March 2007

Monthly Archive

Fiction, Funerals & Arctic Circles

Posted by michelle on 31 Mar 2007 | Tagged as: books, ice, responses/reviews

russian ice hotel design

Upon investigating a recommendation from the bookworms over at Boldtype, I decided to read Let the by California writer and Believer co-editor Vendela Vida. This short book claws through the cavernous roots of a father’s death, a mother’s abandonment and a brittle change of heart. While the main character, Clarissa, searches for emotional terra firma across the bright cold unfamiliar territory of Lapland, she discovers brutal family secrets and the kindness of bucolic, reindeer herders. The locations indulge your imagination, particularly the puzzling phenomena of a luxurious Ice Hotel. The narration leads you along a dark path, but Vida tenders a very American, luminous denouement. Highly recommended for a self-absorbed, rainy afternoon investment.

Paperworks + Gary Sweeney (UPDATE)

Posted by ben on 29 Mar 2007 | Tagged as: upcoming events

UPDATE: The following event is postponed until Friday, April 6 (aka First Friday), due to the weather.

The groundbreaking and reception for Gary Sweeney’s new outdoor piece at Unit B is happening tomorrow from 6 to 8 pm. But if you haven’t checked out the Walworth-curated Paperworks (the title of which is mercilessly reminding me that I need to do my taxes), it would be worth stopping by just for that. Among my friends it’s no secret that I’m a big fan Michael Velliquette. Paperworks features his beautifully intricate spiritual landscapes built of cut paper, along with strong work by Rhonda Kuhlman, San Antonio’s queen of recycled art, an interactive video piece projected on a three dimensional cut paper sculpture by Joseph Gray, and a tree branch adorned with lovely little graphite drawings on paper tags by Sachi Komai.

Sachi Komai and Rhonda Kuhlman

Michael Velliquette

Truth Blooms Electric by Michael Velliquette

I Got Up At…The Crack of Noon ~ On Kawara

Posted by michelle on 27 Mar 2007 | Tagged as: announcements, sneak peeks

Calling all conceptual art enthusiasts. Triangle Project Space resurfaces after a quiet hiatus. You’re invited to peruse lovely volumes of a million years as depicted by the observational artist, On Kawara. We plucked this photo from Documenta 11 for a preview of the high profile show that includes a performance video from Mexico City-based artist and troublemaker Minerva Cuevas. Look for an interview with her later this week. As an afterthought, the Documenta crew ask some piquant questions like “Is Modernity our Antiquity?” and “What Is Bare Life?” If you’re thinking existentialism is a dish best served over time, then Glitch is the main course. The show opens in April [see events] and I highly recommend visiting TPS founders, Peter Glassford and Luz Maria Sanchez before they vanish from public eye. Last time I saw Luz, I met her at the base of a rusting, metal Rebecca Horn sculpture on the soft beach of Barceloneta, Spain. Now it’s time to go back to the books…


Posted by ben on 26 Mar 2007 | Tagged as:, silliness

Seven-Up Salad

For a little Sunday night / Monday morning fun, visit the Gallery of Regrettable Food. Plenty of unimaginable gelatin concoctions, absurd mystery ingredients, and heaping helpings of snarky commentary. (Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan)

Michael Sieben Licks Carpet

Posted by michelle on 25 Mar 2007 | Tagged as: art paparazzi, graffiti, upcoming events

No. He doesn’t. Stop all that scandalous scuttlebutting, he’s just trying to make a living by drawing and running a skateboard company and making your eyeballs endure some illustrated pleasures. Behold the Chernobyl-esque lambkins below…this is an older example but you can peruse the sparkling new work of Austin’s busiest beaver at Art Palace next Saturday, March 31st.


oh, devoted young readers, I highly recommend reading his guest blog on Fecal Face. The slow degradation of photos truly entertains beyond your everyday blogginess. If you like skate ramps and lone star and deer skulls and walruses, then you like Michael Sieben. And if you like Michael Sieben and Michael Sieben likes to lick carpet, well, go figure.

Continue Reading »


Posted by ben on 23 Mar 2007 | Tagged as: essays, poetry, video/film

A few months ago I wondered whether we’d lost the art of writing a good manifesto. Recently a friend sent me Herzog’s “Minnesota Declaration,” which demonstrates that a good manifesto can still pop up now and again. It is interesting to think about in terms of Herzog’s own documentary work, which always seems to be an examination of the construction of reality, rather than an attempt to hold reality captive. Here is the text in full:

Minnesota declaration: truth and fact in documentary cinema

1. By dint of declaration the so-called Cinema Verité is devoid of verité. It reaches a merely superficial truth, the truth of accountants.

2. One well-known representative of Cinema Verité declared publicly that truth can be easily found by taking a camera and trying to be honest. He resembles the night watchman at the Supreme Court who resents the amount of written law and legal procedures. “For me,” he says, “there should be only one single law: the bad guys should go to jail.”
Unfortunately, he is part right, for most of the many, much of the time.

3. Cinema Verité confounds fact and truth, and thus plows only stones. And yet, facts sometimes have a strange and bizarre power that makes their inherent truth seem unbelievable.

4. Fact creates norms, and truth illumination.

5. There are deeper strata of truth in cinema, and there is such a thing as poetic, ecstatic truth. It is mysterious and elusive, and can be reached only through fabrication and imagination and stylization.

Continue Reading »

Best Use of Spanish Moss

Posted by michelle on 22 Mar 2007 | Tagged as: bird flu, responses/reviews


Hector Hernandez makes some odd, lascivious objects and he recently exhibited new works at Robot Art Gallery. Check it out before they move down the street to be in the hotbed of activity near Unit B, Sala Diaz and Cupcake Gallery…Robot is relocating to the old Bower space, we’re looking forward to some amazing shows this summer/fall!! Good luck, Jessica! And keep painting those panties, Hector! Looks good.


Politicalism continued

Posted by ben on 21 Mar 2007 | Tagged as: responses/reviews

Bill Davenport writes on the show that sparked my rant about activist art. Lo and behold, this is one of those shows that tries to raise awareness without quite being able to articulate the problem, and ends up making everyone either feel victimized by some vague power structure or annoyed that they are being preached to by someone who doesn’t really understand what is going on. In the case of energy dependence, most of us are all too aware of what’s at stake, so there’s probably very little need to raise awareness of the problem. And the solution is so complex that no one has quite reached it yet, despite the scores of scientists, economists, and political theorists working on it. So what does he hope to achieve?

PBL to play secret location at Bike Gang Summit

Posted by justin on 21 Mar 2007 | Tagged as: adventure day, announcements, in yo face, performance art, silliness, sneak peeks, sound art, upcoming events, video/film

Potter-Belmar labs, among others will be part of the March 31st bike gang summit starting at 1906 south flores. The ride will wind through downtown and other parts of the city with stops in all manner of strange locale. I have just gotten word that at some juncture we will be finding a giant renegade video projection..
Come up with a good gang name and theme and dress it up! this is going to be really really really fun. (really!)

The Beto Gonzales designed flyer.


vtrue bio-fucked? – open call for proposals.

Posted by justin on 21 Mar 2007 | Tagged as: announcements, opportunities, upcoming events

heya, got this in the email today from Gary over at i2i..err i mean, vtrue artspace …


2110 McCullough
San Antonio, TX 78212


May 11 – June 2, 2007

Bio-fucked is an open proposal show with proposal selections by:
Gary Smith: Director
Alex Lopez: Guest Curator

Bio-fucked is being organized as a benefit show in support of vtrue artspace and for an environmental cause. Raised funds will be distributed: 50% to vtrue artspace and 50% to an environmental organization of choice.

Artists are asked to create a self-contained “environment” within the limits of a one to two-foot cubicle. This environment could be biological, fantasy, mechanical, fully functional, etc, etc.

Continue Reading »

Artpace Travel Grant

Posted by ben on 19 Mar 2007 | Tagged as: opportunities

I can’t find anything about this on the Artpace site, but the deadline for their annual travel grant is coming up on Friday, April 20 (postmark date). Grant recipients will be awarded up to $5,000 to assist with travel related to project development or artistic growth. The proposed travel dates should be between May 2007 and April 2008. Recipients will be notified by Friday, May 18. Contact them for the complete application requirements.

Your Japanese Residency Opportunity

Posted by michelle on 17 Mar 2007 | Tagged as: opportunities

Just a short note to remind you that the ARCUS Project in Ibaraki, Japan is calling all artists for their residency program. I applied last year, along with 300 other optimistic nerds. Deadline is March 31st. Here’s an interesting example from a recent artist in residence from Thailand, Sudsiri Puiock. She made these lotus flowers out of bread… Sawatdee Kha!!

Charalambides (shameless promotion)

Posted by ben on 16 Mar 2007 | Tagged as: music, upcoming events

Here’s a little taste of Charalambides live. I’ve been wanting to bring this neo-psych duo through San Antonio for awhile, and it’s finally happening this Sunday at Salon Mijangos. Click the event listing to the right for more details on the show.

We are alone (update: added photos)

Posted by ben on 15 Mar 2007 | Tagged as: performance art, responses/reviews

we are alone with insects invading through the earth beneath us, flooding our walls, consuming our light. we are alone with the fruit, just out of reach, that pushes us from our substance; with the herbs that wander on the edge of death, buried in earth returned to the doors. we are alone pushing our feet across stones, dirt, and wood, searching blindly for an entrance that will never exist, or a curtain to collapse this hypothetical world. we are alone hoarding our eyes in unfired clay, in the spaces between blades of grass lifted up above our heads to protect us from the unbounded sky. our tools slowly abandon us more and more each moment for the peaceful dissolution of rust. yes keep moving on and on forward: glory glory glory.

Unsettlement by Randy Wallace - Photo by Todd Johnson
Unsettlement by Randy Wallace - Photo by Todd Johnson

[this post is a response to "unsettlement," a windowworks installation / performance by randy wallace, on view through april 29, 2007 at artpace. photos by todd johnson]

Journey Across the Sea

Posted by ben on 14 Mar 2007 | Tagged as: poetry, responses/reviews

I went to see Edward Hirsch’s lecture at Trinity the other day, and found him to be a thought-provoking and entertaining speaker. The main thrust of his talk was encapsulated in a single image: the message in a bottle adrift at sea. Hirsch sees the poem as this message, launched into the turbulence of the world with the hope that one day, on a distant shore, someone might be able to give this message life through the reciprocal act: the act of reading. The thought that the reader is required to give life to the poem is a nice thought, and is a good complement to the book series he is editing for Trinity University Press (Writers On Writing). The readers in the audience (presumably a large number of those attending the lecture) got to feel that they do in fact have an essential role to play in the process of writing. I do think it’s important for readers to understand that they are directly involved in a creative process — the act of reading is not purely receptive, but involves interpretation, feeling, and growth. Especially in light of post-structuralist thought, the act of reading can be seen as the creation of an entirely new work.

However, despite the fact that I find his ideas compelling, and do not at all dispute his understanding of the relationship between the reader and the work, I must take issue with his implication that writing is primarily about reaching another person. This is an aspect of it, to be sure. But in my experience of writing (and this does of course extend to other forms of art), there is always an “other” that is part of the process before the reader, and is ultimately more essential than the reader. This other is deeply mysterious to me, but could be called the unconscious or God. Either of these titles will bring a lot of baggage with them, so perhaps it is best to leave it unnamed; let’s just say it is a relationship that can be experienced in the absence of other people. I do not think the experience of the creative act is ultimately dependent on another person (or even the idea of another person), nor do I think that the work remains inert and lifeless between the time of creation and the time of reception. In my experience, there is a give and take, a sense of conflict and resolution, that happens during the act of creation; and even after this, the work continues to live and breath in some hidden corner of the mind.

What the reader brings to the table is not the resolution of some hoped-for communication on the part of the author, but a transformation of the work into something new. With this transformation comes a confirmation that the work has been alive all along, that the poem has an identity independent from its author.

I’m not able to argue this point as forcefully or eloquently as the lecturer I’m responding to, using examples from the writings of Borges and Buber and Dickinson, but this has been my experience of the creative process.


Posted by ben on 12 Mar 2007 | Tagged as: essays, responses/reviews

I just saw a headline on the Glasstire RSS feed that reads: “Current event protest art is finally making a comeback.” I have to confess I have an instinctive revulsion to most political art, which I generally find manipulative and cynical. My favorite example from recent years is this Richard Serra print of the famous photograph of the hooded Abu Ghraib prisoner standing on a box. As a political issue, the Abu Ghraib scandal and the following revelations about torture were appalling to me, but I find this print to be a banal and unproductive form of political activity. Richard Serra may be a minor deity in the art world, but does he really think he can shift public opinion by reproducing an image that has been printed in magazines and newspapers all over the world? This Economist cover, for instance, was much more powerful for me, because it was backed up by actual political analysis. What we need in our politics is thoughtful critical discourse, not shrill activism. What we need in our art is depth of feeling, not emotional manipulation. Arthur Danto took up this issue in more depth with his essay Beauty and Morality. I feel about this Richard Serra print roughly the same as Danto felt about a Chris Burden piece called The Other Vietnam Memorial, which listed the names of the Vietnamese victims of the war: “It does not help the dead and it does not move the living, and in the end it seems merely a clever idea, almost a gimmick, a kind of moralizing toy. Everything about it as art is wrong, given its subject and its intentions. And because it fails as art, it fails morally, extenuated only by the presumed good intentions of the artist.” Danto may have changed his mind about the conclusion of this essay (”the time of day appropriate to action and change may not be appropriate either for philosophy or for art”), but my feeling is still that protest art is much more likely to cheapen the artistic process than to improve political or social conditions.

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