Monday, March 28, 2011

Be gentle!

Short-acting is deeply implicated in certain social occurrences, including:
1. spreading, also known as "emotional contagion," 2. the social molding of personal identity, 3. the allotting of one-dimensional roles such as stereotyping, which includes scapegoating, corporate bashing and government antagonism, 4. typical labor prejudices such as the demolition of the personality under organized unions, 5. refusing sound entertainment, such as watching TV for an extended period of time (or avoiding high sugars).       

Saturday, March 26, 2011

the psychobody is neither robust nor reliable. its genetic code produces a body that malfunctions often and fatigues quickly, allowing only slim survival parameters and limiting its longevity

Friday, March 25, 2011

We live a grad-u-al crum-bling

As time falls, the physiognomy of the whole is broken through by the sunrise.-- G.F. Hegel

It has been said many times that everything comes to an end. That's our current dilemma. We have before us the possibility to change things or to witness the beginning of the end. Mind you, the end doesn't end. We live it through stages. This is one, with you and I and everything else in it.

The crumbling is a just a sign, not a "sign" as just another correlation. This one arrives a bit late. To paraphrase Hegel, History is an illusion that brings us the feeling that this is a new dawn. And therein lies the danger.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Sunday, March 20, 2011

a shark fin is the result of a complex interaction of psychological, neural, vascular and endocrine factors, and is usually, though not exclusively, associated with sexual arousal

shark fins are good for soup, 
 shark-fin soup is good for sex, 
shark fins are good for sex*

*fyi: as many as 70 million sharks netted or hooked worldwide each year, including endangered species, and a large percentage have their fins hacked off and their still-living carcasses tossed back overboard as soon as they're caught. shark fins have become, on a price-per-pound basis, one of the most valuable things you can take out of the ocean, selling for as much as $300 a pound. virtually flavorless and so tough that the fins must be boiled for hours, sharkfin soup can go for as much as $400 a bowl. does it matter?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Making Shit Up -or- Who is "really" Bert Rodriguez?

Only ten hours that I've noticed my horrible condition. Until then I did not know how awful the world can be. Only ten hours ago I had a revelation. I will strive to remain calm. I will choose a simpler, natural option: I've noticed that I cannot be myself.-- Giovanni Papini, Futurista (1917).

Alfredo Triff

"Making Shit Up" (MSU from here on) debuted last Wednesday at the Miami International Film Festival. The documentary by Bill Bilowit (director) & Grela Orihuela (producer), both Miami collectors/art activists, depicts a period of 3 years in the life of Cuban-American artist Bert Rodriguez (BR in short), a conceptual artist whose art has become intertwined with his persona. It's not that Bert doesn't do things. He does. But no matter, it always comes back to BR.

MSU presents a slice of the idiosyncratic and ever changing art world, a kind of social collage of today's high-art post-Capitalist culture. It starts right before BR gets ready to go to New York to debut his piece In the Beginning, at the 2008 Whitney Biennial. The film ends somewhere in 2010 after Bert's 25-day show I'll Cross that Bridge When I Get to It, at Fredric Snitzer Gallery (or about the time the movie went into production).

We get to see the various facets of the almost-famous young artist: Bert selling his work, getting ready for different shows (in Miami, New York, Paris, then Seattle, and back to Miami), concentrated at work, intimating -after sessions- his artist-cum-therapist feelings to the camera, chatting at a New York restaurant (while pouring loads of mayo and ketchup on a little plate to dip his french fries in), talking to curators, welcoming strangers, assuring admirers, etc, etc, etc. Slowly, all these facets relentlessly explored by Bilowit's lens help assemble a unique superposition of Berts.¿Are these really different subjects pulled by diverse contexts? ¿Is the Bert talking to prospective buyers in his Biennial Close Out Sale in Los Angeles not the one confiding to the camera outside that venue, or the one sort of talking to himself -as if the camera was not really there?

¿Or is this merely Bert "acting" at being Bert Rodriguez?
BR as Sinister David (2007).

In passing, MSU takes a look at two first-generation masters of conceptual art: Vito Acconci and Marina Abramovic. They talk to the camera -as if from some hierarchical art cloud: Acconci plays the intense über-adviser; Abramovic is the poised story teller. Their anecdotes and opinions serve to anchor the more hectically asymmetric incidences in Bert's everyday world. A couple of appearances by an anxious Jerry Saltz (a famous New York art critic) add a snobbish scholarly tone: He goes against the grain and peremptorily judges Bert's work with this blasé Freudian take on art, his loquaciousness a bit on the neurotic side. Fredric Snitzer playing himself is a treat: The Miami gallerist's uneasy, camera-un-ready jocular judgments presents a cool contrast between excess and containment, self-parody and earnestness.  

In the meantime, Bilowit delves at the raw factor of mundane aesthetic existence: Bert the witty conversationalist, the self-deprecator, the detached commentator of his own struggle, the young man walking his dog, the intuitionist craftsman, the not-so-convinced theorist, the conceptual risk-taker, the attentive son (his parents figure somewhat prominently in his works, Bert's mom has an important supporting role in his current work), the friend.

MSU keeps a nice momentum between desire and achievement, talk and fact (though towards the end the film drags just a bit on redundant minutia, but this is very minor). Of course, there is a level in which Bert's self-deprecating antics can become a trap. Why? Because in order to be BR, it becomes almost expected for the protagonist to [under]play himself.

Granted, being BR requires a good doses of self-absorption, but it would be equally deceiving to think that Bert Rodriguez is all that Bert is really about. 

BR playing Kim Kardashian, (2010).

If one watches carefully, there are one or two moments in the documentary when Bert definitely "fails" at being Bert Rodriguez. I'm not talking about the predictable "honest moments" when Bert comes across "vulnerable." That he is good at: That is precisely being BR! In fact, Bert tries hard not to show this other almost lost baffled self.

Fortunately, Bilowit's lens goes after the spirit of Papini's existential quote above. And he finds those precious seconds when even Bert Rodriguez cannot be himself.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

democracy is a word-->a word is not a fact-->democracy is not a fact

(a quick note written in anger)

It's hard to hard to watch the theater of politics, particularly for some of us who support the freedom of the Arab youth throughout the Middle East. The spectacle of the Libyan tyrant parsimoniously hosting foreign journalists in Tripoli while his air-force bombards opposition and civilian targets in Ras Lanuf and Zawiyah is more than I can stomach. Worse yet, some foreign journalists report that "in Tripoli things are quiet" (as Gaddafi's mercenaries terrorize the capital).

fact: young people are dying in Libya

When it comes to the Middle East, America's discourse is laughably absurd. Until the Tunisian revolution, the justification for keeping ties with the likes of Ben Ali, Qaddafi, Mubarak, et. al. was that of "strategic interests," which boils down to oil supplies & terror (an important part of the discourse was that Arabs cannot be democratic because they are Muslims).* It turns out that terror is an "export" of our allies in the Middle East, the same allies that insure our oil supply. Is it a coincidence that these regimes count amongst the most oppressive of the world? 

Do we really want democracy for the Middle East? 

What the Arab revolutionary wave has taught us is that our government's discourse of "human rights" and "democracy" for the Middle East is an empty cipher. What our government really cares for are the interests of the rich and the powerful.
*The argument goes:
Muslims are terrorists,
Arabs are Muslims,
Thus, Arabs are terrorists.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

the business of men

"... women soon come into opposition to civilization and display their retarding and restraining influence.... Women represent the interests of the family and of sexual life. The work of civilization has become increasingly the business of men, it confronts them with ever more difficult tasks and compels them to carry out instinctual sublimations of which women are little capable." Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents, (1930).

Friday, March 4, 2011

What's so (a)typical about "the most typical face"?

Originally published by National Geographic. Now on Yahoo News:
The researchers conclude that a male, 28-year-old Han Chinese man is the most typical person on the planet. There are 9 million of them. The image above is a composite of nearly 200,000 photos of men who fit that description.
Note that the picture is a "composite", i.e, it's made of many other pictures. On the other hand "typical" refers to that which exhibits the essential characteristics of a group. But it turns out that the group is now defined as "typical", which is a "composite."

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Now that the Russian authorities have accused VOINA of "hooliganism" (whatever that means) this piece of news appeared in The Independent:
Soon, the stunts became bigger and harder to ignore. The most notorious Voina action was last June, when several members of the group painted a penis on the Liteiny Bridge in St Petersburg. Evading and fighting off security, the 65-metre high image was completed just before the bridge opened, as it does each evening to let ships pass through. The penis "erected", directly facing the St Petersburg headquarters of the FSB, the KGB's successor. The group called the artwork Dick Captured by KGB.