Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Estrella Morente sings for her father at his wake, Granada, Spain

Estrella Morente is my favorite singer and I have seen her in concert twice. Here she is today singing to her father who died this week. Incredibly tragic but also extraordinarily beautiful.

Monday, December 13, 2010


I am not a huge fan of the holidays. Particularly Catholic ones. In fact, due to my upbringing, the latter bring up a mild version of PTSD. Particularly, as I mentioned here before, those in Florida where you run into elderly but aggressively "friendly" Tea Party zealots who greet you at Target or Wal-Mart with a barrage of "MERRY CHRISTMAS" in response to the liberal ecumenical neutral milquetoast p.c. "happy holidays." (which however, may be of offense to atheists or agnostics such as myself)

My earlier post on Christmas in the Bible Belt here:

There is one holiday custom that is making me reconsider going back to observing the tradition of displaying figurines depicting the scene at the manger with the Holy Family, Three Kings, animals etc. One of my grandfather's sisters (borderline Opus Dei but that is neither here nor there) is very artistic and used to organize a massive creche in her garage in Florida, with the mountainous Holy Land setting made of some kind of cardboard, spray paint, glitter etc. lights, and ceramic figures made by her. The gringos driving past would stop in astonishment (well except for the Italians I guess). In Catalonia, they populate the traditional scene of Christ after his birth with little figures called caganers or shitters to use the vernacular. The best part is that these crappers are usually just local peasants or whatever but at some point they began to make them in the guise of the rich and famous in a typically Spanish irreverent/politically incorrect/subversive/blasphemous manner. Love!

See a little summary in English here

Enrique Morente

Here is his last performance, in honor of Picasso (video EL PAIS):

Monday, December 6, 2010

Temporary Interruption

I have been distracted by a severe case of #academentia lately. This doesn't mean that I haven't forgotten my 6 readers, it just means that my inability to drag myself away from my "serious" (ie. money-making) writing has prevented me from having fun chatting here. I have however been collecting my usual bizarre selection of pop cultural artifacts to deconstruct here, so I hope you will be patient and I will be back soon. In the meantime, the 140-character Twitter format is about all I can manage. [twitter feed for @petitemaoiste is on the left of the blog page]

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Julio Iglesias' Ex Tells All - For JZ

Más vídeos en Antena3

Last night Spanish crooner Julio Iglesias' ex Vaitiare appeared on my favorite muti-hour gossip chat show Donde estas, corazon? (DEC) to plug her new tell-all book. So I had to put down my HOLA! magazine where I'd been reading excerpts from the not so tell all sexual/spiritual memoir of dictator Francisco Franco's scandal-mongering granddaughter, Carmen, to watch. Carmen deserves her own entry, so I will leave it at that - for now. Vaitiare met Julio in the 1980s when he cast her in the Tahitian-themed video for "Tropeze de nuevo con la misma piedra" (below) which translates as, I tripped again on the same stone.

Which is amusing because like his ex wife, the eternally chic Filipina beauty, Isabel Preysler, Vaitiare was Asian, young and gorgeous when he met her. The latter was however, underage, 17 when they allegedly hooked up and from there according to the memoir she was a kind of sexual servant who traveled all over the world with him and took part in all kinds of unsavory activities. Of course the announcer had to refer to the Tahitian beauty as "EXOTIC" in typically Spanish fashion. And of course one of the commentators had to inquire about the pot smoking with Julio noting that naturally since Bob Marley enjoyed the drug she did too, coming from Haiti as she did. So not only did this idiot not get the difference between Tahiti and Haiti (pronounced similarly in Spanish) but he confused Jamaica with the latter.

Vaitiare tried to come across as gracious and complimented Julio every chance she got, all the while making all kinds of scandalous comments and innuendo. Using the now commonplace rhetoric for these shows she said she wrote the book as a kind of therapy for herself and that it was not so much about Julio but about "her truth." (Es MI verdad.) Now, when I see the word "truth" modified by anything, that sets off alarm bells. But maybe that's me. In any event, whenever she was pressed on the details about sex or drugs, she replied "It was the 80s." (Eran los ochentas, you know?)

The video itself is priceless, just a shot of him singing surrounded by "Tahitian" beauties right out of a hieratic Gauguin painting.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Fun with Academentia: Ph.D. Comics

I am headed to Europe for a nerdolicious conference so this refresher on academese is super helpful. Although I am already a model minority junior professor, the situations in this hilarious series of cartoons on the Ph.D. experience still ring true. There is always the hope that I might meet another equally nerdy colleague for some romance --especially since this conference is in a discipline not overwhelmingly populated with over-educated neurotic fashionista artsy females ie. NOT art history. Also, I am out of NY, that quagmire for single women of a certain age. Then I can emulate my friends who all have long-distance affairs/marriages with exotic foreign men, although my last attempt at this arrangement left me heart-broken but with greater insight into #gametheory. Looking on the bright side, such shandisimos are material for the eventual fictional chronicle or telenovela and I can #dreamon

Monday, October 4, 2010

Problems in Philosophy by Amy Sillman (2010)

Just a couple of days ago I was kvetching with a colleague about how to incorporate aesthetics and philosophy into teaching. He was talking about philosophy of beauty and showing his class Snooki as an example of what one writer would regard as the anti-beauty par excellence, I suggested showing The Situation with the Apollo Belvedere. Once a friend showed Madonna's "Like a Prayer" with Bernini's "St. Teresa in Ecstasy." Nerds' sense of humor can be rather opaque but hey, it is sometimes an antidote to academentia. Meanwhile, for the past two years, I see game theory in every situation, which can be quite debilitating. I'd rather watch "Keeping Up With the Kardashians."

Sunday, October 3, 2010

What do Phillipe Segalot and Danielle Staub Have in Common?

Photo by Beatrice de Gea for The New York Times

I just finished Carol Vogel's "Auction World's Blast of Brash" and I know that I should not get worked up about this because I have better things to do, I should not expect anything more, and I have called her columns the New York "artworld" version of PRAVDA. Hewing to the party line, they often read like summaries of press-releases. The fawning profile of dealer/collector/auctioneer/curator-type Philippe Segalot is not a departure from that tone. There are so many things that annoyed me while reading the article that I will limit myself to a telegraphic series of observations.

It seems perverse to introduce this person by presenting him as some kind of "brash" outsider who acts almost as a performance artist would at an art fair, yet is in fact the ultimate insider operating to ensure buyers first dibs at Basel.

It is telling that Vogel seems to think that he seems to blur the lines between auctions and museum/art fair/biennial special events (Think Pink party) and that his actions are an instance of the a recent trend to assume the cultural authority of museum curators. This strategy is used to attempt to distance art sales from the taint of crass commercialism (Olav Velthuis's Talking Prices is useful to read as is Isabelle Gaw's High Price) by presenting "curated" gallery shows, art fair exhibitions, and auctions. As many have observed, what this type of operation attempts to achieve is to endow these events with an aura of objective discernment, distinction, and canonical inevitability.

An inadvertent moment of hilarity, for me anyway, was Vogel's extensive discussion of Segalot's grooming, particularly his mane of blow dried hair. (hideous Eurotrash styling but that's only my opinion) Perhaps here Vogel is allowing herself a bit of subversive humor, mocking the apparently vain fashionista by interspersing her breathless description of his style with detailed description of starstylist Fekkai's manipulation of asynthetic/real hair weave for a Maurizio Cattelan sculpture of ex-supermodel --now star in the most delicious and dirty divorce battle-- Stephanie Seymour.

At one point, she makes an aside to mention that an (unidentified!) "reporter" attempted to fact-check a story presumably by pulling Segalot's hair to verify that it is real. Here, the revolting practices of the elitist provincial NY "artworld" intersect with the equally revolting but more entertaining practices of reality TV exhibitionism, as anyone who like me watches The Real Housewives of New Jersey will note. This is because the climax of the last season's conflict was an incident when the daughter of one of the housewives yanked at the (apparently cheap) weave of another, leading to criminal proceedings. If you want to know more about RHONJ's "Weavegate" see

Speaking of hair, the description of the Seymour sculpture is tailor-made for an Intro to Feminism or Women, Art and Power class:
"Stephanie is the ultimate fantasy," Mr. Segalot said recently...And Cattelan's description of the work "I wanted other men to be able to share her." (of course this is in line with centuries of tradition in portraits of women, such as princesses available for marriage alliances shopped around to willing monarchs). What I love about the whole article is the subtext that this is a world run by men for men where women are saleable accessories to the action/auction. It is fitting that according to Vogel the other prominent work for sale is Warhol's portrait of Liz Taylor "Men in Her Life" which dates from a period "whe she was between husbands." Much like these works are between owners, between auction and art exhibition.

Finally, Vogel's passing aside describing the works in Segalot's chic apartment, which she mentions are by artists also in the sale raised some Art Market Ethics 101 alarms. According to Vogel Segalot launched now trophy artists into the auction market, he collects the same artists, we do not know the provenance of the objects as is often the case with auctions, we do not know who ends up buying many of them, Segalot's own collection increases in value, obviously, with these transactions as the sale prices increase.

Vogel's article here:

The Grand Tour: SP Biennial Edition (for F.,G., and J.)

El alma nunca piensa sin imagen / The soul never thinks without images by Roberto Jacoby

This year's Sao Paulo Biennial has "politics" as its curatorial theme - the "politics of art." Stop. Right. There. Politics as a theme is exactly what should raise a big red flag. More than once, I have reflected on my own bad conscience as a drive-by eyewitness to self-congratulatory so-called artworld events that claim to raise awareness about political struggles just by merely flying there (on almost 1K flights, wearing chic ensembles). [see below for the link to my blog and the search term biennial for some of my sarcastic reflections as a newbie to the Venice Biennial event] I have never been able to afford to to go the second oldest Biennial, in Sao Paulo, so I have to console myself by hearing friends' stories, struggling with Portuguese newspaper articles and the provincial NY artworld's version of HOLA! the artforum diary. (for that, see

It's interesting to note that the chronicler of this year's opening
notes controversies surrounding two works but ignores the most prominent artistic debate which arose from a proposal by Roberto Jacoby, who intended to give his space in the show over to political campaigning for one of the Brazilian presidential candidates, Lula da Silva's chosen successor and frontrunner Dilma Rousseff (he does not say this, but Brazilians are going to the polls as I write this but was prevented from doing so. The writer does note that NY powerbroker Gavin Brown saw soccer superstar Ronaldo in an elevator, and records other art celeb sightings and the beautiful tropical landscaping and drinks available in Sao Paulo and other cultural centers in Brazil.

As I said, I was not there and cannot therefore make a judgement either way, from what I have read the situation raises various questions. In order to understand the basic facts, one would need to know:
-did the artist know that it was apparently not legal to undertake political campaigning in museums/cultural spaces that receive state funding based on Brazilian electoral law?
- did the curators know that the artist was going to present this type of project beforehand?
Depending on those answers, one may draw very diverse opinions about responsibilities in this particular case.

This controversy and the facts surrounding it (which may never be fully known) aside, the story lends itself to thinking about the dynamics of biennial culture now. It might seem that the artist was creating a situation that he suspected would result in censorship in order to push the boundaries of the biennial and its curatorial rhetoric to their limits, what is the difference between the thematics of politics and actual politics as lived on the street, what are the stakes? This type of question is one many of us ask in contrast to what seems like the aestheticization of politics in biennial culture, which thematizes immigration, liminality, globalization, the glocal, the situation in urban megalopolises, or the alleged relation between art and life. This is quite different from the breathless descriptions of the origins of starcurators or artists such as So-and-so: lives BETWEEN Bangkok-New York-Dakar-Aspen, you get the picture. The latter amuses as it reminds me of those elegant - tacky spreads that usually appear in HOLA or HELLO featuring the homes of Eurotrash former aristocrats and the like that describe their life-style as: X-Duke of X shares with us their Swiss Chalet style summer home in Punta Cana, s/he lives between Punta Cana, Paris, Luang Prabang, and New York. And as an aside those homes are quite electically "global chic." So the Baroness Thyssen will have a Thai style villa outside of Madrid, or another home owned by Oscar de la Renta in Punta Cana will be decorated in a potpurri of Chinosierie, US Colonial/Preppy/Hampstons style, and Palladian architecture.

typical photo that appears in magazines like HOLA (this is the interior of Donald Trump's understated minimalist and elegant NY apartment)

In some biennial cases "relational aesthetics" may become a curatorial pose or canon that allows elites to present themselves as cultural brokers and perhaps in some cases as native informants too (for the latter see who can bridge the gap between artists, cultural workers, (rich collectors, gallerists, critics), and the people (whatever that means) through seemingly utopian projects that "activate" formerly isolated or depressed sectors of urban centers or non-urban areas (tourism, gentrification). And as such "relational curating" becomes a kind of Academy, repeated at endless venues, ever more allegedly remote, a new Grand Tour, Jacoby's thwarted project, intended to insert the dynamics of electoral propaganda within a biennial, with campaigners, posters, and fliers, can lead us to consider the problems posed by our current system's conditions, contradictions, and efforts to over-compensate for our collective bad conscience.

And by the way, the more I read the term "glocal" (which if I understand it correctly refers to the complex intersection between specific ways of life and the incursions of global capital throughout the world, the ways in which immigration, globalization, the survival of local attitudes and traits coexist in the developing and so-called developed areas of the world) it makes me think of something different. If the provincial local "artworld" of New York (as Paulo Herkenhoff once referred to it at a conference at MoMA) is conflated with THE "artworld" then its movement via biennials and other events to ever-expanding areas of the world becomes a kind of grafting of this particular point of view onto a global stage, a local pretending to be global.

For information on the Jacoby project including pictures of the installation, its appearance after it was covered over, and video, see:

For my past posts on the biennial phenomenon, the biennial as the so-called artworld's Miss Universe, Epcot Center, World Cup, the links between Work of Art and the World Cup, and much more.....see:

Friday, October 1, 2010

Buleria del Dia

Pasaran rios de pena y lloraran
Que estamos hechos para llorar
Pa´ no mentirme no digas na
Pasaran de dos mentiras una verdad
Que las palabras me duelen mas
Pa no mentirme no digas na
Buscaran el hilo negro para bordar
Y a las mentiras un cachito de verdad

Vente al sur, donde quieras si quieres …

Entre rincones los callejones se cerraban
Se abren del paso de las calles que mojadas
Del rocio de la noche…

Puerto Ricans In Limbo (again and again and again....)

At the end of this month, people born in the US Territory (Colony) will cease to exist -administratively-it may be argued that they already do not exist in the minds of the average fellow US citizen including US politicians. Obama came down to the Island to campaign against Clinton in the Democratic primaries because perversely Puerto Ricans residing on the Island may vote in primaries -but not elect the President. This is one of many bizarre laws that govern the small island's fraught relationship with the US which began as a result of Spain's loss to the the former in 1898, when the Americans occupied and stayed. Notwithstanding the 1953 declaration of limited self-government and the euphemistic "territorial" or "commonwealth" status, what exists is, as I have written here before, a two-tiered system of citizenship, in which those living on the Island are disenfranchised in contrast to those living in the 50 states. There are almost 8 million Puerto Ricans, of which the majority now live Stateside. And they are the second largest "Hispanic" group, after Mexicans.

Islanders' and residents of the states (the so-called "Mainland") are now back on level territory - the birth certificates that entitle them to the US passports coveted by many - and the only passports to which they have since there is no such thing as a Puerto Rican passport - will become null and void at the end of October. In order to obtain them, one must go make a cue at a US Post Office in order to obtain a Money Order that is needed to purchase a new birth certificate. This transaction may take months, possibly the reason that the deadline to become non-persons was extended from July to October. The clock is ticking for the possibly unprecedented legal/existential situation in which approximately EIGHT MILLION people are suddenly to disappear administratively speaking. Floating in an administrative limbo, those needing this proof of existence, the prosaic birth certificate, will be unable to carry out transactions relating to social services, marriages, and the like. Housing, food stamps, school matriculations? You will have to wait (keep in mind that according to some surveys, at least half the population of the Island lives in poverty).

Why is this happening? In the midst-of anti-undocumented immigrant hysteria, it came to the attention of the Bush Administration (and Obama, who apparently has decided to disregard his many demagogic campaign promises instead pursuing policies mimetic with the previous government of the US) that some residents of other countries, such as the Dominican Republic, may have been "passing" for Puerto Ricans in order to obtain US passports. This means that suddenly this Island that seems to be a burden to many members of the US Congress (read the revealing debates in the Congressional Record on the endless plebiscites proposed to resolve the status of the Island vis a vis the US) now poses the problem that it is comprised of porous borders. Unlike they are able to do Stateside, they can't build walls patrolled by Homeland Security forces assisted by members of fascist militias. So the easiest way to invalidate the results of alleged passport fraud was to reissue all birth certificates issued to people born on the Island. Could they have not found other ways of verifying the information?

In any case, the result of this, as my sister pointed out, is that Puerto Ricans must carry out onerous burocratic transactions that in effect coerce them to deal with the US government administration (Post Office) to willingly participate and reenact their status as colonized subjects of this country. Seeking validation of their (literal) existence that only reaffirms their (nonexistence) as Puerto Rican citizens of a non-existent country.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

My Current Obsession: EATALY

they make cheese on site, including Mozzarella burrata.

they import canned goods with darling designs such as these retro labels for tomatoes

The new big thing here is that Mario Batali and Lydia Bastianich opened up an Italian cuisine Disneyland/WalMart in the Flatiron and all the foodies plus tourists plus local non cooks but Italianophiles like me are flocking there like it's the culinary Promised Land. On a recent Saturday there were HUGE lines with a security guard at each door like it was the Roxy in 1990. Back in the day, I could get past the line and cross the red velvet rope with my gorgeous gay escort in tow but now....not even worth a try. I know the place is like an Italian simulacra for Americans/Culinary Disneyland/Foodie Wal-Mart but it's fantastic. I know the place is expensive and thus most of us can only rarely shop there, if at all. But as a lover of Italian style and food (and men, sigh) I enjoyed strolling through the shop. I walked out with imported pasta that although it was Buitoni was a type of spaghetti that looks different from any type I buy here but just like some I had in Mastorica with a duck ragu (ay ay ay so delicious), Mozzarella burrata, San Daniele prosciutto, olive oil bread, and some jarred pasta sauce with roasted eggplant, all delicious).

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

If only this were true!

Obama Releases 500,000 Men From U.S. Strategic Bachelor Reserve

My current obsession: Dutch Wax Cloth

As soon as I saw this darling ottoman, I was obsessed. I am beginning to amass a collection of gorgeous custom-made (and store bought from the Cote d'Ivoire fabric collection produced a couple of years ago by Zachary's Smile in SoHo and also sold at Anthropologie) Dutch wax print dresses with fabric from various places in Harlem, Africa and The Netherlands. (including an Obama dress with fabric from Mali!)

Thankfully, my academentia endeavors have paid off and I had a bit of extra cash so I ordered it, and thank goodness because it seems to be getting some press, and who knows if it will sell out?

The ottoman, here:

and here:

Here is info on a designer who makes LOVELY clothes with this material:

And info about the complex history of these textiles which were part of colonial networks of industrial production, from a scholar:

And here is an article on one of my favorite artists, Yinka Shonibare, who uses wax cloth in his work:

In one of his recent videos, a dancer is shown wearing a gorgeous dress in which the print includes the Chanel logo. As I am going to Amsterdam next month, I planned to scour the fabric market for this print, which I covet. Right now I have dresses with floral patterns but also an old school Walkman and high-heeled shoes. (the latter two from Senegal) Sadly, the Chanel print was custom-made for the artist. I would die to rock that.....

A Sad Day for Art Lovers

I have a running list of museums I'd like to visit. The Liberace Museum, in a mall in Vegas, is high on that list. Today I woke up to the tragic news that the museum is closing 10/17. Why they did not give more advance notice is unclear. But now I am scrambling to figure out if I can go for a weekend. Not kidding. My fantasy had been to do an American Road trip, drive to Graceland and the LIberace museum.....and stop to see other campy American monuments along the way. I had also planned to celebrate a landmark birthday (yes, I am not yet 21) party in Vegas expressly to see the museum, but instead we went to LA. No time to waste on regrets, Travelocity, here I come.

The full sad story is here:

The fabulous Liberace:

Sorry I haven't posted

I just came across a note about the fabulous artist Cory Arcangel's latest project, which is a sample of "sorry I haven't posted" blog posts. I had wanted to write one myself then decided silence would speak for itself, why post to say I cannot post. Is that not a contradiction? That's like not answering an email and then sending a one liner saying, oh things have been messy the past few days/weeks/months, I'll be in touch. I'm finding twitter to be much more feasible with my current work schedule (on leave, ha ha ha, academentia rocks!).

You can see his project here:

And here he is talking about one of my favorite works he did, I Shot Andy Warhol:

No estaba en el Mas Alla, estaba en Bora, Bora

HOLA is my FAVORITE magazine. Yes, even more than Artforum. Mexican bolero crooner Luis Miguel disappeared for a few months and twitter as well as TV shows were rife with rumors of his demise. Fortunately, he is still with us.

Read the full story in HOLA, here

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Fun with Academentia #247: Reviews

I read readers' reports for a thing I sent to a press and it feels like listening to eulogies at your own funeral in a good way.#academentia

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Missed Connections

The second leg of my summer vacation took me to visit a dear friend who no longer lives in the same city as me (one of the perils of academentia is ending up alone in the city where you went to grad school and made close friends) got off to a dramatic start. Summer storms led to a hours-long delay, followed by delight at boarding for the long flight and the announcement of imminent take off. Until I saw a flurry of flight attendants sprinting to the First Class section (I had scored a coveted exit row seat directly behind) of the plane. The head cabin attendant got on the PA and asked if there was a doctor on board to silence, quickly followed by a staccato: any nurses, nurse practitioners, paramedics? Please ring your call button. Two women rushed forward towards the huddled mass of uniformed personnel and the feet of the prone passenger covered by one of the blankets I had sought but could only obtain - at a price. I saw the gestures familiar from movies and TV - one of the people was trying to massage the passenger's heart back into operation. For at least 20 minutes. Simultaneously, the plane was careening back towards our gate. At this point, my Recovering Catholic Stockholm Syndrome was kicking in and I made the sign of the Cross and prayed silently. They explained there was a sick passenger and that we had to return to the gate in order for paramedics to come. But suddenly two NYC cops entered, took a sweeping glance into the cabin, and took out notebooks following which the flight attendant asked the two women who performed CPR to come speak to them. It seemed to me that the passenger was dead. In any case, the blanketed feet disappeared, another passenger departed on foot following. Again over the PA a flight attendant called out a name, and a man came up from the rear and was moved to First Class. Yes, he was on standby for an upgrade, and this was his opportunity. That's airplane travel today folks, survival of the fittest. (I was wondering why would they not offer the upgrade to the Good Samaritan who tried to resuscitate the passenger.) And we were on our way.

After the requisite calming speech from the Captain including the "our thoughts and prayers are with our fellow passenger," I spoke to one of the shaken flight attendants who told me it was the wife in a couple that had left NY en route to their country of residence (intending to make a connection in the city where I was headed) after celebrating their 50th anniversary with family.

Although I have had many family members and close friends my own age die, I have never seen a person in the act of dying, if you can call what I saw precisely that.

To make things even more surreal, when we learned of the second or third delay at the airport, I called my friend to bitch in Spanish and noticed out of the corner of my eye a cute guy. (I always wonder if this is the flight where I will meet an exciting stranger, but always end up with the crying babies etc. instead) During the excruciatingly long flight, the cute guy and I began to flirt sporadically (after the requisite commiserating about the tragic events, it would be in poor taste otherwise), which I guiltily enjoyed tremendously.

Once I got off the plane, I sought him out at the baggage claim, but as my luck would have it, he must have taken his stuff on board. So for the first time, I tried out the Craig's List Missed Connections feature, crafting what I hoped was a sufficiently insouciant and witty sentence that evoked our playful banter on board. Of course I never heard from the guy.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Work of Art & #workoFart & "work of art"

My fascination with reality TV dates back to 1998, when I saw the first Gran Hermano (Big Brother) on Spanish television. I have written here before about the ways in which I believe such programming naturalizes the state of being under surveillance. Indeed in some cases, it can glamorize it, or at least bring the promise of wealth and celebrity even at the cost of over-share and humiliation. It is precisely the latter aspect that for me posed the greatest danger because the format of these shows seems designed to foster a collective bonding experience that is most often based on mutual loathing for a scapegoat. Brute competition, ruthlessness, and lack of empathy are particularly useful in shows like Big Brother, Bad Girls Club, and Real Housewives.

In some cases, such as the latter, the participants are supposed to act as aspirational figures for our own longings, but at the same time, this provokes resentment and schadenfreude (see the gleeful reactions to the recent 11 million dollar bankruptcy filing by barely literate lavish spender Teresa Guidice from the New Jersey version of Bravo's franchise). The aspirational aspect now extends to the mysterious artworld which according to breathless media reports brings in a lot of money. Curators are also glamorous jet setting, designer clothes rocking stars, taking the protagonism away from the artists who should be the subject of our interest. The prestige now represented by formerly nerdy curators was discussed in recent New York Times article that pointed out examples of the appropriation of the term curate to apply to everything from window displays to DJing.

In any event, my response to the launch of a reality TV show designed to select "the next great artist" was skeptical to say the least. Although there are exceptions to the Social Darwinist Panopticon created by this newish televisual genre, by and large it is our baser instincts that prevail. I for one experience mixed feelings whenever a group that I identify with to some extent is represented in one of these fictional passing as real programs. This was particularly true of Work of Art: The Next Great Artist. At the same time, I think I was secretly thrilled to see part of my life allegedly reflected on the screen. Of course by now people who participate and viewers are for the most part aware that editors and producers are writing these shows, intervening to create "characters" that in some ways are as fake as those in regular acted sitcoms, dramas, and soap operas. (eg. Nao as the arrogant bitch, Miles as the hot hipster, Abdi as the naive generous youngster untainted by the cynicism of the artworld, etc.) And it is the self-consciousness of the characters, encouraged by telling asides during scenes (see RHONY's and Bethenny's Getting Married? Bethenny Frankel) or by the by now hackneyed "Confessional" scenes where participants de-brief with producers (sometimes seemingly ignorant of the fact that their bitchy comments will be aired, which only adds to the thrill of listening in to them) that enhances the voyeuristic thrill of watching.

Twitter may exacerbate this phenomenon, when some of us, hiding under the virtual veil of anonymity, make snarky comments under #workofart or most often #workoFart (I speak about myself here, obviously) and feel a web of connection with other members of the "artworld" who are equally skeptical about the incorporation of our area of interest/practice/study into this now ubiquitous genre.

This notwithstanding, and despite the 140-character limitations, in addition to hours of laughter [for fun recaps see the Artlog and Hyperallergic blogs at ] I gained insights into the functioning of the artworld [for this see especially this tweet from the awesome c-monstah at and ArtF ag city here as well as those mentioned above ], the role of critics and critical reception [see judge Jerry Salz's posts on New York Magazine's Vulture blog, in particular his de-brief at the end of the show here and Christopher Knight's rather venomous rebuttal here], and the new types of interaction made possible by digital communication.

In relation to the latter debate about criticism, I would tend to agree with Knight, that the power dynamics at work in terms of critical reception as a tool of artistic legitimation have not changed. Saltz's utopian claim that the dialogue has somehow expanded as a result of viewers' reactions to the show seems implausible. Did we get to vote like spectators of American Idol? No. Were smart bloggers or artists who make work analyizing artworld dynamics, such as William Powhida [see his blog here] represented in the jury? No. This was a superficial and distorted view of artistic production and reception. Not to mention the fact that it was based on the provincial New York vantage point.

The show allowed me to indulge my nerdolicious academentia/alleged scholarly interest in the internet and reality TV (let's keep it real, a pretext to indulge my love of Bravo's reality TV franchise) to a new level by attending the finale of the show at Soda Bar. Here, friendly groups of artnerds gathered on comfy couches, crackberries, Androids, and iPhones in hand, to chat, live tweet, and watch the show on a large projection screen. To the right, a cascade of Work of Art hashtag tweets was visible. In a charmingly low-fi manner, however, we could vote for who would be eliminated from each episode by checking a piece of paper with glued on photos of contestants.

One of Abdi's sculptures at the Brooklyn Museum

Although I am not adept at this type of simultaneous digital/analog/visual/verbal interaction/reception, I found myself fascinated by the new type of experience it generates. At one point, I found myself retweeting smart comments made by my friend as we were seated next to each other, watching, reading the #workofart feed, and chatting. This kind of disassociated consciousness is heightened when you are tweeting under a pseudonym (which for professional reasons I must employ). At the same time, it is odd to feel like there are multiple "versions" of me operating simultaneously. My inner-monologue, exterior dialogue, and digital monologue/dialogue happening all at once. And just like the "reality" show contestants are performing roles predicated on realness, immediacy and accessiblity, I was performing the role of droll commentator on twitter, accessible to all, yet in fact removed.

Getting back to what the show was supposedly "about" the work of art, as smart twitterer and media phenomenon @MuseumNerd observed, this distancing also affected our ability to evaluate the merits of the works produced each week. Because aside from the obvious drawback of the format - you cannot apply the Top Chef, Project Runway etc. temporality to the making of art work, nor is it fair to artists to impose a "challenge" that forces them to make work based on pre-determined subjects or working with limited media, since this may not respond to their concerns and practices -- how can you judge an artwork by fleeting glimpses of it on television? This is something I remind my students about repeatedly - go to a museum! Go to galleries! Go to studios! Don't read Gardner's, look at Powerpoint slides, or do Google image searches to understand works of art.

Work of Art fans tweeting and watching the show (from the Brooklyn Museum's Flkr feed)

I was underwhelmed by the works when I saw them at the opening yesterday (for a nice photographic tour of the show see @MuseumNerd's Flkr series here My so-called documentary contribution has to do with my obsession with fashion, and here is the extremely petite and thin Jaclyn Santos' shandisimo of an ensemble, skin tight flesh colored lycra dress that was perilously on the verge of exposing her rear end, worn with a striped bra (partially peeking out from the back and shoulders) and matching thong. Beige stilettos punctuated by a rather sinister row of straps moving up her tiny ankle and matching Chanel bag.

Joan Rivers' Red Carpet pseudo-coverage aside, the work seemed to me to be quite well-executed, the drawings in particular, but the theme seemed heavy-handed and the sculptures seemed fragile (I remember him having trouble keeping them intact because of problems with his materials). I worry that such immediate potential fame at such a young age might hinder his artistic development. But that is not what the TV show was about. It was geared towards narrative flow, instant gratification, and fake insight into a trendy, glamorous, and for many, remote, elusive and cliquey world. That much of the recent glamour ascribed to the so-called artworld is due to mass media coverage of astronomical and inflated prices particularly for contemporary art was reinforced by the "honor" offered to the contestant: inclusion of in one of the charming Simon de Pury's auctions. This type of straight to the sale room marketing cutting out the gallerist, critic, and museum curator as practiced by Damien Hirst had been the subject of much criticism and raise ethical questions for many. But for the presumably broad TV audience, such nuance and context was omitted.

Also not acknowledged was the problem of curatorial independence, expertise and art historical judgement that side-stepped when the Brooklyn Museum agreed to (presumably sight-unseen) grant a one-person show to the winner, akin to the one year contract as a Cover Girl spokesperson granted to the victor in America's Next Top Model. For some, this manouver suggested a PR gambit on the part of the much-criticized museum. I for one am, despite my dismay at the Director's re-organization of the curatorial departments, which are no longer led by specialists in areas represented in their fantastic collection, a fan of the museum. I appreciate the diverse audiences they attract, and one could argue that this TV tie-in is part of these populist efforts.

Respected curator Eugenie Tsai's introductory text attempted to frame the show in historical terms, reminding viewers of the long artistic tradition of juried exhibitions. This may well be the case, but it elides important differences. First, the competition was extremely limited in number and not directed by the Brooklyn Museum. Second, the judges were not curators but rather gallerists/collectors, critics and artists. Third, although the genres were limited in Salon exhibitions, I don't think you can analogize this to the show's "challenges." Indeed, such genre-specificity has nothing whatsoever to do with contemporary art practices.

Ironically a more recent development and artistic precedent for instant artistic celebrity and the incursions of the artworld into the media, the work and practice of Andy Warhol, were ommitted. This was particularly odd given the fact that immediately across from the fifth floor gallery where Abdi's work was shown was the second part of the late Warhol exhibition at the museum.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Away for the Summer, tune in later!

Like the Duquesa de Alba and many others, during the Summer months I have been traveling and will be going away again soon. I will have loads of hopefully amusing cultural commentary related to my trips in Spain and Italy when I return!!!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Nationalist Kitsch but it sounds so good.....

And since we're on a Manolo Escobar thing, I grew up listening to this song, the Sevillana below admonishing the young woman not to don miniskirts to the bullfights was unknown to me until a Spanish friend sent it to me. Since the World Cup allows academentia suffering nerds who regard themselves as enlightened fellow travelers to give free reign to outre nationalist sentiments, I post it here. Of course the song is highly problematic given its Franco-era vintage. But it takes me back to happy times in the 1970s and early 1980s, when I was a young girl and thus ignorant of all of this evil and injustice.

The video is priceless Spain is Different fun in the sun charming anachronism holiday hotels typical Spanish.

Speaking of nationalism, I went to my first ever sports bar to watch Spain vs. Germany. When I walked in , the server thought I was crazy when I enthusiastically comment on how I could face a huge plasma TV no matter where I was sitting! Apparently, this is customary in American sports bars. Well, fuck. God Bless America then. The bar was a freaking plasma TV panopticon.

As I was in a German neighborhood, I thought I would be the only española there but I was relieved to see a table of other Spaniards. Until the National Anthem came on and we rose. Then they followed it with a rousing ARRIBA España. I almost ran out of the bar. Suddenly I had a traumatic flashback to Franco's NO-DO propaganda newsreels and I was watching mass rallies with fascists giving the raised arm salute. But no, I was in New York City. Of course when I lived there I knew about fascist hooligans who perpetrated horrific racist attacks but I had never been next to people of that ilk. But in my recent marathon of World Cup viewership, I had walked past South African restaurants in my beautifully integrated global neighborhood, had brunch at a Nigerian restaurant and cheered for Mexico in a (regular) bar surrounded with people from all over the world. Thus, this dark side of futbol/football/or soccer has distant since I came to the sport from watching it in family members' living rooms and now as an um adult surrounded by other Europeans or sophisticated American academentia suffering artsy progressives. (irony, insert eyeroll & smile here)

The other irony is that while we Spaniards (or mixed White/colonial/authentic others like me) are cheering for "our" team, most of the players are actually Catalans and/or play for Futbol Club Barcelona. This team has a long complicated history that includes political connotations related to it as a symbol of Catalan Nationalism. During the Franco regime, which criminalized expressions of this area's unique culture and language, not to mention suppressed all traces of its political autonomy, expressions of support for this club were a covert way to express Catalanist sentiment. So it's hilarious to watch the facha assholes in the red and yellow club shirts cheering for the people they would customarily despise as deracinated arrogant Catalanes. As this World Cup is being played, the Spanish Supreme Court declared unconstitutional aspects of an Estatut (statute governing the region of Catalonia) voted on by a majority, most notably, the use of the word "Nation" to describe the area in the preamble. Today, over one million demonstrated in favor of the current wording, many waving the traditional flag indicating support for a separate Catalan nation. If you read the papers in the area you will find that they use a peculiar language to indicate this chasm: they refer to "el govern central" and to the Spanish state, as a kind of separate entity from Catalunya. In the rest of the country you just say Spain. (actually, I don't know what they say in the Basque Country, probably similar for those who support greater autonomy and obviously for the many up there who want to completely sever all ties and be an independent nation)

Classic Spanish Machismo

Friday, July 2, 2010

Why is the Governor Talking to a puppet?

Puerto Ricans were wondering when they would hear from Governor Fortuño after the heinous acts of police brutality that took place at the Capitol. After almost 24 hours, he finally emerged to answer questions. His first public appearance was perfectly appropriate, the opening of a Sam's Club, what could be better for a pro-American, Republican, Neo-Liberalism emulator than that? There and at another protocolary event, he refused reporters' questions. So where did he choose to address what some are calling a "constitutional crisis"? At one of the highest rated TV shows on the Island's main TV station, WAPA TV, called SUPER X-CLUSIVO.

A talk show hosted by our Island version of Waylon and Madam, LaComay and Hector Travieso (the latter's surname means "naughty" you can't make this stuff up). Here, LaComay, a puppet character invented by entertainer Kobbo Santarrosa, dishes the dirt on the latest news. She often signals a big scoop by saying, well, shouting, "PUEBLO DE PUERTO RICO, TENGO BOCHINCHE!!!!" Bochinche means gossip. Luridly made up a bit like a middle aged lady with dyed hair, lots of makeup, high heels and flashy clothes by Mr. Santarrosa, who is the voice of LaComay, the travestied personality often interviews people in the news, with the jocular Travieso as bochinche wingman, the EdMcMahon to her Johnny Carson, as it were.

So when I read the breaking new blog in El Nuevo Dia and saw in passing a reference to the Governor's appearance on Super X-Clusivo, I was shocked, but not altogether surprised, given the show's high ratings. Perhaps Fortuño thought this would be a softball interview with the stuffed demagogue. But he was wrong. With her screaming staccato delivery, LaComay asked her own and other questions submitted by viewers, and at one point ambushed him with a cut away to awaiting real journalist Rafael Lenin Lopez. (his real name, this just gets better and better). The handsome Lenin (as he is called) slammed the Governor with smart questions and rebutted his contradictions and evasions. A truly satisfying piece of television. When I posted the links (see below) on Twitter, one of my tweeps asked: "Why is he talking to a puppet?"

For more on LaComay (who also has a Facebook page) see here:

Constitutional Crisis In Puerto Rico

I have been horrified watching TV and seeing reports in print and video on the internet. The pro-statehood party is controlled by people who are akin to the extreme hard-line faction of the GOP. They have instituted disastrous measures on the Island but their recent acts have led to what the head of the Islands Colegio de Abogados called a "constitutional crisis." Why did he say this? For starters, he was alluding to the increasing loss of civil rights, including forbidding citizens and the press access to Congress.
On the 30th, a peaceful group of University students, members of Todo Puerto Rico (unaffiliated citizens, church officials, union members, students), and others engaged in non-violent civil disobedience attempting to enter the Congress, they were violently attacked by riot police. Many women were wounded, as well as others among them journalists. Inside, the majority PNP Congress voted to institute an $800 extra fee for University students, in flagrant violation of the agreements that ended the 60 day strike at all 11 campuses, among other damaging initiatives such as eradicating environmental protections, privatizations, etc. Sadly but not surprising is the complete lack of US Mainland coverage. (instead if you google PR you find thousands of articles on some baseball game that took place on the same day, I guess you could call us the "invisible Colony")
See links to more information, and an announcement of a protest in New York City, below.

Local Puerto Rican Leaders to Condemn Brutal Repression, Acts of Violence By the
Puerto Rican Government Against its Own People

On Friday, July 2, 2010 at 4 pm in front of the Puerto Rican Federal Affairs
Office, (135 West 50th Street, between 6th and 7th Avenues) members of the
National Congress for Puerto Rican Rights, Red de Apoyo a los Trabajadores
yTrabajadoras en Puerto Rico, New York City Council Member Melissa Mark
Viverito, and representatives of other local Puerto Rican and Latino
organizations, will gather to condemn the latest brutal attacks on innocent
civilians by the government of Puerto Rico.

The violence broke out at the Puerto Rican Capitol building when some local
university students, workers and other members of the public attempted to enter
the legislature Wednesday afternoon. Authorities had closed access to the
general public after groups announced plans for a protest against budget cuts
and other policies of Gov. Luis Fortuño. Police used pepper spray and brutally
clubbed demonstrators with batons and shields.

Puerto Rican Federal Affairs Office
135 West 50th Street, between 6th and 7th Avenues

TIME & DATE: Friday, July 2, 2010 at 4 pm


FOR MORE INFORMATION GO HERE: (Main PR paper, photos, news, blogging live, and lots of video)

National Protest 18 July, and the reasons for calling for it:

Strike at University of Puerto Rico:

Press censorship:

For video go here: (lots of other videos on YouTube) (Main PR TV station, lots of videos; and see below for meeting of citizens to call for national protest 18 july)