Tuesday, October 30, 2007


Known as the Viking of Sixth Avenue, Moondog was a fixture at the corner of Sixth Avenue and 54th Street from the late 1940's until the early 70's, when he relocated to Germany to live out the rest of his life. Born Louis Hardin in Kansas in 1916, the self-taught musician and composer reportedly started drumming at age five, on drums he created out of cardboard boxes. He would continue to invent musical instruments and write his compositions using braille, after being blinded at age 16 in a farming accident. He recorded a number of albums for both major labels and small independents and has been covered by Antony and the Johnsons, Alan Licht, the Kronos Quartet, Janis Joplin, NRBQ, Motorpsycho, Prefab Sprout, and Laibach, as well as sampled by Mr. Scruff (Ninjatune records) and Mouse on Mars.

Moondog died at the age of 83, in 1999.

A resurgence of interest in his work follows recent CD reissues and compilations, a new biography by Robert Scotto (http://processmediainc.com/titles/coming_soon/moondog.php) and a festival dedicated to his work which runs this Friday and Saturday at the Advent Lutheran Church at 93rd and Broadway in NYC (www.moondogrising.com).

Friday, October 26, 2007

Baltic Nan Goldin update

The photograph “Klara and Edda Belly Dancing” by Nan Goldin, which was seized from Gateshead's Baltic gallery by Northumbria Police last month, has now been deemed “not indecent” by the Crown Prosecution Service.

Alarmingly, the CPS stated that they were interested in determining whether “standards of propriety" had changed significantly since 2001, enough to warrant a case against the photo, which depicts two naked young girls.

At the request of Elton John, the show, which was set to run until January, has been shut down. John owns the 148 works in the exhibition. There are no plans to reopen as a result of this ruling.

SOUNDplay Panel

Following their performance the night before, members of Text of Light (Lee Renaldo, Alan Licht and Ulrich Krieger, see below post) will join moderator Ben Portis to discuss the connections between music and abstract cinema.

Sunday October 28th, noon at the Latvian House (491 College).

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Shared Propulsion Car

Contrary to the Highway Traffic Act, Section 84 (it says here, on the ticket) we took Michel de Broin's "Shared Propulsion Car" out for a drive today. Dean Baldwin drove, assisted by Elaine, myself and Dan Young, in the four-seater pedal-car. Michel, Jinhan Ko, Benny Zenga and others took photographs.

Cruising at speeds of up to, oh, 12 km per hour, we drove 9 blocks (from Lisgar to Strachan) before being pulled over by the police. We were left to wait for 30 minutes in the car while we suspect the cops tried to determine which exact law was broken. They settled on "operating an unsafe vehicle" and a tow-truck was called. A court date is set for November 21st.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Recess with Anitra Hamilton

At long last...

After playing some catch-up, Mercer Union Hall (finally) presents the next artist in the series, Anitra Hamilton. A while back, she presented the project Beater as part of her Three Car Pileup project. In the MOCCA parking lot, we all stood in awe (mixed with a bit of terror) as a few brave souls were blindfolded to take on a decorated car which was suspended from a crane for maximum pinata effect. Seducing Down the Door was never so cathartic.


C: This project is part of a series. In this portion of the series, you’ve managed to engage the public in many different ways, especially in terms of their familiarity with the pinata (also a huge part of Mexican culture).

A: The project was mainly about hijacking culture. Playing with aspects of other cultures costumes and traditions, and thereby speaking of nationalism and territoriality. The costumes etc are deceptively charming and beautiful, but essentially they're saying "we're from here and you are not"...fragmentation. I don't think too many people picked up on that here.

The project was originally meant to take place in Mexico and will in the future, the response there I'm sure will be much different. I was originally thinking of offering hammers as well as sledge hammers, but in the end it's survival of the fittest.

is part of a three part series involving cars titled Three Car Pile Up. The first was Overhaul, a car completely covered with green wedding car pom-poms, abandoned by the side of the road in Meaford, Ontario. It's meant to create a social enigma. People driving by will be thinking what the f%&*?

The third Hey Auslander will take place in Bavaria. Emelie Chhangur and Philip Monk of the AGYU and Iris Dressler and Hans Christ of Kunstverein Stuttgart are organizing that project. I'm not an "I hate cars" advocate, but I see them as really stupid bombs that manoeuvre around, slowly killing.

C: Like so many interactive pieces, Beater managed to act as an effective social catalyst while still maintaining its status as a stand-alone object. Did you anticipate its cross-over popularity? Was the heckling and hilarity ever a consideration in its conception?

A: Yes, the cars are meant to engage socially, but must function as art, otherwise they just become another stupid spectacle, or watered down relational aesthetics project.

C: Re: Stupid Bombs: That relates to your other works involving objects more closely related warcraft, which have also been well received (namely, and most recently at the AGYU). Is the familiarity and the subsequent fascination of destructive objects unsettling for you at times?

A: Yes, the works are all related in a strange way, not intentional, but it happens. Of course unsettling, we are, to some extent, in a society that is extinguishing itself.

C: I was kind of freaking out about the people wearing sandals while bashing the car, but it was also equally gratifying to see someone want to participate that badly...

My friend Tim opted to take off his flip-flops, it was a worry for me but I would never step in the way of someone else's play.

C: Wife-beater (White Sleeveless Tank): Husband-beater (FILL IN THE BLANK!)

A: Same, the ubiquitous white sling is unisex.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Warhol Perfume

This December, for $230 a bottle, you can smell like Andy Warhol's Factory. The fragrance, from Bond No.9 and the Warhol Foundation, contains notes of Incense, Wood Resin, Amber, Jasmine, Iris, Violet and Cedarwood. Previous Warhol scents were available from Cofinluxe (who also made scents in collaboration with the estate of Salvador Dali) in the late nineties.

TV-Links, OiNK, RIP

Police raids and arrests have led to the shutting down of two major illegal content sites: OiNK, the invitation-only music torrent site and tv-links.co.uk, one of the most comprehensive listings of television programs and movies available for online streaming.

OiNK's "mastermind", a 24 year old IT worker from Middlesbrough, England, had his home and workplace (apparently a large multi-national corporation) raided, and his investigators also visited his father's home. OiNK's servers, in Amsterdam, were seized by police. Also in Britain, a 26 year old from Cheltenham was arrested last week on charges of piracy and copyright infringement for operating tv-links.co.uk.

There were also many reports in the music press of 'illegal' downloads of Radiohead's ostensibly free new LP "In Rainbows". Other artists (Trent Reznor, for example) have followed Radiohead's example and announced that they will bypass the industry and release recordings directly to their fanbase, but this model is less likely to work for unknown bands. I suspect we'll be seeing considerably more songs sold for use in television and advertising, and artists will hope to make money thru live touring, with increased ticket prices. Television and cinema will almost certainly increase the amount of onscreen product placement (and start charging more for it).

The jack-o-lattern pictured below reminded me of another riff on Damian Hirst's hundred-million-dollar skull. When "For The Love of God" was exhibited earlier this year at White Cube Gallery, another artist left a replica of the bedazzled skull (made with 6,522 Swarovski crystals) in the trash outside of the gallery. Reports of the project identify the artist only by her first name (Laura) and there was no word on how long the piece survived before someone made off with it.

The notion that you might stumble across valuable work in a dumpster is not unthinkable. A 1970 painting by Mexican artist Rufino Tamayo that was found in the trash four years ago in the upper West Side of Manhattan is being auctioned off at Sothebys next month. It is expected to fetch upwards of a million dollars.

Hirst's own work has also found its way into the garbage. In October of 2001 a 54 year old janitor working at the Eyestorm gallery in London came across an array of empty beer bottles, cigarette butts, torn newspapers, partially eaten sandwiches, and candy wrappers. "I sighed because there was so much mess," he said. "So I cleared it all in bin bags, and I dumped it. I didn't think for a second that it was a work of art.”


Only four more days until the MOTHERSHIP lands - Mercer Union's Hallowe'en Bash is this Saturday (October 27th) at 9pm. Entrance is $5 before 11:00pm, $8 after (or always $5 for Mercer members). We're serving up Deep Space Nine cocktails and DJ Major Tom, Colin Bergh, and DJ Noah's Arkweld will be spinning into the wee hours of the morning.

For pictures of some of our previous parties, and costume ideas, visit the Facebook page:


Monday, October 22, 2007

Plague Songs

Last year Art Angel commissioned ten international singer-songwriters to write and record a song inspired by one of the ten biblical plagues. The resulting disk "Plague Songs" features Laurie Anderson, Stephen Merritt (Magnetic Fields, etc), Scott Walker, Brian Eno and Robert Wyatt. Track titles included "Blood", "Lice", "Hailstones", "Glittering Cloud" and "The Meaning of Lice".

On October 28th some participants from the recording (and a few newcomers) will perform the tracks live at London's Barbican Hall. Patrick Wolf, Rufus Wainwright, the Handsome Family, Imogen Heap, King Creosote's Kenny Anderson, Sandy Dillon, and English folkie June Tabor are confirmed to play.

Art Angel's other published artists' audio projects include Jem Finer's "Longplayer", Janet Cardiff's "Missing Voice" and Douglas Gordon's "Feature Film".

The CD is available here: www.artangel.org.uk/pages/publishing/cd_plague.htm.

Jerry Saltz Speaks at TIAF

As part of the Power Plant's "Power Talks" series at the Toronto International Art Fair, New York art critic Jerry Saltz speaks on Sunday OCtober 28th, at 3pm.

Saltz is a columnist for New York magazine and was the senior art critic for The Village Voice, for nearly a decade. He has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in Criticism three times and in 2000 he was the sole advisor for the 1995 Whitney Biennial. His collection of writing "Seeing Out Loud: The Village Voice Art Columns, 1998 – 2003", was reprinted this year by The Figures Press.

Admission to the Power Talks is included with daily TIAF admission. Doors open 15 minutes before the start of each lecture amd seating is limited. Non-TIAF pass holders can purchase lecture tickets from the Power Plant for $5 (The Power Plant Members), $10 (Non-Members).

Saltz is pictured here, hangin' with Bill Clinton.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Mona Lisa

A new exhibition titled "Mona Lisa Secrets Revealed" is currently on display at the Metreon in San Francisco and features new research by French engineer Pascal Cotte. Using a Multi-spectral Imaging Camera of his own invention, Cotte scanned the painting, electronically peeling away centuries of varnish and other alterations. With a scan of up to 150,000 dots per inch, he was able to learn that:

Da Vinci first painted a landscape and then used transparency techniques to paint the veil atop it.
The blanket which covers the subject's knees also covers her stomach.
Her left finger was never completely finished.
A blotch mark on the corner of the eye and chin are varnish accidents, contrary to claims that the subject was ill.
The work was painted on uncut poplar board.
The Mona Lisa once had eyebrows and lashes.

Two years ago scientists at the National Research Council of Canada used similar infrared and 3D technology in the Louvre museum in Paris and first discovered that the Mona Lisa’s dress was covered in a thin transparent gauze veil. This type of dress was typical of the kind worn in early 16th century Italy by women who were pregnant and had just given birth.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Diego, Frida

Defending her father against the charges of being an abusive husband, Guadalupe Rivera criticized his famous third wife Frida Kahlo as a self-obsessed, subpar painter. "During her life, she painted some 50 paintings, and the theme was her own image," she told the Costa Rican newspaper La Nacion. "It has been said that my father made Frida suffer and I can tell you that ... Frida made my father suffer. Society today, in my opinion, is completely decadent and needs a decadent icon. Frida is the symbol of this decadence," she added. She also suggested that Kahlo's work only commands high prices now because of the interest from Madonna, whom she referred to as an actress.

Three Inches Black

The strangest of the seemingly endless list of iPhone accessories are the new Phone Fingers, available from, ah, www.phonefingers.com. Why get fingerprints all over your expensive new toy when you can wear these attractive rubber things on your hands. It would appear to be a joke, but links take you to functioning payment options pretty quickly.

They remind me of the 1997 Douglas Gordon work “Three Inches (Black)” which is comprised of 11 color photographs of a tattoed black index finger. The work was derived from a story Gordon heard as a youth that weapons longer than three inches – the length deemed possible to penetrate a vital organ during a stabbing – were banned by Glasgow police during a crackdown on gang violence. In an accompanying text Gordon notes that the length is the distance necessary to penetrate the heart.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Kelly Mark: Stupid Heaven

The closing reception for Kelly Mark's "Stupid Heaven" exhibition takes place this Sunday, October 21st from 1 to 5 pm at Blackwood Gallery.

Mark is one of Toronto's most consistently engaging conceptualists and this exhibition represents the first major survey of her work. The show includes drawing, sculpture, video, performance, audio work, as well as multiples and her recent television-based projects.
Curated by Barbara Fischer, the show is presented at both the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery and the Blackwood Gallery, where the closing party is being held. A free shuttle bus leaves JM Barnicke Gallery at 1:15 pm and the Gladstone Hotel at 1:30 pm. The bus will depart from the Blackwood at 3 pm. Call 905-828-3789 to reserve a seat.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Text of Light

Text of Light formed in 2001 as a group of musicians to perform improvised music to the films of Stan Brakhage, Harry Smith and other members of the American Cinema avante garde. Brakhage's film 'Text of Light' was their premiere performance and namesake of the group.

The founding members are: Lee Ranaldo and Alan Licht on guitar and devices; Christian Marclay and DJ Olive on turntables; William Hooker on drums and percussion and Ulrich Krieger on saxophone and electronics. The group perform in various incarnations, according to the individuals’ schedules.

On Saturday October 27th at 8pm the Pleasure Dome presents a performance by the band stripped down to the trio of Ranaldo, Licht and Krieger. Taking place at the Latvian House at 491 College Street, it is their first Toronto performance (to my knowledge). Tickets are $20 at the door or $15 in advance (or for members of the Music Gallery or Pleasure Dome). Students get in for $10.

Lee Ranaldo is known to art audiences as a writer, producer, composer and visual artist, as well as a founding member of Sonic Youth. In 2006 he participated in the group exhibition “Infinity Etc.” at Mercer Union. Also from NYC, Alan Licht is a writer, composer and guitarist who most recently visited Toronto to perform with Michael Snow and Aki Onda in October 2006. He is currently writing a book about audio art. Ulrich Krieger is a Berlin-based musician known for arranging noise and minimalist works for classical chamber ensembles, such as compositions by Merzbow, Terry Riley and Throbbing Gristle. Last month he released a recording of a performance of Lou Reed’s 1975 feedback masterpiece “Metal Machine Music”, an album always assumed to be impossible to reproduce live. Reed is featured on the disk.

I am missing this only because of Mercer Union’s Hallowe’en Party (which you should come to afterwards. See below).

Space is the Place


Get out yer tinfoil and funfur - Mercer Union's Spaced-Out Hallowe'en Bash is set for Saturday October 27th at 9pm. Tickets are $5 before 11pm (and for members of the gallery) and $8 after 11. DJ Major Tom, Colin Bergh (The Clap) and DJ Noah's Arkweld will be spinning, along with special guests later in the evening.


There's no indication on the website as to what to expect, but Mercer faves BGL are taking over the front and back gallery at Diaz Contemporary this Saturday. The show opens October 20th and runs to the 17th of November.

Their exhibition at the Koffler (http://www.kofflercentre.com/gallery.shtml) remains open until November 25th.

100 Niagara Street
3 to 6pm Saturday October 20th, 2007

Sobey Art Award

Calling his work "highly individual, inventive and original" the jury awarded Montreal/Berlin artist Michel De Broin the 2007 Sobey Art Award. The prize is $50 000, the largest art prize in the country. Previous winners include Brian Jungen , Jean-Pierre Gauthier , and Annie Pootoogook.

Michel de Broin presents a solo exhibition at Mercer Union, opening October 24th

Monday, October 15, 2007

Art and Money

At the Frieze Art Fair this weekend Jake and Dinos Chapman were defacing £10 and £20 notes, and now may face legal action. Not from the Royal Mint, but from another artist who claims they stole the idea from him.

D*Face, a graffiti artist represented by East London's Stolen Space gallery says "I'm annoyed. It is a blatant rip-off. I did a project in 2003 where I got £20 notes and defaced them before putting them back in the system. There were 20 variations of hand drawings and printing techniques in which the monarchy is satirised, with images of the Queen being hung, having her head chopped off." D*Face added that he had also pasted large posters of the Queen's defaced image on a £20 around Whitechapel, including Fournier Street, where the Chapman Brothers have a studio space.

Jake Chapman defended their work, noting "Drawing on money is as original as graffiti and that is as old as the Caves of Lascaux. It's not a great revelation to draw on money. It's not original. What's interesting is that because it's unoriginal, it's authorless. No one can claim ownership of it. It's strange for someone to claim authorship of graffiti which is by its very nature an avoidance of the notion of authorship."

In Canada Mathieu Beausejour has been defacing currency for over a decade. Shredded, stamped and blackened bills play a large part in his practice. My favorite work by the artist uses the serial numbers of the currency as a score for pre-recorded bird calls that refer to the songs of the birds depicted on the backs of the bills.

JSG Boggs is an American artist who creates hand-drawn, one-sided copies of U.S. banknotes. He then spends the "Boggs notes" for their face value and sells any change he gets, the receipt, and sometimes the goods he purchased as his artwork. If the art collector wants the Boggs note, he must track it down himself. Boggs will tell a collector where he spent the note, but he does not sell them directly.

Genpei Akasegawa and the (under-rated) Hi Red Centre group mailed a reproduced 1,000 yen note as an invitation to their 1963 exhibition. The card contained a monochromatic reproduction of the bill the front and the verso had information regarding the exhibit on the back. A year later they were noticed by the police and he was indicted on charges of counterfeit forgery. In August of 1966, the case went to trial and was dubbed the "Thousand-Yen Bill Incident." Part of the artist's defense was to wrap the jury in string. He was found guilty in 1967, appealed twice and twice lost.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Critical Art Ensemble

Dr. Robert Ferrel, the co-defendant in the government's case against Critical Art Ensemble member Steven Kurtz, pled guilty on Thursday to a lesser charge of mailing bacteria samples, rather than face a financially crippling prolonged trial for federal charges of "mail fraud" and "wire fraud". Under the USA Patriot Act, the maximum penalty for these charges has increased from five years in prison, to twenty. The 64-year-old genetics researcher now faces up to a year in jail and a $100,000 fine.

The plea bargain comes at a time of overwhelming support from the public, and increased profile from a docu-drama film about the case called "Strange Culture." Directed by Lynn Hershman Leeson, the film features Bafta winner and Golden Globe nominee Tilda Swinton (Broken Flowers, Chronicles of Narnia, Michael Clayton) and Thomas Jay Ryan (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Henry Fool). According to the distributor, the film will be screened in Toronto in November.

Ferrell will be sentenced in February and Kurtz will be back in court on October 30th for further proceedings in his case.

For more information see http://mercerunionhall.blogspot.com/2007/09/strange-culture.html and http://caedefensefund.org.

Micah Lexier

Micah Lexier, who has exhibited at Mercer in 1989, 1993 and 2006, will be presenting new work in concurrent shows in Toronto at MKG127 and Birch Libralato, who represent him in the city. Additionally, he has curated an exhibition of work by David Altmejd, Renate Anger and Eric Cameron, also at BL.

Here's the press release for the former:

Micah Lexier: Letterpress

October 18 to November 17, 2007
Opening Thursday, October 18 at 8PM

Letterpress consists of a number of new print projects by Micah Lexier. Lexier has a long-standing interest in printmaking and has worked with many different processes over the years including intaglio, aquatint, lithography and silkscreen. But the process he most consistently gravitates to is letterpress (and its sister, foil-stamping) for its physicality and graphic qualities. Both processes work with raised type that is literally pressed into the paper or cloth, leaving a deep, sculptural mark. This exhibition focuses on three new projects made using these two processes.

The three projects are Vitrine Drawings, a new suite of six, large two-colour letterpress prints; Number ofLetters, a ten-volume set of foil-stamped cloth-covered book covers and spines; and Lives & Works Envelopes, an ongoing project of numerous letter-size, letterpress prints on coloured papers, which are packaged in printed, archival envelopes. All three projects are united by the use of Lexier’s handwriting and his characteristic simplicity and self-referentialiity.

For more information visit www.mkg127.com.

Kissing Cops

Yesterday Britain's The Guardian reported that Russia's culture minister, Alexander Sokolov, announced that he is banning a photograph titled "Kissing Policemen (An Epoch of Clemency)" and sixteen other works from an exhibition of contemporary Russian art due to be exhibited in Paris next week. He called the work a political provocation which will bring shame on Russia.

Artists Alexander Shaburov and Viacheslav Mizin (who work together as Blue Noses) said that the image "had nothing to do with gay people. It is an absurdist fantasy about what might happen if everyone showed mercy and tenderness to each other. Given the fact the state has banned it, we haven't quite reached this point yet."

"We were inspired by Banksy's iconic image of two constables kissing. We wanted to do the same but in Russia," Shaburov said. "

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt reportedly spent two million dollars on work by Banksy at an auction held at the Lazarides Gallery in Soho Thursday night.

Above: Diane Borsato's 12 hour performance work HOW TO RESPOND IN AN EMERGENCY for Nuit Blanche 2006.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Lady Jaye, RIP

Yesterday a message posted on the official Genesis P-Orridge website announced the death of his partner and collaborator: "Lady Jaye died suddenly on Tuesday 9th October 2007 at home in Brooklyn, New York from a previously undiagnosed heart condition which is thought to have been connected with her long-term battle with stomach cancer. Lady Jaye collapsed and died in the arms of her heartbroken "other half" Genesis Breyer P-Orridge."

Lady Jaye and Genesis P-Orridge (Coum Transmissions, Throbbing Gristle) were in the midst of an ongoing life-art project to make them look more alike through matching breast implants, haircuts, enlarged lips, and other body modifications. The aim was to merge their identities into a single "pandrogynous" being, named Breyer P-Orridge.

In other Orlan-esque news, the Associated Press today picked up a number of stories about Cypriot artist Stelarc's surgery, despite the fact that it happened over a year ago. The performance artist, born Stelios Aroadiou, is best known for his early performances where he was strung up via hooks thru his flesh. Last year the artist had an ear surgically implanted inside his arm.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Art Vandals in Court

Five men have been apprehended in Paris in connection with the attack last weekend on a Monet painting at the Musée d'Orsay, during Nuit Blanche. The authorities will decide today whether the eighteen and nineteen year olds will be put before a tribunal immediately or whether their case requires further examination by a judge. The charges could include inflicting damage inside the museum and damaging a door to the museum.

Rindy Sam, a 30-year-old French artist, was also in court yesterday, facing charges of "voluntarily damaging a work of art." She kissed a Cy Twombly painting on July 19th, covering it in lipstick, which restorers have been unable to remove. Prosecutors want her to pay a $6,400 fine and take a class on good citizenship. The painting is owned by gallerist and publisher Yvon Lambert. He was asking for $2,878,000 in damages, which included the value of the painting and the $47,000 restoration cost.

Sam said she that she was overcome with passion, and that she believed the artist would have understood her gesture, calling it an act of love, not a crime.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

I, Tania

Last night I dreamt that Scott Walker fell on hard times during the seventies and had to take on paying gigs like singing the theme song to the short lived TV series "The Greatest American Hero" ("......believe it or not, i'm walking on air..."). I'm sure this makes sense to no one except myself (and not much to me) but if it were a text piece by Brian Joseph Davis it would be crystal clear. His 2005 book "Portable Altamont" was a witty take on surrealist celebrity gossip, reminiscent of the better sections of Harmony Korine's "Crack-up at the Race Riot". Using a wide variety of literary devices, it re-imagined Philip Roth and David Lee Roth as siblings, Margaret Atwood as a human beatbox, the Swedish Chef from the Muppet show reciting Eliot and Jessica Simpson applying for arts grants.

His follow up, "I, Tania" is being launched tonight at Supermarket, (268 Augusta) at 8:00 p.m. Go, buy a book, take it home and read it while listening to the suggested playlist, downloadable here: www.brianjosephdavis.com/tania.htm.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

More Art Vandalism

From the Associated Press, yesterday, a day after the Monet took a Nuit Blanche beating:

"10.09.07 - The New York Times’s Carol Vogel reports that last Friday afternoon, four vandals wearing black masks stormed the Kulturen Gallery in Lund, Sweden, smashing photographs by Andres Serrano with crowbars and axes while shouting in Swedish, “We don’t support this shit.” A grainy video of the incident set to the strain of thundering death-metal music was posted on YouTube Friday night. The bumpy video, evidently shot with a handheld camera by someone who ran into the gallery with the attackers, intersperses images of the Serrano photographs with lettered commentary in Swedish like “This is art?” before showing the vandals at work. No guards were on duty in the gallery, said Viveca Ohlsson, the show’s curator, although security videos captured much of the incident. By the time the masked men had finished, half the show—seven fifty-by-sixty-inch photographs, worth some two hundred thousand dollars over all—had been destroyed. The men left behind leaflets reading, “Against decadence and for a healthier culture.” The fliers listed no name or organization. “I was shocked and horrified,” said Serrano. “I never expected something like this, especially in this magical town, which is so sweet I joked about it being like something out of Harry Potter.”

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Monet vs Nuit Blanche

Much talk following Toronto's Nuit Blanche last week has centred around disrespectful non-art audiences and their impact on artists' projects. During the Instant Coffee Slide show presentation the other night, for example, attendees heard stories of people scaling the walls of Swintak's luxury boutique dumpster hotel and jumping inside, on top of one another. Other stories testify to the fact that rowdiness was on the increase, though not to the extent that the Paris Nuit Blanche experienced last night. The city celebrated it's fifth annual event this weekend and early this morning a four-inch tear was punched into an invaluable Monet painting at the Orsay Museum. Culture Minister Christine Albanel announced that the painting ("Le Pont d'Argenteuil") could be restored, but she called the incident an attack on “our memory, our patrimony.” She also called for tougher penalties for vandalism of artworks, which appear on the rise. The apparently drunken intruders were caught on tape, but so far no arrests have been made.

Howl vs the FCC

Fear of the FCC (who issued fines of half a million dollar for Janet Jackson's nipple but refused to investigate the involvement of AT&T, BellSouth and Verizon in the NSA Wiretapping scandal) has led to the cancellation of a planned broadcast of Allen Ginsberg's "Howl". On the fiftieth anniversary of it's publication (and the tenth anniversary of the author's death) the NYC listener-supported radio station WBAI Pacifica has opted against broadcasting a reading of the classic beat poem. Ironically, the station had previously fought all the way to the Supreme Court for it's right to air George Carlin's "Filthy Words" routine: they played it in '73 and the 1978 judgement ruled against them, giving the FCC broad powers to determine what constituted indecency in different contexts.

Like many other current government agencies, the Federal Communications Commission is under fire for allegedly politicizing their actions. The majority of its current commissioners were appointed by the current president and several FCC reports about the concentration of ownership of television and radio stations (following the rewrite of telecommunications laws) have been ordered buried or destroyed.

Ginsberg's "Howl" was the subject of a 1957 lawsuit against poet and City Lights Bookstore owner Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who ran City Lights Bookstore and was the poem's domestic publisher. The American Civil Liberties Union and nine literary experts testified for the defense and Ferlinghetti won the case. Presiding Judge Clayton Horn decided that the poem was of "redeeming social importance".

WBAI worried that FCC fines for airing the poem, which could have been in the millions, would sink the station, which has been in operation since 1941.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Marc Quinn

Yesterday the DHC/ART FOUNDATION FOR CONTEMPORARY ART in Montreal opened a new retrospective of controversial British sculptor Marc Quinn. It's the first solo exhibition by the artist in Canada and the largest retrospective of his work in North America. The exhibition will not contain his best known work, the sculpture of artist Alison Lapper (who was born without arms, featured naked and pregnant) which still sits on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square in London, despite widespread opposition. It will, though, include his 1991 "Self", made with four and half litres of his own blood and several bronze sculptures of supermodel Kate Moss.

The show runs until January 6th, 2008.

MySpace Bands

Now that Facebook has overtaken MySpace as the social forum of choice, maybe the latter can go back to doing what it does best - promoting bands. Here are a coupla songs that recently broke on the site that I find myself returning to:

"I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You" by Jacksonville Florida five-piece The Black Kids has Cure-like vocals (maybe by way of The Rapture), Arcade-Fire exuberance, GoTeam shout-outs and a title Morrissey would have been proud of. Other influences include New Order, Magnetic Fields and Motown. The group started out a few years ago as Mata Hari but "nobody cared, so we changed our name and added girls". Available as a download, from:


Froggystein (an easier to Google name, something now crucial to success) from Berkeley California list Xiu Xiu and Raymond Carver as influences. Not sure how Carver figures in, but Xiu Xiu can be heard in the bursts of low-sample-rate abrasive noise that interrupt this otherwise sweet and accessible song, and the distorted vocals towards the end. Available as a stream from:


Thursday, October 4, 2007

Record Industry win

The recording industry won a landmark case today against illegal music downloading whose repercussions could be felt widely and immediately. The jury ordered thirty-year-old Jammie Thomas to pay the six record companies in the suit a total of $222,000 in damages for sharing copyrighted songs online.

This is the first such lawsuit to go to trial, as previously the industry relied on heavy-handed threatening letters asking for fines of around three thousand dollars, which many defendants paid to avoid costly legal fees. 26,000 other lawsuits are pending, with charges as high as $150,000 per infringement (meaning potentially over a million dollars for an uploaded album, if the prosecution can prove - as they did this time - that the violation was intentional).

It seems Thomas' defense was of the "I didn't do it" variety, which made it easier for her to lose and now easier for record companies to proceed with further blackmail letters and increased lawsuits. They recently made public the fact that the campaign to sue music listeners had (even with all of the paid fines) actually cost them money. But now victorious after their first court battle, one can only expect the industry to become emboldened and for the stakes to be raised.

Top Ten List

From the Associated Press, an hour ago:

"LONDON - Detectives on Thursday recovered a Leonardo da Vinci painting that was stolen from a Scottish castle in a daring daylight raid four years ago.Officers raided an address in Glasgow and seized "Madonna with the Yarnwinder," Scotland's Dumfries and Galloway police said. Three men from England and one man from Scotland were arrested. The painting appeared on the FBI's 10 most-wanted list of stolen art and on the Art Loss Register's list of stolen masterpieces, where it was valued at $65 million."

I note this only because I think it's hilarious that the FBI have a wanted list for artworks. Here it is, by the way, as of November '05, when it was first created by the bureau:

The top 10

1. 7,000-10,000 Iraqi artifacts looted and stolen in 2003
2. 12 paintings stolen in 1990 from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston
3. 2 Renoirs and 1 Rembrandt stolen from Sweden's National Museum in 2000 (Recovered)
4. Munch's "The Scream" and "The Madonna" taken in 2004 from the Munch Museum in Oslo
5. Benevenuto Cellini's "Salt Cellar" stolen from Vienna's Kunsthistorisches Museum in 2003
6. Caravaggio's "Nativity with San Lorenzo" and "San Francesco" from Palermo taken in 1969
7. A "Davidoff-Morini Stradivarius" violin stolen from a New York apartment in 1995
8. Two Van Gogh paintings taken from Amsterdam's Vincent Van Gogh Museum in 2002
9. Cezanne's "View of Auvers-sur-Oise" stolen from Oxford's Ashmolean Museum in 1999
10. Da Vinci's "Madonna of the Yarnwinder" taken from Scotland's Drumlanrig Castle in 2003

Maybe the list was created to save face after invading Iraq and not taking any precautions to prevent the widespread looting of important cultural artifacts?

YYZ Book Launch

"Pro-Forma", edited by Jessica Wyman, features essays and artists' projects that consider developments in the use of text in contemporary art. The first volume, being released Wednesday October 10th at 7pm at YYZ, examines the use of text in conceptual art. Volumes 2 and 3 look at text in strictly visual works and work that traverses boundaries between media, such as cinema, literature and visual art. Contributors include Barbara Balfour, David Garneau, Michelle Jacques, Michael Maranda, Eve Meltzer, Philip Monk, Mirielle Perron, Paul de Guzman, Ron Terada, John A. Walker and Laurel Woodcock.

Spoiler Alert? I'd be doing you a favour

I've just watched the worst film of the year - "1408" by director Mikael Håfström. I know that there was no reason to expect a horror film based on a short story by Stephen King would be anything but crap, but I went in with exceptionally low expectations and still found myself cursing the screen. Plus it had been well-reviewed in the Washington Post, Rolling Stone, Newsday, Variety, The Village Voice and a slew of other papers. It has a 77% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. 7% would have been generous. If I hadn't downloaded it for free, I'd be asking for a refund.

It follows the standard Stephen King approach: find something to haunt (a car, a dog, a photocopier, a hotel), haunt it, exhaust all the possibilities, and roll the credits. It borrows liberally from hundreds of other films as diverse as "The Stepford Wives", "Amityville Horror", "Groundhog Day", and King's own "The Shining", yet gains nothing in the process. A slumming John Cusack is in virtually every frame of the film, and mostly only him. He plays a horror writer (yeesh!) with a few lines of backstory in a half-ass attempt to make us care about his predicament (ex-wife, estranged father, dead daughter). Second billed is Samuel Jackson, who is on screen for maybe a total of ten minutes (which is more than all of the other remaining characters combined). The middle hour of the film is spent watching Cusack alone in a hotel room. Worse, it unfolds in real time, complete with a digital count-down to remind us how much more we must endure.

Every possible cliche is paraded onscreen: a bible with blank pages, appliances that function after their plugs are pulled, windows that slam themselves shut, faucets that dispense boiling hot water, faucets that dispense blood, phones that melt, thermostats that control themselves, doors that lock themselves, a television that plays poignant moments from the protagonists life, ad nauseam. Then things really get out of hand: walls bleed and collapse, passageways extend to nowhere, hell freezes over. The original conceits (is it a hoax perpetrated by the hotel staff, is it all in his head?) become irrelevant as silly vignette follows silly vignette.

There's the standard (since "The Sixth Sense", anyway) false-ending and the inevitable 'journey' of the lead, who deals with the 'demons' in his closet, overcomes his cynical selfish ways and saves the hotel in the process (by lighting it ablaze, long after it had already been charred or frozen or caved in or whatever other things the CGI crew could dream up). There are maybe three genuinely frightening moments in the film, and two of them were a song by the Carpenters.*

Both of these actors have a tendency to chose roles based on the paycheck more than the script, but this is even worse than that SLJ film in which he played a crime-fighting homeless concert pianist, and worse than the JC film in which he played Hitler's art dealer and set off the Holocaust by arriving late to a meeting where Adolf intended to present the Third Reich as a conceptual art project. I'm not kidding about either of those descriptions, by the way.

1408 is not appropriate even as dumb summer fun (the summer's over and it's all dumb and no fun), not even acceptable as a harmless time waster.

*The band's 1970 single "We've Only Just Begun", which is actually a cover of a bank commercial. Again, I'm not kidding.