Dive into the archives.
- James Westcott Writes, Marina Abramovic Dies
I just realized today that I never made a post recognizing my homey James and his great new bio of Marina Abramovic. That is maybe because he has been rocking the house so thoroughly lately, receiving love from The New Yorker , The Guardian, and even Bjork herself, who called the book magnificent and “an invaluable document in the hard-to-document world of performance art.” Salute. But also BUY – out now from MIT Press, available at all bookstores that know what’s good for them.
Here’s one really nice piece from the book release media blitz that I want to put up because it features both James and another friend Shumon. It’s from Tank Magazine and it goes like this:
Performance art is not for the fainthearted. James Westcott explains to Shumon Basar how it all started with starving saints and may well end in our age of obsessive re-enactments.
It has often been art’s unique privilege to sanction those eccentric behaviours that would in any other circumstance call for police action or the intervention of a local asylum. Performance art is especially notorious. Its protagonists famously use their bodies and increasingly, the bodies of others to shock, stimulate, sicken and show off bits the rest of us keep behind locked doors. James Westcott is the author of the new biography When Marina Abramovic Dies. It’s a frank appraisal of an artist who has referred to herself as “the grandmother of performance art” and has been called its “empress” by others a status acknowledged by New York’s Museum of Modern Art, which this year awarded her a major retrospective, the first they have given to any performance artist. Abramovic, like her contemporaries Vito Acconci and Carolee Schneemann, pioneered a tradition of performance in the 1960s and 1970s that foregrounded endurance, suffering and personal peril: a reminder that regardless of wealth or poverty, fame or wretched fate, we all begin and end with our bodies. Basar asked Westcott to outline performance peaks in the 20th century and to bring us up to the present moment where, to paraphrase Don DeLillo, the suicide bomber’s deadly performance eclipses the so-called radicality of today’s most shocking artists.
Shumon Basar faces a mirror and begins to walk back and forth along its length mumbling to himself. He stops and takes a seat next to James Westcott.
Shumon Basar: James, can you recall the first performance piece you saw and the effect it had on you?
James Westcott: It was Marina Abramovic’s 2002 performance The House with the Ocean View, for which she lived in a gallery for 12 days without eating or speaking. Her only nourishment came through sustained eye contact with the audience, and I returned to the gallery every day in the hope of repeating the amazing eye contact we’d had on my first visit. It was also like keeping a vigil for the dead or the dying I saw the fluctuations in Marina’s strength as she starved, how her skin changed colour. Like watching a captivity-weary animal in a zoo: the slightest variations in her obsessively repetitive behaviour became disproportionately fascinating.
Was there a religious provenance to these kinds of minutely repetitive gestures?
She was inspired by the Hindu vipassana meditation technique of repeating the most fundamental human physical actions sitting, walking, lying with extreme slowness and a kind of blank concentration. She was both robotic and somehow excruciatingly human.
And this “vigil” was how your interest in the medium began?
I had only discovered the existence of performance art a week earlier, reading about Marina’s 1988 performance The Lovers.
What did it entail?
She started walking at the eastern end of the Great Wall of China, and Ulay, her lover and performance partner since 1976, began walking at the western end, in the Gobi Desert, at the same moment. They simply walked towards each other along the Wall until they met in the middle 90 days later.
They had an infamously fractious and volatile relationship, didn’t they?
When they conceived the performance, in 1981, they thought that they would get married when they met in the middle. But by the time they managed to actually do it, their relationship had disintegrated and their meeting ended up as a kind of divorce ceremony, marking the end of their love and work together.
- World Cup Throw Back
The World Cup is on and Soccer Fever is back in effect. I realized yesterday, while watching R Kelly perform at the opening ceremony in a golden chain mail coif, that I started this blog exactly four years ago during the last World Cup. Nobody really checked VERY FEEL back in those days, so in all likelihood you missed all the posts I made about that tournament, including my series of haiku dedicated to Japan’s ill-fated run. Anyway, here’s one of the posts for that time where I try to explain my late enrollment in the community of WC maniacs.
Originally posted on June 11 2006:
I’m in Beijing now on various UNIT-related missions, but once I arrived I was knocked over by the enthusiasm for the World Cup here. China’s not in, of course, and maybe it’s considered a kind of warm-up for the Olympics, but damn this city is bang into some football right now. So, I’m gonna go with the flow… UNIT updates coming soon….
In honor of the 06 World Cup Finals, I offer my testament – Confessions of a Football Convert:
“Can I kick it?” – A Tribe Called Quest
Having been raised in the the US – the often-cited isolationist exception to football’s global conquest – I didn’t play or care much for the game growing up. I was a city kid and so played basketball. Soccer, as we call it, was a light-weight, slightly effeminate game played by spoiled, white suburbanites and immigrants (two groups that rarely break bread together – a crystal clear demonstration of football’s unifying qualities that went completely over my head…) During high school, every so often there’d be a few weeks of physical education dedicated to soccer, and we’d be brought outside to play. The teacher wouldn’t provide any advice on technique or even basic rules, we’d just be divided up and let loose. The result was always the same: a handful of kids from Central America or East Europe and maybe one or two from my hometown’s affluent East Side would dominate, carrying on as if they were in a pick-up match in an obstacle course. Those who generally didn’t enjoy sports would endure the 50-minute class with the same level of unobstructive disinterest that they brought to all other games. The rest, those who otherwise considered themselves athletes, would pre-empt their certain humiliation by aggressively underperforming until eventually the game deteriorated into a farcical exhibition of who could play the worst.
This is often the American way: if you aren’t good at something, belittle it. No doubt if Team USA disappoints this year, as I expect them to, you will see this reflexive disinterest acted out in pubs and on public squares across the world: over-loud discussions of more familiar USports interrupted occasionally by drunken croaks of “I don’t even really care about soccer anyway.” And I admit, I’ve been contributor to this ritual for most of my life.
- Big Boi is no stranger to that internet, baby. (So you already know what time it is.)
Outkast is my favorite group ever and it’s been too long since they made an album together. Also been too long since either of its members, Big Boi and Andre, has released a solo album. BUT that situation is due to change soon enough when Big Boi AKA Daddy Fat Stacks AKA Sir Luscious Leftfoot AKA Billy Ocean Cuervo AKA Hot Tub Tony AKA Francis the Savannah Chitlin’ Pimp releases his much-delayed, no-longer-so-new album ‘The Son of Chico Dusty’. A few tracks have been floating around the internets for a while, but I only felt compelled to post after reading this interview by Will Welch for GQ. It provides your daily dose of rapper quotables and explains, among other things, the tragic absence of Andre from the album:
This morning, the tracklist for the final version of Sir Luscious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty hit the internet, and none of the songs you’ve recorded with Dré are on there. No “Royal Flush,” and no “Lookin For Ya.” What gives?
Well, basically it boils down to Jive Records. That’s how they do it. Jive Records told me my album is a piece of art, and they didn’t know what to do with it. So I moved it over to Def Jam. And now Jive is trying to block Dré from being on my record. We can’t be on songs together now.
So because OutKast as a group is signed to Jive, they’re able to legally block the two of you from working together?
Au contraire! They cannot block it. Au contraire. Either they’re going to do it the right way, or they’re going to do it my way. How you wanna do it? The fans thirst will be quenched. You know, I’m no stranger to that internet, baby. So you already know what time it is. The thirst of the fans will be quenched.
“Royal Flush” with Dré and Raekwon has been out since 2008, but you’re saying we will be hearing “Lookin For Ya” [with André] even though it’s not on the album?
I guarantee it.
Can you speak a little bit about your frustration here? What you’re saying is that you and your friend from high school can’t rap on the same song and have it get an official release.
It’s plain stupidity. It’s stupid business and it’s stupid politics. I mean, Jive Records had [Big Boi's current Def Jam single] “Shutterbug” for three years. And [new Sir Luscious leak] “General Patton” for three years. You see what I’m saying? They told me to go in and make my version of Lil’ Wayne’s “Lollipop”! I love that song. That was my favorite song when it came out. But how you gonna tell me to go bite another MCs style? How are you even going to open your mouth up to tell me to go and do that? That’s the highest form of disrespect ever. So that’s when I wanted to get off Jive. And the only honorable thing they’ve done is allow me to do that. So I’ve had nothing to do with them. Dré tried to have a talk with Jive and they said, “No, we can’t. That’s gonna make us look bad.”
Let’s talk about how the records you made with André for Sir Luscious came together.
We’re gonna keep one of them for the next OutKast record. “Royal Flush” was supposed to be on the album. That was a leak that got nominated for a Grammy. The other track we did, “Lookin For Ya” was produced by Boi Wonda and it’s me, Dré, and Sleepy Brown—the Dream Team going back to “Playa’s Ball” and “I Can’t Wait.” They want to keep that from the fans, man, and I can’t have it. I won’t stand for that shit.
How’d “Lookin For Ya” happen?
I was outside the studio just chillin’ and Erik Sermon from EPMD rolled by the studio and said, “Yo, I got some music for ya.” I was like, “Word.” So he came in and played a beat, and then he played the Boi Wonda beat. I was like, “What’s that?!” So he was like, “We’ll let you get that one, then.”
The whole time I was working, Dré would come in and out of the studio. Like, he heard “Royal Flush” and said, “I wanna get on that.” And he heard, “Lookin For Ya” and said, “I wanna get on that.” The following day, he jumped on it. Two verses apiece, just raw lyricism. OutKast to the fullest. It was slated for the album. We tried to get everything solidified but Jive said, “Naw. Y’all can’t rap together.” Then I was going to take Dré off and make my own version, but then I thought, “No. Fuck that. If he can’t be on it, then I’m not using it.”
Did Dré do his verses at Stankonia or at a home studio?
Stankonia. Came right back the very next day and killed that shit. Matter fact, he put both his verses on there before I even had a chance to put anything on there.
Last time I interviewed Dré, he made it clear that sometimes he feels like he’s got something to say, and sometimes he doesn’t.
How does that affect you?
When he says he wants to get on something, you better go ‘head and let him get on it. That’s how we do it. Whenever he says, “Hey man, I wanna get on that,” he can do it. That’s my partner. He can get on whatever the fuck he wants to get on. He could’ve got on every song on the album if he wanted to. So they can’t stop us, man. I been knowing Dré half my life. And for these people that we don’t even know—that haven’t even had a hand in our career at all—that’s fucking blasphemy. So stay tuned.
OK, so here are the songs that Big Boi mentions. All I can say is that they’re good and I’m proud to play a small part in making sure that ‘the thirst of the fans will be quenched.’
Outkast w/ Raekwon – Royal Flush
Outkast w/ Sleepy Brown – Lookin 4 Ya
BUY the album. June 6 2010!
- Listen up: Romen Rok
My friend Ollie AKA Romen Rok just released his new album. It’s called Absolutely! and you should absolutely get it. Here’s the lead single:
He also has a bunch of cool videos making beats live on the MPC2000XL. Here is one of my favorites, sort of sounds like the Ren & Stimpy theme song if it would’ve been done by the Incredible Bongo Band.
Check him out and BUY HIS ALBUM here.