COLUMNS

  • Top Ten

    John Waters

    John Waters is a filmmaker and artist who divides his time between Baltimore and New York. His film Pecker opened nationwide in September. His photographs were recently published in John Waters: Director's Cut (Scalo). Photo: Greg Gorman.

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  • Music

    Woody Guthrie with Bill Bragg and Wilco

    NEITHER A TRIBUTE ALBUM nor a collaboration, Mermaid Avenue is one of those peculiar contemporary hybrids: music and performance by Billy Bragg and the rock band Wilco, words by the late Woody Guthrie, the great agitprop singer-songwriter whose influence on the folk revival generation of the late ’50s and early ’60s gives him a paternity claim on later rock. When Guthrie died, in 1967, he left a trove of half-songs—written lyrics without the melodies to go with them. The papers languished in boxes until Guthrie’s daughter Nora asked Bragg, a British musician whose consistently, nay constantly

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  • Books

    Manny Farber

    MANNY FARBER IS THE RAYMOND CHANDLER of American film criticism. His adrenaline prose has been pumping since 1942, when he began reviewing for The New Republic. Over the succeeding four decades, he kept his writing lean and mean, florid and furious, absolutely unique. He reviewed for Time, The Nation, The New Leader, Artforum, and a parcel of other publications. In the late ’70s, his successful career as a painter increasingly took center stage, and film gradually lost an important, always surprising apologist.

    I first learned of Farber’s criticism about twenty years ago, at the height of my

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  • Slant

    advertising doubt

    NO ONE’S CERTAIN HOW many new advertising or media columns have started up this year (four writers I know have been asked to pen them for different publications), but it’s already clear that 1998 will be remembered as the year we got wise. We the people are acting on our inalienable right to gather in coffee shops where murmurs of Dan Rather’s bias may be heard, to rate the Super Bowl commercials, to visit Websites where the big city page-ones are slightingly compared, to read of the advance or retreat of favorite pundits, to be addressed as a knowing insider, to go into the interpretation

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  • Passages

    Jean-François Lyotard

    THE PARADOXICAL TITLE GIVEN to Jean-Francois Lyotard’s Artforum essay of 1982, “presenting the unpresentable,” might retrospectively name an art and an ethic peculiar to this philosopher/critic/aesthetician who died of complications from leukemia in April at the age of seventy-three; it might characterize a long philosophical activity, without method or doctrine, carried on in many places and in many ways. For his was a singular intelligence—mobile, generous, light—that had navigated all the debates and divisions of his time. He was a man of “peregrinations” (as he called them), through many

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  • Music

    artist-owned labels

    “WE HAD FIFTEEN RELEASES that were stylistically diverse: it wasn’t a doo-wop label or a label to reissue Boston hardcore, ” David Grubbs says. The Chicago musician is talking about Dexter’s Cigar, the record label he ran with former Gastr del Sol bandmate Jim O’Rourke from 1995 until April of this year. They’re just a couple of the handful of obsessive musicians who ’ve recently formed archive-&-reprint-based labels. In addition to Dexter’s Cigar, there’s O’Rourke’s brand new Moikai, Tony Conrad’s Audio ArtKive, John Fahey’s Revenant, and Thurston Moore’s K/EY, which launches next winter.

    Granted,

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  • Interviews

    1000 WORDS: JASON RHOADES

    It’s hard to imagine anything that wouldn’t be grist for Jason Rhoades’ artistic mill. At times he seems to want to swallow the world of things in a single gulp, the way you might an oyster on the half shell. At the Nürnberg Kunsthalle, the LA-based artist has mounted his hungriest show to date, “The Purple Penis and the Venus (Installed in the Seven Stomachs of Nürnberg). As Part of The Creation Myth.” Treating the institution’s seven rooms as a mammoth digestive system, he’s arranged his earlier works in a drama of cosmic bulimia.

    When I met up with with Rhoades this summer to discuss his work

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  • Slant

    “Black Like Who?”

    THE BAR-B-Q AT HARVARD was unexpectedly juicy. Delectable pulled pork, tangy ribs, and luscious chicken—with all the fixin’s—were served up beneath the pious eyes of those ethereal Northern European portal sculptures that have presided for generations over the serene proceedings within a hall named for Adolphus Busch, just off Harvard Yard. This piquant supper followed an edgy panel discussion titled “Black Like Who?,” one of several arranged by Ellen Phelan, James Cuno, Glenn Ligon, and Karen Dalton for the two-day conference “Change the Joke and Slip the Yoke” (after Ralph Ellison), which was

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  • Passages

    Richard Bellamy

    HE NEVER SEEMED TO AGE; they would continue to call him boyish right up to his death, at seventy, this March. Richard Bellamy’s youthfulness was as much spiritual as physical: he remained filled with wonder to the end of his days. He was an anomaly, the loose round peg in the tight square grid that the art world became. He was called an art dealer because he ran galleries, but that was hardly his vocation: he was the artist’s confidant who, when it was absolutely necessary, could negotiate the real world on behalf of those even more alienated than he. In truth, he was a terrible salesman, so

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  • Music

    Tony Conrad

    THE LONG, SLOWLY MODULATING drones on Tony Conrad’s box set Early Minimalism Volume One (Table of the Elements) are totally uncompromising, even if they do relax the listener over time; the electrified violins that produce the sounds attack tiny intervals across the audible spectrum with slightly wobbly intonation, never applicable to the equal temperament of the piano. There are four discs here, each filled with thirty minutes’ to an hour’s worth of this truculent process music; the result is occasionally reminiscent of the blues, like Little Walter inhaling one chord on an amped-up harmonica

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  • Music

    John Lurie

    JOHN LURIE FIRST WENT FISHING when he played St. James (either the Lesser or the Greater) in Martin Scorcese’s The Last Temptation of Christ. Jesus (Willem Dafoe) told his disciples to “become fishers of men,” and James, cranky and irritable as usual, misheard him and thought he said fisherman.

    Today, two thousand years later, Lurie is still at it, wandering the planet, tackle in hand, fishing for the fiercest game in the seven seas, from man-eating sharks to submarine-eating giant calamari. Fishing is an art, as anyone familiar with Moby Dick or Trout Fishing in America can presumably attest,

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