June 15, 2010
posted by Caroline Picard
An Excerpt from Franny & Zooey
by JD Salinger
The room had a single, a southern, exposure. A four-story private school for girls stood directly across the side street–a stolid and rather aloofly anonymous-looking building that rarely came alive till about three-thirty in the afternoon, when public-school children from Third and Second Avenues came to play jacks or stoop-ball on its stone steps. The Glasses had a fifth-story apartment, a story higher than the school building, and at this hour the sun was shining over the school roof and through the Glasses’ naked living-room windows. Sunshine was very unkind to the room. Not only were the furnishing old, intrinsically unlovely, and clotted with memory and sentiment, but the room itself in past years had served as the arena for countless hockey and football (tackle as well as “touch”) games, and there was scarcely a leg on any piece of furniture that wasn’t badly nicked or marred. There were scars much nearer to eye level, too, from a rather awesome variety of airborn objects–beanbags, baseballs, marbles, skate keys, soap erasers, and even, on one well-marked occasion in the early nineteen-thirties, a flying headless porcelain doll. Sunshine, however, was perhaps most particularly unkind to the carpet. It had originally been a port-red color–and by lamplight, at least, still was–but it now featured a number of rather pancreas-shaped faded spots, unsentimental mementos, all, of a series of household pets. The sun at this hour shone as far, as deep, as mercilessly into the room as the television set, striking it squarely on its unblinking cyclopean eye.
posted/written by caroline picard
Greenberg is an interesting next step in Noah Baumbak’s collection of films. The movie centers around Roger Greenberg (Ben Stiller) who suffered a mental breakdown in New York, where he works as a carpenter, and consequently moved out to LA to live in his brother’s house. Meantime his brother’s family is away on holiday. Greenberg grew up in LA, was in a band in LA and spends the duration of the film re-connecting with friends from his past, while pursuing a fraught and half-hearted romance with the family nanny/personal assistant, Florence Marr (Greta Gerwig). Greenberg is doomed to fail from the start, in so far as it is a movie about a man who is incapable, depressed, self-loathing and self-obsessed. In other words, it is intended to fail because it is about a flailing character who’s troubles stem from his inability to empathize, or step beyond his own, relatively boring preoccupations. What happens, then, is that the supporting characters, former alcoholic and near divorcé Ivan Shrank (Rhys Ifans) and 20-something Gerwig are significantly more interesting. Their lives illustrate a myriad of challenges as Gerwig struggles through the post-college confusion, fraught with a desire to please and Shrank tries to whether a storm in his marriage while also raising a son. And that’s the film, more or less. Greenberg connects more with 20 year-old than people his own age, living more in the past than the present.
While the film might not be one of Baumbak’s strongest movies, it further develops his seeming obsession with the narcissistic personality (particularly the parent). Think of The Squid and The Whale, or Margot at the Wedding–even The Life Aquatic and Fantastic Mr. Fox. In each of those films the main parental figures endanger their closest dependents with an unconscious self-absorption. I’d agree that Fantastic Mr. Fox is the benevolent counterpart in the equation, but that is more due to the outcome of the film, the delightful caricatures of Boggis and Bunts and Bean and, the ingenious world of animals. The very premise of that same film is that Mr. Fox is unable to stop hunting, despite the way in which it endangers his community. Again, I realize that the story is not really about that, but I do feel it resonates with themes in Baumbak’s other films. Further, his ongoing collaboration with Wes Anderson makes sense in this same regard, for Anderson seems fascinated with the absent-minded self-obsession that motivates people through relationships.
The early Kicking and Screaming is the farthest removed. It focuses on the college graduate, kids who don’t want to step beyond their college environment, their inside jokes, their shared sense of greatness. While this film might seem the weakest link in my argument, I’d suggest that it is nevertheless the beginning. The community he depicts is insulated, a click, involved in themselves, hesitant if not incapable of stepping out of that self-involvement to new possibilities. If one were to think of the Ben Stiller/Greenberg character in this environment, it’s likely that his crippling self-involvedness would show up as nothing more than an idiosyncratic, ironic and laughable tick. It would be buffered by the community of friends he inhabits. In this world of college, there is a little real consequence, and thus, nothing at stake exactly–beyond a sense that there is probably more to life than beer and sex on dorm room beds.
Squid and the Whale, meantime, shows a later development. The scene I always remember takes place between Bernard Berkman (Jeff Daniels) and Joan Berkman (Laura Linney). They play tennis with their two sons on either side and after the son almost hits Linney with a tennis ball, Daniels (the father/husband) does hit her, hard and deliberately. To me, this film spoke to the accidental and inherent idealization of the parent by the child–what occurs between the eldest son (Jesse Eisenberg) Walt Berkman and father Jeff Daniels, as it also happens between the youngest son Frank Berkman (Owen Kline), and mother Laura Linney. The movie is as much an examination of the way families can deteriorate as it is about the realization of a parent’s flaws by the children who venerate them.
The last film I wanted to mention is Margot at the Wedding, which demonstrates a further step–i.e. what happens when the family has already collapsed, when the young child (in this case a son) has no other means of support and security outside of the manipulative mother figure–he serves her, adulates her, seeks to please her again and again, to be good in her eyes. As one outside of the frame, the portrait Baumbak reveals is unsettling, perverse even, as the unequal inter-dependency is fleshed out in all its ways so that by the end, you can’t tell if you want Margot (Nicole Kidman) to abandon her son on the bus, or if you’re relieved that she changed her mind at the last-minute.
The progression that came into focus once I saw Greenberg was the narrowing view of the narcissist and his or her impact on the world. The college kids are accidentally narcissistic, acting out a stage that one grows out of, a stage that is shared collectively. Squid and The Whale shows the impact of narcissistic parents with children. Margot at the Wedding shows that relationship between the narcissistic mother and the doting son. And then. The final step, it would seem, in the experiment, what happens when you just focus on the narcissist? You get Greenberg. There seems to be real promise in the fact that those peripheral characters are so much more interesting–they show a new step to take, a step beyond the examination of self-centeredness. That’s not to say Baumbak will take that step, but I feel like whatever step he does take has the potential to be very interesting in so far as his study of the neurotic, manipulative, self-involved individual seems complete. The resulting portrait is pathetic, impotent. The solipsistic world-view of that character collapses, as the eye of the viewer is un-compelled by that world-view, fascinated instead by the life and curiosity of other character’s less-selfish struggles.
I can’t help but hope that a new step might be taken–Wes Anderson’s films show a similar study through a different light, similarly one can think of Garden State, or Running with Scissors–there is a deep interest in the banal train wreck of that insatiable central character, the parent absent because of his or her own preoccupation with themselves, the insipid manipulations and machinations of their personality–I want to draw a connection between that and the climate of America, the widespread abundance of our first-world lifestyle combined with an insatiable appetite for more new things, even the characteristic “the world is your oyster” attitude that so many schools want to impart on its youth. Obviously everyone wants the world to be his or her oyster, and yet without responsibility there is no purpose, without opportunities to share, there is no value in prosperity. Again, let’s study those peripheral characters, let’s follow the color their bring to Greenberg’s lonely little world. There might be a clue there. Something to follow to get beyond the self self self.
July 16, 2009
- 2:36 pm: I was walking to the subway to go to a meeting with my professor this afternoon when I saw something scurrying along the edge of the sidewalk. IT WAS A FOUR INCH LONG COCKROACH! It almost walked right up my leg, but I dodged it. The suit headed toward me on the sidewalk gave me a funny look after the dodge.
- 2:40 pm: When I got to the subway, I saw a guy trying to get a baby carriage through the subway turnstile and having obvious difficulty, so I stopped to offer my assistance. He looked at the stroller, and at me, and then handed me his baby. I was in shock, but the baby took it well, and so I just googled at him like you’re supposed to do with babies. By the time the dude had folded up the stroller, his swipe had expired, and other people were showing up and trying to be helpful by telling him which door he was supposed to go through, because you obviously can’t push a stroller through a subway turnstile. I just handed him back his baby and wished him luck, and I think that threw people off. I wanted to tell him not to tell his partner that he had handed their infant son off to a complete stranger in the subway. Still, it was nice to see that kind of trust in New York City.
- 7:32 pm: I had to work late because of my meeting, so I was late leaving the building. There’d been movie crews around our building and the buzz was that the dude who plays Edward in the Twilight movies was shooting something in the neighborhood, something with Pierce Brosnan. There was a crowd across the street from the Pearl Diner, where they were filming, and people were snapping pictures. New Yorkers like to pretend that they’re all hip and jaded about celebrity, but it’s not true all the time. The crowd was right in the way of my usual route to the subway home, so I walked all the way around the block to avoid joining them. How would they like it if people crowded around and took pictures while they were trying to work?
(submitted by Jessica Speer of recent Shamblers fame)
March 11, 2009
*click on the images for larger versions, sorry about the quality of these images–they were taken on my camera phone*
P.S.1, the contemporary art sister-museum to MOMA, is housed in an old school building–it looks like a fortress. I kept imagining the battle in Lord of the Rings, where everyone’s trying to hide inside that fortress and fend off the evil ogres…
It was really nice to see some artwork outside of the fairs.
Leandro Erlich: Swimming Pool
This was a really nice work. You can view the pool from above or below. People were really having fun with it–pretending to be swimming, taking pictures; it was a really well-done interactive installation.
The video installations of Yael Bartana were really engaging. The work doesn’t require one to sit through the entirety of the video, but rather, one may enjoy the works on one’s own terms. Still, I felt compelled to sit and to contemplate the moving images, allowing meaning to unravel slowly in the dark and intimate environment.
Bartana’s work brings up associations of human patterns throughout history–of violence, of power struggles, of social divisions and hierarchies.
Tofu on Pedestal in Gallery
Haha; a nice little “fuck you” to the institution.
Kenneth Anger Installation
I’ve long been a fan of Kenneth Anger–his impact on Queer artistic discourse is great, and his works were at the forefront of avante-garde video. Still, I was wonderfully surprised to experience this installation of his, which was very thoughtfully executed. It has the power to renew and shift considerations of his work. It was a real pleasure.
To see more about the artists and the exhibitions at PS1, click here.
Later on, I met up with friend and artist, Gisela Insuaste, whose work you can check out here.
We headed over to the LMCC (The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council) artist studios for their open-studios. The organization does a lot for artists in New York–offering grants, residencies, and public art programs in Manhattan. Check them out here.
Artwork by Davied Balula, current resident and wierdo.
I’m going to be paying attention to this artist…
I love the variety of common everyday materials he uses; they seemed a little frivolous at first, though that notion is disproved or rather, complicated by a cerebral approach to combining these materials, and the resulting aesthetic of the works–minimal, quiet, fun, whimsical, pleasurable. The work relies on the environment or rather, the environment is an important part of the work–physical space, and the tenets of that reality…wierd! The way he brings everything together is inventive, beautiful, and thought-provoking.
March 11, 2009
Of all the fairs, I was most excited to visit Volta–this is a fair in which each gallery’s space presented a body of work by a single artist. The fair was housed in an office building in mid-town, adjacent to the Empire State Building; its location–a signal of what I saw to be an overarching subtext for the fair itself, and much of the work on display: art’s place in commerce, the changing role of the artist in contemporary times, and the anxiety therein.
The fair seemed a collective critical response to contemporary pandemic conditions–of an ailing economy, and a society dealing with the repercussions of the failure of capitalism. It didn’t seem to propagate a simple polemic, rather, it was a forum for the exchange of cohesive artistic voices.
an allegory for the apex of artists’ careers?
by Trong Gia Nguyen
a piece by Angelina Gualdoni
Chicago was VISIBLE at the New York fairs. It was great to see Jason Lazarus’ work in the Andre Rafacz space, along with that of Walsh Gallery, Imperfect Articles, and Rhona Hoffman, Western Exhibitions, and others at the Armory.
Pieces/installation by Gavin Turk
Drawings by Sebastian Gogel
Galerie Emmanuel Post
Art by Maria Nepomuceno
A Gentil Carioca
I’ve noticed a lot of art that doubles as functional objects, being presented in a fine-art context. Is this a sign of things to come?…what with the history of consumers seeking hybrid/cross-over products with versatile functions..
Indeed, it’s a bear market…
March 11, 2009
The Armory Show*posts on volta, and other art stuffs in NYC will be posted separately*
I got a chance to go to the Armory fair & Volta this past weekend, and there was a lot to look at. Being the first time I’ve gone to the New York art fairs, I didn’t know what to expect; though I have to say that I held onto the notion that commerce is really at the heart of art fairs’ existence. Since the ’90s (?), they’ve played a very real function in contemporary art–being the primary mode for displaying and dictating the trends of VALUABLE artworks. I was also really interested in observing how current market conditions are affecting the ubiquity of these fairs–if and how the structures for widespread cultural legitimization/commodification of art will shift. I’ve yet no declarative sentiments. Even still, this is very exciting for me. 🙂
I took pictures of some artwork that really captured my attention–be it through the materials, color, or a more ambiguous percieved connection in ideas between myself and the art…
[click on the images for larger versions]
Bin (Version 2)
Wood, mirrors, fake fur, rock lamp, metal handle, dvd monitor and playback
36 x 52 x23”
Mitchell-Innes & Nash (New York)
Something about this piece feels like home–kinda like something I’d see in Chicago. I can’t quite put my finger on it–it lacks that veil of seamlessness that many contemporary art objects strive for. When I look at this piece, I start to develop a narrative of the work’s creation, from the inception of the artist’s ideas, to the compiling of materials, and the way the artist uses what they’ve got, the way they know how, because the artist had to make it when they did–resulting in this wierd, crazy thing that fucks with notions of singular material discourses (is it a painting? video? sculpture?); and it’s so captivating, yet unostentatious.
21st century aggressive carpet growth
Wood, Carpet, metal , wire, lightbulb, glass
269 x 15 x 15 cm
Galerie Krizinger Vienna
K, perhaps I just haven’t seen much of Dumas’s works outside her body of monochrome portraits–but it seems she’s made a huge shift in her painting. The way she creates this ambiguous space, and her complex, yet understated pallette, and how she physically handles the paint on the canvas–the goops, the brushwork, the finnesse of her hand–it’s all the more powerful to me–here in this very painting. Blown away…
What did others think of the fairs?