Commentaries - February 2009
I'm happily using a new iPhone application that works pretty seamlessly with blogger. I can't imagine what real advantage this gives me or anyone other than sheer speed and super-presence or ridiculous immediacy. Yet isn't blogging already so immediate (at least in tone and diction) as to be ridiculous? Yet again I can imagine real live-blogging - for instance from a reading or art event. I'll try it soon so stay tuned. The photo below I found just now in my phone's camera log - taken during the reception last week at our Silliman celebration. Erin Gautsche and the KWH students went through "The Alphabet" looking for food references and then served us only items mentioned in Ron's poetry. I was never gladder than at that moment that Ron had spent so much time in California. He is by no means a foodie poet (an understatement) but the New Sentence does tend to grab up a few of the nutritions in the environment. "I don't mean to presume uh if you could it seems that is I only intended apples and oranges" (from Garfield, p. 49).
Readers of this blog will know that I am a fan of Erica Baum's photography. Well, good news: we can see her new work at Dispatch, 127 Henry Street (NYC), until March 22. Below at left is one of the new photographs, and here's a short review from Artforum by Robin O'Neill-Butler:
The red-, blue-, and green-stippled book edges in Erica Baum’s new photographs bring to mind the paperbacks that encumber used-book stores, thrift shops, and family libraries: faded film adaptations, celebrity biographies, and the occasional art monograph. In this exhibition, she walks a fine line between documentation and concealment, presenting pictures of eight such books fanning out and close-up, open but not completely exposed. Fragments of text and cheaply reproduced images––Goldie Hawn in a scene from Shampoo (1975), Art Garfunkel, Richard and Pat Nixon––are evident between the bars. Although these images appear to mine a specific American decade, the 1970s, Baum shirks nostalgia for abstraction. Previously her work (in black-and-white) examined card catalogs, from which she derived a form of clinical and concrete poetry (SEX DIFFERENCES—SHIRTS, reads one). Here, the pulsating hues create geometric patterns, which appear painterly from a distance and recall a colorful version of Gerhard Richter’s “Vorhang” (Curtain) series from the mid-’60s. The fine red vertical lines in Art, 2008, for example, neatly frame the seated, youthful musician and echo the saturated crimson blocks in Nixon and Pat, 2009, which seem to split the image in half. Without entirely displacing the subjects of these photographs, Baum shrewdly extracts image and text from source, pushing language, both visual and verbal, to unstable, higher ground.
In 1974, the History department at CCNY erupted into a bitter political dispute in which older faculty members Stanley Page, Edward Rosen and others accused their younger colleagues of disruptive leftist agitation.
In a work called "Accused" (1975) Charles Bernstein performs the 1975 CUNY Faculty Senate report on the matter.
Available at PennSound is the entire 45-minute recording of this piece: MP3.
This of course is Marcel Duchamp's "The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass)," 1915-23. The materials include oil, lead foil, lead wire and (say the people at the Philadelphia Museum of Art) "dust" also. All on (or in) two glass panels. A box of papers that are the drawn plans and other writings about the project, by Duchamp, is displayed nearby. (The box makes me think of Robert Granier's Sentences, and although I'm no expert on Sentences I have to guess that Grenier was in part thinking of and positively influenced by these sorts of boxes-of-papers-as-art projects Duchamp undertook.)
Bride Stripped is hard to photograph, even by good photographers (I am not that). I try to see it at least once a year at the PMA and always try my hand at snapshots. This time I didn't wait for people also looking at the work to move away and decided just to let them be part of the transparency. Without knowing this as a matter of fact, I'm certain that Duchamp would want them to be included in the view.
I just spent a wonderful two days with Robert Coover, visiting us as a Writers House Fellow, our first of three this spring (next up is Joan Didion). The reading Bob gave last night was riveting. He read all languagy stuff - prose-poems, really. Antic, thick with sound, featuring some of his many imitative American voices. I wanted him to do an encore of "The Fallguy's Faith," his brilliant 1.5-page piece about Humpty Dumpty, which reads like a gone-awry thesaurus of American idioms around falling and fallen. Fortunately Bob Coover came back this morning and I had the opportunity to interview him and moderate a discussion with others, both there at the House and about 35 people watching the live video stream. And I asked him to read the Humpty piece this morning. Here are your links:
 our Coover page with links to video of the reading and the interview, and audio-only mp3's of both;
 a few photographs from Coover's 3-hour session with the students in my Fellows seminar;
 the text of Vince Levy's introduction to Coover at the Monday night reading.
 photographs of the visit (by John Carroll)