The Chrysler Series

There was once a wonderful musician, who went quite alone through a forest and thought of all manner of things, and when nothing was left for him to think about, he said to himself, “Time is beginning to pass heavily with me here in the forest, I will fetch hither a good companion for myself.” Then he took his fiddle from his back, and played so that it echoed through the trees. It was not long before a wolf came trotting through the thicket towards him. “Ah, here is a wolf coming! I have no desire for him!” said the musician; but the wolf came nearer and said to him, “Ah, dear musician, how beautifully thou dost play. I should like to learn that, too.” “It is soon learnt,” the musician replied, “thou hast only to do all that I bid thee.” “Oh, musician,” said the wolf, “I will obey thee as a scholar obeys his master.” The musician bade him follow, and when they had gone part of the way together, they came to an old oak-tree which was hollow inside, and cleft in the middle. “Look,” said the musician, “if thou wilt learn to fiddle, put thy fore paws into this crevice.” The wolf obeyed, but the musician quickly picked up a stone and with one blow wedged his two paws so fast that he was forced to stay there like a prisoner. “Stay there until I come back again,” said the musician, and went his way.

After a while he again said to himself, “Time is beginning to pass heavily with me here in the forest, I will fetch hither another companion,” and took his fiddle and again played in the forest. It was not long before a fox came creeping through the trees towards him. “Ah, there’s a fox coming!” said the musician. “I have no desire for him.” The fox came up to him and said, “Oh, dear musician, how beautifully thou dost play! I should like to learn that too.” “That is soon learnt,” said the musician. “Thou hast only to do everything that I bid thee.” “Oh, musician,” then said the fox, “I will obey thee as a scholar obeys his master.” “Follow me,” said the musician; and when they had walked a part of the way, they came to a footpath, with high bushes on both sides of it. There the musician stood still, and from one side bent a young hazel-bush down to the ground, and put his foot on the top of it, then he bent down a young tree from the other side as well, and said, “Now little fox, if thou wilt learn something, give me thy left front paw.” The fox obeyed, and the musician fastened his paw to the left bough. “Little fox,” said he, “now reach me thy right paw” and he tied it to the right bough. When he had examined whether they were firm enough, he let go, and the bushes sprang up again, and jerked up the little fox, so that it hung struggling in the air. “Wait there till I come back again,” said the musician, and went his way.

Again he said to himself, “Time is beginning to pass heavily with me here in the forest, I will fetch hither another companion,” so he took his fiddle, and the sound echoed through the forest. Then a little hare came springing towards him. “Why, a hare is coming,” said the musician, “I do not want him.” “Ah, dear musician,” said the hare, “how beautifully thou dost fiddle; I too, should like to learn that.” “That is soon learnt,” said the musician, “thou hast only to do everything that I bid thee.”

“Oh, musician,” replied the little hare, “I will obey thee as a scholar obeys his master.” They went a part of the way together until they came to an open space in the forest, where stood an aspen tree. The musician tied a long string round the little hare’s neck, the other end of which he fastened to the tree. “Now briskly, little hare, run twenty times round the tree!” cried the musician, and the little hare obeyed, and when it had run round twenty times, it had twisted the string twenty times round the trunk of the tree, and the little hare was caught, and let it pull and tug as it liked, it only made the string cut into its tender neck. “Wait there till I come back,” said the musician, and went onwards.

The wolf, in the meantime, had pushed and pulled and bitten at the stone, and had worked so long that he had set his feet at liberty and had drawn them once more out of the cleft. Full of anger and rage he hurried after the musician and wanted to tear him to pieces. When the fox saw him running, he began to lament, and cried with all his might, “Brother wolf, come to my help, the musician has betrayed me!” The wolf drew down the little tree, bit the cord in two, and freed the fox, who went with him to take revenge on the musician. They found the tied-up hare, whom likewise they delivered, and then they all sought the enemy together.

The musician had once more played his fiddle as he went on his way, and this time he had been more fortunate. The sound reached the ears of a poor wood-cutter, who instantly, whether he would or no, gave up his work and came with his hatchet under his arm to listen to the music. “At last comes the right companion,” said the musician, “for I was seeking a human being, and no wild beast.” And he began and played so beautifully and delightfully that the poor man stood there as if bewitched, and his heart leaped with gladness. And as he thus stood, the wolf, the fox, and the hare came up, and he saw well that they had some evil design. So he raised his glittering axe and placed himself before the musician, as if to say, “Whoso wishes to touch him let him beware, for he will have to do with me!” Then the beasts were terrified and ran back into the forest. The musician, however, played once more to the man out of gratitude, and then went onwards.

There’s a certain grain of stupidity that an artist can hardly do without, and this is the quality of having to stare, of not getting the point at once. The longer you look at one object, the more of the world you see in it, and it’s well to remember that the serious artist always makes stuff about the whole world, said someone with a big head stone. I can’t remember who. Morandi was certainly dumb about his bottles. And John Smith, not a strict monogamist like Morandi, also seems a little short-minded about the films he makes. Which is, of course, one of the things we’re over the moon about. “If I’m planning a film I’ll start with one shot, and there won’t be a second unless there’s a reason for it.” Smith said, “Basically, you’re starting with your navel and then moving out from that.” It seems a little perfunctory to bathe Smith’s disparate shorts in the same acid, reducing them down to their constituent parts. Each is it’s own mystery, wordlessly convicted.

Smith lives and works in London. He teaches part-time at the University of East London.

Worst Case Scenario, 2004. 18m
Slow Glass, 1988-91. 40m
Associations, 1975. 7m
Girl Chewing Gum, 1975. 12m
The Black Tower, 1985-87. 24m


Nothing but blue-birds and gray pony-tails and your uncle’s hocus-pocus and room sized computers and rocks and sticks and good picnics and a publication there from whose purpose was to egg on the conjuring and living of new forms; the catalog was a rather traditional instrument, no more radical than Sears and Roebuck or Sky Mall, merely attuned to a then new market, the sub-economy of dope and rock a’roll. The catalog functioned from ’68 -’74 as an evaluation and access device. With, it the user knew better what was worth getting and where and how to do the getting. An item was listed in the catalog if it was deemed:

1. Useful as a tool.
2. Relevant to independent education.
3. High Quality or Low Cost.
4. Easily available by mail.

All you have to do is say, ‘it’s like something meets something else but with a twist’ and people will contemplatively dunk their heads up and down. But do they get it? I don’t know if they understand. I don’t know if I understand. It’s real difficult to foot in the land slide of similes. Someone at a party told me recently, ‘Yeah, it’s exactly like Die Hard meets…meets March of the Penguins meets Koyannisqatsi, but with a twist.’ And I inhaled through my nose a few times, deeply, as if to say, I get it.

I’m also guilty of moving away from concreteness with words, and it goes without saying that Los Angeles is by no means alone on this ubiquitous score, but it does seem more pervasive there because people talk in images. Is this just what we do when we are out at the end of our ability with words? Do we put up referents around the thing we are trying to describe? Sign Posts. Vernacular triangles. Picture this. Here it is. Once you go this way, you can just keep walking the perimeter.ĘThe last word is never in.

Mario, I’ve been trying to eat my own critique of this communication tic and deadened language by describing yall’s films with my own irresponsibly issued vernacular triangle, but I came slow to the point that yall’s films already do that responsibly. iEspecially Thom’s films. I mean, Los Angeles Plays Itself, not only is like blank meets blank meets blank with a twist it is blank blank meets blank meeets blank but with a twist (Anyways, I don’t want to overly emphasize this low-wattage epiphany because it seems, for better or worse, that a steady tacit in films, especially art-house stuff, is to be highly referential to the medium or ancestry.)

I’ve always thought that the only trailer you need for a film is your brain. I don’t mean to put up a vocational defense for the impotent P.R. Brat, or pass down the chattel that a picture is worth a thousand words (the price of that phrase is plummeting, I hope), but I think were better off just sitting down in the dark and eschewing surplussage until the films are over.

A screening of:

Mario Pfeifer, Reconsidering The new Industrial Parks near Irvine California, by Lewis Baltz, 1974, 2009. Dual 16mm projections with sound. 13m

Thom Andersen, Get Out of the Car, 2010. 16mm film with sound. 34m

“Beauty in the Forest… Will It Always Be?”
by Bruce and Myra Poundstone.

They don’t date. They could have been written outside the time and place of their origin-but they are a living part of both. If there are certain similarities in his time, kentucky right around the 70’s, right? and yours, Virginia, that strike us when we see them, the significance is other than historical. Though no two generations are very much the same, some hours, perhaps, are; moments are. Emotions are all the same. We are the same. Nature and man, not the day, is the lasting phenomena, I think. Maybe those words have too much bass-nature and man, but you see what I’m digging at. Henry Miller says somewhere that artist are people busy polishing lenses, ready for an event that never happens. That one day the lens will be perfect; and that day we will clearly perceive the stupefying beauty of this world.

Virginia Poundstone will give a lecture her grandfather, Bruce Poundstone, a natrualist, gave on Kentucky’s wildflowers to the Cumberland Chapter of the Sierra Club, entitled ‘Beauty in The Forest, Will it Always Be?’

and “MA students from Dans Och Cirkushogskolan” (Stockholm)
The 15 New Radicalities, A Demonstration

…As far as I can tell ‘Radical’ could mean one who wears white pants before Labor Day just as easily as it could mean ‘the person(s) who infringe on the safety of your beliefs’ or could just as easily be the orgastic term one belches just as they are dropped on their head by Jefferson Airplane, or, I don’t know, could just as easily be the terminilogical Birkenstock or light-weight-bearing coat hook that culutral-health industialists like us use to describe something we haven’t seen the likes of before… It’s a matter of perspective, I think.

Take Braque, that guy spent his life drawing people in profile, so of course, he ended up believeing that men only had one eye. Maybe, approximate terms like ‘Radical’ just mean whatever the camp who says them needs them to mean. The contours of a word flex with geography and time. Three hundred years ago, if you had looked under a hood, you would expect to find a monk. Tommorow, if you looked under a hood, you would expect to find an automobile engine, so here’s my slow-point: what might have once been radical, say like the big chief reaching his jingoistic claw into mom and pop’s desktop no longer seems Radical, it seems like someone coming over and borrowing a few eggs.

Either way, its a minor thing, the word radical. Radical Radical. Radical. Radical. say it a bunch. It’s not so bad. It’s no worse. Major things are wind, the way people choose their kings, the way people get rid of them. Minor things include the names of schools of philosophy, the correct time, the proper pronunciation of ennui…but none of what I’m saying is grounds for not supporting your class. I think indexing ‘NEW Radicality’ is just as heavy an anchor as anything else that holds the wheel. Kids these days got a lot more nerve than we ever did. I never would’ve dreamed of digging up a dead corpse when I was a teen. You might tip over a stone, sure, you might spray paint something on a crypt, you might, you know, give a wino a hot-foot…

Bye for now,

, a retrospective of comics.

‘It was at one of the bookstands outside Gray’s Papaya on West 4th. I was waiting for my friend to get his face fixed. I picked up a copy of Transmissions magazine and started thumbing through it. They looked like Max Ernst collages, but tasted like sucking on batteries. They were mean they named names, and they reminded me of domestic squabbles I’ve heard through the walls of my apartment. They weren’t comics, really. I mean, they didn’t go in one direction like comics do. They roamed in a sort of semantic geometry in which the shortest distance between any two points is a fullish circle. More than comics, they are like a Rosetta Stone, or an aerial-map of an infrastructure and society that by today’s portly standards looked homely. And they’ve got some of that…come let us speak of perfection and get ourselves rather disliked…stuff going for them. I got goofy at the stand when I saw them and the vendor doubled the price without moving his mouth.

I told him to go fuck himself, negotiating strategy I learned from the Richard Pryor laser-disc that my grandmother and I burned-out in her living room.

“Uh-huh,” He said.

“This is junk, man, some 60’s nightlife artifact,” I said.

“Price remains,” He said.

“It’s worthless,” I said.

“Looks priceless from here,” he said.

And just as I was finishing my lengthy indictment of his business practices with, “and furthermore you’ll be the luckiest bastard on the whole blue marble if two wealthy-buzzards from the 60’s come up here with the memory of?,” when two wealthy buzzards from the 60’s, one sligthly older, both laughing their heads off, came up and said, “Owh, Diane, It’s Transmissions! Don’t you remember Transmissions? Owh, Diane, look at it. New York isn’t what it used to be, is it, Diane. Owh, Diane we have to get it. We have to Get it.”

The vendor went ear to ear and brought his face close to mine and said, “Nostalgia is a fucking bestseller here.”

The Chrysler Series is sponsored by Coburn Greenberg Partners.

NEW CITY READER politics section BINNA CHOI DEXTER SINISTER ANTHONY HUBERMAN ANDREAS MÜLLER SNOWDEN SNOWDEN FRANCES STARK STEPHEN SQUIBB AXEL JOHN WIEDER Circular edited by common room, Anne Callahan, Robert Snowden, Stephen Squibb and designed by Geoff Han. Thanks to The Artist’s Institute and Luke Cohen. This circular is published on the occasion of an invitation to contribute as guest editors of the Politics Section of the New City Reader, a newspaper of architecture, information and public space published as part of THE LAST NEWSPAPER an exhibition inspired by the ways artists approach the news, running at the New Museum from October 6, 2010-January 9, 2010. Published from the editorial offices located in the 3rd floor gallery of the New Museum, The New City Reader consists of one edition published over the course of the exhbition with a new section produced weekly by alternative guest editorial teams. common circular 5 will be available at: common room dexter sinister motto brooklyn goethe wyoming building telic arts exchange ooga booga

Donald Barthelme, The Balloon

The balloon, beginning at a point on Fourteenth Street, the exact location of which I cannot reveal, expanded northward all one night, while people were sleeping, until it reached the Park. There, I stopped it; at dawn the northernmost edges lay over the Plaza; the free-hanging motion was frivolous and gentle. But experiencing a faint irritation at stopping, even to protect the trees, and seeing no reason the balloon should be allowed to expand upward, over the parts of the city it was already covering, into the “air space” to be found there, I asked the engineers to see to it. This expansion took place throughout the morning, soft imperceptible sighing of gas through the valves. The balloon then covered forty-five blocks north-south and an irregular area east-west, as many as six crosstown blocks on either side of the Avenue in some places. This was the situation, then.

But it is wrong to speak of “situations,” implying sets of circumstances leading to some resolution, some escape of tension; there were no situations, simply the balloon hanging there — muted heavy grays and browns for the most part, contrasting with the walnut and soft yellows. A deliberate lack of finish, enhanced by skillful installation, gave the surface a rough, forgotten quality; sliding weights on the inside, carefully adjusted, anchored the great, vari-shaped mass at a number of points. Now we have had a flood of original ideas in all media, works ofsingular beauty as well as significant milestones in the history of inflation, but at that moment, there was only this balloon, concrete particular, hanging there.

There were reactions. Some people found the balloon “interesting.” As a response, this seemed inadequate to the immensity of the balloon, the suddenness of its appearance over the city; on the other hand, in the absence of hysteria or other societally-induced anxiety, it must be judged a calm, “mature” one. There was a certain amount of initial argumentation about the “meaning” of the balloon; this subsided, because we have learned not to insist on meanings, and they are rarely even looked for now, except in cases involving the simplest, safest phenomena. It was agreed that since the meaning of the balloon could never be known absolutely, extended discussion was pointless, or at least less purposeful than the activities of those who, for example, hung green and blue paper lanterns from the warm gray underside, in certain streets, or seized the occasion to write messages on the surface, announcing their availability for the performance of unnatural acts, or the availability of acquaintances.

Daring children jumped, especially at those points where the balloon hovered close to a building, so that the gap between balloon and building was a matter of a few inches, or points where the balloon actually made contact, exerting an ever-so-slight pressure against the side of a building, so that balloon and building seemed a unity. The upper surface was so structured that a “landscape” was presented, small valleys as well as slight knolls, or mounds; once atop the balloon, a stroll was possible, or even a trip, from one place to the another. There was pleasure in being able to run down an incline, then up the opposing slope, both gently graded, or in making a leap from one side to the other. Bouncing was possible MAKE THIS BIG, because of the pneumaticity of the surface, or even falling, if that was your wish. That all these varied motions, as well as others, were within one’s possibilities, in experiencing the “up” side of the balloon, was extremely exciting for children, accustomed to the city’s flat, hard skin. But the purpose of the balloon was not to amuse children.

Too, the number of people, children and adults, who took advantage of the opportunities described was not so large as it might have been; a certain timidity, lack of trust in the balloon, was seen. There was, furthermore, some hostility. Because we had hidden the pumps, which fed helium to the interior, and because the surface was so vast that the autorities could not determine the point of entry — that is, the point at which the gas was injected — a degree of frustration was evidenced by those city officers into whose province such manifestations normally fell. The apparent purposelessness of the balloon was vexing (as was the fact that it was “there” at all). Had we painted, in great letters, “LABORATORY TESTS PROVE” or “18% MORE EFFECTIVE” on the sides of the balloon, this difficulty would have been circumvented. But I would not bear to do so. On the whole, these officers were remarkably tolerant, considering the dimensions of the anomaly, this tolerance being the result of, first, secret tests conducted by night that convinced them that little or nothing could be done in the way of removing or destroying the balloon, and, secondly, a public warmth that arose (not uncolored by touches of the aforementioned hostility) toward the balloon, from ordinary citizens.

As a single balloon must stand for a lifetime of thinking about balloons, so each citizen expressed, in the attitude he chose, a complex of attitudes. One man might consider that the balloon had to do with the notion sullied, as in the sentence, The big balloon sullied the otherwise clear and radiant Manhattan sky. That is, the balloon was, in each man’s view, an imposture, something inferior to the sky that had formerly been there, something interposed between the people and their “sky.” But in fact it was January, the sky was dark and ugly; it was not a sky you could look up into, lying on your back in the street, with pleasure, unless pleasure, for you, proceeded from having been threatened, from having been misused. And to the underside of the balloon was a pleasure to look up into, we had seen to that, muted grays and browns for the most part, contrasted with walnut and soft, forgotten yellows. And so, while this man was thinking sullied, still there was an admixture of pleasurable cognition in his thinking, struggling with the original perception.

Another man, on the other hand, might view the balloon as if it were part of a system of unanticipated rewards, as when one’s employer walks in and says, “Here, Henry, take this package of money I have wrapped for you, because we have been doing so well in the business here, and I admire the way you bruise the tulips, without which bruising your department would not be a success, or at least not the success that it is.” For this man the balloon might be a brilliantly heroic “muscle and pluck” experience, even if an experience poorly understood.

Another man might say, “Without the example of –, it is doubtful that — would exist today in its present form,” and find many to agree with him, or to argue with him. Ideas of “bloat” and “float” were introduced, as well as concepts of dream and responsibility. Others engaged in remarkably detailed fantasies having to do with a wish either to lose themselves in the balloon, or to engorge it. The private character of these wishes, of their origins, deeply buried and unknown, was such that they were not much spoken of; yet there is evidence that they were widespread. It was also argued that what was important was what you felt when you stood under the balloon; some people claimed that they felt sheltered, warmed, as never before, while enemies of the balloon felt, or reported feeling, constrained, a “heavy” feeling.

The Chrysler Series is sponsored by Coburn Greenberg Partners.

The Chrysler Series