Harm Van Den Dorpel recently talked with me over a shared-screen skype session about his semi-generative imageÂ navigationÂ system called Dissociations. The work could be described in many ways: feedback platform, assistend-intelligenceÂ interface, online studio, anti-tagging archival system. But regardless of hard definition, this ongoing engine fuels a lot of Van Den Dorpel’s online presence, as well as guides the way in which he decides to translate that work into physical galleries. The uniqueness of this project not only rests in Van Den Dorpel’s distinctive visual approach to online imagery, but is also due in part to this system being a type of conceptual launching pad for critiquing the ways in which certain user-generated image curation platforms all too quickly create a kind of same-same-ness (ahem Tubmlr).
In our conversation, we discuss some of the back-end of Van Den Dorpel’s program as well as how the selection process – which again is based on negative association -Â nurtures the artists’ intuitive studio practice. In doing so, the project becomes a kind ofÂ tableau for Van Den Dorpel’s work that is not based upon typical systems of organization like construction material and/or chronology. Instead, as we find in our explorations of both the selection process and the front-end display of the “results” of this software, one looks at the artist’s work in a more nuanced way. As a result, Dissociations becomes more like a game; one in which the feedback and immediacy of the computer can become more measured and distinct when brought offline.
Here in Los Angeles there is a semi-annual event that happens for 10 days or so Â in the Winter and Summer. No not the Victoria Secret’s Semi-Annual Bra sale, but something much more exciting, sexy, seductive, and with much less lace. It’s called DineLA.Â During the DineLA event dozens of restaurants across the city have specially selected pre-fix menus for a much discounted price than their food would normally cost.
Even though I am very involved in the restaurant world (I work part time in a fancy steak house and I love eating out) somehow DineLA always sneaks up on me. Like the Holiday Season or my birthday, DineLA is always suddenly upon me and I have done nothing to prepare. DineLA is like Brigadoon to me. It’s a thing a myth and magic and impossible to plan. This is in no way true, however. Â I have a friend that knows the restaurants featuring DineLA menus cold. Her 10 day dining experience is planned. She and her wife are out almost every night enjoying amazing 3 and 4 course dinners for under $50, and she instagrams her food to make me feel inspired and jealous. She is an expert. She should be studied and copied. Honestly, I should just invite myself along on all their dates (note to self) Â because they are excellent diners. This year, that friend helped me find an app for my smart phone that listed all of the participating restaurants and the menus they were offering. With this technological wonder, my bofriend and I managed one evening out. We chose a hip Hollywood venue called The Lexington Social House which turns into a night club after 10:00 pm but serves delcious chilled english pea soup with crab and bacon and bone marrow encrusted filet mignon before the dancing begins.
We walked to the restaurant (an LA rarity that helped us pick this venue) and found we were slightly underdressed but no one gave us any trouble. In LA, I feel like I am somehow always under or overdressed, but never quite right. Hmmm. My meal (described above) was amazing. I instagramed pictures of my soup and steak and my boyfriend’s seared ahi tuna (as one does these days) to help drum up a little DineLA business for the Lex Social House (they’re welcome) polished off some flowerless chocolate cake with salted carmel ice cream for dessert and waddled home. Probably never to return. Not because the food wasn’t delicious, or the service wasn’t polite and prompt, but because the regular prices are higher than we normally spend and we are creatures of habit. Two nights in the last week or so we found ourselves at the same hole in the wall mexican place and I ordered the same thing. Our two entrees cost under $20. It wasn’t salted carmel ice cream and bone marrow but it was damned good.
The idea of DineLA (other cities call it Restaurant Week, I believe) is to get new faces in the door and new butts in the seats, impress them with your culinary delights so much that they will come back, when the menu has returned to full price and become regular customers. It’s a great plan but I’m not sure how well it works. The fact is that I’m lazy and haven’t taken any poles or done any real journalistic research. I can only speak from my own experinece that the faces that I see in my own restaurant who put their regular (very pricey) menus aside and ask for the much discounted DineLA menu enjoy their meal emmencially, but don’t return until DineLA rears it’s delicious head again six months later. And I know how I oppertate as well. I don’t want to imply that we are cheap diners, and I’ll have you know that we are excellent tippers, but I think it is more of a matter of comfort, conveince and craving. All though my chilled pea soup was deliocus, I’m not sure I’ll crave it enough to go back and pay a full inflated price for a bowl of it. But I do find myself craving (often, I might add) the Eggs Blackstone from Hugo’s Restaurant and so I go there, DineLA be damned and enjoy them. It requires no apps, it requires little discussion or deliberation. We eat what we like and where we like and don’t let a semi-annual event dictate our dining life for the entire year. After re-reading that sentence I realized we sound a little boring. Oh well. At least I follow my friend’s instragram account and I can live vicariously through her.
The Life Instinct: unification, the eternal return, the perpetuation and MAINTENANCE of the species, survival systems and operations, equilibrium.
â€“ Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Manifesto for Maintenance Art, 1969!
This month is different because I left Chicagoâ€”it’s the first time in six years I wasn’t in Pilsen for the Fourthâ€”to study for a month in the Naropa Summer Writing Program. The point isnâ€™t that Iâ€™m fancy (Iâ€™m not; I saved up!), itâ€™s that this place is wonderful so I want to be your Mina Harker. (Or for you to be her yourself.Â Here’s the archive.)
This column is different too. Iâ€™m still in Boulder. I decided to write you from here, even though I need to turn in my portfolio soon eek, because I like the idea of book-review-as-postcard. I am writing you now, before I get back and set this experience against Chicagoâ€™s meat and concrete and home. I didnâ€™t want to write starry-eyed, and I didnâ€™t want to write retrospectively. I just want to show you some books I read while I was here, because I found them, living in a city where the skyâ€”not the neighborhoodâ€”is what centers.
My constraints were that I couldnâ€™t write about anything I had to read for class, and I couldnâ€™t write about anything Iâ€™d heard about before. To sort that out I started taking selfiesâ€”these snapshots belowâ€”on lunchbreaks in the Ginsberg Library. I thought I was taking these pictures for myself, but in class yesterday I realized I was taking them for this column. Fragments are a good way to show Â reading for research and pleasure while on deadline (dovetailing with what Carl Wilson says about poetry here). Plus these are personal because each one represents something I copied into my notebook, or otherwise Felt Very Near and Dearly.
Next month will be same as beforeâ€”your regularly scheduled MAINTENANCE. If thereâ€™s something youâ€™d like me to read, or read about, let me know: mairead dot case at gmail dot com.
Publications discussed here:
+Â Heavenly Breakfast: an Essay on the Winter of LoveÂ by Samuel R. Delany (Bantam, 1979)
+ Under Milk Wood: A Play for VoicesÂ by Dylan Thomas (New Directions, 1954)
+ Civil Disobediences,Â edited by Lisa Birman and Anne WaldmanÂ (Coffee House Press, 2004)
+Â Margery KempeÂ by Robert GlÃ¼ck (Serpent’s Tail, 1994)
+Â I, Afterlife: Essay in Mourning TimeÂ by Kristin Prevallet (Essay Press, 2007)
+Â What’s With Modern Art?Â by Frank O’Hara, edited by Bill Berkson (Mike and Dale’s Press, 1999)
+ “A poem for record players” by John Wieners (1958)
HEAVENLY BREAKFAST by Samuel R. Delany (Bantam, 1979)
My first night, I walked to Pearl Street to buy a sandwich and something to read. Missions help. I found Trident and bought this book, which is also an essay, because this introduction here made me feel like I’d Â swallowed a rock and needed to cry. Heavenly BreakfastÂ is the commune where Samuel Delany lived, on the Lower East Side in 1967-8, and also his band. Babies lived at Heavenly Breakfast too, one bathroom didn’t have a door, folks “balled” a lot, and the kitchen was for guests, meals, practice, and the bathtub. “If you’ve ever indulged the fantasy of being invisible,” Delany writes, “you’d probably like commune life.”Â Heavenly BreakfastÂ is clean, quick, and gripping, not so much a book about rock bands and sex as it is holding space, and living together in the in-between.
UNDER MILK WOOD: A PLAY FOR VOICES by Dylan Thomas (New Directions, 1954)
Under Milk WoodÂ is a radio play about the dreams people have in a small Welsh fishing village. It starts and ends at night, with some day in the middle. Characters include Mae Rose Cottage, a teenager who draws circles on herself in lipstick, a constable who pisses in his helmet, and Organ Morgan, who has nightmares about orchestras. The book is unified by time and musicâ€”reading it aloud at random, and again, is a great way to practice deep listening. (Or to make a bone-white student apartment seem less vast.) The people at Innisfree stocked two whole copies of this book and so I wanted to kiss everyone working that night.
“Symbiosis” by Peter Warshall, from CIVIL DISOBEDIENCES (Coffee House Press, 2004)
“Symbiosis” is anthologized in Anne Waldman and Lisa Berman’sÂ Civil Disobediences, a “talking book” of smart beautiful people writing about how poetics can engage with politics. (Lady Liberty is on the cover, blurred like she’s making a fist not holding a torch.)Â Peter Warshall, theÂ Whole EarthÂ catalog guy, he wrote this essay (available here on Google Books)â€”his “her” is Beatrix Potter, the writer and also, the first person to prove that lichen is the product of fungus and algae. That freaked out Scientific Society, because it was queer coupling and also, a woman proved it. Warshall tells Potter’s story like the cool uncle at holiday dinner, conversationally, and braiding in biologist Lynn Margulis, Gaia, Gay Liberation, and billions of years. The essay rambles but it holds, and it gives Peter Rabbit a hero’s welcome home. I am excited to read the other essays hereâ€”Civil DisobediencesÂ is about half a phone book but I’m lugging it home anyway, to keep on my bedside table where I can love and argue with it over the years.
MARGERY KEMPE by Robert GlÃ¼ck (Serpent’s Tail, 1994)
Okay, here I’m cheating because I’ve read this book before. It’s one of my forever favorites though, it’s about waiting and romantic obsession in two knitted-up stories, one belonging to Margery Kempe, a failed fifteenth century saint who loved Jesus physically and passionately and is credited with writing the first autobiography. The other belongs to GlÃ¼ck, who wanted to write Margery’s story for decades but couldn’t until he fell in love himself, with a younger man named L. The book is hot and funny and sweet and taboo. “I’m Margery,” writes GlÃ¼ck, “following a god through a rainy city. The rapture is mine, mine the attempt to talk herself into existence.” “Mine the attempt to talk herself into existence,” what a killer gymnastic. Above is another paragraph I loop to myself aloud.
I, AFTERLIFE by Kristin Prevallet (Essay Press, 2007)
The front table at the library had two books, that I saw, that people wrote about their fathers’ deaths. One was Eleni Sikelianos’s heartstoppingÂ The Book of Jon, and the other is here,Â I, AfterlifeÂ by poet and hypnotherapist Kristin Prevallet, who writes about when her father killed himself in the car. It’s a powerful tug-of-war won by Prevallet, the survivor. One tension is her nimble poetry against the sudden vortex, another the way she braids clinical report language with elegy. I, Afterlife is brave and current, happening now.Â I read it twice in a row and went to class red-eyed. Another moment: “Never fall in love with a text that attempts to convince you that you are already dead. / Or that you are a vampire.”
WHAT’S WITH MODERN ART? by Frank O’Hara (Mike and Dale’s Press, 1999)
This is a pamphlet of Frank O’Hara’s short reviews and “other art writings” from the 1950s, edited by Bill Berkson (who told us to look up George Schneeman too: here). Just like his poems, O’Hara’s reviews are vibrant and sincereâ€”and capsule-sized, which means Robert DeNiro, Joseph Cornell, and Joan Mitchell can hang out together on one page. He uses words like “beautiful,” “brave,” and “passion” but his feet stay on the ground, in fact I copied a few reviews out longhand into my notebook to muscle up. Berkson includes a piece framing Jackson Pollock’s black and white paintings, a charming critique of David Smith’s sculpture (“circle them as you may, they are never napping”), and his own breezy, meaty afterword. The excerpt above is fromÂ IngenueÂ magazine 1964, from a feature where teenagers were encouraged to write in and ask a poet “What’s with modern art?” I love how seriously O’Hara replies. I love poets as critics, and teenagers asking important questions about art.
from “A poem for record players” by John Wieners
Okay, I’m cheating again because Eric Baus made me read this one, it was assigned for his Week Four Lecture (which was great; you can read the whole thingÂ here). Poet Wieners studied at Black Mountain College with Charles Olson and Robert Creeley (whose bumper sticker was apparently “I saw delight”), and later on he worked at SUNY Buffalo. His poems are jazzy and sexy. I love how this one begins in the whirlpoolâ€””The scene changes” is the first line, the second “Five hours later,” andÂ then there’s pigeons, coughing, wings, squeaks. “I am engaged in taking away / from God his sound,” writes the speaker as he hides from a clock, echoing Krapp. What I really, really loved here was how nobody doubts the speaker’s eye, he just keeps zooming around the seacoast city, doing his best to be clear even though the reader will probably misunderstand, as readers do. (I read this poem on the bus on my way to Counterpath Books in Denver, to hear the amazing Julie Doxsee (an SAIC grad!), which is why the annotation’s a little wobbly.)
found in the back room of the coffeehouse
Because sometimes on lunchbreaks you don’t read, instead you walk downtown for coffee and sun and you bump into some guys playing D&D.
1. Timeshares at LVL3 Gallery
Work by Calvin Ross Carl, Josh Reames, and Maria Walker.
LVL3 Gallery is located at 1542 N. Milwaukee Ave. Reception Saturday, 6-10pm.
2. Nothing Grows in the Shadows of Great Trees at Defibrillator Performance Art Gallery
Work by Nick Bastis andÂ Anthony Romero.
Defibrillator Performance Art Gallery is located at 1136 N Milwaukee Ave. Reception Saturday, 7:30-10pm.
3. Antagonists Anonymous Presents at TRITRIANGLE
Work by Cleav’d Cleaver, Blood Transfusion, Piss Piss Piss Moan Moan Moan, and Billington/Walker.
TRITRIANGLE is located at 1550 N. Milwaukee Ave. Fl 3. Reception Friday, 9pm.
4. Serenade at Terrain Exhibitions
Curated by Tempestt Hazel, with work by Jeff Austin, Rob Frye,Ramah Jihan Malebranche, Michael and Yhelena Hall, Viktor Le and Stephen Lieto.
Terrain Exhibitions is located at 704 Highland Ave., Oak Park. Reception Sunday, 5-8pm.
5. Like It Is: Paris Portraits at Corbett vs. Dempsey
Work by Hedwig Eberle.
Corbett vs. Dempsey is located at 1120 N. Ashland Ave. Reception 5-8pm.