Monday, February 20, 2017

Gears in The Sand: Has the Art Market Become an Unwitting Partner in Crime?

Henri Toulouse-Lautrec’s “Au Lit: Le Baiser”
 Woke up this am and read this article in The New York Times. Feels fitting for the political state we are in and while I doubt any real change in the art world re: transparency at least there is some conversation, albeit too little possibly too late.
Below is the article in full. We are all apart of the problem. Let’s start thinking about solutions.


Has the Art Market Become an Unwitting Partner in Crime?
by Graham Bowley and William K. Rashbaum

When you sell your home the paperwork details the sale, including your name, and the title search lists the names of the people who owned the property before you. But when someone sells an artwork at auction — even something worth $100 million, much more than your house — the identity is typically concealed.
Oh, the paperwork might identify the work as coming from “a European collection.” But the buyer usually has no clue with whom he or she is really dealing. Sometimes, surprisingly, even the auction house may not know who the seller is.
Secrecy has long been central to the art world. Anonymity protects privacy, adds mystique and cuts the taint of crass commerce from such transactions. But some experts are now saying this sort of discretion — one founded in a simpler time, when only a few wealthy collectors took part in the art market — is not only quaint but also reckless when art is traded like a commodity and increasingly suspected in money laundering.
“The art market is an ideal playing ground for money laundering,” said Thomas Christ, a board member of the Basel Institute on Governance, a Swiss nonprofit that has studied the issue. “We have to ask for clear transparency, where you got the money from and where it is going.”
The debate about anonymity in the art world has intensified over the past year, fed in part by the release of the so-called Panama Papers, which detailed the use of corporate veils to conceal ownership, dodge taxes and enable crime, its authors say. Now various expert groups, like the Basel Institute, are coming forward with ways for dealers and auction houses to curb secrecy and combat money laundering. In a significant change, Christie’s said last week it has strengthened its policy in recent months and now requires agents looking to sell a work through the auction house to tell it the name of the owner they represent.
“Where it has concerns, Christie’s declines the transaction,” the company said in a statement.
The stakes have risen alongside the soaring value of art, with an estimated $63.8 billion worth of sales in 2015.
In one current money-laundering case, United States authorities have accused Malaysian officials and associates in a civil complaint of converting billions of dollars of embezzled public funds into investments like real estate and art. Masterworks by Basquiat, Rothko, Van Gogh and others were purchased, many at Christie’s, according to a complaint filed by federal prosecutors. Later, a Cayman Island company owned by one of the accused launderers took out a $107 million loan from Sotheby’s in 2014 using some of those artworks as collateral, authorities say.
Another recent dispute seems to reveal that auction houses themselves do not always know whose art they are selling. In this instance a collector has accused Sotheby’s of selling his $16 million painting by Henri Toulouse-Lautrec without knowing who actually owned it.
The Toulouse-Lautrec work, “Au Lit: Le Baiser,” consigned for sale at Sotheby’s in London in 2015, depicts two women embracing on a bed. The Swiss dealer who brought the work to Sotheby’s, Yves Bouvier, signed the standard paperwork surrounding such a sale, which requires the consignor to indicate he or she either owns the painting or is authorized to sell it. After the sale, he was given the proceeds.
But the real owner was a trust controlled by Dmitry E. Rybolovlev, a Russian billionaire who had been using Mr. Bouvier as his art adviser. Mr. Rybolovlev agrees he had authorized the sale but says Sotheby’s should have checked who the real owner was before turning over the money.
“It is extraordinary that such a rare and high-value work could have been sold at auction without the auction house knowing the identity of the true owner,” Tetiana Bersheda, a lawyer for the Rybolovlev family office, said in a statement.
Actually, experts said, it’s not that rare. “Do auction houses know who the principal is?” asked Amelia K. Brankov, a lawyer who specializes in the art market. “I don’t think they always do.”
Mr. Rybolovlev, who himself has used offshore shell companies that obscured his ownership of art, is now engaged in a sprawling legal battle in several courts with Mr. Bouvier, over matters that include the money from the Sotheby’s sale.
(Mr. Bouvier, who is also a leader in the international art storage business, said he has not turned over the money because, he said, Mr. Rybolovlev had told him to keep it to partially settle a debt from another transaction.)
Sotheby’s declined to comment on whether it believed Mr. Bouvier to be the owner. But it says it knew him very well as a customer and that he had represented to them that he had the legal right to sell the property. As to its policy of learning the identity of ultimate owners, Sotheby’s said it takes a risk-based approach — sometimes requiring disclosure depending on the specific facts and circumstances of each situation.
Auction houses live off the fees they earn for brokering sales, so it makes sense that auction houses would both value and trust customers who bring in a lot of business like Mr. Bouvier, who bought hundreds of millions of dollars of art at sales.
Other valuable customers for the auction houses and dealers were Malaysian businessmen who, beginning in 2013, bought more than $200 million in art, usually operating as the Tanore Finance Corporation, including eight works at Christie’s. The United States government contends in a civil complaint that the art was purchased with money that had been embezzled from Malaysian government accounts and that the ultimate beneficiary was Jho Low, one of the businessmen. Mr. Low, who has denied any wrongdoing, has not been criminally charged.
Art was far from the only asset into which Mr. Low transferred funds, and the art world has pointed out that he passed muster with other entities such as banks and law firms before federal officials here last year identified him in its complaint.
Christie’s and Sotheby’s said they each have long had rigorous programs to curb money laundering and that until the investigation became public, there had been no reason to suspect anything was amiss with Mr. Low.
“Before extending a loan to Mr. Low, we conducted extensive due diligence in accordance with our Anti Money-Laundering and Know Your Client procedures,” Sotheby’s said in a statement.
Artworks are particularly suitable vehicles for money launderers, experts said, because they transfer easily and store quietly, perhaps in a basement or in an offshore tax haven. Unlike the real estate market, where lightning escalations in price are rare, values in art can be suddenly boosted by intangibles such as fads and personal taste.
Beyond the question of money laundering, some experts say the anonymity of buyers and sellers hinders their ability to track ownership, a key element in establishing a work’s authenticity.
Anonymity was certainly a factor in the success of the scam that took down the estimable Knoedler gallery in New York after 165 years in business. Some $80 million was turned over by collectors to purchase unknown, albeit fake, “masterpieces” that were brought to market by a Long Island art dealer and her boyfriend. They said all the work had come from a mystery collector who became known as Mr. X. In fact, they were being created by a forger in his Queens garage.
Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, a New York gallerist and art adviser, said there are situations, as when a scholar is putting together an academic inventory of an artist’s work, where collectors do acknowledge ownership. “We work with the collector,” she said, ‘Would you like to cooperate?’ If they say no, we respect that.”
But she said she would resist a more general turn away from secrecy. “The move toward transparency is always there, but a collector’s private collection is their private collection,” she said. “It is in their home. It is not in the public domain.”
Regulators in other financial sectors have been working to eliminate veils.
In finance, Treasury officials last year began asking banks to identify customers who set up accounts in names of shell companies. In real estate, they introduced a pilot program that requires the full identification of people who buy expensive properties in New York and Miami using cash and shell companies.
But efforts to reduce anonymity in art sales have gone nowhere. In 2012, a New York appeals court ruled that auction houses did have to let buyers know the identity of sellers. But the decision was overturned on appeal.
The auction houses and some experts say that money laundering is rare and the threat overstated.
Sometimes, they said, the names of prior owners are carried in auction catalogs and even in situations where owners sell through an agent, the houses often know their identity because of their broad knowledge of the market.
Many in the art world believe that eliminating anonymity would damage the market and invade privacy. Some sellers, they say, are families only looking to avoid the embarrassment of crushing debt. Others may be museums seeking to quietly deaccession works from their collection without causing a big fuss.
Imposing rules on auction houses, some experts argue, would only push the business toward less regulated markets abroad or into the hands of private dealers — who are not required to announce sales or publish prices.
“We have to tread lightly,” said Evan Beard, who advises clients on art and finance at U.S. Trust, “unless we start to see that art is being misused in various ways. You have got to do it without throwing too much sand in the gears.”

Monday, February 13, 2017

Two Cents on – Arte Povera, Raf Simons for CK, Death of Galleries, Young Pope

Sorry I was a sad puppy last week everyone. It happens sometimes, you know life. Anyways, I’m back in the swing of things, sort of, and while I would love to give you some insightful reflections, I am still on my life-WHY?! comedown so instead you’ll get a quibble of opinions about a variety of things that are hamster spinning in my mind. Maybe, hopefully, at a later date I might delve into some of these ideas later but for now it will be just crazy talk to the interwebs.

Arte Povera

I saw the Marisa Merz show at the Met this weekend and it is a fine little show to see but before this I have been thinking about Arte Povera, the movement in the Italy (mostly Turin) in the late 60s. I have been thinking about it because over the last few months I have been trying to put my finger on this new type of art that I’m seeing being made by 20 somethings of late.

The type of art that is messy, a bit trashy but has this naïf poetics about it. The work that uses thread, fabric, left over wood, messy cement and plaster. In them there is an overwhelming focus on the line, the hand and drawing, even if overt. If you go to project spaces in Brooklyn or apartment shows you know what I am referring to.

One presumably thinks about artists like Rauschenberg and Hesse but that didn’t seem to hit the mark completely. Then I delved into Arte Povera and something clicked. That movement was a reaction to post war and post-industrial materials and the aesthetics and forms of this movement introspected on the personal as the political. There is a deep formalism with a dash of private codification and even a hint of the ritual.

I think this is something that I sense on the current young art of late. This sincere throw-away quality that is mimes outsiderness but in an obviously controlled way. More on this at length at a later date.

Raf Simons for Calvin Klein

Oh Raf, I can’t help but love you. I have been following him and his variety of lines and directorship of other lines for years and this past week he showcased his latest helming as the designer for the ubiquitous Calvin Klein. The line was a touch 70s, it was sexy but also Euro, it was sporty but something else too. The plastic transparencies are whip cream swoon oh-la-la. The line was impressive and a fashion beacon of light in the dead NYFW scene but what I was really interested with was his use of art in his lead-up campaign and overall vision.

His art homeboy #1 is Sterling Ruby and there is a permanent installation/backdrop in the CK headquarters, where the new line was also presented. In advance of the show they teased cryptic images of waif models in CK tighty whities looking at ‘art’ like Warhol’s Elvis and Skulls. They are actually quite boring and eye-rolling for those in the art world but that doesn’t matter does it? For someone like Raf Simons, using ‘art’ in ‘fashion’ gets some sort of pass. I don’t think it should be fully accepted but nonetheless it is and that’s an interesting conversation to have.

Death of Young Galleries

Shhhh, do you hear that?... That’s the death of a lot of young galleries dying quietly all around the city. What’s interesting about this die-off is that there isn’t the usual email release saying goodbye, thank you to all the artists jazz like there used to be. Instead they are just ghosting from the scene like so many love affairs. Galleries have always come and go but this trend of the fading away feels sad in a way. I won’t list those that have recently closed and most will probably not even register it but soon everyone will feel an absence while planning out your opening nights and talk of, what happened to … will spring up at the after parties.  I sort of respect this type of exit and for those planning on this or for those that already have I wish you luck on all your new adventures.

The Young Pope 

I watch a lot of TV now. It’s my thing recently, watching TV for hours on end. It fills the hole that is my social disease and although I have sworn to get out of it, it’s still winter and I’m still single (OMFG) and until it’s warm out my bed is my favorite place to be. This new series is silly and it’s bad in a lot of ways but I love the costumes (Georgio Armani applause!) and the set design (also Jude Law’s wigs are fab). That’s all I have to say about that.

Monday, February 6, 2017

In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried by Amy Hempel

I’m too sad to blog so instead I will share a sad story. It’s a different sort of sad then the way I feel but it is sadness all the same.

In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried

by Amy Hempel

"Tell me things I won't mind forgetting," she said. "Make it useless stuff or skip it."
I began. I told her insects fly through rain, missing every drop, never getting wet. I told her no one in America owned a tape recorder before Bing Crosby did. I told her the shape of the moon is like a banana—you see it looking full, you're seeing it end-on.

The camera made me self-conscious and I stopped. It was trained on us from a ceiling mount—the kind of camera banks use to photograph robbers. It played us to the nurses down the hall in Intensive Care.

"Go on, girl," she said. "You get used to it."

I had my audience. I went on. Did she know that Tammy Wynette had changed her tune? Really. That now she sings "Stand by Your Friends"? That Paul Anka did it too, I said. Does "You're Having Our Baby." That he got sick of all that feminist bitching.

"What else?" she said. "Have you got something else?"

Oh, yes.

For her I would always have something else.

"Did you know that when they taught the first chimp to talk, it lied? That when they asked her who did it on the desk, she signed back the name of the janitor. And that when they pressed her, she said she was sorry, that it was really the project director. But she was a mother, so I guess she had her reasons."

"Oh, that's good," she said. "A parable."

"There's more about the chimp," I said. "But it will break your heart."

"No, thanks," she says, and scratches at her mask. 

We look like good-guy outlaws. Good or bad, I am not used to the mask yet. I keep touching the warm spot where my breath, thank God, comes out. She is used to hers. She only ties the strings on top. The other ones—a pro by now—she lets hang loose.

We call this place the Marcus Welby Hospital. It's the white one with the palm trees under the opening credits of all those shows. A Hollywood hospital, though in fact it is several miles west. Off camera, there is a beach across the street.

She introduces me to a nurse as the Best Friend. The impersonal article is more intimate. It tells me that they are intimate, the nurse and my friend.

"I was telling her we used to drink Canada Dry ginger ale and pretend we were in Canada."

"That's how dumb we were," I say.

"You could be sisters," the nurse says.

So how come, I'll bet they are wondering, it took me so long to get to such a glamorous place? But do they ask?

They do not ask.

Two months, and how long is the drive?

The best I can explain it is this—I have a friend who worked one summer in a mortuary. He used to tell me stories. The one that really got to me was not the grisliest, but it's the one that did. A man wrecked his car on 101 going south. He did not lose consciousness. But his arm was taken down to the wet bone—and when he looked at it—it scared him to death.

I mean, he died.

So I hadn't dared to look any closer. But now I'm doing it—and hoping that I will live through it.

She shakes out a summer-weight blanket, showing a leg you did not want to see. Except for that, you look at her and understand the law that requires two people to be with the body at all times.

"I thought of something," she says. "I thought of it last night. I think there is a real and present need here. You know," she says, "like for someone to do it for you when you can't do it yourself. You call them up whenever you want—like when push comes to shove."

She grabs the bedside phone and loops the cord around her neck.
"Hey," she says, "the end o' the line."

She keeps on, giddy with something. But I don't know with what.

"I can't remember," she says. "What does Kübler-Ross say comes after Denial?"

It seems to me Anger must be next. Then Bargaining, Depression, and so on and so forth. But I keep my guesses to myself.

"The only thing is," she says, "is where's Resurrection? God knows, I want to do it by the book. But she left out Resurrection."

She laughs, and I cling to the sound the way someone dangling above a ravine holds fast to the thrown rope.

"Tell me," she says, "about that chimp with the talking hands. What do they do when the thing ends and the chimp says, ‘I don't want to go back to the zoo'?"

When I don't say anything, she says, "Okay—then tell me another animal story. I like animal stories. But not a sick one—I don't want to know about all the seeing- eye dogs going blind."

No, I would not tell her a sick one.

"How about the hearing-ear dogs?" I say. "They're not going deaf, but they are getting very judgmental. For instance, there's this golden retriever in New Jersey, he wakes up the deaf mother and drags her into the daughter's room because the kid has got a flashlight and is reading under the covers."

"Oh, you're killing me," she says. "Yes, you're definitely killing me."

"They say the smart dog obeys, but the smarter dog knows when to disobey."

"Yes," she says, "the smarter anything knows when to disobey. Now, for example."

She is flirting with the Good Doctor, who has just appeared. Unlike the Bad Doctor, who checks the IV drip before saying good morning, the Good Doctor says things like "God didn't give epileptics a fair shake." The Good Doctor awards himself points for the cripples he could have hit in the parking lot. Because the Good Doctor is a little in love with her, he says maybe a year. He pulls a chair up to her bed and suggests I might like to spend an hour on the beach.

"Bring me something back," she says. "Anything from the beach. Or the gift shop. Taste is no object."

He draws the curtain around her bed.

"Wait!" she cries.

I look in at her.

"Anything," she says, "except a magazine subscription."

The doctor turns away.

I watch her mouth laugh.

What seems dangerous often is not—black snakesfor example, or clear-air turbulence. While things that just lie there, like this beach, are loaded with jeopardy. A yellow dust rising from the ground, the heat that ripens melons overnight—this is earthquake weather. You can sit here braiding the fringe on your towel and the sand will all of a sudden suck down like an hourglass. The air roars. In the cheap apartments on-shore, bathtubs fill themselves and gardens roll up and over like green waves. If nothing happens, the dust will drift and the heat deepen till fear turns to desire. Nerves like that are only bought off by catastrophe.

"It never happens when you're thinking about it," she once observed. "Earthquake, earthquake, earthquake," she said.

"Earthquake, earthquake, earthquake," I said.

Like the aviaphobe who keeps the plane aloft with prayer, we kept it up until an aftershock cracked the ceiling.

That was after the big one in seventy-two. We were in college; our dormitory was five miles from the epicenter. When the ride was over and my jabbering pulse began to slow, she served five parts champagne to one part orange juice, and joked about living in Ocean View, Kansas. I offered to drive her to Hawaii on the new world psychics predicted would surface the next time, or the next.

I could not say that now—next.

Whose next? she could ask.

Was I the only one who noticed that the experts had stopped saying if and now spoke of when? Of course not; the fearful ran to thousands. We watched the traffic of Japanese beetles for deviation. Deviation might mean more natural violence.

I wanted her to be afraid with me. But she said, "I don't know. I'm just not."
She was afraid of nothing, not even of flying.

I have this dream before a flight where we buckle in and the plane moves down the runway. It takes off at thirty-five miles an hour, and then we're airborne, skimming the tree tops. Still, we arrive in New York on time.

It is so pleasant.

One night I flew to Moscow this way.

She flew with me once. That time she flew with me she ate macadamia nuts while the wings bounced. She knows the wing tips can bend thirty feet up and thirty feet down without coming off. She believes it. She trusts the laws of aerodynamics. My mind stampedes. I can almost accept that a battleship floats when everybody knows steel sinks.
I see fear in her now, and am not going to try to talk her out of it. She is right to be afraid.
After a quake, the six o'clock news airs a film clip of first-graders yelling at the broken playground per their teacher's instructions.

"Bad earth!" they shout, because anger is stronger than fear.

But the beach is standing still today. Everyone on it is tranquilized, numb, or asleep. Teenaged girls rub coconut oil on each other's hard-to-reach places. They smell like macaroons. They pry open compacts like clam-shells; mirrors catch the sun and throw a spray of white rays across glazed shoulders. The girls arrange their wet hair with silk flowers the way they learned in Seventeen. They pose.

A formation of low-riders pulls over to watch with a six-pack. They get vocal when the girls check their tan lines. When the beer is gone, so are they—flexing their cars on up the boulevard.

Above this aggressive health are the twin wrought-iron terraces, painted flamingo pink, of the Palm Royale. Someone dies there every time the sheets are changed. There's an ambulance in the driveway, so the remaining residents line the balconies, rocking and not talking, one-upped.

The ocean they stare at is dangerous, and not just the undertow. You can almost see the slapping tails of sand sharks keeping cruising bodies alive.

If she looked, she could see this, some of it, from her window. She would be the first to say how little it takes to make a thing all wrong. 

There was a second bed in the room when I got back to it!

For two beats I didn't get it. Then it hit me like an open coffin.

She wants every minute, I thought. She wants my life.

"You missed Gussie," she said.

Gussie is her parents' three-hundred-pound narcoleptic maid. Her attacks often come at the ironing board. The pillowcases in that family are all bordered with scorch.
"It's a hard trip for her," I said. "How is she?"

"Well, she didn't fall asleep, if that's what you mean. Gussie's great—you know what she said? She said, ‘Darlin', stop this worriation. Just keep prayin', down on your knees'—me, who can't even get out of bed."

She shrugged. "What am I missing?"

"It's earthquake weather," I told her.

"The best thing to do about earthquakes," she said, "is not to live in California."

"That's useful," I said. "You sound like Reverend Ike—‘The best thing to do for the poor is not to be one of them.' "

We're crazy about Reverend Ike.

I noticed her face was bloated.

"You know," she said, "I feel like hell. I'm about to stop having fun."

"The ancients have a saying," I said. "'There are times when the wolves are silent; there are times when the moon howls.'"

"What's that, Navaho?"

"Palm Royale lobby graffiti," I said. "I bought a paper there. I'll read you something."
"Even though I care about nothing?"

I turned to the page with the trivia column. I said, "Did you know the more shrimp flamingos birds eat, the pinker their feathers get?" I said, "did you know that Eskimos need refrigerators? Do you know why Eskimos need refrigerators? Did yo now that Eskimos need refrigerators because how else would they keep their food from freezing?"
I turned to page three, to a UPI filler datelined Mexico City. I read her MAN ROBS BANK WITH CHICKEN, about a man who bought a barbecued chicken at a stand down the block from a bank. Passing the bank, he got the idea. He walked in and approached a teller. He pointed the brown paper bag at her and she handed over the day's receipts. It was the smell of barbecue sauce that eventually led to his capture.

The story had made her hungry, she said—so I took the elevator down six floors to the cafeteria, and brought back all the ice cream she wanted. We lay side by side, adjustable beds cranked up for optimal TV-viewing, littering the sheets with Good Humor wrappers, picking toasted almonds out of the gauze. We were Lucy and Ethel, Mary and Rhoda in extremis. The blinds were closed to keep light off the screen.

We watched a movie starring men we used to think we wanted to sleep with. Hers was a tough cop out to stop mine, a vicious rapist who went after cocktail waitresses.
"This is a good movie," she said when snipers felled them both.

I missed her already.

A Filipino nurse tiptoed in and gave her an injection. The nurse removed the pile of popsicle sticks from the nightstand—enough to splint a small animal.

The injection made us both sleepy. We slept.

I dreamed she was a decorator, come to furnish my house. She worked in secret, singing to herself. When she finished, she guided me proudly to the door. "How do you like it?" she asked, easing me inside.

Every beam and sill and shelf and knob was draped in gay bunting, with streamers of pastel crepe looped around bright mirrors.

"I have to go home," I said when she woke up.

She thought I meant home to her house in the Canyon, and I had to say No, home home. I twisted my hands in the time-honored fashion of people in pain. I was supposed to offer something. The Best Friend. I could not even offer to come back.

I felt weak and small and failed.

Also exhilarated.

I had a convertible in the parking lot. Once out of that room, I would drive it too fast down the Coast highway through the crab-smelling air. A stop in Malibu for sangria. The music in the place would be sexy and loud. They'd serve papaya and shrimp and watermelon ice. After dinner I would shimmer with lust, buzz with heat, life, and stay up all night.

Without a word, she yanked off her mask and threw it on the floor. She kicked at the blankets and moved to the door. She must have hated having to pause for breath and balance before slamming out of Isolation, and out of the second room, the one where you scrub and tie on the white masks.

A voice shouted her name in alarm, and people ran down the corridor. The Good Doctor was paged over the intercom. I opened the door and the nurses at the station stared hard, as if this flight had been my idea.

"Where is she?" I asked, and they nodded to the supply closet.

I looked in. Two nurses were kneeling beside her on the floor, talking to her in low voices. One held a mask over her nose and mouth, the other rubbed her back in slow circles. The nurses glanced up to see if I was the doctor—and when I wasn't, they went back to what they were doing.

"There, there, honey," they cooed. 

On the the morning she was moved to the cemetery, the one where Al Jolson is buried, I enrolled in a "Fear of Flying" class. "What is your worst fear?" the instructor asked, and I answered, "That I will finish this course and still be afraid."

I sleep with a glass of water on the nightstand so I can see by its level if the coastal earth is trembling or if the shaking is still me.

What do I remember?

I remember only the useless things I hear—that Bob Dylan's mother invented Wite-Out, that twenty-three people must be in a room before there is a fifty-fifty chance two will have the same birthday. Who cares whether or not it's true? In my head there are bath towels swaddling this stuff. Nothing else seeps through.

I review those things that will figure in the retelling: a kiss through surgical gauze, the pale hand correcting the position of the wig. I noted these gestures as they happened, not in any retrospect—though I don't know why looking back should show us more than looking at.

It is just possible I will say I stayed the night.

And who is there that can say that I did not?

I think of the chimp, the one with the talking hands.

In the course of the experiment, that chimp had a baby. Imagine how her trainers must have thrilled when the mother, without prompting, began to sign to her newborn.

Baby, drink milk.

Baby, play ball.

And when the baby died, the mother stood over the body, her wrinkled hands moving with animal grace, forming again and again the words: Baby, come hug, Baby, come hug, fluent now in the language of grief.

for Jessica Wolfson

Monday, January 30, 2017

Fuck Trump

Some people think that using curse words reflects an inferior mental capacity and grace. In some ways I agree with this but in the last few days, weeks, since Trump has become president I can’t help but think, say aloud and feel one phrase, ‘Fuck Trump,’ over and over again when I think about him and all the insane, actually insane, things that he is implementing.

Yes, now is the time for action, for doing things, for protests and being heard in whatever way and platforms that you can but it is also the time to be really mad. I am going to accept that I am mad and perhaps petty but I need to be in order to get out this rage, frustration and deep sadness in order to consolidate and prepare myself for the long fight ahead.

Dear Donald J. Trump:

Fuck you and your Stepford, robot family for being vaguely normalizing shields to you.

Fuck Steve Bannon who is the creepiest, ickiest human flesh sack that is the President-Whisper-In-Chief.

Fuck your basically all white male cabinet picks. Great job assholes.

Fuck your hair. Your under eye makeup. Your dime store self tanner and that god damn reptilian smirk.

Fuck you for talking about African American carnage and saying, “The blacks love me.” They don’t.

Fuck you for being a misogynist pig. (Sorry pigs I know you have a really high IQ but you know what I mean.)


Fuck you and your stupid hotels. They are tacky and filled with tacky people.

Fuck you for Atlantic City. Yeah, I’m from Jersey and we know that this town is a wasteland.

Fuck your twitter account. Please shut the fuck up.

Fuck your media war. You are a liar, liar pants on fire.

Fuck you and your KKK, alt right, Neo Nazi riff-raff. I wish I could punch you all in the face.

Fuck your Muslim ban. I hope that this will be the start of your impeachment.

Fuck your rhetoric. Every New Yorker doesn’t buy it and knows you are just full of shit.

Fuck Betty Devos – Idiot, Ben Carson – Tool, Reince Priebus – Ass Hat, Sean Spicer – Lap Dog, Steve Bannon (again) – Jabba da Hut, Paul Ryan – Follower, Mike Pence – Self Hating Gay, Rudy Guiliani – Bully, Newt Gingrich – Actual Grinch who never grew a heart.

Fuck you and the border wall. Are you that insane?!

Fuck your supporters – There are more of us then you and you know it. #whereareyounow?

Fuck your money – You are a loser in business and you will always be cheesy and on team D.

Fuck your ego – I will enjoy seeing a narcissist self immolate.

Fuck your brain – Of course you are tearing down the Constitution because I bet you have NEVER even read it. (You ass hat)

Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you!

I don’t want you to die or get hurt or anything like that. I’m not that sort of person but I want you to fail. Fail so hard and so fast because you are the bottom of humanity. You only think about yourself, even your family is a tool to you. You are a coward. You are mean. You are un-American and you will never, ever be my President.

Monday, January 23, 2017

What We Want is Everything – Women’s March, Arthur Jafa at Gavin Brown Enterprises

I said I wasn’t going to watch the inauguration but I did and it made me feel queasy all day and night. I literally felt like I was going to barf. I went to bed. I woke up. I felt like there was some sort of psychic fog that made my eyes unable to focus. I laid in bed and listened to the radio.

I said I wasn’t going to go to the Women’s March but I did and it made me feel lighter and hopeful. Getting on the train at Dekalb in Brooklyn there was already a pulsating energy. It was Saturday at noon. The train was full and the closer we got to Union Square it became rush hour packed. But that was okay. Everyone was there for the same reason and there was a sense of camaraderie. The push of people spilled out and getting on the 4,5,6 to Grand Central was even more jostling. But it was okay because we were all going to the same place.

Outside of the station near 42nd Street you knew that you were there. There being the March. There being where everyone else was. The streets were moving at a snails pace. People were chatting, taking pictures and occasionally there would be a distant or nearby roar of the crowd. It felt like we were each cells of blood in the artery veins of this place called New York City.

The children. The signs. These were the delights that made me smile and laugh even in the face of the reality we were collectively facing. All sorts of people protest and although there are misbalances of demographics, I was happy to see a semi-balanced mix of ages, colors, religions, and genders. This was a Women’s March though and even though pink has been commodified to exhaustion it was something to see, this wave of shades of pink in the pulsing slow moving wave of human bodies.

Reading those signs and seeing all those people I had a Zen moment of understanding what we want and is everything. Women’s rights, Black Lives Matter, Education, Gender Equality, Environment, Health Care, Free Speech, Prosperity, Freedom, on-and-on. We want it all and that seems absolutely reasonable.

Then I had to leave because after two hours and nearly standing still I felt a bit dizzy from the crowd. So I headed up to Harlem to see a show that I felt would add to the spirit of the day.

Arthur Jafa is not your typical artist. He is best know for his film work (as in movie films vs. arty films) but his video, Love Is The Message, The Message Is Death, at Gavin Brown’s outpost in Harlem is one of the best video pieces I have seen in some time. It is only 7 minutes but within it there is a packed mash up of African American history, virtuosity, trauma, hopes and existence. The edits are sharp but interwoven with music; both orchestral, pop and rap creating visual and audio cadences that create drops and surges of emotions in your guts similar to a roller coaster ride.

The subject of the bodythe black body is central. You see it conveyed, damaged, incited, and possessing the life and history of a people that is in constant attack and also the originators of exultation. The mixture of historic, internet disseminated, personal, and archival footage of weddings, police beatings, basketball dunks, dancing are treated like notes in a song, each one having just as much necessity and revealing a greater whole.

This video is heartbreaking and one you must see if you care about art and politics. It is something that makes you understand things. Things you know to different degrees. It’s made for the subject, black Americans, but also for the viewer, everyone else. This is honest because that separation of knowing, whether you are or are not, doesn’t take away the impact this 7-minute video has on your understanding of what is being shown or the feelings produced by them.

One of the tracks on the songs sings the chorus, “This is everything,” and as I was watching this alone in the dark I thought about the March as well. This idea of ‘Everything’ feels daunting and overwhelming but it is also cathartic in its completeness.

Jafa’s video stacks your emotional and visual sense to overload but you need to see this. You must.

What people are demanding and wishing for at the protests feels overwhelming and impossible but they all matter and they all must be acknowledged.

Open it all up. Expose it all. Only through this will we ever see what the hell is going on.