Friday, October 30, 2009

DEBRIS: No Room For More

It feels like Houston is a small town outside of Detroit in the artworld; no jobs and no satisfaction. For too long this town has been a producer, not a consumer, and now as fortune turns away from us a black heart is revealed as the oozing center of the scene, the structure and the soul. For all the cats and kittens gobbling cheese and slurping wine at openings their shallow agendas suck the air out of the room. In like fashion even a purchase is a strong-armed exchange of influence perpetuating bourgeois respectability that simply makes me sick. The navel-gazing bored wives and ex-wives who open galleries operate on this exchange and drag their circle of friends into the money pit of art, like the Avon lady gunning for a pink Cadillac, without a shred of decency. For every big wig buying his way into the echelons of Houston’s plastic surgeon elite or cementing his place as a cuntbag with too much money to spend there is a gallerist willing to suck their toes- and an artist ready to lick their balls.

If our alternative spaces insist on selling off their spaces to bad artists with bank accounts, if our minor museums persist in spinning bullshit out of New York halfwits, if the MFAH dumbs down their programming and reaches into the history museum for content, if the CAMH doesn’t wise up and start a collection- then I don’t want any part of it. In a moment of weakness I relish the work on the walls, the game of aesthetic b.s., the meandering society of artists ducking in and out of shows, but soon enough I am reminded of the dark heart of the whole thing. I’ve been working crap jobs for too long and applying for too many art jobs to be happy about it all. I’ve had three art jobs in the past few years and they have all imploded in short shrift. I worked for a gallery for a week before the owner lost his backing and cut me from the payroll. I wrote online for a site for three months before the budget wasn’t there for me anymore. Last month I was offered a job at a non-profit that disappeared before I even started. I can’t help it that I’m crushed. Maybe I am just unemployable. Maybe I write and speak too frankly to maintain the glassy-eyed stare necessary for artworld sustenance. One way or another I’m sick of it. Curating, writing, painting, blogging, buying art and bullshitting are still my favorite hobbies- but that’s all they’ll ever be. Screw this shit. I’m gonna go be a street vendor.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

DEBRIS: Next To What I Believe

You can’t run before you walk and you can’t have a cultured city without street culture. Why was Houston turned down for an Olympic bid in 2010? Because a bunch of people got sick on street food a century ago. In 1901 dozens were sickened by tamales in Market Square downtown. The city quickly passed strict health regulations that sent food culture indoors up to this day. The surge of taco trucks in the last decade- and the subsequent connoisseurship of their fare- demonstrates the confluence of needing more gastronomy in Houston and a desire for quick, good food eaten on your feet. Some of the best barbacoa and lengua around comes on a paper plate with tomatillo salsa in a squeeze bottle. Finding the diamond in the rough is like navigating the back alleys of New Orleans- even if you need “beware of pickpockets and loose women” it’s usually worth it. Despite the proliferation of quality Mexican food on wheels, the myriad of cultures in Houston is not represented in street food like it is in the restaurant world. Where are the falafel trucks, the crepe stands, the hot dog vendors and meats-on-a-stick popular the world over? We need to take a serious look at our jaded approach to street food and our city’s regulations on them. Austin is experiencing an explosion of street food, borne along by a maturation of their quirky identity, plentiful festivals and tourists. Why can’t we?

Since that fateful day in Market Square street food has been a bust in Houston- but what about other vendors, buskers and performers? Even in Los Angeles immigrants sell oranges on street corners and Spiderman tries to goad you into dropping five bucks for taking a picture with him. Not here on Buffalo Bayou. The presence of police surely has an impact, but the ambition- or desperation- doesn’t seem to be there. Festivals are always a good place to tinker with peddling wares, and I would like to encourage any artist reading this to show up and set up at the Westheimer Block Party this November 14th and 15th to see what it’s like to put your work in front of the public. I guarantee it won’t be what you expect. Start a jug band and take over the street corner. Put little paintings in a suitcase and set up in front of the Museum of Fine Arts. Execute a performance piece in the middle of a gallery’s opening-- if you dare. Leave a sculpture in your front yard-- hopefully something that will stop traffic. The more things to see on the street, the more people will get out of their cars to see them. Or buy them. Or eat them. There’s no way to go but up for Houston’s street culture- and there’s nothing holding you back from creating it.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

DEBRIS: The Left Bank

Houston is known as the major supplier of automatic weapons for street wars in Mexico, a key hub for sex slaves in America, a conduit for counterfeit goods, warehouse and distributor for the drug trade, flashpoint for religious fervor, haven for illegal labor, producer of massive amounts of pollution, center of overcrowded and discriminatory jail practices, cesspool of the unwashed masses and purveyor of “screw”- a wholly deviant and dangerous subculture. Throw in a serial killer with a colorful nickname and you’re in London in 1888. Swap Codeine syrup in a styrofoam cup for absinthe in a sugared glass and we’re in Paris in 1849. These metastasizing burgs were known as unholy hells in their salad days, and Houston has nearly reached the heights of disreputable notoriety each of these cities experienced before blossoming into icons of the modern age.

We’ve always had an identity problem, mostly stemming from the fact that Houston is simply new; only a little over 50 years ago that the population climbed above a million people. We’re nearly a century behind New York City, Paris housed a million people on the day the Allen Brothers landed in Buffalo Bayou and London had a million people before they even got around to taking a census during the American Revolution. We share a lot with these forbearers, but one thing has to change- every great city has had a model to aspire to, a paradigm to create.
Built with a set of freeways like the spokes of a monstrous concrete wheel, dappled with parks and green spaces, fiercely liberal in the center and rabidly conservative at the fringes, Houston has a lot more to do with Paris than you may think. We have a bayou running west through the center of town, they have a river running east. There is a boisterous self-identity that comes with living on the north or south side of this boundary in both cities. Prussians gave Parisians the bistro, they gave us the kolache.

A lot of the lore of Paris is centered in the Left Bank, packed with cafes and parks near the river and housing a cluster of universities. It is known as the seat of intellectual life for the city, attracting scholars, painters, writers, daydreamers and hustlers. On the south side of Buffalo Bayou sits Houston’s left bank, with Montrose as the heart of its intellectual life. The bars, galleries, bookstores and garden parks draw students from the University of Houston, Texas Southern University, St. Thomas and Rice. In the 18th century the universities of Paris served different communities from all over the country, seasoned with a dash of foreigners all too eager to embrace the shaping of their adopted city. Today Houston’s universities served different communities in the same way, but they collide in the streets along Westheimer every weekend at night. There are no cobblestones to tear up in revolt against the world, but nonetheless form follows function in the exploration of any cultural analogies. More than Napoleon III’s deputy Haussmann could tame the populace of the urban world with grand boulevards, Houston’s centralized freeway system, triumphantly efficient in its ability to move massive amounts of people and goods into or out of the city, has blunted the effects of radical thought- but has not prohibited the organic growth of a culture that proves Houston, in the midst of derision, is something to be proud of.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Arsgratia Artis sez:

blaffer has canceled the student show but the students have not. large scale guerrilla installation. all volunteer. one nite only. you must take responsibility for your own work or actions/interventions. curate your own show. invite anyone. work together!

Causes - Protest
Friday, December 4, 2009
6:00pm - 8:00pm
120 Fine Arts Building Houston, TX 77204

please send this event through your networks, in order for it to work we need to have an audience + participants. it would be great if all floors are open and the courtyard/hallways filled with art/activities. if there are any musicians or performers interested please invite them as well. Lawndale had Black Flag play back in the 80's when it was still part of U of H

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