Hilton Als

  • Juergen Teller

    AS THE HISTORIAN Simon Schama tells us in his informative and enriching Landscape and Memory (1995), Cornelius Tacitus completed his monumental study Germania; or, On the Origin and Situation of the Germans, around the year 98. For approximately two hundred years before that, Roman legions had been spending a great deal of time, money, and manpower attempting to suppress those “children of nature” who inhabited a northern land- scape antithetical to the sophisticated Romans’ manicured own. That German landscape, which Tacitus described as “for the most part bristling forests and foul bogs,” was

  • Frank O’Hara

    AS VIEWED FROM THE VANTAGE POINT of our empire’s continued obsession with health, Frank O’Hara (1926–1966), the poet and Museum of Modern Art curator, looks, if not like death, then the very body of ill health. In the photographs and paintings of the poet at the center of “In Memory of My Feelings: Frank O’Hara and American Art,” an exhibition of 102 (as often as not collaborative) works by O’Hara and his painter friends, on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles through November 14, there is O’Hara’s too-thin human form, gay and white and plucky or sad, seen by this camera or

  • the Prosthetic Aesthetic

    KIM NOVAK’S PROTUBERANCES in Hitchcock’s Vertigo, Godzilla pores, pus flowering on top of pimples, nineteenth-century bustles and false fronts, Veronica Cartwright’s bug-eyed expression of horror in Ridley Scott’s Alien, prosthetic cocks or a “real” erect one, cellulite and diagrams on how to combat it, the male/female character in Silence of the Lambs regarding his image in the mirror, dick tucked between his legs—all these tabulae non rasae sprang to mind as I watched models garbed in Rei Kawakubo’s Spring/Summer ’97 collection walk down the runway this fall, their backs, shoulders, and hips

  • PERFECTLY AWFUL

    EARLY ONE EVENING last winter, the 34-year-old British-born, Brooklyn-raised, and Paris-based couturier, painter, poet, musician, and hair-and-makeup artist Andre Walker went for a stroll along the eastern half of 14th Street in Manhattan. Moving through the stale winter air, buoyed along by his own centrifugal reverie and strikingly costumed as was his custom (ankle-high horsehair boots, plaid summer trousers, green mohair jumper, brown mohair scarf), Andre Walker alternated singing and explaining lyrics of his own invention: “You knew I was a dodo bird when you met me. . . . / Would you mind?”

  • Claire McCardell

    FROM TIME TO TIME, the extraordinarily well-dressed young man and his companion attended films together, less for entertainment than as corroboration or refusal of their respective internal realities or turns of mind. At the recent retrospective of Andy Warhol’s films at New York’s Film Forum, the two men sat through films that depicted (among other things) various people in various states of undress. What clothes the “actors” wore said as much about their epoch as did the words they used—gender was being bent in a confused way, particularly in Chelsea Girls, Warhol’s messy tour de force. In

  • Grease

    IN THE WORLD OF FASHION or, more accurately, of fashion as an event in magazines, greasy as the skin tone is in. Greasy is achieved by applying lubricants, supplemented by eyeshadow with a sheen and lipstick (light) with a gloss. Greasy skin connotes nonresistance to the real—skin made oily by the only atmosphere the modern woman knows: office air systems that circulate illness and the mild anxiety, fueled by gossip, that is office life. The modern woman as she exists now in fashion magazines rejects the finished, calm, distanced patina of luxury—rejects face powder—as unrealistic. Yet she

  • AS IS: WOLFGANG TILLMANS' LIVE STYLE

    LIKE MOST SALON PHOTOGRAPHERS, Wolfgang Tillmans takes pictures he would have us “take” as diaristic impressions—images of places seen and people observed in them, generally arranged around occurrences that project the fly-by-night. The genesis of the style is not so much in the old New York school of photography (Diane Arbus’ early 35-mm. work, say) as in images that are less emotionally based (the subjects are, rather, visually “interesting”), more driven by narrative, if of seeming randomness. Compare Hubert Selby Jr.’s Last Exit to Brooklyn, say—a novel of fast cuts, a third-person voice

  • THE THIRD SET: NAN GOLDIN AND DOMINIQUE NABOKOV

    Society works in strange ways: in order to have it you must be involved with people. My mother, who never read Proust, believed in an ideal Platonic society—which is to say, a society of people (her children) based on herself. Meanwhile, my mother had become a “nice” person in order to separate herself from her own mother’s family—which is to say, her family had been constituted of people who were not nice. Isn’t that one function of society: to let one become an individual, so that one leaves it?

    Mostly what we “like” in photographs is what we recognize as emotion in them; a decisive emotional

  • A FAN'S NOTES

    Mourning (the Sadness) finds itself in the in-between. I mean, it (the Sadness) is a stuttering toward a word which will not . . . out. One word—not a word but an acronym for the experience beyond it: DEATH.

    Bodies come and go (I am stuttering now) but only in memory, only without pain—not “real” (the memory of that dead person’s alive smell, say) but as flat as demanding no space whatsoever, no reflection whatsoever.

    Which images are tolerable in the Sadness? Images that are in between, representative of the Sadness (Mourning) and therefore able to transcend it. One image that is in between: Jaye

  • HISTORY OF THE SUBURBS: A PROJECT FOR ARTFORUM

    MOLLY NESBIT

    MORTAL THOUGHTS NOW, PLEASE, the smaller things, spores, not the drone of ideas in the abstract, lives. Chase after them, the lost attentions, slack. Words will fail you. Well they should. Because faded glamour will no longer quite do, monograms slipping off handkerchiefs, lipstick off lips. Pool of feeling? puddle.

    ÉCRITURE

    a cry

    Even the noblest ideas dissipate in dirt. And yet the enlightened mind’s dear decrepit certainties can be turned over yes like some old tortoise shell, belly examined poked. Specter and hollow suggest ideas too and bring us back trudging to gaze upon heavy,

  • Hilton Als

    RUPAUL, THE UBIQUITOUS STAR of “Supermodel (You Better Work)” and author of such statements as “When I went to Japan and saw Mt. Fuji and saw that it was love, I said to myself, ‘Ru, you are Mt. Fuji,’” was, at one point, the ubiquitous leading lady of such films as Terror, in which she played an undercover blaxploitation detective named StarBooty. As StarBooty, Ru said things like “Don’t let your mouth write checks your ass can’t cash” and promised a series of autobiographies, one titled New York Is a Big Fat Greasy Ho.

    Now that RuPaul, doyenne of Lower East Side performance/drag society, has

  • OPENINGS: LEONARDO DREW

    THE EXTRAORDINARILY WELL-DRESSED young man and his companion who privately did not consider himself so were both Negroes, a not unimportant fact in the movie you are about to read.

    To others besides themselves, the young Negroes were perceived from a distance, as screens on which were projected emotions that did not yield ideas. Generally these emotions were fear and loathing, commonly manifested as anxiety. What the projections yielded in the extraordinarily well-dressed young man and his companion was this: the idea that they were both movies—shallow, intangible, deep.

    After greeting one another,

  • INNOCENCE

    IN MY END is my beginning. I do not know what follows that. The phrase—In my end is my beginning— is a beautiful one and I did not write it. In my end is my beginning is a version of a phrase in a poem. The poem begins, In my beginning is my end. It is titled “East Coker” and was written by Thomas Stearns Eliot in 1943.

    For many years I would quote passages from this poem. I always began my recitation In my end is my beginning, believing I was correct. I was not. Now, having looked “East Coker” over again, I believe I understand why such an error was made: I do not prefer the exact memory of

  • Gus Van Sant's My Own Private Idaho

    REGARDLESS OF ANY REVIEWER'S claim that X director has brought an “edge” back to filmmaking, or Y star has transcended screen acting for something “beyond,” or Z writer’s imaginative process is both literary and visual, the success of most American movies is based on the fulfillment of our demand for closure. Mom almost never dies and Dad will almost always eventually provide, and we regard this condition as satisfactory for the task of watching. What we, as Americans, mean when we say we “like” a film—particularly an American one—is that it does not penetrate us beyond what is projected an the

  • DARLING: ADRIAN PIPER

    DOWN THE ROAD OF REMEMBRANCE this time; remembrance being distinct from memory in that remembrance does not require one’s presence in it. Sick to death of memory, crapping out in it. No discovering the quality of one’s mind there; just wave after stony wave washing over the senses; nothing to contribute but bad feelings, nothing to offer but misperceptions, nothing to experience but bad memories, which are your own, not anyone else’s, ever. So stupid, this vulnerability to a process in which the quality of the mind is not discovered or anything else useful to me, to you, to anyone; just that

  • I AM THE HAPPINESS OF THIS WORLD

    I AM LOUISE BROOKS, whom no man will ever possess. Photographed in profile, or three-quarter profile, or full front, photographed and filmed for as long as I can remember; interviewed for as long as I can remember (before and after I was forgotten); slandered and revered for as long as I can remember—I remain Louise Brooks, whom no man will ever possess. There is my hair, as black as all that, and the crest of my eyebrows, as black as all that, which do not meet in the center of my forehead but nearly meet at the edge of my bangs, the enameled black of my bangs attached to the rest of it, my

  • Andy Warhol

    Several noteworthy facts concerning the photobooth located in Playland, an arcade, positioned in the heart of Manhattan’s Times Square, itself an arcade: it costs $1.50 (quarters only) for a strip of four images; individual shots are taken at four-second intervals, during which time the sitter poses a self or what that person or someone else might believe is one. There is no contrast control. The phrase “Smile and Relax” is permanently stenciled under the camera proper. The language dictates a personage; the sitter becomes one who “smiles” and “relaxes” before a photographer who does not exist.

  • “Jean Cocteau: The Mirror and The Mask”

    “Jean Cocteau: The Mirror and the Mask”: curious title for an exhibition of photographic portraits depicting (according to the press release) “one of the greatest contributors to the arts during the heyday of the French avant-garde.” French fag, very busy with his hands—all that decor to arrange, in order to fill up those empty, chilled white rooms of his. [Delete previous sentence. Could be construed as moral judgment leveled against sodomites. Also, ambiguous use of word “white.” Could be construed by white populace as being unnecessarily aggressive. Private agenda inappropriate in this

  • Cary Leibowitz / Candyass

    An extraordinarily well-versed (and well-dressed) young man enters from stage right and approaches the lectern with several slides, a carousel, and a pointer. He taps one of his platform heels impatiently as he waits for the houselights to dim and his voice to rise above the impending darkness in order to say, “Consider the term ‘love’ (with a proper stranger?) as a condition which breeds pathological self-knowledge or self-interest. Like fungus or bile, it interweaves, interlocks, whatever, within someone else’s pathology. This is just one more construct unworthy of our holy soul; we are