Andrew Hultkrans

  • diary April 30, 2018

    The Call of the Mild

    IF 2016, WHICH BEGAN WITH THE PASSING OF DAVID BOWIE and ended with the election of Donald Trump, felt like a year of death—of beloved musicians, celebrities, and democratic values—2017 was a year of outrage, not least in the art world. It started with fierce debates sparked by the Whitney Biennial’s inclusion of Dana Schutz’s painting Open Casket, 2016, a partly abstracted representation of the murdered, disfigured body of Emmett Till in his coffin; continued with the removal from the Walker Art Center’s Sculpture Garden of Sam Durant’s large outdoor sculpture Scaffold, 2017, intended to

  • film June 14, 2017

    Scum Manifesto

    SCUM (1979), A CONTROVERSIAL, bare-knuckled UK prison drama directed by Alan Clarke, is set in a “borstal”—somewhere between a reform school and a juvenile detention center—populated by the type of irredeemable, heavily accented delinquents Morrissey romanticized in songs like “Suedehead” and “Last of the Famous International Playboys,” rakish street hoods with hidden (or merely imagined) sensitive streaks. But there is no glamour here, even of a roughneck or rough-trade variety (it is far from Genet), and boys who evince any kind of vulnerability tend to commit suicide, in one case, after being

  • film May 26, 2017

    Fig Leaves

    AMONG THE NEARLY EXTINCT COMMUNITY of classic jazz purists, my uncle was relatively well known. Working under John Hammond at Columbia Records in the early 1960s, he produced the seminal reissue LP King of the Delta Blues (1961), a compilation of ’30s recordings by Robert Johnson that, along with Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music (1952) was a Rosetta Stone of the ’60s folk revival. His real love, however, was jazz, specifically early jazz—original Dixieland through the big-band swing era of the ’30s and early ’40s. He thought that bebop—the frenetic, highly improvisatory, small-band

  • film May 05, 2017

    Leaks and Geeks

    “INFORMATION WANTS TO BE FREE.” This cyberpunk maxim, originally uttered by Whole Earth Catalog publisher Stewart Brand in conversation with Apple’s Steve Wozniak at the 1984 Hackers Conference, rarely comes up in discussions of the character and motivations of Julian Assange, the editor in chief and global face of WikiLeaks. Assange has been an activist “publisher” for so long now that it is frequently forgotten he was originally a hacker—a very sophisticated one. Operating under the pseudonym Mendax from the late 1980s to the mid-1990s, Assange successfully cracked the US Department of Defense

  • diary April 28, 2017

    Here Comes the Judge

    “THERE’S NOTHING THEY WON’T DO to raise the standard of BOREDOM.” When I was living in San Francisco during the 1990s, this sentence caught my eye as I passed a flyer stapled to a telephone pole. Printed on yellow paper, the flyer contained two rectangular comic panels. In the first, a short-haired woman in mod ’60s attire walks through a boutique, grimacing as she says the line. A sidebar to the panel read “In our spectacular society where all you can see is things and their price . . . ,” leading one’s eye to the second panel, where a bar at top continued, “Ideology tries to integrate even

  • diary April 11, 2017

    Fake It till You Make It

    DURING SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE’S initial 1970s run, Dan Aykroyd starred in a skit parodying newspaper entrepreneur Charles Foster Kane of Citizen Kane (1941), a thinly veiled speculative biopic about real-life newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, known for his papers’ yellow journalism. The film was directed by Orson Welles, who prior to coming to Hollywood had made national news with his 1938 War of the Worlds radio broadcast, in which actors pretending to be news announcers breathlessly reported the landing of spaceships in New Jersey. The broadcast was simply an imaginative recasting of

  • film December 14, 2016

    That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore

    SPOILER ALERT: At the end of Beavis and Butt-Head Do America (1996), Mike Judge’s animated film featuring the unholy fools he unleashed via MTV in 1993, President Bill Clinton invites the titular boys into the Oval Office, makes them honorary ATF agents, and tells them that they will one day become “leaders of America.” Well.

    On November 9, 2016, this joke, not particularly funny to begin with by B&B standards, suddenly became dire prophecy. Judge made the point more explicitly in his later live-action film Idiocracy (2006), about a dystopian future society populated by mentally and culturally

  • film September 22, 2016

    Stone’s Throw

    FEW DIRECTORS ARE AS POLARIZING as Oliver Stone. The three-time Oscar winner has been characterized as everything from the bravest living American filmmaker to a muddled rent-a-rad, always first in line to stump for the latest lefty cause du jour, who is willing to parody his own predictable attitudes on The Simpsons. Those who defend Stone usually reach for his highlights from the 1980s—Salvador (1986), Platoon (1986), and Wall Street (1987)—or his early screenplays for Midnight Express (1978) and Scarface (1983). While acknowledging the extraordinary cultural penetration of Scarface (as

  • film May 10, 2016

    Faulty Tower

    AS REAL ESTATE BECOMES A LIVING NIGHTMARE in cities like London, New York, and San Francisco, it seems a good time to revisit novelist J. G. Ballard’s fictional nightmare of real estate, High-Rise, recently made into a film by British director Ben Wheatley. A pitch-black social satire typical of its author, the 1975 source novel concerns a state-of-the-art, high-tech apartment building—all mod cons and then some—whose residents quickly slide into violent and sexual depravity, losing touch with the outside world, as its conveniences begin to malfunction.

    Ballard was interested in situations where

  • diary February 29, 2016

    Apples and Oranges

    ONE OF THE PERILS of political art is that it stays still as politics, trumpeted by the daily news, marches on. Laura Poitras, the Pulitzer- and Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker whose “9/11 Trilogy” culminated in CITIZENFOUR (2014), a fly-on-the-wall account of Edward Snowden’s disclosure of the National Security Agency’s family jewels, opened her first art exhibition, “Astro Noise,” at the Whitney Museum on February 5.

    During “Surviving Total Surveillance,” a sold-out panel discussion held at the museum the day after the opening, Poitras said that she finds the straight news approach to

  • diary December 22, 2015

    Hack the Planet

    LEAVE IT TO THE COUNTRY that brought us the Gestapo and STASI to teach the Land of the Free about the perils of surveillance. Unlike the British, who have inexplicably embraced CCTV and other snooping technologies despite having produced Huxley and Orwell, Germans well remember the total paranoia and rigid control engendered by authoritarian systems overly concerned with “your papers.” Hence it was unsurprising but slightly ironic that one of the more substantial and wide-ranging symposia about surveillance on these shores to date was held at the Goethe-Institut New York over the first weekend

  • film August 07, 2015

    WASP Nest

    A CONFESSION: I am a lapsed preppy. Using the term feels false, though—an affectation—as I was not a prep school/Ivy League legacy, which was the defining characteristic of true preppies in my day. My parents were not blue bloods but middle-class people from sleepy states (Minnesota, Vermont) who met in New York in the early 1960s. We were not wealthy and lived on the “border” of the Upper East Side and Spanish Harlem, but it was important to my mother that I attend “the best schools.” And so I did, starting with a private boys’ school in Manhattan (coat and tie from kindergarten on), leaving

  • film July 29, 2015

    Tales from the Crypto

    POLITICAL PARTY TIME in America has rarely been more riotous than during the 1968 presidential nominating conventions. The stakes—Vietnam, civil rights, the sexual revolution, the counterculture v. the as yet unnamed “silent majority”—were high. The country was as polarized as at any time since the Civil War. Television was more central to the process than ever; Richard Nixon’s chilling, divisive TV ads, created by Gene Jones and later mimicked by the Pavlovian test film in Alan Pakula’s The Parallax View (1974), signaled a new era of televisual propaganda in political campaigns. Among the big

  • diary December 22, 2014

    Struth Be Told

    LIKE KRAFTWERK, those other celebrated sons of 1970s Düsseldorf, Thomas Struth embodies remote, dispassionate stillness. From his rigorously symmetrical street scenes, often devoid of people or motion, to his striking, clinical family portraits, Struth’s photography seems to capture architecture and bodies suspended in solid air, as if his subjects were frozen in the invisible aspic of the negative space surrounding them. All photographs are “stills,” of course, but Struth’s are stiller than most. Often large-scale and taken from great distances, his pictures efface the artist’s subjectivity—his

  • diary November 20, 2014

    Empire State of Mind

    “MEDIOCRITY IS THE NEW BLACK, PEOPLE!” Bemoaning New York’s postmillennial makeover as a “luxury vitrine for the rest of the world,” as Semiotext(e) founder Sylvère Lotringer put it earlier in the day, Penny Arcade exhorted the young, attractive crowd of art-world punters to reboot themselves into an earlier, more oppositional iteration of the city’s arts community. The occasion for the packed VW Dome at MoMA PS1 last Sunday afternoon was “The Return of Schizo-Culture,” a six-hour, multiparticipant, multimedia event that attempted to evoke the spirit of the Schizo-Culture conference, an anarchic

  • film July 29, 2014

    Coming Up Roses

    “BEHIND THE EYES of the Oregon girls it was raining again in Portland,” Nelson Algren wrote in his 1956 novel A Walk on the Wild Side. “Somehow it was always raining behind the eyes of Oregon girls.” And so it always seemed to be for Elliott Smith, an extraordinarily gifted, peerlessly poignant songwriter and favorite son of Portland, who died in 2003 at age thirty-four of two knife wounds to the chest, an apparent suicide. As if to confirm Algren’s emotional weather report, the bleak refrain of the last song on Smith’s final studio album, released posthumously, was, “Shine on me, baby, cause

  • film May 12, 2014

    Born To Lose

    “BEST REVERSE Keith Richards I’ve ever seen.” This is how Television’s Richard Lloyd, who knows something about the subject, describes the inverse trajectories of junk and (in)fame lived out by doomed New York Dolls/Heartbreakers guitarist Johnny Thunders in Danny Garcia’s comprehensive new documentary Looking for Johnny (2014), the story of how a Richards manqué from Queens grew up to consume exponentially more heroin (with exponentially less money) than the smacked-out Stone while midwifing glam, punk, and hair metal simply by being himself.

    While there are a million junkies in the naked city,

  • diary February 10, 2014

    Main Street

    GROWING UP in New York City during the 1970s and ’80s, I assumed that subway cars would always be psychedelic—rolling metal loaves with multihued fluorescent frosting, brightening grim tunnels and el tracks with every color of the spectrum. This, as we all know, was not to be. As a 1982 painting by legendary graffiti writer Lady Pink foresaw, a combination of citizen hostility, law-enforcement crackdowns, and new easy-wipe surfaces ensured that the jagged, letter-based “wildstyle” pieces and ambitious, often topical murals were all but extinct on the MTA by 1990. Pink’s The Death of Graffiti is

  • diary November 27, 2013

    Paramount Importance

    IT’S AN OLD AMERICAN STORY, perhaps the story, at least in terms of our popular music heritage: Black-owned record label (Black Swan) is bought by white-owned record label (Paramount), which records and markets black music to black people (“race records”); such music (blues, ragtime, gospel, early jazz) eventually falls out of favor with black people and is taken up decades later by white people (1960s folk revival), with whom it eventually falls out of favor, and finally is taken up again (last Tuesday) nearly a century after the black label’s founding (in Harlem) at the New York Public Library

  • film September 23, 2013

    Hall of FAME

    “THE RIVER THAT SINGS” was the name given to the stretch of the Tennessee River running through Muscle Shoals, Alabama, by its original Native American residents, who believed that a spectral young woman lived in the river and sang songs to them. A small town in the northwest corner of the state, Muscle Shoals is today world-renowned for its “big sound,” having been an improbable recording Mecca for R&B, rock, country, and pop artists from the early 1960s to the present. The town acquired this reputation through the tireless efforts of one man, the stern, indomitable Rick Hall—a “tough