Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Notes on "And Master Po asks.."

Galvanized pipes threaded by teflon elbows or steel tee joints and rubberized, so as to better resist inclement weather transform into the perfect storm that drowns Dirk Diggler. Embedded, the concrete anchor of arachnid legs balances a fragile fulcrum precariously haunched upwards. Little school children who fall from lack of coordination or upper body strength during their recess scuff up their delicate knees but nonetheless curse Buckminster Fuller.

His geodesic self, though, recalculates the angle of repose at a maximum of forty seven degrees latitude and dares the urchins to swarm the goal post, guaranteeing that its tensile resiliency ought to withstand the combined weight of swinging primates imitating Tarzan (as played by the redoubtable Miles O'Keefe) willy nilly.

Jane simply gasps at the spectacle of ascension.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Ode to Meat Bun

Simple egg glaze,
shiny on top,
like a fat turtle
without its shell

concealing swine innards
sometimes sausage, sometimes ham
always pig

cha sui baos
what makes the world go round
barbequed and pulled gently
sweet manna of pork

Grab one piping hot
near its center
and like Moses
lovingly part its Red Sea
to the Promised Land

which entreats glands
and salivates drool

steam rising
mouth watering

a compact meal
not complicated
of vegetable

and such trivialities

bread as it should be
surrounding meat

If the Earl of Sandwich
were Chinese
civilization would ask for it
by this name

Saturday, May 21, 2005

The Burden of the Summer of Sam

Last night Henry Giroux pronounced his disgust during break for Eyes Wide Shut, Stanley Kubrick’s last film. He thought the movie to be about the privileged “white” male and misogynistic among other criticisms that failed to address anything of interest for him. He also felt betrayed by the Jonathan Rosenbaum review of the film that affirmed his curiosity to see the movie.

These ideas of his assessment in of itself prompted me to reevaluate another controversial movie Summer of Sam in terms of the reading, an interview from Cultural Composition: Stuart Hall on Ethnicity and the Discursive Turn with Julie Drew. Hall states that, “I’m expected to speak for the entire black race on all questions theoretical, critical, etc., and sometimes for British politics, as well as cultural studies.” This is said in relation to address his burdens of representation, which pertains to questions of the privileges and obligations of being a black public intellectual. For Hall, his reluctance to assume a position of leadership, to attempt to represent the life experiences of others was something he felt called upon to do. His experience of going to Oxford and his middle class education is not representative of those refused housing and decent public services. But this is not to say that Hall shirked any responsibility to identify himself with this class.

I think of this example being somewhat similar to the doubled edged sword that director Spike Lee faces by his critics. Previous to his new film Summer of Sam Spike dealt with accusations that his films often portrayed the black perspective of the black experience exclusively. Lee often defended his position and vision as his cultural imperative to give voice to the oppressed and the conditions of such oppression. Often he hit upon sensitive white nerves in his criticism of the white dominant power structure because he accepted the expectation of his role as an artist to advance a political and moral position in his films. Through his specific cinematic scope, Lee is part of this pedagogy to question the conditions that come to bear on issues of race and its politics, thus effecting the voice of the other that gives “body” to these issues.

So when movie critics dismiss Summer of Sam, is it because as an African American Spike Lee is unqualified to make a film that shows the Italian American living in the Bronx in the disco era reacting to the crisis of a serial killer on the loose?

I recall a noticeable number of African and Latino Americans who got up and left in the middle of this movie. Were their preconceptions or expectations of the film skewed into a specific category of what a Spike Lee movie should be i.e., a film about Black culture? The question then becomes ironically, is it only viable for Spike Lee to only make movies about African Americans and their concerns? Is he damned for “selling out” by these people who walked out? What about other directors of color who choose to cross race lines?

Thursday, May 19, 2005

More notes on a heavenly mandate

A Mies Van Der Rohe block, tall as any unadorned skyscraper but obviously painted yellow stands connected to its little brother, the low-to-ground squat horizontal rectilinear cube. Like Big Bird on Sesame Street chirps, "one of these things don't belong; one of these things is not like the others..." So who decides which one is the natural question. Maybe Linda Montano tied up to the great Sam Hsieh for a whole year can help.

Or the unnatural byproduct of an incestuous marriage between Charles Ray's Family of Man and the starkly colored tilted pillars of Judy Chicago to cobble a new Bride of Frankenstein more grotesque than a freaked-out Elsa Lancaster. Somehow visions of many little Sons of Godzilla following in a straight row behind the Monster of all Cookie Monsters seem appropros. Minimalism through puppetry then falls prey to a Pinnochioed appendage in rainbow colors that gooses its bitch from behind. And then how to dispel accusations of sadomasochism especially to explain the handcuffs.

We cross that bridge, cutting a wide swath around Sean Connery, when we get there.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The Lie of the Land (unedited version)

As published in the recent issue of ArtAsiaPacific...

It is no coincidence that Indian artist Jitish Kallat chose religious fanaticism as the subject of his latest work aptly, playfully and collectively entitled “The Lie of the Land” at Walsh Gallery in Chicago. Given these uncertain times, this ambitious installation featuring seven paintings, six works on paper and a fifteen-foot long text-based work on acrylic mirror deftly mixes art, religion and politics. But what Kallat creates is not trite agitprop. In fact, the artist employs the dispassionate vocabulary of Pop Art and Minimalism to comment on the state of current global affairs, in particular, “a new era of religiously motivated violence” in his own cool ironic tone.

What is coincidence though centers on the strange fact of Swami Vivekananda giving a speech in Chicago on September 11, 1893 about the dangers of religious fundamentalism. Kallat incorporates this twist of fate, which alludes to our present political climate and questions the happenstance and irony of these connections by using it as the basis for “Detergent”. The centerpiece of this exhibit, this shadowboxed triptych contains the entire text from the actual speech, literally burnt onto three larger-than-life mirrors, distorting its surface much like its funhouse relative. Each mirror encased in cold steel and propped against the wall generates a wavy and reflective sheen through the glass that echoes and superimposes the melted letterforms onto the viewer. The effect as such resembles the topography of a flag unfurling and disintegrates the original message advocating the universal truths of harmony and tolerance.

The paintings and works on paper, on the other hand, rely on a more formal approach to illustrate his social commentary. Kallat’s series of paintings entitled “Covering Letter” depict familiar images of global unrest culled directly from the headlines as propaganda poster art albeit painted in the style of Sigmar Polke. These canvasses resemble high-end magazine ads with its vibrant palette electrifying the graphic design of manipulated images from the media, Internet and popular culture such that it becomes whimsical as with the painting, “Cover Letter No. 2” showing prisoners tortured at Abu Ghraib whereas the works on paper continue Kallat’s love of the pun. In this series also entitled “Lie of the Land” Kallat disguises the red text, that vaguely recalls Russian script to spell out its title against a backdrop utilizing images from the media which he keeps intact to trace scenes of rioters, protesters and other so-called Third World types into recognizable blotches and smears employing a stark black linear style.

Overall the terse power of “Detergent” carries resonance as text objectified and the paintings and works on paper tread tough ground to balance art and politics without falling prey to the usual tropes of proselytizing.