Sunday, September 30, 2007

Let's Save Belgium!

As I was telling you in a prior post, Belgium is about to implode. Which is very sad, as so many things are cool in Belgium, despite the horrors Charles Baudelaire published about it.
A country that produced Marcel Broodthaers and Chantal Akerman (Brookerman or Akerthaers???) in addition to moules frites (yes, those are Belgian, not French!), speculoos cookies, real beer, good chocolate and hardcore industrial electronic music (Front 242 anyone?) cannot be that wicked and deserves to remain a whole nation.
Alas, we at FBC! are powerless to help. Besides, we're French, meaning the Flemish would hate us as much as the Dutch hate the Flemish - they really do.
So instead of trying to marry off Arendstein and her meager dowry to totaly wacky Guattaleuze, we're going to ask you in our weekly poll to vote for what should be saved from Belgium. Godiva doesn't count as it is not really Belgian anymore.
Scroll down to the bottom of the page to save Belgium's national identity!

Thanksgiving In September!

It is the very last day of the month, time for the 3rd installment of Thanksgiving In [Insert Month Here]™, our monthly series (duh!) , as the title indicates. So after La Maison du Pain and my Distinguished Literary Correspondent, this post will be devoted to Mariah C. No, not that one. This one, the one and only, the real Mariah C!
It’s been a close tie between her and Jessie Bi, but I’ll see the latter in Paris in December and I’ll likely do a write-up after seeing him.
So Mariah C. it is. Which is only fair since my very first American Thanksgiving was spent at her home, then located in Altadena, where I enjoyed my very first perfectly cooked turkey as well as the company of her husband the lovely Jon H. (a very good artist you should invest in) and of their various guests.

Mariah and I met 10 years ago, in one of the local art schools where, in a sadistic pursuit of young people’s future bankruptcy, they lure graduate students to study things as socially useful as *French Theory* and/or (aren't we Barthes-ians here at FBC!) *Critical Studies*. Don’t ask me what it means, I still don’t know, except that after teaching it on and off for 10-plus years I’ve come to feel it is a watered down crash course in superficial philosophy with a vague tinge of art criticism. I can teach it if needed – hey, everyone has to pay the rent – but I don’t see the point of asking art people to pay fortunes to study it.
Anyway, Mariah C. was the bright shining star of the program, fabulously well-read (in many instances better read than some of her instructors, me included), with a great sense of humor indispensable to survive the brainwashing inherent to that kind of schooling. She had a great taste for shoes and hats that bode well for our future friendship and a very impressive, first class brain.

Mariah is one of a handful of people I’ve met in real life who belongs to an entire different plane entirely: the super smart, super bright ones. They are not necessarily well-known geniuses (though a couple of those I know are bright shining stars in their own field) and usually stay away from the limelight as much as they can.
I’ve met loads of smart people in the artworld, in academia, in the publishing world and elsewhere, but Mariah is one of the rare persons who can bridge seemingly opposite ideas; and join them in an entirely new luminous universe which makes sense and seems so obvious and clear once she has enunciated it one is left to pondered how come no one has thought of it before. (I know, this last sentence needs punctuation but it's beyond my limited English skills).
Stroke of genius, there’s no other way to express it, and I’m always deeply impressed when I witness someone uttering one.
And like the handful of people I am referring to, Mariah is neither arrogant nor condescending. On the contrary, these superbrainiacs™ all tend to be rather shy, sometimes insecure,at least not particularly self-confident. And they are all witty souls blessed with a fabulous sense of humor, and contrarily to popular belief it’s not because they are so highly intelligent that they are nerdy. Unless wearing glasses makes one nerdy, an assumption as stupid as believing people who wear trainers are all athletic. Or that all blondes are stupid. Some brunettes are even dumber. And I’m not even mentioning some grey-haired men, whose intelligence is deeply questionable. See?

I was totally awed when deeply intelligent, non-nerdy Mariah befriended me, and I quickly became the happy recipient of her insightful wit, thoughtful reflections on art, philosophy and literature. Her library always makes me feel very, very little – I guess technically I AM very little anyhow.
Once I got used to having such a cool and gracious friend I started to really enjoy her warm welcome each time we met, her fabulous cooking, the way she deeply cares about people, how down-to-earth she is, and how reliable, dependable a friend she proved over time. One of my greatest pleasure in life is calling her and hearing the super happy, vibrant and warm inflexion in her voice when she says my name. If I have to draw a comparison, the feeling is akin to seeing your national football team (the real game, not that dumbass US football thing) winning the World Cup on Latino TV and hearing the commentator scream: Goooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaalllllllllllllllllllllllllll!!!!
I guess it was with Mariah I first realized what the depth of experience can bring to someone’s personality . When we met I was stricken by how most unusual her background was, especially in comparison to the trust fund babies one usually encounters in art schools. I’m not going to dwell on her story as she certainly would like to keep it private, but I must say she is one of the most resilient person I have ever met. No small feat, as anyone having to do the resilience-ing could tell you.
Given what she had to go though in her early life, many people in her shoes would either have had a nervous breakdown, completely given up, done drugs and alcohol, or grown absolutely bitter, but nooooooo, not my superhero! Despair is for wimps only!

Mariah has shown courage, fortitude, humanity and grace while facing more than adverse life circumstances, qualities that lead to compassion and understanding. Or should, for everybody who has a bit of moral rectitude and common decency (you know who you are, you, yes, you! The non-Mariah, non-nice people).
When faced with tragic events myself I could always count on my old friend for moral support and a healthy dose of humor, which helped in our “misfortune Olympics” race. Being the generous person she is, Mariah always told me I was the winner, but this is pure altruism: she’s hand down the competition’s champion. If I could import her and her lovely family here I would be delighted, as NYC most certainly doesn’t deserve them. Alas, this is not to be. Die-hard New Yorkers they are, and without them I would never, ever set foot in the big city. There's a price to pay to visit one's superheroes.

Like most unsung heroes Mariah C. will remain (mostly) anonymous, though she deserves admiration and recognition. For those of you who know her, please drop her a sweet line and if you happen to go to NYC, take her out and treat her to something nice. For all the others, if you have your own Mariah in your life, ditto. Resilient or not, people who go through hell and back deserve a break, and contrary to popular belief, surviving life events doesn’t mean someone is a tough cookie who can get over everything. So please, treat your everyday superheroes as they deserve, they are as vulnerable as the rest of us. If you are sweet to my very own Mariah she may tell you where to get the best hats, where the best donuts and bagels are to be had in Brooklyn, and if buying cheese is better at the Polish store or at the Upscale Polish store. I'm not even mentioning pizza. She may tell you great stories about the city, give you great gardening tips or health references, and even more wonderful things, if you are nice. But only if you are nice, OK?

Lastly, without Mariah I would have never met Larry The Meat Guy when I was living in Brooklyn. He of the best pork chops and most excellent organic chicken (just a digression: let’s start a campaign for poultry producers NOT to pack their fowl with water. It’s most unnatural, horrible for the taste and consistency. Larry The Meat Guy doesn’t add water, and it makes a huge difference).

So many, many thanks to my own superhero Mariah C, simply for existing and being among us, and for being my friend. Please keep on being you, for a long, long time.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Someone to keep an eye on

I while ago I tried to link to this blog and lamentably failed. So I'm trying again as I appreciate this young lady's sharp brain and critical common sense. Everything for you to love: art, food, and good writing. I particularly enjoyed the description of a famed modernist building as "single layer cake" (in the September archives).
Of course I'm biased since she wrote a great review of a show I curated a while back, but shameless self-promotion aside I think she's doing what all good art critics should do: look, look, look at the art, describe it and from there build a more general input about the relevance of the art and artist and maybe throw in some personal interpretation.
It should be a no-brainer really but you would be surprised as how few current and well-known art writers are able to do this, bringing instead their own agenda to the forefront, or their own personal insecurities.
Anyway, let's keep on eye on someone who's young and promising and let's hope she will escape graduate school unscathed!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

In Praise Of Pure, Unadulterated Genius: Macarons at La Maison Du Pain

Oh Day of Glory! Gloria In Excelsis Deo! I didn't suspect when I got up this morning I was going to meet heavenly genius before even sunset!
I had just rung Daniel, a.k.a Canada Dry to see if my usual caffeine-addiction enabler was available today to partake in afternoon-ish espresso sipping. Alas, this was not to be. Feeling forlorn and sadly dejected (I like my superlatives and my redundant adjectives, see?) I decided to go instead indulge in my baguette addiction at La Maison du Pain, to have a suitable accompaniment to my French radishes. It always lift my spirit when I get there, as in addition to said baguette habit I also usually gratify myself with pistachio Financiers.

Still unsuspecting of my upcoming encounter with deity, a little bit like Paul Claudel getting a heavy load of God descending on his shoulders behind a pillar of Notre-Dame Cathedral, I spotted one of these great inventions that makes America the land of unbridled patent litigation, a Red Velvet cupcake!
Now I love, love cupcakes, probably more the idea of it than the real thing, since icing is usually a tad too sweet for me. Red Velvet is the most decadent of all cupcakes, what with that great, deep red color contrasting with white icing, like an El Lissiztky embodied in food. Yes, it is artificial and retro, nostalgic of a time of Better Living Through Chemistry. Anyway, I was more than decided to try it, and then right next to it sat a small platter of mini macarons. Blue mini macarons! More Better Living With Chemistry! In an Old World meets New World way. I had to try them - good thing I'm going swimming tonight!

I talked a bit with Carly, who is Carmen's daughter (and therefore Josephine's niece) about macarons, a very French thing if there is one. The macarons craze is a bit over in France right now, which is good in a way (mayo and algae macarons, anyone?) as we can concentrate again on what makes a truly great macaron.
These are very traditional pastries that used to be available only in 2 flavors when I was a kid: nature (just almonds and a very thin layer of some neutral apricot jelly in the middle) or chocolate.
FYI, there are several types of macarons, some of them not the sandwich cookie type, like the macarons de Saint Emilion for example. Other famous ones are from Nancy, where there is a street called "Rue Des Soeurs macarons" (it used to be the address of famous record label/independent music store Les Disques Du Soleil Et De L'Acier).
Anyway, Josephine made the macarons herself, and I a was suitably impressed because these are damn difficult to make. It's basically blanched almond meal very finely ground, sugar and egg whites (no flour for our wheat-adverse friends).
Not only the mixture of sugar and almonds have to be extremely consistent but the baking process itself is delicate, as you can easily screw up an entire batch with all your macarons totally cracked. You can recycle them by mixing them with vanilla ice cream for example, but they are difficult to sell otherwise.

In the present case, these were blue because they were made either for the Dodgers themselves or in honor of a Dodgers post-game party. Carly told me they were going to be available on a more ongoing basis in the future, but for the moment they are an occasional treat at La Maison du Pain.
So suitably equipped with my baguette, my Red Velvet Cupcake and my blue mini-macaron, I came back home determined to have both pastries with my daily stovetop espresso. I must say I totally expedited lunch (and also ditched the bunch of errands I was supposed to run) to taste them.

I made one excruciating bad, stupid mistake: I had the macaron first. Why stupid? because even though the cupcake was the best Red Velvet Cupcake I have ever eaten, light, airy, moist, cocoa-ty, and not over-cloyingly sweet it couldn't match the grandeur of the macaron.
Being French I have eaten more than my fair share of macarons, right? I had the ones from Bagnoles-de-l'Orne, the Saint-Emilion ones, the Ladurée ones, the Pierre Hermé ones, the ones from Pain de Sucre, and those from Sucrécacao (who, incidentally, sell my favorite cake on the planet, pistachio and raspberry).
None of them came even close to Josephine's masterpiece.
Aside from the fun blue color, what made her macaron oh so heaveny perfect was:

1. the size. It was small, and it was fun to try to get 4 bites out of it, which made me appreciate every aspect of the following.
2. texture. The cookie part was very fresh and airy, crunchy without being dry (that's the difficult part: if you let your macarons out for too long (just 2 hours)at room temperature, they turn dry. But if you leave them in the fridge you have to take them out at least 30 minutes before or they get too dense and tasteless.
3. taste of the cookie part (I have to deconstruct it, but it has nothing to do with my Derridean-background). The greatest thing about this macaron was that it wasn't too sweet. Au contraire, the almond taste was very present, with maybe a hint of cocoa, but wasn't drowned on sugar.
4. Finally, the ganache filling. One word. WOW. It was creamy, buttery and chocolaty without being heavy and too rich and once again not too sweet, perfectly complimenting the almond cookie part.

Any negative aspect? Nope, only that it was too good for me to stop eating and take a picture of one the macaron bites for you to see the ganache. I'm sorry because it had this most perfect light brown color, looking closer to butterscotch than he usual brown paste that too many US pastries would like to pass for ganache. But it was impossible to stop eating.

Anyway, hurry, hurry, because at this hour it is likely very few of those remain.
Oh, one last thing: traditional baguette, macaron, and Red Velvet cupcake= about $6,10 (I don't recall post-decimal cents, but that wasn't much).

La Maison du Pain, on Pico and Ridgeley, one block East of Hauser. Now my personal quandary is I need to find a job nearby as I can never, ever, move out of our common neighborhood.

Some boring current art world stuff

As everybody has known officially since yesterday, Kathy Halbreich just joined MOMA. It was rather predictable and hopefully she will be able to turn around the venerable and tired institution and make it less boring. I guess hiring some non-rock-star-curators could help too. Though I bet she's going to miss the Walker intelligent trustees.

Also MassMoca is dismantling the mess that was the Christoph Büchel thing. Personally I liked the idea of keeping it up, as some kind of giant mausoleum to one artist egomania, and also as some cautionary tale for curators. Like kill this kind of problem before it gets out of hands and tell said artist to sod off. As I said previously, museums are littered with thousands of artworks shown in a way the artist never intended. It's not such an horror in itself, my only problem with the practice is when there isn't a didactic or label to explain the changes and why they are implemented (usually it is for conservation reasons, and in 1 or 2 cases it can be for safety reasons too).
The sad thing is with all that money literally wasted, it would have been possible to curate at least 3 very good one-person shows or a great group show. Of course Tyler Green is all over it, but reasonably. I'm glad he is not taking the stance of the poor artist whose vision has been betrayed by the Evil Institution.
Yep, Büchel is going to have lots of problems exhibiting in a US museum anytime soon. I see a very, very bitter mid-career moment coming up. In any case, I think it also underlines the trouble with the bigger-is-better type of work or installation approach some (usually males, but not always) artists are embracing. Gigantism doesn't necessarily makes for good artworks, even if they are very spectacular (quick! someone demonstrates this to E.B!).
And, oh, for you non-museum-staff people: they are horribly expensive to ship/transport/store/install. Unfortunately, donors generally don't see the point about funding storage, conservation or shipping. Or even about building loading docks and other practical implements, sometimes. I'm still waiting to see the Big Name Donor Totally Funded Climate-Controlled Storage Area For Gigantic Sculpture or the Mega Foundation Philanthropic Fund for Shipping Ginormous And Heavy Art Turds. And the fund for hiring extra preparators and trained installers when Big Turd comes out of Expensive Storage.

Lastly, there's an article in the Guardian about how Nan Goldin's work is not porn. I haven't read it, but it dawned on me the staff-calling-in-the cops may be some kind of vicious internal retort at director Peter Doroshenko who isn't particularly well-liked there, if I remember correctly. Well, if it's the case, low blow.

OK, more stuff later. I'm trying to do real work, and I'm working at the Thanksgiving In September post. Upcoming, Revenge of the Widows!

Random pic of Halbreich out of one of the Walker many, many blog posts and press release. I don't have the credit line, sorry.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Telex at Eurovision 1980

Before there was American Idol, there was the Eurovision song contest, an annual event where countries even outside of Europe send their cheesiest bands to compete and earn "points" (as in, "Sweden, point 15"). It's so bad it has become over the years a source of endless jokes, so much so that now some countries select fake bands a la Spinal Tap. Israel sent a tranny a few years back, and one Slovenian entry had airline-attendant-attired trannies too a bit later. Finland won with Lordi last year, you can YouTube them for further enjoyment.
Here's the 1980 Belgian entry, Telex (who does remember what a telex was, BTW?). It was some ironical attempt to deride the contest itself, but the music, hmm. VERY 1980s Eurotrash, isn't it?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

In Case You Need To Stay Up Tonight

No, I don't mean to give you tips for cool nightclubs to hit so early in the week. As a good nerd I'm becoming fairly reclusive, and I don't understand this American music scene anyway.
It's just that in the previous post I mentioned the Economist, which I buy from time to time because no matter how horribly conservative (and sexist!) they are, it is still the best information source all around.
I used to read it often. In a previous life I briefly studied economics and geopolitics before definitively switching to art history, because:

a) I suck at maths. I could do statistics, but any scientist will tell you these are not real maths. You can interpret and tweak stats ANY way you can.
b) there are only 2 and a half economics theories around, and not much space for critical and creative thinking within those except maybe within progressive Marxism
c) I couldn't sleep at night
d) art is truly, truly my thing anyway.

But occasionally I get the information urge, especially in uncertain economic times like now. The artworld is still fairly oblivious about the upcoming big time recession coming up, as it is still referred to as "the housing market/subprime lending crisis/credit crunch" in the majority of the mainstream US media.
Gold has shot up today, in case you haven't noticed, and James K. Galbraith* -who's not half an imbecile, if you ask me- recently told the European media we are in a situation very close to 1929. Ah, and well, Alan Greenspan, Mr. Realpolitik himself,he hasn't been very comforting recently.

So if like me you are currently unemployed/self-employed/under-employed in the artworld, you have lots of worries on your mind today.
By sheer masochism, I'm linking to the Jane's Intelligence Group, which used to publish a magazine called by some incredible and random luck Jane's Intelligence (maybe it was a weekly? I don't remember). Anyway, if you need to stay up all night to give a call abroad or finish some project, just have a click. Scary, isn't it?

*He's the son of Kenneth Galbraith

I don't know where the pic of the Elmo suicide is coming from, apologies for the lack of credit line.

Angelina Jolie Arendtstein!

Dear devoted readers,

4 of you responded to the Wittgenstein/Arendt poll, the answers being evenly divided between Arendtstein (easier to pronounce than Wittgenrendt I suppose) and Angelina Jolie, coming straight from a Belgian orphanage. (BTW, Belgium is about to implode. Read recent issues of The Economist and a bit of the Guardian to have an idea of the situation).
Congratulations for not opting for Karl Jaspers as it would have been chronologically impossible!

So I guess if Hannah (not HanHan, sorry for the typo) and Ludwig had a child, it would have to be Angelina Jolie Arendstein. She's going to meet Guattaleuze, the impossible offspring of Leibniz and Spinoza, and maybe, maybe something else entirely is going to get out of this meeting.

In the meantime I'm going to scratch my head for a new poll. Your suggestions are welcome.

Are they really so stupid at BALTIC????

I was perusing the homepage when I came across this snippet of information. Censorship in the art is not new, but an exhibition center alerting the police about its own exhibition content??? Hello???
Did they even have a look at their checklist prior to organizing the show? If you need to remove something under pressure from whatever upcoming imaginary censors, why call in the police for God sake? Remove that image yourself before the opening if you are such wimps.
The way the article is phrased you would think the curators had no idea what was happening inside their own gallery space. Jerome Sans, please tell me it ain't so.

I'd be ready to bet instead that some non-curatorial staff decided to be offended and called in the poulets without telling their supervisor first. I haven't seen the incriminated picture, but knowing Goldin's work I'd bet it's a snapshot of some mundane scene, since she doesn't really stage her pictures. I can't comment on it, but if staff have a problem with some artworks they need to address whatever problem from within their institution.
Personally I find David Hamilton's photographs much more obscene than whatever Goldin has ever produced. You know, these soft-porn ubiquitous color scenes you could spot on every bathroom wall during the 1970s. Repulsive with their blurred pastel atmosphere. There's an expression for this type of imagery in French: cucul la praline.

A bit of required classic Freud reading on children sexuality for the cops and the BALTIC staff wouldn't hurt, I guess. Or look at some Greuze paintings for a look at historical obscenity. Case in point: the picture above is a Greuze painting of a young girl weeping for her dead bird, i.e. her virginity. She doesn't seem any day older than 12, no? 18th century porn for you, dear reader.

KATERINE - Excuse Moi -Mrzyk Moriceau

An animation by Mrzyk and Moriceau for the French singer Katerine. The lyrics starts: "Excuse me I have ejaculated in your hair I didn't think it could unload like this but when you do things like this I can't help it..." The rest is very nonsensical "I'm thinking about the chair in the dentist's waiting room when no one is sitting on it".Etc. Not the best Katerine song but a virtuoso video by M+M

Monday, September 24, 2007

Michael Smith Retrospective, Yay!!!!

Rita G., Da Best Curator In Town, kindly signaled to my attention the ongoing Michael Smith retrospective at the Blanton. The good news is it will be traveling to Philadelphia next Spring at the excellent ICA. So I'll probably get to see it if I travel back East.
It's been curated by Annette DiMeo Carlozzi. The Blanton has a pretty good encyclopedic exhibition program, and the ICA with the ever excellent Ingrid Schaffner presents a very interesting one too. The Barry Le Va retrospective a few years ago is a case in point.
Anyway, I'm overjoyed. I think Smith has been overlooked because his work is clearly hilariously funny, and in this country you have to prove some kind of (oft boring) gravitas for your work to be considered. In addition his performances are on the gentler side, closer to stand up comedy than the suffering and endurance one tends to associate with performance art.

Picture, from the Blanton's site:
Michael Smith, b. Chicago, 1951, and
Alan Herman, b. New York, 1944
Government Approved Home Fallout Shelter/Snack Bar, 1983 (detail)
Photo: Kevin Noble

Portland, the new Mecca

I'm so ignorant about US geography that until 2 years ago I didn't know there was a Portland in Maine. In any case, I'm not going to speak about it, but just mention that a few artists I know are either moving to Portland, Oregon, or spending lots of time there. My friend Sal moved there last year, and my friend Donald spends between 3 and 6 months there every year. I'm curious about it myself and would like to visit it someday, to see what's going on.
In the meantime, Sal forwarded me the link for this blog, portlandart. You can get a glimpse of how things are.

Sal also sent me a link for a video he made, which I will post separately. I probably will post more of my artists friends stuff in the future, if they let me.

This Saturday in Riverside

An announcement for this event in Riverside where my friends Pam Strugar and April Durham are showing. I'm not sure I will be fit enough to drive that far (I still get tired real fast), though I wish I could.
Pam told me she is showing old work alongside new ones there, I am not sure what April will do. Anyway, I hope you can go and support them.

Mrzyk and Moriceau Drawings

Petra and Jean-Francois graciously sent me a few drawings, here they are. Enjoy!

It's Canada Dry Day!

Happy Birthday, Daniel C., my favorite Canadian F...... (party of 1!). Today, you are officially becoming an old fart! As they say in your Queen's old country.
My very best wishes to you, I'm sure you are going to get some decadent dessert to celebrate your big day.
Thanks for being such a good friend to me, for taking me to urgent care when I was ill, helping me with my grocery shopping when I couldn't move, and more generally be such a supportive friend. I appreciate your willingness to help me quench my espresso cravings and get me out of the house when it was hard for me to even think.

I don't thank you for indulging my sweet tooth and for all the subsequent hours of swimming I have to endure to correct that. No, I won't take up smoking to become as skinny as you are, even though you are downing more sugar than any other living creature on this planet. My most heartfelt thanks for being here when you are needed. It is such a rare quality.

I'm sorry you have to drive to Cosa Mesa for work today, and I sure hope you will get one of Dainties cupcakes to make up for it tonight.

And, oh. Hhmm. Quit smoking for good???

Sunday, September 23, 2007

A MassMoca Mess?

I read this article last week and was about to post about it, but spent too long working on the Scholars and Curators Deathmatch.
There's an update as apparently a judge allowed MassMoca to go ahead but I cannot find it on the site.
In any case, I could find dozens of examples of artworks not shown the way the artist intended, starting with Rauschenberg's Monogram (encased in Plexiglas) at the MoCA retrospective, Beuys' Plight at the Pompidou (there's a rail that prevents visitors to enter the installation) to many, many Old Masters who have been defaced, sawed off (Velazquez, anyone?) or removed from their original space (yep, it's possible to remove frescoes). It's sad, but it happens more often than not.
The work is unfinished, so what? How many unfinished works are shown out there? They were routinely finished by other artists during the Renaissance, and more recently Richard Serra finished Amarillo Ramp after Smithson's Death in 1973. If Christoph Büchel couldn't come up with a solution to either finish off or modify his project, then he had a megalomania problem, not an artistic one.

And as far as MassMoca and the whole controversy is concerned: me too, if an artist was making me running twice over budget and send me such an unreasonable list (a burnt plane fuselage? Hello?), I'd tell him to sod off. I don't think they acted that smartly, because if you ask me Büchel's work is not worth such a controversy, but I don't really know what went on there. And nooooooo, Büchel's career won't be over because of this. He'd rather benefit. Next time, maybe he and the curators should ask Hauser and Wirth to bring in the monies to finish the work...

The devil is my friend

To change from the very long Scholars and Curators Deathmatch post, a video after the Jazz Butcher song, The Devil Is My Friend.
One of my favorite bands of all time.

Curators And Scholars Deathmatch!!!

I was going to title this post “Institutional Critique And Its Discontent,” just to prove to the random graduate student who may stumble on this blog that, I, too, master the lingo. Pfew ! Dear readership, you escaped something.
Full disclosure, for those of my inadvertent readers on the scholarly side who may think I don’t know what I’m talking about: I do. I swear, I do!

What prompted this post was an encounter with a former colleague at a very cool party, a few weeks ago.
My friend had left the museum world almost 3 years ago to attend a Ph. D. program in art history in one of LA’s region local universities. No, I’m not going to tell you which one. The best one of them, yes. She’s terrifically smart.
During the course of our conversation, after I asked her if she was happy with her program, she turned to me and said: “You know what? These art historians, they are not like us”. What??? Did she mean they ate little children for breakfast? Or ignored the use of deodorant? (I'm afraid some of them do).
So I pressed her on, and she continued by saying how academics didn’t care for the art and its interpretation the way curators (and generally speaking, museum people) do.
I was a bit startled, not by her reflection but by the fact that I felt something similar too. I had dismissed my feelings as essentially another proof of my inherent restlessness and my ever-present ability to get bored very, very quickly.

I was fascinated by this conversation because the dichotomy between Academia and museum people here seems so acute I had trouble to believe it when I came back to continue my career in sunny California. I couldn’t understand how people kept on asking me what I was.
Was I a critic? A curator? An art historian? A teacher? A writer?
I still don’t understand why I would have to choose and why I couldn’t be all of the above? I mean, in Europe it’s routine to wear many hats in the art world, if only because art jobs pay so little it is impossible to survive without having several activities. No one can pay the rent by being an art critic alone, freelance curating certainly doesn’t bring as much money as the amount of work that goes into mounting an exhibition should be worth, and all teaching jobs tend to be part-time. None of these separately can cover the insane rents charged in Paris or London, for instance. So everyone does everything and the quality of the work doesn’t seem to otherwise suffer. Actually, Euro art critics (they all teach and some of them curate) tend to be more educated, well-rounded and interesting than their US counterparts. Daniel Birnbaum, Isabelle Graw or Jan Verwoert come to mind.

So I never, for the life of me, even thought I had to make a decision and stick to just ONE of these activities. Also, I am used to the ongoing dialogue in Europe between academics and art people. In Paris I routinely saw Sorbonne instructors and professors alike at openings or simply gallery-hopping. Many museum people attend public lectures by renowned academics. In fact most museums in France routinely schedule conferences, symposia and lectures in the “expanded field” (to borrow a term from Rosalind Krauss). These tend to be free, but most importantly they are part of the regular programming at museums, where it is believed the general public can round up its intellectual education, in addition to aesthetic pleasure provided by the art. Indeed, both are inseparable in everybody’s mind.
There isn’t that much of a distinction between highbrow and lowbrow culture either and many academics don’t feel threatened by popular culture the way they are in the US.
It is true Euro-Academia tends to be conservative, but there is a little bit more openness and leeway in Europe I believe. For example my friend Jessie Bi wrote his Ph D. dissertation on “Silent Comics” and he didn’t have to flee the Art History Department for some improbable Cultural Studies or Linguistics one.
In addition, at my second (don’t ask) Alma Mater the Ecole du Louvre, roughly 90% of the faculty is composed of curators and/or museum people. It is in fact a school requirement that the teaching body as a whole should have a real art world credential/job/work experience. And everyone publishes, whether it is art criticism or scholarly articles. In fact the Pompidou publishes one very distinguished learned journal, Les Cahiers Du MNAM (a cross between October and Art Journal, but less dogmatic than October), and the Louvre publishes La Revue Du Louvre (sorry, no direct link). So all in all I never really felt there was that much of a gap between the two worlds, with the exception that academics are generally not that much up to date on contemporary art, but they should be given credit for trying.

I had a first inkling of how different things were in the US when SoCCAs organized an event at LACMA called “Institutional Critique And After”. For my 2 non-art readers, Institutional Critique (IC)* is some highfalutin name given to a branch of conceptual/post-conceptual art that finds nothing better to do than interrogate art institutions practices embodied by The Museum In General (not the art schools and the art history programs, incidentally). It’s been developed by artists, most famously Daniel Buren in France. In Southern California the best-known artist is Michael Asher, and in NYC that would be Andrea Fraser, though some think only Hans Haacke is the real deal. IC started as a reflection on the “White Cube” (the always white physical space of the contemporary art galleries) but soon enough branched into a critique of the art institutions themselves, collectively dumped into the The Museum category .
Why The Museum, dear non-art reader? Well, because all artists want to show there and become part of the collections. They don’t critique commercial galleries that much because they know no art dealer would ever be coerced in feeling guilty about not showing them (ha!), nor do they blame Academia because in many cases, they are part of it, and if not they know that even though Academia is where art history is written, it is not where their potential audience lies.

I didn’t participate much in the organization of the symposium itself for family reasons, but Rita G., Da Best Curator In This Town, did work on it quite a bit, but I watched from afar, mostly. I must say I found it funny how an academic organization approached the museum when looking for a host, as they pretty well knew the museum wouldn’t have said no or we would have passed for a bunch of conservatives nitwits unwilling to review our own institutional flailing. Thus being cornered into graciously blocking an auditorium, getting the cost of the symposium organization shouldered more than partially by our institution, the thing had to pursue it course. Didn’t they need us, these Institutional critics!

[In all fairness I'm speaking more generally about the documents I read prior to the symposium than about what went on there, as I have almost no recollection of what was said then and since I don't have the book handy, I'm drawing big generalizations about IC, rather than reporting anything specific debated about at the symposium]

In any case I was a bit taken aback at some of the swipes against The Museum As A General Category Representing The Institution At Large, when really the collective enemy, if there really has to be one, should have been either The Unbridled Market (usually defended by Dave Hickey, absent there) or maybe The Absence of Political Consensus To Support The Arts.
Don’t most artists want to be represented in museums collections or have exhibitions there? Yes, I thought so too. Selling is good for the wallet, but it doesn’t bring in any prestige, let alone historical status. As far as being only recognized in the pages of October or Critical Inquiry, well , that’s pretty much the only place where someone like, say, Silvia Kolbowski has some recognized existence. Not sure she has something going on elsewhere, no?.

Another encounter with a large congregation of academics drove the point home when I attended the CAA annual meat market fest in Boston** in 2006. (Note to Mike and Annie: no, not that CAA. This one. As dreary as the Century City Death Star-looking building, but far less moneyed). Granted, I was still in a catatonic state of shock, owing to a very spectacular car crash on the day where I had to fly in, but even if I make abstraction of it, I still made this astonishing discovery: US academics are NOT funny. But really, really not.

It was winter,snowing and cold, OK but :

a) no one had any fashion sense, regardless of gender and/or sexual orientation (FYI male art historians have an overwhelming tendency to be gay, with maybe the exception of photo people when they specialize in photojournalism).
b) everyone took themselves soooooooo seriously.
c) most people seemed to walk as if they had a broomstick stuck up their a…..
d) no one seemed to care about art itself. Just the discourse about it.
e) conversations were dreadful, boring and generally tense.
f) the gala party was one of the gloomiest, bleakest, dreariest, ghastliest affair I have ever attended, and God knows how many social functions I have been to in my professional art life.

I did stick to my fellow museum colleagues and friends because they seemed so much more real than all these newly minted Ph.D. hunting for tenure track positions. There were a few exceptions, like people from Williams who seemed normal and nice and to enjoy food and partying. Like us art people.
But I never really felt at home until I met with MIT curator Bill Arning who kindly told me about the Giant Art Party there, and when we got there Austen and I ran into Michael Smith! Aaahhh, relief. Smith had just made a new video, where he was taking this MIT online course to become an air traffic controller. Hilarious, as usual. Hurry, someone to give him a well-deserved retrospective! I hadn’t seen Smith in about 8 years and it was nice to see what he was doing. Plus, he is in person a very agreeable fellow. And he has the BEST eyebrows in the entire artworld, and probably the rest of the universe too.

Anyway, what I gathered from these encounters, lectures and discussions at CAA, and at the IC symposium, and from this discussion with my former colleague, was that US academics despise museum people, and more generally tend to consider us as a bunch of largely under-educated retarded trust-fund babies who can’t distinguish between Identity Politics and Post-Structuralism. Not that it is very useful when fundraising to mount a Tacida Dean retrospective, mind you.
My former colleague told me they went as far as telling her how surprised they were at the quality of her work, “given where she was coming from”. Never mind she had an MA, spoke several languages fluently, and hey, she’s smart too! Like, they got her into their program to rescue her from a miserable life of obscurantism in the museum world?
Not only this, but museum staff must be amongst the most over-educated, underpaid demographic on the planet. You would never believe the number of people who routinely hold MA.s at every level: secretaries, registrars, technicians, etc.
The fact that to be a curator in most museums nowadays you have to be at least an ABD, and many, many of us hold Ph.D. doesn’t seem to have registered in Academia. And, oh, you know, these language exams you have to take when doing your coursework? You know what, in museums we have to use foreign languages ALL THE TIME. Most of us are fluent in 2 or 3 languages. We SPEAK them when we go abroad. No, we don’t get our graduate students or TA.s to translate essays and articles for us, we’re grown-ups. In clear, we come from the same world as you, you boring nitwits. We even read your obscure and often poorly written publications, in case we’d like to give you asylum in our catalogues. Yes, that catalogue essay paid for your nice mid-century Danish dining table and chairs. If we were not so busy doing fundraising, maintaining our collection, deaccessing, we would write the essays ourselves.

What strikes me the most with his huge gap is the way US art historians tend to forget that art is object-oriented, even when it’s conceptual (see the upcoming Lawrence Weiner show at MOCA). Duh. It’s very nice to publish stuff about the theory of the gaze or the scopic impulse, but if there wasn’t an art object in the first place, what would be the subject of your savant musings? Art as idea as idea, maybe so, but even Kosuth’s thoughts are embodied in a physical dimension.
Not only this is an evidence (or it should be), but another one is museums are the places where art is physically cared for.
Art doesn’t exist only in the virtual world of slides or jpegs, no matter what Walter Benjamin wrote about mechanical reproduction. Maybe the aura was destroyed in your scholarly minds (and only there, mind you)***, but if you were doing your art historian job correctly, you would bother to check some inessential things such as: size, color, scale, volume, small details, etc. So you wouldn't state gross mistakes because the color on your reproduction is off.For example.

But really, aside from the fact that many, many museum curators are scholars in their own right and often curate groundbreaking exhibitions, what I find compelling is the absence of academics roaming around town to look at the art (with the huge exception of Thomas Crow, who has now departed the Getty for NYU. Tom, we miss you). You almost never see any of the art history various local faculties at openings or even contacting museums to bring their classes and look at the art in person. It seems they all believe art is better viewed in dark classes, watching slides or PowerPoint presentations. I almost never run into scholars when gallery hopping or visiting various museums, with the exception once again of the Getty people, who operate in a research center linked to a museum and not in a degree-granting university.
Lastly, most exhibitions curated by scholars suck. I can name two on the top of my head: L’Informe, in 1996 at the Pompidou, curated by Rosalind Krauss and Yve-Alain Bois, which as a totally rigid, formalist, dogmatic installation, totally betrayed the Bataille “concept” (of formlessness/shapelessness) they were trying to demonstrate. And Voici, at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels (in 2001 I think) curated by someone I like very much and under whom I have done research, Thierry de Duve. It was so poorly installed despite great artworks I felt really terrible for de Duve, who is such a kind and nice man in addition to a first-rate Duchamp scholar (and wrote great things about Jeff Wall too!).
Sadly, art historians tend to be text-oriented as opposed to visually bent. If art history was solely left to them without us**** museum people, it is likely very little art would ever appeal to the public in general. Because you cannot hang art works with ideas and chronology alone: it looks terrible.

Anyway, I’m past 2,500 words and counting, so the result is: academics, you bunch of hypocrites, be more respectful of us or else we’ll boycott your essays in our catalogues. You will have to find something else to pay for your next vacation in Tuscany. And please try to take yourselves less seriously, you're not really fun to hang out with. Maybe that's why you despise us in fact: you are secretly envious of our parties!

*In passing, I find it funny how IC was meant as a critique of The Institution, but its name could as well mean the critique has become an institution itself, as in the Mexican PRI or Institutional Revolutionary Party.
** Dear DLC, if I ever have to go back to Boston, please let me know where I can get great espresso. I was miserable the whole time there and I’m sure it’s because I didn’t know where to look. Thanks in advance!
*** a real ambitious scholar should revisit this essay in the light of the 70 years of history that have passed and see how it has stood the test of time. It’s pretty obvious to me that despite some marginal cases of sellout (Magritte, Dali, Impressionists) the iconic quality of the artwork remains.
****I’m including myself even though I’m not working in a museum at present, but I’ll get back home as soon as there’s some room for me.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Atone, atone, atone!

To all my (very) numerous Jewish readership, my best wishes for Yom Kippur. It starts tonight and unfortunately with the time difference I am late to send the same wishes to my cherished friends back home. Anyway, atone deeply, thoroughly and well, and the same to the rest of the world. We should all join in the atonement thing, the planet sure could use more of it.

My apologies also for being late with the Scholars and Curators Death Match post. I'm still working on it and it's currently clocking at over 2,000 words. But mostly, I burnt myself badly while cooking yesterday and typing is a bit slow and complicated. I hope to be finished either today or tomorrow.

Thanks, and a good Yom Kippur to everyone.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Coming soon on a blog near you!

So to please my ever-demanding die-hard fans (Hi Rita!) I am now working on the Scholars vs. Curators post (just in case, you know, curators couldn't be scholars too. Though scholars are rarely able to curate decent shows themselves).

In the meantime, a picture from yesterday's coffee break with Daniel, who reprsents the core of my audience. We had lunch at Bloom Cafe on Pico (about 1 block West of Hauser) and shared a cupcake for dessert. In passing let's start a motion to reduce the cupcake sizes in LA, these are way too big. Yesterday's was good, but doesn't beat my favorite ones, Dainties. I'm not that much into icing or buttercream, so Dainties' flavored whipped cream toppings are perfect for me.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Jazz Butcher Conspiracy - Peter Lorre

From my all time favorite band. Now, is Max Eider Sidney Greenstreet to Pat Fish's Peter Lorre?
I'd like a nice video of Domestic Animal too

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Times - I Helped Patrick McGoohan Escape

My Distinguished Literary Correspondent just signaled this to my attention. I didn't know The Times and I must say it was a gap in y education. So thanks to DLC for sharing!

And don't forget the poll!

At the bottom of this page.

More art posts to come

So my devoted readership (mostly Rita and Victoria) have ben asking me to write more art pieces. Will do, but these take more time than the fluff chowhound/foodie/Pop culture posts; and I have to take care of my life and find some type of lucrative work to help pay the rent. So, until LACMA, the Hammer and MoCa hire me to blog for them, the art posting will be relatively sporadic. Also, you guys can contribute some nice anonymous guest blogging if you like. This space is wide open.

Also, even though I am doing much better I still get exhausted easily. The 10 minutes drive to Culver City on Saturday was so exhausting I could only see the Ruben Ochoa show. Michael Queenland wasn't open yet. I'll go back to see it and will likely review both shows here, but I probably won't be able to do much gallery hopping and art openings for a little while.
Also coming up, a post on museum collecting and funding in Los Angeles, and another one on the huge gap between academics and museum people in the US. Spoiler alert: academics are stiff and boring!
Check this space often for art stuff, and for my two non-art readers (Hi Annie and Mike!) there will still be some foodie, book and other type of stuff.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Some strange similarities between Aaron Young and Ben Morieson

I was scanning the NYT homepage yesterday morning when I ran across this article. I vaguely know of Aaron Young's work, which I've seen on a few occasion. Usually well made, but way too fashionable for my taste, and let's say it frankly, it is very male-macho-let's-try very-hard-to-be-hip kind of work for my taste. It's very alluring and agreeably seducing, deliberately oriented toward a certain age group. Not my cup of tea, but I understand the appeal, though I am usually more interested in long-term potential than instant fashionability.

However, when I saw the picture and read the article it rang a bell. Wasn't there an Australian artist doing exactly the same kind of work a while ago? I remember seeing some videos of it 7 years ago. I may even have met Ben Morieson, I'm not sure about it but he certainly worked with some Aussie artists I like very much, such as Daniius Kesminas.
The difference really is Morieson staged his Burnout performances outdoors and used cars rather than bikes, but really the idea sounds very, very similar to me.

So, dear reader, I was about to ask you to click on the few links I'm providing and ask you if you think there are no strange similarities between Young's performance and the one Morieson staged a few years ago.
But then, contrary to the pioneering spirit of Web 2.0 and websites run by idiots such as this one, my scholarly training got a hold on me. Was I about to accuse some artist of ripping off another without checking my sources? No. I cannot do this, however tempting it would be. You see, as a trained art historian I am supposed to check and double-check and use reliable sources, written documents published by reputable scholars as well as primary sources.

So I checked, and if the NYT article is correct* in stating that Young made his first attempt in the "High Performnce" video dated 2000 then he my have taken precedence to Ben Morieson. Morieson most famous Burnout piece is dated 2001 (and is even in the Guinness Book of World Records).
So chronologically Young would have precedence, but if he did his video while at school I doubt it was widely distributed. So in term of first public appearance, Morieson would be the first one**.

Now, the problem is not that much of artists doing roughly the same kind of work several continents apart. It happens a lot in fact and it mostly display the problem of the spread of information in the artworld.
The problem is more a question of diffusion and of the ignorance and provincialism of US art critics, curators and media alike. Au passage, I tend to find US art critics particularly ignorant when art history is concerned. It's puzzling that people who have such a superficial knowledge can be entrusted in reviewing art for a general audience, no?
I'm not particularly knowledgeable about Australian art myself, but I had memories of Morieson's piece.
Therefore curators responsible for picking up Young's work and helping him stage his performance, or selecting him for the 2006 Whitney Biennial, should have done a bit of homework themselves andtold him about Morieson's work. Which would have allowed for Young to either modify his work (artists should be flexible, right?) or at least address the fact that someone had publicly done the same type of work. Because now, it looks like he has been ripping off Morieson, even if he had made his video a little bit before.

The 2 pictures are from Ben Morieson 2001 Burnout performance. I don't have the correct credit line, so copyright is likely Ben Morieson, 2001.

* because we know how accurate the NYT is in checking its sources...
** I'm trying to contact Morieson to see if he has made some work prior to 2000 that would be the starting point for his Burnout pieces. I'm pretty sure he has, but either way I'll update the post once I know.

Sunday, September 16, 2007


No, this is not a new Belgian beer imported to sunny California, but the result of our poll. Remember, dear overeducated reader, we were trying to find a name for the mutant offspring of Leibniz and Spinoza. Spiniz never really got a chance, Leibnoza neither, but Guattaleuze won by a whopping 60% of the polled readers.
That makes 3 of you!
Well, I'm not sure about Guattari's interest in either Leibniz or Spinoza, but Deleuze did publish a book on Spinoza at the beginning of his career (full disclosure: I've read it and I don't remember any of it). He also published The Fold on Leibniz (and the Baroque), which I own and remember slightly better because of some footnotes on minimalism.

Anyway, it's time to start a new poll. I'm out of ideas, as it is late on Sunday evening and my cat is trying to catch the arrow on my laptop screen (she makes me feel so much like I'm a real writer! she tried to sleep on my keyboard earlier tonight).

So, just for fun, let's try to find a name for another monstrous coupling: Ludwig Wittgenstein and Hannah Arendt! (I couldn't do Derrida and Nelson Goodman, sorry, it's beyond my imagination).
In the meantime, I am STILL waiting for your Supernerd drawings and for the Art Celebrity Sightings. You guys never go out aside from openings???

And, as for the poll, I mistyped and poor Hannah Arendt became HanHan, but I apparently cannot edit the poll once someone has voted. Interesting, I cannot rig my own blog, pffff...

Some interesting facts I didn't gather from Chowhound

So, aside from Patrick McGoohan sightings, there are some really interesting threads on Chowhounds. Not the ones about the Frenchier-than-me anal retentive types (anyway, you CANNOT be Frenchier than me, even though I am half Spanish), but the ones where everyones pitches in and at the end you are none the wiser. Very entertaining and helpful for urgent procrastination.

Case in point: this one. The original poster really got me hungry, especially since I almost never make it to the SGV (too far away). But after reading this one, I still don't know: a) how to pronounce xiao long bao and b) I still don't understand why the soup dumplings at Luscious Dumplings are not XLB. I mean, for all we know, they may be the owner/chef's take on XLB, no?
If you were to ask me whether the moules frites at la Dijonnaise are the real deal, I could tell you: not a 100% my regional take on it because they add cream to the broth, but they are pretty darn good. If I was a purist, I could even tell you they don't make moules frites in Dijon, it's too far from the sea.I don't care if they are not what I'd make at home, as they are a reasonable approximation of it. So, are the soup dumpling at Luscious Dumplings XLB or not? I don't know, and I don't care, but I'd love to try them! These pictures are food porn for sure.

But the thread that drove me absolutely nuts is this one. It is probably the most useless and most fascinating discussion ever. But at the end we are left without knowing what this woman did!
Did she write to Miss Manners to solve her problem?
Did she called the guy's wife?
Did her husband had a man-to-man discussion with the gars lourd?
Or did the guest arrive with his unwanted dish, got humiliated beyond belief and gunned down everyone in the party, thus explaining the absence of resolution?

I mean, it's obvious what she had to do. Smile, be gracious, accept the humble-not-so-humble-after-all offerings, serve them along the rest of her menu and thanks the poor guy's wife. And feel sympathy for the woman married to such a moron. Gee. No need to rouse a zillion procrastinators to find a solution. But leaving us without an answer is so graceless and ill-mannered! I am dying to know what happened!

PS: I stole the pictures from an innumerable series of images tagged "xia long bao" on Google. But I don't know whether they are XIB or not. Ooooo, ignorance you will make me lose sleep tonight...


This post just to generate a Google alert at the Hammer. Could you guys program Black Leotard Front one of these days??? One of the best performance group-take on performance art ever. And maybe you could sell DFA records and Delia Gonzalez/Gavin Russom's Friday. Please? It would be perfect for the Billy Wilder Theater!
And, while I'm it: a good Michael Smith retrospective. He's such an under-recognized artist AND he is a cool, nice guy. Go for it, go for it Mike!
And maybe a bit of the Kushar Brothers too?
Oh well, I guess you guys should hire me to revamp your program.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Un petit tour

Dear devoted readership,

I am sorry to bitterly disappoint you, but there won't be any Grand Tour post. I've written about half of it and then totally lost interest. So, if it is boring for me, I can't imagine what it could be for you. Instead, je vais aller faire un petit tour today and go see Ruben Ochoa's exhibition and hopefully Michael Queenland at LAXart if it's open pre-reception, and I'll tell you what I think about it.

Tomorrow I'll spend some time on museum collections and will post about it later.
Meanwhile, for my non-art readers who still don't know what the Grand Tour is: think the Cannes festival meets Sundance meets the Academy awards, but in 3 European countries (Venice, Basel and a couple of bleak cities in Germany) over a 2-week period. Lots of glamorous parties too, but hey, it's the artworld so no one is fabulously good looking. But we do have roughly the same amount of navel-gazing, self-absorbed arrogant jerks and moron as in The Industry, so you're not missing out that much. There's the art too and some of it may even be good but there's too much brown noise that interferes with the viewing. So, all in all, BO-RING.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Some interesting fact I gathered from Chowhound

Bonjour chez vous!

Sometimes when you browse on Chowhound, if you sift through all the anal-retentive holier-than-thou types - in French: psychorigides - who have scientifically proven that Italian espresso is not as good as whatever they can brew at home, you find some interesting tidbits.
Such as below:

[from a thread about bars open at 6 AM]

Del's Saloon on Santa Monica and Bundy. But if you are in the neighborhood I would choose the Gaslight. You'll often see the actor Patrick McGoohan (Braveheart, The Prisoner) there that early.

Blimey! First of all I always believed Patrick McGohan was still frozen in time and lived eternally in Portmeirion.
I had such a crush on him when I was 12! I was totally hooked up on The Prisoner*, one of the best TV series of all times (with the Avengers, the ones with Emma Peel). Well, there's no chance I'll be up that early to celebrity-spot my pre-teenage crush, plus I'm sure I will be heartbroken if I discover a puffy, preserved-in-gin-gimlet older gent. Plus he really is an older gent: 79 years old.

Plus, at 6 AM I'd rather have three espressos/espressi 'cause I am not a number, I am a free woman. I think my favorite espresso spot is not open that early anyway (on Larchmont, the Italian place/deli that's right next to the Leonidas chocolate store). But you can spot me there at more decent hours. Till then... Be seeing you!

* confidential to my DLC: hey Mike, could you ever get McGohan to star in one of your shows??? Please, please, please!!!!!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

And Happy Rosh Hashanah!

Happy holidays to my very numerous Jewish readership and to my Jewish friends back home! And also to my Gentile readers, personally I'm all for adding holidays to everyone's calendars, including the non-religious celebrations. I'm not 100% certain about the date as I thought it was starting tomorrow but I just checked and it's apparently tonight.
Anyway, have a great time all!

Pause café

There's no reason for this post really, I'm just having a coffee break as the title indicates. A cup (stovetop-made) Illy, with a Valrhona chocolate stick and a pistachio financier from La Maison du Pain, and life is per-fect...
Post to you later, I'm going to spend some time with my kitten Pomme.

More Food For Thoughts

Chicken, Mushrooms and asparagus in a beer and mustard sauce.

A recipe I've made yesterday for my friend Devi's belated B-Day celebration. I had this bottle of beer I bought at TJ's to make Welsh Rarebit, but unfortunately my oven/broiler stopped functioning, so I had to recycle the beer somehow. I've tried to morph the cheddar/beer/Worcester sauce combo into fondue. Don't try this at home, OK?.
So here's what I came up with.
I don't really know what the beer was (ale? stout?), hopefully you can guess from the picture (that insists to show sideways. Well, move your head) and go get it at TJs. It was right next to the Ace Pear Cider and had a beautiful label.


. 2 chicken breasts, diced (I buy organic but whatever you do in your kitchen is none of my concern)
. a bit of flour
. 1 onion, sliced
. 1 pack mushroom (I used crimini)
. 1 bunch fresh green asparagus
. 2 cloves garlic, diced

. 1 bottle beer
. some Worcester sauce
. real Dijon mustard (the TJ's one is the closest to the one back home, though not as fiery)
. Creme Fraiche
. salt and paper, a sprig of thyme and a couple bay leaves.

I've made everything in my non-stick skillet because I do not own a Staub cocotte, so now you know what I want for Xmas (the 7 q oval one in yellow, failing this the round 8 q yellow). Pool your resources, devoted readership, and make this Frenchy happy!


Roll your chicken pieces in a bit of flour to coat evenly. Heat a bit of olive oil in your skillet/Staub cocotte, saute the chicken until it turns a lovely brownish color. Take the chicken out and transfer the onion in the skillet, turn down the heat a little bit. When your onion starts to look translucent, add the 'shrooms. Stir everything frequently. When the 'shrooms look cooked, add the asparagus and the garlic, stir for about a minute, then add the chicken, pour the beer slowly over everything, to cover. Add the thyme and bay leaves, about one (small) tablespoon Worcester sauce, 5 or 6 tablespoons mustard (don't freak out, cooked mustard tastes very mild, almost sweet), a bit of salt and pepper, stir and let simmer gently for 10/15 minutes.
When this is done, switch off the heat and add 1 or 2 very generous tablespoons of creme fraiche.
Stir until it is evenly mixed, and voilà! a very decent meal for 2 persons. Devi had second and I had the leftovers for lunch, so I guess if you cook a bit of rice or potatoes to go with it you have enough for 4 people.


Bulletin Board

Hi my devoted readership,

apologies for very light posting lately, and thanks for your kind inquiries regarding my health. I'm in fact much better if not 100% back to normal, since I've stepped up the physical therapy/neckbrace wearing/swimming regimen. I am now able to do more things and I have of course a backlog of errands/paperwork/real work to tackle and therefore less time to blog, plus I still get tired easily.

The Grand Tour post should appear tonight hopefully, and more art stuff later (my non-foodie readership has been protesting there wasn't enough art on FBC!).
So to make you patient a little bit, just a few openings this week:

. The Cosima von Bonin show at MoCA, curated by Ann Goldstein. Should be very, very interesting. Von Bonin is not as well-known here as she should, so please flock in mass to discover her work. As usual: VIPs on Thursday, hoi polloi on Saturday. I won't attend either (post physical therapy it's hard for me to stand up for too long) but please say hi to Ann for me. Thanks! There's also Gordon Matta-Clark opening at the same location. I love Matta-Clark's works, but after seeing the show at the Whitney this Spring, and reminiscing from the 1990s European retrospective (yes, in Europe curators are always 10 years ahead of the US, cf.Robert Smithson) I think now his work is better preserved in film and book form. It can only be experienced as a document, rather than as an artwork.

. Richard Hawkins at Richard Telles this Friday. I'm far from being a Hawkins fan (I do find his works derivative, though his painting is better than the collages/photoshop works he is mainly known for) but many of my friends like him, so go support him. The sculptures look interesting actually, but the collages, hmmm, despite his use of a great Kouros (you know I'm a sucker for Greek art). I also like Richard Telles programming a lot, but parking so definitively sucks there I wished he would move his gallery elsewhere. And close later!

. Lari Pittman at Regen Projects.

. It opened last week, but Ruben Ochoa's show is up at Susanne Vielmetter. Susanne Veilmetter currently represents Ruben as well as Edgar Arceneaux, two of Los Angeles most promising artists of their generation. I wish she would represent Mark Bradford too!

. And all these artists have already exhibited in some way or other at LAXart, where Michael Queenland is having an opening too this Saturday. LAXart has also shown my old friend Vincent Johnson this Summer, but I unfortunately missed his show as I was in Europe.

That's enough for your art social life of the week, no?

I've stolen that pic from another blog, you artsy-fartsy people will recognize a certain bar. Which I in fact dislike: too uncomfortable and noisy, and wine is unspeakable and expensive (compared to beer, which I dislike). And the crowd, arrgh. Art people are wayyyyy too serious and full of themselves.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Ça me rend chèvre!!!

As most displaced immigrants the world over, this Frenchy sometimes gets homesick, and as with many immigrants, my homesickness usually translates in food cravings. Fortunately I can cook, but of course there are many things and ingredients I cannot find.
Like real hard cider (it's sparkling and alcoholic and strong and pairs with absolutely everything), Calvados (it is something we make in Normandy, not something we buy. It has usually a 70% alcohol content) real charcuterie or goat cheese. Sure, you can find plaster-like white logs in any supermarket here, but that's what they are, tasteless plaster.
Now I must say there have been major improvements in locating decent cheeses here and California is blessed in the sense that you can find raw milk products. But still, the concept of ripening the cheese is sorely lacking in this country, and don't get me started on plastic-wrapped things. And the prices are horrendous. Gee, 10 times the price of what a Pont-L’Évêque or Livarot would fetch back home! Cra-zy.

But all in all, it seems that America doesn't understand the concept of goat cheese.
Ça me rend chèvre! It drives me nuts, in proper English. First of all, if you insist on fresh goat cheese, which can be a marvelous product destined to bring tears to your eyes, don't over-drain it. It should contain a bit of moisture to avoid that plaster consistency, a crime against goats the world over.
I also lament the absence of crottins that are properly aged.

So as a service to my numerous readers, I'm giving you a tip: Whole Foods currently has a selection of "local" cheeses, at least at the one on 3rd and Fairfax. Go get one of these Redwood Hills Farm crottins. It is not perfect and costs at least twice what I would pay in France for the same thing, but it will give you a vague idea of what goat cheese should be.
Then start petitioning our mayor (Hi Antonio! Need a diversion from your adulterous affairs?) to truly bring in these herds of goats that will maintain Griffith Park brushes-free and prevent another fire.
The goats could pay for themselves by creating a municipal goat cheese creamery. You just have to import one Frenchy to teach you guys how to make crottins and all other types of goat milk cheese, and Voilà ! Los Angeles could become the US Capital of great goat cheese. Believe me Antonio, the country will thank you.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Respect! Here are the All Blacks performing the Haka

So here in America where they play ninnies sports (American Football? Ha!), no one knows the Rugby Wold Cup is being held in France right now. I thought I should post a cool video of New Zealand's All Blacks, the best Rugby team on the planet ever, performing their ritual Haka before a game. As a curiosity, in this 2006 games they were facing Tonga who also has a Haka-style ritual. These guys mean business, no?
I don't know about you, but I think I'll play croquet now.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Pussy Galore!

Photograph copyright Julie Chadwick, 2007.

To all of you trawling the internet for gross content, here's something for you. For all the others, I couldn't resist either the title or the kitten picture. Since it seems the Internet is equally divided between porn, cute kitten videos and amateur bloggism (more on this in a later post)I thought nothing should refrain me from participating in the worldwide gigantic-let's-express-ourselves-lovefest.

Anyway, the picture above explains why I'm not posting much this week as I am extremely busy adopting Pomme. Isn't she a beauty?
After the weekend I should be able to finally come up with the Grand Tour post, another one on collecting and maybe one on blogoisseurs and blogateurs. In the meantime, quick, let's all refresh on Kenneth Clark!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

The Housemartins - Sheep

So the LA County Fair is now open ($1 this Friday before 5 PM). A retro song by the 4th best band in Hull to underscore the bucolic aspect of the event. Well, not really, but I didn't really look for a song about deep fried snicker bars.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Bulletin Board

A quick one, as I'm on my way to the chiropractor (and yes, it does work).

It's openings/high art season again. It sucks, but in a sea of events where you will do more schmoozing than really look at the art, I just want to mention the ones I am likely to attend.
SoCal at LACMA tomorrow

and U-Turn, a show of Australian Art at the Glendale College Gallery.

I may go to that one depending not only on the pain level but also on my future cat Pomme. If all goes well she's moving in this weekend and no, I won't sprae you the pictures.
If you wish to meet me in person, I'm easy to spot: look for a French midget with a neck brace. Very unbecoming but useful.

If you decide to do the whole circuit, I would advise to skip the West Side and try to visit Dave Patton Gallery and if Another Year in LA is open, go there (and say hi to David and Cathy for me).