AN OPEN INVITATION TO THE PUBLIC / 18 NOV

19 Nov

If you live in the bay area, and you are at all interested in joining, or even contributing something to our little beaubourg – we invite you to leave a comment on our Beaubourg 268 blog (below). Beaubourg 268 is located  at the southern periphery of the San Francisco Peninsula. Adjacent to San Francisco State Universiity, the institution’s new home is a modest two story residential building that hopes to attract educators and students alike. The ground floor contains a small garden, sound studio, and outdoor planning areas; the second floor holds a small archive-library, along with lodging accommodations.

Most of the artists and thinkers in Steven Henry Madoff’s new big book, Art School suffer from one of two opposing superstitions: either art schools are the new business schools preparing designers and emerging artists for the real world, or art schools are the new pockets of resistance and reform informing social stakeholders for the real world challenges of global consumer capitalism. As a literary terrorist, one of whose concerns is the future of art school, I sometimes am asked: “Which theoretician should I know?” To their astonishment, I have yet to reply to them with the usual French names: Baudrillard, Deleuze, Derrida, Foucault, etc. Rather, I’ve tended to answer with one of two names: Gina Clark & Robert Hansen.

Gina Clark was born and raised in Southern California. Over the past decade she has worked across a variety of media including performance, film, photography, installation, and curating. Within these practices, the desert-based CalArts graduate has supported the preservation of the innovative and exploratory arts; always mindful of the fact that we are living in an age dominated by Domesticity & Artifice.  Robert Hansen is a sound artist, visual artist, writer and founder of the renowned group Mini Voyeur. From its initial formation, the group was exploring properties in speech, sound and acoustics; all the while, infusing humor in to the concepts of music, memory and logic. Robert has maintained an extended library of recorded audio and video documents created with the help of friends and family.

The newly established Beaubourg 268 will offer the public a series of classes, projects and improvisational “adventures” that remain more or less outside the existing coordinates of art schools such as Cal Arts and Goldsmiths. Under its co-founder Gina Clark, her weekly Carnal Knowledge workshops will stress the emancipatory potential of performance, as it relates to issues as varied as familial piety, animal welfare, and Czech cinema. Students, if they so desire, will have an opportunity to work with Clark’s nonprofit group, Unsichtbar Birnbaum Exploratory. Sound artist Robert Hansen will offer weekly workshops to appreciate the visual arts, through the lens of sound, music, or voice. I will offer bi-monthly ‘Reading’ Slavoj Zizek group seminars to provide theoretical supplement for those emerging artists who desire it. To the degree that art schools can play a “revolutionary” role today, I will attempt to open up a space in which isolated Japanese youths and North Korean defectors can be heard.

As the art teacher John Baldessari put it “[I]f you’re lecturing in a class and there’s a car crash outside, you better bring that car crash into what you’re saying or you’ve lost them.” It is from this perspective that the crucial first step, for us, is to foster an informal classroom environment that treats art as both a past-time and a means for exploration. To the degree that students may indeed require a postpostmodern vocabulary, Beaubourg 268 firmly believes that what students need most is the unconditional permission to use everything in the world, including their own naivete, fears, and desires.

Beaubourg 268 will be comprised with approximately fifteen students from the surrounding area who are diverse in terms of their backgrounds, ages, and aspirations. We invite every one – no matter what your age or artistic background – to participate in the fun. Ideally, we here at the beaubourg want to learn from you as much as you might learn from us. An informal meeting is set for Tuesday, 19 January 2010. The official opening is set for mid-February.

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AN OPEN LETTER TO HOMELAND SECURITY / OCT 25

26 Oct

Dear U.S. Department of Homeland Security, I write to you today on an urgent matter. I received news this morning that several hundred copies of my novel One Break, A Thousand Blows (BookWorks 2008) have been effectively destroyed and likely banned in the United States by US customs, to fulfill CBP’s dual mission of “preventing terrorists and terrorist weapons from entering the United States, while also facilitating the flow of legitimate trade and travel.” I do not want to make any final judgments, as I am not aware of all the facts at the moment; I would immensely appreciate clarification and answers on this issue. So far neither U.S. Customs and Border Protection nor the Department of Homeland Security have been of much help.

According to my editor Stewart Home, two weeks ago “an attempt to sell titles in [his] Semina series at the New York Art Book Fare had descended into farce because the books had been impounded by US customs. Book Works told [him] they’d flown from Europe to America to sell the novels, but ended up manning an empty table. The publications have now disappeared and may have been destroyed; from New York any unsold copies should have gone on to a distributor in Los Angeles, but there is still no sign of them on either the east or west coast. . . . Word on the grapevine is that the Semina books were impounded because a US customs official took a look at [Mark Waugh’s novel] Bubble Entendre and decided it was a blue-print for a terrorist attack on the 2012 Olympic Games.”

What was this official’s name? What was his exact reasoning? If this was indeed the case, why was my novel additionally impounded along with Mark Waugh’s book? One Break, A Thousand Blows has its measure of obscenities, pornography and shock – but nowhere does it justify, let alone condone terrorism. If anything I am a literary terrorist. Moreover, why was Jana Leo’s Rape New York impounded? And why were copies of Bridget Penney’s Index impounded? An innocuous title – no? For myself, Penney’s book was the para-literary equivalent of a Richard Serra masterpiece. How could any one, even a government official, see anything terrorizing in it?

Speculations here abound: my Goldsmiths colleague in London thinks the title itself One Break, A Thousand Blows was too connotative of a terrorist plot. That and the fact that the enigmatic cover was colored Communist red with many depictions of wigs (as in disguises). And it probably didn’t help that at the beginning of the book I quoted a phrase from the Bernadette Corporation: “People want to be someone. But the really exciting challenge is to become no one. And where will you find no ones? In nowhere. Where things are exploding.”

A long pause. On second thought (in a parallax way), I can’t really blame US customs for doing what they ultimately did. I can well imagine an average, naive customs official (let’s imagine him to be completely unaware of the avant-garde) coming across the Semina series – totally baffled, and reading something like Bridget Penney’s Index as a highly elaborate coded index on weapons of mass destruction. If all of this seems a bit farfetched, I hate to think what might really be behind the conspiracy; in a word – censorship.

These days I find myself thinking more and more about Kathy Acker’s Blood and Guts in High School, considered her most popular and best-selling novel – the story is seemingly about Janey Smith, a ten-year-old American girl who has an incestuous sexual relationship with her father, who is also her boyfriend, brother, money, and amusement. Blood and Guts was banned in Germany, and I can’t help but feel that the authorities in New York effectively banned Jana Leo’s Rape New York for similar Blood and Guts reasons concerning taste and decency. Rape New York is a book about a real case in January 2001 where Leo herself was held hostage and raped during the course of an afternoon in her New York apartment. Perhaps the pulping of Kim, Penney and Waugh was simply collaterol damage, incidental to the conservative backlash against Leo.

Wherever the truth lies, we here at the New School for Social Research, San Francisco are all tickled pink by it. And if in the end it turns out that this was all just an elaborate media hoax by Arts Council England (like the recent “bomb threat” publicity stunt at Cooper Union for Slavoj Zizek’s new book) – I don’t think I’ll have any regrets on the way that I approached this topic. As Kathy Acker put it, “I think the best thing in cases of censorship or things like this is to get as much media as possible.”

Yours sincerely, Maxi Kim, Beaubourg 268.