Dennis Cooper

  • Ryan Trecartin

    WHEN THE CHOICE BETWEEN lingering in front of a video projector or hitting a half-dozen other galleries is increasingly a cinch, the jolting energy, nerve, and intricacy of twenty-four-year-old Ryan Trecartin’s work in the medium comes as no small shock. An abiding interest in indie rock, goth, psychedelia, and other hot topics won’t distinguish his practice from that of other artists of his generation. But everything aesthetic about his videos—from the baroque screenplays that polish flippant teen slang into cascading soliloquies to the dueling fascinations with profound loneliness and extremely

  • Dennis Cooper


    1 THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS, TWIN CINEMA (MATADOR) I’m not so giddily in love with these Vancouver-based indie rock perfectionists that I couldn’t have used this space to write a long, rational essay about them titled something like “God Not Dead?”

    2 DUNGEN, TA DET LUGNT (KEMADO) For some reason, in Sweden it’s OK to take the passing of ’60s psychedelia very personally.

    3 SUNN0))), BLACK ONE (SOUTHERN LORD) Apparently, one way to renew rock is to keep charring its fundaments until it falls into that category by default.

    4 XIU XIU, LA FORET (5 RUE CHRISTINE) People who say singer Jamie

  • Henry Darger

    WHEN EIGHTY-ONE-YEAR-OLD Henry Darger died in 1973 and his secret trove of art and writings was unearthed by his nosy Chicago landlords, the term “outsider art” was new, having been proposed only the previous year by art historian Roger Cardinal as an English alternative to art brut. At the time, the work of artists like Adolf Wölfli, Simon Rodia, and the Rev. Howard Finster, to the extent that it was known at all, was effectively stigmatized as a form of arts and crafts practiced by unusually creative religious fanatics, conspiracy theorists, and the mentally ill. But the discovery of Darger’s

  • Dennis Cooper


    1. Destroyer, Your Blues (Merge Sounds) Sounds like a young Leonard Cohen on lots of Ecstasy.

    2. A.C. Newman, The Slow Wonder (Matador Records) Newman, (most of) the brains behind the spookily catchy, detail-obsessed New Pornographers, pares down his sound without losing an iota of the band’s sociopathic genius.

    3. Animal Collective, Sung Tongs (Fat Cat) Spin this primo example of corrosive post-psychedelia, then see the band blow it open live.

    4. Guided by Voices, Half Smiles of the Decomposed (Matador Records) The final album by my favorite—and, coincidentally, the greatest—rock band

  • Dig!

    ART HISTORY HAS long maintained a church and state–style separation between naive, unsophisticated work by so-called outsider artists and work whose construction and style are unmistakably savvy and sociable. Henry Darger, the Chicago janitor who spent his downtime secretly making obsessive paintings, is a good example of the consequence of these distinctions, remaining an honored guest of the art world rather than a bona fide star.

    In rock music, this prejudice is reversed: The outsider is the ultimate insider. Rock’s history has been one of constant reinvention by artists too crazy or ignorant

  • Dennis Cooper


    1. New Pornographers, Electric Version (Matador) If I were God, every song on this furiously insinuating CD would go multiplatinum.

    2. Iron & Wine, The Creek Drank the Cradle (Sub Pop) Samuel Beam’s baroque, fastidious, heartbroken, secretive art-folk songs are indescribably beautiful.

    3. Wire, Send (Pink Flag) This is probably ineligible for the 2004 Turner Prize, but it should win anyway. Easily the best British artwork of the year.

    4. Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks, Pig Lib (Matador) Malkmus discards the last vestiges of Pavement’s characteristic sound and reimagines early-’70s

  • Mike Kelley

    DENNIS COOPER: The early ’80s were hugely formative for LA art. It was, for instance, the first time that CalArts graduates started to stay in the city, rather than moving to New York. Yet on the surface, the local art world was still pretty dull and provincial.

    MIKE KELLEY: Most activities were taking place in alternative spaces like LACE [Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions] and LAICA [Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art] rather than in galleries. I don’t think LA was any more provincial than other art centers of the period. Artists here were mirroring the various international phenomena;

  • Dennis Cooper

    ANDREW HAHN PAINTS UNSOLVABLE MYSTERIES. He creates them with the same meticulous objectivity that detectives employ to solve a crime. In Hahn’s case, the evidence isn’t a dead body or discarded bullet casings but rather the images popular culture generates to represent the horrific. His astonishingly skillful paintings of visual tropes used by television and movies to elicit the frisson of actual crime scenes are strange double takes on the visceral and discomfiting. They suggest frightening occurrences that have been romanticized in the name of entertainment and then revised back into images

  • Dennis Cooper


    1. Super Furry Animals, Rings Around the World Britpop suddenly produced its Sgt. Pepper. A shiny, intelligent, genre-pillaging, totally addictive stimulant.

    2. The Flaming Lips, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Absolute sincerity plus unrepentant quirkiness equals (in this case) divine beauty.

    3. Silverchair, Diorama With help from arranger Van Dyke Parks in full Smile-era mode, these severely underrated Australians finessed the most substantive hard-rock album in decades.

    4. El-P, Fantastic Damage Cannibal Ox maestro El-P took a solo turn and made the kind of daredevil, forward-thinking,


    UNTIL RECENTLY, being an American admirer of the photographer Bill Henson was a lonely and rather painstaking chore. Apart from a small survey of his work at the Denver Art Museum in 1990 and a few photographs included in a 1984 Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum exhibition of Australian art, he has been almost impossible to find in the United States, less unknown than antiknown—a sub-subcult figure even within circles devoted to contemporary photography. Given that his work has been a staple of the European art world since 1981 and that it occupied an entire pavilion at the 1995 Venice Biennale,

  • Dennis Cooper


    1. Pinback, Blue Screen Life The year’s most enigmatic, impeccable, swoonily beautiful songs.

    2. Weezer, The Green Album America’s most popular great band brings rock formalism to the masses. Thirty perfect minutes.

    3. Björk, Vespertine She escapes Lars von Trier and Matthew Barney unscathed.

    4. Daft Punk, Discovery Intricate, vapid, irresistible, brainy French electro-pop piffle.

    5. Mouse on Mars, Idiology Electronic music’s creative recession continued this year with a few eccentric exceptions. This was the wackiest.

    6. Stephen Malkmus, Stephen Malkmus Even wiser words and music from

  • Dennis Cooper on Wong Kar-wai

    WONG KAR-WAI MAKES RAUCOUS, loose-jointed, love poem–like films with oddly decisive titles—Fallen Angels, Happy Together, even the super-propulsive (if inconclusive) Chungking Express. In the Mood for Love, the less tidy, more evocative moniker of Wong’s latest film (which opens February 2), is the first sign that the director is up to something different. Rather than transmute the rush and joggled logic of the protagonists’ passions into bastard, improvisational story lines that go nowhere on purpose, Wong’s new film is a careful, even overly deliberate attempt to have his lovers’ emotional

  • Dennis Cooper

    TWENTY-FIVE-YEAR-OLD JOHN WILLIAMS ISN’T THE easiest artist to introduce. With his expansive, fractured, visionary talent, he’s something akin to an inventor whose energies just happen to fall within the scope of contemporary art. But whereas the quest for a better mousetrap can only lead to more insane ways to catch mice, Williams’s dizzyingly imaginative videos, sculptures, and paintings prove how far these mediums can be stretched. His daring, highly personal work has been an inspiration and touchstone for LA’s in-the-know artists and critics since 1998, when the Cal Arts graduate fist began

  • Dennis Cooper


    1 Errol Morris, First Person (Bravo Network) To my mind, Morris has evolved into the most subversive, forward thinking of American filmmakers, harmonizing fiction and fact, offbeat personal interest and surgical objectivity, narrative and its opposite, into a poetic, überdocumentary style that outperforms the bulk of films whose wellspring is little more than imagination. This year he tried “the television series” on for size. Ostensibly a collection of one-on-one, half-hour, talking-head-style interviews of ten “Morriss-esque” (i.e., unusually self-absorbed yet unusually

  • Lars von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark

    IT SOUNDS GOOD on paper. Lars von Trier, bold, gifted, iconoclastic Danish director, completes his long, tantrum-filled mission to win the Cannes Film Festival's—and serious filmdom's—award of awards, the Palme d'Or, and is cemented as one of the greats. But this isn't the '70s, and taking first prize at Cannes last May doesn't automatically make Dancer in the Dark a classic or assure von Trier's position in the pantheon. Those who've seen his shape-shifting oeuvre as proof that European avant-garde film survived the senility, retirement, and death of its postwar masters were understandably

  • ROBERT BRESSON: 1901–1999

    On December 22, 1999, Robert Bresson, the director of thirteen lapidary feature films, died at the age of ninety-eight. Over the course of a career that spanned half a century, Bresson honed a laconic, intensely personal style that has influenced filmmakers from Jean-Luc Godard to Jim Jarmusch. Here, novelists Gary Indiana and Dennis Cooper and artist Stephen Prina assess the significance of Bresson’s art in their own lives and work, while film historian David Bordwell discusses the French master’s place in the history of cinematic style.

  • First Communion

    IN THE EARLY ’80s, a friend invited me to a screening of Robert Bresson’s The Devil, Probably, on the condition that, no matter what, I not say a word about it afterward. He claimed that Bresson’s films had such a profound, consuming effect on him that he couldn’t bear even the slightest outside interference until their immediate spell wore off, which he warned me might take hours. He was not normally a melodramatic, overly sensitive, or pretentious person, so I just thought he was being weird —until the house lights went down. All around us, moviegoers yawned or laughed derisively; some even

  • American Psycho

    IN AN INTERVIEW GIVEN AROUND THE TIME THAT “Walk on the Wild Side” became a fluke hit single, Lou Reed was asked how it felt to achieve mainstream fame after years of cult notoriety. He jokingly replied that at least he’d no longer be known as the guy who was in the weird band that did the song “Heroin.” Reed couldn’t have foreseen that, more than twenty years and innumerable songs later, most contemporary pop music fans know him as the guy from that weird band who also sang “Walk on the Wild Side.” Americans’ memories are famously short, except when it comes to the infamous. But while controversial

  • Harmony Korine

    Film critics and buffs, even connoisseurs of the offbeat, have such a fierce love-hate relationship with Harmony Korine that it’s easy to forget the splash he made as the precocious teenage screenwriter of photographer Larry Clark’s film debut, Kids (1995). Clark’s protégé has since written and directed the daring if unpopular Gummo (1997) as well as his Dogma-accred-ited second feature, Julien Donkey-Boy (1999), while Clark has man-aged only Another Day in Paradise (1998), a clunky, misshapen crime thriller as flimsy excuse to fuss over the beautiful Vincent Kartheiser—suggesting that, when it


    As a novelist who’d love to reinvent narrative, I’m always looking to art for ideas that I might translate into language, then implement in such a way as to explode the qualities traditionally associated with the novel. While visual art can be almost anything, from a documented, unrealizable idea to a slightly altered meteor crater, fiction is confined in a way that makes even painting’s relatively limited arsenal seem gigantic. Modernism enlarged art’s possibilities immeasurably, and kept viewers in tow, but the unconventional novel is still proving itself. Some of us whose talent leaves us