Tuesday, January 27, 2009

LOOK: From post-Soviet identity project, by fucoid

Untitled 1

One of my favorite images from the series... we left early for the shoot and scoured the dumpster for props, hoping to find some magic in anything random. We came up with nothing interesting except for a broken umbrella. But then a babushka came by, thought we were homeless and offered us this mint rotary dial phone (to sell for food). I guess it still works.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

LISTEN: Sunday mix #2, Lo-fi eruption(s)

Roadkill (2000) installation, Simryn Grill (Singapore)

This morning I was packing for a trip to a local village. In the side pocket of my pack was a collection of worn out postcards from museum gift shops. An image of a Simryn Grill installation in Helsinki stuck with me all morning. She collected discarded items on highways around the world, crushed cans, combs, cell phones, cheese graters, etc., and then rigged them up with toy wheels and set them off in vast races to unknown locations across barren museum floors. This poetic comment on immigration and identity is what had me listening to droning lo-fi music all day. The kind that starts out with lazy layers of improvised noises, glitches and yelps, which slowly erupt into rich, gurgling soundscapes.

lo-fi eruption(s)

LISTEN: Sunday mix #1, Gary Numan

Saturday, January 24, 2009

LOOK: Soviet kitsch #1, "Bring Some Beer"

A new series of images: bits of tacky ephemera from the junk stores, street vendors and dust bins of Ukraine.

Bring Some Beer! (1987) pocket calendar, from vendor at Lviv's outdoor book market

LOOK: From "America Swings," by Naomi Harris

from America Swings by Naomi Harris

I thought this was a still from a Harmony Korine short but this surreal piece of Americana was captured by undercover photojournalist Naomi Harris (my hero of the day). She infiltrated swinger communities in America's heartland for four years, working in just "a tool belt... and tennis shoes." 

Incidentally, studies in the early 70s estimated 1% of Americans were swingers, today it sits at 15% (full time, not the dabblers). Really? In the age of 'family values'? That is a nation of people nearly the size of Ukraine. Harris has shot ministers, farmers, schoolteachers and full time moms getting their swing on. 

READ: Taschen's Fall/Winter 2008/09 magazine

Taschen books were my lifeline before I started traveling. So I was glad to discover a bi-yearly magazine they put out on the internet. Below is the current issue, full of the glossy photos and tight design that gives them that 'book as art' feel:
taschen 08-09
READ: Prometheus Rising by Robert Anton Wilson
READ: Framework issue 4, December '05 "Permanent Transience"

Thursday, January 22, 2009

WATCH: Žižek on fantasy and perversion in David Lynch's "Blue Velvet"

Slavoj Žižek is a Slovenian philosopher and cultural theorist. He has been characterized by the popular press as "the Elvis of cultural theory" and a "rock star philosopher." Widely known in Europe, he is now receiving attention in the States. Recently Amy Goodman sat down with him on Democracy Now and his analysis of pop culture, particularly David Lynch and Hitchcock, are en vogue with the young literati.

I posted a couple of short clips recently but they didn't generate any conversation. So I thought I would try one more time with a bit from him about Lynch's "Blue Velvet" (1986). I know there are people reading who are really into cinema and culture studies so I thought maybe this would spark more interest. He watches films through the eyes of french psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, but that doesn't really matter. He speaks in plain language and I think anyone with an interest in psychology and culture can get some nuggets from his analysis of films.

The below clip is him breaking down that infamous scene in "Blue Velvet" where small town good boy Jeffrey (Kyle MacLachlan) is trapped in a stranger's closet while investigating a murder and witnesses a psychotoc, nitrous huffing Dennis Hopper (Frank) abuse and rape a shy, passive woman (Dorothy). It is a truly disturbing scene. The outlandishness of it all used to baffled me so I would sort of write it off as Lynch being weird just for the sake of being weird. Nevertheless, the power of scene has always intrigued me and now Žižek makes some sense of it.

See Slovenian rock star philosopher break down Lynchian perversions:

WATCH: Flowers are disgusting whores

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

SCRIBBLINGS: Lviv for now and 'on adjusting'

I will be staying in Lviv for a little while longer. Suddenly the gryvnia has blown up vs. the dollar. This means I no longer need to wrestle with my landlord about which currency to use. Odessa will still be there when the market collapses again. Anyway, it serves me well to stay in this cold city a little while longer. I think it is a weak rationalization way to stay focused. I am not tempted to roam around and look for trouble in the snow... my projects get more attention.

On adjusting:

It is things that I could never imagine before traveling in developing countries that are the most difficult to adjust to. All of the patent fears like making poopy in muddy holes, relying on overcrowded, under-maintained gypsy transport, anxiety about valuables, foul food, disease, etc... these things I quickly developed strategies for.

But there are unadvertised and uncontrollable difficulties that can still chafe from time to time. Like never being certain what my money will be worth the next day. Gray laws that change from custom officer to custom officer and policeman to policeman. Banks, pharmacies and markets that close whenever they want. However, there are methods to avoid these annoyances as well, however subtle or blatantly illegal. It just takes time to learn...

For example, no one knows for sure the laws surrounding passport control in Ukraine. Some sources say foreigners can stay 6 months, others 3. Sometimes you can cross the border and come directly back, others say you have to wait a period of time. So depending on what date the stamp on your passport is, border control is going to disrupt your trip and fine according to whatever "law" has been violated.

Soon I will be travelling to Romania. In preparation, I have learned a way around the above situation. A fresh stamp, under 30 days old, can be purchased beforehand from a train conductor for a much lower cost than the impending fine and prevent an interruption in my plans. It is even cheaper (and possibly free) if an attractive Ukrainian woman (preferably with a dying relative abroad) can purchase the stamp... I have one ready for the task.

LOOK: Ahhh, the sweet ecstasy of schadenfreude

Not many things could have made me happier when I logged on than to be greeted by Big Dick showing up to the inaugural address in a wheel chair looking all scroodged with his cane and hunched back, his snarl turned into a pathetic little pucker.

For additional schadenfreudian bliss, check this clip of Bush being ignored by world leaders at the past G20 summit:

Monday, January 19, 2009

LOOK: "Path" (2008) by fucoid


This photo has a long history. It was taken inside of an installation from about 2 years ago. The installation was in the front garden of a gallery that happened to be an extremely popular hangout for the local mollusca. In fact, they were overrunning the show... snails were everywhere. As an act of revenge, I decided to wire it up with my discarded dental floss to catch one en route. It seemed to be a poetically disgusting act. That is the finest resulting image.

Just recently the image has been inquired about and I have done some retouching in Photoshop (which I don't do with my current works).

Sunday, January 18, 2009

LISTEN: Sunday mix #1, Gary Numan

All Numan, all day. The greatest pioneer of synthpop next to Kraftwerk? Probably. An arrogant, money-grubbing prick? Maybe. But one thing is for certain, no one could command a Moog with the same authority (Down in the Park, Airplane). Likewise, he was a ninja with improvised electronic instruments, like wired-up violins and guitars (Metal, Conversation). I am a supporter; I don't think he gets the proper recognition he deserves for being badass, at least in the US. Tight, dark, minimal and full of self-loathing... let him brighten up your day.

gary numan mix

Saturday, January 17, 2009

LOOK: From Finnish portrait series, by fucoid

Stockman Sales Clerk (2006)

There is no day or night during Finland's winter, only perpetual dusk-dawns.

Friday, January 16, 2009

TASTE: "The Cult of Salo"

Salo (spiced pork fat) is a Ukrainian national dish and treasured delicacy. The above blubber (straight from the pig's back, including skin) has been salted and then rubbed in course black pepper. 

The method of consumption is dependent on vodka: take a shot and then wash down with a bit of spicy flab. Dark rye bread figures into the meal as do raw garlic cloves. It truly is a 'fuck off' meal, meant to get one through the winter in good health (in spite of those scientific superstitions). 

This was a very generous New Year gift from an old woman down the hall. I did a few shots and sweated through some slices of fat but I cannot do this again, at least of my own volition. I have found my match. Salo wins. However, the remaining chunks will be put to good use. It is officially material for my next project.

I really cannot describe the special affection Ukrainians have for salo. They consider it better then sex and say "vodka without salo is a dollar without green." This is language pushed to the limits. But the following salo music video comes as close as possible to the reality. 

See magic salo man descend from heaven and induce magical salo lovefest:

SEE ALSO: Chocolate covered pork fat in Kiev

Thursday, January 15, 2009

SCRIBBLINGS: Visions of Malevich in Ukrainian village

I roughed it out in a remote Ukrainian village this past summer. It was part of my anthropological side and partly my desire to get drunk with people who didn't care what time of day it is. My experience is in urbanism so a subsistence farming village was about as far away as I could get, this side of a Yanomamo tree house.

The intent was to challenge myself to the point of breaking, hoping to discover new ideas and forget old ones. And while I tempered my fantasies the best I could going in, I am no cynic... so of course romantic images of Gauguinian excess managed to creep into the periphery. Something like a lakeside sauna, scantily clad milkmaids and bushels of dried birch branches were never too far away. What actually happened there is issue for another blog, but I promise at least a few moments of primitive revelry.

And recently I discovered that Kasimir Malevich lived in the nearest town (Konotop) as he was preparing to flirt with primitivism. It is probable he had walked through the same village as I lived in. But how different the ideology (and the demographics) today... it is impossible not to be consumed by the disastrous effects of Stalin, collectivization and globalization when wandering the villages from this region now. Focusing on some mystical connection to nature is not that far from being completely ridiculous.

But village farmers wear the same traditional garb as the ones he used to paint, except for the cell phones and occasional Nikes. And even if the relief of idealism has been lost, the landscape hasn't changed. The endless acres of farmland still inspire a comfortable nostalgia for simpler times.

Image one: Two Tahitian Women with Mango Blossom by Paul Gauguin (1899)
Image two: Babushka leaving the village store on bike
Image three: The Villagers by Kasimir Malevich (1929)
Image four: My neighbors working in their gardens

LOOK: T.A.Z. in village Altynivka is gone

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

LOOK: Coming soon to a post-Soviet country near you

It has happened. Finally. A budget airline has finally negotiated routes into Ukraine. Wizz Air will now transport stag party meatheads directly from London to Kiev or Lviv for about the cost of a new DVD. Normally, I would feel remorse for the culture that is going to be forced to endure such seasonal sodomy. But Ukrainians do not give a shit and they need the money. Besides, this isn't Prague. The local BEZZERKER soccer team is not not going to faze anyone here.

WATCH: Ukraine, Undiscovered Europe

WATCH: Hangover flick #2, "The Killer Shrews" (1959)

I managed to do the math for Ukrainian debauchery holiday celebrations thus far: 2 Christmases, 1 Saint Nicolas day, 1 St. Melanka day, 1 Saint Basil day and 2 New Years in the past couple weeks. Next week is Epiphany, whatever that is. Factor in the length of Ukrainian celebrations (one day is for pussies) and that is one long fucking blur.

I have regularly made it to the corner market for toilet paper, toothpaste and Tylenol. Other than that, I am holed up. Local droogs keep showing with the proper supplies to keep it all going (I am the only adult in the neighborhood who doesn't live with parents).

Consequently, I have been downloading public domain films like a coked-up librarian. And they have been properly assuaging my fried synaptic cells during this month-long-string of mornings after.

Today I learned how to escape a desert island inhabited by carpet-covered killer collies with plastic fangs:

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

SCRIBBLINGS: Odessa bound?

Odessa Steps postcard

I am in the middle of a bitter currency dispute with my landlord in Lviv. The US dollar vs. the Ukrainian hryvna is a contentious issue right now. Over the past couple of months the Ukrainian hryvna has performed worse than every other currency in the world against the US dollar, save the honorable Zimbabwean dollar.

In Ukraine, as in many developing countries, the domestic currency is pegged to the US dollar and it is not abnormal to make private transactions in USD's. But now in the midst of this financial crisis, Ukrainian banks are hording dollars and will not give them out to foreigners with cross-border accounts.

This leaves people like me dealing with exchange market thieves when in need of dollars. They are selling dollars at a 40% markup. It is completely illegal but no one is doing anything, per usual in Ukraine, since the government has been dead-locked in a political standoff for the last six months.

Anyway, this situation hurts me most of all because my landlord now suddenly refuses to accept Ukrainian currency. He wants US dollars only. No Ukrainian citizen could possibly pay their rent in US dollars right now but since I am from The States and the dollars just arrive under my pillow at night, he figures I will give in and eventually agree to bend over for him. Fuck that!

So I am now ready to go to Odessa if he refuses to accept hryvnas at a specified rate. My life as it is in Lviv, has probably become too comfortable anyway. I have fallen victim to routine and am deeply in love with my apartment. I feel repugnantly domesticated. I mean, I even have a freaking toaster oven and food processor here. My bed isn't a fold-out and I know the names of all of my neighbors: all bad signs, all creative suicide.

Hello Black Sea and notorious pirate enclave? I will know on Thursday.

LOOK: From post-Soviet identity project, by fucoid

Soviet New Year

... according to the Julian calendar, which is still observed in some former Soviet countries, it is new year once again: cheers! 

Monday, January 12, 2009

WATCH: Flowers are disgusting whores

My favorite coked up, werewolf-philosopher from Slovenia describes the disgusting perversion of prostitute flowers (by way of reference to David Lynch):

LOOK: Daily image of red-caped molestor

...from my Peruvian contingency, Globalk.

LOOK: From post-Soviet identity project, by fucoid

Bottle Collector

TASTE: Carpathian witch's dumplings with grave soil

The old wench coughed up another page from the Ukrainian Cookbook of Necromancy, this one is for dumplings (vareniki)...

Requited love until death do you part is guaranteed:

Ingredients (serves 2):
1 tablespoon of dirt from the grave of a person with the same name as your intended lover
4 cups of wheat flour w/additional for rolling
1 cup of water
1 medium yellow onion (diced)
2 medium potatoes (starchy type, skinned)
1/2 cup of green onion (diced, including green shaft)
1 cup of sour cream
100 grams of cheddar cheese (grated)
50 grams of salo or bacon (cut into thin strips)
salt/black pepper/dill

Step one: Boil and mash the potato while frying the diced onion until it is caramelized and the bacon until it is very crispy.

Step two: Crumble the bacon and set it aside. Combine seasoning with the mashed potato, 1/2 of the fried onion, grated cheese and grave soil into an even mixture. Set aside the other half of the onion.

Step three: Make the dough. The flour in Ukraine is very particular. So here is an easy international recipe for vareniki dough.

Step four: Create the dumplings. Pick about 30 golf ball-sized bits of dough and roll them in a light layer of flower. Add 1 heaping table spoon of filling to the center of each . Now fold the dough in half and pinch together the edges. Traditional vareniki shaping is of a vagina or fetus in the womb. It is a fertility symbol, like a new moon.

Step five: Boil and garnish. Boil the dumplings for three minutes in salted water. Remove from the pot and rinse in cool water. Top with sour cream, bacon bits, green onion and the rest of the fried onion.

Now serve to your intended lover on a new moon and prepare for eternal devotion.

recipe from Drakoshka

TASTE: Carpathian witch's spicy holubtsi with menstrual blood

Sunday, January 11, 2009

WATCH: Hangover flick #1, "The Brainiac" (1962)

I have company from Norway this weekend and my social anxiety
gregarious nature requires that I imbibe a lot of sauce (which is somewhat acceptable now that I am an ambassador of Ukraine). Of course this entails wicked hangovers. Hangovers that are so bad I cannot read movie reviews or even the sports section. In these regrettable situations, I need an inconceivably bad film. I do not want it to have any relation to the world I live in, absolutely no subtext, and certainly no adherence to plot. I don't even care if I understand the language. Boobies are good, blood is good, aliens, zombies, vampires, all good. It should just be something to provide mild amusement during my perpetual search for a more comfortable fetal position. 

And this movie is pure gold. See brainsucking mexican werewolf from outer space seduce woman and suck brains:

Friday, January 9, 2009

LOOK: "Meat Coaster" (2006) by fucoid

This one started from vintage Coney Island postcards. I wanted to deal with issues of nostalgia; it is an important theme to me. I think it is a contemporary religion and I am an ambivelant practitioner but am not sure why or how I feel about it.

On the technical side, everything was smooth with the construction of the coaster. The arms I chopped off of some plastic frogs from the Dollar Store and then super glued them to a discarded pork spare rib from the supermarket. I shot all of these assemblages in dappled light because I think it is the most unemotional.

LOOK: From "Lvivski Streets," by fucoid

Postcard 2

WATCH: Artist drills dealer to wall, from "Driller Killer" (1979)

Damn, pre-Giuliani NYC rarely looked as raw as when Ferrara lensed it. I have always been romantic about that late 70s scene. It is some sort of final date that I have with originality, before corpratization. I like to hit up The Driller Killer every so often and imagine, when the Ativan doesn't work.

Starving artist goes insane and drills dealer to wall:

Thursday, January 8, 2009

LOOK: From "Lvivski Streets," by fucoid

Untitled 2 '08 (tree with stairs)

WATCH: Zizek on utopia

Words on utopia from my favorite coked-up, Slovenian, rock star-philosopher...

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

LISTEN: Alan Watts on art, perception, nature from "Man in Nature"

Zen guru Watts, always using anecdotes to get his point across, ends this clip with an exceedingly witty story about a meeting between an American soldier and Picasso in Paris during WWII:

Soldier: "You know, I don't understand your paintings... they are absurd, life doesn't look like that."
Picasso: "Do you have a girlfriend?"
Soldier: "Yes."
Picasso: "Do you have a picture?"
Soldier: "Yes."
Picasso: "May I see it?
Soldier (taking out the photo from his bill fold): "Of course."
Picasso (examining the photo): "Is she so small as that?"

Watts on Art, Nature and Perception - Alan Watts

SCRIBBLINGS: Drifting to my apartment

Since it has been bitterly cold in Lviv, I have stopped exploring the city. I have been taking the most direct route to and from the market. But today I realized routine had crippled me. It had gotten to the point where I knew not only every street vendor but what they usually fucking wear. I have become an expert on babushka mitten styles. I may have well been sleep walking.

So at Blvd. Schevchenko I flipped a coin at the intersection, desperate to determine an alternate route. At first I was extremely irritated but once on my way I was awake again, finding my way.

Then chance intervened when I chose to avoid a pack of wild dogs near some dumpsters and slipped off through a courtyard I had never been through before. This is where the drift paid off some, I discovered a nasty bit of street art done up in pop-surrealist style:

I was not born again but I was rescued from my babushka mitten fetish, which was a relief.

"In a dérive (drift) one or more persons during a certain period drop their usual motives for movement and action, their relations, their work and leisure activities, and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there… But the dérive includes both this letting go and its necessary contradiction: the domination of psychogeographical variations by the knowledge and calculation of their possibilities."
-Guy Debord, from Theory of Dérive

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

SCRIBBLINGS: Ukrainian roadside diner

I have been taking buses across western Ukraine today. Since amenities are in short supply, hitting a barren roadside diner is a ritual on these trips. It is like roasting marshmallows when camping or eating peanuts on a domestic flight; it just happens.

I love these places. When I first started traveling in former Soviet countries it was a nightmare to stop in small town dives because I was the center of attention. But now I know enough Russian to slide into the background and become anonymous.

There is always a show, no rules in these joints. For example, on the last page of the menu instead of desserts there is listed the price of broken glasses, plates, chairs and tables.

I have seen people get so drunk that they pass out and piss everywhere- normal (someone will be out to clean it). Fights, normal: I once saw a guy flattened on the outskirts of Kiev, trail of blood, broken glasses, face down in gravel and a 13ish year old girl roller bladed right over him without a second thought.

One reason I stay in Ukraine is to stretch my money so that I can work on my projects longer. The dollar still has balls here. For example, dinner today:

1 manly bowl of borscht
1/4 loaf of sour dough bread
1 garlic roll
1/2 litre of local brew
klezmer music

Price: 1.75 USD.

The downside? Olga will fuck you up if you don't finish her soup.

WATCH: First meal in Ukraine, from Everything is Illuminated