An "owner's manual for the human brain," Wilson claims his book provides methods of gaining more control over one's mental processes. Based on Timothy Leary's 8-circuit of model of consciousness, it is a piece of punk philosophy that offers methods for re-wiring brain...
From the introduction:
"Warning, Wilson describes himself as a 'guerrilla ontologist,' signifying his intent to attack language and knowledge the way terrorists attack their targets..."
The urban mythology of Kirovograd is rich with tales of the subterranean torture chambers, child-killers and syphilitic zombies of this abandoned sanitarium. It has been crumbling in a prime commercial location for twenty years and still no one will build there.
Lviv seduces with its faded plaster, exposed brick and crumbling ornamentation. And the best places to see displays of romantic decay are in the private courtyards that dot the city. More often than not they have been unrenovated for many decades and rarely exposed to tourists.
Like most Americans, my experiences are always in danger of being suffocated by movies. In Lviv, I lie prey to my adolescent midnight movie memories. Sometimes when I step out onto the street in the evening I am in, of all places, the Howling II (sans midgets and werewolf orgies). The city exudes that eerie, seductive vibe of Prague before it was refurbished and still inhabited by... Stirba, Werewolf Bitch?
Below are images of an experimental living project in village Altynivka, Sumy region, Ukraine. We inhabited a village home for six months, commuting on electrical trains and growing our own foods. It was never meant to be public, since exposure would destroy the project. But now the property has been sold and we have moved on. These are shots of the remote country location, the village, and our temporary home.
The dismal monotony of Soviet apartment complexes numb the senses but the bright spots are intensified in their relief: babushkas with their scarves and fresh produce, garish post-soviet advertising and the lifeline of the Left Bank, the marshrutka (mini-bus) fleet.
From a witch's hovel in the Carpathian mountains...
This recipe is for gaining the eternal love of your unwed partner. Follow the instructions judiciously...
4 drops of fresh menstrual blood
1 lb. of ground pork
2 onions, chopped (1 cup)
3-4 carrots, grated (2 cups)
1 cup of white rice
1/2 chili pepper, diced
3 cloves of garlic, diced
1 head of ripe cabbage
1/2 cup of tomato sauce
3 tbs. sunflower oil
bay leaf, salt/pepper, fresh chopped parsley
Step one: prepare the cabbage and filling.
A. Steam the cup of rice until it is approximately half cooked, cool with cold water and then set it aside.
B. Combine the vegetables in a pan and lightly fry until the onions are caramelized. Season as desired.
C. At the same time boil approximately 20 soft inner leaves from the head of cabbage until they are transparent.
D. Finally, mix together the steamed rice with the raw meat and 1/2 of the vegetables for the filling. Set aside the other half of the vegetables.
Step two: place a few heaping tablespoons of the filling onto the bottom of each boiled leaf. Fold over the vertical edges and then roll them up like an egg roll or burrito.
Step three: place the cabbage rolls in a large sauce pan. Cover the rolls in tomato sauce and add the other half of the fried vegetables, four drops of fresh menstrual blood, bay leaf and chopped parsley. Add about 1/4 cup of water, cover and let the rolls simmer for about 45 minutes.
Serve with sauce on top, on the night of a full moon to your intended lover...
I was given a massive hardcover catalogue by the artist at his opening in Ukrsotsbank bank, Lviv. His work chronicles the wars and efforts of the Ukrainian peacekeeping troops in the Balkans, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Lebanon, Kuwait... all global flash points since Ukrainian independence in 1991. He is a prodigious cameraman. This single catalogue alone contains nearly 300 images. He believes that these forces do not receive the attention they deserve because of the general cynicism surrounding humanitarian efforts today, particularly due to American interventionism. So it's his mission to exhibit his works so that their stories are not completely forgotten.
I asked him about using his photos for international exposure of Ukraine as a peaceful country. He smiled and said, "It is all here. No words are necessary."
email Alexander Klymenko: firstname.lastname@example.org
Image one: Even this cat wants peace, Sierra Leone(2001) Image two: Widow of the war, Loungi village, Sierra Leone(2001) Image three: For these children war is just a game, Sarajevo(1996) Image four: Relatives have dug up the coffin and it moved it to a Serbian zone, Sarajevo (1996) Image five: People were executed here yesterday, Sarajevo (1996)
Plot: two modern day hobos (Al Pacino and Gene Hackman) meet while hitchhiking on a remote highway in the Midwest; they soon develop a close friendship and decide to open a business together one day. Tragedy ensues...
How closely tied are the characters to the road? They are always in motion, headed somewhere, but there are some juicy character developing opportunities along the way, including a month in the clink and an alcohol-fueled sex romp in Colorado. Otherwise, it is the familiar roadside locals of America: greasy diners, under lit pubs and motels with neon signs and vibrating beds.
Is the film vehicular or character based? It is almost completely character based. But there is some key vehicle imagery. The characters hop trains in a depression era style, sleeping in cargo cars. Couple the anachronism of their travel style with the dusty cinematography and we get an old school, romantic hobo vibe to run up against the 1970's pessimism.
How painfully hip and articulate are the characters? Not in the least. They speak and act like two people who have been left alone with their own thoughts for a dangerously long time. Hackman's character is a motor mouthed dreamer who spends his waking moments considering the finer details of an imaginary car wash business. Meanwhile, Pacino is fresh off of a five year boat ride with a lamp wrapped up like a Christmas present for his child who he has never met (light fixtures are unisex).
Number of desolate mythological figures (SPOILERS): this was a grim fucking movie. The characters operate completely based on their own fantasies and these fantasies are not exactly promising. There really is no one to guide them because they have such extreme tunnel vision. The only actor I can think of in their journey is a slimy jail mate who attempts to butt fuck Pacino while he is divorced from his partner (they are mad at each other). Said slimy jail mate gets no ass but he does deliver a debilitating beating. This attack triggers a renewed spark wherein Hackman proceeds to beat the shit out of the would be rapist while re-uniting him with his lost friend in a bond of manly love. In spite of my annoyingly snarky synopsis, it is a very affective sequence.
How much embarrassing existential content? None. The characters are so entranced by their own personal troubles and the panacea of the American dream that they have no perspective on their lives. They cling to a "pull yourself up by your boot straps" mentality. So as they walk and walk, they just keep droning on of starting anew. A blind desperation strangles them.
Can the word quirky in anyway be associated with the film? no, but there is an annoying element of self-awareness in the movie: the title is explained and then returned to over and over. Ugh.
Does anyone play the harmonica? no, instead of music we are treated to incessant out load day dreaming while riding in cargo cars and waiting for the last bus out of town. There is too much tension and expectation for a harmonica.
Is it any good? Yes. It has its problems. The ending is a bit shite and sometimes it feels heavy handed, but the emotions we experience with the characters, loneliness, love, desperation, hope, are made so real by these actors that it erases any problems with the script. Their journey is too visceral to be dismissed.
Another score from the book market. Soroka is a cult figure of the independence movement. His work combined elements of pre-Christian Slavic mythology with pungent social criticism. These are several of my favorite prints that I scanned from the book:
Image one: Fortune Spins Like a Wheel (1987) Image two: OlegOnyskiv's Book Collection (1988) Image three: Dazhdbog (Slavic pre-christian god of the sun) (1970) Image four: Dream of the Mind Creates a Monster (1988) Image five: Lviv's Midtown from Castle Hill (1981)
With the Orange revolution becoming a distant memory and NATO a pipe dream as Russia re-establishes its regional hegemony, Ukraine needs more than ever... over-produced tourism videos.
Ukraine is a truly fascinating country and really should not need to advertise but with its negative Soviet entanglements and fierce competition from other less interesting countries with more cash, the government needs to step up and make itself more open to foreign travel and promotion.
For example, why are Ryanair and other discount airlines still locked out? Why are there no BBC or Travelchannel docs on Ukraine? Obviously because no one wants to deal with the bureaucratic nightmares in Ukraine. But this economy and these people deserve more than sex-tourists and Chernobyl gawkers.
It is telling that the only compelling video to be found online is from a nonprofit agency. Look at what could be:
Sexy Ukraine? If anyone can give Ukraine a little mojo it is Kyiv native and Gogol Bordello front man Eugene Hutz. The man that coined the term gypsy punk has broken out of the NYC underground to become Madonna's new muse and raison d' etre (see ifc.com interview). And the music that has followed is some of the most invigorating since the mid-seventies when John Lydon embraced the safety pin.
The genre defies genre-ization by nature; it is multicultural and contradictory to the point of confusion. But Hutz has stated that his roots lay with the Romy people of the Ukrainian Carpathian mountains. From there it explodes into the Balkans, Israel, Hungary and wherever else musical instruments are made available.
Below are several intro tracks to the chaos that is gypsy punk.
Savchenko is a friend of a friend. I scanned these out of an exhibit catalogue that I found in his apartment. The artist prefers to do racy nudes, simplifying form into traces. His work is so sexually raw that I think it would have given Egon Schiele a rise:
Plot: an American bartender in Mexico City enlists his prostitute girlfriend in a trip across Mexico to obtain the head of a wanted gigolo worth a million bucks. The catch? He is already dead and buried.
How closely tied are the characters to the road? Fairly tight but there are plenty of scenes in sleazy roadside bars, brothels and motels.
Is the film vehicular or character based? It is more about the characters but it is not the typical focus on the development of the protagonist. Peckinpah paints a grim portrait of humanity as a whole through an entire cast of greedy, self-serving sociopaths.
The beat up Ford that Warren Oates drives also becomes an important location in the film; it turns into a sweaty, claustrophobic, fly-ridden cage where he must confront Garcia's rotting dome, which sits in a putrid dunlap bag next to him.
How painfully hip and articulate are the characters? Warren Oate's Bennie is a self-stylized dude who wears over-sized sunglasses everywhere, including bed. But he is not about fashion. He must maintain the image of being a cool and collected creature of the night to survive in a world of ruthless gangsters and hardened criminals. Likewise, his suit, a white tweed get-up, seems to symbolize taste in the beginning of the film but by the end, when it is tattered, muddy and blood-stained and we realize it is his only outfit, it becomes a symbol of his desperation and utter lack of choice.
Number of desolate mythological figures: One, a corpse from a remote Mexican grave yard with a ransom on its head. In Bennie's words, "He is the saint of our money." Dollars, guns and dismembered body parts are the only tools in this surreal journey. There is no potential for human development and in Peckinpah's bleak world there is no correct path, no useful knowledge for survival... all paths end at the barrel of a gun.
How much embarrassing existential content: None. This film is purely "No Exit" hell. Life is shown to be an exercise in futility.
Can the word quirky in any way be associated with this film? No. It is a truly bizarre ride across Mexico. Peckinpah is playing with the road movie genre, carefully scraping away all sentimental content, but it never becomes self-aware or "intentionally clever".
Does anyone play the harmonica? No, but we do get a few great scenes with a guitar strumming, tequila imbibing prostitute.
Is it any good?Garcia is a freakish masterpiece by an American poet. Hyperbole? Maybe. But in this road movie we see the singular view of an original filmmaker at its most refined. The film was panned when it was released and surely it is still an acquired taste today due to its morbid pessimism and extreme violence. But still there is something that is easy appreciate in Oate's character. The way he keeps pushing and finally, in the closing scene, explodes in the face of power, the man with the money, is a sublime portrait for the dispossessed.
Eating out in Ukraine is a dicey affair. There are embarrassingly kind shows of hospitality or tense Soviet situations where one feels as if she is on trial; this is an example of the later, which is hilariously true-to-life:
King of the gypsy punks, Gogol Bordello frontman Eugene Hütz has fast become known as one of indie rock's highest-energy performers, his multi-ethnic rebel band's rollicking accordion-and-fiddle swagger raising the room's temperature while Hütz swings from the rafters. (There aren't enough superlatives to do their staggering live shows justice.) Yet some might better recognize the Ukrainian emigrant-turned-downtown New York icon from the cinema, not least because he had to shave his renowned curly mustache for Liev Schreiber's 2005 directorial debut "Everything Is Illuminated." As Alex, the blinged-out Michael Jackson fanatic and Ukrainian tour guide to Elijah Wood's visiting Jewish-American nerd, Hütz hilariously steals the show faster than you can say Jonathan Safran Foer.
Leave it then to Madonna to seek out what lies between the fascinating facts and fictions of Eugene Hütz. The pop legend, still reinventing herself as a 50-something Material Girl, will surprise quite a few with her directorial debut, "Filth and Wisdom." Both funnier and more entertaining than this writer might've imagined, Madonna's scruffy, sexy, low-budget charmer stars Hütz as narrator and one of three struggling roomies seeking out their dreams in London. His name may not be Eugene, but Hütz's character "A.K." is a semi-autobiographical creation: an aspiring musician with an immigrant's background, a band called Gogol Bordello and a day job as a dom who humiliates his all-male clientele... okay, perhaps we can attribute the S&M fantasy to Madge. A few hours before "Filth and Wisdom" had its star-studded New York premiere, I sat down with Hütz to yak about the film, politics, perversions and mustaches.
I subscribed to the philosophy of a liberal arts education. Exposure to the humanistic disciplines was going to free me of the chains of superstition, tradition and provincialism. I took on everything from post-human literature to Egyptian funerary archaeology and my corresponding student loan debt is legendary.
What was the expected return? I never expected to make much money. I simply wanted my cortex to sprout a second layer. It was supposed to elevate me above mere mortals. After ten years I never sprouted any extra grey matter. But my nut sack did morph into an enormous vagina.
And this development can cause some serious problems when traveling. I can take a vacation just fine. If I stay in a hotel and do the tourist bit, my vag is comfortable. But when I move off of the beaten path and I begin developing relationships with the locals; this is when my new love organ begins to chafe.
Because my overestimation of humanity is my most fatal flaw. People are my infatuation. But I am too quick to grant respect, trust and appreciation. My humanism is embarrassingly vulgar. I will eat the ass of a fried kitten or butcher a live turkey with a butter knife out of respect for different cultures. I am Franz Boas' bitch and Dostoevsky'sIdiot.
My cultural relativism has gone too far beyond being an excuse for snacking on illicit plants or fornicating with no strings attached; it has me free-floating in a world where I am even slighty embarrassed to expect the equal treatment of minorities or a fair price at the local market (they deserve to rip me off). This is pathological.
I came across this artist while flipping through an old glasnost era magazine called Sputnik. Nedbailo used the awkward style of "naïve art" as a critique of Soviet realism. He celebrates common folk while satirizing bureaucrats and State officials. Accordingly, he was banished to Sibera during Soviet times. He finally found the freedom to pursue his work during Gorbachev's "open" years in the 80s.
Image 1: Ignat the Shepherd
Image 2: Small Talk Image 3: Our People Make Merry
Films provide much of our inspiration for and ideas about travel. It lends itself naturally to adventure. This scene from "Dead Man" (1995) is, for better or worse, always in the back of my head when I hop the elektrichka in Ukraine out to a remote village... does it represent a human anxiety associated with travel or a particular American fear of the rest of the world?
This image is from a show at Dzyga, Lviv Art Photo. The monument in the background is called Wave of National Rebirth. It is in the center of the main boulevard in Lviv, Schevchenko, named after Ukraine's national poet. Accordingly, he is the centerpiece of the monument, with a "wave" of reliefs representing Ukraine's people and history flowing out from him. The lamps in the foreground are funerary candles. The photo was taken on the anniversary of the Ukrainian genocide, Holodomor (Great Famine).
VitalyPoluaetov is a 50ish photographer, member of the Lviv Artist's Association. His works have been displayed in 35 international exhibitions over the last decade. He is a local celebrity for his seemingly careless and naive approach to his work, which has been very influential on the Lviv scene.
I was struck by his photos at a local exhibition, so I enquired about him. It turns out he is a real outsider. Vitaly is almost completely self-taught and exhibits only through a close friend. The same person sends his works to international exhibitions. He is reclusive, but was excited to meet with me.
He stopped at my apartment on his way home from work at the market, massive duffel bag of glasses in tow (his business). Then he playfully exposed me for the contrived sun of a bitch that I am by showing how remote my academic interests are from reality.
Jon: your photos are full of suffering, dispossessed people, a blind street musician, an elderly market worker, a beggar. Does this represent a post-Soviet condition, with the collapse of social services, or a general human condition?
Vitaly: I do not know Soviet, post-Soviet. These are just the people from the market who work with me. I do not know why I shoot them, maybe it is because they are all I see.
Jon: I was thinking of the work of Boris Mikhailov, for example, who says that, "at least there was not homelessness in the Soviet Union." He chronicles the people who have lost their place in society...
Vitaly: The only photographers I know of are from Lviv and they like to shoot naked young girls. Now my work is winning awards in international competitions so they want to shoot people in the market but they (the market people) do not let them. The market is my place and the people there do not let outsiders in.
Jon: How about a change in attitude over the years in Lviv... the recent history has been tumultuous. In '91 with independence and then in '04 with the Orange revolution. How have these changes effected the art scene?
Vitaly: People do not really know what is going on... they go about their business trying to earn a living and support their families. Most of my colleagues cannot afford to pay the 20 Euro application fee for an exhibition. To send this money away from their family would be like robbery. Ukraine is a very difficult place to survive. But they keep working on their craft because they dream of someday finding fortune and fame.
Jon: So photography offers an escape for you and your peers? A way to forget about the daily grind?
Vitaly: For me I began taking photos when I quit drinking. I was hospitalized because I drank so much. The doctor told me I would die if I continued drinking. I had so much free time and some extra money so I took photography up as a hobby. I do not know why I do it. I do not even really enjoy it. I just feel compelled to.
Jon: You use a compact point and shoot camera and not an SLR. Is this so you can sneak up on your subjects? To capture decisive moments?
Vitaly: yes, but also because my bag that I carry to work is so heavy that I cannot carry anything larger.
Vitaly and I continued talking casually for two hours about photography and politics and Ukrainian and American Culture. He was very open and unassuming and an all around enjoyably nutty dude. I do not buy his act completely but he is definitely surfing the very outer edges.
I asked him for an email address in case someone would like to contact him but his response was typical of his social ethos: "I gave my son some money to create an email address for me but it took too much time... too much work..."
There are times when feel fucked and in the middle of nowhere. For example, when I found out I had taken a train to Belarus and not Odessa. In these moments I sometimes think of writers, artists, freaks close to me who were adrift on the road. As corny as it is, it gets my thoughts going in a different direction. So I try to decide, which were the most fucked? Who faced the most adversity? The Beats, of course, come to mind most often, and then Henry Miller and the Expat Generation. But I almost always forget about Bukowski, the odd man out. Yet he is maybe the most impressive story.
He had no connections or influence to speak of but still managed to scrape by for ten years, from flop house-to-flop house, stretching his money to write. And he was a repugnant figure, apparently repellent to anyone but the saltiest bar fly. Yet he went about his business without the support of peers as in previous generations, let alone the social narcotics of the cyber world. He must have had some serious fortitude. I find him beautiful and repulsive at the same time.
It is raining in Lviv today, so for Karma I have been sharing some video with Youtube. I am about through with the final bits of a feature length Bukowski documentary. Below is a clip of him reading "Born into This."
Framework is a bi-annual review of contemporary art in Finland and Scandinavia. I used to browse it when I lived in Helsinki a few years back. It is academic and slightly overwrought but if you can bare the art world jargon, the underlying ideas are provocative for the 21st century nomad. Articles on globalization and identity, borders, knowledge, war, ethnicity and media abound plus some slick images in bare Scandinavian style. I stole the title of this particular issue for the name of this blog.
From the intro paragraph:
"The general dissolution of the borders between various spheres of life has had deep consequences on the traditional understanding of knowledge creation. In the midst of constant movements, migrations, displacements and transformations, local traditions both material and social levels are directly connected to global communication networks and subjugated to their images and procedures......"
Politics are overshadowing the human element of Holodomor. Ukraine claims the famine to be an act of genocide committed by the Soviets but Russia denies this view, claiming it was a natural event that effected other regions besides Ukraine. Given the realities of Stalinism, the Russian defense is offensive.
I am not an expert on history or culture in Ukraine or Russia. But I do have an opinion based on my experiences here.
My travels in Ukraine began in the central and eastern regions. When I arrived I had books on the Ukrainian language but they were pretty useless. Most people spoke Russian and bits of Ukrainian. It was only when I got to western Ukraine that people actually spoke Ukrainian in their homes and in the markets.
The linguistic landscape in Ukraine today likely reflects the ethnic motivation of the crime. Historians estimate that as much as half of the Ukrainian population was starved to death. Then the abandoned homes were repopulated by Russians and the Ukrainian language was outlawed in schools (WIKI). Today Ukrainian is really only spoken in the western part of Ukraine, which was part of Poland at the time of the famine.
Ok, enough proselytizing. I have been uploading 10 minute clips of a 60 minute documentary on Holodomor to my Youtube channel. Part one of six is embedded below:
But the most interesting thing to me was the toilet. Not because of any problems with my plumbing but because it was just a fascinating place to make brown. It is a byzantine series of glass and plexiglass rooms with layers of colored light panels and mirrors. It is almost completely disorientating, like something from a funhouse. When I walked in the person coming out literally walked right into a pane of glass. Most interestingly, the men's room and women's room are connected by a series of views through glass panels, which are then refracted off of a maze of mirrors. This naturally leads to a bizarre game of peek-a-boo with the opposite sex as they do their business.