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The Way Out Empty West (Judd's Deaf Spot)


Upon entering New Mexico from west Texas on Highway 10 there is a billboard that reads "welcome to the land of Enchantment."  I was somewhat trepidatious about that claim until I got hit in the face with a rainbow peeking through the clouds over mountains of red and white stone as my noble steed, B.S. Tumbleweed, hurries into to the dry expanse of strange insects and sharp plants thirsty for that mountain storm.

This rainbow event happened on my way to Albuquerque from Marfa.  It is certainly uncontroversial at this point to say that Marfa is worth a visit.  We get to see an artist's idealist vision set against all the world's entropy.  Judd's chairs sure do look like chairs, but go fuck yourself if you think you could sit in them for more than the time it takes to snap a picture of your uncomfortable ass on idealist furniture.  His benches have taken on a certain curly-cue tilt in the dry mountain heat.  I like this about them.  They are not ideals now that they exist.  

The moment the idea becomes object is the most exciting.  This is the moment of most potential, and occurs right before the pracitcalities of existence twist it all up.  Judd's objects always hover there as THE line between the artist's ideal and the actual.  They hover there exactly like a brick doesn't (to borrow a turn from Douglas Adams).

There is no escape from gravity and weather.  

I always wondered why, if Judd's art is as direct as he claims, it requires so many dissertations to explain.  That could be the wrong question to ask.  Judd's work inspires dissertations because in its natural context, it is never resolved.   The bench warps.  The 100 aluminum boxes expand and contract daily with the 40 degree temperature shifts causing the pristine alignment to skew.  A centipede scuttles under the milled aluminum box. 

Our group tour is informed by a docent that for Judd, the total work was the Art, Architecture, and Landscape.  Judd had a Deaf spot in his formula.  The environments he created are acoustically striking.  His works point not just visually to what surrounds them, but sonically to the shutting door, the footsteps, and whispers hissing their echoes slowly around the space.  The hard surface armory hut cathedral of 100 Aluminum Boxes yields a sibilant cave sound.  Humans look better standing next to these boxes, as the sounds they step out fill the dry midday air.

No one in Marfa makes sense in relation to everyone else.  There are a bunch of art weirdos and locals and Germans and no one else.  This could be the highest art educated population per capita in the world.  These small towners and art travellers are my people, and I can't help but think that this accumulation of art folks in the middle of nowhere border town is up there with the biggest acheivements of the Marfa takeover.  When Cormac Mccarthy describes the evening redness in the west, this is the territory of that genocide.  This is where the Judge's sillouette was so charged with meaning that his form was dimmed, and this little art-centered outpost lays claim to the heady sparse west.  Astronomers take view of dark nights without street lights.  Mustachioed fence menders run bars, and the big art money from the cities of the east and west funds all the shrubbery removal, concrete cleaning, and administrative upkeep of foundations and residencies.  That this place exists at all is encouraging for humanity.

Tune in later for the Lost Horse Saloon, Empty Set Albuquerque, the Dan Flavin experience, Drywall Residency LA, and the Odd Geometry Tour west coast.  Thanks for reading and if you like it, I encourage you to join my subscription service.  It helps me eat and you get two art multiples annually.  That's called a win win.  Just click the paypal Subscribe link to the left.

Odd Geometry (Dispatch Kansas City)

Kansas City is a fine city.  Everything seems big here, and its got that great sordid history many great Midwestern river towns posses and can't quite scrub away.  It's just dirty enough to make a travelling fella feel like he can walk around and not worry about disturbing the peace.  There is a great art piece installed near the Federal Reserve Building and impressive monument to the veterans of the Great War.  It consists of stacked shipping containers made by John Salvest and it says "IOU" on one side and "USA" on the other.  It's funny and looks appropriately expensive to assemble.  It was a wholesome experience to get to know some of the occupyers and to hear their tales of cultural and societal woe.  They seem a peaceful bunch and I support them like I do all the engaged citizens actively trying to make the world a better place with thier bodies and minds.

Speaking of bodies... Rodin sure did explore the form and proportion and contortion of the human figure.  It took 6 hours at the Nelson Atkins to re-acquaint myself with the pleasures of their great collection of figurative work.  they currently have a show of George Copeland Ault, Andrew Wyeth and others as part of their "To Make a World" Exhibit.  If that high and tight white guy painting makes one a little leary, there is also a Romare Beardon prints selection which I am saving for tomorrow.  There is a black Rothko which changes your eyes a bit, and of course the Shuttlecocks of Oldenburg have held up well and still serve to de-formalize all that classical pomp.  As an art student back in the early 90's I was there right after they were installed on the grounds, and it is still fun to imagine what they must look like from one of those police helicopters. 

I've been noticing I have many new subscribers. Thank you for that.  If you would like to see more dispatches or have a glance at some of the sketches from museums around the country I might be persuaded to send some editioned copies in the mail to you.  Thank you subscribers! Every little bit helps.  If you are interested in receiving art in the mail, you can subscribe to the left.  As always, I look forward to hearing from you.



Occupy the Real (in solidarity with the Occupy-ers)

Kingbag the Real- written in 2009 after an enlightening encounter with a decidedy unjust man and his league of the Real.

On days like these when its raining here and there are tornado warnings to the south and winter storm warnings to the north, I like to eat scrambled eggs while I pretend I'm a lumberjack sitting next to a pot-belly stove. I don't eat sausage anymore, but if I did, I'd pile up the links next to my eggs and just drizzle syrup over the whole mess and eat it fast while the dark noon cloud douches this city.

Its the type of cloud that you can see the almost black and hard edge of and a little stripe of light on the horizon where its ass end is. I don't like much imagining how I would like things to be as opposed to how they are, but shit, its been a turdfest of a week, and if it keeps going like this I'm gonna go ape-shit crazy and escape to my tree-house downstate. I'm no monkey, there is no downstate, and there is no escape, but a man has to dream.

It all started with a big shining asshole of a man. He is short really and beer-bellied so that he probably hasn't seen his penis since he could afford his steak habit. I call him Kingbag, but not to his face; king for wealth and bag for bag of assholes. He chomps cigars and throws them in the toilet, because what the fuck does he care, he owns everything. His discarded cigars fester in the toilet water and the brown tobacco water radiates out like a bathtub suicide. If I had to be in that hairy puckered asshole of a man's slobbery chomping face, I'd off myself too.

But I'm no cigar. I'm a builder of whateverthefuck it is you want built. I'm a pimp-less whore of a man trying to bring something handmade and truthful into this formica'd world and get paid for it too.

Usually people need shelves- all kinds of shelves- fancy torsion box float-mounted, pine plank, peg adjustable, dado-ed, whatever. People have shit and they need something to put it on. In my other life I actually make the things people need shelves for, but that's another story for a brighter day. Occasionally, people want something fancier to put their shit in and cover it up so they don't always have to see how much shit they actually have. This is called a cabinet. The next level is the impractical thing made to show how much you don't even need the space this thing takes up. This is called a desk, and of this category a particularly excessive type is the reception desk. Its a desk to hide behind while saying "please wait." Behind it sits the keeper of the gate. This reception desk is what I was assigned to make for Kingbag.

Kingbag is a smart man. I overheard him tell his secretary when I was installing his desk "You just have to grow some balls and ask for what you fucking want." I'm not sure what her situation was that he was referring to, but I'm sure he prides himself on his balls. Anyway, being a smart man, he knows he's an asshole and that people don't like dealing with assholes, so he has his sweetie-pie wife hire a designer who can find shit for their new offices downtown that will knock the balls off any visitor to their new space-lab where they make the president's teeth.

The designer Kingbag's wife hires is really more of a lady who knows some designers and thinks its a pretty fun job. She is an exact replica of Kathy Lee Gifford in her narcissistic regard for her unfortunate partner in conversation. I should have known trouble when I handed her samples of the finishes. As she rubbed her hand across the gloss sample she said, "Ohh I like this satin look." Now, as a salesman, when one is presented with a concrete example of a client's ignorance, you must delicately find a way to find what is wanted regardless of the correct jargon. We settle on the brush on semi-gloss, or what Kathy-Lee Bullshitter refers to as "the satiny looking one." I had the abstract pleasure of talking to her a couple more times over the phone. She raised her concern that the desk not be too "arts and crafty." Now, by arts and crafty, she did not mean in the manner of the great turn of the century socialist beardo William Morris and the Arts and Craft movement. What she meant was she didn't want the curvilinear desk we had come up with and which I had begun to make, to look square and handmade... I think. You see, she had the decidedly non-arts and crafts design in front of her and was worried that I might take it upon myself to make a square chair instead of the rounded desk depicted in front of her. After re-assuring her that I was building what we had designed and not some improvisational interpretation of "reception desk," I proceeded to make the thing depicted in front of her, and began imagining how she, like all of us in degrees, might see herself as different from how she actually is.

I imagined her talking to her confidante, her old-time girlfriend from an upstate New York boarding school in an Oprah style. "I really love my new job. I just had to do something with my life besides be a housewife. I finally get to follow my dreams. I get to go shopping and add 40 percent, and if I'm not shopping, my consultation rate is 200 dollars an hour, and I can do coke all day and people just think I'm multi-tasking- coordinating this job and that job, this delivery and that delivery. But, really, I'm just double checking that I didn't forget something I was supposed to do while I was blissed out washing the mulleins of my old house's hand-blown windows, and talking on my cell phone while cooking grilled cheese for my fat kids."

Typically I make things using indigenous woods and local materials, such as mother-of-pearl I harvested from the Illinois River back in 2005, a particularly dry year, or apricot wood from my father's tree in California, or bits of driftwood gathered by friends from around the world and then passed on to me, or fragments of past art projects. When appropriate, I integrate these bits and pieces of past projects into the new. This creates a kind of historical feedback loop wherein one can imagine future and past through this here-and-now object. These potentialities exist regardless of whether it is appreciated by the casual viewer. If one does not buy into this obsession with materials, one is barking up the wrong tree. If you look carefully at the things I have made imperfectly, you will see perfection is not the aim, but beauty. I want to be the most beautiful whore possible. Why? so I can pay for school of course, except in this tired metaphor "school" is really time to make things that are really silly to spend so much time on.

For instance the great toothpick battle of 2002 for which I built a toothpick scale model of Fort Ticonderoga, black guard and all, for a battle royal of catapult fireball and gasoline mote glory. That was a year of solid work up in smoke. It was dangerous and beautiful, but no one got hurt and everyone remembers it in their timeline memories. As in, before the fireball battle and after the fireball battle.

There was a pre-operation transsexual named Mar there. He wore strange gloves that were silver with a red stripe along the edge of the fingers. When he introduced himself he wouldn't shake your hand, but he would stand up straight, and put his gloved hand up like a cyclist turn signal, and wave like an automaton. I sure as shit can tell you I had never met a Mar before, and nobody else there had either, but this dude showed up for the god-damned fireball battle telling people his name and then flat waving at them as he said, "That's right, Mar, like the middle of Tomorrow." As if we were supposed to think he really existed. When we were milling around before the battle, I remember thinking to myself as Mar went through his routine with me. "Mar, you are the tallest pre-operation transsexual I'm likely ever to meet, and fucking weird, but shit, where else would you be?"

But back to the present predicament, which is so inglorious next to exploding scale model firestorms it makes me sick. Here we are. The proverbial real world which I always expected was ruled by a team of actuaries from the top of a Mies van van de Rohe building, but is in fact lorded over by a bowling ball shaped man called Kingbag.

This land of the Real world is only brought up when normal unfair events happen to normal imperfect people. It is certainly not the same place that Mar lives, or Mötley Crüe, or Dennis Rodman, or Tom Waits, or Bootsie Collins, or Godspeed You Black Emperor. When you are with them or listening to them, or watching them, no one would think in dreadful platitudes such as "welcome to the real world." The Real world is reserved for things that are not right and is populated by bored people who daydream about punching themselves in the nuts. Kingbag and his nefarious agents of bore are this week trying to offer me citizenship to Real Town and I'm not buying it. Its a shame. I rely on the Real Town market to pay the mortgage on my dodecahedron space-ball love-boat with FTL so it can go to a nearer future in a parallel membrane wherein Fliptard mating rituals include: unwrapping candy bars, games of Fredbridge, and farting iridescently into The Hole. This lively realm is decidedly unReal. How presumptuous of them to think their underpayment and verifiable lies could entice me.

The problem is when you are in the real world there are real rules such as: Do whatever you can to not pay for what you get. Possession is 9/10ths the law. There is always something wrong, so never pay full price. Someday the one you love will fail to love you back. Your Knees will soon hurt. You will shit your pants in a way that is funny to no one. You will die. Your failure of inheritance requires you to register daily for lessons in humility from the Aldermanic Council on Realism, who will take up any concerns with The Appropriate Departments, who don't actually exist, but which you pay for the convenience of. And of course the big turd, this Real world never ends.

This unending, however, is its only virtue, because within this infinity there is a chance that a small nothing will continually grow to consume all of these inane rules in its velvet black jowls sending them through its gastrointestinal void towards a startling escape from actuarial overseers. For Reals this is a bad non-land. Their reality can be spotted by its wearing of clothes which do not hide its erect nipples of fear that glisten in the light of imagining what could be different.

Typically, this two-step between creative types and merchants of reality is enjoyable and merchants are gladly willing to part with some resources in exchange for new ideas. We builders of whateverthefuck define our price for the thing outside the box which never existed before, and which is worth something to both of us. For the merchants, they get to show off their taste, and at the upper levels, their excessive wealth, through purchasing things like Parisian air. At this highly refined level we tip our pinkies skyward as we examine the pure idea they are purchasing, but more importantly, the status associated with spending so much on a frivolity. This gets them invited to parallel membranes where their boringness is forgiven for their picking up the tab. When a violation of boundaries occurs we retreat to our respective fortifications. Them to their wealth, their balls, and their teams of lawyers, and us to the Blobtap windmill marshmallow absurdities where we can float freely over the seas of their lies, and wherein few may enter and fewer stay long. This free-floating draws power from the loosened tether, the anchor of air, the prow of an advancing ship underwhelmed by the douch-baggery of the Real. This is the red sparkled place where the things that make the things come from.

If this encounter with Kingbag and his agents has taught me one thing it is that to take part in their negotiations, to even define it in their terms, is to cede to an unworthy adversary. In concrete terms, their gatekeeper reception desk, their portcullis if you will, is serving its purpose as an impressive piece of excessive expenditure that was paid for at a value of less than minimum wage for my time. They have violated their own rules of excessive expenditure for a type of wage slavery. They Real world ripped me off, and I am happy to never see them again, and believe it or not, I am thankful for their outright contempt for beauty, because surely the refusal of that kind of king is an endorsement of mine.

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