NEW PICTURES AND OLDER VIDEOS
By Andrea Bowers
1. CHRIS KRAUS, ALIENS AND ANOREXIA (Semiotext(e), 2000) Both a work of fiction and of critical theory, Kraus’ book is written in the first person, where emotional experiences can become philosophical concepts. The text cchronicales “Chris’s” failure as an independent filmmaker, along the way offering up aliens, art, and anorexia as radical responses to the profound cynicism of capitalism.
2. CHERIE CURRIE WITH THE SANDY WEST BAND (Coconut Teaszer, Hollywood) Typical LA, only about fifty people showed up to see these legends (Currie was the lead singer of the Runaways; West, their drummer). Between songs Currie told stories about the old days with gut-wrenching honesty, yet there wasn’t a shred of bitterness (or Nostalgia) as she recounted what the band went through as sixteen-year-old rock stars. For the last song, “Cherry Bomb”, Currie held the mike out for us to sing the choruses, as if we were at Madison Square Garden.
3. DAVID ASKEVOLD, “NEW PICTURES AND OLDER VIDEOS” (Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions) Askevold’s new digitally produced landscapes are built out of cultural imagery like rock album covers, pornography, Native American drawings, religious iconography, and comic books. Half archaeological discovery, half dump-site sediment, they map the psychological effects of digital-information overload. Also included is a historical survey of Askevold’s video work. In contrast to the extravagance of much contemporary video production, his pieces are a reminder that the medium can engage in a direct give-and-take with the world around it.
4. MONICA BONVICINI (Galleria Emi Fontana, Milan) Bonvicini plays with the construction of sexual identity, trying to provide a fluid model of gender. At Fontana she converted the gallery into a bachelor pad called the “Eternmale,” which included designer furniture made of Eternit, a construction of material combining cement and cellulose, arranged on a bright blue carpet. Sound tracks to gay porn films played constantly at low volume. Periodically, ’70s pop lyrics blared, disrupting the laid-back atmosphere. A version of the project was exhibited at Kunsthaus Glarus last summer, where Bonvicini made parodic reference to the male as hunter by hanging a blue cubist Picasso in the bachelor pad- an idea she gleaned from a Playboy that recommended that single men display a Picasso or some sort of “primitive” art to reference the cave. At first view the installation is alluring, but then the chill-out pad turns sour, eroding the sterotypical power of seduction.
5. KINGDOM PARADE (Los Angeles) Not only is this parade a celebration of the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., it’s proof of the city’s political awarness. There were voter-registration tables on every corner, and the route was littered with anti-Ashcroft posters. Along with the Shriners in their miniature cars, the parade was filled with local officials in convertables. The politicians seemed strangely vulnerable; you could feel the energy and tension in the crowd’s reactions- there were cheers, boos, and uncomfortable silences as they rolled by.
6. THE JIM ROME SHOW It’s a sports talk show where the callers (or “clones”) are berated by the host, who encourages then to come up with more intelligent analyses. Rome’s motto is “Have a take and don’t suck or you’ll get run.” (It’s more inspiring when he says it.) If he’s not discoursing on Shaq and Kobe, he’s aggresively attacking racism, domestic abuse, and the culture of privilege in big-time sports. One of the rare liberal voices on AM radio.
7. DANCE DANCE REVOLUTION (Konami) The days of passively sitting in front of a video game are over. The new dance-simulation games by Konami have kids getting up and miving. Arrows on the game’s screen light up, and the player’s feet have to follow. Sweaty bodies move on metal stages, while Japanese Dancemania CDs and American pop songs overlap in the arcade to produce a dissonant techno-noise. The games require no rhythm-nor, for that matter, any traditional dance skills.
8. TRIM NYC (www.trimnyc.com) On a recent trip to New York, feeling a bit inelegant and dreading those expensive SoHo shops, I discovered this Christina Davis roving boutique, which sells emerging designers cheap. Check out their gallery events (I attended one at White Columns), which transform art spaces into fashion boutiques for an evening, or make an appointment to see the showroom, located downtown at a Manhatten Mini-Storage.
9. THE PASADENA ICE SKATING CENTER This old, worn rink in downtown Pasadena draws an eclectic group from all over LA. I recommend the Coffee Club on Wednesdays and Fridays: skate rental, practice, and a half-hour lesson for a mere $7.50. Have coffee and doughnuts with everyone from retirees to soccer moms to Caltech profs gossiping about their latest discoveries. Once a year the trekkies from the Star Trek Convention invade the Pasadena Conference Center next door.
10. YAGURA ICHIBAN KARAOKE LOUNGE (Los Angeles) I happen to have found myself in more than a few Karaoke bars, but this one stands out. It’s small and intimate- no stage, disco ball, or colored lights. Everyone stays in their seats, so most of the time you aren’t quite sure who is singing. The song choices are ingenious and the performances inspired. A middle-aged Japanese man did a rendition of Peggy Lee’s “Johnny Guitar” that brought tears to my eyes.