11 March 2014
The Grand Budapest Hotel and the Modern Man of La Mancha

Note: assume spoilers.


The Grand Budapest Hotel is an admirable example of what a Wes Anderson film could be—satirically self-reflective, minutely orchestrated, and firmly supported by aesthetic strengths without overwhelming the subtleties of the film’s plot and characters.

Why I like Budapest is most evident through why I didn’t like Anderson’s previous film, Moonrise Kingdom. Though the plot of the latter—two outcast children finding each other and running away together—matches the Anderson aesthetic well enough, the story is removed from any reality aside from finding your dream person and being with that person against all odds (arguably to a destructive point of self-involvement). In Moonrise, we approach the quixotic limit of idealism and naïveté through Sam and Suzy; it’s a strange reversal of Don Quixote’s original story, where the irrational romanticism is found in an eccentric adult. Making Sam and Suzy the primary vehicles of this idealism, in contrast with Anderson’s failed adult characters, who are either resigned, isolated, trapped as supervisors to their younger counterparts, or some combination of these traits, suggests that a similar fate will befall Sam and Suzy and their relationship.

Moonrise, in focusing on their adult-like child protagonists, is trapped in a childhood nostalgia, an arrested development that is likely mirrored in Anderson’s primary audience: millennial twentysomethings (myself included) whose only break comes in occasional lapses of complete and utter aesthetic removal, purposefully unattached to a world of limited economic options and social mobility. The outcome of Moonrise does its audience two disservices: it further alienates jaded viewers from the possibility of its ideals—fate, coincidence, the simple elegance of the world colluding into certain answers—and panders to others’ desire to believe in them. This critique excludes the socioeconomic inequalities that create the latter disposition; inequalities that are beautifully erased from Anderson’s dreamy sets.


Budapest differs from Moonrise with a more fitting story, better use of literary technique, and marked self-awareness. We drift gradually with Anderson into nostalgia: a girl visits a cemetery to pay tribute to a dead author, whose book, The Grand Budapest Hotel, was written from a story told to him one night at the location of the same name. In three short scenes, we jump from the present to the near past to the far past (1932). We encounter M. Gustave H., the flawed and charismatic concierge of The Grand Budapest Hotel, who lives for a world even further in the past; a world that has already disappeared, even in his time. Anderson’s elaborate sets, once plush detailing to thinner stories, blend in naturally to the grand hotel and its Old World denizens and staff. Through his severe and detailed watch at the hotel and frequent recitations of romantic poetry, Gustave repaints this world frame by frame, even at his last moments when he attempts to save Zero from another run-in with the army. His power, realized only in the illusion he’s created, disappears by no coincidence at that symbol for destruction: war. Throughout the film, Gustave finds his criticisms towards Zero rebutted with matter-of-fact recollections of Zero’s experience as a refugee, another fact that pulls at the threads of Gustave (and Anderson)’s perfectly constructed sets.

As mentioned elsewhere, M. Gustave H. is a thinly-veiled depiction of Anderson himself, a man lost in his own time whose quixotisms earn him nothing but their inevitable and ill-fated demise. But unlike the protagonists of Moonrise Kingdom, we see Gustave and Zero’s futures through the frame-narratives set in motion at the film’s beginning. The Grand Budapest Hotel neither exalts nor belittles Gustave as he is. Rather, it serves as a faithful transcription of how Gustave tries to bring into the world a perfection that Moonrise Kingdom assumes. It’s an important distinction; one that brings its viewers to think, rather than critique, what a world without such generative quixotisms might look like. Like the Man of La Mancha, must all like M. Gustave H. be cured of their insanities or disappear, and what will we miss if we do?

23 February 2014
"From the Critique of Institutions to an Institution of Critique," Andrea Fraser. Artforum (Sept 2005)

If, indeed, the term “institutional critique” emerged as shorthand for “the critique of institutions,” today that catchphrase has been even further reduced by restrictive interpretations of its constituent parts: “institution” and “critique.” The practice of institutional critique is generally defined by its apparent object, “the institution,” which is, in turn, taken to refer primarily to established, organized sites for the presentation of art. As the flyer for the symposium at LACMA put it, institutional critique is art that exposes “the structures and logic of museums and art galleries.” “Critique” appears even less specific than “institution,” vacillating between a rather timid “exposing,” “reflecting,” or “revealing,” on the one hand, and visions of the revolutionary overthrow of the existing museological order on the other, with the institutional critic as a guerrilla fighter engaging in acts of subversion and sabotage, breaking through walls and floors and doors, provoking censorship, bringing down the powers that be. In either case, “art” and “artist” generally figure as antagonistically opposed to an “institution” that incorporates, coopts, commodifies, and otherwise misappropriates once - radical - and uninstitutionalized - practices. These representations can admittedly be found in the texts of critics associated with institutional critique. However, the idea that institutional critique opposes art to institution, or supposes that radical artistic practices can or ever did exist outside of the institution of art before being “institutionalized” by museums, is contradicted at every turn by the writings and work of Asher, Broodthaers, Buren, and Haacke. From Broodthaers’s announcement of his first gallery exhibition in 1964 - which he begins by confiding that “the idea of inventing something insincere finally crossed my mind” and then informing us that his dealer will “take thirty percent” - the critique of the apparatus that distributes, presents, and collects art has been inseparable from a critique of artistic practice itself. As Buren put it in “The Function of the Museum” in 1970, if “the Museum makes its ‘mark,’ imposes its ‘frame’… on everything that is exhibited in it, in a deep and indelible way,” it does so easily because “everything that the Museum shows is only considered and produced in view of being set in it.” In “The Function of the Studio” from the following year, he couldn’t be more clear, arguing that the “analysis of the art system must inevitably be carried on” by investigating both the studio and the museum “as customs, the ossifying customs of art.”

(Source: towerofsleep, via jesuisperdu)

Filed under: andrea fraser 
13 February 2014

An erasure of a page from Friedrich Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil.


An erasure of a page from Friedrich Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil.

(via slantedshanty-deactivated201404)

Filed under: poetry 
12 February 2014

Filed under: music 
12 February 2014

Filed under: music 
5 February 2014
John Cage, Lecture on Nothing

John Cage, Lecture on Nothing

(Source: notationnotes, via slantedshanty-deactivated201404)

27 January 2014

Jordan Larson wrote a piece in the LA Review of Books last month on contemporary fiction and magical realism that I’ve been mulling over. I just saw Her and am writing a lengthy review on it. There are an awful lot of movies about apocalypses coming out nowadays.

I was also at The Poetry Project tonight, and the poet Evelyn Reilly said something to the mutual feeling of doom we (those in the room) have for some reason in a rather flawed but a comfortable future (compared to WWI, etc). I started thinking about invisibility and rupture; that we can no longer recognize violence. That which we do see are moments of fantastical, artificial interruptions—allegorical, packaged. We, interrupting our fictions for some change, some feeling, because any violence is almost surreal, foreign, and textual1 to us. This has been interrupting my own writing recently: the splay of empty images who invite, comfortingly, a dull hypnosis.

There are two rough areas of being I see here: those whose informatic life activity goes largely uninterrupted and those whose informatic life activity is constantly rerouted, without consent, to a reminder of the body. These are those for whom text reveals intention of historical and contemporary hostilities towards female, dark, and non-normative bodies. The text reveals its other meanings through only a memory of bodies. This is what troubles me about text for the former kind: its erasure of bodies.


1 Textual: malleable, accessible, quantifiable, streamable. 

Filed under: internet magical realism 
20 December 2013

dieter roth (+) (1962)

a long love

dieter roth (+) (1962)

a long love

(via visual-poetry)

13 November 2013

A poem really needs some time to age. When I used to take them to readings young and green off the mornings, they lived and died with the audience of my memory or that thinned repetition where I barely remember the poem itself in favor of the scene it created.

Lately I’ve been writing poems at home, where the time and space is very DIY and very othered from the mass production of writing in morning for class at noon or a reading at night. I feel like I notice my verses, down to the crannies of my c’s and such, and one escapes innuendo. I’m in no rush to prove myself or the novelty of my work. My words are what they are and who they mean to me, and they can stay for as long as they’d like on alien-green notecards (or just the real stuffs of digital imagination). When they and I are ready, usually after a week or so, I reread and try to taste the same juices that placed them. The hours ensconce in memories. If I am lucky, there is the sweetness that made me once, there again.

Filed under: writing personal poetry lit 
10 November 2013
Experience is about seeing what’s around you, not going different places and putting yourself in danger—it’s about being attentive, seeing how things work, what they add up to.

Tobias Wolff