Category Archives: Music

Essay in KAPSULA: Franz Marc, Joan Jonas, The Presets

I was very pleased and honored to have my article “Channeling Franz Marc in the Prelapsarian Longing of Joan Jonas and Lee Lennox” accepted and published by the Toronto-based journal of contemporary art, KAPSULA.

The subscription to KAPSULA, which iScreen Shot 2015-02-01 at 11.18.27 AMs organized as an email listserv (so you register with your email and then get the publication delivered) is free and of course I highly recommend you subscribe at once! The thematic sequence for this series is “Longing,” and the archive of other topics such as “Bad History” and “Acting Up” is on the magazine’s website.

In the article, using an iteration of Hal Foster’s Nachträglichkeit from The Return of the Real (1996), I tell how Franz Marc’s ideas about paradise and our separation from animals reignites in the 2009 Venice Biennale installation Reading Dante by Joan Jonas and the video by Lee Lennox for the Presets’ EDM song “Girl and the Sea.”

After I wrote the article it occurred to me that I had not explained why I discussed the works out of chronology, “Girl and the Sea” from 2004 after Reading Dante from 2009. The reason is because I actually saw the Jonas first, and then the Presets video. For… reasons…the video really upset me, but it also gave me some knowledge about myself, and, more importantly, “activated” the connection between Reading Dante and Marc’s Paradies.

As I say in the article this idea has been churning inside me for awhile, and I am so grateful to KAPSULA and particularly to editor Lindsay LeBlanc for giving these ideas a polished voice and a beautifully-designed forum.

Franz Marc’s Visions of Egypt

Donkey Frieze from Egypt

Donkey Frieze from Egypt

 

A couple pending matters before getting along to new business; thus, before too much more time goes by, my adventures in Hull, England, in which it turned out that donkeys were very important. Incredibly before last fall, I had never been to England, let alone Yorkshire…*

When I first became aware of Botschaften an den Prinzen Jussuf, the story around which I originally intended to discuss at the University of Hull’s Visions of Egypt: History and Culture from the 19th Century to the Present conference, my immediate reactions was, “Wow…So Sylvester!” I’m sure you are aware of who Sylvester is but, as a reminder, before Boy George, before Lady Gaga, there was Sylvester.

In addition to being an amazing soul and HiNRG dance music recording artist, Sylvester was known for hanging out in San Francisco dressed in amazing costumes, including his trademark pharaoh outfit. One of the only two times I snuck underagedly into a nightclub with a fake ID (the other time was to see the Thompson Twins) was to see Sylvester at El Goya.

So. Visions of Egypt was a conference mostly attended by actual Egyptologists, not art historians, and thus there was a lot of humor and pop-culture-referencing in many of the presentations so I think Sylvester would have been well-received. However owing to the great enthusiasm for donkeys expressed by insurgent quadruped fans, I did not get to work in any sort of reference to Sylvester in my presentation.
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Midnight Atlantic City

Franz Marc's Deer in the Snow at the Lenbachhaus; Persona

Franz Marc’s Deer in the Snow at the Lenbachhaus; Persona

The article M83: Why Music Is Contemporary Art on the Installation website provides an excellent forum, in the comments section, for the discussion of the title subject.

I like M83 a lot and agree that their sound is ambitious beyond poptronica though as commenters on the Installation site point out this is not necessarily because of compositional enterprise or chord progression For me the attraction is the “celebrate the apocalypse” mood of “Midnight City” or the spoken “created sample” in  “OK Pal:”

“We’re walking in the streets – or what’s left of them,
I take your hand, and the city is slowly vanishing.
There’s no crowd anymore, no cars, no signals.
But in the middle of the road, a purple and mellow shape is floating.
The shape of our mutual dream.
Stay calm, hold me tight, give it a chance to take us away.
We will live, we will dream on the shadow of our world.”
I had a dream the other night that incorporated both this song and the painting in the photo, Franz Marc’s Deer in the Snow (1911). In the dream a good friend of mine who recently has been through a difficult time was one of the deer, but hampered by a hank of rope or net caught between her hoof and head.  The reindeer tender freed her, and despite being “caught,” my friend as the deer, didn’t have any broken bones, or even any bruises or lost fur. I hope she will be OK like the deer in the dream. In the dream, I heard the music from “Midnight City” (which reminds me of this friend). I don’t know why anyone would think people (and animals) don’t see colors or hear music in dreams…maybe everyone does and they just forget.

Rebecca Warren’s “The Living” @ Kunstverein München

The Living
The opening for Rebecca Warren’s installation at Kunstverein München on 19 April 2013 was dramatically heightened by a rain so steady and soft it enveloped more like fog. To be clear it’s just me who is describing Warren’s experiment in biomorphic austerity as an installation; you can read more about the British artist’s commission for the Kunstverein here if you do not mind the maddening floating text. One of the good things about the script for this exhibit is actually that it does not try to overexplain the sculptor’s intentions, a la the surfeit of “instructions” that seem to come with other conceptual sculptural works such as those by Teresita Fernández.

The main space is occupied by a columnar arrangement of tall cast bronze totems, embellished with female-ish parts, regularly spaced but not wholly viewable at a take. To me this suggested a course of weave poles like those on agility courses for dogs, so that was my “phenomenological” approach. The objects above were set above and in an alcove; overall, especially at night, an effective use of the placement of the Kunstverein building’s windows.

All vastly oversimplified, of course.

An “afterparty” in the foyer featured a fantastic set by Berlin-based turntable-techno-transformative-sounds collective M.E.S.H. that almost enticed some reactive dancing.

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Last Night at the Castle…

Some intermittent institutions … I’m probably not going to see them again. I always wonder what “the last time” doing something or going somewhere will be like, if it’s better if you know beforehand or preferable to find out the continuum is now a memory afterward.

I have been going to the Castle, Tampa’s gothic and industrial music nightclub, in its various iterations, since I was a teenager. No matter how long I would move away for, it would always be here when I returned. Over the years, I was able to compare it experientially with all sorts of clubs, from Sanctuary in Salt Lake City to Warsaw in Miami to Berghain in Berlin and scads of “rave-themed” house parties in Antwerp and Brussels.

This past year I haven’t gone out as much in general, but I still met up with longtime friends on Mondays once in a while. We wouldn’t set up a date or anything, you’d just show up and some of the crew would be there. Attendance has been down on Mondays and while Ybor-City-in-the-Nineties legacies like the Senator and Theo Wujcik still make the scene regularly, eventually, the world will move on. It’s sad in a way to think of this last vestige of the once incredible Tampa Bay electronic music scene, which at one time including rotating DJ nights at Rene’s, Empire, Trax, Palladium, Club Detroit, Masquerade, and pop-ups at Act IV and other places (not counting London Victory Club, which began it all) falling into history but … I was really happy that the Castle has made so many attempts to keep up to date with electro and added lots of cool newish elements to its rotations, particularly in the music video department, mixing in Ladytron, Interpol, Cut Copy and Presets to the “hits.”

The last night I went to the Castle, I was braced to be a little disappointed, since I’m one of the people who actually prefers the new material to, you know, the entire Hacienda playlist from 1987. But actually it was just perfect. My friends were there, it wasn’t too crowded with glowstickers, and there was a lot of room to dance, yet it wasn’t empty. I don’t know if I will see the Castle again but this was a good way to remember it if I don’t.

The Castle

Apollinaire in Germany

 

Apollinaire was very popular in Bonn and in Berlin, where he befriended Herwarth Walden, who, among other things, occupied a societal role similar to that of Apollinaire. Apollinaire also wrote and drew quite prolifically, of course, in addition to being a tastemaker around whom a circle of other artists and authors coalesced.

In early 1913, August Macke was very excited when not only Apollinaire but Robert Delaunay (and later Max Ernst) came to hang out at his place. Apollinaire spoke German very well, also. Anyway, AM just loved these guys, and generally began trailing them around and writing to them all the time and so on.

There is much more to this story, some of it very exciting, and be assured I will get to it all shortly…

However not everyone was enchanted by Apollinaire. That “not everyone” included, well… for the immediate subject at hand, Franz Marc. FM actually had little use for Delaunay, after a (short) while, either. During 1913, FM pesters Delaunay with tons of perplexing, unsolicited criticism, finally in one outburst declaring that RD wasn’t a very good writer, either.

Apollinaire did like FM’s work, but FM kept a distance. Today upon discovering that it is Apollinaire’s birthday, well, what can I say? It explains a lot. Here is a very comprehensive if somewhat outdatedly designed Website about Apollinaire.

AM finally told FM, basically, to stop embarrassing him in front of his cool new friends. FM pointed out that it was he who had introduced these three to one another, and, that also, RD was kind of a jerk, refusing to give AM anything but a scrap of used drawing paper (like literally AM was begging for any type of memento and that was what RD let him have!). Anyway, RM and AM fought all the time as it was, so this altercation of course could not be resolved swiftly or in a few words and continued over the course of some petulant correspondence and huffy silences…full citations to come. FM was jealous, of course, but also he hated to see AM fall in with people he thought embodied the worst characteristic of all, that of being fake.

Fortunately, since everything that has happened before will happen again, this throwdown has been re-enacted by  two parallel characters in one of the most important documentaries of our time (it had to be peddled as fiction because of the potency of its truth), Mean Girls (2004).

Above is the epic scene in which Janis Ian (as FM) confronts Cady Heron (as AM)  [we won’t even get into the whole LiLo thing here, or about… nevermind) about being plastic…

With a special guest appearance by Damian as Helmuth Macke.

 

Better Parted?

 

Centurion is supposed to be historical fiction about the disappearance of the Legio IX Hispania in the third century in something like the Battle of Teutoberg Wald but it kind of lapses into … semi-fantasy. There is a lot of snow and awesome alpine scenery and fun costumes. Basically the only reason to see Centurion is for Dominic West in one of his typically movie-stealing supporting roles (as “General Titus Flavius Virilus” – really!) and Etain, the “guerra picta” played by Olga Kurylenko. Etain doesn’t speak, takes the wolf as her attribute animal, and endures a strange sort of Penthesilea-like death. She has fantastic Pict ordnance and body decorations.

I was sort of half-waking up, half-dreaming about the movie when the song “Signs” came on the former dataheaven.us  I haven’t paid much attention to Bloc Party previously but I was blown away by this particular song. Maybe it was just the combination of sound and imagery but it really shook me up.

What do these two things have in common that together they should make such a resonant impression? I don’t know.

Here is the link to “Signs” on Soundcloud, and a snippet of lyric: “I  could sleep forever these days because in my dreams I see you again.”

Cut Copy and Keane

If Cut Copy had 24 albums I would probably listen to Cut Copy all day and all night all the time…as it is hardly a cycle goes by that I don’t hear all or parts of Bright Neon Like Love (2004), In Ghost Colours (2008) or Zonoscope (2011).

Though Melbourne-based Cut Copy is most often washed with the ‘referencing the ’80s’ brush I think it is more apt to say the ‘reference’ is less by way of the [film versions] of Less Than Zero than The Informers — a time and place that never existed removed by memory. And while Cut Copy’s hooks and basslines are superficially poppy, the intentionally stuttering four and eight count measures are demanding of engaged listening.

Zonoscope in particular seems symphonic in the way it is presented as an arc, even without some of the ambient noise segues so prevalent on In Ghost Colours. If IGC was lyrically about the limitations of primary relationships to conquer doubt and isolation, Zonoscope is immersed diametrically in stealthy hope and crushing disappointment that is more internally oriented/externally directed.

Although these three albums are very distinct — mostly owing to the decreasing emphasis on guitars to propel melodies — Cut Copy’s mainstay continues to be danceable, or at least move-able, complicated synth pop of incredible harmonics and density. Dan Whitford is able to pack an epic amount of yearning and escalation into both arrangements and vocals; the devastating release of Hanging on to Every Heartbeat begins at the 2:00 mark of the 4:30 song. The descant, and the change in meaning of the chorus, almost makes me sick it’s so upsetting, and that’s a pretty good shake-up from what begins so cheerfully.

Zonoscope re-presents Cut Copy in a sort of Symbolist ethic, with an interest in the macabre and in hermetic, already-nostalgic technology. Here is a link to listen to  Hanging onto Every Heartbeat. Also Cut Copy will play out at the Firestone in Orlando on October 1!

Though Keane is mostly known in the U.S. for the single “Bend and Break” from 2004’s Hopes and Fears, the 2006 more electronics-driven follow-up, Under the Iron Sea, is also a pretty good album. I had only heard UtIS on iTunes and dataheaven.us and so had not until recently (when I saw it in the library) become aware of the fantastic cover design(s) by Sanna Annukka.