Monday October 24 2022
We lost a real one—poet and critic Peter Schjeldahl died on Friday at the age of 80. His last two published New Yorker columns, on Wolfgang Tillmans and Piet Mondrian, are model blends of generosity and skepticism. Schjeldahl gives Tillmans the benefit of the doubt, which many won’t, and he sees Mondrian’s gift though the schmutz of myth. I like The Hydrogen Jukebox but it’s not at all that important which collection you choose. Schjeldahl was relentlessly consistent. From his first column in the ‘70s on, you could not sell him a bill of goods or extinguish the love he gave to art. He was cowed by nothing.
I wrote about the Basquiat King Pleasure exhibit a few weeks ago, and in the process, revisited Schjeldahl’s piece from Hot, Cold, Heavy, Light. He manages to place Basquiat’s art and trim the gossip toenails in one graf: “I met Basquiat in March 1981 at the opening of a strenuously hip P.S. 1 show of scene-making artists and photographers: New York/New Wave. His work was the hit of the occasion. At that stage, it was still a fairly direct transfer onto portable surfaces of the gnomic markings that he had strewn downtown as the leader of a two-man graffiti team, Samo. The spiky cartoons and stuttering nonsense writing were electric. At first glance, they seemed to clinch a myth of demotic, up-from-the-streets energy on the burgeoning (now defunct) Lower East Side scene, to which Basquiat never really belonged.”
Or try this 1994 piece from Artforum, where he (at length) and Robert Storr (briefly) discuss being critics: “It is not quite that in judging art I prefer to err on the side of generosity. I prefer not to err. But I am spooked by the complacent or bitter pride of critics who make an enemy of enthusiasm. I wonder what, if any, appetite or personal use for art they have.”
Little can match what Meriem Bennani and Orian Barki did in 2 Lizards. Appropriately, all eight episodes are playing at the Whitney Museum. If you are not in New York, the videos are also on Bennani’s Instagram page. (I cannot swear that all eight are there but I think yes? They are? Amazing that this is free.)
Listening to the complete Blind Willie Johnson on YouTube feels right. Maybe it’s the sense of a perfect match between private and public, or the clash of unequally hampered formats. It could just be a joy to hear music this distilled and unadorned cut through the low res bitmask of the commons.
I interviewed Michael Rother for Artforum and that piece is here, and a recent good audio interview is here. If that is not enough rock from Germany, I can re-point you to my guide to Can and the interview I did with Irmin Schmidt as part of that.
I made a playlist of what Stereolab played on October 10 at Brooklyn Steel, and it’s heavy on songs I’ve never heard. Also: their first New York show was exactly 30 years ago, at the Knitting Factory. (Watch them playing “Contact” and try to spot Andy Zax, Friend of the Blog.) If you’d like to go deeper, there is a well-stocked page of Stereolab live boots at the Internet Archive.
Here is Portishead performing “Only You” on SNL in 1998, beyond the range of NBC’s YouTube deletion raygun. Geoff Barrow playing turntable sticks out, in terms of time-stamping, as does the band’s confidence and how fully they commit to an aesthetic that was less obvious than history suggests.
Do pitch in. Why lurk? Splurge! Elevate!
Three albums landed near each other in the player and are warming each other nicely. Cole Pulice uses saxophone and electronics to make this kind of softening ice cream overhead projection, or at least that’s what Scry is. Gorgeous. FOQL is a one-person affair and this new album, WEHIKUŁ, is some extension of dub and rhythm work, with no real allegiance to anything. Patterns begin and then never kick in? Bits of voice and spatial pads map out the size of the room but the lights never stay on. And I really don’t know how this happened but Jeff Arnal & Curt Cloninger’s Drum Major Instinct is a live improv album (drums and modular synth) that really sounds a lot like the previous two albums melted into each other. Put these three in a playlist and hit shuffle for a surefire rainbow mayhem afternoon.
I took the above photo of caroline at their New York debut at le poisson rouge, which was fantastic. There is a raw, anti-professional bent to their work that sits well. Also having two string players going the whole time, as well as two wind players, upends a lot of the rock framing. The drumming is all very minimal, too, which eliminates jazz. The big ensemble singing is, in the best way, volunteer army.
Fredric Jameson on Godard in the NLR is a short (for Jameson) riff on what Godard was doing, which includes one Jameson unopened nut (“visuality, if it thinks, does so in a way not necessarily accessible to the rest of us”) and one Jamesonian vision (“images as thick as butterflies in front of the face”). The rest is FJ trying to figure out what Godard thought he was doing, which is simple—he thought and that was his doing and that was his film.
Arthur Jafa interviewing Deana Lawson for Garage is a rich and long exchange.