Hey. Duncan (me) is on a panel tonight.
Here are the details.
1328 W. Morse Avenue
Chicago, IL 60626
WBEZ – Chicago Public Media
You know what they say about opinions, right? Now more than ever, in this brave new digital world, everybody’s got one. But criticism does something more—something vital to all of the arts communities it serves. Join your host Jim DeRogatis and an illustrious panel of local critics as they discuss their role in the new media landscape. We’ll also enjoy some dramatic readings of noteworthy critiques by Chicago actors, and you’ll have the chance to challenge what the “experts” are saying as the audience is invited to go interactive via Twitter!
• Sarah Zupko, editor the Chicago-based Pop Matters Web site
• Andrew Barber, editor of the hip-hop blog Fake Shore Drive
• Donna Seaman, who writes about books for Booklist and other outlets
• LaShawn Williams, the arts editor of the Gapers Block Web site
• Leah Pickett, who writes about pop culture for the WBEZ blogs
• Kris Vire, one helluva great theater critic
• Jim “Tankboy” Kopeny, ace music writer at Chicagoist
• Duncan MacKenzie, co-founded and contributes to the Bad at Sports art blog
• Drew Hunt, who reviews movies for the Chicago Reader
• AND… a special guest who will appear incognito (as many food critics must)
Here is a link… LINKY
Barbie and La Nouvelle Vague (part 1)
It is my interest in what Jean Luc Godard thought about Barbie, if he ever thought about Barbie, which leads me here. Pick out any one of his films as a point of reference and watch for the female protagonist. She has the essence—the je ne sais quoi. And, her hair is elegant, neatly coiffed, falling in place like the snow on all of Chicago and sliding against my window. It’s 2p.m., but it looks more like 7p.m. outside. I love her. I hate her. Barbie shaped my social consciousness. This afternoon “Barbie, Barbie, Barbie” is my constant mantra. She represents the essential feminist that I want to be and the sexual icon so many love to hate. Perhaps this is why Godard used Barbie’s essence as a point of reference when casting his female characters. Consider Patricia Franchini, played by Jean Seberg, in “À bout de souffle” (“Breathless”) and Camille Javal, played by Brigitte Bardot in “Le Mépris” (“Contempt”), these protagonists are much like Barbie as they appear ambivalently sexy, intelligent, stylishly dressed, and all the while aloof.
It’s also at this point that I must note that Barbie helped to close the “racial divide” of my childhood. A year after I was born (1980), Mattel embraced the “changing times.” The company began to produce “multicultural” Barbie(s). So, when I played with Barbie I never had to worry about being “black” or “white.” She was “politically correct,” especially since Midge (Barbie) was introduced to represent “mixed” girls and “family” life. Midge and the other “multicultural” Barbie(s) meant well, but overall they reinforced “stereotypes.” Nonetheless, I remember playing with Midge and Barbie. The focus shifted to how “pretty” they were, how “thin” they were, and how the blue of Barbie’s eyes reminded me of my grandmother. It’s so “cliché” to say that I wanted to dress like Barbie. I thought, at 8, that I was a doll. My mother called, and still calls, me “JamieDoll.” Perhaps a defense of my close connection is necessary as I realize that people like Dr. Kamy Cunningham say that Barbie is the “anti-clone for every woman who wishes to be more than surface deep, she is the alter ego ideal for American m[e]n [—the] virgin/whore she makes men out of little boys” (Barbie Doll Culture and the American Wasteland). It’s not easy being Barbie.
And, it must be understood that I see Barbie’s anatomical faults. Laurell K. Hamilton wonders, “Did you know that if Barbie was a real woman with those proportions, she’d have to carry her kidneys in her purse” (The Killing Dance). I marvel, as Barbie’s body is a scientific feat and her eyes are those of Bambi’s if ever reincarnated. But, I digress. I’m not a woman that wants Barbie’s measurements. I’m a woman that, on a recent trip home to California, hugged my mother only to feel her unruly scarf the color of Barbie pink. The unmistakable pink used to market Barbie’s uncomplicated, uncluttered life. I saw Barbie’s independence in every strand of my mother’s scarf. I find a defense for Barbie at every corner.
The notion behind my mantra was reinforced as I watched Ann Romney take the stage during the Republican National Convention (RNC). Would Godard have cast Romney to play one of his protagonists? She certainly looked the part with her perfectly coiffed blonde hair falling on her shoulders, red lipstick, red silk-taffeta dress, with cuffed sleeves and small V-neck, and black leather heels. The je ne sais quoi of Romney’s ensemble was its shade of red. It vacillated from fire-engine red to cerise to “Jolly Rancher red” (New York Times). Romney was reminiscent of Angela Récamier, played by Anna Karina in “Une femme est une femme” (“A Woman is a Woman”) as she mirrored Angela’s gentle pursuit and spoke with phrases full of spunk. Now, I’m pacing in my office, spooning through a jar of peanut butter—the natural kind, the kind with water on the rim. Barbie posters are stacked on the desk and Midge (Barbie) is back in her box. I wonder if Barbie likes peanut butter?
Jamie Kazay teaches in the English Department at Columbia College. A California native, she holds a BA in English from California State University, Northridge and an MFA in Creative Writing, Poetry from Columbia College. She co-curates the Revolving Door Reading Series and is currently reading of a lot of Camus, Derrida, and Dorothy Allison. Her collection, Small Hollering, was published by Dancing Girl Press in 2011.
It has been a crazy and historical week. Taxes due on Monday are likely by now all but forgotten with the Boston marathon tragedy and all the subsequent images of police in Watertown, followed by the final capture. At such times I feel grateful to be an artist, among artists, given the ability to reflect slowly on surrounding events while remaining appreciative of the good earnest work of my peers. Because it feels like there is just too much to unpack in a few short days. This week on Bad at Sports seemed to raise and recycle the spector of the 60s (between fashion designer Michael Cepress, sculptor Aris Georidiades, and Edra Soto. Questions about language and the body and where we stand as producers in a contemporary culture.
On Tuesday, LA correspondent Adrienne Harris posted about the roller coaster ride entailed in writing and producing an independent film:
“Independent film is a mysterious beast. It can mean a lot of things, from a group of friends shooting a short film on their I-phones, to Lena Dunham’s inspired Tiny Furniture, shot with her own family/friends in her own home with her own funds (as I understand it) to films loaded with movie-stars, loaded with cash and pre-sale money, BUT no major studio attachment until after it has debuted at a big film festival. To say you are making an “independent film” is simply to say that a major studio did not, in fact, hire you to write the next movie in whatever Young Adult Fiction, or Super Hero franchise. But other than that, the term is vague. Very vague.”
Richard Holland interviewed Aristotle (Aris) Georidiades, who’s show opened this Friday at Carl Hammer Gallery in River North. Georidiades says at one point,:
“Most of the work for this show is made of materials that I have collected that are generally related to buildings built prior to the 1960s. I also continue to use objects that might be considered obsolete or on the verge of being obsolete. I think that by using these materials and objects in my sculpture, notions of our current condition are brought to mind. Of course there are some typical motivations underlying this work. Typical in that I am a “maker” who appreciates materials and I notice the way the world around us is made. Materials and the methods of manipulating the materials can and should carry and covey meaning. Visual artists know this don’t they? I should also add that I continue to believe in the power of objects. As an artist I find it very challenging to try to create compelling objects in a world filled with objects whether we call them art or not. I am not really repurposing old work although at times I do reuse materials from an old piece.”
Thomas Friel wrote about James Franco, who curiously appeared in my dream last night and (no doubt because of Friel’s post) made me sleep-think, “How strange that my Franco is playing himself in my dream”). Friel writes:
“Reality TV and YouTube are now established parts of our entertainment culture, providing instant celebrity status or notoriety. By always trying to make reality, how are we actually interacting with it? We are constantly posting and reposting, recycling videos, content, news; in essence, information we are trying to process as reality. This blends in with all the fictional stuff. How do movies become the stand in for experiences not personally had, influencing our actions and their expected outcome? Do we envision our lives cinematically, possibly as a result of our experiencing through media?”
FROM PORTLAND! Sarah Margolis-Pineo interviews art fashion brainiac, Michael Cepress, who at one point says:
“The boundary gets identified when you start to push against it. So how do you push against boundaries when you’re making clothes? Do you encourage a man to wear a shaped garment that we would never otherwise see on a man? Do you put a transparent cloth that lets us see the body in a way that we’re not accustomed to seeing? A big part of fashion design for me is: what is the body itself; what does the body embody; and how does that turn into something? So part of my practice, almost weekly, is to draw the figure, both male and female. I look at the body and then I figure out what is it about the pose, the person modeling, or what’s on my mind that day, that can turn into a garment concept. This rendering on the end [for a garment featured at Bellevue Art Museum] expresses this most clearly: here he is with an open stance, and you can’t help but see this burst of light or energy from his chest. As a physical thing, this expression is embodied as a vest with dozen lapels.”
Gene Tanta opens with the following question:
“I misread “you” instead of the “I” you have. How does this change the tone of the text? How does this change the idiomatic expression itself: “I break for strangers” or “I will rock you like a hurricane” or “the children are our future”? How does this change the sense of a dialogue between a subject and an object of desire on the skintight highroad of language?”
Which is to say, if you happen to be in Bucharest on May 11th, nihilist poets are gathering to discuss their work, asking the question, “How do your poems ‘take responsibility for their freedom’ as Sartre put it? Camus found relief when the Sisyphean bolder was rolling back down the mountain. Where do you find relief? Is finding relief and closure why you write your poems?” Which is perhaps a fair question for any and all of us, no matter where we are…
Thea Liberty Nichols interviews Edra Soto this week about her porch installation at Terrain in Oak Park, where “Soto uses [Sabina] Ott’s front porch as the root stock to graft her installation, comprised of patterned, bright white screened gates… [A]lthough they mimic the aesthetic appeal of similar gates in [Soto's] native Puerto Rico, they function quite differently in the terroir of Oak Park.” In addition to talking about her work at Franklin, Soto said of her installation:
“Yes, this patterning comes from iron fences that still exist in Puerto Rico. Many are in my parent’s neighborhood (where I grew up). The neighborhood was built in the early 60s and in addition to the aesthetic appeal, the screens provided security and ventilation. It’s easy to find all kinds of information relevant to the problems related to criminality at that time. However, there’s not much information about the pattern designs of the fences… Their beauty allures me but their potential of becoming modern art when taken out of their original context spooks me!”
And don’t forget to check out last week’s SUNDAY COMIC CONVO with Sara Drake —
Last but not least, allow me to add a couple of art reviews around and about town that I particularly enjoyed this week — Claudine Isé wrote about Thomas Demand’s photographs at the Graham Foundation, W. Keith Brown discussed Jeremiah Hulsebos-Spofford’s show at the Hyde Park Art Center and Jason Foumberg highlights Chicago sculpture.
Spring always makes me anxious for that magical transition eulogized in William Carlos Williams’ The Botticellian Trees:
The alphabet of
is fading in the
song of the leaves
Unfortunately, right now e.e. cummings’ in Just - may be a more accurate depiction of this midwestern spring:
in Just -
spring when the world is mud-
And so, over the course of the soggy last two weeks, I’ve been burying myself in books and hoping that at some point I’ll look up and it’ll be sunny May already… or June. Here are a few of the books that have been going on dreary bus rides with me.
The Virginia Woolf Poems
by Jackson Mac Low
When one of my favorite writers uses another of my favorite writer’s work as source material, good things are bound to happen. Jackson Mac Low, a student of John Cage, was a writer and performance artist who developed systematic writing processes to compose his poetry and performance scores. One system he developed and used often was the diastic or “spelling through” method which he applied here to Woolf’s novels The Waves and Night and Day. This book was published by Burning Deck in 1986 and has a killer cover designed by Keith Waldrop (Sorry for the poor image quality – I already returned my copy to the library and this sad image is all the internet had to offer me).
The Blond Notebook
The book has been floating around my apartment since I got it last weekend. Its always a good sign when books don’t go straight onto the shelf; it means I want to live with it a bit while reading it – and maybe before and after, too. The Blond Notebook is Michael Slosek’s most recent book of poetry and the latest release from the Chicago based small press arrow as aarow, makers of beautiful, hand bound chapbooks with hand printed covers.
Invisible Cities is a collection of short vignettes in which Marco Polo offers descriptions of far away cities to Kublai Khan and it is pure magic. This was my third or fourth time reading it and it continues to seduce me and inform a lot of my own work.
Another recent Chicago small press release – this time from Kenning Editions. I’m about two thirds of the way through at this point, but I will say that reading it while I was working the circulation desk at the library where I work gave me in an unnervingly participatory perspective. I kept shifting between Durgin’s hallucinatory cultural investigation/poet’s script and surveilling a room full of readers from behind a sound proof glass wall and an array of security camera feeds.
Bailey Romaine is a print maker and bibliophile currently living in Chicago.
Work by Jesse Avina and Michael Garcia.
The Octagon Gallery is located at 120 N. Green St. Unit 3B. Reception Friday, 7-10pm.
Work by Matt Austin, Dan Bradica, Kate Bowen, Jessica Egan, Kristina Gosh, and Sooz Main, curated by Chelsea Middendorf and Jessica Rodrigue.
Columbia College Chicago Library is located at 624 S. Michigan Ave. 5th Fl. Reception Friday, 5-7pm.
Work by Lise Haller Baggesen, Joshua Demaree, Darja Filippova, Danny Floyd, Chris Fotopulos, Sarah Hamilton, Peter Kusek, Ruslana Lichtzier, Elcin Marasli, Anthony D. Stepter, Devdutt Trivedi, and Michelle Weidman.
Co-Prosperity Sphere is located at 3219 S. Morgan St. Reception Friday, 6-10pm.
Work by Sean Fader.
Defibrillator Performance Art Gallery is located at 1136 N Milwaukee Ave. Reception Saturday, 8-11:55pm.
Work by Nina Palomba.
Peanut Gallery is located at 1000 N. California Ave. Reception Sunday, 5-9pm.