REVIEW: 50 Fingers & 88 Keys

28 Jul

REVIEW by CP composer Veronika Krausas

50 Fingers & 88 Keys (…actually 60 fingers and 176 keys)

I just attended one of the most delightful events of the year. Yes, I did just use the word ‘delightful’. I was at a lovely Sunday afternoon garden party organized by Jacaranda Music that included a delicious lunch and a wonderful piano recital, hence the title with lots of fingers and keys! It was at the Music & Art Atelier: David Anderson Pianos and Tanya Ragir Studios.

The pianists were a line-up of excellence: Aron Kallay, Danny Holt, Steven Vanhauwaert, Yana Reznik and the duo Joanne Pearce Martin and Gavin Martin. All will be featured in Jacaranda’s upcoming season.  The repertoire ranged from Mozart, Granados, Rachmoninoff, and Ravel to 21st Century composers David Lang and Nico Muhly.

pianists: Steven Vanhaueaert & Danny Holt

During a sublime performance of the quiet and delicate Etudes by Muhly, sirens and ambulances started up down the street and then disappeared. Not missing a beat or a finger (one of the 60) pianist Aron Kallay smiled slightly and kept on serenely playing.

pianist: Aron Kallay

It was a magical afternoon:  as the music wafted through the garden, the shadows of the rustling leaves in the trees danced on the white table cloths.

If this event is a prelude to their next season we can all be very excited!  Jacaranda 

Patrick Scott - Artistic Director Jacaranda Music


DEBORAH MARTIN: Notes From the Studio

23 Jul


This NOTES FROM THE STUDIO column features CP Core Artist Deborah Martin,  a contemporary realist painter, fine art photographer and curator. Visit her work online here.

Deborah Martin Pillows, 2011 Oil on Canvas 36 x 36″

I am still deeply immersed in the final stages of producing  NARROW LANDS a collaborative project with CP Core Artist Quintan Ana Wikswo. The exhibit opens at the Patty DeLuca Gallery August 5, – 23rd, 2011 in Provincetown, MA. Reception August 5- [6-10pm.]  I will be present for the opening. If you are in town, I hope you will get a chance to see this exhibit.

The Narrow Lands exhibition will move onto The School House Gallery opening Labor Day weekend September 2-21st. This Exhibit will feature additional new paintings including the Fine Art Book- NARROW LANDS  Deborah Martin [Paintings]  Quintan Ana Wikswo [Prose Poems] which will be avialable in both soft and hard cover.

If all goes well, Quintan will be arriving from NYC and I will be arriving from LA to attend the opening, and perhaps we will be holding a reading , book signing and Q & A at The School House Gallery over Labor Day weekend….more on this TBA.

Lately I have had to abandon Polaroid. My last batch of film was dreadfully pink-which started to translate into my paintings. Regardless of what I tell myself… my eye picks up exactly what I see. Pink is not the tone I am looking to recreate. Never mind the expired film  [which is a total crap shoot] the price for it is beyond ridiculous.

If you are a Polaroid  fanatic like myself and have not been following The Impossible Project check them out. They are coming out with all kinds of alternative film…in the mean time I am reduced to my iphone hipstomatic app and whatever color correction I attempt to make to steer away from the dreaded red tones. Until I have time to experiment with The Impossible Projects new film options….gone are the days of wandering around the United States with my cheap plastic Polaroid 600. For now…let it RIP I am moving on.

Deborah Martin, Study for Two Chairs

As I run up against the deadline to ship out Narrow Lands…my mind is slowly turning to the next series WONDER VALLEY which opens October 8th, 2011 at the Red Arrow Gallery in Joshua Tree. For this exhibit I am pleased to announce that I will be teaming up again with CP Core Artist Quintan Ana Wikswo who will be creating a unique installation of prose poems inspired by this new series of paintings based on Wonder Valley.

Below is a preview of the review:

Poised in an arid netherworld between strip malls and car lots, WONDER VALLEY lies just beyond the vacant, shuttered stare of the American Dream. Commercialism gnaws at the edges of this desert mountain wilderness – its embattled landscape of ragged palms, mountains, and eroding homestead cabins provides austere refuge to semi-nomadic enclaves of fringe-toed lizards, kangaroo rats, idiosyncratic visionaries and anachronistic loners.

In WONDER VALLEY, Martin immortalizes a 21st century desert struggle against destruction, and her lamentation for the disappearing landscape is also a praise song to the improbable power of endurance, tenacity, and longing.

Painter Deborah Martin has established a compelling dominion as portraitist of an archaic America – ravaged sites and forgotten wastelands that nonetheless resist destruction. Her luminous paintings and photographs reveal the beauty in the bleak, and speak to the tenuous balance between home, depravation, isolation, community and hope.

–Quintan Ana Wikswo


If you plan to be in Joshua Tree the exhibit opens October 8th and runs through November 6th. The exhibit coincides with the HWY 62 Art Tours which are the last two weekends in October. More on the tours in an upcoming  Blog Post…


Rules are Stupid (An homage to Zarathustra):

22 Jul
Jeffrey Holmes: Blog for CATALYSIS PROJECTS, July, 2011.
The actions of being an artist are those of the exception to the norm, not the norm that the majority is engulfed within.  The only rules we are to follow are those of nature.  It is mankind’s instinct to try to govern and document those aspects of nature, all without mandate.  It is our hangover from a monotheistic aeon.  Prior to the spread of monotheism, mankind lived amongst nature and “worshipped” natural gods that provided explanations for natural occurrences that could not be explained by reason.  As monotheism encroached upon society, there became an irrational desire to separate from nature and dominate it.  The early Judeo-Christian liturgans chopped down trees to build wooden churches to demonstrate their dominance over nature, while the pagans lived amongst the forests in collaboration with natural elements.  This need for dominance all springs from a fear of the power nature had over their lives and their desire to control it, in order to ensure their own survival.  In our current aeon, we are generally unthreatened by nature in that same way.  Of course, we can be killed by earthquakes or the by the sea, or large storms, but we understand this scientifically and are comforted by the control we gain from that knowledge.  But most people are unlikely to get killed by a bear or wolf or band of marauders or something wild as they walk from their secure home to their secure vehicle (weather a car, train, etc.), to their secure job or through their secure life.  So some of us, the majority, are clinging to a divinity that dominates nature, but without the spiritual rationality of a reason for doing so.  This always leads to criticism of the minority, by the majority.  Criticism often leads to bias, and then to conflict and finally, attempts at extermination.  It is our political and legal doctrine in our post-modern era.

1. Rules are Stupid:

Historically we privilege the exceptions, and are bored with the norm.  My hero is Beethoven.  His value that we now derive from his actions is that of a progressive one.  This is why we separate him from his now generally considered “lesser” contemporaries like Dittersdorf, Vanal, Gottschalk, etc., all of whom followed conventions of their day.  Beethoven, however, is praised for breaking the rules and defying the norm, and that is why he is taught and studied…his exceptions, not his submissions.  In fact, in our current society, he would probably be ostracized for his adherence to his believes and unflinching integrity and his obstinate, brash personality.  Even late in his own life he was ostracized…having children throw rotten fruit at him on the street, being arrested for vagrancy, and his for his increasing social isolation due to his stubborn and offensive attitude.  It is no surprise that his main source of inspiration was always nature.  Even though his works do not reveal this on the surface through their titles, his journals reveal that his daily walks in the forest was where and when he conjured his ideas.

2. Rules are Stupid:

This brings me around to the point of sharing my thoughts.  I have been told by everyone around me, that I am bound by my employment, bound geographically.  Even if that has caged me into less of a fulfilled life than I demand for myself.  I have recently broken these rules and moved away, far away…to the top of a mountain.  When I was a lost and searching 12 year-old, I was permanently inspired and shaped by Fredrick Nietzsche’s Thus Sparch Zarathustra.  This fictional tale describes a thinker/poet who was not a part of the norm of society.  He chose to live in on a mountain-top, away from society, to regain spiritual and personal clarity.  When he returns to society ten years later, his impressions are profound.  It is no coincidence that Nietzsche’s selected name for this character “Zarathustra” is a pun on the word “Zoroastrian”, which is the name of the first mono-theistic sect in recorded history (that either Nietzsche or myself are aware of), and is an obvious illumination of the conflict between mono-theistic divinity and the natural order of our world.  So I have finally rejoined my 12 year-old self.  I have become Zarathustra, and have claimed my mountain-top.

3. Rules are Stupid:

As I embark upon a collaboration with fellow Catalysis Projects artist Quintain Ana Wikswo, I am reminded of the natural element in art.   We are creating a work that from my end is to be titled “Pastoral”, which is the evocation of nature.  This is not a literal depiction of natural images, that feat is only for God or Satan.  Instead, this is a symbolist portrayal of my internal feelings that arise when submerged in, or deprived of, nature.  From here upon my Zarathustrian mountain-top, my Beethovian artistic sensibility is free to roam.  Quintain is similarly progressing into nature.  She is creating her part of this work from the Catskill mountain range in New York.  Our two works are to collide into a third work, either unifying peacefully, or as Beethoven said “lying back to back, like two grizzly bears in a cave, unwilling to fight or to merge but somehow coexisting and informing one another”.

Like Zarathustra and Beethoven, we are adults and artists, we are exceptions to society, we do not need rules.

Noah Purifoy and the psychology of bricolage

11 Jul

NOTES FROM THE STUDIO – Catalysis Projects’ Core Artist Kim Ye makes a visit to the desert and muses on the psychology of found objects in art.

A couple weeks ago, I ventured out to the Mojave desert with friend/artist Thinh Nguyen for a visit to fellow CP’er Deborah Martin home/studio. While scouting possible locations for a project proposal for High Desert Test Sites we made a visit to the Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Art Museum of Assemblage Sculpture. Off a poorly marked dirty road, we pulled up to 2.5 acres of sculptures and installations suggestive of a post-apocalyptic amusement park. Giant monuments, stage sets, and elaborate scenarios fashioned from toilets, old clothing, scrap metal, foam, and other discarded, scavenged, and generally devalued materials haunt the arid landscape; wandering through, between, and into the structures, I had the eerie feeling of being alone in a crowd, as if my body were being displaced by the collective force of a culture’s material products.

In reading about Purifoy’s work, much of its conceptual underpinnings are traced back to Dadaist ideals of assemblage and the readymade, and the folk art aesthetic of using cheap, everyday materials to make works that are tied to the maker’s personal history. Accordingly, much of the discourse surrounding Purifoy contextualizes his work by emphasizing its relationship to natural processes of erosion and decay, its attempt to break free of modernist straight-line aesthetics, the artist’s political choice of using junked and scavenged materials, and his personal history as a African American artist and art educator in Los Angeles.  While all these factors may be relevant to a historical/contextual reading of the work, linking Purifoy’s formal choices to a commentary on inequality and urban blight seems like a neat and easy place to stop—conveniently collapsing the work onto the body of the artist. As an artist working with found and scavenged materials myself, I wonder if a more psychological reading of the bricolage process can be generative for thinking about works like these, allowing meaning to be made without having to rely on Dada or revert to romantic old hat like “art is all around us”.

According to an essay by Anna Dezeuze, the word bricolage was first theorized by anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss in 1962. Referring to a DIY process of making objects out of odds and ends or with quick-n-dirty solutions, bricolage comes from the verb “to tinker” or “to fiddle”—and the figure of the bricoleur can be likened to that of the mad-scientist, amateur, or hobbyist. The term is also used in biology and information technology to talk about structures that are cobbled together or built from the bottom up, such as biological organisms and strategic information systems. Like Levi R. Bryan I believe that bricolage is a type of methodology, a model of engagement with the world, rather than a formal category within the visual arts. The idea of using pre-existing materials acquired through collecting and scavenging mirrors for me a kind of mental process which depends on, glens from, and recombines (both consciously and unconsciously) information disseminated via cultural memes and direct interpersonal contact. It is an acknowledgement of the real material constraints that shape our desires, and behaviors.

In an era of increasingly dematerialized art practices, it may seem regressive to use the discarded remnants of corporate, mass-produced materials. Perhaps such a material-based practice can be read as being complicit with the structures of advanced capitalism, producing beauty out of its products even as they no longer serve their original function. Or even more cynically, that the artist–through an act of diversion–is literally turning trash into gold, aligning him/herself with the position of the industrialist.

But something doesn’t feel right about this reading. Not only does it give no consideration to the experience or position of the scavenger, but it also denies the existence of any imprint that previous owners leave on the object in question after it leaves the factory. As in the case of many scavenged items, there is a long period of time after its original purchase that it slips out of the commodity state and becomes a physical component of a person or family’s life. It functions as a domestic object, fulfilling a need or desire for the home in which it resides, but at some point, it no longer fulfills the desires, or somehow fails to contain the needs or expectations placed upon it by its owner, and is cast off into the street, where someone like me picks it up.

It is this string of desire/non-desire, and the evolution from preciousness to worthlessness that I find most interesting about the role of found objects in my current practice.  In a sense, objects are abandoned when there is the sense that no one can project onto it, that it is so used up and broken that it is impossible for anyone to identify with it at that point. The item is not taken to a donation center or even a junkyard, it is simply left outside—as if an immediate split had occurred which quarantined it from the rest of the home. I find something deeply psychologically compelling about this exchange of abandonment and salvage—almost as if one person’s shame corresponded perfectly with another’s fetish. In this way, the process of re-appropriating found materials is not about chance, it is about the negotiation of individual fantasy within shared material landscapes.

    Kim Ye, Gold Digging, 2011

Kim Ye, Surrogacy, 2011

Exploring in Novels and Music

8 Jul
 NOTES FROM THE STUDIO:  Catalysis Projects’ Core Composer Veronika Krausas muses about the similarities of traveling and exploring in novels, on land, and in musical composition.

Space… the Final Frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before…

The reason I bring up Star Trek, not because I’m a trekkie, although I loved the new movie with the cameo by Leonard Nimoy (always a hero – logical and mathematical) and did watch the series as a kid (Kirk, Spock, Bones, Scottie and the gang always kicked ass, just like Batman and Robin except in space), it’s the quote from the beginning of the show/film etc. that pertains to my blog this month.  …to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations…

Right now I’m in the middle of two things:  I’m reading Embassytown, the newest work by one of my favorite authors, China Miéville and I’m writing a new piece.  Interestingly they both have something  in common – the process of acclimatization.

Miéville’s novel is set in the future and humans have colonized a distant planet, home to the enigmatic Ariekei, sentient beings famed for a language unique in the universe, one that only a few altered human ambassadors can speak.

Diving into this novel is like arriving in a new city or starting a new piece.  There is little or no familiarity with things:  understanding the syntax of new words and ideas, the new streets and buildings, or the harmonic language of a new composition.  Your legs feel wobbly; your brain is in overtime to make connections and link concepts, ideas, notes, street names!

As the story progresses with these unknown words and concepts—that are slowly revealed or you have to work out for yourself—there’s a level of comfort reached when the comparisons turn to understanding. It’s like learning a new language – constantly translating words to English until they attain the status of becoming their own entity without being a comparison or needing a definition anymore.

I think about explorers first encountering a new culture and new language and new everything!   There was movie called the 13th Warrior a few years back and what I remember about this movie is one brilliant scene when the hero (I think Antonio Banderas) was thrown into a group of Vikings (or some bearded types) and didn’t speak their language.  It showed his progression of recognizing and understanding individual words and over time grouping them into sentences, and then into meaning.  I loved the way that the writers didn’t just assume everyone spoke English in Medieval Europe.  So it’s a process of acclimatization.

With writing novels (I’m assuming) or music (which I know) it’s the creation of a new universe and even in that creation there’s the period of acclimatization for your own internal understanding.  This is a tough period and often very elusive – nothing makes sense in your brain and very unrelated and strange things achieve great importance (such as the sudden need to clean behind the fridge).

Getting over that hump is a great relief and then links are made more easily and naturally (and who cares what’s behind the fridge … you can’t see it anyway!)

Interview with Chris Kallmyer

27 Jun

INTERVIEW BY ISAAC SCHANKLER.  Back in April Chris Kallmyer invited the ensemble TempWerks (Casey Anderson, Scott Cazan, Andrew Tholl and me) to perform in FERMENT[cheese], a concert and cheese tasting event at the Berkeley Art Museum.  (You can see video of it here.)  Since then I’ve wanted to ask him a few questions about his practice, which crosses so many interdisciplinary lines — as a performer, composer and sound artist he’s just as likely to be influenced by architecture or the outdoors as something of musical origin.  Additionally, Chris is the Curator of Sound Programming for the Machine Project.  Chris, thanks for letting me interview you! -IS


One of the things I really enjoyed about FERMENT (and that I’ve noticed about your music in general) was the sense of place/space — both in the sense of how it really utilized the unique qualities of the space and how it evoked a really strong sense of (an altogether different kind of) place.  I wonder what role you see place/space having in your music and how it affects your creative process.

Usually, I don’t create music before I visit and try to understand the space/place.  When I spend time sitting in an architecture or environment I begin to get a sense of what sounds I’d like to hear there — or what sounds will best expose the nature of that space to a listener.  Conversely, with a project like FERMENT, I’d like to graft the sense of one place or tradition (cheese making) onto the present space (the environment at the Berkeley Art Museum).  Focusing on place, is another way for me to focus on the present moment.

More recently, you wrote a giant piece for 100+ musicians that was part of the Northern Spark Festival in Minneapolis.  Are the things you write “bound” to specific places somehow?   What happens if that piece then happens in another place?  Is the music you make in California somehow qualitatively different from the kind you make in Minnesota?

Most of the things I create are bound to a space — but can be moved and altered to better fit different environments.  For a piece like FERMENT[cheese], I had already done two versions in the past, a six-channel rendition for Machine Project, and one with three home stereos for the Little William Theater (a coatroom at the Hammer Museum). Both of these versions were too active for the resonant space in Berkeley, so the project got redesigned into a two-channel (8 speaker) installation built from Max/MSP.  Furthermore, I wanted to invite [TempWerks] to perform inside the installation, and had to create version with room for the group.

I try to create music that is specific to context.  So, if the piece is created for Minneapolis, I’d like to use local musicians, local resources (the Mississippi river), although I fully recognize that I’m also tied back to my own aesthetic — so I’m afraid that my Minneapolis music (although inspired by, and created for that place) may have aspects similar to other works I’ve done recently.

Has your experience curating for Machine Project affected your practice in any way, unanticipated or deliberate?

I think it has.  I now think more about design, and how people interact with sound or an event.  In an unanticipated way, I’ve become fairly obsessed with creating site-specific design prompts – and because of this, have had a hard time developing projects that can easily tour from one space to the next.   But then again: this is an issue with design!  To tour, I need to create a project that fits in a suitcase, and would work in the average gallery setting.

I also kinda believe that composing is curating on a micro level.

The LA Times once said of one of your compositions, “not everyone would call this music.”  Dare I ask what your reaction or response is to a statement like that?

Ha! I think it is a great quote.

I hope to bring my music closer to the sounds we experience every day . . . so I run a risk that people will see my music as abstract or mundane.  But music should be mundane — like life.  I like sounds that are earthly, rough shorn and chaotic — but also beautiful and clear at times.  When people stumble into one of my pieces they often don’t know how to engage with it, or don’t know its going on.  This discovery of sound opens them to see it in different ways, or to fully ignore the piece!   People are welcome to do either.  Both are valid.

Well, and you present music in situations where you might not expect to find it otherwise.  Is this because you’re not satisfied with the traditional concert hall ritual experience?

Despite my usual mood about traditional concert ritual, I secretly love it.  I didn’t grow up going to see classical music, so its still very exotic, exciting, and fulfilling to me.  There is something very essential about sharing a sound with another person: sitting across from a musician in a comfortable environment, giving the gift of attention, and receiving a graciously prepared performance.  This form has lasted for thousands of years from early story telling to the present time.  I just think most of our performances are equally handicapped by this ritual, or limited arena for listening.  Our experimental music is presented in a traditional context, and I think we should experiment with the ‘container’ of our performances — and let each new environment or context dictate the music we play.

It seems to me you had a pretty roundabout path to being a composer, too.

I did have a bit of a roundabout path!

I used to play in an indie rock band in Washington DC, where I grew up in the Maryland suburbs.   I then went to music school to study trumpet where I heard classical music for the first time.  This was a huge.  Mahler, Strauss, Reich, Reiley, Bach, Machaut, etc. . .  I dropped my Music Education degree to prepare myself as an orchestral trumpet player.  I spent some time in northern Italy where I studied more trumpet, prepared for auditions, and played with orchestras passing through our small town of Alba (like the Romanian Symphony and the Orchestra della Valle d’Aosta).  I had a great time (wine, coffee, food, culture), but was totally miserable playing with these groups!  There was no sense of community, or camaraderie — so i quit doing that and applied to CalArts to study new music as a performer.  While at CalArts, I stumbled upon the writings of John Cage, James Tenney, R Murray Schafer, etc. . . and consequently began to compose dispersed works for brass musicians and car horns in our parking lot. In 2008, I started working with Machine Project on site-specific works for elevators, igloos, coatrooms, and bison dinners.

I’ve become comfortable with my hybrid practice as a trumpet player, sound artist, and curator.   In Los Angeles, I can fulfill all parts of my practice, collaborating with my peers on new projects, participating in the experimental music community, and working with local collectives like Machine Project and wild Up.

OK, thanks!  One last stupid question.  What is your favorite animal?

Right now, I’m very fond of cows.  Jersey cows.

Narrow Lands Production: Deborah Martin Notes from the Studio

21 Jun

This NOTES FROM THE STUDIO column features CP Core Artist Deborah Martin,  a contemporary realist painter, fine art photographer and curator. Visit her work online here.


The Drawer 36 x 36″

Oil on Canvas

I am in a painting frenzy working on 10 paintings that will be shipped out to Cape Cod, MA in mid July. While I attended the Museum School of Fine Arts in Boston, I used to frequent Provincetown. Duirng one of my visits to Provincetown, I spent the night in the very house that several of the paintings and poems from this exhibit are based on. The house has since been abandoned. I actually had forgotten that I had slept in the house-with a gang of girls (strewn about on the floor.) The memory came back to me later while working on the selection of images for this series. I have made a complete circle.

NARROW LANDS is an ongoing multidisciplinary collaborative project between CP Core Artists Quintan Ana Wikswo and Deborah Martin. For any one living on the East Coast anywhere near Provincetown-I hope you will have a chance to see this exhibit.

Here’s a note from the press release:

Martin’s sea bleached and dusty-colored paintings exist in intimate conversation with Wikswo’s spare, sensual prose poems, yielding poignant and often enticing portraits of Provincetown buildings and the women who live and love within them.

Together, the works inhabit a uniquely Provincetown landscape, forming a powerful meditation on human erosion, transformation and renewal, and a powerful encounter with the Cape itself.

The fine art book NARROW LANDS: Paintings and Prose Poems has been published by CATALYSIS PROJECTS, and will be available in hardback and paperback.

Here is a preview of one of Quintan Ana Wikswo’s Poems that will be part of the upcoming exhibition and Narrow Lands Book.


by Quitnan Ana Wikswo

The veins on the back of her hand a delta, veins swollen and exposed. Under the nails – dulled and chipped – oyster shells nibbled in hopes of reaching the meat.

On her wrist, split blood vessels hunched and sharp as sea nettles.

Her nose arches over her long neglected mouth, and a dangling brown braid locked tight against the salt and moisture of the coast.

She wishes she’d been born looking like this, some fierce seafaring Venus sprung from a whale, split asunder and screaming on the shore.

But instead she’s grown this way, and slowly.

Slow enough to notice.

Hamper 36 x 36″

Oil on Canvas

This is a painting I am working on titled Hamper. I  have yet to tackle this hamper which is still outlined here in Pencil.

All three of the images included in this blog post are based on the house in Provincetown I made reference to. I hear that the house is owned by Penny and Chuck who are residents of Provincetown. My dear friend Linnie relayed that she ran into Penny and Chuck and had told them about these paintings coming to Provincetown. I wonder if they will come to the opening. As I write this I am thinking how strange this all is and how somehow we are all connected…

The Narrow Lands exhibit opens August 5th -24th, 2011 (opening reception  Friday August 5,  6-9pm) at The Patty Deluca Gallery in Provincetown, MA (courtesy of The School House Gallery.)

The work will be on display at The School House Gallery opening Labor day weekend September 2-21st, 2011 (with an opening reception on Friday Sept 2 7-10pm.)

Hanger 36 x 36″

Oil on Canvas

A Love Song for the Last Bookstore in Los Angeles

9 Jun

NOTES FROM THE STUDIO – Catalysis Projects’ Core Artist Quintan Ana Wikswo waxes passionate for the charms and magic of The Last Bookstore, a pleasure dome of literary delights in downtown Los Angeles.

Consider this a love song for the Last Bookstore in Los Angeles – but wait, it’s not what you’re thinking. This is no tragic love song for the disappearing anachronism of the Los Angeles bookseller. No. This is a joyful, jubilant falling-in-love song for a used bookstore called “The Last Bookstore,” – a funhouse xanadu, a valhalla nirvana that despite all odds is located in Los Angeles, rather than belle epoque Budapest, Barcelona, Mexico City, or London. It’s the boulevard of dreams-come-true that invites us on an expedition of cerebral stimulations.

If somewhere within you dwells a misrecollected pink, this will tickle it.

If there is a seventh gear for jubilation, here is where you shall shift into it.

Look at it this way: Gertrude Stein has brought you to a magical attic of succulents, birdcages, faux-taxidermy wooly mastodons, where the tufted charms of Henry Miller’s seductively tattered Chesterfield seduces you to recline, indolent, whilst dragging on a contraband Chesterfield – you are wrapped in a rapt ardor amidst the precise sort of hazy spectral ambience that drives a Bronte to orgasm. Now it’s yours. If you can’t hallucinate your way through the halcyon literary lexicon of 1930s Paris, Lisbon, Buenos Aires, Saigon or Prague, you can come here.

A lifetime could vanish happily amidst these spendiferous stacks of books. You’ll emerge, bespectacled and blinking, equally conversant with antimatter spaceships orEdwardian ghosts. You will have books in your hand, and you will feel transcendent.

And even better for me, it’s downstairs from my studio, on the ground floor of the inimitably noir-ish Spring Arts Tower, a 1923 structure by the renown architect John Parkinson located at the corner of 5th and Spring, in downtown Los Angeles…a semi-hidden gem of a building dense with affordable artist studios. I ask you: how often is a writer’s studio located directly above three thousand ingeniously-curated, spookily perfect used books that is also an enticing timespace portal to various mecca of literary avant-garde culture? Never. Now you understand why this is a love song. A very ecstatic love song.

If you live anywhere near Los Angeles, do your body, mind, heart and soul a favor – hie thyself to the corner of 5th and Spring downtown, and enter the wonderland that is The Last Bookstore. It is a phantasmagoric delight for the eyes, the cerebral cortex, and the human heart.

The space itself is monumental in design and execution with an eye for quirky, sultry, brooding steampunk magnificence, with a kick of lighthearted quirk.

This is a place to dwell for hours, if not days, fully enthralled.

Waiting for you are thousands of books in angled cases. They lurk and waltz and careen and impose themselves upon your best self beneath an ornate vaulted 1920s ceiling, where the visitor would be unsurprised to see the Hindenburg, Poe’s

hanging bats, or Fred Astaire dancing on the ceiling.

At each stack, I expected to haggle with Borges over a book of Margaret Bourke-White photos. Or flirt with Mina Loy about Patti Smith’s Horses CD.

This is an Angeleno pantheon  to that uncommon variety of epic literary grandeur we find only in our fantasies. This is less a bookstore than a portal into a transcendent palace of literature, a resplendent temple to the word. Its ambiance befits a cathedral to the written word – commerce seems an afterthought (which is why all of us must visit it, with a few dollars in our pockets).

The Last Bookstore presents a dazzlingly shabby, majestically mythical old world intellectual playfulness that so often seems to elude Los Angeles. Go here when you feel that all hope is lost. Go here when you feel you were born in the wrong time, the wrong place, with the wrong dreams and impractical ambitions that lean more towards poetics than plastic surgery scars. This is a place to forget what’s irrelevant and remember why you were born: there’s a suspension of mundanity happening here, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there is more than a little magic going down. Something holy and enchanted.

In this cranial pleasure dome there is more to love than what meets the eye: the curation of the books themselves seems to inspire paranoia in every visitor: how did they know about my favorite books? My first five minutes yielded works by Jack Spicer, Mallarme, Anne Waldman, Paul Celan, and even the poet Giuseppe Ungaretti‘s works…in Italian. My beating heart henceforth shakes the building.

A few hours later, my studio assistant returned bearing a stack of vintage classic horror stories and fairy tales. Later that evening, the filmmaker leaving my studio after helping me on some video installations reported bliss at discovering a trove of beloved children’s books that would later leave his nephews in paroxysms of delight.

We were all experiencing literary paroxysms of the most delightful kind.

Please, my dear ones, bring your raw and bleeding heart in your hands, the nooks and crannies of your long-forgotten chimeras that say, why isn’t there anywhere to go in Los Angeles where I can simply read a book, and feel my skin shiver with delight in the polysyllabic written word, in goose-fleshed jubilation that our cave dwelling ancestors once learned to put grunt to charcoal and sketch out some marks with meaning. Words. We have them here, they abound and resound. They’re at The Lost Bookstore, on sale cheap. Go. Go. Go.

Learn more about Quintan Ana Wikswo here, or read her most recent short story here, in Gulf Coast journal.

The Ultimate Match

7 Jun

New Work by CP visual artist Kim Ye in collaboration with director Jeff Jenkins

What are the ideological underpinnings that govern romantic attraction and partner selection, and who is in the position to influence such personal preferences? In The Ultimate Match, a collaborative project between commercial director Jeff Jenkins of ContagiousLA and myself, we attempt to prod at this question with a 60-second satirical commercial. Some of the issues we were thinking about during the creation of this video include the redirection of personal desire,  construction of “the power couple”, Asian fetish, whiteness, eugenics, fetishism, politics of reproduction, implicit vs. explicit, and the economics of pairing.

The Ultimate Match from kim ye on Vimeo.

REVIEW: Microtextual at the Microfest 2011 concert series

5 Jun


Catalysis Projects

April 16, 2011

MiMoDa Studio, Los Angeles

Review by CP composer Veronika Krausas

One of my favorite things is bilingual poetry books – English on the right side and the original on the left.  Sometimes it’s a foreign language I understand but often not. Still, it makes me feel a little bit like a traveler to an exotic place – comparing the alternate versions.  It feels like a magical and secret world that is private and I’m opening up a little cabinet of wonders to enjoy and watch sparkle. 

CP’s MicroTextual, curated by Aron Kallay, for me was just like that – a land of wonder, from the moment you walked into MiMoDa.  The space was transformed to an art exhibit with soft lighting and mysterious scrolls hanging from the ceiling and paper-origami-poof lamps  (my term) and a super cool vibe.  This concert featured many of the Catalysis Projects artists and what a collection of creativity and performances it was.

The reason I bring up bilingual poetry books is that the work of Quintan Wikswo is a 3-D version but so much more.   Her ‘cabinet of wonders’ included two wonderful works combining her texts with sublimely beautiful video footage.  They’re from her Floriography collection:  Floriography I (Coimbra 1541) and Floriography II (Bavaria 1543).  Her term is a “diptych of text-integrated video installation.”  

Wikswo "Floriography"







On the back wall, in amongst the mostly red images floated text, in English, while Rafael Liebich read, as an echo, the same text in Portuguese, with trombonist Matt Barbier playing a microtonal composition by David Rosenboom.  In the second work, the texts were read in Hebrew to a soundscape of flies and frogs.  These pieces were a visual realization of bilingual poetry books.


Starting the program was the amazing Honey, Milk and Blood, a collaboration by composer Isaac Schankler and visual artist Kim Ye, inspired by the ideas of Serbian-American inventor Nikola Tesla.  The scrolls were explained – they were functional art!  It was the score for the dozen singers, dressed in off-white flowing clothes.  The soprano soloist Andrea Zomorodian was herself a sculpture, a kinetic sculptures by Ye, a mermaid plant with a long root carried out by her attendants.  LOVED the music, LOVED the kinetic sculptures – it was the first sparkle opening up the cabinet of wonders.


And what microtonal concert would be complete without some quintessential Harry Partch, the grandfather of American microtonal music?  The Barstow:  Eight Hitchhikers’ Inscriptions by Partch was brilliantly performed by baritone and guitarist John Schneider, one of the co-directors of the Microfest series this year and Aron Kallay on chromelodeon.  

The second half of the concert started with a minimal and very serene work by Cat Lamb, The Field (for Agnes)There was a world premiere by Jeffrey Holmes, Fragments for soprano and piano.  The vocal line is more of a chant or what Holmes calls “a spell” in a series of images that use text from a variety of anonymous Latin sources. It was a Teutonic saga full of rich harmonies and virtuoso piano writing.  The virtuoso piano part was expertly performed by CP member and organizer of the whole evening pianist Aron Kallay

Holmes: Fragments

The most amazing thing about this piece was visual and completely accidental. I just happened to be lucky enough to be sitting in the exact spot to notice – Katherine Giaquinto, the singer was standing in a spot that when I looked in the mirror on the opposite wall, her body was replaced by the reflection of one of those paper-origami-poof lamps.  This alternate body was like another sculpture by Kim Ye and added to the chant-like Latin text’s magical and removed quality.

The concert concluded with Luminenscence, a gorgeous work by this year’s other co-director of Microfest, Bill Alves.  In his program notes Alves writes:

… an oton [is] a ritual that is performed 210 days after the birth of a child when the baby’s feet touch the earth for the first time. Before that time she is considered still too close to the realm of the gods to be allowed to touch the ground. The only music at this ceremony came from the chanting of the officiating priest and the small bell whose sounds he wafted to the fascinated baby’s ears.  Those chants, or mantra, are … a way of tuning oneself to the vibrations of the universe. These are in a very real sense the sounds of the transition from the celestial to the terrestrial world.

The singers now changed from white to black – from light to dark – balancing the visual and aural in the concert, touching the audience’s feet to the ground.  The whole evening was a wonderfully surreal and dreamlike experience.


If you, like me, love bilingual poetry books – definitely check out The Madness of Amadis by Jean Cassou, translated by Timothy Adès  (Agenda Editions).  Cassou (1897-1986), was a war-time Resistance leader, created France’s National Museum of Modern Art, and a poet!  It’s wonderful poetry and a brilliant and sensitive translation.

PS #2

The concert was part of the Microfest Concert series that started in LA in by the fabulous John Schneider in 1997.