Tonight! Beer, surveillance, border crossings, chalkboard music

Hey all,

Just a reminder that tonight’s Tom Marioni FREE BEER Salon is featuring that famous local painter Robert Bechtle as guest bartender, and that famous local news & gossip maven Leah Garchik as guest reader.

Also on tonight in the D-Space, starting at 7pm when the salon closes, is a cool-sounding project developed by Stanford students as part of our experiment Group Work, a collaboration between three types of institution: an art school (CCA), a research university (Stanford), and a modern art museum (that’s us). Peggy Phelan at Stanford, and Brian Conley at CCA, have been leading courses on art education and participation, and as part of their coursework, each student group is producing projects related to those themes. Tonight the Stanford group presents, and next Thursday the CCA group will be here.

Details from the Standford students:

We imagine a lively atmosphere with eccentric sounds, people in puppet clothes, photographs (like at an amusement park), and occasional readings of esoteric materials. An art-town fair with three main elements:

Collaborative soundscape Two chalkboards with contact microphones attached placed on opposite sides of the room on easels. Chalk and erasers are provided. The sound will be amplified, and processed with effects like reverberation, distortion, and delay. The effects and prerecorded sounds will be controlled from two laptop computers stations operated by the students. The piece emerges from the collective writings and drawings of participants from the public, and momentary interventions or sound poems written by Stanford students. Other sounds such as erasing or directly touching the chalkboard will add nuance. In addition to the live sounds from the chalkboards, there will be some sporadic instances of prerecorded material, realized by the students &  emerging as performance cues. The audience is confronted with an object that is familiar as a pedagogical tool, but transformed into an instrument that invites creative personal visual and aural experiences while participating in an open sound piece.

Border piece: Built on the fourth wall of the D-Space between the two front columns, approximately 4 feet high, this element constitutes a barrier/border fabricated out of fine, breakable threads, yellow DO NOT ENTER, DANGER, CAUTION tape, tie-line, clothes pins, & “surveillance” cameras. The barrier will have rotating on-duty “staff.” Participants have a few choices for passing through: 1. ­ pass trough this border by making an offer, write a poem, make a small drawing, a dance movement, etc., OR 2. ­ create a new identity by using provided elements for a new kind of identification card. Once realized the ID constitutes a “legal” document and can be used as a pass, OR 3. ­ do none of the above and find a way to “cross” the barrier/border “illegally,” by crawling or jumping over. On the other side of the border lies the FUTURE, a place for play and display of inclusion and exclusion, of exploration of all six senses.

Polaroid piece; Three Polaroid cameras, three disposable cameras, and two photosticker cameras will be placed around the room. Each camera will have instructions or a prompt such as, “with this camera shoot the person you find the most attractive tonight,” or “make a political statement with this camera” or “please take home the picture you took with this camera and send it to a person who does not know what collaborative art is” or perhaps simply “capture participation.”

If all this isn’t enough (or is too much) for you, there’s also a screening of Derek Jarman’s Edward II, starting at 7pm in the Wattis.

December 1, Day Without Art

Taking a cue from Michael Buitron at Leap Into the Void (via MAN), rather than marking the 19th annual (but now somewhat invisible?) “Day Without Art” by shrouding an artwork or going dark for the day, I leave you with these wonderful stills from some of Derek Jarman’s earliest Super 8 mm films, with thanks to producer James Mackay, who provided them. Jarman was probably as well known for his very public homosexuality & his outspoken demand for gay rights as he was for his films. He died on February 19, 1994, of complications from AIDS.


Derek Jarman. Still from Fire Island, 1974, S8mm. Courtesy James Mackay.


Derek Jarman. Still from A Journey to Avebury, 1971, S8mm. Courtesy James Mackay.


Derek Jarman. Still from Studio Bankside, 1970, S8mm. Courtesy James Mackay.


Derek Jarman. Still from Ashden’s Walk on Møn, 1973, S8mm. Courtesy James Mackay.

Saturday’s Jarman films: “The Garden” & “Wittgenstein”

We have a fantastic pair of Jarman films this Saturday for your holiday weekend, and I have to say that, for my part, I can think of no better method of recovery from over-familial holiday indulgence than a good dose of hours in the Wattis theater watching movies. Plus, nearly four hours with Tilda Swinton? Who would refuse?

The line-up is: The Garden (1pm) and Wittgenstein(3pm). Gina Basso tells me the pairing is partially a matter of print-traffic timing and partly an oblique reference to “home”. Many readers will know that philosopher L. Wittgenstein also took a foray into architecture, designing a house for his sister, with architect Paul Engelmann, at the sister’s behest. Jarman, on the other hand, was a gardener as well as filmmaker: when he was diagnosed HIV-positive, he bought a fisherman’s cottage in Dungeness, Kent, and spent the years from 1986 until his death in 1994 designing and building the garden which surrounds it, and where the The Garden was shot.


Thanks to one Lady Vervaine for this picture I lifted from Flickr, of Jarman’s real garden (LV describes the picture as a recreation of an important scene in the film, so if you’re here Saturday, look out for it).:

There’s also a cool Flickr set of the whole garden here, by someone named Angus Fraser. I was surprised to see the pictures, as in my ill-traveled American ignorance I never think of any part of England as looking so inhospitable & bleak as a Southern California desert. There’s a lot of rock, stone, and cactus here, and it’s illuminating to note that Jarman set his film here as a garden of Eden. And keep an eye out for the greying hull of some sort of small ship, set against an awfully blue & wonderful sky.

As to Wittgenstein, this is Jarman’s depiction of the life and philosophy of. IMDB describes the film thus:

A dramatization, in modern theatrical style, of the life and thought of the Viennese-born, Cambridge-educated philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951), whose principal interest was the nature and limits of language. A series of sketches depict the unfolding of his life from boyhood, through the era of the first World War, to his eventual Cambridge professorship and association with Bertrand Russell and John Maynard Keynes. The emphasis in these sketches is on the exposition of the ideas of Wittgenstein, a homosexual, and an intuitive, moody, proud, and perfectionistic thinker generally regarded as a genius.

Original screenplay by literary critic Terry Eagleton was heavily reworked by Jarman during production.

A review of the film is here (at my favorite cinema blog, Only the Cinema) and here you’ll find a review of both screenplays, which were published together by the British Film Institute.

If you want to do a little prep but don’t feel like trying to get through the Tractatus after your turkey and stuffing, you can watch a nine-part mini YouTube course (a bit weird) re Wittgenstein on language & logic here.

And here’s a short clip from the film itself, which gives a great sense of the mood, the style, the discomfort, the themes, AND Jarman’s humor, all in under two minutes:

We’ve been promising roundtable discussion on the Jarman films, and will give you a dose of it starting early next week with a lovely essay by James Mackay, producer of many Jarman films, and further conversation as the week continues. Come join us in the theater and talk a bit with us here on the blog. You can find all the postings on Jarman (including a week’s worth of music videos) here.

Happy Thanksgiving.


Unknown, Untitled [Apples], n.d. Gelatin silver print, Gift of Gordon L. Bennett. Collection SFMOMA.


Martin Parr, Untitled [metal gravy dish], from the series British Food, 1995. Digital print. Collection SFMOMA.

May it be generous and may it be warm.  Go easy on the butter, heavy on the cream. xo, SS

Call for experts in the impossible: this Saturday

If you’re around this holiday weekend and harbor both a special talent for achieving the impossible and the lecturing skills to teach someone how to achieve that miracle themselves, a group of SFAI graduate students wants to hear from you. In conjunction with The Art of Participation, they are organizing an “Art of How-To: Intuitive, Impossible, and Absurd” mini-lecture hour in our Koret Visitor Education Center (slash “D-Space”) on Saturday afternoon, inviting you to come down and educate the public with your special wisdom. Everyone’s welcome to propose a topic, and selected presenters will be given five minutes to discourse. They’ll be shooting video and it’s possible we’ll post some of the results here on the blog.

Contact info and more details are here.

Derek Jarman: Throbbing Gristle “TG Psychic Rally in Heaven”

The last of my week of Derek Jarman music videos. Jarman made this video for Throbbing Gristle’s “TG Psychic Rally in Heaven” in 1981. Fair warning, it’s quite violent and explicit in language & content.

I think Jarman’s broken flashes of images complement TG’s challenging, avant-garde music.  Peter Christopherson, who played what we could call the percussion for the band, later went on to form the band Coil, which Jarman employed for soundtracks to many of his films.

Derek Jarman: The Smiths “Ask”

More Jarman videos! This is one of several he made for The Smiths, Ask, from 1986.

Derek Jarman’s films and The Smiths’ songs share similar motifs; this video is a prime example. Both reflect on a fractured world. While Morrissey croons, “If it’s not love then it’s the bomb that will bring us together” Jarman’s video depicts romantic encounters in front of an abandoned warehouse. The skeleton dance partner makes the entire scene into a dance macabre: the youth celebrate but the world falls to pieces.


Derek Jarman: Marianne Faithfull “Broken English”

For your dose of intense and stunning war images, here’s the video Jarman directed for Marianne Faithfull’s Broken English (1979).

Derek Jarman: Pet Shop Boys “Rent”

A week of Jarman vids, continued! Jarman made three videos for the Pet Shop Boys: Rent, It’s a Sin and a set of projections for the band’s live shows. Today I have posted the video for Rent but I encourage you to seek out the others, as they are phenomenal as well.  I love the lyrics of this song, they are so to the point.

Derek Jarman: Marianne Faithfull “The Ballad of Lucy Jordan”

Hi, it’s Megan. We’ve got a Derek Jarman film series on right now, continuing through November and much of December. Some of you will know that, especially early in his career, Jarman made a lot of music videos. All this week, I will be posting some of my favorites.

To complement Jarman’s rebellious attitude, I thought I’d start off the week with the rebel Marianne Faithfull. Jarman created this video for her song “The Ballad of Lucy Jordan” (1979). It’s a beautiful and haunting video. As an added plus, she’s a babe.