Thursday, January 24, 2008

Prefabricated War : After 5 Years the American Network News Media
is beginning to Ask Questions

Five years, estimates as high as nearly seven hundred-thousand deaths, (see Lancet Report published in the
BBC last year), Immeasurable historical and cultural losses, Massive damage to international political relations
and 400 billion US taxpayer dollars later - the American Network News Media is beginning to ask questions
about the legitimacy of the Bush Administration's manufactured War in Iraq. Thanks in-part to studies like this
one by the Center for Public Integrity:

"The study concluded that the statements "were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively
galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses."

"President Bush, for example, made 232 false statements about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and
another 28 false statements about Iraq's links to Al Qaeda. Secretary of State Powell had the second-highest
total in the two-year period, with 244 false statements about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and 10
about Iraq's links to Al Qaeda. Rumsfeld and Fleischer each made 109 false statements, followed by
Wolfowitz (with 85), Rice (with 56), Cheney (with 48), and McClellan (with 14)."

The cost in lives and culture is of course immeasurable, but here is a quantifiable commodity that many
people feel is of significance. If even just for the consideration of other domestic uses this amount of finance
could have been used for in our quality of life, our cities, our schools, our industry, our sciences, our farms,
and the long-term preservation and development of our national natural and cultural resources:

Sunday, January 20, 2008

"Future So Bright" Exhibition : Matt McCormick at Lee Center : Jan 15 - Mar 29

Portland Filmmaker Matt McCormick comes to Seattle again, not with another work of documentary
/oblique urban social theory, but instead a video-art installation at the Lee Center for the Arts.
McCormick's well received film "The Subconscious Art of Graffiti Removal" was a deadpan investigation
of the inadvertent/accidental 'abstract expressionism' or 'surrealist automatism' produced by the often
enforced-by-law removal of graffiti in the urban landscape. A phenomena that also speaks much of
america's current infatuation with whiting-out aspects of the urban cultural landscape that seem to
undesirably 'contaminate' or contribute to a sense of the 'cracks' in the commercial economic facade:

Link to "The Subconscious Art of Grafiti Removal" site

Moving from the friction of the urban to the quietude of the desolately rural. This time McCormick's video
work represented as a installation set from a static perspective, rather than deadpan visual narrative (and
one of silence and ambient site-specific sound rather than the voice of Miranda July as the unseen presence
and guide to the sights and themes, as was the case in "The Subconscious Art..."). These are prolonged,
contemplative still shots of sun-bleached, ruined, abandoned and crumbling buildings living out quiet years
in their rural isolation. The effect, is one of transporting the quietude and sense of time passing through the
expanse of these earthy landscapes into the intemerate modern environs of the gallery space.

Link to Lee Center for the Arts "Future So Bright" Exhibition site

Morton Feldman Marathon at SAM / Alex Ross at OTB / Helmut Lachenmann in Vancouver : Jan 26 - 27 / Mar 29 - Apr 2

The Northwest is abundant with the Modern Composers concerts and series this Winter/Spring!
Some of you may know of Alex Ross from his column in the New Yorker covering classical music
and modern composers and his much lauded book that was published last year on the history of
20th Century Classical & early Electronic Music:

Link to "The Rest is Noise" site

And he's in Seattle at On The Boards as the curator for this night of New American Chamber Music:

Link to OTB "World in Collision" site

Of greater interest and rarity - the following day at Seattle Art Museum is the performance of many
of the major dedicated works of one last century's greatest pre-minimalist composers and
compatriot of John Cage; Morton Feldman. In the for of the "Morton Feldman Marathon":

Link to Seattle Art Museum "Morton Feldman Marathon" site

And lastly, Vancouver's New Music series is bringing Helmut Lachenmann to BC in late March/
Early April for a concert series. With Lachenmann in attendance:

Link to NewMusic Vancouver Concert Series site

Along with a rare series of performances by pianist Frederic Rzewski.
Follow the 'Performance Series' link there for more infos.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Jia Zhang-Ke's "Still Life" opens in US Theatres : IFC NY : Jan 16 - 22

Nearly a year and a half since its premier at the Venice Film Festival (where it won the highest award
at the fest, the Golden Lion) Jia Zhang-Ke's poetic, beautiful, tragic and grandiose depiction of globalism
in the form of the Three Gorges Hydro Project colliding with every-day lives and the shifting, modernizing
world coming face-to-face with the rural traditions of mainland China - Finally! comes to domestic theatres:

Link to IFC New York "Still Life" site

Opening this week in New York City with a very limited nationwide theatrical run to follow. Again,
brought to our country by those fine and informed folks at the IFC. Many more words by me on
this near-incomparable piece of cinema to be found here:

Link to Previous Promulgations on the Films of Jia Zhang-Ke & Nuri Bilge Ceylan

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Paul Thomas Anderson's "There Will Be Blood" : Yes, but Will There Be an Original Film?

Paul Thomas Anderson's newest, "There Will Be Blood" watched as a large-writ investigation of the mythologies
that comprise the two major formative 'industries' of America, being religion and oil. But also as a character
study in which the men/institutions behind those industries go about their 'business' and to what degree obsession
and the singular criteria for success cloud the judgement/create obsession in those who go about achieving 'great
things' within the world of industry. The conversion of peoples faith, the harvesting of oil from the earth, the money,
influence and power gained through the business of these pursuits...

I have to say, my overwhelming impression of the film was that P.T. Anderson failed to depict these forces embodied
through rich characters or a complex, internally friction/conflict -filled or ultimately compelling film. "...Blood" aspires to
be of a particular tradition in cinema, namely Robert Altman, Terrrence Malick and Kubrick, but the emulation was simply
that, a surface recreation of the visual appearance, stylistic gestures (especially in the editing/cinematography) and the
dramatic mood of those significant films/historic period in American cinema. For all the praise and film-culture enthusiasm
that's being lavished on "There Will Be Blood" - I found it to be a hollow facade of an experience, and spent most of my
2 1/2 hours waiting for Anderson to introduce content that was more rich, compelling, or simply WORTH MY TIME. By
the end of the film, it had yet to deliver on any of those things. Needless to say, I'm confounded as to why so many informed, film-knowledgeable persons have come away with anything positive to say on the subject of Anderson's
newest. In essence; he's a pretender, and this film is the greatest art-cinema spurious imitation of the past decade.

The whole experience, from the soundtrack (obviously Bartok/Messiaen/Ligeti inspired homage? plagiarism? mimicry?
by Johnny Greenwood) to the film itself came across as a new generation trying to become part of an existing tradition,
but lacking the 'intellectual soul' to convincingly pull it off. At best, it could be given credit for being a intricately precise
exercise in studied auteur-recreation. Unlike a lot of other seemingly well-informed perspectives on the film, there's
nothing here to compel me to believe there's anything genuine at it's heart. Not in the least.

Link to official 'There Will Be Blood' site

David Lynch on Watching Films on the iPhone

This reminds me of reading an interview with Stanley Kubrick in which he was being candid and
joking, sometime shortly before his death, (in Sight & Sound I believe?) laughing about the
prospect of people watching "2001" on their cell phones... Sorry Stan, you thought you
were being a satirist, but the world has in fact already made your cynical joke a reality.

What is becoming of people's qualitative sense of experiencing film in a more genuine,
dedicated way? Its strange how the immediacy of 'NOW' culture (and the technology that acts
as a facilitator to those manufactured values) has reduced our three-dimensional relationship
with art to its most insubstantial surface facade. On the other hand, on the polar extreme
of that spectrum, people are re-creating the cinema experience in their homes using higher
and higher def playback and projection hardware. Mostly tho', it seems to be going predominantly
the other way, with the novelty and immediacy of handheld devices/computer screens replacing
invested, dedicated viewing in a context that offers the highest qualitative/largest quantitative
translation of the sound/image of the film. Hmmm... to say the least; I'm not a fan.

Oh, and thank you David for the profanity!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

:::: ALBUMS OF 2007 ::::


V/A "50 Years of New Music in Darmstadt 1946-1996" -Reissue (Col Legno)
Bernard Parmegiani "Chants Magnétiques" -Reissue (Fractal)
Janek Schaefer "In The Last Hour" (Room40)
Pan Sonic "Katodivaihe" (Blast First)
Oren Ambarchi "In the Pendulums' Embrace" (Touch)
Lost in Hildurness "Mount A" (12 tonar)
V/A "Hitokomakura : Yasujiro Ozu" (and/OAR)
Adrian Klumpes "Be Still" (Leaf)
Tord Gustavsen Trio "Being There" (ECM)
Ultralyd "Conditions for a Piece of Music" (Rune Grammofon)
KTL "2" (Mego)
Luigi Nono "Prometeo" (Col Legno)
Gavin Bryars/Philip Jeck/Alter Ego Ensemble "The Sinking of the Titanic" (Touch)
Marcus Schmickler "Altars of Science" (surround-DVD edition) (Mego)
Zeitkratzer/Lou Reed "Metal Machine Music" (Asphodel)
Peter Brotzmann Octet "Complete Machine Gun Sessions" -Reissue (Atavistic)
Boris/Merzbow "Rock Dream" (Southern Lord)

Another pretty darn explorative year in sound, there were many works that took the ears to exciting places (especially appearing this past fall) that did so in distinct, expressive and adventurous ways. In particular appearing in the strange
crossroads where modern classical, musique concrete, improv and noise all meet. Some of these were even witnessed
out in the world in a 3rd Dimension kind of way, performed live, loud and vital.

As an aside, this year dubstep replaced hip hop as my musical candy/junkfood of choice, offering a nutrition-less but
tasty counter to the more brainy culinary-type sounds listed above:

Burial "Ghost Hardware" (Hyperdub)
Sub Version "Soul-Jah Boogie" (Soul Jazz)
Gatekeeper/Shackleton "Soundboy's Bones Get Buried in the Dirt" (Skull Disco)
Pole "Achterbahn - Shackleton Remix" (Scape)

:::: FILMS OF 2007 ::::


Jia Zhang-Ke "Still Life" (China)
Apichatpong Weerasethakul "Syndromes and a Century" (Thailand)
Tsai Ming-Liang "I Don't Want to Sleep Alone" (Taiwan)
Charles Ferguson "No End in Sight" (United States)
Julia Loktev "Day Night Day Night" (United States)
Abderrahmane Sissako "Bamako" (Mali)
Alfonso Cuarón "Children of Men" (United States)
Michael Arias/Himaki Ando "Tekkonkinkreet" (Japan)
Mahamat-Saleh Haroun "Dry Season" (Chad)
Chris Marker "The Case of the Grinning Cat" (France)
Guy Maddin "Brand Upon the Brain!" (live orator/orchestra version) (Canada)
Rainer Werner Fassbinder "Berlin Alexanderplatz" -Rereleased (Germany)
Shohei Imamura "Vengeance is Mine"/"Profound Desire of the Gods"/"History of Postwar Japan" - Rereleased (Japan)

Though not consistent enough to warrant whole-hearted inclusion in the list above, these two films are deserving
of a significant notable mention. Distinct for their sprawling long-duration narrative delivery, convoluted storytelling,
inventive use of DV and the conflicting/disorienting mix of pure cinema 'magic' and seemingly random instances
of 'missing the mark' when the aim is set this high:

Richard Kelly "Southland Tales" (United States)
David Lynch "INLAND EMPIRE" (United States)

And again this year, the unseen films by a few directors of note that never made it over here distributed stateside.
I suspect a number of these would have made the list, if I actually had a chance to see them:

Cristian Mungiu "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" (Romania)
Andrei Zvyagintsev "The Banishment" (Russia)
Carlos Reygadas "Silent Light" (Mexico)
Paz Encina "Paraguayan Hammock" (Argentina)
Danièle Huillet/Jean-Marie Straub "These Encounters of Theirs" (France)
Ye Lou "Summer Palace" (China)

Respect and appreciation to the Northwest Film Forum and SIFF (both the festival and the new theatre) for bringing
many of these to the states, and making Seattle one of the major cities in the country for catching the best in global
film as an aspect of the urban cultural experience!

:::: VISUAL ART OF 2007 ::::


Olafur Eliasson "Take Your Time" (SFMOMA)
Neo Rauch/Tilo Baumgärtel/David Schnell "Life After Death: New Leipzig Paintings" (Frye Art-Seattle)
Louise Bourgeois "Bourgeois in Boston" (ICA-Boston)
Felix Schramm "New Work: Misfit" (MOMA)
Tivon Rice "Resolution/Apotheosis" (Lawrimore Project-Seattle)
Bruce Nauman "Elusive Signs" (Henry Art-Seattle)
Christian Marclay/Various "Kit Bashing" (Western Bridge Gallery-Seattle)

A number of memorable shows this year. Wishing there had been travel and opportunity to catch more, in particular
some significant shows in the eastside, namely the Dada Retrospective at MOMA NY, Matta-Clark at the Whitney and
the Takashi Murakami exhibition at MOCA along with a handful of others that were missed due to geography and
economics this year. Here's hoping for seeing more art out in the cities of the world in 2008!