PRINT November 2002


Sam Durant

The work of Los Angeles–based artist Sam Durant is on view in solo exhibitions at LA MoCA through January and at the Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, Düsseldorf, from January through March 2003.

  1. DEMOCRACY NOW! With the major news media functioning as infotainment divisions for their corporate ownership and NPR’s wholesale submission to its underwriters, Democracy Now! may well be one of the last “free” news programs left in the country. Host Amy Goodman’s show is broadcast daily on Pacifica Network and its affiliates nationally, and worldwide on shortwave (find your station on Tune in for a meaningfully patriotic alternative to the mainstream morning news.

  2. SOCIETY FOR THE ACTIVATION OF SOCIAL SPACE THROUGH ART AND SOUND (SASSAS) Artist Cindy Bernard has been programming sound performances around LA for the past several years. She’s presented an amazing variety of musicians, composers, and improvisers—Solid Eye, Glenn Branca, Pauline Oliveros, and Stephen Prina, to name a few. Her “Sound” series at the Schindler House invites audiences to hear serious sonic intensity in LA’s greatest modernist house. SASSAS, which Bernard founded this year, has just released soundCD no.1, a compilation of recordings from these and other Bernard-produced concerts.

    Stephen Prina performing “Sonic Dan” for the “Sound” series at the Schindler House, Los Angeles, August 25, 2001. Stephen Prina performing “Sonic Dan” for the “Sound” series at the Schindler House, Los Angeles, August 25, 2001.
  3. THE BEST DEMOCRACY MONEY CAN BUY (Pluto Press, 2002) Greg Palast’s book collects stories he broke for European newspapers and news outlets, many of them suppressed or ignored by US media. The muckraking journalist thoroughly documents our presidential coup (the fraudulent “scrubbing” of Florida’s voter rolls), the Bush and Clinton administrations’ ties to the bin Laden family and the Saudi royals, and initiatives like the IMF and World Bank’s pernicious Country Assistance Strategies and the ruthless “logic” of the NAFTA and GATT trade agreements. As the dust-jacket blurb says, the information contained within is “a hand grenade.”

  4. FELA KUTI Fela had to establish his own country—the Kalakuta Republic in Lagos—just to play funk. Imprisoned and beaten nearly to death repeatedly throughout his life by Nigeria’s despot rulers, he still managed to start his own political party and run for president (twice). More than a million people attended his funeral in 1997. Open & Close, Expensive Shit, Zombie, Everything Scatter, and Opposite People are among the dozens of incredible records he made—and they’ve all been recently reissued.

  5. TO REPEL GHOSTS (Zoland Books, 2001) Taking Jean-Michel Basquiat’s paintings (and their masses of musical/cultural/political/historical references) as a starting point, poet Kevin Young has constructed an incredibly rich series of interlocking texts that flow across and through modernist lineages—Satchmo, Bird, Ellison, Warhol, Elvis, Baldwin, Miles, Robert Johnson, Jack Johnson, Ali—and back around again. Densely sophisticated, rigorously composed, full of uncomfortable knowledge and scathing humor, this book is building the future of poetry.

  6. THE COUP and DEAD PREZ The Coup are Oakland-based radicals politically rooted in Public Enemy and KRS-One but with a new sound that’s supported by a full backup band. Boots (lyricist) and Pam (turntablist) are burning down the MTV plantation of hip-hop pabulum. Their first record, Kill My Landlord (1993), is legendary. Their latest, Party Music (2001), belies its title, offering sobering critiques in tunes like “5 Million Ways to Kill a CEO” as well as Boots’s sweet song for his daughter, “Wear Clean Draws,” which combines fatherly advice with acid social commentary: “My boogie baby, / Now the world ain’t no fairy tale, / And it’s ran by some rich, white, scary males.” Dead Prez is holding down the East Coast political vibe. Let’s Get Free (2000) is a blistering masterpiece that fuses genuine fury and clear-eyed optimism with monster beats.

  7. THE DR. HUEY P. NEWTON FOUNDATION David Hilliard, former chief of staff of the Black Panther Party, is cofounder of the foundation (, which publishes books and music, runs educational programs, and strives to pass the Panthers’ history to the next generation. Hilliard runs tours of sites around Oakland where the shit went down. Seeing where he and Eldridge Cleaver were ambushed by the Oakland PD and where Newton was gunned down is both terrifying and riveting. If you’re ever in the Bay Area, take the tour. For BPP history check out Hilliard’s autobiography, This Side of Glory, and Elaine Brown’s memoir, A Taste of Power: A Black Woman’s Story, two of the most cogent accounts of Newton’s party and the times.

  8. DONALD JUDD’S WRITING On a recent visit to the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas, I reread Judd’s 1984 article “A long discussion not about masterpieces but why there are so few of them.” While sometimes tending toward the polemical, most of his writing is astute and often sounds as if it were about today’s art world. I had forgotten how radical Judd was with regard to the politics of art and culture, the incestuous and often opaque relationships between institutions, curators, critics, magazines, and the market. With forceful will and fierce commitment to his own work and that of his peers, he wrote about the conditions in which he felt artwork should be viewed and experienced; then he went out and made it happen.

  9. HATRED OF CAPITALISM: A SEMIOTEXT(E) READER Best title yet (thanks to Jack Smith, who came up with it) and with anti-intellectualism so rampant these days, I can’t help myself. Eileen Myles opens the book with “An American Poem,” a blast from Massachusetts—“I am a Kennedy. / Shouldn’t we all be Kennedys?” Hélène Cixous’s essay “The Writing, Always the Writing” is a great parallel to Myles’s poem. The two works confront alienation and the sense that you’re not at home in your own home. Slyly compiled, this anthology brings together fiction, narrative, philosophy, and critical theory without imposing a hierarchy among genres.

  10. KILLDOZER, UNCOMPROMISING WAR ON ART UNDER THE DICTATORSHIP OF THE PROLETARIAT A brilliant, hilarious “concept” album with footnoted liner notes that needle academic Marxism while cunningly introducing Simone Weil, Ramsey Clark, and Eugene V. Debs to disenfranchised working-class kids. Though released in 1994, songs like “Enemy of the People” (about Wal-Mart’s happy-faced ruthlessness) and “Turkey Shoot” (about the press’s slavish complicity with Bush Sr.’s Gulf War) remain, unfortunately, entirely relevant.