Monday, April 10, 2006

Allan Kaprow died. An obit in the New York Times. Didn't realize that he had been ill the last few years; feelings of sadness. His career was strange: he became the Happenings artist, and then he seemed to hibernate in San Diego. Of course, there was the (long) stit at UCSD, and his attempts at new modes of performance, and a few articles, but nothing to compare with his huge Happenings book (which Larry and i have).

Of course, i met Allan over the years, especially at the last "What's Cooking" festival; Pauline Oliveros had started the "What's Cooking" festival when she was at UCSD, but they carried on with the annual event (a "performance art" festival) for a few years after she left. So i was invited; it proved to be the last one, and that's when i spent time with Allan, Eleanor and David Antin, and Frantisek Deak. It was the period when the concept of "the avantgarde" was really in disarray. Allan was concerned that younger artists were too "commercial"; he said that during the final session of the festival, which was a session where people were supposed to reflect on the events, etc. (I had written an article in PAJ about how the avantgarde was becoming an avenue for entering the mainstream, and i used people like Laurie Anderson and Eric Bogosian as examples. This was in the mid-1980s, and i was taken to task by people like Don Shewey for suggesting this. Of course, i turned out to be right, and it's only become more and more like this.) I understood Allan's point, but i loved the fact that Eleanor explained that younger people can't have the same careers that people of their generation did: she even said that, how many young people are going to get teaching jobs like the ones that she and Allan have at UCSD, where they have the luxury of not having to bend to commercial pressures?

I remember running into Allan at the opening of "Blam!" the exhibition about '60s art at the Whitney.

That era really is over, and it's hard to explain it. Got the "Wintersoldier" DVD from Dennis Doros, and though i'd gone to the screening when they showed it a few months ago at the Walter Reade, the extras on the disc are also fascinating. But the whole "explosion" in terms of art and politics and culture...

BTW: looked at Callie's Warhol book at the Strand (still too expensive for me to buy) and realized that, in fact, Edie Sedgwick became the last of the "13 Most Beautiful Women" (though the numbering was crazy, because there were more than thirteen). Once Warhol got Edie, that marked the end of the series....

And Kenneth King had been one of the "13 Most Beautiful Boys". Boy, Kenneth was so beautiful in those days!

On one of the strands in the IMDB boards, there was a lot of comments about Debbie Reynolds, and one person saying that he met her recently, and she was a little scary, because she seemed a little absent-minded, a little out-of-it... but, hey, the woman's in her 70s! And that's like running into some of these artists... sometimes, they seem out of it, but then you realize how old they are.

Tomorrow, there's a press screening for Ken Jacobs' "Ontic Antics".

One thing: so many of these artists are now being "memorialized" and i have no idea what they're talking about. The people that they're commemorating have little to do with the people that i actually knew. At this year's Tribeca Film Festival, there are films about Jack Smith, Marie Menken, Robert Frank.... will any of these films have anything to do with the reality of those people? The Jack Smith film is the one i'd been hearing about.... i never was contacted by the filmmaker. What could i say? I went to see a lot of his work, and i... i guess i could say i was a friend. One thing: i knew enough never to talk to him first. If i ran into him in the street, and he couldn't look at me and remember my name, i just kept walking. Because once he was "lost in thought" it was better to leave him, because you never knew, he might fly into a rage! And he never did with me, and so our friendship was very pleasant, he was always trying to show me things he was working on.... but then, he could never remember exactly what he was doing!

But Jack Smith was the crucible of my first experience on a grant panel! It was the Multimedia category of CAPS (Creative Artists Public Service, i think it was; it was eventually disbanded and the functions were folded into the New York Foundation for the Arts). And his application was the most bizarre thing ever: it was a BOX. Literally: a taped-together big box, and inside, all sorts of things. Collages and little toys and... it was indescribable. But it was just like Jack! And i pulled a fast one: when it came time to discuss his work, i gave such a spiel! I made that junk seem like the essence of... well, i also noted how Jack was just one of the most influential artists ever! (We're still feeling the effects, or people like Charles Busch wouldn't even have a career.) And sure enough, Jack got his grant!

That was the period when there were still some of us who were trying to make sure that this "system" that was developing had a place for people like Jack. Or Harry Smith. (Harry Smith was so funny: he couldn't believe that i could watch his movies without being drunk. Or high. Or both.) Now, i don't think there'd be a place, and i don't think that the people who grew up with this system of grants and funding can understand that there was a period when people who were artists did it... it's difficult to explain how we did it, we just did!

It's like i was the kind of person, i decided to write a play, i did, i decided to begin writing a novel, i did, i decided to do performances, i did.... no training, no school, no nothing. I just decided to do what i wanted, and, initially, it worked out, by the 1980s, i started running into problems. And now people like Jack and Marie Menken are being memorialized, by people who probably wouldn't have wanted to actually know these people when they were alive. That's what kills me. (I mean: would these people have practically bolted the doors in order to make sure that Jack Smith would have gotten the one grant in his life? Not only that, but i knew what would happen: i would become a pariah, because someone that crazy had to be punished. And it happened, but then something else happened: "political correctness" and i became popular as the one non-white avantgarde advocate. In some years, i would do as many as three panels. And that would lead to things like the first year of ITVS. But the point was to try to make sure there was a place for people like Jack Smith. Now, this is so beyond the pale... Would these people have risked their careers championing someone like Jack? Now, they're doing it from the safety of... well, they're doing it because they're safe. But i was doing it when it wasn't safe.)

Oh, well.


Blogger Eleanor Antin said...

Hi Daryl, its been a long time. Accidentally saw your blog and enjoyed your blast from the past. Actually not so much a blast, as a lyrical walk-through, though not without the bugginess that was part of our survival kit in those days when we had to fight for everything.

Good meeting up with you again this Easter morning.

2:42 PM

Blogger Eleanor Antin said...

Hi Daryl, just came upon your blog unexpectedly. A blast from the past. Though not really a blast, more of a walk-through of a lyrical sort but with the barely suppressed bugginess that was part of our survival kit in those days when we had to fight for everything.

Good to talk with you again on yet one more Easter morning.

2:46 PM


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