April 18, 2017

Beach Culture in Tenerife

I’ve been chilling on Tenerife’s beaches for the past days. A hot Sahara wind made it impossible to move much further than from my beach towel to the sea and back. A cultural critic is of course never really on vacation, even when it’s on the beach. Here a few of my observations about beach culture in Tenerife: 

- To go to the beach you need a bikini with frays. 

- It’s cool to have your kid’s face tattooed on your belly. Or at least show off one tattoo somewhere around your lower part.

- It’s okay to show tits on the beach but the pussy has to be hidden from view. So keep your bikini bottoms on but try to minimise the surface it covers. 

- It’s easier to think about being positive while chilling on the beach. My neighbor was reading Ser Positivo and looked quite happy doing so. 

- I remember the blue cool boxes from when I was little in Belgium. Very comforting to see they are still in business. Tenerifian people use them to bring their paella to the beach. 

- There’s a thing like semi-G-Strings in Tenerife, so my friend pointed out to me. It consists of putting your bikini bottom in your bum crack. 

- It’s good to have your flip-flops on when you walk that short stretch from your beach towel to the sea over a 33 degrees heated black sanded beach. 

- Music bands come to play in Tenerife as an end of career when they no longer get invited somewhere else. Like Aerosmith playing on July 8. This I found out on my way to the beach.

April 10, 2017

Documenta 14, Athens in Four Words by Kasper König

Yesterday I bumped into Kasper König at Hamburger Bahnhof. He was looking fresh and suntanned, even wearing a summery hat. He just arrived back from Athens, so he told me. How was it? I asked him. He was so nice to give me a one-sentence summary: "Viel Politik, wenig Ästhetik." (a lot of politics, little aesthetics). 

April 9, 2017

Celebrating 100 Years of Marcel Duchamp's Fountain and Questioning Masculinity

Today is the celebration of 100 years of Marcel Duchamp's Fountain and as a little inside action (although, not so inside since it was reported about in the newspaper), people could get in for free at a few museums worldwide if they said the password "R. Mutt". For the occasion M. of the Walther König Bookstore at Hamburger Bahnhof sold between 3 and 4pm this afternoon Marcel Duchamp books at the men's bathroom, or the "Herrentoilette" as they put it so nicely in German. I think it would have been cooler if the event had been inside the bathroom right next to the pissoirs. I would have liked to check it out. Actually, I don't even know if there are any pissoirs in the men's bathroom. Isn't a pissoir a very 20th century thing? I mean, why would men have two possibilities to pee and women only one, right? In the 21st century such gender inequality is no longer in vogue. Wouldn't it have been sooooooo cool if Hamburger Bahnhof for the birthday of the Fountain had opened its first unisex toilet?! Duchamp was very queer - he would have loved it! What about it, Mr. Kittelmann? 

By the way, in the bookstore I bought the newest book by Grayson Perry, titled The Descent of Man. It starts with a nice quote by Gloria Steinem: "The truth will set you free. But first it will piss you off." The topic happens to fit perfectly with what I addressed above. "Examining masculinity," so Grayson Perry, "can seem like a luxury problem, a pastime for a wealthy, well-educated peaceful society, but I would argue the opposite: the poorer, the more underdeveloped, the more uneducated a society is, the more masculinity needs realigning with the modern world, because masculinity is holding back that society. All over the globe, crimes are committed, wars are started, women are being held back, and economies are disastrously  distorted by men, because of their outdated version of masculinity."

April 4, 2017

Random Stories about Cabin Porn and Pizza

Not everything has to be about art, na? Life is also funny in the subway, the park and in the pizza place around the corner:

In the subway, the man next to me takes out a book titled Cabin Porn. Intrigued, I scan the page he’s opening up but can’t detect any naked ladies in the pictures of the wooden cabins. The pornographic part must be happening in the head of the beholder, I’m suspecting, throwing a curious glance at my neighbor's face.

I’m at a pizza place to eat just a slice of pizza but they tell me they have no longer any left. “We only have round pizzas tonight”, so the salesperson. 

When a man enters in the subway car, another one almost jumps up from his seat, then calms down and says to the man: “Du siehst aus wie ein Kontrolleur” (you look like a ticket controller). 

Somebody told me that he’s in need of memory chips. I can’t remember who told me that but I thought it was funny and now it gets even funnier because I’m also apparently in need of some extras.  

Girl knitting in the park, halfway through her scarf, asks her mother: ‘Für wenn soll das dann etwas werden?” (Who’s this gonna be for?) 

April 2, 2017

Dana Schutz' Painting: Cultural Appropriation and White Art Critics

I've been thinking about the Dana Schutz' Open Casket painting the last two weeks and here some of my thoughts: 

- Aesthetics: Why does nobody talk about aesthetics?  Dana Schutz’ painting is aesthetically a bad painting. And not good bad, but bad bad. 

- Cultural appropriation: reading Roberta Smith (who leaves it out all the way, she just doesn’t even mention it) and others, it seems that a lot of white art critics ignore cultural appropriation, the fact that because of history and current contexts, white people should keep their hands off certain topics - it’s just not theirs to deal with. But white people can’t seem to accept to have their so-called “freedom” limited - that’s when they call for Enlightenment, which was based on taking the freedom away of other people, just not of the whites. White people’s freedom on the expense of others. What kind of freedom is that?

- White criminals: If Dana Schutz is interested in the violence done by racists, why doesn’t she paint white criminals who did the racists deeds - would that be too uncomfortable, too much about her own white race than about the pain of “others”? Nicer to depict the victims, more comfortable repeating the stereotype of black victims? And you can wash your own guilt away? 

- Censorship: the whole uproar about censorship and the comparisons made with nazi times are ridiculous. Hannah Black’s letter is about asking the artist to reflect and then (hopefully) to accept the painting is damaging and has to be removed, and this all by her free will because just like in writing, one can change one’s mind upon reflection on the matter, and take something back because one is big enough to contradict oneself.

- Open Casket: an argument I overheard and I think it true: the mother of Emmett Till decided in 1955 to have an open casket, which was very political. But in the different political circumstances of 2017, she probably might have made a different choice. This is exactly what Dana Schutz with her painting in 2017 has no sensibility about. 

- Exoticism: ugh to Dana Schutz argument about how she just wants to emphatize with the pain of the mother. One can't just single out motherhood in this much more complex case. There is this kind of racism that claims to be good. Like the “where are you from?” question when one meets somebody who doesn’t fit one’s framework of who should be living at a certain place: You don’t look like you are from here - you don’t belong here - so where do you belong? but is defended as: I’m good! I’m not a racist! I’m interested in you! 

- Black Critics: what is uplifting about this whole discussion is that black critics are coming up strong with a voice that no longer can be ignored. White artists and critics in the still dominantly white art world better deal with it.