241 Things

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241 Things

I met an art critic, a man well into his seventies, who told me of New York in the late sixties and of Max’s Kansas City: an unreal sort of meeting place where you could glance over the Velvets, William S. Burroughs, Stanley Kubrick, Janis Joplin, Dan Flavin, Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan, Dennis Hopper… the list is mind boggling and seemingly endless.

Max’s was a collision point for many of the most creative minds of their times. With some luck, you would have seen early incarnations of Blondie, Lou Reed, or David Bowie perform. Or you might have caught Bob Marley and the Wailers' New York debut with Bruce Springsteen as their opening act.

Critical art writers typically deal with resistance along the way and this critic, too, at times met with the steely glances of slightly scorned artists. But walking into the bar with the bulky Robert Smithson would make him feel a little bit safer from the evil eyes cast by the glamorous Warholians at the back, and from the sneers thrown his way by the Abstract Expressionists between their heavy discussions.

"I met Iggy Pop at Max's Kansas City in 1970 or 1971," recalled David Bowie. "Me, Iggy and Lou Reed at one table with absolutely nothing to say to each other, just looking at each other's eye makeup."

Myra Friedman, visitor to the bar explains:

Max's was a lot more than a magnet for sex, games, and drugs. It was an earthy, invigorating hangout, and the people who Mickey let stay there for hours and hours were definitely a breed apart, when being "apart" had real meaning in the world. I remember it for lots of conversation with lots of people who had lots and lots to say, and looking back on it now, the hum of the place strikes me as sort of the last hurrah of a genuine American bohemia. Like a great piece of writing, it was airborne from the minute it opened. It had beautiful wings; it soared.

It won’t come as a surprise that many of Max’s visitors had trouble paying their tabs. And in the typical artist’s tradition, they often paid their debts with artworks. Mickey was so eager to surround himself with artists, musicians, and writers, that he would allow them to spend thousands of dollars worth of food and drinks. A few beers in exchange for a Carl Andre? Doesn’t sound like a bad deal at all for Mickey.

But the exchanges wouldn’t suffice. “Artists do drink, but they don’t pay,” Mickey said. Indeed, Mickey went bankrupt in 1974.

9gag.com

9gag.com

Last night, our new-found friends from Chicago came to visit us in our little house on Farnsworth street in Detroit. We talked a lot about art, and again (as it often does here in the Midwest) the discussion turned to the virtues (or not) of community art and audience participation. Kevin was talking about an artist colleague of his who did a project where she would install plastic containers at the toilets of friends and collect their leftovers to produce manure, which she would then later return in a cup, ready to be used in the nearest flower pot.

We talked about how LONG she would be able to sustain this practice and if that was important or not for the project. Or if it was maybe enough that the art worked on a more metaphorical, symbolic level. Apparently this woman was also a great communicator and had managed to get support from powerful people (Patricia Arquette) in high places (Hollywood).

Surely this could be a very useful, green and worthy art project with many possible positive benefits for mankind and the planet as a whole?

And it is usually around this point in the discussions surrounding community art that I fall asleep spiritually and mentally. And it's not ONLY because I am a mean spirited, jaded cynic, who can't value utilitarianism. But because it is so different and alien from my own experience of art and culture. If I look at my own experience of culture I think about what was important to me, what changed me as a human, and what helped me to develop.

I value and respect Greenpeace, the Red Cross (and the Crescent) or Médecins Sans Frontières just as much as the next guy. I just don't think it's art, and I don't think that they see it as art either. It would take some truly hardcore relational aesthetics guy or girl to claim that as an art piece.

There were very few utilitarian reasons for me to listen to Sex Pistols or Throbbing Gristle, or read books by William Burroughs, Charles Bukowski or Jack Kerouac, or laugh myself silly reading Robert Crumb…au contraire! There was NOTHING healthy about it. Which of course was partly the reason why I got into it in the first place. Does anyone seriously believe that people listen to Death Metal or experimental Jazz for any hidden health reasons?

Jack Kerouac

But it did help me to become a more complex person, it did challenge my beliefs and it did force me to open up to new ways of looking at the world. And it did fuck up my mental hard disk and after that I can't process information and ideas in the same way as I did before and I think that's all you can ask of art.Here in the Midwest (as I have written about before) a lot of the little support there is for art, is tied to educational projects. I have no problem with this, I TOO teach, but I don't call it art!

In the 60's and 70's there were huge debates in Europe and USA, usually from a leftist perspective. Wasn't it time for the artists to fianally get off the fence and make themselves useful for the workers and join the revolution? Every artist and writer joined either the Communist party or the RAF, except Salvador Dali who just wanted to make precious GOLD!

"Make yourself useful, go into Bijlmer and help some poor Suriname kids," was the mantra (until very recently) from Dutch politicians who felt that maybe they could finally get some economical and social returns from the parasite artists that they had subsidized for much too long. I am already doing this by the way, but for other more "culturally perverted" (=sound) reasons.

Now the calls come from the cultural right (or maybe the cultural nihilists would be a more correct description). Go and entertain Henk and Ingrid in Apeldoorn (the Suriname kids are of course out of fashion). I don't mind being useful or utilitarian, but I rather call that teaching, giving lectures or workshops to be able to keep my art free, dirty and perverted.

And if you haven't paid attention, most poor, uneducated people ALSO prefers their culture dirty and nasty. See Baile Funk in Brazil and Gangster Rap in the States, etcetera. And they find it condescending when we honkies come up with another well meaning do-good-er project in the Bijlmer, Rio or Detroit.

So let's keep real culture sick ‘n’ nasty and leave the do-good-erism to Greenpeace. And if you absolutely can't restrain yourself and just have to do some good, just call it a workshop and you're off the hook....

Peace Out!!!!

Jonas Ohlsson reporting form Detroit thanks to Expodium

Holiday village San Zhi, Taiwan

Wade Wong

Oradour-sur-Glane,

Glenda Rees

Nicosia, Cyprus

Bo de Visser

Ordos-Kangbashi, Inner Mongolia, China

Jordan Pouille

Salton Sea, Californië

Tofu Minx

Doel, België

Geoffrey Vlassaks

Holiday village San Zhi, Taiwan

Wade Wong

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Willemien van Duijn en Lieuwe Vos, Abandoned Cities, BNA 2012 (Freestyle 3) € 15,-