Monthly Archives: February 2007

Work is a four-letter word

Jan Timme, Five Words, 2001.

Jan Timme took flourescent paint and scrawled the early-Smiths song title “Work is a Four-Letter Word” on the walls of Galerie Nagel, Cologne, during his exhibition there in 2001. The words were invisible during the day, coming out only at night with the aid of UV lights, after the gallery was closed.

As a space, the club-like atmosphere created by the UV lights clashes with the emptiness of the closed gallery, creating a wallflower effect: alone in a club, as Morrisseyesque a trope as there could be. The phrase itself resists being seen; it demands, for lack of a better word, effort. Which would make the work (hey!) a curse against itself.

Jörg Heiser identified this work as an example of what he termed Romantic Conceptualism: “The title of the work suggests the kind of Kosuth-like tautology that we expect from a Conceptual wall text, but the content infuses it with an adolescent, melancholic, witty refractoriness that few have embodied and politicized better than Morrissey.”

Jan Timme
Emotional Rescue by Jörg Heiser (Frieze magazine)


Taxonomy of Celebrity


The outpouring of aporia following last week’s death of Anna Nicole Smith (in guess which state?) has foregrounded once again the need to examine what it is we are watching when we participate in the celebrity economy. It is imperative we consider different ways to classify the celebrity types that keep entering our field of vision at the tabloid level.

The old system—those discussions of who’s A List, who’s C List—is useless for any meaningful discussion of the nature of celebrity today. Rooted in the old Hollywood class system, it stank of snobbery and old-world disdain. It also clung to that ancient subjective air of judgment, or taste, in an egalitarian society that operates in measurements. In tabloid culture, the C Lister is bigger than the A Lister, so how could the system not be obsolete?

We can group male and female celebrities each into three irreducible types. The fundamental, insurmountable gender difference in celebrity hierarchies is more problematic than any subdivisions of these celebrity Kingdoms into respective Phyla.

But enough dry theory. On to the ladies!!

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The Idea of Order at Key West


Anyway, my vacation. In my first attempt at relating the trip, I got far too sidetracked establishing the Keys as the seminal (strong definition) region of the United States. Katie and I didn’t make the preparations for our trip—Brandon had put it together for us—and we ended up flying down to Florida wholly unprepared, into a long weekend of vertigo and confusion, just like the procrastinators we are.

Two Keys items caught my eye before the trip: One, a news article about how the Feds were taking on the six-toed cats at Hemingway’s House. The US Department of Agriculture insists the Hemingway House have a license to house the animals, and they’re threatening to take the cats away.

This action smacked of gratuitous political warfare. Cat people and Hemingway people both lean Democrat, don’t they? At the same time, it signaled the encroachment of that ever-creeping force, government regulation. Hemingway’s cats now took on the aura held by sex workers in Times Square, innocent victims of a revitalizing sanitization campaign. Our trip now had a sudden urgency—we were fortunate to be going there now, before the government made it safe for tourists. We had to see the cats before they were all put down.

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Morrissey Ruined My Life


In San Francisco tonight, Sean Starr presents a performance of “Morrissey Ruined My Life – A Tribute to the World’s Greatest Living Poet.” In some atavistic conjuring of the artist-magus, Starr paints abstract watercolors while listening to the Smiths. Then he sells them on his Web site.

Event info
Artist info