Progress thru War

Progress thru War I

“Progress thru War I” and “Progress thru War II” from 2008, are in Women, War, and Industry, curated by Amy Galpin and opening Thursday, October 17 at The San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park.

Progress thru War II

The two images draw on a variety of graphic traditions: American tattoo art, Otto Dix’s Schadel (1924), Durer’s skeleton accessorized by Ensor, and the celestial clouds from Claude Nicolas Ledoux’s Vision Inspired by the Cemetery at Chaux (1773-79).

Claude Nicolas Ledoux

The references to vintage tattoo art–the eagle is from tattoo flash from the forties and fifties–speak directly to my interest in American craft and folk art traditions as social history, the momento mori as a representation of mortality and human folly, and the use of language as the “tyranny of the message” (Annetta Kapon on Miyoshi Barosh, from BOMB, September 2013).

from the Tattoo Archives

The historical images of sailors and tattoo flash from Ralph Johnson (below) are from The Tattoo Archive, founded by C.W. Eldridge:

“The mission of the Tattoo Archive is to promote the history of tattooing through research and education.  A wealth of information is available just for the asking . . .”

Ralph Johnson flash







Arcadia is nearly complete. Here are close-ups of dyed, bleached, and burned floral fabrics with instagram-filtered kitties. The momento mori as an antique vision of the unimaginable space of the internet where kitties on YouTube are played along endless loops of time going nowhere. The backdrop of nature reduced to floral patterns of remembered gardens. In this mediated experience of nature, animals are consumed as constructs of cuteness. Assemblage, accumulation, consumption, destruction: a dystopian Pop song on perpetual replay in the digitilized archive of the forever present.



the evolving pastoral

Rousseau’s tomb on the Ile des Peupliers, Ermenonville.  Design by Hubert Robert with sculpture by Le Sueur, c. 1780-1785.

René de Girardin’s tomb to Rousseau was a monument to the natural man before he is corrupted by society (Richard A. Etlin, The Architecture of Death, the MIT Press, 1984).  The moral force of the landscape garden prompts virtuous thoughts as death loses its frightful mien.  Death, decay, and its disintegration into nothingness are nowhere to be found.

A stroll through the eighteenth-century landscape garden “was like a journey through an externalized portrait of the mind and a record of the heart.” (Etlin)

John McCracken, Guardian, 1985

McCracken’s hand-crafted objects are labored over to reproduce the seamless surface of technology.  The hand-rendered technological object produces an effect he thought of as a hallucination of an alternative reality, or UFO technology.  Here, death in the garden is cold, the elegiac has become alien.  It sits apart on the landscape, its dialogue exists only in its surface reflection.

Like the monolith in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, it questions life.  The reality of the monolith stimulates a group of apes to violent, aggressive behavior mocking the moral virtues of Rousseau’s natural man.  As the bone-weapon is launched by one of the apes, the film cuts to the floating satellite.  The natural (a piece of skeletal remains) morphs into the technological retaining its destructive potential in human hands.  Life can only be examined in relationship to its opposite: death. Kubrick’s film is set against the blank canvas of space, The Blue Danube its only reference to the pastoral.  Man’s technology is the winner and man himself is the loser in the dance of life and death.

This drawing continues to catalog the development of the kitty-quilt piece.  The drawing shows the placement of text and the addition of large fiberglass panels that repeat the geometric perspective of the box pattern from the quilt.  The archaic craftsmanship of the quilt contrasts with the flattened geometry of the fiberglass resin boxes.  The monolith is self-mocking, the quilt is traditionally produced as a laborious “record of the heart” here made dystopian by photoreproductions of cats from the internet.  The pastoral stimulant of a garden stroll to promote virtue supplanted by the passive viewing of the screen which becomes a “retreat from the burdens of modern consciousness, from boredom and isolation and helplessness.” (Steve Almond, “The iPads Are Coming!,” New York Times Magazine, June 23, 2013.




I went to the world premiere of Murakami’s new feature film, Jellyfish Eyes, at LACMA Monday night.  Many Japanese B-movie clichés were employed including a long exegesis by one of the “bad guys,” to explain the who, what, why, and when of the narrative: after an earthquake and tsunami has hit the coast, an evil black-caped foursome capture negative energy from school boys through the use of alien “Friends” controlled by iphone-like gadgets.  The mass accumulation of negative energy from the boys creates a Japan-destroying giant monster in the Daikaiju-Godzilla tradition.  The lab where the boys’ anger is harnessed to create the super-sized alien monster is equated with both the tsunami and subsequent meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and with post-Hiroshima Japan (!?)

Perhaps Jellyfish Eyes is meant to be a parody in the Austin Powers mode, like, just so super bad that it’s good?  If the movie’s purpose is, as Murakami claims in his production notes, to “give the children of this nation the courage to face things head on and forge contacts with the world around them.  [...] to overcome the veil of lies that envelopes this nation and teach them there is meaning in being brave.”  I’m not sure that a film that seems to parody both bad Japanese TV and the manga tradition of exaggerated, projected emotions, can contribute to giving Japan’s “brainwashed” (Murakami) children courage and analytical thinking skills.  How does a movie where the main protagonist, the “super-sad faced” boy, is most animated and affectionate when he’s with his computer-generated “friend” counter the idea that an obsession with computer games are making Japan’s boys amoral and antisocial bullies?

For me, the movie’s (and Murakami’s) basic fault line down gender roles brought back memories from when I was a kid visiting family in Tokyo and witnessed all the porn-manga the salarymen would read while riding the subways.  Almost always sadomasochistic, more often than not the sex object was a Japanese schoolgirl.  In Japan, “porn is a multimedia industry that’s accepted, encompassing games, comics, anime, and, of course, live-action… and can be the first step in a long and legitimate career.” (Ksa Otaku, 9 Manga Artists Who Totally Drew Porn

These are some of the questions I didn’t ask Murakami during the Q and A after the screening: Could a giant LOVE-DOLL monster be created with all that sexual energy generated by those schoolgirl uniforms?  Could you generate electrical power from all the friction created?   I want to make a LOVE-DOLL monster with a giant vagina dentata to take on the ANGRY-Jellyfish-Eyes monster, what will that teach the kids?

Right on people huh let it all hang out gimme gimme gimme gimme gimme gimme gimme yeah… 

On Textiles and Utopia

That a successful textile manufacturer would help write The Communist Manifesto makes sense.  Both the industrial revolution that Engels profited from and experiments with Marxist ideology that led to communism failed to change social disparities through the effects of “utopian surplus.”

Value as a “projection of ourselves onto things” is tied to knowledge-value, power-value, and aesthetic-value (Gabriel Tarde).  With this hierarchical value system in mind, I like to work with the least desirable textiles: cheap, often synthetic, knitwear bought and used that continued on a downward trajectory to the thrift store where I purchased it, part of the “utopian surplus” of cheap fashion.

From right to left: work-in-progress from “Monuments to the Failed Future” and suited-up Tron Conventioneer.

In the new piece (the “kitty quilt”), I want to look at the fabrics that are not discarded but re-configured into an aesthetic (or unaesthetic) object with a value system based on creative “folk” labor along with the phenomenon of the popularity of cat videos on the internet.

The cats offer a domesticated, anthropomorphic vision of nature proliferating via a technology that can’t be depicted. Not drugs, not pornography, the virus spreads with even less effort.  I recently read a journalist in The New York Times refer to “the utopian promise of the internet.”  Where does that “utopian promise” lead seven billion people with more cell phones than access to indoor plumbing?

I like the Tron movies’ depiction of the internet as some kind of dark, gridded environment that never can escape the third dimension, and that brings me back to quilts…



Crazy Quilt

in-process cat quilt for new tapestryThis is one of the large quilted sections of the new tapestry.  It is a crude, infantile, funny, ironic, heartfelt, and, thus, ambivalent representation of cats existing on the “internet.”  It’s the world imagined by Tron, of cats trapped in an archaic representation of the 4th dimension, or in formless space.  I’m fascinated with the cat image because it is the image most distributed by the digital computing machine.  A spreading virus of carnivalesque irrationality, the cat images are embedded in your “happy place.”



MONUMENTS: Water Follies

Moisei Reiser's water tower for Ekaterinburg, Richard Pare photoThinking more about the Monuments to the Failed Future (see pst of November 14, 2012).  It may take several more posts to unravel the many tangled thoughts about the series.  There is no historical sequence, no hierarchy of themes, dreams and disillusions run through all the disparate thoughts (and fun with words), starting with ideas around water and folly.

Above, The Water Tower: a ferro-concrete structure raised on pilotis, by Richard Pare (1999).  Built for a Socialist city of workers from a production facility in Ekaterinburg, Russia, it remains an important symbol of the early promise of the soviet dream: mass production for mass well-being.  One of the first structures to use ferro-concrete, it was designed by Moisei Reisher in 1929.

The brutalism of the Socialist agenda made concrete, a watch tower holding one of the necessities for life… an abandoned failure, a Socialist ruin, a folly to oppression.

Inspector's House at the Source of the Loue, Chaux project, engraving 1773-79Ledoux, Inspector’s House at the Source of the Loue, engraving after Ledoux by Van Maëlle and Maillet, Chaux project, 1773-79.

“In 1767, Ledoux happened to visit the saltworks in Lorraine and Franche-Comté.  This industrial center was among the most important of the period, and included housing and facilities for the working people.  But Ledoux deplored what he saw.  To him, they were ‘buildings put up haphazardly and stingily,’ and he lamented, ‘if the growth had been foreseen and studied, and if construction had been well-planned, an important town could have resulted.”  Visionary Architects: Boullée, Ledoux, Lequeu, Dominique de Ménil, University of St. Thomas, 1968.

Reisher’s brutalist tower falls on its side, water spilling out.  Virile and passionate, freudian sublimation stripped to its bare essentials.  Ledoux’s project for Chaux was never realized but fully imagined: a wet dream.

vintage postcard of Yellowstone fallsIn 1872, President Ulysses Grant made Yellowstone the first National Park in the world.  After the Civil War, westward expansion continued to be rationalized by the doctrine of Manifest Destiny, as well as a combination of American exceptionalism and Romantic nationalism. “From 1800 to 1900, the United States tripled in size, the population shifted from about seven percent living in the West to roughly sixty percent.” (Guillaume Vandenbroucke, “The U.S. Westward Expansion,” International Economic Review, vol. 49, no. 1, February 2008)  While destroying, containing, and driving out the native people, the growth in the white population, new technologies (cotton gin, steam engine), and cheaper transportation led to massive environmental destruction and the depletion of resources continuing today.

The natural dreamscapes, the national monuments of the American West, had to be protected from these energetic individualists consuming land and resources with little social constraint or government regulation.

Population growth and technological development drive many social movements, in turn creating massive environmental destruction.  A grotesque failure machine driven by our own success.











handmade fonts

"Miyoshi Barosh" handmade text for website home page

Self-annihilating Kitty Quilt was abandoned this week to work on my website.

"PROJECTS" handmade text for website

My first art book was on British Pop of the sixties.  I LOVED Yellow Submarine when I saw it  in Ankara, where we were living when it came out.  I loved the clash of cultures I was living with at the time: Turkish crafts and pop-culture cinema, Greek ruins, Roman ruins, Byzantine ruins, fantastic Islamic architecture, Americans abroad, and the halting English spoken by my Chinese-Japanese mother who was never fully present.  Even then, everything was rainbow-colored by the Beetles.

"Open Studio" handmade text for website

"INFO" handmade text for the website

"contact" handmade text for the website






Kitty Quilt 2


kittens in shadow-box quilt

Post-holiday sugar-rush still lingers, disturbingly, in the pit of my stomach.  In trying to exhibit some kind of discipline, I am continuing to document the new tapestry.  This continues a line of thought documented first on the 12/5 post.  For convenience I’m calling the piece the Self-Annihilating Kitty Quilt.

The quilted part of the tapestry is a background graphic. The shadow-box faux dimensionality will morph into digitalized snow.  The greater part of the sketch represents a more sculptural deep relief.  A sculptural “bio-mass” engulfs the kitty quilt.  I think of it as a bacterial infection.  Perhaps a too obvious reference to the technological “virus”?

The cat is a representation of a kind of obsession that can be taught to machine intelligence.  There is a human fascination with biological forms that are “cute,” a visual sugar-rush: self-indulgent excess.