I hate to be in agreement with Risa, but...
Monday, August 21, 2017
Sunday, August 20, 2017
Nora Khan and Steven Warwick
Fear Indexing The X-Files
New York City, USA: Primary Information, 2017
48 pp., 14 x 21.5 cm., staplebound
Edition of 750
The television series The X-Files ran for nine years on the Fox network, from September 1993 to May of 2002. It spawned two feature films, a recent revival season (with another forthcoming), and countless books, comics and video game spinoffs.
The lukewarm reception to the revival last year suggests that the original series was very much of its time, deeply rooted in the political climate of the 90's. The series debuted less than two years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, and wrapped up shortly after 9/11 and the War on Terror began. This era becomes the lens through which Khan and Warwick approach the series in their new book, released last month by Primary Information.
While structurally a police procedural, The X-Files also belongs to both the horror and science fiction genres (series creator Chris Carter cited The Twilight Zone as a key influence). These genres have a long history of mirroring the anxieties of the day.
King Kong ran amok in the financial capital of the country during the uncertainty of the Great Depression. In Japan, Godzilla was released less than a decade after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and only months after Daigo Fukuryū Maru - where a Japanese fishing boat and it's crew of 23 men were exposed to and contaminated by nuclear fallout from the US testing a 17-megaton H-bomb. If the creature's indiscriminate destruction of the city didn't make the metaphor clear enough, the monster emitted radioactive fire from it's mouth.
The fear of global nuclear annihilation seemed to culminate in the early eighties, with the release of four epic TV movies about the subject: The Day After, Threads, Testament and Special Bulletin. (That year my parents were compelled to confess the ruse of Christmas to my younger brother, when he was inconsolable with the fear that Santa Claus would be "shot down by the Russians" on Christmas Eve.)
In the seventies horror filmmakers presented grittier, grislier images in the wake of the Vietnam war coverage, and more recently 'torture porn' (the Saw franchise, Hostel) followed the news of atrocities at Abu Ghraib.
In the 1950's, there were a slew of "Invader" movies (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Invasion of the Saucer Men, Invaders from Mars, etc.) where emotionless humanoid aliens took over the minds and bodies of earthlings, reflecting the fear of a communist takeover. This was a more insidious fear. Movies with marauding giant ants or apes might be frightening inside the cinema, but a distrust of your neighbour lingered longer. Films such as John Carpenter's The Thing (1982) - another strong influence on Carter's series - further exploited the fear of needing to know who to trust as a matter of survival.
"Trust No One" became one of two taglines for The X-Files, adorning posters, t-shirts and countless other merchandise. The second was, of course, "I Want To Believe". Faith and optimism about extra terrestrial life, coupled with paranoid suspicion about everything else.
This may be the area where the show feels most topical, today. A study in February of this year indicated that half of Clinton voters did not trust the government to do the right thing. The figure drops in half again, for Trump voters. The same 50% of Clinton voters also distrusted the media. Among Trump voters the figure rises to 85%.
"In collaboration with artist Steven Warwick, I am writing an essay, which will be the basis for a film. We are poring through the early seasons of the X-Files and examining Internet forum culture within the show, as it shaped and affirmed (offline) paranoiac fantasies and conspiracies about enemies of the state. The film will be presented at ICA London."
The Bill Clinton era of the series also saw the rise of the Internet, and the show's enthusiasts were as likely to be net-savvy as any. The elliptical nature of the show's unresolved plots led to crowded fan forums and chat rooms, where every detail could be examined at length for clues. Fans could speculate on where the show was headed, or invent plot lines of their own (I'm sure 'Fan Fiction' can be traced further back to Star Trek, but for me the quintessential examples of the genre are the hastily uploaded, grammatically challenged stories in which Mulder and Scully fuck).
Today the sites are different (4chan, Reddit, etc) and the conspiracy theories discussed are Pizzagate, Sandy Hook, 9/11-as-inside job and - just this week - the Charlottesville Klan rally. A few days ago Alex Jones claimed (without any evidence, naturally) that the entire thing was orchestrated by Jewish financier George Soros to discredit the right. The KKK, the neo-Nazis and the white supremacists were actors, just like the Sandy Hook victims.
Whereas these bizarre rants might've once been shouted on a street corner from a man selling pencils from a cup, they are no longer the domain of the marginalized fringe. Jones has the ear of the president.
While the series itself now seems quaint in comparison, an 'indexing' feels remarkably topical. I was initially expecting a compendium more along the lines of Olivier Lebrun's A Pocket Companion To Books From The Simpsons - which might have also been great - but this straight ahead essay approach feels more necessary.
At only 750 copies, it's unlikely it'll remain available for long. Get it for $12.00 US at Printer Matter, here, or directly from the publisher, here.
Labels: Primary Information
Saturday, August 19, 2017
Dream Come True
Buenos Aires, Argentina: MALBA, 2016
164 pp., 21 x 28 cm., hardcover
Edition size unknown
Dream Come True was published in conjunction with an exhibition at the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires, which ran from June 24th to October 31st of last year. The catalogue features texts by Gunnar B. Kvaran (“Instructions and narratives”), Agustin Perez Rubio (“Instructions like dreams”), and Nicolas Bourriaud (“Yoko Ono and subtle energy”). At the request of the artist, the book is published entirely in Spanish.
In addition to the exhibition catalogue, MALBA also reprinted the Spanish language translation of Ono's 1964 book Grapefruit. Titled Pomelo, the 1970 title was originally published in Buenos Aires by Ediciones de la Flor.
Labels: Yoko Ono
Friday, August 18, 2017
Supplemento al dizionario italiano
Milan, Italy: Muggiani Editore, Milano, 1963
112 pp., 17 x 12.5 cm., softcover
Edition size unknown
The second edition of Supplement to the italian dictionary, following the self-published volume from 1958, of Munari’s book about expressing oneself without words. A series of hand gestures and facial expressions are photographed and explained, allowing the reader to engage in conversation without opening his mouth: “Excuse me, have you got a fag?” “Sorry, I haven’t.” “Thanks all the same”.
"With the passage of time, many of these Neapolitan expressions have spread to the rest of Italy and even the rest of the world. Some expressions have become a part of our everyday language, like the American ‘OK.’ This is why we have decided to collect as many of them as possible into one book, although we have not considered obscene and vulgar gestures, so the documentation is as precise as possible. It is an ideal supplement to the Italian dictionary for use by foreign visitors.”
Labels: Bruno Munari
Thursday, August 17, 2017
Wallace Berman and Robert Watts
New York City, USA: Roth Horowitz, 1999
40 pp., 19.2 x 26 cm., spiral bound
Edition of 500
Often referred to as an artists' book, despite the fact that the artists - Watts and Berman - had been dead for 11 and 23 years, respectively. Arranged Marriage, which includes an essay by Fluxus historian Simon Anderson, was published in conjunction with an exhibition of the same name that ran from 28 October to 18 December, 1999. The inventive catalogue format includes 2 tipped-in fold-outs and an invitation card bound-in at the front.
Both artists participated in Pop Art exhibitions, but produced work that fell outside the genre's purview.
Critic Kim Levin called Watts "the invisible man of Fluxus and Pop". He was also an active participant in 'Happenings' with Allan Kaprow, George Brecht and others.
Berman has been called the "father" of assemblage art and is known for creating the artists' periodical Semina. He had a small role in Dennis Hopper's film Easy Rider, and appears in the Peter Blake collage for the cover of the Beatles' Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. He died in 1976, on his fiftieth birthday.
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
Air to Air
Los Angeles, USA: Gemini G.E.L., 1975
12" vinyl record, 29:16 minutes
Edition of 1000
The only recording (that I'm aware of) published by Gemini G.E.L., Air to Air documents a sound installation based on a long-distance connection between art gallery patrons at Ace Gallery in Los Angeles and Leo Castelli Gallery in New York City. From February 8th to 22nd, 1975, both venues exhibited a pair of microphones that stood in the centre of each gallery, with speakers mounted on the wall (or on stands, as below?), allowing conversations and incidental sounds to cross the country.
A deluxe signed and numbered edition of Air to Air was also available, with voice print diagrams printed in offset lithography, in an edition of fifty copies.
"It was two amplified spaces. When you walked into the space in LA you could talk directly to NY without having a telephone and vice versa."
- Keith Sonnier
Hear the recording here:
Labels: artists' records