Andrew Hultkrans

  • diary July 06, 2009

    Acid House

    New York

    THERE WAS NO ACID at last Thursday’s opening of Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe’s fully immersive installation Black Acid Co-op at Deitch Projects. There was no black, either, unless you count the carbon on the singed and burned furniture and plyboard walls in some of the rooms (the traces of meth-lab meltdowns). I mention this because the title (and the press copy) seemed to promise some kind of early-1970s-aesthetic abattoir, the half-charred ruins of a Hell’s Angels headquarters–slash–Symbionese Liberation Army safe house. Inside the mazelike, three-story structure that completely obscures the

  • film April 27, 2009

    Point Blank

    WHILE THERE HAVE BEEN numerous films celebrating the musical class of ’77—beginning with The Blank Generation, Amos Poe and Ivan Kral’s 1976 New York punk documentary that lends Blank City its name—the concurrent eruption of underground cinema (often made by and with the same downtown artists) has remained unexplored in its own medium. French first-time director Celine Danhier—former Sorbonne law student and member of La Compagnie Vapeur, an avant-garde theater group—seeks to fill this cinematic lacuna with this thorough, entertaining doc. Sampling liberally from little-seen No Wave and Cinema

  • diary April 16, 2009

    Dust Collector

    New York

    RARELY ARE CULTURAL EVENTS so fortuitously mirrored by their venues as Monday’s group reading in honor of Library of Dust, David Maisel’s recent book of photographs of psychedelically corroded copper canisters encasing the ashes of unclaimed Oregon lunatics. Inside the Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts on Norfolk Street, formerly one of the oldest synagogues in New York, the images—hung on the cobalt-blue peeled-paint walls and projected on-screen behind the altarlike stage—seemed to have always been there, matching their surroundings in hue and vibe, twin testaments to the stubborn

  • diary April 03, 2009

    Trompe Lit

    New York

    IF THIS WERE A TEXT generated by the OuLiPo, or Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle (Workshop of Potential Literature), which, founded in France in 1960 by novelist-poet Raymond Queneau and engineer-mathematician François Le Lionnais, dedicated itself to the playful pursuit of constrained writing (e.g., a novel that eschews the letter e or a palindromic poem), I might have bound myself to the rule that I name the participants of Wednesday’s group reading at the New School only once. This, it turns out, happens to be a not entirely arbitrary conceit, because while Yale associate French professor

  • film March 06, 2009

    Comic Relief

    AFTER DECADES OF DEVELOPMENT HELL at multiple studios (Fox, Paramount, Warner Bros.), the protracted attachments of several directors (Terry Gilliam, Paul Greengrass, Darren Aronofsky), and the subsequent disenchantment and self-erasure of its source author (Alan Moore), Watchmen, the so-called Citizen Kane of graphic novels, has finally hit movie screens on a wave of Hollywood hype and fan expectation. Your response to the film will have almost everything to do with whether you are already intimate (and in love) with Moore and illustrator Dave Gibbons’s original comic (published in a twelve-issue

  • diary March 02, 2009

    Some Kind of Wonderful

    New York

    THE WUNDERKAMMER (OR “WONDER CABINET”) is an antiquated exhibition concept that, while as old as the sixteenth century, has surprising traction in the twenty-first. The earliest European iterations were ornate rooms hung to the rafters with oddities of the natural world—narwhal tusks, exotic coral, stuffed crocodiles—and relics of dead religions and remote cultures. By the seventeenth century, they included man-made curiosities associated with the sciences and engineering—dioramas, automatons—as well as artworks and ceramics. Born in an era when the lines between art, science, myth, and folklore

  • diary January 08, 2009

    Maryland on My Mind

    New York

    BARRING JOHN FAHEY, curmudgeonly master of American-primitive fingerstyle guitar, whose gnomic, self-penned liner notes mythologized the Takoma Park, Maryland, of his childhood, no artist has done as much for suburban Maryland as Jeff Krulik, underground video documentarian, obsessive chronicler of obsessives, and maker (with John Heyn) of one of the funniest docs of the past thirty years (maybe ever), Heavy Metal Parking Lot (1986). Having no affinity for the state besides a love of Fahey’s music and a repulsion-fascination with the central-Atlantic accent (Philly, Baltimore, and environs—listen

  • diary December 13, 2008

    Acid House

    New York

    DURING THE Q&A at the end of Tom Wolfe’s fortieth-anniversary discussion of his gonzoid Merry Pranksters travelogue The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Wolfe was asked about his opinion of Gus Van Sant’s forthcoming film adaptation. Wolfe replied, “Films that try to capture trips—hallucinations—always fail miserably.” As counterexamples raced through my mind—David Cronenberg’s Videodrome, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, hell, the Monkees’ Head—I found myself thinking, “Polite, laudatory conversations for the NPR set at Symphony Space aren’t exactly a freezer bag of ’shrooms, either.”

    I had high-ish

  • film November 21, 2008

    Thanks for Nothing

    THERE IS A FUTURE, it appears, in England’s dreaming. “Punk ’n’ Pie,” an awfully named but well-programmed UK punk retrospective at BAMcinématek, gathers ten features and documentaries from the thirty-plus years since the class of ’77 first stuck a pin through the queen’s nose and pilloried Tory and hippie culture alike with equal ire. Though sown in New York—the Velvets, the Dolls, the Ramones, Richard Hell, CBGB—with ample fertilizer from a nice Ann Arbor boy called Iggy, punk flowered fully in England, where bleak environs and civil unrest were matched by vibrant street fashion and a serious

  • film September 25, 2008

    Censor and Sensibility

    If you need another reminder that book publishing and New York City aren’t what they used to be, you could do worse than to immerse yourself in Obscene (2007), an affectionate documentary portrait of the life and times of Grove Press and Evergreen Review publisher Barney Rossett. A thinking man’s perv with a patrician air, Rossett almost singlehandedly challenged the stultifying cultural puritanism of 1950s America through his publication of and landmark legal victories in defense of previously censored or criminally “obscene” books by D. H. Lawrence, Henry Miller, and William S. Burroughs.


  • film September 04, 2008

    Truest Grit

    “Times have changed,” says newly elected sheriff Pat Garrett to his erstwhile partner, Billy the Kid, at the beginning of the 1973 Sam Peckinpah film that bears their names. “Times, maybe, not me,” replies the Kid. It’s as good a summation of Peckinpah—the work and the man—as any critic’s encomium. Best known for his “revisionist” westerns, mostly set in the early twentieth century, Peckinpah evoked an America that had run out of frontier, doubled back on itself, and was beginning to fence land, pave roads, and enforce laws. This was the country where his characters—Billy the Kid, the Wild Bunch,

  • diary August 20, 2008

    Powers Trip

    New York

    I suppose it says something about where we’re at as a nation when the prospect of witnessing a live torture act in a decrepit amusement park seems like a reasonable—attractive, even—way to kick off the weekend. Or maybe it just says something about me. After all, Friday nights can be such a disappointment. But there I was, on the F train, traveling beyond Avenue X to the dark side (in this case, Coney Island) to watch artist Steve Powers and a trio of lawyers get waterboarded by a former army interrogator. (When my girlfriend canceled a drink date with a coworker to join me, her colleague quipped,

  • film July 29, 2008

    Unrequited Love

    “THAT'S MY GIFT: VARIETY,” says Arthur Lee, leader of the genre-defying 1960s Angeleno band Love, commenting on his childhood sing-alongs to the disparate artists in his mother’s record collection. Interviewed in 2005 and 2006 by a pair of UK filmmakers for the first and perhaps only documentary on the legendary group (now that both Lee and his fellow songwriter Bryan MacLean have passed away), Lee seems tamped down—a lifetime of drug use and erratic behavior, plus nearly six years in prison, will do that—but proud of the ever-expanding cult of devotees that Love has attracted since the releases

  • diary June 10, 2008

    Comic Relief

    New York

    Despite lingering cultural prejudices from bluenoses and blue-hairs, comics have periodically “arrived” on the mainstream stage since the late 1960s. Each “moment” generated reams of earnestly legitimizing articles in respectable journals trumpeting the medium’s “newfound” sophistication, artistic achievement, and adult relevance, but all failed to reach critical mass. Today, however, with Hollywood working its way through the Marvel pantheon, Adrian Tomine’s work frequently gracing the cover of the New Yorker, and museum exhibitions honoring everyone from R. Crumb to Chris Ware, it may be for

  • the Glass House Conversations

    PHILIP JOHNSON is welcoming houseguests again, if only as (g)host emeritus. Since last summer, the Glass House (1949)—Johnson’s master’s thesis and country home in New Canaan, Connecticut—has been opened to the great unwashed via guided tours, thanks to the efforts of director Christy MacLear and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Part of a larger project by the National Trust to “preserve the modern” as McMansions threaten midcentury masterworks coast to coast, the Glass House will serve as a flagship and think tank, offering fellowships and organizing programs such as the Glass

  • film May 30, 2008

    His Life to Live

    IN THE OCTOBER 1950 ISSUE of La Gazette du cinema, a young Jean-Luc Godard, writing pseudonymously, penned a sentence that serves, for biographer Richard Brody, as a skeleton key to the legendary director’s often-inscrutable inner workings: “At the cinema, we do not think, we are thought.” Brody, a film critic and editor at the New Yorker, uses this key throughout his rigorous yet readable biographical study, as dauntingly massive as it is helpfully clarifying, to unlock the intensely personal and political influences that shaped the work of an artist as pivotal to the evolution of his chosen

  • diary May 12, 2008

    The Kids Are Alright

    New York

    It seemed a tad contradictory to walk through Brooklyn in a howling nor’easter to see a movie about nihilistic Southern California skate kids, but so it goes. I was at BAM Rose Cinemas last Friday night to catch Ken Park (2002), the as-yet-undistributed-in-the-US feature by chameleonlike cinematographer Ed Lachman, and to hear Lachman and codirector Larry Clark talk about the film. Kicking off a festival of Lachman’s lenswork, which includes I’m Not There (2007), Far From Heaven (2002), The Virgin Suicides (1999), Less than Zero (1987), True Stories (1986), Desperately Seeking Susan (1985), and

  • diary May 03, 2008

    Risky Business

    New York

    The first thing to say about the “Red Carpet Arrivals” screenings at the Tribeca Film Festival is that there were no red carpets. Or star arrivals. Or maybe just not for art-world documentaries. Well, huffle-doody-doo. But there were long lines for “eligible badge holders,” “rush” ticketees, and regular paying punters. My press badge was apparently so eligible that I didn’t have to wait at all, which made up for the lack of processional glamour. I was prepared to get all Joan Rivers on these people, but maybe we should all be thankful I didn’t have the chance. What do I know about shoes anyway?

  • diary March 13, 2008

    All in the Family

    New York

    With all due respect to the cantankerous Dr. Ž, I was more attracted to last Wednesday’s event—“They Live! Hollywood as an Ideological Machine” at the New York Public Library—by its title than by its star. John Carpenter’s They Live is one of my favorite cult films, a tacky sci-fi gem that built on David Cronenberg’s Videodrome and made The Matrix’s point a decade before the Wachowskis hipped gamers to “the desert of the real.” A withering satire of Reaganite America, They Live boasts perhaps the longest fight scene in cinema history and is certainly the only leftist critique with a professional

  • diary February 12, 2008

    String Theory

    New York

    If I were to apply a “Thrilla in Manila”–style sports sobriquet to Anne Carson’s reading/performance at NYU last Friday, it would be “The Skein at Skirball.” How else to describe an event where a poet—a Canadian poet, no less—drew some seven hundred people to hear her read while an amiable ponytailed fellow wrapped yellow yarn around her person and three young dancers tied themselves in knots on the surrounding stage? Did I mention that the poet had the audience vote—from three choices—on the correct pronunciation of skein? String may talk, but yarn talks louder. Let’s uncoil it and see where