Laura Lark Loves You #7: Somethin’ Stupid

Sometimes I get comments here that remind me of a friend who recently threw a big party. The morning after, reaching for the Lysol kept on the bathroom shelf with a few other such products, he discovered that someone had carefully scratched the “GL” off of the label of an aerosol can of “Glass Cleaner.”

asstire

Even “Mr. Yuk” won’t save you now…

The culprit has yet to be found. But thinking of the poor unfortunate soul who takes that one literally still makes me do a spit-take.

And then I get comments that concern me. Make me feel like the people who always get my point didn’t. You know, the ones I don’t usually confuse. It’s then I reconsider…

In Laura Lark Loves You #6 I loosely paraphrased the first part of a quote (now faithfully excerpted) by Joel Coen in “Film Comment”: ”If someone goes out to make a movie that isn’t primarily to entertain people, then I don’t know what the fuck they’re doing…”

My definition of “entertainment” is much like my definition of ”art”: sweeping, general. When I’m confronted with either these days, I think that as long as I’m not being forced to interact with it, it doesn’t matter what I think.

Yeah, well, you know, that’s just like, uh, your opinion, man.

I recently read a profile on Trent Reznor in the New Yorker, though, and I realized that perhaps I’m the one who needs to reexamine what I’m doing here on Glasstire—before somebody confuses me by removing a letter or two.

Sick and Sicker

Sick and sicker

Until that profile, I knew little about Reznor. I sort of remember his stuff, but it all blends together in my brain: a skinny puppy/throbbing gristle/NIN stew. My true initiation to the band, then, was in viewing “Sick: The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist,” a documentary on the life of the L.A.-based writer/artist/S&M celeb who lived with and ultimately died from cystic fibrosis—but not before willingly subjecting himself to torture in the NIN video “Happiness in Slavery.” I watched, wondering what could have possessed me to buy a box of popcorn. Until I threw up into it.

Aww, lose the ‘tude, dude! That was one pretty lucrative hate machine!

But the New Yorker served Trent Reznor up in a format I could digest—even embrace—without the faintest impulse to hurl. Every single thing Reznor talked about, from social anxiety to distribution and copyright to his lackluster academic career stirred deep feelings of identification in my soul. Who knew?

The article made me aware of one thing: For me, judgment always boils down to the vomit in the popcorn box. It’s all subjective. My skepticism about artist-on-artist writing is always there on an intellectual level, but the real reasons I’m uncomfortable with writing about art are personal.

I have a musician friend who says that rap music is shit, that it’s not really music. That bugs me. I’m too clueless to appreciate much of what he’s up to, so when I heard him talking about really great “noise” music one day, I imagined that the stuff would sound a whole lot like regular old noise to me. But he’s got so many interesting views on so many subjects, I am sure he’s way ahead of the curve. He’s a purist, which is understandable, considering his formidable intellect and expertise. He therefore has little tolerance for work that does not fit in with his definition of music, and even less for musicians whom he considers bad at the music they do.

 Sure, we (artists/ladies/somebody's bitches) can do it all if we want to. Remind me again why want to?Carolee Schneeman's "Up to and Including Her Limits" 1973-1976

Three generations later (ladies, artists, pushed around peeps of every ilk) and we’re STILL a pack of bitches, gettin’ pushed around for others’ motherfuckin’ riches?
Okay, fine, I’m no rapper. Carolee Schneemann’s Up to and Including Her Limits (1973-1976)

Whatever. I don’t care if rap is good music, or music at all. Crushed oppressor, a little weed AND a beat I can dance to? I’m in! I can barely sit for five minutes listening to “real” music without thinking about how much my butt hurts. But my friend doesn’t call me a dumbfuck for identifying with the lyrics of the angry and disenfranchised, and I don’t call him an elitist prick. Just plain heartwarming, isn’t it?

"Mommy, Make it Stop!" (There's Always Somebody Saying It)

“Mommy, make it stop!”
(There’s always somebody saying it.)

I truly relate to his frustration. I’ve certainly eyed quite a few artists lately, particularly those who think that cramming text into visual work somehow makes it smarter. I fantasize them and Rosalind Krauss being run down by a semi loaded with back issues of October. One can dream. But whether or not something is really art is as irrelevant as whether someone’s art is good or bad these days. The Ivory Tower, stormed by everything from gender to pop culture studies, lost its ability to shelter the “best” and the “brightest” so long ago I can’t remember when Zombie Studies wasn’t an actual field. It’s all out there, and it’s all okay! Thus, the same crap goes on inside as outside. What’s good? What’s bad? Who cares? At this very moment, some PhD from Harvard is doing a cultural-phenomenological analysis of “Honey Boo-Boo.

Ah, The Shirley Temple of the 21st Century is at Last "Redneck-ed-nized"!

Ah, the Shirley Temple of the 21st century is at last “redneck-ognized!”

That’s democracy for you. The shitty, the sublime, the sublimely shitty—all fighting for an audience, and he/she/it with the most Facebook friends wins. Some of the most educated and/or cultured folks I know are shameless rubberneckers of the train wreck that is reality TV. Who has time to judge, let alone attend live performances, art openings, or literary readings when you know you’re missing an episode of “Catfish?”

I’m okay with it, mainly because I ignore most of it. In return, everything I do is largely ignored. But if we all document everything we do and upload it to YouTube, we’ll eventually catch up on each other’s doings, so no biggie.

From Bikes to Boats: He Who's Most Generous With His Toys Wins.

From bikes to boats: he who’s most generous with his toys wins.

That’s why The Shrimp Boat Project appeals to me even though I don’t really get it. That’s a generous statement, considering that a simple mention of the word “shrimp” hurtles me back to 1982, when one of my 70+ part-time jobs was working on the docks in Kemah for a really gross dude who left copies of Shaved magazine lying around and had me arranging sheep’s head fish on crushed ice every morning at 4 a.m. to sell to Vietnamese restaurant owners. It’s the teeth on those things. Tiny. Square. Uniform. I still have nightmares.

Vagina Dentata: Not Just a Latin Term for a Charming Folk Tale!

Vagina dentata: not just a Latin term for a charming folk tale!

Like I said, I’m not quite clear on what they’re up to. Experimenting in subsistence living? Building a community that catches catfish rather than falls prey to them online? No matter. Rather than comparing themselves to other artists whose projects look nothing like their own—and let’s face it, even if you suck, you should be original at sucking—and rather than slapping some “political” drawing on the wall at the Whitney Biennial to pompously preach to the choir, maybe they’re out there educating themselves and others on environmental matters or perhaps creating a self-sustaining practice that will make them less dependent on the seafood section at Whole Foods. Or maybe they’re out there drinking beer and getting good tans.

I Was Standing Right There When the Entire Bush Administration Stood Before This Work And Vowed To Change Their Ways. Then They Used the Men's Toilets and Forgot About It.

I was standing right there when the entire Bush administration stood before this work and vowed to change their ways. I think they forgot about it after hittin’ the head.

Or…hey! They could be retooling the ol’ “give a man a fish” adage: Give a man a shrimp and he’ll bitch cuz he was promised a dozen with his Happy Captain Platter; Teach an artist to shrimp and, at the very least, he’ll produce one heckuva Happy Captain Platter with a lo-fat, lo-carb slaw.

Or boutique hushpuppies. I envision options.

I’m just not confident enough to judge without a true grasp of the subject, because I know that some day I’ll stumble upon an issue of 21st Century Art Shrimping Quarterly at the local newsstand while searching for my trusted Bitchy Old Washed-Up Artist Daily.

My point is that while I’m sitting around categorizing, worried how some kid packs the house with his punk friends while two people remember to email me an apology for missing my opening because, well, ya know, stuff was blocking the front door, I’m forgetting that there’s a real culprit out there. It’s that asshole who dressed up the MFA program to look like, say, business school or the engineering department. You know, the one pushing courses in Professional Practice and seminars to help me polish up the ol’ artist statement and elevator pitch.

"Okay, Here's My Floor--But Before I Get Out I Just Want to Make Sure We're All on Board With the Smuggled Pandas in Tropical Print Swim Trunks?

“Okay, here’s my floor—but before I get out I just want to see if we’re all on the same page so I can return this suit to the Men’s Wearhouse…”

None of us are cranking out the same product, but we’re trained to think as if properly lit slides and a smart spin will really help us in the job market. Add a smart tie, a firm handshake and an ability to Move With The Cheese, and you’ll have a future so bright it’ll blind ya.

Granted, the hustler who talks smart and remembers to zip his fly does get his foot in the door, but if you can stay awake while looking at stuff in the art world these days, you might realize that going through that door only leads you into Casa de Pretense-io Y Mucho Yawn-io.

Ack. I’d like the money I spent on art school back now, please. What my time in the MFA program should have been was a safe haven, the closest thing to an Ivory Tower a person like me would ever see. To be fair, much of it was. But all was sullied by this underlying anxiety of how I’d make it with my fab product and smart portfolio. What kind of idiot goes to art school thinking of his or her art as a viable product with which to compete on the open market? Well, all of us. But no matter how much Kommodification Kool-Aid I swallow, it doesn’t change the fact that jobs (both institutional and academic) and sales depend on current zeitgeist and the open market. Last time I checked, neither of these had much to do with whether my art—or anyone else’s—was relevant.

Pop Quiz! Which one of "The Irascibles" said: ‘I Work Against Ego’?If you said, "Hedda Sterne", You'd Also Know the Answer to: Which One's Ideas Would be Considered Relevant Today?

Pop quiz! Which one of “The Irascibles” said: “I work against ego”?
If you said “Hedda Sterne,” you’d also know the answer to: Which one’s ideas would be considered relevant today?

The catalogue, available at finer retailers of quality art books everywhere (especially the Menil bookstore).

By Sarah L. Eckhardt, PhD, with contributions by Josef Helfenstein, Director, Menil CollectionWhat really distinguishes her is her refusal to develop what she tartly termed a “logo” style. And that refusal, Sterne said once, “very much destroyed my ‘career.’”

By Sarah L. Eckhardt, PhD, with contributions by Josef Helfenstein, director, Menil Collection.
What really distinguishes her is her refusal to develop what she tartly termed a “logo” style. And that refusal, Sterne said once, “very much destroyed my ‘career.’”

assholepicasso

Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers’ Pablo Picasso

I could go on. And on. And on. But I won’t. I’m late for work, and one of the best things about having three degrees and working the drive-thru at Jack in the Box is that I can gently remind my followers that No, Sir! Batman and The Pew Charitable Trust are doing good; you, in contrast, are doing very well! Would you like a large drink? And make it a combo meal.

…So when Donald Barthelme told me that my piece didn’t completely suck ass, I knew I was really ON to something! And—oh, right! Your change!

So context is everything. Exhibition and performance space. Jobs. Funding. Man, the reality show I’d love to watch is the one taking place in every art department nowadays. “It’s the Crusty Ol’ Paintin’ & Object-Makin’ Coots against the Multimedia/Cultural Progressive Thought Punks, and they’re fighting as if their livelihood depends on it!”

andrethegiant006-239x300

SMACKDOWN!!
Tonight: CLUI vs. Chinati
TO THE DEATH!!!!

Because it does. And that has little to do with quality. But I’ll admit a few things that makes me a pain in the ass whom no one should pay attention to:

A)  Looking at a painting that speaks to me is a transcendent experience and I believe that learning to draw by hand is a way to better see, and I prefer reading an actual book to scanning a computer screen. It’s art and entertainment rolled into one!

B)  I’ve been around Houston long enough to remember when the first Core Fellows rolled in, thus thankfully nudging aside a few of the Old Guard. While most bitched, I practically knelt in front of the Glassell School and genuflected. It meant one less lotería, corazón, or milagro-choked canvas to further ghettoize Houston artists as quaint regionalists. It was a pivotal moment in Houston art: We maintained that Lone Star feel, were given an opportunity to be part of a larger dialogue and were able to show, in return, what kick ass things can happen in a busted boom town with no zoning, if you’re willing to get your hands (or shirt) dirty.

Don’t fence me in! Once upon a time in Hou-Town, all ya needed was a dream, a can-do attitude and a willingness to sweat like a hippo gnawin’ on a hubcap, and you could make history.

How many years later I can not say, but I walked into a Core Fellow exhibition a while back and was repulsed by the fact that even the artists I had previously admired clearly had such a boner for being writers, they literally mucked up works that could have spoken a thousand words if they’d just kept the crappy text off of them. I haven’t darkened the doorway since. I’ve probably missed some good stuff, but, well, eh? Everything that went around came around, and la nausee provoked by the spin on that particular tilt-a-whirl soiled one of the only works in the exhibition with text that actually belonged there: the catalogue.

See? I don’t hate EVERYTHING!

C) If you like to write, write on! If you’re  good at it, even better. If you’re writing to promote your friends or your agenda, fine, but don’t sit around thinking you’re better than everyone else because you can get some idiot like myself to crank out a paragraph for you.

Crazy! I simply Googled "Self-Congratulatory Asshole" and This Just Popped Up!

Crazy! I simply Googled “self-congratulatory asshole” and this just popped up!

If I find myself impressed by any context nowadays—school, gallery, institution, categorizing of any kind—I know it’s time for me to watch “The Big Lebowski“ again, because nothing characterizes the clusterfucked Tower of Babel, end-of-the-road state we’re in better or more hilariously. And then I’ll need to haul out a copy of “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” Because hey, it’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.

Does this look like manifest destiny to you, man?

With that in mind, I have to say that as far as this column goes, disregard of context has fucked me once again. Some people actually come to Glasstire for guidance on what to do with their shit. Just because I can’t get hired by Jon Stewart, Amy Sedaris, or Stephen Colbert doesn’t make the reader who misses the irony here an idiot. Nothing these days comes with a warning label. Maybe it should. Perhaps I should head every post with: Literal interpretation might not be advisable in This “advice” column! Please refer to your Professional Practice catalogue!

One of the Many Hand-Carved Wooden Objects in Conrad Bakker's "Relax and Take Your Fucking Time" (Lora Reynolds Gallery, Austin, 9/16-11/6 2010) --reviewed HERE! by ME!

One of the many hand-carved wooden objects in Conrad Bakker’s Relax and Take Your Fucking Time
(Lora Reynolds Gallery, Austin,  Sept. 16 – Nov. 6, 2010)—Reviewed HERE! By ME!O

Or: Careful! This might not be “ASS CLEANER!”

I just wanted to have a good time. Have a few yuks without passing judgment on stuff I might not understand. Not feel like I’m crawling up some artist’s or institution’s ass with promotional press. Ya know, be the fun girl at the party. And I don’t like saying, “well, fuck ‘em if they can’t take a joke!” when this isn’t ComedyCentral.com.

I Should've Known it Just Wouldn't Sit Right...

I should’ve known it just wouldn’t sit right…

But then I went and spoiled it all by saying somethin’ stupid…like “I love you.”

P.S. ALL of Laura Lark’s love (and she really means it) and most sincere gratitude goes out to Kelly Klaasmeyer, whose support and endless patience got Laura Lark’s ass out of many a rut. Good luck and a million thanks for being the best editor I’ve ever had, Kelly. Working with you has made this, one of the 70+ part-time jobs I’ve ever had, one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. You will be missed here. Quite frankly, I don’t know how I’ll go on without you…

also by Laura Lark

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9 responses to “Laura Lark Loves You #7: Somethin’ Stupid”

  1. Damn, woman….can you ever write. it felt like standing on your back porch, talking about cleaning products and the next we’re doing a high wire act in inflated clown shoes above every art venue and concern of the last decade….and loving it…I remember artist and art schools before the internet when your contact with the big ol world was magazines someone left outside the toilet and what you could glean from local museums (in phoenix…not a lot)….seen and participated in the text phenomena. My take on the ability of everyone to show everyone everything, all the time…….feeling trapped in a freight elevator with a bunch of naked people……who shouldn’t be! I love ur- analysis of the art scene and I feel what the hell…let the games begin! Art in houston, for me went from small pond with a few big fish to a cramed fish tank of lil piranhas and tiny groupers… occasionally some good action…and colorfull…..smack! From my screen I see that european artist don not suck and especially eastern ones….they make me give a f**K about art again so hey…..I didn’t get back the money I borrowed for art school but we had over them all discharged when I became too crazy to work! ( a LOT of money) I believe in free enterprise, personal best, and the ability to stream all of the european crime shows I can while still on this side of the dirt……thank you Laura Lark for reminding for reminding me I have a brain

  2. The large chapel at our small liberal-arts university had a bulletin board with prayer requests on it, which once included this favorite: “Pray for Trent Reznor. No one understands him.”

  3. Thank you for this.

  4. Rap is like the potted meat of music: It is packaged and sold on the supermarket shelves next to the rest of the edible food stuffs, but it’s not really food, now is it? That being said, both of the poverty induced staples can be a guilty pleasure.

  5. dave hickey should quit his whining and write something like this. this a great description of an artist’s point of view.

  6. Good lord Miss Laura! You took off the governor and ran that thing wide open. Thank you for illustrating that art writing can be smart, funny and entertaining as hell. Thanks for everything!

  7. Aside from the pleasure I feel that someone has finally recognized the greatness of Erna F. Charbonneaux, this happy rant of an article makes me calm the fuck down. I’ve been so at sea, lamenting my old timer inability to suss out the good, the important, and the meaningful. Thank you for explaining the path.

  8. Being an object making old coot …I would like to know: Who’s going to prevail? The thought punks or the coots?It’s all tiresome and I’m ready for the cultural war to end…just like I’m ready for the shit economy to turn around so we can get back to selling art.

    If the punks prevail, I’ll go retire in Santa Fe…and not think twice about it.

  9. Amen! (from way back in the room)

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