Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Sweet flipping bird

1 September 2008

Where does a wild woman go?* Well look – I don’t call it awol for nothing. You want a story? Let’s see: I was doing corporate espionage in Prague and Budapest. Or was it just Prague? Or Buda? Or Pest? (Not an unlikely scenario when you think about it – assuming one of the people involved was divorce litigant, no? Kidding. Seriously – kidding.) I was pirating (legal) substances between Spain and Morrocco. But that took all the fun out of it, right? Like you need to have MORE FUN in Spain?? But then Fez – not necessarily about FUN, right? But I really don’t know anything beyond Barcelona and Casablanca. Seriously. (Oh jesus if you only knew who I sounded like right now.) I was held hostage by Robert Wilson’s minions at the Water Mill in Southampton. Or was it just a toxic reaction to that Botox blitz after a multi-magnum Champagne OD in some designer’s digs in Montauk? Or Malibu? Return to the Chateau. Marmont.

No – the closest I got to Barcelona this summer was via Woody Allen and Vicky Cristina. Disappointing but delicious anyway. My immobility puts a new spin on the stay-cation concept altogether. Oh I’m getting around a bit – but it’s exhausting – I’m not sure which is more – the fuel prices or just the endless driving (it would be so nice to have a driver in this town ). I’ve been out a bit – films (well it’s summer; you know you’re going to go to some movies even if they’re bad), performances, new music, the usual action in the museums and galleries. There’ve been a few interesting group shows around town (e.g., Circus, Fette; a nice sculpture show at Western Project). I haven’t been to the Conceptualism show at MOCA yet; but seems as if it would be a great follow-up to the Lawrence Weiner show that closed a month or so ago. But the last few nights have been mostly about politics. Thursday was officially Barack’s night – in L.A. as well as Denver; but so was Sunday afternoon. My genius producer pals Jane Cantillon and Richard Ross, who have lately reincarnated themselves as a nightclub act (so much more entertaining than your garden-variety superhero/heroine), threw a benefit together in their beautiful garden and raised a small truckload of money for Obama. I suppose that means for the U.S.A. – since the Bush administration have put a whole new perverse spin on the “Ask not what your country can do for you;” concept. They’ve made it pretty clear that that a Republican government is not going to be doing anything for anyone or any part of this country outside the wealthiest .25 percent or the oil/energy or military industrial sectors. Am I hopeful? It’s too early to ask. But at least it makes me feel less exhausted.

Oh who am I kidding? If I were any more exhausted, I’d be something like Alexandra del Lago in Sweet Bird of Youth – “Oxygen. Oxygen!” – trying to connect with my inhaler. (“Who are you? I don’t know you.”) Gee, isn’t that an appropriate metaphor for life in Los Angeles? Trying to stay connected to that creative spark without blowing up the hotel room. Trying to connect to the inhaler or oxygen mask. Just trying to breathe. It gets a little overwhelming.

Or maybe just exasperating. I’m not the most patient person around. Certainly not at 9:00 in the morning. (My father says it’s just our DNA – of which mine is a particularly defective specimen.) Which is around the time I was flipping through the latest W Magazine this past Saturday morning. What can I say? It’s that time of the year, kids (I almost typed ‘ids’ – I guess that would apply, too). No, no, no – I’m so past the shmatte – no patience for that, either (and goddess knows, no money for it). But…. well, there’s always something in les modes, no? Whether it’s some jacket in pink-satin that looks like a cross between a bed-jacket and a life-preserver, or some bauble that looks like a prosthetic or silicone implant. (Okay, I’m looking for something, uh, new, okay??) Or – I don’t know – I’ve gotta figure out some way to look, no? And then there’s the terrific photography. Fabulous editorial spread by Juergen Teller, featuring that terrific actress and human work of art, Tilda Swinton. (You thought I was going to say, Björk, huh?) A couple of others -- two Kates -- by the team of Mert Alas and Marcus Piggot -- Hudson (new and improved); Moss -- same-old and fabulous). Of course, this being that time of year, as I said, they're also going to throw some art and culture at us, and of course they do. Tara Donovan -- show coming up, great studio, great new house in Brooklyn; Philippe de Montebello -- getting ready to retire, not exactly someone making the rounds in Chelsea every week, but a class act nonetheless; Liza Lou -- show coming up (at L&M), colonizing the bead craft work force of Durban, South Africa to build her over-sized lunatic baubles. (Come to think of it, it would almost make sense as jewellery.)

Yeah -- did anyone else read that? It was too early in the morning for the adrenaline to start flowing. In the hour or two before cocktails, believe me I would have been seeing stars -- no need for Ms. Lou's sparklers, thank you. As if there hasn't been enough ink spilled over her sorry ass -- we have to have a full color spread documenting her exploitation for the sake of kitsch on a grand scale? On a fascist scale. Make no mistake about it -- this kitsch Guantanamo in fiberglass, crystal and bugle beads -- in no way transfigures its grim subject. It's just a Disney-fied monument to fetish. As if her being awarded a MacArthur "genius" grant wasn't enough to make you throw up. And the writer's (Christopher Bagley) studied neutrality gets to be a bit much.

Lou tries to answer her critics and just digs herself a deeper hole. "It's summing up someone's lifework as a mental oddity.... What's far more frightening for people is to consider the possibility that I'm completely aware of what I'm doing." Yes -- it is a lifework as "mental oddity"; and yes, her awareness of what she's doing makes it far more frightening." Her studio/workshop set-up sounds like a Jim Jones/People's Temple cult camp. Everything but the cyanide Kool-Aid, which I'm sure you'd be begging for at the end of a workday. If you didn't figure in the desert/heat and the overseers with the whips, you'd think the Egyptian slaves building the pyramids got a better deal. At least they were building an architectual monument, a wonder of the world. Lou's wage-slaves (and you can imagine what those wages probably are) are only building a monument to their master's fatuousness. (Robert Pincus-Whitten is quoted and it's hilarious -- and embarrassing, and damning -- in its absurdity: "There's that ambiguity between the extremely luxurious and the politically terrifying." Move over Damien Hirst -- let Liza Lou and Walt Disney show you how it's REALLY done. Did he get paid to write that? Or is he suffering from dementia?) And please don't even think about throwing that comparison with Late Antique or Renaissance mosaic work at me. Those artists and artisans may have worked like slaves, but they were artisans, not slaves, not piece-workers; cognizant of their important creative role in the great studios and workshops.

Setting aside the colonialism, the exploitation, even the not-so-latent fascism of the work -- it's just BAD. Lou is quoted as saying that in art school, "I was really hated for what I was doing." Are you sure YOU were hated, Liza? Maybe what was hated was just the work -- what you were doing. The rest of the pull-quote is "I was this strange little person, making things." Yeah -- you could say the same thing about the Unabomber. I could go on. There's sheer insanity in every paragraph -- presented entirely without comment, challenge, cross-examination or any qualification or analysis whatsoever by the apparently anesthetized reporter.

Enough. To think -- all those thousands of man- (or woman-)hours of drudgery and all those thousands of beaded and sequinned dresses all over the world that need repair -- including one or two in my closet. Can we talk about some real sparklers now? The healing kind -- brought to you by Shirley MacLaine. She calls it "Chakra Sky Jewelry." "Align your Spirit, Body, and Mind with sacred geometrical forms and healing colors of the rainbow that are imprinted with Chi energy." A priestess in the Rat Pack -- who knew? Oh, if they could see you now, honey. (What would Dino say???) You can't make this stuff up. Does Warren know about this? Why couldn't she just stick to acting and dancing? Or even writing. Honey, this time you've gone WAY too far out on that limb.

* The line (by Susan Tyrrell and Gregory Poe) is from Susan Tyrrell's one-woman show, My Rotten Life.

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