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IN PROTEST at Berkeley Art Museum

by Aaron Harbour on May 8th, 2012

I am excited about the potential of In Protest, an event organized in tandem by the Kadist Art Foundation and the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive, to be held Wednesday, May 9th at 7pm.

Artists have been asked to design posters with a specific or abstract political message to be given away at this one night event. The list of artists includes many whom I instantly associate with politically charged practices such as Rigo 23, Martha Rosler, and Natasha Wheat and many whose posters may help recast their interests in a more political light.

The artists are Zarouhie Abdalian, John Baldessari, Amy Balkin, Dodie Bellamy, Charlie Dubbe, Amy Franceschini, Doug Hall, Kevin Killian, Paul Kos, Tony Labat, Shaun O’Dell, Rigo 23, Piero Golia, Jordan Kantor, Martha Rosler, Allan Sekula, Mungo Thomson and Natasha Wheat.

Questions of art praxes’ political potentials and limitations are constantly swirling, all the more so in these highly charged times of active protest movements. The world has yet to come to terms with the revolutions recently transpired or those still afoot. And the future is less than settled in nations whose ‘completed’ revolts in the Arab Spring have left them in a terrible and dangerous state of flux. A military government is still in control of Egypt and in advance of elections, vying political factions are falling victim to massacres such as the one in Cairo on May 2nd.  Closer to home (and much tamer despite the press’ over emphasis on its outlying criminal element) we have our local Occupy, revitalized in its May Day general strike. In each of these protests and in the more everyday ones (usually in the grand tradition of labor struggles, but also against abortion and pro or against various political personalities and parties) the arts play a major role, both as means of message production (signs, banners, et al.) and as a foothold for giving the myriad people some cohesiveness (ex. the various strains of music performed and DJed).

During a March 31st talk at the Kadist curator Nato Thompson, whose excellent exhibition Living as Form is about to finish its satellite run in SF, discussed various ways in which art could engage with a wider audience, purpose and potential, noting (I’m paraphrasing) the worst thing we could do is commission a bunch of posters. But is such a curatorial proposal so untenable? In the introduction to Dorathea von Hantlemann’s excellent How to Do Things With Art (2010), she describes her theme as, “How does art become politically or socially significant and what preconditions must be fulfilled in order to enable artworks to attain such significance?”

In Protest will raise these questions anew, confronting Thompson’s challenge and interrogating Hantlemann’s question. Each artist will address both the specific audience in attendance and the vitality of their medium (the poster and art as a whole) in the context of the museum and the wider political conversation. And we,  the viewers,  will walk away with works of art.

Genre in Music

by Ezekiel Honig on October 20th, 2010

Honig performing at "Happy Oasis" (Photo: Jenna Duffy)

Our guest contributor Ezekiel Honig is a composer of ambient music, a sound artist and designer, an electronic music producer, and founded the music labels Anticipate and Microcosm. He recently scored music for the film “Florent: Queen of the Meat Market” (2010).  Last month Zeke performed at “Happy Oasis” a show that I produced, proved to be a smooth and yielding experience to work with a truly professional music artist. As we’ve been exchanging thoughts and philosophizing on art, music and life, I invited him to write a column focusing on just that–music. In the following words Zeke amplifies his thoughts and different takes as a music artist on the definition of “Genre.” Continue Reading More »


by Helen Homan Wu on August 10th, 2010

Last week, while walking south of Houston (SoHo) I noticed a group of people huddled around a circle, looking bogged down from the heat waiting to make a move. They turned out to be architects and local artists creating a series of urban mini-landscapes down the narrow strip of Allen Street in the Lower East Side. Continue Reading More »

Brion Gysin’s Dreamachine

by Helen Homan Wu on August 3rd, 2010

Sitting in complete darkness I closed my eyes and brought myself closer to the Dreamachine.

The potential hypnotic, hallucinatory effects that this machine promises is a huge expectation for its sitters, myself included. Of course, at the time when Brion Gysin manifested this machine his state of mind was more or less LSD- or hashish-induced. A poet, painter, performer, inventor, and thinker, Gysin collaborated closely with beat poet William S. Burroughs. Their tight friendship is evident in correspondence letters and openly shared in the exhibition Brion Gysin: Dream Machine. Gysin is one of the founding fathers of the Beat movement, and well respected for his endless experimentations with words and images, which eventually led to sound recordings as well. This man traveled greatly both in the physical and spiritual world, freeing himself to what has been taught, searching for the unknown.

As the yellow light continuously flickers on my face at 78 rpm, I cannot imagine what Brion Gysin saw, in my sober state, instead I heard sounds from some distant land. And shed a tear.

Brion Gysin: Dream Machine
at The New Museum until Oct. 3, 2010 Continue Reading More »

Marshall McLuhan: the Effect of the Media

by Helen Homan Wu on July 22nd, 2010

Yesterday was Mr. Marshall McLuhan’s birthday. Anyone who read the cult classic The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects knows that Marshall McLuhan is the godfather of philosophical media analysis. He did deep studies about how the media could effect an individual, and although those theories were written in the 60s it can easily by applied to what’s happening now. This video interview is a good introduction to Mr. McLuhan’s work and would perhaps inspire us to question our own role in today’s machine-obsessed world.

A Brighter Palette for the 2010 MTA Subway Map

by Helen Homan Wu on June 21st, 2010

(circa 1924, courtesy nycsubway.org)

If you haven’t already noticed the MTA has just put out the new subway map to replace the previous one, which has constantly been updated for the past 10 years. This new map shows more defined routes compared to the previous map, which had a lot of unfinished business. The new map that launched this month  is graphically cleaner with finer attention paid to the color scheme, although I think the bright blue is a tad loud. The New York Subway system must be the oldest in the world, you can witness this history at the Chambers Street station, where you can still feel the grit of New York’s past times. Updating the map is a sign that the city is putting an effort for these improvements, and evidently they are enhancing some of the stations, albeit at a slow rate. I think there are still lots of technological advancement that we can learn from other cities such as the London Undergound, which has a superior information design navigational system (online and onsite), and Berlin with its time table that is precise to the second, and other cities in Asia such as Tokyo and Hong Kong that are admirable for their service to riders. And perhaps even Barcelona, that gives riders an ad-free commute.

The NYTimes did a great article comparing the map of MTA’s present and past here.

Double Rainbow* as Lazy Tongs

by Gabriella Radujko on June 17th, 2010

Double Rainbow as Lazy Tongs: Poem on the Occasion of the 15th Annual Poetry Walk Across For Poets House

I walked across a bridge tonight,
a poet among poets, in line and abreast
east bound toward Brooklyn
with mighty bridge as pathway
Say poet, are you lonely, are you hungry
Pray poet, are you frightened, are you sorry
Play poet, dance at mid-bridge and kiss her
Stay poet, calm this gathering, this gay poetry crowd
Clasp the hand of humanity for poetry
aboard these lazy tongs
reaching with anchored heart
before the collage called city
Tell the story of elders, culture and space
tell it true without restraint
Speak of personal or general
river beneath you
loosening or guiding

This is a call to all poets… or follower of poets
to walk the bridge of poetry
then turn
and start again.

June 2010/Gabriella Radujko

Related article here
Read more on Marianne Moore’s description of the Brooklyn Bridge.

(Above photos: BenYakas/Gothamist)