Monday, January 31, 2011

Beacons of the Archipelago

Squish your eyes closed and think of Asian Art. See sprawling cherry blossoms, landscapes of mountains, waves crashing. Maybe carvings, calligraphy or paintings of pearl-faced geishas. Nothing newish or self-reflective.

But young Asian artists are as interested in calligraphy as young Canadians are joining the Group of Seven. They have their own post-everything notions. To show this is the aim of Beacons of Archipelago, a recent show by Arario. As the show-notes go: Asian art is tired of being the West’s “other.”

So it conforms and squeezes into or pushes out of trends: street art (Eko Nugroho) neon lights (Leslie De Chavez) and Bollywood pop culture (Navin Rawanchaikul). Each artist’s group of works has own thought; a greater political location is the only overarching story.

Best is Donna Ong’s Japanese doll project of toys sent to and from Japan and the U.S. Gifts of guilt after limits set on East Asian immigration, the photographs of later destroyed Friendship Dolls were quiet and haunting.

It’s in the gift shop I see the piece that most grabs me. A tiny doll with drag queen hair and the deformed mouth of a cigarette burnt into plastic. A penis points from her nose to mine. I’m instantly taken. Run a finger over the nameplate: Jake and Dinos Chapman.

Sigh. Always falling in love with the British.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Too much TV

If it was on TV this week, I probably saw it. Monday manic with teen heart beats: 90210, Gossip Girl, and Pretty Little Liars. Tuesday-Wednesday comes with no discerning powers: watch Ashley Tisdale fly and Courtney Cox hide from her neighbors.

Thursday is the biggest. Start the comedy block: Community, Archer, 30 Rock, Parks and Rec, The Office. Next up Jersey Shore, Vampire Diaries, and Skins season 5 UK—pretend that MTV thing isn’t happening. On the weekend two Housewives zip codes and a play-date with the heroes of Young Justice.

Admit you have the taste of a girl about to hit her first period. Stick one finger into ear and feel all the mushy mashed potato goodness.

*Art TV tower courtesy of Nam June Paik and the Korean Museum of Contemporary Art

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Nothing more minimal than white wall space

Every big museum has its share of unimportant Picassos. Similarly, many modern houses have simple, sleek floating towers by the minimalist artist Mr. Donald Judd. I’d seen them before in Minneapolis, New York, and Paris.

But never have I had such an interesting impression of Judd as on a recent trip to the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Korea. On the wall in a familiar pattern, ten strips of plastered metal where a protrusions once sprung.

I ran my fingers over the empty art space and grinned at the words: Donald Judd, removed for restoration.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The ice king

Seven weeks ago the snow rolled in on frigid wind, laid a hockey rink on a nation. The Americans bought boots and spikes, while I’ve been content with slipping. No salt is dumped off the backs of city trucks; guess it’s just the living. With the gopher’s hole iced over I’ll call it now: seven more weeks of winter.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The house of smoke and mirrors

Never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to them to be otherwise.

...Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?

-Alice, the Duchess, and the Cat [Lewis Carroll]

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

branching out, best he can.
World Champs

Six of us sat at the table, three to a side. Each eye stared at a stranger, each arm leaned into a friend. We picked up a seventh just as word came the eighth was wandering lost alone.

We found her in a college intersection then piled under the warmth of a street vendor tent. Of the sisters she’d just seen, I was told to bite my tongue. Sierra and Bianca Casady took a stage in Minneapolis some six years ago and banged on children’s toys to my discontent.

The party was theirs. So shook the bottoms of all the hip young white kids in the city scene. And as he screamed how fabulous the show had been over the noise of my favorite records, I was glad that the girls had come.

The DJ pulled on heartstrings with songs danced to death at other clubs. So we stayed the night there, not clocking in how long we had been. At last I whispered we were about to close down the place, pushed bodies towards their coats.

We ended up where we always do: sleeping next to stockpiled strangers, face down on a hot hard floor.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Newsworthy: Melanie and I got haircuts.
Also newsworthy: I look like a gay trekkie.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Kitty calls

Five years ago I met a girl from Hong Kong. In fourteen days I'll be there with her.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Follow feet in sidestep

January's not for blogging. It's for digging your feet into the snow and staying put in gridlock. Not going with the green lit new year, laying low instead in last year's sins and stories. Let the shadows draw on walls and floor of your single space apartment. Watch too much television, accomplish nothing. Be miserable, and let it make you happy.

From old Fitzgerald's freshman prose take new lessons learned in teen soaps. Be your own Emma Stone with wisdom: the books you read in school always reflect what's going on in your life.

Pull then the reading list from first year Cultures of the Modern, hidden back the mind. Crack open Tender is the Night. See Seoul in lieu of the French Riviera. Let Rosemary speak:

After lunch they were both overwhelmed by the sudden flatness that comes over American travelers in quiet foreign places. No stimuli worked upon them, no voices called them from without, no fragments of their own thoughts came suddenly from the minds of others, and missing the clamor of Empire, they felt that life was not continuing here.

Let the last days of the month die.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Hotel go-go dancers

I arrived at the hotel with no stories to tell. The others, they’d been abroad for Christmas, taken break in Thailand and Vietnam, were en route to New Zealand via Vancouver, had pictures of gross tourist shops in hometowns to share. I had nothing.

Luke said I needed a drink. I needed several. The cheap beer cracked and si-da mixed with soju, I was seeing two go-gos by the time we got there. “That bar?” I asked with disgust, before getting on stage to shake it.

Some Korean was sure he wanted to punch me in the face. A white girl stole my cell phone. I said no bother; we cabbed towards the gay bars. The walk in did me. I slipped out into the frigid evening air, found warm ground to sleep on.

Woke up with a note from my stomach: it’s been three days and we’re still not on speaking terms.

So goes the break up.