Art History~With Soup!
The Twisted Gourmet™
Kelly W. Knox, M.A.
All Rights Reserved
Conceptual art did not begin in the ’60′s with the post-modern, contemporary gallery Art movement. There is some controversy about its exact nature and beginning. The origins of conceptual art are different from the origins or nature of abstract art: all art is an abstraction; not all abstraction is conceptual. It really is as simple as that. To say that all art is an abstraction is to recognize that art is a thing in itself quite apart from that which it is intended to represent.
The movement from perception to representation is a mechanical act that requires thought and ability. Every one can see a chair, an apple, a flower, a face or a figure; not everyone can represent in a two or three dimensional form, the object or person they perceive with the same degree of precision.
Every year for eight years at the beginning of the semester, I gave my High School students the same assignment. I placed two chairs on a table at the front of the room, gave each student a pencil and a piece of paper and told them to “draw the chairs”. On average I would estimate that out of a class of thirty-five students, two or three had actual talent, four or five had some ability; about ten would actually make an earnest attempt to draw the chairs and the rest would actively or passively avoid the assignment altogether. This is not unusual. By the time most of my students reach my classroom, either in High School or in College, they have already settled for themselves the question of whether or not they can draw or whether or not they are an artist. I maintained that while “talent cannot be taught” everyone can be taught to draw. Drawing is after all, a mechanical process. Talent for drawing is like any other talent an inexplicable and innate ability possessed by some and not by others. So, whereas everyone who can hold a pencil can learn to draw, no one can learn to be talented.
This being said, we can turn to conceptual art (concept art, art with text or art that requires an explanation–some might say elitist or insider art); conceptual art challenges the basic tenets of conventional thought about the arts, that they must be either plastic or performed and that some tangible product must result from the artist’s actions. (You’ve probably noticed by now that I have cleverly avoided defining art to this point. Let me take this opportunity to warn you that I will probably remain that clever throughout this entry.) In theory conceptual art could exist in the artist’s mind alone. But because I believe that all art requires communication, I don’t believe that this is true.
All art, all forms of communication require at least two parties and an intermediate agent that both can perceive in some way. I can have lots of thoughts in my head about a variety of subjects, I can imagine any number of pictures or visions, unless I convert those to some intermediate (“some thing between”) agency that an other is able to somehow perceive–those thoughts and images die with me or in my fading attention span.
So, to continue, all art requires communication. Concept Art is no different. Concept Art also requires a medium (something that stands between the artist and her or his audience as an intermediate language or object or action that if properly transmitted and received can convey the concept). If I absentmindedly leave a shoe in my front yard [I don't have a front yard, I live in an apartment, but for the sake of argument let's say I had a front yard] and if one of my neighbors happens by and sees the shoe. What is he or she likely to think? They probably won’t think much of it at all except perhaps to “register” somewhere in the back of their mind–”hey, there’s a shoe on the lawn here. A shoe doesn’t belong on the lawn….” and they would continue on their way. Now, if I were to take the same imaginary shoe (actually I don’t wear shoes, I am either barefoot or I wear boots] or boot and I put it on a plinth in a gallery or a museum with a little brass plate that reads ” The Artist’s Boot” and further the plate is dated “2009″ and maybe it has my name “k knox” inscribed on it; the same neighbor happens into the gallery looking for directions, or maybe to use the facilities, sees the boot on it’s plinth with its brass plate…. [And she thinks, "When did Kelly get his boot off of the lawn, and why the hell is it here?"] Now the boot is transformed into ART [___yes ___ no--pick one....]–or is it? This is perhaps the concept behind pieces like Jim Dine’s Shovel (ca. 1954?). If I or Jim Dine take an ordinary shovel out of the garage (although I don’t have a garage–I told you I live in an apartment–pay attention!) put the shovel in a gallery on a plinth with a title and an attribution to the artist, it is transformed into art. In other words the context of the gallery is enough to transform an ordinary object into an extraordinary one.
When I demonstrate this idea in my classroom, I use the example of a chair. I put a chair on the table and declare that it is “Chair” by “k knox” and give the appropriate year. The class (quite naturally) is stunned. Most teachers don’t rearrange the furniture during class, let alone declare that they have thereby created art! (Imagine their surprise if I took off one of my boots!) Any way, the point is that concept art requires the context provided by the gallery or the museum (or a similar “platform”, setting or occasion usually reserved for “art”) in order to be considered “art”. This is almost always true; although there are some cases where even more is required, a context is almost always the minimum requirement for concept art. (While you busy yourselves thinking up exceptions, I’m going to go make coffee–you can consider it a kind of “performance art”…)
My favorite concept artist, all time, might object (well he’s dead now so he can’t really object) to being called a concept artist, was Marcel Duchamp. Marcel Duchamp is known primarily for his enigmatic “Large Glass” ["The Bride Stripped Bare, by her Bachelors even"] and his “Nude Descending a Staircase” (the latter ca. 1912 was shown at the infamous Armory Show in New York–the critics called it among other things, “an explosion at the shingle factory”) In particular I like three of his concept pieces. The first is a doodle he made on a post card as he crossed the Atlantic on his way to the Armory Show in New York. He took a little post card (about 7″ X 4″) and drew a mustache and goatee on the Mona Lisa, underneath he wrote the letters L.H.O.O.Q. Which latter inscription was a pun he stole from his friend the photographer Paul Elouard. (This on the whole was not as bad as what Salvidor Dali stole from Elouard–namely his girl-friend Gala.)
When pronounced in French the letters become “el” “ache” “O” “O” “kewl” or if you run it all together and say it with a phony French accent and just the right sneer: “Elle a chaud au cul” which translates as “she has a hot ass!” Believe it or not, there are (or at least were ten years ago) Art History books out there that try to read this literally as “la hook”! (Probably nuff said about Art History text-book authors, huh?) Any way, my point is, the single most famous act of defilement of a historic icon of art is completely lost without the subtext or context provided by the pun (and arguably the unfortunate fate that befell the hapless Elouard….) This is I think an example of dada at its most refined.
Dada was an art movement that lasted in Europe for only about four years; its adherents refused to take anything seriously, except themselves–too much so–except for Duchamp [Other names you can look up are Tzara, Heulsenbeck and Arp--all of whom claimed to have founded or named dada--but that's another story]. [dada is the proper term, it is almost never capitalized and is never an "ism". It was replaced by Surrealism--except for the career of Duchamp, who remained quietly dada, in spite of everything else that was going on in the art world or in the room around him.]
The Second work by Duchamp that is undeniably concept art is Fountain from 1917 and later 1965 in reprise. [The original was lost.] Fountain required the audience to engage with the artist in an act of imagination. Ostensibly, Duchamp presented a urinal signed by him with the manufacturer’s name “R Mutt” and dated “1917″. But the urinal was not the fountain, we are not supposed to imagine water issuing forth from it, but a stream (of urine) flowing into it. Fountain is incomplete until the viewer imagines the man standing in front of it peeing into it. Despite its graphic nature, Fountain, for me, is quintessentially concept art: it requires the context of the gallery or the museum and it requires the viewer to participate in an act of imagination. If in fact the viewer just passively observes the urinal and thinks that Duchamp has meant it literally as a fountain–he or she misses the point (and worse, the joke).
The third work by Duchamp is perhaps less provocative than the other two, but is no less evocative. In Advance of a Broken Arm, provides us with the third element of concept art, that is the requisite text we need to understand it. Literally the piece consists first of a snow shovel, in the context of a gallery or museum, accompanied by its title, artist’s name and year (which you will have to look-up because I’ve forgotten it). Duchamp wants us to remember a time when we shoveled a sidewalk missed a patch of ice and fell and hurt ourselves. It is not that we are shoveling snow and the snow is so heavy that breaks our arm, it’s that we were shoveling badly…. at least that’s my interpretation. Or, alternately, we might wish to avoid the act of shoveling all together because of the threat of bodily injury–the snow shovel then becomes an ominous warning–either way, the shovel is not just a shovel because of the title or text that accompanies it.
I think that we have seen that concept art is more than just objects randomly chosen and provided with titles in the context of a gallery or museum. Concept art is a means of communicating about art, about the artist and about ourselves, ultimately. And while everyone can have concepts, just as everyone can draw, not everyone is equally talented at either conceptual art or drawing. A deeper, more profound question then, given that all of the elements may be required (of object or intermediary, context and perhaps text) and all may be available equally to everyone, how are we to determine what is “good” conceptual art, and what is not? That may be a topic for another blog.
[Now if you'll excuse me, after all of that coffee, i have to go pee--what do you mean "what about the cat?" --Go look it up!!]
Tomato Basil soup And Gratuitous Nudity.
This soup is really very simple to make.
½ stick of butter (melt it in a heavy pan—like a cast iron skillet)
1/3 cup of flour (sprinkle over the top of the butter when it has melted—stir with a wire whisk)
1 ½ teaspoons of salt—for god’s sakes —don’t measure with a spoon, use the palm of your hand (cupped to make a little depression) use less salt if you use canned tomatoes. Use more salt if you are trying to become bloated and unattractive. [They promised gratuitous nudity, did I miss it?] Many too many [is it “many too many” or “much too many”—screw it! “Plenty of”...will do….] grinds of fresh black pepper. If you don’t have a pepper grinder yet—what the fuck is wrong with you!?
2 ½ cups of stock (vegetable or chicken) (more if you don’t have juicy tomatoes) heat the broth or stock up before you add it to the roux or you will get lumps. If you get lumps, please see your doctor—no, strain the soup or gravy through a fine mesh strainer—duh!! Whatever you do, don’t serve lumpy soup or lumpy gravy to your guests (well not if you like them—)
Three dozen (or so) Roma tomatoes (I juice mine if I’m in a hurry, but you can use a blender—you can use canned— two of the30 oz cans should do—if not, use another 15 oz can—after blending or juicing or pulsing together in a food processor, use a sieve to strain out the seeds, stems, and severed factory workers’ fingers—use a blender or food processor to blend them till smooth)
One medium size bunch of basil (use the cello box from the store—or buy it fresh from the market in a bunch) (cut it into strips or shreds —chiffonade—save it for later) A chiffonade is made by simply stacking and rolling the leaves up into little “cigars”, and then slicing each roll into thin circlet’s, that unravel into little shreds of basil or whatever….Why the fancy name? It’s French! Don’t argue with the French about food, food preparation or the names they give to things….If you must argue with French, argue about their hygiene like everyone else does. The English make fun of the French; the French make fun of the Germans; The Germans make fun of the English. That’s all very fair—The Italians are always in the kitchen cooking—so no one knows what they smell like….
One tablespoon of dried oregano add it now.
Four or five large cloves of garlic; six if they’re medium; seven or eight if they’re small—if you need more than eight—get some bigger garlic—what are you an idiot! (Smashed, peeled and chopped as finely as you can)
At this point everything should be simmering a large pot on medium heat. If you aren’t going to eat the soup today, once it has simmered take it off of the heat, let it cool to room temperature and then refrigerate it for up to four days. If you are going to eat it tonight, reduce the heat and add:
One to two cups of cream, half and half, or just whole milk. (I’ve used soy milk in the past with veggie stock to make a vegan alternative—substitute the roux with cornstarch and wine or stock—but put it in at the end not at the beginning—shouldn’t you be taking notes? Oh, yeah—never mind…. Don’t add this until after you add the tomato juice/sauce/puree, and bring it to just a boil—the cornstarch will not cook unless it’s boiled—unlike some people I know who won’t cook unless they’re baked—but that’s another story— and no longer illegal in California….)
¾ cup of wine (theories differ—red if you don’t use milk or cream, white if you do—dry sherry if your mother in law is coming over for lunch…. If you don’t like the adverse effects of alcohol, no worries; the alcohol cooks off. If you don’t like the taste of alcohol—what the fuck is wrong with you, now!? I’ll bet you don’t have a pepper grinder either!)
More fresh basil for topping—croutons for topping—cheese is good for topping—chopped onions are good, peppers—pickled or fresh jalapenos are nice…. Plenty of freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste—unless you have high blood pressure like I do—maybe splash on some hot sauce or a spoon or two of salsa fresca . Don’t serve soup with crackers—I’ll hear about it; and I will hurt you….
The Canary in the Coal Mine:
What is “subversive art?” Subversive art is at least in part a movement without a center and with no leaders (in any real sense). It began in the plastic arts with the Impressionists i suppose. They wanted to paint pictures that would deliberately undermine and overturn the works being created in and approved by the French Academy of the Arts. The impressionists competed openly with the French Academy so successfully, that within a few years their painters became successful enough to begin to exclude or “refuse” painters who wish to join their “Salon of the refused”! One of the more notable painters originally rejected by the Impressionists was Georges Suerat–who painted with little dots of contrasting colors taken from the impressionists own palette. Eventually, they did decide to allow him to display his works with them, but they still relegated the work to a corner of the exhibit. Oddly enough though almost all of the leading lights of the impressionist movement tried their hands at painting in Seurat’s Pointillist style most of them failed. As the Impressionists quickly gained ground on the French Academy and became the “establishment” among French Artists other groups emerged in a subversive response to them. The Impressionists, and the related offshoots of Post Impressionists, Early Expressionists and a few other related non-academic but accepted schools of painting lasted from about 1865 to 1900.
At the turn of the twentieth century three groups emerged that would challenge the Impressionists for supremacy in the art world in Europe. The Cubists were Picasso, Bracques, and Gris; The Surrealists were mostly a Literary movement but they brought awareness to painters like DiChiraco (sp) and Salvidor Dali; and the Futurists. These latter groups it might be argued were formed as the French and Italian factions of a schism that split the dada movement that was popular especially in Switzerland before the First War. The Surrealists rallied around Andre Breton who saw himself as the spiritual heir to Guillaume Apollinaire the Symbolist Poet–and was the only one waving a banner with any conviction (he also provided punch and cookies); The Futurists all took pen names: Marinetti was the nominal leader and many of their manifestos were probably his work.
T he goals of the Surrealists and of the Futurists were vastly different. The Surrealists wanted to explore Freud’s new theories of the subconscious mind; and the Futurists were pretty much against the future of art as they foresaw it. The Futurists wanted to reflect the fast pace of their contemporary urban centers and all of the wonderful machines given to us by the recent advances of the industrial revolution. The fatal flaw (or at least tragic flaw) that afflicted the Surrealists was that it was led by Breton who wanted everyone to dig his poetry, couldn’t paint and couldn’t stand any opposing views. He tried to recruit Picasso–Picasso turned him down flat. He successfully recruited Dali, who refused to do what he was told, stole Breton’s friend Paul Eluard’s wife from him, and generally was a colossal pain in Bretons large flabby ass. The fatal flaws in Futurism were many–too many to enumerate before my blog disappears, so I’ll just give you the two i find the most onerous: they wanted to outlaw painting the nude for ten years (there goes my career) and they were almost all, to a man Fascists (there goes the neighborhood). dada you will remember, only lasted for about four years. It was a controversial anti-art art movement. They would hold sintesi–little scenes or performances that made Theater of the Absurd look perfectly sane. The Futurist picked up on this nastiness and tried to perfect the form. For both the dada performers and the Futurists, it was a successful night if a fist fight erupted and noses were bloodied, the police were called and people were arrested.
Still, on the painterly front, one doesn’t really get the full gist of what was going on in the art world in Europe or how the Surrealists, dada and Futurism figured into some of the changes. Basically one could argue that for the first time artist were deciding for themselves what was and wasn’t to be considered art. They stopped listening to critics, scholars and audiences and took the rather radical stance that they would decide what was art and how it should be made and for whom. All of the Surrealists and Futurists were largely idealist or ideologues: this fact had and has ramifications for art in all of its forms following from their lead, but the chief concern is that now all of a sudden anything can be art–because I/WE say it’s art–and there isn’t a damned thing you can do about it. The only other part of the equation that had to be added was added by Kandinsky in painting and all of the plastic arts–paintings no longer needed to represent subjects, they became subjects in themselves. All of the “isms” of the “ism”-laden 20th Century have their genesis here in this catastrophic combination: Paintings don’t have to be representational (“of” something); and “It’s is art because I say it’s art”…. We still live today, with the fall-out from the combination of these explosive concepts. I believe that this combination damn near killed art. (Sit down, for god’s sakes I can prove it–before I’m done I’ll have you believing it too and telling your friends!)
Art in the hands of the Surrealists, Futurists and dada performers became reactionary. This much seems certain; but what were the artists reacting to? They were reacting in large part to the accessibility and acceptability won by the Impressionists, whose work had moved from the fringes of the academy to the mainstream in less than a generation. [The Cubists were off in their own little worlds and we'll take up their influence at another time. Now i should feed Schrödinger’s cat.] Duchamp more or less invented the idea of “found object art” with his “fountain”: Rauschenberg perfected it (See his taxidermy goat in the tire–I forget the name–it’s late). Pollock took Kandinsky’s ideas and turned them into “action painting”: Alan Kaprow and others saw in Pollock’s action painting the gestic moment of art in performance. Kasimir Malevich created a new style (relying on Kandinsky’s theories i suppose–but also based on Lenin’s version of Marxism; Malevich was going to be Lenin’s Art Czar–but Lenin died and Stalin didn’t get it) that he coined “Supremetist”: he meant that it was “Supreme” or “Superior” among other kinds of art–because it was free of bourgeois subjects and from representational forms. Few people remember his name but almost everyone can recognize the name of one of his pieces as the paradigmatic punch line for all abstract art: the infamous “White on White”–yes he painted a white canvas with white paint…. Nonetheless, i think we all have Malevich to thank for the minimalist movement which was no doubt started by art school students who paid attention one day in art history class and decided they could have the rest of the semester off from the studio–if they only became minimalists! [Later after a nap and a trip to the post office]
[For those of you who didn't look up the Rauschenberg piece's name, it's "Monogram." --imagine that on your hankies!]
So what have we learned so far? We know that contemporary “isms” owe their existence to two ideas that flowed out of dada, Surrealism and Futurism: Art is what I say it is; and the subject of Art is Art as defined by the Artists. [I'm sure i said it better last night, I’m about a quart low on coffee yet this morning...] The particular threads that we have been following have led us in serpentine fashion from Kandinsky to Pollock to Kaprow and others (performance art); from Kandinsky and Lenin’s Revolution to Malevich; and from Duchamp to Rauschenberg (minimalism and Found Object art). Our investigation began of course with the French Impressionists turning over the French Academy of Art; and we reasoned that the former were so successful that they became an art establishment worthy of being over-turned (subverted) themselves.
In order to go on [aside from having copious amounts of coffee] we must think back, way back to the beginning of the current semester when i introduced you to Schrödinger’s cat and the idea of context. Outside of the gallery a shovel or a urinal are two useful items, although hardly interchangeable, inside of a gallery, they are art, as long as they are properly displayed, labeled and signed by the artist. Context also plays an important part in minimalist and performance arts. Both minimalist and performance arts are innately subversive–and sometimes their subversive ness is all of their charm and their content as well. Two examples will serve, the first is real–more or less and the second is contrived but plausible and derived from numerous similar examples.
Imagine that you have been invited out to a night of Performance at a local theater. [It's the late 90's, Los Angeles, New York or maybe Newark--i forget; you're getting ready to meet with some friends at a local oxygen bar for drinks (water mostly) and you're much younger than I am--probably better looking too...] You learn that the performance is a one woman show by Annie Sprinkle [her real name--for those of you too young or good looking to remember--was Ellen F. Steinberg] former porn star; you’re not quite sure what to expect–maybe some good natured “schwanz” jokes, maybe a song or two or perhaps even a heartfelt monologue…. After some O2 at the go to bar, you’re all off to the gallery/theater/performance space and prepared to make a night of whatever it is to be.
The crowd looks and behaves like a normal crowd, many of them seem to know each other in that annoying West Hollywood sort of way. You and your friends are shown to a table near the front and you sit and order drinks. At length, the lights flash and then dim, thus calling the room to order and signaling that the show is going to start. You all adjust yourselves in the darkness and the crowd grows quiet in anticipation. The lights come up and there on a gurney equipped with gynecological stirrups lies Annie, legs akimbo with a speculum protruding from her [if you don't understand this reference don't run and ask your mum--phone a friend instead....] She is casually inviting people up to view her vagina in her very quaint but oddly proper British accent. Didn’t see that one coming did you?
Now a few weeks later, after you have sufficiently recovered from your Annie experience, another group of friends invites you to an opening featuring the work of the promising young savant Hymie Hugivsaschitz. His installation is titled “A Scream at the Wailing Wall” and is supposed to be about a young Jewish man’s angst. You decide to go, and this time you are to meet your friends at the venue. You arrive about nine, thinking if the show is a bust you can still catch a late movie, and you look around for your friends. The crowd is very animated: Lots of people, lots of big teeth, lots of black clothes. Everyone seems to have a drink in one hand and an unlit cigarette in the other [it's the 90's, smoking is legal, it's just not permitted.] You make your way through the crowd which has congealed between the doorway and the first bank of overhead gallery lights. [The move you execute is something between a shuffle and a two-step: "one, two--slide slide slide--three, four; and back slide hold, back slide hold--two, three and one....] You find yourself next to an unassuming bench along one wall a ways away from the crowd and so you sit down and decide to wait for your friends. Suddenly out of no where a fussy little man with black readers on a silver chain appears in a flurry of knees, elbows and wrists; he lunges towards you snarling in a fit of feline rage; just as he reaches you he draws his upper lip and nose into a contorted sneer, as through clenched teeth he shrilly announces to you: “Sir! You’re sitting on the Art!” [... say goodbye to Schrödinger’s cat as his fuzzy little ass scampers away up the stairs to the (March Archive in the) attic....]
Three further examples might serve to cement the point that i want to make about Subversive Art: How deadly serious it can be; how much fun it can be; and how fickle it can be.
For the first example we can go back to Ancient Greece and the plays of Aristophanes. If you have never read a good translation of Aristophanes’ plays you should at least read the Macculate Muse by Jeffrey Henderson (i think–i know the title is right so you can surf it). Henderson (if that is his real name) makes the point that most of us have only read very sanitized versions of Aristophanes unless we were once British grammar school boys in which case we would have had the opportunity to experience the full-on decadence and absolute filth (by some standards other than mine) of the original. Henderson is not the first to note that Aristophanes belonged to a different generation than Socrates, and more importantly he wrote for a different, younger hipper audience than Socrates’ contemporaries [were]. Unfortunately for Socrates, Aristophanes’ audience may have been the “cool kids” but they couldn’t buy a clue among them. Aristophanes’ audience–many of them didn’t really understand that Aristophanes’’ subversive humor was sarcasm and parody…. Like all satire, Aristophanes’ comedy was and is “morally ambiguous” or “indifferent”; truth in satire is the first victim of the Humor. There were three charges against Socrates: that he was a sophist (argued that the “lesser cause was greater”), “spoke against the Gods of the State” (was an atheist,) and that he “corrupted the youth with his ideas.”
Aristophanes painted Socrates as a lay-about purveyor of folk wisdoms–like “rain is Zeus peeing in a sieve”, and a pedophile (sp) that corrupted youth with more than his ideas and encouraged them to “corrupt” each other for his entertainment. The Athenian council believed the Satiric version–even though it cleaned up its language a bit. Socrates was found guilty and sentenced to die. At the last minute, Socrates was offered, as the story is told by his students, a reprieve–a fine or exile instead of death, but Socrates (whom the oracle had proclaimed the wisest of men) decided that he didn’t want to live in a society that was so stupid as to believe its comedians over the truth. His friends held a party for him, and at the end of the night he famously drank the poison that had been dutifully prepared for him. Even at the end, Socrates didn’t blame the comic–he blamed the Athenian Council. I suppose the lesson here is, even if it might be funny, one shouldn’t yell “fire” in a theater full of dumb people.
The Theater in Shakespeare’s day was just as subversive, almost as dangerous (but to the playwrights, not the objects of their jokes and jibes) and a lot more fun. Under Queen Elizabeth at various times, seditious literature could result in imprisonment, hefty fines or even death. One could not even at some times portray a Roman Catholic Priest on stage unless within a very narrow context or as a clown. There is a lot of scholarship that I think successfully argues that Shakespeare was a Catholic–in sympathies at least–a very careful Catholic…. All of the plays were screened by the Queen’s censor (ironically called the “master of the revels” he could get your head cut off–and not in a good way). The City fathers of London, many people in the Royal Court and especially the worshipful Lord Mayor of London and the Lord High Sheriff were always trying to get the theater district shut down. It was after all a place frequented by actors, sailors, prostitutes, cut purses, cut throats, and young academics and politicians looking for a good time.
We all know that for a penny you could stand on the ground in front of the stage; for two pennies you could sit on the steps leading to the seats; for three pennies you could have a seat on a bench, for four pennies you could rent a pillow to sit on. For a few schillings you could sit on stage and show-off for the crowd until one of the actors either shamed you or threw you off the stage–while not missing a beat of his iambic pentameter. but for a mere 12 pennies (about half a schilling i think) you could go backstage to the “gentlemen’s room where you couldn’t see or hear much that was going on onstage–but maybe more importantly, no one out front could see or hear what you were up to or whom you were with…. For a slightly hire uh higher fee you could arrange to have company (of either sex) to eh-hum–attend you….as usual, the house got half…. Shakespeare and his partners–at the time of Shakespeare’s retirement (back to the “trouble and strife” at Stratford) [cockney rhyming slang--trouble and strife--wife; apples and pears, stairs--so forth] became very rich.
There were eight equal partners; Shakespeare had enough to buy the best house in Stratford on Avon. Of course they were all artists, so no one kept track of what money came from where–I’m sure that the pillow concession must have accounted for most of their profits. Shakespeare’s plays to were not the paragons your High School English teacher extolled to you–she probably didn’t tell you about the scene right after Hamlet tells Ophelia to get off on her way to a brothel (nunnery) that before the play within the play (that Hamlet has arranged to catch the conscience of his deranged step father/Uncle Claudius) he and Ophelia enter into a little banter in which he asks for some (yes the “some” fabled in song and story) She tells him off and says get over it–you’re just horny (“keen” is the word she uses which meant “horny” in Elizabethan slang) and Hamlet offers to go down on Ophelia…. Well, maybe you were just out sick the day that Mrs. Brittlewits covered all that.
So much for plays as subversive literature: Playwrights are dangerous and generally not to be trusted. Lets go back to painters.
[maybe on a par with "Piss Christ", the controversial photograph by Andreas Serrano--of a jar with a crucifix in it, filled half way to the top with the artists urine. I've been trying to make this reference for two days and ten tries--each time the machine messes up and i lose the whole blog. If you want to know more send a stamped self addressed envelope and $9.95 to:
That's not Funny You Bastard
666 Mockingbird Lane
Toulees, AZ 90210
--for a little more i'll even pee on the envelope for you].
The picture shows us two women and a little black cat. (This sounds like the set-up for a bad joke, but they are not on their ways to a bar.) One of the women is white (oh my) and Naked in bed (oh my) and the other woman is black and fully dressed (whew) she holds in her hands a bouquet of flowers (oh my) as the little black cat sits upright on the end of the bed, barely visible except for his little gray ears (ahh). The painting is of course “Olympia” by banker-turned painter Edouard Manet. The white woman on the bed is his very “good friend–with benefits” Victorine Meurende (sp) and she shocked Parisian society, not because one in five men knew her –name– not because she is white and naked in the presence of a black woman or a black cat–she shocked Parisian society because she is painted in broad strokes of flat color with no real attempt to show her womanly figure–and for gods’ sakes she is staring–like–right at us like–like–like she’s human or something!! Quelle terrible!!
So your assignment for this week is to first locate and then read Emil Zola’s account of the rhubarb in the city over the cheek of this Parisian tart and the painter who perpetrated it upon us (although his prose are not quite so purple, they’re more lavender i suspect). Write 3-5 pages in MLA style, Marquis of Queensbury rules notwithstanding, have it on my desk by Monday close of business.
[We're not done with subversive art just yet, but I have to think up something else to write--in the mean time I’m going to the store to pick up some aspiring actresses...oh, and some smokes.]
Portobello Burgundy soup
About two or three pounds of Portobello mushrooms (wiped with a damp cloth—or just brush off any clumps of dirt—use cremini (sp)if you have to—they are called “baby bellas” in some stores.) chopped coarsely
6 cloves of peeled crushed minced garlic
Yes I said six you wimp—no— shut it —or I’ll put in the whole head
A small bunch each of fresh tarragon, chervil, parsley and a bunch of thyme (if your thyme is “woody” —you’re having too good a time—no; tie it up in a piece of cheese cloth with a bay leaf—figure it out—just don’t let any of the sticks get into the soup or grandma may choke on them! Hit the bag of thyme leaves and stems smartly with the blunt side of your knife or a cleaver, rolling pin, croquet mallet, tennis racket, lead pipe, sex toy—whatever you have—until you see green)
(grab the bunch of herbs—except thyme— firmly with your good hand—with the other hand –using mostly just your fingers, grab and twist off a bunch—chop this roughly and then rub your fingers under your armpits for two minutes—you’ll attract French girls this way!
If you are a French girl—we’ll see you in about half an hour or so….)
Sauté the mushrooms and garlic in a whole stick (one whole stick) of butter and three tablespoons of olive oil. (The olive oil should keep the butter from burning—but watch your heat anyway!)
Meanwhile you should whack up some yellow (or brown) onions—about six—throw them into a large empty pot with ½ a stick of butter and some olive oil (again, about three tablespoons should do) throw the onions in skins and all when the peels start to curl and the butter turns brown (brown not black) throw in (pour in) about a quart of clean water (bottled is best but use tap if you must). Heat this until it boils, turn down the heat and simmer for twenty minutes. While the onion broth is simmering, throw in one whole carrot. (no you don’t have to peel it—if you can’t find your carrot—go ask the French girl if she’s seen your carrot? Maybe she slaps your face—maybe we’ll see you both back here in about twenty minutes… (okay, well maybe five….)
Turn off the mushrooms when they start to “sweat” and reduce in volume in the pan.
Go have a smoke.
If you don’t smoke, start.
If you don’t have any cigarettes, ask the French girl, she stole a pack off of my dresser this morning while I was in the shower.
Put out your stogie and shut off all of the burners.
Turn on the burner under the pan with the mushrooms in it to medium low heat. Slowly sprinkle about 1/3 of a cup of flour over the mushroom and garlic mixture. Stir this in with a wire whisk—if I catch you using one of those plastic things you buy at the dollar store—I will come over there and –hold you up to public ridicule…. As the flour is mixed into the mushrooms, let it cook for a minute or two before you start to add the onion stock to it. You can use a ladle; you can use a strainer and pour it from the pan; you can use your garden hose as a siphon—just don’t add the stock all at once—and make sure the stock is still warm. If you add cold anything to a warm something—in this case a roux, you will get lumps (I said this already—have you been paying attention!?) When the mixture is thoroughly mixed, let it simmer until it starts to boil and thicken a bit. If you have done all of this correctly it should look like thick gravy with mushrooms in it. If you have not done this correctly it will look like what Gomer scraped off his shoes. Do it right!
Add two teaspoons of salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper and the herbs (remember the herbs….. don’t forget the whacked bag of thyme and bay leaf)
Now once the soup begins to boil again after you’ve stirred in the herbs, pour yourself a half of a glass of decent Burgundy –(you can substitute Pinot noir, or Cabernet Sauvignon—but you may not substitute anything that comes in a box—let alone something that says “delicious red”, “chill-able red” or “kick my fanny white”—if you do I will have to beat you to a very fine pulp while singing Les Marseillaise—believe me I know all of the verses, too!) Here is a lesson for you: a bottle of wine (the kind with a cork not a cap) holds about three cups of wine—the average wine glass that is suitable for red wine holds about 8 ounces. If you restrict yourself to one half of a glass of wine, you should have two and a half cups of wine for the soup—this sounds like a lot of wine, but—A) Just stop your whining! B) We are going to reduce the volume by 1/3 or so—(about twenty minutes at a good boil); C) all of the alcohol will be “burned off” D) it’s called “Portobello Burgundy” not “Portobello Bob’s your Uncle, or Portobello How’s your mother?”—get over it!
When the soup has simmered and cooked down to about two-thirds of its original volume we’re going to serve it with good bread and stinky cheese. That’s pretty much a given it’s French! —well the bread anyway—if you don’t have or don’t like stinky cheese—ehh, maybe just sit next to the French girl. [I’m kidding—some of my best friends are French girls—my grandmother was French Canadian for gods' sakes! I have nothing against the stinking French! I love the French! All right?!…so let’s go pick on the Italians for a while—whom I love—I love the Italians….Especially Rachel Ray and Giada De Laurentiis!
Let’s make some Minestrone eh? It’s poor peoples’ food—and like all “poor peoples’ food these days, it costs a fortune. No problem! We’ll make it—later.
The Accuracy of Silence
There were arguably three artists in the last Century who did more to advance the cause of non-representational Abstract Art than any others. They are not among my favorites, but they are among the most important simply because their visions prevailed. As I have maintained elsewhere, all art is "abstract"; some abstract art is representational and some is non-representational . Just as there is a lot of bad representational art "out there" there is also (considerably more) bad non-representational art as well. Although some of us would prefer to believe that the differences between good art and bad are to be determined objectively according to universal rules or principles. While there may be rules and principles that are more or less universal, the problem is there is little agreement about them: what they are, and how they should be applied to art. Generally speaking most people who don't know any better (but perhaps they mean well anyway) think that non-representational artists and thus their works transgress against "all the rules". There are some artists, who believe that as long as they are applying these rules to their work that they are creating art. A fair assessment and compromise might suggest that all art consists in certain elements; all of the elements of art can be described as either conforming to or transgressing against certain principles that are fundamental to their existence.
I'll go get some warm milk and a little coffee while you go back and read the last paragraph. If you get tired part way through, I suggest that you give up and join a palates class.
So (although others will disagree with me) i recognize five elements and five principles of design. (I am irreligious when it comes to most things and refuse to even pretend to spiritualism of any kind--I am very Old Testament when it comes to Art and Design: Much as the Old Testament gave us five do and five don't commandments, i give you five elements and five principles for art and design. The elements are Line, Shape, Mass, Texture and Color; the five principles are Contrast, Balance, Unity, Rhythm and Proportion. (The mnemonic devices i give my students are to take the first letter of each word and contrive some silly little sentence that will at least point you to the first letter of each word: for elements "L"ousy "S"ex "M"akes "T"ina "C"ranky; and for Principles "C" or "See" principal "BURP". If you don't know Tina, and or you never had a High School principal, you're on your own.)
Line is the same here as it was in Math class, the thing that connects two or more points. Lines are descriptive of shapes in that all shapes can be reduced to component lines. Mass is a kind of volumetric displacement of a given space defined or described by a given shape or shapes. Texture is something that can be felt through the senses, especially sight and touch; but i would like to think that there are rough and smooth smells, sounds and tastes as well--but that could just be me. Color is perhaps the most subjective of all of the elements of design and therefore of art; no two people experience the same color as the "same". The best way to explain color, is to use the examples of black and white. There are no true blacks or whites; there are only infinite variations of darker and lighter grays. (If you have any doubts about this fact, you need only to look in my closet and my sock and underwear drawers.)
Principles of design are somewhat less straightforward than their elementary counterparts: Contrast can mean a contrast of color, lines, textures, sizes and so forth; but basically a contrast presents two or more elements or principles each relative to the other so that it may be said that one is this, and the other is not this but is that. Balance is the presence or absence of some quality shared by two or more things in relatively equal amounts. (There are eight black squares and eight white squares on a black and white chess board. If your chess board is any other color than black and white--throw it out and buy a black and white one, so that this may still be said to be true in the generations yet to come--i'm very Old Testament about these things.) Unity is related to balance; whereas balance moves toward equality or parity, Unity moves toward sameness; balance is more quantitative and unity is more qualitative. Breasts may be of different sizes but they are all still breasts (you use your examples, I’ll use mine....).
Rhythm is an analogy of (in visual arts) on shape to another. A shape that tends to repeat is said to create a visual rhythm: for example the vertical lines and spaces that are and are between the slats of a picket fence. Proportion is probably the easiest principle to recognize but also the most difficult to interpret. Proportion can be the size of one thing relative to another; disproportion can be the absence or presence of one thing relative to another; we sometimes need to question the artist or her work to discover why things in her work are the way they are? Why does Michelangelo's David have a large head, hands and feet, but a small penis? I don't know--that must be a New Testament sort of thing....
The se Elements and Principles were and are used by both Representational and Non-Representational artists, not necessarily through the Artist's intention, but because the elements and principles inhere in our understanding of the nature of the world around us. Our three Non-Representational Artists: Wassily Kandinsky, Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko, all argued that their arrangement of the elements of design and art (in their works) adhered not just to the physical principles that are immediately apprehended by the mind, but also, somehow to greater spiritual "truths" or "realities" as well. Kandinsky's best known book is in fact called "Concerning the Spiritual in Art." Kandinsky was of course a product of the late Nineteenth Century which consumed most of Europe and the United States in a kind of maelstrom of Spiritual huckster-"ism"s. Jackson Pollock was a product of American Early Twentieth Century psychological huckster-ism, art school, alcohol and his own bad temper.
Mark Rothko was a product of the New York School (not really a school at all) Judeo-Christian guilt and huckster-ism and a misguided sense of anachronistic mysticism mixed with alcohol and tobacco. And yet as tragic as the lives of these three men were, they were possessed of (perhaps by) a curious sense of hope and optimism that marked them squarely as the descendants of the Romantics. As we will see, contrary to popular opinion, Non - Representational (abstract expressionist) art is not a progressive movement, but a conservative backlash with (pretensions toward) "spiritual" overtones.
Wassily Kandinsky was born in Moscow in the middle of the Nineteenth Century. (1866.) He was trained in Law and Economics; he taught law for a while and then moved to Berlin, where inexplicably he turned to the study of Art. Most famously, he co-founded the Blue Rider (mostly a series of written manifestos that were influential but not a fully-fledged art movement;) and he taught art and architecture at the Bauhaus until it was closed by the Nazis in 1933. He became a French Citizen in 1936 or 1939--and lived the rest of his life in France. [ In an interesting side note, his apartment in France was found for him by Marcel Duchamp.] He died in 1944 of what has been called a cerebral-vascular disease. The tragedy in his life was not the age at which he died, nor the cause of his death. The real tragedy was that he led his entire artistic life suffering under the delusion that the non-sense platitudes of Theo-sophistry had something to do with reality in general and art in particular.
While art doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and whereas anything can suggest or inspire art, Kandinsky set about trying to prove an almost mechanical correspondence between the elements of art and the emotions they arouse in us: as if to say “all blues are cool and recede from our view”, all “yellows are hot and advance toward the viewer”, “curves are soothing” and “all acute angles are angry”; if one were to properly order the elements predictable emotions would occur quite apart from a subject but none of this is true. “Black Lines” is a partially descriptive title of one of his works. And the work does have some black lines in it. So the title is at least partly descriptive. “Improvisation” a partial title of many of his works is misleading at best. His “Improvisations” were the result of numerous studies that one can only presume, even he felt failed to meet the result he desired.
Nor could these improvisations meet Kandinsky’s expectations. Our assessments of art and our responses to it, emotional and otherwise are entirely subjective. As we have seen previously the elements and principles of design, and therefore of art inhere not in the things themselves, but in our perceptions of things. They are observationally defined not intrinsic to the referent object: be it a point, a line, a plane, a color a shape or whatever. Theosophy and the theories that Kandinsky and others derived from it proved yet again that no matter how enthusiastically one embraces or espouses a positivist-ic philosophy one’s enthusiasm alone is not enough to prove it true. [A positivist-ic philosophy is one that merely asserts the truths of things without actually investigating them--like Pre-Socratic Philosophy or Republican Social policies.] I suppose in the end that what Kandinsky taught us was that art itself can be a proper subject for art making and art makers. I can’t help but wonder though, what he might have created had he not been so obsessed with proving his theories. Oh well, like most of us, sometimes he hit the nail, sometimes he hit the board–but all too often he just hit his thumb.
Jackson Pollock’s story is perhaps quintessentially a Post Modern American Tragedy. The model he chose for his art grew out of his manias and his attempts to assuage them. He saw “action painting” as an end in itself and not as a means to create art. He likened the process to the sand paintings of the native Americans of the southwest. The Shaman enters another realm, with his patient that is expressed by the fashioning of a mandala with sand. When the painting is finished it is swept away and the patient is cured. The action of painting is only a metaphor for the actions one undertakes in one’s life–as are the images created in colored sand by the Shaman.
Pollock located himself “inside” his painting in what i have elsewhere referred to as the “gestic” moment of the painting. He is both the Shaman and the patient. Pollock was “treated” or at least diagnosed as a manic depressive and an alcoholic; unfortunately for him his Psychiatrist probably knew less about his affliction than Pollock had intuited for himself, and was even further baffled as to the cure. Pollock succumbed to his disease in a single car accident that was reportedly alcohol related at the young age of forty four. He can truly be said to have died too young. His mistress died in the accident with him; a family friend survived the crash; and his wife Lee Krasner who was not in the accident lived for another forty years and did much to advance his work and the work of their foundation.
Pollock’s legacy doesn’t really flow from the paintings he created, nor from the tragedy that ended his life. His true legacy is in the idea of the gestic moment of creation where the act of creation becomes the created. This idea was picked up by Performance Artists like Allan Kaprow and John Cage. Pollock coined a new vocabulary for artists who strove to create a new art form. What Kandinsky could not do convincingly because his approach was mechanistic, Pollock achieved through organic means.
Mark Rothko was a New York Russian Jew who rejected formal religion and formal “contemporary” art. Many critics have commented on his Russian-ness or his Jewish-ness as important to understanding his art. I don’t believe this to be so in either case. I think that Rothko understood his spirituality to be located in a more Zen like apprehension of the silence that accompanies sound than in the sounds themselves. [Indeed one of the tenets of the New York School's Manifestos, published in 1943 in the New York Times was "Silence is so accurate" [If this program would allow me to add emphasis without turning the whole rest of the blog into italics i would emphasize the word "accurate".] How can silence be accurate? Isn’t silence there by being absent–a non-registered observation of privation and not of fulfillment? “Silence is so accurate” is a Koan. One is not meant to understand it rationally–if one tries, one necessarily fails because it exists only in a realm where logic no longer applies and the only possible point of reference is the still point (“immovable spot”) from which the Buddha could not be moved.
Rothko’s great masterpiece, some might argue his only masterpiece is the chapel that bears his name in Texas. (1964-1967 or perhaps 1969.) The fourteen panels are all over-sized perhaps intended to be black rectangles–that are intentionally not black (although they are composed of colors that suggest black in combination, and most experiences of the chapel would lead one to believe that the panels were black at some point but had faded– suggesting that Religious truths that were once “black and white” have now faded–that’s just my reading of them.)
Rothko, ironically, was not healthy enough to work on the panels himself, instead he hired two assistants to grind and mix pigments and lay in the carefully controlled color washes. The circumstances surrounding the commission of the chapel, its completion, eventual installation and dedication are still hotly discussed among art history scholars. Some points of agreement have been reached however: Rothko intended it to be a Roman Catholic Chapel, based on a Byzantine predecessor; and that the chapel would not be dedicated or consecrated as a Catholic chapel because Rothko committed suicide. I generally end my discussions of “the Post Modern” era with Rothko’s suicide. He was found by an assistant on his kitchen floor, lying next to a razor in a pool of blood with slashes on both arms, February 25, 1970, he was 63. His chapel was dedicated February 28th the following year as a non-denominational chapel perhaps consecrated to “the accuracy” of Silence.
Minestrone—I have no idea what it means in Italian (all right I’m lying—but go look it up anyway you lazy bastard!) Minestrone is basically a “leftover soup” or ‘stew’ made from beans, vegetables, stock and pasta. The key is to throw the pasta in during the last 5-8 minutes of cooking so it doesn’t overcook. Another key is to have enough stock left in the soup to cook the pasta and still be a soup. Another key is to chop your vegetables about the same size. Another key is to –that’s too many keys—that’s why I’m not a singer—I keep adding keys, changing keys, losing keys—where was I? ….
Start with a good vegetable broth (today I’m cooking for vegetarian types so no meat—you can use chicken stock or broth at home. (Do you know the difference between broth and stock? I do. What—you think I’m telling you! Buy my book!—God!! Do you know the difference between vegetarian and vegans? You can’t eat vegans on Friday!)
Roughly chop two onions—keep the peels on, one extremely large carrot or two medium ones, three ribs of celery and the leaves, several (5 or 6) cloves of garlic peeled and verbally abused; sauté everything in olive oil (about three tablespoons) when the onions start to sweat and the celery wilts, add two quarts of water—bring to a rapid boil then reduce the heat until it is just scampering away, without a care in the world….[Do you cook in the nude? Well, knock that shit off! People are going to be eating later!] Throw in a bay leaf –two if they are small and a hand full of red-pepper flakes (about a teaspoon), about a teaspoon of whole fennel seed, several grinds of black pepper, two teaspoons of salt and a rock—
I’m just kidding about the rock. (God some of you guys!)
Now there is the matter of beans—traditionally cannelini (sp) beans, kidney beans, white beans, great northern beans are all good. You can cook these yourself or you can buy canned (if you don’t know how to cook beans yourself—tough shit, I’m using canned today) rinse the beans thoroughly to get all of the salt and goop off of them. Use two cans (15 or 16 oz) and reserve a little over half of one can of beans for mashing and adding later to thicken the soup.
Chop all of the following:
One bunch of kale
Three ribs of celery—leaves and all
Six cloves of garlic
Sauté these in a large pot in olive oil.
Drain and strain the veggie stock we made earlier onto these veggies when the onions start to turn translucent. Throw the old soggy vegetable into the compost bin, the garbage can or the dog’s dish. They are done. I know this seems wasteful—that’s why I suggested the compost bin. Keep up, will ya?
Blend a large can of whole tomatoes in a blender or food processor until the fibers disappear or the cows come home, never mind—
Strain through a sieve into the pot of simmering veggies. Add a tablespoon of dried oregano and a couple of branches of fresh rosemary; add the strained beans (except for the ½ can or so that we’re saving to mash later. Add one and one half cups of red wine (see the caveats above—you can use Chianti—but I wouldn’t if I were you) Pour a glass for yourself-for your lover, for the neighbor; Have a smoke—talk about old times—
“Do you think it’s gonna rain?”
“smells like rain”
“got any threes”
“ain’t you supposed to say ‘go fish’?”
“Were playin’ hold ‘em”
All right—well, go watch TV—or something! The soup has to simmer for half an hour—see if Judge Judy is on!
You got to love Judge Judy:
“Do I look like an idiot!? <She jumps in her chair>
“Cuz I think you think I’m an idiot?!” <she points to herself and then to him>
“Byrd, Am I an idiot?!” <She leans back in her chair—pursing her lips in a scowl>
<She jumps a little and points a boney finger> “He thinks I’m an idiot—<jumps a little and draws herself up in her chair>
“Sir! They don’t keep me here because I’m five foot ten and gorgeous!!” <She slaps her hand on the podium in front of her for emphasis>
Yeah…Judge Judy will never retire—never be cancelled—one day she’ll be sitting on the bench going off on some guy in a wife-beater and pork-pie hat –and she’ll just explode!! That’s it. End of story. Put a period.
Back to the soup.
It’s simmering away. We put out our cig. We reach into the cupboard for whatever pasta we have: no whole wheat, nothing too fussy like radiatori or fuselli or gods’ forbid “bow ties!” –I like shell macaroni—or better yet, ditalini (sp—could be an “a” could be an “e” could be another “I”—could be one “n” could be two “n’s” who knows—I can’t spell in five languages—I’m too old to start now—and I know it when I see it….) (they are short, little tiny tube shaped noodles) Throw a little less than half the box in and hope for the best.
When the noodles are done (al dente—to your dentist’s satisfaction) throw in the mashed beans, some chopped fresh basil, and some grated parmesan or Romano cheese. (“Parmesan comes from Parma—Romano
comes from Rome—I buy the one that’s cheapest –and take my fat ass home!”—you can sing this in the cheese aisle—no one will mind.)
I like to serve my Minestrone with lots of wine and lots of Garlic bread—maybe a little salad—Caesar (dressing) of course.
By mere juxtaposition, one might suppose that i intend to argue that if one were to combine elements of Temporary Art with those of Subversive Art one would arrive at Transgressive Art. This is not entirely true. Subversive art wants to overturn an existing order, all art is in a sense temporary, but Transgressive art violates an existing morality. Because Transgressive art takes place against or in spite of an existing morality, the event or artifact of the art may be temporary but the effects are intended to last for a long time. Subversive Art may be created and exist in theory alone–but Transgressive art requires action. As Aristotle observed, actions may be complete or incomplete–and for him, art must consist in complete actions; although this may be true, the actions of the Transgressive artist need not be complete to be successful. [Go back and re-read everything you've read so far. I know you didn't follow it. This is not because you are slow, not because you are drunk, drinking or suffering from heat exhaustion--it's because i need another cup of coffee, and am in a hurry because i have to pee. so re-read the above... I’ll be back...]
Two examples of Transgressive artists are Antonin Artaud and Hermann Nitsch. They also represent respectively (and conveniently) the two instances described above. Artaud never realized his Theater of Cruelty in anything more than a rudimentary way; Nitsch completed many transgressive acts that were indeed cruel, but left us wondering if they were art. Artaud today is regarded as something of a hero in the counter culture [this is an old fashioned term left over from the 1960's and '70's to describe people who wanted to reform society by abandoning it--and as it turned out they were unorganized to the point that few of them could agree on much of anything; and so, eventually they all went home and took showers, started their own businesses, bought mini-vans and got old.] Artaud is probably best considered as a poet. His writing in French is virtually impenetrable and when translated into English, is worse. Yet there was something strangely compelling about Artaud.
His parents were first cousins: Artaud was one of only three of nine children in all, to survive to adult hood. He had headaches from an early age, was treated for mental instability over fifty times with Electro-Current-Therapy. He was addicted to laudanum and Chloral-Hydrate (?) and tried several times unsuccessfully to detoxify himself at various asylums. In his early (acting) pictures, he looks like a lost Barrymore Brother; in his later years he looks more like Keith Richards. He became famous among those in this country (artistic types who were looking for reasons to drop acid–or whatever else) mostly because of his accounts of his use of peyote. His most important contribution to artistic theory is his idea that the moment of artistic “arrest” can best be compared with the death throes of someone who has contracted the Plague. His most influential written work is “The Theater and its Double”; in which he sets forth his ideas about a rigorous theater that absorbs the spectator into the performance to the extent that the “fourth wall” is obliterated and therefore meaningless. His most important written and performed work is an extended poem [that was performed as a radio play] that is usually [unsuccessfully or ineptly] translated as “To have done with the Judgment of God.” [I think that a more faithful--albeit transliterate--rendering might be "To Be Fed-Up with God's Judgments!"--but that's just me; look at the work in French and see what you think!] He was found dead, by a care-giver, at the foot of his bed, sitting with his eyes wide open–apparently trying to put on a shoe– ready-ing himself for something–i don’t know what…. [But i dare not say "God only knows" what....]
Artaud summed up his life several times throughout his career; probably the best and most moving of these summaries was his “Post Scriptum” to “The Theater of Cruelty” [typically i think posthumously published....]
Who am I?/Where do I come from?/I am Antonin Artaud and/ if I say it as I know how to say it/ immediately/ you will see my present body/ fly into pieces/ and under ten thousand/ notorious aspects/ a new body/ will be assembled/ in which you will never again/ be able/ to forget me” (323).
[For some reason this program won't allow me to break the lines where they need to be broken hence the "/'s" ....]
["Watchfiends and Rackscreams: Works from the Final Period of Antonin Artaud." Ed. and Trans. Clayton Eshelman with Bernard Bador. Exact Change. Boston: 1995.]
If nothing else the postscript is an encapsulation of Artaud’s Gnosticism and relentless optimism. The duality of his theater, of his own corporeal and spiritual nature, and even his concept of God, is expressed in the form of a simple incantation: For Artaud, there was a better God, a better world, a better self and a better body always at once, absent and present; each waiting to be ushered into the present moment through the solemn whispers and anguished, plaintive screams of the dead and dying.
[Please wait until i am finished to read this--i feel as though someone is reading over my shoulder as i type.... the last time that happened--boots were thrown, noses were broken....it wasn't pretty....]
Artaud’s work must be regarded as Transgressive; even though he never fully realized a coherent and complete version of his Theater of Cruelty. In his view, [i am being very careful here not to say "in his mind"] God himself drew a line in the proverbial sand–and Artaud crossed it–repeatedly.
Hermann Nitsch was born in Austria in 1938. He graduated from a prestigious art school, worked for a time as a graphic designer and began to establish himself as a part of the Abstract Expressionist movement. Unlike more conventional artists, Nitsch was drawn to “actions” or performance art. In particular Nitsch’s performances imitated (some might say mocked) religious rituals and sacrifices. His paintings are “splatter” works for the most part, the paint is intended–i suppose– to represent blood and viscera left over after a ritual sacrifice. Early in his career (roughly 1963 to about 1968) Nitsch had a lot of trouble with the law (so much so that he was forced to move to Germany and become successful there and in America)–including several arrests and imprisonments for, among other things “blasphemy”. [sorry i have to pause a bit to wrap my head around the concept of someone being imprisoned for "blasphemy".... you should too....]
Nitsch is a curiosity. I suppose if we were to stand in the basement of his castle in lower Austria as he performed a ritual or a painting we might better understand the work he has been doing for the last almost fifty years–as an individual work–it is difficult for me at least, to understand a body of work, spread over fifty years that has to do primarily with the evisceration of small animals and the staging of mock crucifixions. Nor can i imagine myself or anyone else moved to anything more than a pitying shrug in contemplation of these events. If we are looking for esoteric meanings in Nitsch’s process, he seems to lack a fundamental understanding of what ritual is supposed to mean and how rituals and ritual magic are supposed to work. In ritual, for a rather gruesome example, blood spilling or letting has to connect with either the earth–or with the ritual participants and priests or priestesses. The life force was thought to be contained in the blood itself–by returning it to the earth or by ritually consuming it one either recharges the cycle of death and rebirth directly (into the ground) or indirectly (by ritual communal consumption). Merely killing and skinning a lamb for instance, isn’t accomplishing anything symbolically that isn’t done actually on a daily basis by cooks and butchers around the world. The actions involved in Nitsch’s mock rituals do not rise to the level of blasphemy or of transgression–simply because they are so ordinary. Of course the other favorite method of releasing the life force in ancient religious thought and practice was to burn the animal’s carcass–the Old Testament is full of that stuff…. Nitsch doesn’t really deal much with the images or associations surrounding burnt offerings; he seems more intrigued by Christian symbolism–especially crucifixions.
If Nitsch’s actions or “rituals” were more extreme or authentic, they might begin to meet the standard he himself proposes–but i don’t believe that they would rise even then much above the level of a futile gesture–or an exercise in make-believe. We simply have to wade through too many levels of abstraction and distraction to get to something that might move us (to fear or awe or reverence–or indeed something other than a slight queasiness and mild revulsion–which–former– seems to be the point that Nitsch was trying to make or the effect that he was striving after….) Of the many symbolic “levels of removal” that we must wade through most are so trite and obvious as to scarcely warrant a mention here: sacrificial lambs, scapegoats, symbolic or ritual transference of collective or communal guilt onto the sacrificial victim and so forth. What really diffuses Nitsch’s entire process and I believe totally undermines his work is that he seeks to transgress (something) through or by (re) enacting rituals meant to appease (that same something)!! Rather than be offended by Nitsch’s “art” or “actions” i should think that the gods, God, (and the authorities in Austria) should be laughing their asses off at him.
If we return to our previous discussion of transgressive art, we recall that in order to “transgress” the artist must literally “cross a line”–Sometimes, the artist not only crosses the line, but he or she asks or dares us to cross it with him or her. Furthermore, the line that is to be crossed must have been established by a [sufficient] moral authority. The Austrian State–or any government is not a sufficient “moral” authority. States, regardless of their delusions to the contrary are established by people, not by gods and have at best a “civil” authority or an “ethical” authority. [The difference is of course that civil authority is established and maintained by rule of law and of arms when necessary, and ethical authority is established by logic and reason.] Imagine if you will, Hermann Nitsch dressed in his robe; he turns to us and announces “there” he points “I have drawn a line” and then turns away; “Now I will cross the line that I have drawn”. He takes one giant “uber” step; and then, he turns back to look at us, beaming: “See–I have crossed the line!” Even in German it sounds stupid because it is stupid–although in German there is a considerable amount of spitting that can be involved…. If you go to his next “six day play”, don’t stand in the front row….
So we have seen two examples of transgressive art: the art of Antonin Artaud and his unrealized vision of the Theater of Cruelty; and the Orgies and Mysteries of Hermann Nitsch. (That’s how he describes his ritual performances–or at least how his description is usually translated.) We have discussed briefly the nature of transgressive art–that is that it is art or activity that crosses the proverbial “line”. In Artaud’s case he was certain that the line was being drawn by god; in the case of Nitsch, he conveniently drew the line for himself and then repeatedly crossed it for fifty years or so. This it seems is the fundamental problem with transgressive art: who draws the line and when do we realize we have crossed it?
I might argue along with Hunter S. Thompson, that “the only people who know where the [line--he says "edge"] is, have already gone over it.” Thompson would argue (as have many others) that once that line has been crossed that there is no easy way back. On the other hand, we might say with Artaud that the line is constantly moving especially with respect to our position relative to it, until finally we no longer can be certain which side of the line we are on. We need only look for an example to the word “pornography”–it is cobbled together from two Greek words to mean “writing about prostitutes.” The word was coined in English in the 18th century to describe the archaeological finds at Herculaneum and Pompeii. In fact, the word didn’t even exist in prior to that time in reference to anything. It is problematic if it was at all helpful in pursuit of the task for which it was coined. If we dig into English and World literature we find that there was plenty of writing about prostitutes, by Shakespeare, for example and before him by Chaucer and Boccaccio.
Apparently people of the 14th and 17th century were sophisticated enough to know what was being discussed or presented without having to have a term for it–either that or they simply took these types of discussions and rhetoric for granted. [For a complete discussion see Walter Kendrick's The Secret Museum among others--Kendrick is the recognized expert though--as of 1996's first California Paperback edition, he was still teaching English at Fordham University....]Probably the most famous or infamous statement about what “pornography” is or isn’t, was sputtered-out by Justice Potter Stevens “…I know it when I see it.” In a legal sense this is of course a useless standard. As a purely logical consideration or standard, it is of course laughable. Although, if you ask most people today–and this is the result of serious surveys, conducted by serious researchers–about 85-90% will say something remarkably close to this. In almost every English speaking country, throughout Europe and in fact almost everywhere except the totalitarian Regimes in China, North Korea and the Theocratic Islamic states, mere nudity never rises to the level of either pornography or obscenity in the various courts of law. In fact most courts have ruled in favor of even sexually explicit material, that is expressly sexual and only intended for the purpose of “arousing prurient interests”–this is especially true in the US. The easiest way to understand the principle that underlies most of these court’s rulings, is that since “pornography” has not been satisfactorily defined, it cannot be out-law-ed, only discouraged.
Some of the ways that lawmakers have tried to discourage pornography include the prohibitions against selling or distributing “it” to minors. There is however universal agreement that nude images of minors may not be distributed or sold–this is not covered under laws concerning the control of images related to sex, but rather under the laws related to violence against children. [Similar to laws in most places that hold that children cannot consent to sex, thus any sexual acts involving children are considered rape by statutory law and any argument put forward suggesting that the child agreed to those acts is thereby rendered moot] All this is as it should be. On the other hand, nudity (especially the female nude) has figured prominently throughout the history of art both in the east and in the western traditions of art.
Thomas Jefferson (yes THAT Thomas Jefferson) at the time of his death, was in possession of the largest private collection of erotica–most of which centered around the female nude form or images of couples engaged in various acts of copulation–in the world. The collection is today housed in the Smithsonian’s “general collection” (no doubt in a very dark, quiet corner in the back somewhere.)So, in so far as our discussion of “transgressive” art, it would seem that what for many might be a logical candidate: i.e., “pornography”, must be excluded: first, because it cannot be defined successfully; and second, because does not cross a discernable line (if there ever was one, any such line has been successfully erased in the two hundred or so years since the term was coined. Another, alternative art form, proposed as a species of transgressive art was “street art”, also referred to as “tagging” or simply “graffiti.” Taggers, or graffiti artists who put their work in dangerous or forbidden places, have claimed or have had claimed for them a kind of recognition as transgressive artists.
“After all” they argue “if you can get arrested for doing it, it must be transgressive.” But this doesn’t pass the test we stipulated at the outset–that artists who are truly transgressive don’t know where the “line” is. The whole point of tagger style art, is that one could be arrested for doing it (although the usual charges amount to little more than trespassing or even criminal trespassing); according to the Taggers, they experience a rush or adrenaline high because they know what they are doing is wrong. That high will, I’m afraid have to be its own reward–because of itself, the recognition that the tagger is crossing a line, in order to experience his (or her) “rush,” is enough to exclude it as “transgressive art.” The truth is i suppose, in the last analysis, we may not be capable of an art form that is truly transgressive–no more so than we are capable of a form that is truly “transformational” or “transformative”. Robert Hughes was arguing at least this latter point some forty years ago–even before he became famous in this country for his PBS series and several books.
[The only reason Hughes wasn't knighted by the Queen shortly after the ground breaking series aired on the BBC--was before she had a chance to bring the sword down, Hughes admitted publicly to smoking pot. Technically he has been awarded the status of "Officer of the Order of Australia"; Most of the Imperial Orders (the rules governing the bestowal of knighthoods and the like) were suspended in Australia in 1985. Before that happened at least a dozen men were named to the Knights of the Order of Australia--or AK’s--Hughes was not one of them. Had Hughes stayed in England and established a permanent residence there in the late Seventies or Eighties, instead of moving to New York to take a position at the Times, he could have been made a Member of the British Empire or even a Knight of the Realm, as other Australians have been. The best that he can hope for now is an upgrade to a Companion of the Order of Australia--AC--or perhaps even a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order--RVO--which as Aussies say, is "Betty Windsor’s" sole prerogative. In any event it doesn't seem likely that he'll be called "Sir Robert" any time soon. The last time i saw him, he was having trouble breathing and walking; perhaps additional honors will come posthumously. Most recently he's been busy pissing off the British by debunking Damien Hirst, of whose work, "the Virgin Mother" he said "isn't it a miracle what so much money and so little ability can produce?" He pisses off Americans --American producers anyway--by asking for money to do documentaries; and he pisses off Australians by saying things about Australia like "they can tow it out to sea and sink it for all I care".]
Finally, (for this outing anyway) it’s only fair that if Art cannot transform us (make us better than we are) that there shouldn’t be a form of art that is transgressive. Whatever this century holds for us (well, for those of us who will see much of it anyway) a defining movement will have to wait, until we have had enough time to clear our heads from the disastrous results of the efforts of those who failed to adequately respond to the failed optimism(s) of the last century. [Hey-- has anyone seen that canary?]
[(borsht) n. etym. Rus. Chick Food that can get you laid….]
Borscht means “beet”; beet soup is a middle European classic dish; many people, myself included, object to the strong, musky taste and odor of cooked beets. For some reason I’ve always liked this soup. This soup is not a typical borsht; by weight it has more cabbage in it than beets, it is made with tomatoes and the final product is seldom the familiar deep maroon color that is typical of most beet soups. If you are a strict vegetarian or a vegan you can make this soup with only minor variations; the strange thing is, that it will still taste almost as good as when I make it!
First make a vegetable stock (Fry onions, celery and carrots in about three tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot. When the onions are translucent, add about a gallon of bottled water—what? You’re vegan and you drink LA tap water? Anyway…. Toss in a bay leaf, a dozen or more cracked peppercorn and a small palm full of salt (about a tablespoon. Bring the pot to a boil, go smoke a bowl, come back turn the heat down; let the pot simmer until –well, about 45 minutes. Cut a whole head of cabbage in half—shred one half of the cabbage into thin strips. Sauté the shredded cabbage in butter or oil until they begin to wilt; turn down the heat, cover the skillet or whatever with a lid. Continue to cook until the wilted cabbage shreds have started to caramelize. (Yes you can do this while the veggie stock is simmering—if you are not—eh—busy…..) While the stock is simmering and the cabbage is caramelizing, chop the rest of the cabbage roughly. Dice some carrots—about three medium ones should do; dice three onions, two potatoes, one very large beet. You also need to find dill weed (no, dill weed): you will need two tablespoons dried, or four tablespoons fresh, chopped fine dill weed. You also need some left-over mashed potatoes (about a cup). If you don’t have mashed potatoes—go make some. [We’ll wait here—uh, yeah, could you um…leave the pipe maybe?—thanks!] Finally, you need two cans of whole peeled tomatoes (15 or 16 oz each); or one large can (30 or 32 oz). If you don’t use canned tomatoes—you really are a pain in the ass! Chop and stew twenty tomatoes in about two cups of water and ½ cup of white wine. (If you don’t cook with wine—why don’t you just go home—you’re harshing my mellow, dude!)
To put the soup together:
Drain the veggie stock into a large stock pot—discard the vegetables and the bay leaf they rode in on.
Add the wilted, caramelized cabbage; all of the chopped vegetables including the rest of the cabbage and the beet—do not space out on the beet. Add the canned or stewed tomatoes (puree the tomatoes in a blender and strain them if you like—otherwise just let them go in “butch”); add the dill weed and the mashed potatoes. Stir everything together in the pot, bring the pot to a boil; turn down the heat and simmer the soup until the beet-chunks lose most of their color (about 1 ½ to 2 hours). Don’t fall asleep on the couch! Play video games or something.
I always serve this with a good Russian or Jewish rye bread. I top the soup with sour cream and more dill. If you don’t use sour cream you can top it with tofutti. (Do they even still make “tofutti”?—or whatever else you can think of that is a vegan alternative to sour cream. This is not intended to be a “blended” soup; it is meant to be rustic (chunky—with its chunks in tact) if you want to blend your soup for religious or whatever reasons—feel free. I don’t know about you but I’m getting hungry…got any chips—er something?
Vincent Van Gogh was not the greatest painter of all time. (Sit back down!) One of his teachers complained about him that he painted furiously, paint flew everywhere around the room! Vincent was covered in paint, the floor was covered in paint, the people next to him got splashed with paint! It was so bad the teacher said he had to go back to the back of the room, to check to see if any paint made its way onto the canvas. When he looked at Vincent’s painting, it looked as if he had spent hours meticulously applying every stroke. The teacher of course was shocked. Vincent was not the best painter of all time–he would have been the first to admit it too. But he was probably the most sincere and passionate painter of all time–hands down.
Vincent saw painting as his job. No matter what else he was doing at the time, painting was always first in his thoughts. His family (his Uncle and later his brother Theo) were heirs to the largest and most reputable art dealership in Europe. Vincent’s Uncle, also named Vincent, tried to bring Vincent and his younger brother Theo into the family business. While Theo thrived at picking saleable art and selling it at a good price, Vincent would sit around with the artists and talk about painting. This irritated his family to the point where they eventually asked him to find another line of work.
Vincent’s Father was a Minister and Theo helped Vincent secure a position as a lay-clergyman; a sort of teacher and social worker who was assigned by the church to work with the poorer members of the community. The Pastor had to fire Vincent eventually, because as he complained to Theo, Vincent would give his pay (all of it) to the poor, so he had nothing left to live on for himself. Theo told the pastor not to give Vincent money, just to provide him with the clothes, food and furniture he might need. The pastor tried this, and then later wrote Theo again to tell him that this wasn’t working out either, because Vincent was giving these away too.
Early on Vincent fell in love and decided to marry. Theo was a bit surprised, but tried to be supportive, even though the woman was somewhat older than Vincent and she had nine children. After about six months of marriage, the woman disappeared with all of Vincent’s belongings and her nine kids. At about this point, his family decided that Vincent should move to the country and seek professional help. Psychotherapy had not really been invented yet–but even simple folk could tell when someone was “a little off”, and Vincent certainly was that…. We know too, that Vincent probably had a drinking problem–there was an interview several years ago that aired on European and eventually American TV of the then, oldest person in the world. As a young woman, this person had worked as a shop girl in Provence. It was the kind of shop where one could buy tobacco and paint. The woman recalled in the interview that she knew Van Gogh as a frequent customer–when the interviewer asked her what he was like she responded that he was “ugly and stank of wine and tobacco.” (And yes, it sounds better in French.)
Probably the most known and often cited fact about Van Gogh (even my students here out in the God Forsaken desert know it) is that he cut off his ear. Now this may seem a bit eccentric in the extreme but to be fair, it might have made sense to Vincent at the time. In the one-man show “Vincent” popularized by Leonard Nimoy years ago on PBS, the author describes a situation where Vincent would find himself night after night at the local bar, where one of the–how should we say–chanteuses would taunt the men by saying “five francs, or cut off your ear”. But the story is not quite that simple–there were events leading up to this incident.
Van Gogh had on a trip to Visit Theo in Paris, met with several painters including Paul Gauguin–who was “hot” at the moment in painterly circles. Vincent and Gauguin hit it off right away and it was decided that Gauguin would join Vincent in Provence and the two would open a school for painters. In Anticipation of the great man’s arrival, Vincent painted furiously to brighten up his little apartment and make it fitting for someone so important. (Or whatever.) At first the two got on well, they painted, they caroused, they drank and then they began to fight. [In a paper i wrote as a grad student i chronicled the whole thing through Vincent's paintings of his room, letters to his brother and paintings of two of the chairs in his room: one was Gauguin’s chair, and the other was his.... you can read this paper and buy a copy at www.getafreekinlife. com....]
On Christmas Eve [I’m not kidding] the two were at their favorite bar (the red one in Vincent’s painting) the fighting came to a fevered pitch, push came to blurry shove, Gauguin stormed out and Vincent went home to his little room. Sometime in the night Vincent cut off the lobe of his ear, put it in a box and sent it with a note to one of the girls who worked above the bar. The note said only: “take care of this, it is very precious”.
Probably the most poignant story about Vincent’s life, concerns his death. One bright day in 1890 Vincent was probably drinking all night, he went out into the meadow behind the house where he was staying, and shot himself in the stomach with a revolver. He was found brought back to his room, Theo was sent for and arrived. Theo talked to the Doctor, the Doctor told Theo that Vincent had shot himself in the stomach but had not lost too much blood and that there was no reason to expect that he shouldn’t make a full recovery. Theo sat with Vincent for three days. For no apparent reason, Vincent died. Among his effects they found a half-finished letter to Theo. An apparent suicide note; in the note Vincent apologized to his brother and his wife Johanna for all of the trouble he had caused them; he apologized for all of the money he had borrowed (he would often end his letters, which were usually about his art or the art of other painters he knew with “oh, and by the way, could you send me fifty francs–Theo always did) he apologized for failing at everything he ever attempted. The letter ended abruptly with “So, how is it with you?” Theo fell ill, shortly after Vincent’s death, and died a year later.
The only reason that we know as much about Theo and his more famous brother Vincent is because Theo’s wife had carefully collected all of their letters to each other; she published these along with several other letters about the two by friends or other artists, after Theo died. During his lifetime, Vincent never really sold a painting (he traded one for rent and offered sketches to some of the people he lived with in exchange for food.) Instead Vincent sent all of his work to Theo, who stored them in a spare room. From time to time Theo would offer his older brother a showing, but Vincent always declined declaring that “the work isn’t ready yet”.
Tortilla Soup (Vegetarian style)
Tortilla soup is not really something I grew up with. Okay, I never even heard of it until I moved to Los Angeles. This is no doubt “food of the people”—left-overs. Like most soups you need to start with a stock. Do not use bouillon cubes, granules, powder packets or the flavoring packets from ramen noodles. Make a stock from vegetables (we’ve done this before people—you should be able to do this in your sleep) or you can buy canned: Chicken (I won’t tell, promise) or Vegetable. I recommend ½ gallon, or two quarts. (If you try to figure this out on a calculator in the middle of the soup aisle at Ralph’s or Safeway—people will talk; tempers will flare and names will be called. If you use a calculator at Whole Foods—no one at whole foods knows what a calculator is—they have people who do that kind of thing for them!)
The soup, as nearly as I can figure can be broken down into four basic flavor components: The Stock; The Tortillas (corn not flour); Tomatoes; Everything—Anything— Else. The stock should be simmering away by now; add the tomatoes—again for convenience I used canned, whole tomatoes—the large can or two small ones. Break the tomatoes up with your fingers—before putting them into the soup, because handling boiling hot anything is a bitch! Add a table spoon of dried oregano, a tablespoon of dried ground cumin, several grinds of fresh black pepper and about a teaspoon of salt. Now, if you don’t have left-over tortillas, take a few minutes to fry some in hot oil in a skillet until they are crispy but not burned. You can also bake them in a 400 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes until they are crisp. While the tortillas are draining or cooling you can put together everything else.
Chop one medium onion, three or four clove of garlic. (into the stock with them.)
One medium bottle of beer for the soup; one medium bottle of beer for you! [Try Modelo Negro™—very nice!]
Chop a small bunch of cilantro (half in now, half saved for service.)
Open a can of black beans—drain and rinse—dump
Open a package of frozen corn—dump it in 5-8 minutes before serving
(yes you can use fresh—cut it off of the cob or cut the cob and all into circlets)
Chop one small onion into the chopped cilantro for garnish
Chop one small tomato for garnish
Slice ten (not 9 not 11 but exactly 10) radishes for garnish
½ head of shredded cabbage for garnish
About 12 (one dozen) limes cut into wedges (for the beer, or the kids)
Shred ½ pound each of cheese for service (cheddar, jack, queso anjejo—)
Open a can of sliced jalapeno’s; or slice pickled jalapenos for garnish
Hot sauce—Tapatio™—if you have it
Five minutes before serving, crush, slice or chop the tortillas into pieces that can be navigated with a spoon. Drop the tortillas into the simmering soup let the soup continue to simmer. Arrange as many bowls as you need for the number of people you are going to serve. Place a modest amount of each of the garnishes into each of the bowls and fill with ladles full of soup until everyone has one bowl. Now the only problem you have is how to get the bowls to the table. If you don’t have kids—have everyone converge on the kitchen to get their own bowl, a bottle of beer, a few lime wedges. Women may kiss the cook—guy’s can shut up get soup and a beer and sit down.