Monday, May 14, 2018

Look At This Image. Read This Story

Protesters along Israel’s border with Gaza, left. Also on Monday, President Trump’s daughter Ivanka, pictured with the Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, attended the opening of the United States Embassy in Jerusalem. CreditMahmud Hams, Menahem Kahana/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images


I was going to write some thoughts on performance/performativity based off the experience of watching a play this past weekend but earlier today I was gripped by the above image and I can’t seem to think about much else.

The pictures are from this morning. One is showing the Palestinian protests and the air bombing that Israel is showering over them. The other is Ivanka Trump and Steven Mnuchin, celebrating the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem.

They are connected of course, the protests are in some part due to this exacerbating relocation, but the timing of this is also in conjunction with larger protests, Nekba, when Palestinians were displaced 70 years ago. Prior to today, protests have already been going on for a week or so for this anniversary and 19 were already killed. As of the writing of this post, 50 plus Palestinians have been reported to be killed.

Timing is everything. The juxtaposition of these images is so stark and so dissolving that it almost feels blank. Like we have become so attuned to the absurdity of the spectacle and the transparent accessibilities to violence and oppression that the sub-narratives feel too revealed. Everything is laid too bare and thus we find no relish in the exposure of false or contradictory narratives.

But this is real. As much as we think the mediation of the image, of events, of histories being malleable, each archive is a part of the truth even if the whole can never been understood, seen or remembered.

Looking at this image made my stomach hurt, a gut punch of inevitably. A surrender to the absurdity and the travesty of all of it.

The history of the Middle East and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict runs deep, hard, and still is bleeding and I’m not siding but I implore you to look at this image. Understand the truths and the realities we have laid out before us and then try to understand or at least try to find compassion.

This image made me think about this short story I read the other month with my Reading Group.

It’s a hard/sad story that might mess you up a little after reading so reader be warned.


Ursula Le Guin
The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas

With a clamor of bells that set the swallows soaring, the Festival of Summer came to the city Omelas, bright-towered by the sea. The rigging of the boats in harbor sparkled with flags. In the streets between houses with red roofs and painted walls, between old moss-grown gardens and under avenues of trees, past great parks and public buildings, processions moved. Some were decorous: old people in long stiff robes of mauve and grey, grave master workmen, quiet, merry women carrying their babies and chatting as they walked. In other streets the music beat faster, a shimmering of gong and tambourine, and the people went dancing, the procession was a dance. Children dodged in and out, their high calls rising like the swallows' crossing flights over the music and the singing. All the processions wound towards the north side of the city, where on the great water-meadow called the Green Fields boys and girls, naked in the bright air, with mud-stained feet and ankles and long, lithe arms, exercised their restive horses before the race. The horses wore no gear at all but a halter without bit. Their manes were braided with streamers of silver, gold, and green. They flared their nostrils and pranced and boasted to one another; they were vastly excited, the horse being the only animal who has adopted our ceremonies as his own. Far off to the north and west the mountains stood up half encircling Omelas on her bay. The air of morning was so clear that the snow still crowning the Eighteen Peaks burned with white-gold fire across the miles of sunlit air, under the dark blue of the sky. There was just enough wind to make the banners that marked the racecourse snap and flutter now and then. In the silence of the broad green meadows one could hear the music winding through the city streets, farther and nearer and ever approaching, a cheerful faint sweetness of the air that from time to time trembled and gathered together and broke out into the great joyous clanging of the bells.

Joyous! How is one to tell about joy? How describe the citizens of Omelas?

They were not simple folk, you see, though they were happy. But we do not say the words of cheer much any more. All smiles have become archaic. Given a description such as this one tends to make certain assumptions. Given a description such as this one tends to look next for the King, mounted on a splendid stallion and surrounded by his noble knights, or perhaps in a golden litter borne by great-muscled slaves. But there was no king. They did not use swords, or keep slaves. They were not barbarians. I do not know the rules and laws of their society, but I suspect that they were singularly few. As they did without monarchy and slavery, so they also got on without the stock exchange, the advertisement, the secret police, and the bomb. Yet I repeat that these were not simple folk, not dulcet shepherds, noble savages, bland utopians. They were not less complex than us. The trouble is that we have a bad habit, encouraged by pedants and sophisticates, of considering happiness as something rather stupid. Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting. This is the treason of the artist: a refusal to admit the banality of evil and the terrible boredom of pain. If you can't lick 'em, join 'em. If it hurts, repeat it. But to praise despair is to condemn delight, to embrace violence is to lose hold of everything else. We have almost lost hold; we can no longer describe a happy man, nor make any celebration of joy. How can I tell you about the people of Omelas? They were not naive and happy children- though their children were, in fact, happy. They were mature, intelligent, passionate adults whose lives were not wretched. O miracle! but I wish I could describe it better. I wish I could convince you. Omelas sounds in my words like a city in a fairy tale, long ago and far away, once upon a time. Perhaps it would be best if you imagined it as your own fancy bids, assuming it will rise to the occasion, for certainly I cannot suit you all. For instance, how about technology? I think that there would be no cars or helicopters in and above the streets; this follows from the fact that the people of Omelas are happy people. Happiness is based on a just discrimination of what is necessary, what is neither necessary nor destructive, and what is destructive. In the middle category, however- that of the unnecessary but undestructive, that of comfort, luxury, exuberance, etc.--they could perfectly well have central heating, subway trains, washing machines, and all kinds of marvelous devices not yet invented here, floating light-sources, fuelless power, a cure for the common cold. Or they could have none of that; it doesn't matter. As you like it. I incline to think that people from towns up and down the coast have been coming in to Omelas during the last days before the Festival on very fast little trains and double-decked trams, and that the train station of Omelas is actually the handsomest building in town, though plainer than the magnificent Farmers' Market. But even granted trains, I fear that Omelas so far strikes some of you as goody-goody. Smiles, bells, parades, horses, bleh. If so, please add an orgy. If an orgy would help, don't hesitate. Let us not, however, have temples from which issue beautiful nude priests and priestesses already half in ecstasy and ready to copulate with any man or woman, lover or stranger, who desires union with the deep godhead of the blood, although that was my first idea. But really it would be better not to have any temples in Omelas- at least, not manned temples. Religion yes, clergy no. Surely the beautiful nudes can just wander about, offering themselves like divine soufflés to the hunger of the needy and the rapture of the flesh. Let them join the processions. Let tambourines be struck above the copulations, and the glory of desire be proclaimed upon the gongs, and (a not unimportant point) let the offspring of these delightful rituals be beloved and looked after by all. One thing I know there is none of in Omelas is guilt. But what else should there be? I thought at first there were not drugs, but that is puritanical. For those who like it, the faint insistent sweetness of drooz may perfume the ways of the city, drooz which first brings a great lightness and brilliance to the mind and limbs, and then after some hours a dreamy languor, and wonderful visions at last of the very arcana and inmost secrets of the Universe, as well as exciting the pleasure of sex beyond belief; and it is not habit-forming. For more modest tastes I think there ought to be beer. What else, what else belongs in the joyous city? The sense of victory, surely, the celebration of courage. But as we did without clergy, let us do without soldiers. The joy built upon successful slaughter is not the right kind of joy; it will not do; it is fearful and it is trivial. A boundless and generous contentment, a magnanimous triumph felt not against some outer enemy but in communion with the finest and fairest in the souls of all men everywhere and the splendor of the world's summer: this is what swells the hearts of the people of Omelas, and the victory they celebrate is that of life. I really don't think many of them need to take drooz.

Most of the procession have reached the Green Fields by now. A marvelous smell of cooking goes forth from the red and blue tents of the provisioners. The faces of small children are amiably sticky; in the benign grey beard of a man a couple of crumbs of rich pastry are entangled. The youths and girls have mounted their horses and are beginning to group around the starting line of the course. An old women, small, fat, and laughing, is passing out flowers from a basket, and tall young men where her flowers in their shining hair. A child of nine or ten sits at the edge of the crowd, alone, playing on a wooden flute. People pause to listen, and they smile, but they do not speak to him, for he never ceases playing and never sees them, his dark eyes wholly rapt in the sweet, thin magic of the tune.

He finishes, and slowly lowers his hands holding the wooden flute.

As if that little private silence were the signal, all at once a trumpet sounds from the pavilion near the starting line: imperious, melancholy, piercing. The horses rear on their slender legs, and some of them neigh in answer. Sober-faced, the young riders stroke the horses' necks and soothe them, whispering, "Quiet, quiet, there my beauty, my hope...." They begin to form in rank along the starting line. The crowds along the racecourse are like a field of grass and flowers in the wind. The Festival of Summer has begun. Do you believe?

Do you accept the festival, the city, the joy? No? Then let me describe one more thing.

In a basement under one of the beautiful public buildings of Omelas, or perhaps in the cellar of one of its spacious private homes, there is a room. It has one locked door, and no window. A little light seeps in dustily between cracks in the boards, secondhand from a cobwebbed window somewhere across the cellar. In one corner of the little room a couple of mops, with stiff, clotted, foul-smelling heads stand near a rusty bucket. The floor is dirt, a little damp to the touch, as cellar dirt usually is. The room is about three paces long and two wide: a mere broom closet or disused tool room. In the room a child is sitting. It could be a boy or a girl. It looks about six, but actually is nearly ten. It is feeble-minded. Perhaps it was born defective, or perhaps it has become imbecile through fear, malnutrition, and neglect. It picks its nose and occasionally fumbles vaguely with its toes or genitals, as it sits hunched in the corner farthest from the bucket and the two mops. It is afraid of the mops. It finds them horrible. It shuts its eyes, but it knows the mops are still standing there; and the door is locked; and nobody will come. The door is always locked; and nobody ever comes, except that sometimes- the child has no understanding of time or interval- sometimes the door rattles terribly and opens, and a person, or several people, are there. One of them may come in and kick the child to make it stand up. The others never come close, but peer in at it with frightened, disgusted eyes. The food bowl and the water jug are hastily filled, the door is locked, the eyes disappear. The people at the door never say anything, but the child, who has not always lived in the tool room, and can remember sunlight and its mother's voice, sometimes speaks. "I will be good," it says. "Please let me out. I will be good!" They never answer. The child used to scream for help at night, and cry a good deal, but now it only makes a kind of whining, "eh-haa, eh-haa," and it speaks less and less often. It is so thin there are no calves to its legs; its belly protrudes; it lives on a half-bowl of corn meal and grease a day. It is naked. Its buttocks and thighs are a mass of festered sores, as it sits in its own excrement continually.

They all know it is there, all the people of Omelas. Some of them have come to see it, others are content merely to know it is there. They all know that it has to be there. Some of them understand why, and some do not, but they all understand that their happiness, the beauty of their city, the tenderness of their friendships, the health of their children, the wisdom of their scholars, the skill of their makers, even the abundance of their harvest and the kindly weathers of their skies, depend wholly on this child's abominable misery.

This is usually explained to children when they are between eight and twelve, whenever they seem capable of understanding; and most of those who come to see the child are young people, though often enough an adult comes, or comes back, to see the child. No matter how well the matter has been explained to them, these young spectators are always shocked and sickened at the sight. They feel disgust, which they had thought themselves superior to. They feel anger, outrage, impotence, despite all the explanations. They would like to do something for the child. But there is nothing they can do. If the child were brought up into the sunlight out of that vile place, if it were cleaned and fed and comforted, that would be a good thing indeed; but if it were done, in that day and hour all the prosperity and beauty and delight of Omelas would wither and be destroyed. Those are the terms. To exchange all the goodness and grace of every life in Omelas for that single, small improvement: to throw away the happiness of thousands for the chance of the happiness of one: that would be to let guilt within the walls indeed.

The terms are strict and absolute; there may not even be a kind word spoken to the child.

Often the young people go home in tears, or in a tearless rage, when they have seen the child and faced this terrible paradox. They may brood over it for weeks or years. But as time goes on they begin to realize that even if the child could be released, it would not get much good of its freedom: a little vague pleasure of warmth and food, no doubt, but little more. It is too degraded and imbecile to know any real joy. It has been afraid too long ever to be free of fear. Its habits are too uncouth for it to respond to humane treatment. Indeed, after so long it would probably be wretched without walls about it to protect it, and darkness for its eyes, and its own excrement to sit in. Their tears at the bitter injustice dry when they begin to perceive the terrible justice of reality, and to accept it. Yet it is their tears and anger, the trying of their generosity and the acceptance of their helplessness, which are perhaps the true source of the splendor of their lives. Theirs is no vapid, irresponsible happiness. They know that they, like the child, are not free. They know compassion. It is the existence of the child, and their knowledge of its existence, that makes possible the nobility of their architecture, the poignancy of their music, the profundity of their science. It is because of the child that they are so gentle with children. They know that if the wretched one were not there sniveling in the dark, the other one, the flute-player, could make no joyful music as the young riders line up in their beauty for the race in the sunlight of the first morning of summer.

Now do you believe in them? Are they not more credible? But there is one more thing to tell, and this is quite incredible.

At times one of the adolescent girls or boys who go to see the child does not go home to weep or rage, does not, in fact, go home at all. Sometimes also a man or woman much older falls silent for a day or two, and then leaves home. These people go out into the street, and walk down the street alone. They keep walking, and walk straight out of the city of Omelas, through the beautiful gates. They keep walking across the farmlands of Omelas. Each one goes alone, youth or girl, man or woman. Night falls; the traveler must pass down village streets, between the houses with yellow-lit windows, and on out into the darkness of the fields. Each alone, they go west or north, towards the mountains. They go on. They leave Omelas, they walk ahead into the darkness, and they do not come back. The place they go towards is a place even less imaginable to most of us than the city of happiness. I cannot describe it at all. It is possible that it does not exist. But they seem to know where they are going, the ones who walk away from Omelas.

Monday, May 7, 2018

One Sentence Thoughts


David Wojnarowicz: History Keeps Me Awake at Night opens July 13 at the Whitney

I’m freaky busy. Blah blah, same same. You get one of these bloop posts cause my eyes are dripping out of my head.


Frieze NY – Too big, too boring, too familiar.

Childish Gambino’s New Song – Damnnnnnnnnn, shots fired, feel like there should be an entire collage course on unpacking the video.

Weddings – Feel like everyone is going to them but me, is it me or is it the demographics of my peer group?

Gardens – They seem cool because they have no rules and a lot of dirt.

Art Fairs – Really tried to not be such a grump about them but, yup, I still hate ‘em.

Jeffrey Deitch – What is he up to showing up at all the young kid things?

Gavin Brown Enterprises – Love Arthur Jafa and other artists they show but for the love of god, chill outtttt!

Artists in their mid 30s – Seems like the best look for this moment in time, to be honest.

People in NYC for Art Fairs from Europe – We get it; you went to the Lower East Side and Chinatown.

Working a Job – Seems weird that people are bad at it.

Cooking for 14 people – I must have some sort of issue with wanting to be loved.

Cat Ownership – They are expensive when they have health issues but they deserve it because they are the best creature friends.

Dog Ownership – Their loyalty is a bit unsettling.

Art Students – After you graduate get ready to eat a bunch of shit sandwiches, aka reality that there are thousands of you, but it’s cool, head up.

Still House – Someone mentioned this and then I saw a pottery store with the same name and I smirked cause I’m an asshole.

Butts – Still don’t have one, still wish I did, still don’t care enough to go to the gym.

The Female Orgasm – Been hearing from my lady friends they don’t have these ever or often, wow, my fellow women, hit me up and I will show you the better path.

Babies – They are cute and I want one but they are also the biggest carbon footprint you will ever produce.

Motivational Speeches – If you see me starting one of these, you have the approval to punch me in thigh (the only place a punch won’t kill me).

Hidden Talents – It’s really special when you see a hidden talent by someone you care about.

Overcharging Friends – I will never forget and yes, we are sort of enemies now.

Not Paying The Bill - $400, really everyone?

Caring About Money – I don’t really so the above two are sort of void.

Climbing the Art Ladder – Stop using other people’s connections to get you ahead if you are not cool/down with that person anymore.

Spring Time in NYC – Everyone should make out and have sex.

Ex’s – They should be forced to leave the city and/or turn to a puff of smoke within a 1-mile radius of your current location.

Ring Leader – Someone needs to stop me before I ruin everything around me.

Cleopatra’s Last Show – The best bunch of badass girls.

Real Fine Arts Closing – Sad to infinity and back, thanks guys!

David Wojnarowicz’s Whitney Show – Can’t wait for this show, will be heartbreaking and beautiful!

Monday, April 30, 2018

Michelle Wolf’s Correspondent’s Dinner Transcript



Michelle Wolf blazed the shit out of nearly everyone at the Correspondence Dinner and it was glorious, hysterical and intense. People are freaking out and being way too uptight about it all but yeah, it was bound to happen.

Humor is necessary. Humor is what reveals the truths of things when other methods fail. Watch it if you haven’t already and read the below if you want to absorb it all in at a slower pace.

Zing, ding, ding, Michelle for the win.


All right, this is long, this has been long… yeah. Good evening, good evening, here we are at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Like a porn star says when she’s about to have sex with the Trump, let’s get this over with.

Yep, this is who you’re getting tonight, I’m gonna skip it a lot of the normal pleasantries. We’re at a Hilton: it’s not nice. This is on C-Span, no one watches that. Trump is president, it’s not ideal. The White House Correspondents’ Association, thank you for having me. The monkfish was fine.

Hey, just a reminder to everyone: I’m here to make jokes. I have no agenda. I’m not trying to get anything accomplished, so everyone that’s here from Congress, you should feel right at home.

Now before we get too far, a little bit about me. A lot of you might not know who I am. I’m 32 years old, which is a weird age — 10 years too young to host this event, and 20 years too old for Roy Moore. I know, he almost got elected, yeah. It was fun, it was fun. Honestly I never really thought I’d be a comedian, but I did take an aptitude test in seventh grade —and this is a hundred percent true—I took an aptitude test in seventh grade and it said my best profession was a clown or a mine. Well, at first it said clown, and then it heard my voice and then was like, “Or maybe mine. Think about mime”. And I know as much as some of you might want me to, it’s 2018 and I’m a woman, so you cannot shut me up, unless you have Michael Cohen wire me $130,000. Michael, you can find me on Venmo under my porn star name, Reince Priebus. Reince just gave a thumbs up. Okay.

Now, people are saying America is more divided than ever, but I think no matter what you support politically, we can all agree that this is a great time for craft stores, because of all the protests, poster board has been flying off the shelves faster than Robert Mueller can say “You’ve been subpoenaed.”

Thanks to Trump, pink yarn sales are through the roof. After Trump got elected women started knitting those pussy hats. When I first saw them I was like “That’s a pussy?” I guess mine just has more yarn on it.

Yeah, shoulda done more research before you got me to do this.

Now, there is a lot to cover tonight, there’s a lot to go over. I can’t get to everything. I know there’s a lot of people that want me to talk about Russia and Putin and collusion but I’m not gonna do that because there’s also a lot of liberal media here and I’ve never really wanted to know what any of you look like when you orgasm. Except for maybe you, Jake Tapper. I bet it’s something like this, “Okay, that’s all the time we have” [Applause]

It is kind of crazy the Trump campaign was in contact with Russia when the Hillary campaign wasn’t even in contact with Michigan.

Of course, Trump isn’t here, if you haven’t noticed. He’s not here. And I know, I know, I would drag him here myself, but it turns out the President of the United States is the one pussy you’re not allowed to grab [Applause].

Now, I know people really want me to go after Trump tonight, but I think we should give the president credit when he deserves it. Like, he pulled out of the Paris agreement and I think he should get credit for that cuz he said he was gonna pull out and then he did. And that’s a refreshing quality in a man. Most men are like “I forgot. I’ll get you next time.” Oh, there’s gonna be a next time? When people say romance is dead…
People call Trump names all the time and look, I could call Trump a racist or a misogynist or xenophobic or unstable or incompetent or impotent but he’s heard all of those and he doesn’t care, so tonight I’m gonna try to make fun of the president in a new way, in a way that I think will really get him

Mr. President, I don’t think you’re very rich. Like, I mean, you might be rich in Idaho but in New York you’re doing fine. Trump is the only person that still watches Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and thinks: “Me.” Although I’m not sure he’d get very far. He’d get to, like, the third question and be, like, “I have to phone a ‘Fox and Friend.’ “
We’re gonna try a fun new thing, okay? I’m gonna say “Trump is so broke” and you guys go, “How broke is he?” All right?

Trump is so broke.
[AUDIENCE: How broke is he?]
He has to fly failed business class.

Trump is so broke.
[AUDIENCE: How broke is he?]
He looked for foreign oil in Don Jr.’s hair.

Trump is so broke.
[AUDIENCE: How broke is he?]
He — Southwest used him as one of their engines.
I know, it’s so soon. It’s so soon for that joke. Why did she tell it? It’s so soon.

Trump is so broke.
[AUDIENCE: How broke is he?]
He had to borrow money from the Russians, and now he’s compromised and not susceptible to blackmail and possibly responsible for the collapse of the republic.

Yay. It’s a fun game.

Trump is racist, though. He loves white nationalists, which is a weird term for a Nazi. Calling a Nazi a ‘white nationalist’ is like calling a pedophile a ‘kid friend,’ or Harvey Weinstein a ‘ladies man,’ which isn’t really fair—he’ll also likes plants.

Trump’s also an idea guy. He’s got loads of ideas, you gotta love him for that. He wants to give teachers guns, and I support that because then they can sell them for things they need, like supplies.

A lot of people want Trump to be impeached. I do not, because just when you think Trump is awful, you remember Mike Pence. Mike Pence is what happens when Anderson Cooper isn’t gay. Mike is the kind of guy that brushes his teeth and then drinks orange juice and thinks “Mmm”. Mike Pence is also very anti-choice. He thinks abortion is murder, which, first of all, don’t knock it till you try it. And when you do try it, really knock it. You know, you gotta get that baby out of it. And yeah, sure, you can groan all you want, I know a lot of you are very anti-abortion, you know, unless it’s the one you got for your secret mistress. It’s fun how values can waiver. But good for you. Mike Pence is a weirdo though. He’s a weird little guy. He won’t meet with other women without his wife present. When people first heard this, they were like, “That’s crazy.” But now, in this current climate, they’re like, “That’s a good witness”.

Which of course brings me to the #MeToo Movement. It’s probably the reason I’m here. They were like ‘A woman’s probably not gonna jerk off in front of anyone, right?’ And to that I say: Don’t count your chickens. We go on a party.

Now, I’ve worked in a lot of male-dominated fields before comedy. I worked at a tech company and before that I worked on Wall Street and honestly I’ve never really been sexually harassed. That being said, I did work at Bear Stearns in 2008 so, although I haven’t been sexually harassed, I’ve definitely been fucked. Yeah, that whole company went down on me without my consent and no man got in trouble for that one either. No things are changing, men are being held accountable, you know.

Al Franken was ousted. That one really hurt liberals. But I believe it was the great Ted Kennedy who said, ‘Wow! That’s crazy! I murdered a woman!’ Chappaquiddick – in theaters now.

I did have a lot of jokes. I had a lot of jokes about cabinet members but I had to scrap all of those because everyone has been fired. You guys have gone through cabinet members quicker than Starbucks throws out black people. Don’t worry they’re having an afternoon. That’ll solve it. We just needed an afternoon.

Mitch McConnell isn’t here tonight, he had a prior engagement. He’s finally getting his neck circumcised. Mazel.

Paul Ryan also couldn’t make it. Of course he’s already been circumcised, unfortunately why they were down there they also took his balls. Yeah, by fault great acting though in that video.

Republicans aren’t easy to make fun of you know it’s like shooting fish in a Chris Christie. But I also want to make fun of Democrats. Democrats are harder to make fun of because you guys don’t do anything. People think you might flip the House and Senate this November, but you guys always find a way to mess it up. You’re somehow going to lose by 12 points to a guy named Jeff Pedophile Nazi Doctor. Oh he’s a doctor.
We should definitely talk about the women in the Trump administration.

There’s Kellyanne Conway. Man, she has the perfect last name for what she does: Conway. It’s like if my name was Michele jokes frizzy hair small tits. You guys got to stop putting Kellyanne on your shows. All she does is lie. If you don’t give her a platform she has nowhere to lie. It’s like that old saying, if a tree falls in the woods how do we get Kellyanne under that tree? I’m not suggesting she gets hurt just stuck under a tree incidentally a tree falls in the woods and Scott Pruitt’s definition of porn. Yeah, we all have our kinks.

There’s also, of course, Ivanka. She was supposed to be an advocate for women, but it turns out she’s about as helpful to women as an empty box of tampons. She’s done nothing to satisfy women. So I guess like father like daughter. Oh you don’t think he’s good in bed, come on! She does clean up nice though. Ivanka cleans up nice. She’s the diaper genie of the administration. On the outside she looks sleek, but the inside, it’s still full of shit.

And of course we have Sarah Huckabee Sanders. We are graced with Sarah’s presence tonight. I have to say, I’m a little star-struck. I love you as Aunt Lydia on The Handmaid’s Tale. Mike Pence, if you haven’t seen it, you would love it. Every time Sara steps up to the podium I get excited because I’m not really sure what we’re gonna get you know a press briefing a bunch of lies or divided into softball teams it shirts and skins and this time don’t be such a little bitch Jim Acosta. I actually really like Sarah. I think she’s very resourceful. Like she burns facts and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smoky eye. Like, maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s lies. It’s probably lies. And I’m never really sure what to call Sarah Huckabee Sanders. You know, is it Sarah Sanders? Is it Sarah Huckabee Sanders? Is it Cousin Huckabee? Is it auntie Huckabee Sanders? Like, what’s Uncle Tom but for white women who disappoint other white women? Oh, I know, Aunt Coulter.

We’ve got our friends at CNN here. Welcome guys, it’s great to have you. You guys love breaking news, and you did it, you broke it! Good work! The most useful information on CNN is when Anthony Bourdain tells me where to eat noodles. [Laughter]

Fox News is here, so you know what that means, ladies: cover your drinks. Seriously, people want me to make fun of Sean Hannity, tonight. But I cannot do that. This dinner is for journalists. We’ve got MSNBC here. MSNBC’s new slogan is “This Is Who We Are.” Guys, this is not a good slogan. This is here’s what your mom thinks the new sad show on NBC is called. Did you watch this is who we are this week someone left on a crock-pot and everyone died.

I watch Morning Joe every morning. We now know that Mika and Joe are engaged. Congratulations! You guys. It’s like when a #Me-Too works out.

We are the Rachel Maddow we cannot forget about Rachel Maddow. She’s the Peter Pan of MSNBC. But instead of never growing up, she never gets to the point. Watching Rachel Maddow is like going to Target. You went in from milk but you left with shampoo, candles, and the entire history of the Byzantine Empire.

And of course Megyn Kelly. What would I do without Megyn Kelly? You know, probably be more proud of women. Megyn Kelly got paid $23 million by NBC and than NBC didn’t let Megyn go to the Winter Olympics. Why not? She’s so white, cold, and expensive, she might as well BE the Winter Olympics. And, by the way, Megyn, Santa is black. That weird old guy going down your chimney was Bill O’Reilly. You might want to put a flu on it or something.

There’s a lot of print media here. There’s a ton of you guys but I’m not gonna go after print media tonight because it’s illegal to attack an endangered species. Buy newspapers.
There’s a ton of news right now; a lot is going on, and we have all these 24-hour news networks, and we could be covering everything. But, instead, we’re covering like three topics. Every hour, it’s Trump, Russia, Hillary and a panel of four people that remind you why you don’t go home for Thanksgiving.

“Milk comes from nuts now, all because of the gays.” You guys are obsessed with Trump. Did you use to date him? Because you pretend like you hate him but I think you love him. I think what no one in this room wants to admit is that Trump has helped all of you. He couldn’t sell steaks, or vodka, or water, or college, or ties, or Eric. But he has helped you. He’s helped you sell your papers, and your books and your TV. You helped create this monster and now you’re profiting off of him. And if you’re gonna profit off Trump you should at least give him some money, because he doesn’t have any. Trump is so broke.
[AUDIENCE: How broke is he?]
He grabs pussies because he thinks there might be loose change in them.

All right, like an immigrant who was brought here by his parents and didn’t do anything wrong, I gotta get the fuck out of here. Good night.
Flint still doesn’t have clean water!
[Applause]

Monday, April 23, 2018

What A Weekend! Crits! Art! Reptiles!


Snakes at Reptile Expo!


Do you ever have a weekend and it is so packed and full of fun you think you might explode? I just had one of those weekends. Here it is in a blitz of a post.


Friday

Went to work and then went to Columbia to do a group crit with first year MFAs. A friend of mine is in the program so it was super fun and relaxed but it was also a nice format to talk about art and meet new people. Going uptown on the 1 was sort of a manic panic but after an hour ride, ta-da, I arrive in one piece. They set up in a large room with works by three artists on display. There were casual beers and bags of chips and popcorn. We focused on each artist’s work for 45 minutes. I love doing studio visits and talking about art so I talked a lot. The work was interesting, the conversations got looser and louder as the evening went on.

It’s funny when you talk with artists that are currently in a program because they are in this strange in-between state of their practice and in a school setting they are on over drive experimentation and exploration mode. It’s great to see and allows for quick ideas and things to not be over thought out, thus sometimes fresher and more enlivened but also it can be a bit too much too fast. It’s all okay though. Safe spaces to make art and to go left or right field, or even in the weeds, is so good for artists to experience. I felt really lucky to be able to glimpse and to talk about their work that was in such a vulnerable stage.

We then went to after drinks/food at a nearby restaurant. The Upper West Side is a weird place. Feels like it’s a whole different part of NYC that I just don’t know/get but that’s interesting to feel sometimes. We talked more and it was really nice to see how people in a program become microcosm families. It’s like summer camp, or those magic times where time/place/circumstance smooshes people together and you open up more because you have to and then you realize you want and needed to.


Saturday

Vegged out and took it easy in the morning and early afternoon to regenerate from the week before. Went gallery hopping in Lower East Side and Chinatown! Went to my fave places and shows I wanted to see and it was good to get an injection of art. Gallery hopped with someone who never gallery hopped before! That seemed so novel to me, I guess I have been doing it so much for so long it’s like a thing I think everyone did/should do but yeah, I guess not. Went to about 10 shows. The best were Em Rooney at Bodega (full disclosure, I’m super partial to her work) and Cici Wu at 47 Canal. Cici’s show was a true delight because I didn’t know anything about her or her work and it was quiet, subtle and poetic in just the ways I like/didn’t know I like.

Walking around LES is also fun because you can pop in and out of shops and just kind of meander around which makes the slog feel less sloggy sometimes.

Post galleries one needs refreshments! Went to Little Italy because irony is sometimes the only cure for serious art-ing. Ordered calamari and house red wine. Picked up the largest apple I have seen in my life as a gag gift. Walked to a restaurant where someone we knew worked. Gave him gag apple and had some yummy vino and more food. It was cool. There was someone famous there that I didn’t know (she was in Arrested Development).

Went to Brooklyn and met friends at a bar. It’s funny how people overlap. I knew one person for a long time and someone else knew them and another person that was there a long time but we all didn’t know we knew each other. It was cute. Lots of vodka sodas and talking about art since they were all artists. Some conversations heated but in a good way. People left to pursue the possibilities of love. Felt like the night was sexy and it was.


Sunday

Hung-over but excited and determined to go to the Reptile Expo in White Plains New York! Met with gal pals and took Metro North up. Someone made the most amazing train snax in the world. Talked about health issues and felt warmth of camaraderie with womankind. Arrive at Reptile Expo and everyone incredibly excited.

So many reptiles! So much to see! Was really intense and crowded but was not too much and not too big. After a while snakes and things get repetitious but still cool. Get reptile overload after a few hours. It reminded me of going to an art fair. Sometimes the eyes/brain can handle only so much stimulation.

Meet up with other friends there and take pictures on the steps. It’s funny to be on an outing. Walk to a diner and eat suburban food and talk about matters of the heart and it feels like we are all in a coven of warmth and support. Feels nice to feel a part of something.

Take train back to city and go to a showroom of young hip designers’ clothing collection. Friends, so chill and relaxed vibes. Try on clothes. Contemplate purchases.

Exhausted. Home. Roommate having party and playing the Smiths on repeat so need to escape! Eat lo mein. Eat ice cream. Fall asleep at 10pm. What a perfect thing life can be sometimes.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Forty-one False Starts


Self-portrait by David Salle, 1994.

It’s Monday. It was raining pails before in NYC. Now it’s sunny. This back and forth weather has made my throat a sieve. I’m groggy from enduring the past few weeks. My body is healing. I feel better but at a lower charge than my usual high wattage self. So much to share, I’ve done so much over sharing in some ways, but yeah, not enough stamina to go into it all now. Maybe never. I believe in secrets.

Instead of deep, dumb thoughts I will share the beginning of Janet Malcolm’s art-famous-y profile piece on David Salle from 1994. It’s called Forty-one False Starts and it is reveals/shows/bends the subject/topic/self of Salle forty-one times. It’s a clever device and should be able to do more but still, it’s a fun read. (Link to full article)

Salle. Male artists. A certain generation. A certain time in New York. In the Art World. What/How/Has anything even changed?

Enjoy.


Janet Malcolm
July 11, 1994

Forty-one False Starts
How does the painter David Salle know when to stop? How does the author know where to start? It’s all a question of process.

1
There are places in New York where the city’s anarchic, unaccommodating spirit, its fundamental, irrepressible aimlessness and heedlessness have found especially firm footholds. Certain transfers between subway lines, passageways of almost transcendent sordidness; certain sites of torn-down buildings where parking lots have silently sprung up like fungi; certain intersections created by illogical confluences of streets—these express with particular force the city’s penchant for the provisional and its resistance to permanence, order, closure. To get to the painter David Salle’s studio, walking west on White Street, you have to traverse one of these disquieting intersections—that of White and Church Streets and an interloping Sixth Avenue—which has created an unpleasantly wide expanse of street to cross, interrupted by a wedge-shaped island on which a commercial plant nursery has taken up forlorn and edgy residence, surrounding itself with a high wire fence and keeping truculently irregular hours. Other businesses that have arisen around the intersection—the seamy Baby Doll Lounge, with its sign offering “Go-Go Girls”; the elegant Ristorante Arquá; the nameless grocery and Lotto center; the dour Kinney parking lot—have a similar atmosphere of insularity and transience. Nothing connects with anything else, and everything looks as if it might disappear overnight. The corner feels like a no man’s land and—if one happens to be thinking about David Salle—looks like one of his paintings.

Salle’s studio, on the second floor of a five-story loft building, is a long room lit with bright, cold overhead light. It is not a beautiful studio. Like the streets outside, it gives no quarter to the visitor in search of the picturesque. It doesn’t even have a chair for the visitor to sit in, unless you count a backless, half-broken metal swivel chair Salle will offer with a murmur of inattentive apology. Upstairs, in his living quarters, it is another story. But down here everything has to do with work and with being alone.
A disorderly profusion of printed pictorial matter covers the surfaces of tables in the middle of the room: art books, art journals, catalogues, brochures mingle with loose illustrations, photographs, odd pictures ripped from magazines. Scanning these complicated surfaces, the visitor feels something of the sense of rebuff he feels when looking at Salle’s paintings, a sense that this is all somehow none of one’s business. Here lie the sources of Salle’s postmodern art of “borrowed” or “quoted” images—the reproductions of famous old and modern paintings, the advertisements, the comics, the photographs of nude or half-undressed women, the fabric and furniture designs that he copies and puts into his paintings—but one’s impulse, as when coming into a room of Salle’s paintings, is to politely look away. Salle’s hermeticism, the private, almost secretive nature of his interests and tastes and intentions, is a signature of his work. Glancing at the papers he has made no effort to conceal gives one the odd feeling of having broken into a locked desk drawer.

On the walls of the studio are five or six canvases, on which Salle works simultaneously. In the winter of 1992, when I began visiting him in his studio, he was completing a group of paintings for a show in Paris in April. The paintings had a dense, turgid character. Silk-screen excerpts from Indian architectural ornament, chair designs, and photographic images of a woman wrapped in cloth were overlaid with drawings of some of the forms in Duchamp’s “The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even,” rendered in slashing, ungainly brushstrokes, together with images of coils of rope, pieces of fruit, and eyes. Salle’s earlier work had been marked by a kind of spaciousness, sometimes an emptiness, such as Surrealist works are prone to. But here everything was condensed, impacted, mired. The paintings were like an ugly mood. Salle himself, a slight, handsome man with shoulder-length dark hair, which he wears severely tied back, like a matador, was feeling bloody-minded. He was going to be forty the following September. He had broken up with his girlfriend, the choreographer and dancer Karole Armitage. His moment was passing. Younger painters were receiving attention. He was being passed over. But he was also being attacked. He was not looking forward to the Paris show. He hated Paris, with its “heavily subsidized aestheticism.” He disliked his French dealer. . . .

2
In a 1991 interview with the screenwriter Becky Johnston, during a discussion of what Johnston impatiently called “this whole Neo-Expressionist Zeitgeist Postmodernist Whatever-you-want-to-call-it Movement” and its habit of “constantly looking backward and reworking or recontextualizing art history,” the painter David Salle said, with disarming frankness, “You mustn’t underestimate the extent to which all this was a process of educating ourselves. Our generation was pathetically educated, just pathetic beyond imagination. I was better educated than many. Julian”—the painter Julian Schnabel—“was totally uneducated. But I wasn’t much better, frankly. We had to educate ourselves in a hundred different ways. Because if you had been hanging around the Conceptual artists all you learned about was the Frankfurt School. It was as if nothing existed before or after. So part of it was the pledge of self-education—you know, going to Venice, looking at great paintings, looking at great architecture, looking at great furniture—and having very early the opportunity to kind of buy stuff. That’s a form of self-education. It’s not just about acquisition. It was a tremendous explosion of information and knowledge.”

To kind of buy stuff. What is the difference between buying stuff and kind of buying it? Is “kind of buying” buying with a bad conscience, buying with the ghost of the Frankfurt School grimly looking over your shoulder and smiting its forehead as it sees the money actually leave your hand? This ghost, or some relative of it, has hung over all the artists who, like Salle, made an enormous amount of money in the eighties, when they were still in their twenties or barely into their thirties. In the common perception, there is something unseemly about young people getting rich. Getting rich is supposed to be the reward for hard work, preferably arriving when you are too old to enjoy it. And the spectacle of young millionaires who made their bundle not from business or crime but from avant-garde art is particularly offensive. The avant-garde is supposed to be the conscience of the culture, not its id.

3
All during my encounter with the artist David Salle—he and I met for interviews in his studio, on White Street, over a period of two years—I was acutely conscious of his money. Even when I got to know him and like him, I couldn’t dispel the disapproving, lefty, puritanical feeling that would somehow be triggered each time we met, whether it was by the sight of the assistant sitting at a sort of hair-salon receptionist’s station outside the studio door; or by the expensive furniture of a fifties corporate style in the upstairs loft, where he lives; or by the mineral water he would bring out during our talks and pour into white paper cups, which promptly lost their takeout-counter humbleness and assumed the hauteur of the objects in the Design Collection of the Museum of Modern Art.

Salle was one of the fortunate art stars of the eighties—young men and women plucked from semi-poverty and transformed into millionaires by genies disguised as art dealers. The idea of a rich avant-garde has never sat well with members of my generation. Serious artists, as we know them or like to think of them, are people who get by but do not have a lot of money. They live with second or third wives or husbands and with children from the various marriages, and they go to Cape Cod in the summer. Their apartments are filled with faded Persian carpets and cat-clawed sofas and beautiful and odd objects bought before anyone else saw their beauty. Salle’s loft was designed by an architect. Everything in it is sleek, cold, expensive, unused. A slight sense of quotation mark hovers in the air, but it is very slight—it may not even be there—and it doesn’t dispel the atmosphere of dead-serious connoisseurship by which the room is dominated.

4
During one of my visits to the studio of the artist David Salle, he told me that he never revises. Every brushstroke is irrevocable. He doesn’t correct or repaint, ever. He works under the dire conditions of performance. Everything counts, nothing may be taken back, everything must always go relentlessly forward, and a mistake may be fatal. One day, he showed me a sort of murdered painting. He had worked on it a little too long, taken a misstep, killed it.

5
The artist David Salle and I are sitting at a round table in my apartment. He is a slight, handsome man of thirty-nine, with dark shoulder-length hair, worn tightly sleeked back and bound with a rubber band, accentuating his appearance of quickness and lightness, of being sort of streamlined. He wears elegant, beautifully polished shoes and speaks in a low, cultivated voice. His accent has no trace of the Midwest, where he grew up, the son of second-generation Russian Jewish parents. It has no affectation, either. He is agreeable, ironic, a little detached. “I can’t remember what we talked about last time,” he says. “I have no memory. I remember making the usual artist’s complaints about critics, and then saying, ‘Well, that’s terribly boring, we don’t want to be stuck talking about that’—and then talking about that. I had a kind of bad feeling about it afterward. I felt inadequate.”

6
The artist David Salle and I met for the first time in the fall of 1991. A few months earlier, we had spoken on the telephone about a mystifying proposal of his: that I write the text for a book of reproductions of his paintings, to be published by Rizzoli. When I told him that there must be some mistake, that I was not an art historian or an art critic, and had but the smallest acquaintance with his work, he said no, there wasn’t a mistake. He was deliberately looking for someone outside the art world, for an “interesting writer,” who would write an unconventional text. As he talked, I found myself reluctant to say no to him then and there, even though I knew I would eventually have to refuse. Something about the man made me say I would think about it. He then said that to acquaint me with his work and with himself he would send some relevant writings. A few days later, a stylish package arrived, preceded by a telephone call from an assistant at Salle’s studio to arrange the details of delivery. It contained three or four exhibition catalogues, several critical articles, and various published interviews, together with a long interview that was still in typescript but was bound in a hard black cover. It was by the screenwriter Becky Johnston, who, I later learned, was an “interesting writer” Salle had previously approached to do the Rizzoli book. She had done the interview in preparation for the text but had never written it.

7
David Salle’s art has an appearance of mysterious, almost preternatural originality, and yet nothing in it is new; everything has had a previous life elsewhere—in master paintings, advertising art, comics, photographs. Other artists have played the game of appropriation or quotation that Salle plays—Duchamp, Schwitters, Ernst, Picabia, Rauschenberg, Warhol, Johns—but none with such reckless inventiveness. Salle’s canvases are like bad parodies of the Freudian unconscious. They are full of images that don’t belong together: a woman taking off her clothes, the Spanish Armada, a kitschy fabric design, an eye.

8
David Salle is recognized as the leading American postmodernist painter. He is the most authoritative exemplar of the movement, which has made a kind of mockery of art history, treating the canon of world art as if it were a gigantic, dog-eared catalogue crammed with tempting buys and equipped with a helpful twenty-four-hour-a-day 800 number. Salle’s selections from the catalogue have a brilliant perversity. Nothing has an obvious connection to anything else, and everything glints with irony and a sort of icy melancholy. His jarring juxtapositions of incongruous images and styles point up with special sharpness the paradox on which this art of appropriated matter is poised: its mysterious, almost preternatural appearance of originality. After one looks at a painting by Salle, works of normal signature-style art—paintings done in a single style with an intelligible thematic—begin to seem pale and meagre, kind of played out. Paintings like Salle’s—the unabashed products of, if not vandalism, a sort of cold-eyed consumerism—are entirely free of any “anxiety of influence.” For all their borrowings, they seem unprecedented, like a new drug or a new crime. They are rootless, fatherless and motherless.

9
The artist David Salle has given so many interviews, has been the subject of so many articles, has become so widely inscribed as an emblematic figure of the eighties art world that it is no longer possible to do a portrait of him simply from life. The heavy shadow of prior encounters with journalists and critics falls over each fresh encounter. Every writer has come too late, no writer escapes the sense of Bloomian belatedness that the figure of Salle evokes. One cannot behave as if one had just met him, and Salle himself behaves like the curator of a sort of museum of himself, helpfully guiding visitors through the exhibition rooms and steering them toward the relevant literature. At the Gagosian Gallery, on Madison Avenue, where he exhibits, there is a two-and-a-half-foot-long file drawer devoted exclusively to published writings about Salle’s art and person.

My own encounter with Salle was most heavily shadowed by the interviews he had given two writers, Peter Schjeldahl and Becky Johnston. Reading their dialogues with him was like listening to conversations between brilliant characters in a hastily written but inspired play of advanced ideas and intense, slightly mysterious relationships.

10
The spectre of wrongdoing hovers more luridly over visual art than over literature or music. The forger, the pornographer, and the fraud are stock figures in the allegory that constitutes the popular conception of the art world as a place of exciting evil and cunning. The artist David Salle has the distinction of being associated with all three crimes. His paintings are filled with “borrowed” images (twice he has settled out of court with irked owners); often contain drawings of naked or half-undressed women standing or lying in indecent, if not especially arousing, positions; and have an appearance of messy disjunction that could be dismissed (and has been dismissed by Hilton Kramer, Robert Hughes, and Arthur Danto) as ineptitude palming itself off as advanced art. Most critics, however, have without hesitation accepted Salle’s work as advanced art, and some of them—Peter Schjeldahl, Sanford Schwartz, Michael Brenson, Robert Rosenblum, and Lisa Liebmann, for example—have celebrated its transgressive quality and placed his paintings among the works that most authoritatively express our time and are apt to become its permanent monuments.