Wednesday February 22, 2012 -- L.A. Convention Center
I’ll start with a drink. A Negroni. A ruby colored complex slap to the face combining the unlikely friends of sweet vermouth, Campari, and the smooth talking empress which is gin. Yes, gin for me is female, and the Negroni is a drink where her reputation turns to mischief and her virtue wilts.
It is a fantastic drink and Seven Grand downtown makes it perfectly, with Tanqueray 10 and the only sweet vermouth as far as I’m concerned – Carpano Antica.
I made the decision to go to Seven Grand after overhearing a conversation in the corridor of the L.A. Convention Center ocean liner, in that wide expanse of blue with its little easels advertising coyly for sessions on The "Man" in Mannequin and PhD for Artists: Sense or Non-Sense? A young lady, obviously from out of town, lamented that yes, beer in Los Angeles costs 7 dollars.
Now CAA, let me assure you that beer does cost 7 dollars in Los Angeles. Sometimes it costs 10 dollars. But be at ease, if you pay more, you will be rewarded. The conference is positioned in a nest of downtown bars that are bringing a renaissance to cocktails that rivals any of the findings in your papers. Seven Grand, The Golden Gopher, The Broadway Bar, The Varnish, and if you can swing the membership charge, Caña Rum Bar. Pay 13 dollars and see what happens. You will find something complex and wonderful. PhD for Artists? Non-sense.
I admit it had been a long day. I was frustrated that the book fair wasn’t open, and upset because I missed The Detroit Institute of the Arts’ Salvador Salort-Pons give a talk on Henry Fuseli’s The Nightmare, 1781 because of traffic. I loved The Nightmare as a kid, despite its rather gorilla-like, chauvinist treatment of women. I wish, sincerely, that CAA was more in this style, less abstract and more focused on sharp, recognizable subjects. I know I am in a field that thrives on terms being unclear and categories being fuzzy and debated, and some make a career out of saying why that is a good thing, but hell, sometimes it is just good to talk about a painting and an artist.
The Fuseli session made the Negroni basically necessary and essential, especially after Beth Wright of the University of Texas at Arlington's exciting treatment of The Nightmare through the eyes of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein and Mathilda. Wild stuff.
I had never heard the story of Fuseli and Anna Landolt, his unrequited love. Apparently, the painter’s batty imagination possessed Landolt each evening in his dreams, and these erotic encounters amounted to the weird belief that Landolt committed adultery when not with Fuseli. However, when Mary Wollstonecraft, Shelley’s mother and famous early feminist, proposed a ménage a trois with Fuseli and his wife, it was too much.
Such were the heady days that lead up to Frankenstein. In the end, Shelley’s use of Fuseli’s Nightmare in Frankenstein, the murder of Victor’s bride as penalty for his wresting life from the realm of women, wins the day and shows the consequence of threatening the autonomy of women. It was quite a talk, and you can see, how the complicated mistress of the Negroni would have been perfect afterward.
The other great talk of the day was by a friend of mine, Natalie Harren, who presented on Fluxus and the curious reading of the movement as a forerunner of the internet and virtual communication. I think Harren is right in proposing this preposterous -- it's a tenure track argument that disrupts and misunderstands the spirit of Fluxus. Harren was convincing in presenting complicated and diverse material of Fluxus as a concrete, in person, anti-virtual, world that wouldn’t have suffered 140 character emoting and internet friendships. She especially demonstrated, by way of Fluxus, how the networked video study rooms now popular in museums are a bit sad and not conducive to the “pay attention to everyday life” impulse of Fluxus. Here here.
It is hard to know when to stop when you blog so I just will. You probably don't want to hear about the truly bizarre but interesting talk by Carolyn Tate comparing Mesoamerican sculpture to miscarried fetuses and ancient mosaics to fertility cycles. You probably also don't want to hear about how I also lost my temper a bit in a question and answer session on Jeff Koons. Anyway.
All I know is that the close of a CAA day is time for a drink. The violet hour.