The Brown Wedge

Dec 03

Collier Schorr photos

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Collier Schorr photos

a list of her subjects:
young soldiers-done better by Rineke Dijkstra’s .
the erotics of youth as a good thing-done better by Bruce Hanley, Jack Peirson, etc.
the erotics of youth as a bad thing- done bettet by Nan Goldin, Larry Clarke.
college boys and how hot they look- done better by Tim Gardner.
wrestlers and how hot they look- done better by Bruce laBruce.

cliched, dull, not even hot in a “i could wank to this” way, and even worse. cliched, Collier Schorr has gotten hype and im not sure why.

(i am not saying that every work needs to be innovative, but it needs to at least show an awareness of precedent, and she hasn’t)

Dec 03

Soul Mountain – Gao Xingjian

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Soul Mountain – Gao Xingjian

What does it mean to win the Nobel Prize for literature? Alfred Nobel was a scientist, should we therefore assume that it will be for science fiction? The literature prize, even more than the peace prize (but perhaps not as much as the economics prize) seems relegated to some odd set of criteria which globe-trots through posterity much like Late Junction does through world music.

So what does it mean that Gao Xingjian’s Soul Mountain won the Nobel Prize for literature? Nearly all of the judges would have read it in translation, if they read it at all. Is it really possible to judge all of the worlds literature against each other?

You have probably guessed that this preamble is warming up to me saying that despite the prize, I did not like Soul Mountain. Not strictly true. There is something beguiling about the novels complete lack of focus and structure. It is tempting – as I am sure it was for the Nobel panel – to tie this down to the mysticism of Chinese religions which is often brought up in the book. This would be a mistake though, as Chapter 72 acknowledges, an argument between a critic and Xionjian about the status of Soul Mountain as a novel at all. The critic suggests that by having no characters beyond the itinerant narrator and various undefined pronouns, and consisting of about seventy dialogues, folk tales and musings that this does not have a coherent story. Xionjiang’s made up critic defends him from actual critics, not that this bothered me. It is a pleasant book to dip into, wistful about the vanishing past, possibly autobiographically questioning. But it is not a million miles away from being the Little Book Of Eastern Curmudgeonliness. Why did it win the Nobel Prize?

Prizes like this are political. It could be that there had not been a Chinese winner for some time, if ever. The cynic in me smells the liberal noting the potential implied criticism of the Chinese State in some of these tales and hence the bravery of an author under such a restrictive regime. The line ‘Written in Beijing and Paris 1989’ should put a lie to some of these suggestion of the plucky artist under the jackboot. A worthy winner? Of a prize that means little – probably. As Chapter 72 ends: ‘Reading this chapter is optional, but as you’ve read it, you’ve read it.’ The same could be said about the Nobel Prize for Literature: winning it is optional, but as its won it, they can put the sticker on the cover.

Dec 03

Art I’ve only heard about #1: Graeme Millar

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Art I’ve only heard about #1: Graeme Millar ‘ Linked

Linked is sound art, of a kind. Apparently you borrow a receiver device somewhere deep in the East London ‘ Essex borders and at various points along a route the device will pick up broadcast sound. The sound is speech and music, and is broadcast on and around the route of the M11, built with much protest and pain in the 1990s.

I like this idea partly because it reminds me of the introduction to the first Dexys LP, scrolling through the radio dial and hearing snippets of all sorts. And I like the introduction to the first Dexys LP because it always reminds me of how my memories seem to work, fragmentary and intangible.

I’d like to go and listen to this piece, I wonder whether you have to do it in a car? My East London geography leaves a lot to be desired. Walking from Redbridge to Leyton seems like a task of Hercules to me.

Dec 03

On page 335 of The Complete David Bowie, author Nicholas Pegg

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On page 335 of The Complete David Bowie, author Nicholas Pegg describes a release called 1966 as, ‘Yet another reissue of [the Pye singles and B-sides]. For mad people there was even a 12″ picture disc,’ which is fair enough, but if ever there was a book for mad people, Pegg’s 559 page whopper is it. It would certainly drive you mad or put you in an irreversible coma if you tried to read it cover to cover, but as something to dip into over a leisurely breakfast, it’s ideal. The detail is overwhelming, stretching far beyond the music itself. 1995 album 1.Outside is apparently inspired by Bowie’s interest in, ‘the more macabre end of the performance art spectrum, notably Rudolf Schwartzk’gler, leading light of the “Viennese Castrationists” who had cut off his own penis’. Oh, go on, David. Pegg also reproduces an NME review of the same album by Simon Williams: ‘El Bowza’s latest lurch away from reality is entitled Outside, which is kind of about ‘outsiders’ and involves all these strange neo-futuristic characters running around El Bowza’s head and it’s sort of a concept album blah blah bollocks blah blah ARSE!!!!!!!’ A dead cert for Rock’s Back Pages. Bowie’s acting is given generous coverage , as are his interactive exploits and his paintings. This stuff is quite interesting, but I can’t remember why. I suppose it helps that author Pegg is an actor, playwright, theatre director and journalist, so he ought to know his onions. Mott the Hoople, Iggy Pop and other hangers-on or hanged-onners are covered, as are Suede, Bauhaus, Japan, etc. The book is described as ‘an indispensable guide for all serious collectors of David Bowie’s music’ and although there is also plenty here for the casual dabbler, this is where its chief strengths lie. No longer must Bowie freaks lie awake wondering what that strange sound is on Ashes to Ashes; it was obtained by ‘feeding the sound of a grand piano through a gadget rejoicing in the name of the Eventide Instant Flanger….set at maximum wobble,’ and anyone who doesn’t know is a right Bowie joey.

I find novels without dialogue relatively difficult to get through.

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I find novels without dialogue relatively difficult to get through. This is possibly some kind of psychological block, my word is defined so much by conversation (and my banal contributions to it) that acres of prose on the page daunt me. This was possibly what left me rather unmoved by the first half of Something like A House by Sid Smith. I wanted to read it because its premise intrigued me. Jim Fraser, a Scottish deserter from the Korean War ends up living as a partial slave in a Miao village in China for 35 years. It is also pretty short so I thought I could deal with the lack of dialogue.

The lack of dialogue comes from the fact that Fraser never really learns any Chinese. This is made unclear by later passages where there seems to be quite complex communication between Fraser and the villagers, but the lack of direct speech manages to emphasize this point. Nevertheless the book failed to grip me in its first hundred pages. I suffered from One Hundred Years Of Solitude Disease, namely getting confused about the relationships between all the characters with the same names. Coupled with an, I’m sure deliberate but to me annoying, lack of sense of the passage of time left me only a vaguely interested bystander.

It is only when the book stops being about a bystander to Chinese history and starts getting personal that it really takes flight. But then it becomes absorbing. First we have the murder of the villages only child, and then the desecration of her grave. Finally we get to the heart of the mystery of why Fraser has been allowed to live there in the first place, and a shock it is too. By the time Fraser leaves, you are more than aware that the book only has a few pages to run which surely will not be sufficient to cap off this tale.

Something Like A House is a book about China, but it is more importantly a book about race. I am generally not a fan of afterwords in books, often places for authors to valourize all the research they have wasted. Here however the later revelations in the book seem so monstrous that they demand a grain of truth. Smith delivers, and the fact that I am about to follow up some of this research with a sortie into the SOAS library justifies this method. A slow start, but a tremendous finish.

Joe Brainard

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Joe Brainard is known (if he is known at all) for his clever twists on Ernie Bushmillers Nacy (Nancy as a Boy, Nancy in Landscape, Nancy as a Drawing by Di vinci, Nancy as a de Kooning painting ad absurdum) and his assemblages with flowers and madonnas. If yr a poet, he is best known for his work with the New York School, working with Koch, Berrigan, Ashberry and O’Hara.

I guess with his work in the low, and the literary coupled with a connection to collage, assemblages and found pieces, that he could not draw or paint. I always thought he was so good at the above media that he did not need to. Looking through the catalogue for the 2001 retrospective at Berkley there are two oil paintings that betray those thoughts. Done of a white whippet called Whipperwhool, they are a solemn connection to the rest of his work. There is the quoting of Fairfield Porter( who he corresponded with), of course but there is something else beside.

In 1974, the dog leans across a broad green couch, an odalisque that resembles elements of Titian’s Urbana, Goya’s Madja, and Manet’s Olympia. There is a 1972 recreation of Christiana’s world, but where everything overwhelms the pooch, and then there is the singular canvas from 1973, where the dog leans into himself, directed inside and away from humanity. He manages to make the dog look monastic.

On the websitethat comes from the estate, these are placed in the category of portraits, but that would assume something human–they are uncannily canine, expressing emotions that would seem out of place with humanity but not with dogs.

Dec 03

Two pieces from – some might say – opposite ends of the Wedge’s spectrum

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Two pieces from – some might say – opposite ends of the Wedge’s spectrum up on Freaky Trigger today. Al interviews hot UK comics artist Frazer Irving, and Alex T continues his investigations of Adorno.

Dec 03

England, Their England

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England, Their England

Reading through the latest Marvel Essential volume, collecting loads of Tomb Of Dracula, I came across something that reminded me of a special small pleasure of mine in American comics. On the splash page of issue 7, when Marv Wolfman takes over the writing, Dracula is looming over a snowed in small town somewhere, posing on a mountaintop. It’s only when you read the captions that you learn that this is “many-peopled London”. Now besides the lameness of that composite adjective and the size of the place, there are no mountains in or even near London. And don’t try to tell me there are snowy rocky outcrops on Shooters Hill, anyone.

I’ve always enjoyed American superhero comicbooks’ depictions of the UK. A Challengers Of The Unknown story where someone parachutes into a quaint village with cobbled streets and thatched cottages, which turns out to be Charing Cross, smack in the centre of London. A Rom The Spaceknight story set in Wales, “on the southernmost shores of the island nation known as England” – where Wales is full of peasants weilding pitchforks and flaming torches. A Spider-Man story set in Liverpool, which turns out to be a fishing village populated by cockneys moaning about the pea-souper fogs. Chris Claremont got some stick for an X-Men story set in Edinburgh, but apart from the flaming torches again this struck me as one of the more accurate portrayals of the UK by American comic creators.

Marv Wolfman seems to be something of an anglophile, in that he has been responsible for lots of comics set over here, but as far as I can tell his total research was watching an old Sherlock Holmes movie or two. London is all cobbled streets and thick fog and gas lamps, with lots of Tudor cottages. I’m pretty sure it was him who wrote a Marvel Two-in-One tale wherein the fight moves on foot from Trafalgar Square (80% of action in the UK happens within sight of Nelson’s Column and Big Ben, sometimes both at once) to outside “London’s leading hospital”, which surprisingly turns out to be a wooden hut in a forest. The same storyline took our heroes to Stonehenge at one point, and there’s a great panel of the characters driving on the right (i.e. wrong) side of the road past a road sign reading ‘Stonehenge 11km’ with a mountain backdrop. Obviously the location of Stonehenge on Salisbury PLAIN didn’t provide a clue as to the terrain.

Actually, I don’t think he wrote the Indiana Jones comic also set there (it’s a great nexus for mystical activity, you’ll be amazed to hear), which as well as mountains with rope bridges across deep chasms also features jungle complete with quicksand. And I wish I could remember if it was Marv who had a cockney (who make up the two thirds of London’s population who aren’t aristocracy) addressing someone as ‘bloke’, as in “Watch your driving, bloke!” or some such.

Terrific article by Mark Morris

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Terrific article by Mark Morris on some bits and bobs of contemporary art. He nails the easy / hard / hard / easy issue which seems to lie somewhere near the bottom of many ill-informed critiques of art now, including a glorious swipe at anyone who thinks that art is difficult (and by implication elitist): ‘I hate any form of entertainment that requires me to make an effort (I’d say I’d run a mile from it, but I’m not about to do any running), and I dig contemporary art’

As far as the Olafur Eliasson goes, ‘hippy festival’ is perhaps a touch harsh! I liked how much fun people seemed to be having, looking at their own reflections, and the inventive ones were making these Busby Berkeley patterns.

The other thing which strikes me about what’s on in the Tate’s Turbine Hall is that the way the various artists commission to fill it have dealt with the challenge of the space. Louise Bourgeois’s piders and mirrors, though huge, were dwarfed. Juan Munez’s greyed-out illusory working space used less than half of the hall, and split that up. Anish Kapoor made something huge and red. Eliasson turned the problem around by filling the space with nothing but mist and mirroring the ceiling to double the space. Smart.

Dec 03


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Bookslut: Less racy than the name suggests, a good book-centric blog, strong on links.