Saturday, February 28, 2009

SOVIET ANIMATION: "Hedgehog in the Fog" (1975) by Yuriy Norshteyn

Friendly little hedgehog meets not so friendly owl in Hedgehog in the Fog (1975)

Everyone knows that the avante garde of revolutionary Russia produced wicked collage art and montage film. But few in the West know about another outcrop of their constructivist experimentation: puppet animation.

It is a delicate stop motion style that was perfected in the early years of the USSR. Banned by Stalin, it experienced a renaissance in the 60s, climaxing with a handful of films in the 70s, particularly Norshteyn's Hedgehog in the Fog (1975).

Regularly ranked internationally as one of the best animated films of all time, it's followers include contemporary animation maverick Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle), who rates it as one of his favorite films.

Experience ten minutes of dreamy magic with an inquisitive little hedgehog on the edge of the unknown:

LOOK: Naïve artist, Nikolai Nedbailo from Moscow

LOOK: Soviet kitsch #2, Umka
LOOK: Naïve artist, Nikifor from Krynika

Thursday, February 26, 2009

NEGLIGENT HERO #5: Karen Finley, "Enter Entrepreneur" (1987)

See NEA 4 psycho bitch extraordinaire Karen Finley lather her nude body with egg yolks and glitter and then scream her desire to castrate wall street tycoons (and then feed their dung covered testicles to their unsuspecting children as chocolate treats):

LOOK: From "Nouveau Riche" (2006-09) by fucoid

Treasure Island 1

LOOK: Bottle Collector from post-Soviet identity project, by fucoid
LOOK: Stockman Sales Clerk from Finnish portrait series, by fucoid
LOOK: Suburban Princess (2005) by fucoid

GoTo: Jade Blood

For your funky finger puppet needs, you cannot go wrong with Unhappy Cat's emporium of retro fuzzy, digit-dwellers.

As offered on Jade Blood:

Five finger puppets + one zine catalogue + pouch made with 'vintage' (old, ha) material=

animals as follows...

Sleepy kittys
polar bears
playful bunnies
suspicious hedgehogs
brown bears
pandas- SOLD OUT!
ginger bread- limited christmas ed.


Other recommendations:
GOTO: Exile on Moanstreet

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

LOOK: Soviet kitsch #4, "Gardinia" (1966)

...more delightfully tacky ephemera from a dustbin in Ukraine.
Gardinia (1966) postcard, from street vendor

LOOK: Soviet kitsch #1, Bring Some Beer! (1989)
LOOK: Soviet kitsch #2, Umka (1975)
LOOK: Soviet kitsch #3, Bag of Apples and Where is the Bear?

NEGLIGENT HERO #4: Tod Browning, wedding celebration from "Freaks" (1932)

The only person in the world who could have created the film to inspire generations of punks and surrealists; this is the scene that bequeathed us with the skin crawling chant, "Gooble, gobble, we accept her, we accept her, one of us, one of us!"

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Ahhh... Lviv, the city of sleeping lions, the Florence of the East... "there is a coffee shop, cafe or cathedral on every corner," as the locals like to brag.

Surely. But it's sceptic facilities are just as memorable; there are some of the most remarkably nasty shitters in the Western world here.

My mental map is equally defined by traumatic encounters with raw sewage as it is with baroque architecture and turkish roast beans.

Location: 83 Horodotska Street @ Circus Arena (click for full effect)

READ: The lyricism of shit ingestion
LOOK: From Toilet Babe, post-Soviet identity project by fucoid

LOOK: Queer graffiti

NEGLIGENT HERO #3: Nick Zedd, "Why Do You Exist?" (1998) 1/2

This is what Warhol's interview reels may have looked like had he had a sense of humor (sans the nude, blue-painted Kembra Pfahler strummin' a guitar like she was on the set of Häxan, of course).

Monday, February 23, 2009

READ: The lyricism of shit ingestion

Twenty sparrows

a scattered

Share and share

-William Carlos Williams

Pigeons in dumpster today

LOOK: "Rooster" (2008), from Ukrainian Grotesque by fucoid

Rooster 2008

I was lucky enough to find someone willing to take on some of my stuff here in Lviv. Based on my old assemblages, they agreed to exhibit a new series with Ukrainian themes.

This one started with a kitschy stuffed pheasant that I found sans head in my attic. Like Igor on a midnight mission, I had a baba at the market decapitate one of her fowl and bag up the loose noodle for me. The rest was achieved via clothes hanger and superglue (problem solved). 

NEGLIGENT HERO #2: Pipilotti Rist, "I'm Not the Girl Who Misses Much" (1986)

While playing with issues of gender, body and sexuality, Pipi creates some the most enjoyable video art you will ever see in a museum collection. Hyperbole? I think not.

See music industry stylistics turned upside down by topless Swede who sings John Lennon like a chipmunk on speed:

Sunday, February 22, 2009

LISTEN: Sunday mix #5, Gypsy invasion know I had to catch a Ukrainian circus while I was here.

Like a grizzly bear riding a bicycle into your living room, I bring this gypsy punk mix. As written here before:

"The genre defies genre-ization by nature; it's multicultural and contradictory to the point of confusion. But self-styled spokesman Eugene Hütz (Gogol Bordello) has stated that it's 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."

And the music that follows is some of the most invigorating since the mid-seventies when John Lydon embraced the safety pin. Give it a chance if you haven't already: 

gypsy punk sampler

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Friday, February 20, 2009

LISTEN: Bukowski reading in front of live audience, 2/2

It has been a long time since the last Bukowski readings and they were popular, so here you go: more vintage recordings from one of his burlesque recitals.

He is in classic form, drinking, reading and at one point challenging the audience to an old school street fight: "One more beer and I'll take all of ya!"

bukowski readings 2/2

GoTo: Exile on Moanstreet

For a blast of highly literate neo-psychadelia, Mona will take care of you...
Miss Atom 2009, "the most glamorous woman working in the Russian nuclear industry" as seen in Exile on Moanstreet

Thursday, February 19, 2009

LOOK: "The Journal," by fucoid and Digital Fishie

Below is the result of a collab I recently completed with Digital Fishie (click to make it bigger). I supplied the images and she took them to her dungeon. If you appreciate her filthy abuse of post production apps like I do, check her blog and deviantart shop.

LOOK: Naïve artist, Nikifor from Krynica (Poland)

Nikifor (perhaps the most unassuming man to ever be known by one name) is commemorated by a prominent piece of statuary here in Lviv. I was told he painted on bits of ephemera like discarded cigarette boxes and paper bags, which piqued my interest. Wanting to know more, I consulted WIKI:

"Nikifor painted over forty thousand pictures - on sheets of paper, pages of notebooks, cigarette cartons, and even on scraps of paper glued together. The topics of his art include self-portraits and panoramas of Krynica, with its spas and Orthodox and Catholic churches. For most of his life he lived alone in extreme poverty in Krynica, and was considered a mentally challenged person. He had difficulties talking and was almost illiterate. Underestimated for most of his life, in his late days he became one of the most famous primitivist painters."

His life is the perfect recipe for primitivist mythology: isolated, nearly deaf/dumb and illiterate and labeled as mentally ill (just the right proximity to 'retardation'). Accordingly, he has recently been the subject of a feature film wherein he is depicted as a pissy, old diogenes type, living with the dogs on the edge of town. 

Exploited discovered late in life, his works are represented in major collections around the world,  where modernist versions of art history still awkwardly lump it in with all of the other "direct depictions of the spirit and emotion of humanity" given to us by Asians, native peoples and other nearly-'retarded'-but-still-able-to-hold-a-paintbrush artists. 

But rather than viewing him as some child or idiot, impervious to moral decay, perhaps he was just a guy looking for respect, a little money for his work and the ability to score with reasonably attractive women. And maybe the utter lack of all of the above is a major reason why he came across as so pissy, downtrodden and 'authentic'.

Either way he produced a ton of interesting images and it is not difficult to find what he was doing in contemporary art. 


Primitive audio from Eero Jahannes, a practitioner of Skwee out of Finland... I imagine he rocks out with 8 bit synth leads from something like a Gameboy or Spellchecker, it is infectious:  

Katt Witt 700 Watts - Eero Johannes

Monday, February 16, 2009

LOOK: From "Lvivski Streets," by fucoid

Gypsy View

I followed a gypsy couple from the market a couple of days ago. I see them every day... she stands on a table and sings Romani folk songs for change. He watches. 

They live in a makeshift cabin and do not like to be photographed. This is the view from their 'courtyard'. 

More images from Lvivski Streets:

LOOK: Post #100 @ Permanent Transience

from Modern Fashion, winter 1959 (Polish)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

LISTEN: Sunday mix #4, Roller rink nostalgia '87

Horses from

Nostalgia sits on the opposite side of wanderlust and travelers know it all too well. There are two basic encounters with this sickness:

1. The uninitiated: typically late at night or after phone calls back home... moments of girlish neediness. At other times, it is triggered by association, elevating the most mundane objects like a favorite mug or even front door keys (with their specific American cut), to the level of Platonic form (uh... was my 'big blue mug' ever really that special?). 

2. Nostalgia as medicine, the chosen embrace of stupid old shit that is suddenly (and unreasonably) hypnotic. Old films, baseball websites and improvised cajun food all assume narcotic form for me when things aren't going so well abroad. 

But the hands down, most guilt-inducing indulgence of wimpiness is a playlist of freshly pubescent pop faves. No one can escape its tentacular snare. For me, it consists of pre-house roller rink tracks from the late 80s. 

Growing up in south Florida, we had a steady flow of freestlye, with its Latin roots, mixed in with the standard oldschool rap/electro and sappy Stevie B. ballads. It is a musical mix stuck between two eras, teetering between analogue and digital...  always sounding a bit awkward yet so self-assured. Love it or hate, no one has to know if you listen (be advised, 2 couple-skates):

READ: Anthropologists gone wild

I studied anthropology in a department full of postmodern pusses. Identity, symbols, tropes and representation were our primary concerns... intervening in a culture was considered dubious, maybe even imperial. How could we justify violating its sacred percieved balance? Right or wrong (and I firmly believe contemporary theory is crippling), for me, and many of my friends, it was a dead discipline with no where to go except toward art and literature (where we become the best pretenders).

But there are other programs out there that apparently produce academic commandos who make a real difference in the world, like Paula Loyd from Wellesley. She spied on Afghan civilians for American military forces under the guise of ethnographic respectability. Not surprisingly, she was treated as a combatant and eventually set on fire by an Afghan rebel. Her "research assistant" then followed the fleeing attacker and shot him to death- while he was running away.

Can you say, "conquistadores?"


Anthropologist's Death Highlights Questionable Role of Social Science in War
by Farah Stockman

In a hostile corner of southern Afghanistan, an American platoon fanned out around a market, forming a protective circle around a petite woman with a notebook. Paula Loyd, a Wellesley-educated researcher, began interviewing villagers about the price of cooking fuel - a key indicator of whether insurgents had hijacked supply lines.
Full article

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

WATCH: "How To Sell Out" from Howcast

WATCH: Žižek on feminine sexuality in Bergman's "Persona" (1963)

...more film analysis from the eminent (and fuzzy, furry, coked-up) philosopher and culture critic from Slovenia. 

In this clip he uses that famous scene in Persona, where Alma (Bibi Anderson) describes an orgy on the beach to Elisabeth (Liv Ullmann), to illustrate female sexuality in Lacanian terms, as a biological and narrative experience (with one before the other). 

I of course am severely limited in my experience so I cannot make a call (other than ideological) on what he is saying, but I asked some girlfriends and it made for interesting conversation...

LOOK: Naïve artist, Ivan Skolozdra from Lviv

Always on the lookout for work by outsider artists, I discovered this gem at the book market today: a collection of paintings by naïve artist Ivan Skolozdra. 

In a byzantine fashion traditional to the region, he applies oils to the underside of old window panes, reversing the images by transcribing from a reflection in a mirror. The resulting 'primitive scenes' glow through the layer of glass. From the text:
"Painting on glass became popular in 19th-century Ukraine mainly in the Carpathians. At the turn of the 20th century this kind of painting, once so popular with the broad masses, declined noticeably due to competition with printed material. The traditions of the painting technique were nearly lost and there was no attempt to renew them until recently in academia. Ivan Skolozdra is the sole amateur artist who has rejuvenated and now promotes this kind of folk art which was traditional in western Ukraine in the past." 

His scenes draw heavily from myth, literature and history. Depictions of Ukrainian folklore are especially rich, many layers of narrative are rolled up into single paintings (Chumok Road, Firmness). Likewise, his Themes of Gogol looks like a Ukrainian Bosch in its devilish complexity. 

He is perceived differently by the art world than the previous Eastern Slav "naïve" artist I looked at, Nikolai Nedbailo. An artist with (advertised) formal training, Nedbailo's use of the awkward appearance of folk art is described as social critique. Meanwhile Skolozdra from the village is presented as having no social perspective (or training), he is only channeling tradition.... like some sort of missing link to the past. It is a dubious claim for many reasons, not the least of which (aside from the obvious condescension) is the view of history as some sort of static, precious chunk of stuff that sits in isolation outside of metro areas, in need of institutional protection. 

To sample a dynamic collision of musical histories, check this world music track that left even the Pitchfork nerds at a loss of words:

Sabali (Produced by Damon Albarn) - Amadou & Mariam

Monday, February 9, 2009

LOOK: Soviet kitsch #3, "Bag of Apples," and "Where is the Bear?"

...more bits of delightfully tacky ephemera from a dustbin in Ukraine.
Bag of Apples (1984) pocket calendar, from street vendor

Where is the Little Bear? (1982) pocket calendar, from street vendor

Sunday, February 8, 2009

LISTEN: Sunday mix #3, Indie optimism

Oneness (2003) by Mariko Mori

Bizarre alien orgy directed by Stanley Kubrick? No... there was recently a Mariko Mori exhibit at the Pinchuk Art Centre in Kiev. The centerpiece was the above installation, Oneness. From the original catalogue:

"Oneness is a sculpture of six “alien” figures, linking hands in a circle. When the viewer participates in the work by hugging the figures and welcoming them, the aliens’ eyes light up and their hearts start beating. When all six are hugged at once the base lights up as well. Oneness is an allegory of connectedness, a representation of the disappearance of boundaries between the self and others. It is a symbol of the acceptance of otherness and a model for overcoming national and cultural borders."

It was a great exhibit and I had a good time. But I couldn't help thinking that such elaborate installations seemed to be out of place with the times. Besides being ridiculously expensive (and undemocratic in materials) it may be time for mainstream art to become openly critical again. I want Mariko Mori but I also want to see more engagement with history when I go to the museum or gallery. That being said, the following mix is an exercise in optimism:

indie optimism