Friday, March 19, 2010

Broadside XI

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Everybody Loves Raymond Pettibon

During the intermission for Blast Phemy, I thought I saw Raymond Pettibon standing in the aisle with his back against the wall fidgeting, gesticulating to some younger art-faggy looking cohort, standing next to him. I had a feeling it was Raymond Pettibon, because when I see Raymond Pettibon, I see him as somewhere on the spectrum between Geoffrey Rush and Clive Owen, maybe the eyes keening in a dual-processing kind of way, his gray locks formulating some kind of architectural argument, the perpetual upward swing of a maestro's baton. He was gesticulating, and I was sort of mad dogging him from across the room, back a couple of rows, and maybe he could tell that I was trying to read his lips, but he's mumbling so I'm trying to parse his gesticulations, but they are like cut-ups of Hart Crane or Henry James and can only be surmised as indeterminate totalities, dispatches from a black hole, and the only thing I can make out to which his blonde companion's head slowly lists and his eyes scan the stage in reaction to what he just heard, "I'd rather be blind than deaf" and then Pettibon repeats it a beat later as if he wasn't sure of the import of what he said when when he first said it. "Yeah, I'd rather be blind than deaf." And this reminds me of pre-dawn fishing trips to San Pedro, the way all dreams are just childhood memories of being half-asleep in the backseat, hot water in a thermos and cup-o-noodles, bits of dehydrated eggs, peas and carrots suitable for spaceflight, monosodiumglutamate, maybe the fog lit up by the lamps lining the palm-lined lane down to the harbour, and then the black shore and horizon that has never seen sunrise, and after the engine is shut off the distant crash of northerly waves on the breakwater.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Blasphemous Humours

The other night went to the Cinefamily on Fairfax to see Sonic Youth's Lee Ranaldo along with Alan LIcht on guitar and saxophonist Ulrich Krieger accompany the silent films of Stan Brakhage as the ensemble TEXT OF LIGHT.

It was a shotgun wedding--Brakhage's mythos of ambi-colored thumbnails in a loveless marriage with Ranaldo's hamfisted, feedback snarls, his answering machine sonatas which seemed to overpower his cohort's comparatively subtler skronks and noodlings. Afterwards I remembered that the name of the Cinefamily series in which this was the 2nd installment was Blast Phemy, suggesting a practice of Détournement—the kingdom of experimental film must be taken by storm, say my name with blood on your lips.

So if the idea was to cajole an older work into relenting further meaninglessness, maybe chipping away at years of narrative placations, art history clinging like barnacles, re-skewing that which had previously energized the field with it's disruptive powers--then yes it should be perverse, but shouldn't it still be liberating as well. The chromatic scales droning like a NASCAR stadium were joyless and leaden, relentless volume like they were trying to snuff out any whimsy and lyricism out of the Brakhage films, with no surcease of volume or menace in the darkness between reels.

The first film, the Mammals of Victoria with it's watery vistas was accompanied by less rancorous feedback and made me think of Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man--later on Ranaldo whos solo works always felt so mordantly serious, a humorless poetics, in full form would yield his guitar like a battering ram against his amp, poised as if to puncture the screen itself.

There was one passage in the films that seemed to break through the sonic wall, for a second the fugue of angular brush strokes, gave way to this fantasia: a constellation of tiny iridescent dots on a white field, like mold growing on a rainbow, like a freak-out of paramecium, like a hundred hallucinogenic suns their coronas in brilliant plumage. Maybe for the moment the music was imbued with other textures, a timpani, sleigh bells, round open tones on the sax, the drone transposed to a lower chair-rattling octive, so that for that brief passage Brakhage could play solo, a posthumous improvisation, death and the present one and the same in its inexorable procession.

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