Posts from 4th July 2004

4
Jul 04

How best to say hello?

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 235 views

How
best to say hello?

I work in a restaurant. It’s an okay sort of place, not much in the way of bells and whistles; there will be no Michelin star forthcoming, but we do knock out a jolly nice leg of lamb. To put it another way, whilst I am not well versed in the arts of shielding celebrities from paparazzi, I am a dab hand at maintaining a smiling demeanour in the face of an insistent complainer who is, when it comes right down to it really only holding out for free chips.

I’m also somewhat fond of cooking. And perhaps overly fond of drinking. I do both with a moderate degree of ability, I’ve even been known to write about it from time to time.

All of which is a very long winded way of saying hello. I was surprised to receive an invitation to write on here, and not a little pleased; and also not a little unsure as to what to actually write, but I thought it’d be polite to say hello first. So, anyway, hi. I’m Matt.

Matt Fallaize.

Underworld by Don DeLillo

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 430 views

Underworld by Don DeLillo

You can’t help but be impressed by the scope and ambition of this book: it sets itself up as a (the?) Great American Novel of the second half of the 20th Century, starting with a famous 1951 baseball game* and trying to say loads of big things about the half-century since (though most of what he is interested in is in the earlier decades – Kennedy, Cuba Crisis, cold war paranoia, ’60s protests, Vietnam). Its structure is complex, a mechano skeleton of struts and connections – and this brings me onto why I didn’t like it all that much.

I don’t mind a demanding tale, and this jumps around across time periods and locales and subjects, with lots of characters, some real (Lenny Bruce, J. Edgar Hoover) among the fictional. DeLillo puts together a brilliantly calculated set of linking motifs and themes and events. He writes magnificently too, strong and bright sentences throughout. Some of what he has to say is intelligent and interesting (though I did find myself thinking “Yes yes, we know, get on with it” at times). However, that mechano analogy is deliberate: in over 800 pages there wasn’t a character I was interested in. All of the best sequences – especially the immensely compelling opening baseball match, running to 50 pages, but also some Lenny Bruce shows and movie viewings – are about spectators. The characters, if they are present in more than a notional way, don’t speak or do anything, they just watch an event DeLillo describes (sometimes we get their reactions and thoughts, sometimes not). These parts are mostly terrific, but the rest fell flat for me. He writes some good dialogue, but his characters entirely lack the spark and vitality of his prose. Frankly, he could have carried me through just on spectating scenes, but far too much of it was just dull people talking about waste disposal and the like.

* This was the game that generated the phrase “The shot heard round the world” about its winning home run, and the thing that struck me about that was the assumption of American centrality, when the fact is there are only a few countries much interested in the sport. I hoped he would use this (it’s surely a strong and valuable theme, given his subject), but actually the whole book fundamentally carries the same assumption – the Soviet Union/communism was only interesting in how it affected/reflected the US, and so on.

Oh no! EVIL Daleks! Oh no!

Do You SeePost a comment • 291 views

Oh no! EVIL Daleks! Oh no!

Following up on Tom’s notes below, he may be right that it’s no bad thing not to have Daleks in the new Dr Who, but I was delighted by the reason. Apparently they are owned by the estate of Terry Nation (and we’ll leave aside the debate about whether he actually created them at all), and the estate fears that the new series will make them “too evil”. Have these people watched the shows and seen the Daleks as cute and cuddly and sweet? Or at least with some redeeming good qualities? Like what? How could they be made too evil? My oldest friend thought they were an allegory for Nazism, which doesn’t make me think they were supposed to be ambiguous.

I think we need suggestions how to make them more evil. My first thought: they don’t just chant “EXTERMINATE!” while massacring everyone, but sing Stereophonics songs.

White Pride. Ryman before he discovered white on white

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 436 views

White Pride. Ryman before he discovered white on white

Robert Ryman is known as white on white, 30 years of painting nothing but white on white, the pure minimalist who concentrates not on the artists hand but on the nature of pigment and what that pigment is placed on.

There is refusal to accept this work, and the work of his fellow abstract minimalists as having as history or a future, it is an endless zen exercises in now. So when their history is known, it blows down a house of cards. They do not like to be called reductionists and dispute the narrative history of 20th century art that discusses this kind of painting as an end result of less is more, a reduction of painting to its simplest elements.

Ryman did not come from the head of Athena neither did Judd or Martin. There early work is almost impossible to find, but you can find a very conventional mid century abstraction by Martin in the Seattle Art Museum painted in the early 50s (she has burned others of that time period) and you can occasionally find gestural splashes littering Judd’s CV before he found boxes. Now, as well, you can see Ryman. There is colour for one–peach and parrot green, plus shapes, not the squares and rectangles of bound, flat picture planes–but swerves, swipes and things like that. They are works on paper mostly, student sketches before he found the style that would sustain them, and really only interesting in a historically way.

But the history of an artist ruing early work (see also:Jeff Koons recent hatred of his Made in Heaven Series and Thomas Hart Benton ripping off Kandinsky before moving back to Kansas) is an American history, and its one that keeps being told, and has been told–to add Ryman to the list is to suggest even the most radical people started somewhere conventional.)

(Two notes on Ryman : On hot summer days I often go to DQ and order a marshmallow sunday, we call it a Ryman–because it is white on white, but also the grainy soft serve contrasting with the slick marshmallow syrup is the kind of texture i imagine him to enjoy at least technically–plus its a nice fuck you to name something so pop after someone so technical.

Also, when i was reading Art Forum with an ad for this show, i yelped to my room mate, Ryman uses Colour. My room mate mocked me.)