January 2011


he likes carretts (alot!)
he droped out of school
he’s 17
he don’t have a job
his family are drug atticts
he goes to church
he don’t have a girlfriend
don’t have a home
sales drugs to get food
has a special necklace

Opening night of the 2011 SBIFF was opened with the strong film “Sarah’s Key” directed by Gilles Paquet-Brenner.
Introducing the film was SBIFF’s Roger Durling who lifted up SBIFF and other film festivals as vibrant expressions of the best of democracy–where creative expression spurs careful and intelligent discussion of the most important values and issues of our societies. With that sentiment in mind, “Sarah’s Key” was an apt film to kick off the festival for it opens doors to discuss history, collective memory, shades of guilt, and oppression’s many forms.

It is a story of a young girl’s experience of France’s ghettoizing and deportation of Jews into the hands of Nazi Germany and the impact that her memory and legacy created through later generations. What places “Sarah’s Key” in a unique place among the many good films made on the subject of the Holocaust is it confrontation with the lived impact that reverberates still through the generation of those whose families and country were complicit in the genocide.

The film’s theme is stated by a reporter who is driven to uncover the untold story of a Holocaust survivor when she says, “The truth is always better, whether we like it or not.”

The truth in this film is costly. As the characters in the film are made to confront the past and separate the truth from the fictions, they are devastated and changed–ultimately for the better.

The film’s two concurrent story lines of the 1930’s and contemporary time were not well balanced and give the film an uneven feel. The acting in the ‘contemporary’ scenes is not as strong and the film’s desire to capture so many of the events from the book which gave it its inspiration bog it down.

Despite its weaknesses, this powerful and memorable film was a great kick-off to the 26th year of SBIFF.

It takes a unique confluence of ignorance, social pathology and artistic unfitness to get public art so wrong that it becomes deserving of our contempt. A public statue can invoke a ‘sense of place’, express a community’s values, inspire, memorialize, and engage the public at large with a sense of lasting grandeur–of the meaning of art in our lives.

A public statue can also frighten, disturb, confuse, ruin a person’s day, and perhaps even discourage a community from leaving the house in the first place.

The exemplary pinnacle of the latter type of statue is found in otherwise beautiful Santa Barbara, California.
I ask you to behold the horror that is “Generation Bridge.”

Look not long, lest you form an ocular ulcer or so sully your human soul that no penance can redeem you. 
This is your MindFlowers “Creepiest Statue” award winner and believe me it was not a close contest.

The statue “Generation Bridge” can be found near:
15 E. Figueroa St. in the ‘La Arcada.’
Despite it being in an open and heavily foot trafficked gallery, once you are there–there is no escape.

Here we see that the bent and leering Old Man is holding out some melty chocolate in his grimy, sweaty hands as one may hold to a dog a piece of hamburger with a euthanizing dose of tranquilizers hidden inside.
After the viewer decides to never again eat Hershey’s chocolate, they inevitably begin to try to remember the last time a piece of art prompted them to almost call the police.
 

Here we have the biblical picture of what destructive greed looks like. Note the consuming need for chocolate written across her face that is surely meant to serve as a Willy Wonka-esque commentary on how a ‘sweet tooth’ inevitably leads to children disappearing.
What clinched this statue as “world’s creepiest” is not just the theme and content of the statue, but the aesthetic ‘little touches’ that are indicative of an artist’s spiraling syphilitic madness. The choice to paint bronze is beside the point: marvel at the sickly pink pajamas that may or may not be made of asbestos.

At first glance, if you are a rational member of society you may think “Wow. The ol’ creepy-guy-with-candy trope. That’s disgusting.” But even then, you have not plumbed the depth of this statue’s depravity.  
Pictured below, you can see that this Creepy Old Man is certainly no ‘one trick pony’ when it comes to debauching children who happen to wander by his Shelob-like web.

Like a rabid St. Bernard, Ol’ Creepy stands guard between the girl and the safe re-capture of Dolly. 
As public art goes; deplorable. As strategy guide for dragons, terrorists, and Lex Luthor; brilliant.  

Below, the plaque honoring the creator of the Creepiest Statue, Seward Johnson. Kudos, dear sir.
Your art may not last long outside the walls of city dumps but your fiendish statements of ‘art’ will live on in our collective nightmares forever.

Does your city have a ‘runner-up?’ Drop us a line and a picture!

http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM9RD7
http://www.sewardjohnson.com/site/index.html

(scene is in a wide courtyard outside the palace striped with the shadows of arches. Emperor’s Spokesperson and Clipboard Assistant are addressing Rabble.)

Emperor’s Spokesperson: All right, settle down you rabble!
Rabble: (muttering)
Emperor’s Spokesperson: I’m going to count to ten. No three. I’m counting to three. Second to the last one to be quiet won’t be able to watch the next execution and the last one to be quiet will be executed! One, Two, Three…
Rabble: (still muttering)
ES: I don’t believe it! By Gods. Shatttup will you!
Clipboard Assistant: Maybe you could try a different approach.You know, sometimes you get more bees with honey.
ES: You mean pollen.
CA: Pardon?
ES: Bees make honey. But they want pollen.
CA: I’ve got your Epi-Pen in my fanny pack by the way.
ES: (to rabble) Look you mouth-breathing dirty-fingernail pyramid-making fly-gathering hoi polloi! Shut your mouths!
CA: You don’t understand these people. I grew up among them. All they hear all day is yelling and the snapping of whips. You’ve got to finesse the masses. Look, right here: rule number 4 of ‘Tyranny for Dummies’ (points at clipboard)
ES: (reads) “subtle coercion may not save you time, but it will save you your vocal chords.” Bah! That’s why we shoulda brought a bullhorn out here. Coercion.
CA: Think of them as a lovely person who’s eye your trying to catch at the supermarket.
ES: ….I buy a lot of baby food and diapers and tell them “I don’t have children yet”…and then stare at them as a conversation opener.
CA: Is that what you do?
ES: Well, I would if I shopped at supermarkets. I just have my servants place grapes in my mouth when I’m hungry.
CA: It is said that non-verbal communication is more important than anything you say.
ES: (pulls out a gun)
CA: Okay, you get points for trying, but watch….(gently puts down clipboard and tightens fanny pack and begins to strut back and forth like Mick Jagger in front of Rabble, after a couple of spins and high kicks Rabble’s attention is fully had.)
ES: Well done.
CA: (too out of breath to answer, just gasps and holds chest)
ES: (To CA) Maybe not their ‘attention’ so much as concern and sexual revulsion, but it worked! (To Rabble) Alright now you ragamuffins, gather ’round close. I’ve got an announcement to make here. Come on, that’s it you rabble!
Rabble: (shuffles within arm’s reach)
ES: Gah! Not lice-jumping close! Back up, Back up now! I’m not a horse whisperer. Can’t you see my assistant here needs air? (Rabble shuffles back a few steps) Alright. Now. I am the Emperor’s Chosen and Most Honorable…
Rabble: Which?
ES: Which what?
Rabble: Which whom, I mean. Which Emperor’s?
ES: Well, the new one of course! Emperor Glorious Sun…As I was saying…(to CA) what was I saying?
CA: You’re the Emperor’s Chosen and Most Honorable…
ES: Most Honorable Messenger.
Rabble: Like a carrier pigeon.
ES: (trying not to be flustered) A bit like that. But my cage is huge okay. Huge. And pretty ornate.
CA: And a lovely little swing in the corner. The envy of the court really–
ES: So I have here with me a royal pronouncement from your Emperor, the Great Glorious Sun! (holds out hand towards CA)
CA: (gives ES ‘five’)
ES: No, the pronouncement!
CA: (looks frantically through the clip board looks up frightened and shakes head ‘no’)
ES: (whispers) You forgot it?
CA: (whispers) I don’t know!
ES:  (whispers) A true answer I have no doubt. But our choices are A) you never brought it to begin with,or  B) you lost it between here and Starbucks.
CA: I may never have had it.
ES: Papyrus. Roll of it about six feet long and rolled up and tied in a silk ribbon. Ringing any bells?
CA: Sarcasm is an ineffectual teaching tool and a poor characteristic in leadership.
ES: Now I’m getting pointers from Captain Senility over here. Brilliant.
Rabble: (whispers) Sarcasm is the easiest form of comedy and an unflowered form of its superior relative, irony.
ES: (sarcastic) Good thought, that! Good. Yeah, thanks… Just you stay out of this, you scamp. (to CA in whisper) I’ll just do the bullet points. No problem. I got it up here. (points at head)
CA: remember: finesse!
Rabble: And a lyrical turn of phrase and some interjections of humor wouldn’t hurt. You know. To keep our interest. Lift our hearts a bit.
ES: (ignoring them) Rabble! Hear me and fear! Tremble and weep!….Garbage collection will not happen this Tuesday because of the Winged Serpent Holiday, but will occur as normal for everyone on Wednesday. So plan ahead for that. And also…Woe To Those Who Speak Ill Of The Dread Thunder God Morthax! Morthax Hears All and Sees All As Patron Deity Of Our Empire!…The Children’s Museum will be having  a special exhibit beginning this week and on through the month featuring the shrunken skulls of state prisoners. As always, children and seniors have free admission. And now a word from our sponsor….(to CA in whisper) who was it again?
CA: Wooden Shovels.
ES: Wooden Shovels!
Rabble: (in a sing song jingle) Wooden Shovels can’t be beat/They make your holes and piles look really neat/
ES: Holes and piles, really?
Rabble: They’ve got a wooden stick and a wooden scoop/you can use ’em for mud or most any kind of….
ES: Thank you Wooden Shovels! Alright, now on to the serious business….Look, we all know that in the reign of the last Emperor, whose name I won’t even waste my breath on–
CA: Humble Servant of The Socialist People’s Commune.
ES: (shoots CA an angry glance) During their reign, things around here got a little shall we say lax. Now. I know that you can do it. This work, this back breaking, slave driving, soul withering labor is what you were literally born and bred to do. So let’s do it. And let’s put a little pride in our work. When fanning a State Official with ostrich feathers would it kill you to smile?
Rabble: Its just I’ve lost most my teeth…
ES: Closed mouth, man. Closed mouth. (To CA) Show ’em.
CA: (smiles weakly with pursed lips)
ES: And let’s use you as an example. (points at Rabble) What do you do?
Rabble: I’m a tailor by trade but really, I’ve always thought of myself as a musician really. I’m classically trained.
ES: Okay, tailor. Ol’ Tailor here is making…
Rabble: Fitted undergarments, padded bras, crotchless underwear,
ES: That is specific. Got a niche market do we? Burlap in this season is it?
Rabble: Burlap was last season. Everything now is yak hide or nothing.
CA: He really is quite good. I’m wearing him right now.
ES: (flustered momentarily) Okay so Tailor here, perfect example of a patriot who is working hard for the Empire. Kudos to you. But!..You’re gonna have to work harder. I’m sorry! Hey! Don’t blame the messenger. Its just that right down the Nile river a ways, they’ve started work on wheel technology okay. Now we’re playing catch-up.
Rabble: You might say we were asleep at the wheel.
CA: That’s good.
ES: Puns are the worst form of humor and an unflowered form of their superior relative: the double entendre.
CA: Meow.
ES: The point is, in today’s economy we’re all going to have to pitch in and work a little harder.
Rabble: Easy for you to say.
ES: Pardon? Can you say that a bit louder? Or was it not that easy to say?
Rabble: You’re telling us to pull ourselves up by our boot straps but I broke my last pair of boot straps trying to hang myself with them. All you do is come out here every week and tell us what to do and how we’ll have to work harder because the rich don’t want to pay taxes anymore.
ES: You want to try? You want to try my job for a minute? I bet you won’t last a minute. 
Rabble: You got it! Let’s do it. (they switch positions and Rabble imitates the mannerisms of ES) Lift a rock! Dig a ditch! Hail whichever Emperor we have this week! Blah Blah!
ES: Ahh, beginner’s luck.
CA: You’re pretty good! (swats away something) Ah, a bee!
ES: A bee?
CA: (stabs Rabble with the Epi Pen)
Rabble: Gah!
ES: Not him, you idiot!
CA: Sorry, I got confused!
ES: Oh! (slaps at bee, its too late) Oh, cruel fate! (slumps to ground dead)
CA: I just wanted to say I really enjoy your work.
Rabble: My public speaking–
CA: Well that too, but your tailoring I mean. I’m wearing your Sleek Line Lift And Tuck series right now.
Rabble: Well, you look great in it. That’s not all my doing. A glass blower can’t make the delicious wine that’s poured into it, you see.
CA: (blushing) Well…
Rabble: That’s it for the news today?
CA: Well just that there’s maurading hordes at the gates.
Rabble: That’s going to be tough news to break to the rabble.
CA: Ahhh, they’re used to it. We’ll just outfit you with a war drum, a saber to rattle, a flag, and a copy of the ‘Us Versus Them’ speech.
Rabble: Say, about the Emperor…Do you think I could meet him? (excited)
CA: Oh, him? That’s just an image of a giant head projected on a screen that gets switched up every now and then. Keep things fresh.
Rabble: I have so much to learn.
CA: Its not easy controlling the masses. You think I want to wear a fanny pack?  
 


(the scene is in an office.)

One: Hey there. If you have a minute I would like to talk to you about this morning.
Two: Oh boy. Here we go. This is about how I was three hours late isn’t it.
One:
The lateness is a good issue to some day discuss but I was going to actually encourage you.
Two: Encouragement? From you? That’s like believing that my dentist has good news.
One: Yes. I wanted to encourage you to to either clean up your blood in the bathroom or at least notify Jason in custodial services.
Two: Blood? Blood? Oh, you’re talking about my vomit.
One: Okay then. Your vomited blood.
Two:
Well, sure, but why splice hairs? The point is maybe you should get your facts straight before you start a witch hunt.
One: Well maybe I did get off on the wrong foot this morning. First things first. Happy Monday.
Two: Now we’re talking Stephanie! Yeah! Rock and Roll Monday! Friday is almost here. I can almost taste Friday now. And perhaps not surprisingly it tastes like blood.
One: You certainly seem excited. You must have had a good weekend.
Two: I had the best weekend ever! Las Vegas baby! Las Freaking Vegas mother freaking Nevada baby!
One: Las Vegas.
Two:
Yeah, you know. The City of Light.
One: That’s Paris.
Two: The Big Apple.
One: New York.
Two:
The Eternal City.
One:
That’s Rome for Pete’s sake.
Two:
Look, I’m trying to tell you I was in Las Vegas.
One: How can you be going to Vegas when you owe me five hundred bucks?
Two:
I know! That’s why I went there. I went to get you your money back.
One: Good. Because I’ve run out of food and insulin so a little cash will help me out until the end of the month.
Two: Well, I don’t exactly have it for you now, Stephanie. But I’ve got three hundred bucks riding on a sure thing as we speak. A race horse with a hunger to win. A big hunger!
One: You bet three hundred on a horse?
Two: ell, the horse actually ate the three hundred. Its hungry! But I’ve been told I’ll get it back in full in about four days. And who knows? That’s a hungry horse! No telling what else he’ll pay out.
One: That’s some investment scheme.
Two: Well aren’t you judgmental? I happen to think that Vegas is an awesome way to spend a weekend. You’re just jealous Stephanie because your life is more boring than my seven year old daughter’s.
One: My weekends are very full I will have you know. I have my hobbies to keep me busy. You know. My smoking for instance.
Two: Smoking is not a hobby.
One: It is if you use your exhaled smoke to paint a charcoal likeness of prehistoric cave paintings on your kitchen wall.
Two: I’ll give you that.
One: But to tell you the truth, I would like to go to Las Vegas someday.
Two: Oh my god Stephanie! You’ve got to go! Its like the best place in the world! Imagine a city that’s magically appeared from the dream of a fifty year old man in a failed marriage who has given up on life. That’s Vegas!
One: The closest I’ve ever come to going to Las Vegas was a blind date I went on at Disneyland.
Two: I’m jealous! How’d it go?
One: Well, He never showed up, but I had a pretty good time any way.
Two: That guy doesn’t know what he’s missing Stephanie. You are a catch. I bet you were the best looking single woman at Dizz Knee Land by her self that day. I mean aside from the robotic drunk chicks on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.
One: That’s awfully nice of you to say. So you were in Las Vegas all weekend?
Two: Well I was there for fifteen minutes.
One: Fifteen minutes? What were you doing with the rest of the weekend?
Two: Walking back here. I lost my car and then I lost my plane tickets and then I lost my bus tickets and then I lost my bicycle in poker games so I had to walk back. And I might mention, I ran the last eight miles so forgive me if I was three hours late. Its not like I didn’t try or anything.
One: You lost your car and let a horse eat your money?
Two: Its not like I wanted the horse to eat my money or I wanted to lose every thing I owned. I’m not an idiot you know. Its your fault I even went to Las Vegas! The way you’re always pestering me about your five hundred bucks and how I really should leave town.
One: I ask you to move out of town and never come back. Not take a vacation to Las Vegas! You moron!
Two: I’m not a moron Stephanie. But maybe I am a fool for loving you.
One: You are nothing but an irresponsible wreck! I should fire you right now.
Two: I bet you won’t.
One: Don’t be so sure, buddy. Why shouldn’t I?
Two: When I ran out of collateral, I bet Jimmy The Card Shark my life that you wouldn’t fire me.
One: So that’s why there’s six goons waiting in the parking lot with guns and shovels.
Two: That’s right. I used your good nature and compassion as leverage to keep my job and also by extension my life.
One: So by my not firing you, all you get is to stay alive?
Two: Well that, and you get to continue seeing me every day. Lucky you huh! (sings) Luck be a lady tonight!
One: So its a win lose proposition.
Two: Hey Stephanie, its like they say. The house always wins.

doing a crossword on a still porch-cold paper
trembling on a pun
balancing on the quietness
of the solitude of a picador’s full attention

the rattle of ineffectual windows
in Central California
barely there walls
cause the only movement in a wintered heart

stepping into the embraces
of alley shadow I am
thoroughly explored by her
near forgotten breath

words are left forgotten
as over the course of fourteen minutes
spring arrives unceremoniously to a
city asleep and restless

blood warm as a crime scene
golden apertures hint grace
through smell of sea
and trash-pick-up-day

While Santa Barbara excitedly waits for the Tsukioka Kogyo exhibit of Japanese prints (showing Feb 12-May 15 2011) there is still many works in Santa Barbara Museum of Art’s permanent collection to be introduced to or revisit.

Recently, I spent some time with Jules Bastien-Lepage’s (1848-1884) “Les Bles Murs, or The Ripened Wheat.”
An image of this work can be seen here:
http://allart.biz/photos/image-258.html

I’m struck that past the seemingly still and staid subjects of the work there is an undertow of change, of transition. This is accomplished through Bastien-Lapage’s placement of the green swath of field running across the frame above the golden ripened wheat.

The rhythms of growth are heard here, the respect and understanding of the patience of agricultural life.
That mature and responsive disposition is sensed also in the human subject here, a bent farmer with their back turned to the viewer with a reaping tool in hand.

The human subject invites us to question and explore their world. Bastien-Lapage’s choice of allowing the wheat gatherer to be turned from us on their knees with head bowed opens a door of repeated viewings to this art piece. Is the person repairing the tool? Are they injured? Why are they alone in their task and how do they experience this act of gathering in the wheat? Are they praying?

The person at their task with back turned toward artist can be approached from two directions: what it says of the subject, and what it says of Bastien-Lapage.

From the immortalized person depicted in the art, it speaks from them “I am not performing. I am fully engaged at the task at hand.”
Of Bastien-Lapage it speaks to the depicted, “I will respect you in your process.”

Of course, the discussion of ‘what it means to depict a subject with their back-turned’ can go down many interesting paths of
“when are we ever ‘not performing?'”
“just as in science, an observer always changes the observed”
“can we reach reality through art?…can we reach reality period?”

I found myself evolving with the painting. I wondered if the farmer was praying, if in their mind they were thinking of the scriptures portraying Christ as one who would reap humanity and separate the ‘wheat from the tares.’

Is the farmer’s point of rest at the golden wheat with the still green crop in the background a moment of repose to consider the enacting of a loaded Christian trope? The act of cutting wheat is an apt metaphor for difficult judgments or decisions as ‘decision’ is derived from the Latin “caedere” meaning ‘to cut.’

The point of decision has come for one rural laborer perhaps it is a profound moment of spiritual meaning and humility. Whatever the cause of the knelt posture, it is a depiction that tugs on this viewer’s heart to consider again their labor, decisions, and way of being.

Bastien-Lapage’s The Ripened Wheat and many other powerful works of art can be found at Santa Barbara’s Museum of Art. Find out more here:
http://www.sbmuseart.org/

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