30 April 2007


The problem with liberalism as we know it is that it's oppositional.

Institutional critique stands outside institutions and describes the way power works. Fine art applauds anything that offends, at any price. Card-carrying democrats know that they cannot stop the war, so they cry that it is "not in my name."

Liberalism uses the concept of against. It says that we are right in relationship to this wrong that is outside us, that we separate ourselves from. We have tuned in and dropped out and turned on.

But it is absurd to attempt to oppose that which you create. Democrats and Republicans are part of the same fake democracy that caters pretty much exclusively to big business at the expense of the citizen, and yet this fact does not excuse this administration's tyrrany! Mark diSuvero and Richard Serra, bless their hearts, pushed their rhetoric of protest at the last Whitney Biennial, and it was not powerful. What was powerful was the institution that they helped to create, draining the meaning from their protest. What more do you need? The institution swallowed the Peace Tower whole, for chrissakes! I don't need any more evidence that Chrissie and Paul were truly curating--that they were truly telling us a story about the zeitgeist!

Opposition from within creates all kinds of ridiculouslessness, like conservatives getting all up in Al Gore's business for flying a lot and therefore having a relatively large carbon footprint. Looking at this absurdity and attempting to oppose it creates art that is abject, art that throws up its hands, or looks only inward, or just says fuck this, and fuck you.

I say fuck that. I am implicated, and so are you. As part of an imperialist nation, I am an imperialist. And as part of a capitalist society, I am a capitalist. The Dalai Lama is right. George W. Bush has been my mother. We are cooking the planet, killing thousands of Iraqis, fucking our own poor and patriotic by sending them off to die in a war that we say is "not in our name." We all have a lot of blood on our hands, and there is nothing abject about that. I can't talk for you, but that is a situation that I have a serious emotional investment in.

If the aesthetic of opposition (I am right, and this is wrong) is moving more and more toward the abject, what is the aesthetic of implication?

28 April 2007


You build off of what is already level, flat or "true".

When you do that, you can put a measuring tool against that one good thing and make sure all other things conform to the goodness or rightness that is already apparent.

In this way, "rightness" or "trueness" in building is relative--it travels throughout a structure. And it is also something made my humans. Trees are cut into planks and then shoved through a planer until all four planes are flat and true. Steel is melted and extruded into the right shapes, shapes you can put a square against.

I TA'ed introduction to art history for Sheldon Nodelman, and he has a theory that starting from a flat or true place--and the subsequent convenience of the right angle--is an Egyptian innovation. I do not have a comprehensive enough understanding of history to prove him right or wrong.

But I absolutely buy the gestalt: the flat plane and the right angle can make you feel so powerful that you try to change that which is unchangeable... like death.

These are conceptual tools that make "structure" as we know it possible. Material can rise up out of the earth and defy its nature mostly because once we have a true starting point--we can make infinite triangles that will go infinitely upward.

(Thanks, Brancusi)

Anyway, I am wondering if it is necessary to think about structure in terms of working against that "truth" that you create first. Because any "truth" that comes from my lips or hands is not truth at all... at worst it's just the tyranny of my own small mind, and at best it's just an arbitrary convention.

The crappy part is that this question has the capacity to collapse quickly into a saccharin Goldsworthyan naturefest. To be clear: I am not talking about spirals or stacking stones or working without tools. That Andy Goldsworthy sure is a clever chap, but I hate the way he fancies himself unimplicated when he is just pushing his truth all over the countryside.

I am not talking about that kind of conservatism. I am talking about that moment when you realize that you are not talking about nature at all, because you can't. Because all you know is materials. And you want to know what these materials would do if you could have an honest conversation with them about where they came from and what they can do. A conversation in which they did most of the talking.

I am talking about that awkward moment in a conflict when you realize that you have been a real bully with your version of the truth, which you see suddenly is not true at all, and so you have to shut up and listen.

23 April 2007

See Me In Pasadena

Until May 31 you can see my work at the vacant Homestead House in Pasadena (Colorado at El Molino).

Continued huge thanks to Tim Quinn and Kathryn Hargraves at Dangerous Curve, and also to Phantom Galleries LA.

More Event Information can be found here, including driving directions.

21 April 2007

All Didion, All The Time

Last year it was Matthew Barney...

...this year, if I manage to follow through, there will be sustained looking at Joan Didion.

I'll start by admitting my ignorance. I hadn't read anything by Didion until March of this year. I bought Slouching Towards Bethlehem because I was mystified by the success of The Year of Magical Thinking, which I will probably never read because I am just too afraid of death and even more afraid of being the last one standing. I couldn't imagine anyone wanting to read that book, or even talk about it publicly. And yet last year folks did, and I figured that The Year of Magical Thinking must be some steely, girdered thing indeed if Didion can manage to sit and talk to Terry Gross about this total fucking horror of everyone dying because that horror is now a work of prose.

It seems obvious that turning reality into a story is an organizational task. That it's about creating structure. And speaking of structure, it turns out Slouching Towards Bethlehem was, to quote the horse's mouth, "...the first time (Didion) had dealt directly and flatly with the evidence of atomization, the proof that things fall apart."

I want to know how to structure that, because "things fall apart" is a theme around here. And I am interested in what exactly Didion does in the face of that falling apart. When things fall apart, it is easiest to be abject, aloof, ironic. A smartass or a know-it-all. Part of the peanut gallery. Didion doesn't seem, so far, to collapse in any of those directions, and in so doing she seems to create structure out of a specific kind of structurelessness that seems really relevant right now.

17 April 2007

Why I Never Write Anymore

When I am not screwing tires to tires, I can be found wandering around my house with a dustmask on... pry bar in one hand, trash bag in another. I don't read these days, either. Or go out for drinks. Or watch movies.

Good thing this is temporary. I declare August Netflix Month! Nothing but juleps with fresh mint and stoop sittin' and Fellini! Everyone's invited.

03 April 2007


Joel Murphy's Crusty Old Farts Hopping Around On Their Peckers Controlled by Their Alien Subconscious" [aka 'saws'] will be on view for TEN DAYS ONLY at the Chelsea Art Museum, which is great because you have to see it in person.

See, the chainsaw-whippers control the shoppingcart reciprocating saws in the center of the room by making sparks! and noise! Which makes the peckersaws go KUGUGUGUGUGUGUG! as they push themselves around pathetically in a little circle.

Clicky Here to see a little video, get an explanation of what you are seeing, and basically see for yourself why you really should see it in person.

The opening is Thursday night. You can't possibly have something better to do.