Friday, 28 June 2013

High rotate

The electronic moan in Breach's "Jack" distracts you from the fact that this song has only one line (and the video has more hair and fur than a Vivian Lynn installation)


I have been obsessing over Dream Mclean's 'Weatherman', and was slightly shamefaced to twig that one of the reasons I've taken to it so fast is that it opens with the same notes as Carly Rae Jepsen's 'Call Me Maybe'. But it's a terrific piece of British grime-pop, with that particular pleasure of hearing an English accent flowing over a beat.

And to round things out, Erased Tapes is releasing a small set of remixes of Nils Frahm tracks, titled Juno (Reworked). Various collaborators add more electronica and reverb to Frahm's spare compositions. You can stream the EP here.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

On the radio

Today on the radio I'll be talking about Shane Cotton's exhibition at City Gallery Wellington and the recent discussions over the proposed sale of the Detroit Institute of Arts' collection, to benefit the failing city.

(Update - I ended up talking for quite a while about the Shane Cotton show, and briefly about a strange story about an Egyptian statuette at the Manchester Museum; no Detroit.)

Monday, 24 June 2013


It's been a long time between poems (mostly because I've been re-reading lately, and therefore not reviewing, especially Rebecca Lindenberg and Mark Leidner). But here's something I stumbled over in the weekend, by Adam Zagajewski and translated by Renata Gorczynski.

To go to Lvov

To go to Lvov. Which station
for Lvov, if not in a dream, at dawn, when dew  
gleams on a suitcase, when express
trains and bullet trains are being born. To leave  
in haste for Lvov, night or day, in September  
or in March. But only if Lvov exists,
if it is to be found within the frontiers and not just  
in my new passport, if lances of trees
—of poplar and ash—still breathe aloud  
like Indians, and if streams mumble
their dark Esperanto, and grass snakes like soft signs  
in the Russian language disappear
into thickets. To pack and set off, to leave  
without a trace, at noon, to vanish
like fainting maidens. And burdocks, green  
armies of burdocks, and below, under the canvas  
of a Venetian café, the snails converse
about eternity. But the cathedral rises,
you remember, so straight, as straight
as Sunday and white napkins and a bucket  
full of raspberries standing on the floor, and  
my desire which wasn’t born yet,
only gardens and weeds and the amber
of Queen Anne cherries, and indecent Fredro.  
There was always too much of Lvov, no one could  
comprehend its boroughs, hear
the murmur of each stone scorched
by the sun, at night the Orthodox church’s silence was unlike
that of the cathedral, the Jesuits
baptized plants, leaf by leaf, but they grew,
grew so mindlessly, and joy hovered  
everywhere, in hallways and in coffee mills  
revolving by themselves, in blue  
teapots, in starch, which was the first  
formalist, in drops of rain and in the thorns
of roses. Frozen forsythia yellowed by the window.  
The bells pealed and the air vibrated, the cornets  
of nuns sailed like schooners near  
the theater, there was so much of the world that
it had to do encores over and over,
the audience was in frenzy and didn’t want
to leave the house. My aunts couldn’t have known  
yet that I’d resurrect them,  
and lived so trustfully; so singly;  
servants, clean and ironed, ran for  
fresh cream, inside the houses  
a bit of anger and great expectation, Brzozowski  
came as a visiting lecturer, one of my  
uncles kept writing a poem entitled Why,
dedicated to the Almighty, and there was too much  
of Lvov, it brimmed the container,  
it burst glasses, overflowed  
each pond, lake, smoked through every  
chimney, turned into fire, storm,  
laughed with lightning, grew meek,  
returned home, read the New Testament,
slept on a sofa beside the Carpathian rug,
there was too much of Lvov, and now  
there isn’t any, it grew relentlessly
and the scissors cut it, chilly gardeners  
as always in May, without mercy,  
without love, ah, wait till warm June
comes with soft ferns, boundless
fields of summer, i.e., the reality.
But scissors cut it, along the line and through  
the fiber, tailors, gardeners, censors
cut the body and the wreaths, pruning shears worked  
diligently, as in a child’s cutout
along the dotted line of a roe deer or a swan.  
Scissors, penknives, and razor blades scratched,  
cut, and shortened the voluptuous dresses
of prelates, of squares and houses, and trees
fell soundlessly, as in a jungle,
and the cathedral trembled, people bade goodbye  
without handkerchiefs, no tears, such a dry
mouth, I won’t see you anymore, so much death  
awaits you, why must every city
become Jerusalem and every man a Jew,
and now in a hurry just
pack, always, each day,
and go breathless, go to Lvov, after all
it exists, quiet and pure as
a peach. It is everywhere.

Friday, 21 June 2013

High rotate

Four completely dissimilar tracks:

Alice Boman's sweetly forlorn 'Waiting' (which Soundcloud doesn't have embed code, but which you should nonetheless go listen to now).

Schoolboy Q featuring Kendrick Lamar in the rollicking 'Collard Greens'

From the Michael Jackson-inflected school of new R&B, Dornik's high-pitched 'Something about you'

And the rock-steady new Arctic Monkey's track 'Do I Wanna Know', with its very appealing video.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

More reads

Like most people on the internet, I've been following James Bridle intently for a while now - not agreeing with everything, but fascinated by what he says (I used his writing extensively when I talked about Ben Cauchi's work at City Gallery earlier this year).

Vanity Fair is now up with the action, profiling Bridle in anticipation of his exhibition at the Corcoran. Bridle has also put up two new posts recently: Hacking the word ('A manifesto/rant about online literatures') and The New Aesthetic and its politics ('On the politics of computation, and seeing clearly').

If you're not feeling up to the reading, how about running The Deletionist over the pages instead an enjoying a deterministic programmatic poem?

Monday, 17 June 2013

Long read

A great long NYT piece on James Turrell by Wil S. Hylton, on the occasion of Turrell's three-museum retrospective.
Other pieces by Turrell are even more disorienting. His “Dark Spaces” can require 30 minutes of immersion before you begin to see a swirling blur of color, while some of his rooms are so flooded with light that the effect is instantly overpowering. Stepping into one of his “Ganzfeld” rooms is like falling into a neon cloud. The air is thick with luminous color that seems to quiver all around you, and it can be difficult to discern which way is up, or out. 
Not everyone enjoys the Turrell experience. It requires a degree of surrender. There is a certain comfort in knowing what is real and where things are; to have that comfort stripped away can be rapturous, or distressing. It can even be dangerous. During a Turrell show at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1980, several visitors to a piece called “City of Arhirit” became unsteady in the bright blue haze and tried to brace themselves against a wall made of light. Some of them fell down. A few got hurt. One woman, who broke her arm, sued the Whitney and Turrell for more than $10,000, claiming that the show made her so “disoriented and confused” that she “violently precipitated to the floor.” Another visitor, who sprained her wrist, sued the Whitney for $250,000. The museum’s insurance company then filed a claim against Turrell, and although a member of the Whitney family put a stop to the suit, Turrell still gets sore thinking about it. He spent $30,000 to defend himself, but it’s not the money that bothers him the most. It’s the lingering feeling that the work didn’t . . . work. 
“On some level,” he told me, “you’d have to say I failed.”

Monday, 10 June 2013


Best of 3 is on holiday! Posting should resume around 17 June.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

High rotate

Three pop tunes that I have been thrashing incessantly ...

Rookie magazine asked Katie Crutchfield of Waxahatchee and Allison Crutchfield of Swearin‘ to record a song, and they chose to cover Grimes' 'Oblivion' - same witchy lyrics, more crunchy guitar.

I wish Disclosure's 'F For You' had been around when I was 17.

And I keep finding more and more to like on the new MS MR album. Like 'Ash Tree Lane' - which sadly Soundcloud won't let me embed, but go find it there instead.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

The verbs

A while ago I stumbled upon this lovely piece by Tont Coles, a paon to moulded plastic and fine, grimy detail.

Scrolling through his post titles, I was struck by his categories:

Obsessive stuff
Smelling stuff
Reading stuff
Writing stuff
Visiting stuff

It made me wonder what the verbs of my own life might be. I concluded that I spend a lot of time

Reading stuff
Pondering stuff
Writing stuff
Sharing stuff
Discussing stuff

Most of these things happen on my computer, but also with people. Part of the reason that writing feels like such a companionable act for me is that the same device upon which I write offers at least three separate channels for me to be talking to people with. I have almost forgotten how to work alone.

Then there is

Listening to stuff
Seeing stuff
Visiting stuff

Listening and seeing are becoming interestingly intertwined. I often listen to music when visiting exhibitions now, for example, and the songs become intertwined with the art. (Bill Henson's photos at the Adam, for example, will now forever be associated with The National's High Violet inside my head.)

When I think about work though, the verbs becomes very colourless very quickly

Checking stuff
Signing stuff
Meeting stuff
Managing stuff

That's the glass-half-empty way of looking at a work day, of course. And if I was less coy, or more confident, I might opt for

Enabling stuff
Making stuff

Leading stuff
Inspiring stuff

Michael Lascarides said at the NDF conference a few years ago that we should "get better problems". I'm now thinking about getting better verbs.

Monday, 3 June 2013


While I disagree with many of conclusions, this piece on the disappearing art of charm by Benjamin Schwarz in the Atlantic is a lovely piece of writing, filled with observations that ring very true for me.
In short, [Cary] Grant suddenly and fully developed charm, a quality that is tantalizing because it simultaneously demands detachment and engagement. Only the self-aware can have charm: It’s bound up with a sensibility that at best approaches wisdom, or at least worldliness, and at worst goes well beyond cynicism. It can’t exist in the undeveloped personality. It’s an attribute foreign to many men because most are, for better and for worse, childlike. These days, it’s far more common among men over 70—probably owing to the era in which they reached maturity rather than to the mere fact of their advanced years. What used to be called good breeding is necessary (but not sufficient) for charm: no one can be charming who doesn’t draw out the overlooked, who doesn’t shift the spotlight onto others—who doesn’t, that is, possess those long-forgotten qualities of politesse and civilitĂ©. A great hostess perforce has charm (while legendary hostesses are legion—Elizabeth Montagu, Madame Geoffrin, Viscountess Melbourne, Countess Greffulhe—I can’t think of a single legendary host), but today this social virtue goes increasingly unrecognized. Still, charm is hardly selfless. All of these acts can be performed only by one at ease with himself yet also intensely conscious of himself and of his effect on others. And although it’s bound up with considerateness, it really has nothing to do with, and is in fact in some essential ways opposed to, goodness. Another word for the lightness of touch that charm requires in humor, conversation, and all other aspects of social relations is subtlety, which carries both admirable and dangerous connotations. Charm’s requisite sense of irony is also the requisite for social cruelty (see, for example, the excruciating interrogations to which Grant subjects that virtuoso stooge Ralph Bellamy in both The Awful Truth and His Girl Friday). 
I'm fascinated by how charm is a personality muscle that can be built up with time and practice. A conversation with a charming person is almost a physical experience - or perhaps more accurately a visceral or sensual one. There is a beautiful, effortless sense of give and take, of passing ideas and observations between two people, of connectedness. which lives within that charmed place. More charm, I say. Bring it on.