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I wrote this article for www.laweekly.com on a subject that, although controversial, still attests to the value of personal freedom! Special thanks to Lois Banner, Ph.D. for her contribution and to my editor Zachary Pincus-Roth.
An Excerpt is below…
The increasingly infamous “Steak & BJ Day” doesn’t require a whole lot of explaining. “Invented” by a Tom Birdsey (whose online presence seems to be limited to this Myspace profile), the idea behind the celebration is simple. Very simple…
Lois Banner, a professor of history at USC and the author of Women in Modern America: A Brief History told us in an interview:
“This [holiday] sounds like another part of the backlash against the feminist movement… this sort of reaction has happened a number of times in the last 100 years. What we are moving toward in this culture is a very gross version of human interaction. This is part of the hook-up culture. Most of my female students hate it, because they feel it is enforced by men.”
And maybe some men are in fact trying to reinforce the idea of male dominance in a world that is, however slowly, becoming increasingly equal for all genders…
Because maybe real love is not supposed to be all sappy and sweet — maybe it should be visceral and meaty and make you feel like a Roman soldier getting his heart ripped out. But whether you want to participate is, thankfully, still totally up to you.”
Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal is a writer, a curator, and an event planner. Here is an excerpt from the interview I did with her that came out on the Arts blog on www.laweekly.com. This event was a blast! Photos by Jos McCain and Zak Stone. Special thanks to Zachary Pincus-Roth!
“Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal believes art should be about having fun. But when it comes to her belief that words have the power to connect people, she is not messing around…
CLOSE, her event last Friday at Concord Art Space (one of our 25 Alternative L.A. Art Spaces to Check Out Now) was part book release, part gallery installation, part performance art and part plain good old-fashioned party…
More and more, the art scene is morphing to include fleeting, interactive works. Following in the footsteps of pioneers from the 1960s and 70s such as John Baldessari, Marina Ambramovic and Michael Asher, many emerging contemporary artists are now focusing part or all of their practice on gaining active participation from their audiences. Mainstream galleries and museums are becoming increasingly open to this kind of work, which is called relational aesthetics.
What are you hoping to accomplish with this show?
This is an event that doesn’t know what it is. Is it a party? Is it an art opening? Is it a book release? I am interested in those in-between spaces. The event is all of these things but none of them exclusively. I am speaking with two separate voices here. One is a critical and academic voice using an established discourse to discuss certain themes. The other voice is what I call my “big tongue voice,” which just wants to say “THAT. WAS. MOTHER. FUCKING. FUN!”
Bouncy castles structure space in a way that makes people interact in a way that they wouldn’t normally interact. I want to give people permission to have new experiences. For example, people didn’t immediately know they could touch the art, but they did know they had to take off their shoes to go in the bouncy castle. I think that speaks to the level of permission your average audience gives to themselves.
Why the Princess and The Frog theme for the bouncy castle?
I love how the entrance suggests that you are going underneath her skirt. People jump around then emerge, out of breath and sweaty, out from under the skirt of a Disney Princess. It’s hilarious! I said to the delivery person when he dropped off the castle, “You must bring people so much joy,” to which he said, “Yeah, but you should see what happens when we have to take it back.”…
Hi Everyone! This is the manuscript I wrote for my MFA thesis. It depicts the literal end and rebirth of civilization on December 21, 2012. It is also a humorous recount of my time in art school. I am offering it free of charge to anyone who wants to read it. I hope you enjoy it!
Michael Asher was an important member of both the contemporary art world and the CalArts community. When he passed away, he left an artistic legacy that will always be remembered. Here is my obituary and coverage of his formal memorial service that was published on the arts blog at www.laweekly.com. Rest in peace, Michael… and thank you.
“The mood was one of respect and reflection last Friday, Dec. 7, as hundreds of friends, colleagues, student and teachers gathered in the Main Gallery at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia to celebrate and remember the life of long-time beloved faculty member and widely regarded conceptual artist Michael Asher…
Asher, who passed away after a long illness on Oct. 15 at the age of 69, is often hailed as one of the most influential figures in the contemporary art world, particularly noted for his work in a genre known as institutional critique, involving artistic takes on the structures of the art world itself, such as museums and galleries.
But he was perhaps even more widely known for the exhaustive attention and critical consideration he gave to his students’ work. Within the framework of his famous Post-Studio Critique class, Asher would spend hours and hours discussing a single artwork, deconstructing and examining it from every possible angle. The class meetings, starting at 1:00 pm on Friday afternoons, were known to stretch past midnight (or even later) on a regular basis.
“The primary activity of the class is to enter into a fairly complete discussion of each student’s art production,” wrote Asher in a collection of writings straight-forwardly entitledWritings 1973-1983 on Works 1969-1979. The president of CalArts, Steven Lavine, told the crowd at the service of how art teachers he had recently met in China had asked him, in amazed disbelief, whether the stories about the iconic class were in fact true — he said he had assured them that they were. I myself was most fortunate to have attended the class several times as an undergraduate — but only on Michael’s gently-delivered but firm condition that I “not talk too much.” …”
CalArts has established a new scholarship in his name. For more information, please visit the University’s website.
Stephen Van Dyck has quite a vision when it comes to transforming the Los Angeles landscape. This is an excerpt from my article in the arts blog at www.laweekly.com about one of his unique and comprehensive “road concerts”.
As I cruised along Mulholland Drive yesterday afternoon, I was transported into a new kind of artistic space. I continuously discovered an array of different interactive art exhibits and performances, unevenly distributed along the historic ridge-top pass usually traversed by movie stars in sports cars…
For most viewers this artistic incursion into the normal reality of the city was entirely unexpected and even confusing… after all, what are all these people doing playing and watching music next to the road? What does that man have on his head — and why does that particular star map stand seem to have so many customers?…
Stephen Van Dyck, a performance artist, is the founder of Los Angeles Road Concerts, the name he’s given to this event and three other similar ones, which have taken place since 2008 along similarly forgotten or unexamined stretches of San Fernando Boulevard in the Valley, Washington Boulevard, and Sunset Boulevard (the most recent one). The series, one of a number of L.A. projects that are rethinking how to view and experience art, seeks to investigate and reclaim the often ignored or overlooked public spaces that line our public roadways in L.A. Over 110 artists answered an open call to participate in the intensive one-day only affair, ranging from established to emerging names…
The culminating reception was supposed to have taken place at Sunset on a bucolic hilltop near the Missile site at the Western edge of the drive, but park rangers and various law enforcement made it clear, as they had throughout the day, that the artistic influence was not welcome. Never to be deterred, and despite receiving a citation, Van Dyck moved the reception down to the road itself, where local band The Lone Stars played a full set as part of a “pop-up club” across Mulholland from their audience as the sky turned pink and the lights of the Valley began twinkle into view…
Hundreds of in-the-know art world players attended the event throughout the day, but the real impact was more likely made on those who simply happened upon the happenings. One anonymous passerby at the reception couldn’t believe his luck…
While he may be disappointed that another Mulholland Road Concert isn’t happening soon, the L.A. Road Concert series will continue. You will be able to find out details on the next one (and view past projects) at www.LARoadConcerts.org.”
Click below to listen to my radio appearance with Dick Gordon that was broadcast on NPR! It was so cool to be able to speak to this common LA problem in my own way. Thanks to Sarah Fenske, Jorge Valencia, and of course, Dick Gordon!
This was my first featured article in the LA Weekly! Please follow to link to view the full story on the arts blog at www.laweekly.com. Special thanks to Michael Gold, CP Aviation, and my awesome editor Sarah Fenske for making this article possible!
“I am flying westward over the Angeles Crest Mountains, the morning sun shining down over the San Fernando Valley as it spreads out below me and we bank south. The Cessna 152, aptly named “the Commuter,” cruises at just over 3,500 feet as we travel from the Agua Dulce Airpark toward Santa Monica Airport — a 47-mile trip that will put me just two miles from my office in Culver City.
Exhilaration rushes through me as the plane reaches optimal speed, or “trues out,” at about 95 knots, the propeller spinning in a blur. The pilot, Michael Gold, checks in with air traffic control, effortlessly communicating a long string of flight information consisting of letters and numbers. I may be on my way to work, but this is definitely not an ordinary workday…
Like so many Angelenos, I’ve become numb to the frustration of fighting the gridlock every morning at the dreaded interchange of the 101 and the 405. Mere mention of the words “Skirball” or “Getty Center” is enough to keep me in my office until well past 8 p.m. When it’s just too much and I’m completely stopped on the highway, needing to pee so badly, my numbness turns to desperation: Screaming inside and crying proverbial tears of blood, I tell myself that there must be a better way!
But the thought remained just that — a cry for help more than a plan for action — until I met Michael Gold…
And these days, as I sit in the daily gridlock, trying not to grit my teeth, I find myself looking up. Just knowing that it’s possible to soar over this mess — knowing that, thanks to Gold and CP Aviation, I did fly over this mess — somehow makes me feel a little better. It may not be practical to fly to work just yet, but I have this hopeful feeling that maybe we’re getting close.”
This is a short story I wrote for my graduate Detective Fiction course. The structure was inspired by the classic parable The Lady or The Tiger:
The Princess in the Tower
by Anna Jones
It was an exceptionally rare scenario that had transpired to find the young princess all but alone in one of the rooms of the tower, fully clothed in the middle of the night, curled up on top of a delicately embroidered lace duvet that was spread across one of the 3 plush mauve velvet benches lined in golden braids that lined the room. The room had one curved wall and two straight ones that formed a corner that led upwards to a small lookout platform, although one would either have to use a step ladder or be considerably agile to reach the spot. In a hundred years or so, there would be a spiral staircase (installed for tourists) leading to this small turreted crawl-space, which was little more than a stone lookout spot, designed for a lone archer to shoot arrows at approaching enemies from a point of relatively high range and safety. The corresponding stone window above it was accordingly small and slot like, and though un-paned, was cross-sectioned by two wrought-iron bars embedded in the stone, all in all about a meter high and 30 centimeters wide.
This room was a secret room. There were only two ways in or out. A trap door behind a heavy oak book shelf in the adjoining nursery-room that leads to a stone crawl space with another trap door opposite that that then leads to the dumb-waiter shaft for the east wing of the castle. The dumb waiter, if on the correct floor, has a built-in platform by which one may safely pass from the crawl-space into the secret room without chancing the fall down the shaft, or you can just try to clamber over the opening (not much bigger than a dinner tray) and rely on dexterity alone to shield you from gravity. This approach is easiest for slender adults, as children risk slipping down the shaft and corpulent folk may not fit at all. There is also an attic leading from the ceiling of the nursery that has 2 other trap doors. One trap door, hidden under a chest and a false section of floorboards and locked, in the floor to the East that descends into the secret room, plus an additional trap-door connection to the Nanny’s quarters (if you jump over the buttress support), which sits adjacent to the nursery on the opposite side of an arched stone hallway. The only two ways in or out were, until earlier this afternoon, a secret known only by the Princess and 2 her sisters, Her Majesty the Queen and their Nanny, all of whom, other than the Princess herself, were now or about to be dead.
Even her pink leathern ballet slippers remained on her feet from her lesson that afternoon, when everything had, without her knowledge or that of her ballet instructor, Mademoiselle Alorrie Pointe de Mont, began transpiring not only amongst the gardeners & cooks & handmaids & chambermaids & blacksmiths & butlers within the castle, but amidst all the common working folk all across the whole Kingdom.
The princess had found her way back to her chambers thanks to the valiant efforts of Alorrie, and after six long hours in the nursery together, listening to strange screams and shouts and watching the fires that burned the city and grounds below them while constantly billowing smoke near the gabled strain-glass window of the nursery they peered down on the crumbling world from, they made a move.
After about only 30 minutes together, as night began to fall, the Princess’s stress levels had peaked and she had called out that she wanted to go in the secret room. She clapped her hand over her mouth, instantly realizing after the fact that her ballet instructor was not officially a member of the limited circle of people who were permitted to know of the room’s existence (all of whom at that point, as mentioned before and unbeknownst to the Princess herself, were already or about to be dead). The ballet instructor then asked her several times about the room. At first she denied knowing what she was talking about and said she wanted Nanny, playing dumb and crying. Upon persistent questioning, however, she finally told her that she could only tell her where the room was if her life was in danger. At this, the ballet instructor let the subject drop.
The Princess nonetheless hastily let Alorrie into the secret room when, just around midnight, they rushed back to the tower nursery after finding her two younger sisters slaughtered dead in the 3rd floor playroom, chopped up by assassins who, although no longer present, were most likely now specifically looking for the child herself. They had not seen the body of the Nanny, dead now, and did not know that the King and Queen were now in dungeons awaiting a double execution at dawn.
Although in a horrible panic, the Princess managed to hastily remove an ornate silver key from the bottom of a music box on her little white marble and mahogany vanity, pulled open the attic trap door, signaled for Alorrie to follow her up the ladder, closed the attic door, went over to a chest, pushed it aside, pried loose the section of floor boards, unlocked the door, and hopped down into the secret room followed by her astonished ballet instructor. She then moved a small step ladder in the room under the trap door, felt up into the attic for the false floorboard section, pulled it back into place, and then closed and locked the door. The lock was such that one would need a key to get in or out from either side and its strong-looking silver hardware matched the gleam on the Princess’s key. She then placed the key in the front pocket of her pink lace petifore and turned her tear-stained and horrified face to Alorrie and ran to her.
Alorrie’s mother had been a popular courtier who, luckily for her only child, had been barely scandalous enough to garner attention. She had sent the 15 year old Alorrie to study ballet in Paris only 5 short months after the Princess’s conception to prepare her to become an instructor from which she returned 3 years later, ready to impart all the discipline and beauty of proper classical ballet technique, all just in time for the Princess to learn how to walk.
All of her time away from the court of Versailles, despite being filled with cruel ballet masters who painfully swatted her into correct posture with wooden switches, had nonetheless caused her to adopt an uncommonly open mind and free-thinking spirit. Her acquired humanitarian outlook was ahead of her time, and it was not without her own reservations of suspicion and anger and doubt about her own sanity, but she suddenly could not help but view everyone as, in all truth, regardless of politics, essentially on the same level and equal in the eyes of God.
She had first had this idea flash across her mind while observing, in a passing moment, a regular street rat, the type of person whom, in court, she had been taught to fear, revile and pity. This person was picking through a pile of rotting vegetables on the road-side as she, the fine young courtier’s daughter being educated to teach ballet to the royal girl-children of mother France, rode past in her horse-drawn open carriage. The girl was horribly dirty and rag-clad and was clearly approaching the verge of starvation, but her blonde hair had shined so purely and her piercing blue eyes burned so clearly as she raised them to lock with Alorrie’s eyes, darker but also blue, that something happened inside the shocked and sheltered woman. There was a moment, a flash of insight, when they recognized one another as equal and the world seemed to melt away and was back just as quickly but now completely changed. The carriage had already moved on, but Alorrie had, with her good breeding and comparatively extensive education, immediately recognized the phenomenon as well as her new frame of mind as first, true, and second, dangerous.
She was now perched atop the stoop in the tower turret, looking out the little window that was still billowing smoke into the secret room from time to time in between cold drafts of mid-Autumn night air, although aside from this fact, very little could be ascertained about the situation in the castle and Kingdom below through this method of investigation. The princess, after weeping in her ballet instructor’s arms for the better part of an hour, had finally exhausted herself and fallen asleep on one of the couches and was resting there now.
Alorrie, who really was a kind-hearted and virtuously unmarried woman of 26, aside from all royal service obligations, had a true affection for what she knew was, all birth-rights and coronations aside, not more than an innocent and essentially helpless little girl. Because she had been the girl’s ballet instructor for the past seven years, she knew the girl (and her younger twin sisters to a lesser extent) rather well. The fact that the girl (the Princess, dammit, she thought to herself. She kept trying to force her mind to think of her as the Princess, not just the girl) showed some actual talent, curiosity and progress in her dancing only caused Alorrie to further confuse this regal blessing (if only inside her head) who looked, acted and spoke almost like a regular girl, with an actual regular girl. But a princess, any princess, is supposedly, by definition, not a regular girl and Alorrie knew this all too well.
She felt it was truly a shame that such a regular girl had unwittingly been born into a title that would cause her to be, in some sense, a prisoner of the court for her entire life. She held this belief, discovered that fateful day on the street in Paris and bolstered by her subsequent exposure to the revolutionaries in the city, very close to her heart and did not speak of it ever to anyone. She knew that it was an uncommon and punishable affectation to consider herself on the same level as the Princess or the Princess as equal to her in some or really any way, despite their many differences. She felt a deep sympathetic sorrow and horror at the murder of the two younger princesses and knew the girl must be suffering a great deal due to having seen such a sight. She was also re-evaluating the angry rumors of revolution that had been circulating around the castle grounds for many months now and realizing that what had happened that night must be related to those frustrated whisperings. In Alorrie’s heart, it was neither her nor the Princess’s fault that their courtly affairs had been so abruptly waylaid by the demands of bread.
She looked down at the sleeping Princess from the perch and reconciled the contradictory thoughts now brewing in the depths of her soul. Should she, the trusted ballet instructor, vow to protect this little Princess, this little girl? It was the natural and maternal thing to do. She had doubtless already been responsible for the Princess’s survival up to this point, having chaperoned her to the nursery the moment a castle guard had discretely taken her aside with a whispered warning to ‘hide the Princess and presently’ that afternoon as the sun had started to set. She had called the girl over and said they must return to the nursery from the royal ballet studio and wait there until the Queen joined them. Not unaccustomed to orders, the girl had obeyed. The screams and shouts had not started but a few minutes after they arrived and had not been drowned out until they had hidden themselves in the secret room after seeing the bodies. So protecting the Princess, possibly now the only remaining heir to the throne still alive, did indeed seem like the most obvious path to take.
But what of the other half of her thoughts? She herself believed there to be no difference between paupers and princes. She herself had been exposed and subject to the hierarchical attitudes of violence and competition that had threatened the peace of mind of everyone in France in the recent years. She herself recognized her position of unique privilege and opportunity she had held in the court, and try as she might to deny it, knew that she deserved it just as much as she deserved to be a starving homeless waif or the King himself. She had tried to ignore the coming insurrection to no avail and now was alone with the final target whom many of her brothers and sisters in Paris and across the country were doubtlessly calling for the symbolic and literal death of as soon as possible. She had under her care this pivotal figure, however diminutive in stature and years she may be, and this person trusted her, if not entirely, then by a kind of innocent and circumstantial default.
But what would become of them? Should either of them escape from this stake-out in the secret room, what would transpire in the masses upon their emergence? Surely, there would be a great deal of scorn and doubt in the public arena about the role she had unwittingly taken upon herself as the protector of the oldest daughter of the King. Surely, the Princess, however sweet and young, would not be allowed to live if discovered. Perhaps there might be some way to allow her escape to a border if there were some able-bodied helpers still loyal to the throne around to smuggle her, probably in disguise, to a border or other safe-house where the situation could be re-assessed, but there was no guarantee that this was a real possibility and no way of finding out without exposing their hiding place.
Peering down from the ledge by the window, Alorrie solemnly decided what she must do…
Alorrie hopped nimbly down from the ledge and observed the room. She opened the dumb-waiter shaft and looked down into its receding abyss. She reached through and opened the trap door on the opposite side of the shaft and peered into the darkness of the crawl-space she had not yet been inside. She walked across the room to a small wooden chest, found a candle and matches inside, lit the candle and returned to the dumb-waiter. She illuminated what she could of the crawl-space but could not see the other trap-door leading out from that recess back to the nursery. She then blew out the candle, replaced it on the desk, pulled the step ladder from under the ledge back to under the locked trap door and climbed up to inspect it.
Right at that moment, cannon-fire shook the castle, the Princess awoke with a scream, and Alorrie fell off the step ladder. Another hit rocked the castle menacingly and the distinct sound of crumbling bricks could be heard as the Princess called for Alorrie and the latter, regaining her composure, found the little girl amidst the falling bits of plaster and shielded her with her arms. A third blast followed closely and then a fourth and fifth, causing the whole room to shake as if in an earthquake before the curved wall of the room (the outside wall of the tower) slumped and began to tumble. The two females crouched together in the corner, the elder over the younger, as large and long-sedentary stones shifted away from the weak point of the tiny window, ripping the iron bars out of place and leaving a significantly larger hole than had been there before. It was clear the structural integrity of the tower had been compromised and the wooden floorboards had separated weirdly in most of the room. Looking up between blasts, the Princess cried pitifully to her trusted ballet instructor:
“Oh dear, what is to become of us? Whatever shall we do?”
Alorrie, steadfast in her earlier intention, then proceeded to scoop the little Princess up in her able arms. She looked soothingly into the child’s eyes as she stood up and strode several paces across the room to the now agape and crumbling cornices of the turret and hugged the girl tightly to her breast for a brief but significant moment, cradling her small gangly body and stroking her hair like she was her own child. She looked down at the face of the Princess and murmured, almost lovingly:
“What’s all this ‘we’ business, my dear little Princess?”
And with that, she flung the Princess out of the window and into the night.
So, in spite of everything, in spite of the revolution, in spite of philosophy, in spite of history and religion, and in spite of the inalienable truth of equality, the question remains; Why did the ballet instructor throw the princess out the window? We may think we understand, knowing what we know about the young woman. We may think of her in turn as a hero or a murderer, a revolutionary and a barbarian, or a confused hypocrite of the highest order. We may sympathize with the innocent girl. We may balk at the simplicity of a thousand-year sovereignty finally toppling, however surreptitiously, with the defenestration of an un-officiated 10 year old sovereign. We may even laugh at the implications such a tale holds for the institutions of government, family, politics, resources and other such keystones of our understanding of reality. We may examine what we would have done in her place and resolve within ourselves that we might have done the same or acted differently.
But can we clearly answer this simple question: Why?
Answer this, dear reader, and please let me know of the answer when you find it, should I still live and breathe when this moment comes to pass. Should I be dead already, write the answer on a slip of paper and throw it out a high window. I am sure to understand it equally as well either way…
These are the very first articles I have ever had published and I am extremely proud to say that I am now officially a contributing writer to the LA Weekly!
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