email Conversation: A level of...
In May 2004 Charlotte Laubard emailed ten people around the world inviting them to begin an email conversation that lasted about ten days. The discussion was open and impulsive and left to the discretion of the participants. What follows presents liveliness from Turin, Melbourne, Guangzhou, Los Angeles, Paris, Bergamo.
The particpants are: Charlotte Laubard, Jacqueline Riva, Geoff Lowe, Hu Fang, Mungo Thomson, Alessandro Rabottini, Elizabeth Newman, Blair Trethowan, Jarrod Rawlins.
Dear Elizabeth, dear Mungo, dear Zhang Wei,…
I am writing to you about the project More Fools in Town in Turin that I initiated with Jacqui and Geoff, known as the duet of artists A Constructed World.
I would like to thank you in advance for your willingness to participate to our 'informal' email conversation around the theme of our first exhibition "A Level of Trust. After Kurt Cobain."
The idea of this first exhibition of a series of 6, originated in the occasion of the recent Tenth anniversary of Kurt Cobain's death. The figure of Kurt Cobain doesn't really interest me in itself, but I am fascinated by its auratical and mythical dimension. And I am wondering how this rock singer championed by MTV is considered by everybody, including the most serious critics, as being an 'authentic' artist.
What does it mean to be an 'authentic' artist now-a-days? Does that still have to do with some kind of alternativity, an opposition to the entertaining industry, knowing in the same time that you can't escape this system? Is there any other solution than giving up (either surrendering or disappearing)?
Looking forward to your thoughts,
More Fools in Town
Sent: Wednesday, May 12, 2004 1:51 PM
Subject: from Jarrod + Blair (Uplands)
On the front of the newspaper culture section about four weeks ago the headline read "Stephanie Alexander: Still Cooking, plus I Knew Kurt Cobain." I saw this as I was walking past the kitchen table to go outside for my morning cigarette. So I was standing there smoking, in my cottage garden, and I was thinking "Stephanie Alexander knew Kurt Cobain, who would have ever thought that. Immediately I had more admiration for Alexander, how fucking cool was it that this Australian celebrity chef, old school like Elizabeth David with super good food, knew Kurt Cobain. Then I thought that it was cool that I was hanging in my Stephanie Alexander country style vegetable garden, where I listen to Nirvana every so often, and that she may have hung with Kurt in her country style vegetable garden. Then I went back inside to read the article and found that she didn't know Kurt at all, it was a simple punctuation error in the layout of the front of the paper.
Jarrod Rawlins, May 2004.
Im not so good with statements, heaps better in discussion, let me know what you think. Blair.
The works sent to MFIT Ive thought about like this:
They look like works that all kinds of people made/make. Similar to lots of art I saw hanging in share houses late 80's to early 90's mainly done by girls. I referenced 2 of the works from paintings hanging in Kurts old girlfriends house (from that film by Nick Broomfield), her house looked alot like houses around Melton I was thinking if Kurt is brilliant then so are we (my friends). I drew them like that & kept their scale domestic to keep them understated. Kurt was pretty good and it has to be said that he was a young man and he was alive and now that has changed ie: mythical dimension, cult status
I read in Higher than heaven (I think, its a biography on Kurt) about how MTV made Nirvana, it broke them to the world and their success was due to the TV show.
In Melton a western suburb of Melbourne at the time, similar to most burbs. Australia hadnt yet set up pay-TV beside which MTV only played what was popular or artists that had been popular in the past ie: their latest album. We had 5 TV stations, video hits (music video show) was on TV only on Saturday or Sunday or both, you would have only seen the 'smells like teen spirit' clip twice a week at best and only once it was already in the top 40. Australia has a small handful of radio stations that would possibly play a then unheard of band like Niravana. By the time advertising hit television about Nirvana it was already everywhere.Footballers played it in their cars even, we (skateboarders), didnt even mind, it was everywhere. I think knowing something like that, feeling your way into something great can create an authentic experience.
I think his authenticity had a lot to do with the context, it was the end of the 80's. I have no idea how the shift began,Its funny even now if retro movies are made about the 80's early 90's you still dont hear bands like sonic youth, bad brains, husker du, public enemy, de la soul, eric B & Rakim, butthole surfers, black flag, etc I do remember when an alternative top 40 came out, really weird cause Nirvana was no.1 on both.
I think to be authentic is to speak about something worthwhile, this can take the form of art. To be authentic is to use art as a medium a place/context to share experiences and expose yourself and your experiences/feelings to others. Artists need to ask what is appropriate for right now?To ask and attempt answering this question through time could keep a practice authentic.
Many authentic artists are mainstream, beastie boys, sonic youth, Spike Jonze. You can be authentic within the system.
Authentic artists like John & Yoko made the most of the system, Midnight oil in Australia did the same, I dont want to talk about Bob Geldoff, but they didnt disapear or give up, they also entertained. Its no fukin shit, authentic cause we know it did lots more good than bad for people and it was for people.
From: elizabeth newman
I have delayed replying to your email because I was
feeling a bit glum, having just had a show here in
Melbourne, and feeling that sort of lost and deflated
feeling, so I was hoping it would pass and I could
think of something clever and stimulating to say to
you, but I'm still in that place, so....about your
comment, I couldn't agree more... there is no outside
the system, if you want some sort of recognition. You
either are, or you're not, in it - meaning that if
you're not in it, you don't exist. So you can only
'be' in it. The idea of 'alternative' and 'authentic'
is just marketing isn't it? You can be authentic in
your own mind, but if there's nobody to see you being
authentic, then you're not anywhere. And part of being
'out there', means you have to be sort of inauthentic,
only to appear as authentic. I don't know.... are we
always critical of someone just because they're
successful? Does their work change just because they
get official recognition? Don't ask me.. I just want
some money and respect! Bye to you, Lizzy Newman.
From: alessandro rabottini
To all of you, dear guys, I look forward to get your answers… Alessandro
In my opinion the issue of authenticity in the field of expression is a kind of fake problem. The position of the author within the art system (but we can extend the terms of discussion to every kind of cultural production) is not a moral one, it has to be analyzed just a formal statement.
We know that Nirvana was a kind of MTV product, and we will never know how Kurt Cobain suffered for real (his suicide doesn’t change the terms of discussion), what remains is the fact that their music was very good, that it effected the ’90 and our behaviours for sometimes… I think that “authentic” can be only the work, not the attitude, as it seems to me that the request for authenticity is our present form of request for realism: in the past artists were asked to imitate nature and reality, today we ask them to be “real” as we normally do with the people into the Big Brother. Everywhere there is a very disturbing rethoric about “honesty of feelings”, but I think that art has nothing to do with express in a direct form your feelings, that is a therapy. And we’re a lucky that Nirvana had a very good producer, who made them the best selling group at the beginning of ’90, otherwise all we could get would have bee n a self-pity alternative collage band. And I really don’t want to look like posing as cynical intellectual: I’m just trying to say that I deeply believe that several phases of production can make a good work out of a core of inner expression (and this is valid for art, cinema, music, literature…). At the end the quality of a work of art can not be found in the artist’s attitude neither in his/her ethical position towards the art system, which seems to me quite a neutral tool: you just have to use it to develop your own discourse.
From: Riva Lowe
Subject: Its raining outside and thunder
At this moment of time, I think in our everyday lives most of us use authenticity as a figure whether we believe in it or not. Whilst every social and political force excites mistrust and disdain, in our personal relations we tend to look for or at people we can trust and rely on, those that will be authentic with us. Most people tend to use I-love-you as the most important speech act with other individuals even though they may totally reject Hollywood or the ideas of all the narratives that precede Love. Maybe we use it without believing in it. I still need people who I think will be authentic with me, I guess its not surprising that this voice is sought after in products and art, The best things I have done I did with people I thought I trusted, the worst too I guess.
Thomas Hobbes says ‘Experience conculdeth nothing universally’,By saying that the world is not really there he shows us that it is or must be. He reminds us that it would be hard to know that the earth was spinning from perception or gut feeling.
I agree there's probably not much reason to rely on my experience either.
In Face magazine in a bookshop in Torino I read and copied down:
The White Stripes are the perfect band for our schizo times. We want authenticity; they bring it, recording music through valve-drive amps at Toerag studios. But we also like to be lied to: so Jack and Meg play media games with their fake brother sister relationship. We want simplicity, like a duo who always wear red and white. But we need complexity: so we get kaleidoscopic Michel Gondry videos. We love that Jack White is alternative but it’s somehow thrilling when he goes out with a Hollywood A-lister. The truth is we don’t know what we want..(it’s all) bound up in one perfect passage so slick that you can’t tell that it’s slick at all.
It would surprise me at all if you can't be authentic in the rock business, the artworld, or the media in general. Maybe people don't want you to be authentic, I'm not sure.
> From: Uplands Gallery
> > Subject: Re: from Alessandro - More Fools in Town - conversation
> The was & is. Nirvana were not a product of MTV. Kurt is now and for
> some time has been a product of MTV.
> Good producers. To hear Nevermind is alot of holes, butch Vig over blew
> it. In Utero, Bleach and incesticide are the best works. You can hear
> Nevermind clearly if familiar with the other albums. Steve albini knows
> how to make the band sound like the band ie Pixies Surfer Rosa come on
> Pilgrim. Please name other great success of Butch Vig? Who are the
> whiney college bands you refer too? Do you really think that? Do you
> know how old the members of Nirvana or Mudhoney are at this stage,
> Production is 1 thing, did you hear the production costs for Michael
> Jacksons last album? I heard a critic say on the radio "You cant polish
> a turd" (no reference to his skin disease). Production and
> feedback/imput form others I think a good way to get the 'core'.
> What does the body tell you? Im not sure what the questions were asked
> when recieving music like Nirvana at that stage. Or why it is Sonic
> Youth are better as you get older. I wouldnt rule out attitude or
> position against the system, these are certainly part of the quality of
> one's work. Posturing seems to be now.
> Did people like it because it was authentic? Overall there was a
> feeling in the music that allowed for a certain freedom which was
> unaccesable at the time.
> More later
from elizabeth newman
> Date: Wed, 12 May 2004 22:13:00 +0100 (BST)
> yes, in response to what Alessandro wrote, I agree
> that, amazingly - because it's counter to what we
> intuitively feel - the quality of the art cannot be
> found in the artist's attitude or ethical position to
> the system..... this made me think of the sort of
> artists you find all over the world, who are so
> totally romantic and self-loving, so true to their
> feelings etc, authentic guys, and their work is a
> hilarious cliche! I was actually thinking of an artist
> in Australia who is very successful, who is a very
> serious person, who loves high culture, is not loud or
> show offy etc. whose work is an absurd mixture of High
> Romanticism and advertising cliches. That is, the guy,
> and everyone else thinks he's authentic, that's what
> he's selling, and yet the images seem to come from
> some discourse that's already made - advertising. (and
> this is not a self conscious critique on his part). he
> thinks he makes a new discourse, but it has already
> made him. Are we all in this position? I don't think
> so....it's possible to create New messages from the
> existing code..... maybe this story shows that
> 'authenticity' is a current cultural value, that
> people want to have it, because they don't know where
> it is and how to get it?
from alessandro rabottini
> > Date: Wed, 12 May 2004 07:41:41 -0700 (PDT)
> > To all of you, dear guys, I look forward to get your
> > answers. Alessandro
> > In my opinion the issue of authenticity in the field
> > of expression is a kind
> > of fake problem. The position of the author within
> > the art system (but we can
> > extend the terms of discussion to every kind of
> > cultural production) is not a
> > moral one, it has to be analyzed just a formal
> > statement.
> > We know that Nirvana was a kind of MTV product, and
> > we will never know how
> > Kurt Cobain suffered for real (his suicide doesn't
> > change the terms of
> > discussion), what remains is the fact that their
> > music was very good, that it
> > effected the '90 and our behaviours for sometimes. I
> > think that "authentic"
> > can be only the work, not the attitude, as it seems
> > to me that the request for
> > authenticity is our present form of request for
> > realism: in the past artists
> > were asked to imitate nature and reality, today we
> > ask them to be "real" as we
> > normally do with the people into the Big Brother.
> > Everywhere there is a very
> > disturbing rethoric about "honesty of feelings", but
> > I think that art has
> > nothing to do with express in a direct form your
> > feelings, that is a therapy.
> > And we're a lucky that Nirvana had a very good
> > producer, who made them the
> > best selling group at the beginning of '90,
> > otherwise all we could get would
> > have been a self-pity alternative collage band. And
> > I really don't want to look
> > like posing as cynical intellectual: I'm just
> > trying to say that I deeply
> > believe that several phases of production can make a
> > good work out of a core
> > of inner expression (and this is valid for art,
> > cinema, music, literature.).
> > At the end the quality of a work of art can not be
> > found in the artist's
> > attitude neither in his/her ethical position towards
> > the art system, which
> > seems to me quite a neutral tool: you just have to
> > use it to develop your own
> > discourse.
From: Riva Lowe
Subject: more talk
I'm with you man!!!
From: Riva Lowe
Subject: now it's sunny
these are the most powerful people in the contemporary arts in Melbourne as we speak and write
I think what Blair is saying is really interesting because the system is soo like the above
you cant really say anything interesting unless you are outside it
I think its a bit different in Europe which is borne out by what Alessandro is saying because there are more shared and developed discourses that kind if have a place in history, like anarchism, libertines...
its been written down
Everywhere there is a very
disturbing rhetoric about “honesty of feelings”, but I think that art has
nothing to do with express in a direct form your feelings, that is a therapy.
( I'd be really interested to hear the means by which therapy cant be art?)
In the suburbs of Melbourne you're gonna know that something hard from Seattle in the early 90s is more authentic than what you're being fed on TV Pop shows. Butch Vig now plays bass in that terrible overblown pop band with the Scottish singer?
I've rarely seen this distinction of authenticity made while I've lived in in Italy, the relation between origins and what true
is more doubtful and perverse.
Now I guess Im talking about geography, but its actually hard to know where-you-are at any given time.
From: Riva Lowe
I would also be interested to hear something about how Charlotte said she wasnt interested in Kurt Cobain ? the subject is declared but she's not interested in it? any ideas about what the other subject is?
Subject: from Hu Fang,vitamin,1
> Dear All:
> I just got message from Zhangwei about joining the conversion ,we work together to run vitamin space.
> Since I¡¯m ficition writer, I¡¯m always curioused about the relationship between my personal morality view and the morality view of my characters in novel. Fiction Writer(if not a anti-novel writer) has to think about many details and re-set up the ¡°real situation ¡® for characters ,then there is something truth come out from this man-made piece.I think the writing experience give me a chance to understanding different levels of ¡°authentic¡±.All the artworks are not nature thing,but sometime they are more ¡°true¡± than the reality world,they are all limited production but they all try to exceed the limition. I¡¯m quite interested in the LIMITION and how we can accept and beyond the limition.
> In Chinese philosopher Confucius¡¯s book,there are many discussion about dailylife morality.If we think about the social background of Confucius¡¯s concern,we can find very interesting context for our conversation. Confucius said the most important thing is ¡° REN¡±(very difficult to translate into English),one of the principle to realizing¡±REN¡± is: Don¡¯t force other people to do the same thing which you don't want to do.
> Back to Kurt Cabin, I respect him because he didn¡¯t persuade us to do anything,he didn't response to big thing,he just want to find himself and failed. I¡¯m still alive and from his experience and music,I understand more about life. One of my friend wrote his biography in Chinese,it¡¯s bestseller book in China, also there was a big music event in Guangzhou for his 10 years anniversary,Kurt inflences lots of Chinese young people and it seems his inflence more and more strong, my feeling is he became a myth because people repect his choice of beyond the limition,because people do need another Che Guevara to express their concern of life during this consumption time.If we start to shocked by death and keeping on thinking about the value of life, we will more and more close to the real meaning of ¡°authentic¡±, also the meaning of our conversation.
> Hu Fang
From: Riva Lowe
Subject: from Jacqui
It's been great reading the responses and discussion and Hu Fang thanks for your cool words.
I'm very interested in what you are saying about Ren and this idea of - Don¯t force other people to do the same thing which you don't want to do - it really makes me think.
I keep coming back to your first words because what you wrote made me feel quite uncomfortable. (For me this is good because I then have to think about why I feel this way.)
If there is a disturbing rhetoric about 'honesty of feelings' it indicates to me that there is movement - and it should be disturbing and it could be worked over and over and over. We have one half of the world trying to destroy the values of another. And we have a situation where the growing 'empire' is imposing a wicked set of morals upon others. There is no discussion of an ETHICAL way to resolve anything... but this is a longer conversation and I think goes back to what Hu Fang brings up with this idea of not forcing others to do as you would not...
Why not search around for honesty of feelings, in art work - in any part of life, because we are bereft of showing anything these days. The system is what we create and what if we create a system that is pathetic, without any ambition to say something truthful - I mean what are we doing here, trying to look cool and not get dirty?
Sent: Sunday, May 16, 2004 1:55 PM
Subject: Black and White
> Actually the pronunciation of REN in Chinese is same as the word ¡°Human¡±,so the REN is developed from the basic understanding of ¡°Human¡±, I think Confucius try to find the principle of Ideal Human Relation at that time(there was big civil war in his time),From my point of view,REN means sensitivity and humanity,and the point is you have to find very practice way to realize it,it¡¯s not only theoretic.
> It¡¯s quite ironic that now we are told living in the time of ¡°Post-Human being¡±,maybe we are in the time of ¡°Human disappearing¡±-- the way of Human Relation is definitely changed by Gloablism,Urbanism and Consumption, Jean-Paul Sartre once said:Others are hell,now we say:Others are market.
> I think ¡°A level of Trust ¡° is a challenging question to everyone since The Human Relation is destroying by many sides from social system,but also there are full of potentials to rebuilt the Huamn relationship and the relationship between Huamn being and the World,that¡¯s the reson why there are artists still keep on thinking and working,still make the life more interesting and more valueable¡_Since there are so many clever people are controlling the world,there must be some foolish guys to question and dicuss the system, that¡¯s YINYANG-another very important understanding of changes from Chinese old culture: Rebelliousness always together with crackdown, Where is black,where the white comes out.
> To G:
> I think Charlotte gave the interesting starting point,can I say it doesn't matter if she wasn't interested in Kurt Cobain,so far as we are interested in....
> Hu Fang
Subject: Re: Black and White conversation
> Dear Hu fang,
> thank you for your contribution. I really appreciate your point of view.
> Let me be the cynical one again: you were talking about Cobain and about Che
> Guevarra. I could add some other names of 'figures' I love that died young:
> Gordon Matta-Clark, Felix Gonzales-Torres... Cobain failed? or he just choose
> to die too young to get smashed by the system? Take Arthur Rimbaud - and that
> was one century ago - who gave up with poetry and became an arms dealer.
> Without any cynism this time, I truly believe there is a way to get through,
> and that is quite clear in the works we are exhibiting in a "Level of Trust":
> they navigate though the signs of the system, they manage to create their own
> space and communicate their desire for trust to the audience. No need to die
> to be authentic then, but one may not be as famous as those who disappeared
> soon enough...
Subject: business artist?
> Before we leave for Greece,just quickly add some words to the conversation.I imagine (just imagine) may be FAMOUS killed Cobain,may be he didn't want to be so famous,in fact it's not he himself made he so famous,but it's he to kill himself.I don't think he will accept himself as a successful people.
> I remember when I read Andy Warhol's book "from A-B then B-A"(I couldn't remember the exact title),when he told us that he want to be a business artist,I feel I trust him,it's 1970,I think the differences from today is:Now some artists really want to be a business artist,but for Andy,it's not really his propose,it's kind of life style,like Zen,when other people say art is serious,I say art is easy as drinking a cup of tea.
> We will stay in Greece from 18th-31th for a art project,it's good that now we are in the same time.i'm dreaming something happened in "the source of Europe Culture"would re-flash my eye.I will try to update my words if possible.
> Good luck to all of you.
> Hu Fang
from elizabeth newman
Sent: Tuesday, May 18, 2004 10:38 AM
Geoff i find it hard to have a
conversazione... where does one launch in? Do the
other people know eachother? I sent something to
Charlotte, but I don't know if others got it. Is it
impolite not to respond to something? What's email
etiquette? Everyone seemed a bit down on Charlotte?
When someone responds to one person, it's as though
the others are being slighted and are not worth
responding to!!! And yet I know I couldn't think of
something to say to all of them! You know I'm no good
with groups!!! sorry!
help, I'm autistic... that Chinese scene seems pretty
cool... how do you know those guys?
I found an advertisement for BMW and it had 4 clocks around the world all on the same time moving together
yes its a bit haphazard the conversation
it's not about being-in-a-group yet
its true how do you trust an email?
with all the junk (we get about 60 a day)
and sometimes you send people and an urgent request wait 20 days before they reply
and when they do it doesnt really seem rude they forgot you
I think Charlotte was looking for a record of what was going on around the show and its subject
like can you be authentic?
and this is directly the problem here in email
for me Hu Fang sounds authentic because he seems like he's saying-what-he-means and meaning-what-he-says its interesting that people call this cool, its heartening
we kind of delay our desire for authentic contact because something good might appear in the document later.
we have to wait and see
as a methodology it seems better to get what you want or need now?
From: alessandro rabottini
Sent: Tuesday, May 18, 2004 4:49 PM
Subject: about kurt and other stuff...
I’m sorry if I come back to you so late and I thank everybody for the things you said, the made me think about a lot of stuff. I don’t wanna justify myself neither do one step behoynd, just clarify my point of view:
I think that Charlotte posed the issue of authenticity, death and celebrity in a smart and provocative way and I’m responding to that with a question which I always pose to myself, in order to go further within a romantic consideration of the artists figure. Hu Fang told us about Sartre, otherness and market and… we all agrre that the market pressures are shit, but we have to remember that to work in the art field is a big privilege. What about a film maker that, even though and thanks to the pressures of the market and of the production company still manages to do a good movie and to preserve his/her own authenticity, who goes through all of the limitations and give us a message that we can deeply feel and share? I mean, mass production process means, the most of the time, indulgency towards stupidity, but I think that in this historical moment we have to face it and accept it as a challenge, otherwise we’ll loose the game.
That’s why I agree with the idea of accepting the roles of the system in order to change it: because these are times too complex and challenging just to say: we stay on this side and preserve ourselves since the other side (the system) is shit…
Kurt Cobain was a good musician and a sensitive artist who effected me a lot, but the best thing he did are the songs he produced as I can see them as a rational form (even if they are pop form of expression): what I mean is that an artist exist for all of us only as a formal and rational reference within the expanded field of culture. And when I say “formal” I mean not “formalistic” but something like a visual reality that stands in front of us as a mnemonic tool. All the rest is for me routine.
From: "Uplands Gallery"
Subject: Re: about kurt and other stuff...
> Hi all
> Did anyone get my email the other day? It was the answer, I swear
> Nah not really
> Im getting your emails. Still thinking about authenticity and if its
> important or not and if its a thing/or the only thing of value in art
> and if arts production gets in the way of authenticity.
> Lizzy, im still reading. The ettiquete is a funny one. A part from
> group discissions I usually get straight forward questions and send it
> Hey Charolette, who dont you know that died young? What about the ones
> that keep livin? A friend meet Duane Peters at a trade fair in L.A.
> stuck for conversation he said "Your a legend". Duane replied "legends
> are dead guys" and walked off, cool.
> Hu Fang: still takin it in, have fun in Greece, good you brought up
> Warhol and how I think hes more authentic cause he kept saying he
> wasnt . Stating he wasnt real and had no feelings (Im not quoting him
> here). I love Warhol, what a scene...dunno where it goes... but its not
> the same authentic as Kurt, but both I consider authentic. Im not
> talkin about Kurt anymore.
> Artists can be woeful and still authentic, so In ways Authenticity can
> be a fake problem. Whos authenticity do you value? & why?
> I was also thinking, and its bit corny but, a friend was telling me
> about guys and girls. Anyway he proceeds to go on about Alpha males and
> a Dawin based narative. I thought abit about it on the way home. well i
> thought people are tricky and how darwin is such a comfortable idea in
> many ways and that there couldnt be truth or authenticity in it cause
> it brings no suprise or pain. Bein fakes a pain in the arse as well,
> but its the worse of 2 evils.
> Check out my friends flag: Thats the flag of where I wanna live.
From: "elizabeth newman"
Hey Blair, that's an amazing thought about your friend
> and Darwin and fake thinking and how something
> authentic is surprising and/or painful... that just
> knocks me off my feet! it's so true.... being fake is
> sort of a slow death, and suffocating, but it's not
> the sort of sharp pain or clarity that comes with
> being true. Especially in the area of sexuality, girls
> and boys... wow, your words were sort of like an
> interpretation to me because they had an effect.
> You know how jokes have an effect on us, in the body,
> by making us laugh, well interpretations in analysis
> are meant to do the same... not just idle talk, but
> speech that produces an effect in your body! ciao,
From: "Mungo Thomson"
Sent: Friday, May 21, 2004 6:20 AM
> Hi from L.A. everyone - I've been away but following the thread and
> finally have a moment to pitch in -
> Thoughts on Cobain et al, generally involving expectation, exclusion,
> disappointment, and doubt.
> 1) I saw Nirvana live on tour in small clubs opening for Dinosaur Jr.
> circa 1990. They were really good, despite expectations of another
> shit loud band. Cobain's rock'n'roll antics (smashing equipment,
> falling over and writhing) were quite amusing and seemed comfortably
> ironic. I had BLEACH, which I still like very much, especially
> "School." Then I saw them at bigger clubs with Sonic Youth and
> Pavement. Then I more or less lost interest. I was often at these
> shows with a friend who grew up in Olympia, Washington, near all the
> Sub Pop and K records guys, going to parties they played at, etc.,
> and he deemed them such good friends that on the occasion of a major
> Nirvana show in San Francisco he insisted that I not buy tickets,
> because he had it covered and would get us in the back door. Needless
> to say we spent the evening in the parking lot. To my friend's credit
> he knew they were going to go huge before Nevermind was released and
> when he bought the CD it was the only copy in the record shop. He
> told the clerk he better stock up. The guy looked at him blankly.
> 2) Last summer I was supposed to be in a show called "Heavier than
> Heaven," named for a book on (by?) Cobain (great title), at a very
> fancy gallery in New York City, and at the last second I was told the
> title and theme had changed and I was out. This was the second time
> this happened with this gallery, and was a case of "Fuck me once,
> shame on you, fuck me twice, shame on me." Still it reminded me that
> both grunge rock and conceptual art idealize failure.
> 3) From quoting Pete Townsend and hardcore punk acts of the past with
> his onstage antics to quoting (and covering) the Ramones, Vaselines,
> Bowie, Meat Puppets, et al, in his music, to his actual writing (see
> #4), I always thought Kurt Cobain and Nirvana were a very
> citational-quotational group, if a very good one. One can be
> brilliant at filtered pastiche of course. But I have a hard time
> thinking of them as very "authentic" in the terms I've been
> reading... everything they did, even their angst, seemed so wry and
> self-reflexive. I also have a hard time putting Cobain in the
> pantheon of dead great rock stars... even his death seemed like some
> kind of tribute (although I can also accept the idea that Elvis,
> Jimi, Janis, et al, were pastiche artists too). I feel like he was a
> true postmodernist with the tastes and tendencies of a smart record
> collector and a gift for imitation and mockery who in turn had the
> hopes of a postmodern generation put on him, and he crumbled. As if
> his audience wanted him to be more "real," and "authentic," to speak
> to and for them the way Dylan had, etc., and he didn't know what that
> meant. So I would differ with something someone else said and argue
> that Cobain was in fact well and duly smashed by the system.
> 4) "I don't feel the least bit guilty for exploiting for commercially
> exploiting a completely exhausted Rock youth Culture because, at this
> point in rock history, Punk Rock (while still sacred to some) is, to
> me, dead and gone. We just wanted to pay tribute to something that
> helped us feel as though we had crawled out of the dung heap of
> conformity. To pay tribute like an Elvis or Jimi Hendrix impersonator
> in the tradition of a bar band. I'll be the first to admit that we're
> the 90's version of Cheap Trick or The Knack but the last to admit it
> hasn't been rewarding." - Kurt Cobain, from the Incesticide liner
> 5) I don't know much about authentic. I think it suggests some kind
> of stable reality or set of assertions to be coming from in a
> centered way in the first place, and that eludes me and most people I
> know. I question everything all the time, even the things I should
> probably know for sure. Do I love my girlfriend? My cat? My parents?
> Will I like this work in a year? Will I regret this email? Should I
> eat that? I recently picked up a copy of "Will happiness find me?" A
> little book by Fischli and Weiss of a slide show of hand-written
> questions ("What good is the moon?" "Should I leave reality in
> peace?" "Am I being exploited?") and it seems to speak to me. I trust
> questions way more than answers when it comes to art - and I trust
> open territory much more than occupied territory. I'm not sure which
> of these Kurt Cobain and Nirvana are but I think I suspect the
> latter... I also recently picked up a bad bootleg of Cocksucker
> Blues, the banned Robert Frank film about the Rolling Stones, and it
> depicts the band boozing, carousing, behaving very very badly, and of
> course, rocking out onstage... and it seems a little more authentic
> frankly. Or just... unambivalent. And that's why that time is gone -
> because a life, or cultural production, without ambivalence, isn't
> really available anymore to anyone with an education and a little
> leisure time. (You can't put down your guitar to guzzle Jack Daniel's
> anymore without a wink.) I don't really trust those art practices out
> there that don't display any doubt. And doubt is the one thing I can
> return to in a Nirvana record. So I just went round and round but I
> hope it makes sense.
> 6) Charlotte's last email is really interesting - mentions some great
> artists who died too young - or perhaps just at the right time?
> Before they got a belly and played Vegas? Can you imagine Brad Pitt
> and Jennifer Aniston old? Neither can they. And it's several people's
> jobs to make sure it never happens.
> 7) Freud had a theory of the Nirvana drive, a tendency of the complex
> to try to simplify, or the drive to get off the merry-go-ground - of
> the rat race, of course, but also even of life and death and
> reincarnation - a drive that could only be answered with suicide. So
> the band was aptly named.
> PS Love the yeah flag
From: Riva Lowe
Subject: sorry this is sooo long
thanks so much for your work it looks really great in the show
the opening on Friday was really busy and this is the first opportunity to write even though Ive been thinking about what you wrote a lot
In the early nineties I was at home looking after small babies in Melbourne and didnt have any of the authentic/ origin experiences you are talking about with Nirvana
it always seems a way to describe having really
is to say it finished before it started
I guess what interests me about this idea is not authenticity, like you say,
...a kind of stable reality or set of assertions to be coming from in a centered way
but rather a desire for authenticity
or something shared that might lead to trust
I can see what you mean that Kurt C is infact part , snide, doubting, escapologist
but I saw an amazing clip a couple of days ago of Saturday Night Live playing Teen spirit
and it seems really there still, so focussed about something you cant describe
mosh pits and diving also demands a certain level,at least while yer in them... that is more than quoting post mod discourses
and I guess Bob Dylan wasnt being authentic when he said he really just wanted to be a model for harmonica holders
Im not suggesting or feeling that these are prescribed, elemental things that we can refer to or sell
but just that something that feels not so doubtable is shared and punted on with others
sometimes i think if we have the internet as this unmediated point of sale that it suggests we dont even really need each other or to know that we may feel what appears to be the same way
there are certain tropes that people seem to trust
like when the Rodney King video came out people believed it really happened
now all these photos from the prisons in Iraq, they all look like internet downloads they were all taken by participants in the crimes
the audience not the subject
this work of the audience is about to force us to explore a huge remainder of our cultures and behavior
who knows what the intentions were
but something that feels true or authentic has happened and been represented
I read this amazing article today where the mass audience on American Idol have all started voting for the crappiest singers, the bad ones, instead of the most proficient
the off key wannbees are winning- maybe because they retain something more of the other
anyway the judges are resigning in disgust coz standards arent being maintained
sometimes in the United States I get really bewildered how academics there use French Post structuralism.
like the Gulf War didnt happen?
or I saw a guy from Columbia in a lecture say the people in the World Trade Center werent really there because they hadnt left the air of New Jersey-by being in cars, tunnels, elevators etc
this exotic knowledge can be used as a sign of power
rather than as something that breaks up constricting discourses
they kind hump you with a monovocal version of how you oughta be more multi-vocal
I guess its true that language speaks thru us
sometimes its hard to know if you mean-what-you-say or say-what-you-mean
Recently my daughter, who has now nearly finished school rang me and said she was reading
she said it was about two guys who leave their country in disgust to go to Mexico only to find they enforce the same ways of thinking in their new adopted country
I don't know I havent read the book
and I come from Australia which could arguably be called the most racist country in the world.
while we are doing all this stuff to each other how do we find a way to express what-we-want- and what we wanna do together
I dunno maybe its got something to do with remaking rules
that apply to now
how do you say what you want?
how can you be trusted if you dont know what-you-want or cant believe yerself
I still reckon we are together in this
from elizabeth newman
Dear Hu Fang, and others, (although I'm not sure my
'send everyone' button did the trick),
I also think art is easy, but I'm not sure why.... why
do you say it's as easy as drinking a cup of tea?
It's also an interesting distinction that you make
between Andy Warhol as a businesslifestyle of the 70s,
and artists who are business artists today... tell me
Subject: business artist?
I enjoy the conversation although it#s litter bit difficult to join online during the trip in Greece.but it#s great when i read all the stories and dissicuison.
Date: 11 June 2004 3:35:40 PM
Subject: endless conversation
Dear Charlotte,Lizzy :
How are you doing?
I'm sorry that I reply so late,I know the conversation is pause now but
I still want to feedback your e-mails which is delayed because of
I agree with you that "No need to die to be authentic" ,it reminds me
what Confucius(again him)said:"If you don't know hwo to live,then how
can you know the meaning of death?"It's need courage to live,for
me,there must be some reasons strong enough to keep us live and not to
die,it doesn't matter you are famous or not,Arthur Rimbaud is stronger
than Cobain 'cause he went deeper into life than Cobain,I don't think
they are same level.I'd like to see how an artist can keep his/her
energy longer as possible as he/she can,keep the hope of life,not to
die,that's what I want to say:Learning how to live is same important as
learning how to die.
Imagine if there is no competition,no class,no market,no flimsy guy who
act as serious artists in art field,will art become more serious and
better?I don't think so.Andy Warhol is interesting because it seems he
really accpeted and enjoyed the whole chaos and did want he wanted to
me,it close to the attitude of ZEN,open and empty but strong.
Art today is becoming more professional,need certain knowledge
many artworks today is more response to certain art circle,art project
is becoming bigger and artists more like managers -- It's interesting
funny,but art is not always big,huge,analytical,art is based on
dailylife,based on detail of life experience,based on the smell of
tea,hair and city,besed on some basic things which people always
Leave a little hope,maybe Cobain won't to die.
I found this conversation can be endless.
With my Best wishes