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)
I'm quoted in today's Washington Post - in a story about text messaging. The writer, Donna St. George, with whom I spoke the other day, is smart and nice, but let's face it: if the "story" was that these new forms of succinct writing were modestly or significantly beneficial, the Post would never run it. But Henny Pennyism runs amok when a new technology is so rapidly embraced by the young while parents and teachers are left somewhat behind. And maybe it's not specifically technology at all - but change of this sort generally. To be sure, Ms. St. George's article is full of moderate comments and no evidence even close to conclusive that any damage is being done. There's the usual anecdotal nightmare-scenario remark by an expert that the reading of Shakespeare might be interrupted by a message from some acronym-obsessed best friend, but, c'mon, in the 1930s the Shakespeare assignment would have been interrupted by the neighbor banging on the window with an urgent request to come out and play or the sneaking out from under the covers of the girly mag, or in the '70s by a quick listen, big headphones over the head, to a cut from the latest LP...or, in any era, by nose-picking, doodling, phone-calling, etc. If the interruption is the writing of more language, that in fact seems better to me, by far, than the time-honored proscrastinations of what we now call our golden ages of childhood. And why does high-culture Shakespeare always appear as the positive object of attention? (Well,because it makes the story about a skirmish in the culture wars. High = Shakespeare, low = texting. Stop the low, save the high! Cause, effect.) What makes inattention to one's homework new here? And what makes this kind of inattention (but really it's multiple attentiveness) ipso facto bad? Or inattention to anything one is ought to be doing? I suggest that those concerned about all this read John Ashbery's pre-internet poem, "The Instruction Manual." The speaker is doing exactly what he shouldn't be doing, and possibly he's multi-tasking with greater focus on the daydreamt Other. And he's writing as a brilliant means of avoiding responsibility. And what comes of that? Oh, imagination...art.