Friday, March 25, 2005

Long Live Banksy!

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Many a visitor to New York's Museum of Modern Art has probably thought, "I could do that."

banksy tesco soup can"Discount Soup Can"
Screen Print on Paper, 2005.

A British graffiti artist who goes by the name "Banksy" went one step further, by smuggling in his own picture of a soup can and hanging it on a wall, where it stayed for more than three days earlier this month before anybody noticed.

The prank was part of a coordinated plan to infiltrate four of New York's top museums on a single day.

The largest piece, which he smuggled into the Brooklyn Museum, was a 2 foot by 1.5 foot (61cm by 46 cm) oil painting of a colonial-era admiral, to which the artist had added a can of spray paint in his hand and anti-war graffiti in the background.

banksy soldier with spraycan"Soldier With Spraycan"
Vandalized Oil Painting, 2005.

The other two targets were the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History, where he hung a glass-encased beetle with fighter jet wings and missiles attached to its body -- another comment on war, Banksy told Reuters on Thursday.

bansky withus oragainstus"Withus Oragainstus"
Dead beetle with glued on
sidewinder missiles and satellite dish, 2005.

"It was just an outsider's view of the modern American bug, bristling with listening devices and military hardware," he said.

An art Web site called has posted pictures of the artist -- wearing an Inspector Clouseau-style overcoat, a hat and a fake beard and nose -- hanging up his work at the four museums and describing how he did it.

Speaking by telephone from an undisclosed location in Britain, Banksy said he conducted all four operations on March 13, helped by accomplices who filmed him and provided distractions where necessary.

"They staged a gay tiff (lovers' quarrel), shouting very loudly and obnoxiously," said the artist, declining to give his real name or any personal details beyond his occupation as a professional painter and decorator.

It is not the first time he has staged such stunts. Last year he smuggled work into the Louvre in Paris and London's Tate, attracting attention in the British media.

"My sister inspired me to do it. She was throwing away loads of my pictures one day and I asked her why. She said 'It's not like they're going to be hanging in the Louvre.'"

He took that as a challenge. "I thought why wait until I'm dead," he said.

His preferred creative outlet, graffiti on trains, was growing more difficult due to greater security so he decided to branch out into infiltrating museums. "I tend to gravitate to places with less sophisticated security systems," he said.

Officials at the Natural History Museum declined to comment on security. Museum of Modern Art officials said only that the offending picture was taken down on March 17.

It was unclear what gave the game away but Banksy's version of Andy Warhol's iconic images of Campbell's Soup Cans showed a can of Tesco value tomato soup, a discounted brand sold by a British supermarket chain.

"Obviously they've got their eye a lot more on things leaving than things going in which works in my favor," Banksy said. "I imagine they'll be doing stricter bag checks now."

He said the painting in the Metropolitan Museum, a small portrait of a woman wearing a gas mask, had been discovered after one day, while the others stayed up for several days. The paintings were fixed to the wall with extra-strong glue.

bansky you have beautiful eyes"You Have Beautiful Eyes"
Vandalized Oil Painting, 2005.

Asked how he managed to escape notice while putting them up on a busy Sunday at the museums, he said: "They do get pretty full, but not if you put the pictures in the boring bits."

Banksy's Website:
Wooster Collective: ( With commentary and other exclusive information, including images of Banksy placing his pieces up in the museums)

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Errata: Forward Retreat by Mark Tansey

Courtesy of Shelton Walsmith:

Page 133: The reproduction of Forward Retreat by Mark Tansey is upside down and reversed.

Corrected image.

Mark Tansey from

I think of the painted picture as an embodiment of the very problem that we face with the notion "reality." The problem or question is, which reality? In a painted picture, is it the depicted reality, or the reality of the picture plane, or the multidimensional reality the artist and viewer exist in? That all three are involved points to the fact that pictures are inherently problematic. This problem is not one that can or ought to be eradicated by reductionist or purist solutions. We know that to successfully achieve the real is to destroy the medium; there is more to be achieved by using it than through its destruction.

More Tansey:
Artchive Images
The Broad Art Foundation

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Tom Waits and 20 Albums

In the first of an occasional series in which the greatest recording artists reveal their favourite records, Tom Waits writes about his 20 most cherished albums of all time. So for the lowdown on Zappa and Bill Hicks, step right up...,13887,1439272,00.html

A few good bits:

On Solo Monk, he appears to be composing as he plays, extending intervals, voicing chords with impossible clusters of notes. 'I Should Care' kills me, a communion wine with a twist. Stride, church, jump rope, Bartok, melodies scratched into the plaster with a knife. A bold iconoclast. Solo Monk lets you not only see these melodies without clothes, but without skin. This is astronaut music from Bedlam.

Trout Mask Replica by Captain Beefheart (Straight) 1969. The roughest diamond in the mine, his musical inventions are made of bone and mud. Enter the strange matrix of his mind and lose yours.

You know, one thing that doesn't change is the sound of kids getting out of school. Record that in 1921, record that now, it's the same sound. The good thing about these is that they're so raw, they're recorded so raw, that it's just like listening to a landscape. It's like listening to a big open field. You hear other things in the background. You hear people talking while they are singing. It's the hair in the gate.


Friday, March 18, 2005

Father Mapple's Sermon From Moby-Dick

orson welles as father mapple
As Rendered By Orson Welles in John Huston's Filmed Version of Herman Melville's Novel, The Whale. Or As It Is Commonly Known, Moby-Dick:


Shipmates, the sin of Jonah was in his disobedience of the command of God. He found it a hard command. And it was, Shipmates. For all of the things that God would have us do are hard. If we would obey God, we must disobey ourselves. But Jonah still further flaunts at God by seeking to flee from Him. Jonah thinks that a ship, made by man, will carry him into countries where God does not reign.

He prowls among the shipping like a vile burglar hastening to cross the seas. And as he comes aboard, the sailor's mark him. The ship puts out. But soon the sea rebels. It will not bear the wicked burden. A dreadful storm comes up. The ship is like to break. The bosun calls all hands to lighten her: boxes, bails, and jars are clattering overboard. The wind is shrieking. The men are yelling.

- I fear the Lord! cries Jonah. The God of Heaven who hath made the sea and the dry land!

Again, the sailors mark him: Wretched Jonah cries out to Him! Cast him overboard. For he knew.

For his sake, this great tempest was upon them.

Now behold Jonah: taken up as an anchor and dropped into the sea, into the dreadful jaws awaiting him.

And the Great Whale shuts to all his ivory teeth like so many white bolts upon his prison. And Jonah cries unto the Lord, out of the fish's belly. But observe his prayer, Shipmates. He doesn't weep or wail. He feels his punishment is just. He leaves deliverance to God. And even out of the belly of Hell, grounded upon the ocean's utmost bones, God heard him when he cried.

And God spake unto the Whale. And from the shuddering cold and blackness of the deep, the Whale breeched into the sun and vomited out Jonah on the dry land. And Jonah, bruised and beaten, his ears like two seashells, still mutlitudinously murmuring of the ocean, Jonah did the Almighty's bidding.


Now Shipmates, woe to him who seeks to pour oil on the troubled waters when God has brewed them into a gale. Yea, woe to him who, as the Pilot Paul has it, while preaching to others is himself a castaway. But delight is to him who against the proud gods and commodores of this earth stands forth his own inexorable self, who destroys all sin, though he pluck it out from the robes of senators and judges! And Eternal Delight shall be his, who coming to lay him down can say:

- Oh Father, mortal or immortal, here I die.
I have driven to be thine,
more than to be this world's or mine own,
yet this is nothing
I leave eternity to Thee.

For what is man that he should live out the lifetime of his God?

job and the whale

In Rosebud: The Story of Orson Welles, David Thompson writes:

Welles did his own text, and then, when gently pressed, he did Huston's. It is magnificent, thunderous and as incantatory as Melville's prose. No actor could kill or waste the speech - but only someone of Welles's grandeur could do it justice. Here is proof that on the grand scale of voice, physique and imaginative reach he was a noble actor - a stage actor, someone to fill a large hall. Yet there is more. As Mapple pursues the Jonah story to its end, and Jonah speaks to God, Huston used the close-up to cover Welles's heartrending "For what is man that he should outlive the lifetime of his God? Suddenly, we see an old man, or one alert to mortality. The last line is nearly a whisper; it was the most delicate thing Welles had done in forty years. Always uneasy with youth, he had some intimation of the grave, solitary splendor of old age. It is there in his Mapple. The crew gave him an ovation when he had finished. Huston chuckled at his own acute enterprise, and Welles bellowed with relief. If he had never done anything else, you would say, "Good God, what was that?"

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Allegories of the Eschaton: The Eye of the Whale

While searching for allegories of the eschaton, I came across an image that just nailed me to the beam, something from an intensely personal dream, a necessary nightmare, a presagement of awakening (entrance via Stalker):

the eye of the whaleA man looking into the eye of a whale.
Fugues of resonance in this.
Ishmael the Outcast,
Dreaming on his coffin.
Ahab crucified in the depths,
Jonah 1:17 and Ezekiel 8.

It is an image from the film Werckmeister Harmonies, directed by Béla Tarr. I had never heard of either the film or the director. Here are a few comments from a BBC critic:

Based on the novel "The Melancholy of Resistance" by Tarr's frequent collaborator László Krasznahorkai, "Werckmeister Harmonies" unfolds in an unnamed provincial Hungarian town, gripped by a sense of crisis.

Despite the freezing conditions, disgruntled crowds of men have gathered in the central square to witness a travelling circus, whose attractions include a giant stuffed whale and a promised public appearance from the mysterious "Prince".

Named after 17th century musical theorist-composer Andreas Harmóniák, it's a work whose meanings are almost impossible to pin down.
And this from

When János returns to the Square, he finds a veritable cult has gathered around the attraction. After sneaking into the truck where the whale is stored, he overhears a disturbing tirade from The Prince. “What they build and what they will build is illusion and lies. What they think and what they will think is ridiculous,” he says in his mechanical voice. He continues, saying that he likes things that fall apart, seeing “construction in the ruins.”
And from the Guardian Observer:

The Hungarian director Bela Tarr goes beyond surreal, beyond miserablist, beyond anything I have ever seen with this quite bizarre, dream-like film in monochrome: an apocalyptic vision of - well, what?

A young man in a desolate Hungarian town is devoted to his elderly uncle, a musicologist working on a revisionist theory of the music of the spheres. Some kind of circus arrives, the kind of circus at which no one is expected to have a good time. It consists of a single corrugated-iron pantechnicon containing a dead whale. The presence of this, and someone called the Prince, incites the populace to a strange, somnambulist uprising.

If genius is close to madness, then Tarr's genius - because genius has to be what it is - is closer to autism, a kind of untrained savant touch for compelling imagery. Famously unschooled in European cinema, he has developed his own vernacular language of movie-making.

He is a master of the long, long take: mostly compelling but sometimes just outrageously weird. He has a close-up of the young man and his uncle wordlessly walking down a street which goes on for minute after minute. God only knows why.

Who to compare him to? David Lynch? Tod Browning? You've got me. This will be a tough watch for many: an uncompromisingly difficult and severe experience. But I found it unique, mesmeric and sublime.

Absolutely fascinated, I now wonder: should I see the film at all? In the last couple of hours of reading about it and looking at the few stills I could find online, the film in my mind has attained its own sort of poetry and mysticism. There is no fear of disappointment here. It is more in the sense of Chimage: I do not want to forget the film that I imagine Tarr's Werckmeister Harmonies to be.

How many books and films have you heard about all your life and never experienced, but know - in a deep sense of the phrase - by heart? I wander constantly through the Library of Unread Books and sit with patient meditation in the Theater of Unseen Films.

In the end, I know that I will not be able to esccape the Eye of the Whale, that there will be no choice: under the pressure of certain sign and portent, so much of the future is already irrevocable. But here, just for a moment, it is all so beautiful with possibility....

eye of moby-dickFrom the John Huston film, Moby Dick.

Addendum: From Waiting for the Prince: An Interview with Bela Tarr on the Senses of Cinema site:

BT: You know how it happens, when we started we had a big social responsibility which I think still exists now. And back then I thought "Okay, we have some social problems in this political system - maybe we'll just deal with the social question." And afterwards when we made a second movie and a third we knew better that there are not only social problems. We have some ontological problems and now I think a whole pile of shit is coming from the cosmos. And there's the reason. You know how we open out step by step, film by film. It's very difficult to speak about the metaphysical and that. No. It's just always listening to life. And we are thinking about what is happening around us.

FD & MLC: What do you think this shit is that's coming from the cosmos?

BT: I just think about the quality of human life and when I say 'shit' I think I'm very close to it.

FD & MLC: But in terms of the cosmos, how does that fit in? If man is responsible for the shit, how does the cosmos come into it?

BT: Everything is much bigger than us. I think the human is just a little part of the cosmos.

FD & MLC: If there's evil going on, do you think it comes from elsewhere? From outside the human sphere?

BT: No. I think human responsibility is great, enormous. Maybe the biggest factor. You know, I don't believe in God. This is my problem. If I think about God, okay, he has a responsibility for the whole thing, but I don't know. You know, if you listen to any Mass, it looks like two dogs when they are starting to fight. And always, I just try to think about what is happening now.

FD & MLC: So the main character in the film who's saying "God created a beautiful thing in this whale", whose view is that?

BT: No, he believes.

FD & MLC: Believes in God?

BT: No. He believes this is a big thing, bigger than humanity. And in this case he says "Maybe." Maybe God still exists, that's all. He just says everything is wonderful. God creates this big whale.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Detour, Nosferatu and The Fall

Watched Detour the other night, the great low-budget noir masterpiece by Edgar G. Ulmer. One of those that I've seen at least a dozen times. Love the frame above. The haunted eyes of Tom Neal - ( who later on in life killed his second wife). You can almost hear it: "If only I hadn't...." Didn't realize that Ulmer has been an assistant to F. W. Murnau. Of course, it made perfect sense. Nosferatu Noir.

Idiosyncratic connections: would've loved to have seen what Ulmer might have done with Camus' The Fall:

"The truth is that every intelligent man, as you know, dreams of being a gangster and of ruling over society by force alone."

"I know a man who gave twenty years of his life to a scatterbrained woman, sacrificing everything to her, his friendships, his work, the very respectability of his life, and who one evening recognized that he had never loved her. He had been bored, that's all, bored like most people."

"Don't wait for the Last Judgment. It takes place every day."

Thursday, March 03, 2005

How News Should Be Written: Or, What Not To Spread On Your Toast

I can't remember the last time I read anything from UPI that didn't immediately bring to mind (and body) the word "hack" and lead me to ruminate over the more, shall we say, alimentory uses for the paper it was written upon.

Then I was led to Ronald Aronson's Bush, Camus and Sartre in UPI's Outside View series. Immediately the question came to mind: Why can't all news commentary be written at this level? I realize that the answer(s) to this question is a can of worms - best opened in some later entry.

But I do wish all news was written with the depth and range of Aronson's piece - with a sense of historical precendent and context. It doesn't surprise me at all that Bush and his handlers thought they could just roam through The Idiot's Guide to Famous Quotes and use what "sounded smart" for their own dubious agendas. They are all cultural simpletons to whom context is the irritating square edge that keeps them from putting something in the round hole.

"He might also insist that those responsible for the Camus vogue among the neoconservatives because of his determined opposition to terrorism are picking and choosing their Camus in their own self-interest, ignoring his equally determined condemnation of political violence."

Outside View: Bush, Camus and Sartre
By Ronald Aronson

DETROIT, March 3 (UPI) -- A careful reading of "The Fall" reveals that President Bush's quote from Albert Camus in Brussels was an astonishing mistake. Many of our European friends may now be laughing up their sleeves at the United States' head of state. To those who know Camus, a White House speechwriter may have created a spectacle, in which the president unwittingly parodied himself.

The quote, "freedom is a long-distance race," was ripped from its context, one that establishes beyond doubt that Camus' words were not meant straightforwardly. No, a careful reading makes clear they were intended as a spoof of the thought of his former good friend, Jean-Paul Sartre.

The words spoken by the president are part of a reflection near the end of "The Fall" by Jean-Baptiste Clamence, the book's narrator and sole character. Clamence offers drinks and tells his story in the Amsterdam bar he habituates. He is a former Parisian defense attorney "specializing in noble causes" until one day when he stood by without lifting a finger while a woman committed suicide by jumping into the Seine. He then abandoned his practice, fled France for the gloom of Amsterdam, and now spends his time luring visitors into hearing his confession and telling their own sins.

The paragraph just before the one Bush quoted begins with Clamence uttering a Sartre-sounding proclamation, "no excuses ever for anyone" and ends by Clamence calling himself "an enlightened advocate of slavery." Both remarks reflect Camus' bitterness toward Sartre after their 1952 breakup, and his admission, in an interview in The New York Times Book Review in February 1957 that Sartre and his close colleagues were targeted by "The Fall."

The paragraph from which the president quoted begins by having Clamence extolling slavery, as Camus believed Sartre had done by aligning himself with the French Communist Party. Then Camus has Clamence condemn himself of hypocrisy, for which Camus criticized Sartre in his journal, by saying that that he "was always talking of freedom. At breakfast I used to spread it on my toast, I used to chew it all day long, and in company my breath was delightfully redolent of freedom. With that key word I would bludgeon whoever contradicted me; I made it serve my desires and my power."

After the "long-distance race" statement Camus concludes the paragraph with other Sartre-sounding phrases, especially on the theme of our being alone with our freedom and freedom being a heavy burden to bear.

Camus' character, while sounding resolute and tireless about pursuing freedom, making it seem daunting and thankless but the mark of a true human being, is really prattling on about freedom. He is intimidating people with it, using it for purposes of self-interest and does not at all believe in it. The grand-sounding phrase about freedom being a "long-distance race" is just another piece of flimflam. Camus, a writer who pondered every phrase, every word, might turn in his grave upon hearing Bush misunderstand his meaning. He might also insist that those responsible for the Camus vogue among the neoconservatives because of his determined opposition to terrorism are picking and choosing their Camus in their own self-interest, ignoring his equally determined condemnation of political violence. But, great French ironist that he was, he meant just as well be smiling a sly smile of satisfaction at seeing the U.S. president spreading freedom on his breakfast toast.
(via Arts and Letters Daily)

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

The Doomsday Clock

My earlier post on the Rapture Index brought to mind another, perhaps more accurate, assessment of how nigh The End was becoming: the famous Doomsday Clock from the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has informed the world what time it is since 1947, when its now-famous "Doomsday Clock" first appeared of the cover of the magazine. Since then, the minute hand of the clock has moved forward and back to reflect the global level of nuclear danger and the state of international security.

From the first announcement in 1947:

The new cover of the BULLETIN bears the design of a clock, its hands approaching twelve. This symbol of urgency well represents the state of mind of those whose closeness to the development of atomic energy does not permit them to forget that their lives and those of their children, the security of their country and the survival of civilization, all hang in the balance as long as the specter of atomic war has not been exorcised. No wonder their patience wears thin watching the slow progress of negotiations for the international control of atomic energy, on which all their hopes have centered since 1945; no wonder that many begin to take the failure of these negotiations for granted, and that suggestions for changing the program, or at least radically enlarging it, are now voiced even by such men as Urey and Szilard, who from the beginning have been in the forefront of the fight for international control.

The Doomsday Clock was last moved on February 27, 2002 and currently stands at seven minutes to midnight.

The closest to midnight that the Doomsday Clock has ever been was in 1953 at two minutes to midnight when "the United States and the Soviet Union test thermonuclear devices within nine months of one another."

The furthest from midnight was in 1991 at seventeen minutes to midnight when "the United States and the Soviet Union sign the long-stalled Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) and announce further unilateral cuts in tactical and strategic nuclear weapons."

Since the Rapture Index was started , the "record high" was 182 on 24 September 2001 (I note that there were 3 False Christs and that the Mark of the Beast scored a 32 due to "new advancements in microcircuit technology.") And the "record low" was 57 on 12 December 1993 (The site cryptically comments: "in late 1993, just about every indicator either went dormant or had positive news.")

The End is Nigh: The Rapture Index


From the Rapture Ready Website:

The Rapture index is a Dow Jones Industrial Average of end time activity, but I think it would be better if you viewed it as prophetic speedometer. The higher the number, the faster we're moving towards the occurrence of pre-tribulation rapture.

Rapture Index of 85 and Below: Slow prophetic activity
Rapture Index of 85 to 110: Moderate prophetic activity
Rapture Index of 110 to 145: Heavy prophetic activity
Rapture Index above 145: Fasten your seat belts

Current Rapture Index: 153

(via Autonomedia's InfoExchange)