This week my thesis exhibition will be up at Gallery A402 at California Institute of the Arts. The opening will be on Thursday, April 3. There will be a faculty reception from 5 to 8 pm, and the main reception, co-hosted by Kichul Kim and Louisa Konrad, from 8 pm onwards. Both receptions will be on the mezzanine level, just above the Main Gallery. If you arrive after 8pm, print out this invite to show security at the school entrance.
After my faculty reviews and class critiques, I'll be posting more about the show. The works in the show have been a way for me to work through my ideas of the Improvised Artistic Device, my work in Los Angeles area parks, and the social spaces that are invented on public and private land.
Directions to CalArts:
Take a freeway north to Valencia. Exit on McBean Parkway. Turn right. The first driveway on the right is CalArts. If you come up later (to avoid traffic) print out this post to show security at the entrance kiosk. Park anywhere and walk in the main entrance. In the lobby will be a table where you can show I.D. to get a wristband (for beer and wine). Ask at the table how to find Gallery A402.
See you Thursday!!
March 30, 2008
This week my thesis exhibition will be up at Gallery A402 at California Institute of the Arts. The opening will be on Thursday, April 3. There will be a faculty reception from 5 to 8 pm, and the main reception, co-hosted by Kichul Kim and Louisa Konrad, from 8 pm onwards. Both receptions will be on the mezzanine level, just above the Main Gallery. If you arrive after 8pm, print out this invite to show security at the school entrance.
March 22, 2008
(dry stream bed)
carrying it downstream until dry
choosing another stone there
carrying it upstream until dry
reinvention of Publicity, the film references seem quite appropriate.
March 21, 2008
I just got back from the press opening for Allan Kaprow, "Art as Life" which will be at MoCA's Little Tokyo space from March 23 to June 30. The show is a coming home of sorts, having been organized in Europe mostly around the Getty Research Institute's collection of Allan Kaprow's papers. GRI's California Video curator Glenn Phillips was there, along with many of Allan's friends and students from his days in Southern California. Above is Barbara Smith's reinvention of Push Pull with Barbara (left in picture) making sure no one pushes or pulls anything before the opening tomorrow evening. A group of Allan's close friends will be making the first scuff marks with the blue-painted furniture, and then it will be open to the public to push and pull as they may.
There are a few object-based works in the show, including his 1957 Rearrangable Panels (above) lent by the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. I expect MoCA will do a better job caring for the work than Beaubourg did with LACMA's. The far wall is lined with Kaprow's paintings, dated from 1947 to 1957. They are of their era--very AbEx--with elements of collage and gesture. A scribble on one painting looks like it says, "Call Greenberg." Perhaps it was Clement not taking the call that spurred Allan to innovate and leave the stretcher bars and rabbit skin glue behind.
In the center of the exhibition is Suzanne Lacy's (seated far right) Trade Talk (which could also be called Talking Dirt for the composition of the floor). Here participants in Allan Kaprow's Happenings will be able to talk about their experience, where it will be recorded for posterity. In the back is a telephone booth where individuals can "phone in" their experiences. Unfortunately, there was quite a bit of noise coming from John Baldessari's reinvention of Kaprow's "Apple Shrine," and Allan Ruppersberg's reinvention of "Words."
After reading about some of the exhibition's other stops, it seems that MoCA has done a better job of installing the show, incorporating the Happenings into their website and involving local communities, and using artist-colleagues to build the installations. New technologies (like Apple computers) are mixed with old school (like overhead projectors), keeping with the spirit and intention of the work without getting bogged down historical recreations and precious materiality. Kudos.
I came across the original score for Burbank (above), which I riffed on here. If you're a glutton for reading, you can wait until May 13 when Lawrence Weiner opens in the other half of the Geffen. In the meantime, check out MoCA's calendar for a schedule of the Happenings, and experience Kaprow's art through participation.
Here's the score for Publicity, which CalArts will be reinventing on Sunday, May 4th at Vasquez Rocks.
March 16, 2008
Jason: He’s a keeper! The way my mindset is now after Tuesday is that if my boyfriend is gung-ho about having an open relationship, then I can be okay with having one steady. I don’t want to have a whole bunch. I loved it for a night, but in retrospect I don’t want that to be my lifestyle where I go out and find multiple people. I don’t like that. But one steady, I think I could get away with it and not feel bad.
Stevens: You were talking out by the fire pit, exchanged numbers, and then?
Jason: Well, something interesting occurred. We were sitting there and I was complementing him on his performance and, I said, “You know, you didn’t have to pull out if you didn’t want to,” Then he told me that he was positive. I was like, “Oh, wow! How interesting is that? So am I.” We got that out of the way. We didn’t exchange numbers until after that. Knowing we’re both positive, that’s kind of a more ideal situation.
Stevens: So then what happened, you parted ways or…?
Jason: Yeah. He had to go. I went back and hung out for a while. And I walked around and did the glory hole thing. Then I went home.
Stevens: You decided you had enough?
Jason: Not really. I had to catch the last train home at midnight; otherwise it’s a bitch to get home.
Stevens: So when you got home, um, how were you feeling?
Jason: It was such a good experience, I wasn’t nervous and I wasn’t guilty. I thought I would be but I wasn’t. All the way home on the train, I was thinking that now I can see why he likes it; the variation is kind of fun.
Stevens: Later that night, when he got home, was it okay?
Jason: I knew he wasn’t going to be home, because I tried calling before I got to the train. I got his voicemail, so he was out anyway. I got back about twelve-twenty. I took a shower and checked email and went to sleep. He came in about two I think, and just went to bed. We never talked about it.
Stevens: Looking back, can you share with me what you think may be the good things and the bad things about the experience, and what you took away from it?
Jason: I think the good thing was that it helped boost my self-confidence, because not only did I find one person who found me attractive enough to have sex with me, I found three. So it was, it was great in that department because it worked on my self-esteem. Also the fact that I got to fulfill some of the fantasies I’ve had: the exhibitionism and the three-way. A lot of things I’ve always wondered about I finally got to do.
Stevens: Any bad things?
Jason: Not really. I mean, I thought I was going to have guilty feelings but I didn’t. It dawned on me on the ride back; he’s got so many steady people. Three times a week he’s with some steady. If he can do that three times a week, what the hell is the matter with one night out? Nothing. So I don’t feel bad at all. It was very uplifting for my self-esteem, knowing that there are people out there that like me the way I am.
Stevens: That’s because in other settings you feel you don’t get as much attention as you got that night?
Jason: It’s not even an, “I think,” it’s an, “I know.” I’ve got a friend who DJs at a bar. I go there, get my beer, and I walk around and try to talk to people. They just have this attitude like, “Eew. What are you doing here?” He emails me, “When are you gonna come visit me again?” I write, “You know how much I hate the clientèle that goes there. They’re all stuck up; it just irritates me.” So he writes, “Well, you don’t have to see them. Just come talk to me.” So he’ll put me on his guest list. I’ll go in, and I’ll talk with him and then he’ll get swamped by all these people that want requests, so I’ll go get my beer and I’ll walk around. And every time I’ve gone, there’s always at least one—generally more than one, but at least one—that goes, “Eew. Why are you here? You’re too old.” I’m like, “Oh, screw you.”
Stevens: People actually said that?
Jason: Oh, yes. I’ve had people tell me to my face that I’m fat. I’ve had people tell me to my face that I’m ugly. I’ve had…it’s amazing, people are just getting more and more forward as the years go by. I have had several people ask me what am I doing there. I’m too old to be there. And I said, “Well, I’m the friend of the DJ, so you just screwed your chance of getting anything played.” It’s amazing.
Stevens: So the sex club experience was better because it didn’t have that element…
Jason: Exactly. It was people that were there for sex. At bars, not everybody is looking for sex. They’re there to hang out with their friends, or shoot pool, or watch videos, or listen to the music, or go dancing, or drink, not necessarily to hook up with someone and have sex. So they are more pretentious when it comes to finding people because in their mind, if I’m going to take someone home, it has to be my exact model of what I want. People who pay twenty dollars to get into Slammers will take what they find there.
Stevens: Are you feeling like you’ll go back there again?
Jason: Oh, most definitely.
Stevens: Okay. Is there anything you’d like to add?
Jason: I will stress to people that I would prefer safe sex, but my friend who works there told me that half the people in the club don’t use condoms. And it’s a law now. It’s one of those things that sex clubs and spas are supposed to enforce. Technically, someone is supposed to walk around with a flashlight and make sure people are using condoms. [Laughs] Can you imagine? “Excuse me, can you pull out for a second? Oh, you’re not.” He’s supposed to take people’s membership cards away and kick them out if he catches them not having safe sex. But obviously people say, “Okay, we’ll do that,” and then they don’t. If they suddenly said you’re going to get kicked out if you don’t use condoms, they’d lose half their clients, because bareback sex is a fantasy for many of the people there.
For some gay men (and for most straight couples), natural (unprotected) sex is the norm. Current health department prevention messages reinforce negative feelings when they frame gay men as vectors of disease that need to be shrouded in latex. Rather than build self-esteem, these prevention messages turn a potentially transcendent act into a medical procedure, a reminder of the long association between death and desire. As Douglas Crimp states:
“It isn’t just that we don’t feel good about ourselves, we don’t feel good. And there are reasons for that. After all this epidemic, all this hatred from the right, all this loss, we’re demoralized. We don’t say that because we think despair is defeat. Unsafe sex is partly about just not wanting to deal with this whole issue anymore. It may be the closest many can come to asking out loud: under what conditions is life worth surviving for?”
March 15, 2008
Jason: Once I got in and walked around, I was quite excited. There’s an outdoor patio with a fire pit and there’s slings all over the place. There’s a big platform that’s raised and at the bottom are boards with holes. I was thinking, “Wow. This could be interesting!”
I’ve had a fantasy for a long time about doing public stuff where people watch. Because I’ve always been rather large, it’s not like I run around being an exhibitionist. Who the hell wants to see me naked?! So I figured this would be really neat ’cause it’s semi-dark and it’s set up in a way where I could probably experience a lot of things I’ve thought about without consequence.
Stevens: You’re walking around. You’re feeling excited. Then what happens?
Jason: I was sitting at the entrance just to see people [Chuckles] as they were coming, to select my targets. [Laughs] I walked around too and sat by the fire with a Diet Coke and watched people walking around.
Stevens: And what were you feeling as you were doing that?
Jason: Now I’m getting anxious, after I watched these people. There was the main room that has this huge sling in it. And there was one guy in it with fifteen people standing around. I was thinking, “Wow, that could be me pretty soon.”
Stevens: So you got excited.
Jason: I was ready. They have monitors throughout the club playing pornos and it was just… God, it was everything: the sexy grunge music, the videos and the people and the moaning and the… Oh my God, it just got to me!
Stevens: It got to you?
Jason: It turned me on big time. I just kept watching. And after the one finished, someone else went. And after he finished someone else went. I probably sat there for a while watching. It went from excited to frustrated because now I wanted to do that, and it’s not me. So I went back talked to the guy at the desk and explained what was going on. He says, “There’s a guy that will come in later. And if you like that, you’ll love him.” When I was sitting there this guy came up to the window that was really cute. And so I said, “Huh, there’s one.” And my friend goes, “Oh yeah, he’s a regular.” You know, he comes in all the time. I waited a few minutes and then went back to find him.
Stevens: Um-huh. What were you thinking and feeling at the time?
Jason: I was kind of mixed. Part of me was ready and excited and another part of me was thinking, “Wow, he’s such a cutie. What the hell would he want with a fat old guy?” You know, [Chuckles] I’ve had that thought for a long time.
I mean he was hot and I was anxious to talk to him to see if he was interested. But because of my dealings with people out in public, I was probably more frustrated with the fact that I don’t look good enough for people like that to be interested in me. So I went back and I saw him. He was sitting on one of the benches in the back and I sat next to him and talked to him for a while. And he thought I was cute. I was like, “Huh. How ‘bout that?” So I asked him if he wanted to go do something. He said, “Well, I just got here. I’m gonna walk around a bit, maybe later.” I’m thinking, “Ah. There’s the best blow-off I’ve ever seen.” So I went back and sat by the entrance again. And so there was a couple that came in…
Stevens: You were disappointed?
Jason: I was thinking, “Oh great. He says I’m cute, but obviously not cute enough because he said no.” I mean, that’s what “not right now” means to me.
Stevens: So were you feeling discouraged?
Jason: My definition of “not right now” means he wants to see what’s better there that he can get first and if he can’t find anyone else, then he’ll come back to me as the last resort. That’s how that came across to me. Would I say no to that? No, I would not. He can come back to me at any time and I wouldn’t care. But it was disappointing to hear him say no right off the bat.
Stevens: Right. So you went back to the window and you were watching more people arrive. Is that what you said?
Jason: Yes. This couple came in. They were very cute. Automatically I’m thinking, “Ooh, three-way! Hmm. That could be interesting.” They were exhibitionists. They checked their clothes in at the desk. I’m sitting there watching them getting undressed and I’m thinking, “Holy Cryiminy, they’re enormous!” I mean, big and big. I mean, just big everywhere, proportional. Whew! So I was watching and I complemented one because he had tattoos and stuff. I said, “Wow, you look amazing!” He says, “Really? Well, you should come find us in a minute.” I was like, “Okie-dokie. I will be right behind you.” They did their thing and they bought their Diet Cokes and they were wandering around. When I saw them go to the back, one looked at me, so that was my cue. I got up and I followed him back there. The two of them went up on the platform and told me to go around. So we did that for a bit.
Stevens: What do you mean, “We did that”?
Jason: There’s glory holes. It’s an oral thing. They stand up top, I’m at the bottom and they would alternate and I would do the oral thing.
Stevens: And how were you feeling at that point?
Jason: Oh, I was in heaven!
Stevens: So that was exciting.
Jason: It was great. Because even at this point, I’m doing something I want to do but I don’t feel guilty about it because it’s just oral sex. According to Bill Clinton, that’s not sex. [Chuckles] So I was, I was happy. Then they asked if I wanted to go to the sling. I said, “Why, yes I do.” So I went to the bathroom and cleaned up a little and I met them there. That was when it began. The one started and it would alternate between him and his boyfriend.
Stevens: So take me through it.
Jason: Before I got in the sling I told them, “I just have to let you know, I’m positive.” And they said, “Yeah, we kind of figured.” He said that to come in places like this, you have to assume everyone is. I was like, “Oh. Okay. If you want to use a condom, go ahead.” He says, “We don’t.” And I said, “Okay.” I will not say no. So that was the case. The one started, and I was orally pleasing the other. They’d alternate, switch, and stuff.
Stevens: How were you feeling during this?
Jason: Oh, I loved it.
Stevens: What were you thinking when they decided not to use a condom?
Jason: I really don’t care. I mean, that’s the main reason why I’m positive. I was too trusting. … Back in the day when I was negative and they’d say, “Oh, well I’m clean, it doesn’t matter to me,” I’m like, “Okay.” I was too trusting. It’s just kind of to the point now where it’s too late. I’m okay though; I’m on some pretty good medication.
Jason: They alternated, then cutie number one came wandering by and saw me in the sling and decided to join in.
Stevens: The first guy that you originally…
Jason: The one that told me “later.” It was later. He saw I was busy and he came in and watched. Then he moved in after the two had finished.
Stevens: Back up a little. When you say after the two had finished, what happened? What do you mean they finished?
Jason: The first one came in me; the second one did not. He likes watching it on your stomach. So then those two were finished.
Stevens: Did he tell you he was going to come in you? Did you agree ahead of time that that was okay? Did you not talk about it? What?
Jason: We did not talk about it, and I don’t think I really cared. I mean, at that [Laughs] at that point I was at such a state of ecstasy, I don’t think I was paying attention to anything.
Stevens: You were feeling pretty caught up in the moment.
Jason: Oh yes.
Stevens: Did he say, “I’m going to come?”
Jason: Well, basically, yes. He was saying, “I’m close.” I’m sure subconsciously I said, “Go ahead,” ‘cause I don’t remember what I said. I was just… My last two boyfriends have been kind of average. And these guys were huge. So it was a huge fantasy for me because it was something I haven’t felt ever. You know, I’ve never met anybody bigger than myself, so that was a fantasy fulfillment in itself. I probably said something along the lines of “go ahead” or “okay” or whatever, ‘cause I was in the moment. The guy that I had met first was still standing there. After they left…
Stevens: How were you feeling at that point?
Jason: I was in heaven! My night had been accomplished. I could’ve left then and been completely content. One of ‘em would’ve been great, but two!
Stevens: So you were feeling really good.
Jason: I was just about to get ready to get out and he asked me if he could have a shot at it.
Stevens: The first guy?
Jason: Yeah, the first one. I said, “By all means.”
Stevens: What about the condom thing with him, was there any talk about it?
Jason: I think because he saw those two not using one, he just assumed it was okay. So he didn’t. I wasn’t gonna say something.
Stevens: So you didn’t talk about being positive or anything with him?
Jason: You know what? I don’t think I mentioned it to him. It was so sudden. Well, that’s, unusual. Yeah, I guess I didn’t. Huh.
Stevens: So he’s fucking you without a condom?
Stevens: Do you remember what you were thinking?
Jason: I was thinking how much I would really love to get his number and see him again.
Stevens: So you were more interested in this guy than the couple?
Jason: They told me that they don’t have outside flings. I knew there wasn’t a chance for those two anyway. But this one was by himself, so I was thinking, “Wow, I could do this a lot.” I wouldn’t mind a regular, a steady.
Stevens: He’s fucking you and then what?
Jason: He pulled out and came.
Stevens: And then what?
Jason: We talked a bit. He left to go to the bathroom to clean up, and I sat there just to see if there was anyone else that was interested. We had already made an agreement to meet up by the fire pit once I’m finished. After a few minutes, I decided I’d probably need a break anyway so I met him outside and we talked for a bit. We exchanged numbers. We haven’t used them yet, but you never know.
End Part Two
March 14, 2008
I went to the opening of California Video at the Getty Center, which will be up until June 8, 2008.
I thought I'd type up a few first impressions of the show. It doesn't appear to be traveling, so this will be your only opportunity to catch this survey of California video art curated by Glenn Phillips.
The foundation of the show is the video collection of the Long Beach Museum of Art which ran an impressive video program for artists, offering the use of equipment and editing facilities, and collecting video art. For almost twenty years LBMoA was in the vanguard of collecting and promoting contemporary art, so it was somewhat depressing knowing that the museum is now saddled in debt, and has shifted its focus to the decorative arts collected by the blue-hairs that live in the museum's Bluff Park neighborhood.
Before I mention some of the works, I have to give kudos to the exhibition designers. Video art is not like hanging static work. Most of the art makes noise, and the designers have created some innovative displays to overcome any potential cacophony. For works on monitors, the sound is set low, so one can have a sense of what's taking place in the video. There are two attached headphones for better sound quality, and also headphone jacks for the audiophile who might want to bring their own headset. Ant Farm's Eternal Frame is set in a period 60's living room, stocked to the hilt with JFK memorabilia. The Getty did a great job of tracking down period CRTs for the works that require it.
They've also done a great job of making excerpts of the video works available on-line, and they produced an extensive and reasonably priced catalog. There's also a video study room and special screenings taking place throughout the exhibition run. Probably one of the most refreshing aspect of the show is that they haven't censored the exhibition, like so many public institutions that rely on public funding. One can stumble upon Howard Fried's Fuck You Purdue, and watch The Kipper Kids simultaneously piss in a jar.
The show begins with John Baldessari's "I will not make any more boring art," (1971) an early post-painting work that captures a time when irony was new. There's some Diana Thater eye candy, and then a large area with lots of little monitors and installations that show the early video works that showcase the Long Beach video treasure trove. Some of my favorites are William Wegman's Selections from Spit Sandwich, Reel 1 - 3, Suzanne Lacy's Learn Where Meat Comes From, and Joe Rees' Target Video '77, a precursor to MTV.
The good thing is that the Getty has put excerpts of work on line, so folks can revisit about 50 of the works at their leisure. After a few dozen of these smaller works, one rounds a corner to see Jennifer Steinkamp's Oculus Sinister (left eye), and then the larger, more recent, and installation-type work.
Meg Cranston's Volcano, Trash, and Ice Cream suffers from having to edit out the publicity shots of original presentation in Chinatown, I presume because she couldn't secure the photo rights for the images she "trashed." A much better presentation of Martin Kersels' Pink Constellation is up at the Orange County Museum of Art, along with another chunk of Mike Kelley's Day is Done. Rounding out the CalArts corner is Jeff Cain's Radar Balloon.
Rather than have people shuffle out like TV-watching zombies, the show ends with some crowd pleasers like Jim Campbell's Home Movies 920-1, Paul Kos' Chartres Bleu, Bruce and Norman Yonemoto's Framed, and Bill Viola's The Sleepers. Also at the end of the tour is video screening room showing six videos by six artists in a continual loop (not the best solution, considering the Getty's technological ingenuity shown in the rest of the show). If you hit it at the right time, check out Cathy Begien's Black Out.
If you had some favorites I left out, feel free to post them in the comments.
March 13, 2008
I'm away form my other computer (with the transcript) so I thought I'd post some video stills I'm using with another Chain Analysis script. The other story takes place at the Tomkat Theater, though I think the infrared imagery works well with both interviews. Enjoy!
March 12, 2008
Stevens: Why don’t you tell me about the recent sex event you have in mind?
Jason: It was Tuesday last week. I was at Slammers. It’s a sex club in Silverlake. It was my first time there, and in the course of three hours, I met three people.
Stevens: I want you to try and think of at what point – maybe it was that day, the day before, what have you – that you first started thinking about going to this Slammers club.
Jason: Well, the guy that I am seeing, the arrangement was that we would be boyfriends but in an open relationship, where he gets to see people and I get to see people. But I’ve been trying to find something monogamous because I’ve had many multiples and I’m just tired of that.
We were having a discussion and he was telling me about several people that he wanted to fool around with. And the only reason I had a problem is that he was canceling something we had already planned. And I’m thinking, “You know, if we are indeed in this open relationship I can understand that you want to do stuff, but canceling dates we’ve already planned just so you can go have sex with someone else, I can’t buy that.” And he said that was our agreement, we can see other people, and this is the only day he’s available. I said, “So not having sex with him would kill you, is what you’re saying?” He says, “No, but I like him.”
So that night while he was out and about doing his thing, I started thinking to myself how really angry I was. I was sitting there alone in the apartment thinking, “Well, if he can do it, I can do it too.” One of my friends works at Slammers, so I called him to see if I could get in.
Stevens: So between May first and last Tuesday you didn’t have sex?
Jason: No, because I care for him a lot, but at the same time I was mad. The next day I started thinking, “Whoa, I can’t do it.” My emotions kicked in so I canceled and I canceled and I canceled. And the next thing I know three weeks passed by.
Stevens: Tell me what was happening the day you decided to go? What were you feeling? What were you thinking? How was your day going?
Jason: I’ve had really bad days for a long time. I’ve been unemployed for a long time. I’ve been on G.R. [General Relief, ed.] for a long time, and I just can’t seem to get a break anywhere. So when I decided to go, I was like, “Well, good. That gives me something to do.”
Stevens: What were you thinking?
Jason: I’m kind of… I have a self-confidence problem because I’m overweight. I’m two hundred and fifty pounds, five-ten. You know, people are not overly attracted to me to begin with, so I didn’t know if going to some gay bar and trying to pick up on somebody would work because the rejections would probably make me more depressed than I was before going out. I’m thinking that Slammers was my best opportunity because it’s a sex club and people are a lot less concerned of what you look like. They don’t even look at your face anyway.
Stevens: So it was more of a sure thing.
Jason: Yes. It was a matter of knowing I would score [Chuckles] there without having to hear people going, “Eew. No thanks.”
Stevens: You had never been to a sex club before this?
Jason: I didn’t say that. I’d just never been to Slammers. [Laughs] I’ve been to bathhouses, but I wasn’t as sure what to expect and what the clientele would be like. I knew it was similar but I knew the differences would probably make a difference. Having rooms at a bathhouse that you can rent and lock the door and have some privacy would bring different people than at
Slammers where you’re standing in the open where everybody can watch you. It’s a big difference.
Stevens: All right. What were you thinking about on Tuesday?
Jason: Tuesday morning was when I started my planning. It’s so funny. [Sighs] Even though my boyfriend is the one who wants to keep it open and I don’t, I still felt guilty about going to a sex club, so I spent all Tuesday morning trying to figure out what lie I could concoct so I could disappear for the night without him knowing I was at a sex club, even though he could care less. I still didn’t want him to know I was doing it, so I spent most of Tuesday figuring out how I was going to get that time off without him knowing where I was.
Stevens: Can you tell me a little bit more about feeling guilty?
Jason: I’ve been single for six years prior to meeting him, and the two relationships I had prior to that ended very badly. One was with a drug user who stole from me; the other one was cheating on me with a whole bunch of people. When I’m single I’m very promiscuous, but when I’m in a relationship I’m not. And it’s hard for me to have a relationship where it’s okay.
Stevens: So you have a hard time with open relationships.
Jason: Because I don’t want one. I waited six years to meet the right person and although our feelings for each other are very intense, I think if I can survive this agreement, we’ll last a long time. But I’m having a hard time with that.
Stevens: Okay. What did you come up with? And how did that go?
Jason: I called one of our mutual friends and I said, “There’s something I want to do and I’m sure you’ll help me.” I told him what I was going to do. He called my boyfriend’s home phone number knowing I live with him and he said, “I can’t find Jayson’s number and we’re supposed to go out to a concert tonight and I just wanna make sure he’s still going. I’ll come by to get him around sevenish. If he’s there, give him the message and have him call me,” knowing that he’d get the message. That was the arrangement.
Stevens: So you set up this story so that you wouldn’t have to feel guilty?
Jason: [Chuckles] The way I was thinking about it was, if I do what he’s doing, then I can’t complain about what he’s doing, and I would really like to keep complaining, because I want him to stop eventually. If he ever gets to the point where he realizes he wants a monogamous thing, I’d like him to stop. But you can’t preach against something if you’ve done it yourself so I just wanted it not to be an issue.
Stevens: So how was your mood that day? Were you feeling anything in particular or was it just a normal day?
Jason: I was nervous. Knowing that I had to set up this elaborate scheme just to get out of the house at night, I was nervous. So when he came home from school and we were talking, I’m sure I acted nervous and stuff. And I had to leave because I knew Paul was calling and I didn’t want to be there, so I talked to him into going out for coffee so then he wouldn’t be home when my friend left the message on the answering machine. It was this ongoing plan where I had to keep thinking of stuff to make it work, because every time a wrench would get thrown in my plan, I’d have to fix it. I didn’t have a whole lot of time for any other emotions other than being nervous that he might find out what I’m doing.
Stevens: Were you thinking at all about the sex that you were going to have, what you might do there, how it would go, any of that?
Jason: Well, that started probably around three in the afternoon. He had a class that night, so when he was gone, then I had time to think. I figured, now the plan is working and I’ll be gone when he gets back. He knows where I’m going. He’s heard the message from Paul. Everything is set. Then I started thinking about what I would like to do. I called my friend who’s been there to have him describe what the place is like and tell me what I can expect and what kind of clients come in. The more he described it, the more it sounded cool.
Stevens: So then, then what happened?
Jason: I had to leave at seven to take the train down there.
Stevens: Before you left, did you think about safe sex or taking any precautions?
Jason: Because I’m positive, I of course was thinking about having safe sex, but at the same time I was not going to say no to limit the experience, if that was an issue.
Stevens: How typical is that for you, generally? Does that mean you were planning to use a condom but…?
Jason: If they said no, I wouldn’t disagree.
Stevens: Is that typically how it goes for you?
Jason: Pretty much. I tell people upfront I’m positive so they know. And if they choose to ignore the facts because I’m a bottom… Most people tell me, “Well, I’m only a top so my risk is minimal compared to you, and since you’re already positive then I don’t mind if you don’t mind.” And I go, “Okay, cool.”
Stevens: Did you bring condoms with you?
Jason: In other cases I would, but the club’s got free ones they hand out.
Stevens: So when you got to the club, how were you feeling?
March 11, 2008
“In the year of Our Lord 1348 the deadly plague broke out in the great city of Florence…Various fears and superstitions arose among the survivors, almost all of which tended toward one end – to flee from the sick and whatever belonged to them. … Others, arriving at a contrary conclusion, held that plenty of drinking and enjoyment, singing and free living and the gratification of the appetite in every possible way, letting the devil take the hindmost… Although the members of these different factions did not all perish, neither did they all escape…”Universitywide AIDS Research Project (2005)
Over 25 million people have died from AIDS worldwide . This number surpasses the deaths from the “Black Plague” that swept through Europe in the mid-fourteenth century. In HIV prevention research, preëxisting theories of behavior change were first used to develop HIV prevention campaigns that have been partially effective at best. Several years ago researchers at Harbor-UCLA proposed a study that would look at the minutia of specific sexual encounters as a way to discover new ways to intervene and reduce risk.
Wasn’t it Stalin who said, “One death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic?” My purpose in presenting this interview is an attempt to present the historical present as a lived experience, peeling back the statistics to expose the personal.
The technique employed by the interviewer is an adaptation of a component of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy called Chain Analysis: the interviewer asks the participant to recall a recent sexual encounter, and then to go back to the point when the idea of having sex first came to mind. At each point in the story the interviewer asks about the subjects actions, internal dialog, and emotional valence (positive and/or negative feelings). The interview technique provides a rich source of experiential detail of what otherwise would be a private or secretive encounter.
What follows is an interview between one study participant and a research psychologist renamed Jason and Dr. Stevens. The interview took place in the spring of 2005. It was recorded in a private office and later transcribed. The conversation has been edited to focus on pivotal aspects of the story; some details have been changed to protect the anonymity of the participants.
March 10, 2008
I found the folder with the Richard Hawkins drawing (my previous post) tucked away in the garage. As I put the drawing back, I saw an original Allan Kaprow score, given to me by my friend Diane. This was done for Barbara Smith back in 1986, Looking through the Kaprow archive (Box 76, C83) there's a cassette with the same name, which may or may not be related. Because the above might not be legible, I thought I'd re-type it below:
(For Barbara Smith)
- Two persons are matched, and will appear at an address at a certain time. They'll be directed to a room. On a table, lying on a plate, is some bread. On another plate are some dollar bills.
- Whoever takes the bread leaves the house and, by breaking the bread into tiny bits, drops a trail of crumbs to somewhere, and waits. Whoever takes the money waits ten minutes, then goes outside to follow the trail of breadcrumbs. While following the trail, the dollar bills are torn into tiny bits like the breadcrumbs, and are dropped along the way. The two persons meet if possible; but both will return to the house within exactly 45 minutes of their arrival.
- The two will be directed to a room. On a table are two plates as before, with bread and money on them, respectively. One person will give bread to the other. The other will give the money.
Note: There is usually no need for prior guidance in such pieces as this. But since I will not see the participants beforehand, one condition may be urged: notice everything! At 10:30 PM (crossed out) There will be a review and discussion. This is part of the piece.
As I mentioned in my previous post about Richard Hawkins' studio visit, some many years ago Richard house-sat for me. Patrick, my boyfriend at the time wrote up some plant-watering instructions at taped them to the 'fridge. When we returned, the drawing/collage pictured above was on the other side. If you click on it, a larger image will appear. In case parts are not legible, I thought I'd type out some of the text.
Central is the swooning figure, circumscribed by Pascal: "We run heedlessly into the abyss after first putting something in front to stop us seeing it."
On the left panel is the Abyss ~ Void. It effluviates shit matter into a non-overlapping magisteria below, and off-gasses Flatulent Spirit above. Above this is the Holy Trinity of Matt Dillon, Tom Cruise, and Maxwell Caulfield. Below all this is Man's State, depicting masturbation with the venn diagram overlapping the self and non-self, which intersects at sex. Portions of the Non-Self include Literature, Art, and Pornography, and spin off Discontentment, Confusion, Bitterness, and Wrestling.
The right panel depicts the Outhouse of Human Despair (kunststrasse, pissoire d'artiste), the gasses of which comprise Heaven. Out of the bottom are what appear to be turds, which descend into hell. Below this is the list, "Inhabiteurs de Hell" which includes Paul Lynde, Mongomery Clift, Duc d'Orleans, James Dean, Oscar Wilde, Carravaggio, August Strindberg, John Wayne (crossed out), Marcel Duchamp, Marilyn Monroe, Herbert Hoover, and Jean Cocteau.
The Swooning figure's various parts are labeled Kafka, von Kleist, Beckett, Goethe, Wittgenstein, Voltaire, Montaigne, Baudelaire, and Pascal.
It almost reads like a Rosetta Stone that could be used to interpret later works. My only question is if he meant J. Edgar Hoover instead of Herbert Hoover.
March 8, 2008
Some work in progress. Former sites of commercial sex establishments taken with a pinhole camera.
March 7, 2008
It's difficult to find the adjectives to describe out meeting, as there are many. It's been close to twenty years since we were both at CalArts--when Richard house-sat for me and left his collages taped to the refrigerator door. We also share an age, an orientation, and a few other things.
Part of the time was spent playing catch up--in addition to talking about my work. Richard made a comment that was similar to one made by my partner Robert. After showing him Laud on this blog, he talked about where I fell on the malevolent - benevolent axis. He reminded me of a piece I made for a Valentine's show at CalArts in the mid-80's. It involved hand-writing a story from STH about coprophilia. He said there was a sense of the private made public and making a public space (The Main Gallery) into a sexualized space. Likewise, Richard could see the random cruiser coming across the Polaroids of used condoms at Griffith Park and realizing that someone out there (the picture-taker) knew what was taking place.
It made me think about the first research study I volunteered for, targeting non-gay identified men in public sex environments. Another group of volunteers would recruit some of these men, and interview them about their attempts at safer sex. These stories would be written up, and incorporated into the design of the condom packets. Other folks on the study interviewed the men who received the packets, and one of the positive things to come out of the project was the mens' realization that their anonymous sex partners were real people, much like themselves. Rather than feel like the lone wolf out for sexual conquest, they considered themselves part of a larger, albeit non-communicative community. By bestowing this gossamer sense of belonging, attempts were made to protect themselves and their partners.
The privacy screen I made out of plastic leaves at Towsley Canyon Park blends fairly well into the living foliage. Perhaps if someone who goes there for sex notices, they might realize that someone is attempting to give them a few extra seconds to pull themselves together, should a park ranger come by. At the same time I also realize Richard's concern that a cruiser might realize a stranger is aware of their activity and my acts could be read closer to malevolent on the continuum.
I also showed Richard (and will post here soon) some pinhole photographs I took at locations that used to be commercial sex establishments. Our discussion went into the whole deterioration of public space, so that what we are left with are these pseudo-public spaces like the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica or Universal Citywalk at Universal Studios. Private security patrols these commercial spaces, limiting activities that don't benefit the economies of the merchants. Just try to exercise your free speech rights by holding a rally against the war, or appear to be a vagrant. At the same time they weirdly mimic public space on private property.
Rather than see adult movie theaters and arcades as a blight, I seem them a social spaces that are accepting of sexualities. By using an antiquated and somewhat nostalgic imaging technique (film photography) I mean to capture these sites of social and sexual intercourse as they disappear. The circular image reminds me of the "iris-out" shot in film, and early trope in film to signify the end.
Richard and I also got on the subject of the assimilationist movement in the gay community, meaning all those folks who prefer that the larger world to view gay men as desexualized consumers who want to get married and kill people in Iraq, just like everyone else. There was a time in our memories when the gay world was more accepting of its diversity, and that included body types, ages, and sexual paraphilias. He's right to see my work as an attempt to push back.
We also had a brief talk about painting. I'll probably write more on this topic if I ever get around to typing up some conversations had at the CAA. We both spoke well of the medium, as painting still has a lot left to say. Both of us having spent our youth in CalArts critique classes, agreed for the most part that content sits in the driver's seat, and should be given consideration.
We also talked about those critiques that happen at more conventional schools, where the topic stays focused on things like form and composition, and one's facility for pushing paint around a canvas.
Later on that evening, I thought of the book as a metaphor. We can set a book on a table in the middle of class, and then talk endlessly about its size, shape and the design on the dust jacket. Strange as it may sound, that conversation gets often ignored at CalArts, with the focus instead being on what's printed inside. We may also ask, "Why a dead-tree book? Why not a book on tape or a post on-line?" Since we are not writers turning over a computer file to a publisher, who then sorts out the various media and adaptations, the choice of media falls well within our purview.
March 6, 2008
As part of Andrea Bowers and Tom Lawson's class "In Conversation," we got to meet and talk to artist Allan McCollum. He had come to CalArts as a visiting artist in the mid-80's, around the time he was showing his Perfect Vehicles. At the time when appropriation was the buzzword, and representational was pronounced RE-Presentational, and Alan's work was shown along side folks like Richard Prince and Sherrie Levine. Years later, after reading his great piece on Allen Ruppersberg, I came to realize that he was an artist from an earlier generation.
This time around he showed work dating back to his beginnings as a painter, and talked about the work in a way that (for me) shifted the focus away from the retinal and onto the labor of artistic production.
More recently his work has moved into the realm of public art projects involving local groups and collaborations that integrate into the places and localized objects that become the subject of the work. Twenty years later, one could make a case for Allan work fitting in with relational practices that constitute a quasi-trend.
At the beginning of the conversation, Allan told the story (also in the interview with Tom Lawson) about how he went to a manufacturer to have a small part made. He needed 1200, and the ad in the Yellow Pages said, "No job too small," but as it turned out, 1200 was too small. He asked what a 'short run" was, and the response was, "About 10,000," a number that returns to Allan's practice.
I would make the case that art writers can (and will) make associations between Allan's individual projects and the zeitgeist of current artistic production, but to see what's really going on, his work should be appraised for the "long run."
My comment above about appropriationist strategies tends to turn the focus on the object and how it functions in institutional spaces. This sort of cultural analysis often downplays the role of the artist's labor in the grand scheme of things. The old Marxist example of the shovel being an amalgam of raw materials (wood and metal) plus the labor to fit them together still allows the finished object to function in a world of ditch diggers and hardware stores. Seeing the Surrogate Paintings from Allan's point of view--that of the installation shot--points to how the art object functions in the art world system. By stripping away so much of the retinal, the viewer is forced to look at context for content.
In a way, this mode of production inverts the readymade, where an preexisting object is conceptually activated by the artist. Through mold-making, and other algorithms of production, the focus is reversed to the history of its making, rather than its future though activation. In the purest sense, The Dog From Pompei underscores the labor of production, with its origin coming from the naturally occurring matrix of the hollow made by a decomposed dog that was covered in ash. The mold made by nature only became activated through the labor of men. Because the representation is ultimately of a void and also a reproduction of a museum artifact, The Dog From Pompei can both be a copy and a reproduction while downplaying the trope of mimicry that easily creeps into some representational art.
Lastly I want to mention the idea of the artifact in Allan McCollum's art, which I haven't fully thought out. Tom mentions in his interview the anecdote of being contacted by a woman who had Egyptian artifacts from her recently deceased husband. It turns out they were souvenirs purchased at a King Tut exhibit. Likewise, many of the objects in Allan's later work have their origins in localized artifacts. Both these examples point to artifacts whose value comes from location. That location can be a temporary exhibition or a local geographic feature. Though it was laughed about in the class discussion, the people of nearby Vernal, Utah saw Andrew Carnegie's excavations as plunder of their heritage.
I feel Allan is seduced by the same power of place. His locations are known for everything from sand spikes to dinosaur tracks. His recent work incorporates the local population and their labor that has already focused on their particular geographies. Perhaps it's because Alan is still working through issues of place and its relationship to his practice that these last paragraphs dance around the issue without making a cohesive point. There are some parallels between Andrew and Allan. Unlike Carnegie, McCollum's digs leave something of value behind.