Weekend links 56

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Ad Astra (1907) by Akseli Gallen-Kallela.

• Andres Serrano’s works are photo prints so you can’t damage an exhibition item the way you can with a painting. That didn’t stop Catholic protestors in France attacking a copy of Piss Christ on Monday. By coincidence, Dave Maier had posted an essay about Serrano’s work a few hours earlier, and with a reminder that the notorious photograph was part of a series, a detail which is often forgotten or conveniently ignored.

• The Avant Garde Project which made available deleted experimental audio works (see this earlier post) ceased activity a while ago so it’s good to see that its archives will now be hosted at Ubuweb.

…African Head Charge again was a studio name I had to start with, and it evolved into a band about eight years later. That started out again I read an interview in a newspaper where Brian Eno talked about he’d made an album called My Life in the Bush of Ghosts with another musician—that Talking Heads fellow [David Byrne]—and he said “I had a vision of a psychedelic Africa”. And I thought, “Oh, that’s pretentious”. But then I thought about it, and thought “No, what a good idea! Make really trippy African dub”.

Adrian Sherwood on thirty years of On-U Sound.

• Related: Brian Eno has a new album out in July, Drums Between The Bells, a collaboration with Rick Holland.

“Do you think Lord Leighton could by any chance have been a homosexual?” enquired Richard. “It says here,” I replied, consulting a laminated information card, “that there is no evidence one way or the other.”

“Rent boys leave no evidence,” said Richard.

A private view of Lord Leighton’s home in Holland Park, London, which opened to the public again last year.

Passengers, an exhibition of urban transit photos by Chris Marker at Peter Blum, NYC. For a different kind of rail transport there’s this exploration of London’s disused underground Post Office Railway.

• Reappraising the recent past: Jon Savage on Taxi zum Klo, Christiane F, David Bowie and the seedy attraction of Berlin in the 70s and 80s; Iain Sinclair on the Festival of Britain sixty years on.

Stella Steyn’s illustrations for Finnegans Wake as seen in transition magazine, 1929. And speaking of literary magazines, the return of New Worlds has been announced.

Clive Hicks-Jenkins is an art monograph published next month by Lund Humphries. Clive enthused about the book’s arrival.

• 50 Watts announces the Polish Book Cover Contest.

• 4th June, 2011 is Radiophonic Creation Day.

• Americans: has your state banned sodomy?

Stardust (1931) by Louis Armstrong | Stardust (1940) by Artie Shaw | Stardust (1957) by Nat King Cole.

Ecce homo redux

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Piss Christ (1987) by Andres Serrano.

If the news of the past few weeks has felt like a re-run of the 1980s—ongoing recession, government cuts, riots in London, Tories casting aspersions on the undeserving poor, the threat of another royal wedding—then add to the list of déjà vu moments a flurry of outrage concerning art and religion in America that’s like a recapitulation of the Helms vs. NEA spats of 1989. On that occasion Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ was in the firing line, accused of being a blasphemous portrayal. This week it’s been the turn of a video installation of a short film made the same year, A Fire in My Belly, by David Wojnarowicz, a work featured in an exhibition I linked to a couple of weeks ago, Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture at the National Portrait Gallery, Washington DC. A Los Angeles Times piece previewing the exhibition also connected Hide/Seek and the earlier attacks by the right against the NEA, ending by saying “Times and attitudes change”. Well, not always…

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A Fire in My Belly (1987) by David Wojnarowicz.

Piss Christ notoriously shows a plastic crucifix immersed in urine; A Fire in My Belly is a 30-minute film which features among its blizzard of images a crucifix besieged by marauding ants. Wojnarowicz’s work wasn’t even mentioned in the LA Times piece but this week’s furore has made it the focus of the entire show after the gallery withdrew the video following protests from the usual suspects, the Catholic League and a right-wing politician, Rep. John Boehner. The complaints are the standard bluster about blasphemy (again) and taxpayers funding “filth”. None of the complainants appear to care that Wojnarowicz’s film is a tribute made by a gay artist to his friends as they were dying from AIDS during the 1980s, a disease which also killed him in 1992, they see the work only as an offensive act. It’s too much to expect anyone reacting with such fervour to consider that the artist may have been comparing the suffering and treatment of people with Aids in that decade with Christ’s suffering on the cross, to do so would be to admit that the artist might have a point. In response to the work’s withdrawal the Transformer Gallery in Washington DC has been screening the film and organised a protest at the National Portrait Gallery. (Update: They also issued an open letter urging the reinstatement of the work.)

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The art of ejaculation

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left: Sperman (2007) by Cary Kwok; right: Here Cums the Spider (2007) by Cary Kwok.

NSFW, as if you need to be told. It’s almost a commonplace of contemporary art that there are so many artists around today, producing such a volume of work, that any newcomer (as it were) has to find a niche and stay there if they want their efforts to stand out from the crowd. Cary Kwok’s niche seems to be the seminal emission which he depicts in a variety of ways, including showing various well-known comics characters shooting their respective loads. Kwok’s work has been shown recently at the Herald Street gallery, London, and Hard Hat, Geneva.

I like Kwok’s drawings, they’re carefully-done and funny, and serve to remind one that the cum shot is under-represented in art. Despite various Biblical prohibitions, women have been subject to no end of sexual display throughout art history, from copulations with gods in the form of animals to Danaë’s impregnation by Zeus as a literal golden shower. But male sexuality, especially at its most essential moment, has rarely been depicted outside the pages of pornography. The irony of this, as with arguments against erections in art, is that if it wasn’t for ejaculations we wouldn’t be here to discuss their pros and cons. Gay artists have been in the vanguard of addressing the sperm-drought, possibly because they have more than a passing interest in these matters; Michael Petry’s work earlier this year took a lateral view. There’s another sample (as it were) of Cary Kwok’s work below the fold plus some other seminal (as it were) artworks through the ages.

Update: Jack-Off Sculpture Sells For $15 Million.

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