Charlie Kaufman. (Top Ten).
1 JENNIFER NOLAN'S INSTALLATION TRAUMA, 2002, tells of her hardships growing up in suburban New Jersey. Nolan fills the stark gallery (Stephan Bartels) with thirty-one TV sets. Each numbered set reveals the trauma of that particular year of her life. Number five, for example, repeats, ad infinitum, the audio loop "My cousin felt me up" while we watch images of leaves falling, a broken tricycle, and her cousin feeling her up. Nolan is so courageously honest that the viewer feels duty-bound to endure the discomfort of bearing witness. Various narratives commingle through the echoey space. "They called me a lesbo." "I got fat." I got my period in white pants on the subway." Although no male can truly understand the struggle of women, Derek and I came that much closer after viewing Nolan's devastating exposition.
2 THE PHOTOGRAPHY OF JOSEF OPSAL looks, unblinkingly, at fat and ugly people, sometimes grouped together, sometimes placed shockingly alone against plain backgrounds. The unframed black-and-white prints at the photographer's recent London show (Clarridge Engles Gallery) appear deceptively simple: an ugly man with a cast eye standing in a doorway, a fat woman in soiled housecoat holding a malnourished cat, staring defiantly at us. At first glance, Opsal's work might seem exploitative, even cruel, but a strange thing happens as we stare into these faces: Revulsion turns to compassion.
3 EDIS WELK, TILLER'S WEDGE (Atlas Press, 2001)I hadn't read a stitch in over a year--my crazy version of a juice fast--because there are just too many ideas. But Derek was his usual insistent self, so I gave in. Isn't that just easier sometimes? I'm glad I did! Welk is a magician. I have to admit I was predisposed to like this book after seeing Welk's beautiful, almost haunting photo on the jacket. Was anyone ever so young? But it's the book that won me over. With its lilting ambiguities and cerebral insouciance, Wedge charmed me so thoroughly I scarcely noticed the fin de siecle moribundity steadily creeping in. By the time David D'Agostino met his brutal death at the hands of The Imp, I found myself reinvigorated, ready to tackle my next project, an adaptation of this amazing book.
4 Gender issues are central to my work. So it joy to discover a like-minded soul in LOIS BARONELLO, whose grainy digital prints interrogate traditional gender roles and reject the fraudulent essentialism they imply. At her Chelsea show (Kroner & Baum) you'd be just as likely to come across a photo of a girl in football attire as you would a little boy dressed as a secretary. That embodiments of difference still discomfit some gallerygoers is evidence that we have a long way to go. Why can't a woman be a little boy in a pirate hat?
5 HOLOMETABOLOUS (Walter Brasher, 2002) A tossed nickel miraculously lands on its edge then explodes, killing a bookie; a female hitchhiker is picked up by a man literally nailed into his car; a deaf martial arts expert uses sign language to decapitate an assailant. Thus begins Brasher's first film, a sweet, shoestring-budget coming-of-age story I had the privilege of seeing this year at Sundance. It is Brasher's deployment of harsh, corrosive imagery in the service of a gentle boy-boy love story that lends Holometabolous its uncanny poignancy. I hope this film finds distribution, because it needs to be seen.
6 HOWARD T. ROSENFIELD, BLANK (Graywolf Press, 2002) "Bedroom empty. Bedroom empty still. Bedroom remains empty. The mall, food court crowded with shoppers--one table conspicuously unoccupied." Best memoir I've read this year. Particularly resonant now, in these difficult times. We've all read narratives in the tired first-, second-, and third-person forms, but Rosenfield tells his story in the fourth person: the individual not referred to. The subject, completely absent, is the paradoxical void at the heart of Rosenfield's 977-page confessional masterpiece. Because, in the end, it serves to remind us of the precariousness of our own existence.
7 KAT' EXOCHEN changed my life. My hope is that it will change the world. Kat' exochen is a belief system developed by Rachel Estelle Kline of Mineola, New York, as she recuperated from head injuries suffered in a 1987 LIRR derailment. A series of hallucinatory visions formed the basis for her theology, which she 'transcribed" in a massive treatise, complete with cosmology and dietary laws. To say, as some critics have, that the religion boils down to "trains are bad" is simplistic and vicious. What are people afraid of?
8 THE PAINTINGS OF RIN TASHMOOR Stumbling upon this small show in Stockholm (Karsten Ekqvist Gallerie) became the serendipitous highpoint of our weekend getaway. The enormous canvases, thick with paint and rage, dissect, through stereotype and caricature, Western attitudes toward race, gender, and sexual orientation. Tashmoor's Child's Bank #3, 2001, a mammoth indictment of globalism, racism, and the commodification of desire, is as eloquent as it is horrifying.
9 How does the relationship between father and son shift over time? MITCH LEVENTHAL delicately explores this issue in You Are My Dad/Are You My Dad?, a video essay recently aired on Boston's WGBH. It opens on octogenarian Nat Leventhal dressed as Little Lord Fauntleroy. An off-screen interrogator provokes the elderly man:
Interrogator: Why are you dressed like that?
Nat: I don't know. You told me to.
Interrogator: You do everything you're told?
Nat: You said to. You said we'd get Italian after.
Interrogator: What are you, a baby? You're dressed like a baby.
Nat: No, I just--
Interrogator: Then how come you made me dress like a baby when I was young?
Nat: I don't know. Your mom picked out your clothes.
Leventhal unblinkingly examines the damage we inflict on each other in the name of familial love. He raises the question, at least in our house, what can we do to stop this cycle of abuse?
10 Derek and I first heard DOMITILA LOUCK perform in a Stuttgart Bierhaus. I immediately snatched up her CD Waldsterben (Moebius), and it has quickly become my musical security blanket. I carry it everywhere: the gym, the plane, our cabin upstate. If I could love a woman, it would be Domitila. With her flame red hair, hourglass figure, and dead eyes, she is the ideal female. Her languorous renderings of "La Vie en Rose" and "Aguas de Marco" make me cry like a baby. If I could be a woman, I would be Domitila. Wouldn't we all?
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|Title Annotation:||rating new cultural experiences|
|Date:||Apr 1, 2002|
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