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Shun-kin

A production of Complicite and Setagaya Public Theater, Radar LA Festival 2013 Based on the writings of Jun’ichiro Tanizaki  [A Portrait of Shun-kin] — “...perhaps we may be allowed at least one mansion where we can turn off the electric lights and see what it is like without them.” —  In Praise of Shadows by Jun’ichiro Tanizaki The totally darkened stage is  the heart of theater, with the audience stilled, as though in a womb or a closet, in silence, breathing, waiting. The rest is what you must hear because you can’t suffer silence, what you must see because you cannot bear to remain in the dark.  In the formal training of a masochist,  the darkened closet and the blindfold are essential. Darkness is the ground of illumination or … [Read more...]

Sole Man

As we march towards the Ready To Wear Spring 2014 fashion extravaganzas, beginning in New York this September 5th and then moving to London, Milan and Paris, here is a look at one of the summer's knock out fashion exhibitions, Christian Louboutin at Toronto's Design Exchange. Christian Louboutin was working at the Folies Berger in Paris, shoeing the showgirls, when he made the acquaintance of the Princess of Monaco, who was in dire need, so the legend goes, of new shoes. Once he fitted her into a pair of his stunningly wacky heels, all the other princesses wanted some too. Sort of a reverse Cinderella story. He has always been this radical feminist’s favorite shoe designer, even though I have not a single pair of his shoes in my … [Read more...]

Life Could Be a Dream: Relax and Rolex

 “The Act of Killing”, directed by Joshua Oppenheimer, 2012 — The death squad captain swaggers out of his local bar still humming ‘My Way’, while his victims rot in the river and the cleaning ladies toil through the night mopping up the blood. Subtract the victims and the stench, the toil and the blood from the scenario:  the killing and the killer remain. Filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing recasts the Indonesian mass killings of the mid 1960’s as a personal narrative told in lush dramatic reenactments conceived and directed, ostensibly, by the perpetrators.  It’s a film that quotes Bollywood gleefully. It also may seem to owe much to Bataille, Genet, and Pasolini, although all of them were responding in a historically … [Read more...]

Rooting for The Invisible War

I have known the film maker Kirby Dick for close to thirty years now and have had the privilege of watching him grow into one of the most important documentary film makers of our time. On the eve of the 85th Oscars where his film Invisible War has been nominated for Best Feature-length Documentary I thought it fitting to refresh ourselves with the review written by TQ regular Rita Valencia of this extraordinary film whose difficult subject, sexual assault in the military, delves into the matter not just to awaken the audience to this hidden tragedy, but was actually made for the primary purpose of being distributed to the military establishment to shed light and provoke actual changes in policy. On January 23, 2013 the House Armed Services … [Read more...]

The Ultimate Date Movie

Amour (2012), written and directed by Michael Haneke — You are sitting at breakfast with your partner of fifty or so years and suddenly notice she is staring blankly not at you (perhaps nothing new) and then her cereal begins to dribble from the corner of her mouth. A stream of urine runs down the chair leg to the floor. You speak, even loudly, but there is no response. Death has come to join you for breakfast, insinuating itself between your tea and the morning news, interrupting the habitual comfort of daily routine. This death is not violent or abrupt, it is like a very long sonata which has begun and must play out. Michael Haneke approaches his aged couple, George and Anne (Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva) with … [Read more...]

A Breed Apart

Old Dog (2011), written and directed by Pema Tseden, produced by Zhang Xianmin  – Westerners hear very little about Tibet, and much of the media doesn’t even called it Tibet anymore, they call it China, for Tibet has been destroyed, eradicated and reshaped in the model of the typical imperially dominated country. To us who are unfamiliar with the current state of things in Tibet a film like Old Dog seems subtly coded—a narrative that depicts the disabling of the traditional nomadic way of life in terms that are archly metaphoric. That this film has a Chinese producer was a bit surprising, but Zhang Xianmin has an interesting and socially progressive record as intellectual, cultural critic and producer. Pema Tseden, a Tibetan, refers to … [Read more...]

Blowing Down The Barracks

THE INVISIBLE WAR (2012), directed by Kirby Dick, produced by Amy Ziering – With an aesthetic that is strategically subservient to its goal of creating policy change, The Invisible War's human drama rolls out in a perfectly calibrated series of emotional interviews of survivors of military sexual assault (MSA), their advocates and therapists.The antagonists, director Kirby Dick makes clear, are not the violent criminals masquerading as soldiers, officers or heroes; but the systemic judicial dysfunction of the nation's armed services, which manifests as stonewalling, intransigence and incompetence. The prologue to the film is a series of filmed recruitment ads aimed at women—presenting the public relations campaign the … [Read more...]

Go Ask Alice, I Think She’ll Know.

Notes on The Gospel According to The Other Mary by John Adams, libretto by Peter Sellars – Having been offered tickets to the World Premiere by a westsider who couldn't make it downtown through rush hour traffic, it was by surprise I found myself last Thursday night in the auditorium of Disney Hall listening to Deborah Borda discuss the future of a Major Work of Art, the new oratorio by John Adams and Peter Sellars, …a radically feminist political take(!) on the traditionally religious theme of the Passion of Christ: here, the Christ of Orozco, who chops down his own cross and crushes his mother with the stone he rolls away from his own tomb, rips her stained scarf from beneath it, ties it round his hip and goes sachaying off toward … [Read more...]

Mike Kelley, In Memoriam

I’ll always think of Mike as a beautifully raging genius who was a protean artist, great dancer, and highly skilled in dismantling all manner of bullshit. With fondness always. —Rita Valencia PRESS RELEASE Subject: Mike Kelley, artist, passes away Date:    Weds. February 1, 2012 From:   Kelley Studio and Friends Contact: Studio: 323 257 7853 John C. Welchman:  323 258 8957 ********************************* Our dear friend the artist Mike Kelley (born 1954 in Detroit) has passed away. Unstintingly passionate, habitually outspoken and immeasurably creative in every genre or material with which he took up—and that was most of them, from performance and sculpture to painting, installation and video, from experimental … [Read more...]

Heaven is in Your Eyes

Thinking about Lars Von Trier's Melancholia –  Behold the bride Justine, her name plucked from a novel by de Sade, her body bedecked in crinoline, lace, satin, and bone stiffeners. Her voluptuous skin pillows at the edges of her wedding garment, which squeezes her bosom tightly and blossoms open below the waist. She is a vision in white as she runs across the neatly cropped lawn, dragging ragged rope chains behind her. A cumbersome sort of froth envelopes her, marks her as special and sets her apart from the herd of onlookers, the wedding guests who watch, each regarding her with his/her own form of desire. To shun their desire, one after the other, is the project of Lars Von Trier's "melancholy" bride, played by Kirsten Dunst … [Read more...]

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...]

Is It Red To Be Normal?

Bigger Than Life (1956), directed by Nicholas Ray – Re-released by The Criterion Collection on DVD and Blu-ray disc by Rita Valencia "When a friendly, successful suburban teacher and father (James Mason) is prescribed cortisone for a painful, possibly fatal affliction, he grows dangerously addicted to the experimental drug, resulting in his transformation into a psychotic and ultimately violent household despot." (IMDb.com) The word normal is of relatively recent origin, coming into usage in 1828 to mean "conforming to common standards." The notion of a such a thing as a common standard to which behavior conforms is so deeply ingrained in us that it resists analysis, and yet, it is a uniquely contingent idea, falling apart with the … [Read more...]

Everything That Sleeps Reawakens One Day. – Michael Haneke

The White Ribbon (DAS WEISSE BAND ), 2009, a film by Michael Haneke – The White Ribbon, the award-winning new film from Michael Haneke, is sub-titled A Children's Story. The children of a small village in Northern Germany are at the heart of this film. Haneke contemplates the process of evil's origination in the raising of these children, a process that requires the repression of all joy and openness and the nurturance of fear and loathing. The titular white ribbon is tied onto Klara and Martin, two young teens, by their father, the town Pastor, who explains that the ribbon serves to bind them to innocence and purity. Of course that is a lie, just as the quiescence and purity of the village is an illusion that conceals horrors. The … [Read more...]

Rubbing Against the Trees in the Lord’s Forest

R. Crumb's Book of Genesis, October 24 - February 7, 2010 The Paintings of Charles Burchfield, October 4 - January 3, 2010 Hammer Museum, Los Angeles It shouldn't really surprise anyone that the author of Zap and Mr. Natural, Robert Crumb, has undertaken the Greatest Illustration Project Ever Drawn--the Book of Genesis. Any narrative with all those "begats" would have to exert a certain charm for Crumb. The generally naughty R. shows himself to be extraordinarily obedient to this text, and demurs from any interpretive flourish in his cartoons--a wise decision, as the plain act of Crumb undertaking this work is its own statement which promises plenty of fun. His cast of characters includes a scowling, hirsute God, thunder-thighed … [Read more...]

Post iTs for 2009

Five Fav's from 2009 Always bold, Rita Valencia looks back on 2009 and hand picks some beauties! 1. Mad Men, Season 3, Episode 6, A Man Walks Into an Advertising Agency. Anybody up for a little lawn mowing? 2. My New Kindle with computer-voice man reading Dante's Inferno. 3. The Ride of the Valkyries scene in Act Three of Achim Freyer's Die Walküre at L.A.Opera. 4. Tom's Vegan Wrap Boots 5. Caryl Churchill's Seven Jewish Children, a play for Gaza (which is in no way "anti-Semitic"). Watch Jennie Stoller perform Caryl Churchill's play, Seven Jewish Children- A Play for Gaza, which was written in response to the situation in Gaza in January 2009. This link will also give you the access to the written play. No … [Read more...]

A Needle in the Camel’s Eye

CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY and THE INFORMANT! – And again I say to you: It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 19:24 ________ When assuring your friend you aren't lying say: "Cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye" One of the common strategies of the contemporary "issue film" is to lull the audience into the comfortable state where it is assured it will not be hearing anything it does not already know. I tried to figure out why Mr. Moore sub-titled his movie "a love story" and my best guess is that he's referring to this pleasure zone of agreement. His movie is ideological porn, where your righteously progressive opinions are … [Read more...]

What is there There

Nature Morte, paintings by Constance Mallinson Pomona College Museum of Art, through October 18, 2009 As a fiction writer, you learn first that as it addresses narrative, a great piece of fiction is like a path into a forest that never shows the way out. The same is true of poetry as it addresses the act of thought, or of painting as it addresses the act of seeing. (Such desultory ambulations are the crucial difference between these forms and the theory or philosophy that swarms around them, maybe with the exclusion of Derrida.) Woodland Seen, Oil on Paper, 54x96 inches, 2009 In this new work of Constance Mallinson, the act of seeing goes into an imaginary forest from which an essence has been gleaned and transmogrified, but never … [Read more...]

Valentino a Roma, 45 Years of Style

Matt Tyrnauer's documentary Valentino: The Last Emperor has recently been released on DVD and as a pre-cursor to the Spring Collections it is fitting to take a look at this extraordinary show that was the culmination of a stunning 50 year career. Contributing Times Quotidian writer Rita Valencia was fortunate to attend the show in Rome at the Museo dell'Ara Pacis in 2007. Below is a first hand look at Valentino a Roma 45 Years of Style. For further reading entertainment here is the Style.com Q&A with Matt Tyrnauer upon the Valentino: The Last Emperor initial release in March 2009. © Rita Valencia … [Read more...]

Sitting with Anselm Kiefer’s Angel of History and ZimZum (1989)

  At the National Gallery of Art, April 2009 There is the airborne escape mechanism which is the airplane, or the effective instrument of destruction which is the war plane. Anselm Kiefer's The Angel of History is a poetic antithesis of both forms, fabricated of lead, its wings laden with books of beaten lead sheets. The lack of utility makes it not only about art, but a sublime object with which to contemplate the idea of the plane, one of the great icons of the war years of the 20th century. Like all icons its pragmatic uselessness makes it sacred in an areligious way. Its payload of leaden manuscripts piled on the wings, pages stuffed with dried poppies, the better to fuel an auto-da-fé, is a righteous Dada juxtaposition. … [Read more...]

Shipwrecked on Planet Kitsch

La Didone, The Wooster Group, Redcat Theater, Los Angeles, June 6 through June 21 – Open on a post industrial-style stage and a lush, restless soundscape of way-distorted noise levels with smooth pulsing undercurrents of Baroque chamber opera. The sensual meets cold steel, curvy bods are clad in nicely shaped silver bodysuits. The overall effect has some charms, but like most things that charm, there is a vacuous center. In the case of “La Didone”, a 1641 Baroque opera by Francesco Cavalli, you might argue that the voiding of content began in a palliated retelling of the Dido/Aeneas romance when adapted for Carnival by librettist Giovanni Francesco Busenello. In that opera, the tragic fate of Dido, the beautiful spurned … [Read more...]

Where is My Zen?

SPRING, SUMMER, FALL, WINTER…AND SPRING, Kim Ki-duk 2005 http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1104118/ Open with a picture perfect postcard, a body of water and a stand of trees, portrait of tranquility. The unruffled surface of the lake mirrors a small house centered on it, as if floating. It is a natural sanctuary, a view to which we return repeatedly throughout the film, with growing poignancy, and from discreet and meaningful distances. The image of this sacred place as it appears in the opening scene of 'Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...Spring' is like a logomark in its graphic simplicity. It fairly shouts Zen Buddhism, the sort of iconic image we as Westerners wish to carry in our hearts as an adornment to our wretchedly privileged lives … [Read more...]