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Month: January, 2013

A Town Called Panic: Review

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A Town Called Panic is about a horse named Horse, a cowboy named Cowboy and an Indian named Indian. They all live together in a quaint yellow brick house. At the beginning of the film we learn that it happens to be Horse‘s birthday and that Cowboy and Indian have  forgotten to get him a present. What possibly could happen?

If you are movie watcher who likes to make predictions about where the film you are watching may take you and also like to guess the ending; take a minute, look at the above picture and have a go.

It may play out a little like this: after a great number of mix ups and misunderstandings, Cowboy and Indian eventually find the perfect gift for Horse and we all end up learning something along the way.

It was a good try but not even close.  A Town called Panic plays with the viewer like a kitten plays with a ball of yarn. You stumble from one surreal premise to another all the while asking yourself, “What am I watching?”

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The film is based on a Belgian television program created by Stéphane Aubier and Vincent Patar

This of course is the line in the sand. If you have a high tolerance for the absurd; you may fall in love with this movie. If you do not, then perhaps this may not be the movie for you. If stop motion animation done with crude plastic toys isn’t your bag; then this is not  the movie for you. If you don’t like break-dancing policemen; then this is not  the movie for you. If you can’t cherish the romance of two horses slow dancing on their hind legs to french torch songs; then this is not the movie for you. If the idea of a cow canon is just plain silly; then perhaps this may not be the movie for you.

If you like to laugh at unbridled looney creativity, then this is definitely the movie for you.

4/5

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Whether Conditions: Digital Paintings

Whether Conditions part 1-4  2013

Whether Conditions part 1-4      2013

A series of 4 created for the Artist Project.

Dorota: Digital Painting

Harder than you think 2013

Dorota   2013

“I like this one. One dog goes one way and the other goes the other.” : Paintings in the Movies

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I believe Martin Scorsese’s GoodFellas may be as close to perfect as a movie gets. It’s got a compelling arc based on a true story, brilliant performances, fantastic soundtrack, style for days, and of course this little piece of outsider art. The painting itself is based on a photo that appeared in a 1978 issue of National Geographic and was painted by the mother of the author of Wise Guy: Nicholas Pileggi. Wise Guy is the story of Henry Hill’s life in the mob and the basis for GoodFellas. The painting itself has no real bearing on the plot of the movie, but rather plays a delightful role in an impromptu meal during the wee hours of the night; between a boy, his friends and his mother.  Scorsese masterfully juxtaposes the sweet tender caring of an elderly mother (played by his own mother) with the ruthless cold-hearted apathy of a group of killers whose next victim is locked in the trunk of their car. Scorsese says the scene was mostly improvised with the only line written in the script being: –mother shows the ‘dog’ painting.

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A painting that had a much more significant role in a film would  have to be the double-sided Kandinsky that appears in Six Degrees of Separation. In real life Kandinsky never painted a double-sided work. The filmmakers combined existing works from two of his radically different styles to illustrate the fine line between chaos and control. The painting symbolizes the fleeting grasp the central characters have on the story of their lives. A young grifter cons his way into the lavish lives of an affluent couple on the Upper East Side.  By the end of the film, it is a blur as to who is using who: the grifter getting a taste of the sweet life or the couple endlessly milking their “near death” anecdote that makes them the life of the  party.

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The Upper East Side is also the location for an art collection of truly epic television proportions. Gossip Girl finally ended its’ six season run last year; closing the elevator door on the lives of some truly two dimensional characters. If you are wondering why Gossip Girl is included here? The answer is that the producers had wonderful taste: in music, ridiculous plot-lines that went nowhere and surprisingly enough -art. Multiple paintings by Richard Phillips could be found along with this little gem. Prada Marfa refers to the small roadside replica  Prada store created by artists Elmgreen and Dragset sixty miles outside of Marfa Texas. Another reason this show should be included in a post with GoodFellas: DorotaWho else could be the maid for both Blair Waldorf and Tony Soprano?

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Badroute is the name of this painting by Miguel Calderon. It is owned by Wes Anderson and appears in his film The Royal Tenenbaums. I am a fan of Anderson and believe this to be his best picture.  It was co-written with Owen Wilson and stars Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston and Bill Murray. The premise: all grown-up child prodigies once again find themselves  under the same roof trying to come to grips with their eccentric family dynamics.

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To say Elwood P Dowd is eccentric would be a little bit of an understatement. Elwood has an unusual friend; a six foot invisible rabbit named Harvey. Jimmy Stewart plays a wonderful drunk who sees the world through rose coloured glasses with the help of his friend. Harvey is meant to be a pooka or a mischievous spirit from Celtic folklore. The only time we get to see what Harvey looks like is when Elwood brings home this painting. The image is fantastic and so is the movie.

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A movie that is a real secret gem is David Salle’s Search and DestroyThe film was produced by Martin Scorsese and stars Christopher Walken, John Turturro, Illena Douglas, Ethan Hawke and Dennis Hopper. A failed businessman has plans for turning a self-help book into a movie. Trying to secure his finances turns into more than he bargains for. David Salle was known predominantly as a painter and his painterly style is reflected throughout the film. A wonderful example of this is the Alex Katz that hangs in Christopher Walken’s office.

I tried to focus on paintings that were unique to these individual films and show. Sorry no Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte from Ferris Beuller’s Day Off.  At the end of the day, this would be a gallery show I’d like to go see.

Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera at the AGO

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We are entering the final week of the blockbuster show Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics and Painting at the Art Gallery of Ontario. The show ran from October 20th to January 20th. The AGO has been on a hot streak lately with great exhibits: such as last summer’s riveting Picasso show, the Abstract Expressionist show  picked from the collection of the MOMA as well as future shows that include early Renaissance works from Florence and an Ai Weiwei exhibit coming this summer. My excitement and anticipation for Ai Weiwei is high. My feelings going into the current exhibit towards Frida and Diego were luke warm at best. I wouldn’t count either artist as personal favourites of mine, but I can recognize their talent and importance to the artistic canon. Art is a thing best experienced in person, so I felt that I couldn’t honestly have an accurate opinion of them if I didn’t see the works in the flesh. So I went to the AGO for the paintings, was indifferent about the politics and stayed for the passion.

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The art of these two individuals will always be inseparably intertwined. You can’t mention one without the other. They were lovers, friends, teacher and student, husband and wife, rival and combatant and mentor and muse. In the end the muse became the master and one of the most recognizable woman artists of the 20th century. When they met, Diego Rivera was already considered one of Mexico’s greatest artists. Frida Kahlo was twenty years his junior. Diego was a communist, a man of the people,  and his medium of choice was large scale murals that were intended to stir the passions of their viewers. He had received formal art training in Europe. He lived in Paris for a time where he was influenced by the cubists and the paintings of Paul Cézanne.

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Still life in Oval 1916

The first room of the exhibit is dedicated to the European works. Diego had very little trouble mastering the principles of Modernism. His cubist influences favoured Juan Gris more so than Picasso or Braque. His landscapes were direct appropriations of Cézanne. This would turn out to be my favourite room of Diego’s work. I am a big fan of Modernism and Diego does it well, but at the end of the day, no one does Cézanne better than Cézanne. It did however give the proper context to the rest of his work.

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Calla Lilly Vendor 1943

Other rooms followed examining his mural work and easel paintings. There were  some beautiful charcoal drawings as well as reproductions, photographs and short films on view. Reproductions don’t interest me much when I go see an exhibition. They can’t compete with the actual artworks. If I’m interested; I can track down these things outside the gallery and I find them a waste of time. Time that can be better spent with the actual artworks themselves. The Lily paintings are quite alluring in the flesh but some of his other easel paintings left little impression. Frida on the other hand….

My Nurse and I 1937

My Nurse and I 1937

Frida Kahlo on the other hand leaves a large impression. Unlike Diego, she was self taught. Her technique is strong but never flashy. Her paintings both disturb and intrigue. They teeter on the over emotional and melodramatic edge but are pulled back at the last minute before they plunge into sheer ridiculousness. (Many of today’s pop stars could learn a thing or two from this kind of restraint.) Frida had a lot of demons to exercise. Her life was unfortunately full of pain. As a young woman she was involved in a horrific bus accident that left her body broken and infertile. These afflictions would follow her throughout the rest of her life. Her marriage was filled with infidelity; at one point Diego left her for her own sister. She portrays these incidents with dark images:  cutting her hair off, sliced open and on display and being riddled with pins and nails. I don’t love these paintings, I think she makes that an impossibility. You’re not meant to love them, but rather respect the place they come from. I’m more drawn to her strait forward self-portraits which there were many.

self-portrait with monkeys  1943

self-portrait with monkeys 1943

Her presence is undeniable. This was most evident when the exhibition hung Diego beside Frida. During their lifetime Diego was the star and Frida was in the background. After their deaths the fame of Frida  began to grow. This was helped in part by people like Madonna who started to collect her in the eighties and movies like Frida starring Selma Hayek in 2002. Hanging side by side on the gallery walls Frida Kahlo seems to eclipse Diego Rivera. It is painfully evident when faced with the same subject matter. In the same room hang two still-lifes with watermelon as a central theme. Diego’s is easily forgotten while Frida’s rendition brims with life, pattern and narration.

The Bride Who Becomes Frightened When She Sees Life Opened 1943

The Bride Who Becomes Frightened When She Sees Life Opened 1943

The exhibition was well put together with a nice array of art and documentation. In the end, I was drawn as much to the photographs as I was the paintings. My favourite being the one that appears at the top of this post. It shares it’s lightness with a sense of darkness. A baby deer in one hand and a cigarette in the other. Every photo is accompanied by that unflinching stare. It as though she looks straight through you. Frida Kahlo is an unconventional beauty whose air of confidence has an intoxicating quality. After viewing the exhibition,  my appreciation for Frida Kahlo grew. Diego didn’t hold up as well in this context, when placed so close to a burning flame you will in-evidently end up in the shadows.

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The Strange and Wondrous Story of the KLF

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Be ready to ride the big dipper of the mixed metaphor. Be ready to dip your hands in the lucky bag of life, gather the storm clouds of fantasy and anoint your own genius.  –The Manual: How to Have a Number One the Easy Way

I’ve been told by numerous people that the newer version of the BBC series: Dr.Who is well worth the watch. I took a few hours out of my holiday schedule and put it to the test. It did not disappoint. When I was a kid, stumbling upon it while  surfing the thirteen channels that were available at the time was a mixed blessing; intriguing but kind of scary. I remembered the Tardis, the Daleks, the silver painted Doc Martens on the Cybermen, the Dr’s striped scarf and most of all the theme song and those trippy credits. Certainly one of the greatest theme songs in television history. While watching Dr. Who I couldn’t help but be reminded of The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu. 

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Before any Whovians start to comb through their collective databases looking for the lost Mu Mu episode; The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu are also known as the KLF, The Timelords, the JAMS, the K Foundation or Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty. Who are they you may be asking yourself? In 1992 they were the biggest selling British act in the world, and then shortly after that they literally let their fame and fortune go up in flames.

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The story of The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu starts in 1987 when the duo decided to form a hip-hop band. Influenced by the Discordian philosophy popularized by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson’s novel The Illuminatus! Trilogy, armed with a digital sampler and a desire to appropriate the canon of pop music they released : WTF Going On? The record samples The Monkees, Dave Brubeck and ABBA among others. No royalties were paid for the use of any audio clips.  ABBA‘s lawyers eventually had the record destroyed over its use of Dancing Queen in the track The Queen and I. Unfazed by this; they followed the same formula and released Doctorin’ the Tardis in 1988 under the moniker The Timelords. The song combines Gary Glitter’s Rock n’ Roll Part 1 and the Dr. Who theme. The song became a number #1 hit.

TheManual

After achieving pop chart supremacy, they decided to write a ‘how to manual‘ so that anyone could beome a pop star. The Austrian band Edelweiss followed the manual to a number one hit with Bring me Edelweiss sampling ABBA’s S.O.S.

 Because it is only by following the clear and concise instructions contained in this book that you can realise your childish fantasies of having a Number One hit single in the official U.K. Top 40 thus guaranteeing you a place forever in the sacred annals of Pop History. Other than achieving a Number One hit single we offer you nothing else. There will be no endless wealth. Fame will flicker and fade and sex will still be a problem. What was once yours for a few days will now enter the public domain.

The book itself was a humorous indictment of the music industry. It even came with a money back guarantee.

klf-chill-outIn 1990 Jimmy Cauty together with Alex Paterson formed the Orb and helped to invent the genre of ambient house music. Around this time The KLF also released the seminal album Chill Out which Mixmag voted the 5th best dance album of all time. Cauty soon left the Orb and continued on with The KLF. After the success of Doctorin’ the Tardis the band took on a more electronic sound. Hip-Hop’s influence was replaced by House Music. What Time is Love?, 3.am Eternal and Justified and Ancient featuring Tammy Wynette all appeared on the album The White Room. The band became critical darlings and helped define popular British music of the early nineties.

In 1992 The KLF won the Brit Award for best Dance Act and then promptly retired from the music business. Their final performance was at the awards ceremony. They finished their song by firing a round of blanks over the heads of the crowd from a machine gun. They originally wanted to spray blood on the audience but the BBC weren’t having any of it. Disenfranchised by the music industry they decided to call it quits, delete their entire catalogue, destroy all their merchandise and liquidate their earnings. Their actual Brit Award was found years later buried in a field just outside Stonehenge.

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In November of 1992 Drummond and his friend Zodiac Mindwarp attempted to drive to the North Pole where they were going to bury a picture of Elvis Presley in hopes that his soul would seep into the core of the earth and cause world peace. They got as far as Lapland before they nearly froze to death. Eventually they gave the picture to the keeper of the northern most lighthouse in the world and returned home. Their adventure ended up as a book entitled Bad Wisdom.

After paying their taxes and any outstanding debts, the KLF were left with 1 million quid. They set up the K Foundation and decided to get into the art making business. Their first  idea was to take the million dollars and nail bundles of 5o thousand dollars to the wall of a gallery. No gallery would accept it due to insurance reasons. After universally being rejected, they decided to burn it. On August 23rd 1995 on the Island of Jura the KLF burned 1 million pounds in a furnace. You can see it in the documentary here. This of course raises so many questions.

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I have a hard time wrapping my head around this act. Is it art? Is it a comment on the vacuousness of pop music? Is it a sheer act of will? Is it anti-materialism? Is it stupid? Is it genius? What would Dr. Who do?

True to their word, they have disappeared from the spotlight. They burned extremely bright for a brief moment and then went out. Think what you will about them, but one thing’s for sure ‘KLF is going to rock you.’