Think Tank Gallery, Los Angeles is an urban art gallery in a city that is realizing its post-street art potential. The gallery focuses on integration and progression with each show, and serves as a place to inspire with each event and exhibition shared within the historic part of Downtown LA it inhabits.
Whole Beast Rag, whose two founders are resident artists at the Think Tank, host Mondays on the Think Tank blog. Their audience flirts with fringe, and you can find a link to their editorial at the bottom.
There are few movies I watch with my Ma when I’m home: Atonement, Detroit Rock City, the Ocean’s 11series, and various other Elizabethan- and Victorian-Era romances and rando flicks from the cheap bin at department stores. The movie we watch most often is Becoming Jane, with Anne Hathaway as Jane Austen and James McAvoy (ungh) as Thomas Langlois Lefroy, a bad boy lawyer/potential heir and a horny, literate admirer of Jane, full of devious, enrapturing intentions (not in real life, it’s a terribly/delightfully perverse display of imagined historical events, all hinging on the awkward romantic tension between Hathaway and McAvoy—the library scene with McAvoy and Knightley inAtonement was better than every wan look from Hathaway).
There’s a quote from the movie, uttered by the wealthy uncle, to Lefroy, after Austen supposedly says something “in irony,” which leaves the uncle displeased (pissed, really). The exchange goes as follows, after a wealthy French-by-marriage cousin of Jane’s announces much of her property (thank goodness) was “portable” by the time the guillotines were chopping her husband’s and buds’ heads off:
Austen: Yes, portable property is happiness in a pocketbook. (Delicate laughter.) Lefroy’s Uncle: Do I detect you in irony? It is my considered opinion that irony is insult with a smiling face. (Pauses, smiles a squinty-eyed, irritated smile, lightly dabs the corner of his mouth with his napkin.) Indeed. (Eats sloppy meat meal with pained moral disgust.) Austen: No. Lefroy’s Uncle: No? Austen: No, irony is the bringing together of contradictory truths to make out of the contradiction a new truth with a laugh or a smile, and I confess that a truth must come with one or the other, or I account it as false and a denial of the very nature of humanity itself.
This last line from Austen has been screenwritten sort of poorly, like they figured verbosity would obscure the simplicity/stupidity of that statement (Becoming Jane did not receive particularly spectacular reviews). Or maybe she was just an irritatingly (for her era) ironic little prick, in which case much of my discomfort with her books and movies would be resolved through recognition of a perpendicular, concomitant discomfort/Anglican relationship.
This is an old topic, though, right? Irony, the smugness of it and its uselessness (maybe with the exception of situational irony, which is also prevalent in the film). Although the movie was made in 2007, Jane Austen was born in 1775 and died in 1817, right before Queen Victoria made England a bit more stuffy and industrial. The supposed (props to Foucault) suppression of sexuality is on the horizon, and Jane’s wit and representation of (bourgeois and aristocratic English) women’s issues was no doubt important for the progression of literature. But there’s something about Jane in Becoming Janethat hits too close to home (for Anne Hathaway as much as for me); the ironic smile part in the quote is especially annoying. But perhaps that something is that Anne Hathaway plays Jane.
Lefroy’s uncle calls Jane an, “ironical little husband-hunter,” which is, to some extent, true (this situation/phrase in and of itself is a little ball of irony, tightly wrapped to fit Austen’s aesthetic). Referencing the character and the deceased person, she was desperate to make it as a writer (which obviously happened, without her ever having married anyone), but was under a lot of real pressure as a young adult to find a fucking husband already so her parents didn’t have to count out grubby coins into a small coin purse tied shut with catgut or leather string in a room that could double as an Anthropologie ad.
There’s nothing pin-pointedly wrong with Anne Hathaway. But Salon recently did a piece on why “everyone hates her,” with CNN following up with a similar story days afterward. Soon enough there were stories on Huffington Post, Gawker, and PopSci. There have been grumblings about her for a while, though; a lot of quasi-social-consciousness commentary, mostly, positing that Hathaway is “too thin” for the current cultural landscape, and that her face holds signs of economic depression (which is a no-no, movie-wise if you’re in an economic depression). Unlike Hepburn in Breakfast At Tiffany’s, Hathaway is thin because she’s expected to be, not because her parents were in German-occupied Arnhem, the Netherlands during WWII. Her acting, despite its technical proficiency (she just won an Oscar, too), lacks warmth—no one I know would invite this girl to a party.
But it’s also that the tongue-in-cheek is tiring, as is the red lipstick and ironic, condescending tone. TheBreakfast At Tiffany’s smirk has been overused by 7th grade girls in mirrors since the movie hit theaters. This boredom with bullshitting ultimately led me to LA (Brooklyn has a lot of Anne Hathaways), surprisingly, and I can’t tell you how happy I am to not have to see a sideways smile again. Big-toothed bellows only.
So am I just young/naive enough to hate irony, or am I now an adult in that I recognize its inefficacy, and thus happen to agree more with Lefroy’s uncle than with a girl my own age (culture is so confusing!). She represents something in that movie, and in other movies she’s done, that no longer jives with her generation’s aesthetic. As with everything else (from where I’m sitting), the dated device of irony is dated because it’s not so much about icy stares or being able to do backflips in a catsuit in reference to an earlier time, it’s not about reconfiguring the cultural landscape to amuse yourself. It’s about experiencing it, an accomplishment that Anne Hathaway doesn’t seem interested in attaining, and, in the end, it makes us uninterested in her.
Photo by Becoming Jane Pictures and writing by Grace Littlefield.
CRACK & SHINE SHOWS YOU THE LIFESTYLE OF FAMOUS WRITERS
Chances are, you are too smart to risk the intense sentences handed out by some of the strictest government policies ever enforced on art (which REVOK lays out in the first episode), and you probably haven’t come close to the lifestyle of some of the world’s most notorious graffiti writers and taggers. Vans knows this, and teamed up with the team behind the intense graffiti book Crack & Shine to put everyday street art fans directly into the most exhilarating process of any art form.
While some may not even think it’s art, there is no denying that it is exciting, and there are two seasons up and ready to be viewed over at OfftheWall.tv. Check out the first episode of season two above, visiting one of the more evolutionary parts of the graffiti world: Barcelona.
The Tumblr Art Symposium is an event that has had folks excited for some time in the world of online curation and web-based artists. The event is as much a series of conversations as it is an art exhibition during the Armory Art Week in New York, and plenty of panels, Q&A’s, and presentations cover everything from reblogging to Tumblr-related art projects.
In case you can make it to the event in person tomorrow, the address is below, but luckily for the rest of us, a large amount of the event will be livestreamed. They are still working on a solution for the rest of us who aren’t available to watch the event live, but if you’re around Saturday evening, you can check out the whole thing here.
Ken Perenyi is an artist who has lived a life as addicted to the secret agent lifestyle of running from the FBI as he was the process of perfecting his craft. In a piece by CBS describing his tell-all book about such a lifestyle, cameras enter his home and his studio to see the magic at work. His manner of offing the paintings is a clever one - playing dumb and letting the professionals make the mistake of claiming the paintings’ worth - but what is certainly most awe-inspiring is to watch him play out the techniques he has mastered in aging his works.
“It was me against the experts — can I outsmart them again? Can I outwit them? Can I succeed? Can I make a fake and pass it off as an original?” he said.
While there is plenty of shame to be had in passing off your fakes as the real thing, the supremely confident Perenyi seems to feel none of it. He claims to have made a contribution to the art world. Make your own judgment in the video above, or by checking out his book.
INTERVIEW WITH YOU ARE HERE II “BEST IN SHOW” WINNER ROGER CLAY
After a month of many photographers chasing cops through some of the more rough-and-tumble parts of town, no one got in closer than “Best in Show” winner Roger Clay. The artist, who worked exclusively from an iPhone when capturing the Ghetto Gardens shot (above) that won him the Leica D-Lux 6 prize, shot with a certain subtlety that showed through in his proximity to his subjects, and lays out some of this in his interview, below.
How did you find out about YOU ARE HERE II and what drew you to apply before knowing the subject matter?
I saw the link (one of the curators) Rinzi posted on FaceBook. The challenge of shooting the unknown was something I wanted to try. Street photography is all about the unknown and what comes your way and how you react to it. I think that’s why there were so many good images .
What changed in your approach once we dropped the surprise subject on participants?
The first thing I thought was its not going to be easy getting real close to those guys because they don’t stay in place very long .
For what were you looking in your shots?
As far as just shooting cops it’s real fluid. I went out on three 12-hour shifts with them and when things happened - it happens fast.
Did you ever think about the fact that shooting from an iPhone was one of the factors that inspired the show? Police have a newfound accountability now that every citizen can stream their actions online which has changed cultural policy.
As far as accountability for what they are seen doing, I think it’s always been there but in what ever profession someone decides to do there are always going to be a few that fuck it up for the ones trying to do the right thing .
Can you describe the challenge of getting the Best in Show shot?
I think we all had challenges; a lot of it is just being in the right place at the right time. With all the wonderful images that were shown at the gallery, I was truly honored to have been chosen . After a little over two years of doing street photography this is by far the highlight of my work.
What do you think about winning the Leica D-Lux 6? Will you use it or stick to your cell?
The very next day after receiving the Leica I had the chance to get some good photos of my nieces. I really like the sharpness of the Leica. And I’m convinced it will be out with me on the streets taking photos.
Can you also describe the day or the experience you had in getting the Best in Show shot itself?
The day we went to the pot bust was by far the best experience of trying to document my ride-alongs for the show. So much goes on and the LAPD works fast. They were very professional and were more than excited to let me see what they were doing. We must have been there for at least four hours and these officers were working nonstop. Clearing out a 4-story building is a heavy task. And then after leaving the pot bust not five minutes later there was a felony stop we responded to. Needless to say it was one of the fastest 12 hours I ever had.
Above is an interview with artist Salvador Dalí from 1958. While some may point out the bizarre manner of advertisement from the period, as host Mike Wallace sells Parliament cigarettes from start to finish in front of one of the most influential artists of all time, it is notable to observe the manner of understanding a people of this era took to grasp what it is the Surrealists were doing.
One of the most interesting things about this interview is the tendency for the interviewer to call Dalí out in an almost opinionated manner, a tendency from which those interviewing artists today almost shy away, or at least soften in approach. As he tries to make sense of the whirlwind of information coming at him from the Surrealist master and self-proclaimed genius, he takes the eccentric statements and packs them into more concise pieces of information, consumable by a more sensible audience with a straightforward vocabulary pulled right out of the 1950s. Wallace’s classic TV voice does every explanation justice.
Oh, in other words, life is erotic and therefore ugly; death is not erotic, but sublime, therefore beautiful.
Despite his best efforts, there are times when even master conversationalist Mike Wallace loses track and must head in a different direction.
Check out the first half of the interview above and part two here.
In selling art to cops over the course of the last month, we have realized a different perspective amongst the sub-culture that invokes a unique response. Separate from the “everything is art” mentality that many of our patrons maintain, most groups have a more practical approach to what justifies an art piece, especially amidst the wide spectrum of graffiti. The conversation between “art” and “vandalism” can often be ignored by accepting it as mostly both, which puts law enforcement in the difficult position of deciding what stuff stays and what goes, while various governments have begun protecting certain illegal street pieces.
Scott Hocking’s photographic project aptly titled “Bad Graffiti” - with a book of the same name - essentially focuses on the stuff we would cover over if we got the chance. His amusing commentary on the pieces put forth the further humor in his shots, so check out more of his work here, or the whole book over at Black Dog Publishing.
Whole Beast Rag, whose two founders are resident artists at the Think Tank, host Mondays on the Think Tank blog. Their audience flirts with fringe, and you can find a link to their editorial at the bottom.
Following the one man revolution of Christopher Dorner is hard, especially considering all the perspectives surfacing in the aftermath. Yet I don’t think it much productive to argue over who is right any longer. The media will always skew. The people involved will always have their version of what happened. And in the end, it’s all true. Nonetheless - in this discussion at least - we are all losers.
Life isn’t an equation and neither is satisfaction. On the surface, maybe all the elements are in place and so it appears you are safe. For instance: I have a place to live and two doors that lock between me and all the bad things in the world. There are people who would help me before I hit rock bottom. This is a vast relief and I’m aware of all the luck that aligned to bring me to Los Angeles. I’m unemployed but I’m not homeless. In other words, worse things have happened to others around me. I live two blocks from Skid Row and when cab drivers bring me home they are confused by my residence, another dead industrial space downtown. I keep saying you can’t see anything from the outside. The funny thing about perspective is that while it’s based in your reality it’s also a product of the ego too, and your whole world reflects it.
The problem with most systems is that they feed in one direction. Those most in power flaunt water. Take a walk and count the fountains of the wealthy one day, just for fun. The palm was imported to California on the backs of brown men. Money, like oil, floats. The first question I get asked is usually “Why Los Angeles?” and while my answer varies it usually involves some element of the unexpected. (As a friend put it best: because it’s like the internet.)
Yet the real truth proves harder to dissect for it’s not one lesson. It’s like a web I keep encountering all over again, housed in various forms. The Dhamma teaches that we will encounter ourselves at many internal crossroads over the course of our lives. It is the same problem presented in another way. This forces an evolution of perspective should we choose to remain the same or embrace new opportunities for reflection.
Yesterday in Elysian Park we sat in a grove of four blackened palms for most of the afternoon. It was our reward after a long two weeks of work. The palms reminded me of Stonehenge. There was a slash across one trunk like from a large claw and the path through the long grass reminded Grace of dinosaur skin. Just beyond the grid: this other ancient world. Still, the question is asked: why here?
We found a spot on the grass near the edge. In our bag were mangoes and magazines and paper to doodle on should we want it. But instead we watched the people below. These days the act of thinking seems revolutionary, and I don’t just mean Dorner. Ram Dass was drinking buddies (among other things) with Timothy Leary and while history asserts that no one way is perfect, it seems an intersection to contemplate. Drugs are not the answer, but they do unseat the ego. It makes sense they’re so suppressed.
A man carrying colored balloons and cotton candy weaves carefully through the grass and we buy a second bag. At the top with our mouths full we wonder aloud about his life. We pictured his wife spinning candy floss at four in the morning by moonlight for her husband to sell to children and recreational drug users on the weekend. We wonder who he is at home or if he has a home. His face is leathery serious and he doesn’t speak English but he has every right to the park like us. “The name suits this place,” Grace remarks as we’re leaving. There are many derivations and references throughout history, but I like Dante’s, where the name Elysium refers to the abode of the blessed in the lower world. The park above all else should be this: a space of pleasure for the people. It’s important to remember this freedom as a human: Power is just another perspective.
YOU ARE HERE II: SHOOT A COP CLOSING PARTY TOMORROW - INTERVIEW WITH SOUND PIECE DESIGNER PATRICK NISSIM
There were many parts that went into our first show of 2013. YOU ARE HERE II: Shoot a Cop - A Celebration of Our Boys in Blue celebrates its closing party tomorrow night, March 2nd, and will be one last chance to get together with the artists and talk to them about the work they created over the last month that ruffled so many feathers. A piece that could have ruffled feathers if not handled with so much grace is the sound piece by one of the Think Tank’s newest resident artists, Patrick Nissim.
The piece takes sound bites from news reports during the riots and combines them with an interesting journey of music. Tomorrow will be your last chance to hear it amidst the art, so come out to the BYOB event if you have a chance. Or listen to it above.
Here is what Patrick has to say on the piece:
First off, how would you describe the piece you created for YOU ARE HERE II: Shoot a Cop?
I looked at the project as an audio narrative. It felt like an NPR piece to me in some ways, but with more time to let the music breathe. There was so much to cover (and so much I left behind), so in many ways it was the abridged version of a much larger story. It was also very raw, since I had to piece it together in a short amount of time.
You’ve done a few video shoots at the Think Tank since you became one of our newest members, but what drew you to designing a sound piece for the new exhibit? And how does this stack up to your more regular work and side projects?
Well interestingly enough, I actually used Final Cut Pro (my video editing software) to piece the whole thing together. I’ve always been captivated by the 1992 riots in LA and have actually been trying to write a script on them for a while, so this was a great chance for me to throw on some headphones and take a different route to the same destination. When I finished, it felt similar to finishing a documentary. I was listening to so many telecasts, sound bites, and news reports that I began to really understand the breadth of all of it just by immersing myself in the material.
The subject matter was nothing if not loaded. What had more impact in creating your piece, the intimidation of the title or the complexity and history of the subject matter?
The complexity and history of the subject matter. It was so dense with a history of racial tension and boiling tempers, which were symptoms that had been present for decades. I kept seeing similarities to Do The Right Thing. When Mookie threw the trash can through Sal’s window, it was hard for some people to justify his actions. When you looked at people looting stores and setting their neighborhoods on fire, it didn’t make sense for a lot of people either. Spike Lee says in an interview, “in 20 years since the film came out, no black person has ever asked me why Mookie threw the trash can threw the window”. In a lot of ways, I feel Mookie threw the trashcan for the same reason Los Angeles erupted in flames after the Rodney King trial.
How did you select the songs and sound bites for the piece?
For the soundbites, I would go onto youtube searching for telecasts and footage of the riots. It took a lot of me mixing and matching this footage to help create a story that could thread in a linear way. I would grab the audio, label it as well as I could, and piece the narrative together once I became familiar with what was on every clip. As far as the music is concerned, I went with whatever felt right. There was an emphasis to throw in songs that were specific to the 1992 riots, but there were also tracks from decades before and after that made it in because they simply fit. Cops Get Scared of Me, released in 2012,was a track I hadn’t heard until I started digging for this project and it became one of my favorite parts of the narrative. I went with what felt right or relevant and just rolled with it.
What do you think of the show, now that it’s up and presently being shared with the world?
It’s important. I think the show did a great job of not putting an opinionated spin on anything. This was about letting these photographers capture the LAPD in a candid light. They all turned out well. As far as my piece being shared, I think it’s great. I hope people can learn something from it or be inspired to dig further into the riots.
Does that differ at all from what you thought it was going to be?
I didn’t know what to expect. I wasn’t sure if we were going to be shut down or if people were going to be offended. We had models walking around in police uniforms and pig noses, serving donuts and coffee. Shit, that’s gotta offend somebody. Luckily the LAPD has been very cool, which was refreshing to see.
Did the Dorner situation change anything in your creative process? It happened right when you were in the thick of working this piece out…
It made things very sensitive. I was hoping people weren’t going to get the wrong idea and think we were exploiting it. For the most part, people understood. One thing I didn’t want to do was censor myself. It was important for me to find a balance with everything without throwing people off or compromising the integrity of the project.
ARTIST CREATES BUST OF HIS FAVORITE POLITICIAN OUT OF HIS OWN BLOOD
Hussaini, whose eccentric ideologies mimic his moniker selection as he goes by no full name, is a teacher and sculptor from India. In his latest, bizarre piece, the artist took multiple liters of his own blood and that of his own students, and casted it into a frozen sculpture of the bust of Chief Minister J. Jayalalitha, his favorite politician.
The noted artist wanted to thank the politician for being the “most sports loving CM of India” and for her support to his archery association, and since he had a few liters of his own blood stored for special occasions, he decided to put it to good use.