Sunday, May 27, 2007

Voyeurism, Barbarism, Scientific Genius and Self-Disgust

The only reason why I read International Guardian is for moments like this:,,2088399,00.html

Ballard has never made any secret of his adoration of Dali, an adoration, as with his declared love of Helmut Newton’s quasi-pornographic photos, offends most of our tasteful tastes (redundancy intended).* Yes, The Persistence of Memory adorned my bedroom wall when I was an anxious 16 year olf (as opposed to my anxious 35 year olf) and then, when my tastes “matured”, I decided that Dali was not where it was at (I think I went off surrealism altogether at that point, being a clever boy going all conceptual art all of a sudden), ‘tho Ruth Brandon’s Surreal Lives makes a very cogent argument that those uncouth flashy Spaniards (Bunuel and Dali) energized the surrealist movement enervated by Andre Breton’s tendency to expel anyone he thought was an addict or gay. On a similar note, the opening scene of Un chien andalou still makes me wince (and I've sat through Saw), and its too bad that no one has put together a decent showing of L’age d’or (which I saw when I was 16 and wanted to jump up and down screaming with joy…I was only weighted down by the Céline I had in my jacket pocket, snarf, snarf).

I’ve already promised Patrick (not Partick) Keiller, Tim Hecker and Pan Sonic posts. How ‘bout an upcoming one on Dali? I can hear sighs of exasperation already.

* Is Newton pornographic, even quasi-pornographic? My usual understanding of pornography is that persons become objects for fantasy-use, that their pleasure is identical, indeed predicated, on mine. I am unconvinced that this is the case in Helmut Newton, although I must add that I don’t particularly admire his art. Similarly with Bruce Weber: I am reminded of Derek Jarman’s demurral over Robert Mapplethorpe - there’s nothing there to make you laugh or cry. More on Helmut Newton

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Promises, Promises

Upcoming: posts on Partick Keiller's London and Robinson in Space; and Tim Hecker and Pan Sonic's latest.

In the mean time, this is pretty damn interesting:

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Nights of Wine and Poses - Send + Receive v.9

Well, as with all of my good intentions, my promise to write daily reviews of S+R events came to naught on account of a combination of activity, conversation, Merlot and Big Rock. So what follows is from memory, that notoriously unreliable of sources:

Friday May 11: (The Montréal Invasion)

The night starts of with 5mm, and audiovisual piece by Montréal guys Gabrielle Coutu-Dumont(video) and Marc Leclaire (sonix). Ostensibly, its about the development and formation of human life, starting from the moment when the fetus becomes recognizably anthropoid. Ok, …if you say so. Not impressive; the videos were sometimes interesting, but mostly seemed to float along at their own pace despite whatever the music was doing. As for the music, Leclaire has a lot of ardent admirers, among whom I don’t particularly count myself, but it was certainly the strongest element of the piece. And I should point out that it seemed to have fuck all to do with inter-uterine development. A bit of a dud - the first thing so far that I really didn’t like.

Fortunately, this is OK, because the rest of the performances are superb. Scant Intone and crys cole all put on performances that were elegant and interesting, commanding a whole set of tones and resonances that were really moving. (Scant Intone wad particularly touching, given that he sat crosslegged on the floor wrapped in a hoody. He looked like he was 12 yrs old, which gave a pleasantly child-like aspect to the performance, belied by the sometimes extremely abrasive tones he generated.)

However, it must be said that the night (and, arguably, the festival) belonged to Tim Hecker, performing from his new record Harmony in Ultraviolet. I’ve mentioned it briefly in the previous post, and all of my mild objections have more or less vanished. I've seen him play three times before, but this was the most intense plateau he’s every reached. A really knock-you-to-your-knees set. More on him later…

What are they putting in the water in Montréal?

Saturday May 12: (Les mains)

This night, I’m sorry to say, was a bit of an alcoholic blur. All the artists (Minibloc and Martin Tetreault) were excellent, the later in particular, but it was Andrew Liles’s set that really stands out in the mind. I was a little worried that it would get a little too occult/gothy/ley lines type thing, but these worries were groundless, although make no mistake, a mighty darkness settled in the Ace Art main gallery that night! The contrast between Tim and Andrew is instructive, but I will get to that in a later post. A good time seems to have been had by all (me in particular). Sunday morning was not a promising prospect.

Sunday May 13: (S+R goes electro-acoustic!!)

Sunday night at the West End Cultural Centre, where I invariably get annoyed with something or someone who works or volunteers there. (I really don’t know why this is the case, but I can go to the venue brimming with insouciant joie-de-vivre and leave an hour later wanting to kill someone.) Anyways, with all due respect to the volunteers who wanted to go home so badly that they were clearing up chairs and tables before the final performance had even ended, I will refrain from further invective. (Which is odd for me, really.)

Anyways, Frieda Abtan had two pieces going: a laptop piece similar in a lot of ways to Andrew Liles’ the previous night, perhaps a little less sinister, a bit more elegant, which can be both a good thing and a bad thing: a good thing insofar as it demonstrates a certain poise and an awareness of performance qua performance (nothing gets more tedious that a 7th generation Iggy or Jagger, I assure thee) and a bad thing because it can lead one into truly appalling “tasteful” areas that aren’t all that far from banal confusions of prettiness with intensity.

Which is, alas, what happened with Heartstrings, a piece for laptop and string quartet. The laptop part was pleasant enough, but the string quartet was really not all that good at all - it would have been considered too conservative for the New Music Festival, which still thinks that Pierre Boulez is a little too “out there”. As with This Camera is Red, I didn’t not like the string quartet (although I felt embarrassed for them having to sit on stage while the laptop played itself. Something should have been done about that, like a fucking curtain rising, for example.), the music was pleasant enough if somewhat unadventurous, but as with 5mm, it was the visual component of the piece that really let the project down. Birds flying around cathedrals, waves crashing against the shore, conjoined bodies,…all we needed was a few rose petals scattering around and we are in deep Goth territory more or less abandoned by even the Sisters of Mercy sometime in 1989. Pleasant if you like that sort of thing (which I admit to kinda doing), but really…well….silly.

Steve Bates closed the night and the festival with his “piano piece” (although I was mildly, mildly disappointed to not that he seemed to spend more time with his equalizer and laptop than he did with the piano.) In one sense, and this isn’t meant as critical as it sounds, its much the same affective plateau that he’s been inhabiting for awhile. Having said that, it’s an interesting place to be: an uneasy immersive sound that gradually leads you from one palace to another with such slyness that you scarcely know that you are moving. There’s lots of space for Steve to inhabit in the area he’s developed for himself yet, so there’s no danger of him exhausting his possibilities for a long time to come.

Anyways, it was nice to see a lot of new people out for the performances which seemed to be extremely well attended, and not just be the usual festival crowd. I’m both sad and glad that its over: sad, because chatting and drinking and listening to incredible music is lots of fun, but kinda glad that I can get back to this blog and all the other things that I have to do this week. Procrastinating is soooo much fun.

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Night of the Low Bass Rumble - Send and Receive v. 9

Three performances yesterday after doing a live radio interview with the Hamburg duo incite/ (Kera and André were super nice and down to earth).

Anyways, the first performance, which I didn’t catch all of, was Removable Room, a sort of mobile arts lab by Laura Kavanaugh and Ian Birse from Vancouver. It was tucked into a corner of the project room at Ace Art, which made it a bit difficult to get really engaged in. (This was no fault of the artists, or the gallery, who had an exhibition running in the main gallery that they graciously agreed to clear for tonight’s performance.) However, once you entered the charmed circle, it was utterly absorbing. There was a strong element of the uncanny in the way that they used digitally treated images of quotidian Winnipeg scenes - the Mission Church, the alleyway behind ArtsSpace, the streetlamps that I’ve looked at a million times before but never really saw. Sonically, they were interesting enough, very discrete, although they didn’t quite hit any new affective zones in their work. Perhaps that wasn’t part of their intention, which is fair enough. Again, this may be in part because I wasn’t able to get really immersed in the audiovisual field they were delineating; too many people I hadn’t seen for a long time, too much helping set up the next performances.

On to the Cinémathèque (which is a surprisingly good venue for the typical Send + Receive performances) to see This Camera is Red and J+C Feedback Factory. This Camera is Red, local artist (bringing along his Mondragon Café retinue, apparently) was OK, which is to say that there was nothing particularly wrong with his performance, but it was hard not to let my mind wander at a certain point in his set. Writing about ambivalence can be hard: there was nothing I didn’t like about his set, which had all of the elements that tend to push tickle my pleasure centres (long moments of drone, heavy reverbs), but it didn’t really cohere in some way. There was nothing wrong with his set, but there was nothing particularly right about it either. And I have to confess I didn’t see the point of the file projections (which were, admittedly, not on video as is usually the case, but on actual film stock.) The split screen images of trees and rivers didn’t particularly add anything to the performance, and seemed more like an afterthought IMHO.

On the other hand, J+C Feedback Factory (Carrie Gates and Jon Vaughn from Saskatoon, who really, really need to change that name) incorporated video and sonics together seamlessly. I liked their performance a lot, mostly because it violated just about every canon of taste that tends to congregate around “sound art” in general and S+R in particular. I.e. they were loud, abrasive, incredible visceral (‘tho I could have don without Jon’s head banging and arm waving), despite, or perhaps because, of the no-input feedback. Electricity plays itself. Sonically, it was really aggressive - all low rumbles and high-frequency shrieks, with no middle-end with which to ground oneself. Similarly, the video feedback was delightfully ugly - rainbow slicks overtaken by mustard yellows and garish blues overtaken by strange mauve shapes.

Now what exactly was it that I found so exciting here that I didn’t find in the This Camera is Red? The Saskatoon artists tread a careful line between the visceral and the merely gratuitous and I found it riveting to watch and listen to them negotiating this line, whereas The Camera Is Red (again, who I did like well enough) seemed a little on the safe side; nothing particularly new or challenging to any preconceived notions of sound were on offer there. (Another line that J+C FF negotiate is between the tedious noise-for-noise sake types and “musicality”. Although frequently abrasive and harsh, there always seemed to be the palimpsest of an actual musical logic to their work.)

All in all a pretty good evening. Listening to Tim Hecker’s Harmony in Ultraviolet now. First impression are that he seems to have been a bit overwhelmed by the Kranky trademark sound. We’ll see what happens tonight.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

J. G. Ballard Prepares Beef Bourguignon

James Graham Ballard, aged 76, gathers together the following ingredients: 1.5 kg of chuck steak, cut into 5 cm pieces; 3 tablespoons of olive oil; 1 large carrot and 1 large onion, both peeled and cut into chunks; 2 sticks of celery (which the author of The Drowned World chops roughly); 3 bottles of burgundy wine (one for enjoying with Claire Walsh); 2 sprigs of fresh thyme; 1 head of garlic, cut in half horizontally; 4 bay leaves; 50gs of unsalted butter (purchased at the Metro-Centre); 225 g whole pieces of pancetta; 450 g of shallots, which the prominent member of the New Wave of science fiction has peeled; 2 tablespoons of flour; 375 g of chestnut mushrooms; 290 ml of fresh beef stock; 5 tablespoons of brandy; and a handful of flatleaf parsley, chopped by an author intent on brutalizing every human sympathy, according to Paul Theroux in his review of Crash.

In his Shepperton kitchen, the former internee at the Lunguha Civilian Assembly Centre heats a tablespoon of oil in a large saucepan. The author of SuperCannes then adds the carrot, onion and celery, and cooks them for 2-3 minutes. He adds wine, thyme and garlic, along with 2 bay leaves. He brings them to a boil and allows the food to simmer for 15 minutes. He allows the saucepan to cool.

J. G. Ballard, who is not nor ever will be a CBE, places the beef in a large bowl and pours over the wine marinade. He covers the bowl and places it in the fridge overnight.

Having investigated the narrative potential of Principia Mathematica, Ballard preheats his oven to 150 C (Gas 2). He drains the beef from the marinade into a colander over a glass bowl. He reserves the marinade and sets it next to holiday brochures for Seychelles.

Ballard heats 25g of butter and 1 tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan. He adds the pancetta and cooks it until it is golden and brown. He adds the shallots and transfers it to a large casserole dish, given to him by Michael Moorcock in lieu of payment for “The Assassination of John F. Kennedy Considered as a Downhill Motor Race”, published in New Worlds.

William Burroughs’s foremost defender in the UK heats a tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan. He pats dry the cubes of beef from the marinade mixture using absorbent kitchen paper purchased at the Bentall Centre, that nightmare marriage of psychopathology and convenience. Adding the beef to the pan, he cooks it until the cubes are brown on all sides. He removes the beef and transfers it to the casserole dish with the bacon, shallots and vegetables. He pours himself a glass of wine. He repeats the above procedure with the remaining beef and also adds it to the casserole dish.

Does the angle between two walls have a happy ending?

The prophet of suburbia stirs in 2-3 large spoonfuls of the reserved marinade to deglaze the pan. He pours that into the casserole dish.

Ballard stirs in plain flour, the remaining marinade and the beef stock into the casserole dish.
The former assistant editor of the scientific journal Chemistry and Industry brings the dish to a boil, covers it and places it in the oven for 3 - 3 ½ hours or until the beef is very tender.

Halfway through the Warren Commission Report, Ballard heats the remaining oil and butter in a large frying pan bought in Munich after meeting Helmut Newton and cooks the mushrooms until brown. He reluctantly adds the brandy and continues to cook for a few minutes.

The author dismissed as an “aging semiotician” adds the mushrooms to the casserole dish, which he stirs and returns to the oven for the remaining cooking time.

J. G. Ballard is happy to serve the beef bourguignon with new potatoes, sprinkled with freshly chopped parsley and purple sprouting broccoli underneath the aluminum palm trees that adorn his study.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

A New Kind of Kick

Well, given the amount of time I spend reading blogs, I thought I would make good on my promise and actually start writing one. Although I promised to post on Ballard's Kingdom Come, for some reason its taking longer than it should (in part given the complexity of the novel that seems to have eluded just about every reviewer I've read), the Send and Receive; a Festival of Sound v. 9 starts its program tomorrow, and I wanted to commit it to posterity in some way, soooo.... there'll ideally be a post every day of the festival with reviews, ruminations, cranky rants, whatever you will. So bookmark this site and fasten your seat belts (lol).

The name of the blog comes from Christian Bök, by the way.