A freshly washed shirt dries in less than an hour on the last of Brooklyn’s breezy spring nights. I open the window to pull its coolness into my arms, determined to sleep with the smell of night air on my skin. In facing these outstretched and sinister hours, no shred of comfort is too extravagant.
I actually bought an artforum, a magazine i love to hate, except that they print good articles. In the most recent issue was a 1973 interview between Lucy Lippard, Nancy Holt, and Robert Smithson about Eva Hesse’s work while Lippard was writing a monograph on her. I have such a hunger for conversation about Hesse recently, i didn’t know much about her until a few months ago when i read Encountering Eva Hesse, but since then i’ve been kind of obsessed. There’s a lot there with her. There’s a lot going on now that she should be here to work out, a lot of things after minimalism that i would have liked to see her grapple with. The article. I think whenever someone is talking about another artist they end up saying more about themselves, and are only peripherally addressing the actual work, a condition for living in the body we’re given. Smithson said a lot about himself, responding to what he saw as bondage fantasies in her work. I can see where he’s coming from, but no way do even the corporeal rope-wrapped balloons have to do with S/M. I see containment, i see issues of breaking out of prescribed boundaries, but the Freudian interpretation feels grossly off, and a little shallow.Most interesting to me was how they all agreed that Eva Hesse hated the landscape, didn’t enjoy even being outdoors, and noticably less so in a rural or semi-rural environment. That is striking to me, who relates to her work strongly and who viscerally needs the land, needs the idea of it, the fact of it. Part of what i identify with her is wrapped up in biological/organic forms, to find that she brought all of that out of herself in an enclosed urban space is fucking remarkable. It’s enough to think about for days.
On that note, a small experiment: beginning on Saturday, i will try as much as possible to eliminate my cultural consumption. I’d love to do two weeks but will be satisfied if i make one or one and a half. This means no books, no museum visiting, no internet surfing (i’ll still check my email but that’s it), no newspapers, magazines, movies, or (gulp) music. At work the music’s on constantly so i can’t help that, or the trillions of ads me and my fellow new yorkers are subjected to on the daily. But otherwise i’m going to try to really delve into myself, into the meaty underneath-ness, really sit down and think and breathe. I’ve seen so much in the past few months, so much art, read so many amazing things, and i feel i’m carrying around these half-digested thoughts that are getting in the way of newer ones. Hopefully i’ll have the courage to get them out.
Really. What have i done to deserve to be alive here, now, to witness moments like this?
I just discovered this track from the 2001 Neko Case Canadian Amp EP, which is actually a cover of the original by Sook-Yin Lee, who starred in Shortbus. None of this is really as important as the song, which i can’t stop playing over and over. It is somehow the perfect complement to the fact that i am cradling a ball of raw bread dough in my left hand, waiting for it to set to the contours of my palm, hoping it will solve the problem of creating a sculpture out of raw dough in the round without using a mold. As it rises and hardens, i’m thinking about my mom, who just had her knee replaced and is bearing remarkable amounts of pain, but is still silly with me on the phone. Her optimism stretches out like a road. About Eva Hesse, whose work, whose life calmly explains that happiness isn’t as important as i thought it was.
There is the work, this soft weight in my hand.
A friend and i were just walking home from lunch when we noticed a gust of feathers in the air, and a small crowd of people staring at the street. We followed their eyes to a hawk halfway through her pigeon lunch. She seemed completely unfazed by people walking by and cars passing. What a strange day; we wake up to 60 degrees, then this crahzazy wind blowing, and now a hawk lives in greenpoint.
I tend to disavow “best of” lists but this year seemed to lend itself to one, with so much to sort through, more so than i remember from last year, or maybe i was just paying closer attention. Mostly i just am afraid that some people have gone through the year without hearing the following albums/tracks, and i want to ensure that at least in the first days of 2008 you can get to the things you may have missed.
Andrew Bird: Scythian Empire. The whole of Armchair Apocrypha is engaging and warm, but this song stands out, its criticism of the Iraq War pitched against an irresistable plucked violin.
Animal Collective: For Reverend Green. Everything this band does grips me, even when i want to write it off as annoying (“We Tigers” comes to mind). Strawberry Jam i think is not as good as Feels, but this track, all reverby and raw, makes me stop whatever i’m doing when it comes on, and listen.
Arcade Fire: (Antichrist Television Blues). I already flipped out about this song in an earlier post, so i’ll just say that Neon Bible and the band live up to all the hype. Seeing them at Randall’s Island at the end of the summer was one of my favorite nights out, ever.
Battles: Atlas. Every time i hear this track, i think, Damn. It is the perfect balance of whacked-out vocals, fluid progressions and transitions, and ridiculously infectious beats. One of the best songs of the decade.
Beirut: Nantes. I really got into Zach Condon’s folk-infused project last year, and this year’s offering is just as good. Great to sing along to lines like “It’s been a long time, long time now/since i’ve seen you smile.”
Blonde Redhead: 23. It’s hard to pick one song from this incredible album, but if pressed i would say “Spring And By Summer Fall” or “Top Ranking,” the latter if only for the great Mike Mills video with Miranda July. Just try to listen to the whole album without repeating it at least once. I haven’t succeeded yet.
Bowerbirds: Dark Horse. Lovely, new indie-folk out of Raleigh, NC. This song in particular holds me in a way i thought only Neko Case could.
Broken Social Scene Presents Kevin Drew: Frightening Lives. Yes, that is the official obnoxious artist name, really Kevin, we know who you are and would have bought the album regardless of the BSS reference. The spoken word beat-driven verses here aren’t my favorite, but i can never get to the guitar hook of this track without starting to bounce around. Spirit If… is a great album, easing the disappointment from BSS’s self-titled 2005 release. That said, You Forgot It In People will always be in my top 20 of all time.
Burial: Archangel. I know this cd just came out and i admittedly know nothing about dubstep, but this track just won’t stop. All of Untrue had me at first listen, but “Archangel” sticks to me, the vocals are twisted enough to be engaging but not so much as to be annoying, and the beat bores its way through everything else. I can’t think of a better backdrop for walking the streets of Greenpoint.
Dan Deacon: The Crystal Cat. This is fun stuff. I’ve heard his live shows are insanely energetic, which is evident from the songs. It’s no small feat to take so many risks and make them danceable.
Electrelane: To The East. Oh, Electrelane. I came to you all pretty late in the game, about a year before you announced your indefinite hiatus, but my appreciation hopefully outweighs my belated introduction. No Shouts, No Calls is a huge achievement and a great note to end on, lush and open in ways hinted at in Axes and The Power Out, but really mastered here.
Feist: I Feel It All. Everybody loves Feist. This summer there wasn’t a coffeeshop, bookstore, or restaurant this side of the Hudson River (and most of Eastern Jersey too) that wasn’t pumping The Reminder, and with good reason. She’s poppy but shares with Cat Power a kind of endearing sadness that i think will only get better with time.
Jay-Z: Roc Boys (And The Winner Is…). As much as i object to the blatant love of capitalism and pursuit of the dollar he epsouses, i can’t deny that this man knows what he’s doing. American Gangster hits hard and stays long.
Kanye West: Stronger. Graduation might not measure up to The College Dropout in the end, but that’s by no means accusing Kanye of weakness. The album still says more, and is more arresting, than almost all the other hip-hop cds i’ve heard this year.
Modest Mouse: Dashboard. I was afraid of We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank after how disappointing Good News For People Who Love Bad News was. It hurt to hate it, and i was guarded about what was coming after, but this release renewed my faith in one of the best u.s. bands ever.
The National: Boxer. The most exciting release of the year. This album is damn near flawless.
Okkervil River: Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe. I just found out about these guys this year, and i’m really glad i did. Slow, sloping rhythms, really beautiful stuff.
PJ Harvey: White Chalk. I was apprehensive about this one too, given Uh Huh Her, which really only had two worthwhile tracks. But i probably listened to this cd more than any other since it came out. She’s taking all the right risks here, and the beauty that came out of it floors me.
Radiohead: In Rainbows. I’ll get it out of the way: This album is not as good as Hail To The Thief. By Radiohead’s own standards, it’s not what it should be. But by the rest of the recordings released this year, it’s still one of the best.
Spoon: Rhythm & Soul. Another new discovery for me this year, and the whole album, and specifically this track, has been on repeat ever since.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Is Is. This EP is topping year-end lists all over the place, which is well-deserved and impressive considering it only has 5 songs. Their Webster Hall show this summer was nothing but a huge, sweaty dance party with strangers. Great, great band.
It hurts to leave out Björk’s Volta which i was so pumped about, but it turned out to be a big bunch of empty promises. Any collaboration with Timbaland should have turned out so much cooler than this. I also enjoyed but never really got into the new releases from St. Vincent, Múm, Panda Bear, M.I.A., and the Arctic Monkeys. I know, everyone else raved about all of these but i just couldn’t make it past a couple of listens for any of them, except for Kala. Okay, i will say that “Paper Planes” is a fucking awesome song. But I still think M.I.A. is overrated.
A lot of music lovers and critics have been saying that on the whole this year was a bit lackluster, but i don’t think so. Granted, there was nothing to compare to Ys of last year, but other than that i got excited about the stuff coming out pretty much all year. For me, music is a large part of where i’m at, and what i’m listening to at any particular time shapes me more than i’m willing to admit. I definitely delved into old stuff like Patsy Cline, Nina Simone, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, The Ramones, Joy Division, The Cocteau Twins, Pixies, My Bloody Valentine, and Neutral Milk Hotel, but more and more i would turn to the 2007 lists when listening to music at home.
My favorite as of this second, thanks to Ryan’s recommendation: The Guillemots. I haven’t stopped replaying Through The Windowpane since i got it.
I’m finally uploading some of the sculpture series with raw bread dough. Part of what i like about them is how they’ll crack/decay over time, which i’ll document. These have a bit too much yeast, and kind of inflated overnight from how they where when i made them; i’m working with a batch now that has almost no yeast at all, so hopefully they’ll set with more of the detail intact. I really like working with the dough as a medium, the stickiness and elasticity. Part of it is also the connotations to domestic life, to an era when most bread was handmade, not bought, how rare the act of making loaves of bread is for people in their 20s/30s now. Most of them are organic shapes, cocoons or little coils, they seem to make the most sense, and i can’t get over how beautiful the dough gets as it stretches from being hung on something.
The last image is from a batch using beet juice instead of water, i hate all of them except this one.
Okay and i will write about disease is a relationship. If disease is a relationship, what form(s) does it take? The science texts in my studio (most form the early 90s) all prefer military terms, as in “the macrophage is an incredibly efficient warrior.” This feels a little too g.w. bush for me.
Firstly, immune responses depend upon the ability of the T and B cells to recognize a pathogen as opposed to one of the millions of “foreign cells” our bodies normally house. What constitutes “foreign?” The bacteria living in our guts, helping digest our food, could they reasonably be called “us?” Our bodies have evolved to be dependent on them, they spend their entire lives within us, but yet they could, technically, exist elsewhere. How important is it to define where i end, where nonself begins? To the B and T cells, it can mean life and death.
The boundaries are drawn here, internally.
To me, it is not so important. My skin feels a tangible boundary, supple but definite, contrasting with the wooden arms of this chair, the coarse fur of the dog. But even on this surface, conversations are taking place. From Wikipedia:
“Sebaceous glands secrete an oily substance called sebum that is made of fat and the debris of dead fat-producing cells. In the glands, sebum is produced within specialized cells and is released as these cells burst. Sebum acts to protect and waterproof hair and skin, and keep them from becoming dry, brittle and cracked. It can also inhibit the growth of microorganisms on skin.”
Some things are certain. I am not chair, i am not dog. Exactly where my transactions between them stop, though, is not so easy. Aren’t there molecules constantly exchanging glances? Don’t i swallow, inhale hundreds of dog cells each day? Here is the definition of reciprocity, and of course these words are spoken between my immune cells and their antigens. There is a need, each for the other.
And there will always be more.