Monday, December 25, 2006

Reading list for 2006

After breaking my ankle earlier this month, I suddenly find myself completely bed-ridden with copious amounts of time on my hands.

To that end, I find myself writing again, rummaging through old letters, documents, and computer files long forgotten. Making lists happens to be one of those activities where I almost feel productive while exerting little effort. Such is life under the influence of Percocet.

Below, I've managed to compile, from memory, a list of books that I have read in the past year. They are listed in no particular order. The nice surprise, for me, is that I somehow managed to read about one book every two weeks. I guess all that time spent commuting on the bus paid off in some small way. I'm sure that I have left a few off of the list. One of my New Year resolutions will be trying to keep better track of my reading choices.

Book List for 2006:

  1. Apathy and other small victories by Paul Nielan
  2. Quicksilver (The Baroque Cycle, Vol. 1) by Neil Stephenson
  3. Heathern by Jack Womack
  4. Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded: August 27, 1883 by Simon Winchester
  5. The Map that Changed the World by Simon Winchester
  6. The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing
  7. I Promise to be Good: the Letters of Arthur Rimbaud by Arthur Rimbaud & Wyatt Mason
  8. The Trial of Gilles de Rais by Georges Bataille
  9. Marcel Duchamp: The Bachelor Stripped Bare: A Biography by Alice Goldfarb Marquis
  10. Dylan Thomas: A New Life by Anderew Lycett
  11. A Mouthful of Air: Language, Languages...Especially English by Anthony Burgess
  12. Coming of Age in the Milky Way by Timothy Ferris
  13. Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants by Robert Sullivan
  14. A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire by Amy Butler
  15. I am Legend by Richard Matheson
  16. Post Office by Charles Bukowski
  17. David Bowie's Low (33 1/3) by Hugo Wilcken
  18. Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century by Greil Marcus
  19. Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground 1981-1991 by Michael Azerrad
  20. On Poetry and Poets: Essays by T.S. Eliot

Useless trivia:
Percentage of non-fiction books: 70
Percentage of female authors: 15
Percentage of books that were on the NY Times Best Seller List in 2006: 0

I thought, for about a second, of writing my own little, witty reviews for each one of the books on my list. But, then, I decided that I wasn't feeling very witty, and just linked to the books' listing on Amazon, instead. I will have to say, however, that "Apathy and Other small victories" has to be one of the funniest books I have ever read.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Censorship and Outsider Art - Adolf Wolfli

Digging through my archives, I found this little rant.
This note was in response to a friends comment on a gallery exhibit in which the artist was physically assaulted due to the 'controversial' nature of her works on display.
I can't locate my original note, or my friends' response. However, I did manage to find the original new article that sparked the following tangential digression into the genre of "Outsider Art"
From 05/30/2004: Attacked for art, S.F. gallery to close

I guess as an art school dropout; I've managed to retain a few coherent thoughts on the subject, however biased they may be...
I've also slept through my share of late evening art history classes after being up for 72 hours straight painting, talking, drinking, and god-knows-what-else, and still find it fascinating to this day. Even managed to get exiled/promoted to the honors classes, where I was forced to endure lessons on writing a coherent paragraph (no joke: opening thesis, body/proof, closing statement/summary.) However, I digress.
Please don't misunderstand me regarding the 'gratuitous' comment. I was mainly referring to artwork(visual, aural, etc.) that tends to jerk the audience around trying to elicit some Hallmark greeting card response, which I felt the artist in the woman's gallery was employing. Granted, that observation was from seeing only one image. I could be wrong about the artist's original intention; but, it looked like a blatant attempt to piss some people off. Unfortunately, it seemed to have worked and resulted in a person being bodily harmed, as well as destroying her source of income and livelihood. That sucks, and it's unfortunate, in my opinion, that art that appears, intentionally created to get a rise out of its audience, would have such tragic results.

Adolf Wolfi links:

Raw Vision - Adolf Wolfli
Art Brut - Phyllis Kind Gallery
The Artist and Art
SPK summary

On the other hand, you mention creations and works of art done by the criminal, and insane as being valid. While you neglected to include the criminally insane, and the insanely criminal, I would agree with you wholeheartedly. I've discovered some incredible artists that exist on the 'fringes' of society. While not I am not at all interested in the novelty of Ed Gein's clown paintings, I do find (see 'Outsider Art' and for some examples) or the Art Brut movement() founded/initiated by Jean Dubuffet to be really some really fascinating and compelling expressions of the human psyche( as if there were any other types..).
A great example of this, for me, would be the work of Adolf Wolfli, and the posthumous interpretation of his musicial by 'first generation' Industrial bands, SPK. Take a look at:

Yes, this band included Graeme Revell who is probably about as prolific composing film scores as Danny Elfman (of Oingo Boingo and Simpsons fame) who went on to score the soundtracks for such movies as, well, take a look here:
In my opinion, this is a perfect marriage of the avant-garde meeting the 'fringe' elements of society, as expressed in art.
Of course, this was done at a time when groups like Throbbing Gristle were doing their COUM Transmissions performances and Richard Kern was documenting the underbelly of the Lower East Side with the likes of Lydia Lunch, et al. Different times, different boundaries which gave birth to the likes of Karen Finley, Diamanda Galas, Kathy Acker (whom I adore as a writer), and Robert Mapplethorpe as obvious, popular examples of the 'fringe' encroaching upon mainstream tastes.

Friday, December 15, 2006

She throws dice on the table of my mind

While in art school, many years ago, I immersed myself in the study of the various and sundry art movements occuring in the early twentieth century, particular among those were dada and the surrealist movement. In was during this course of study that I happened to stumble upon a book, actually more properly called a novella, I would conclude, of rather meager physical proportions called The Story of the Eye which floored me with its relatively straightforward depiction of urges, transgressions, and taboos in a highly dramatized, in fact, quite dreamlike tableau.

Within this story, Bataille captures a delightfully sensual, and erotically disturbing dream. I found a good, brief summary of this good, brief influential novella over at Amazon. I quote:
Only Georges Bataille could write, of an eyeball removed from a corpse, that "the caress of the eye over the skin is so utterly, so extraordinarily gentle, and the sensation is so bizarre that it has something of a rooster's horrible crowing." Bataille has been called a "metaphysician of evil," specializing in blasphemy, profanation, and horror. Story of the Eye, written in 1928, is his best-known work; it is unashamedly surrealistic, both disgusting and fascinating, and packed with seemingly endless violations. It's something of an underground classic, rediscovered by each new generation. Most recently, the Icelandic pop singer Björk Guðdmundsdóttir cites Story of the Eye as a major inspiration: she made a music video that alludes to Bataille's erotic uses of eggs, and she plans to read an excerpt for an album. Warning: Story of the Eye is graphically sexual, and is only for adults who are not easily offended.

I am currently in the process of sorting through what remains of my book collection and began flipping through this book:

Vision of Excess Selected Writings 1927-1939 by George Bataille

What follows, below, is a brief excerpt that caught my attention for no defineable reason. It is from his essay "The Pineal Eye" page 86

see the following sources for more info:
this outline
this brief biography or
this summary of his work

Vision of Excess Selected Writings 1927-1939

" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Like a storm that erupts and, after several minutes of intolerable delay, ravishes in semi-darkness an entire countryside with insane cataracts of water and
blasts of thunder, in the same disturbed and profoundly overwhelming way
(albeit with signs of infinitely more difficult to perceive), existence itself shudders and attains a level where there is nothing more than a hallucinatory void, an odor of death that sticks in the throat.
In reality, when this puerile little vomiting took place, it was not on a mere
carcass that the mouth of the Englishwoman crushed her most burning, her
sweetest kisses, but on the nauseating JESUVE: the bizarre noise of kisses, prolonged on flesh, clattered across the disgusting noise of bowels. But these unheard-of events had set off orgasms, each more suffocating and spasmodic than its predecessor, in the circle of unfortunate observers, all throats were choked by raucous sighs, by impossible cries, and, from all sides, eyes were moist with the brilliant tears of vertigo. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The sun vomited like a sick drunk above the mouths full of comic screams,
in the void of an absurd sky . . . And thus an unparalleled heat and stupor
formed an alliance--as excessive as torture: like a severed nose, like a torn-out tongue--and celebrated a wedding (celebrated it with the blade of a razor on pretty, insolent rear ends), the little copulation of the stinking hole with the sun . . ."

Here are some more links to information on George Bataille:

The Sovereign Value of Transgression: A Reading of George Bataille's The Story of the Eye

George Bataille -- Wikipedia entry

My Mother

George Bataille -- short biography and bibliography

And finally, a completely over-the-top, postmodern spew-for-all that I turned up in a search on Bataille, although I am not sure quite in what manner since my eyes rapidly began to glaze over when I attempted to wade through the article at such a late hour of the night.

Nervous Views from Within : Towards an Immersive Intelligence