Wednesday, June 30, 2021

The Constantines

The Constantines
The Constantines
Toronto, Canada: Three Gut Records, 2001
13 x 13 x .6 cm.
Edition of 1000 numbered copies

This month marks the 20th anniversary of the eponymously titled debut recording by the Guelph, Ontario band The Constantines. Released on June 5th, 2001, the album was met with near universal praise. The Toronto Star said that it would be "hard to imagine Canada producing a better album this year" and Magnet called it "The antidote for every boring and insincere rock record I’ve heard this year". Pitchfork gave the record an 8.7 out of 10 review, remarking "The Constantines climb closer to the Fugazic Throne on the strength of guitarist Steven Lambke's chops, the intelligent poetry of Bry Webb's lyrics, and the boozy rasps of both Webb and Lambke's vocals, which recall Let It Be-era Paul Westerberg." 

The record was nominated for a Juno Award (unless I'm misremembering, someone in the band told me at the time that the Junos make you purchase your own statuette, should you win) and came very close to breaking the record for the longest charting album in Canadian campus radio history. 

"We want the death of Rock n Roll" singer Bry Webb declares on the opening track "Arizona", but it's the album's closer, "Little Instruments" that comes closest to a mission statement, with the repeated final lyric "we' amplifier".

To further emphasize the notion that simple devices can prove incendiary, the original packaging for the disc included a single unlit matchstick. Designed by bassist Dallas Wehrle, the hand-made cardboard gatefold sleeve was rubbed stamped and numbered one to a thousand. 

Many copies included inserts by visual artists. The above example is by Roula Partheniou (an early example of her exploration into the formal properties of every day materials, in this case file folders and stationery). Other artists who contributed projects included Devon Knowles and Pete Gazendam. 

The album was released by Three Gut Records, a small Guelph label ran by Lisa Moran and Tyler Clark Burke, who also put out discs by Jim Guthrie and Royal City. At the time Guelph was to the Toronto music scene what Olympia had been to Seattle a few years prior. And Seattle's Sub Pop label - home to Olympia bands Nirvana, Beat Happening and Sleater-Kinney - might have sensed this connection: the influential indie label signed the band a year later. 

When Sub Pop reissued the band's debut in 2004 - making it available outside of Canada for the first time - the CD cover graphic featured an image of the original deconstructed package. 

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Meret Oppenheim | Caroline

Meret Oppenheim
Basel, Switzerland: Edition Fanal, 1985
28 × 14 cm., slipcase
Edition of 89 [+ 12 HC proofs] signed and numbered copies

An artist's book with twenty-one etchings and two embossed prints, illustrating poems in German by Karoline von Günderode.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Takashi Murakami Perrier bottle

Was surprised to find the above in my small small-town grocery store today.  

"When PERRIER® first approached me, I felt extremely lucky to have the opportunity to collaborate with this sparkling water brand with such a long history. It held many positive associations for me – for example, when I was 32 and started living in New York, I used to drink PERRIER® a lot. Even further back, though, I have another very strong memory: I was on the first romantic date of my life at age 18 with a girl two years my senior. We went to a place in Ginza and I ordered a bottle of PERRIER®, mistaking it for alcohol. I remember it all so clearly – especially how confused I felt when I didn't feel any alcohol effects after drinking many glasses!

PERRIER® for me is closely associated first with the color green – of course! – and then, with the pleasant bubbling sound of carbonation. I'm grateful to be part of the brand's expanding views and future-facing concepts through this collaboration.

I also wonder if today, when we can no longer unthinkingly hug, kiss, or shake hands, perhaps the stimulating sensation of the PERRIER® bubbles on our tongues will be even more heightened, as one of the enjoyable tactile experiences still available to us! I am delighted to be part of this collaboration with PERRIER® and I hope that together, we can heighten that sense of relationship further, sharing a little more joy and hope for the future."
- Takashi Murakami

(hope he was well compensated)

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Jon Hassell, RIP

My favourite trumpet player - a distinction without competition - died yesterday, at the age of 84. 

Jon Hassell was a musician and composer best known for his "fourth world" music, which has managed to bypass the now-ubiquitous charges of 'cultural appropriation' through sheer rigour and respect. In an essay titled The Debt I Owe To Jon Hassell, Brian Eno wrote “If I had to name one over-riding principle in Jon’s work, it would be that of respect: he looks at the world in all its momentary and evanescent moods with respect, and this shows in his music.”

Hassell himself decried what he called “the banalisation of the exotic … the herd trampling through the campsites where I delicately and respectfully visited 15 or 20 years ago”.

He was born in Memphis and studied in Germany under Karlheinz Stockhausen, alongside classmates Irmin Schmidt and Holger Czukay, who went on to found the band CAN. He recently described to Billboard magazine an experience taking acid at Schmidt’s house: “I remember being on the floor listening to gagaku Japanese music and watching the fibres of the rug sway with the music.”

When he returned to the USA, he met Terry Riley and performed on his signature work, In C. He later worked with another influential minimalist composer, La Monte Young, joining the Theatre of Eternal Music and studying under Young's mentor Pandit Pran Nath. Nath was an Indian classical singer and master of the Kirana gharana singing style, a process dedicated to just intonation. Hassell applied these vocal techniques to the trumpet. 

Hassell’s debut album Vernal Equinox was released in 1978 and was followed by a collaboration with Eno two years later, Possible Musics/Fourth World, Vol. 1. The recording was was named one of the year's ten best recordings by The New York Times and the Village Voice. 

He subsequently collaborated with a wide range of performers, including Ibrahim Ferrer, Stina Nordenstam (an under-rated Swedish singer whose work I discovered when Hassell played on her excellent second album And She Closed her Eyes), David Toop, Bjork, Flea, Howie B, former classmate Holger Czukay, the Kronos Quartet, artist Walter De Maria, Michael Brook, Daniel Lanois, the Talking Heads, and countless others.

He was initially a third collaborator on Brian Eno and David Byrne's influential album My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, but quit the project early on, disappointed with the results of the early demos. He remained estranged from Byrne, though later became close again with Eno, who started a GoFundMe page for Hassell in April 2020, to help raise money when the composer's health first began to deteriorate. Over a hundred thousand dollars were raised. 

“After a little more than a year of fighting through health complications, Jon died peacefully in the early morning hours of natural causes,” his family wrote in the statement. “He cherished life and leaving this world was a struggle as there was much more he wished to share in music, philosophy, and writing.” 

His fans included filmmakers (Wim Wenders, Chris Marker), visual artists (Jean-Michel Basquiat), composers (Philip Glass: "I recommend all the works of Jon Hassell"), pop stars (Charlie Watts, Pete Townsend, Bono, Ani Di Franco), electronic musicians (808 State, Scanner, Howie B) and other performers.  

Ry Cooder called him "One of the three or four players of wind instruments in the world who can command your attention with one note". Brian Eno described his frequent collaborator as someone who "planted seeds whose fruits are still being gathered”. 

David Bryne, Brian Eno and (an already pulling away?) Jon Hassell

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Davide Boriani | Superficie magnetica

Davide Boriani
Superficie magnetica
Cologne, Germant: Galerie der Spiegel & Edition MAT, 1965
33 x 31 x 10 cm.
Edition of 100 signed and numbered copies

Magnetic Surface (also known as Untitled [Object with Magnet]), is a motorized circular Plexiglas and aluminum container filled with iron shavings and magnets. The motor rotates the device, creating an evolving and unpredictable series of configurations of the shavings. 

The work is a variation on similar larger pieces begun by Boriani in 1959. 

The work is the sole contribution of Boriani to the Edition Mat series. Boriani was a member of the Italian art collective Gruppo T, who had first exhibited multiples in 1960. The group (contemporaries of Manzoni, Mari, Munari, etc.) were interested in kinetic and programmable art, and sought a viewing experience of "duration and incompleteness". 

Friday, June 18, 2021

Pope.L | My Kingdom for a Title

My Kingdom for a Title
Los Angeles, USA: New Documents, 2021
274 pp., 21.75 × 30 cm., hardcover
Edition size unknown

New Documents have just announced My Kingdom for a Title, a collection of writing by Chicago–based artist Pope.L documenting his use of language as a mode of visual, narrative, and performative story telling.

"The act of writing has been integral to how Pope.L works and is arguably the most consistent element in his practice. These works take various forms: scripts, short stories, scribbled notes, large scale installation, and painting—many never before released. Assembled here for the first time, My Kingdom for a Title allows the breadth of the artist’s engagement with language to be fully assessed. Within the book, Pope.L’s work is supplemented with extensive endnotes sourced by artist Kandis Williams."

The title is available at the pre-order price of $45 from the publisher, here. A signed, special edition accompanied by a three colour silkscreen print is also available.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Nic Wilson | Learn Spelling

Nic Wilson
Learn Spelling
Sackville, Canada: Umbrella Projects, 2021
90 pp., 18 x 12.7 x .7 cm, softcover
Edition of 100

We're getting ready to wrap up our time at Struts Gallery, just as some publications we initiated are finally ready to launch. Joining the Beverly Glenn-Copeland LP of last month is new bookwork by Derek Sullivan, a new 'zine by Izzy Francolini, some forthcoming posters, and the above project by artist and writer Nic Wilson. 

Named after the menu item that allows you to train your computer to acknowledge certain words, the book uses a collection of unrecognized terms from the artist’s writings as a springboard for a larger investigation into how a living language evolves. Examples in the book - queer slang, loan words, Indigenous place and nation names, Arab and Japanese names, as well as terms specific to art theory - reveal a Eurocentric bias in Word Processing applications. They also double as an inadvertent diary of the artist’s writing. 

Hand-bound in an edition of 100 copies, the title features a collection of autobiographical anecdotes alongside observations and examples of the way “written English is used as a tool to create and legitimize some world views and negate others.”

Learn Spelling is available for $12 from Struts Gallery. 

Monday, June 14, 2021

Robert Watts | Cabbage

Robert Watts 
Verona, Italy: Edizioni Francesco Conz, 1984
22 × 16 × 16 cm.
Edition of 100 stamped and numbered copies

A chrome-plated bronze casting of a cabbage, mounted on a mahogany wooden base and housed in a cardboard box. The edition is based on Chrome Cabbage, a work from 1964 (see below) which I believe is unique. It is housed in the MoMA collection. 

Cabbage is still available from the publisher, here, for € 1.500.00.

Watts, who died of lung cancer at the age of 65 in 1988, was born on this day in 1923.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Yoshimasa Wada | Smoke Fluxkit

Yoshimasa Wada
Smoke Fluxkit
New York City, USA: Fluxus, 1968
9.3 x 12 x 2.5 cm
Edition size unknown

A clear-plastic hinged partitioned box with an offset label by George Maciunas, containing various substances that would produce either pleasant or unpleasant smelling smoke. The work was first offered  for $5 in 1968, a price that didn't change until 1976, when it was offered for $8.

The Reflux version contains rubber, orange peel, woods, incenses and jute fiber.

The work is held in various public and private collections, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the Fondazione Bonotto, the Harvard Art Museum, the Detroit Institute of Arts, The Israel Museum, and many others. 

Yoshi Wada died last week in his Manhattan home on May 18th, at the age of 77.