This is the 8th track on the Knob Twiddlers release.
A cassette version of the release is also now available:
Skimming through some reviews of Maps to the Stars, it's exhausting watching reviewers such as the AV Club's A. A. Dowd as they attempt to weave in references to David Cronenberg's early movies to explain Maps as a "Cronenberg film." Cronenberg has said in interviews that he no longer makes Cronenberg films (such as They Came from Within, Scanners, or Videodrome). Mostly what he has done since the late '80s is adapt writers for the screen. ExistenZ was a brief return to form but even it was almost self-parody.
Auteur-theory-wise, Maps is a Bruce Wagner movie, just as Eastern Promises was a Steven Knight movie and A History of Violence was a John Wagner movie. In each case Cronenberg provides a set of eyes and hands to implement the writers' visions. There is a clean, chilly style but very little authorial mind at work on the director's side. Casting, framing of shots, and working with actors is functional, at best. Workmanlike. The spark lies in the spoken dialogue, the story construction, and individual actors' performances: how the actors respond to Wagner's material.
early drawing, ink and gouache on watercolor paper, mounted on matte board
I moved to NYC from Dallas in the months between the writing of this review and its appearance in the Atlanta-based magazine, Art Papers (July/August 1995 issue). The show was an exhibition of New York and international artists that was shipped to Dallas at considerable expense. Eventually the patron/donor got sick of paying for incomprehensible art from outside the community but during the brief window of his support, some interesting shows happened. Mostly the text below is verbatim but some changes were made to the second paragraph, so it's an update rather than a pure historical record. Thanks to Drew Shiflett for posting the original.
McKinney Avenue Contemporary (the MAC)
January 20 – February 26, 1995
In this survey or recent sculpture, which traveled from the Yale University art gallery to the newly-opened MAC in Dallas, sculptor Charles Long used a simple formal device to link abstract, representational, and conceptual tendencies. As Long put it, each of the show’s fourteen works (by as many artists) occupies "about as much space as an adult human form if you could remold it in another shape." Spaced evenly across an expanse of varnished concrete floor and dramatically lit, the objects had a collective identity that bridged radical differences among individual works.
Among the exhibit’s visual motifs, the "mass" one immediately notices is not so much critical as excretory. William Tucker’s Rodinesque bronze turd, one of two pedestaled works, sets the tone of obdurate formlessness, but we also have Carl Ostendarp’s shiny pink plastic puddle/lozenge, and an untitled work by John Miller where disgusting brown coils resembling fake dog doo overwhelm a collection of hardbound books (with an artificial apple sitting incongruously on top). Finally, the mass shrinks to its most literal incarnation as a micro-speck of actual, bona fide feces (Tom Friedman’s own, we are told), barely visible on the show's other pedestal. The allusions to bodily waste reflect the upsurge of interest in the “abject,” a condition described by French theoretician Julia Kristeva and applied to recent art trends in a 1993 Whitney Museum exhibit called “Abject Art” (which featured Miller’s scatological work).
In the broadest sense, abjection deals with the breakdown of meaning in an alienating, technological culture. The Whitney exhibit, which also drew heavily on the writings of renegade surrealist Georges Bataille, defined abject art to include transgressive femininity, the investigation of degraded elements, and works dealing with gender confusion and body horror. These themes surfaced with varying degrees of intensity in “Critical Mass.” Drew Shiflett’s bricolage landscape, Kathleen Schimert’s molten heaps of blue felt, and Emil Lukas’ paper and plaster sandwich all have a rough, distressed quality, as if battling the forces of entropy, but Michelle Segre goes completely over the edge with a waxy little creature that looks like a cross between a deformed turtle and the Elephant Man. Replete with veins, skin diseases, and sagging folds of flesh, this grotesque effigy forbodes what humans may resemble after a few hundred years of watching cable and surfing the Internet.
Lillian Ball’s bright red sculpture of cast urethane looks slick and industrial on one side, lumpy and organic on the other. The smooth side resembles an enormous breast and the organic side has a rough-hewn quality making the breast appear amputated. Jack Risley’s floor spill of cardboard boxes swaddled in a commercial shipping wrapper suggests packaging for upper middle class lifestyle accoutrements, as well as the boxes and body bags that are the final refuge of less privileged urbanites. Several works incorporating urban detritus signal a transition from the abject to the idealized: Maya Lin’s crinkly, twinkly sphere of shattered auto safety glass, for example, turns the wreckage of our highways into a vision of platonic perfection.
Some sculptures functioned less well as autonomous creations than transition pieces or foils for other works. Judy Haberl’s Lump, consisting of a caulked and sanded brain coral hunkered down in a bean bag chair, is a one-liner that nevertheless links the exhibition’s artificial and organic styles. Michael Gitlin’s irregular polygonal solid of sanded, varnished wood -- well crafted and thoughtful in its plays on hard and soft geometry -- is a rather benign throwback to the purist abstraction of the ‘70s, but provides a needed contrast to the grunge elements of the show.
A few works are accompanied by anecdotal information that greatly affects their interpretation. Erwin Wurm’s sculpture, which resembles a lichen-covered dung-ball, becomes thematically richer when the viewer discovers that it’s actually a massive blob of solid, slowly drying oil paint -- you speculate about whether it’s a painting instead of a sculpture, or how many years it will take to dry. Once you’ve learned from the title card that Lillian Ball cast her urethane breast from an igloo-shaped doghouse called a “dogloo,” it loses the exoticism of the unfamiliar industrial artifact but gains something back as a kind of reconstituted Pop object. Maya Lin’s safety glass sphere is slowly growing in size, like Pee Wee Herman’s foil ball, as Lin glues on new glass fragments with silicone, but you don’t have to know about the obsessive or ritualistic aspects of the work to enjoy it.
According to Long’s catalog essay, “Critical Mass” refers to the point in atomic physics when “mass can no longer contain itself and becomes an event.” In other words, the title symbolizes how a variety of factors—the skill of the artist, the discernment of the critical viewer, the gallery context, the relationship of objects to other objects, historical or anecdotal information—can transform ordinary matter into an “event” or experience that changes the way the viewer sees the world. As curator, Long’s role in this process included a healthy degree of self-interest. As he mentioned in his gallery talk, he chose works from which he wanted to learn something as an artist. Thus, his own desires became the most important factor binding seemingly disparate masses into a resonant whole.
Tom Moody, 1995-2015
periodically I get the itch to print out my "net art"
Have stopped regularly reading the New York Times as it is a sinkhole of propaganda but an occasional glance at the front page yields an article outraged bloggers haven't already excoriated.
Yesterday's find was a subtle eugenicist argument about "the feel good gene" by a professor of clinical psychiatry. He claims some people are just naturally anxious, while others have a gene that allows them to shrug off fears and look on the bright side. This was tested by some Frankenscience where a human feelgood gene was "inserted" into mice, causing them to hang out, carefree, in the open center of a maze, while their un-gened fellows cowered fearfully in the dark, back alleyways. It's easy to see where this is going -- another drug to make people feel better when they should be rebelling against the toxic social conditions that are making them anxious (income inequality, lousy labor practices, lack of adequate health care, corruption, surveillance, and police harassment, to name a few).
The Times opens comments just long enough to allow a flood of kneejerk reactions (second thoughts? too late, send a letter). The feelgood gene article received 206 of these, with ten "editor's picks" that were almost entirely supportive. A few dissenters took issue with the pharmacological slant of the article, but from an herbalist or "meditationalist" perspective, not because of its lack of consideration of social causes. One comment in particular caught the article's whiff of eugenics:
Providence, RI 17 hours ago
This article is a superb example of scientific data gone awry through faulty interpretation and application. To wit: 1) The growing field of epigenetics has demonstrated that the environmental factors that turn on or off genes are as important as the genes themselves. 2) A vast body of scientific evidence shows that genes can be turned on or off by therapeutic interventions, which are usually not pharmaceutical agents, but include many alternative medical treatments which Dr. Friedman is unlikely to be aware of because of his specialty in medicine (e.g., yoga, meditation). 3) After all the experience with psychotropic medications' side effects, which research shows occur in the majority of patients, such as diabetes, metabolic syndrome, decreased sex drive, addiction, tardive dyskinesia, and many others, it would take a supreme degree of naivete to believe that a drug that "boosts anandamide" would be more safe and free of side effects than any other psychotropic medication. 4) In describing the anxious as "genetically disadvantaged" Dr. Friedman, though meaning well, sounds a note of moral judgment reflective of the eugenics movement. Though motivated by compassion, I'm sure, Friedman unwittingly suggests that those with anxiety are somehow genetically defective, rather than seeing anxiety's evolutionary value. The analogous situation is sickle cell anemia, which confers a protective effect on those affected against malaria.
Dump.fm recently got some New York Times coverage (hat tip andrej). Nice to see if this even if the premise is only half-right. The writer theorizes that Dump is
part of a retro aesthetic renaissance sweeping the Web, one that pays homage to old-school computing systems and software like Windows 95 and Microsoft Paint. Nostalgia certainly plays a part, in the same way it does with collectors of vinyl or old typewriters, and for good reason: This revival is, in many respects, a reaction to the manicured lawns of Facebook and Twitter and a celebration of the earlier, less sterile (and surveilled) environments that people once inhabited and created online.
Four and a half years ago Paddy Johnson described Dump.fm's 319 Scholes exhibition not as "retro" but something new:
a unique community of makers, each using a lexicon of stock images, internet slang and animated gifs. This is the new art we’ve been waiting to see for the last 30 years.
That's a more accurate description, even if 319 Scholes curator Lindsay Howard quickly moved on to the next new art, and Johnson lately treats it more as a historical phenomenon than a going concern (while acknowledging that it is still active in her recent animated GIF history). Dump has in fact chugged along for five years now, with hundreds of new users coming, going, or staying, so that it can be rediscovered as something new, but not completely new. Now it's being characterized as a retro reaction by millennials to the supposed manicured lawns of Facebook and Twitter. Ironically, though, while "manicured" is how one might have described Twitter seven years ago, today it's a wacky blitz of Twitpics, Vine videos, variable sized fonts, and unnecessary stats clinging to every utterance. Dump is like this but moves faster because it's based on a chat room format. It's a retro form with some (but hardly exclusively) retro content. It's more of an ahistorical, net-ecumenical poetry slam than a recycled Geocities page. The skanky porn that graces dump.fm like a spatter of milky raindrops is quite up to date.
apologies to stage
remix of a gif by design professionals