Souvenir de Chine by Körner Union
[via Kitsune Noir]
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A new fragrance by Anicka Yi and Maggie Peng. We missed the party, but were able to smell the perfume. The name comes from the Japanese exile Fusako Shigenobu, former founder and leader of the Japanese Red Army, who was arrested in Osaka after hiding out in Lebanon for years.
Zadie Smith writes in the New Yorker about the role of comedy in her father’s life.
In birth, two people go into a room and three come out. In death, one person goes in and none come out. This is a cosmic joke told by Martin Amis. I like the metaphysical absurdity it draws out of the death event, the sense that death doesn’t happen at all—that it is, in fact, the opposite of a happening. There are philosophers who take this joke seriously. To their way of thinking, the only option in the face of death—in facing death’s absurd non-face—is to laugh. This is not the bold, humorless laugh of the triumphant atheist, who conquers what he calls death and his own fear of it. No: this is more unhinged. It comes from the powerless, despairing realization that death cannot be conquered, defied, contemplated, or even approached, because it’s not there; it’s only a word, signifying nothing. It’s a truly funny laugh, of the laughor-you’ll-cry variety. There is “plenty of hope, an infinite amount of hope—but not for us!” This is a cosmic joke told by Franz Kafka, a wisecrack projected into a void. When I first put the partial cremains of my father in a Tupperware sandwich box and placed it on my writing desk, that was the joke I felt like telling.
Williamsburg, Brooklyn. 1983
Flea Market at Union Square. 1987
Chen Kaige. 1985
Before he was a superstar artist and architect, Ai Wei Wei spent ten years in New York City, photographing his friends and capturing everything he saw.
Ai Weiwei on his NYC photos:
These photos were taken between 1983 and 1994 during the decade I spent living in New York before returning to Beijing. At that time, I didn’t really have anything to do. I was just hanging out, whiling away my time everyday by taking pictures of the people I met, places I went, my friends, my neighborhood, the street and the city.
In a flash twenty years have past, and the New York I knew no longer exists. The appearance of the East Village has totally changed, and many of the people in my photographs are no longer in this world. I took these photos casually, and most of my subjects probably don’t even realize that they are in them. Today, looking back on the past, I can see that these photographs are not true anymore. After all, any reality is just a fact of change – an unconfirmed moment in the slow march of time. The present always surpasses the past, and the future will not care about today.
What drives me to organize and publish these photographs is not nostalgia, for I believe that past occurrences do not matter much. We are not destined to meet those whom we’ve met, and humans are by nature lonely. Rather, the photos themselves are concrete objects that form a kind of orderly arrangement despite their free-floating nature as disassociated images on photo paper. The specific people and things involved, including my own past, are not important anymore.
Life in the past fifty years has been much like a falling leaf with no goal or direction. In the end, however, the leaf will land in some corner. The images’ appearance and order are much like this. They are disorganized, but paths of thought appear that seem most clear when the photos are all mixed up.
Today, I still always have a camera in my hand, accustomed as I am to the click of the shutter. What I should explain though, is that I am not interested in photography, and don’t really care about the subjects of my photos. In the end, they are part of a different reality than that of my own existence. Every time I look at these photographs, I always discover that there is more strangeness in them than familiarity.
A selection of Ai Wei Wei’s photos are being exhibited at Three Shadows in Beijing through April 2009.
All images courtesy of Three Shadow Photography, Beijing
A bit late on posting this, but I just got around to looking at the November issue of Wired and was drawn in by Jason Tanz’s profile of Charlie Kaufman and his recently-released film Synecdoche, New York. It wasn’t so much the finished article that hooked me but, rather, the conceptual framework Tanz proposed to his editor: to produce a “Kaufmanesque” piece in which the process of making the article is as important as the finished thing itself. The print version of the profile contains a few bits of production errata—email exchanges, mostly—to give the reader a taste of this writing-an-essay-about-writing-the-essay conceit, but it’s in the online features that the idea really gains traction. The entire production of the article—pitch, brainstorming sessions, emails, rough drafts, revisions, photo shoot, interview transcript, press check, et al.—was posted both to Wired’s website and the SPD blog as it was happening. It would take hours to go through all of the material, but it’s probably the most complete look at the process of magazine production available online.
Reunited with my old friend Keith today. More funny insights on his site.
Enjoyed some toothsome pork belly and good company at Clyde Common last night. Diana and Scott were kind enough to bring us a copy of Fillip, a rather nicely designed art journal from Vancouver that features several inserted artist projects and some pretty thoughtful articles. Particularly liked the conversation between David Goldenberg and Patricia Reed on participatory art practices and Ron Terada’s kitten poster.
Image via Fillip: Patricia Reed and Societe Realiste, Manifesta 6.1, Dept III: Abschlussball/Contract of Discord, 2007. Contract of Discord was a collective project involving more than twenty of the people who were to participate in Dept. III at the canceled Manifesta 6 biennale scheduled for Nicosia, Cyprus. Photograph by Societe Realiste.
For the past few days I’ve been thinking a lot about production and consumption. About what it means to be a consumer. About the word “consumer,” which tends to leave one with a kind of cupronickel mouthfeel. We don’t like to think of ourselves as consumers. The notion evokes images of Macdonald’s-eating, Suburban-driving, Walmart-shopping drones. Always on the take. Languishing in guilty, greasy pleasures. We prefer the idea of producers – artists, designers, architects, writers, musicians – the people toward whom our culture-making edifices lend their mortar and trowel.
Michel de Certeau tried to upset this distinction between producers and consumers by recognizing that consumption often contains elements of play and invention. He wanted to investigate the ways that people adapt everyday products, spaces and situations to meet their own needs. He preferred to talk about “users” rather than “consumers” at a time when the internet was still an ARPANET project. Anyway, the important point de Certeau made was that the economy of production and consumption is a dialogic process, not a one-way transmission. I think that recent developments in social media have both complicated and illuminated this issue. With so much information available to us, and so many channels through which to gather, ingest and reproduce that information, I’d say we’re giving new definition to the term prosumer. Check out the video below to get an idea of what I’m talking about. This kid’s 12.
Now, Tavi G would like to have a word with you.