Sunday, June 20, 2010

A wheel within a wheel a-turnin'

"...Hawkinson's other favorite medium, organic detritus (as in fingernails, hair, eggs, chickens, ritual conifers, etc.), is front and center as you enter his Blum & Poe solo debut: an utterly convincing pedestal-mounted mummy hand is revealed, on closer inspection, to be constructed from dried apple cores and banana peels.

The industrial jetsam's there too, in the form of a turquoise scarab ring made from a twist-tie and plastic bread-bag tabs, setting up a nice dichotomy between organic and artificial, equating the ancient hardwired lust for bling with the cancerous proliferation of plastic goods we refer to as a "standard of living." The slapstick pratfall and mellow-yellow connotations of Apples and Bananas (2010) are probably coincidental, but all great art has a tendency to pull unexpected (and often unintended) meanings into its orbit. It's an inspired entrée to the current world of Tim Hawkinson.

Though ancient and severed, the mummy hand embodies one of Hawkinson's most prevalent anatomical motifs, the tool by which the artist's visions are made material, and — as we know from the outsize digits of the cortical homunculus ( — one of the most information-dense sensory windows in the human body. Like most of Hawkinson's work, it embeds philosophically charged symbolism within a structure of exaggerated corporeal self-consciousness; in this case a hoax archaeological artifact aesthetically assembled from fragments of garbage, but probably more valuable than the real thing — because of the presence of the artist's hand.

Much of Hawkinson's art has explored the intricacies and paradoxes of the "handmade" — and this exhibit is no exception. One of the twin centerpieces of the show is a creepy, crafty, cosmic animatronic goddess figure titled Orrery (2010) — which is the word for those olde clockwork models of the solar system. A giant grandmotherly figure made from plastic grocery bags and wearing an op-art print dress — Akiyoshi Kitaoka's "Rotating Snakes" peripheral drift illusion, as if you didn't know — is seated behind a spinning wheel built entirely from clear-plastic water bottles. Her head spins, her ears spin, her eyes spin, her topknot spins. Her hands spin and her spinning wheel spins. She sits at the center of a series of concentric circular rings — together resembling a braided rug, with the braiding suggested by the photographically printed pattern of a bicycle track in sand — each of which spins independently at a different rate. That's some heavy rotation.

Its co-centerpiece is loopy as well. "A giant sperm-candle," commented a friend at the opening, "not like those regular sperm-candles." Indeed. Like "regular sperm-candles," Hawkinson's work manifests conceptual categories that seem to have never existed before ... yet seem self-evident in retrospect. An enormous 3-D wood-and-foam blowup of a burning, drip-laden white candle — one of those wide ones that ladies put on the edge of their bathtubs to set the mood — Candle (2010) pushes the artist's theme-park affinities to 11, with cascades of molten flowing tallow exposed, via a tiny backstage door, as illusionistic motorized scrolls. Less evident is the fact that the "drips" are cast from the artist's heels and toes, and as they make their continual rounds produce a gently rhythmical sound track easily lost in a crowd. The memento mori is tempered by the patter of tiny feet. Not to mention a "Playboy at Night" cartoon eroticism amplified into a monumental artifice worthy of Disneyland — and a humor-saturated psychosocial perversity straight outta Duchampton."

Read the rest of A Play on Worlds: Tim Hawkinson's latest spin here.

Images: Apples and Bananas; Orrery; Candle (all 2010)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Mute Nostril Agony Tonight!

Noel Lawrence, occasional participant in CCCP-SCC (Thrift Store Movie) events, former director of Other Cinema DVDs and current keeper of the J.X. Williams archives has been moving and shaking in LA indie film circles recently. He just announced a screening of Confessions of a Superhero to benefit the oppressed superheros of Hollywood Boulevard, but this weekend he's programming the New Media Film Festival at the Downtown Independent Theater on Main Street. The NMFF emphasizes independent cinema that uses new technology, from cell phones to RED cameras to trickle-down 3D media to web-based series. Highlights include Memories of Overdevelopment, Double Take, and RiP: A Remix Manifesto, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. You have to make the whole festival to dig the sound of the Great Ship going down, torn to pieces from below.

June 11-13th 2010, at Downtown Independent Theater
251 South Main Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012
More info at

Program guide here.

Image: from Double Take Johan Grimonprez 2009

Monday, June 7, 2010

Long Haul to Newhall and Back

I'm afraid I have no images of Portfolio's triumphs at the Pasadena show, as this last weekend I was in Newhall for the filming of the final major sequences for Ned's Draw or The Murder of Hi Good, a True Crime Revisionist Western directed by Lee Lynch. The main storyline focuses on the 1870 murder of injun hunter Hiram "Side Abiff" Good by his teenage indentured servant Indian Ned near Deer Creek in the Sierra Nevada foothills south of Mount Lassen. But the part of the story we shot this weekend consists of a Dionysian interval in the middle of this larger story -- a visit by Good, Ned, and their associates to a frontier gambling tent, chock-full of prostitutes, sideshow acts, snake oil salesmen, faro card dealers, freemasons, confederate KKK soldiers, Lemurians, music, opium, and whiskey. Oh yeah, and a shadow puppet show of Macbeth.

So I finally got my 93 Exploder smogged and registered Friday morning, then loaded it up with a variety of firewaters, Lemurian artifacts, and so forth, and headed up to do my bit when the damned thing just dies - right in the middle lane of the I-5 at the beginning of afternoon rush hour. I sat around for a while, to see if it would start up. It didn't. A CHIPS drove by. I realized I was going to have to push it over to the shoulder in the blazing heat and dense, speeding traffic. With the help of one of those superhuman adrenalin bursts I was able to, as it had stalled out on a relatively flat portion of the 5. I scrambled down the embankment and found a pay phone to call AAA, got a tow home, and called Marnie Weber, who was due to make a cameo in the film later that evening. We transferred the Lemurian cargo to her van and hit the road.

It was dreamlike seeing the cast (in costume) and crew assembled after more than a year - a surreal reunion atmosphere. Man, though, those superhuman adrenalin bursts demand a lot of compensation in the sedatives department. After Marnie's flawless sequence wrapped, I wound up staying up drinking whiskey with Dave Nordstrom until 6 AM, sorting out who was more anarchisty - Cassavetes or Altman.

Can't quite remember what the answer was, but the topic is actually germane, since Lynch's (and many of the Small Form directors) style is an actor-centered improvisation-friendly naturalism, very much in the tradition of them auteurs. (And while I'm on the subject, I should recommend two recent-to-me biographical literary experiences - the audiobook version of Mitchell Zuckoff's Robert Altman: The Oral Biography (which contains extensive recordings of the Great Man himself) and Marshall Fine's Accidental Genius: How John Cassavetes Invented American Independent Film.)

Anyhoo, there was much hanging over the next morning but thanks to the tender poolside Margarita ministrations of the Ott household, order was soon restored. Unfortunately I filled up my camera's memory card and forgot the appropriate cable, so I didn't get a lot of images from the second and third day. Though there is some video footage of me portraying a bleary-eyed drunkard in the wee hours.

Truth is I missed most of the action while making Macbeth shadow puppets, and breathing in the remarkable country air, or whatever that was in those tiny metal cylinders. I did manage to get a half dozen renditions of Shenandoah in the can for the forthcoming Redacted concept LP, and cooties.And the inimitable Michael Q. Schmidt graced the rvelry with his naked abundance.

After karaoke at the Legion Hall, I caught a ride back with Matthew Michel, but his car broke down after traveling the exact distance back down the 5 as my Exploder! Mere coincidence? This production is cursed! And I'm not just saying that because I never got to do my Macbeth puppet show. I mean the Scottish Play!

Images, Top to Bottom:
Cinematographer James Laxton shooting "Talking Board" ouija sequence with lee Lynch and Christian Cummings
Lee Lynch, Cory Zacharia, Jose Santos
Lee Lynch, Marnie Weber, Elias Jimenez, Dave Nordstrom, Cory Zacharia
Peas in a Pod: Robert Altman, John Cassavetes, Lee Lynch
Mr. Hollywood says "It's a Package Deal."
Brett Eastman performing 'Shenandoah'
E.B. Brooks in Lemurian ceremonial regalia.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Ross-Ho à Go-Go

"One of the frequent critiques heard from working artists regarding the gallery-and-museum model of art distribution, second only to not getting paid, is the system's unwillingness or inability to capture the tumultuous, synergistic creative energy of work seen in vivo — as incubated in the artist's studio. Token institutional attempts at re-creating or documenting the studio environment are often just embarrassing and are always conceptually compromised by their built-in quotation marks.

L.A.-based artist Amanda Ross-Ho has taken those quotation marks and used them to knit an empty Trojan horse out of studio detritus, using labor-intensive processes or random accumulations of debris to create a startlingly original inventory of puzzles and absences that somehow smuggle the off-kilter ambience of the artist's workshop inside the white cube."

Read the rest of Amanda Ross-Ho: Trick-and-Treater here.