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A creative blog by Arthur Kegerreis on The Whole 9

Arthur Kegerreis – aka Liberal Art, aka Himat Singh – is interested in way too many things, although curiosity has not killed this cat yet. In LA for 14 years now, he has lived in NYC; VT; Amherst, MA; Santa Fe; Madison, WI; and grew up on Long Island. Arthur has been a cabinetmaker, guitar maker, Kundalini Yoga Teacher, Pilates instructor, graphic designer, composer, and playwright, though he now spends most of his time taking photos, writing songs, making video art, and building websites. Having fought his night-owlish tendencies all his life, he is fascinated by the creative process, so jump in and talk shop into the wee hours…or not.

Two Who Dared and the Little Polish Boy

Shortly after I moved into my apartment a dozen years ago, I met an elderly woman named Maria who offered to sell me some plants. She was quite friendly, but moved at a pace much slower than my frenzied lifestyle, so I didn’t take the time to get to know her. A few years later, a termite infestation forced our temporary relocation during fumigation, and subsequently, I met her older brother Peter. I was moving a number of musical instruments, and he inquired if I was a composer; he’d like to have a poem he wrote set to music. I invited him in to my apartment and we began to chat about his story.

Peter and Maria had been children in Budapest during the Nazi occupation, and were kept in hiding. Polanski’s film “The Pianist” bears many similarities to Peter’s story. The last time they heard from their parents were during a phone call where they said goodbye. They were raised Jewish, but were not very religiously observant. Some of their friends and classmates had been shot point blank by the Nazis, in front of the school they’d attended as children. As they told me the story together, their faces clenched and they recalled that the school had been torn down. “It should have been made into a memorial.”

Years after the war, while looking through an old “Life” magazine here in LA, Peter discovered a photo of a small boy with arms raised, rifles pointed at him by a group of Nazi soldiers. Peter was haunted by the photo, and several years later, woke in the middle of the night with a sense of the presence of the boy. He was inspired to write a poem about the child, and it now is exhibited in the Museum of Tolerance, also slated for exhibition in the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC. Peter has made his life’s work the use of the poem and photo for holocaust education, travelling around the state to meet and educate adults and children.

Years earlier, when I first arrived at Hampshire College as an undergrad, in 1981, a number of us went rock climbing and hiking in Vermont. One of the friends I made during this pre-college trip was an amiable fellow hippie named Timmy. As our lives progressed, he managed to win the heart of a gal I’d dated a bit, to my dismay, but I found it hard to hold much of anything against him. After our graduation, he made a sizable alumni donation, helping secure the school’s endowment. My boarding high school had closed due to financial problems the summer I graduated, so I was happy somebody was taking steps to prevent that happening to my college too. Actually, when I looked for colleges, a priority for me was that the school seemed stable enough to last a while – often not the case with alternative colleges. As time went on, Timmy made a number of financial investments for economically challenged countries. He explained how it all worked to me, and I couldn’t explain the economic details again, but I was dazzled that somebody could do that, help the country, and make money at the same time.

But behind the scenes Timmy was developing a condition that gradually made it difficult and nearly impossible for him to walk, and when I’d see him at alumni events, I often was saddened by the progression of his disease.

Last year, he released a documentary he’d been working on, “Two Who Dared: The Sharps’ War,” and then I noticed that it was slated to be shown at Neighborhood Unitarian Church, next to the Gamble House in Pasadena, so I decided to attend the screening.

What I didn’t know about the film beforehand was that it was the story of his grandparents who were Unitarian ministers in Wellesley, MA. They had traveled to Prague during the late 1930’s, working underground together with Quakers to help Jews and Unitarians escape from the Nazis. I hadn’t realized that Unitarians were also targets of the Nazis, and the Unitarian church there once had 4000 people in it – the largest in the world. Their efforts ultimately resulted in a casualty; their marriage. But over the course of the time they spent in Europe, they saved thousands of lives. Among those was a German writer named Lion Feuchtwanger. He was smuggled over the border into Spain cloaked as a woman, and evacuated in the minister’s wife’s berth aboard a steamer to the US. The writer settled in the Pacific Palisades, and had a beautiful home in the hills above the Lake Shrine there. By strange synchronicity, I had just learned of the home shortly before seeing the film. It now serves as a German artist’s colony called “Villa Aurora.”

Another one of our college alumni also knew of the coincidence; he lived across the street from it, and arranged a screening of Timmy’s film there. I invited my neighbors Maria and Peter to join us for the event.

I was unsure how they’d react; I wasn’t sure if it would stir up extremely uncomfortable emotions rather than serve as an inspiration. Maria responded, “it is ALWAYS difficult, but we must do it.” We were all excited by the upcoming trip, which had much more of the character of an expedition than a short trip near the beach.

Then came the innocent questions that I was somewhat surprised by my limited ability to answer; “What do Unitarians believe?” Although I’d been one for 9 years in NYC, primarily because I was invited to participate in their choir, Musica Viva, I didn’t know the dictionary definition claims they don’t believe in the holy trinity and don’t believe that Jesus is the son of God. In NYC, our controversial minister, son of famed Senator Church, and an inspiring speaker himself, had been involved in a scandal when he left his well-loved wife for a member of the congregation, and had been featured on the cover of “New York” magazine. Yes, I had been perplexed when Wiccan sermons had been delivered to the suit-and-tie-clad upper east side congregation, and I’d heard people mention that many Unitarians would get upset if Jesus was mentioned on Christmas, but often things seemed just like any (very well funded) protestant gathering on a Sunday morning. Yes, Leonard Bernstein had cut the first check for the organ, and the executor of his estate, Schuyler Chapin was on the board; Blythe Danner and Renee Fleming had performed with us, but after all, it was the upper east side. Gossip Girl hadn’t come along yet, but gossip and reputation often overshadowed any sort of religiousity, and frankly, my dear, I didn’t give a damn; eventually all I cared about was the great music we got to perform. I never expected to have to explain Unitarians to someone, and it was usually adequate to tell people that many interfaith Jewish/Christian marriages were performed by Unitarians.

“What do Quakers believe?” Maria turned to the dictionary for the answer. Although I knew Quakers had Christian foundations, I was surprised the dictionary definition was surprisingly less inclusive than the un-programed meetings I’ve felt welcome at, and bore more resemblance to the protestant religions I’d gradually developed a distaste for. Un-programed Quaker “meetings” have no minister or leader, and attendees or members sit in silence until they are inspired to stand and speak to the group. Programed Quaker “churches” often mix this style of meditation and worship with a sermon and music, in a style familiar to anyone who’s ever attended a church, but with silent reflective periods, uncharacteristic of many other religious institutions.

So after our religious research, we drove west on Sunset to the sea, and into the hills above, where we watched the film together, with Timmy, who now uses his full name, Artemis. Afterwards, he was kind enough to have Peter read his poem:

To the Little Polish Boy Standing with His Arms Up
by Peter Fischl – www.peterfischl.com

I.
I would like to be an artist
So I could make a painting of you
Little Polish Boy

Standing with your little hat on your head
The Star of David on your coat
Standing in the ghetto with your arms up
As many Nazi machine guns point at you

I would make a monument of you and the world
Who said nothing

I would like to be a composer
So I could write a concerto of you
Little Polish Boy

Standing with your little hat on your head
The Star of David on your coat
Standing in the ghetto with your arms up
As many Nazi machine guns point at you

I would write a concerto of you and the world
Who said nothing

II.
I am not an artist
But my mind has painted a painting of you

Ten Million Miles High is the painting
So the whole universe can see you now
Little Polish Boy

Standing with your little hat on your head
The Star of David on your coat
Standing in the ghetto with your arms up
As many Nazi machine guns pointed at you

And the world
Who said nothing

I’ll make this painting so bright
That it will blind the eyes of the world
Who saw nothing

Ten Billion Miles High will be the monument
So the whole universe can remember you
Little Polish Boy

Standing with your little hat on your head
The Star of David on your coat

III.
Standing in the ghetto with your arms up
As many Nazi machine guns pointed at you

And the monument will tremble so the blind world
Now will know

What fear is in the darkness

The world
Who said nothing

I am not a composer
But I will write a composition
For five trillion trumpets
So it will blast the ear drums
Of this world

The worlds
Who heard nothing

I
am
Sorry
that
it was you
and
not me

Then Maria shared her emotions, recalling the feeling of her childhood in hiding from the Nazis. The intimate upscale screening audience seemed to have numerous connective threads with the family, and a couple had been students of Artemis’s grandmother. Artemis recounted the advice given by his grandmother when he initially came down with his disease; “you must NEVER give in to self-pity. You are destined for GREATNESS!” Coming from someone with her history, this sage advice took on a deeper meaning than it would have from, say, a new age guru. Incidentally, our fellow alumn Ken Burns recently signed on as executive producer for the film, so it may be televised soon, although it already has enjoyed a remarkably robust screening schedule across the country.

As we drove home that night, Maria asked about my religious beliefs. She insisted that we all should have much more religious tolerance, and after all, we’re all praying to the same God, and most religions are more alike than different.

Then she began to tell a story, previously undisclosed to anyone, about her bout with cancer in the early 1980’s. She had ended up in a bed in Cedar Sinai Hospital, waiting for surgery. Having officially converted to Roman Catholicism to escape from the Nazis and come to the United States, she had told the hospital she was Catholic when she was admitted. During a pre-surgery visit, the doctor heard her saying a Jewish prayer. “So you’re Jewish then? It says here you’re Catholic.”
“I was afraid to tell anyone,” she admitted.

He pulled back the curtain to reveal the Star of David atop the hospital and pointed to it. “You’re afraid HERE?” he inquired. She breathed a sigh of relief.

As Maria continued, she alluded to the anti-semitic behavior that she has found everywhere; and supported her continuing decision to keep her faith mostly secret. I choked up as I realized the war had been over for 40 years when this happened at the hospital, and she was still afraid to reveal her birth religion.

Incidentally, Cedars Sinai security threatened to arrest me for taking that picture. Apparently they’re a bit photo-shy.

Maria pulled through that surgery, and both her and Peter have endured a number of medical challenges. Peter recently suffered a heart attack during a visit from his children, perhaps brought on by the excitement of the event, but seems to be doing well now. When I asked if I could share his poem with you, he became elated.

A couple of years ago, I was about to pull into our apartment building’s garage, and discovered Maria lying in the driveway. A neighbor had pulled into the driveway too quickly, hit her, and knocked her over. Soon an ambulance arrived and she was whisked away, leaving me unsure if she was going to survive. But she was back in a couple of weeks, and after that event I decided I should really nurture the friendship. I discovered that she spent time with spiritual master Krishnamurti after synchronicity brought them together. Then she became a dance and movement instructor, and acting teacher, following her time as a student at UCLA.

Maria just celebrated her 86th – I mean 29th – birthday, and since we discovered our birthdays are two days apart, we celebrated together. At Disney Hall, we listened to a number of works by Dvorak, followed by a lunch with her favorite waitress at Denny’s. As dessert was presented to her, she confided, “I think chocolate ice cream could bring about world peace. Whenever people start fighting, just give it to them, and…” She gestured a calming motion with both her hands, and we smiled together.

“Ice Cream” by Sarah McLachlan

Your love is better than ice cream
better than anything else that I’ve tried
and your love is better than ice cream
Everyone here knows how to fight

and it’s a long way down
it’s a long way down
it’s a long way down to the place
where we started from

Your love is better than chocolate
better than anything else that I’ve tried
oh love is better than chocolate
everyone here knows how to cry

it’s a long way down
it’s a long way down
it’s a long way down to the place
where we started from…

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I’m not usually weeping a 6am, but this piece did it. It’s such a beautiful story and incredible writing. Thank you.

Welcome back, Arthur — with such a eloquent story as well. One to remember oddly enough over the holidays. Perspective.
Thank you.

Hi Arthur, good to hear from you! Fascinating and moving story. It strikes some chords with me because my grandparents (and mother) escaped from Berlin in the late 30s, moving first to Switzerland, then France and ultimately to Chicago with the help of the Quakers. In recognition of the assistance they gave in helping people, particularly Jews, to emigrate to the US (something very few other American organizations, religious or otherwise, chose to do), he and my grandmother ‘converted’ to Quakerism, although neither of them were religious. They were Jews by ethnic inheritance, but my grandfather (an intellectual who pioneered the new field of social work and wrote most of the original textbooks before becoming a professor at the University of Chicago, then head of the department at Berkeley University) , and grandmother (an artist and early developer of polarity massage along with her friend Dr. Randolph Stone) were actually agnostic proponents of secular humanism and pacifism. I think they attended a few meetings, but mostly remained close friends with some of the Quakers who had helped them and worked to help others escape from Germany, France and Eastern Europe. Most of their families and friends did not escape in time and were murdered by the Nazis.

Turrellian Realm Part 2: Mondrian Hotel

When I first started looking into Turrell’s work, I was intrigued to discover that he’d contributed work to the Mondrian Hotel on the trendy Sunset Strip. I decided I’d take a little jaunt to the place to get a look at the works myself. I wasn’t overwhelmed by the works, however. They seem to me somewhat derivative, reminiscent of a whole slew of video works from the early 80’s by Nam June Paik and others I’d seen and helped install at the UNM Albuquerque video art show in 1983 by Robert Gaylor and Gary HIll. Bob Gaylor’s piece focused on the moody character of homes illuminated by their TV sets, and the character of that light as seen from the street. Hill’s installation at that show had two rows of monitors facing each other, each displaying a different color, that used a custom computer program to randomly change the hues as you walked between them.

In a podcast for the National Gallery, Turrell alluded to the problems encountered during the project. He was originally going to collaborate with famed designer/architect Philippe Starck on the lighting for this West Hollywood Hotel. Once the project was underway, Starck ran off with a model he met there, (if I’m not mistaken, Cindy Crawford’s husband Rande Gerber runs the nightclub in the hotel) and after six months Turrell completed the project himself.

It’s not clear who the model was, or where it fell in the chronology of Starck’s personal life. The designer, who may have designed the mouse in your hand, has designed about everything under the sun, including the offices of French President Mitterand. His daughter Ara, apparently a successful artist herself, told The Telegraph that her mother died when she was 14 of breast cancer, and her father recently married his fourth wife. ‘But my father loves to be married,’ she says happily. ‘He sees it all as such fun. He loves to have children. Anyway, he’s been faithful to all his wives. He was with my mother for 22 years.’

Starck claims on his website that he, “designs his hotels and restaurants in the same way a director makes a film, developing scenarios that will lift people out of the everyday and into an imaginative and creative mental world.” Indeed. Welcome to West Hollywood. I wasn’t sure if the steep price tag of a room there would transport me into Blue Velvet, Pulp Fiction, or Driving Miss Daisy, but the lobby’s fragrant synthetic carpets alluded more to Best Western than west of Crescent Heights. A google search for Piet Mondrian’s last name today will lead to more results for the hotel than the artist.

On each floor in the elevator lobby of the Mondrian is a small television-shaped aperture, with a translucent screen. Each floor’s aperture is lit by a television on the floor behind it, tuned to a different station. The claim is that each network broadcasts its own unique range of colors.

During my excursion, I shot short clips of the works on each floor, never expecting even to upload them to YouTube. This composite video allows you to compare the images of all twelve floor’s works to decide for yourself if each station has its own unique color range. (It’s a rather large Flash file (15 MB) and may take a couple of minutes to load.)

This high-profile project opened the door for Turrell’s involvement on the night lighting for the landmark Pont du Gard Roman Aqueduct near Nimes, France.


(Click for image source info and more wonderful pics by the photographer)

That exposure from that project subsequently led to extensive plans for a project along the Thames River in London, lighting the bridge and river banks. Unfortunately, the Thames project was ultimately scrapped:
“…the uncompleted and now abandoned Thames Light Project, a £3 million scheme to create a work of light art within 500 metres of the River Thames, London’s own Heart of Darkness. This would have defined the area by highlighting river frontages and landmark architectural features. The Square of Light would have linked buildings on both banks of the river from Somerset House, across Waterloo Bridge to the South Bank Centre site, encompassing Jubilee Gardens and the Royal National Theatre. Turrell’s idea was to choreograph an integrated lighting scheme installed in the water, under bridges, and on tops of buildings to be seen by aircraft passengers.”

Turrell’s earlier work with LACMA’s Art & Technology program led to a variety of pieces that explored the more personal nature of light perception and our environment. Some of these looked like salon hair dryer helmets, others were beds you would lie on, as you were slid into a light environment. He has described how man has used light to create an illusion of safety within his environment, and in the process, alienated himself from it. The architectural illuminations described in this post perhaps exist to traverse the territory between these more personal projects, and those which enthrall me, his Skyspaces. My favorite Turrell work that I’ve yet experienced is his Skyspace at Pomona College. His skyspaces strive to bring the sky down to the viewer, and of these, the ultimate epic work for Turrell is Roden Crater, an extinct volcano near Flagstaff, Arizona, that he has been gradually honing into an architectural calendar and camera obscura on the scale of the great pyramids. More on these next….

comments

Bob Gaylor stumbled upon this post and gave me a little update: the work I referred to is called “Suspension of Disbelief, 10 PM.” This link to his website has an image and description: http://www.robertgaylor.net/#!Suspension-of-Disbelief-10-PM/zoom/c16qd/image3iz
Well, confound it! WordPress is doing everything in it’s power to prevent me from either linking to the jQuery overlay pic for the work or posting a screenshot. It’s in the “Work before 1987″ section; there’s an image of several homes with picket fences in front of them.

Take a look through his projects! He worked with Turrell on the reflection holograms included in the 2014 LACMA show.

Retracing the path into the Turrellian Realm

For starters, let me clarify one thing. I’m not an art historian, I don’t play one on TV, I don’t even play one on YouTube.

I sometimes harbor disdain for them too — well, the arrogant ones anyway. I find nothing as offensive as the art snob who responds to a curious inquiry about an artist with attempts to instill shame for not knowing the artist’s work. Of course this isn’t unique to the art world; many a music major has attempted to wield intellectual superiority in a similar fashion. A recent visit to a literary benefit sent me scuttling out the door with my tail between my legs. Yes, it’s true; I don’t know the majority of the writers on the shelves these days, and they let me know it.

In the realm of modern music, the problem is compounded by the fact that many modern composer’s works can only be found on compilations, so it’s quite a feat to compile a discography of their works. But in any of these realms, it’s a wonderful encounter with another person who simply loves to share their creative discoveries. So if you’re a “just the facts, sir” sort, I may not be your best resource. However, my musical and artistic quests are somewhat of an obsessive labor of passionate curiosity. My parents claim I’ve had this tendency since childhood. Apparently there’s no cure.

When the Metropolitan Museum of Art had its NYC O’Keefe exhibition, although I had ignored her works as cliched tourist illustrations while living in New Mexico, I was soon to be found trying to locate Steiglitz’s old studio to see what had become of it (a rug shop), trying to locate the buildings O’Keefe lived in and painted while in NYC, and eventually even visiting Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu. What I discovered when I arrived at her NM ranch was that the Mars-like landscape had been realistically painted by her, a discovery that shocked me.


And I got a few nice pictures of my own.

Small surprise, then, to find me sitting silently for an hour in the Orange Grove Quaker Meeting House in Pasadena.

Synchronicity has led me here, and ironically, as Quakers are notorious pacifists, later in the day the death of Bin Laden would be announced nation-wide.

This was the space where I found peace during grad school when I felt my world was un-ravelling, and the threads gradually wove themselves back together. What drew me back again was the discovery that this must’ve been the room where, 70+ years earlier, the child James Turrell was encouraged by his grandmother to “go inside and greet the light.” Today the light outside is spectacular, heralding Spring’s arrival with trees in full bloom, and there is light within those around me as well.

An octagenarian woman who bears an astonishing resemblence to an Edward Gorey illustration is celebrating her birthday today. Despite her somewhat severe posture, I know that she’s one of the sweeter members of the meeting. Over coffee and birthday cake, I’m tempted to ask if she knew the Turrells, but decide against it. Or rather, the choice was made for me by the visitor zealously informing me of the Quaker history of feminist and homosexual tolerance. Some day I may bring the subject up with the birthday girl. Time will tell.

Light is a familiar metaphor for spiritual realization in many religions, of course. We discuss enlightenment without giving this much thought. For the Quakers, there is a long-held understanding that every person has a divine personal intimate connection to this “light,” and sitting quietly becomes the first step in becoming aware of this presence. Then it becomes possible to let it illuminate the actions taken throughout the day. Early on, Quakers thought of this as the light of Jesus, but over time, the broader inter-denominational influences have included the teachings of many other faiths.

Turrell understood early on that going into the light was both a literal and metaphorical inspiration for his work. As his work has evolved, I believe it becomes less possible to just “look” at one of his works; you experience it. You become engulfed by it. You are changed by it. He has confessed a fondness for the liminal light of dawn and dusk. He told the New York Times, “My spaces are dim because low light opens the pupil and then feeling comes out of the eye as touch, a sensuous act. Sure, you surrender. You surrender when you go to the doctor. A doctor’s office is a body shop. We’re talking about healing the soul.” This points to a deeper aspiration within his art, and might give a clue as to the direction his life’s work has taken.

Turrell went to Pomona College, not far from Pasadena. Although the school’s alumni included many famous artists, including John Cage, Turrell enrolled in the perceptual psychology program, and that choice has unmistakably shaped his work. While many psychologists attempt to improve patients lives through discussion, or psychiatrists through pharmacology, Turrell works with perception, and you can bet your HMO plan won’t cover it. Optical illusions, implied planes and geometric shapes are often a major component of his installations. He was the subject of a lawsuit when a visitor fell and injured himself trying to lean against a wall “that wasn’t there,” leading to the first time that the “effect of a piece of art” had been the subject of a courtroom case. Time and time again, he has tried – and often, in my opinion, succeeded, in creating works that bring the sky into a room, transporting you into it.

Shortly before the Woodstock Festival would happen on the other side of the country, before man would land on the moon for the first time, he and artist Robert Irwin worked with an innovative program started by LACMA to pair artists with pioneers in the aerospace industry called the Art & Technology Progam. During this period, he moved into a building known as the Mendota Hotel, at the corner of Hill and Main Streets in Santa Monica.

The building still stands, and it’s my next destination.

I park a few blocks from Hill and Main, and make my way down the hill.

As I pass the church a block away, a film crew runs after me, begging me to play the part of “Doc” in the band “Set Your Goals’” music video adaptation of “Back to the Future.” The irony of my time traveling historical search isn’t lost on me, so I don a lab coat and run down the street after a Bricklin as the camera begins rolling.

When my 30 seconds of fame have elapsed, I proceed back to the future myself, snapping a few “Hill Street Views” exterior shots of the Mendota Hotel building.

The tree has gotten a little bigger.

This is where the foundations of much of his work first began to be realized.

Turrell painted over the windows in his studio here, and experimented with techniques to create apertures for light to enter his studio.

During this time, he became intimately familiar with the tungsten street lamps, the stop lights on the corner, the passing bus lights, and of course, the sun and moonlight. He also collaborated with a film lighting designer, experimenting with projected light.

He often had showings of his aperture experiments, and attracted quite a bit of attention.

Mere blocks from here, above the Santa Monica Pier, is the Camera Obscura, a landmark that has been bringing the secular light inside for tourists for over a hundred years.

Here’s a link with some information about it’s history, and here’s an interesting link showing a video of what you see inside it:

One can’t help but wonder if it helped inspire Turrell to try turning his own studio into a camera obscura as well — one of his many projects in the space, and an element that can be found in many of his later works. It’s highly unlikely he wasn’t already well familiar with the principle of a camera obscura, but perhaps this landmark prompted further light play.

I walk up to his old studio, open the door and walking inside. I walk up to the counter, greet my barista, and order a venti black coffee. Yes, it’s a Starbucks now.

I stay for a couple of hours until they close at 8PM.

The buses still run down Hill Street, the tree has gotten enormous, many more lights surround the building.

I become enamoured by the play of the light around the room as sunset approaches.

Light reflects off the walls of the room, and I see the figures of cars reflected across the room by their windshields. As the sun sets, the street lights come on, and the character of the light changes completely.

As last caffeine call is announced, I show a barista a 1969 image of the building. Fascinated, he informs me that the building is now owned by Bill Cosby. Then he kicks me out.

Next up: a visit to the Mondrian Hotel

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Wow…you came out of blog retirement in a remarkable way. Do I perhaps sense an upswing in the process?

Fantastic blog, Arthur!

I was not familiar with James Turrell before and I thank you for turning me on to him. My grandparents became Quakers (although they were basically pacifist agnostics) once they arrived in the US because the Quakers were the only group who actively helped Jews escape from Nazi Germany in the early years of WWII. They not only arranged to get them out, but brought them to America and helped them establish citizenship and find work. Through them I’m slightly familiar with the Quakers, or at least with their ideology.

Having friends in Flagstaff, I’m now determined to visit them and while there, take an excursion out to Turrell’s Roden Crater. Like you, I’m intellectually adventurous and could easily follow a path of tangential interests and associations around the globe and back if I had the time and funds to do so.

Thanks Lisa, let’s hope so. Danger, you got ahead of me… I hadn’t gotten to talking Roden Crater yet. I SO want to see it now. I played at a music fest near there years ago – word is they don’t want visitors until it’s finished, although it’s hard to tell if that’ll happen in our lifetime.

Over the course of the last year, I made a couple of half-hearted attempts to locate that music video I made the cameo in, I never was actually sure I’d made it into the final cut.

Well, here’s the link to it. See if you can spot me running after the Delorean.
http://www.altpress.com/aptv/video/premiere_set_your_goals_certain/

Although this post is so old I doubt anybody will actually even see this comment….

Wide Angle View at OCCCA

Curator Gina Genis has assembled a remarkable exhibition of photojournalistic work at the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art in Santa Ana. This outstanding show, entitled, “Wide Angle View,” includes 16 renowned photographers. Despite the interference and copyright restrictions of some of the photographer’s agencies, Gina was able to gather and present a broad array of gut-wrenching imagery reflecting the aftermath of US military efforts around the globe, disasters and poverty in the US, and lighter subject matter, like the photographer’s families, children, pets, and the Burning Man festival.

Reflecting upon the 1994 suicide of photojournalist Kevin Carter, Gina asked, “how do these guys unwind when they get home?” Personal images in this exhibition provide a glimpse into photographer’s lives when they’re off the job, and are a welcome complement to the frequently traumatic incidents they’re forced to document and share.

Pulitzer winner Carolyn Cole’s photos document Iraq after the US occupation, including a mural of Saddam Hussein’s face being painted over. Her photos of the Gulf of Mexico after the BP Oil disaster include a huge sea turtle being lifted out of the muck, a dead dolphin being towed through oil coated waters, and an oil coated pelican struggling to move its wings.

Michael Robinson Chavez exhibited photos of families living in the dumps of Iraq, and personal shots of his travels in Peru.

Rick Loomis’s photos documented war victims in Iraq and Afghanistan who had lost limbs, including a soldier who still swims – with help – after losing both legs and an arm. His photos from the Burning Man festival were gorgeous.

Sports photographer Donald Miralle documented the Iron Man World Championships in Hawaii, and featured a bicyclist with two wooden legs who competed. Some of his photos were shot from underneath the swimmers in the water, and one particularly striking shot was of the swimmers diving into the water at the start of the race, shot from below them. He also showed a number of wildlife shots from Tanzania.

Sandy Huffaker takes the viewer underground, into the Mexican-US border drug tunnels. His lighter subject matter included all manner of people with their cel phones; kids at Comicon, a man on a Segway, on his cel phone, with Southland fires looming behind him.

Heidi Laughton’s photos documented her work with the Red Cross in China, and her own chemotherapy ordeal.

Deanne Fitzmaurice’s photos tell the story of an Iraqi child who picked up a bomb, thinking it was a ball, alongside a road. His father doesn’t have the heart to tell the armless boy that his brother died during the incident.

Fitzmaurice’s lighter subjects included the San Francisco burning of a Bush Effigy during the Obama election victory, a stunning surf photo, a beautiful image of the Golden Gate bridge reflected in a series of water droplets, and one of my favorites from the show, a man reclining by the Les Tuileries Garden Fountain, shot from the humorous angle that made him appear to be urinating to the height of the fountain.

Also included in the exhibition were photos of a Lakewood, NJ homeless tent city and Infrared images of Iraq army raids by Benjamin Lowy; Hazel Thompson’s series, “I am Jonas Myrin;” David Bathgate’s photos of Afghanistan and of his wife and Afghan hounds; Tim Wimbourne’s photos of Pakistan flood victims; and Abir Abdullah’s Bangladesh cyclone survivor shots, including a land-locked boat, complemented by shots of his son playing on a water slide.

Wide Angle View runs through March 26th. Orange County Center for Contemporary Art is at 117 N. Sycamore, Santa Ana, CA 92701 (714) 667-1517
 http://www.occca.org/

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Sounds as though this is a MUST SEE. Can’t wait to get down there.

Illuminated September Art Openings

Well, fall is upon us, and it seems everybody in town is scheduling their openings and exhibitions for the same times on opposite ends of LA. But there are some pretty interesting things coming up, so I thought I’d share some of them with you.

This weekend, perhaps to distract us from the anniversary of 9/11, Chinatown will be bustling. Among the events there, The Flock Shop is having their 3 year anniversary, and Micol Hebron and Ilene Segalove will be opening at Jancar Gallery. The Armory for the Arts in Pasadena will be opening a show of Steve Roden’s work. Roden is a talented sound artist who runs a great blog and is also included in the “Glow” event later this month in Santa Monica.

I’m eagerly awaiting the unveling of the Peace Project at Gallery 9 on the 25th, but a little frustrated to learn that a couple of my favorite light art events occur the same night on opposite sides of town. Illuminating LA will be the annual Glow event at the Santa Monica pier from 7PM until 3AM, and meanwhile, downtown at Pershing Square, Lilli Muller’s Autumn Lights festival will run from 7PM until 1AM. Both events have a plethora of innovative cutting edge light art – from illuminated static and interactive sculptures to more mundane, though genrally quite interesting, projected video art.

Here are some videos of last year’s Autumn Lights Festival:
 http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=…

I’m just back from this month’s downtown art walk. I had pretty high hopes for tonight, since LACDA was showing a collection of works, but wasn’t too excited by anything. There were so many bands and DJs on the street that my friends and I were hoarse from shouting at each other within just two blocks of meeting each other. At one point, my friend remarked, “I really have a problem with these people who see it as their privilege to dump their noise on me.” I’m usually pretty open minded about experimental music and sound, but the volume of the bands on the street seemed more reminiscent of a war zone, and I felt assaulted more than entertained.

What I did enjoy was the “Temple of Visions” at 719 S. Spring Street. Amid murals of visionary psychedelic art, a nearly naked model was glaring at the onlookers as her body was painted by the DJ, leaving me to wonder why she was doing this if she didn’t want everybody staring at her. But the psychedelic art was pretty remarkable, and doesn’t leave you with a physical come-down afterwards. One of the more interesting collections of works are by the bathroom in the gallery; three dimensional holographic paintings of psychedlic mandalas and creatures that morph into different images as you move around them. Some of these are for sale as postcards too, but seemed less interesting. Apparently the holographer worked with several artists to assemble composite images for these works.

So if anybody wants to meet up and check out some of these events, let’s go!

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The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly: West Side Openings 7/10

July 10th West Side Art Openings

They say there’s no accounting for taste. Well, let me be your Deloitte & Touche; friends don’t let friends buy bad art.

You may not know the paintings of Joni Mitchell, Miles Davis, Jerry Garcia, Rik Okasek, or Paulina Porizkova. You might be missing out. But if you know them for other things, there’s a reason for that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m rather fond of Joni Mitchell’s paintings. But I like her music a lot better.

It may come as no surprise that Dennis Hopper’s works at Robert Berman Gallery in Bergamot Station practically scream “Don’t you fuckin’ look at me!”

This forgetable collection of works is a reminder that one might be better off peeling the sheetrock off the brick wall, knocking the back out of a frame, and hanging it over the wall than taking an actor seriously as an artist. Maybe it’s a case of the “Emperor’s New Clothes Art Syndrome,” but Berman has been known to occasionally show remarkable art by people famous for things other than their artistic creations. He probably is just showing this stuff because, well, it will sell. His better offerings include a recent glass-topped kneeling skeleton coffee table, I think by one of the members of Sonic Youth. This exhibit sure didn’t do much for me, and didn’t leave me chomping at the bit to attend MOCA’s show of Hopper’s works. Obviously Hopper knows more than a little bit about art, but these prints certainly aren’t masterworks. I’ll certainly miss his filmic efforts though.

Tucked in the back corner of Bergamot Station that night was another opening, blaring the Richard Strauss soundtrack from Kubrick’s “2001.” Copro Gallery was showing cartoon paintings inspired by Kubrick’s films and executed by Carlos Ramos. Also on display were mildly disturbing works by becca that verged between fashion illustration and hello kitty art, littered with splotches of paint suggesting a darker reality surging through these picturesque candies, like the monster in Alien emerging from the gut.
 http://www.copronason.com/beccaweb/pages…

There was something about these works that caught my fancy. But what I found myself more distracted by were the Laguna Art Museum’s In The Land of Retinal Delights catalog. And the candied pretzels. Not to mention the well-coiffed gals sauntering about the galleries.

Escaping Bergamot Station, my friend and I made our way to the more pedestrian 18th Street Art Center’s open house. The parties were dying down by this point, but I finally saw the Highways Performance Space. I have heard for years of friends having performances there, but had never seen the space, and didn’t realize it was housed in an artist’s community. They’ve got an intriguing little exhibition of Wagner-inspired costume designs, akin to illustrated novels. The art center hosts a number of resident artists, and two had open studios; maybe they’d have been better off waiting another month or two.

But what really made the evening worthwhile were the kinetic and light art works at Bleicher/Golightly Gallery, overlooking the beach in Santa Monica, near the 3rd Street Promenade. The exhibition, curated by Joella March, entitled, “Turned On – A Survey of Kinetic and Light Based Art,” is described as, “a group exhibition of 12 artists working in a variety of mediums and genres who incorporate light and technology in their finished product.” The works varied from Rube Goldberg-esque sculptures to cartoon doll sculptural fantasms to evocative translucent sculptures illuminated by video screens, and each work was utterly clever and brilliant.

Life Is A Dream by Tim Hogan

Recycled Childhood by David Brokaw

Waterfile #710 by Joella March

Angel Seat by Jim Jenkins

woMAN… by Stephen Anderson

South Jump by Kyle Chew

Nail by Kunio Ohashi

Blackbird by Brian Stotesberry

Two Happy Carrots by Jim Jenkins

By far my favorite work in the show, though, was Suitcase Project 2 by Kyle Chew. This piece was a suitcase on rollers that illuminated the floor as it rolled around through the crowd. Certainly cause for alarm during your next airport visit. Somebody call Homeland Security!

Suitcase Project 2 by Kyle Chew

So in summary, let me suggest you buy all the works from this exhibition instead of any of Dennis Hopper’s. If you like Hopper’s work, buy a Blue Ray of one of his movies. You’ll get more satisfaction out of it. Or hire a contractor to rip the sheet rock off your wall.

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Funnily enough I saw Dennis Hopper’s work last night and couldn’t figure out what looked dingier — his work or Berman’s gallery. I’ve heard (from people I trust) that he actually took a few really good photos in his time. The fact that I can’t remember whether I saw any of his photos or not might be a testament to the zeal of my 2-1/2 year old daughter as we ripped through Bergamont Station, but more likely it’s just that there wasn’t anything that really caught my attention.

Note however, that I do remember a magnificent photo by Sebastiao Salgado in the Peter Fetterman Gallery, a series of amazing sculptures in another gallery, and a somewhat puzzling photo series in a third that examined the lives of Mexico’s nouveau riche.

Yet, against all my prejudices and prejudgements, I’m forced to acknowledge that there has been some excellent work done by celebrities better known in other areas. Viggo Mortensen is an outstanding painter, David Lynch is also a hell of an artist, David Byrne’s done some very interesting work, Richard Gere’s photos of Tibet are amazingly good, Jeff Bridges has done some fascinating panoramic B&W photos on various film sets he’s worked… I even like some of Dennis Hopper’s art, particularly photo portraits he took of other actors such as Paul Newman and Dan Stockwell.

Summer Solstice 2010

Tonight, Golden Bridge Yoga in LA hosted an evening with two Indian Yogic Saints, entitled, “Drops of Nectar: An Evening of Divine Teachings with Pujya Swamiji & Sri Shankaracharyaji.”

Pujya Swamiji, aka “Muniji,” runs the largest yoga ashram in Rishikesh. I have to admit, by nature, I’m a western skeptic about spiritual masters, yet my encounters with Muniji have given me a different perspective about him. He gave a series of spiritual counseling sessions at a home in the Sutdio City hills, and a lot of nervous neurotic frenetic preparation preceded his arrival, but the moment he walked in the door, a mysterious palpable transformation took place. Suddenly everyone became more friendly and peaceful, and it truly became a magical evening.

Tonight’s presentation might have been titled, “Living in the Holy Woods of Hollywood,” as Muniji described his experience living in the Indian jungle with snakes and scorpions, having to experience a spiritual surrender of trust; something he encouraged everyone to do in Hollywood. He spoke of the value of silence and carefully chosen words, and laughed about how people have to exhibit friendships on Facebook as they neurotically “twitter” away. “Why do I have to be your friend on Facebook? I already know who my friends are!”

Sri Shankaracharyaji, whose name I couldn’t say once, much less ten times fast, told funny tales about how people will ask what’s wrong if you’re sad, but not ask why you’re happy, and then proclaimed that the yogic path will completely enable you to conquer frustration and suffering, revealing the divine beings that we all are. I’ll try to remember that when I’m 10 minutes into a difficult posture.

The evening opened with a tale of a clay buddha that was being polished by monks, and one discovered a shiny spot under the clay. As they cleaned the clay around the spot, they discovered the entire buddha was gold underneath, and had been covered with clay when the temple had been overrun and looted. We’re all like that gold buddha, they said, if we clean away the clay.

Yes, that was model Kirsty Hume – how could you miss that hair? – and was that Donovan Leitch with her, paying respects in the green room afterwards? I think so, but what was really great was seeing all the beaming yogis and yoginis I hadn’t crossed paths with for years.

The Swami’s visit preceded their honorary presence at Peace Prayer Day, part of the week-long 3HO Kundalini Yoga Summer Solstice Celebration in Espanola, New Mexico. This event is held at the edge of sacred Indian land in the Jemez Mountains near Espanola. I’d heard strange reports about it, then I went, and began making those reports myself.

A group of Aztec Indians ran miles up the dirt road into the mountains, did a rain dance at Peace Prayer Day, and a thundercloud of rain followed them back down the road as they left – amidst one of the worst droughts NM had seen.

Then all the yogis and yoginis proceeded to do three 8 hour days of White Tantric Yoga, which isn’t a “sex yoga,” as the NY Times reported, but a form of meditation where partners meditate together, holding a posture and chanting for 31 or 62 minute sessions at a time. 2500 people were doing Sat Kriya, with interlaced palms extended straight above their heads for 2-1/2 hours, and as they continued, a thunderclouds formed over the roof of the shelter and torrential rain proceeded to fall. A quarter mile away, the security guards at the entrance to the grounds stayed dry. Go figure.

The Summer Solstice is actually Monday – the longest day of the year, and supposedly a great day to instigate major change in your life. If you’re in LA, can’t make it to NM, and are not up to a week of 4AM yoga, chanting, meditation, camping, cold showers, Bhangra Dancing, and a diet of potato onion soup and watermelon flavored with black pepper, there are still other fun options for the weekend.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s grandson, Eric and his wife Mary, hold a solstice celebration Saturday night on their spectacular ranch overlooking Malibu. This opens with a Native American Indian Medicine Wheel Ceremony, and is followed by a potluck dinner.

Saturday, June 19th, 2010 – 5:00PM – 9:00 PM
Summer Solstice Potluck Celebration
Potluck dinner, season greeting, music making.
Please bring your favorite dish to SHARE!
Gather together around 6:30pm
$10-20 suggested donation

If that is too “woo woo” for you, there’s the Summer Solstice Ballyhoo at the Santa Monica Pier Saturday and Sunday. If you’re scared of the beach, and downtown is more your flavor, you might enjoy the Cal Plaza concerts Saturday night, which include the wild Dakah Hip Hop Orchestra (8PM), Andree Belle (10:30PM), and Natives of the Dawn (11:45PM).

So here’s hoping you have a great weekend and solstice!

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The celebration at Eric Lloyd Wright’s place should be a blast. I was up there for a wedding a couple years ago and it is truly a cool place with a spectacular view. There was a wedding circle where the rings were passed through a long ribbon everyone held followed by a feast, champagne and dancing under the stars! Have they finished the house yet? It was still a work in progress when we were there. PS: Always thought Eric was Frank’s son, am I incorrect about that?

Eric’s father was Lloyd Wright, who was Frank Lloyd Wright’s son. But he apprenticed under his grandfather. The lineage had me confused too. There’s a bio at the first link. They have an organic architecture internship program there, and Mary has painting workshops and organic gardening workshops, I think. The sweat lodges are also legendary among the Malibu/Topanga crowd.

Last time I was there (1-1/2 yrs ago?), the house had progressed a bit from my first visit 6 or so years earlier, but it really seems like they aren’t trying to finish it. It’s basically been a concrete awning with a view for years now. I don’t know why they haven’t made more progress on it. As long as it’s incomplete, the visitors can hang out in it, though, so that’s sort of a plus side to the construction.

I posted some of my early video collages shot at their Spring Equinox ceremony on one of my sites, but they’re a bit unwieldy to view; large files, not originally intended for web viewing. http://arthur.destinymanifestation.com/wordpressmu/2008/08/21/spring-equinox-at-the-malibu-wright-ranch/

One of my friends got married there too, a fact I discovered after sharing the collages with him. Apparently it’s a popular spot for that, and certainly one of the most spectacular I’ve seen around LA.

Their potluck events have always been really nice gatherings. I used to like to climb up to the small caves in the rocks above the pond, but they’ve closed off the trails to them as a safety precaution, I guess.

Hey, I like your video collages. Very interesting. Equinox loaded up just fine (but then I’m on a T-1 line at the studio). They seem a lot like the Hockney photo collages but in motion; a brilliant idea! Did you shoot them with a single camera or did you have multiple camera’s locked down here and there? I see the individual sequences looping every few seconds, so I assume the former. By explicitly adding the time element through movement, you make them all the more ‘cubistic’, if that’s a word. I find the stitching together of static camera sequences with just an occasional bit of movement in one frame or another fascinating. In “Malibu Coast at Dusk” it creates a kind of psychedelic, somewhat comic, ‘breathing’ effect of the hillsides. “Santa Monica Coast Night” is almost Warholesque in its lack of animation, although the rare and random slight shifts of lighting inside a frame subtly break its’ quiescent fixity. How much of this was intentional (vs my reading my own responses into the work)? Anyways, I might see you there if you’re going. Cheers. Marcel

Thanks! They’re shot sequentially with a single camera. That presented a lot of audio challenges, as the looping audio clips become too intense to listen to simultaneously. I shot a collage at the Topanga Film Festival that treated the source audio differently; the visuals loop over a continuous asynchronous audio file, which may or may not sync up with the various clips as they loop.

Here’s a statement about the whole process:
http://video.destinymanifestation.com/

If you navigate up to the video category on the blog with the Malibu files –
http://arthur.destinymanifestation.com/wordpressmu/category/video/
– you’ll see the more recent works, the “Ecstasy Unveiled” series, (all the older ones are on there too) which were resized for display on a single monitor. Most of them were underscored with single songs, a choice I’m not satisfied with. They seem to fight with each other, or the songs overshadow the visual elements. You end up listening to the song and not noticing the visual development of the individual components. I haven’t undertaken original scores for them yet. But I will.

The “breathing” effect was unintentional, and a side-effect of the process and camera I use. It adds a character of it’s own, which some people seem to like.

The “Cubist Arthur” collage was the transitional one for me, and the newer ones seek less to simply create panoramas and more to create new views, spaces, and juxtapositions of people and places – a cubist experience of time and place.

Hockney actually tried a film for the BBC, but never continued with it.

As for Saturday in Malibu – I’m hoping I can make it. It’s always been well worth the trip.

Rob’s Laughing Heart

After I graduated from boarding school, I joined a handful of tortured fellow graduates who had formed an artists’ colony in Brooklyn. This was the year that Bob Marley died, John Lennon and Reagan got shot, we lost the former and got stuck with the latter. I use the term artists colony loosely; these were a third and diagonally adjacent fourth floor apartment, connected by a well-trafficked fire escape. They became crash pads for a constant stream of high school alumni trying to figure out how long they could put off deciding what to do with their lives. There was a dead TV in the oven. The walls were half-painted. The broken beer bottles remained as evidence of the nightly parties. There was a deaf albino cat named Mingus. Of course, there were roaches. Think of the movie “Mimic” or Patricia Highsmith’s “Trouble at Jade Towers” (dig it up – it’s worth it), and you might have the picture.

I ran into a neighbor in the hall, an old Irish lady in a bathrobe, and struck up a conversation. “Ow many people ya got livin’ up there? 10? 15?” she inquired. “You should tell those girls they shouldna go sunbathin’ up on the roof,” she instructed me, then leaned over and nearly whispered, “Somebody ‘ll rape ‘em and throw ‘em off!” Then she toddled down the hall and slipped into her apartment, like a roach into a wall.

Ah, the roof.

Yes, the roof was our salon. There would be easels with painters at work. The owner of the deaf cat hadn’t yet discovered that he was color blind, and his arrogantly self-effacing paintings all exhibited a strange palette of hues, laying testament to our skewed but lively lifestyle. Jam sessions with a constant stream of visiting musicians fueled the creativity, and yes, the girls were strewn about sunbathing.

Rob Gillespie, photo by Pam Newell

One day I entered the apartment, and Rob, a cynical but funny guy with a long ponytail, clad in an iconoclastic anti-prep de-riguer torn tweed blazer, was sitting by the window with a prized new book. He proceeded to rave about the Strand bookstore in Greenwich village, how he’d looked all over town for this book by Charles Bukowski, nobody had it, but the Strand did. He insisted I had to visit the Strand. He was astonished I’d never heard of Bukowski.

As he drank a beer from a paper container cup from the Park House bar at the corner, smoking a camel straight, he quoted Bukowski voraciously. All I remember now is the passage, “I always take a new job with the knowledge that I will either quit or get fired.” I didn’t like the poetry much, but I admired Bukowski’s spirit and the gall with which he espoused his ramblings as poetry.

As the year wore on, Mingus’s owner and I pushed everyone else out, cleaned the apartment up, painted it, and made it a rather nice place to live. Rob and a few others moved to another apartment down the street, where a similar parade of inhabitants constantly streamed through.

One day Rob walked into that apartment, saw two new guys in the living room, said “Hi,” and walked into the bathroom. When he came out, he discovered they weren’t visiting, they were robbing the place. They tied Rob up, put him in the closet, and stole the only things of value in the apartment; a saxophone and a typewriter.

Seven years later, I emerged from a secret gathering of misfits on the upper west side, picked up a copy of Interview magazine, and perused a larger-than-life Herb Ritts photo of Bukowski’s hideous face. “God, I hope I never end up like that guy,” I thought, before boarding the subway and heading into a new chapter of my life.

As the years progressed, like that apartment, those of us who survived cleaned up our lives and went on to various colleges or careers. Rob and I had never been close friends, but I heard that he had moved to San Diego, and hooked up with Amber, another girl from our high school. They had a son together. He became a Buddhist. Following a recent visit to that city, I realized I had stayed with another friend only a block from Rob’s home, but we only exchanged facebook connections after that.

Last Monday would have been Rob’s 50th birthday, but our friends discovered that he had taken his own life a month earlier. Apparently he had been sober for 20+ years, but had gone back to the cycle of drinking and trying to stop, had lost his job, and ultimately, lost hope.

I think the first time I heard Tom Waits it may have been in Rob’s dorm room – it’s all a blur now – but the album was “Nighthawks at the Diner.” It has always remained the quintessential Waits album to me.

Several months ago, I went to an art gallery in Santa Monica to see a friend’s show, and discovered that she was sharing the bill with Tom Wait’s daughter. Caught off-guard, I found myself a bit star-struck, and watched from a distance as the healthy looking Tom Waits carried on a seemingly clear-headed jovial conversation with a crowd of people, obviously happy for his daughter’s success.

Waits and Bukowski seemed to find the beauty in the darkness, and I think that’s why they resonated with Rob. Thanks old guy, for turning me on to them, and may your spirit find the beauty and peace we all seek.

Tom Waits Reads Bukowski’s “The Laughing Heart:”

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I didn’t know Rob…but reading this, I almost feel like I did. What a graceful trip you’ve taken through Rob’s life. Thanks for sharing.

Fabulous reminisce! I love “Nighthawks at the Diner”, the shaggy dog stories and the way Tom laughs and goes, “heh heh…” at the end of a line, or blurts out a little “ownhhh…” One of the first movies I worked on after moving out to LA and graduating from film school was “Barfly”. Mickey Rourke made a great Bukowski. I was familiar with the man from his Beat connections, but I hadn’t discovered Fante up until then. “Ask the Dust”; now there’s a quintessential down and dirty LA saga, in good company with “Day of the Locust” and “Force Majeure”. Rourke made Bukowski seem funny, even sexy, but those guys’ writing always makes me feel jumpy, itchy, same way I get watching “Goodfellas” or reading Stone’s “A Flag For Sunrise”, or with most of Hunter Thompson’s stuff. Too much booze and bad acid and broken dreams. No, being at the end of your rope’s a terrible, desperate place to be, as your friend Rob testified. Not glamorous. No, not glamorous at all.

Thank you for sharing such a beautiful story with us, one which resonates deeply within my own heart.

Thanks all. Danger, a friend of mine told me of a chaffeur who’d been hired to drive Bukowski to the set for the filming of Barfly. He showed up at Bukowski’s place as arranged, finding him asleep. After Buke pulled himself together, he instructed the driver that he didn’t want to go to the set yet, and instead they drove down to the south bay to a dive bar he liked. They spent most of the day getting soused there, and then eventually found their way to the set, to the amusement of the crew and director. I can barely remember that film anymore – I remember it being kind of depressing. But Rourke sure made an incredible career of those roles. Like “Spun.” Ah, poor Brittany. But yeah, a life of numbed pain isn’t glamorous at all.

Censorship, Ann Magnuson, Lisa Douglass, David DePalo and the KGB

I recently attended the WordPress conference in San Francisco, and amidst the barrage of tech info and blogging propaganda, I was unexpectedly moved by a young, amiable, barely intelligible man named Rinat Tuhvatshin. He runs a system of blogs in Kyrgyzstan, using the same software that The Whole 9 runs on. He seemed uncharacteristically jovial; my attention wandered, but the severity and reality of his story began to sink in, and I woke up. This was not a James Bond movie; this was real. Due to some simple blog posts, many people’s lives had been threatened.

Kloop Media Foundation offers the only vehicle for people to speak publicly about political views contradicting the reigning regime in the Kyrgyz Republic. During a recent election, one of his bloggers had spoken out about the party running for office. The blogger’s father was abducted by the KGB, and although the blogger escaped, he was warned that if he didn’t shut down his blog, his father’s life would be in danger. He shut down the blog. Not much later, the entire Kloop network was forced to shut down by the government, with death threats as well. A coup later overthrew the government, and the blogging victors were able to completely restore hundreds of blogs that voiced dissent, threatening the deposed party.

Frankly, I was embarrassed that although I’m rather well travelled, and was near his country during a summer vacation as a child, I still had absolutely no idea where it was.

I was also puzzled by his KGB references; I thought them an instrument of the former Soviet Communist party, no longer in existence. I gave my Russian friend Zoya a call, discovering that despite the existence of a new intelligence agency, the Federal Security Service, many former Soviet citizens still disparagingly refer to it as the KGB. Kyrgyzstan is just south of Kazakhstan, the country made famous by the movie Borat, and it was hard not to imagine Sasha Cohen as I listened to the speaker’s less than humorous story. In reality, Kyrgyzstan is one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

In it, a national network of hundreds of blogs was built for a mere 70,000 Euros, offering a chance for both community and freedom of speech in the shadow of a government that sought to abolish both. As someone that’s always sought companionship among the most freakish and outlandish folks, the notion of censorship chills me to the bone, and the ability to “let my freak flag fly” has come to be something I pretty much take for granted.

Political censorship is a horrible thing, yet it’s pretty clear cut; you have an idea what the rules of behavior are. Personally, I’m starting to get rather bothered by the evolution of a newer form of commercial censorship that, while not life threatening, is completely arbitrary and hence exceptionally frustrating. Last month, actress Ann Magnuson’s Facebook page, which boasts well over a thousand fans, was shut down, without explanation. Musician and writer Lisa Douglass had a similar Facebook encounter last year, leaving nearly a thousand friends puzzled and perplexed. Another musician, David Depalo, had just proudly unveiled his new website online when he discovered that Google had deemed it potentially harmful to people’s computers. With one fell swoop, it was as though his site ceased to exist. Ironically, there was nothing threatening hosted on his site, even without his knowledge. In all these cases, the victims were able to get their sites back, but no explanation was ever given.


Ann Magnuson came across Sweet Apple’s visual recreation of the iconic Roxy Music album cover, below, and decided perhaps she better share her own earlier tribute to the album, the photo shoot pictured below.

Ann Magnuson’s Tribute to Roxy Music

In Ann’s case, it was surmised that her new profile picture, a recreation of a famous Roxy Music album cover, was deemed indecent by the Facebook clergy. I found this ironic as I’d had an advertisement for a call girl served up on the Facebook sidebar the night before, much to my surprise. Apparently Facebook finds it excusable to offer confidential personal information to advertisers as long as it has its clothes on.

I’m of that peculiarly American outlook that hopes people are innocent until proven guilty, and I believe both Google and Facebook have good intentions. I think people should be spared the indecency of visiting a website that could download harmful applications to their computer, and children shouldn’t be subjected to inappropriate sexual content, but I don’t think Facebook has made any effort to institute age appropriate security settings on their site, and arbitrary profile shut-downs are inexcusable, especially without subsequent explanation. Furthermore, the cases I mentioned were barely sexual in nature to begin with. Perhaps provocative, but there’s much more sexually explicit content all over Facebook. Google’s policy in China was commendable. Yet our public marketing and social personas now lie largely under the control of these commercial institutions, with no accountability to the public that relies upon them. The internet has grown from an information pipeline for military scientists into something as essential to social life as the telephone. (I could rant about the phone companies too, but that’s another post.)

Getting back to Russian “free trade,” one of my last surprising discoveries was that Putin had enlisted the efforts of Washington D.C. public relations giant Ketchum, Inc., to enable him to snag Time Magazine’s 2005 “Person of the Year,” ultimately hoping to bolster public support of his political policies because he ironically couldn’t achieve that from Russian efforts alone. The word from the capitalist Russian block is that it’s now the businessmen with the most money and influence who sway political decisions affecting whole countries like Kyrgystan, so ultimately, perhaps Google and Facebook aren’t that much different. When corporate interests dictate the rules for a society, online or not, the community’s best interests can ultimately not be served. Or can they? What do you think?

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Extremely well laid out and insightful. Because the interests of a community are usually so different than that of a corporation (whose main goal typically is to make money), I don’t believe it’s easy for a community’s best interests to be served when corporate interests dictate the rules.

Those who have the money tend to make the rules, which is unfortunate because corruption is often the benefactor of money.

With money at the heart of a corporation, I find it tough to serve both the needs of the corp and the best interest of a community, although there are amiable community driven corporations they are few and far between. As they say money talks, and while what may be the best interests of a corporation may wreck havoc within a community.

Cellist Maya Beiser

Years ago, when performing with a choir called Musica Viva in NYC, we encircled the congregation and sang a work by Palestrina. When we finished, I saw an old man sobbing. It struck me that music really does have the ability to touch a person’s heart unlike anything else, and I have long wondered if maybe that isn’t God, or some form of spirit, in action. Last Thursday I attended an intimate concert by the fabulous cellist Maya Beiser, and was on the receiving end of that sort of transmission.

After a frenzied scramble to find the new arts complex, the Casitas Theatre in Atwater Village, which houses two theater companies and a small performing hall, I took a seat and tried to catch my breath and discard thoughts of the pressing matters on my desk at home.

Maya emerged, clad in her usual stunning low-cut black leather ensemble, and sat down to play. No sooner had she played three notes than I thought, “uh oh… she’s cracking my heart wide open…” The piece was Osvaldo Golijov’s “Mariel,” which has haunted me from the first hearing. I made my best effort to choke back tears, and eventually realized I wouldn’t be able to win the fight.

Golijov “Mariel”

As she finished the Golijov work, a Mr. Nazarian, whom I believe arrived with a stunning blonde on his arm (Kristin Cavallari?) presented a certificate of recognition from from the City of Los Angeles to Maya Beiser for crossing cultural boundaries and bringing cultures together. Beiser’s work has a consistently humanitarian context, often fueled by travels to meet and learn from musicians around the world, sometimes in troubled countries. She was born and raised on a kibbutz in Israel, later attended Yale, and helped found the renowned new music ensemble, “Bang on a Can All-Stars,” which held pioneering 24 hour a day performances for ear-opening weekends in NYC in the late 80’s.

I first stumbled upon Beiser on MySpace a few years ago, when I saw her name and thought it familiar, some sort of déjà vu connection. Transfixed by the sounds on her page, I dug up her website, and saw she was due for a concert that month at UC San Diego, and attempted to reserve tickets when I realized the calendar was a year old. I periodically checked the site, and last year got to see her at UCSD for the first time.

At that small show in a lounge at the UCSD student union, I felt I had slipped into a dream, transported to a large gallery in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where a large wall looms just above the eye of the viewer so that you can’t see out the glass wall beyond it. I felt I had levitated and observed the view through the window, descending back into my seat as the music stopped, unable to recall exactly what I had seen, but changed by the vision nonetheless.

Thursday’s LA concert accompanied the release of her new CD “Provenance,” which features music by contemporary composers from Armenia, Kurdish Iran, Israel, and the US.  The title means origins, referring to both Maya’s personal history and the intertwining cultural traditions that course through the disc.

It included pieces from her previous albums, among them a multitrack piece written for her by Steve Reich, “Cello Counterpoint.” Many of her works rely heavily on recordings of her playing several parts, often with electronic processing, and she acknowledged her sound engineer to be her accompanist. As she returned for an encore, she performed her wildly rousing version of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir,” arranged by Evan Ziporyn. Here’s a terrible quality video link, but it gives you an idea of the style of the arrangement. The album is available on iTunes or from her website.

Maya Beiser’s performance of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir”

http://mayabeiser.com/
http://bangonacan.org/all_stars

http://www.musicaviva.org/

comments

This is incredible music! Wasn’t familiar with Maya Beiser before. Thanks Arthur!

Maya has posted an “official” version of the Kashmir video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C6KMcwR43FE

She’s scheduled to appear at the TED conference next week as well.