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Homies on the Range

Revisiting the World of EASY RIDER –  I vividly remember paying not a shred of attention to Easy Rider in 1969. Whatever it was about, it wasn't Ours, but was pretending to be. The idea of re-presenting the present out from under Us was still too new. It was a given that Hollywood wouldn't, couldn't ever "get it", that the portrayals of sixties youth culture would always fall flat. People from the Hollywood establishment were untrustworthy observers: too old, too embedded in cliché and conventionalism for even the best of intentions to salvage them. This went for movie stars too, even "hip" ones like Dennis Hopper, who was, at  34, trying to play a 20-something in this film. Nobody with the wherewithal to mass market, on … [Read more...]

The Stark Fist of Removal

Rem Koolhaas' CRONOCAOS at New Museum, Lower East Side, Manhattan– Architecture is monstrous in the way in which each choice leads to the reduction of possibility. —Rem Koolhaas May 2011: New York City is at its greige gritty best. It is springtime and the promise of a rain is unfulfilled as storm clouds scutter uselessly across a blue sky.  In the lower East Side, where the New Museum now occupies its splendid SANAA designed building of stacked white boxes, the word CRONOCAOS is lettered in white Helvetica Medium on a chrome yellow awning on the museum's homely neighbor, the site of a former wholesale business. The Helvetica poses as a kind of institutional graffiti, jaunty and cool in a "made ya look" way. The signage of the … [Read more...]

The Dictator with the Most Beautiful Hair

The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu, 2010, a documentary by Andrei Ujica –  “We were told to fire 30 rounds each into them. From the hip. As paratroopers. Not as a firing squad, where some of the shooters have real bullets, some blanks, so that no one has to live with the feeling of being an executioner. We fired live… “After shooting seven rounds into Ceausescu, the gun jammed. I changed magazines and shot a full 30 rounds into Elena. She flew backwards with the force of it all. We started at about a metre range and then walked steadily backwards, still firing, so that we wouldn’t be caught by a ricochet.” Elena’s blood splattered on his uniform. The back of her skull had fallen away. “She didn’t die easily. She was in spasms,” Mr … [Read more...]

Cutting Up the Beat

George Herms: THE ARTIST'S LIFE, REDCAT February 3, 2011 - February 5, 2011 – "Loving everyone. Knowing nothing." —George Herms, on himself In this joyously messy, shambling show, jazz fan and beat generation icon George Herms put together a happening/opera, framing his assemblage art with an all-star ensemble of L.A.'s jazz legends, the Bobby Bradford Mo'tet and  the Theo Saunders Group. Herms tuned in to the audience with bat-like radar, waiting for the last program to cease its rattling and the last guy to stop chattering to his girlfriend, then announced that we had just experienced The Afterparty (listed as the first piece in the program) in the lobby beforehand. Indeed, I reflected, my lobby experience had been really fun and … [Read more...]

The Practice of Delight

A Ramble with Michael Rotondi –  Stylish and relaxed in his Japanese farmer pants, Michael Rotondi greets me from a slightly raised platform which serves as the reception desk, where he is working with the only two staffers present on a Saturday. I am directed to the library, an open space with generous windows spilling in light from the clear autumn afternoon, illuminating the cerulean blue painted plywood floor. The vast and impressively eclectic collection of art and architecture books surrounds a spacious conference table swept clear of all but a few random notepages. There is a huge open workfloor with dozens of project stations active, a creative hive of hands-on activity: models in various stages of completion; plans, … [Read more...]

Compassion in Form and Living Color

The Mandala Project, Hammer Museum, Oct. 26 - Nov. 7, 2010 – The invasion, occupation and exploitation of Tibet by the Chinese that began in 1951 has left a unique cultural and spiritual tradition in tatters. Massive engines of information and misinformation variously describe Tibet before the Chinese as a sort of spiritual paradise or conversely, a hell on earth whose cause was taken up by the evil CIA. The ordinary citizen is often left distressed, guessing, interpolating and trusting blindly. I recently asked a Tibetan gentleman about his 1959 escape from the Chinese government troops who had come to his small hamlet. Surely there was a friendly taxi driver, a delivery truck or creaky bus to assist them. His golden, ravaged face … [Read more...]

The Good Fight

Life During Wartime, 2009 (in current release), a film by Todd Solondz –  The first shot of Life During Wartime has Joy (Shirley Henderson) quietly weeping, as she sits across from her boyfriend Allen (Michael Kenneth Williams) in a restaurant booth done in upholstery inspired by strychnine hallucinations. Framed in a peculiarly awkward way by crooked bangs and virgin eyebrows that appear never to have been tweezed,  her lovely face will not remain still, but continues blubbering. The upholstery and her tears taken together is alienating–passively aggressive and demanding–and yet whatever your emotional response, the scene has an unsettling quality, as though you have been manually probed and your fraudulence has been exposed. What do … [Read more...]

Forest’s End

The Red Desert and The Question Concerning Technology –  Even though we don't realize it, our lives are dominated by industry. And by "industry", I don't just mean the factories themselves, but also their products* The new release by Criterion of Michelangelo Antonioni's Red Desert comes at a moment when the ecological crisis that was in its infancy in 1964 has matured into a full blown demon with multiple emanations. All cries to end the blind and ludicrous march toward oblivion that "progress" has become are drowned out by the roar of exploding oil gushers. Optimists may claim that the disasters we are seeing are the result of greed and incompetence. Technology and the science which supports it, they would argue, can also be … [Read more...]

Hysterical Historiography – Part Two

In this, the second installment of a two part interview, playwright and Times Quotidian contributor Rita Valencia speaks with associate artistic director (and co-founder) Lex Steppling about his motivations to form the new Los Angeles based laboratory theater group, Gunfighter Nation. Gunfighter Nation debuts "The Alamo Project" at the Odyssey Theater, May 28th and 29th, 10:30pm. Gunfighter Nation presents The Alamo Project An Interview with Rita Valencia and Alexis Steppling I meet Alexis Steppling, associate artistic director (and co-founder) of Gunfighter Nation, in an Altadena coffee house where he is hanging out with his wife Suzanne and their toddler daughter, the lovely and good-natured Stella. Lex has a friend along who is … [Read more...]

Hysterical Historiography

In this, the first of a two part interview, playwright and Times Quotidian contributor Rita Valencia speaks with Gunfighter Nation Artistic Direct John Steppling about his motivations to form the new Los Angeles based laboratory theater group. In Part Two Valencia will be speaking with Lex Steppling about the youth connection and contributions to Gunfighter Nation. Gunfighter Nation presents The Alamo Project An Interview with Rita Valencia and John Steppling The Alamo Project is an evening of short plays about the Alamo. The Alamo, the legendary 1835 seige of a Texan mission, is emblematic of the ease with which past events can become myth, and how myth serves the purpose of the mythmakers. As part of this process, history, real … [Read more...]