Month: July 2018

Giacometti at the Guggenheim

Thursday is the Guggenheim’s day off. I can’t tell you how many tourists brayed at the announcement. I was watching them from the shade of the main entrance, waiting for my girlfriend to join me for a private showing of the new Giacometti exhibit at 3:00. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a tourist, too. I’ve been here ten years, and I still can’t measure the immensity of the place. Now the guy who arranged this private showing lives in my building along with other museum curators and more bizarre individuals, opera singers and the like. He builds things, always...

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Knock on Stone: A Brief, Informal Acoustic Experiment at the Barcelona Pavilion

The original Barcelona Pavilion is believed to be the first time that stone was “hung” in the form of thin panels from an internal structure, with an airspace separation instead of mortar. In other words, it is the first case of a non-monolithic stone wall, as opposed to the solid, load-bearing masonry walls of time immemorial. The reason for using thin panels was probably to save money, as well as to be able to reuse the precious stone after the pavilion had served its purpose. Yet, the pavilion walls also contains segments of traditional solid stone, namely at the ends of its characteristic “free” walls. This was presumably done to avoid having to expose an edge of a stone panel when turning a corner, which would reveal its thinness. It’s a simple detail, but it shows how important it was for this building to convey a desirable appearance over and above its constructional reality; in essence, to establish a certain decorum. It was built for an international exposition, after all, a type of event which is entirely scenographic. In fact, it’s known that the back-sides of the pavilion had stuccoed brick walls painted to look like stone. I have visited this building on countless occasions, and never actually noticed that it contains both monolithic as well as superficial stone, and that the only way to distinguish these is by knocking on them...

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Nine Inch Nails — Bad Witch

Nine Inch Nails Bad Witch The Null Corporation  Trent Reznor is 53 years old, a long-time removed from the viciousness, self-loathing and anger that drove his break through albums back in the early 90s.  I have to confess that back in the day, I thought NIN was a sad rip off of Ministry and Skinny Puppy, the gods of industrial music in the 80s.  So they weren’t my bag.  That changed with the 1999 double album, The Fragile, which gave us a slightly more mature, still angry and self-loathing Reznor.  His music had become less self-indulgent and more worldly. For the past couple of decades, he’s carried on, as well as doing soundtrack work with his partner-in-crime Atticus Ross.  And then there’s his project, How to Destroy Angels, with his wife, Mariqueen Maandig and Ross.  He’s kept himself busy, as NIN have also pumped out albums. Bad Witchis the culmination of a cycle of three EPs, though Reznor (at least in the email I got from the NIN listserv) says it’s a proper album.  At 6 songs and 31 minutes, you can be the judge of that.  At any rate, this is the best music Nine Inch Nails have released in the past two decades. Opening track, ‘Shit Mirror,’ hits like a tonne of bricks and keeps up with the repeated kicks to the gut throughout.  We start of...

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A Reply to Walter Benn Michaels

Walter Benn Michaels’ response to Sean McCann’s critique of his book The Beauty of a Social Problem recently appeared in Politics/Letters Live. This is McCann’s reply. I thank Walter Benn Michaels for the seriousness of his engagement with my review of his book and for his substantial restatement of his argument. He has a great deal to say in this essay. Only a little of what he writes, however, speaks to my critique of his work. His comments largely address other antagonists with whose views he appears to lump mine, and much of what he writes does not accurately capture what my review meant to object to in his book. So, let me try to be more direct. Michaels claims that I “iron out tensions” in Kant’s Critique of Judgment. I think it is not myself but rather he who oversimplifies the third critique. My charge, which Michaels does not significantly contest, is that his book ignores what Kant actually wrote in order to construct a straw man, one that is used by Michaels to identify what he calls a whole “side” of cultural history. That misreading matters, I believe, both because it oversimplifies intellectual history and because it obscures how much Michaels shares with Kant and with a number of post-Kantian aesthetic theorists.[1] The important element in that similarity, in my view, is the fact that Michaels, like Kant before...

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Form and Class: a response to Sean McCann

In the May 2018 Issue of the Politics/Letters quarterly, Sean McCann offered an insightful critique of Walter Benn Michaels’ book The Beauty of a Social Problem. This is the author’s response. At the heart of Sean McCann’s critique of The Beauty of a Social Problem are two good questions: “Is there really anything distinctive about an artist who wants her work to be more than just a commodity?” and “do I really need a formally sophisticated work of photography to understand the structural reality of economic inequality?” His answer to both is no; in fact, however, “The Soul of Man...

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