Archive for November, 2008

MacCash misses the boat. Again.

Hey, New Orleans: is it just me, or is Doug MacCash a total douchebag?

I’ve had a beef with the guy for years–largely because of his policies on reviewing visual arts exhibitions. And let’s not even discuss his “taste level” (as a reviewer or as an artist). But now with Prospect.1, MacCash has given me a whole new set of things to complain about.

Full disclosure: I’m pretty close to Prospect.1, but even with that taken into account, it would seem to me, or to any fan of the visual arts, that MacCash simply doesn’t get what Prospect.1 is meant to be. More fundamentally: it seems MacCash has no idea what a biennial is meant to be.

Let’s go back to the weekend Prospect.1 opened. You know what got the cover focus of Lagniappe, the Picayune‘s arts and entertainment pullout? A haunted house. A freaking haunted house–instead of the largest international exhibition of contemporary art ever coordinated in the US. A freaking haunted house–instead of a major coup for the city of New Orleans and its citizens. A freaking haunted house–instead of a massive event that could drive tourism and the cultural economy for months to come.

Then there’s today’s article on the Universal Furniture building in the Bywater, which is being used for a P.1. exhibition of Pierre & Gilles’ work, as well as a group show by local artists. In his lead-in, MacCash says:

[Prospect.1] was a good news, bad news story for Crescent City artists. The good news: Big-time New York art curator Dan Cameron planned to produce the largest contemporary art show in U.S. history, drawing thousands of well-heeled collectors and art tourists. The bad news: The vast majority of New Orleans artists weren’t invited to be in it.

It’s as if MacCash’s understanding of the international art scene stops at the parish line. As if he’d expect the biennials at Venice or the Whitney to feature exclusively Venetian or New York artists, respectively. As if he’s disappointed to see leading contemporary artists from around the globe showing their work in New Orleans. For free.

As though that weren’t bad enough, MacCash then gives square footage to the ever-clueless Andy Antippas, who complains that P.1 is “elitist”. To which I say: WELL OF COURSE IT’S ELITIST: IT’S ABOUT THE BEST NEW WORK IN THE WORLD, BITCH.

My take: elitism is a necessary evil. It’s what keeps music, fashion, literature, design, food–everything moving forward. It’s what we do every time we say, “I’m over that, let’s move on.” You and I, we practice it ourselves every day. So, Mr. Antippas, yes, it’s elitist. BFD. You want to put together a show of grandmotherly string art from the YWCA, do it on your own dime.

New Orleans has moved beyond parochialism in so many ways, especially since The Storm. Sure, it lingers in the culinary arts, but we rule the school on that front: we can afford to be a little snooty. Visual arts, on the other hand? I mean, some of my best friends are artist, and there’s definitely some good stuff going on here, but c’mon…

Join us for Black Fireworks on Black Friday

My crappy phone pic

So the boyfriend is pretty much the official installation photographer for Prospect.1. That means he’s documenting the works of the biennial–WHICH IS AWESOME–as displayed. If you haven’t taken a gander at his Prospect.1 set on Flickr, you totally should. Like, now.

Anyway: over the past few weeks, Jonno’s taken some great shots of Cai Guo-Qiang’s piece (aka “Black Fireworks”) at Colton School, but the artist has recently requested a few more that show people enjoying the work. So this Friday (aka “Black Friday”) Jonno’s inviting friends and total strangers (aka “you”) to join him in the school’s auditorium for a little staged art merriment. It’ll be like the school assembly you never had–you know, the one with massage chairs and dangling electrical things styled by that guy who art directed the Beijing Olympics? Here’s the deets:

Photo shoot for Cai Guo-Qiang’s “Black Fireworks” exhibition

The Studio @ Colton School
2300 St. Claude Avenue (at Spain Street)

Friday, November 28
11am – 12 noon

We need a dozen or two friends for a photo shoot at Prospect.1 artist Cai Guo-Qiang’s “Black Fireworks” installation in the auditorium at the Colton School this Friday at 11am. These photographs will be for the artist’s archive, and some will be published on his website.

Specifically, the artist would like photos of visitors enjoying the custom-designed massage chairs that are an integral part of the installation…so it’s your chance to enjoy some world-class art and get an amazing massage all at the same time! What could possibly be better?

If you haven’t yet explored the Studio @ Colton School yet, this is the perfect time to do so–in addition to the Cai Guo-Qiang installation, there are two other P.1 installations (Jose Damasceno and Tatsuo Miyajima) as well as dozens of local artists on display in the same building. And there’s also P.1’s Pierre & Gilles and dozens more artists in the St. Claude Collective exhibition at Universal Furniture just down the street.

The shoot will last approximately an hour; you’re welcome to wander in and out while it’s going on. While you’re in the neighborhood, there are lots of great places in the Faubourg Marigny to check out for lunch afterwards–we recommend the Cake Cafe on Chartres & Spain or the new Orange Couch on Royal & Mandeville.

No need to RSVP–but whether or not you’re able to join us on Friday, please do help spread the word by forwarding this email to anyone you think might be interested.

Hope to see you on Friday!

Lights out for Al Copeland

I wasn’t really into Al Copeland. His hair plugs were sad and laughable, and his racing boat fetish spoke to some wang-related insecurities. But whether you loved the man or only his chicken, you have to admit, this is kinda sweet. At the very least, it’s the best media alert to cross my desk today:

* * * * *

The late Al Copeland’s famous Christmas
display to make its final appearance
Copeland Family To Hold Last Christmas Display Lighting
on Saturday, November 29

WHAT: Locals and tourists alike recognize the symbolic tradition of the Copeland Christmas lights, as the official mark of the holiday season in New Orleans In a tribute to the legend–the late Al Copeland Sr.–his family will put the famous lights on display for the last time.

WHEN: Saturday, November 29, 2008, 6:00PM

*Media to arrive by 5:45PM*

LOCATION: The Home of the Late Al Copeland, 5001 Folse Drive, Metairie, LA

ADDITIONAL INFO: Al Copeland Sr. passed away earlier this year to Merkel Cell Carcinoma, a rare and deadly form of cancer. To honor his legacy, his family created the Al Copeland Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to contributing money for research to eradicate this rare cancer. To further culminate this holiday, the Copeland Family will be hosting a “Heaven on Earth” gala on Saturday, December 13. Admission is $100 and all proceeds go to The Al Copeland Foundation in support of Merkel Cell Carcinoma Research in Partnership with The University of Pittsburgh Merkel Cell Carcinoma Research Program. To learn more, please visit

Where am I?

Art everywhere

While at Audubon park with the family yesterday we noticed a new piece of art. It is a wonderful sturdy piece that the little one can get up close and personal with without having to worry that he is going to break it. I do not know if it has anything to do with Prospect 1 or if it is just a coincidence but I have noticed a lot of new sculptures in parks around town lately. There is a one in Washington Square park too though I haven’t been in the park yet to see it up close, only driven by so far. With the weather so nice today we might just walk over there and get a good look.

Saturday Afternoon: Shopping, Art, Coffee

The Light is Brilliant at Colton School

The Light is Brilliant at Colton School

Still homeless, we’ve been staying in the Bywater, house sitting with two slightly traumatized rescue cats. Moving around from neighborhood to neighborhood, I’m beginning to formulate ideas about what constitutes a “good” neighborhood. Certainly the less crime the better, but other things are important too. Like shopping, and art, and coffee.

I mean shopping to live, not shopping for therapy. There are no major markets in this area. There are some smaller places like Hank’s Supermarket that sell canned goods, and liquor and ding dongs, but if you want to do proper weekly food shopping, you have to walk into the Quarter to Rouses or ride the Louisa bus up to the Winn Dixie.

That’s why the Bywater Farmer’s Market is so important. This market goes every Saturday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Holy Angels on St. Claude. We got 4 medium sized locally grown yellow squash for $2, which I think is pretty cheap. Other vendors were selling homemade pesto, fruit and veg and drinks. The market is really small, but look, if you are growing spices or tomatoes or you can pickle okra like your maw maw, you can sell stuff at this market. You can maybe even swap. And, that’s where things get interesting.

Local farmer’s markets are really important. They help the local economy, they are good for the environment, and they can save shoppers a lot of money. It’s a win/win. And, as an aside, the Market Association is trying to get 5 people together so that they can start a FREE yoga class during the Market. I am all about the free, so I’ve already signed up. Email to put your name on the list too.

The P.1 exhibition at Colton School on St. Claude was next on the agenda. Fireworks, massage chairs and nuclear bombs, the art was quite impressive. The building was impressive as well. The light is brilliant (see above), and it’s a stunning location. Drop in if you get a chance. Even if you’re not into art, the free massage will do you some good.

Marriage rally at City Hall this Saturday

I think I’ve made it pretty clear, my feelings about gay marriage and state constitutional amendments banning it. In sum: I think the institution of marriage is deeply flawed, and its origins are misunderstood by the general public. I think the conflation of religious marriage and civil marriage in practice and in law is troublesome, to say the least. And although we live in a democracy, I’m dubious about civil rights issues being put in the hands of voters. If we’d done that in the 1950s and 1960s, we’d still be marching to Montgomery.

Some folks who are more activist-minded than I am are organizing a series of rallies this Saturday against hate and in support of gay marriage rights. If you’re in New Orleans, meet at City Hall, 1300 Perdido Street, at 12:30pm. (There’s more info over here .) If you’re not in New Orleans, (a) I’m sorry to hear that, and (b) check this page for state-by-state listings, including another Louisiana protest in Shreveport.

Finally: I’m pretty sure that most of you have seen this editorial from Keith Olbermann, and the majority of you probably don’t need convincing, but for both of the rest of you, have a look.

The Bywater: Not so Black and White

Texture of the Bywater

One of the glass-is-half-full things about being homeless* is that we get to live in a lot of different neighborhoods. The week after next, we’re staying in the Bywater. Yesterday we walked down there from Canal Street to check it out.

My college boyfriend used to stay in the Bywater when we were students at Loyola. I was living in Gentilly and would make the drive from St. Cecilia to my Aunt Velma’s nearly every night. Velma was old, white and working class New Orleans. She warned me about the “coloreds.” She said I had to be careful.

But, yesterday, we walked up Royal Street busy with funky cafes, Ironworks and artist studios. I had to look up the term “gentrification” because I’m not exactly sure if that’s what’s happening to this neighborhood. Some parts have been cleaned up and artified. There’s still a lot of rough texture, though, abandoned buildings and senseless murders.

A lot of people that we meet encourage us to move to the Bywater when we get off the homeless boat. Many of these people are white, educated, professionals who came down here post Katrina to volunteer. They fell in love with the city and the neighborhood they were helping to rebuild and stayed. One woman told me that her windows are screwed shut. That she would love to open them during this fall weather, but she’s afraid. I wanted to tell her that we did just such a thing 20 years ago at an Uptown dinner party, and two kids came in with a gun and took our cash, our jewelry and our pecan pie. The fear can take you to horrible places.

As we walked up St. Claude Ave. after dark, I felt a little afraid. But what I felt more was a sense of freedom. There is nothing like walking through a neighborhood at night to make you feel alive. We passed some amazing locations for our film. People, mostly black people, were sitting out on their stoops, hanging around, enjoying the evening. (Here’s one difference between the blacks and the whites in New Orleans. Black people say “hello, how  you doin’?” to strangers passing by their doorstep. White people don’t.)

I’m thinking long and hard about the old fear these days. It’s not so black and white. It has something to do with freedom, but I can’t really work it out yet. It has something to do with responsibility. Since I’ve come home to New Orleans, I’ve met people of many races, many religions and of many classes. I have been treated fairly and respectfully by every one of them.

New Orleans is a lovely city without fear. But, beware that chilly side. It will seduce you too.

*Patrick has asked me to footnote any mention of our homelessness with the fact that we have been homeless by choice since July 23, 2008. It is a somewhat experimental lifestyle, one of the aims of which is to limit our impact on the environment.

More crap from the Times-Picayune

Bruce Alpert at the Picayune has written a completely speculative article (framed as “news”) about Obama’s plans to ignore Gulf Coast recovery. If you’re not up for reading the entire goddess-awful thing–and really, who could blame you?–Alpert basically says that Katrina won’t be on Obama’s list of priorities, then spends the bulk of the piece getting quotes from Bobby Jindal, Dollar Bill, Mary Landrieu, and our other hamstrung senator who’s been in hiding so long that I can’t even remember his name. Of course, there’s nothing from Obama at all, and the “writer” obviously didn’t bother to do much Googling, because if he had, he’d have stumbled across this:

As president, Barack Obama will keep the broken promises made by President Bush to rebuild New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. He and Joe Biden will take steps to ensure that the federal government will never again allow such catastrophic failures in emergency planning and response to occur.

Barack Obama swiftly responded to Hurricane Katrina. Citing the Bush administration’s “unconscionable ineptitude” in responding to Hurricane Katrina, Obama introduced legislation requiring disaster planners to take into account the specific needs of low-income hurricane victims. Obama visited thousands of Hurricane survivors in the Houston Convention Center and later took three more trips to the region. He worked with members of the Congressional Black Caucus to introduce legislation to address the immediate income, employment, business and housing needs of Gulf Coast communities.

As president, Barack Obama will partner with the people of the Gulf Coast to rebuild now, stronger than ever.

So where was that? On, the president-elect’s official transition website that outlines his incoming agenda. You know: the agenda the reporter was criticizing? Oops.

In light of all that, the Alpert kinda comes off like Dawn French in that skit where she plays the British royal “expert” who’s got zero insider info and is clearly a total hack. You know the one I mean. (I’d insert it here if the Metblogs backend weren’t so tight about such things. Snore.)

Now, just so we’re clear: I have no problem criticizing the president. In fact, we could and should have had a LOT more of that in the early days of W’s administration. (Remember back in 2001 how excited we were that Bush could form complete sentences? And how, after September 11, questioning him was made to seem unpatriotic–nay, an act of terrorism? Who was grilling the man then?) No one is perfect, and everyone should be held to task. Everyone.

That said, at least let the man take office before you start blaming him for his failure to undo all the crap that’s been left by the previous administration. In the meantime, maybe the Picayune should try its hand at reporting, say, news.

UPDATE: Obama’s agenda is down for revisions. Good news? Bad news? Killer bees nesting in the circuitry? The breath, she is bated.

UPDATE ON THE UPDATE: Obama’s agenda is back online, with the Katrina section intact.

Rollins: Potentially Bland Blather, But Uncut

Am I a total douchebag for being COMPLETELY uninterested in Henry Rollins’ special on IFC tonight? Here’s the description:

Three years after the destruction of Hurricane Katrina, Henry Rollins ventures to New Orleans to examine the city’s current condition first hand. Avoiding the tourist center, Henry is overwhelmed by the lack of progress being made in the surrounding areas. In his search for answers, Henry instead discovers a fresh slate of devastating problems that now threatens this community post-Katrina. Even as tourism approaches pre-storm levels, tens of thousands of residents find themselves dealing with the depression of a city still living with the wreckage of the levee’s breach and now being victimized by a surge in violent crime.

In exclusive interviews with author Jed Horne (“Editor of leading New Orleans newspaper, “Times Picayune,” during Katrina”) and city officials like Cecile Tebo (Mental Crisis Coordinator, NO Police), and Jim Bernazanni (FBI), it becomes glaringly obvious that New Orleans still needs our help. Henry’s stage performance, at the legendary Tipitina’s music venue, is thus a tribute to the people of New Orleans who continue to persevere. Henry also has the opportunity to meet with music legend, Irma Thomas, the “Soul Queen of New Orleans,” who explains how the music community has been affected and the role they continue to play in the aftermath.

So (a) it’s slightly old, and (b) feh.

FYI, this is one in a series of IFC docs that Mr. Rollins is doing–a series called Henry Rollins: Uncut. Which brings to mind a completely different image of the man. CAN WE PLEASE SEE THAT DOCUMENTARY PLEASE PLEASE?

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