TABLE OF CONTENTS

TOP TEN

Ashley Bickerton

Ashley Bickerton is an artist who lives and works in Bali. Previously based in New York, he showed at Sonnabend Gallery and various East Village spaces throughout the 1980s, and was included in the “Aperto” section of the 44th Venice Biennale (1990). In May, Bickerton will exhibit new paintings at Lehmann Maupin gallery in New York; a major monograph on his work is forthcoming this spring from Other Criteria.

  1. WALKING STREET, PATTAYA, THAILAND

    There is no more sordid, debauched, or densely packed concentration of neon on the planet than that of Walking Street in Pattaya. Widely known as Sodom-by-the-Sea, this short stretch offers bars and go-go clubs with names by turns soul wrenching and hysterical (the Up to You Bar, the Bangkokney). One can see Walking Street as a repulsive, sprawling incandescent monument to hardwired animal need or, as I prefer, a wailing paean to glittering human longing.

    *Walking Street, Pattaya, Thailand, 2010.* Photo: Ashley Bickerton. Walking Street, Pattaya, Thailand, 2010. Photo: Ashley Bickerton.
  2. THE SUNSET ROAD, BALI, INDONESIA

    There are no decent museums on this island and, tragically, scant few nationwide. Incredibly, though, a bounty of cultural treasures can be readily seen, and indeed bought wholesale, all along the Sunset Road. Objects on offer range in origin from the ancient Hindu-Buddhist empires of the Majapahit to the warring cannibal tribes of the Asmat people in New Guinea. With museum-quality artifacts sprouting everywhere, the patrimony of entire civilizations is on the block here—entire villages are for sale, completing this heartbreaking but magnetic picture of what I now refer to as Rape Avenue.

    *The Sunset Road, Bali, Indonesia, 2010.* Photo: Ashley Bickerton. The Sunset Road, Bali, Indonesia, 2010. Photo: Ashley Bickerton.
  3. CORAL GRAFFITI LAVA FIELDS, KAILUA-KONA, HAWAII

    Why no major Hollywood cinematographer has taken advantage of this phenomenon is a mystery to me. Lining the isolated Kailua-Kona coast, long slivers of lonely asphalt cut across endless fields of coagulated black lava, which, almost perversely, bear dense patchworks of graffiti—temporal human utterances made from gleaming white coral ripped from the sea to be laid out on this dark terrestrial canvas. Everything is in clear flux here, and nothing has spoken to me more poetically of the fleeting yell of our species needing to be heard within the vast machinations of eternity than this.

  4. DAVID MCMILLAN, ESCAPE (MONSOON BOOKS, 2007), AND WARREN FELLOWS, THE DAMAGE DONE (MAINSTREAM, 2000)

    Among the slew of books recently penned by alumni of the infamously corrupt and brutal Thai prison system, these two titles stand head and shoulders above the rest. McMillan’s is subtitled The True Story of the Only Westerner Ever to Break Out of Thailand’s Bangkok Hilton and Fellows’s takes the phrase Twelve Years of Hell in a Bangkok Prison, and of the lot, they are the only accounts written by happily self-confessed heroin traffickers.

  5. SURF CULTURE

    When I lived in New York in the 1980s, surf culture was my private laboratory, as Gombe Stream was for Jane Goodall. Within this hothouse of adolescent postmodernity, I had my own private ringside microcosm seemingly able to encapsulate all of the meaningful shifts and crystallizations of the culture at large. At a moment when my colleagues and I were preoccupied with dragging the once-idealized art object back through the filters by which it was being commodified, outsider surf culture was itself being radically balkanized into a series of warring corporate fiefdoms. A fungal explosion of sponsorship logos followed, colonizing the subculture’s every high-visibility surface.

    *Tom Marsh, _Monument to All Surfers, Past, Present, and Future_,* bronze. Santa Cruz, CA. Dedicated May 23, 1992. Tom Marsh, Monument to All Surfers, Past, Present, and Future, bronze. Santa Cruz, CA. Dedicated May 23, 1992.
  6. “BYZANTIUM: FAITH AND POWER (1261–1557)” (METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART, NEW YORK, 2004)

    This show taught me more about modern art, and particularly Conceptualism, than pretty much any modern or conceptual show I have ever seen. Perhaps it was because here, modernity was placed in much more general human terms. Suddenly, I was able to see clearly our natural instinct to make things and how our native bioprograms dictate that we do so. I visited “Byzantium” with an artist friend, and together we were like ecstatic children, jabbering wildly in front of one piece and then rushing off to look at whatever struck our fancy next. Order is for historians.

  7. MY HOUSE

    The idea of place has always played a psychologically potent role for me, and I have never been able to separate my work from the milieu in which it was made. Monet and Klimt had the same fixation, as did Judd, Warhol, and now Zittel. The driving impulse to create a purposefully built total environment can lead to complete solipsistic immersion—wherein one physically lives inside one’s own work. In Bali, this is something I’ve finally managed to realize.

    *Ashley Bickerton’s house, Bali, Indonesia, 2010.* Photo: Ashley Bickerton. Ashley Bickerton’s house, Bali, Indonesia, 2010. Photo: Ashley Bickerton.
  8. ROBERT WILSON, I LA GALIGO (2004)

    Watching this epic Indonesian-myth-based production, I saw my two divergent worlds together for the first time: the hard, well-lit, rational world of intellect and conceptual analysis that had formed me in the cold, gray metropolis of the American Northeast rapt in an elaborate mating dance with something else close to my core, yet so very different. The staccato movements of the bulging-eyed dancers, the intoxicating intricacies of the batiks, and the heady clanging of the gamelan orchestra were all pulled, by Wilson, through an alien episteme.

    *Robert Wilson_, I La Galigo_, 2004.* Performance view, Esplanade Theatres on the Bay, Singapore, March 11, 2004. Abdul “Simon” Murad (on ladder) and Coppong Daeng Rannu. Robert Wilson, I La Galigo, 2004. Performance view, Esplanade Theatres on the Bay, Singapore, March 11, 2004. Abdul “Simon” Murad (on ladder) and Coppong Daeng Rannu.
  9. WANGECHI MUTU

    I first stumbled across the fascinating collages of this Nairobi-born New York artist in the cyber void. The works barked out, as though executed in rhythmic sequences, but each with its own distinct momentum. Lyric and ravishing, these pointed images offer a dense package of erotic fury and writhing sensual form; they also vigorously represent. Mutu makes work that embodies those qualities that I love. She is a torch singer of the highest order.

  10. GASTON GUILBERT, TAHITI BELLE EPOQUE VOL. 4 (PLAYASOUND, 1994)

    The tracks on this album were recorded between 1955 and 1966 on the outer atolls of French Polynesia by the peripatetic Tahitian-born Frenchman Gaston Guilbert. A cinematographer, as well as a passionate and prolific producer and collector of Tahitian music, Guilbert founded the first professional recording studio in the territory and devoted much of his adult life to the collecting and documenting of the region’s traditional sounds. This collection has become one of those fellow travelers for life. It’s long been a driving presence in my studio, defining and coloring whole periods; even my first child was conceived to these maddeningly beautiful vocals.