Monday, February 28, 2011

Laurel Nakadate and her video dates.

So I've become aware of the artist Laurel Nakadate, read an article in Modern Painters and watched an interview featuring the works which put her on the map. (You can and should visit her website  A video artist who finished her grad work at Yale, Nakadate focuses her lens on random encounters with men. These men are not models, are not hot or chic, are often grotesque; they are the men one might find sitting alone at a mall, men populating craigslist, men ostracized by magazine culture and popular body-image into the fringe where they anonymously rot, the American men that are just lonely enough to participate in Nakadate's work. In short: Nakadate is slumming. A minimal (collaborative, she suggests) choreography allows the "date" to become its own thing, a spontaneous experience. One finds her dancing out some B. Spears tunes or spinning a man like a demented puppet while lasciviously cocking a hip with a curious non-expression on her face, an expression she might wear while reading Derrida.

In my efforts to understand the modern artist, the Modern Artist, from Hirst to Zhang to Koons or Kruger, I wandered into Ms. Nakadate's work with an open mind. As a man, as an everyman, I allowed a fascination with her ultra-sexy self-representation, her elevated sense of undergarment fashion, her salacious movements. But a self-consciousness surged and I swear Barbara Kruger yelled at me from a banner painting somewhere. Am I the guy dancing to “oops” by Spears on some level? Probably. And am I conflicted about that? Probably. Am I part of a youjizz culture? Probably. I am an element of the culture currently reclaiming fast sexuality, which will ebb and flow with the on the tiding myths of taboo and morality (the struggle of animalism versus intellectuallism). But Ms. Nakadate is not lewd, rather she is shrewd, an observant exotic dancer, an exhibitionist vixen, a narcissus, an false sexpot, a siren damning sailors against her shores. She is a snowglobe handicraft of our oedipal society. She is a beautiful echo, albeit in a direct gender reversal, of de Kooning's Women of the late 50's and the early 60's door paintings. She is the anti-argument to R. Prince's nurse paintings, which are much less cruel (in my male-centric opinion), her femininity equal in power to Prince's masculinity. Her art is an angst-driven frame-flip from Gauguin's Tahitian goddesses (and consequential death by syphillis), Ingres' Odalisque, even the demi-erotic representation of Biblical females in Renaissance imagery (Caravaggio, Titian, Michelangelo). . . there is little new here in terms of art and Humanity, just a simple reduction of the Male to a castrated gaping mouth that some women adore. She has taken de Kooning's horror-sluts into new domains and gender-reversed the anger with great alacrity, she has lined up a few guys in a comic book store with some masks and underwear and cobra-charmed them into les desmoilles d'avignon, les hommes d'avignon. And it is simultaneously a true and false representation, like mass media sexuality, like pop music, like line dancing, like this essay, like all art. 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A bend in the form with caravaggio, bach, dizzy miles, sleeplessness, post surgery.

insomniac scribble interlaced with lucubration.

Brunswick Nature Park overlook just off trail.
I'd started an essay on carravaggio, his madness and rage and death and how that torment was the architecture for his high renaissance beauty, but promptly quit to Brunswick Nature Park for a run and the morning was spring-easy and bright, with an optimistic goal for the morning run of 24k (~ 15m). . . a gel, a clifbar, a quart of h20 and a pint of gatorade stashed in the civic after a breakfast of banana and coffee, yogurt folded with nut & pommegranite granola, and my energy felt full and lucid. Gulp of coffee at 8h40am, cut off marley's soul rebel, set the garmin, and began to loosen the legs toward the trail head.  I wanted to savor the run, to mill out a slow clip of 10min/m or so, feeling the weight of my movement on earth as earth pushed back, a strengthening pace, and as oral surgery haunted tomorrow morning, I just wanted to run until the leg-labors reduced me to meat and easy breath and then shower and bach's fugues worked against fluid drawings of a twisted dancer, look at some modigliani, more caravaggio or baselitz before the night's shift. . . rodin's black drawings, erotic and bruised, pungent of the oils of fingertips and sex, pushing the mixture of ink and charcoal into heavy-toothed pages, joan mitchell's canvases so poetic and profound, minimal like a visual haiku. . . . slowly the trail wound around the stubbed woods shouldering Town Creek, black and still with a reflection of the surrounding evergreens barely broken by a ripple along her long reach, smooth like a lady's arm. . . . smells off the brackish stew where the root-knobs rose from the shallows and a dragonfly jerked in flight. . . abruptly the run got blurred, eyes wincing as if in allergy or irritant, and slowly a dizziness crept up and stalled on me, and I found myself experiencing some degree of tunnel vision as if in full exertion approaching blackout, the shrinking frame of vision.  Slowing, I pulled the pace to a jog, short kicks along the side of the creek, stretching the various ropes in my legs, reeling long drags of the fermented wood and freshly upturned earth, and I finished the trail to turn back towards the car, to jog back to point A, blaming dehydration or progressive fatigue. . . beating myself for a failing run, knowing runs would be restricted for several days, blaming the long work week with valentines rolling through our tables like a barrage, wearing me down perhaps more than I suspected. . . . drank half-water, half-gatorade, and hung around.  I walked to the picnic area, quiet and serene now, a cool breeze against mud-splashed legs, and began to really enjoy my presence, a sanctuary.  between thoughts, I got my head and heart anchored, and back into the woods I went, this time enjoying foot-play and the flittering birds shocking me back into it, back into the air, then thinking of picasso and his savage thanatost, his brutal beauty, monet's wonderment and pleasure in his giverny gardens, contemplated the kindred love of a plein air painter and someone running the woods, wondered if saint francis or basho would blame me for wanting to just run in this, gulping it in under legs and the senses peeled back raw beneath effort, or would they tell me to slow it down brother, be still. . . . dharma bums & desolation angels. . . but running, exertion, its an exorcism, its the struggle  the push  the suffering, and it brings the Core back into focus, reads clearly the private language in the Landscape, the private calligraphy of long runs alone in God's land, and yet as I write this, re-experiencing the deep stomach horrors of hunger and narcotics, post-surgery blues at 4h43am, bloody gums adding ferric bite to my strongest coffee, the tastes of decay, and the narcotics back in the system is unpleasant even if temporary, to eat a pill first thing this insomniac pre-dawn, crawling out of the twisted bed, self-medicating, its all very depressing.  a moment of despair, of tears, probably the result of the narcotics themselves, and no sleep all night, laying beside my wife, who sleeps well and deeply while kyote coughs and I am trying to think interesting thoughts, trying to be okay, to let my body relax into sleep, to ignore the bloody belches, the headache, the medicine tastes behind the sour-iron breath, and i've had many days such as this, but not in a long time, not in years, and I wish I could run, reclaim this mess of a body, so quickly lost. The bend in the thing is purely temporary, and I reflect back to the run where my goal of fifteen miles distengrated into seven miles and struggle not to read it as some metaphysical layer, some metaphor, a horrible prophecy. caravaggio.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Follow the rain.

The storm beat furiously and now I am footslogging across the Brunswick Nature Park, a Tuesday morning solo run, and the trails are mired, tarred, full of difficult navigation. No jesus lizard footing, no skim-sole trick to it, drudging through slosh and slog. . . a pleasureless, laborious run.
The air has a vaporous sizzle carrying the sweet smoke of dead leaves. Beside the trail, Town Creek runs high and dark, lugubrious, with pine oils and winter paleness.  To watch the life of rainwater, to start seeing patterns in the rain and the earth, be in Nature is the point, the ideal of immersing oneself in nature and movement.  I remind myself to enjoy the run, to enjoy the journey of the run, to be present on the trail.  A visual meditation begins to focus on the way rain sculpts a trail, the natural berms of dirt on turns, the mild contours rolling with an easy cadence, the rivulets cutting veins into red clay, the rocks cleft into erratic rows by torrential runoff, and its a good time to study the footing dynamics of a trail, of my own footing.  I slow down, smooth it out, push from the ribs.  Footing is a universal meditation as we skim the various crusts of the earth and rain adds its own layer of concentration, of mindfulness, and also gives form to the narrative of a trail's deeper nature.  So regard the way the rain runs a trail, attempt to emulate that fluid ease, to follow with a poetic sensitivity, to run as the rain as you conform your efforts to the terrain beneath.

Friday, February 4, 2011

A bend in the form. . . . February and the Year of the Rabbit.

Less than two months until the Gator Trail 50k.  Forty Miles (and a mule) will get me to the finish, maybe, but my weekly total should be more like 60-70 miles and not 35-44. My endurance of mileage is making me nervous.

2.3.11 Lung Distance Logs & Pain Management: Brunswick Nature Park, ten miles. 
Blue Clay trails were closed again, making it the third time in two weeks, so a twenty minute drive had me pulling into the Brunswick Nature Park.  Originally a paper mill forest, this land was granted to Brunswick County to become the newest park to green-mark our coastal region map.  Situated in northern Brunswick County, the 911 acres display a magnificent variety of terrain everyone can enjoy, especially mountain bikers, day-hikers, or trail runners.  (Equestrian trails are in the works, and there are horseshoe prints on the road!)  My last visit was a year ago, Run for Ray 2010, so I drove around to get my bearings and see the recent work. First off: the land is beautiful.  Big improvements include: a. a sheltered picnic area, including a grill  b.  a permanent facility offers a shower and actual bathrooms, though they weren't open yet (meanwhile there are port-a-johns)  c. a new trail, running about 1.5 miles (thanks to SORBA and the volunteers), marked by a laminated sign which had been tacked up on a tree.  The new trail plus the existing system of fireroads, animal trails, and previously blazed trails makes it easily five miles of trail, interconnected to keep navigation slightly confusing, but making difficult any desperate disorientation.  
As the damp cold was leveling my motivation for the run, I grabbed a water bottle and headed down a gravel road towards the Town Creek, towards the new kayak launch where a trail crosses, allowing a left or right turn into the trail network. I made a left and ran through a picnic area overlooking the creek, where a few lazy sandwiches with Kyote and the Wife could be enjoyed.  The trail took a more serious breath as the first mile started burning the hips and abdomens, leaning into and out of turns and berms and trees-turned-pikes (careful y'all!!). . . x-slope reblistered both feet through jackrabbit turns, quick pitch shifts, root-knobs bulging obscurely through pine-straw and dead leaves, spear-ended spits pointing into the trail at every twist and turn (one damn near getting a nick on my neck on one of two falls). . . a massive pile of unidentifiable feces that, if I didn't know better, I'd call bear shit, distant choruses of angry dogs, sudden mud-slicks slinging legs multiple directions like a cartoon, and the sheer beauty of it all, running along the Town Creek river, her black surface full of resin and lazy drift. . . and while I ran slow and steady across the varied & unpredictable terrain, while I was pushing up root-riddled hills to sand-slides knotted by ropes and branches, the pleasure was erratic, intermittent, because, honestly, it was work.  Plain and simple work.. . keeping the legs milling and not crashing into the next pined corner, plain work avoiding the deep holes where trees were pulled up by their roots by unknown forces, plain work keeping eyes focused on the next ten feet of foot-falls. . . tunnel-vision trails. . . by mile six the wheels were coming off the wagon, felt like I got hacked down by a bushwhacker. . . thought to myself “holy shit” a few times. . . and my pace slowed until I was shuffling along, side-stepping the bear shit, thankful to stop and step aside for the four other mountain bikers out there, catch a breath, then resume into the sporadic lunges of pace along the new trail, bumpy and rooty, primitive and fun, over fallen trees with orange wood splintering, past with one heroic guy laying sand across stretches to “smooth it out for you”, and he was resting with a tin of pistachios during a lull, his empty wheelbarrow beside.  Another mile or so , a gulp of water and then to the car.  “So much depends upon a mountain bikers' wheelbarrow.”

2.4.11. Pain-management Run Number Two. . . Cold, wet slogging out at Poplar Grove. . . . four miles of wishing my wife could be running beside me, talking or not talking, just there. . . the weather was horrible, the run was rough, yesterday's run lingering, taxing the legs and knees. . . eyes cast down on the rivulets and trenches and puddles of rainwater, cast down blankly into footfalls, cast down on numb-hot legs. the highlight, a moment of pleasure for which I paused, was a wonderful blackbird cyclone spiraling onto long brown fields rolling towards unseen sea, their stark forms (individually, collectively) moving rhythmically onto the furrowed chunks of earth, searching for the worms emerging from the clay. . . . . rain dissolved the trees like an impressionist brush about a half-mile away, sfumati of the storm, the renaissance light of a winter rain in the woods, and rain pelted my jacket and legs and my legs burned red against rain and run, splashes of sand & cold on every step, sloshes of shoes and socks.  A pain management run, a weather-endurance  run. A run obsessed with the PCJ at the end, a medium tanzania (dark and bold, a slight roasted-nut note) and a delicious orange-cranberry muffin for the drive home, including some new song by the Decemberists before switching off to a late Beethoven piano sonata.