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important matters

Post #596 • August 5, 2005, 11:41 AM • 60 Comments

"Listen to this!" exclaimed Kerry when I walked in the office. He was reading a fresh copy of The Wire, which he says if you don't subscribe to, you don't take music seriously. Brain Marley was reviewing The Geographers by Clive Bell and Sylvia Hallett, and said this about it:

No one else is making music quite like this, so natural it seems effortless, and such a pleasure to listen to.

"When was the last time you read anyone writing about art like that?" said Kerry. He repeated the quote in wonderment. I couldn't think of an answer.

Later, I was wiping the sticky bits from the kitchen counter, and watching the color of the surface change slightly under the moisture of the sponge. Here is the impulse of art, I thought, noticing the lift in value fade as the water evaporated. Maybe in all the important matters we're looking too far from ourselves, trying to do too much. I dragged my fingers over the clean slickness; the counter awaited the next burst of cooking.




August 5, 2005, 1:19 PM

Hi Franklin..... & Jack & Matty & oldpro, and the rest of the usual suspects.

Tonite's a big nite for me.... John Bailly, Tavare Hill, Eddie Arroyo, Cristina Figueredo, BRASS, Jay Giroux, Chris Deacon, Kiki Valdes and I will all be in attendance for our opening reception at Miami Art Lab's HOMEGROWN show. It starts around 7:00.

I hope ya'll can make it. It would mean a lot to us all.

Miami Art Lab
3117 Ponce de Leon Blvd.
Coral Gables, FL 33134



August 5, 2005, 1:31 PM

also Optic Nerve tonight, though nobody seems to care...



August 5, 2005, 4:14 PM

Kerry's remark points up how we perceive the different arts.

Music has always been "abstract" - that is we don't ask that it be made up of bird chirps and auto horns - and it has always been accepted as fundamentally a vehicle of pleasure, despite any other uses it gets put to and whatever critical mumbojumbo might surround it.

Visual art - pictures, sculpture, things you look at - have always been "of something", representative; if not of something recognizeable then something symbolic or referential. The habit of taking visual art directly as pleasureful is not ingrained in our culture; it is a refinement, an acquired taste, and a fairly recent one, for that matter.

This difference lies deep within our cultural habits. This is why there is such a rooted resistence to abstract art, why, when abstract art showed such tremendous vitality in the beginning and the middle of the last century, it was quickly and effectively squelched by retrogressive art movements which allowed visual art to be "about" something again.

There is something terrifying about nonrepresentational art. It disrupts very deep-seated ideas of the way things should be. That's why it has such a hard time surviving as a continuing art-making method.



August 5, 2005, 4:25 PM

Alesh, say something about the Optic Nerve show. I am sure there is a lot of interest among those who reat the blog.



August 5, 2005, 5:23 PM

Later, I was wiping the sticky bits from the kitchen counter, and watching the color of the surface change slightly under the moisture of the sponge. Here is the impulse of art, I thought, noticing the lift in value fade as the water evaporated.

Franklin - Very poetic. If you were a musician, you could have composed a tone poem. I wonder whether this idea can be communicated visually.



August 5, 2005, 5:54 PM

"I wonder whether this idea can be communicated visually."

Well, sure, Hovig. Just do it and look at it.



August 5, 2005, 7:03 PM

I'm talking about the part where it says "watching the color of the surface change," and "noticing the lift in value fade as the water evaporated." These are dynamic observations that take place in time, a quantity music and literature have, but visual images do not.

The only way I can think to convey this images would be to make a video, or to construct an installation which could include an apparatus that might apply a wet rag to a surface, then let the surface dry.



August 5, 2005, 7:13 PM

Oh, I guess you meant how could it be conveyed with a single image.

No, It couldn't, because the experience is of change and single images do not change. You would need a video. Actually it would be quite an absorbing video. Or an evaporating video. Well, no, the video would not evaporate, just the...



August 5, 2005, 8:22 PM

OP; there is a painting that does Olitski that was commissioned here in Toronto, its a massive canvas and the paint has a pearlessence to it, added to that the paint was applied in waves as though its moving over the canvas and then the light hits it through the windows and it changes colours....depending on the day/light changes occuring outside. Its a very beautiful piece and most enjoyable to 'watch' as opposed to look at.



August 5, 2005, 8:50 PM

I don't suppose that painting is available on the web, is it?

I know the effect will not be the same but I would like to see it anyway.



August 5, 2005, 9:21 PM

OP; I really tried to find it, but the place where its located doesnt seem to think it deserves even a small pic or mention. I must add that Im very disappointed and will let them know how I feel. If Im there in the near future I'll take a pic for you, only because your sweet and kind to the canucks here!(hehe)
If I remember correctly , they had to break apart a main door to get one section in! Now thats what I call loving art!



August 5, 2005, 9:22 PM

(shaking my head) and yet its not on their website.......



August 5, 2005, 9:41 PM

My "wonderment" as franklin mentions is towards my belief that new music these days is immensely more interesting and vital than the visual arts. There is good and bad like everything else, however there appears to be a burgeoning avant garde in music that I find missing in visual art.
In other words new visual art does very little for me compared to new music. That is why the quote from above struck me so. Can a painting do this today? Is there any painting being done today that this quote may apply to?



August 5, 2005, 10:05 PM

Kerry; your so right about the music, its brave and fact I just discovered Zero 7 /cd Simple Things... terrific. Its a mix of bluesy vocals layered over electronic backbeats and downtempo rhythms, I love it !!
As for being moved by a painting/art, well it isnt recent, but Kandinsky's Composition viii 1923 @ the is just stunning, at least to me!



August 5, 2005, 11:03 PM

I understand fairly well what Kerry means, although I don't necessarily agree with his conclusion. I do find that some of new visual art moves me as well as some of the new electronic/avant garde sonic canvasses. I believe that striking and interesting new visual art is always out there somewhere. Now, whether or not we notice it is another matter...



August 5, 2005, 11:17 PM

John: /023, /026, /028, nice :-))



August 5, 2005, 11:40 PM

There is new visual art that gives good, I've seen it ('new' meaning only that it was made yesterday). My complaint is that there is little to no acknowledgement of it from the places or people whom one would expect to comment. What the hell are they looking at?

There is next to no informed and critical opinion in contemporary writing about new art. Never mind juxtaposed dissenting opinion. There is just beard-stroking, head-nodding, socio-contextual babble from institutionalized Theorists and their surrogates whose primary interest lies in promotion of their own writing careers, handily managed by funneling available resources into the publishing of more of the same in every possible journal, magazine, or paper.

The only alternative to this pap is blandly promotional material better called propaganda. Art reporters (there are no more critics) feel it their duty to report what the artists and curators say is important about their art. Nothing informed is written. Nothing critical is written. No opinion except the artist's is written. Where is the informed critical opinion?!

This in extreme contrast to all the other areas of so-called culture - music, film, literature, cuisine, videogames, automobiles, religion, politics - which benefit from rackfuls of magazines and whole sections of local daily papers featuring boldly broadcast declarations of quality experiences.

As Matty has said, society hasn't yet come to terms with even early Pablo Picasso paintings, but, led by publishing art historians and theorists, presumes instead to sweep aside any difficulty of understanding with sincere banter and syllogistic bullshit ('appreciating' his artwork isn't given a snowball's chance). How now brown cow?

Picasso's contemporaries Albert Gleizes and Jean Metzinger wrote in "du Cubisme" (1912): "Only when decades and centuries have come to our aid, when thousands of minds have corroborated one another, only when innumerable plagiarists have enfeebled the noble enigma that a picture is by commenting upon it, then perhaps, we shall be able to speak, without ridicule, of objective criticism."

They might have started the trend, but they didn't overestimate.



August 5, 2005, 11:45 PM

I think that is why Franklin's blog is such an invaluable resource. Thank you Franklin. I've changed my mind, I will buy and wear an t-shirt.




August 5, 2005, 11:50 PM

Watch out for what Albert and Jean wrote, rulemakers.

There is next to no informed and critical opinion in contemporary writing about new art. I was going to say, "if there was it wouldn't be new anymore", but I decided that on second thought this discourse is still in the trenches and not in the art media. I might be wrong, but I have a hunch there is something real going on in the citys with bigger hives.



August 5, 2005, 11:55 PM

You're talking about New York, George?



August 6, 2005, 12:16 AM

Ahab, hives = Brooklyn, LA, London, etc.

I just think when young artists get together and party, stuff happens by osmosis. I also think there is a strong generational component to the waves. In my opinion the current crop of 25-30 year olds don't know what can't be done and aren't slackers. They grew up with Color TV, MTV, CD's, Cell Phones, Laptops, email, and the internet. For them, the shock which engendered PoMo, as it's called here, is just part of the normal routine, there is no shock, no disorientation, and no pessimism. Irony is a part of reality, no big deal, ironic as needed. Pedal to the metal, balls out fun.



August 6, 2005, 2:05 AM

I get a little good art writing when I read The New Yorker. There was a decent review recently of Cezanne/Pisarro, which made me really pine for plane tickets. And they've begun new "Critic's Notebook" short-form reviews of current exhibits.

I expect better art writing from the Village Voice than I get.

I might have thought would give me something to read about art, but they're heavily oriented towards alt-pop culture. Great place to find new music though.

Our local and national dailies and weeklies disavow any responsibility to write about art under the rationalization that it is the domain of the art mags. Unless it is an article about design (marketing) under the guise of "arts&culture."

Admittedly, I don't pick many art mags up, but the few I flip through aren't usually writing about art that I think is any good anyways.

And I'm not a writer. Though the negligible cost-overhead for writing is an attractive alternative to that of a welding shop. Hm.



August 6, 2005, 10:43 AM

heres a thought

perhaps all these art writers "out there" just arent sensitive or sensible enough to appreciatte things like these, simple enjoyment, no mention of the quality of the art, just the recognition that something resounded wioth them. in particular i might reference franklins breakdown night where everything sucked except the hair of a girl (not focusing on the thing to be appreciatted, seduced by the obviuos)(in the end personal)and slowly followed by a dissillusionment in sensitivity. this is your moment return to it



August 6, 2005, 10:54 AM

Ahab, don't even think of moving to Miami (unless you're after non-frigid, albeit sauna-like weather). I'm sure it's by no means a local problem, but this is definitely not the home of first-rate art criticism (assuming it's criticism at all).



August 6, 2005, 11:26 AM

"......I'm talking about the part where it says "watching the color of the surface change," and "noticing the lift in value fade as the water evaporated." These are dynamic observations that take place in time, a quantity music and literature have, but visual images do not.

The only way I can think to convey this images would be to make a video, or to construct an installation which could include an apparatus that might apply a wet rag to a surface, then let the surface dry....."

I am not a painter, and historically i dont know much about painting. But i believe most landscape paintings were done in day light. and some museums nowadays show these paintings in the daylight. which result in some pretty amazing visuals!

small example...; Monet's haystacks at the Art Institute of Chicago....



August 6, 2005, 12:21 PM

Occasionally there is something good in the New Yorker, Ahab, but the magazine itself, like the NT Times, is insufferable. it is an attitude thing, I think, clever writing to convince their readers that they the educated elite, in on the real thing, when in fact it is stolidly middlebrow.

They hire people like Adam Gopnik and Peter Schjeldahl who are part of that viral plague of cute turn-of-phrase writers who can't see art to save their lives. There is no real connection to art with these people, nothing in them that responds to the life of art. They have no real need for what art has, for the real substanbce of it. It is all fluff, like most of the art they talk about.



August 6, 2005, 12:23 PM

"...construct an installation which could include an apparatus that might apply a wet rag to a surface, then let the surface dry....."

The obvious problem with the 'installation' strategy is the lack of focus. You see the changing value on the surface, you see the rag, the apparatus designed to do the wiping, the cables and cords, etc.

Maybe this kind of experience, when it works best, is in its natural 'raw' state, and we all just have to try our best to be ready for such natural aesthetic experiences.

Erik, thanks for the invite to the show. If it wasn't 2500 miles away, I might have gone.



August 6, 2005, 12:57 PM

Oldpro, thanks for your post#3.

As an aside, I liked the bit about "we don't ask that it be made up of bird chirps and auto horns"... the Audium in SanFrancisco is a set-up of 169 surround-sound speakers in a 49-seat, pitch-black darkened theatre, billed as "A Theatre of Sound-Sculptured Space" ( It started in the '60s. The resident composer, Stan Shaff, I think was a colleague of John Cage. I checked it out when I was there a couple of years ago. The 'performance' consists of exactly what you mention above; bird chirps, car horns, computerized beeps an blurp-blurps.

To my ears, it was to music what 'Fountain' was to art.

Which brings us back to the realation of music and
oldpro wrote "This difference lies deep within our cultural habits.", which is true, but probably stems even more deeply (as our cultural habits do) from the actual phisiological differences between the sense of sight and hearing, and the use that is made of those sense by humans. The visual (nevermind art) always relates directly to a physical referent (if you see a tiger, that means there is a tiger in from of you). The audible, on the other hand, does not have to relate to any thing in your immediate surroundings (if you hear a tiger roar, the tiger may be on the other side of the gorge), in this sense making 'sound' itself (nevermind music) quite literally abstract. If the tiger is ten yards away, his stripes are of no appreciable aesthetic value, because we are more concerned with the quality of sharpness of his teeth and claws (and the comparative softness of our flesh)... but if the tiger is heard from far away, we can contemplate the sound alone, in our relative safety.



August 6, 2005, 1:40 PM

"Seeing is forgetting the name of the thing one is looking at "
Can one hear (appreciate) the roar of an airplane disassociated from its source?

Blind Listening



August 6, 2005, 1:49 PM

Undoubtedly. An airplane sound could be sampled, and mixed into a song, to good, or bad, effect. I don't know how interesting the sound would be all by itself though.



August 6, 2005, 2:07 PM

"I believe in expanding and transforming our concept of music through nature...,not in the absolute assignment of sounds to music...Rather, it is my belief that music is an aesthetic...perception/understanding/conception of sound. It's our "decision"-subjective,intentional,non-universal, not necessarily permanent-that converts nature sounds into music. We don't need to transform or complement the sounds. Nor do we need to pursue a universal and permanent assignment. It will arise when out listening moves away and is freed from being pragmatically and representationallly oriented. And attaining this musical state requires a profound listening, an immersion in the "inside' of the sound matter"

Francisco Lopez



August 6, 2005, 2:10 PM

error: " It will arise when our listening", not out listening.



August 6, 2005, 2:38 PM

Matty, hearing and seeing are both direct perception, but sight establishes the circumstances, for example that the tiger, though close, is in a cage.

If you deprive yourself of hearing for a period of time you quickly begin to feel isolated from the world because all the little auditory clues you are used to are shut off, whether someone is knocking at the door, coming up behind you, using a chainsaw next door, honking a horn at you. I still remember my 7th grade science teacher at the end of class when the door to the hall was opened illustrating the diffrence between sound and light by saying "You can hear Pete Robinson yelling so you think he is in the hallway, but you cannot see Pete Robinson in the hallway." Sound is clues, sight is proof.

The reason we don't use airplane noises in music is because airplane noises have low combining capacity. They are too complex and meaningful in themselves. Two or three "natural" noises are nothing but cacaphony. That's the problem with a lot of those Cage-type ideas, and that's why the components of art-making are usally very simplified. As someone said years ago in a review of hi-tech & installations sculpture "You can build a better house out of bricks than motrcycles"

Beware, that Lopez quote is awfully grandiose. "Attaining this musical state requires a profound listening..."? I don't get what he is driving at.



August 6, 2005, 2:58 PM

This combination makes strange music. You can see and hear this at Miami Art Central's current show.



August 6, 2005, 3:19 PM

There are many wonderful artists dealing, not with paint, but with sound.
Their palette consists of real instruments, electronics, field recordings...sometimes alone or in various combinations. These artists are concerned with the physical property of sound and how it can be used, transformed maybe. Blind listening is a way of appreciating these
"soundworks" (music) without making any external connections away from the sound itself as a medium, ie: "oh! that sounds like a vacuum cleaner or a factory or the scraping of metal across the floor."

For me, some of these artists are establishing a strong avant garde in music that I don't see in the visual arts. A lot of talk on here seems to express visual art to be in the duldrums. Music certainly is not. It's thriving!



August 6, 2005, 3:25 PM

"Attaining this musical state requires a profound listening..."
I don't get what he is driving at.
... You're not stoned enough ;-)



August 6, 2005, 3:31 PM

If your good at it drug use is unnecessary.



August 6, 2005, 3:39 PM

Correction: the art "scene" is definitely in the doldrums... that's what the complaints are about. Art itself is something else.



August 6, 2005, 3:40 PM

beWare, for medicinal purposes only...

For what it's worth, I think new music and new art go hand in hand with music in the lead. I don't know squat about new music, what's interesting enough to you, that you play the CD with "repeat" selected?




August 6, 2005, 3:42 PM

I dunno, George - I don't think being stoned would help me get it. It would just allow me not to care.

I know you like that far-out music, Beware. I am just an old fart who likes Mozart and Louis Armstrong.



August 6, 2005, 3:50 PM

Actually, I'm not that far out, I listen to Miles Davis, Kieth Jarrett, Paco de Lucia with a mix of other jazz and latin music. Kieth Jarrett is pure genius and makes composers like Phillip Glass look like amateurs.n



August 6, 2005, 3:58 PM

Mozart and Armstrong are timeless and always worth listening to. I think there is music being made today that will join them.



August 6, 2005, 4:05 PM

beWare (nice handle BTW)

If you have never listened to Kieth Jarrett's "The Koln Concert", do. This is a masterpiece of 20th century music.

What about some hints on that new stuff?



August 6, 2005, 4:08 PM

Speaking of "Far out " , what about Cubism, the Fauves, and Pollock?



August 6, 2005, 4:11 PM

1. Erstwhile Records



August 6, 2005, 4:17 PM

beWare, no no, I'm a dilettante. I just want you're current fav, the one you play over and over again



August 6, 2005, 4:38 PM

Fennesz "Venice"
C-Schulz "5.Flicker Tunes"
Archetti / Wiget "Low tide digitals"
Polwechsel 2



August 6, 2005, 5:11 PM

Getting back to visual art, I went to the Gables last night for the group show opening at Miami Art Lab, which included John Bailly. This was part of the monthly Gables "Gallery Walk," which I once attended regularly, till I realized it was no use trying to get blood from a turnip.

I was struck, once again, by the fact that the Gables is the best possible location in Miami for art galleries (at least from the standpoint of the public). Nevertheless, as we all know, it is populated by purveyors of rather stale, fairly generic, more or less decorator art aimed primarily at well-heeled Hispanic clients of a certain age.

Given what must be pretty hefty rents, the continued survival of these outfits must mean they're selling the stuff fairly well. No law against that, obviously, even if it is a bit depressing (I'm quite sure they're not giving the stuff away, either). Evidently, these galleries are content just to be commercially viable, since they're totally ignored and snubbed by the supposedly serious art crowd (which has its own problems).

Still, it pisses me off that such a prime location is being so miserably wasted (though that depends on one's perspective, of course).



August 6, 2005, 5:32 PM

I 2nd

Fennez - Venice; and add

To Rococo Rot
Jah Wobble
and my favorite band name in the last few years...

Duran Duran Duran

The Fall

Iron and Wine


too many to mention...




August 6, 2005, 5:34 PM

beWARE, thanks.
The Supersilent -"6" and Fennesz "Venice" clips sounded good for a start.



August 6, 2005, 6:12 PM

On Topic, but from music's point of view:



August 6, 2005, 7:03 PM

Good call on the: Calexico, Iron & Wine. The others I'll have to search out myself. See also: Supersystem, Feist, and Caribou. is an invaluable resource for excellent, usually independant, music of many genres. The podcasts have a sort of curated feel to them, each song included on the basis of quality experience. Highly recommended.


Jerome du Bois

August 6, 2005, 7:18 PM

Be cool, people:

Chopin waltzes always bring me to my knees.

After working for a few years in the music department of a major chain, I gravitated toward the melodic or anthropological edges. Not the weird kink for kink's sake --Midget Handjob, can you believe? and The Tiger Lillies go beyond the pale, though I have some of their tunes in my head-- or even the good punk, like The Guano Apes --"beat the machine that works in your head!" Or even the best of Europe, which was not, in my opinion, Radiohead and Coldplay, but SuperFurryAnimals and Sigur Ros. Still, it was American music I was looking for.

Calexico is one, though so uneven. Also Godspeed You Black Emperor (yes, I know they're partially Canadian, supposubly.) Cultural mash-ups which retain their melodic roots and respect for form, such as Devotchka and Pink Martini. And the new roots weirdos like Jim White -- "Ten Miles To Go On A Nine-Mile Road," his otherworldly version of "King of the Road." When it comes to music, except for classical --Mozart especially-- I don't go for smooth, or for supertechnical. I'm looking for what Gram Parsons ached after: Cosmic American Music.

Actually, Franklin, Kinky Friedman had ahold of the handle, din't he --at least a part of it? Or was he irony through and through?


Jerome du Bois

PS: Music is Manna. And Nietszche wrote: "Without music, life would be a mistake."




August 6, 2005, 10:26 PM

Must be hard to waltz on your knees, Jerome.


ms quoted

August 6, 2005, 11:31 PM

oldpro:You are killing me! I just woke up the babies laughing at your response. please continue



August 6, 2005, 11:34 PM

The image is amusing under the circumstances, I will admit.

I hope the kids get back to sleep.


ms quoted

August 6, 2005, 11:40 PM

I just carried the laptop up to their rooms and read the beginning intro of The Sound of Alternative Journalism to them (I change "The Bitch" to "The Female Dog" though) and they are out like lights.

All is well.



August 7, 2005, 12:15 AM

#157: I'm not exactly sure why, but that's extremely gratifying. Good night to all.



August 7, 2005, 11:39 PM

Anyone know if Clive Bell the musician is related to Clive Bell the art critic?



August 7, 2005, 11:54 PM

Email him and ask:



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