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The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Sharp

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Fiona Banner Wp Wp Wp, 2014
‘Fiona Banner has fixed the twin set of gigantic Chinook blades to the ceiling of one of the Sculpture Park’s indoor galleries. It’s quite a feat of engineering: it took a year of preparation and a team of specialists from a mix of disciplines to ensure the building would not collapse with the strain.

‘Switched off, the blades have all the character of outsized ceiling fans. But as soon as the hidden motor whirrs them into action, they become something else entirely. The moment they swing lazily into motion, you’re struck silent by the sense that something awful is about to happen. Banner has captured cinema shorthand for menace and divorced it from any narrative context.

‘The blades scythe faster and faster in opposite directions, beating up to a speed where they are no longer distinguishable. It seems impossible that the thin spokes to which they are attached can hold them steady much longer. This was the moment when I made a break for the exit. But just as they have sped into a vortex, they wind down again. You gasp with relief.’

 

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David Adamo Untitled (axe n°4), 2010
axe, wood chippings. ‘I don’t necessarily think about aggressive things when I’m in the studio…although I do work myself into a sort of frenzy.’

 

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Arman Heroin and hypodermic needles, 1969
plastic, plywood, hypodermics, heroin and steel

 

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Sigalit Landau Barbed Hula, 2001
‘The powerful image of a naked Sigalit Landau doing the hula-hoop with a piece of barbed wire on an Israeli beach refers to the sacrificial practices dating back to the origins of religions: rituals, stigmata, propitiations, indelible markings.’

 

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Robert Lazzarini Knives, 2008
‘Robert Lazzarini is best known for his sculptures of common objects in which detailed craftsmanship is combined with precise illusionistic distortion. Scaled to the size of the original object and using the same materials, Lazzarini creates versions of guns, knives, brass knuckles, chairs, telephones, telephone booths, and skulls, among other things. Factuality is a theme that runs throughout his imagery, as is visual perception and how that perception is constructed in both the mind of the viewer and in the physical world. “I am concerned with the direct relationship between the viewer, the original object (the role of memory), and the sculpture (the object reconfigured),” Lazzarini explains.’

 

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Osang Gwon Metabo, 2009
‘Gwon takes thousands of photographs of his subject from every possible angle, collaging and moulding them onto a compressed Styrofoam sculpture. The result is uncanny. Proportion, 3D mass and 2D photography give the sculptures some, though not a great deal, of verisimilitude (a high gloss coating takes care of the rest). In appearance, it’s almost as if they’re contemporary cadavers mummified in the pastiched pages of magazines instead of peat.’

 

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Sylvie Fleury Razor Blades, 2001
stainless steel, 290 x 145 x 1 cm

 

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Graciela Sacco Tensión admisible, 2011
Digital print on mirror, knife and light source. ‘Graciela Sacco graduated in 1987 with a thesis devoted to the Argentinian avant-garde movement of 1960. The artistic expressions of that decade established strong ties between artistic experimentation and social commitment, culminating in Rosario, the artist’s hometown, with  ̈Tucumán Arde ̈ (Tucuman Burns) now esteemed as a landmark of international Political Conceptualism. This generation of artists was harshly repressed by the military dictatorship that seized the country from 1976 to 1983. Graciela Sacco’s work shows that even under democracy, that the retrieval of memory is a collective and conflictive task.’

 

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Aldo Giannotti Safe & Sound, 2021
‘He went with an electric chainsaw, cut a piece of plasterboard wall and took an important drawing by Aldo Giannotti. The Genoese artist, in fact, next to the drawing depicting a chainsaw placed on a wall, had written – as an instruction and interpretation of the work – “This drawing can be taken free of charge by a collector who comes with a chainsaw and cuts a piece of wall “. It is not known who he is, perhaps he is an artist.’

 

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Yoshitomo Nara Various, 1991 – 2001
‘Known for his portraits, Nara’s subjects are vaguely ominous-looking characters with penetrating gazes that occasionally wield objects just as knives or cigarettes, as well as heads and figures that float in dreamy landscapes.’

 

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Tayeba Begum Lipi Agony (Various), 2010 – 2015
‘Bangladeshi artist Tayeba Begum Lipi recreates memory-laden objects by connecting thousands of razor blades, transforming the sharp metal tools into tennis shoes, wheels for strollers, sewing machines, sensuous fabrics, and more. Lipi’s sculptures address female marginality and speak most specifically to violence facing women in Bangladesh. The razor blades also references her memories of witnessing the birth of her nieces and nephews as a child growing up in the small town of Gaibandha, where the tool was often used during delivery.’

 

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Lewis Stein Untitled, 2020
‘Lewis Stein is interested in the subtle ways a particular class of familiar objects, such as doormats, garbage cans and culinary tools, organize and structure our lives. The cleaver is a butcher’s knife, designed to cut through bone, and is thus implicated in ideas of cleanliness within cooking. Their imposing blades dulled by paint, the cleavers are surreally removed from functionality. They thus enact a humorous performance of a typically unanalyzed ritual of daily life, but without its end goal.’

 

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Jan Hakon Erichsen Balloon Destroyer, 2020
‘Erichsen has become well known for his “destruction videos”, which he began making in late 2017. Now, he typically posts one video a day on Instagram. The videos most commonly depict elaborate methods of popping balloons with knives, of which Erichsen has said he owns “somewhere between 500 and 1000”.’

 

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Chitra Ganesh Scissors, 2005
‘In Scissors, the faces of a woman and a man are merged to create the third eye—a reference to the Hindu deity Ardhanarishvara, a combination of the gods Shiva and Parvati who represents the coming together of male and female energies. Breaking the barrier of the thought bubble in which they are contained, the woman reaches to remove her partner’s unshared eye. Perhaps the eye will be added to the collection of excised eyes below only to grow back and be removed again.’

 

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Monica Bonvicini Latent Combustion #1, 2015
‘“Latent Combustion” is a monumental work, both handcrafted and readymade, made of thick construction chains and conglomerates of chainsaws, covered with black industrial liquid rubber.’

 

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John Conn NYC Subway 37, 1978
‘John Conn’s New York City Subway photographs were originally taken between 1975 and 1982. In the 1980s, over 250 felonies were committed every week in the system, making the New York subway the most dangerous mass transit system in the world.’

 

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Nathan Lerner Eye and Barbed Wire, 1939
‘The wide-open eye watches from the ground (which can represent also a burial ground) that is criss-crossed with barbed wire.’

 

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Barry Le Va Cleaved Floor, Four Paths, 2009
29 meat cleavers

 

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Chris Burden TV Hijack, 1972
‘During a live television interview to which he had brought his own camera crew, Chris Buden held interviewer Phyllis Lutjeans at knifepoint and threatened to kill her if the station stopped live transmission. To conclude the piece, he demanded to be given the station’s recording of the incident, which he then destroyed.’

 

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Timur Si-Qin Axe Effext, 2011
‘In his work “Axe effect”, Si-Qin purchased a sword and pierced several bottles of Axe-branded shower gel, which subsequently seeped out colourful pungent goop on to the white plinth. He tells about a study that discovered that when a sample of people evaluated two images – one of a person with a branded shirt and one without – participants were “far more likely to evaluate the branded person with positive characteristics like honesty and kindness. This reveals how our brains have evolved, to read clues from our environment that could possibly help us navigate our environment. In the case of branding, logos tap into the part of our brains that are evolved to read signals about the fitness of people… I think that is a beautiful thing”.’

 

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Kelly Reemtsen Various, 2011 – 2018
‘Kelly Reemtsen creates portraits of anonymous women wielding hefty and dangerous tools. The inclusion of the late 1950’s/early 1960’s dresses on the figures suggest that it’s unlikely the women would be engaged in the kind of work the tools are intended for, pointing to dark and perhaps murderous intentions.’

 

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Christophe Delbeecke Untitled, 2019
Epoxy resin, knife

 

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Liliana Porter Man with Axe, 2017
Man with Axe features a tiny plastic figure of an axe-wielding man who appears to have demolished an array of items, from dollhouse furniture to large vases, clocks, and even a full-size piano. This trail of destruction signals both the entropic effects of time and the collapse of historical progress that can be caused by a single agent of chaos.’

 

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Wen Fang Rain, 2009
‘Wen Fang’s art piece titled Rain, a photographic installation consisting of images of garbage printed on 300 steel knives, addresses the problem of trash affecting China directly. She uses photography creatively by printing the photographs of trash that plague the urban streets of China on knives in an installation. These knives are then suspended by strings from the ceiling where gallery patrons can walk under them; this signifies the problem of waste metaphorically, as if it is raining from the sky uncontrollably on to the heads of the people of China. The knives not only signify the danger and destruction, but forces the viewer to see trash as an inherent problem that they themselves may have ignored when walking through the urban streets of China. Think about gallery patrons as they look up at the sharp tips dangling above their heads, one can only imagine the sense of unease if any of the knives were to come down when gravity beckons it. Wen Fang intentionally wanted her patrons to feel the same unease she did when she visited poor neighborhoods plagued by waste.’

 

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L. Spillaert Magiс Staircase, 1945
wood and knives

 

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Baptiste Debombourg Flow, 2013
‘FLOW is resurrection, rebellion, the sudden mirror of our mass consumption society that kills human beings and the objects it mass-produces. Here the windscreens of cars surge up like the wave that engulfs towns in catastrophe films such as 2012 or The Day After Tomorrow. They are broken, discarded, ignored objects that take the place by storm, rebel and attack us. Like ignored vomit being spewed out from on high.’

 

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Claes Oldenburg and Coosje Van Bruggen Saw sawing, 1996
‘This sculpture is located in the north side of the Main Entrance Hall of the Tokyo International Exhibition Center. It is a large scale saw placed as if it were sawing through the earth.’

 

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Catherine Biocca Good spirits, 2016
‘A ‘cotton candy’ pink floor attacked with knives and hypodermic syringes, depicting hidden violent fantasies that can pop up when deeply frustrated, characterize the artist’s work. Masochistic themes and behaviour that is merged into the contrary aesthetic of the safe heaven. Within her art practice Catherine Biocca is interested in this dark side of the ordinary, or to put it in other words; the momentum where brutality and pure innocence meet and can co-exist. The split second when ‘schadenfreude’ is created; when we laugh about and enjoy the metal or physical pain of others.’

 

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Liza Lou Security Fence, 2005
Security Fence is characterized by the absence of a human subject. As the artist herself explains, the structure is a “claustrophobic enclosure […] with its layers and layers of chain link– a moiré effect, as if the pleasure and pain could go on forever.” Tiny glass beads cover the entire structure, creating a surface which challenges the viewer’s perceptions of physical barriers and confined spaces, for what should appear as bare and harsh instead shimmers with an extraordinary sleek coating.’

 

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Beili Liu The Mending Project, 2019
‘The installation consists of hundreds of Chinese scissors suspended from the ceiling, pointing downwards. The hovering, massive cloud of scissors alludes to distant fear, looming violence and worrisome uncertainty. The performer sits beneath the countless sharp blades of the scissors, and performs an on-going simple task of mending.’

 

 

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p.s. Hey. ** Dominik, Hey, Dominick!!! Great book, as is ‘Eden Eden Eden’. Ha ha, yeah, for some reason people posting GIFs as reactions on social media drives me nuts. Like if I see one more person post that GIF of Leonardo DiCaprio applauding with a smug look on his face there’ll be cyber-hell to pay. I think making GIF novels has turned me into a GIF snob. I would enrol in your love’s class. That would be very useful knowledge. I suppose I should enrol in a learning French class first, but still. Love making every restaurant in the world have cold sesame noodle Szechuan style on their menu (I’m feeling greedy today), G. ** jamie, Howdy, J. Right, zLibrary is such an amazing find. Incredible what they’ve got stored there. And it’s made making book spotlight posts infinitely easier too. Yes, Puce Mary will be doing all the sound for our new film, and as it’s about a haunted house attraction and includes a ghost character who needs to have a noise/sound language, etc., we’ll need a lot of different kinds of sounds, and she’s perfect for the gig, and Zac and I are thrilled. Yes, the performance of ‘Jerk’ we filmed was the last ever. Jonathan announced that he doesn’t want to do it anymore, and after traveling all over the world doing it for more than a decade, that’s understandable. The film turned out great, so the piece will live on. For sure I remember that animation guy you worked with and the troubles thereby  too. That sounds potentially really fun, and I hope you guys can stay on mutually agreeable ground. Soon you’ll be out running around all day, and you’ll get to share in my high. And then hopefully you’ll even be running around in Paris at least briefly before too long. I hope your Friday is peary. (I love pears). xoxo. ** Steve Erickson, It seems possible that the Romero could get a theater release of some kind here, yes. I’m just about to walk down the street and get the new issue of The Wire. The Van Der Graff Generator one. I’ll check out Dalibor Cruz. Thanks. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. No, I was in Paris when Guyotat did his US tour. But I saw him read once here at the Pompidou, and it was mesmerising. I came very close to meeting him a couple of times, but it never happened sadly. ** _Black_Acrylic, Guyotat is a hell of a read. Such good news that you got through your second jab scot free! Hopefully it’s all bright-eyed and bushy tailed Ben from here on out. ** Bill, Hi. ‘Tomb’ is almost nothing like ‘Coma’. It’s super hallucinatory and non-stop wild. Brook’s theater is sporadically active. They rent it out sometimes. It’s an amazing theater inside, sort of half-gutted and transformed into a very flexible, strange space. Gisele has been wanting to do a piece there for years. ** Shane Christmass, Hi, Shane. It’s nice you watch the videos. I never know whether anyone ever looks at those. Paul Strand! Thanks, I’ll watch it. Have I done a Paul Strand Day? Hm, I can’t remember. I will if I haven’t. Yes, in fact ‘Latex’ was in my mailbox when I arrived home last night. Thanks so much! ** Okay. Today there’s a little, or not so little, cutlery-like post for you. See you tomorrow.

9 Comments

  1. Fiona Banner had a solo show at the DCA back in 2002 that I remember being pretty good, the action from a Ben Dover porn film transcribed and plastered over the gallery walls.

    The comeback episode of Play Therapy is now online here via Tak Tent Radio! Ben ‘Jack Your Body’ Robinson is back to bring you Italo, German Cosmic Disco, obscure Swiss Coldwave and assorted other stuff too.

  2. Big D! Man, been swamped at work the past couple days. Then I go to the gym, come home, eat, fall asleep. Rinse, repeat. Bleh.

    But I have a 3-day weekend this weekend because of Memorial Day. It’s supposed to rain today, Saturday, and Sunday, but I ain’t care. Will finish MD, practice my guitar (which has been slacking because of work and MD, eek!), hit the gym, run errands, watch TV, read, etc. IOW, I have shit to do.

    Hope your weekend is swell.

    Oh, and yeah, same with my phone, hahaha.

  3. Hi!!

    No, hahaha, not that DiCaprio GIF, I know! And you know what else is a NO? That dog filter on Snapchat — the one where the person appears with those idiotic dog ears, nose and tongue. It just drives me MAD, haha.

    Well, learning French would surely be useful, but how much more fun it would be to know how to swear in 60 languages?! Ah. It’s been ages since I’ve eaten in a restaurant, and your love would make the whole “what should I choose” ordeal a lot less ordeal-like. Love gifting you any of the artworks from today’s sharp show (I’d go for Arman’s “Heroin and hypodermic needles.”), Od.

  4. Hey Dennis!
    This is a great exhibit. I’d love to witness the Fiona Banner piece irl. Hannah heard me yell from the other room on watching the Barbed Hula video, it’s quite something and oddly beautiful. Razor blades are so strange, eh? That idiosyncratic shape. I saw a few if those Monica Bonvicini chainsaw sculptures at a really good show of her work in Newcastle a couple of years ago. For some reason I’m super drawn to the Timur Si-Qin piece, it really made me lol and I like his statement – “I think that is a beautiful thing.”…indeed. Man, all those knives, needles and blades…thanks for this post.
    That’s so exciting about Puce Mary and you and Zac’s movie! And so cool that she’s in Paris right now and you all get to work together. And the ghost character’s sound/voice?! If I remember correctly there’s Hell in a bathroom in the film?
    Oh, I’d love to come to Paris when I can. Coffee? Before lockdown there was a train company doing 10 euro trips to Paris. I hope they’ve survived the pandemic.
    How’s your weekend? I have a Covid test on Saturday morning and if it’s negative I can stop quarantining, although we still have a quarantined baby, but it’s all tiny steps to the outdoor life.
    Love, Jamie

  5. Hi Dennis, Quinn here. I listened to your Wake Island podcast episode yesterday and really enjoyed it. The story about Bjork made me laugh! Although I’m sure it made everyone cringe at the time. I’m gonna have to listen to more Wake Island episodes, I thought Paul did a great job interviewing you. Is he a regular on here?
    What’s new with you otherwise? As for me I’m still in a state of limbo, sorry I haven’t been on here in a while. I don’t know if I mentioned this but I lost my job, which really sucked. Corporate law was the wrong fit, and I shouldn’t take stuff like that so personally, but getting fired was a huge blow to my ego. I felt that despite making a genuine effort I truly failed. So I’ve been pretty depressed lately and my inner critic has been pretty hostile. Lately I wake up every day and tell myself there’s no point in trying to write, because I’ve already failed…I saw Lonely earlier today and we talked about the 10th anniversary re-release of his Death and Disaster Series collection, and he said that looking back on the work in retrospect reminded him of the dark place he was in when he was in his 20s. I guess I’m going through something similar lately with losing my dad, losing my job, COVID, etc. I really wish I could just be out in the world and doing all the things, I feel like I got this social message that your twenties are the times you should be at your happiest and most ambitious. I feel I’ve been pretty fortunate to put my writing out, at least. But this year I’m just losing focus. Maybe I’m just on a different journey and I gotta learn to be patient with myself.
    Actually I relate a lot to your conversation with Paul about George Miles and how George used to feel that everything would get “better” once he got a girlfriend and fell in love. I feel the same way except for writing, or more precisely career, if I put a book out or get a prestigious byline or whatever then everything will get “better” and I’ll become the person I’m supposed to be. I don’t know why I feel that way but I think I’ve felt that way for a long time. The irony of it is that I do actually enjoy writing and reading for their own sake and I know I’d be perfectly happy if I could just do that with my life.
    Anyway I’m trying to get back on track with the short story I was working on. I want to start a Substack too or some sort of newsletter and just do little essays/tracts of whatever interests me. Kind of like my own little column! It was good to hear on the episode that things are gearing up for your film. Are you excited for the summer? What else is on your itinerary?
    Just writing to say hello and fill you in, sorry it’s a lot. I turn 26 on Monday which is a little daunting. But I’m going out to dinner with my mom and my boyfriend, and Ed White and Michael Carroll are coming too which is really nice. I am definitely in a period of great uncertainty and insecurity, but what’s so unusual is that I feel I’m meeting tons of people and socializing quite a bit. I still feel inferior sometimes when I’m around other people, especially when I’m in literary/art circles, but I realize that it just comes from bad feelings from my childhood. Happy spring to you DC! Looking forward to hearing back.

  6. Shane Christmass

    May 29, 2021 at 4:30 am

    A Paul Strand post would be great. I don’t know anything about him except this short film. But the feel of that film is great, just pure dark Gotham, steam and shadows.

  7. Shane Christmass

    May 29, 2021 at 8:54 am

    Actually I didn’t know that about Paul Strand. I only have seen ‘Manhatta’ – I have a copy of this: https://www.slantmagazine.com/dvd/avant-garde-experimental-cinema-of-the-1920s-and-30s/

    But for ages would just watch and rewatch ‘Mamhatta’

    Yeah having a good weekend. Well we’ve just gone back into lockdown again, but I am getting vaccinated next Thursday so more a hopeful lockdown this time.

    But Saturday night here, so going to read. Not much else to do.

  8. Deniraptor: in Cali, full shutdown ends June 15. That leaves a 2-week window of Cali-only Disneyland admission with covid-limited crowds. Or so I am told. Loved the theme park ratings in excellent Wake Island podcast this week. Today’s post is only missing Chris Isaak’s sharp suit made of all mirrors. “The chaffing.”

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