PRINT Summer 2000


Anna Gaskell

Anna Gaskell is an artist who divides her time between New York and Des Moines. Her most recent show, “By Proxy,” was on view at Casey Kaplan in New York.

  1. FITS, TRANCES, & VISIONS by Ann Taves (Princeton University Press, 1999)

    I've been reading up on the subject recently. Searching somewhere between a religious experience and a psychological disorder for the explanation, this book explores out-of-body experiences and possession in early American culture. Subtitled “Experiencing Religion and Explaining Experience from Wesley to James,” Taves's book attempts to explain the need for transcendence, and I have a hard time even putting together two sentences about the subject.

  2. LÉOLO (dir. Jean-Claude Lauzon)

    Just rented this beautifully disturbing film by Lauzon, which was out for about ten minutes in 1993. It's the story of a twelve-year-old French-Canadian boy who creates a dream world and a new identity to escape the ugliness of his day-to-day existence and lunatic family. Little Léolo tries to keep from losing his mind by reminding himself, 'I dream, therefore I am not."


    These simple line drawings of people bracing themselves for a plane crash, coupled with the bright, patterned upholstery of the interior of an airplane, make for the perfect picture of complete chaos. With their dangling oxygen masks and oddly passive passengers, these renderings of impending doom made me burst out laughing—and immediately regret it afterward.


    Simultaneously fascinating and disconcerting, the Associated Press photos of the twin Burmese twelve-year-old boys Johnny and Luther Htoo, leaders of God's Army, the tribal guerrilla force that recently struck at a hospital across the border in neighboring Thailand, continue to mesmerize me. I'm not quite sure which photo of the chainsmoking rebel leaders with mystical powers I find more unsettling: the picture with Johnny looking forlorn and Luther chomping on a cigar, or the one with both of them sticking their tongues out at the camera.


    This peripatetic character who appears in a few of Thom Jones's short stories seems like the perfect traveling companion. In “A White Horse” (from Jones's first collection of short stories, The Pugilist at Rest), the author introduces Ad Magic's hunger for mad adventure. After 'abandoning his seizure meds" in Los Angeles, he suddenly finds himself lost in Bombay on a bus loaded with tourists. This spontaneous, out-of-control odyssey leads Ad to a filthy beach where he comes to the aid of a diseased and dying horse. A good man with a kind heart—not to mention the best name I've ever heard for someone who works in advertising.


    Visiting the Winter Antique Show at the Seventh Regiment Armory on Sixty-seventh and Park, I found what was billed as one of the “rarest forms of miniature portraiture”: a small vitrine filled with dozens of eyes—lover's eyes, as it turns out—carefully painted on ivory brooches during the late Georgian period. A portrait of a single eye painted made it impossible for others to discover the identity of a lover. Usually worn as a pendant, this creepy treasure was used as a reminder that a secret lover is always watching.

  7. A MOMENT OF INNOCENCE, (dir. Mohsen Makhmalbaf)

    A 1996 Iranian movie that played a few months ago at the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center, A Moment of Innocence confuses documentary and fiction, using actors and nonactors to question memory and create multiple realities. The story doesn't lend itself to summary, but here goes: Twenty-six years ago, the director, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, then a political rebel, stabbed a young police officer at an anti-shah rally. Fast-forward to the present, where, after serving his time and going on to become a respected filmmaker, Makhmalbaf decides to make a movie about the incident, using the real police officer (who survived the attack and in fact went on to become an actor) in the film. Both men play themselves, each setting out to cast and coach a young actor to play their younger selves in a movie about the incident (told you this wasn't easy). In reconstructing the story, Makhmalbaf also casts the real daughter of the woman who helped him set up the police officer for assault. With the characters acting in their own story, each with their own memory and point of view, the film not only blurs the line between fiction and nonfiction but also provides a fascinating and complex exploration of the many ways to tell a story.


    From Corey McCorkle's 'Urban Archives“ series, the piece Hostile Day Bed (157 Crosby, Service Entrance), 1997–2000, appeared in the recently concluded group exhibition ”arch," at the Work Space in SoHo. A steel-blue paper sculpture protruding from the wall, the piece is a scaled-down version of a device designed to discourage a homeless person from sleeping in a doorway. The standout of the show, McCorkle's work is poised somewhere between an Ellsworth Kelly and a mad Post-It.


    I nabbed a couple of these glasses (produced as a multiple for Douglas Gordon's Kölnischer Kunstverein survey by the artist and the institution's director, Udo Kittelmann) from a late-night celebration at the Austrian schnapps bar and restaurant Zeiritz in Cologne. Best souvenir I own.


    Enough said.