3/26/2009 3:04:44 PM
Part of the appeal of South by Southwest is the joy of surprise: happening upon a band that you’ve never heard before, and might never hear again, and being drawn into their musical world for a short time. I left room in my itinerary for such happy accidents by veering off any schedule at times and following my wandering ears. One particular night turned into a series of unexpected revelations—some fleeting and ultimately disappointing, but revelations nonetheless.
The first occurred when I was exiting a restroom at the Austin Convention Center and heard what sounded like Bjork being tortured by a metal band. I just had to check this out. I homed in on a music hall where the L.A. group Shiny Toy Guns was blasting out full-on rawk music with metal, electronic, prog, and pop elements. The band was visually intriguing, with a gothy drummer on the left side of the stage, a hunched-over keyboardist at right, and between them a guy on guitar and a woman on bass. She was the besieged Bjork. For a time their music was completely mesmerizing, a pure sonic blast of adrenaline, deep and loud and tight. But alas, they could not sustain this, and soon slower tempos and intelligible lyrics revealed the cracks in their metal armor. They were entering power ballad territory when I split, fast.
I strolled several blocks to the Cedar Street Courtyard, where a much more sedate sort of rocking was occurring: The duo Beach House was doing their Mazzy Star/Nico thing, creating a gauzy haze of music that cushioned listeners’ heads like pillows.
I was becoming hypnotized and sleepy by the time Toronto’s Bedouin Soundclash took the same stage and ratcheted up the energy level with their hopped-up ska music. Sporting two horns, a rock-steady rhythm section, and a throaty vocalist, they sounded as natty as they looked in their black shirts and jaunty hats. The singer’s Canadian-Jamaican patois was clearly an affectation, but a damn good one. A crowd sing-along with “Stand by Me,” though? Time to go.
The Felice Brothers were as ragged as Bedouin Soundclash was sharp, in both appearance and musicianship—and yet their gig over at the Habana Café Backyard was equally fun. A roots-fueled band of brothers from upstate New York, the Felices played washboard, accordion, fiddle, and other trad instruments with abandon, ripping through songs like “Whiskey in My Whiskey” and “Ain’t Gonna Think About Trouble Anymore.” Two drunk dudes danced Western swing-style in front of me, their lit cigarettes nearly burning each other’s face as they whirled. (I love you, man.) Ending the show, one Felice tackled another and wiped out the drum kit. “We didn’t mean no harm,” one said as they cleaned up the wreckage. Like the stage, their music was a glorious mess.
3/24/2009 3:02:29 PM
In a digital world where photography has become accessible to so many, it takes a special talent to present an oft-photographed subject in an entirely fresh way. Photographer Nick Brandt’s photographs of African wildlife stop you in your tracks with their sheer beauty and surprising emotional impact. They bridge wildlife photography, portraiture and fine art. The simple choice that he made to photograph his subjects in black and white strips the colorful African landscape down to its bare elements, allowing the animals’ essence to shine through. More of Nick’s work can be seen at his website , and at the Los Angeles gallery that represents him. Abrams Books will publish “A Shadow Falls,” a new book of photographs, in September 2009.
Images courtesy of Nick Brandt
(Thanks, FFFFOUND! ).
3/24/2009 9:10:18 AM
With so many types of music acts from so many places, South by Southwest often feels like anything but Texas: Hairball Japanese metal bands, Brit-poppers, and electro-geek ensembles don’t exactly shout “Howdy!” But the Doug Sahm tribute at Antone’s, sponsored by Utne Reader and the Americana Music Association, was fully steeped in the Lone Star State.
Sahm had a passion for “American music—blues, jazz, real country, Tex-Mex, garage rock. He loved it all,” music journalist Tom Surowicz, a friend of Sahm’s, told me. There were tinges of all of these and more on the Antone’s stage as a rotating cast of Texas musicians took a whirlwind spin through Sahm’s good-time music to honor him and promote a new album, Keep Your Soul: A Tribute to Doug Sahm, on Vanguard Records.
The tribute kicked off with guitarist Jimmie Vaughan, who along with his late brother Stevie Ray is a legend of Antone’s stage; Austin roots-rockers the Gourds; Sahm’s son Shawn Sahm and the Tex-Mex Experience; California folk-blues tunesmith Dave Alvin, who wore a Stetson and a bandana for the occasion; and the boot-kickin’ band Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles. All delivered spirited versions of Sahm classics to a rapidly filling house.
Then things started to get legendary. Shawn Sahm brought out surviving members of his dad’s band the Texas Tornados, including keyboardist Augie Meyers and accordionist Flaco Jimenez, and proceeded to lead them through blazing renditions of more Sahm favorites, including the biggies “Mendocino” and “She’s About a Mover.” Shawn, a wiry, slight guy in a cowboy hat and a black Beatles shirt, was giddy with excitement, grinning ear to ear like his dad, tossing his head back to laugh, and wagging his tongue as he put the all-star band through its paces. When he shouted out “I love you, Dad” near the set’s end, it was clear from the crowd’s enthusiastic response that they did, too.
3/21/2009 6:29:20 PM
It’s all about the rhythm. The entire premise of rock ’n’ roll is built on a solid backbeat, of course, but many of the bands at the Utne Reader-sponsored Team Clermont showcase at South by Southwest were notable for using extra drums, cymbals, tambourines, and sampled beats to infuse their music with an even more deeply percussive undertow.
The first two of the six bands were lessons in the basics. First act Ruby Isle, a keyboard-keyboard-drum trio, delivered manic electro-power pop fueled by a propulsive drummer in the classic style. Singer-keyboardist Mark Mallman was a complete spazz in a sleeveless flannel shirt, tight black jeans, and yellow track shoes, often perching on the utility ladder that served as his keyboard stand to gesticulate and grandstand. The trio used extensive sampled instrumental tracks to make up for their lack of guitars.
Telekinesis, a Beatles-infused Seattle quartet, also stuck to the standard beat prescription, but as a drummer-led band it stood out for its configuration, placing drummer, singer, and bandleader Michael Benjamin Lerner front and center. He came off as a fresh-faced schoolkid compared to the unhinged Mallman, focusing his intensity on the music instead of the audience as he played his hook-packed, often joyous pop.
Then things started to get farther out. Slaraffenland, an experimental-leaning outfit from Denmark, had a starting lineup of two guitars, sax, keyboards, and drums, but ended up switching in clarinet and trombone and sending some of the members back to the kit to help the drummer work the tom-toms and cymbals. Their highly unconventional songs had constantly shifting textures, traversing sounds from pop, rock, jazz, and art rock as each composition built to a controlled cacophony. One song deployed an unconvincing chant of “I won’t track you down,” which they repeated over a building techno beat; another deconstructed to a marchlike cadence; and another ended with three members drumming at once in a tribal exercise that felt like some sort of art-rock invocation.
The Modern Skirts from Athens, Georgia, tilted more toward pop but also brought an enhanced rhythm section as the keyboard player had both a piano and a snare drum. Despite their Athens pedigree and their ties to R.E.M. (whose Mike Mills produced a track on their album), they were more jumpy than jangly, often literally: Singer Jay Gulley spent half the gig in the air as he bobbed up and down. Still, their music would seem perfectly at home in the college-radio realm, and Gulley’s vocal similarities to Oasis were unmistakable.
Things slowed down for the next set, which was no surprise, since the band was called Casiotone for the Painfully Alone: Yes, it was downbeat electronica. Stationed behind a stack of keyboards and a tangle of wires, beefy, bearded Owen Ashworth sang in a beaten-down baritone about what appears to be a sorry mess of a life. I didn’t much care for his lo-fi, cheap keyboard sounds or his aggressively disaffected voice, but I’ll concede that more so than most of his electronica peers, he writes actual songs to hang his beats on.
Pulling us back from the brink was Mirah, a singer-songwriter who sang winsome, personal tunes with a folkie feel. Using soft mallets and standing, her drummer forged a soft pulse to underlay these confessional numbers. Mirah’s slight, quiet songs were sometimes lost in the din of a distracted audience, and I could see her going over well in a coffeehouse or similarly low-key venue.
The penultimate act of the day was Loney Dear, a Swedish outfit led by Emil Svanangen. He writes songs that in an earlier age could have passed as folk, but his electronic ornamentation makes them fully contemporary. Again, the rhythm was king, with a driving drummer, tambourines, and backing tracks fleshing out the beats. Loney Dear held the re-engaged audience rapt by mixing up moods and tempos, and a new song called “Summers” was a real treat, triumphant and wistful at once. At one point, Svanangen whistled the unmistakable melody from “Young Folks” by Peter, Bjorn and John, a sly nod to his fellow Swedes who became an international pop sensation. If he keeps this up, he could do the same.
3/20/2009 3:57:37 PM
In the 1980s, when “alternative rock” connoted something other than a marketing template, the boutique London-based record label 4AD was one of the most distinctive labels around. Bands like This Mortal Coil, the Cocteau Twins, Wolfgang Press, and the Breeders didn’t necessarily all sound alike, but there was an aesthetic consistency to 4AD releases that made the label a trusted source for seekers of new sounds.
After that early heyday, 4AD registered as a smaller blip on the hipster radar, but now the label is back at the fore, with newer artists like Bon Iver, M. Ward, and the National bringing back its cutting-edge reputation. A 4AD showcase at the 2009 South by Southwest made a convincing case that it fully deserves its recaptured respect.
A long line outside the Central Presbyterian Church, one of the more unusual SXSW venues, was one indication of the label’s resurgence. When I got inside, singer-songwriter, M. Ward had just finished his set, and the crowd was abuzz. “It was just him and his guitar and he was a total master,” said a fan behind me. Both of Ward’s 4AD albums, 2006’s Post-War and the new Hold Time, have cemented his reputation as one of indie rock’s more craftsmanlike tunesmiths.
The next act to take the stage under the giant crucifix was Department of Eagles, a four-man band that delivered a set of lurching songs with off-kilter rhythms that often built up into towering crescendos of sound. Steadfastly refusing to lock into a predictable rhythm or even a melody, their songs seemed to strain to break free of these idiosyncratic forms, but never did, creating a tension that held the crowd on the edges of their pew seats.
Following them was St. Vincent, an Austin act that clearly had lots of local fans in the house. Their sound is perhaps best described as arty chamber rock, and like Department of Eagles many of their songs swell toward cathartic, unsettling conclusions. But singer Annie Clark’s voice, which recalled the great 4AD singer Elizabeth Frazer, added a sweeter edge, especially on the love-soaked plea “Marry Me,” in which she sang, “We’ll do what Mary and Joseph did, without the kid.” And some of their songs took a more decidedly pop tilt, especially the brief but brilliant “Actor Out of Work,” which might have passed for power pop if not for the shards of electric guitar that punctuated it.
Scottish “twee” band Camera Obscura, newly signed to 4AD, concluded the night’s arc perfectly, playing pure pop that doesn’t challenge so much as delight. Singer Tracyanne Campbell, her hair in a bob and wearing a dress fit for a Sunday picnic, was an anti-rock-star frontwoman, making no effort to drop her inner geek or, for that matter, her Scottish accent. “This is our first shew in the steets for a while,” she said, “and our first shew in a warking church.” My wishes were fulfilled when they played “Let’s Get Out of This Country,” a perfect pop song from their last album that gave me solace in pre-election America. Their first 4AD album, My Maudlin Career, is due out next month.
All through the night, the intermission music consisted of great songs from the 4AD back catalog, like "You and Your Sister” and “Song to the Siren” by This Mortal Coil. While it was wonderful to hear these tunes, if they were intended to demonstrate the label’s excellence, they were superfluous: The music emanating from the stage did that very well.
3/20/2009 12:36:28 PM
It was obvious that this wasn’t just another flight as I got on my plane to South by Southwest. Hairstyles, fashion choices, and a surfeit of indoor sunglasses clearly indicated that this was a rock and roll crowd. Musicians struggled to fit guitar cases into overhead bins, and I spotted Minneapolis singer-songwriter Gary Louris making his way down the aisle.
In Dallas, I chatted with Louris as we waited to change planes. He’s got four shows scheduled for the conference to promote his new album with Mark Olson, his ex-bandmate in Minneapolis roots-rock band the Jayhawks. The disc, called Ready for the Flood and released by the New West label, is an acoustic, stripped-down album that highlights the Louris-Olson harmonies that were a Jayhawks trademark.
My Dallas-to-Austin connecting flight was even more rocking as the ratio of SXSW-bound music industry folks increased to the saturation point. Peter Jesperson, the New West A&R exec and former Replacements manager, hopped aboard. In Austin, baggage claim bustled with instrument cases, and outside the terminal a limo driver walked around with a sign reading "Bar Kays" as he looked for the legendary Memphis band.
A shuttle van to the hotel turned into a networking opportunity for the passengers, which included one hip-hop tour manager; two guys from a graphic design firm; two women from an “orchestral pop” ensemble; and one magazine journalist, me. Business cards were exchanged, gigs announced, and war stories traded. The tour manager spent half the ride on his cell phone discussing the cost, in British pounds, of concert gear for an upcoming tour. Business taken care of, we disembarked and prepared to immerse ourselves in the festival.
Later that night, after midnight, I found myself looking for one more gig to catch after the excellent 4AD showcase at Central Presbyterian Church. Aha—I recalled that one of Louris and Olson’s gigs was just two blocks away. I hustled over to the Victorian Room at the Driskill Hotel, where Louris, Olson, and their two acoustic guitars were holding a crowd spellbound with just their acoustic guitars and voices.
Their new material fit seamlessly alongside the Jayhawks classics that sprinkled the set, namely, “Over My Shoulder,” “Two Hearts,” “Waiting for the Sun,” and, as the closer, their biggest hit and perhaps my favorite Jayhawks song, “Blue.” The crowd let out an exuberant cheer at the distinctive opening notes, and as the honeyed harmonies filled the room, it seemed to me that at South by Southwest, business as usual is sometimes transcendent.
3/19/2009 11:02:09 AM
Nina Katchadourian’s piece of visual intrigue, Genealogy of the Supermarket, makes for a very different “shopping” experience. The artist has created a sort of food-label lineage from the familiar faces that look out from products on grocery store shelves.
In Katchadourian’s version of the family tree, the Sun-Maid raisin girl is a sister to the Saint Pauli Girl… who happens to be married to another beer icon, Samuel Adams… and they’re the parents of two rugged Brawny Paper Towel men… one of which is the partner of Mr. Clean… and together, they’re the adoptive fathers to none other than the Gerber baby. Bet you never knew, right?
Cory Bernat offers up some interesting analysis of the project in the fall 2008 issue of Gastronomica. He feels the advertising ancestry is “hardly burdened by the hard facts of science, the history of food manufacturing, or the politics of nutritional policy.” Rather, the icons are presented in such humorous and thought-provoking pairings that they beg the reader to pose larger questions about the reasons behind each icon’s particular placement. Bernat wonders:
Is the Native Indian icon found on Land O’Lakes butter the Corn Maiden’s mother because Native peoples are more connected to the earth? Or because they were treated for a long time as less than human, making the half-vegetable reference more pointed?
Is the marriage of the smiling Quaker of Quaker Oats fame to Aunt Jemima a reference to the business-trivia fact that his parent company purchased hers? Is it, perhaps, a commentary on marriage as ownership? Or on slave-holding whites? Or, as one historian friend has suggested, perhaps the interracial union is a reference to the Quakers as early abolitionists?
Ultimately, you’ll have to draw your own conclusions about the intricate reasons and motives behind the connections. You can check out close-ups of the iconic food labels on Katchadourian’s website. I also recommend poking around her other projects, which include more family trees, maps, interactive public art, these delicately mended spiderwebs, and amusing collections of sorted books.
Image courtesy of Nina Katchadourian, Sara Meltzer gallery, and Catharine Clark gallery.
3/18/2009 10:21:12 AM
Alt Wire is a morning digest of links and information collected and explained by a different guest blogger every weekday. Today's guest is activist and designer Noah Scalin of Another Limited Rebellion
. We asked him for five links, and here's what he gave us (check back for tomorrow's guest, Jessica Hoffmann of make/shift):
Add-Art: The Anti-Advertising Agency doesn’t just critique and poke fun at the excesses of modern day advertising, it does something about it! Their recently completed Firefox plug-in Add-Art, replaces annoying web ads with curated art that’s changed bi-weekly. I’ve been using it for a couple of months and it’s completely changed my experience of the web.
Bent Objects: When I was working on my Skull-A-Day project I stumbled into an entire universe of art blogging folks I had no idea existed. By far one of the best is Terry Border’s Bent Objects. His brilliant wire and household object constructions, posted every couple of weeks or so, strike just the right tone of clever, funny, and disturbing and are consistently inspiring to me. It helps that they are also immaculately shot, thanks to his commercial photography background.
Kristen Hersh: I’m addicted to music and Kristin Hersh has been feeding that addiction since I fell in love with her sadly underappreciated Throwing Muses in the 80’s. Not only is her music diverse and beautiful, but she’s recently been pioneering the future of music distribution by giving away her latest solo and side- project recordings for a donation of your choice (or free if you’re feeling stingy) via the CASH Music project. Plus they’re Creative Commons licensed, so you’re encouraged to experiment with them.
Power to the Poster: Whether you want to prepare for your next rally or just decorate your living space, designer Justin Kemerling’s Power To The Poster project has you covered. The site features free downloadable PDFs of issue driven posters by designers from around the world ready for home printing. Originally in B/W only, the post-election site now features inspirational posters in color and is accepting new submissions until May 1st.
Trailers from Hell: I’ve been a cult movie fanatic since I was a kid, so discovering Trailers from Hell is like finding a free candy store! Some of the greatest cult movie directors wax poetic over the trailers of some of the most amazing films (cult and beyond) ever made. It’s basically 2-3 minute chunks of sheer joy regularly updated and freely available courtesy of Gremlins’ director Joe Dante himself.
BIO: Noah Scalin is an activist and founder of the award-winning, socially conscious design & consulting firm Another Limited Rebellion. Noah's work at ALR has gained international exposure in over two-dozen books and is frequently featured in design publications. Noah's fine art has been exhibited internationally and his first book, SKULLS, based on his Webby award- winning online art project Skull-A-Day, has been featured in a segment on the Martha Stewart Show and was honored by the Young Adult Library Services Association as a Top Ten Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers. Noah is a regular lecturer at universities and to business groups. Noah is also an adjunct faculty member in the graphic design department at Virginia Commonwealth University where he teaches Design Rebels, a course on socially conscious graphic design. He is currently plotting to take over the universe with his multi-platform science-fiction project League of Space Pirates.
3/17/2009 2:45:58 PM
In 1985, simply putting out an album titled Rum, Sodomy & the Lash and produced by Elvis Costello was enough to guarantee a certain cachet with the punk set. Luckily for every spiky-haired kid who picked it up for its rich promise of degradation, the Pogues’ breakthrough album was a mind-blowing trip through time and across borders, drawing unexpected connections between Celtic folk, punk rock, and American roots music. In this book by the same sordid name, Jeffrey T. Roesgen tells the story behind the album, interwoven with a tale of his own creation, a seafaring narrative starring the band and several of their lyrics’ characters.
If this all sounds like something by and for serious fans, you’re right. The book is one of the latest in the 33 1⁄3 series, a collection of smartly dissective tomes about notable rock albums, from Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica to the Smiths’ Meat Is Murder and beyond. (See the full list at www.33third.blogspot.com.) The idea is to hitch up talented music writers with the object of their audio obsession and let them parse and probe it at length—an enterprise that, as you might guess, is as fraught with peril as being adrift at sea with the Pogues. There is the ever-present danger of wrecking on the shoals of metaphor, then flailing about in search of adjectives.
Roesgen, for his part, steers clear of such hazards and delivers a spirited novella along with vivid snippets of rowdy, romantic rock ’n’ roll history.
This review is from the March-April 2009 issue of Utne Reader.
3/17/2009 10:17:31 AM
Utne Reader had so much fun at South by Southwest last year that we’re going again. This time out, we’re sponsoring two wildly different concert bills and blogging daily from the mega-music conference in Austin, Texas.
Both our events take place on Thursday, March 19. The Official SXSW College Party, presented by Utne Reader and Team Clermont, begins at noon at the Flamingo Cantina with a roster of up-and-coming indie rockers: Loney Dear (5 p.m.), Mirah (4:10), Casiotone for the Painfully Alone (3:20), Modern Skirts (2:30), Slaraffenland (1:40), Telekinesis (12:50), Ruby Isle (noon), and Rafter (DJing between sets). I’m most keyed about the Scandinavian folk-pop of Loney Dear and the lo-fi musings of Telekinesis, but I’m keen to see all of these promising acts. I’ll be wearing my western-style shirt in ironic hipster style at this event, which goes until 6 p.m.
At 8 p.m., after a break just long enough for a takeout burrito and a Mexican Coke, we kick off a completely different sort of affair over at Antone’s—a roots-rock bill called Keep Your Soul: A Tribute to Doug Sahm, featuring the Texas Tornados, Shawn Sahm, Augie Meyers, Flaco Jimenez and the West Side Horns, Jimmy Vaughan, Dave Alvin, Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles, and the Gourds, along with Justin Townes Earle, Carrie Rodriguez, Raul Malo, and Band of Heathens. I’ll still be wearing my western shirt, but I’ll ditch the irony for a long, tall cold one and a bunch of twangy guitar solos.
Sponsored by Utne Reader and the Americana Music Association, the show is curated by Vanguard Records, which is just about to release a Sahm tribute album also called Keep Your Soul. If you don’t know who Sahm was, well, he was a character akin to Gram Parsons in that he mixed rock and roll with country music—but threw in some R&B and Tex-Mex, too—and scored a few pop hits along with a cultish following. The sheer talent lineup of this show and the attendant album (which includes Los Lobos, Alejandro Escovedo, Charlie Sexton and many others) is a testament to Sahm’s long-lived legacy.
One musician who was supposed to be on the Antone’s bill is instead recuperating at home from open-heart surgery: Buddy Miller. One of country music’s finest songwriters and a sideman/guitarist to Emmylou Harris and many other rootsy artists, Miller had a heart attack last month. His prognosis for a full recovery is excellent, Jed Hilly of the Americana Music Association tells me, and several tour-bus operators vied for the honor of taking Miller home from Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, where he had surgery. We’ll miss Buddy at Antone’s, but we’re cheered to hear that he’s sticking around.
Follow my blogging from South by Southwest at www.utne.com/arts.
3/16/2009 1:37:04 PM
German playwright, poet, and theorist Bertolt Brecht believed that when an audience gets too emotionally involved in a play, they lose their ability to think and thus their ability to take action. In plays like Mother Courage and Threepenny Opera, he utilized non-naturalistic techniques intended to constantly remind theatergoers that they were witnessing artifice. These included direct address to the audience and songs that were more like non sequiturs set to music than traditional musical numbers. His influence can be found in the work of many contemporary dramatists, including Suzan-Lori Parks, Young Jean Lee, Caryl Churchill, and Augusto Boal.
One of Brecht’s lesser known works, Roundheads and Pinheads, has been given a new treatment by pioneering choreographer David Gordon. The politics of division provide fertile ground for Gordon’s Uncivil Wars: Moving with Brecht & Eisler, which premiered at Walker Art Center in Minneapolis this past weekend. Surprisingly prescient considering it was written in 1936, the central story explores how governments devise wars to distract from other problems.
Set in Yahoo, a fictional country with “a big deficit and an overproduction of corn” (sound familiar?), the Viceroy and his Vice-Viceroy decide that the source for all their problems are the immigrant, pointy-headed Czichs (“chicks”), as opposed to the native, round-headed Czuchs (“chucks”). The play unfolds in true Brechtian style, with direct audience address and a stripped down set to render the performance transparent. The narrative is interspersed with songs composed by Eisler, whose raucous melodies often work against overtly political lyrics. Gordon has added an extra layer of meta-commentary by casting actors as both Brecht and Eisler, who narrate both the play’s story and the story of how they created the play. They also educate the audience on the artists’ lives and ideologies.
The result is a theatrically rich production that engages on multiple levels. Although the premise itself is quite simple—one person I was with compared it to Dr. Seuss’ The Sneetches—its larger themes ring as true today as when Brecht penned it. And Gordon’s reworking foregrounds this relevance by contextualizing the piece in history and theory. Considering the divisive politics that characterize so much of today’s world, this is necessary theater.
Photo by Paula Court, courtesy of Walker Art Center
3/16/2009 10:38:51 AM
Alt Wire is a morning digest of links and information collected and explained by a different guest blogger every weekday. Today's guest is Paddy Johnson of Art Fag City
. Check back for tomorrow's guest, Rinku Sen of ColorLines.
What are surf clubs? Put simply, they are group blogs in which a small number of artists surf the web for images, videos and other ephemera, and re-post the material with varied amounts of manipulation. In short, they are an internet artist’s sketchbook, and generally very fun to peruse. Here are a few recent highlights:
Spirit Surfers: Spirit surfers divide their posts loosely into two sections, The Boon, which typically host the found material, and The Wake, a field below where they show how they got there. In this case, The Boon is NOT work safe, and the wake arguably so. (Post by Seneca/2)
Nasty Nets: Tom Moody of Nasty Nets, a group surf blog known for its predilection towards older technology models and aesthetics, posted ads the United Art Contractors published in a 1984 issue of ArtForum. “We make very acceptable conceptual art” reads a show solicitation promising to pay any taker money in exchange for an exhibition. “We just want to know where to pay our dues." According to a PDF cited separately on Moody’s blog, Publico Presents, “In March 1985, Michael Selic, president of Works, San Jose, took the Contractors’ thousand dollars—along with their stipulation that he spend it entirely on himself, not the gallery.”
Confiding in Google: Taking cues from the Facebook meme which requires you to list the first ten Google results culled by plugging your name and the word "needs" into the search engine, this screen capture documents its suggestions for "I want," "I need," "I am so," and "I am so bored." Notably the first result for last of these states indicates the internet’s ultimate validation: url ownership. (Post by Guthrie Lonergan)
Flickr Favorites: Travis Hallenback’s collection of favorite Flickr photographs by other members hasn’t been posted to a surf club in which he’s a member, but the spirit seems close enough to warrant a mention. Evoking the best of Ryan McGinley’s earlier work, these curated photographs have a humble and completely unique quality to them.
One more from Nasty Nets:
Transitioning. Simply mesmerizing. Joel Holmberg.
BIO: Paddy Johnson is a writer and lecturer who lives and works in Brooklyn. She runs the Art Fag City blog, writes a regular column for The L Magazine, and is a recent recipient of the Warhol Foundation's Arts Writers Grant.
Previous Alt Wire Guests: Melissa Mcewan, Fatemeh Fakhraie , Joe Biel , Anne Elizabeth Moore
3/13/2009 3:13:00 PM
Art is dwindling in public schools, thanks partly to the No Child Left Behind act passed in 2002. Greater Good examines the importance of the arts in today’s schools and society. More than just a treatise on why art is good, this article “Arts and Smarts” goes beyond the typical art-matters debate and hones in on why we really need art in kids’ lives today.
Source: Greater Good
Image by Korean Resource Center licensed under Creative Commons
3/9/2009 12:44:46 PM
Matthew Glass has been collecting records for the better part of four decades. In a his Manhattan living space he has a “record room” where 10,000 records live. Framed records are his wall art. For years he sold records at the flea market on 24th Street. There are times in his life when he was frequently bringing records home by the box.
None of this would surprise you if you were to spend a single short second on LP Cover Lover, the website where he posts strange record covers in daily batches. He’s got a camera on a tripod in his record room and he is forever pulling records, photographing them, and posting them to his site, which boasts a comprehensive collection of “the world’s greatest LP album covers.”
“It’s helped me to spend time with my collection,” says Glass, who works in event promotion, “I appreciate what I have more.”
What he has is an eye for the beautiful and the beautifully absurd. There are plenty of websites showcasing goofy album art. Glass’ eye is well calibrated. “My tastes tend towards the ‘50s and ‘60s,” he says. “The art of the ‘80s was mostly just sort of gross.”
I asked Glass to suggest a few choice stops for anybody who spends some time with his site and wants more from the music blogosphere. His suggestions: Stupefaction, Show and Tell Music (check out their DIY cover gallery), and If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger, There'd Be a Whole Lot of Dead Copycats (don't miss this forgotten piece of history).
3/5/2009 9:32:43 AM
How would you feel about your child if he or she was conceived when you were raped? 15 years after the Rwandan genocide, there are an estimated 20,000 children in the country born as a result of Hutu militiamen raping Tutsi women. Photojournalist Jonathan Torgovnik was so moved by their stories while in Rwanda on assignment that he returned to the country to document them in words and through a remarkable series of portraits. Intended Consequences is an exhibition of the images at the Aperture Foundation gallery, which will be accompanied by a book . Torgovnik also co-founded the non-profit Foundation Rwanda, which seeks to improve the lives of these children by providing funding for their secondary school education, linking their mothers to existing psychological and medical support services, and raising awareness about the consequences of genocide and gender-based sexual violence through photography and new media.
(Thanks, Conscientious ).
3/3/2009 9:59:53 AM
Multi-instrumentalist Andrew Bird aims squarely at the pleasure center of the bookish indie set. His several acclaimed albums of postmodern chamber pop highlight his nimble playing and the warm electronics of his frequent collaborator, the drummer and producer Martin Dosh.
Only a team as visionary as Bird and Dosh would strive to fix what isn’t broken and transcend this winning formula, as they have with Noble Beast, where suitelike song structures, instrumental interludes, and audacious lyrical constructions build and soar but never topple into excess.
“Masterswarm” begins with a minor-key acoustic prelude to a joyously orchestrated tango of violin flourishes and handclaps. Bird’s whistling and tremolo guitar splice the mood of Strictly Ballroom with that of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. The arrangement employs addition, then subtraction, as the song’s instrumentation is gradually pared away until only the crushed bits of Dosh’s rhythm loop remain.
Indeed, Noble Beast’s most successful moments are its most percussive and experimental, evenly blending Bird’s meticulous performances and Dosh’s manipulated grooves. Lugubrious pitch-shifted drums lumber across “Souverian”; the canter and shuffle of “Not a Robot, but a Ghost” ultimately careens into a spooky, swirling meltdown of queasy violin and bowed bass.
Bird’s favorite instrument is probably the English language itself. He’s still unable to resist a geeky portmanteau (“Anonanimal”), a smirking pun (“Fitz & Dizzyspells”), even the occasional palindrome. But we should be grateful he’s transcending pop clichés. You can get away with plenty of too-clever-by-half lyrical stunts if they’re buttressed by such brilliant arrangements and beguiling melodies.
This review is from the
March-April 2009 issue of Utne Reader
Listen Now to a Streaming Track:
"Masterswarm" by Andrew Bird from Noble Beast
3/2/2009 3:46:34 PM
A jiggly observation from Giant Robot: “Asian Jell-O-style desserts aren’t as sweet, but are more hardcore than their colorful and kidcentric Western counterparts.”
So, naturally, one of our favorite super-hip arts magazines had to stage the coolest Asian Jell-O-making competition ever: a casual, creative affair at the Music Friends studio, not far from Santa Cruz, California. Who knew gelatinous desserts could be so artsy?
The turnout was impressive and the competition was intense. Some were traditional (red bean and coconut agar in lotus form) and others were new takes on classic forms (pear agar layered with almond jello in a Bundt cake form). There were also brand-new styles, including a Marc Rothko-inspired orange and apple juice sculpture and a wood grain panel made of agar.
The article isn't available online, but Giant Robot publisher and co-editor Eric Nakamura was kind enough to send us these droolworthy photos. Pictured, from top to bottom: Elaine Chen's layered project with lychee, coconut, and pear flavorings; a gelatin slab o' wood designed by Ken Mori, who used coffee to fill in the wood grain; and Wing Ko's agar sculpture of the Giant Robot logo, which was stood up to serve as the event's centerpiece. If you pick up the print edition, you'll be treated to a vast spread of all the competitors' entries—a table loaded with jiggly desserts of all colors, shapes, and flavors, including a trendy pomegranate-and-pear combo—and a fun history of the form in Asian and Asian-American culture.
Source: Giant Robot
Photos courtesy of Eric Nakamura and Martin Wong.
3/2/2009 11:46:15 AM
It is cliché to say that a picture is worth a thousand words, but this is what photojournalism seeks to accomplish. Truly great photojournalism does this in a way that is as artful as it is informative. Case in point is this amazing series of photos of pool hustlers from photographer Christopher LaMarca. They are proof of the power of images to communicate on a level that is, to me, more visceral than words. While you are there, check out some of his other work .
(Thanks, Coudal Partners ).
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