Monthly Archives: March 2006

Low-Rent Birds

I fall for common birdsMy youth misspentWith bushtits and boobiesRobin seduces meEach and every springI love her For her breast aloneI’m still thrilled by starlingsSimple silhouettesWith little hearts as grandAs the beating coresOf brilliant eagles That have no time to flirtAll birds are lovebirdsEqual in the blue eyesOf the empty sky*Words by TFD

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The Project: Entries related to Keith, himself, and me – update

During the months that the Keith Haring exhibit is on view at the Reading Public Museum, I’m posting a continuing series of writings revolving around Keith’s life, our relationship, and the work we were engaged in at the time of his death. I’ll refer to all this as “The Project” and will keep a running list of updated links visible on the first page of ARTology.This will allow me to include writings on other subjects while keeping up-to-date links to ongoing pieces related to the Haring Exhibition readily available. I am reposting as necessary.*Multimedia: Audio and Video FilesKeith, me, and the past 15 yearsAcross the Art DivideUntitled MemoriesThe Haring show: first impressions…About Keith 1Talking with Keith Haring, June 1986, part oneTalking with Keith Haring, June 1986, part twoKeith, himself, and meKeith and usREADING LIES DREAMING – Chapter One*Image: Keith Haring, Bill Jones Dance Poster (detail), 1982Collection: TFD

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V for Vidiculous

*Sunday evening was our allotted time to take in the year’s – and possibly the decade’s – most arrogantly stupid movie. It hardly matters if V for Vendetta has an audience in front of it or not. That’s how full of itself it is.The central character is a combination of Zorro and de Sade. His big romantic affair involves imprisoning and torturing the woman he loves in a Nazi-style prison. This causes the victim to love the fiend more than before – especially after he says it hurt him more than it did her. It is a film about how anarchy is a more preferable state than conservative government and that it is right to unleash violent and mindless revolution upon a citizenry when a sociopathic killer judges their lives to be complacent and boring. V for Vendetta is also about the absurd radical politics of the USA and Western Europe during the 1960s. While it endeavors to be weighty, it succeeds only in being inane.Along the way we are “educated” about things like why the United States deserved to die – as it already has in the context of this movie – and how politicians and big business interests in Great Britain came to release a deadly virus among its population in order to win an election. We also are “entertained” by a Catholic bishop who is revealed as a pedophile and how religious faith is used to buttress political propaganda – except, of course, for Islam, which gets a pass in this film.Childishly one-sided ideas like these are the kind of adolescent and post-adolescent fantasy that animate comic books and video games. V for Vendetta has its origin in a pretentious comic book. (I don’t see any worthwhile reason for me to repeat all of the insignificant details of the history of this silly tale and its current cinematic iteration – so I won’t.)The ideas and rationalizations that inform the film mean a lot to many young people and those who are not young but who desperately want to be thought of as having “young ideas.” They are standard themes of exploitative entertainment. Psychological compensations for feelings of powerlessness and alienation, such as hatred of authority, romanticism of the anti-hero, and Dionysian rebellion against Apollonian order course through this film like candy commercials through Saturday morning cartoons.I was comforted by a single thought as I exited the theater. Much of the audience for this kind of movie experiences life vicariously, via mass-produced products, legal and illegal drugs, and advertised concepts. Their absurd ideas pose no more threat to society than does their taste in entertainment. As long as they are stupefied by advertising, fashion, and mass-media mindlessness – they are harmless and we have no necessary interest in snapping our fingers and waking them up. Real life does that eventually anyway.*V for Vendetta official web site

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Keith, me, and the past 15 years

The words I’ve written and spoken here and elsewhere about the time I spent with Keith Haring and the thoughts I’ve had about Keith and his work always seem to fall short of their intended mark. The many thousands of words I have typed about all this carry the weight of our understandings and agreements – expressed while Keith was alive. I feel responsible that my words carry the content and intentionality he would have wanted had he lived long enough to actively sustain and replenish them.The sense of dynamics and the dialectic that informed our conceptualizations seem in many ways impossible to convey alone. Yet, as this is the sole available option, it is what I can do. It is clear to me, then, why I often experience the lack of completeness of my communications on this subject.Given the current historic exhibition of Keith’s work in the town of his birth – which is also the town of my birth – this is a fine time to move beyond the obstructions of space and time and life and death and for me to simply accept that I am saying what he would have wanted us both to say at this point in time.I initiated this once before. That book is continually rewritten. More succinct statements meet more pressing needs. This journal does function well for these. The next several entries in this direction will set the compass and mark the way…*Image: Keith Haring, Bill Jones Dance Poster (detail), 1982Collection: TFD

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BODY WORLDS: Artistic and Medical Corpse Abuse as Popular Entertainment

I’m of two minds about BODY WORLDS, the current blockbuster exhibit at the Franklin Institute. There are many aspects of the show that are thoroughly awe-inspiring yet, oddly enough, the entire display is also replete with a sense of the utterly abominable. As my intention is to say things that are not dead-on obvious, I will focus more here on the problematic aspects of the show than I will on the clearly valuable ones that are described in the promotional material.The complete title of the show is, Gunther von Hagens’ BODY WORLDS: The Anatomical Exhibition of Real Human Bodies. The awkward string of words betokens the confused and confusing nature of the show itself. Attaching a single individual’s name to the exhibition of these real human bodies announces that there is a self-promotional aesthete who is claiming the entire production as his own. Therefore it is not surprising that BODY WORLDS is suffused with show-biz hyperbole conjuring up global experience focused on the sensationalized commoditization of the human body. Gunther von Hagens is the inventor of “plastination,” a process in which epoxy resins are used to capture and display complex 3-dimensional anatomical dissections in real space. The practical use of his craft is to improve the quality of anatomical models for medical study. But von Hagens, who was jailed in East Germany for his political convictions, has higher aspirations than simply producing objects for scientific study. He wants to change the world – at least that part of the world involving human self-perception and how we conceive of the relationship between life and death.In pursuit of these lofty goals, von Hagens has created a series of exhibitions aimed at reaching the general public by means of informative presentation, quasi-aesthetic display, sideshow shocks, and spectacular showmanship. Even while the informational aspects of von Hagens’ BODY WORLDS shows are indeed high, the aesthetic dimension of his work is often garish and lowbrow. Moreover, von Hagens’ use of the techniques of mass entertainment, such as spectacle, voyeurism, necromania, and orchestrated shock tactics, has more to do with the art of propaganda than with other art forms. BODY WORLDS even introduces a fascinating new fetish for fans of abnormal psychology – that of posthumous exhibitionism. (Forms are available to sign over your dead body to be used in von Hagens’ work.)Make no mistake, for the most part, audiences love this stuff. BODY WORLDS is a mind expanding and informative experience. Audiences love it for that reason but they also love it for the same reasons they love horror movies, sideshows, televised surgery, Grand Guignol, and other safely experienced objectifications of shock, blood, and gore.Having said all this, I would still highly recommend the show. Besides having the questionable qualities I describe above, BODY WORLDS has everything it is hyped to have in its eloquent promotional literature. The plastinated bodies and body parts are quite arresting, amazing, and mind-expanding. They offer particularly unique visual and conceptual experience – even given their unsophisticated aesthetic realization. I do think our relationship with our bodies will never be a comfortable one. For many complex reasons we simultaneously experience our bodies as beautiful and ugly, self-justifying and shameful, attractive and repulsive. So it is not at all surprising that an exhibit such as this would reflect both the polarities of our corporeal experience and the paradoxes that accompany its representation.**Gunther von Hagens’ BODY WORLDS: The Anatomical Exhibition of Real Human Bodies, runs through April 23 at the Franklin Institute Science Museum, 222 North Franklin Street, Philadelphia PA. Additional information available here:http://www.bodyworlds.com/en/pages/home.asphttp://www.fi.edu/bodyworlds/index.htmlhttp://www.fi.edu/

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The Project: Entries related to Keith, himself, and me

During the months that the Keith Haring exhibit is on view at the Reading Public Museum, I’ll be posting a continuing series of writings revolving around Keith’s life, our relationship, and the work we were engaged in at the time of his death. I’ll refer to all this as “The Project” and will keep a running list of updated links visible on the first page of ARTology.This will allow me to include writings on other subjects while keeping up-to-date links to ongoing pieces related to the Haring Exhibition readily available. I will repost as necessary.This is the initial links entry.Across the Art DivideUntitled MemoriesThe Haring show: first impressions…About Keith 1Talking with Keith Haring, June 1986, part oneTalking with Keith Haring, June 1986, part twoKeith, himself, and meKeith and usREADING LIES DREAMING – Chapter One

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