Friday, January 29, 2010

I Did it Again

So, I've made a film. Not necessarily a follow up to my show at the No-Exit Gallery, which I've discussed here previously, but a certain next thing.

I made it about a week ago. Last Saturday, January 23. In front of Dwayne and Gadsby's house. Dwayne and Morgan were there, so they're the only ones who have seen it. Sort of.

I made the film in my head. I screened it in my brain and described it to Dwayne and Morgan as immediately thereafter as possible.

We rode in the back of Matt's new pickup truck with Gadsby's chiminea alight. Dwayne and Morgan and I. So clearly, it was something of a collaborative process. In fact, Jill shot some of the footage from a car driving along side our truck, on our left.

We drove the car around town for a while, rather swiftly. There was much wind and the according sounds.

So, far, I am certain that the film has to do with the indigenous primitivism of behavior instilled in and subsequently relished by the American male.

And I can't help but think that it has to do with color, because of the black truck and the earthen tones of the chiminea and the color of the flames.

I believe that Jill's shooting of some footage has to do with the inversion of the usual masculine-feminine dialectic of technical expertise in the making of an artistic object, but, to be honest, I'm quite certain that there is much more to Jill's participation than just the easy stuff.

And, as per protocol, I'm still trying to come to some position on the material presence of the art object, here manifest through film as both medium and behavior, as required for the viewing experience.

I think the next step will be to have a retrospective.

Super Bowl Update #2

As we begin the festivities with the Senior Bowl on Saturday and the Pro Bowl on Sunday, I think it is essential that we all consider one thing.

In his biography of Michelangelo, Giorgio Vasari discusses the artist in unhesitatingly Messianic terms.

As the media further deepens its onslaught of football-related media, it is essential for us all to be careful to avoid doing the same.

Despite the individuo-mania of this weekend's exhibitions, this is a team game.

Discussing football players amidst Messianic implications does harm to the player, and it does harm to the team.

Let's leave poor Peyton alone from this point forward so that he can concentrate on the game. If he leads the Colts to victory, only then may we recommence the hyperbolic linguistic gymnastics.

But from now until someone is lifting the trophy, no more.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Super Bowl Update #1

No matter what has happened or what the future holds, I think we all owe both of these men a huge thanks for making this season that much better. See you both in Canton.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Required Reading

For those of you interested in morality, celebrity, or's a gem.

Selena Roberts is essential reading for those of us who want to worry about things beyond the lines...

And, SI, before you sue the bejesus out of me, be aware of the citation below. In my line of work, it's called research and membership in a scholarly community.

Selena Roberts. "Coming Clean: It's Complicated." Sports Illustrated. Volume 112, No. 3 (January 25, 2010): 68.


Two men sit in cushioned chairs facing each other under soft lighting. MCGWIRE is a former ballplayer with a graying goatee and a dress shirt open at the collar. He looks smaller than in his playing days, like a grape gone straight to raisin. COSTAS is an ageless TV journalist wearing a serious tie. He has notes in hand but rarely looks at them. He knows this drill.

COSTAS (somewhat incredulous)

What you're sitting here telling me is that you could have done essentially what you did without ever touching performance-enhancing drugs.

MCGWIRE (voice shaking, bites lip)

That's why it's the most regrettable thing I've ever done in my life.

It was good theater, wasn't it? For 48 minutes on Jan. 11, Mark McGwire deluded himself in front of Bob Costas on the MLB Network, the climax to a one-day steroid confessional that began with a statement to the Associated Press and interviews with select major media outlets. Touch 'em all. Call it the Redemption Rollout scene in another baseball chick flick filled with tears, produced to cleanse McGwire's image just in time for his reentry into baseball as the Cardinals' hitting coach.

The director of this p.r. strategy: a sports communications firm run by Ari Fleischer, the spokesman during the early years of W's White House—an administration not well-versed in apologies. But Fleischer didn't require an education in contrition to guide McGwire; he merely had to stage a public display that would go straight to YouTube. Whether a player's I'm sorry spills out evasively (Jason Giambi) or clumsily (Alex Rodriguez), with earnestness (Andy Pettitte) or cluelessness (Manny Ramirez), he need only emit emotion and never admit to cheating. He must calibrate his words like an artful banker: concede mistakes but never confess to perpetrating a fraud built on exotic numbers that brought riches at the expense of clean players and the bill-paying public. Plenty of regret, zero refunds.

And yet as angry as folks are with Wall Street, no one is looking to claw back the loot gained by deceptive athletes. "Sports fans are the most forgiving consumers of any industry," says David Carter, executive director at USC's Sports Business Institute. "If any other business treated its customers the way athletes treat their fans, in a lot of cases they would not have anyone lining up." Outrage barely lasts an inning. After McGwire endures the excoriation period—taking his beatdown from bloggers—he will no doubt become the beneficiary of America's short attention span as everyone Googles the next foolish act by a sports figure. (Gilbert Arenas brandishes pistols in locker room! Lane Kiffin runs out on Vols!)

And why wouldn't elite athletes, already awash in perks from red-carpet passes to punch cards for strippers, feel entitled to unconditional forgiveness once they express sorrow as the cameras roll? (Think it wouldn't have worked for Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds? Just imagine if they had been less defiant.) Wrap up the comeback with a title—think Kobe or A-Rod lifting a championship trophy—and a disgraced star is once again a darling.

But true atonement isn't intertwined with a victory parade. It's a private reckoning—with your conscience and with those you've harmed. What makes McGwire's coming out now most disturbing is how self-serving it is: His confession was a career move. The redheaded slugger had never told his son, Matt, whom he hoisted at the plate after he wrapped his biceps around homer number 62 in September 1998. Had he used Matt as a prop throughout the phony joyride? He had never told Roger Maris's children, who had to grieve the loss of their father's single-season home run record with grace and dignity from the front row that same season. How could McGwire have put them through that? He had never told St. Louis manager Tony La Russa, whose smarty-pants don't quite fit the same after he depicted McGwire to be as pure as spring water all these years. How willfully ignorant does the manager look now?

Of course, if every ball the Cards hit looks as if it's hitched to a comet next season, the collateral damage of McGwire's lies will be largely forgotten. He'll be Big Mac again in a happy Hollywood ending. "There is no sacredness to [sports] anymore," says Charles E. Yesalis, a retired Penn State professor who has written books on PEDs. "The games and the players are seen as another form of entertainment. Look, I like Spielberg movies, and I know there are special effects, but all I want is the movie. I don't want to see how the special effects are made during it. It would wreck it."

To see the reality is to ruin the escapism in sports. So offenders of all kinds are routinely welcomed back to the land of make believe. A St. Louis Dispatch headline last Friday read, MCGWIRE GETS BACK TO WORK; RELIEVED AND "READY TO MOVE ON." I get the need for closure, and certainly there's a place for forgiveness. But only if it is earned through personal accountability and not merely bestowed as a welcome-back present. Shouldn't atonement require more than a staged television event in which the actor takes a deep breath, dabs his eyes and says, "Bless me, Bob Costas, for I have sinned"?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

10 from the 00s

Check out my Top Ten of the Decade list over at Art:21.

Also read Ben Street's Top Ten. You can't miss it. It's right above mine.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Review: Yinka Shonibare: Mother and Father Worked Hard So I Can Play @ St. Louis Art Museum

About two weeks ago, on the way to the Italics exhibition at Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art (closes Valentine's to come), we stopped by the St. Louis Art Museum to see the new Yinka Shonibare exhibition Mother and Father Worked Hard So I Can Play (closes March 14).

Installed in their lower level period rooms, we are faced with the same old, same old from Shonibare, who is my nominee for the art world's most heralded one note band. At best, what we are faced with is a slightly clever variation on a theme. And when I say slightly, I mean marginally.

Shonibare has been celebrated, quite rightfully, as one of the more topically engaging artists of the 1990s, emerging from the cauldron of Goldsmith's in London with his own unique tangle of revealing, haunting, and at times absurdist post-colonial identity politics.

In the 1990s, such a brew was magically successful, drawing our attention to so many of those considerations we hadn't considered before and still need to consider more.

This deep into the new millennium, however, Shonibare's go-to methods are beginning to have the flavor of six month old tortilla chips. Frankly, the only marked novelty about these new works is in their poses, which already change from work to work, and their installation in the period rooms of the St. Louis Art Museum, which I guess is supposed to (and actually does, but in a rather frustrating and wandering way) perpetuate a reenactment of the original colonial exploration in search of culturally or fiscally valuable goods (by which we used to mean natural resources and here mean art).

The problem is that we already know the rest. We have for nearly two decades.

We already know Shonibare is the England-born child of Nigerian parents, himself a sort of walking embodiment of our current purported post-colonial and post-national existence.

We already know the batiks are a kind of Post-Pattern and Decoration signifier of the deceptive and forced importation of European garmentry (and culture) into African culture, and the subsequent absorption of said garments to the point of an inauthentic African authenticity.

We already know that the decapitation (non- or anti-capitation, perhaps) of the mannequins resists relational humanity. It is, after all, hard to relate to someone with no head.

We already know that this is, perhaps, also a kind of mantian retribution, in the name of all colonized peoples.

The disturbing reality of all of this is that Shonibare's art has been riding this wave for such a long time, with so little visible modulation or nuancing of what cud we've already been chewing.

And, at the risk of placing blame where it does not belong, the writers of the texts affiliated with the exhibition seem to be rather thrilled with regurgitating the same four or five catch phrases that have followed Shonibare throughout his career and have served as a kind of enabler to our post-colonial self-satisfaction.

You see, if we have an artist that fits the bill, and we support that artist, somehow our historical complicity in colonialism, or in its aftermath, is somehow alleviated. The jury is still out on this one. At least for me. Primarily because I don't quite understand how such an moral-intellectual jump can be made, if it can be made at all.

Which brings me to a rather peripheral concern. Peripheral to the art, at least. I'm confused as to the hows and whys of Yinka Shonibare MBE. I, myself, have never been afforded such an honor as being made a Member of the Order of the British Empire. I'm generally more of an Order of the Phoenix guy to begin with. Anyway...

While, realistically, I must recognize that this is an honorific title, one given to the culturally significant and the Britishly excellent, it still seems rather tricky given all of the post-colonialism we keep rehashing in regards to the work. I have never been an advocate of merging the artist and the work, or expecting that one is causal to the other by necessity. But, since we keep dredging up the spectres of colonialism--and I'll eat my hat if the work doesn't make that its primary concern--is there not a kind of historically problematic recolonialization happening here? Yes, Shonibare is a British citizen--born, raised, and educated--so the MBE is certainly appropriate and, more certainly, deserved for his contributions to British (and global) art.

But, in our post-colonial post-national world of millenial identity politricks, does this suffix not perpetuate the importance of recognition by a once dominant colonial hegemon, within the shadows of what is left of that same hegemon, which, of course, still is a hegemon, only of a different variety? Am I being fussy? Am I, instead, supposed to comfort myself with some kind of intellectual gymnastics wherein this is actually a kind of reappropriation of nomenclature, a subversion of the once uniformly British membership of the Order of the British Empire?

Order of the British Empire? (Natural) Order of the British Empire?

It all sits very oddly with me, to say nothing of the fact that I'm still rather bored by what looks like an artist piping us all out of Hamelin with the same batik-printed, headless tune.

Mother and Father Worked Hard So I Can Play.

Maybe we shouldn't concern ourselves with play. Or let Mother and Father's sacrifice be in its service.

Back to work.

I miss the photographs. But I take comfort in knowing that the mannequins are sharing time with more of the flat stuff these days.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The 2010 LeRoys

Attention everybody!

Since this year is my Dad's 70th birthday, I'm inaugurating a new tradition.

Don't worry. You haven't missed his birthday yet. You can still get him something.

I hereby announce The 2010 LeRoys.

Now, just because it's my Dad's birthday and he's got an award named after him doesn't mean he wants to be bothered. Sometimes quiet is what he's going for, so don't bug him unnecessarily. If he wants to talk, you'll know.

First things first, the rules...

The LeRoys are awarded when there are sufficient deservees.
The LeRoys may be awarded in any category.
The LeRoys at the present do not award material objects.

If you are the namesake of a LeRoy and do not wish to be so, please let The Management know and amends will be made.

The above does not apply to my Dad.

All speeches must be left in writing as a comment to this post. Please consider that children may be reading.

If you do not like sports, keep reading. There are non-sports categories.

And awaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay we go...

The 2010 LeRoys...


Stupidest NFL Trade You Never Heard About: Chris Carr (from TEN to BAL)

Least Stupid NFL Trade You Did Hear About: Albert Haynesworth (from TEN to WAS)

Best Trade of the Year for Me: Zach Randolph (from LAC to MEM)

The I Told You So: Tony Romo and Mark Sanchez

Rookie of the Year: The Sanchize, Brian Cushing, Beanie Wells

Coach of the Year: Rex Ryan’s mouth

Offensive MVP: CJ2K

Defensive MVP: Darelle Revis tie with Charles Woodson

Excellence in Journalism: Rich Eisen and the staff of NFL Total Access

Miserability in Journalism: Tony Dungy and the NBC Saturday AFC Wild Card team (Hammond, Gibbs, Theismann)

Best Maintenance of an Immaculate Legacy: Cris Collinsworth

Book of the Year: Chad Ochocinco’s autobiography

Excellence in Fandom: Andre Nistico’s collection of Jets jerseys

Most Overreactive Fan Base: Memphis Tigers tie with Philadelphia Eagles

Most Sensible Ownership Decision: Da Bears, for keeping Lovie Smith


Best Photo: Evan Stark’s thumb drawing tie with Isabelle Lachat’s Medievalism

The Julie Henderson Award for Hilarious Posting: John Dowgin

Best Entertainment Posting: Jim Alan Cook

The Making Kids Seem Amusing Award: Julie Henderson tie with Nikki Green

The Making Us More Socially Aware Award: Rebeccah Sanders

International Hilarity: Ilaria Simeoni


Best Album You May Have Forgotten About: The Singles Soundtrack

Best Movie Seen on Netflix: Coraline tie with Berlin: Symphony of a City

Best Movie Seen in the Theatre: GI Joe

Most Underwhelming Movie Seen on Netflix or in the Theatre: Inglorious Basterds

Opinion You Must Hear: Maureen Dowd

Best Ice Cream (awarded in perpetuity): Blue Bell Creamery

Best Band Hardly Anyone Likes: The band

Best Airport Book: Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Conviction (written by David Michaels)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Paradigm Shift

OK, this will gross some of you out. Vegetarians beware. Vegans don't even bother. Raw fooders, this won't even be in your lexicon.

I went to Hot Doug's in Chicago (corner of S. California and W. Roscoe) this past week.

It changed my life.

I used to think tubed meat was suspect at best. Always a gamble, rarely gourmet.

Holy Sweet Relish was I wrong.

We had a Chicago style dog which, for the uninitiated, involves a beef dog on a sesame seed bun with sliced tomatoes, diced onions, electric green relish, mustard, a sliver of pickle. It's the greatest indigenous twist on a national staple I can think of.

Then, we had two others. Get ready...

A venison and blueberry dog with blackberry sauce and goat cheese and...drum roll please...a duck and black truffle dog with foie gras.


Frankly, I've only had this kind of transformative experience twice before in my life.

The first was Pizza al Volo in Venice. The second was Cozy Corner BBQ in Memphis.

I cannot stress enough how unbelievably superior each of these three eateries are.

I'm going to publish a book called "Three Things to Eat Before You Die."

Cancel that, I just told you. Go forth and engorge.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

I Hereby Volunteer for Democracy

Let it be known.

I am ready to take off my clothes for freedom.

All this hoopla about strip searching escapes me.

I'm not joking or making light of things. I'm being totally serious. I think this is a mostly reasonable safety measure, and one that might actually make life a little bit better. Maybe even a little bit safer.

Seriously. I don't see how this will impact my life in any particularly distasteful way.

For the following reasons:

1. Other people have already seen me naked. My parents saw me naked when I was born. The doctor did, too. And I don't even know his name. Or her. And I'm certain that nobody took me out to dinner and a movie before that moment of other people seeing me naked. I once mooned the entire state of Montana. In fact, I was housesitting once and the cat saw me naked. So I'm not afeared of being seen naked by people trying to save my life.

2. I don't have any body parts that people haven't already seen elsewhere. You're already on the internet. Most of you have seen a painting of a naked person. If you haven't, try it. You might learn something about art. Or anatomy.

3. I never rush through airports. I get there a full hour and a half early. That way I can go to the Hudson News, the loo (at least twice), eat at least one full meal, play a few games on my PSP, and needlessly walk past all the gates to fantasize about where else I might want to go. In fact, I recommend this to everyone. Especially you, the idiot who is in the line freaking out about being late. You wouldn't be freaking out if you got there on time. A few extra minutes in the line ain't gonna kill you.

4. It's important to air things out every once in a while. Consider the following. The house. The bedsheets. Your feet. The litter box. Art studios. The Bubonic plague. Frankly, I think a few extra minutes of ventilation at the airport might make things more pleasurable once I get inside of that big metal tube.

5. Airport screening is already too impersonal and adversarial. Nothing will familiarize us with the TSA people who are trying to protect us than a little bit of the ol' whatcha looking at.

So, Mr. Rove, Mr. Beck, and all those other presumably conservative, heterosexual, morally superior white males...

I'm ready to take off my clothes for you if it makes you feel safer.

And God Bless America.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Trifectas, Part 2

So, I'm going to make a public case out of this, mainly because I have a forum, and I know that at least 12 of you are reading, plus my parents, which makes 14.

I'm trying to do that Joel Osteen routine of envisioning my ideas into being. I think it might be worth a try. Worst thing that could happen is that nothing happens.

See, I'm 2 for 2 on my New Year's resolutions.

2008 was "Streamline the BS."

2009 was "Shake off the haters."

2010 is "Positivation."

For all of you who don't speak New Jersey, Positivation is Positivity + Activation.

Here's hoping good things once again come in threes.

Oh, and by the way, I'm on the Facebook now. Search "adrianduranblog" and become a fan.

There'll be a BBQ. Don't forget the BBQ.

Happy New Year to you all. Bonne annee mon amis.

Point of Order

Dear American Men,

I am one of you.

I understand how things are.

However, I would like to publicly shame certain members of this shared demographic.

Given that we are all members of what I would still like to consider civilization...

Flushing toilets after use is not optional.

In the course of a single afternoon, I happened upon two public toilets in which the previous user left a less than welcome present.

This is unacceptable.

Please flush.

Letting it mellow, even with the most eco-friendly intent, is not acceptable in public.

Thank you.

With regards,


PS: This is a good habit in private as well.

PPS: The ladies will thank you for this as well.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Flippin' Irish

So, it's the first week in January and I keep getting voicemails from friends, grad school roommates and all sorts of other jokers who like to remind me that Notre Dame didn't go to a bowl game this year.

This serves me right, because last year I did the same to a University of Michigan graduate friend of mine, turnabout being fair play and all.

But I'm a little more than a little annoyed by this. And, as an alumni of our dear university of our dear lady of the lake, I believe it is my God-given right to comment on this God-forsaken situation, especially because I have been watching such great games as the Idaho victory in the Humanitarian Bowl and the Arkansas victory in the Liberty Bowl. And because I am quite sure that Notre Dame, even in its most grotesque iteration might add some dignity and gravity to a landscape of bowls that includes such corporate flatulence as the Bowl and the Meineke Car Care Bowl.

I mean, c'mon man. Let's think about this for a second. And let's quote ND Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick...

"The unique circumstances surrounding our program at the current time prevent us from making the commitment required to compete in a bowl game..."

"If the landscape had been different, we would have been thrilled to take part, and we certainly look forward to being part of the bowl system in the years to come..."

Jack, with all due respect, this stinks worse than the Eagles' tackling did this afternoon. And I mean stinky like baby diapers.

I'd like to put this in some perspective.

1. Some of these players were actively denied the opportunity to play in their last game ever because ND refused this bid. Last game ever. Ever. Final. Finito. End of their football career, which has been one of the primary themes of their lives since early childhood.

2. Some of these players may have been able to shine in front of NFL (and, gasp, UFL) scouts.

3. Some of these players may have made the play that might have helped their draft stock rise just a little bit higher. Or the play that would have stuck in their memories for the rest of their lives.

Yes, I'm a sentimentalist about college football. I believe it is a noble endeavor that promotes many of the ideals that I (and we) hold dear, that offers opportunities otherwise unavailable, that grows community and culture, and offers us all an escape from whatever mundane worries we have to endure for the other 21 hours of whichever day the game is played.

And I'm a fan that loves the drama, the hooting and hollering, the adrenaline, the epic thrill of victory and agony of defeat.

And I got the short end of it this year. We all did.

Even if the Irish went to the Scott Merde Bowl, we would've had the opportunity. The chance.

And that's what this is about. The elusive possibility of greatness and immortality. The opportunity. The chance.

And Notre Dame, the one place that carries its history, and the whole history of college football with it onto the field with every snap, blew it.

Worse than Michigan, USC, Navy, Pittsburgh, Connecticut, and Stanford combined.

So much for waking up the echoes.

Thank God for next year.