posted by Caroline Picard

Here is article I wrote about shamanism. It’s actually about shamanism as it was depicted in an exhibit in an apartment gallery over the summer. In some way that show became a vehicle for me to think about whether or not it is possible for a Contemporary (Urban? Though I’m not sure that makes a difference…) American can appropriate/incorporate shamanic practice (though shamanic could stand in for any kind of ritualistic practice embedded in another culture) without sacrificing a degree of potency or, in this case, collapsing under ironic influences….I don’t know. I feel like it’s dangerous to draw a conclusion wherein one’s access to foreign cultural understanding is limited, but it seems just as dangerous to assume that one is capable of fully understanding a community (particularly it’s spiritual habit) by virtue of possessing/recreating its signifiers. The latter feels a little imperial. The former could lead to the celebration of biggots. Neither is ideal.

Regardless, you can read the essay by going here.

Bookstores We Love: Episode 1

September 10, 2010

Hey, Welcome to Bookstores We Love. We’ll be doing this on a ‘whenever the mood strikes’ basis, but we have a lot of love for indie bookstores, so expect to see a lot of posts like this in the future. We wanted to call attention to the bookstores that inspired us as we gear up for the launch of our own little shop, The Paper Cave.

During last year’s Dollar Store Summer Tour I had the enviable job of booking 7 readers in 11 cities across the country. Some towns we knew we wanted to hit. Home towns, fun towns. Austin, Texas where featherproof author Amelia Gray lives, and I used to. Atlanta, where Blake Butler is from. New Orleans, because New Orleans is awesome. But then there were the towns in-between. One of the big question marks was Houston. Nothing against Houston, I know a lot of nice folks from there, but we weren’t sure what kind of literary scene might be happening there. I started the usual round of calls to indie bookstores, looking for a spot, and eventually someone said “You sound like Domy people.”

I called up Russell at Domy, and he was good people indeed. The store’s site looked great, and they made a nice little write up for our event. When we got there, things were even better. I was honestly blown away at the awesomeness of Domy. They have a really great, eclectic collection of books on art, design, graffiti, counter-culture, crazy culture, and everything in-between. There are artist books and robot toys. The entire store is white, which gives it a gallery feel, and I have to say: the collection is very well curated. As well as the art! They have regular art shows with all sorts of awesome art-makers, and reading events.

Our reading was a lot of fun. We had a good crowd, and read to them out on the patio which was a great place for a reading. We caught a few people hanging out, reading and enjoying snacks from the cafe next door, and added our own group, there to see the reading. We had a big wooden porch, which we turned into a stage for a night. Domy offered us a reading discount, and we emptied our pockets. They bought a lot of our books to sell in the shop after we had gone as well. All around, a great place to have a reading, and a great discovery in Houston!

This past summer, during my annual pilgrimage to Austin, I had the chance to visit Domy Houston’s new sister store, Domy Austin, which has been open for just a year or two. Already it looks and feels amazing, with another creative mix of local and international printed matter. Austin definitely has its own vibe, with less toys and more DVDs, but the same Domy awesomeness is definitely to be found. Russell, who moved to Austin to open the Domy store, was kind enough to show Ally and I around, and we browsed and took photos and talked shopped until we had to run to the airport.

Two great bookstores deep in the heart of Texas! Recommended for all who live there, and any who visit.

An interview with David Moré

September 7, 2010

Hello! this is my first blog post as the Gallery Director at Green Lantern. We’re really excited about our opening this Saturday September 11 from 7-10 pm for David Moré’s show Normal Bias. For each exhibition we’re putting together a publication that will include things like interviews, essays, and documentation of artists’ projects. Here’s our interview with David, the rest of the publication will be available for download from the website starting Saturday. See you this weekend at our new location, 2542 W. Chicago Ave. And we’ll have open hours next week from Tuesday through Saturday 12-6 pm. Yea, we’re opening! -Abby

A conversation between David Moré, Caroline Picard and Abigail Satinsky.

AS: So let’s start by talking about when you began making instruments.

DM: Probably six or seven years ago?

AS: You were drawing before that right?

DM: Yeah. I think I kind of I came to a realization that “I’m drawing or painting just so I can hang out in my studio and listen to records. That’s real dumb.” I’ve also had this kind of uncomfortable relationship, as far as being a cultural producer, I would go to more shows and buy more records than I did books or go to art galleries. And I actually had an instructor who brought that up and said something like, “You kids buy so many CDs, when was the last time you bought a really good book about artists?” And I think it’s a pretty common thing. But yeah, I’m not a musician. Even though it seems like I should maybe try to be, it seems like the format of being in a band and having this relationship where there’s an audience and you’re presenting your music and asking for peoples’ time is not a natural thing for me. And I’ve played instruments before, so I don’t think it’s a patience issue of whether I should just sit down and learn to play the cello.

CP: Do you think it’s weird to think of these homemade instruments as being your medium? It seems like there is a difference between an artist that works with painting and pens and charcoal versus a musician. But then it also seems like you’re using these acoustic tools as a traditional artist would pens or charcoal.

DM: Yeah that’s nice because I occupy a difficult in-between place. You can’t really play a song on a spring and a piece of wood, but you can produce this other kind of thing and that’s what led to this project [sound portraits]. Thinking “Hey I should find a context for these things I do.” You can’t do like a Beethoven cover record on styrofoam.

CP: Can you talk about how you found or came upon this context of making sound portraits in the gallery?

DM: Well it originated from when Temporary Services did the Fair at UIC’s Gallery 400 and I got asked to do something. And so the fair was mostly people presenting publications or other things they had made or that were easily salable. And so I thought, “Fair, hmm, it’s called Fair. Maybe you can get your portrait done like you do at fairs, like a caricature. Cool, yeah! Audio portraits! Yeah that’s a great idea!” So I took this opportunity at Green Lantern to see if I could expand on it. And like you said, now I have more space to move around…

AS: How did you think it worked at Gallery 400?

DM: It was OK, it was fun. I think it worked alright because it was one day in a really cramped space. I definitely think that doing it at the Fair involved relating to an initiated audience. People knew they were going to an art fair. But here, [at The Green Lantern] I’ve been able to get people who are just passing by. And that’s some what interests me. The way I can relate to them, like “I do this kind of weird thing but what do y’all think, what is this music?”

AS: That’s interesting to me that you say the people at the fair would be the initiated and the people that would walk into the gallery aren’t. Because even though we are testing out ways to be something other than a totally traditional gallery space, for most people this is definitely a gallery. There are a bunch of objects on display that they’re going to look at and judge.

DM: But I don’t think this place is obviously a gallery yet and that’s the sense I get from people coming in like, “Wait, so what is this…?”

AS: Right, we’re still in a state of ambiguity…

DM: …and so it’s only a temporary gallery and you’re going to move in January..

CP: …the space right now is full of plants and furniture and curious tables with unusual homemade instruments…

[laughter]

DM: I also kind of like and hate when people ask what I’m doing. I don’t really know but I’m going to try it first and then try to figure out. That process can be pretty infuriating, but it’s also nice because ultimately I might learn something. It feels like an actual experiment.

AS: Well it’s an experiment but there’s also parameters. The participants know where to sit, how long it’s going to take, etc. Which actually, I feel, is really helpful in a lot of ways in terms of getting people to feel comfortable if they know what the parameters of the space they’re occupying because these instruments are such curiosities too.

CP: I agree. It’s interesting with this portraiture set up that people have so many expectations about what their portrait is going to look like. And then I think that there’s also this tendency to read into how somebody describes you as to whether or not they like you or they think you’re a good person or they think you’re attractive. And I think that by making this soundscape the result is already so abstract that it seems to cut a lot of that stuff out, or at least make it very transparent, you know, because you’re like “Whoa there was that weird squealing sound I wonder if it means that David thinks I’m depressed.” And then you’re like, “What am I doing? That’s idiotic. It’s just a sound. “

[laughter]

AS: Yeah when I see people come in and sit in the chair, they feel special. It’s even true when I was sitting there, I thought, this is just for me. And it reminds me also of another portrait experience. When I was ten, I went to New Orleans with my family. I got my portrait drawn in the touristy part in town. I remember it didn’t look anything like me and I was so disappointed because I felt like I had just sat there for so long! Somehow I thought the portrait would explain something about me, like it would be the window into my soul or something. And then actually getting it and thinking, “Oh you didn’t get me at all!” That is so sad! I don’t even know what happened to the drawing itself, but I remember vividly the expectation of the portrait to really be me and then realizing that that fleeting encounter failed miserably.

DM: Yeah I have never sat for a portrait like that but I imagine that it would be like the expectation of a kind of truth about yourself which is, I mean, that’s nuts! But maybe it’s a mistake that I’ve entered into making people’s portraits using audio. But I’ve been working on it and actually trying to give it a shot and find some parameters and maybe there’s some way you can gauge like, wow you’ve actually got me! Some people sitting have said “Oh wow that’s actually pretty accurate! You were right on there.” And they’re joking a little bit but there is something there. The idea of someone sitting there making abstract noises and then someone else relating those to their life is actually a pretty wild idea.

CP: Can you talk more about your selection of sounds?

DM: One of my concerns is drawing attention to everyday sounds. I think that is a common theme that there’s all these interesting sounds going on around us and if we start paying attention to them, it can be a really fulfilling experience. I can also make the analogy of when I was drawing a still life or an object or a friend, it would really change your relationship to the person or to the object just because you’re so intensely looking at your subject. You can kind of get the same thing just by walking around with a tape recorder and anytime you click it on, you’re paying attention to everything that’s happening around you. I had a really sweet experience a couple of years ago. I was walking around in Havana with this guy, and during a power outage, I said I wanted to make a recording of a generator. When I switched the recorder on he was quiet and when I was done he said, “That was so amazing, as soon as you turned that thing on I just noticed all the amazing street sounds and generative sounds just from taking this walk in this darkened city.” Focusing on surrounding sounds can be a really rich experience.

I want there to be a lot of humor involved too. Yesterday for one of the portraits I took a cymbal and I was bowing it in the bathroom. It was really really loud but at least there was this spatial difference in the sound. Also, with a lot of the work I’m interested in doing, sound doesn’t have to come from two speakers, even though that’s the way a lot of people perceive it.

The only thing I guess I don’t know how it’s going to end. There is going to be a formal gallery opening and I am collecting all the portraits. They are definitely a gift, they are a gift for the person whose portrait I took.

But I am also recording them all digitally and I’m going to have an archive. So on a personal level a lot of the project is getting composition ideas because you have to improvise on the spot to see what these people sound like, right? The project is kind of like a big exercise for me.

CP: Does that mean that over the course of a day before you come into the studio, you think about different sort of compositional progressions?

DM: Well, I think the project potentially builds a more efficient process to describe what someone sounds like which sounds like a completely ridiculous idea. But it is kind of good to make your brain do this thing that doesn’t really make any sense. Just to see if it comes up with anything else, a solution to this ridiculous problem.

Prepping books

September 6, 2010

posted by caroline picard

Things are getting closer. Of course it’s still months from the point of releasing books to the public, but I’m almost finished laying out/proofing Fiction at Work–a collection of flash fiction culled from the online journal of the same name. And I’m due for the last edits of Erica’s On The Mutation of Fortune; I’m about halfway through the layout process on that one. Kordian is also almost finished and Amira’s text, Forgery, is ready for layout. And bam. There it is. Probably means we’ll release these books early next year. Hopefully, hopefully in the new space.

The space that does not, as yet, exist. I was looking at a space over in Logan Square pretty seriously. It looked amazing, a three story building with a substantial storefront. The basement, as it turns out, was almost entirely saturated with water: meaning the wooden support beams were 92% wet. The inspector had a yellow hand-held contraption with two little prongs that flipped out upon the depression of a button. When inserted into wood, they measured the water therein. So onward, yet again.

Of course I’m worried about how long it might actually take to get a space. Every single dream I’ve had this summer has involved some aspect of architecture. So much so, that I’ve almost convinced myself that all my dreams must be that way, about architecture. In the meantime, though, we’re doing great work, devising strategies to support the gallery via fundrasising, and of course the public programs and exhibits start this week. And soon, soon the bookstore will be live, on-line as well…

More updates to come.

These Are Not My Memories

August 28, 2010

posted by Caroline Picard

I could have sworn that I’d already posted this, but then I couldn’t find it…

posted and written by caroline picard

After The Death of Her Mother, Before The Death of Barry:

Upon the death of their mother, Lydia’s brother and sister, her aunt and uncle and cousins too-everyone went hunting the witchcraft-substance, scaring it out with sticks and brooms, lighting skirts on fire to see whether or not they burned, pointing fingers, whispering on the phone, examining one another, taking notes, conferring behind backs, begging the pendulum, asking pyschics and crystals and giants from the fifth dimension, so her family pointed back and forth and back and forth, a crossfire over their mother’s grave: Who has inherited her slick black gut juice?
In this version of the story, they cut the corpse posthumously: to see the juice came oozing out her spleen—just like it did with their mother’s mother.
And then they ate the body.

Poor, poor narcissists. Poor feeble and trembling, women with bended knees, quaking old women with unsteady tea-colored and small eyes, victims of their own miserable decisions.

Terrified she might contain what it was they sought, Lydia ran away.

They say this substance inhabits the lower intestines. They say if you slice the belly open, examine that intestine and you will see see see. A ball of greaazzsie dark matter like crude oil. A beady mass, by which the quaking witch-craft women, bend their knees and light, like candles, to light the dark of their loneliness.

Lydia fled to camp.
Having lived with lost boys, the boys became a surrogate family and she became wild and her hair grew long, the hair of her vaginal regions was long and glossy, unkempt, matted, it hung its own beard between her legs. She fornicated, feral like a weasel, a rat: a wild and ruddy thing, pleasing in ecstacy as she was weary and dull next day.
She had thick and dirty ankles.
She turned into a bear.
Rar rar RAR!

posted and written by caroline picard

the continuation…

The Witch-craft Substance

It is the shit of interior, parasitic birds. It is impossible to pass, save for some small gut-letting experiments. It is a valuable substance. It gives its possessor profound insight, but those insights are unstable in so far as it is impossible for the posessor to comprehend them objectively. The possessor of witch-craft substance will always think of him or herself first. While she may possess great insight into those around her, she devises strategies to use that insight for personal gain and as such is always a lonely person. She does not comprehend the fundamental divide between self and other.

The witch-craft substance is very potent. It’s potency depends on the number of generations it has been passed through a particular family line. While it is generally past through the female side, there are times when mothers pass it onto sons as well. The most potent strain of the witch-craft substance is attributed to the Gönskart family which recorded the phenomena in 1521 and has continued to pass through subsequent generations ever since. Although the substance must go through a complicated rendering process before it is useful, it is highly desired amongst those few who know of it but do not generate it themselves.

It is almost always confused with love, whether that be love for the self or love for another. This is a lie, however. It is a necessary technique in order that the witch-craft substance find new hosts to perpetuate itself, and in order to find those hosts communities in which to live. Until it is rendered, it is a highly toxic substance.

Some applications include: psychic poison, fuel, hallucinatory visioning, hallucinatory projection, concentration, painlessness and deceit. While those who posess the witch-craft substance are able to manifest all of the above in smaller, more intuitive applications, they do not have to render their material, tend to have less control of its outcome and, often, are unconcsoius of its use. Further, results of a hosts using their witchcraft substance are, generally, of a much lesser magnitude than those who harvest and render the material.

posted and written by caroline picard

something i’m working on/messing around with….

When someone dies you adopt what they didn’t finish.

Upon the death of her biological mother, Lydia inherited many ghosts—the ghost of her mother, the ghost of her mother’s mother, the ghosts of her mother’s mother’s mother. The influence of these spirits led to any number of confusing interior sentiments. Upon the death of her biological mother, Lydia was pulled in many invisible directions.

Nevertheless, she had felt the ghosts before her mother died—hanging around like buzzards in the hospital room. As Lydia trimmed her mother’s fingernails, she felt the ghost of her grandmother fanning herself on the spare, plastic chair in the corner. Her grandmother felt to be bored. The aura of her boredom permeated the room in pyschic waves that were, surprisingly, deflected by Lydia’s own physiological impression. Lydia was aware of imprinting something new on her mother’s consciousness—her mother who lay, prone, suffering. The sweet old bat was skeletal beyond recognition with feet too-large and pigeon-toed and numb; her head looked giant in proportion; her belly swollen with lymphatic fluid; her lungs they cried like mawing cats when she breathed, filling as they were every hour with more lymphatic fluid.

Grandmother Ghost sat still in a yellow suit, nyloned legs in black pumps tucked up under, unmoved, chewing gum, ripe with perfume.

Her daughter needed and needed and needed and Lydia saw all the hungry holes in her mother’s heart, riddled as it was with starving toothy mouths, each one whining it wanted to so bad badly. Because the ghost-mother never fed them, not one of those mouths—
hahaha
no no no
That dear grandmama: instead she had long ago planted the seeds of those many mouths in her baby’s heart. She planted them when Lydia’s mother was a little girl, before Lydia was born.

How? you ask.
When the child has reached the age of two, slice into the lower part of your gut, just above the ovary, in the lower intestine. Cut beyond the epidermal, past the muscle. Collect the pitch blood in a glass jar. Stored in the fridge, it’ll keep many days. Over the course of the child’s second year, you are to put a teaspoon of this coagulated paste in each and every meal.

The paste is full of small parasitic eggs. These eggs travel to the child’s heart and one out of one million will roost there, hatch and graft onto the child’s heart. They are eternally ravenous, impossible to sate. They feed off the bloodstream, intervening at the place between the left hand (where energy is drawn into the body) and the right hand (where energy is put out). They feed off that energy. In feeding they desire more. They shit into the blood stream. Their shit collects in the lower intestine, where, over the years it ferments and bubbles. The residue of that pitch steam intoxicates the interior mind, enhancing intuition and self-deception.
Like her grandmother, her mother had a hungry hungry thing for a heart.

Good thing Lydia had bits of bread in her pocket and she fed the little mouths of her mother’s heart over and over and over again, placing these small bits of bread—a little wet and spongy—she placed them in her mother’s left hand where the body drank them through the epidermal layer, into the bloodstream—to the heart.
Additionally, Lydia sat still, lullabied, pet, spoon-fed, consoled, wiped the sick from the brow of her beloved. Tenderness. Patience. Separation.

Those things she’d learned from the man she visited in the dark room, the one who sat with her as she wept under blindfolds. The secret man. He had given her a purse full of breadcrumbs.

The ghost of Lydia’s grandmother was not tender, but sat in the corner in a yellow dress, younger than Lydia had ever seen her, the ghost sat blowing stray hair out of her face, waiting for her daughter to die. She often sighed, and sometimes disappeared entirely.

When her mother urinated the room went rank with the smell of gasoline.

posted by caroline picard

The Sacred Book of The Werewolf

and Kangaroo too

I finished a fantastic book of late–The Sacred Book of The Werewolf by Victor Pelevin, who, on the back is described as a “psychedelic Nabakov for the cyberage.” While I’ve since discovered other books by him, I was new to his work. The book is told through the eyes of an ancient werefox, A. Huli, a woman born in China thousands of years ago. She looks like a pre-pubescent Asiatic girl with orange hair. Otherwise normal, save for the small tail between her legs. With this tail she is able to impose hallucinatory visions on those around her–particularly individuals. She uses this skill as her primary tool for income. Working as a prostitute in Russia, she meets with clients in hotel bars, follows them upstairs and then, upon unveiling her “tail” they experience an illusion of sex as the werefox watches, monitoring their experience. From that premise, adventures abound–culminating in a particularly interesting myth/manifestation of the “super werewolf”–what in her world view is an internal, rather “zen” experience of nothingness, but in her boyfriend’s (a werewolf proper, and member of the secret police) point of view resembles more Nietzsche’s superman.

Using this premise of prostitution, Pelevin maps out world economics, comparing the life of A. Huli’s sisters who work in similar fields in other countries (England and Thailand). The differences between those economies is discussed, and Russia sits between the two, a less expensive, less colonized market than England, which is nevertheless more bitter and complex than Thailand. In this portrait of the sex-trade,  the underage sex worker is granted superpowers which give her control of her working situation. By shifting focus from the potential victimization of prostitutes to their empowerment, Pelevin instead focuses on a narcissistic and intoxicating self-objectification (where the John’s self is the vehicle for the fantasy).

Further, Pelevin is hyper conscious of his relationship to history.  Using the vast age of his protagonist, he is able to reference figures like Tolstoy with first person anecdotes, just as he mentions Nabakov with a comment on the literary significance of a figure like Lolita. If it weren’t for the somewhat kitschy first person narrative, this book would likely collapse under the weight of its philosophical ambition. Nevertheless because our narrator is both generous and blithe, she offers us an easy platform on which to stand.

I am also incredibly interested in connecting, or comparing Kangaroo, by Yuz Aleshkovsky, because there are some similar themes, namely the relationship between the private (and philosophical subject) “I” with the social society as it relates to Russia’s secret police. Kangaroo is more or less all about interrogating that “I” (both in a meta-fiction level and the present narrative), teasing out the fantasy (via hallucination and fear) “I,” in one instance transforming the “I” into a sexual kangaroo which is then incriminated, and arriving at last at a sort of super-philosophical self which steps out of time. While I don’t understand the significance of these parallels, I do find them striking.

On that note, I’d like to excerpt a passage from The Sacred Book of the Werewolf, in which the werefox A.Huli describes the difference between werefoxes and werewolves.

Since the existence of things consists in their perceptibility, any transformation can occur by two routes–either through the perception of transformation or the transformation of perception.

In honor of the great Irishman, I would like to call this rule Berkeley’s Law. It is absolutely essential knowledge for all seekers of truth, gangsters and extortionists, marketing specialists and paedophiles who wish to remain at liberty. And so, in their practice, foxes and wolves exploit different aspects of Berkley’s Law.

We, the foxes use transformation of perception. We influence our clients’ perception and make them see what we want them to see. The illusion we induce becomes absolutely real for them…But we foxes continue to see the initial reality just as, according to Berkeley, God sees it. That is why we are accuesd of distorting the Image of God.

This, of course, is a hypocritical accusation, based on a double standard. The transformation of perception is the basis not only of foxe’ witchcraft, but also of many marketing techniques. For instance, Ford takes the cheap F-150 pick-up truck, gives it a lovely new front grille, restyles the bodywork and calls the resultant product the ‘Lincoln Navigator.’ And no one y Ford is distorting the Image of God. I won’t say anything about politics, everything’s clear already in that area. But somehow it’s only we foxes who provoke indignation.

Unlike us, werewolves use perception of transformation. They create an illusion, not for other, but for themselves. And they believe in it so strongly that the illusion ceases to be an illusion. There’s a passage in the Bible on that subject–’if you have faith as a mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, “Move from here to there, and it shall move; and nothing shall be impossible for you.” The werewolves have this mustard seed. Their transformation is a kind of alchemical chain reaction.

First werewolf makes himself believe that his tail is growing. And the emerging tail, which in wolves is the same kind of hypnotic organ as it is in foxes, exerts a hypnotic influence on the wolf’s own consciousness, convincing him that he really in undergoing a transformation and so on until he is completely transformed into a beast. Technologists call this positive feedback.

…While foxes directed energy at other people, wolves trained it on themselves, inducing a transformation, not in others’ perception, but in their own, and only afterwards, as a consequence, in that of others.

Can we call such a transformation real? I have never completely understood the meaning of this epithet, especially since every historical age fills it with its own meaning.

You can read more about Pelevin’s book by going here to the NY Times Book Review.

Here is an excerpt from Kangaroo that I posted ages ago. You can check out more about that book by going to Dalkey Archive.

Danny’s Reading Series

August 16, 2010

The Danny’s Tavern Reading Series

August 18th 2010!

9th Anniversary Reading

Featuring readings by Patrick Culliton, Devin King, and Caroline Picard

Patrick Culliton’s chapbook Hornet Homily is available from Octopus Books. Recent work has appeared, or will soon, in Another Chicago Magazine, Beeswax, Conduit, Eleven Eleven and elsewhere. He teaches at UIC and Loyola.

Devin King’s first book CLOPS is out from the Green Lantern Press. He lives and works in Chicago.

Caroline Picard is the Founding Director of The Green Lantern Gallery & Press, and a Co-Editor for the literary podcast The Parlor (www. theparlorreads.com). Her writing has been published in a handful of publications including the Phildelphia Independant, NewCity, Lumpen, MAKE Magazine, the Chicago Art Journal Review and Proximity Magazine.

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