Testing the staying power of whackness

Or, Take It Off 17 years later

Very nearly 20 years ago now De La Soul released the classic 3 feet high and rising. One of the many skits/throw-away tracks which filled out the record was Take it off in which the gang, in call and response style, pointed out a selection of whack fashion items they were sick of seeing. (It takes real conviction to forever mark your taste by imprinting it in hot wax! No turning back after that.) Fashion, being what it is, both fickle and recursive I thought that perhaps it was time to re-visit the items and see whether they are still hopelessly whack or, if on the magical valuation scale of fashion, which can change an items status from homeless guy’s ass-cloth to couture and back again in mere months, they had perhaps become dope, fly, or even fresh again. See below.

08.22. filed under: !. inquiries. life. play.

The biography of a painting

Or, the passion of Ben Shahn.

Ben Shahn is best known, perhaps, as one of the FSA photographers (along with Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange) who travelled the American south in the 1930’s documenting the adverse effects of the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, and increasing farm mechanization. (He also served as an assistant to Diego Rivera while Rivera executed the infamous Rockefeller Center mural.) Shahn, however, had come to photography as a means of doing studies for his paintings, and after World War II he put down the camera almost completely. He began, and ended, as a printmaker and painter. He was once considered one of the preeminent “realist” painters but by the time Abstract Expressionism came into vogue he’d been written off by the gatekeepers of High Art. In 1947 Clement Greenberg, the high priest himself, said, “Shahn’s art is not important and is essentially beside the point as far as ambitious present-day painting is concerned.” Art history has, in large, stuck to this view, which is a shame. Anyone quoted as saying, “I believe that if it were left to artists to choose their own labels, most would choose none” is alright in my book, for obvious reasons. 

08.21. filed under: art. history. people.

The Prisons, by Giovani Battista Piranesi

Picked up an oversized folio put out in 1973 reproducing a series of etching by Giovani Battista Piranesi. They depict a series of giant imaginary prisons. They are at once loose, layered, and complex, exhibiting a style not at all common in mid 18th century etching. Beyond this a quick read through the essay which begins the book shows Piranesi himself to be a somewhat tragic figure, not in any grand way, but rather in that he was unknown in his lifetime and to go a step further unfulfilled as well. You see even though these etchings of his are unmistakably beautiful Piranesi himself actually wanted to be an architect, a wish which, aside from a couple small commissions in the mid 1760’s completely eluded him. It didn’t help that the imaginary spaces he created were completely unbuildable, nor did it help that the lengthy original title of this series (which was etched in the frontispiece) was both grammatically incorrect and misspelled. Ah well, the guy might have died an unfulfilled wannabe architect but his etchings are quite something.

08.08. filed under: art. !. 3

It strikes me that most of we lay-folk, unversed in the “art of war” as we are, find ourselves dismayed and horrified by the goings-on in Iraq (yes, lest we forget in the fog of news on other ugliness, we’re still there) and I wondered whether there was anything I could do to help my fellow citizens better grasp the situation. After much research I was surprised to find that the Bush cadre does indeed have an exit strategy, and that the violence, strife, and chaos we see daily on our idiot boxes is not exactly what it seems. Following this brilliant strategy the Administration in fact has the broiling insurgency right where they want them. In as much I decided to take the initiative and create a handy, hands-on, illustrated handout, suitable for the White House website, social studies teachers and parents wishing to instruct the young, or indeed any lay person seeking to better understand the Bush administration’s exit strategy. See below.

08.06. filed under: !. criticism. politics. 4

Greetings from urban heat island

The Delhi Metro authorities say they have employed a large black-faced langur monkey to frighten away other monkeys who were worrying passengers.

Death Row Art Star A Documentary by Aron Ranen. Parts 1 and 2.

Two nice lengthy pieces on Sam Beckett who would have been 100 this year: Millennium Poet Laureate (The Chronicle), and Sam I Am (The New Yorker).

Spinoza argued that no group or religion could rightly claim infallible knowledge of the creator’s partiality to its beliefs and ways. Last week marked the 350th anniversary of his excommunication for such ideas: Faith In Reason.

Sean from Cosmic Variance on Boltzmann’s Anthropic Brain.

On Werner Herzog’s new film, The Wild Blue Yonder, the world’s first “undersea outer-space sci-fi documentary.” Sounds wonderful. Can’t wait to see it.

Meme Therapy asks Do you think it likely that the first discovery of extraterrestrial life will be made by a rover? I say no, unless by fortunate accident.

08.03. filed under: link dump.

You walk the grid and are faced in the dark alleys, the back streets, the main drags, with those who have come before you. Looking up you see the work of their hands, the words which once enlivened their lips. Valiant signs try to hold on to the boldness of their pronouncements. They labor against the flow of time to go on advertising products and businesses long forgotten. Bent arrows point to non-existent locations. Fonts and faces of real and imagined ideals struggle against the inevitable fade; These artifacts and artifices long torn from their intended contexts, they are the blood of the hustle coagulated to stone.

08.02. filed under: !. observations. personal. 1


08.01. filed under: !. personal. play. science. 5

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