Agh! Some idiot is spamming me in the "comments" section! I've tried to get in touch with the blog administrator, but there seems to be no way to get rid of these spammers! Can't stand it; might give up the blog if i can't get rid of the spammers. (No i do not want to find a way to make money on some scam... i should report the spam to the police... since it's so obviously a con.)
Anyway, another week. Yesterday, went to a press screening of Jan Svankmajer's "Lunacy"; inventive and expertly done, but very Mittle-European, i.e., mirthless humor, satiric and witty without being really funny. Reminded me of that other recent Eastern European non-laugh-riot, "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu". Then in the evening, there was a screening of "The Night Listener" but when i got there, there was a line and it wasn't very organized. I got there at 6:30 (the screening was supposed to start at 7:30) but they started handing out tickets by 6:45. Unfortunately, behind me there was a woman who had three of those free passes, and she had a passel of children with her... even though i had gotten my ticket, i decided to leave, because i didn't want to sit in a theater with a lot of children. (I'm sorry, but certain topics do not seem to conducive to children, such as literary hoaxes involving abused children.) I also decided to leave because it was 6:50, and it was starting to rain, and we were waiting outside the theater. But i did see "The Last Movie", which was as messy as it was when i saw it in 1970; luckily, there's no real nostalgia in the movie (it's far too incoherent for any singular emotion to come through). Dennis Hopper is such a curiosity, because "Easy Rider" is really kind of lame, and "The Last Movie" is so dissociated, yet he's gone on for so long. He's got some sort of talent, but not as much as he thinks he has.
After the screening of "Lunacy", i went past the Unoppressive Bookstore on Carmine Street, and (finally) picked up a copy of Twyla Tharp's book "Push Comes to Shove". A very amusing read; i'd glanced through it when it came out, but never bothered to read it all the way through. What was amusing was that whatever i thought about Twyla personally was absolutely confirmed. I have to say that i think "The Bix Pieces" is one of those works which, for me, were truly transcendent. It was a lovely dance... but when there was the section with the narrator, explicating the methodology for the dance, and the reason "why it was made", that did it... it was exactly the kind of self-critical work, a work about its own creation, that i always felt was the most important aspect of post-modernism. As Benjamin Buchloh once remarked (about the visual work he lumped together under "appropriation"), it was the most radical extension of modernism by explicating a self-critical awareness that was the true justification for post-modernism.
Reading "Push Comes to Shove", i was reminded of the many conversations about art that i used to have, with a lot of different people. There really was a community of artists, and i enjoyed that community. I was reminded of this because of the visit last week by William E. Jones and Mark Flores. I was glad that Bill's "V.O." got such good reviews (Halter in The Village Voice, Mookis in Gay City News). It also brought to mind the kinds of similar interests that Bill and i share...
For example, we both regard "pornography" as a subject which can be analyzed... but we're interested in the erotic attraction of pornography as well.
But reading Twyla's book, and talking with Bill, reminded me of the "discourse" which used to be part of my life. And it's becoming so rare, because the "center" is so scattered.
Anyway, Bush has gone on vacation. Nothing (not even World War III) is going to keep that man from his "vacation". When is he not on vacation? And why isn't there a protest in Middle America about his shirking his duties? It's like all this week, whenever i've been in Manhattan, there have been people with clipboards, asking people to sign up for the Democratic Party. I'm sorry, but doing that in New York State is useless: this is one of the few states that voted Democratic in the last two elections. New York State doesn't need more Democrats: Florida does, and Indiana, and Kansas, and South Dakota, and North Dakota, and Utah, and... need i go on? Hezbollah has just launched missles near Tel Aviv, two American generals have testified before Congress that Iraq is nearing civil war... but, please, don't disturb George W. Bush on his vacation.
Will nothing bestir that man?
Ruth Franklin (in The New Republic) had a really charming review of the new novel by the English novelist David Mitchell, where she spent more than half the review explaining that the most difficult thing to write was a good review; it's so easy to dismiss a work, to express your anger and digust at a bad book, but to really express why you like a book, that's difficult. Pauline wrote, "Though sinking to the level of the work is a danger to the critic, to movies the more serious danger, of course, is that critics may not rise to the level of what they're reviewing. And, even with movies as bad as they are now, I think this is often the case, because those who stoop to review become insensitive." And so many of the young people now stoop so low, it's impossible for any of them to write without being snide. But to find someone who gets one excited about a movie, that's becoming rare.
I remember, a while ago, Janie Geiser's dismay over "Getting Out", because she felt that Twyla was such a genius, and making an evening-length work to Billy Joel music was so beneath her. Yet it was a success, a huge hit: it was, in fact, Twyla's retirement fund. But Twyla has that need for "success", not artistic success, but commercial success. (As an artist, her work really ended sometime in the early 1980s.) Artists may outlive their inspiration. This is something that has to be recognized. (Stanley Kauffmann was particularly acute about this situation in regards Antonioni; as one of the major American proponents of Antonioni, he wrote with sincere insight about the problem facing Antonioni in movies such as "Zabriskie Point" and "The Passenger", works he felt inferior to Antonioni's peak, the quartet of films from "L'Avventura" to "Red Desert": "Important artists finish, sometimes, before they quit work. Faulkner, for instance, wrote copiously but not very significantly in the last twenty years of his life. It may be that Antonioni, who began fairly late - he was thirty-eight in 1950 - has finished fairly early, as far as his major work is concerned. Apparently the elements that fused in him to raise him above anything like ordinary considerationare no longer functioning for him; yet he wants to be active, and is certainly able to work with his skills. If this proves to be continuingly true of his future, it will be bitter for his admirers, like me, but it cannot possibly diminish our gratitude for what he has done.")
In short, if Twyla Tharp is no longer capable of creating work on the order of "The Bix Pieces", then let her create work which is enjoyable and entertaining, and which can prove successful with a mass audience. But the thing is: she shouldn't delude herself that she's working at the same level of creativity and achievement.
But that's the thing: most people are deluded.
(My "charm", such as it is, is that i'm as critical of myself and my work as i am of everyone else. Of my more than 30 performance works, i would honestly say that only about 5 were really fully achieved works, in which i actually accomplished what i set out to do. The others range from "interesting" to flat-out terrible. But that's why i was "avantgarde" or "experimental": i was supposed to mess up, i was supposed to try for something "new" and in doing so i was supposed to fail. I know that. Pauline was absolutely flabbergasted by that: that i could go through my own work and rip it apart, even more severely than she would. I'm no dummy, though there are so many dummies around. Poor Larry: he's surrounded by them! And the other thing that's hideous is that so many of these people want Larry to introduce them... but why? Larry doesn't do that. He never did. In my life, i've rarely had people introduce me... if i did something, if people noticed, fine, if they wanted to meet me, fine. I sent Edward Albee notices about my performances, he started coming to them, and then he introduced himself because he was a fan of my work. Fine. I didn't do anything to make him a fan. The other thing is: i don't want to know people. It's like Jean-Luc Godard. No one loves his movies more than i do, but in 1970, when i actually saw him, when he was at a screening of "One Plus One" at Hunter College.... a more miserable excuse for a human being i have never encountered. And it's only been downhill from there. Most of the people i've met in the art world are not fit for human contact. Most of them, in fact, are the most pitiful, disgusting, hideous excuses for human beings i've ever met. They're mostly monsters, so totally self-centered that they wouldn't even notice if the world blew up around them, just as long as they got theirs, they're so desperate for recognition and success and adoration. And who am i kidding? Of course i want the same things, but i want them on my terms, which means, i want to do what i want, not what other people want me to do or what they think i should do.)
Hell, i can give excuses as much as the next person. But one reason i will never again do anything in terms of "live" performance: in 1982, i wrote, designed, co-directed (with Larry) "The Dialectic of Enlightenment" ("you can't copyright a title" and i took that from Horkheimer and Adorno), a play produced at Theater for the New City. I tried to stuff as much of "life" in it as i could. There were people who were part of the Weather Underground (Larry had known some of those people from his SDS days), there were women composers and choreographers discussing feminism (Twyla talks about this in her book!), and there was somebody with what (at that time) was known as an immunodeficiency disease (first called GRID - gay-related-immunodeficiency-disease - then finally called AIDS - acquired-immuno-deficiency-syndrome). Well, when i got my (negative) review in The Village Voice, the reviewer said that there is the insufferable character dying of some "unnamed" disease that they spend all this time discussing in terms of possible symptoms and possible means of infection, etc. Who ever heard of this "immune" disease? (What, was this guy living under a rock?) But the kicker was that, six months later, Theater Communications Group published the play in their "Plays in Process" series. So cut to 1989, and TCG is getting ready to publish its anthology of AIDS plays, "The Way We Live Now". Since my play was, if not the absolute first, one of the very first plays ever to deal with AIDS, and since TCG had already published it, you'd think they'd maybe use an excerpt (the thing is HUGE, it was three-hours long, and the text as published by TCG was almost 200 pages), and, if not that, at least mention the fact that, early in 1983, TCG published a play that included (as one of the many subplots) a character with AIDS. So i get a letter, telling me that they will not mention my play, because, even if it is true that i wrote the first published play about AIDS (as far as they can tell), i am an Asian-American, and have been classified as an Asian-American playwright, and mentioned in their recent Asian-American anthology, and i cannot get credit for everything i've done, because i can only get credit for what they have decided i can get credit for; in short: i cannot get credit for what i have done, i can only get credit for how they want to classify me. Well, if that's the way the American nonprofit theater is, then i don't need the goddamn American theater. And i haven't written another thing for the theater since!