Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Environmental news of the week

Wow. If poetry could do this. Think about the other "90 %" of the planet.

I would love to see the Haida give the oil patch a run for its money.

When I heard about plans to put solar panels on farm land in Ontario I couldn't believe it...who would okay such a plan? Solar panels on rooftops, on industrial land, and especially covering parking lots--those are all great ideas. Using increasingly rare agricultural land? Stunningly low brain.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Million Poems Show Bowery Poetry Club

The Hound will be one of tonight's guests.

"For the finale of season three for New York's best-loved poetry talk show, host Jordan Davis and house band Franklin Bruno (The Human Hearts, Nothing Painted Blue, Mountain Goats) welcome poets Sina Queyras and Chris Toll, and cabaret sensation Poor Baby Bree. Interviews, poetry, performance, spontaneous collaboration -- more fun than you have any right expect. Arrive early for happy hour and get good'n'liquored up."

6:30 Bowery Poetry Club
Who knows what will happen...

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Joshua Clover, The Totality for Kids

I posted briefly on Joshua Clover in my Three Joshuas (Beckman, Clover, Corey) mini-review last year. I was taken with Clover's The Totality for Kids, and wanted to spend more time with it before going on at length. Partly this is because I want to resist being taken in by the sheen, and by the very coiffed nature of Clover's persona--an aspect of poetry that tends to send me running in the opposite direction. But the sheen is a perk in this case. The Totality for Kids rocks: I'm still taken by the book, and Clover himself, whose blog is also worth visiting.

The Totality for Kids is a thoroughly modern text, written, as Judith Butler suggests on the back cover (as if that isn't "sign" enough...) "in the shadow of Adorno." There be theory in this text; this text be shaped by theory, in both subtle and unsubtle shapings. The presence of an index, for example:
Adorno, Theordor W., 3
Agamben, Giorgio, 23
Alduy, Cecile, 30
Alphabet, 11,21,36,66
Anarchasim, 51,52,64
and so on...with more than a dozen references to architecture, cities, money, Paris, suburbs and sun respectively. This is a smart text, an engaged text, a text with reference, a text with relevance, a text embracing high and low, a text which plays with the idea of text--the starburst poem Ca Ira (30), and the playful "What's so American about American Poetry? " which appears in both French and English (the French being decidedly sexier):
Au fond c’est fait au sable.
Heuresment, parce que sans ça, c’était un véritable casse-tête.
French culture and language are obviously major factors in this text, but it's a different engagement than other American poets (Alice Notley, Marilyn Hacker, CK Williams...), who spend a good deal of time and/or live, in France. Clover's engagement is more filmic, more architectural, more Lisa Robertson than the above, but also more Clover: "The sun tutoyers me! Adrift beyond the heroic realism/in the postmodern sublime where every window can lie/Like a priest..." (64).

Other fetching aspects include the references to artists--the poems titled "Whiteread Walk," for example, with their sculptural and mediated sound:
Monumental the lacunae between illbiquitous promenaders down to the
Square past the Open 24 Hours as social forms of grieving we are prohibited
this is the remix the new glitch has been called melancholy of luscious
The titles of the poems themselves are luscious: "Their Ambiguity," "Parable Lestrange," "Feral Floats the Form in Heaven and of Light."

I took a dozen poetry books (Canadian just for interest sake...) down from the shelf and flipped through, looking at word pairings. Of the ten I randomly chose only Margaret Christakos and Darren Wershler Henry compared for freshness, for condensed meaning. This wasn't a study, just a random take, but it's worth considering the number of surprising pairings in a text because to this reader in any case, this can be a mark of a text's velocity, its fuel, or conflict (if conflict drives narrative perhaps combustive language drives poetry...).

The city, its shape and structure, its interaction and movement with people and ideas is at the core of this text--not surprisingly Benjamin, flaneurism, etc. But the city exists more acutely in contrast, and in context, rather than narratively (as with Dionne Brand, for example) or formally (as we see with Marilyn Hacker). In that sense, Clover achieves a grandness not by the cliche of the particular (cliche in our insistance, not in its effectiveness), but by the particular view, the angle and rawness of the included particulars, the wide swing from city to suburb, abstract idea to tender moment: "Two boys in a doorway tending each other's wounds," we get in the poem "The Dark Ages," which knocks around the idea of poetic history, form, discussion of the "lamp-lit" corridors of poetry, where like a magician Clover turns, and turns ideas and images on themselves, offering connection after connection as the narrator moves through space ending at
some town square and the strangers look at (him) as if (he) had done something terrible, an otherwise good man who commits murder after murder to understand why exactly he did it the first time (34).
I've been reading this book along with Judith Butler's Giving an Account of Oneself, in which she asks, among other things, how one can go about doing just that in an ethical, honest manner (what is ethical, what is honest?). In the chapter "Against Ethical Violence," she suggests that one's ability to accept what is "contingent and incoherent in oneself may allow one to affirm others who may or may not affirm one's own constitution." This ability to accept, not limitations, but impermanence and growth, not only makes for more accepting humans, it makes for a more collaborative and open textual experience. There are no conclusions in Clover's text. We aren't affirmed in our humanness like so much contemporary poetry tends to do, no lifelines dangling, no balm, no pat endings. Nor are we left unaffirmed necessarily. Rather, we are left ruffled, tousled, having stood briefly at a corner slouched, perhaps thinking of a cigarette, or considering the inherent sexiness of cities meant for people, not cars, having arrived too early, or too late, or maybe not even sure we're at the right address...and its our ability to be open to this that is affirmed if nothing else. Clover achieves "a casual balance between OxyContin and "poetic prose." New "sensations" do emerge, and new perspectives. In his hands that seems an easy thing to do. Alas it is not.

You can see and hear Clover reading on Jordan Davis' Million Poems show--where yours truly will appear tomorrow, Monday the 28th.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

"Moments" now on ars poetica. Thanks, Dan. Great project compiling poems that reflect a poet's poetics.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Grizzly Man is George Bush

Finally watched Grizzly Man, the Werner Herzog docu/film depicting the life of Timothy Treadwell. Well, that is to say I watched what I could--long descriptions of body parts didn't seem that interesting, and it was painful to watch someone as delusional as Treadwell, who, like the McCandless we encounter in Jon Krakaeur's Into the Wild walks blindly into the wild, believing themselves to have a kind of moral goodness, and no exit-strategy. Perhaps that's why Treadwell kept reminding me of George Bush? "Hey, you're alright little buddy, I'm here to protect you. You're such a star, I love you..." Yikes. Treadwell delivers, as one reviewer points out, with a dead-pan Christopher Guest dryness, line after line like that, and often more than one version as Herzog allows the viewer to watch Treadwell at work, rehearsing and sometimes being surprised by events around him.

The Guardian posted a glowing, though tongue-in-cheek review of this tragicomedy, and yes, that seems right. Treadwell aside, what bothered me the most was watching the animals starve as their natural food sources diminish. Looking into the eyes of a starving grizzly, seeing the grizzly diving for "the last salmon carcass," you'd think Treadwell would have realized that he might be next... But like everyone else caught in the web of economic exchange, Treadwell just kept filming.

As for Herzog's attraction to the story? I'm not sure what he was after. Treadwell's footage is disturbing, and it makes me think more than ever, these regions need to ban people all together. I don't want to watch webcams of grizzly bears mating, or feeding, I want them to be left alone.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Quote of the week

I don't have a problem with lyric poetry. I have a problem with the idea that lyric poetry is the only legitimate poetry....

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Mairead Byrne, Talk Poetry (Miami UP 2007)

"You could use this stuff for stand-up and STILL have enough leftovers to construct a small working Christopher Marlowe..." Jow Lindsay
I have long been a fan of Mairéad Byrne, a poet who is as funny as she is brave and original. We first crossed paths electronically, where she proved herself to be a tireless advocate for the open mind, using her abundant wit to explode smallness everywhere. It didn't take long before I had read her work and then met face to face. Poets who are fully embodied in their work are rare, and Byrne is one for whom poetry is a lifeblood, as daily as breathing and pulsing. Her blog, Heaven, has not been so much about commentary (that she does through poetic listservs), as much as about recording her daily practice. Now, after what Byrne would describe as a long drought, we have several new books at once, culled in part from her blog.

Byrne's previous publications include two poetry collections, SOS Poetry (/ubu Editions 2007), and Nelson & The Huruburu Bird (Wild Honey Press 2003); three chapbooks, An Educated Heart (Palm Press 2005), Vivas (Wild Honey Press 2005), and Kalends (Belladonna* 2005). With her latest book, Talk Poetry, Byrne proves that she is a poet to be reckoned with, a poet who has honed her unique blend of surreal humor and wit to perfection. You have to love a poet who can say, "I wrote a book about James Joyce, but I never finished Finnegan's Wake. I got mad at Joyce. After all, I have a life too..."

I posted on Bryne's "The Difference between poetry and stand up," a while back and so won't repeat myself here. Suffice to say it is as worth checking out, as this latest volume is. The prose poems here are not unlike the gems found in Anne Carson's Short Talks, or Margaret Atwood's most precise prose poetry. They are also reminiscent of James Tate, which is to say, humorous and accessible without being obvious. These poems are funny, sly, and deadpan: "I have adopted a 49 year old woman. I've always wanted to adopt. Of course I was thinking of a younger child..." or the poem, "The Russian Week," which begins:
Inside this week is another week & inside that week is another week
inside that week is another week & inside that week is another week &
inside that week is another week & inside that week is another week so
that instead of 7 days each week is actually composed of 7 weeks each
one a little smaller than its container week but still workable...
Did I mention Byrne is Irish? That she recently became an American? Did I mention you won't find the predictable Irish representation here, no Heaneyesque pastoralism, no falling back on the lilt (She has a wonderful Irish lilt, but the funny thing is, that lilt doesn't require specific poetic content...who knew?). Perhaps this is partly because she is a rare specimen: a female Irish poet. To that end her poems tend to be about banal things such as "division of labor," which describes when a poet can and cannot be helpful: "When a person is throwing up you cannot help in the throw-up operation..." you can pat, you can admonish, she concludes, but "It is not your job." Whereas she wisely notices that, "When someone says to you: I don't think I want to be with you anymore, you say, Here is your hat."

How to wrestle with the quotidian? How to talk about motherhood, single-motherhood no less, in a poetry world that long ago seems to have banished all references to children and/or domestic struggle in favor of the grand project. "I used to be 4 years younger than my husband when he left me with 2 children & I got 7 years older very quick. Two years went by. I was 11 years older then..." Byrne takes what she has and oragamis it into tight prose portraits. Time passes, and in it, surprising slants of light appear, flicker and pass again.

Sicko: Michael Moore takes on US Healthcare

Oh, this is going to be good. Taking a group of 9/11 rescue workers to Cuba for free health care? Moore was right to spirit away a copy of the film. This was a deal breaker for me: living in a country that allows its citizens to go bankrupt over basic health care? That's insane. I could post for days on the many, many frustrations of the US health care system--and I actually have benefits. Good ones at that.

Still, even the good benefits discourage use. It's a system that creates excessive administrative work for users, further discouraging use, and a system that relies on disinformation and excessive loopholes which people with money can either pay, or pay to avoid. In fact, many people have health care brokers to deal with health insurance plans--they're too complex to navigate on one's own. And if you do get very ill, you're faced with a "benefits specialist" who will help you try to figure out how to best configure your benefits to avoid massive costs in the thousands, on top of your excellent benefits. Do you ever want to hear: "Your husband's treatment will cost half a million dollars, currently you are liable for one fifth of that fee..."

People without benefits--some 50 million--have a whole other set of problems. A fellow Canadian, also living in the US said to me once, "What's the big deal, you can always buy health insurance..." Well, that's actually not true. You have to be part of a company to buy into most plans. Independent users can buy into HMOs but the costs can run more than the cost of renting an average 1 brm apartment in the average Canadian city and there is generally an assumed deductible that makes this out of reach for most.

Reality check. This health care system is one scary beast. Beware the politician who looks south and sees progress...what they're really seeing is a chance for fees. Lots and lots and lots and lots of fees and lots of administration to administer those little fees and on and on and on.

wherever she goes, there she is

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

More to come on Andreas Gursky

Spring in Chelsea...no windows...no doors...art spilling out everywhere.

The Hound in Montreal, Verse on LH

Sina Queyras, author of Lemon Hound (shortlisted for a Lambda Literary Award and the Pat Lowther Award), reads at Montreal's Atwater Poetry Project, and is joined by Sonnet L'Abbe and Ida Borjel.

The Atwater Poetry Project
featuring Sina Queyras, Sonnet L'Abbe and Ida Borjel
Thursday, May 10, 2007
Atwater Library & Computer Centre, 1200 Atwater Avenue
Westmount, QC
7:00 p.m.

You know you want to come...hounds, sonnets, spring, Montreal...what's not to like.

P.S. Verse Magazine takes a look at the Lemon Hound.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Sammy Davis Jr.

Who knew. The guy was a life-time camera-carrying photography addict...

Looking at looking at art

These two were consummate lookers. I was compelled to look at their looking with as much intensity. Chelsea is at least as much about the lookers as it is the art. So many people looking gives an artist such hope, I think. There is interest when so much of an artist's life is about non-interest, is about solitude and self-discipline, and holding firm in the face of often colossal indifference. Reports of Jim Dine, Andreas Gursky, Tim Hawkinson at Pace Wildenstein, Jean-michel Basquiat, Bill Viola at James Cohan, Robin Rhode, Michael Kalmbach, newcomers Mickaline Thomas, Sean Landers and Dana Schutz, mostly disappointing shows at Metro Pictures, Sonnabende and Luhring Augustine...plus a few bonus tidbits, ham sandwiches at the Neue Galerie, a report on the rather orderly Barnes Exhibit, and very soon the first of a series of interviews with poets and artists. All this sporadically over the next busy, travel-filled weeks.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Childhood landscapes #16

Making The New Lamb Take

No pastoral poetry is complete without a lamb, and in the poetry of Gabe Fried we find that lamb, and that field, front and center. Achingly exquisite with formal splendor, Fried's poems echo Thomas Hardy, or that American school of quietude that harkens back to a time of less media and cultural saturation and disconnection. I'll have more to say after seeing the whole, but having read much of the poems individually I can attest to the complexity and verbal precision, the polish, depth of feeling and intellectual engagement. This poetry comes from many angles all at once and all with great care and skill. A long time coming, this collection, and worth the wait. Congrats, Gabe.

Here is the title poem:


Making the New Lamb Take

The skin is only perfume now.

It won't take seed and grow: cells


clot like sand, the vellus curling

from both ends in tendrils.


We have lifted it--careful--off,

waiting for a breeze to taper until air


is no enemy, dried sheets tugging

down the line. Underneath is flesh too


fresh for day, like eyes that spend

the hours mining in dream or lamplight


Working there, while at it, we hear

the mourning ewe from the bluish fields


she wanders--a harbormaster

who has ruined single-mindedness.


And though it doesn't do one stitch

of good, we think of her.


We cannot tell her it is not her doing,

knowing how our own don't always live,


or won't live well.

We cannot lie, even in our lingual tongue,


which must make muddled sense

to her, at best--one stray sound


among many sticks, then ticks off

into the chasm.


Instead, we bind the fleece

to the back of another: young, just


seeing, of a more prosperous mother

who's tired from all the mouths at her.


We tie the flapping ankles tight

with hemp, then hood the head over:


both mouths now silenced.

This disguise was never meant


for sight, so we guide them,

the old aroma warming underneath,


leash taut with mute resistance.

They say the ewe will come to love


him after weeks; I have my doubts.

But underneath the clouds—like clouds


themselves, led by contrary winds—

we lead them into fields


and make them lie down.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Go Sarah!

Sarah Polley the actress has become Sarah Polley the director, and for her first feature she has chosen to transform an Alice Munro story. Gutsy move, and it seems to be paying off: AO Scott calls it near perfect. This is just the thing I needed, a new woman directing films.

I have no desire to see The Namesake, even though I thought Jhumpa Lahiri's The Interpretor of Maladies a thing of absolute beauty, the novel, was less than compelling. And Mira Nair, who did a fabulous job of Vanity Fair, is a strong director, but not strong enough to pull me in to a story that was extremely dull on the page, and I can't imagine how it could possibly be made interesting on screen--beautiful sentences or no.

I'm still suffering from the aftertaste of Sophia Coppola's Marie Antoinette. Would that it were a parody of America in 2007, but I don't think so...I think it was meant to be an "enlightening" portrait of a misunderstood female historical figure. The fluffy aspects of the film were absolutely delicious, but otherwise, achingly disappointing.

Looking for, and Resisting, Diane Arbus


I posted on Diane Arbus very briefly after seeing her show at the Met, and after seeing a show in Chelsea. Briefly I suppose because despite her dual giantess status in both feminist and photography worlds, I'm still not sure what to say about her. The prolific photographer worked extensively in the 50s and 60s, publishing in Esquire and Harper's Bazaar, showing her work sporadically before committing suicide in 1971. Her work, as I mentioned after seeing her show at the Met, is almost overly familiar, posted on fridge doors and in dorm rooms: the Manhattan women, the lipstick and high hats, the Peurto Ricans on the street, the hopeful, and fulsome bodies of New Yorkers parading past her lens, all of this seems woven with seminal New York City images of that era. But her body of work, concerned largely with the carnevalesque: twins, and outsiders, transvestites, dwarfs, giants, people with Down's syndrome, resists any kind of assessment, fails in some way to convince me of any authenticity...of what? Experience? Art? Intention? I'm not sure, and I'm not sure that it's even a fair criticism, but it's where I am with Arbus. What are we to make of all these faces, similarly blank and otherworldly in expression, like short confessional narrative poems with their minute, repetitive and ultimately cloyingly assuring endings. We are all the same, we are all of us freaks, I am you, you am I, and so on, and yes, in theory, yes.

Diane Arbus, "Identical Twins, Roselle NJ, 1967"
Perhaps this is what makes "The Twins," so popular. The image, the first Arbus image I recall seeing, satisfies on basic formal and narrative levels: children, doubled, mysterious, a couplet, accessible, suggestive, bite-sized, not overly complicated but resonant. My sister, a photography student at the time, sent me the postcard, which in itself was a radical act it seemed to me, so far from art that I hadn't yet waded into the sea of replications. That postcard stood out from the collection I had assembled, largely of motels, mountain ranges, dams, squirrels eating ice cream cones, and bears with paws in picnic baskets. Visiting my sister I found a book of Arbus on her coffee table, and several versions of twins in images pinned on her bulletin board in the various apartments and phases of her life.
Looking into the faces in the Arbus book one sees a vast array of faces, of people in various moments, fleeting, caught in acts. But to what end? Are we looking at the straining gaze of a good girl longing to get out of the constraints of privilege? Is that interesting? Looking at her equipment, her library, bits of her writing over the years, in the show at the Met, didn't prove helpful. She had a gift for "rendering the familiar strange," she "uncovered the exotic in the familiar." Was she trolling misery for art? Arbus's legacy of photographs is impressive, and her influence undeniable. That doesn't make it any easier to engage with her work, or to come to terms with its impact. In some way Arbus is a collector, and the captures evoke fissures, odd disjunctures that the Walls and Shermans of the world went on to work into a lather of texture and technical wonder.








Diane Arbus, "Child with Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park," 1962
The child with toy hand grenade for instance, is an image that had Wall seen and been intrigued by he would have painstakingly recreated in a way that fully exploited the formal, classical, and contemporary elements; he would have staged a performance.

I'm not advocating one approach over the other. I'm admitting that there is something about Arbus' work that doesn't ring true to me. Judith Butler sees an intriguing thread in Arbus' work by focusing on her depictions of the human body in its urban setting, the figure as it moves in and out of light. I can work with that, the human body perhaps as ubiquitous and unsettling as light moving across the city's surface?

Okay, to be fair, seeing Arbus' equipment and notebooks, her library, and family photographs, one gets a sense of the artist's struggle. The hurdles of gender unearth themselves, for instance, glimmers of difficulty, an unwillingness to perhaps put the children first...signs that for women developing a grand, life-long project on the scale of a Jeff Wall, or Edward Burtynsky is much more difficult. (Hence Virginia Woolf's satsifaction that Vanessa could be mother and painter, but not mother, painter, and terribly successful, or famous.) And those who do, Cindy Sherman, Nan Goldin, Candida Hofer, have somehow slipped through the net of likability, and expected wholesale emotional administration. As feminist as a man can be--and I know there are men who are feminist out there--I can't think of many who don't rely on the free work (emotional and otherwise) women do to make the world inhabitable, and who do women turn to for that?

But as a whole, Arbus' body of work slips past me. There was a moment when the images seemed to have meaning, as a young girl, but that hasn't lasted. Like Sharon Olds work which in the 1980s inspired legions of young poets to cough up images of grotesque penises, make the unmediated psyche their canvas, the poem's surface rippling with managed rage, Arbus inspired students to photograph the liminal--taking their cameras into night clubs and strip clubs, nursing homes and hospital wards, into bath, bed, shower, everywhere the body goes, the lens follows. As a project, for some reason, its luminescence eludes me. Nan Goldin on the other hand, but that's another post

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Seminal: The Anthology of Canada's Gay Male Poets

Launching on May 10th in Vancouver, published by Arsenal and co-edited by John Barton & Billeh Nickerson, this is a welcome text and I wish I could be there to celebrate. While reading for Open Field I was struck by how few gay male poets we have in Canada--gay male playwrights, many of them, many great ones, and I could think of some great fiction writers too, but poets? Of course we have them! I know, I know, but for some reason there just isn't the sort of gay male presence in the poetry scene the way there has been a female presence. (Though, really, given the percentage there aren't that many of either. )
In any case, kudos to the editors, both fine poets themselves. Poems from John Barton appeared in the feature on Canadian writing I edited for Drunken Boat last year, and Billeh appeared in the anthology Smoking Lung, and has since published The Asthmatic Glassblower. I'm eager to see the list, selections, the range of poetics (and ages!), and I know from reading and chatting at the Gay & Lesbian Center in Chelsea last month, that the guys are eager to see some Canadian representation.

Oh, I didn't mention that Lemon Hound is a Lambda finalist this year? As is Touch to Affliction. Inroads, Canadians inroads. Actually Lambda is one list that Canadian writers do seem to appear on every now and then. So thanks Lambda.

Oh, and did you all see the Queering Language issue of eoagh that ca conrad, tim peterson and erica kaufman edited and which the Hound read at the launch of here in Philly and all sorts of fun was had? And at which I met Dodie Bellamy and Kevin Killian finally (see below), and all sorts of other poets too? A few of which you can see here.
Dodie & Kevin by LH, Robin's, March 2007

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Andreas Gursky at Matthew Marks

Panoramas, bird's eye views, the single largest photograph in the world containing 80,000 brightly dressed gymnasts, a chain of islands, or lines of asparagus plants...the sheer amount of modernity is killing us. Perhaps the unwieldiness is what compels photographer Andreas Gursky, featured in April's issue of Modern Painters, and on view soon at Matthew Marks. Or is it the money? After all, this is the photographer whose print "99 Cent," sold for $2.48 million. What was the subject matter? The interior of a discount store. Multiples of the lowest of the low.

So, it works. Or we're curious. Or both. Consider May Day V, with its reverse Panopticon effect: everyone is seeing out. Seen next to Beelitz, which could either be a close up of some kind of cardboard, or a metal door... More than ever we get a sense of the scale at which we humans are currently operating in: too many choices, too much information, too much to see, too much to process, not a hope in hell of remaining on point or conscious for any length of time. And meanwhile the world progresses beyond what we can possibly remain even remotely informed about...or oriented to. What's up with this road in Bahrain? Is that a mirage? A track? And just where is James Bond Island?

More and more we see photographs tracing the impact of the impact of man--in multiples, repetitions, the large scale manufacturing of civilization. We are in love with our own sense of production. And why not? Despite Baudrillard and Benjamin, our sense of being in love with replications--of ourselves and others--goes back a long, long way. Think of the Terracottta army, Easter Island, etc. But this scale? This abundance? What are we to make of all this? When we see images such as the James Bond Islands, are we to think of its inevitable disappearance? Or are we to think of the shapes and colors, the surface of the image? Are we to consider the original at all? Do you see a whale, or 8,000 pounds of product? Do we see cow, or skirt steak? Do we see a canyon, or a place for our SUVs? Are we to feel a sense of joy at the discovery of such a view, such a world, or are we to mourn that once we are seeing this replication, the real that much closer to absent.

Still, there is something extremely compelling about the scale and depth these photographers--Gursky, Burtynsky, Hofer--achieve. The tenderness, the depth of feeling that one senses in the composition, tone, and subject matter. Prefacing Irish writer Edmund Burke from 1756, Critic Alix Ohlin suggests a contemporary sublime, a time in which we are faced with "terrible emotion,""terror" and "transformation." Scale. Remember the guilt with which people referred to 9/11 as such, the "brute beauty," if you will, of the destruction? We aren't so much trembling before God, Ohlin suggests, as we are trembling before the sheer presence of ourselves. Difficult to disagree.

And finally, though one can't help but be happy about recent leaps in printing technology, on top of digital imaging, what we are looking at, what we are taking to be documentation, is in fact manipulation. In fact this seems to be expected now. Ohlin suggests that "to show globalization as it really is--to make the invisible sublime--the image must be altered." Ironic, the technologoy we create to track our technology can't contain or adequately document it...

Finally, there is the suggestion that Gursky presents "our ignorance magnified." While I agree with this assessment, I can't say that this is necessarily a new thing. It seems to me that since photography's invention it has been an intensified mirror, always offering this possibility to those willing to read the surface and beyond.

It remains to be seen what affect, if any, all of this documentation will have on our world, or on the art world. But so much for predictions of the demise of photograph as a form of art. Instead it seems we're entering a golden age. I'm not sure how we'll read the work, but suddenly it seems utterly essential.

Stay tuned for more after I see Gursky's work up close and personal this weekend...

Jessica Lange's photographs in Aperture

Who knew? Photographer Mary Ellen Mark introduces the photography of the famous actress and spouse of Sam Shepard in the spring issue, and they aren't bad. They are moody black and whites of small town America--full of subtext of course, and sort of steamy.