Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller

by Travis Jeppesen on April 14, 2009

My review of Janet Cardiff and George Bures MIller at Hamburger Bahnhof has been published in WhiteHot Magazine of Contemporary Art.

I will be in Krakow later this week as part of the 6th Culture for Tolerance Festival. I will be lecturing on the work of Mark Ther at 15:00 on Saturday, April 18th, at Spokój, ul. Bracka 3—5, Kraków (brama, I p. / gate, 1st floor).

Peter Beste at Pool Gallery

by Travis Jeppesen on March 29, 2009

My review of the Peter Beste exhibition is now online at WhiteHot.

Update; Against Blogging; etc.

by Travis Jeppesen on March 12, 2009

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything new. I’m in the middle of completing this play, DADDY, which I mentioned earlier. This has taken priority over everything else in my life. The play is now going to be performed at the HAU Theater here in Berlin under the direction of Mr. Ron Athey — I’m very excited about this.

Anyway, I never intended this to be a proper “blog,” where I get on here every day and post whatever idiotic thoughts come into my mind for the world to divulge. So many writers do this in the mistaken belief that blogging is some sort of important or revolutionary medium, but 99.9% of all blogs I’ve ever seen have been total crap. I never intended to go down that road. I’m a writer, not a blogger, and I have no real intention of becoming a victim of the latest net trend. I’d rather post completed pieces of writing whenever I have something to say in this format, be it once a month or once a year, than strive to attain some virtual cult of personality in order to promulgate my name.

Other than the DADDY project, Mario and I have been busy putting the finishing touches on the latest BLATT publication, C. Bard Cole’s novel THIS IS WHERE MY LIFE WENT WRONG. I’m so excited that this book is finally about to see the light of day — it’s totally brilliant, as anyone who has read their review copy will attest, a comic masterpiece and the way forward for literature.

In fact, all three of the novels we’re publishing through BLATT this year — including Heidi James’s CARBON and Noah Cicero’s THE INSURGENT — are cause for excitement. Sorry to toot my own horn here, but it’s really an honor that all three of these authors found BLATT at the same time. I really don’t know of a more exciting publishing program for 2009.

Political/Minimal

by Travis Jeppesen on January 21, 2009

My review of Political/Minimal, the current group exhibition at KunstWerke, is now online at WhiteHot Magazine of Contemporary Art.

Thank You, 3am

by Travis Jeppesen on January 21, 2009

3am Magazine has named Disorientations Nonfiction Book of the Year.”

2008: Moments: Berlin

by Travis Jeppesen on January 20, 2009

When I was in high school, I remember picking up an introductory art history textbook and skimming the contents. I didn’t know much about art at the time, but the chapters were pretty standard, covering all the basics for newbies like me – painting, sculpture, and architecture. What really struck me, however, was the conclusion, which was all about New York City, which the author posited as the 20th century’s greatest artistic creation of all.

Looking back at the past year, I feel overwhelmed by the task of attempting to keep up with everything I’ve seen, all I’ve experienced, the people I’ve met. And it couldn’t have happened in any other place – certainly not right now. Berlin is the common thread, what holds all this together. It may not be the most colorful capital in the world, it may not be the most ethnically diverse or even the most heterogeneous architecturally. But it doesn’t matter. Berlin has a spirit that is completely lacking in all other cities I’ve lived in and traveled through over the years. It is perhaps the only place in the world where the avant-garde hasn’t been relegated to the status of historical phenomenon, but is a constantly evolving presence. It is a tragic city, but a city defined by its openness to change, its reliance on social and artistic experimentation, its refusal to embrace any conventional role – including that of metropolis. It is a city where the darkest emotions and the reckless joys of intoxication battle against the manic climate’s steadfast oppression, where the extremes of human behavior constitute the norm, where every room is a potential sexual playground.

Berlin – everything it stands for, everything it is – was the greatest work of art I experienced in 2008, and it very well may be the city of the 21st century. And if anyone thinks that this is a romantic notion, I dare you to spend a year here and not fall for its endless charms.

2008: Moments: Harold Pinter (1930-2008)

by Travis Jeppesen on December 28, 2008

I haven’t been to the theatre very often in the last ten years. I’ve purposefully avoided it. What a lot of people don’t know is that I actually started off as a writer for the theatre, when I was a teenager. One of my favorite playwrights (and hence formative writers) was Harold Pinter. I read a lot of his plays when I was younger, but never had a chance to see any of them staged. So when I found out about a West End revival of No Man’s Land that happened to coincide with my visit to London in November for the Disorientations launch, I somewhat randomly decided to buy tickets.

I didn’t have high expectations. Actors tend to butcher texts – theatrical actors, especially – this is one of the reasons why I lost interest in playwriting so many years before and retreated into my own personal world of novels and poetry, where I seemingly wouldn’t have to rely on anyone else’s interpretation of my words.

But the production in London was great and I think the actors brilliantly captured the nuances of Pinter’s text. This is difficult because, despite claims to the contrary, acting is an intellectual task – not merely a physical act. Intelligent actors, actors with a true understanding of the irresolvable complexities of being, are rare to come by. Acting Pinter is all the more difficult, because his work directly addresses this project – being and unknowability – in plays that are more metaphysical exercises than generic drama.

No Man’s Land was written in the ‘70s, a great decade for Pinter. Many of his best plays, including Betrayal and Old Times, were also penned during this period. No Man’s Land consists of two acts. It’s a brilliant study for anyone interested in process-oriented writing and/or form. In the first act, you really feel like Pinter was just writing – putting characters in a situation and making no effort to explain their relationship or why they are there, but allowing them to riff on whatever subjects happen to cross their (his) mind. The second act slowly creeps towards some justification of the circumstances they find themselves in, but a lot of questions are left unanswered by the time the play reaches its conclusion. The rigid formal dichotomy between the first and second acts impressed me, and also left me to wonder about Pinter’s editing process. I think you have to be rather strong-willed to choose to maintain the irresolvability that often characterizes the beginning of a work – especially in a world that favors linear narratives with clean finishes and plenty of hooks along the way. This, if anything, is a sign of Pinter’s discipline and genius.

If you had told me a year ago that I would end 2008 writing a play, my first one in years, I probably would’ve laughed. It just never would have occurred to me. I think Pinter is at least partly responsible for reminding me that theatre is a worthwhile art form, and one that is loaded with possibilities that you don’t necessarily find in visual art and literature strictly bound by the page. So I’ll remember 2008 not only as the year of Pinter’s passing, but as the year that I was brought back to the theatre.

Holiday Disorientations

by Travis Jeppesen on December 18, 2008

This holiday season, why not give the gift of disorientation…

Disorientations: Art on the Margins of the …$31.95 – Barnes & Noble.com

Disorientations: Art on the Margins of the …$30.95 – Tower.com

Disorientations: Art on the Margins of the …$45.10 – Biblio.com Books

2008: Moments: The Last of Rothko

by Travis Jeppesen on December 18, 2008

At the end of his life, Mark Rothko was making black paintings. Black and gray. Like TV static, but without the white: the voidlessness is now upon us. When you get closer, you can make out pale beige shapes, contorted figures, and layers of underpainting – particularly in the lower, lighter panels – something creature-like struggling to get out and emerge into the nonexistent foreground. These paintings can all be found in the last room of the Tate Modern’s retrospective of the late Abstract Expressionist painter. I’m not about to claim that they’re emblematic of the artist’s consciousness at the end of his life, but for me, they represent the fulfillment of Rothko’s ongoing quest to vaporize his thoughts on canvas. Everyone who says they dislike the look of Rothko’s paintings seems to miss this point – you can’t just look at a Rothko – his paintings are designed to be seen with the mind – just as art criticism represents a way of seeing with the mind through the medium of language. Ultimately, sensibility always triumphs over reason.

The Rothko retrospective continues at the Tate Modern through February 1, 2009.

Candice Breitz

by Travis Jeppesen on December 17, 2008

My review of the Candice Breitz solo exhibition in Berlin is now online.

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