October 2004 Archives


UPDATE: Barry has just set up a website for Joe and got him featured on Wooster Collective. Both developments will make his work more visible all around the world.

Joe Ovelman's art zap.

Joe had left seven images, bills really, on boards scattered around Chelsea when he was through wheatpasting this morning. I saw only six when I went looking for them in the middle of the afternoon. I have no idea how long the rest will be dominating their busy walls, but four of those are documented here.

For still more, see Bloggy.





Okay, next time I'll be on my own bike. The perineum probably could have managed it this time, but I hadn't gotten the bike ready. Also, last night when at least part of an especially colorful and joyous Critical Mass flowed East on 23rd Street I was in the back of the apartment and first thought it was a political demonstration and I wondered how I had missed hearing about it (actually, after the events of the past months, it really was necessarily political). Although I raced to a front window, I was in the midst of cooking and couldn't even get down to the street for a picture.

Actually I'm pretty happy with this one.

I love bikes, and I love bike people. It's so simple: We belong in the streets. Some day everyone will understand that.

I'd call it an art zap. Ephemeral by design, the success of Joe Ovelman's street images depends upon our seeing them - quickly, almost necessarily today. This time he's spread the work throughout Chelsea, and there's something like a star map at each stop to help locate the next piece.

Bloggy has the details.

Bush Salute.jpg
file photograph

Fascism, it's so US. Are there still any doubters out there?

The Bush campaign is now asking followers to swear allegiance to Bush, right hands extended. The pledge:

"I care about freedom and liberty. I care about my family. I care about my country. Because I care, I promise to work hard to re-elect, re-elect George W. Bush as president of the United States."
The principle established, the words can easily be rearranged in the future as needed.

[image from Chemtrails]


"Sooo . . . What do you wear to a civil war anyway?"

A week ago I wrote that I would probably post a list of progressive spaces which are encouraging visitors to hang out next Tuesday evening, on the [first?] day of our federal election agony.

I ended up contributing to a list which Barry assembled and has now posted on his own site. We haven't yet decided what we're going to do that night ourselves. The only thing I've done so far in the way of preparation is to get half way through a good apartment cleaning, the remainder to be completed tomorrow. I just knew I wouldn't feel like doing anything once the street fighting began.

Having also done tons of laundry this week, I'm now free to think about the balloon in the last box of the latest "get your war on."

[image from "get your war on"]

Alex Barry I Wish I Was Richard Colman #2 (red trees and blue leaves) ink on paper 22" x 30"

This is the Alex Barry drawing I referred to in a post yesterday, and below is a detail from the lower right. The excited little bear's shirt reads, "CARE-ALOT CREW."


Oliver Herring Patrick (2004)
digital C-print photographs, museum board, foam core and polystrene, 51" x 37" x 37" with vitrine

Oliver Herring Gloria (2004)
digital C-print photographs, museum board, foam core and polystyrene, 72" x 40" x 40" with vitrine

Oliver Herring continues his fascination with play and the figure in a terrific installation at Max Protetch. There's an amusing video which turns large earthmoving machinery into dancing Tonka toys, a wall-size installation composed of the intersecting lines of two separate photo narratives, a couple of large, luscious male portrait photographs, a topographically-described photo representsation of a languorous youth (and his snake), a limited-edition newspaper documenting the mud-wrestling performance of two brothers and, the show's centerpiece, both figuratively and creatively, two life-size portrait sculptures sheathed in bits cut from thousands of separate photographs.

Instant personal favorites: Gloria's beautiful hips and Patrick's underarm hair.

alex barry
Alex Barry I Wish I Was Sean Landers (2003-2004) ink on paper 4.25" x 5.5"

No, really, I'm fine. In fact, the radiation side effects have nearly disappeared. I just decided I could now share this wonderful little Alex Barry drawing, one of several my partner Barry and I picked up late in June at the TAG Projects show in DUMBO.

The image and its text wouldn't have made much sense on this site before a few weeks ago, when I first wrote about what I did on my summer vacation. I liked the drawing and its wisdom then and I like it even more now, after what we call the recent unpleasantness. I have no idea what inspired the piece. Although it almost surely references some personal experience of the artist, I think its humor will register with most people.

Unfortunately I can't find any links to Barry's other work, but I'm going to try to record and post the really beautiful, much larger drawing he sent to us as a gift, more or less out of the blue. We still haven't even met him, but surely will, and we want to visit the studio where these drawings begin.

outside Chelsea Health Center, Tuesday, 7:45 am

[if you're only interested in the logistics, go straight to the bold area within the text below]

I'm not going to go into the political, social, even moral issues surrounding the disastrous loss of half of the nation's supply of influenza vaccine this year. I'm not going to write about what the ensuing chaos in the distribution of the remaining supply says for the competence or resolution of our local, state and federal authorities. And I won't even allude to the implications this mess has for our ability to deal with the major terrorist biological strike those same authorities have been warning us about for at least three years.

I'm only going to describe how I got a flu shot yesterday morning, in the hopes that the story will help others to duplicate my success.

Although I'm not 65 years old, I happen to fall within at least three so-called risk groups for getting a serious case of influenza. Even before those numbers had added up, I had been innoculated every year.

This year as usual, for many weeks beginning late summer, I had trusted in the ability of my primary care doctor, a specialist in HIV disease, to secure a vaccine virtually all of his patients really depend upon each year. The office assured me several times that it was only the usual delay that was postponing my shot. I suspected otherwise, but I did not think any other source would be more reliable than my own physician. When my last call to the office, made the week before this one, produced a flat confession that they would not be getting any supples and (more shocking) that they could not direct me anywhere else, I was left totally to my own devices. By this time the possibilities were of course extremely limited, since the national panic had already begun.

I called every local governmental, institutional and private office I could think of, but every lead came up empty (most of them actually only directing me to each other). My worst experiences (for incompetence) were with the New York's 311 operators and the recordings and individuals answering the phones at the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. One hotline person said there was nothing in my zip code area, suggested I give him another one, and when I suggested rather that he give me one, I was asked, "How about New York, New York?"

Council Member Chistine Quinn's office showed some real interest in my search when I called on Monday, and they had in fact already been trying, thus far without much success, to assemble practical information for those who needed it. Many reports had said that the Chelsea Health Center was giving innoculations, but no one was able to describe the circumstances. Quinn's office promised to continue its investigation and suggested that I stop by the center, which was only five blocks from our apartment. I walked over early that afternoon where I got the information which got me back at their doorstep the next day before dawn.

It was pretty dark. I had forgotten that there even were such hours as those crowded around 6:30 am. The night doorman was still on duty, which seemed to surprise me, perhaps because I wasn't really very much together yet, this being mathematically the middle hour of my usual sleep assignment. A few feet further down the block I smiled to the nice South Asian fruit and vegetable guy as he assembled his display on the sidewalk (he's regularly still at his stand until early evening - his kids will probably end up at Columbia or NYU). The guy who runs the corner newstand was still assembling his display, and inside the doorway of the still locked Gristede's across the street were big bags of fresh crusty bread, apparently at no risk of being snatched away before they were liberated by store staff.

I decided I really like dawn - and the thereafter. But there would still be that problem with getting to bed eight hours earlier, so I'm not likely to rearrange things so long as I live in Manhattan.

I got to the neatly-landscaped art deco Health Center building (west side of 9th Avenue, just below 27th Street) at 6:45. I had been advised the day before to be there by 7 am, to be among the 350 people who would be given shots that day. I was out by 10:30, having drawn number 126 when they distributed the cards which assigned the order to the people lined outside the building.


Shots are available at seven clinics in the city, but I can only describe the specifics of my own experience. At the Chelsea clinic 350 shots are allocated each Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday (I don't know how finite the total supply may be).

Access to rest rooms is available in the building, although I'm not sure at what time that first becomes possible. There is an elevator to their basement location. Bottled water is occasionally distributed to those waiting, and there is a drink vending machine inside.

I did not see any neighborhood address requirement being invoked, although it may be necessary to be a resident of New York City to receive an innoculation. Only those who are most at risk are being given shots, and some evidence of risk status is being required. That could mean a drivers license or Medicare card for proof of age 65 or above, a doctor's certificate describing an immune suppression (including those with HIV disease), or conditions like heart disease, lung problems and asthma, diabetes, kidney disease, treatment for cancer, high doses of steroids, and sickle cell anemia. I saw some people accepted who were only able to produce (easily identified) prescription items. I did not see any babies.

Around 8 o'clock you are given a number corresponding to your position in line and you are then free to leave for a while or take shelter sitting with your very interesting neighbors inside one of the city buses parked at the curb. Shots will be distributed beginning at 8:30, at the rate of approximately 100 per hour, so you will have a good idea of when you should be back in line.

Once your number is called there is an efficient screening interview and then the vaccine is delivered in your upper arm.

ADDENDUM: If you're looking for a neat little spot close by for a snack or a coffee, head for Lunch Basket on the north side of 24th Street, just west of 9th Avenue. Owner-crafted light food, very cozy, with a few chairs.

Remarkably, especially for those who know me well, I found the entire experience to be totally stress-free. There were no snags, no uncomfortable incidents. Most of the people I was surrounded by were older than myself, and there was certainly a strong element of crusty Lefty veterans of urban campaigns. But overall, there was an amazing diversity, camaraderie and just plain good will and caregiving (a number of people had canes, walkers, wheel chairs, folding seats of every description, and accompanying one elderly couple seen inside the building was a large oxygen tank which served the very sprightly and beautiful wife).

Everything was very orderly, with absolutely no confusion. The clinic staff was efficient, but they were also magnificently considerate, informative and charming. Everyone, patients and employees or volunteers, seemed to delight in a gentle comic humor as well.

But the fact remains, none of those people should have had to leave their homes in the night and wait outside in the cold in order to get a simple flu vaccine in the first place. We should do better, at least as well as the rest of the developed world does for its citizens, but I doubt that we ever will. It's all about the god of the free market, a false and indifferent god, but it's our very own.

Virgil Marti Landscape Wallpaper with Star Border and Shrooms and Flame Dado (2001) screenprinted flourescent ink and rayon flock on paper, dimensions variable, detail of room installation

Dunno what to say. Virgil Marti just keeps exploding in magnificent excess, and always in excellently outrageous taste.

I suppose this will surprise anyone who has seen the environments with which I've always surrounded myself, but I really wish I had the means to live somewhere in the midst of the wonderful stuff of his current show at Elizabeth Dee.

[Unfortunately the gallery website hasn't been updated since the spring.]

Virgil Marti Sconce (Electric Blue Apogee) (2004) vacuform plastic, urethane foam, Plexiglas mirror, chrome automotive paint, Luminore, Swarski crystals, epoxy resin, electrical wiring, 1/2 chrome 25-watt bulbs 46" x 45" x 15" installation view, with related sculptures visible to the right

Type A AA <-> AB / 200 (NL) (C) 9.30.04 [yes, that is the title] (2004) crayon on paper 60" x 140"

They're back. Type A, the collaborative team of Adam Ames and Andrew Bordwin, has returned to Sara Meltzer Gallery with "Push." Known for video and still imagery exploring how contemporary American males relate to each other almost exclusively through aggression or competition, the team introduces drawing into their work for the first time in this show.

Barry and I were the first to collect their work, a number of years back, and we were thrilled to be able to do so. The excitement hasn't diminished.

I'm happy to report that the intelligence and humor which has marked everything they have done survives in this grand and gorgeous, three-part installation.

There are large drawings in the first room, video in the gallery's "neck" and photographic diptychs in the third space.

Type A AA <-> AB / 3-1 [again, yes that is the title] (2004) digital c-prints, diptych, each panel 20" x 24"

[diptych image from Sara Meltzer Gallery]

Julianne Swartz Excavation (2004) plexiglas, fiber optic cable, LED, wire, prism 25' x 14' x 8' very small detail

Julianne Swartz's show at Josee Bienvenu Gallery closed on Saturday, so for now all that's left is the recorded evidence, including the image shown above of part of a room-size piece and the gallery's description of it: "Excavation is a spindly tube system (a fiber optic 'telephone' line) that winds through the entire gallery in order to transmit a miniscule miracle." The press release describes Swartz as "known for her sculptural installations that subvert traditional social conceptions of space." The "miniscule miracle" was a secret rainbow barely visible inside a hole in the wallboard at the end of the line.

Very cool.

Bozidar Brazda Re-constituted Prison Wall (2004) plywood, bread, rug, spray paint, carpet, stereo and CD 192" x 48" x 53" (variable)

In an auspicious debut inside a new gallery in Chelsea, the work by Bozidar Brazda at Haswellediger & Co. on 23rd Street includes some gorgeous works on paper. There is an overall concept to the installation, called "The Journalist," which includes a number of individual sculptures. The parts and the whole were both just about equally baffling, but in a good way. I mean that I don't really know what he's doing here, but I wouldn't want to miss anything he does in the future.

Eugene Von Bruenchenhein untitled oil paint on board 22" x 28" large detail

When we walked into the show at Feigen Contgemporary on Saturday afternoon the fantastic art of a brilliant outsider, Eugene Von Bruenchenhein, was totally new to us, but not to many others, as we quickly discovered.

The exhibition closed that day, but for anyone seduced by the image above, beyond what is available on the gallery website there are many more in a number of media (and a fascinating story) easily Googled.

His wife was the model in his photograpy, and his muse for decades, but she wasn't the only one who was hot:

Von Bruenchenhein

[black and white image from gmtPlus9]

American Fine Arts [no website] opened a smashing new show, "Election," last night, but the legendary gallery founded by Colin de Land (and currently located in the last home of the equally fabulous gallery created by Pat Hearn) will close when this show is taken down November 18.

This is a very big loss, but I can't imagine a gallery scene without Daniel McDonald around and I don't expect we're going to lose sight of him.

Apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln really enjoyed the show in the space Daniel has been managing full-time at least since Colin's tragic death last year (just three years after we had grieved for his wife, Pat) is fully worthy of its history. She adds that it's a must-see, and preferably before the momentous [civil?] war-time election going down just eleven days hence.

The show was organized by James Meyer. There's no gallery checklist yet, so the images I can show below have only a skeletal description.

Hans Haacke Star Gazing

Carl Andre and Melissa Kretschmer Welcome to Bushworld detail

Claire Pentecost Molecular Invasion detail of installation

John Waters Have Sex in a Voting Booth

Paul Chan Baghdad in No Particular Order still from video

This evening we stopped in at the opening reception for White Box's new group show, "Democracy is Fun?," the latest in a series of intense installations they've been mounting as a response to our republic's desperate cries for help. We stayed longer than we had originally intended, and here are some of the reasons why. I should point out that, as is usual on these pages, the images which appear in the post are those the camera seemed to like. They are definitely not the only interesting works in the show, which was curated by Michele Thursz and Defne Ayas.

The gallery will be open election night with screenings and performances, and I'm sure there will be cable for the actual returns. Many of us will be more comfortable with the crowd which is going to be drawn to 26th Street than we would almost anywhere else. [As we get closer to November 2, I may post a list of the spaces which will be welcoming people who would not really be comfortable in either candidate's headquarters.]

This work near the entrance went straight to the core of America's funny democracy:
Hug and Magnan Escape (2004) duraflex printed mounted on aluminum, installation view

These political footballs were the kinetic sculptures we found rolling underfoot throughout the gallery space; they would occasionally meet a smartly placed toe which launched the scary Bush heads across the floor:
Kendell Geers Kicking Against the Pricks (2004) 11 political latex masks, footballs, detail of installation view

Michael Anderson had eight collages made up of reconstructed "posters" along the west wall:
Michael Anderson Empire Strikes Back (2004) street posters from NYC 32" x 24" detail

Hug and Magnan again - just because it says it so well and looks so good doing it:
Hug and Magnan God Bless America flashe on found object, installation view

Pierre et Gilles Le diable (1989) unique hand-painted photograph

Needed here.

Marc Almond was critically injured in a motorcycle accident today in London. See Bloggy for a link to a 2002 Guardian tribute to Soft Cell, and an mp3 of "Tainted Love."

[image from covadonga]

Innocent until proven guilty? Not anymore. One of the most basic principals of our law has been trashed regularly and systematically by our courts since September 11th. While what is happening to four peace activists here in New York at this moment may not be the most egregious examples of a justice system turned upside down and striking out at people all around the world, it's no small thing for the victims themselves and for the broad and fundamental evil of the judicial precedent it establishes.

Sixteen people were arrested in Manhatan on March 26, 2003, for (intentionally) tying up rush hour Midtown traffic in a protest against the murder of American peace activist Rachel Corrie by an Israeli soldier in the Gaza Strip, as well as the U.S. attack on Iraq. They were all convicted on March 22 this year on the outrageous, Orwellian charge, "obstructing governmental administration."

Twelve of the codefendents have been sentenced to community service and fines. Four have not been sentenced yet, because the Manhattan District Attorney had a judge unseal their older records. The D.A. then cited their previous demonstration arrests, most of which resulted in all charges being dismissed, as a reason for the judge to sentence them to an (unspecified) jail term (under the law the judge can sentence each of the four to anything from 0 to 365 days in jail). The twelve codefendants who were earlier given sentences far less severe did not have their records unsealed.

The four remaining now face posssible jail time for alleged acts in the past which were never proven in a court of law.

Every citizen, whether active in political demonstrations or just unfortunate to be arrested for any offense, however minor, and including misdemeaners, must be made to understand that there is no longer any assumption of innocence in the American courts. If you have appeared before a judge at any time in the past, not been tried but rather had your case dismissed and its record "sealed," the fact that you had been in that court may be used against you years later in order to determine your sentencing for a conviction totally unrelated to the previous offense.

The D.A. and the judge merely have to be really mad at you, and they don't have to tell anyone why.

The corollary to this incredible development has to be that from now on no one will be able to afford to accept a "dismissal" of his or her offences, regardless of the practical attractions of such a resolution, but must instead pursue every charge all the way through the courts. Of course neither the individual nor the judiciary is actually going to be able to live with that burden; something will have to give - or explode.

Like so much else that falls under the rubric, "everything has changed since 9/11," the politicization of our courts is swiftly contributing to the destruction of the society we think we are defending.

The four M26 defendents (the name refers to March 26, the date of the action for which they were arrested) who still await their fate have already gone through two appeals, and both have been rejected. The outcome of a third appeal will not be known prior to November 18, the scheduled date of their sentencing.

The range of possible outcomes runs from the best-case scenario - fines and community service, despite their "records" of dismissed charges - to the worst case scenario - taken directly from the courtroom to Rikers Island Penitentiary.

They've put out an appeal for people to be with them in the courtroom on the morning of the sentencing, since it's vitally important to show the judge that they have community support. And of course some of the media will be there.

The people who await the disposition of their cases have one more request to make of their supporters, and it's characteristically thoughtful and generous. This is Steve Quester:

AP4 will see many cases that day, not just ours. Please come at 9 am so you can get a seat in the courtroom before it fills up. And please keep in mind that there will be many defendants and their families and friends present. Unlike the four of us, few if any of those defendants will be White. Unlike the four of us, none of those defendants will benefit from an outpouring of community support. If you are able to stay for some of the cases that follow ours, please do. I cringe at the thought of an exodus of hundreds of mostly White people from the courtroom as soon as we're sentenced.

THE LOGISTICS: Go to 100 Centre Street, which you can locate here. They will be on the 4th floor, in Arraignment Part (AP) 4. The nearest subways are the J, M, N, Q, R, W, Z, and 6 trains to Canal Street. You can also take the 4 or 5 to Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall, or the B or D to Grand Street. The closest stop on the A, C, and E trains is Canal Street; Franklin Street on the 1 train, and Chambers Street on the 2 or 3.

Check www.m26.org in the days leading up to the sentencing, to learn about any (unlikely) possibility of a further delay in sentencing.

Benjamin Henry Latrobe Design Proposed for the Hall of Representatives, U.S., Section from North to South (1815) ink and watercolor on paper

For weeks now Barry and I have both been dismayed by the strange candidacy which Peter Hort has mounted for Representative of our local Congressional district.

I believe what is happening only shows that even supposedly sophisticated New Yorkers are naive when it comes to politics, or that money can persuade otherwise good people to act quite badly. Both explanations are pretty disturbing, but each is still better than some of the other possibilities.

For his reading of the subject, including both background and foreground, see Barry's post of last night which links to his previous entries, to Hort's own site and a number of other relevant sources.

[image of the old House chamber from Library of Congress]

I don't know much about it. For some reason there doesn't seem to be a website (even when those are now so ubiquitous we shouldn't be surprised to find a website for the lemonade stand the neighbor's kid set up last July). I do know that the makers of Capogiro gelato are in Philadelphia and I believe it's a pretty small family business.

The fact that I'm writing about this food product should surprise me even more than it does my regular readers. I'm not even much of an ice cream fan; a pint has been know to for languish weeks in our freezer compartment, and I rarely think of going for a cone or a cup when I'm outside, even on the hottest summer day.

I do like to cook, but I have no patience for putting together a sweet when I'm doing savory stuff. Instead, if I'm planning a meal for friends, I usually go looking for some kind of simple, cool palate-cleansing finish, and that's what started this rave.

Months ago I first came across Capogiro in our local Garden of Eden food market. The container had almost no identifying markings, and certainly nothing about calories, vitamins or dates of manufacture. Of course I was really intrigued, so I bought one. I even imagined that perhaps some local slow-food entrepreneur working out of an apartment kitchen might have placed the product in that freezer cabinet surrepticiously in order to create a market and a demand. When I tasted it at home and I realized how good it was, that story actually sounded even less preposterous.

I have never, ever before tasted any frozen dessert as wonderful as this one, at least on this side of the Tyrrhenian Sea. I hesitated to write about it for fear that my almost-secret supply might dry up, but I also thought that the best way to ensure its availability might be to do some word-of-blog marketing.

If the recommendation of someone who has just admitted he's severely challenged as an ice cream fanatic isn't enough to whet your appetite, let me tell you about just a few of the incredibly inventive flavors Capogiro has made available to its fortunate acolytes (meaning especially the people of Philadelphia). Here's a short sample courtesy of Philadelphia Weekly:

How about prune armagnac, full of prunes swollen with fine French brandy? Or Mexican chocolate, powerfully flavored with canella (pungent Mexican cinnamon), bitter almonds and dried ancho chilies that make the back of the throat tingle. The La Colombe cappuccino is as frothily delicious as its namesake. Blood orange sorbetto tastes as though it were just picked from a tree, while cactus pear sorbetto, a shockingly pink confection, somehow manages to replicate the exact taste sensation of eating a cactus pear, minus the gritty seeds. Flavors change almost daily, depending on what's seasonally appropriate.
My own favorite so far was called, I think, rosemary goat's milk, but with Capogiro's (head-spinning) inventiveness and taste, I doubt the competition will ever be finally judged.

Bradley McCallum & Jacqueline Tarry James August 6th, 2002 1 :01 - 2:00 PM
color photograph, 50" x 40"

Bradley McCallum & Jacqueline Tarry Frost August 6th, 2002 5 :01 - 6:00 PM
color photograph, 50" x 40"

They share a medium and a subject. Both of the shows currently installed in Chelsea's Marvelli Gallery are the product of an artist's camera and both are about young people (sometimes very young people) who have rejected (or been ejected from) a society which will now accept their images filtered as art.

Bradley McCallum and Jacqueline Tarry show large, sensitive almost-full-length color portraits of homeless Seattle teenagers (and young adults who became homeless as teenagers). Their subjects' costumes seemed incredibly stylized to me at first, perhaps almost unbelievable, and the life-sized photographs exhibit such technical beauty that you are likely to be very surprised, as I was the other night, should you hang out in the room a little while longer. The people on those walls will soon begin to seem less picturesque and much more familiar, but there will be little comfort in that development.

Two flat-screen monitors showing the same two-hour video are mounted on opposite walls of the same gallery space, with their starting moments deliberately out of sync. The moving images document 26 people (including among them the few shown in the room's still photographs) as they step up in succession to replace from behind the figure a viewer has been watching standing facing the camera and who now disappears. This takes place on a very ordinary-looking Seattle neighborhood corner, one which may be a central part of these people's world. The central figures are almost motionless, but the pedestrians and vehicles within the camera's frame speed by at a literally regardless pace ten times faster than real life, since the filming was done over a period of 26 hours and the video has been accelerated to occupy only two. The soundtrack consists of excerpts from each of the subjects' individual conversations with Tarry, layered with the low ambient energy of traffic noises.

Ingar Krauss Untitled (2003) gelatin silver print, 33.5" x 41"

In a smaller room at the rear of the gallery Ingar Krauss shows a number of black and white photographs of children and young teenagers who are a part of the Russian penal system today. The subjects alone would guarantee interest, but Krauss's gift manages to raise tragedy to the level of a powerful art which will not be denied here. Unfortunately we can't know whether or how this may help these small victims of society's incompetence.

[images from Marvelli Gallery]



He called around noon today. "James, I've just posted something." For a second I was thinking of the the internet, but then I realized that Joe Ovelman is currently not even connected, and it dawned on me that he was talking about posting in the traditional sense.

Actually, Joe doesn't do many things in the traditional way. If he's not showing his art in a formal gallery space he finds a way to get it out where all kinds of people are going to see it anyway. Today he wheat-pasted a contractor's temporary wall on 11th Avenue just below 23rd Street with photocopies of some of his images, and if the area he covers is smaller than his previous outside "canvases," the individual images themselves are much larger.

There's also the wonderful effect he has produced by extending the work to the smaller sides of the fence structure which projects along the plane facing the avenue. It becomes a box. The carefully-balanced colors and patterns combine in a jewel-like three-dimensional installation. Joe's latest post is sculpture.

And the serendipitous pleasures of the interaction the work inspires: When I mentioned to Joe that I really liked the mail slot touch, he said that he had watched from the corner as at least one passer-by lifted its door and peered inside. Also, just as we arrived there late this afternoon the young man in the picture above was arranging the pose in which he is seen here while [his girlfriend?] snapped his picture.

For more, see Barry's post.

from the front of the bus, 9th Avenue in the forties, on a Saturday afternoon (these vehicles aren't moving)

We live in Manhattan. We're supposed to be able to get around the city without each of us piloting two or three tons of private metal, but it's getting harder and harder to assume the availability of the public transportation which makes this city possible.

Barry and I had decided early this afternoon that we should have no trouble running up to 57th Street to see two gallery shows which close today and then heading back in time to look into a number of Chelsea locations before their doors were locked at 6 pm. But we hadn't bargained on the virtual disappearance of both subway and bus service, and in the end we were reminded that Manhattan's transportation failings are far greater scale than that represented by a badly-organized and underfunded MTA.

When we discovered (only after descending the stairs into the station) that there were no uptown trains running from our corner, 23rd Street and 8th Avenue, all weekend, we decided to risk a cab and potential Midtown congestion. There were no complications once we settled into our roomy Toyota van, but less than an hour later the transportation mishaps started to pile on top of each other.

We made the mistake of trying to rely on the subway in order to get back to Chelsea. Our train ground to a halt in the staition just one stop south of 59th Street, where we had boarded it. The repeated announcements about a short delay were eventually replaced by one saying that there was a train broken down ahead of us and there was no way of knowing how long we would be held in the station. We abandoned our car and walked a long block to the 9th Avenue bus, thinking that passing only a couple of dozen numbered streets would be a quick hop, since there was so little traffic in sight. Traffic suddenly appeared out of nowhere and we ended up frozen virtually immobile by the SUV's heading back to New Jersey through the Lincoln Tubes (see the picture above).

Well over an hour after leaving 57th Street we finally emerged back on 23rd Street. We had made the trip (a total of about a mile and three quarters) at the dizzying pace of 1.5 miles per hour. I have to remind myself that all this was happening on a quiet Saturday afternoon.

The subway had failed us once again (this is not uncommon); surface transportation was ridiculous (even in the best of circumstances we have to live with primitive bus designs, passengers exiting through the front, or entry, doors, clumsy fare-collection machinery and the total absence of dedicated bus lanes). In addition, every intersection box was blocked by cross traffic, meaning that the bus had to wait through two signal changes even after it reached the stripe at the cross street (there were no traffic police in place anywhere along our route).

I saw one fire truck in the middle of the almost chaotic scene; fortunately those guys were not on an emergency call this time, but had the circumstance been otherwise . . . .

All forms of transportation on at least the west side of Manhattan, with theoretically the most mobile population in the nation, had been rendered impossible. And still our elected and appointed officials persist in believing that the job of municipal transportation oversight is to get more cars to move still faster into and through the streets of a city already suffering from an impossible burden of private car ownership.

Oh yeah, I just reminded myself that all of this traffic was created even without the impact of the insane proposal for a West Side stadium.

This week the MTA announced liklihood of really major cutbacks in service, which will leave room for still more cars. Great planning.

Facing years of spiraling deficits, the MTA is proposing to eliminate 14 percent of its bus lines as part of a severe cost-saving package that would come on top of a fare hike and more than 160 subway token booth closings.

The bus route closures, slated for 2006, would hit all five boroughs and include some lines that follow major arteries in Manhattan.

Der Kinderfänger (the Pied Piper), from "Montag aus Licht," Act III, scene 2

Yay! It sounds like he's finished it! Karlheinz Stockhausen has announced that the premier of his life's work, the 29-hour "Licht" ("Light") cycle, will be performed in Dresden in 2008.

I think I've been waiting as long as he has. I've hungrily collected recordings of each of the seven sections, named for the days of the week, as they have gradually become available (I'm only aware of the existence of four at this time), but I've been excited by his music since first hearing it through the CBC/BBC/NDR broadcasts transmitted across the Detroit River in the 1950's. Thank you, Canada.

I actually don't know any of the things about music that could be acquired from formal study; I've had none. But I've been listening to things all my life, most of the time attracted to the less obvious arrangements of sounds. Maybe I'm just a romantic, but I think of Richard Wagner wherever I confront Stockhausen's great project (no, seriously), and I'm not making the association just because of the obvious similarities in the ambitions of these two geniuses.

For a small taste of Stockhausen's storybook, through a short synopsis of the opera's first section, "Montag Aus Licht," see this text from "An Unofficial Website about Stockhausen":

The theatre foyer seems to be underwater, bathed in green rays of light. The inverted Eve formula can be heard from many basset-horns.

In the first act a huge statue of Eve is on the sea shore, and is tended to by many woman with perfume and water. (Later this image was adapted for use in a famous television advertisment for the painkiller Nurofen®). The statue, which has three soprano soloists singing down from the larynx, gives birth to seven boys with animal heads who are followed into the world by seven little men from Cologne folk-lore: the Heinzelmånnchen. 3 sailors arrive from the sea to witness an elaborate pram dance with all the nurses and newborns racing geometrically about the beach. All the while surreal events are portrayed through the use of sound samples (e.g. baby animals, steam trains, the Marseillaise sung by a budgerigar), and the children involve themselves in all manner of clamour, mischief and bodily functions. At the height of the chaos an icecream seller arrives on an upside-down bicycle and moments after that Lucifer arrives joined by a web to his grotesque double. He is buried in the sand by the three sopranos. The women's weeping is soon accompanied by falling rain , and the act ends with Lucifer emerging from the sea and ordering the boys back into the womb of the statue.

"Everyone back in!! The whole thing again from the start !!!"

The second act starts with a procession of candle-bearing maidens, and a very long concert grand piano approaches the statue. A short complicated piano piece is played by the boy budgerigar, and the womb of the statue begins to glow. Seven boys of the week are born, and each is taught his own song for his day. The boys are seduced by three female musicians who emerge from the Eve Statue.

In the final act Eve appears playing basset-horn, and performs for her reflection. Soon a musician arrives as an alto-flute player, and joins Eve in a duet. Children come and listen, and eventually the flute player is distracted by them and leads them away into the clouds.

As the public leaves the theatre they find the foyer bathed in clouds, and can hear the children climbing higher and higher, like birds.

For more information, see the composer's own site.


[photo image by Henning Lohner from swipnet; cartoon from a 1980 edition of "Stereo Review," via Stockhausen's site today]


Riiiiing! Riiiiing!

It was our phone sounding at 7:30 in the morning last June 10th. [those of you who are familiar with Barry's and my sleeping schedule will understand just how much that call violated all reasonable decorum in this household] When I picked up the receiver the short message I heard was, "Would you mind if we cancelled your radiation lab appointment for 2 o'clock today?" After answering that it would be no problem, I managed to ask my oncologist's office, "why?" [not why call at 7:30 am, which is what I should have asked first, but why cancel]

[A LITTLE BIT OF BACKGROUND: I was scheduled to begin radiation treatments that afternoon to combat a serious prostate cancer diagnosed early in April. I had already managed to make my peace with the prescribed regimen, but the message nevertheless registered as something of a last-minute reprieve, even better than hearing that classes had been cancelled for the next day when you had not done the assigned homework.]

The nurse's answer to my question was, under the special, very high-tech and critical circumstances of the procedure involved, and one which has to be precisely directed at an extremely important part of the body's plumbing apparatus, not a little disturbing. Her explanation: "We're having mechanical problems with the machine."

Umm, maybe it was actually a good thing that I wasn't fully awake.

In any event, later that day I was given the all clear signal, and I eventually went off to go under the big zapper - on the following day. I was in and out in under a half hour, and I didn't feel a thing. I went back every weekday for a total of five weeks and then took a break for three more (squeezing in a trip to the West Coast) before going into the hospital for an outpatient procedure during which radiated "seeds" were implanted in my prostate.

I'll spare the details, but mine is a serious case, because of the growth's size, and beyond serious consideration of a cancer removal operation. There are major, not easily measured, risks in the radiation treatments, and no one knows at this point what are my chances of escaping from the ultimate capital sentence. But from the evidence available this thing sounds pretty pokey to me. I believe most men die of something else before this cancer gets them, and I still expect, as I have for years, that I'm more likely to be shot by a road-raging driver than I am to die in bed.

I feel fine, and my head seems to be alright. I'm a wee bit distracted, but I don't think I'm really depressed. Actually the worst seemed to be over once I had decided on the treatment regimen.

Barry's been great, of course. His welfare will always be my biggest concern.

I was initially reluctant to tell many people about this thing. I wanted to wait until I knew more about what was going on, and at first it barely went beyond my immediate family. At this point however (9 weeks after the implant procedure and 7 months after a diagnosis) although there are already probably too many friends who have had to listen to my all-too-complete response when they ask, "so how was your summer?," I'm now ready to visit it upon the blog world.

Those who regularly look at the site know that I've generally kept most of myself out of it until now. It's always been about other stuff, and it's definitely not a journal. I decided to make at least one exception and to write this post months ago because I thought it might help some people (and incidently give me an opportunity to mention the success story of my long-term seropositive status at the same time). I've regularly put it off since, mostly because I thought it would be such a chore to get it right, that is, to not sound too self-indulgent and to avoid any morbidity.

I don't understand morbid.

If I had not been really blown away by the original cancer diagnosis last spring, it was largely because I'd had to deal with virtual or almost-death sentences several times before, and I'd managed to get past each one. I see no reason to imagine this thing going any differently.

There's this history.

When I was 17 I was in a car accident which two of my best friends did not survive; rescuers didn't find me in the burning car at first, and once I was deposited in the emergency room hallway I was given "last rites." Thanks to the excellence of a great little hospital I was able to leave its care a month later, even if encumbered by a full body brace and crutches.

Years passed and in 1989, at my regular doctor's casual suggestion, I decided to take a blood test for HIV disease. He called me at the office a week later and quite matter-of-factly told me it came up positive. At that moment the only thing shielding an uptight corporation from seeing my pretty dramatic response to a short phone message were the opaque walls of my private office; I left for the day soon after in order to share the news with a very wonderful friend. Today, 20 or 25 years after being infected, I remain asymptomatic; I know I'm one of the very fortunate ones. My doctor himself didn't make it.

Five years ago just outside my front door I was assaulted from behind by an irate SUV driver. After he had nearly run over myself and an elderly blind neighbor crossing with the light, I had slapped his truck's rear end with the palm of my hand. I went to the emergency room for immediate care and an x-ray - just in case; the diagnosis for serious injury was an all clear, but I was shocked to be told that, by the way, there was a mysterious growth in my right lung. Months later, after a major operation and a couple of extraordinarily painful complications, I had learned that the tumor was benign but that they weren't going to replace the damn rib.

I think I'm very likely to shake this latest threat to my plans for a slightly cranky old age, just as I have all of the others so far.

Since I now have a few more years under my belt than I did in 1989, I'll admit that I'm now a little more comfortable when I think about my mother's immediate and unsentimental response that year after I told her I had the AIDS virus: "Well, you've had a good life."* Okay, I can go along with the "good" part, but I'm still not ready to call it a complete life.

Still just a little too cranky.

* Eighty-two at the time and with almost 8 more years to live, she had instantly changed the direction, if not the subject, of our converstion; maybe that's what she was hoping to do, maybe she thought that would be a good thing and maybe it was.

[image by Gahan Wilson from the New Yorker]

The powerful documentary, "Arna's Children," is now at the Quad Cinema here in Manhattan. I'd be much more excited if it were playing in every town in the U.S., but unfortunately it's not going to happen. If you want to know why, see what I wrote last May.

I just noticed that of the four films currently being shown at the Quad, Barry and I have actually seen three. This is pretty amazing, since the two of us rarely get around to slipping into a movie theatre in the crush of so many seductive live (therefore more time-sensitive) performance offerings. Like "Arna's Children," the other two films would not be described as directed toward mainstream audiences (whatever that means), but I can recommend both "The Child I Never Was" and, most enthusiastically, Bruce LaBruce's "Raspberry Reich."

If these films have anything in common, it's the ability of each to re-arrange minds which might have thought everything was already nicely in place.

We're back! Yesterday afternoon Time Warner finally managed to figure out what they had done to our cable modem on Monday, but I think I've almost forgotten how to run this thing in the interim. Now, what's this button down on the left do?

UPDATE: I have made the main RSS 2.0 a full post-only feed. I will update the one with comments to 2.0 later.

ACT UP's on a roll lately! Members have been working very hard - and very cleverly. The media has had to salute their brilliant zaps, even describing the issues for a change, but this time the attention came without a single clenched fist being raised in anger. Well, yes, documentation of AIDS issues wasn't actually part of the coverage this time, but the unexpected homage still represented great exposure.

Saturday Night Live returned for the Fall season three nights ago* introducing the show with a skit which satirized the first presidential debate and its format. Chris Parnell, impersonating the moderator Jim Lehrer, after explaining the order of the candidates' exchange, continued his instruction:

Following Senator Kerry's rebuttal, there will be a brief demonstration by members of ACT UP.
The studio audience roared, and Barry and I almost fell off the couch.

* I haven't tried to post anything until now because, while we had watched the recorded program on Sunday night, we've been without a decent internet connection since Monday morning. Time Warner came for a repair of our TV cable service yesterday. They failed to fix the problem, but did manage to knock out the cable modem. If we're lucky it will be fixed later today.

Working with a wireless network borrowed from a friend at some remove in our building, I was fortunate to be able to put up this story, but I won't attempt anything right now which has an image.


I have almost no idea what we're looking at here, but it was one of the most interesting things I saw yesterday afternoon while we were at the Himalayan Street Fair. Maybe someone can explain the game; these people seemed to be having a ball.

Seventeenth Street between 6th and &th Avenues was closed for events and installations celebrating the opening of the Rubin Museum of Art.

Late risers, we had apparently arrived just after the Himalayan Dog Pageant. Most of the attractive competitors were still hanging about however, continuing to draw small crowds of admirers. We probably missed all of the most exciting events scheduled for the day. Barry did buy a beautiful green scarf from the good people inside the Bhutan kiosk, and I liked the geographic conceit which set up the portable rock climbing wall for the occasion.

We decided that the line to get into the building itself was too long, deciding to return another day. The trip itself won't be a challenge, since we're only six blocks away, but any visit to this museum will certainly demand more than a quick run-through.

[historical note: the building now occupied by the museum was once the site of Barneys, an oddly entertaining temple of chic in the 1980's and early 90's; the Pressman family's creation self-destructed ten years ago and the stores which bear the name today are basically corporate pretenders]

Allan McCollum, installation detail of The Recognizable Image Drawings from The Kansas and Missouri Topographical Model Donation Project

[Kansas counties on the left, Missouri on the right]

I didn't manage to get to Allan McCollum's show at Friedrich Petzel until this afternoon, and now it's gone. But I liked the two installations too much to let a little matter of their deposition stop me from showing this installation photograph and from linking to both the gallery's pages and his own site for more images and information about this wonderful artist.

At least we have five more months to see his "Three Perfect Vehicles" currently installed at the southeast entrance to Central Park. This time I promise myself I won't wait until the last day.

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