Introducing the VICE Photo Issue 2014 
A disclaimer: Nothing in this year’s VICE photo issue is as it appears to be. Each page of the magazine is actually a piece of paper that been decorated with ink by our printer in Sussex, Wisconsin, in collaboration with our team here at VICE, so that it looks like something it is not. To further illustrate my point: The image below is not a blue sky dotted with perfect clouds, seen through the gauzy curtains of a dream window; it’s actually pixels on your computer screen changing color, or some shit.

Photo by Roxana Azar
But you knew that already. I’m just trying to say that photographs are never reality—they’re always the subjective opinion of someone who is releasing the shutter of a camera at a certain moment. It’s more or less a 1/8th-second crop of the photographer’s reality, or whatever reality he or she wants you to think existed. Photographs are unreliable. Clearly, pictures lie to millions of people every day in more ways than we could list here. Even so, some images have the power to rally entire generations to a cause, move any one of us to tears in their presence, allow the dead to live forever, and more.
It’s from this slippery and uncertain vantage that VICE’s 2014 photo issue takes its perspective. Curated along an expanding of the term trompe l’oeil, this year’s edition is a showcase of smoke and mirrors, featuring photographic illusions and transformations of all kinds. The issue includes a wide range of visual tricks, deceptions, and transformations by some of the greatest artists working today. Contributions from venerated photographers whose images have changed the world—such as Weegee, Cindy Sherman, and Laurie Simmons—share pages with the visionaries of tomorrow. Here are just a few of the issue’s highlights:

The magazine has a double cover by Michael Bühler-Rose—there’s an eyeball with a hole punched through it you can rip off, and the reverse has instructions for a ceremony to remove the evil eye.

Hiroshi Sugimoto: Ohio Theater, Ohio, 1980, gelatin silver print, 47 x 58-3/4” (119.4 x 149.2 cm), edition of five. Photograph courtesy the artist and Pace Gallery
This Hiroshi Sugimoto photograph accompanies the issue’s foreword, an essay by Bob Nickastitled “Trompe l’Oeil.”

(L) Laurie Simmons: How We See/Look 1/Daria, 2014, pigment print, 70 x 48 inches, 178 x 122 cm. (R) Jimmy DeSana: Red Boy in the Woods, circa 1978, C-print, 50 x 34 inches, 127 x 86.5 cm. Photos courtesy of Laurie Simmons and Salon 94, New York
There’s a spread by Laurie Simmons and her dear friend and mentor, punk art photographerJimmy DeSana. 

Jaimie Warren created a nativity scene out of characters from horror movies from the issue. Read Joseph Keckler’s text about Jaimie’s work, and watch a video of one of her recent performances.

Cindy Sherman: Cover Girl (Vogue), 1975/2011, three gelatin silver prints, 10.5 x 8 inches, 26.7 x 20.3 cm (each image size), 19.125 x 16.625 inches, 48.6 x 42.2 cm (each frame size), edition of three. Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York
There’s a three-page foldout by Cindy Sherman—an early work made when she was in art school.

One of my favorite new photographers, Michael Marcelle, made a new portfolio of work for the issue, titled Third Skin. 

Kevin Zucker contributed sunsets photographed on color Polaroid film, though he removed most of the color by shooting them through gray plastic.  

My friend and collaborator Cynthia Talmadge and I contributed a couple of our new painted positive/negative still lifes.   

There’s even a piece of photojournalism by Contact Press Images, which goes behind the scenes of a Syrian Ramadan soap opera.
While photographs are never reality, I will admit they depict some kind of absolute. The camera is, after all, a mechanical device: The lens records whatever appears before it with a cold yet democratically unflinching eye. And that fickle kind of truth is an extremely powerful force, if you can harness it. So I urge readers to greet the 2014 photo issue with skepticism. Look closely and never take its pages at face value. But find comfort in the uncertainty of not knowing what happened before of after the shutter fell—in that hazy, brief window, the very essence of human existence can be crystalized, forever. 
An exhibition of work from the VICE photo issue 2014 will open at Pioneer Works in Brooklyn on July 31st and remain on view through August 10th.
See more of the photo issue’s content here.
Download the iPad edition here.

Introducing the VICE Photo Issue 2014 

A disclaimer: Nothing in this year’s VICE photo issue is as it appears to be. Each page of the magazine is actually a piece of paper that been decorated with ink by our printer in Sussex, Wisconsin, in collaboration with our team here at VICE, so that it looks like something it is not. To further illustrate my point: The image below is not a blue sky dotted with perfect clouds, seen through the gauzy curtains of a dream window; it’s actually pixels on your computer screen changing color, or some shit.

Photo by Roxana Azar

But you knew that already. I’m just trying to say that photographs are never reality—they’re always the subjective opinion of someone who is releasing the shutter of a camera at a certain moment. It’s more or less a 1/8th-second crop of the photographer’s reality, or whatever reality he or she wants you to think existed. Photographs are unreliable. Clearly, pictures lie to millions of people every day in more ways than we could list here. Even so, some images have the power to rally entire generations to a cause, move any one of us to tears in their presence, allow the dead to live forever, and more.

It’s from this slippery and uncertain vantage that VICE’s 2014 photo issue takes its perspective. Curated along an expanding of the term trompe l’oeil, this year’s edition is a showcase of smoke and mirrors, featuring photographic illusions and transformations of all kinds. The issue includes a wide range of visual tricks, deceptions, and transformations by some of the greatest artists working today. Contributions from venerated photographers whose images have changed the world—such as Weegee, Cindy Sherman, and Laurie Simmons—share pages with the visionaries of tomorrow. Here are just a few of the issue’s highlights:

The magazine has a double cover by Michael Bühler-Rose—there’s an eyeball with a hole punched through it you can rip off, and the reverse has instructions for a ceremony to remove the evil eye.

Hiroshi Sugimoto: Ohio Theater, Ohio, 1980, gelatin silver print, 47 x 58-3/4” (119.4 x 149.2 cm), edition of five. Photograph courtesy the artist and Pace Gallery

This Hiroshi Sugimoto photograph accompanies the issue’s foreword, an essay by Bob Nickastitled “Trompe l’Oeil.

(L) Laurie Simmons: How We See/Look 1/Daria, 2014, pigment print, 70 x 48 inches, 178 x 122 cm. (R) Jimmy DeSana: Red Boy in the Woods, circa 1978, C-print, 50 x 34 inches, 127 x 86.5 cm. Photos courtesy of Laurie Simmons and Salon 94, New York

There’s a spread by Laurie Simmons and her dear friend and mentor, punk art photographerJimmy DeSana

Jaimie Warren created a nativity scene out of characters from horror movies from the issue. Read Joseph Keckler’s text about Jaimie’s work, and watch a video of one of her recent performances.

Cindy Sherman: Cover Girl (Vogue), 1975/2011, three gelatin silver prints, 10.5 x 8 inches, 26.7 x 20.3 cm (each image size), 19.125 x 16.625 inches, 48.6 x 42.2 cm (each frame size), edition of three. Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York

There’s a three-page foldout by Cindy Sherman—an early work made when she was in art school.

One of my favorite new photographers, Michael Marcelle, made a new portfolio of work for the issue, titled Third Skin

Kevin Zucker contributed sunsets photographed on color Polaroid film, though he removed most of the color by shooting them through gray plastic.  

My friend and collaborator Cynthia Talmadge and I contributed a couple of our new painted positive/negative still lifes.   

There’s even a piece of photojournalism by Contact Press Images, which goes behind the scenes of a Syrian Ramadan soap opera.

While photographs are never reality, I will admit they depict some kind of absolute. The camera is, after all, a mechanical device: The lens records whatever appears before it with a cold yet democratically unflinching eye. And that fickle kind of truth is an extremely powerful force, if you can harness it. So I urge readers to greet the 2014 photo issue with skepticism. Look closely and never take its pages at face value. But find comfort in the uncertainty of not knowing what happened before of after the shutter fell—in that hazy, brief window, the very essence of human existence can be crystalized, forever. 

An exhibition of work from the VICE photo issue 2014 will open at Pioneer Works in Brooklyn on July 31st and remain on view through August 10th.

See more of the photo issue’s content here.

Download the iPad edition here.

Even the President of the United States Must Sometimes Have to Paint Naked
Former president George W. Bush’s two most famous artworks are self-portraits. In one, he stands naked, reflected in the bathroom mirror from the waist up with his back to us, and in another, stretched out in the tub, from his own point-of-view. The latter is the creepier of the two. It’s as if our eyes and head correspond exactly to his—are we looking at our own knees raised in the milky bathtub; our feet and toes peeking out in the distance? Even for homespun realism/surrealism, it’s more than a little perverse. These are intimate moments that we would never be privy to—or particularly want to see—yet here they are, captured and put out into the world as paintings, made by the president himself.
Continue

Even the President of the United States Must Sometimes Have to Paint Naked

Former president George W. Bush’s two most famous artworks are self-portraits. In one, he stands naked, reflected in the bathroom mirror from the waist up with his back to us, and in another, stretched out in the tub, from his own point-of-view. The latter is the creepier of the two. It’s as if our eyes and head correspond exactly to his—are we looking at our own knees raised in the milky bathtub; our feet and toes peeking out in the distance? Even for homespun realism/surrealism, it’s more than a little perverse. These are intimate moments that we would never be privy to—or particularly want to see—yet here they are, captured and put out into the world as paintings, made by the president himself.

Continue

Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s Anna Wintour
"Pink is punk." Thus spoke Anna Wintour at the benefit gala that marked the opening of the exhibition, Punk: Chaos to Couture, held on May 6 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Wintour, the British-born editor-in-chief of American Vogue and artistic director for Condé Nast, is a member of the board of the Met’s Costume Institute (for which she is reported to have raised more than $100 million), and an Officer of the Order of the British Empire. Apparently even the queen of England can appreciate the regal power of ad revenue and corporate expansion spiraling ever heavenward. “This blessed plot, this earth, this realm …” And yet the pronouncement, “Pink is punk,” which slipped so assuredly from Wintour’s perfectly thin lips, is both vexing and revelatory. While Wintour is not to anyone’s knowledge developmentally disabled, her remark is quite possibly the single most retarded thing any public figure has said in recent memory. Even as retardataire as the fashion industry may be, endlessly passing off the old as new, feeding on its history and ours, since vernacular style—how we dress ourselves in the every day—fuels the more vampiric elements of this industry, the remark is cause for concern. She made it, of course, to defend the dress she wore to the gala: Chanel haute couture, floor-length, flowery pink. It would not have been out of place had she strolled onto a manicured lawn for a tea party at Sandringham.
Continue

Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s Anna Wintour

"Pink is punk." Thus spoke Anna Wintour at the benefit gala that marked the opening of the exhibition, Punk: Chaos to Couture, held on May 6 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Wintour, the British-born editor-in-chief of American Vogue and artistic director for Condé Nast, is a member of the board of the Met’s Costume Institute (for which she is reported to have raised more than $100 million), and an Officer of the Order of the British Empire. Apparently even the queen of England can appreciate the regal power of ad revenue and corporate expansion spiraling ever heavenward. “This blessed plot, this earth, this realm …” And yet the pronouncement, “Pink is punk,” which slipped so assuredly from Wintour’s perfectly thin lips, is both vexing and revelatory. While Wintour is not to anyone’s knowledge developmentally disabled, her remark is quite possibly the single most retarded thing any public figure has said in recent memory. Even as retardataire as the fashion industry may be, endlessly passing off the old as new, feeding on its history and ours, since vernacular style—how we dress ourselves in the every day—fuels the more vampiric elements of this industry, the remark is cause for concern. She made it, of course, to defend the dress she wore to the gala: Chanel haute couture, floor-length, flowery pink. It would not have been out of place had she strolled onto a manicured lawn for a tea party at Sandringham.

Continue

Why I Hate Graffiti 
Have you noticed how lame graffiti in New York has become in 2013? Especially the one-liners you see more and more of, with their pseudo philosophy and visual impairment. Where exactly is the art? And what’s the message? The vast majority of the graffiti that’s out there pales in comparison to the classic Wild Style of the late 70s/early 80s, though how could it be any other way? Is it the same in other cities? Or is the increasing irrelevancy of graffiti related to just how deadly boring and commercial New York feels right now? And to how overly policed it’s become? If so, couldn’t it feed off of that? Why isn’t graffiti commenting on the shitty sad state of things? On its co-option? On being chased inside? Graffiti can be, or at least once was, an expedient way of inserting social, political, and cultural comment into public view. One of the best examples, a huge wall painting on a building alongside the BQE, visible to every passing motorist, ridiculing CON$ervative GovernMENt as nothing more than CON MEN.

As far back as the “talking statues” of ancient Rome, whose pedestals were inscribed with anonymous barbs aimed at the church and state, graffiti has been another way of spreading the news, sharing caustic opinions and cranky dissent for all to see. But nowadays, apart from the tags that kids still write, and probably always will, graffiti seems like an advertisement for itself, or for an overeducated, underemployed class that wants to use the street as a springboard to careers in art, advertising, and fashion. Or it’s a vivid backdrop for an otherwise forgettable product. You see a tag in the street and look it up. Within seconds you’re delivered to a gallery, a shop window, a clothing or skateboard line. You come face to face with the fact that the whole world is infinitely more professional and commodified than ever before, and it can only get worse. “Hip” will either go willingly or be taken forcibly, which translates as: You can sell it to us… or be ripped off. So don’t feel that you’ve sold out before you’ve been bought. That’s the writing on the wall, and it’s been there for some time now. I really don’t hate graffiti. I only despise what it, and almost everything else in this town, has become—a shadow of the shadow of its former self.
At the risk of waxing nostalgic for the supposedly good old days of graffiti covering every available surface, it’s worth recalling how it felt to enter a subway train that was totally bombed inside. For some, it was nothing less than an assault. It was visceral and it was violent, and it was hard to think of it as an expression of art or joy, especially if its acidy vibe was encountered at 7 AM on your way to work. (This was the era of “Ford to City: Drop Dead.”) For others, it was something wondrous to behold, to see a giant painting glide through a subway station, or along the tracks above the street. Whichever side you were on, it seemed as if there was no Escape From New York.
Continue

Why I Hate Graffiti 

Have you noticed how lame graffiti in New York has become in 2013? Especially the one-liners you see more and more of, with their pseudo philosophy and visual impairment. Where exactly is the art? And what’s the message? The vast majority of the graffiti that’s out there pales in comparison to the classic Wild Style of the late 70s/early 80s, though how could it be any other way? Is it the same in other cities? Or is the increasing irrelevancy of graffiti related to just how deadly boring and commercial New York feels right now? And to how overly policed it’s become? If so, couldn’t it feed off of that? Why isn’t graffiti commenting on the shitty sad state of things? On its co-option? On being chased inside? Graffiti can be, or at least once was, an expedient way of inserting social, political, and cultural comment into public view. One of the best examples, a huge wall painting on a building alongside the BQE, visible to every passing motorist, ridiculing CON$ervative GovernMENt as nothing more than CON MEN.

As far back as the “talking statues” of ancient Rome, whose pedestals were inscribed with anonymous barbs aimed at the church and state, graffiti has been another way of spreading the news, sharing caustic opinions and cranky dissent for all to see. But nowadays, apart from the tags that kids still write, and probably always will, graffiti seems like an advertisement for itself, or for an overeducated, underemployed class that wants to use the street as a springboard to careers in art, advertising, and fashion. Or it’s a vivid backdrop for an otherwise forgettable product. You see a tag in the street and look it up. Within seconds you’re delivered to a gallery, a shop window, a clothing or skateboard line. You come face to face with the fact that the whole world is infinitely more professional and commodified than ever before, and it can only get worse. “Hip” will either go willingly or be taken forcibly, which translates as: You can sell it to us… or be ripped off. So don’t feel that you’ve sold out before you’ve been bought. That’s the writing on the wall, and it’s been there for some time now. I really don’t hate graffiti. I only despise what it, and almost everything else in this town, has become—a shadow of the shadow of its former self.

At the risk of waxing nostalgic for the supposedly good old days of graffiti covering every available surface, it’s worth recalling how it felt to enter a subway train that was totally bombed inside. For some, it was nothing less than an assault. It was visceral and it was violent, and it was hard to think of it as an expression of art or joy, especially if its acidy vibe was encountered at 7 AM on your way to work. (This was the era of “Ford to City: Drop Dead.”) For others, it was something wondrous to behold, to see a giant painting glide through a subway station, or along the tracks above the street. Whichever side you were on, it seemed as if there was no Escape From New York.

Continue

Bob Nickas: No one would expect to find the two of you together, but Sun Ra, your movie, Space Is the Place, and the film adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s book, Slaughterhouse-Five, with Billy Pilgrim in the lead, were made in 1972, and central to each story is the fact that you were both abducted. The two of you have something rather special in common—intergalactic adventure and time travel.Sun Ra: It’s true. In my case, the future was held for ransom. Billy was taken to another planet for some prenatal fun and games.Billy: They hooked me up with the girl of my dreams.Sun Ra: And you two had a baby, of all things, so the Milky Way could be even whiter.
Bob: Don’t forget that the full title of the book is Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death. Billy didn’t really have a choice.Sun Ra: He was only following… orders?
Bob: He became a willing captive in what turned out to be more of a biological experiment.Billy: Sun Ra planned to take his chosen people away from the Earth, to save them.
Bob: From who?Billy: From us. “Fear of a Black Planet” … in reverse. It was a brilliant and radical re-imagining of history. Marcus Garvey in a UFO.Sun Ra: You went on your own pilgrimage, Billy, more than once.
Bob: In my favorite scene from Space Is the Place, you’re dressed in Egyptian finery, flanked by a pair of attendants wearing gold masks. One of them is Horus, the falcon-headed God. It is a very tripped-out scene, even for the time. You walk into an Oakland youth center. On the wall are posters of various Black Panthers—Angela Davis, Eldridge Cleaver—there’s a pool table and a jukebox. The kids who are hanging out stare wide-eyed in disbelief.Sun Ra: They ask me, “Are you for real?”
Bob: And you gently lecture them: “I’m not real, I’m just like you. You don’t exist in this society. If you did your people wouldn’t be seeking equal rights. You’re not real. If you were you’d have some status among the nations of the world. So we are both myths. I do not come to you as a reality, I come to you as the myth because that is what black people are—myths. I came from a dream that the black man dreamed long ago. I’m actually a presence sent to you by your ancestors. I’m going to be here until I pick out some of you to take back with me.”
Continue

Bob Nickas: No one would expect to find the two of you together, but Sun Ra, your movie, Space Is the Place, and the film adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s book, Slaughterhouse-Five, with Billy Pilgrim in the lead, were made in 1972, and central to each story is the fact that you were both abducted. The two of you have something rather special in common—intergalactic adventure and time travel.
Sun Ra:
 It’s true. In my case, the future was held for ransom. Billy was taken to another planet for some prenatal fun and games.
Billy: They hooked me up with the girl of my dreams.
Sun Ra: And you two had a baby, of all things, so the Milky Way could be even whiter.

Bob: Don’t forget that the full title of the book is Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death. Billy didn’t really have a choice.
Sun Ra:
 He was only following… orders?

Bob: He became a willing captive in what turned out to be more of a biological experiment.
Billy:
 Sun Ra planned to take his chosen people away from the Earth, to save them.

Bob: From who?
Billy:
 From us. “Fear of a Black Planet” … in reverse. It was a brilliant and radical re-imagining of history. Marcus Garvey in a UFO.
Sun Ra: You went on your own pilgrimage, Billy, more than once.

Bob: In my favorite scene from Space Is the Place, you’re dressed in Egyptian finery, flanked by a pair of attendants wearing gold masks. One of them is Horus, the falcon-headed God. It is a very tripped-out scene, even for the time. You walk into an Oakland youth center. On the wall are posters of various Black Panthers—Angela Davis, Eldridge Cleaver—there’s a pool table and a jukebox. The kids who are hanging out stare wide-eyed in disbelief.
Sun Ra:
 They ask me, “Are you for real?”

Bob: And you gently lecture them: “I’m not real, I’m just like you. You don’t exist in this society. If you did your people wouldn’t be seeking equal rights. You’re not real. If you were you’d have some status among the nations of the world. So we are both myths. I do not come to you as a reality, I come to you as the myth because that is what black people are—myths. I came from a dream that the black man dreamed long ago. I’m actually a presence sent to you by your ancestors. I’m going to be here until I pick out some of you to take back with me.”

Continue

Andy Warhol, Race Riot over Robert Gober, Hanging Man/Sleeping Man wallpaper
Art critic/curator Bob Nickas reviews The Met’s show Regarding Warhol, via an interview with the deceased artist himself.

Andy Warhol, Race Riot over Robert GoberHanging Man/Sleeping Man wallpaper

Art critic/curator Bob Nickas reviews The Met’s show Regarding Warhol, via an interview with the deceased artist himself.

A TOUR OF THE MONUMENTS OF SALT LAKE CITY:ROBERT SMITHSON, THE MELVINS, AND THE MORMONS
by Bob Nickas


Robert Smithson, Spiral Jetty (1970), Great Salt Lake, Utah, black rock, salt crystals, earth, 1,500 feet long, approx. 15 feet wide. All photos by Jason Metcalf unless otherwise noted.
On Monday, September 3, I took a cab out to JFK for a nonstop flight to Salt Lake City. In the lounge area, sleepily waiting to board, no one really looked like a Mormon. This wouldn’t have actually occurred to me, but I had been warned. There would be young men coming back from their missions, wearing white shirts and ties, clean shaven, well scrubbed, and, as a rule, always traveling in pairs. This may have something to do, I was later told, with how they keep an eye on and watch out for one another, how they try to avoid being tempted or seduced, as they might be if they were out on their own. While this does make sense, it doesn’t account for those non-believers who, shall we say, prefer a challenge, and are not actually averse to a three-way. I had bought a copy of the New York Times, and at the moment the prospects of the paper were slightly of greater interest. The cover stories were mainly election-related, such as: “Effects of Romney’s Tax Plan? Key Variables Are Left Blank.” One major point of contention raised in the story is Mitt Romney’s claim that his policies won’t raise the taxes of middle-class Americans, and yet you have to wonder how he expects to do this while covering about $1 trillion in tax breaks annually, and without increasing the federal deficit. Economists and tax experts—no mater what their political affiliations—don’t see how he can pull it off without seriously hurting the middle-class, but boarding a plane and the economy have one thing in common: it’s always business first.
Members of the Manson “family” congregate at the Los Angeles Hall of Justice on February 24, 1970, for the arraignment of Patricia Krenwinkel, a defendant in the Sharon Tate murder case. From left are Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, Sandra Good, Mark Ross, Paul Watkins, and Catherine “Gypsy” Share holding Good’s son Ivan. Photo Wally Fong, AP.
Flipping through the paper, a headline jumped out at me, waiting as I was for a flight out west: “Inspired by the Pull of the Desert.” The photo below showed a bright-eyed attractive woman, probably mid-to-late 20s, identified as Claire Vaye Watkins, while further down the page was another photograph, obviously of a certain period, showing a hippie-ish group of young people, with brightly patterned, velvet, silk or crocheted shirts and blouses, long straggly hair, some of the men bearded, all of them smiling, laughing or looking slightly bemused or high. The only person who does not appear happy is a small baby in the arms of one of the women, perhaps overdue for a nap or just bored. According to the caption in the Times: “Claire Vaye Watkins’s father, Paul, center, and other members of Charles Manson’s family in 1970. Ms. Watkins was relieved to discover that her father was not found to be a killer.” The piece on Ms. Watkins, who is a writer, is more interestingly an interview rather than a review of her first collection of short stories,Battleborn, which was published last month. From the start, the Times refers to the book as having a “notable provenance,” the fact that her father was “Manson’s chief procurer of young girls,” though not one of his murderous henchmen, and how the opening story, “Ghosts, Cowboys,” is “a mix of history, memoir, and fiction.” We learn that she was only six years old when her father died, and was mostly raised by her mother in the isolation of the Mojave desert, near Death Valley, and later in Nevada, where all of her stories are set. In the interview she refers to these places as “pretty remote, geographically and culturally. They’re places you go if you want to be left alone.”
Robert Smithson on the Jetty, 1970, photo: Gianfranco Gorgoni.
I thought of this as the flight finally departed, and it was still very much on my mind five hours later as the plane made its descent over the Great Salt Lake, the sunlight bouncing off the water and also intermittently shadowed, as if a mirror of my own anticipation, and I couldn’t help but wonder: if your writing is about your life, and it’s somehow meant to be true, isn’t it always a mix of history, memoir, and fiction? Why should it seem exceptional, or an exception to the rule? As I craned to see out the window, I hoped to catch a glimpse of the Spiral Jetty, the great earthwork of Robert Smithson, created in 1970, and my main reason for making this trip. After all, I had waited more than 25 years to see the Jetty. It is one of the landmarks of contemporary art, and a personal touchstone. At a time when art is routinely bought and sold, and for some it’s just another form of currency and instant cultural cachet in an increasingly money-mad and superficial world, here is a work that represents, above all, the higher elevations, art’s relationship to nature, to time, to a mystic idea of a journey and endless turning. And yet it also reminds us of the limits of life, particularly where humans are concerned. The Spiral Jetty, as it appears and disappears with the rise and fall of the lake, and in terms of its setting within the landscape, is one of the only monuments of any consequence in this country. Even when it’s submerged it’s there, a question mark coiled around itself, its uncertainty at the center of the artist’s fascination with how space and time reverberate, as traced in the form of the spiral. The fact that Smithson died young, and not long after completing the Jetty, gives the work and the place a haunted quality, though in an otherworldly rather than morbid sense.       
I had also come to Salt Lake City to give a talk at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, as well as to see one of my favorite bands, the Melvins. They are, both bravely and preposterously, attempting to play all 50 states and the District of Columbia in 51 consecutive days, and are driving to all the shows except for those in Anchorage and Honolulu. Their goal: to make it into the Guinness Book of World Records. My aim, minuscule in contrast, was simply to arrange a friendly ambush and surprise them at one of the stops on their tour of tours, and the more unexpected the location the better: destination, Salt Lake City. Over the course of three days, the triangulation of the Mormons, the Melvins, and Robert Smithson was too good to pass by. Time better spent, I thought, chasing some ghosts and cowboys of my own, un-spiraling myself from the irreality of New York in order to get a closer look at the West, a very red state, and the Temple to which Mitt Romney owes his spiritual if not his political allegiance—though all places of worship, as Smithson would have it, are ultimately non-sites. But no matter. If you worship God, power, and the almighty dollar, a place will always be made for you in this mean old world.
I was picked up at the airport by Aaron, a recent transplant from Berlin, who had invited me to Salt Lake City. Once in town, we stopped for a coffee and ran into the filmmaker Trent Harris, best known for The Beaver Trilogy, one of the most bizarrely moving and unforgettable semi-documentaries of all time, starring an incredible Crispin Glover and also Sean Penn, for whom it is probably no longer listed on his resume. From there a quick stop at Ken Sanders Rare Books, where you can easily and very pleasurably lose a few hours. (Friends who knew I was making a trip to the land of the Mormons had suggested Jon Krakauer’s book, Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith, but it seemed too heavy, and anyway I preferred to see what the city itself would yield.) At Sanders I found copies of Thorstein Veblen’s The Theory of the Leisure Class, for only $6, a mere pittance, and J.G. Ballard’s 1996 collection of essays and reviews, A User’s Guide To the Millennium. I had interviewed Ballard just after the book was published, and remember well how he mused on our temporal dislocation:
"Does the future still have a future? That’s what I want to know. Is it what it used to be? No, I think the future is about to die on us, actually. I think it may have died a few years ago. I think we are living in the present. We theme-parked the future just as we theme-park everything. We theme-parked the past. We theme-parked the future, and visit it only when we feel we want some sort of glittery gimmick.1
Smithson had memorably referenced Ballard in an important essay in 1966, “Quasi Infinities and the Waning of Space,” in which he quoted from the author’s story, “The Overloaded Man”—”Without a time sense, consciousness is difficult to visualize.” I kept this all in mind as I settled into a comfortable room at the historic Peery Hotel, built in 1910, a few blocks from the city’s original arrival points, the Rio Grande Depot and the Union Pacific Depot, magnificent relics of the great fortunes made here a very long time ago, twin portals which symbolized the importance of Salt Lake as the crossroads of the West, as it was once proudly acknowledged. Just 90 minutes away, near the location of the Spiral Jetty, is the marker for the Golden Spike, where the Union and Central Pacific Railroads joined the country, East and West, in 1869. Abandoned by Amtrak in the late 1990s, the depots today are used for restaurants, shops, concerts, and the offices of the Historical Society. Where travelers once boarded and disembarked the California Zephyr as they made their way purposefully across country, you now find the mindless idling of impassive tourists, weary office workers, and indifferent teenagers with skateboards tucked under their well-inked arms, all appearing leisurely bored. If only the bland airport terminals of our theme-parked present will one day be resigned to a similar fate, then the Ballardian/Smithsonian future will have truly arrived.
CONTINUE

A TOUR OF THE MONUMENTS OF SALT LAKE CITY:
ROBERT SMITHSON, THE MELVINS, AND THE MORMONS

by Bob Nickas


Robert Smithson, Spiral Jetty (1970), Great Salt Lake, Utah, black rock, salt crystals, earth, 1,500 feet long, approx. 15 feet wide. All photos by Jason Metcalf unless otherwise noted.

On Monday, September 3, I took a cab out to JFK for a nonstop flight to Salt Lake City. In the lounge area, sleepily waiting to board, no one really looked like a Mormon. This wouldn’t have actually occurred to me, but I had been warned. There would be young men coming back from their missions, wearing white shirts and ties, clean shaven, well scrubbed, and, as a rule, always traveling in pairs. This may have something to do, I was later told, with how they keep an eye on and watch out for one another, how they try to avoid being tempted or seduced, as they might be if they were out on their own. While this does make sense, it doesn’t account for those non-believers who, shall we say, prefer a challenge, and are not actually averse to a three-way. I had bought a copy of the New York Times, and at the moment the prospects of the paper were slightly of greater interest. The cover stories were mainly election-related, such as: “Effects of Romney’s Tax Plan? Key Variables Are Left Blank.” One major point of contention raised in the story is Mitt Romney’s claim that his policies won’t raise the taxes of middle-class Americans, and yet you have to wonder how he expects to do this while covering about $1 trillion in tax breaks annually, and without increasing the federal deficit. Economists and tax experts—no mater what their political affiliations—don’t see how he can pull it off without seriously hurting the middle-class, but boarding a plane and the economy have one thing in common: it’s always business first.


Members of the Manson “family” congregate at the Los Angeles Hall of Justice on February 24, 1970, for the arraignment of Patricia Krenwinkel, a defendant in the Sharon Tate murder case. From left are Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, Sandra Good, Mark Ross, Paul Watkins, and Catherine “Gypsy” Share holding Good’s son Ivan. Photo Wally Fong, AP.

Flipping through the paper, a headline jumped out at me, waiting as I was for a flight out west: “Inspired by the Pull of the Desert.” The photo below showed a bright-eyed attractive woman, probably mid-to-late 20s, identified as Claire Vaye Watkins, while further down the page was another photograph, obviously of a certain period, showing a hippie-ish group of young people, with brightly patterned, velvet, silk or crocheted shirts and blouses, long straggly hair, some of the men bearded, all of them smiling, laughing or looking slightly bemused or high. The only person who does not appear happy is a small baby in the arms of one of the women, perhaps overdue for a nap or just bored. According to the caption in the Times: “Claire Vaye Watkins’s father, Paul, center, and other members of Charles Manson’s family in 1970. Ms. Watkins was relieved to discover that her father was not found to be a killer.” The piece on Ms. Watkins, who is a writer, is more interestingly an interview rather than a review of her first collection of short stories,Battleborn, which was published last month. From the start, the Times refers to the book as having a “notable provenance,” the fact that her father was “Manson’s chief procurer of young girls,” though not one of his murderous henchmen, and how the opening story, “Ghosts, Cowboys,” is “a mix of history, memoir, and fiction.” We learn that she was only six years old when her father died, and was mostly raised by her mother in the isolation of the Mojave desert, near Death Valley, and later in Nevada, where all of her stories are set. In the interview she refers to these places as “pretty remote, geographically and culturally. They’re places you go if you want to be left alone.”


Robert Smithson on the Jetty, 1970, photo: Gianfranco Gorgoni.

I thought of this as the flight finally departed, and it was still very much on my mind five hours later as the plane made its descent over the Great Salt Lake, the sunlight bouncing off the water and also intermittently shadowed, as if a mirror of my own anticipation, and I couldn’t help but wonder: if your writing is about your life, and it’s somehow meant to be true, isn’t it always a mix of history, memoir, and fiction? Why should it seem exceptional, or an exception to the rule? As I craned to see out the window, I hoped to catch a glimpse of the Spiral Jetty, the great earthwork of Robert Smithson, created in 1970, and my main reason for making this trip. After all, I had waited more than 25 years to see the Jetty. It is one of the landmarks of contemporary art, and a personal touchstone. At a time when art is routinely bought and sold, and for some it’s just another form of currency and instant cultural cachet in an increasingly money-mad and superficial world, here is a work that represents, above all, the higher elevations, art’s relationship to nature, to time, to a mystic idea of a journey and endless turning. And yet it also reminds us of the limits of life, particularly where humans are concerned. The Spiral Jetty, as it appears and disappears with the rise and fall of the lake, and in terms of its setting within the landscape, is one of the only monuments of any consequence in this country. Even when it’s submerged it’s there, a question mark coiled around itself, its uncertainty at the center of the artist’s fascination with how space and time reverberate, as traced in the form of the spiral. The fact that Smithson died young, and not long after completing the Jetty, gives the work and the place a haunted quality, though in an otherworldly rather than morbid sense.       

I had also come to Salt Lake City to give a talk at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, as well as to see one of my favorite bands, the Melvins. They are, both bravely and preposterously, attempting to play all 50 states and the District of Columbia in 51 consecutive days, and are driving to all the shows except for those in Anchorage and Honolulu. Their goal: to make it into the Guinness Book of World Records. My aim, minuscule in contrast, was simply to arrange a friendly ambush and surprise them at one of the stops on their tour of tours, and the more unexpected the location the better: destination, Salt Lake City. Over the course of three days, the triangulation of the Mormons, the Melvins, and Robert Smithson was too good to pass by. Time better spent, I thought, chasing some ghosts and cowboys of my own, un-spiraling myself from the irreality of New York in order to get a closer look at the West, a very red state, and the Temple to which Mitt Romney owes his spiritual if not his political allegiance—though all places of worship, as Smithson would have it, are ultimately non-sites. But no matter. If you worship God, power, and the almighty dollar, a place will always be made for you in this mean old world.

I was picked up at the airport by Aaron, a recent transplant from Berlin, who had invited me to Salt Lake City. Once in town, we stopped for a coffee and ran into the filmmaker Trent Harris, best known for The Beaver Trilogy, one of the most bizarrely moving and unforgettable semi-documentaries of all time, starring an incredible Crispin Glover and also Sean Penn, for whom it is probably no longer listed on his resume. From there a quick stop at Ken Sanders Rare Books, where you can easily and very pleasurably lose a few hours. (Friends who knew I was making a trip to the land of the Mormons had suggested Jon Krakauer’s book, Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith, but it seemed too heavy, and anyway I preferred to see what the city itself would yield.) At Sanders I found copies of Thorstein Veblen’s The Theory of the Leisure Class, for only $6, a mere pittance, and J.G. Ballard’s 1996 collection of essays and reviews, A User’s Guide To the Millennium. I had interviewed Ballard just after the book was published, and remember well how he mused on our temporal dislocation:

"Does the future still have a future? That’s what I want to know. Is it what it used to be? No, I think the future is about to die on us, actually. I think it may have died a few years ago. I think we are living in the present. We theme-parked the future just as we theme-park everything. We theme-parked the past. We theme-parked the future, and visit it only when we feel we want some sort of glittery gimmick.1

Smithson had memorably referenced Ballard in an important essay in 1966, “Quasi Infinities and the Waning of Space,” in which he quoted from the author’s story, “The Overloaded Man”—”Without a time sense, consciousness is difficult to visualize.” I kept this all in mind as I settled into a comfortable room at the historic Peery Hotel, built in 1910, a few blocks from the city’s original arrival points, the Rio Grande Depot and the Union Pacific Depot, magnificent relics of the great fortunes made here a very long time ago, twin portals which symbolized the importance of Salt Lake as the crossroads of the West, as it was once proudly acknowledged. Just 90 minutes away, near the location of the Spiral Jetty, is the marker for the Golden Spike, where the Union and Central Pacific Railroads joined the country, East and West, in 1869. Abandoned by Amtrak in the late 1990s, the depots today are used for restaurants, shops, concerts, and the offices of the Historical Society. Where travelers once boarded and disembarked the California Zephyr as they made their way purposefully across country, you now find the mindless idling of impassive tourists, weary office workers, and indifferent teenagers with skateboards tucked under their well-inked arms, all appearing leisurely bored. If only the bland airport terminals of our theme-parked present will one day be resigned to a similar fate, then the Ballardian/Smithsonian future will have truly arrived.

CONTINUE

"THE LOGICAL EXTENSION OF BUSINESS IS MURDER" - DAVID CRONENBERG’S ‘COSMOPOLIS’
By Bob Nickas
SPOILER ALERT: This article examines David Cronenberg’s new film, Cosmopolis, in great detail. Many of the movie’s plot points are discussed. If you haven’t seen it and want to experience all of the surprises in the theater firsthand, you should probably wait to read this. You’ve been warned.
Why has one of the best movies of the year gotten so many bad and iffy reviews, registering from lukewarm to hostile? It’s well written, cast, directed, performed, sequenced, and shot, offering a lot to think about, if you’re so inclined—the world, your place in it, etc.—and funny in its own weird and disturbing way, just like life. It achieves depth from its flatness, which is something very few filmmakers can manage. Then why such a lame response? When you consider that the director of Cosmopolis, David Cronenberg, is not without his fans and defenders, especially among reviewers, the question is even more perplexing. Or maybe not. The quote that kicks off this column is taken from the movie, and the book which it’s more or less faithfully based on, the 2003 novel by Don DeLillo. It’s one of the most memorable lines in Cosmopolis, either written or spoken, whether it reverberates from the page or the screen to your mind, and it’s a possible clue to answering the question of why the movie hasn’t been more favorably received.
Continue

"THE LOGICAL EXTENSION OF BUSINESS IS MURDER" - 
DAVID CRONENBERG’S ‘COSMOPOLIS’

By Bob Nickas

SPOILER ALERT: This article examines David Cronenberg’s new film, Cosmopolis, in great detail. Many of the movie’s plot points are discussed. If you haven’t seen it and want to experience all of the surprises in the theater firsthand, you should probably wait to read this. You’ve been warned.

Why has one of the best movies of the year gotten so many bad and iffy reviews, registering from lukewarm to hostile? It’s well written, cast, directed, performed, sequenced, and shot, offering a lot to think about, if you’re so inclined—the world, your place in it, etc.—and funny in its own weird and disturbing way, just like life. It achieves depth from its flatness, which is something very few filmmakers can manage. Then why such a lame response? When you consider that the director of Cosmopolis, David Cronenberg, is not without his fans and defenders, especially among reviewers, the question is even more perplexing. Or maybe not. The quote that kicks off this column is taken from the movie, and the book which it’s more or less faithfully based on, the 2003 novel by Don DeLillo. It’s one of the most memorable lines in Cosmopolis, either written or spoken, whether it reverberates from the page or the screen to your mind, and it’s a possible clue to answering the question of why the movie hasn’t been more favorably received.

Continue


KOMP-LAINTDEPT.A DATE WITH DEATH ON THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE
By Bob Nickas


San Francisco, August 7, 1937. A midsummer day like so many others—a blanket of fog above the bay, the air warming as the sun lazily filters through and burns it off, teasing brightness from the city’s glittering new symbol, the Golden Gate Bridge. It was a Saturday, a day off for most, to relax, see friends or family, maybe picnic in the park, or, as many would choose to do, indulge in a new and thrilling pastime—walk across the bridge and take in the magnificent view. From one side, the city rose against the bay. From the other, the horizon of the Pacific spread out as far as the eye could see. Much more than a remarkable feat of engineering and a source of great pride for the city and for the country, the bridge was a gateway, named for the strait which it spanned, and as imposing and graceful an embodiment of the promise of California and the golden West as had ever been seen.
While there are beautiful bridges all over the world, the Golden Gate looms in the collective imagination, a stunning structure set within an equally magnificent landscape. In America, New York and the Atlantic can be thought to look back, forever bound to the customs of England, Europe, and the past. San Francisco and the Pacific, however, represent a greater unknown and a sense of freedom, connected to nature and Eastern thought, to the cycle of life and eternity. Traveling the country from east to west, one might end up in a San Francisco park named Land’s End. Set high above a rocky coast, it offers an unparalleled view of the ocean and the Golden Gate from its wild, windswept cliffs. In 1937, against a backdrop of seismic world events—from murderous purges in the Soviet Union to the Spanish Civil War and Japan’s invasion of China—the bridge would also symbolize the heights to which humans could aspire. Built in the midst of the Great Depression—a convulsive period of economic crisis, increasingly nationalistic aggression, and lingering resentments from the First World War that served as the ominous prelude to the second—it is one of the lasting achievements of its time. Unhealed wounds, of course, are not only the burden of the vanquished but of the victor, and even among the victorious there are those who remain deeply traumatized, are resigned to emotional defeat and forgotten. Do we memorialize those who are haunted in this way, or are there only memorials by default?     
On that summer day 75 years ago, a man named Harold Wobber was walking across the bridge. Along the way he encountered Dr. Louis Naylor, a college professor from Connecticut who had come to San Francisco on vacation. A conversation was struck up between the two men, and they continued on together. At about the midpoint of the bridge, Wobber came to a stop, took off his jacket and vest, and reportedly said, “This is where I get off.” As he hopped the railing, Naylor attempted to take hold of his belt, but Wobber was able to break free and leapt from the bridge, its first recorded suicide. This is the man’s claim to fame, such as it is, and though not much more is known about him, what little information is available is telling.
Continue

KOMP-
LAINT
DEPT.
A DATE WITH DEATH ON THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE

By Bob Nickas

San Francisco, August 7, 1937. A midsummer day like so many others—a blanket of fog above the bay, the air warming as the sun lazily filters through and burns it off, teasing brightness from the city’s glittering new symbol, the Golden Gate Bridge. It was a Saturday, a day off for most, to relax, see friends or family, maybe picnic in the park, or, as many would choose to do, indulge in a new and thrilling pastime—walk across the bridge and take in the magnificent view. From one side, the city rose against the bay. From the other, the horizon of the Pacific spread out as far as the eye could see. Much more than a remarkable feat of engineering and a source of great pride for the city and for the country, the bridge was a gateway, named for the strait which it spanned, and as imposing and graceful an embodiment of the promise of California and the golden West as had ever been seen.

While there are beautiful bridges all over the world, the Golden Gate looms in the collective imagination, a stunning structure set within an equally magnificent landscape. In America, New York and the Atlantic can be thought to look back, forever bound to the customs of England, Europe, and the past. San Francisco and the Pacific, however, represent a greater unknown and a sense of freedom, connected to nature and Eastern thought, to the cycle of life and eternity. Traveling the country from east to west, one might end up in a San Francisco park named Land’s End. Set high above a rocky coast, it offers an unparalleled view of the ocean and the Golden Gate from its wild, windswept cliffs. In 1937, against a backdrop of seismic world events—from murderous purges in the Soviet Union to the Spanish Civil War and Japan’s invasion of China—the bridge would also symbolize the heights to which humans could aspire. Built in the midst of the Great Depression—a convulsive period of economic crisis, increasingly nationalistic aggression, and lingering resentments from the First World War that served as the ominous prelude to the second—it is one of the lasting achievements of its time. Unhealed wounds, of course, are not only the burden of the vanquished but of the victor, and even among the victorious there are those who remain deeply traumatized, are resigned to emotional defeat and forgotten. Do we memorialize those who are haunted in this way, or are there only memorials by default?     

On that summer day 75 years ago, a man named Harold Wobber was walking across the bridge. Along the way he encountered Dr. Louis Naylor, a college professor from Connecticut who had come to San Francisco on vacation. A conversation was struck up between the two men, and they continued on together. At about the midpoint of the bridge, Wobber came to a stop, took off his jacket and vest, and reportedly said, “This is where I get off.” As he hopped the railing, Naylor attempted to take hold of his belt, but Wobber was able to break free and leapt from the bridge, its first recorded suicide. This is the man’s claim to fame, such as it is, and though not much more is known about him, what little information is available is telling.

Continue

Jennifer Herrema and Neil Haggerty, photo by Nina Gouveia
Where creative couples are concerned, breaking up is hard to do. When a partnership is dissolved, there’s no guarantee that the individuals involved will thrive on their own. Why some stay together past the expiration date remains a mystery to all but their bankers and managers. How two people can converge as a fluid, productive entity, able to sustain shared beliefs and goals over a significant period of time is nothing short of remarkable. The risk that a merged identity will overshadow and dominate individual egos, and make one artist or performer subservient to the other, or to the image of their duality, looms constantly overhead, and most likely explains why creative partnerships simply unravel or seismically implode. Where the uncoupled had been romantically involved, shifting from significant other to significant other-fucker, the fall-out is exponentially blown, or, like those fragile and needy egos, overblown. Even in a professionally platonic arrangement, there must be some measure of unrequited love. In a working relationship, how often does one person believe that it’s all them? That the genius behind their most glorious ideas—and none of their idiotic missteps—is due to them and them alone? And what does the delusion really represent? This is the egomaniac’s kiss, or kiss-off, as the case may be. Against all odds, the show must go on.
Ike & Tina Turner, Outta Season, 1968
The great comedy team Martin & Lewis went on to greater heights apart, as Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. The same wasn’t the case for Ike & Tina Turner. Once Ike took a hike, Tina became the mega-million selling star. With bands, the front man almost always takes center stage—but never more so than when he goes out on his own. Rod Stewart & the Faces became Rod Stewart and turned several shades of platinum. Who needs a reason to believe? And what’s love got to do with it? But with artists and designers, such an evolution may be trickier. Can a brand simply continue to be marketed despite the end of the chemical interaction that gave birth to a shared creative charge?
Gilbert & George, Magazine Sculpture, 1969
The wildly successful artist duo Gilbert & George have been symbiotic for more than 40 years now. Could you have one without the other? Never. “To Be With Art Is All We Ask,” they famously proclaimed in 1970, a statement that turns perfectly on the “we,” uniting them and their audience. The same sentiment expressed in the first-person would be absolutely ludicrous. At the same time, standing together side-by-side, G & G project not only a joining of forces, but a united “us-against-the-world.” As self-proclaimed living sculpture, G & G’s art is embodied in their very being. It is an extended performance, and they are inextricably entwined. Always dressed in matching tweed suits, the duo, for all their rude and provocative pictures, embody absolute respectability. While they claim, as few of us cannot, to have never been searched in an airport, it is more than their uniform that keeps (in)security at bay; it is their attachment to one another that makes them, in a sense, utterly impenetrable.
Continue reading

Jennifer Herrema and Neil Haggerty, photo by Nina Gouveia

Where creative couples are concerned, breaking up is hard to do. When a partnership is dissolved, there’s no guarantee that the individuals involved will thrive on their own. Why some stay together past the expiration date remains a mystery to all but their bankers and managers. How two people can converge as a fluid, productive entity, able to sustain shared beliefs and goals over a significant period of time is nothing short of remarkable. The risk that a merged identity will overshadow and dominate individual egos, and make one artist or performer subservient to the other, or to the image of their duality, looms constantly overhead, and most likely explains why creative partnerships simply unravel or seismically implode. Where the uncoupled had been romantically involved, shifting from significant other to significant other-fucker, the fall-out is exponentially blown, or, like those fragile and needy egos, overblown. Even in a professionally platonic arrangement, there must be some measure of unrequited love. In a working relationship, how often does one person believe that it’s all them? That the genius behind their most glorious ideas—and none of their idiotic missteps—is due to them and them alone? And what does the delusion really represent? This is the egomaniac’s kiss, or kiss-off, as the case may be. Against all odds, the show must go on.


Ike & Tina Turner, Outta Season, 1968

The great comedy team Martin & Lewis went on to greater heights apart, as Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. The same wasn’t the case for Ike & Tina Turner. Once Ike took a hike, Tina became the mega-million selling star. With bands, the front man almost always takes center stage—but never more so than when he goes out on his own. Rod Stewart & the Faces became Rod Stewart and turned several shades of platinum. Who needs a reason to believe? And what’s love got to do with it? But with artists and designers, such an evolution may be trickier. Can a brand simply continue to be marketed despite the end of the chemical interaction that gave birth to a shared creative charge?


Gilbert & George, Magazine Sculpture, 1969

The wildly successful artist duo Gilbert & George have been symbiotic for more than 40 years now. Could you have one without the other? Never. “To Be With Art Is All We Ask,” they famously proclaimed in 1970, a statement that turns perfectly on the “we,” uniting them and their audience. The same sentiment expressed in the first-person would be absolutely ludicrous. At the same time, standing together side-by-side, G & G project not only a joining of forces, but a united “us-against-the-world.” As self-proclaimed living sculpture, G & G’s art is embodied in their very being. It is an extended performance, and they are inextricably entwined. Always dressed in matching tweed suits, the duo, for all their rude and provocative pictures, embody absolute respectability. While they claim, as few of us cannot, to have never been searched in an airport, it is more than their uniform that keeps (in)security at bay; it is their attachment to one another that makes them, in a sense, utterly impenetrable.

Continue reading

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