Friday, October 14, 2005

Learning Rainer Ganahl

Yesterday was Yom Kippur, and unable to change the date (the cards were printed), my friend Bill gave an intimate gallery talk with Rainer Ganahl, whose work he curated in the exhibit "Please, teach me..." at Columbia's Wallach Gallery.

I first learned of his work when I had an "emergency" dinner with Bill and Karen while waiting for Jason and Mariani to land at LGA (I was picking them up). Among their many fascinating pieces were a few postcards Rainer had sent them using postage he had created. Then later in the summer I was reading a report from Momenta which had shown his work.

Please Teach Me's subtitle is the "politics of learning". The exhibit has three main sections. The first is institutional, or dispository learning, as Josh informed me. Where there is an expert giving information to an audience. The section consisted of photographs Ganahl had taken at public and, not so public lectures, beginning with a class he audited from Edward Said.

There is an element of celebrity in the series, finding Said, Chomsky, West, Koolhas among others. At the same time, I felt there was a subverting of how people idealized institutions like Columbia or the Cooper Union, in addition to the cult of personality, with these very informal, intimate photos, of people perhaps a bit shabby, but nonetheless gathering highminded ideas.

The second section was individual learning, particularly language learning, and Ganahl's documentation of his learning of German, French(Canadian), Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Greek, and Arabic. The process is embodied in the formidable stacks of video cassettes of footage of his study sessions. I thought the stacks were a marvelous representation of the discipline to study language for hours upon hours, much as the discipline in a military parade feels impressive. It was also interesting how he explored how immigration forces language learning for some; and in other cases language bridges some conflict, such as his study of Arabic as the Iraq came to be.

The third was group learning, reading in a group, or dialog among two or more actors. Prime among them are a series of reading circles Ganahl organizes to read line by line various master pieces. He will lead a reading with high school students as part of the this exhibit.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Environments Are Landscapes When Manufactured

Mary Fugle, my warrior abs instructor gave me the heads up on the new exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Only today did I find out that the title shares an uncanny resemblence to my friends Daniel and Faust.

Dan and Faust run the relatively popular blog at Manufactured Environments. The new BMA exhibit is Manufactured Landscapes, photography by Edward Burtynsky. From the press release:
Burtynsky, a modern-day counterpart to nineteenth-century landscape photographers, examines the intersection between land and technology, creating images of unorthodox beauty. His subjects include locations that have been changed by modern industrial activity such as mining, quarrying, rail cutting, recycling, and oil refining.
This seems right up Dan's alley, so perhaps there will be a convergence of Environments and Landscapes in Brooklyn before the show closes in mid January. You can see more samples at Space & Culture.

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Sunday, October 09, 2005

A Handful of Thoughts

I was supposed to spend this afternoon with my BBBS match, Mitchell today. But he called me yesterday to say his mom didn't want him on the train because of the bomb threat. It bums me out, the way we give up our lives because of this acute fear. On one hand, there would be outrage to have a successful attack and discover people weren't warned. But on the other, officials haven't done much to convince us that an attack was prevented. We are slaves to chatter and the poor judgment of our lamest jokers.


It was great to hang out with Bennett and the guys of Pyramid. A guy from came to do a profile on them Sat. Their MO is give an audience to great unsigned bands. After 3 nights with the boys, my sleep schedule is all messed up. I'd never make it on tour... although I loved the shows, and got in some quality foosball.

During one of our chats, Ben argued well for improvisational music, largely based on a tension of failure, and an excitement of passing through it, topped off by true synergy and communication among the ensemble. He best described it as a conversation among instruments.

Bennett Kennedy at cello for Pyramid


Despite the soggy drippyness of Saturday, Joe and I hit some galleries... highlights included Yuken Teruya, whom I wrote about earlier, the ever reliable Diane Arbus, and Daniel Rozin 's digital/analog "mirrors" (the picture above is from his show at Bitforms).


My blessedly persistent friend Anna Hayman, got me out to see a show. We failed at getting to the Wooster Group's Poor Theatre, but had the great concession of Spirit at NYTW. What started as a mediocre war story, became a delightful study of storytelling and theatre in general. Done by three men of Improbable on the steepest raked stage ever, they did a fair bit of physical theatre and puppetry based work.


I saw Capote on Friday. Seymour Phillip Hoffman and Catherine Keener were their usual splendidly chameleon selves. The shows the powerful conflict on interest Truman Capote was navigating in creating a work, in a new genre, "the non-fiction novel," while getting personally involved in the lives of those he wrote about... particularly Perry Smith. It's a relationship that remains messy... in particular I remember Janet Malcolm's "The Journalist & the Murderer." These pieces continue to aim for a portrait of reality while discarding various measure of objectivity that audiences expect.

It was also interesting that the film began with some assumption of familiarity of who Capote was, particularly by highlighting his vanity early in the film, and quick references to Breakfast at Tiffany's. Eventually we begin to see more of brilliance (his 94% memorized recall). But then the film ends with a text epilogue as if we have no idea who he was... that In Cold Blood made him the most famous author of his day, that he never finished a book afterwards, that he drunk himself to death.

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Thursday, October 06, 2005

Toogle: too good? / Brewster Kahle on Geek TV

Toogle and Woogle popped-up recently, though I favor toogle. It's part photo mosaic, part word art... for instance, see my search orchid.

Here's what they say:
Toogle is a Text version of Googles Image Search. Currently it creates images out of the very term that was used to fetch those images, later we will endeavour to create images out of the search terms entered by users past and present. But for now please, go play.
Yesterday, as I tidied and did laundry I watched/listened to last week's episode of Geek TV with Brewster Kahle interviewed by Robert X. Cringley at PBS. Actually Geek TV is webTV, vlogging, and podcasting all in one... plus they use bittorrent as a distribution method.

I know talking about technology can be guy heavy, and focus on the wrong inputs (like technical benchmarks), but what seperates the greats is how their pursuits lie in a greater idealism. Brewster Kahle's reverence for AltaVista for instance considers how no one since the library of Alexandria has tried to collect the totality of information available. Now Google and Yahoo are trying to index it all.

Yet there is a difference between indexing for search, and collection, for access, and therein lies these distinctions for which our experience changes greatly from possibility to reality. A great illustration was their discussion of how to implement advertising to the internet and the concept of the long tail. Perhaps more than finding things, Google's major achievement is tapping the long-tail.

Which leads up to the this notion that talking about technology, about tools, helps us grasp not only what is out there, but how "out there" changes. Reality is made up of the totallity of sensory inputs and technology is an extension of our senses.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Waiting for Buffalo and Other Musical Notes

I got a pleasant suprise last Wednesday. My good friend, and NYC welcome party (back in '98), Bennett called to say that Pyramid was going on tour and would come to NY for two shows. Thursday night they're playing at Arlene's Grocery and Saturday they'll be at Scenic. I plan to be at both. Waiting for Buffalo is one my favorite songs from the album The First American (also available on iTunes!) By the way, I really like their splash screen, it has an effect of blowing a frosted glass clear.


Last Saturday, my friend Peter celebrated his 50th in style. He threw at party at Sin-é and had his favorite band Antibalas play. It was great political Malian music with requisit shout outs Fela.

Peter actually spent his birthday getting arrested at the White House on Monday, along with Cindy Sheehan. The coup de gras was when women activists in Turkey referenced the arrests when she went to talk about the treatment of women in Iraq. Way to give Karen Hughes hell Peter! His son Rob did the excellent card.

Lastly Ratzlow and Jean have launched a music blog, This is Cool, Check it Out. Jean was the one that got me turned on to them as a way of discovering new music last January. So far I really like Au Revoir Simone and Bettye LaVette (which looks to be a gem comperable to Solomon Burke's Don't Give Up On Me).

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