Paul F. Tompkins

August 7, 2010

posted by Caroline Picard

We went to see Paul F. Tompkins the other night and it really, made me so happy. I haven’t often been to stand up comedy. The first time I went to Reno as a six year old–my mom, my dad, brother, sister–we went to see Joan Rivers at someone of those crazy-light-casino clubs. My mother, who had booked the show, was horrified I think. She kept trying to cover my ears, or take me outside (an effort I was strategically oblivious to) as Rivers continued to make drunk and old vagina jokes. While I don’t remember laughing, I remember being intensly curious–as though some curtain was being drawn back. Behind which revealed a real adulthood–no doubt something I struggled to recognize, with the expectation that it might somehow explain the curious and on-going stress of my parents.

The second time I went to something in San Francisco–it was a non-date group date, where I think these friends of friends were testing out dating strategies. We were probably 18. One friend wore a sports coat with a t-shirt and referred to himself as being “very L.A.” They took use (there were probably six of us altogether) to a comedy club’s open mic night. We saw maybe five people, and at the time I loved it because I saw the beginnings of that comedic path. In other words, aside from one woman who was embarassing, the comedians were pretty funny. They were also really raw. It was clear they were putting a lot into their performance, learning in the process how to pull back and push themselves–

In any case. Last weekend I saw Tompkins and it blew my mind. The clip included doesn’t likely do him justice. The whole I felt like I was in the hands of a polished and generous performer. An excellent story-teller too–I couldn’t help thinking about that aspect of his practice. How you are being born along by a carefully composed narrative–one so well crafted as to allow for improvisation–where old jokes are brought back with new relevance in a later part of the set.

In talking to Devin after wards, he mentioned how Charlie Chaplin was never the butt of the joke. Or, maybe another way to put it–he is often the victim of circumstance. The idiocy of others (say in the above instance, the fainting woman,) that he transforms into comedy. By contrast, Devin mentioned Tati, who is always the butt of the joke–a character incongruous with modern life, he bumbles through those scenes and, by way of his own absent-mindedness causes them to fall apart completely. (I’m thinking here of the restaurant scene in Playtime, though the following clip from Mon Uncle also illustrates the point).

At any rate, Tompkins was the butt of many jokes, jokes about the foibles of one’s own psyche–curious and unescessary. He began with a nod to the Europeans who “still don’t get that comedy doesn’t have to be about falling down.”  There tends to be a fall-back comedic method of  self-loathing/confession where one makes jokes about how he or she can’t “get laid” (I feel like netflix comedians love to say that) or jokes about weight–the kind of boiler plate lowest common denomenator, generally mean-spirited, heteronormative knocks. But here, instead, I felt like I became part of a narrative that carried me along–opening up in curious ways, so that, say a punchline would be about a nap. Or about stealing. Or the curious industry of celebrity and when it abutts one’s own small life.

About PostWar Psych

July 20, 2010


posted by Caroline Picard
Last week one of our authors, Devin King (Clops) read at a local reading event called Quickies. All authors are alloted 4 minutes during which they are to read a story of some kind. Devin posted the text of what he read and you see it by going here. This is an excerpt from the beginning:
Takeshi Mizutani’s guitar feedback is a circle built from tangents. Each tangent is the center of a two-dimensional vector-star that moves in vortices outwards and these stars can never touch except by violence. But the listener holds on to a secret, mongrel nature that expects the reverse in his musical substance; to them, Mizutani’s feedback becomes the stock characters of a post-war play or short story and the blank centers of the costumed stars enact a strange form of passive discipline, the irreversible movements of destined emotion.
You can also watch this youtube clip, to get a sense of the ambiance. (Incidentally, and ever so curiously, there was a photographer from some in-flight magazine who wanted to do a blurb on how Chicago hangs out. So so weird.)

posted by Caroline Picard

Newcity published a blurb/interview that I pulled together with Nick Butcher. I’ve posted it below. He’s playing at the Empty Bottle this week. Which is rad. Go here to see the article in its original context–

Jun 22

Soundcheck: Nick Butcher’s bicycle is still complicated

Nick Butcher is always working. He works across fields, with a visual art practice, he co-runs an independent print shop, Sonnenzimmer, with his ongoing collaborator Nadine Nakanishi, and he makes music. When he performs, he sits at a table with a plethora of curious objects: the guitar is the most recognizable, the others—electronic boxes, sticks, static surfaces—he collages together, creating walls of changing, textured sound. His two records, “The Complicated Bicycle” and “Bee Removal,” are available on Hometapes and in commemoration of a five-year anniversary since the release of “The Complicated Bicycle,” Butcher is re-releasing the record with a bonus disk containing new tracks, and performing at the Empty Bottle.

“For me the best art and music just happens,” he says. “It happens in that space where you weren’t thinking, that could be a doodle or it could be a few random notes played on a guitar. There is something that happens in that unconscious moment that I can’t quite put my finger on. There is an utter honesty to it that I find really cool. For me, this intuitive approach is the closest I can get to understanding how the world works. Because for that brief moment, I feel connected to something larger, outside of myself. So, for me, making music is a way to harness those moments and shape them into something further. To do this I use the crappiest equipment around. A cheap sampling keyboard (Casio SK-1) and a few cassette-tape recorders with handmade cassette tape loops in them. For source material, I use an acoustic guitar, or found sounds. Doors closing, coins spinning, etc…This allows me to record snippets of sounds intuitively onto the loops which, when played back, arrange themselves into repetitive patterns, unveiling the underlying structure. From there I add and subtract accent notes on the keyboard or guitar, then record another loop to play along with the first one. There’s not really an end point in mind, just a continuous morphing song cloud that shapes and shifts as it moves along. For my recordings, I take the same approach, but dump stuff onto a computer to be further edited into more focused compositions, which also allows room for incorporating beats, key changes, etc. For this reason, my performances and the recordings are two different yet connected things.” (Caroline Picard)

Nick Butcher plays the Empty Bottle, 1035 North Western, (773)276-3600, June 30 at 9:30pm.

posted by Caroline Picard

From Newcity’s 411 section:

You can read the whole piece by going here.

It’s a gallery! It’s a performance space! It’s a bookstore! It’s a café! The revived Green Lantern Gallery, temporarily housed at Chicago and Maplewood in Ukrainian Village, permanent location TBD, is aiming to be Chicago’s answer to Gertrude Stein’s living room. It’s an expanded vision of the original Green Lantern Gallery, which director Caroline Picard once ran out of her apartment. When the city shut it down due to an ordinance against such ventures, it left Picard with a choice: go big or go home (no pun intended). She’s going big. The new dream is a joint collaboration with featherproof books, another independent press interested in books that cross the boundaries between visual art and literature. “It’s like a high-school mega crush,” featherproof’s Zach Dodson says of the relationship between the presses. Picard recounts their fateful meeting at the NEXT art fair as a “marathon… of gossip and story-swapping and big-bang idea speculation.”

posted by caroline picard

With the closing of 65 Grand, more publicity shines on the issue of apartment galleries and their relationship with the city. What I found especially interesting about the article that went up in Chicago Art Magazine were the comments–especially Kathryn Born’s remark about liability issues and how those complicate the deliciousness of “being under the radar” and then too, a Kelly Thompson who remarked on not being able to find apartment galleries on a recent visit to the city. I feel like there are tons of apartment galleries still, but they may not be well publicized…in some sense they can’t be, right?

in any case, here is some of the article. you can read the whole bit by going here.

Marina City Plan with Apartment Layout

All Apartment Galleries Are Illegal?

By Kathryn Born on May 13, 2010 in Chicago Art News, Featured

UPDATE: We’re getting some new information. The city is now saying that the term “apartment gallery was confusing and unknown to the department of business affairs. There may be a $250 license that can give you a 50/50 workspace.  Please check back for updates.

Mari Espinosa

About a year ago, a Chicago city official walked into Green Lantern Gallery to check a license for the sandwich board advertisement outside.  When he found out the gallery had no license, Caroline Picard, the owner, was given a two tickets, one for the sandwich board and one for not having a business license.

Why wouldn’t a gallery owner have a business license?

Because the Green Lantern Gallery was also Picard’s home.  She estimated that of the 1200 square-foot apartment, about 50 percent was gallery space and the other 50 percent was living space.  Picard said the gallery had 501c3, or non-profit, status and she did know she needed anything further.

“There are some rules about the number of [people] that come, where the exits are,” she said “and based on those regulations, pretty much every apartment gallery is illegal.”  She noted that a business license is not meant for apartment galleries, or at least not made with them in mind.  Picard added that she was told she needed a live/work license but did not qualify because of the zone her apartment is in.

On a call to the Department of Business affairs, a representative said that the only option for an artist to work from home is a Home Occupation License.

The City of Chicago’s Business Affairs and Consumer Protection Web site, a list rules states what business owners can and can’t do with a Home Occupation license.  One states that “No more than 2 clients may visit your home at one time and no more than 10 clients within any 24 hr period.”

Another rule states that no more than 15 percent of the apartment space used as a business in a multiple dwelling building.

posted by Caroline Picard

“Hey everyone, just a reminder that the deadline for applications to Harold Arts 2010 is fast approaching…applications are due May 15th!”

Harold Arts

Invitation to Apply

Harold Arts Residency Program 2010

The Harold Arts Residency Program is an opportunity for artists and musicians to further their artistic goals and interact with like-minded individuals in a pastoral environment. Situated in the Appalachian foothills of Southeastern Ohio on the grounds of the Jeffers Tree Farm, the Harold Arts Residency Program provides a remote location with shared and individual studio facilities, comfortable accommodations, and chef-prepared meals. Throughout each 11-day session, residents are offered a forum to develop new work alongside their contemporaries while enjoying lectures, performances, and workshops presented by our staff and visiting artists. Harold Arts aims to foster exchange and dialogue across artistic disciplines while offering a platform for the production and dissemination of new works.

Attending the annual residency program opens the door to an array of opportunities for both artists and musicians. Musicians attending the residency will have the chance to collaborate with our staff of professional engineers in producing an annual compilation record, in addition to other projects administered by our creative partners, Captcha Records, Sundmagi Records, and Vosotros. Visual artists attending the residency will find themselves within a matrix of working artists and cultural producers, devising curatorial projects to be deployed nationally throughout the year. All residents are also invited to participate in our annual multimedia arts festival, Harvest, located in Chicago each fall. New to the residency are two thematic sessions, led in partnership with DFLux and threewalls.

The application is available at our website,; All materials must be submitted by May 15th. Applicants will be notified of their acceptance on May 31st. For more information on how to apply, or any other questions, please check our website:; — or contact us at info@;


Harold Arts;


Harold Arts is a 501(c)3 arts organization based in Chicago, IL, devoted to fostering the collaborative and interdisciplinary endeavors of emerging and mid-career artists.

City Be Damned!

May 12, 2010

posted by Caroline Picard

I came across this article about beloved apartment gallery 65Grand. I think it’s an absolute travesty that the city would be shutting that place down–it’s amazing, unique, intimate, and over the last several years has shown consistently intriguing exhibits. Hang it all-

Here is an excerpt. You can read the article in its entirety by going here.

Art Break: City Evicts Gallery from Apartment

An exhibition opening at 65Grand

Bill Gross has been given thirty days to cease and desist gallery operations in his apartment, on the 1300 block of West Grand Avenue. Named 65Grand after the bus that passes below his third story window, the apartment gallery has operated without intervention from the city since October, 2005, until this recent April, when two representatives from the Department of Business Affairs and Licensing visited for a peaceful shakedown. The current show, a solo exhibition by artist David Ingenthron, will be the gallery’s last at this location.

Gross, himself an artist, started the informal gallery in his living room and kitchen as way to engage friends and peers in a self-made art community. Soon after, the gallery openings were always crowded, and the shows received attention from critics (with three coveted reviews in Artforum) and collectors, and therein lay the problem. Gross was selling art without a business license, and he could not obtain one in his present location. The restaurant on the first floor is zoned to conduct business, but the apartments above are not.

From Phonebook 2008-2009

April 16, 2010

posted and written by Caroline Picard

This was published a few years ago in PHONEBOOK, (published jointly by threewalls & the green lantern press) an index/archive of “alternative” art practice across the country. I’m revisiting all this stuff at the moment as I work to put together some thoughts on the next incarnation of The Green Lantern.


Last fall I met a Canadian fellow in the middle of the Santa Cruz Mountains. I was in the middle of a meditation retreat and he happened to be there for the same. A few of us in the group woke up early one day, before the sunrise, to hike up one of the peaks. We wanted to get to the top in time to see the sun kiss the flanks of the surrounding mountains. We woke up in the middle of the dark and made our way through the woods, tripping now and again on stray roots in the ground. Aside from our footsteps everything was terribly still, the dark a thick cloak of ink around everything. While I could feel my companions close, I could not make out their faces. One woman was wearing a white sweatshirt and aside from the tiny flashlight orbs, trained on the ground, she was the thing to follow. Her shirt a ghost.

At a certain point on the hike, I realized that Henry regularly referred to a woman in his life. Jill, her name was. She lived in New York. He lived Vancouver. He didn’t call her his girlfriend. He only called her by name. And yet she frequented enough of his stories, as a sideline, not the subject, that the intimacy of their relationship became clear.

Finally at breakfast another one of the hikers, Mike, asked about her.
“Who is Jill? Is she your girlfriend? She sounds important.”
“That’s funny that,” he said. The way he spoke, his words were flecked with a European inflection, what I at first assumed was part of the Canadian way. “We spent forever trying to work out what to call ourselves. We tried everything. We weren’t happy with any of them. Girlfriend/boyfriend. Lover. Friend. My parents are Dutch immigrants, so we even tried some other words, amore, leipschen. Cabbage. Each thing seemed too limited, too entrenched in a system of expectations and roles and obligations. Obligations that were imposed by society, as part of the definition of those terms.
“Each name seemed to come with a job description, and yet we felt ourselves distinct. The joy of our relationship has come from the sense that we have a non-traditional bond. It felt important to represent that. And finally we decided to create a name for ourselves, a title we each agreed to.”

You can imagine, of course, at this point in the conversation the whole table was waiting, the knives and forks suspended for a moment; steam from tea rising, a few peculiar smiles on the faces of his audience. Many of them wore wedding bands.
“We came up with Companeres Amores. It seems to best fit how we feel about one another.”

To my mind, it is additionally perfect because the name belies certain awkwardness, acknowledging the need to appropriate another language, reaching outside of one tradition to another, in order to transplant another set of terms that might function as a blank slate. It wouldn’t do to make up a name from gibberish, for in doing so one runs the risk of denying a certain degree of importance in the relationship being named. Instead one looks for name that carries with it enough meaning, a meaning that is nevertheless ambiguous, so that the power of defining meaning clearly is in the hands of the founding members.

After the release of last year’s PHONEBOOK, I heard concerns, nothing directly, but maybe in the way that these communities operate, through a chain of conversations that traveled like a brush fire through the community. One group started talking about the problem with the title “Alternative Art space,” and whether or not they felt comfortable being represented under that moniker. Members of that conversation ended up at a bar, perhaps, a few weeks later and the subject came up again, and so on. The obvious failings of the term came to light within the same community our index is trying to represent.

I believe that in this way, in discovering the limitations of this or that, we might discover, collectively, through dialogue, more common ground. Through these conversations we might reach toward a clarity of vision, something that will both further define the unique and peculiar manifestations of each space, while also demonstrating something common: an impulse, one or several goals, a questioning of culture as it is. While developing that dialogue, mapping out intentions and choices, we may actually empower ourselves as well. In my mind, the most important thing to recognize is that there will never be one name that incorporates each space. If anything each space is like it’s own family, operating like a tribe within each city. At the same time, there is at least one thing that we all share: that is, we are creating different kinds of cultural venues, providing new and idiosyncratic personalities in the midst of an increasingly homogenous cultural landscape.

Nevertheless, I think it’s important that we don’t let our differences prevent collaboration. If we are to celebrate community, personality and culture outside of the mainstream, if we really want to influence the world in which we live, we must embrace and celebrate one another as much as we do ourselves.

In some sense this is an apologia. Apologizing up front for the invariable ways in which PHONEBOOK will fall short of a complete and perfect categorical index. We don’t even scratch the surface. I’m sure about that. Furthermore we are celebrating a myriad of practices, and imagining that one term would sufficiently sum everything up would do us a disservice. It is precisely because the venues listed here provide different colors, emphasese and aesthetics that they accomplish so mean so much to the communities involved.

I’m additionally sure that, despite our best efforts, PHONEBOOK 2008/2009 will make other blunders, an issue not addressed that perhaps misrepresents one or another of the organizations listed. In anticipation of those instances, I would invite everyone to send us an email, write a letter or even just talk to your peers. We want to hear them. Those moments are opportunities for better understanding.

Like Henry and Jill, a number of these organizations, if not all, are working to redefine their relationship in society. There is a great power in naming things. I would argue that, through the naming things, we define our world, isolating traits that seem most prominent and then, through the exercise of that name, those traits seem to best embody the thing itself. Whether one calls the world ugly, or beautiful, for instance, affects the way one sees that same world. More importantly though, names reflect the way we think about things, and way one thinks about his or her community, its extent, its bounds, will influence the impact it might have. We have kept the name Alternative Art space on the list. Some spaces use it. It is also a name recognized by the greater public, one with perhaps less access to these watering holes. It is important to give that public a chance to see these spaces, for it is likely that more opportunities to experience divergent cultural media will have a long standing impact on the world we live in.

companeres amores
project space
progressive institution
center for development of contemporary aesthetics
cultural center
apartment gallery
exhibition venue
the underground
neighborhood space
rumpous room
anarchist collective
play room
garage gallery
art practice
watering hole
ass hat
community space
house project

Mark your calendars for the third annual Chicago Poetry Symposium!

This year’s Chicago Poetry Symposium features the following talks:

Al Filreis (University of Pennsylvania) and Don Share (Poetry Magazine) on Henry Rago, editor of Poetry Magazine (1955-69)

Nancy Kuhl (The Beinecke Library, Yale University) on Margaret Anderson’s and Jane Heap’s Little Review

Garin Cycholl (University of Chicago) and Phil Jenks (University of Illinois-Chicago) on the poetry of Sterling Plumpp

Stephanie Anderson (University of Chicago) on Alice Notley’s mimeograph journal Chicago

The details:

Saturday, April 17, 2010 | 12:30 p.m. through 5:00 p.m.

Special Collections Research Center
The Joseph Regenstein Library
University of Chicago
1100 East 57th Street
Chicago, IL 60637

For the schedule and speaker bios, please see the webpage:

posted by caroline picard

I came across this nice little blurb in Newcity–

A good description of Zambreno’s book and a nice nod to the parlor (where you can go to listen to the reading)!