Friday, January 30, 2015


'The mountains are high and the emperor is far away', is a proverb that originates in the Yuan dynasty, a chaotic time when the rapacious Jurchen's had managed to overthrow the Southern Song dynasty, chasing the last boy emperor to the furthest reaches of the the empire, to an island known as 'broken head mountain'. In this instance the emperor himself was the one far away from his own palace, with the humiliation the dynasty suffered of having to relocate the capital below the Yangtze for the first time in history.
The proverb itself is still used today, and in some way its meaning is unchanged only the particular co-ordinates of state power vary. In a way, it is an admonishment, that perhaps in the privacy of a conjugal bed, or the back of a taxi cab, one can speak and act freely. 

A boy emperor walks along a moonlit beach in the South China sea, a plums nest, and contemplates an empire he will never reign and a palace he will never command. 

In this museum of humanity, in the fragrant, cool mountains of Yunnan where the women wear beads in their hair, dance and weave while the men hunt, the families will retreat to the mountains when the officials arrive to collect tributes for the emperor. At what altitude does the emperors power wane as you climb the mountains, how high does the plane fly before the cold reach of the satellites begin to wane and those pullulating binaries with electronic ears being written with lasers turn to noise? 

Climbing alone, in the midnight, across wet grass, moss and stones Purple feels her chest get tight so she sits beneath a tree to rest, as the leaves of the camellia fall weightlessly on the ground and she breathes in their sweet earthy scent. 
She was getting close to the border where she knew her comrades were waiting for her in an old Toyota.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Day Zero

41 years had past. 

For some, those years had been long, too long. After all, so much had changed. 

For others, the world was as it had always been and would always remain: people were people. People which had hopes and joys, both of which often left them terrified in broad daylight. They had disappointments too, which animated them the way that a body wears a coat. They had deep yearnings, most of which they would never even suspect. And sacred objects, sometimes even ideals, for which they might give up everything. Some had cherished memories while others things they had negligently forgotten, but either way it was the same with people, and these things lived alongside them like a phantom twin. Yes, for some, all you needed to know was that people were people: it was memory that ran long and it time that runs short.

Special Agent Purple saw her targets approaching. He, the son of a US political dynasty, and her, the daughter of a self-made Greek-american supermarket tycoon. They spoke so blithesomely of the past, noticed Special Agent Purple, as if it all had somehow ended. Yet here they were once again, retracing the very same steps of their grandfather, the President, circling a path around the Forbidden City. 

"My grandfather always said that a peaceful and prosperous China was critical for stability and peace in the world. And I think that that is more true today that at any time. If you look at the Korean Peninsula, and what is happening in the Korean Peninsula, clearly China has a very important role to play. And I'm very encouraged by the meetings that happened between State Councillor Yang and Secretary of State Kerry just a few weeks ago, and how China reaffirmed its commitment to the 2005 Six-Party Talks and to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons in the Korean Peninsula."

They spoke of that week in 1972 as "the week that changed the world". But Special Agent Purple knew differently. She was there. What is it exactly that people think has changed, she wondered. Did people really think those days of old were over?

'Funny they should bother talking at all', thought Special Agent Purple. For her, knowledge was an ideal she gave up long ago. She did what her role required of her, figuring that was all that could ever be asked of a person.  Effortlessly Special Agent Purple approached her targets. Her heavy disguise made the job easy, and making use of the Mid-Western manners and persona she had learnt from a textbook helped her cause all the more.  Special Agent Purple arranged for a photograph to be taken together with her targets. Her superiors would be satisfied with that.  

From the Forbidden City, turning away, Special Agent Purple slinked though the endlessly renewed jetsom of people, pathways and things, joining the amorphous mass that they still call Beijing.

Post Stats

Incidentally, I noticed we've already done 30 blog posts in one month, which is almost as many as we did all year in 2012 (I guess because you were in Korea for much of it). Our peak was the first year with 161 posts, and I think we're well on our way to beating that already, I think between the two of us we can do at least one a day, one for everyday of the year, maybe we should have a theme like the 365 days project, one weird song a day or something, I'm enthused! 

Black Coal, Thin Ice (2014)

Chinese hard boiled detective film noir is such a good idea because all the neon lights in contemporary Chinese cities make them look like American cities in 40's noir films.

It's so tempting to see contemporary Chinese film and documentary within the frame of, 'what if video cameras were around during the Industrial Revolution in 19th century Europe?'

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Friday, January 23, 2015

Gin, Sunshine and the Anarchocapitalist

Sounds like the beginning of a novel, an English anarchocapitalist is murdered on a remote Thai island in the exact same place as a double murder a year earlier. 

One friend, Victoria Adams, posted a photo of the two friends together, saying: "God has all the gin, sunshine and Anarchocapitalism waiting for you" 

Listen Up Phillip

I quite liked a number of things about this film, it's basically like what Tsai Ming Liang did with Lee Kang Sheng to Jean Pierre Leaud with the Antoine Doinel cycle. What if Anderson just kept making films following the Max Fisher character as he grew up. I like how Schwartzman's character is an un-redeeming arsehole throughout.

The topics of male artistic egotism and its consequences, mentor/father figures and relationships are all close to my heart at the moment obviously.

It's also a completely atavistic period piece, like Dev Hines, re-creating the 1980's New York neurotic literary intelligensia vibe note-for note, buts its done so well I don't care.

There's absolutely nothing deconstructed about it, but it appeals to me at such a base level it may be simply hitting that generational nostalgia. Shooting in 16mm makes such a big difference, it actually makes a film look like a film rather that a technological demonstration of mimetic fidelity that 4k, HHDD, 3DDD films seem to go for these days.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Texas dialects

The Unexploited Worker

I think at this present moment, when neither the subjects of the West or the Global South have a monopoly on exploitation, there is nothing particularly revelatory in showing a miner being exploited in Ghana when a fourteen year old working in the super market around the corner on a zero hour contract for below minimum wage is just as much a victim of global capitalism. Perhaps what would be really shocking and difficult to find and show at the moment would be to find examples of the un-exploited worker.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Professionalism and Competitiveness

So we had dinner with P. last night at her house with a few of her friends, two of whom are local Hong Kong artists who seem pretty successful, N. and a Portuguese guy, but hearing their art conversations and the way they 'sustain a practice and survive as an artist' put some things into sharp relief and perspective for me.
They're not commercial artists by any means or copouts and their work seems reasonably interesting in the kind of dominant mode and they are represented by commercial galleries and show at art fairs and I guess occasionally sell their work and it suddenly made me realize how protected and sheltered the art world I've created for myself is to the 'professionalized' art world and that, to have some sort of commercial outcome to ones work, to have a really concrete end point to the work which is some sort of market to absorb it really changes the nature of the work you'd make and the concerns you'd have. 
So a few things have become a little more clear to me after thinking about it;

i) There is a difference between the aestheticized idea of the artist as a social typology that I kind of ascribe to, a sort of aesthete, outsider, weirdo figure as opposed to the art world as a professionalized discipline, a profession amongst 'the Professions', lawyer, doctor etc. which has been constructed around the commodification of art. I have some strange allegiance to the 19th century aesthete artist figure which I think even Gillick is a part of and which appeals to me, in that he entered the art world to become concerned with the problem of art and to think about it and the production of artworks seems to be an incidental to that central problem.

ii) This idea of the artist and art world which is comfortable to me I've constructed entirely  as a fictive representation of what I want the art world to be and has no bearing whatsoever to how artists in the professionalized art world work or the way in which it operates.

iii) It became apparent to me for the first time how weird and skewed, for better or worse, this fictive art world I've constructed is. It seems based on the Romanticism of Herzog, the idea of entering the political through the personal and admiration for the adventurism of Kyungah, some anthropological methodologies, Gillick's 'discursive mode of practice' and his complete disregard for the 'work of art' in relation to the discourse he generates (have you heard him even once discuss the formal qualities of his own work or make an aesthetic judgement on anothers?) and the 19th century art historical aestheticism of RMB. 

iv) I know for a fact that RMB would expel me if I ever showed at Basel and I think one aspect of his interest and patronage is my complete and utter obliviousness to market concerns in my work and practice, though perhaps what he sees as disregard is actually complete and utter ignorance. Even though I thought I was operating in the art world, actually all along I was operating in my own personal version of it where I actually have no contact or sense of the market and the artists producing for it, things which I think all artists do as a part of their job, self-market, produce in series, produce objects and be concerned primarily with the productions of objects (whether object ideas or object objects). It became extremely clear to me that the patronage model is a market distortion which has allowed me to perpetuate a idiosyncratic, dysfunctional simulacrum of the art world for a period of time which under proper market conditions would have been rightly left to collapse under its own obsolescence and un-competitiveness.

v) I am a deeply competitive person, but so much so that I refuse to compete and if I am forced into that situation I will always rather pack my bags and walk off on my own. Which means that if, after this period of time I am forced to re-enter the marketplace I know that there is no way this model can possibly survive as its predicated on not being beholden to those considerations and can only operate within conditions where it is artificially protected and nurtured or if it becomes so self-perpetuating that the logic of the system starts to take on a reality external to myself to the extent that is recognized as a parallel system in its own right by others. To take the statist, industrial strategy model further, its seems obvious that RMB's strategy, much like the Korean governments, was to pump money into the Chaebol's like Hyundai, Samsung and LG, protect them from outside competition and direct their production and work strategies which may seem counter-intuitive and do not rely upon any comparative advantage, until they became strong enough to enter a global economy. 

vi) I have no interest whatsoever in the professionalized art world and it will have no interest in me and frankly, I'd rather give up art as such, to continue to pursue my own dilettantish interests in my own time, than to try and conform my self to its conventions. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Switzerland, watches and Szeemann

Did you know that the Harold Szeemann's archive is in an old Swiss watch factory? You probably mentioned it to me but I didn't grasp what you were talking about?.

The idea of the mountain retreat is interesting too, because Szeemann was interested in the Monte Verit artist colony as alternative lifestyle

Which I couldnt help but be reminded of the Mont Perelin society

Individual Psychology in China

These days, the Chinese are increasingly willing to pay to talk. Arthur Kleinman, a Harvard psychiatrist and China specialist, said, "This is radically distinctive from the past." As he sees it, a mental shift has occurred, in "the very words used to talk about the self, which were always available to people if they wanted them, but were regarded as selfish and egocentric." The Chinese call it the "psycho boom."

A few years ago, Chinese television launched a program called "Xinli Fangtan"—"Psychology Sessions"—in which people sit at a heart-shaped table and talk with a therapist about their troubles. It provides a running tally of the side effects of the national growth spurt: bankruptcy, extramarital affairs, gambling, health-care costs, unemployment, loneliness. Unlike Americans, who can look comfortable divulging details of their private lives on Dr. Phil's stage set, the guests on "Psychology Sessions" favor earnest, if hasty, disguises. One woman told her story from behind a large pot of bamboo. A couple and their young son wore oversized baseball caps and sunglasses, which made them look like a blind family at a ballgame. The titles of the episodes are crafted to drop a scrim of propriety over the indignities of modern life: a dysfunctional rich family tells its story in "Millions of Wealth, Millions of Hatreds"; the sad tale of an affair is titled "An Encounter with My Husband's Close Female Friend."

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Artist writing

do you think having artists include text with thier work, or talk about process, or submit written work is tantamount to reducing the work and rather making them sell themselves and self-exploit?

Among the most notable things about those Web sites that creators now all feel compelled to have is that they tend to present not only the work, not only the creator (which is interesting enough as a cultural fact), but also the creator's life or lifestyle or process. The customer is being sold, or at least sold on or sold through, a vicarious experience of production.


Howard Becker in the Nyer

pineapple leather

replacement dolls in aging japan