to labor toward individualized interpretations of modern forms.

Tenets of the modern aesthetic, for Andrews, have to do with the effects of the advent of photography vis-?-vis painting. Photography, realism at the touch of a button, concluded the centuries-long quest for instantaneous replication of the ?real?. In response, perhaps beginning with Paul C?zanne, artists began to react against the (purportedly) quenched ambitions of painterly realism, turning instead to abstraction and primitivism, and the use of language and nonsense in their compositions. Andrews is interested in the influence of these tendencies within the practices of the artists in this show, and how in the contemporary context such offshoots can assume new meanings.

The ideological lynchpin of ?Modern Lovers? is the impact of the relationship between modern utopianism and ?the new? (that was to usher in a perfect human society) on the modern aesthetic. Even during disco, artists were able to enjoy the notion that through their work they were involved in a unique cultural phenomenon, and that society could be viewed as improving as disco grew. Today ?the new? is still with us in broad socio-economic and technological terms, as sure as humans edge closer toward the production of either an artificial super-intelligence or the apocalypse (or both). But as far as culture goes, are we possessed of more than a hollow-eyed bloodlust for the ?now?? ?Modern Lovers? pushes its audience to reflect upon what it means for contemporary artists to reference modernism through their work, given that the modern aesthetic is still alive and kicking.

Andrews is currently working on a book, to be published in June, of interviews between artists and art writers that will address these ideas in further depth.

The following is a list of artists in the show: Jeffrey Rugh, Jill Spector, Stan Kaplan, Benjamin Lord, Stephanie Taylor, Brian Fahlstrom, Ruby Neri, Brett Cody Rogers, Monique Van Genderen, Jonas Wood. 'Modern Lovers' is on view from March 24th - May 5th, 2007, and a reception for the artists will be held on Saturday, March 24th, 2007 from 4-7pm. Stephanie Taylor will deliver a reading at 6.30 pm on opening night. Admittance to the gallery is free and all are welcome to the opening reception.

I'm still chewing over the ideas/words in the GCC Gallery page:

"...aesthetic modernism..." --does this mean that the aesthetic aspect is trivial?

"...anachronistic construction strategies and references..." --I thought that in a postmodern position, everything is leveled and that hierarchies are unjust and singular figuration is an unfortunate truncation of reality (I've just watched "Tristam Shandy", so the film's ideas are fresh in my mind). Am I correct in assuming that this is the position from which the curator is judging the subject modernist trope? The main question is whether the artist in question has not yet processed the central ideas of modernist-to-postmodernist history... and if this is the case, why would this artist be a candidate for critique? It would be as if one would critique an smaltzy art-deco illustrator in the pages of ArtForum!

?Why this now?? --does our "now" demand something more specific and defined that what the artists in question have offered up to us? A bigger question springs to mind: does the curator like these artist's efforts? It's hard to tell from the essay. Are the artists being interrogated in a hostile manner? I must not be reading this correctly, but the question did arise as I read the text.

"...romance with modernism..." --is romance... bad? Is it a weakness? Is her thesis that only "fools fall in love"? If she is coming from a postmodern position, is there no love in postmodernity? Is romance different from love? Should it be? Is love an indictment? Maybe she means 'love" as in a lapse of criticality? Can't the two be complementary? Is it possible to be uncritically critical?

If the modern is about the new, when has the new failed to reappear like a spring that gushes faster and harder as time passes? Technological change was spurred by the individualizing ethos of Western Civ., the search for truth in science spun off new technological innovations which upset every social order that congealed between each epochal turn. Rips in the social fabric induce stress and art in our modern/postmodern time has preoccupied itself with the orders and disorders of stress over and over again.

Is the curator saying that the subject artists are not dealing effectively with the stress of change in our time? Is she saying that the artists have found a way to deal with this stress so that they are released from the imperative to convey the signification of irony in their work? Is the ironic signifier the supreme litmus test that qualifies the artwork of our time? Can irony be exhausted?

It makes vivid the fact that we all have a different idea of what it means to be modern. One can only hope that the differences are mere personalizations of a term whose root we all share with a sure grip. I do come away with the thought that we live between a surging acceleration of change and an eternal truth that humankind has been the same in character since the dawn of time (I've been reading a few ancient texts lately, such as Plutarch etc, etc.).

"Nothing is new under the sun" in the era of strap on singularity*.

*Wikipedia: ...Another school, promoted heavily by Ray Kurzweil, claims that technological progress follows a pattern of exponential growth, suggesting rapid technological change in the 21st century and the singularity occurring by 2035. Kurzweil considers the advent of superhuman intelligence to be part of an overall exponential trend in human technological development seen originally in Moore?s Law and extrapolated into a general trend in Kurzweil?s own Law of Accelerating Returns.
And maybe that starts to answer your question: we will never-not-be human. And it might answer mine (how can we proceed past the this frozen mirror of modernity-versus-postmodernity?): that we live between the asymptotic singularity and an eternal unchanging character of humanity... and oscillating in between is how we can wiggle forward. (Vibration as an answer for the problem that beguiles us! I knew the answer had to have a beat to it!)

UPDATE: This blogpost was lifted from an email sent to Roger Dickes a couple of weeks ago. Roger was swamped and we didn't get to chew the fat until I walked into the show last night. I was a little nervous, not knowing if what I had written was incindiery or not. I introduced myself to curator Kathryn Andrews and to my great delight, we had a wonderful time talking about the show. Basically, the show was about the questions about the Modern, large and small, questions about what the artists really meant when the modern popped up in their work.

Now, the hard work would be to interview each of them and see what they were thinking....

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Works on Paper



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March 22, 2007


Sometimes the beautiful part stays on the tool and won't get off.

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Sometimes Even More So.

Edward Winkleman drove off the road at the end of his blogpost concerning Charlotte Higgens' Guardian cranky story about newly discovered trash from Francis Bacon's studio:

OK, so I realize there are two questions in there. First is whether the diary of a visual artist (something Higgins has mocked Robertson [and potential bidders] for valuing) is of historical and scholary value. In this instance, I'm sure Higgins is wrong. The diary of a visual artist is as equally important as that of a writer (sometime even more so).

The second question is more complex though: is damaged artwork valuable?

The answer to the first question also answers the second.

This blog is my diary. It's a virtual studio visit. I also call it a bibliographic aspect of my paintings. After the expansion of art media into a multitude of manifestations in the postmodern era, the impulse to sequester painting as Higgens did (and perhaps Winkleman too? -hard to tell right now) is very strange, if not quaint.

I think the question of the value of artist's studio detrius hinges on the depth of interest one has in the artist's ouevre. Sure, such interest can go astray and fetishing personality as Mr. Winkleman noted toward the end of his blogpost. But there is a difference between popular interest in an artist work that remains in the values circumscribed by the marketplace and a deeper interest that approaches a scholarly dimension which begins to transcend value itself.*

Actually, the latter leads the former. That's what the term "priceless" indicates.


*postscript: And as far as the latter versus former comparison goes, if it is the scholarly dimension that defines a museum... what are museums doing in the circumscribed and besotted market realm of contemporary art? What special formulation of their mission protects them from short-circuiting (destroying both the marketplace and the scholar's place along the way)? Maybe the auction houses should just eat the contemporary museum and be done with it. This may sound cranky, but why hang on to the identity of "museum" at all? Why not adopt the monniker of "kunsthalle" (or somesuch) and embrace the muddy water of the middle ground as the curatorial playground between the marketplace of the gallery world and the contemplative scholar's world of the museum?

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March 21, 2007

Works on Paper

1.2. 3.

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Buy a Scooter Instead

Less cylinders per person, smaller footprints of all types, more lanes and higher densities/good congestion, that's the way to go:

...Building a Toyota Prius causes more environmental damage than a Hummer that is on the road for three times longer than a Prius. As already noted, the Prius is partly driven by a battery which contains nickel. The nickel is mined and smelted at a plant in Sudbury, Ontario. This plant has caused so much environmental damage to the surrounding environment that NASA has used the ?dead zone? around the plant to test moon rovers. The area around the plant is devoid of any life for miles.

The plant is the source of all the nickel found in a Prius? battery and Toyota purchases 1,000 tons annually. Dubbed the Superstack, the plague-factory has spread sulfur dioxide across northern Ontario, becoming every environmentalist?s nightmare.

?The acid rain around Sudbury was so bad it destroyed all the plants and the soil slid down off the hillside,? said Canadian Greenpeace energy-coordinator David Martin during an interview with Mail, a British-based newspaper.

All of this would be bad enough in and of itself; however, the journey to make a hybrid doesn?t end there. The nickel produced by this disastrous plant is shipped via massive container ship to the largest nickel refinery in Europe. From there, the nickel hops over to China to produce ?nickel foam.? From there, it goes to Japan. Finally, the completed batteries are shipped to the United States, finalizing the around-the-world trip required to produce a single Prius battery. Are these not sounding less and less like environmentally sound cars and more like a farce?

Wait, I haven?t even got to the best part yet...

P.A. #9.

Posted by Dennis at 12:55 PM | Comments (0)

March 20, 2007

Works on Paper

And now for a closer look:


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March 18, 2007

The Only Trace Left is Ash

Sarah Lehrer-Graiwer wrote an accompanying text for the exhibition:

Paper Bombs

A drawing is like a leaflet and a paper bomb is like a paper lantern. A page of paper has its own indifference that equally accommodates images and letters, pictures and text. Paper is a flexible practice, a collagist activity and an activist?s exercise. A drawing, a pamphlet, a poster is thin and agile ? sliding through cracks, popping up with the breeze and dropping into view unexpectedly. It is portable, able to be folded or rolled up; slipped from hand to hand, person to person, into an envelop, across borders. It taps into something ancient, like papyrus and the deadsea scrolls, but like them it taps into the past?s absences and fragility, falling apart and crumbling over time. Paper is easily disposed of. If you burn the paper trail it goes up in smoke and the only trace left is ash.

A Paper Process, A Paper Practice puts art into its closest proximity with language:

Broad, yet thin and
Brittle with age, pliable within a straight-edge geometry ? you can fold it across itself in
lines, not
Cut and combine. In a collage?
Chapters in a book.
Chance (cage, Cage)
Drawing; drawing up
Drafts, first, second, and final.
Empty, blank beginnings and
Erasures. Erasers.
Essays typed out on
Eight and a half by eleven sheets.
Face ? of a page, of a person, of an animal.
Flammable. In flames, like a burning bush
Falling from above into this place of your encounter with it.
Figure and
(Gaps, gashes, and negative spaces).
Hand, palm, fingers ? thumb and index ? fist gripping a stick (of graphite/ink/chalk).
Hieroglyphs clutter a page, they may be recognizable as language or invented as a
Homework done the night before, turned in, spelled out for the teacher.
Index, like Bochner?s inch and measurement tape.
Illusion, perhaps; allusion, for sure.
Images that are necessarily imaginary,
Incomplete, indecisive, incoherent, inconclusive.
Jews, we somehow agree, are people of the book, biblical critics.
Knife-like edge of a piece of paper, knife-like with speed.
Layers of stacked drawings add weight to what is usually so light, too light, almost
Line extends into direction.
Language. Legibility.
Letters to the editor.
Lessons learned are lessons
Micro/Macro scales contained heterogeneously on one surface.
Manifesto posted outside, pinned on a door, glued on a stucco wall.
Magazines bought and sold for
Money, dollar bills and checks made out by and to me.
Newspaper on newsprint and
Outlines which organize.
Obsolete technology? Is paper being replaced the screen? By light?
Press: printing press, pruesspress, publishing, and pressure.
Parchment = skin.
Pens and pencils in hand working for a public audience.
Projection and perspective: photography was called by Henry Fox Talbot ?photogenic
drawing? and the camera was his ?The Pencil of Nature? at its start in 1844.
Packages sealed with a kiss, contained but ready to detonate.
Reading and
School, where I pretended to drop out.
Silent, the mark stays visual ? visible or invisible ? leaving the soundtrack to be made by
the marking subject, the viewing subject.
Secretaries? material, equipment, trade, and stock.
Secretaries wearing pencil skirts. Sitting at their desks and sketching.
Soak it in water until the pulp disintegrates, making the mark truly fluid, dispersed in
your sink.
Slice and sever with scissors.
Tear and then tape it back together for a more intimate, DIY, real look.
Turning pages in a book, sheets of drawings over a table during which one feels the
Tooth of the paper, smooth to rough ? an
Unconscious texture, a universal experience and universal material felt privately and
about which Barthes would have something to say.
Underline form and text in one movement.
Underlining is like stripping a thing down to its underwear.
Verso (sometimes better than Recto).
Writing is
Xeroxing is also ? just ask Trudi.


UPDATE: Bart Exposito has a Flicker site with fotos from the show here.

Posted by Dennis at 6:10 PM | Comments (0)

March 17, 2007

Installing Paper Bombs

Bart talks about Paper Bombs, the final night of the install. He is explaining to Annie the selection of artists (pointing to the announcement taped to the door) as a partial collaboration with his friend artist Todd Ledford*, who now lives in New York. Todd recommended several artists he knows, many from Brooklyn, of which Bart selected five.

Annie is a brilliant polymath (she speaks ancient Greek and Latin and she has recently completed a residency for sustainable agriculture in Italy) and significant other of Matt Chambers a.k.a. Trudi Gallery, who is having an opening featuring Drew Hetzler's video, a project that is an extension of an installation Drew concurrently created at Angstrom Gallery, in Culver City. The first close up in the video is of matt's drawings, a study for a script and movie he is crafting at the moment.

A club girl appears at the door and asks for a cigarette, everyone is charming. Then I tour the rest of the show, trying to maintain the patience to slow down and settle in on the walls long enough so you, the viewer won't get nauseous. You can see my stacked vertical monotypes at around the last 15 seconds of the video.

*UPDATE: Todd sent in a note:


hey this is Bart's new york friend Todd

my name is actually Todd Ledford.. think you refer to me as "Todd Bouret" or some such on the last post -- fix it if u have chance so my parents will then believe i'm actually doing something with my life.. wish i could have attended the opening - sounds like it went really well,,.


Dear Mister and Miss Ledford: Your son is doing great work and my friend Bart Exposito, who is an accomplished and widely recognised painter in Los Angeles, speaks very highly of your son as very talented artist.
Sincerely (and without irony), Dennis Hollingsworth

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March 16, 2007

Works on Paper

Let's take a closer look:


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March 15, 2007

Universal Mind

Last night as we were helping Bart Exposito install PAPER BOMBS, Henry Taylor stopped in with a roll of paper under his arm and a couple of shards of cardboard in his hand. He dropped the cardboard on the floor next to the other artwork and kept the roll tucked tight. It seems the roll was the drawing he had prepared for the show, something he was working on all week... but there on his studio floor was this shard that he dabbed paint on from time to time, something on the perhiphery of his attention, something he kept coming back to. He couldn't throw it away. He kept arranging it one way and then another between attacks on the principal worksite on his wall, kicking the shard around, rearranging it again. Finally, he had to bring it into the show with a sh-t eating grin.

Art is as simple --and as hard-- as paying attention.

It reminded me of a Bill Evans video series on YouTube, The Universal Mind of Bill Evans (in five parts):

Henry never opened the roll under his arm.

Bart heard Henry talk about "toast and butter", maybe that's the title of the piece?

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Bettina Kissed Sinky


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March 14, 2007

Notes on Revolution



Yesterday I stopped into our local cafe (Via Cafe in ChinaTown), there was a crowd of people there, and on the tables I noticed a new edition of the publication of issue #5, the Journal of Aesthetics and Protest (available in Spring '07):

An issue dedicated to the speech, conversation and discourse that creates meaning and facilitates movements.
Intrigued, I kept thinking "Aesthetics of Protest"... No no, it was "Aesthetics and Protest"... did they want to protest looking good or did they want to look good protesting? Oh, ok. One was placed next to each other. Somehow, I didn't think aesthetics would get much of a treatment in their publication. The two seem antithetical to me. Perhaps their book about "experiments in aesthetics and social practices" is about the aesthetics of social practice, that beautiful social activity is the objective? There seems to be a tangle between embodying virtue versus forcing virtue.

For those who want to bring about a better world, beauty seems to get in the way of their project. Perhaps the beautiful for them is the veritable path to paradise. The problem I have with art and the far Left is that art isn't really possible there --because there is only one valid subject in that direction (in either direction Left or Right, actually), and that would be the subject that advances the revolution however beautiful that might be in the moist eyes of revolutionaries.

I don't think that you are an artist if you constrain yourself to a single subject. It's about freedom after all.. People who abandon themselves to this constraint are a kind of illustrator, a design professional in a political dimension. Our art world has long been highly charged politically and after the history of the early 20th century (I'm thinking of the Spanish Civil War for example), it is no surprise that the assumption that virtue would be located towards the left. But is this true after the utter wreckage and exhaustion of the socialist enterprise at the latter half of the 20th century? Today, an artist who doesn't want to be identified as a "lackey of the system" will adopt the oppositional resistance stance of the Left. But isn't it possible to be a lackey of that end of the spectrum too? I mean, if the murder of over a 100 million people in the last century wasn't enough, wouldn't the sheer bossiness of a world designed by committee just drive a good artist up the wall?

Crossing the street as I left the cafe, I looked around and I realized that I like this world we have built together: safe traffic, international travel, the information age, creative people everywhere flying their freak flags... I mean, we certainly do have problems and improvements have to happen as they have happened already... but... revolution? Do they really want to tear all this down?



Certainly, revolution means many things to many people. For the extreme Left, it is a blunt instrument to force a fast tracked utopia. For the less extreme, it is a vague promise of a better day, the allure of the well intentioned path. Between the milquetoast and the bomb thrower, there are many other kinds of revolution.

We have revolution and alienated youth. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye is a marvelous and a perfect exemplar of this type. The mix of adolescence struggling to emerge into adulthood and the indivdual struggling to redefine adulthood (another Oedipal turn, an echo of the generational churn of art history) is captured perfectly in the protagonist as picaro. Hints of insurgent mental instability set against an upsurging youth, the dark intentions of the protagonist that lurk beneath his idealizations point subtly toward nondualism. For all of his appealling characteristics, Holden Caulfield could almost (not) grow up and become a Theodore Kaczynski. For all of power inherent in this idiom, can this really function as an organizing or cardinal principal for a generation of creative work?

Then there is revolution as the rumble of technological change, the thunder of modernity as it burst onto the historical stage. The most recent example of research in this direction was a noted in an article by Kurt Anderson written for Time Magazine, 1848: When America Came of Age:

...I was repeatedly flabbergasted to discover while researching my new novel, which takes place from 1848 to 1850, a perfectly accurate reckoning of the late 1840s as well. And while it's an excellent parlor game to point out the resonant particulars--history really does rhyme, if not repeat itself--I've also become sincerely convinced that that mid--19th century moment is, more than any other, when modern American life really began. The future--that is, our present--came into sight. The way we live now is the way we started to live then.

Consider all that happened in the first remarkable months at the beginning of 1848...

He then goes on to list a few particulars: the Mexican-American War, Marx and Engles published their infamous manifesto, the California Gold Rush, photography, Samuel Morse's telegraph, railroads and migrations, Darwinism, Abolitionism, Feminism, the expansion of magazines and newspapers, the first department store, the first advertizing agencies and the first modern presidential campaign, P.T. Barnum, the first international superstar... his list goes on and the list is only a North American one. The contemporary astonishment regarding modernity and change can be found in Raymond Kurzweil's Technological singularity, truly exciting stuff.

But I like to bear in mind the difference between velocity and acceleration. Surging from zero to sixty in five or ten seconds is impressive, but maintaining great velocity is sometimes more impressive in a regime of smaller accelerational change. In other words, the world at the turn of the previous century was certainly astounding (speaking through wires between continents, the first appearance of tanks and gas in the battlefield, the first ignition of electric lights...) but we certainly absorbed the emergence of the information age via the internet/personal computer at our fingertips in the past ten years with a remarkable ease! I'm suggesting that the only way to replicate the acceleration of civilizational change in the previous epoch is for space aliens to land on the White House lawn, for cold fusion to actually work, for some genius to actually rig up a functioning time machine.

Now, that would be revolution. What we are experiencing now is something akin to a great velocity but not a great acceleration. The feeling of revolution that our contemporary revolutionaries are reaching for has faded since our last the background radiation of the big bang, a glowing narcotic buzz of television snow/static noise.. and not like the scorching bonfire burn of aristocrat furniture.



There is another purpose for the revolutionary impulse: as a symbol for the dynamic of the churn of innovation. Everytime we strive to make fresh any creative act, we must break an antecedent conception in order to find a way forward. Systems, habits, mores, customs, traditions all must be broken so new ones can take their place. Joseph Schumpeter's creative destruction is a norm today, a hard lesson for societies still mired in degrees of atavistic states but still they are striving to adopt it. Static systems resist change, this is normal. Force must be applied for the new to emerge, this too is normal. Congealing coagulation must form as it must be broken for the new to have an opportunity to coalesce. The open question is the measure of finesse which is summoned for the job. We tend to forget about the role of artifice in the construction of ideas, argument, theorization. Any story does an injustice to reality on some level. I summon the Didion quotation in the colophon of the front page of this blog:

"We tell ourselves stories in order to live... we look for the sermon in the suicide, for the social or moral lesson in the murder of five. We interpret what we see, select the most workable of the multiple choices. We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of the narrative line upon disparate images, by the "ideas" with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience.
We tend to take the fairy tales of intellection too seriously, we confuse the map for reality all the time. A rhetorical device is still a device, an artificialty, an artifice. But if revolution is what art serves, it is interesting to consider how the rhetorical device of irony has been weaponized towards that end:
Irony as infinite, absolute negativity
While many reputable critics limit irony to something resembling Aristotle's definition, an influential set of texts insists that it be understood, not as a limited tool, but as a disruptive force with the power to undo texts and readers alike. This tradition includes S?ren Kierkegaard, 19th-century German critic and novelist Friedrich Schlegel ("On Incomprehensibility"), Charles Baudelaire, Stendhal, and the 20th-century deconstructionist Paul de Man ("The Concept of Irony"). Briefly, it insists that irony is, in Kierkegaard's words, "infinite, absolute negativity". Where much of philosophy attempts to reconcile opposites into a larger positive project, Kierkegaard and others insist that irony ? whether expressed in complex games of authorship or simple litotes ? must, in Kierkegaard's words, "swallow its own stomach". Irony entails endless reflection and violent reversals, and ensures incomprehensibility at the moment it compels speech. Not surprisingly, irony is the favorite textual property of deconstructionists.
(Emphasis mine.)



Revolution has a romantic resonance to young ears, but the young are famous for being insensitive to the human cost of violent change. Youth have their excuse. But what of adults who becon heedlessly, recklessly, the destructive potential of revolution? Sometimes they are simply called psychopathic. The Ur-philosopher Socrates might have been the first to transform the rhetoric of persuasion into a blunt instrument to be used for aggressive purposes. What follows is an extended selection from I.F. Stone's Trial of Socrates, page 154:

Socrates could have been asked at his trial why he did not leave the city, particularly after the execution of Leon of Salamis had shown him the injustice of the regime. Was that not enough to demonstrate --as it had to moderate oligarchs like Theramenes --that democracy was at least a lesser evil, safer and more just than a narrow oligarchy?

But Socrates was protected by the amnesty too. He could not be prosecuted for anything he had said or done before the the restoration of the democracy nor for having been a teacher or associate of Critias or Charmides. Had the indictment covered these earlier activities, it would have been attacked at the trial as a blatant violation of the amnesty and we would have heard about this from Plato and Xenophon.

The indictment, to be valid, could cover only the activities or teachings of Socrates in the four years between the overthrow of the Thirty and the trial. Socrates must have resumed the same teachings and inspired the same kind of following as before the Thirty. And his accusers may well have feared that these youths might again attempt the overthrow of the recently restored democracy. Just such an attempt was threatened in 401 B.C., only two years after the amnesty and two years before he was put on trial.

The Athenians had thought their troubles over in 403 when their opposing civic factions made peace. But there was a loophole in the amnesty agreemnet, and this was to cause fresh conflict. Some of the aristocrats who had supported the Thirty refused to be reconciled. Rather than renew the civil war and subdue them by force, the Athenians agreed to let them withdraw to the nearby twon of Eleusis and establlish a separate and independent city-state of their own.

The bitter enders seem to have prepared for just such a contingency with characteristic foresight and ferocity. Whenthe growing armed resistance to the Thirty won its first foothold in Attica by capturing a hilltop border stronghold at Phyle, Critias and his supporters decided to prepare a refuge where they could fight to the end should they be forced out of Athens. They picked Eleusis by force, and execued three hundred of its males --probably the whole citizenry of this small town.

This massacre --quite in the style of Critias --is attested by two contemporary sources, one pro-democratic, the other anti-democratic. The former is Lysisas and the other Xenophon. They agree on Critias' motive and the number killed is supplied by Xenophon in his fuller account. Xenophon's Hellenica describes the trickery by which Critias siezed the threee hundred and then intimidated an Athenian assembly in giving the executions a semblance of legality by voting a mass death sentence without trial.

This climatic horror of the doomed dictatorship prepared the way for the events of 401, which poisoned the atmosphere of Athens with fresh suspicion and --I believe-- finally triggered the prosecution of Socrates.

Not long after the massacre in Eleusis, Critias and Charmides were slain in battle with the growing forces of the resistance. The dictatorship began to fall apart and the path was cleared to reconcilliation. When peace was made, the minority of bitter-enders withdrew to Eleusis. The Athenians thought their troubles were over. But such men do not give up easily. The unreconciled came from the ranks of the wealthiest Athenians, with ample funds to hire mercenary soldiers. Hardly two years had passed when Athens learned that the Eleusians were preparing to attack the city.

Xenophon tells us that the Athenians at once mobilzed "their whole force against them," killed the commanders, "and then, by sending to the others their friends and kinsmen, persuaded them to become reconciled." So the civil conflict finally ended. "And, pledged as they were under oath, that in very truth they would not remember past grievences," Xenophon writes, "the two parties even to this day live together as fellow-citizens and the commons [demos>] abide by their oaths" not to take revenge.

That was 402 B.C., just two years befroe the trial of Socrates. I believe there never would have been a trial had he, too, demonstrated his own reconcilliation with the democracy, had he paid some tribute --as Xenophon did --to thte magnanimity of the majority in the peace settlement. Had any such change in his attitude taken place, he would have allayed fear that a new crop of "Socratified" and alienated youth might emerge from his following to unleash civil war again within the city.

But there is no evidence, either in Plato or Xenophon, of any such change in Socrates after the overthrow of the Thirty. Socrates resumed his antidemocratic and antipolitical teachings. His tone had been more offensive than his doctrine. Neither was altered. The sneer barely below the surface of his irony was still there. He remained unreconciled. He seems to have learned nothing from the events of 411, 404, and 401.

It is as if he continued to live apart from the city, in the clouds above it, still looking down on it with disdain. He shows no awareness --either in the Platonic or the Xenophonic accounts --that his fellow citizens had reason to be concerned.

(Emphasis mine, again.)



Lyrics float in my head:
You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it's evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
But when you talk about destruction
Don't you know that you can count me out...

For a fascinating discussion about the French Revolution:, see/hear "The Terror in revolutionary France" via the BBC's excellent radio series "In Our Time", hosted by Melvyn Bragg, highly recommended for download via podcast. Random notes follow:

...three governments in three years, all conventions overturned, anarchy in the streets, war with Austria coming nearer the capitol, internecine rivalry turned into total war: "The real enemies are not outside, the real enemies are within, and if they are not dealt with everything will collapse..." The republicans turned on themselves... you can't just have a disagreement and eject someone from office, you have to say that someone is a traitor someone is wrong... violence becomes an instrument of or towards government... looking for the fifth column.... the corruption of the concept of virtue by conflating its' definition with terror... the constitution was suspended, a license to kill... utopia year zero, rewriting the calendar, to change people's conception of time as well as everything else.... sheer power...
Outside of truth, there is nothing but power.

Posted by Dennis at 5:58 PM | Comments (0)

Whispers in the Crowd

Via Modern Kicks, in Big Red & Shiny Issue #59, Mathew Nash reviews "Critical Mess", a book I flicked with my Amazon 1-Click and which now is queued up on my nightstand for what I expect to be a good read.

In the meantime, why not read an online review? Here's a snip:

What is left, then, is text that is not critical at all, or at least not openly and consistently so. The text that is produced in response to art is introspective, descriptive, personal and, at it?s best, offers the writer as a portal though which the work can be experienced in text and removed from the authentic experience of the work itself. ?The slip of terminology from art criticism to mere art writing in recent years is symptomatic of a growing indifference to writing?s polemic and contestative potential,? Charlesworth writes.

As it is laid out by several writers in Critical Mess, the ?crisis? in art criticism is on several fronts. The first part of the problem is that critics cannot, or choose not, to be decisively judgmental about artwork, and opt instead for personal insights and descriptive, ?belletristic? writing. The second side of the problem lies in the audience, who do not perceive art criticism as definitive or authoritative, and may not even read it at all. The final dilemma for art critics is that the scale of the art world has grown exponentially in the past few decades, and the pluralistic and interdisciplinary nature of art denies critics firm points of reference upon which they can declare works good or bad, and instead pushes them into the role of explaining the discursive nature of contemporary art.

My take: you can't maintain a critical posture without a framework to critque from in the first place. This framework is the construction of a model for recent art history, an act which has been forbidden by a core tenant of our recent era(...a.k.a. postmodern, the word which currently cannot be uttered in "intelligent" circles in our artworld): that any generalization is a violent and unjust reduction inflicted on reality. Unless we are able to schematize the arc of the past fifty years, we will be hung up on the horns of the dilemma that Nash et al are describing.

Further down, Nash nails how the power of publication has been radically democratized:

The very fact that Critical Mess avoids talk of artists and their audience implies that the critical structure wants to be removed from the actual day-to-day creation and conversations of work; critics, it seems, should show up at the end and approve or disapprove, declare what is right or wrong with art, and then leave until the next show. The very idea that involvement in, or engagement with, the larger art community might actually help critics and their audience is discarded as unpleasant. Only McEvilley, the ?outsider,? has any interest in stating the obvious:

?If we want the rest of the cultural world to even begin to take our discourse seriously, we?ve got to demystify it from all of this insane romantic priestly power-tripping.?

In many ways, this is already happening, just not among the people who are famous for being art critics. Blogs and online journals, written by artists or those who care about art, are creating conversations that not only ?demystify? criticism but openly encourage their audience to become a part of it. Far from shouting down to the masses from a pulpit, the new form of criticism is passed in whispers among the crowd; the Critical Mess is not that the peasants are no longer begging the critic Pharisees for bread, but that they are feeding themselves and proud to do so.

Big, Red & Shiny, chock full of interesting stuff.

Posted by Dennis at 11:19 AM | Comments (0)

March 13, 2007

Works on Paper


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Bart Exposito is curating a group show at Jack Hanley Gallery called "Paper Bombs". The idea has to do with an intentionally blurred notion of the plentitude of paper, of the urge to convey ideas (art) from one to many (hence the image of aerial propagation), of the role of paper and copious (machine-printing press) production, of the brilliance of manifold imaginative worlds (hence the bloom of bombs). And the bombs? Flowers bloom from this barrel.

The show reminds me of the MOMA Queens drawing show, this one being more colorful. There are a ton of artists in it, over twenty... and the Saturday night opening is going to be packed with people. Saturday will be a big night in ChinaTown, that night being the community open house where all the establishments there --galleries, stores, restaurants and bars will remain open into the evening. The place will be packed in a way that only ChinaTown can make graceful.

Working late into the night last night, I thought that that particular moment was an opening all of its' own. Artists brought beers, joked about Bart's task of arranging the work on the walls, took smoke breaks outside as they worked on their installation. ChinaTown streets, empty as midnight rolled around and Grand Star's young bar attracted kids unselfconsciously singing old skool rap in the street. It was a classic ChinaTown moment. The place has a good feel already.

Below the fold, early shots of the install:




Posted by Dennis at 1:59 PM | Comments (0)


There was no time to cook dinner last night, life here can get pretty hectic. So this morning I had to cook up the paella so the ingredients wouldn't spoil. That's not a bad way to start the day, though.

Posted by Dennis at 10:04 AM | Comments (0)

March 9, 2007

Gold Fever

Nico Israel, ArtForum --September 2001-- Public Offerings:

The original title for the exhibition was "The Global Academy," a rubric emphasizing distinctions and links between "global" art and art-school hubs--Los Angeles, New York, Berlin, London, and Tokyo. Its newer name and retooled curatorial direction arose during a period in which initial public offerings of stocks seemed like a sure thing. This was a time when, according to one catalogue essay, some young artists, like stockbrokers and dot-commers, expected to make it big before they hit thirty or not at all. Those of us with other careers can't help feeling a bit grateful that the era this show celebrates may already be verging on obsolescence. For any curator or critic of contemporary art, this is, of course, the booby trap of historicizing the (careening) contemporary. But now that some of the hype over IPOs has waned, tech stocks have tanked, and, perhaps consequently, the exploding art market has been reined in, the offerings the exhibition explored--and the offering it made--seem strangely noncommittal, neither bull nor bear.
(Emphasis mine, alas.)


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Thinking Out Loud


Posted by Dennis at 4:28 PM | Comments (0)

Tiriti Tran Tran Tran Tran

Spain is calling us...

I'm feeling so confused
Oh, love of my life
I'm feeling so confused
And I go over the walls
Which leads to your doors

The poppy in the field said to the wheat
I'm not marrying anybody
I don't know about you
The poppy in the field said to the wheat

When I look at her she cries
I don't know what's the matter with your mother
Because when I look at her she cries
I don't know what I should do

When I look at this lady
When she walks around
Cinnamon and roses fall to the ground
Commenter "Pekinducks" provides the data:
Matilde Coral is the older dancer. Chano Lobato sings the second verse and Rancapino the first. The name of the song is A dibujar esa rosa. (Draw that Rose).

Via Manolo

Posted by Dennis at 7:25 AM | Comments (0)

No Documents, No Person

I fell down a rabbit hole called "The Master and Margarita" by Mikhail Bulgakov.
(Skeleton key: The foreigner is the devil himself conjured unwittingly by publisher Berlioz who has commisioned an antirelgious poem, painting the life of Jesus Christ in "dark colors". Solovki, I assume is a gulag.)

I'm using this site to tie a rope around my waist as I go spelunking. Here's a sample:

De power of words

In the Soviet Union the word was extremely important. Up to the ultimate absurdity. When something was named, it existed, when something was concealed, it did not exist. Professor Efim Etkind (1918-1999) of the Paris Sorbonne, who had to leave the Soviet Union in 1974 under pressure of the KGB, described it as follows in an article entitled "Soviet Taboos": ..."What we don't recognize officially is a shadow, a ghost, non existing. What we don't give a name loses reality". Or, as the Master said: ..." - "No documents, no person".

But the opposite is also true. When certain words or notions - or, extended, opinions too - are repeated often enough, they become reality. The Soviet era was characterized by this kind of indoctrination. The denial of the reality which was created this way could be considered as subversive. Yes, even forgetting could be punished. The Kirghiz writer Chingiz Aitmatov, now ambassador of his country to the NATO, the European Union and Belgium, discribes in his book "The Day Lasts More Than a Hundred Years", how a man was arrested because he had forgotten to mention to an Englishman that World War II could never have been won without Stalin's genius. And in his novella "An Incident at Krechetovka Station " Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn discribes an incident he observed in one of the many rangeerstations during World War II. The Soviet citizen Tveritinov is arrested obecause he doesn't know Stalingrad.

Saying something - not saying something. It could define the correctness of your political opinion. The Lithuanian egineer and writer Czeslaw Milosz (1911-2004) went one step further: "Even your gestures, the intonation of your voice, or your preference for a tie could, with the use of the right words, be interpreted as an expression of your political disposition - good or bad, it depends..."

With the using of words to create or interprete a reality - or not using words to deny a reality, Bulgakov plays constantly in his novel, sometimes in a subtile way, sometimes explicitely. One of the nicest exalmples is probably this reaction of Ivan in his dialogue with the doctor:

- Do you know Berlioz?' Ivan asked significantly.
- The... composer?'
Ivan got upset.
-What composer? Ah, yes... Ah, no. The composer has the same name as
Misha Berlioz.

So the Soviet official Misha Berlioz has not the same name as the French composer. No, the composer has the same name as Misha. It's just a question of respecting the correct order...

Defeat the ennemy with his own weapons

The masking, the constant interchanging of illusion and reality, and the naming or conceiling of concepts are instruments Bulgakov uses skilfully and plentifully to create fantastic and grotesk effects. In the real life of his time and place these instruments were generated by a hierarchical shift between language and reality by the authorities. What was true or false in the language of the Soviet authorities ruled over what was true or false in reality. So Bulgakov did fight the enemy with his own weapons Yet with more linguistic feeling, more sense of perspective, more sense of beauty, less arbitrariness and more respect for the reader or the listener.

Sounds familiar to me.

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March 8, 2007

Works on Paper

A couple of details follow...

You might recognize a recent addition to the quiver.

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Works on Paper


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Short Plays and Text Performances

Thursday March 15, 8:00
The Mountain
473 Gin Ling Way Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 625-7500

written by joseph goodrich, directed by wes walker
with: gray palmer

?unreliable witness? (excerpt from ?paul's case ?)
reading by chris kraus

"marine layer"
written and directed by sharon yablon
with: coleman hough, tina preston, and mickey swenson

"the love poems"
reading by john tottenham

excerpt from "the slip"
written and directed by kevin o'sullivan
with: gia mcginley, gill gayle, and greg littman

original music by michael belfer

Posted by Dennis at 2:14 PM | Comments (0)

Penny Aphorisms

To be an artist is to recognize one's affinities and make them vivid.

To be modern is to reconcile the things one makes with the life one lives.

Corollary: The postmodern implies the modern. They were born as one and bifurcated as they issued forth. In the latter, we indicated G-d through material means. In the former, we indicated everyday life through conceptual means.
Temerity is an occupational hazard for artists. The attempt to make something that will survive your lifetime requires balls, gumption. An artist who doesn't risk insolence, risks mediocrity.

Corollary: You can't fake arrogance.

The shortlist is the brutal essence of art in the public sphere. It is an illusion, it seems to be tyrannical. But without it, we could never together share the art we make --each of us as we ultimately exist in our private world.

Art manifests extrinsic value only once it has been invested with an intrinsic value in the first place. Therefore in the world of the marketplace, art is a mirror image of consumer goods, an inversion of the rule.

Salesmanship 101, lesson one: gratitude, generosity.

There should never be a struggle between "sales" and "manufacturing" in the artworld. The former should always be lucky to work with the latter, else they become the merchant of shoddy goods. The latter shouldn't let this go to their head. All are in service of art.

The artworld is like a theater. The stage is so small and the wings are full of actors. Most feel that they might never step under the lights! The only solace: that the marquee must change.

Be the first audience.

We who would be masters of irony, tend to fail to appreciate that our control will not prevent another turn against us.

All criticism is self criticism.

There are many art worlds.

Bureaucracy is the natural enemy of art.

Never let them know you're hungry.

Beneath the beach, the paving stones.

Kindness needs No theory.

Posted by Dennis at 1:19 PM | Comments (0)

Notes on Consolation

I've been thinking about Steve, my father Obie, my step dad Warren, my father in law Richard, our grandparents, my wife's co-workers (one young woman in the flower of her youth and the wife of another with three kids)... has a few notes on the art of comforting mourners:

...Without getting too deep into more examples, we can add to the collection of no-no's such phrases as "I know how you feel," "Life goes on," "You will heal," "Count your blessings," "You have other children," "Your grief will pass," and "You have your whole life ahead of you." All these expressions trivialize the mourning, rather than appreciating the gravity of the grief.

Condolence visits challenge us to be exceedingly sensitive and careful with our lips. Once the words come out, they cannot, unlike cars, be recalled. It is nice when the mourners themselves are understanding and appreciate our good intentions, but we should not rely on this.

You may ask, "If everything I say is potentially no good, what should I say?" Great question. And the answer is: say nothing! Say nothing? Is it not the obligation of the comforter to offer words of comfort? The answer, surprising as it may sound, is no. It is not the obligation of the consoler to offer words of comfort. The consoler's obligation is to comfort, plain and simple.

How can one comfort without saying anything? Comfort is achieved simply by being there, with the mourner, even in silence.
Posted by Dennis at 1:16 PM | Comments (0)

Jesus Christ!

LA Weekly has a feature by Steve McDonald on a guy I blogged about sometime ago, Neil Saavedra Jesus Christ:

?Two thousand years ago, he walked this Earth teaching, guiding, loving and preparing to make the ultimate sacrifice... What if today you could walk with him, laugh with him, cry with him? Not just through prayer but through the radio? You are listening to The Jesus Christ Show. To be a part of the show, call 1 (800) 520-1KFI. And now here is our host, Jesus Christ.?
Good stuff, naturally.

Posted by Dennis at 1:02 PM | Comments (0)

March 6, 2007

Dan Hug's Screen Weeks

This announcement is late by two events, but Dan Hug Gallery is immediately releasing a super cool series of screening events rolling for the next couple of weeks:


Daniel Hug is pleased to present a two-week series of performance, film and video starting March 3rd and ending March 18th, 2007.
Performances and film/video screenings will be held every Wednesday through Sunday starting at 7 pm sharp. Please arrive early as there is limited seating.

Saturday March 3 - ANNA PARKINA ?Online Empire?
Sunday March 4 ? LOS SUPER ELEGANTES ?Nothing Really Matters?
Wednesday March 7 ? LASZLO MOHOLY-NAGY ?Do Not Disturb?
Thursday March 8 ? BRIAN BRESS/NATASCHA SNELLMAN/ BOBBI WOODS ?Wild Orchid 2 ? Banana Boogaloo?
Friday March 9 ? MY BARBARIAN
Saturday March 10 ? MIKE KELLEY/PAUL MCCARTHY ?Fresh Acconci?
Sunday March 11 ? MARIE JAGER ?RUR?
Wednesday March 14 ? JEFF OSTERGREN
Thursday March 15 ? JILL SPECTOR
Friday March 16 ? UNA SZEEMANN ?Montewood Hollyverita?
Saturday March 17 ? MICHELE O?MARAH ?Valley Girl?
Sunday March 18 ? MATT FISHBECK

I am especially interested in tomorrow's L.M.N.'s "Do Not Disturb" and Saturday's "Fresh Acconci"...

Posted by Dennis at 9:08 AM | Comments (0)

The St. Petersburg Declaration

The best we can do is fight a holding action until modern elements within the Muslim world draw a line between themselves and the atavists (Islamofascists) among them (I used to use the term "civil war", but this separation need not be violent unless the latter chooses so). I believe that the St. Petersburg Declaration is a historical moment of great significance, wonderful news and it should be celebrated and defended by free people all over the world.

The best coverage I've found so far is here from Gateway Pundit.

The next Islamic Enlightenment starts now!

From InstaPundit: "THE SECULAR ISLAM SUMMIT hasn't gotten the attention it deserves... the media have mostly ignored this...". That's right. That's why I've migrated towards surfing around 50 sites on the web for my news. Bloglines helps smooth out the surf. Actually, I used to spend more time reading the newspapers back in the day before I realized their deficiencies.

UPDATE: A very good video with clips of several presenters here.

Posted by Dennis at 6:59 AM | Comments (0)

March 5, 2007

Goodbye Steve

Steve Criqui passed away yesterday.


Posted by Dennis at 4:20 PM | Comments (0)

Vanessa Redgrave is Nothing Like You

The Year of Hoping for Stage Magic

I have been asked if I do not find it strange that Vanessa Redgrave is playing me. I explain: Vanessa Redgrave is not playing me, Vanessa Redgrave is playing a character who, for the sake of clarity, is called Joan Didion. At points before this character appears onstage, she loses first her husband and then her daughter. Such experiences of loss may not be universal, but neither are they uncommon. If you take the long view, which this character tries to do, they could even be called general.

This does not close the subject. ?But Vanessa Redgrave is nothing like you.?

This is not entirely true. As it happens I knew her before I ever thought of writing a play. Tony Richardson, to whom she was married, was until his death in 1991 one of our closest friends. I had known their daughters since they were children. She and I understand certain kinds of experience in the same way. We share the impulse to make things, the fear of not getting them right. I would even guess, although I have not asked the question, that she has had the nightmare in which you get pushed onstage without a script.

I say some of this.

?But she?s taller than you are.?

This is true. She is taller than I am.

I try to suggest that her task in this play, for better or for worse, offers more elusive challenges than height impersonation.

Then I give up.

In fact I never thought of the character who would appear onstage in this play as me. I thought of her as ?the speaker,? or ?she.? I thought of myself as the witness, the watcher, the auditor, the audience, ?we.? ?The speaker will be telling us something we need to know,? the notes read. ?We notice on the part of the speaker a certain carelessness about time sequence. It occurs to us that she may be losing chronology.?

It would be logical to assume that I adopted this distance to protect myself. It would also be wrong. The idea that whoever appeared onstage would play not me but a character was central to imagining how to make the narrative: I would need to see myself from outside. I would need to locate the dissonance between the person I thought I was and the person other people saw.

One example, a note: ?This is about the speaker discovering that she is completely powerless, that the control she so prizes is nonexistent.?

This was for me, even as I wrote it, novel information.

I had never before thought of myself as a person prizing control.

Only when I saw the play performed did I see that character clear, and I also saw her in the mirror.
Posted by Dennis at 6:51 AM | Comments (0)

Talking about Rectangles


The avant-garde isn't what it used to be. In the 20th century, artists thought incessantly about the future, but so far the 21st century seems more invested in the relatively recent past. Emerging artists are described as the love child of so-and-so and so-and-so, and everybody gets called "neo" this or "neo" that. So modernism's major movements are reborn -- as neo-expressionism, neo-Dada, neo-minimalism -- but what that tricky prefix actually refers to is a lack of innovation. Not that we need a new "ism" exactly. It's just that looking back has gotten old.

The artists themselves, in the meantime, have gotten young. They are being sold so young that they have to come with papers to establish their lineage. Legions of culture workers produce wall paragraphs, catalogues, and magazine blurbs to confirm young debutantes. Collectors are thus invited to speculate on promising futures, but the art objects themselves look remarkably retro.

It seems clear to a lot of us that there is a problem, but the various accounts of our condition that I have read strike me as either hysterically reactionary or irresponsibly giddy. People decide that art is either dead or immortal, but no one wants to admit that it might be a little sick.

I found problems here and there amidst very sharp and insightful paragraphs. His concluding device announcing a "practical avant-garde" goes clunk for me but I'm keen to see more of Dushko Petrovich's work in the future.

P.S. The most piercing paragraph of all:
...there were simple rules all along. You were given a white room in a Big Art City for a month. You had to do something in that room to generate attention beyond that month. You had to be written about, bought, or at least widely discussed. Then you would get to have the white room again for another month, and so on. If you did this enough, you had what was called a career. This generated what is perhaps this century's biggest art movement: careerism.
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March 4, 2007




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Works on Paper


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March 3, 2007

They tried to kill us, we won, let's eat.

Happy Purim everyone!

(Link. Musician: "Socalled".)

Can art exist in a pointless world?

Before the advent of Amalek, there were two schools of thought. The nations believed that various powers ran the world -- idols, demons, angels, etc. As an alternative, Abraham established the concept of monotheism in the world -- a conviction that God controlled all events. Amalek introduced a third idea -- belief in nothing! This is atheism, which posits that nothing special controls the world.

From Amalek's perspective, there is really nothing to live for. In an atheistic civilization, morals are intrinsically fluid, and subject to change. The natural goals of such a society can only be greed, might and power. It is survival of the fittest. He who owns the most, and controls the most, wins!

Atheism is worse than idol worship. Idol worship is polytheism, the belief in many powers. It is possible to progress from many gods to belief in one God. The prime example is Abraham. Originally an idol worshipper, he eventually came to the knowledge that there can be only one true Power. The road from many powers to one power is relatively short, since the individual accepts in principle that there is something directing the universe.

However, Amalek denies that any power runs the world. It's all blind, accidental, happenstance. As Rabbi Tzaddok says, they believe in nothing. From this position, it is most difficult to accept the Almighty God.

Amalek had a vested interest in attacking the Jewish people, whose very existence proved the existence of God to the world. They proved that spiritual powers exist, and that there are absolute values. Amalek needed to attack the Jews, as they had struck a major blow for the twin ideas of God's existence and absolute morality.
Posted by Dennis at 7:28 AM | Comments (0)

March 2, 2007

Chris Jagers' Life Drawing Class

Chris Jagers is doing great work with his figure drawing class. First, he asked them to bring in their laptops and drawing/painting programs:
I came back from New York feeling experimental, so I decided to have the students bring their computers into life drawing class. After all, they are digital artists, so I thought, ?why not?? It was a huge success! Suddenly, they all became geniuses.
Then, the CAD program:
This week, for Life Drawing, I had my students try something that I have wanted to do for years. Draw in 3D. Actually, they imported a flat gesture drawing they had completed from a live model, into 3D studio Max. Then they transferred their lines into ?splines,? which can be moved around in a virtual 3D space. This way, they were able to experience how lines can move forward and back in space, literally. To help in this exercise, the students posed a crude 3D skeleton in the position of the drawing, to provide a rough gage of where the lines might fall. Below is an example of this skeleton being superimposed over a drawing.

Well, it seems I'd better to fly off to NYC to get some of that experimental feeling too. Great work, Chris!

Posted by Dennis at 5:15 PM | Comments (0)

Works on Paper

A month of paintings on paper began yesterday.

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T. Kelly Mason Mandrakin'
Tonight Tonight Tonight!
10 PM - 1 AM
2692 S. La Cienega Blvd.
LA, CA 90034

Posted by Dennis at 3:23 PM | Comments (0)

March 1, 2007

Tossa Weblog

Here's a great site for a quick visit to our little pueblo by the sea in Catalunya. It's run by our friend John from the Netherlands who has a lifelong affection for Tossa de Mar. He found this time lapse shot of the big beach this winter.

Further down in his blog, John has posts linking to an underwater photographer, Pablo Martinez who seems to like the water around Tossa. (Here and here.) I'm starting to miss my Cressi's.

?Hola nuestro amigos de Tossa!
?Hecho de menos, a veremos pronto!

More underwater video via John's site here and here. I can do without the soundtrack. I like to hear the respirators hissing and the bubbles blub.

Posted by Dennis at 1:19 PM | Comments (0)