Man, where to begin.
Ah, I know.
I have two stories in Tablet seventy-three: a quick look at the Dark Fairytales show up at Roq la Rue, and a review of the new French film Chaos. Neither story was up on their website as I write this, but my scanned clip is. (UPDATE: they are up now.)
I was not completely happy with either piece when I turned them in – but my disaffection deepened after deadline. In the Roq la Rue piece I sorta chickened out of doing actual art criticism and instead tried to do a more reported piece about the opening itself and what gallery owner Kirsten Anderson’s intentions for the show were. It’s a very short piece and maybe I was trying to do too much.
The show opened on the day that Nike announced that it was buying Converse, home of the Chuck Taylor All-Star, and I had planned to see if I could find an artist at the opening who was wearing Chucks to discuss this event with. Instead, I tried to mix social activity with being at the opening, meeting friends, and so forth, and it just didn’t happen all around. Oh well. Maybe next time.
I think part of the problem was that the natural thing for me to do in a critical manner would have been to compare and contrast a work I found successful with one I felt did not succeed. Anderson’s thoughts and positioning of the work of the artists in the show – and in her gallery in general – were very interesting on their own, so I kinda dodged a bullet. Of course, her blanket assertion that the artists in the show use their appropriated pop-culture imagery without irony is at best debatable. Surely she doesn’t actually think the big-eyed Keane kids look or the reworking of the Smurfette into sex bomb is a straightforward act of visual creation with the same directness as an image of Jesus in a Howard Finster work.
The review of Chaos is honest and reflects my perceptions – I really didn’t care for the movie. However, I used the term “racist” to describe the way that Algerians are portrayed in several segments of the film, a charge the film partially invites me to make. In a scene, a protagonist seeks help from a French civil-rights organization, S.O.S Racisme, and gets kicked out for being a hooker, basically.
I don’t think I used the term appropriately. The segments of the film that depict the family life of Algerians in France are full of ugly stereotypes, but the stereotypes are cultural, not racial, in nature.
The other part of the film that irritated me, and which I noted, if briefly, is that the terrible clumsiness of the narrative of the hooker’s brutal life contrasts so thoroughly with the grace and wit of the comedy of domestic alienation that makes up the rest of the film. If the filmmaker had chosen to frame the narrative as suspect – it’s presented in voiceover from a brutalized hooker – the use of the pulp-fiction elements and stereotypes could have shifted from ugly public myth reinforcement to witty filmmaking. But even the most fantastic plot elements in the narrative appear to be borne out within the plot of the rest of the film.
It boggles my mind that this film was nominated for six Césars.
I’ll link to the stories when I see them go up.