There is SO MUCH going on that’s wrong or doesn’t make any sense. And I don’t just mean the billions of small continuity errors (Laura Dern’s invisible ice cream, the shaving foam, Timmy’s terraforming post-electrocution hair), but like, major, major things that should’ve stopped it getting to the big-screen the first time around, let alone again 20 years later.
Oh shiiiiit! The T. Rex is coming through the fence! And the kids’ car door is open!
Oh wait. No it’s not. False alarm!
Look out Alan! That T. Rex that, two minutes previously, had been heavy enough to literally make the ground shake, just managed to sneak up on you!
Wuh oh! The T. Rex is pushing the car towards Lex and Alan, they’d better jump through that gap in the fence the T. Rex just made if they don’t wanna get crushed to death.
I don’t think I can do it anymore, guys. I have been livlng a lie. As a gay man with a lot of gay friends, I’d estimate that roughly 30 percent of my conversations are related to Beyoncé in some way. I went to Christmas parties where the only album played was 8 Days of Christmas, I made “poor Michelle” jokes, I even spent a month referring to the Superbowl as “the Beyoncé concert.” But I think I’m finally ready to admit it: I really, really, really just don’t give even the slightest of shits about Beyoncé.
Beyoncé mania is out of control. This .GIF of Beyoncé partially removing a pair of sunglasses has over 4,000 notes. This one-minute video of her getting out of a car has been viewed nearly 40,000 times.
Sure, she’s pretty. And she can sing. But so can everyone else who’s ever made it to the final 20 on American Idol. And nobody gives a shit about them.
Beyond not caring about her, I think I may actually be starting to hate her. She’s relentlessly inoffensive, and boring, and lame. Here’s what annoys me the most about her:
SOMETIMES SHE TRIES TO BE DEEP AND IT’S REALLY AWKWARD
Also, what paint store is she shopping at where she can’t find colors that are beautiful enough to paint Jay-Z?
SHE’S A DANCE PLAGIARIST
SHE DOESN’T KNOW HOW TO USE CAPITAL LETTERS
“What a proud day foR AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMEN!!!! Kelly, micHelle, ALicIA, JhuD you are all Beautiful, talented and showed so much clAss! It was an honor to peRfoRm at the SuperbowL wIth you phenomEnal Ladies Love Beyoncé”
SHE KINDA SEEMS LIKE SHE WOULD BE REALLY TERRIBLE TO HANG OUT WITH
Have you ever seen an interview with Beyoncé where she goes longer than ten seconds without talking about being “blessed” or “God’s plan” or some other such schmaltzy nonsense? No, you haven’t, because they don’t exist.
Obviously there’s nothing wrong with being religious (JK), but can you imagine how quickly you’d be eye-rolling your way outta the building if someone you know started talking like that IRL?
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.
Every month we get together to write the most offensive things we can think of about a bunch of new albums, and every month a bunch of fans of some band we gave a pukey face to get really mad at us. It’s fun!
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.”
Every era in art has a new favored subject. The Etruscans looked to Hercules; painters of the Renaissance reenvisioned the Bible; the American Ashcan School rendered sensitive tableaus of poor urban life; and the later half of the 20th century, dominated by the PoMo-ism of downtown NYC, crowned a new king, the cockroach, which was not only an available resource, but a stand-in for the artist—a heroic outcast, thriving in the ruins of civilization.
The oeuvre of the cockroach is best understood as a series of distinct ages that, in turn, comprise a whole. During the Reformation, the cockroach was reconsidered; the Enlightenment percieved the cockroach as potentially “divine”; the Golden Age saw the pinnacle of the discipline; the Silver Age was consumed by celebrity; the Bronze Age refigured the subject as metaphor and victim; the Age of Decline represented the subject in absentia and/or in parts. As far as I can tell, no one has completed, or even attempted, to survey the cockroach’s place in the art world, so consider this seven-part piece that examines an artistic era that scuttled by so quickly, hardly anyone even noticed it.
Ed Rushca, Cockroaches (1972). Photo courtesy Bukowskis Auktionhouse, Stockholm
The Reformation The cockroach of antiquity and the Middle Ages lived in a cultural darkness—cockroaches were no better off than peasants, their teeming masses obscure, despised, and considered unworthy as a subject of art. Emerging from this age of katsaridaphobia, the 20th-century cockroach made a halting entry into popular culture. Its first notable foray into modern consciousness came with Franz Kafka’s “Metamorphosis,” though it must be remembered that not until the 21st century was the original German word ungeziefer consistently translated as “cockroach,” a term which may well be an anachronistic liberty. Gregor Samsa is not explicitly referred to as a cockroach in the original text, and Vladimir Nabokov, a lepidopterist as well as an author and literary critic, believed that Gregor was, technically, “a big beetle.” Nabokov’s argument focused on the wings that Gregor never realized he had, which brings us back to the roach, who is even less disposed to use his wings than the beetle; if Gregor is indeed a cockroach, it is not so much that he doesn’t know he can fly, it’s that he doesn’t want to.
Bear this in mind as we consider the Reformation era of the cockroach, which begins post–World War II. The quiet, peace-loving bug, wanting nothing more than a warm place and some privacy in a tight crevice, found a new nest within the American domicile: the television cabinet (as it was then known). A boom in electronics provided abundant habitat for the roaches, whose numbers, via human population density, were already on the rise. The cockroach, equated in wartime with fascists and occasionally with communists, became a cohabitant of the ordinary American, and the generation that grew up eye to eye with the cockroach viewed the creature with a revulsion tempered by sympatico fondness.
In the early 1950s, Andy Warhol, then living in an East Village apartment, unzipped his portfolio for a Madison Avenue art director, to have a cockroach leap out. This story—possibly somewhat true—is indicative of the arrival of the downtown scene: The artist (i.e., the cockroach) lived downtown but went uptown to become something celebrated. In 1959 William Burroughs extended the metaphor: The cockroach of Naked Lunchserved as guiding spirit and muse. In 1962 Leonard Baskin softened the harsh popular conception of the cockroach with his Rorschachesque illustrative style in Creatures of Darkness. By 1964 the artist was literally represented as the cockroach—George Kuchar’s 8mm film The Lovers of Eternity features a gigantic roach as a central figure in the bohemian gambol.
Panels from Gilbert Shelton’s Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers
The Enlightenment In the Age of Enlightenment—which roughly corresponds with the Age of Aquarius in the human world—the cockroach becomes more than an analog of the artist experience. Jim Carroll, who performed with cockroaches in the late 60s and exhaustively recounted their presence in his memoirs, tortured captive roaches to appeal to the sadism of his audiences while simultaneously seeking to reject arty pretension. Throughout the 60s, the roach was normatively seen as something to fear—as in the cat-tormenting roach armies of Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers—but the roach is also a curiously hapless underdog. One can’t help but root for those comix legions of roaches; they’re disgusting and militaristic, but, after all, no more offensive than the Freak Brothers themselves. Anne Sexton’s “Cockroach,” first published in the literary journal Antaeusand later collected in 45 Mercer Street, views the hated creature in reverence: “These days even the devil is getting overturned / and held up to the light like a glass of water.” This attitude of meditation and primordial wisdom is perfectly illustrated in Ed Ruscha’s 1972 series of silkscreens on wood, Cockroaches, which featured the ancient species in a light both meditative and noble. A more visceral incarnation of Enlightenment-era reverence can be found in Vito Acconci’s 1970 performance-video Rubbings, in which the artist smashes cockroaches into his naked, hairy belly, and rubs them into his gut until they disappear, until the artist and his divine subject are one.
Camille Paglia Believes That Revenge of the Sith Is Our Generation’s Greatest Work of Art
Camille Paglia, the indispensable art critic and long-serving Professor of Humanities at the University of the Arts, has for over two decades lived in the shadow of Camille Paglia, the polemicist, enfant terrible, expert provocateur and, according the British writer Julie Burchill, “crazy old dyke.” Paglia is the lesbian who doesn’t like lesbians, the pro-drug libertarian who wouldn’t touch the stuff herself. And, through no fault of her own, the extravagances of Paglia’s proclamations have too often lead spectators to overlook the marrow of her ideas.
She became an international celebrity in 1990 upon the release of Sexual Personae, wherein Paglia argues that Western art and culture are underlined by the pagan fixations on phalluses and Earth goddesses that pre-date Christian hegemony. An ardent defender of free expression and inquiry, she was a darling of the British and American talk show circuits on account of her parallel advocacy for Madonna’s tits and Rush Limbaugh’s revulsion at the sight of them.
Paglia’s mission today, however, is less confrontational and yet more ambitious: She wants American culture to embrace the story of art. Paglia has just released Glittering Images, a direct and beautiful volume dedicated to the study of 29 works throughout art history. The book launches her quest to make David’s La Mort de Marat as common in US public schools as Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
Crucially, Paglia has the writerly gifts to make introductory art history sing to the uninitiated and old hands alike. It’s an essential work by an essential public intellectual. Paglia hasn’t left behind controversy, either: in the book’s final chapter, fed up with the direction of contemporary art, she argues that George Lucas’ Revenge of the Sith is the greatest work of art in recent memory. So, if you’re just wrapping up that MFA, set your sights on Mace Windu and Padmé Amidala instead of Jessica Warboys and David Altmejd.
Anyway, we were delighted to speak to Camille Paglia about contemporary art, education, penises, her goals for this new project, and Lorraine Bracco’s terrible acting.
VICE: So, Camille, how come contemporary art is so terrible? Creative energy has migrated into industrial design and digital animation—videogames, for example, are booming! Commercial architecture is also thriving, as shown by amazingly monumental new buildings everywhere from Dubai to Beijing. But the fine arts have become very insular and derivative. There is good work being done, but it too often reminds me of ten other sometimes better things over the past 100 years. The main problem is a high-concept mentality. There’s too much gimmickry and irony and not enough intuition and emotion.
Well, what about Revenge of the Sith? You say it’s the greatest work of art, in any medium, created in the last 30 years. It’s better than… uh, Matthew Barney or Rachel Whiteread or Chris Ware or Peter Doig? Yes, the long finale of Revenge of the Sith has more inherent artistic value, emotional power, and global impact than anything by the artists you name. It’s because the art world has flat-lined and become an echo chamber of received opinion and toxic over-praise. It’s like the emperor’s new clothes—people are too intimidated to admit what they secretly think or what they might think with their blinders off.
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.
A while ago, I wrote a piece about how I don’t “get” art. For some reason, a lot of people have been looking at it lately. After reading through the several hundred really really fucking boring comments that were left on it about why I’m wrong, I thought maybe it would be a good idea to give art yet another chance. This time enlisting the help of someone who claims to know what they’re talking about.
That chappy up there in that photo is our friend Alex, who is currently studying at the Courtauld Institute of Art which, from its Wikipedia at least, seems very important. We went to “First Thursdays,” which is the night of the month that galleries in East London stay open late to show off their new collections.
I recorded his critical thought-storms and told him I’d respond to them later. Let’s see if Alex can help me to finally “get” art.
I don’t know what this one was called, there was no sign.
Alex says: ”It’s the Jubilee soon. The idea of monarchy is back in fashion as a way of reorienting the national spirit. A way of shoring up the shortcomings that Britain is feeling, a sense of crowning icons, or creating a cult of saints. As such, these seem timely. That banal, Nicki Minaj-type-celebrity just doesn’t resound as much with people in the way the true male icons of the 60s did. People hark back to the 60s as a time when masculinity and sexual attraction could be found in its icons. In James Dean, in Elvis, in Hunter S. Thompson.”
Glen says: ”Eugh. Somebody subverted an image of Elvis again. I get it. There’s some kind of statement being made about celebrity culture. Which, sure, whatever, valid point. People DO care about celebrities as though they’re royalty! But is it not a point that’s been made a billion times before? Or a point that could be expressed verbally? Just because an idiot has a very obvious opinion on something, does he really need to create an artwork to let the world know about it? The thought of these prints hanging on the exposed brick wall of some Shoreditch warehouse conversion is making my butthole hurt.”
“Night Angel” by Ben Young
Alex says: “The childlike element of scrawling is a spontaneous reaction to what you find around you. Often the problem with people’s expectations of art is that they’re expecting something ingenious—the journalistic value of art isn’t enough. They want surplus value, they want sweat off the brow, a unique, new and seductive aesthetic. But I quite like this canvas. I think there’s palpably a lot of labor in it. I like the color. It has a nice aesthetic correlation, and in that sense, it’s considered. I think historically, it’s particularly novel.”
Glen says: “Not 100 percent sure what you’re saying here, Alex. Maybe I’m just uncultured, but I don’t think something can be both “spontaneous” and “considered.” All I’m seeing is a pile of scribble that is worth thousands of pounds, that people are going to come and stare at, in a gallery in East London that probably also costs thousands of pounds to rent per month. I can see that it might aesthetically please some people, but could they not look at a photo of it? Or give a baby some crayons and create their own pile of scribble? It all seems very wasteful.”
“L.H.O.O.Q.” by Kate Hawkins
Alex says: ”You say these are both Ikea shelves? Look at his witty little mustache. It’s supposed to be a comment on how this combination of items is very infantile, low labor. It seems to be a humor comment on the middle class, or a certain type of nostalgia, perhaps for the Swedish modernism that Ikea used to be known for before everything was mass-produced. It’s meant to be a sort of art naive, in that anyone can produce it.”
Glen says: “Anyone can produce this? I am SHOCKED. So the point of this is that it’s possible for it to exist? Is that really something that needs to be pointed out to people?”