Critical Trilogy

a critic's millennial journey

END OF AN ERA

“Changes and revolution always come from people outside the system.

It system wants to control and dominate you; the system wants you to fit in.”

Aldo Tambellini



February 28.  If there was ever a moment of Uncertainty proceeding change, this is it.  The world economy is perched on collapse, Congress seems to have lost its will, and the newspaper crisis has broken down the Third Estate in such a way that the collective voice of the American people has been lost to a sea of clashing interests.

Never has the problem of entrenched interests, namely corporate greed, been so transparent in America.  It permeates after facet of American life.  When a society can’t even look to its art or religion for salvation, we know the breakdown is complete.

Where can a cultural critic turn for a sign, or a symbol, to sum up this deplorable state of affairs?  The last place I was expecting was right on my doorstep.  But there it is in the newspaper of record.

The front page of the February 28 New York Times Arts & Leisure is worth preserving in a time capsule.  In the left column, the Book Review editor Sam Tenaha’s article Violence That Art Didn’t See Coming condemning art for its failure to pick up “the signals in the air,” which I responded to by letter.  The huge headline of the main article on the page revealed the failure, not in the art itself, but the media’s failure to write about the art picking up “the signals in the air” which I have been tracking for over a decade!

"The New York Times," February 28, 2010

Randy Kennedy’s The Koons Collection, with its attendant photo capturing the so-called artist’s characteristic self-satisfied grin underlying the message of the story — the King of Schlock is actually a connoisseur of fine art.  Could the writer not even realize in print the Heisenberg Principle at work here – the dealer in schlock transformed into curator by way of a new persona afforded by the newspaper of record?  Since when did publicity and feature writing conflate into the same article?

This assault was the deadly shot after the stunning blow in the Times Weekend Arts section where we had the paper’s lead critic, Hilton Kramer, writing about the Whitney Biennial on the cover and ever so conveniently, on the jump age,  “Who Needs the Whitney? They Have Their Own Show” about the collaborative group Bruce High Quality Foundation (BHQF) self-reflective The Brucennial 2010 exhibition organized by the son of art star Julian Schnabel, who is in the show!   The two Cotter articles were connected by space as well as an object, the BHQF  “We Love America, and America Loves Us,” a video penetrated ambulance hearse, which Hilton found “gripping.”

Talk about having your cake and eating it too!  In the past, the outsiders would have waited a decade, or at least a year, for usurpation into the system.  Now, news of coalescing appears in the same newspaper edition!

If this wasn’t enough to reveal how pervasive the corporate monopoly on art in Bloomberg’s New York, when I received the e-mail regarding the press preview of the Armory Show, I was surprised to see the director of MOMA Glen Lowry giving the opening speech.  Does anyone even remember that the Armory Show was begun as collaboration between Pat Hearn, and Paul Morris and Matthew Marks as an alternative even to the art institutions?

And we know criticism is in a state of crisis and has been for some time.  At my peak I wrote for five newspapers and now I can’t get an assignment.  But the corporate run institutions that control the art that is being seen in the public trust is now overshadowing the commercial network made visible at the art fairs?

And fittingly, to end the week closes the exhibition of the bad boy from across the pond, Demian Hirst at the Gagosian Gallery aptly named “The End of an Era.”  The title alone encapsulates the New York scene during an extraordinary full moon launching the authentic beginning of the second millennium.

Saturday, March 7.  No, I didn’t rush to see the Demian Hirst show on the day of its closing.  I’ve seen it all before.  Just like I didn’t bother going to the press preview of the New Museum exhibition curated by Koons last Tuesday.  I went to see Kate Millett at her apartment instead.  There is this hunger in me to bypass the postmodern era and feed on real substance I find in artists born during the Great Depression.  More on that later.

On Saturday, I went to the Center for Independent Publishing Book Fair at the Mechanics Building on 44th Street.  I last visited the place when I followed Richard Kotstelanetz to an unforgettable meeting of the Libertarian Society which came to a standstill to pay excited homage to  — who else but Ayn Rand!   Such a historic building!  I visited Susanna Cuyler at her booth, strategically placed at the entrance to the second floor room.    She had offered the use of her table to present my books, so I strategically placed them for a photo:

A devout advocate of small press publishing, Susanna has been coming to the fair for years with her publishing house, Brugged, and in fact, that is how we know one another; she gave me a large format Jeanne Owens: A Pictorial Biography, thereby responding to my search before it even began: to uncover the prototype woman of the 21st century.  For years, I have been awaiting the moment to write about this beautiful and talented woman; and here the opportunity has presented itself!

Laurie James at the Center for Independent Publishing; Saturday, March 6, 2010

Laurie James, an actress who gave up the variety of the stage to focus her talents exclusively on Margaret Fuller, was present with her literature.  Laurie persists in thinking that Margaret Fuller is forgotten, which is the name of one of her books, but the events being planned in Boston and Concord during her bicentennial year will prove her wrong!    We joked about the inevitability of her subject being discovered by Hollywood when she is too old to play the role.  Fuller died at the age of 40 in a shipwreck off Fire Island, along with her Italian husband and their son.

sculpture by May Wilson, Pierre Menard at Red Dot Art Fair, NYC, March 6, 2010

When I saw this haunting sculpture  (above) by May Wilson at Pierre Menard‘s installation at Red Dot, I knew it had to be the exhibition we are putting together in the gallery: “Woman of the 21st Century: Margaret Fuller and the Sacred Marriage”.

Haunting!

That brings me to my big discovery made at the book fair, but I didn’t realize it until coming home on the train.  I participated in a discussion group about the evolution of publishing, which was full of discouraging news about the state of the five corporate entities that now have a stranglehold on publishing in New York City.  In an effort to be upbeat, I talked about my experiment in publishing with I-Universe and launching this blog as a dissemination vehicle.

Afterwards, Olga Ast came up to me with her book (left), and suggested that I start reviewing artist books as a means of dissemination.  So, here I begin with her riveting book, Fleeing from Absence: four cross-disciplinary essays on time, its nature and its interpretations.  It really puts its finger on the paradigm shift and the manner it is making humans go crazy.  Do you ever hear people, particularly New Yorkers, exclaim they have no time, they are running out of time, etc. etc.?  I mean, I don’t even both making plans with New Yorkers because it feels like a strategic attack!

The feeling of never being able to keep up with time is the byproduct of linear thinking – where time runs in a linear progression rather than the cycle represented by the Ouroboros, which has always been my manner of interpreting art — as a transformation cycle of life/death/rebirth.

"Self-Portrait with Ouroboros" by Lisa Paul Streitfeld, 2009; photograph, collage and encaustic

This is how I experience time, as a cycle, whether I am tracking my emotions (the lunar cycle of 28 days), my art (the Venus cycle of 584 days) or Mars (a new sign every two months).  I never see time as linear anymore.  If I did, I would be extremely depressed about my manner of living — without a job, income or future prospects for some sort of viable career!

How  incredible to be given a gift by Olga of this wondrous book, which explains time in a completely new and holistic manner!   Every page is an illumination, with words and image creating a new form of poetry which bypasses the frontal brain and enters straight into the subconscious.  Here is a sample.

Every shape in the universe is a unique record of its time.  The form of a particular stone reflects its response to change; the form of the human body similarly reflecs first its change along our human evolutionary path and second, its change during its own existence and experienceTime is a form of information, information that comes into existence in the material world as material matter.  It is the medium through which actualized matter comes into existence. Because of it, the physical world exists.

So, in reading this book after a long running dialogue with Dianne Bowen before and after seeing her complex installation at Foundation, I really made a huge leap into an understanding of how my body has imbedded cyclical time into its cellular structure.

Dianne Bowen in the East Village

In fact, at the book fair on late Sunday, just before closing, I made another terrific discovery, Terri Degler’s book The Divine Feminine Fire which immediately caught my eye on the Dreamriver Press table on the balcony.  There was a beautiful young woman drawing a mandala.

I picked up the book, knowing of course it was about the kundalini, the first book to tackle the subject as a totality. Bravo!  I ran downstairs and got one of my books from Susanna’s table and ran back upstairs and handed it to the woman.  She opened it to the page of Pan, smiled with recognition and explained she is Greek.  I told her that I rewrite the myth of Psyche and Eros in the book. “We have to rewrite the myths.”  And she said something I haven’t heard since I left California.  “It is a transformation in the DNA.”

Detail of Dianne Bowen's installation at Fountain NYC, March 6-7

These matters of DNA, replication, change, consciousness and time is what Bowen explores with her visceral art, harkening back to the Pattern and Design Movement and ahead to the human genone as a coding for galactic communication via sound which isn’t quite sound as we earthlings know it.

The evolution of the DNA is an absolute reflection of Olga’s theory about time being about consciousness.  Clearly, a leap in consciousness is about change.

This perspective of time as change clues us into the current atmosphere of  Uncertainty — the patriarchal structures inability to adapt to a new conception of time!  We are,  “fleeing from absence” rather than surrendering to the void, which is, like the yin and yang, an essential part of the whole!  We need only look up to the heavens to see this process on a daily basis — in the lunar cycle: going from empty to being full to being empty.

The problem is one of balance between technology and nature.  Even as we succumb to 24/7 demands on our time from the media and social networking, we have difficulty resonating to natural cycles. Even women whose bodies are biologically attuned to natural rhythms through their menstrual cycles!  But we have lost our connection with nature through the dis-ease of our society.

For my taste, Greg Haberny brought home the point of the “end of an era” with considerably more wit and industry in his Pop Culture Wasteland at Fountain, NYC.

Greg Haberny's "Pop Culture Wasteland" installation at Fountain NYC, March 6-7, 2010

How do we get from here to there?  Aldo  reveals the passage — straight through the black abyss!

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March 12, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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