Wednesday
Apr062011

Paul Delvaux / Tennessee Williams / The Soft Verdict 

SOFT VERDICT/WIM MERTENS: THE STRUGGLE FOR PLEASURE

ALL IMAGES OF PAINTINGS BY PAUL DELVAUX, MOST SOURCED VIA DRAGONAUTTT.BLOGSPOT.COM; TEXT SCREEN GRABS OF TENNESSEE WILLIAMS' "THE SOFT CITY", TAKEN FROM IN THE WINTER OF CITES, VIA GOOGLE BOOKS

Tuesday
Apr052011

New York Magazine's "The Apartment Issue": Seinfeld Syndrome 

‘Seinfeld' (1990–98) Jerry Seinfeld: 129 West 81st Street, Apartment 5A

KATE BUSH: TOP OF THE CITY

SYLVESTER: LIVING FOR THE CITY

"TV shows have been stunted purposefully, so as to favorably highlight the commercials they're designed  to showcase. While these commercials have developed into a meta art-form, surreal and even funny, sitcoms have barely wavered from the anemic model drawn up by The Honeymooners: witless plots, stupid jokes, and preposterous canned laughter. Since television's invention, its shows have languished in a stare of condescending mediocrity.

In the early 1990s, however, a program of unprecedented charm and intelligence appeared, designed expressly for middle-brow tastes. Called Seinfeld, it was immediately discernible as distinct from the rest of the primetime pack. Set in NYC, it followed the misadventures of four friends who just hung out a lot.

The jokes on it were actually funny, and the writers omitted the requisite life lesson from each episode's conclusion. As opposed to traditional television, which condescendingly instructed the audience as to their correct point of view, Seinfeld was like TV's programmers, the ruling class, talking to their own. Leading men "Jerry" and "George" joked with us as one would with a buddy on the golf course.

After decades of televised abuse, viewers responded warmly, even lovingly, to programming that didn't seem to assume their idiocy. After a few rocky seasons, Seinfeld assumed its rightful place at the top of the Nielsens heap, and the people rejoiced; finally, good had triumphed over evil."

‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s' (1961) Holly Golightly: 167 East 71st Street, Apartment 2

"Following Seinfeld's appearance on network television, urban centers across the country were stunningly "revitalized": property values soared, chain stores invested and the bourgeoisie scrambled to infest the broken mettopoli they had previously shunned. Coincidence? No. Unbeknownst to Seinfeld's faithful, they were exalting a show with a mission.

Seinfeld was designed expressly to rehabilitate the blighted American city, not only as a place desirable for white people to live (the characters on the show, all white, bear the last names Costanza, Bennes, Kramer, Seinfeld, representing a pancaucasoid alliance), but as an amoral upper-class playground, where no one need act responsibly or nicely - an anti-community. On the show, the city is advertised as a place where sex is plentiful and always transmogrifying, owing to the self-replenishing flesh pool that every urban center offers up; Jerry's sex partner, for example, changes with each episode.

‘How to Marry a Millionaire' (1953) Pola, Loco, and Schatze: 36 Sutton Place South

"Seinfeld's characters, each more loathsome than the last, indulge in a selfishness unimaginable in the suburban milieus of their televised predecessors. Due to the anonymity that the city provides, there is no culpability for their actions. The program's conspiratorial tone of intimate confidentiality stems from its function as proxy mouthpiece for the ruling class through which to speak to its bourgeois counterparts.

The lack of an overt "message" in Seinfeld reflects capitalism's code: individualism and self-interest reign supreme. In one episode, when Jerry ruminates over a "black and white" cookie, he spoofs a message of racial harmony. "Look to the cookie," he says; ironically, the black and white cookie depicts a segregated world, as opposed to fudge swirl ice cream, for example."

‘Sex and the City' (2008) John Preston and Carrie Bradshaw: 1010 Fifth Avenue

"Of course, Seinfeld's characters are supposed be read as the four principle psychological components of one person, with Jerry as the ego, Kramer as the id, George as the unconscious, and Elaine as the rationalizing superego.

The cityscape in this psychological interpretation is their projection of reality, with foreign bodies as irritants, each one enforcing the conceit that humanity, except in the role of sex-toy or clown, is contemptible: an enemy agent.

Seinfeld was given the explicit approval of NY Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who even deigned to appear on the show. In the aftermath of the show, we must consider that Giuliani's notoriously reactionary policies were almost certainly constructed in collusion with the Seinfeld program.

Seinfeld, a half-hour situation comedy, which proudly proclaimed itself to "be about nothing," transformed the urban environment completely. The American city had been abandoned by the bourgeoisie as beyond repair: now it was "fun" and "cool" again. This phenomenon, called "Seinfeld Syndrome," is a watershed of our time."

‘Friends' (1994–2004) Monica Geller and Rachel Green: 90 Bedford Street, Apartment 20

"When NBC aired the lowbrow copy show Friends, the fate of the city was sealed, as a whole new strata of morons emigrated to its fabled dating pool.

After the Sein-Friends had finished celebrating the city's sexual appeal, a program called The Sopranos appeared, also designed for the middle class. This show proposed the suburb as teeming with vulgarian mobsters and their tacky molls: no place for Martha Stewart! The preppie migration accelerated.

The cable serial Sex and the City helped sway the final holdouts. The triumvirate of shows, Seinfeld, Friends, and Sex..., appealed to distinct and specific sub-segments of the desired target audience but were united by the singular theme of hawking the city address as a sexy and indispensable accouterment if one were to be presumed carnal and exciting."

‘Party Girl' (1995) Mary: Chinatown

"The so-called rehabilitation of American urban centers, which was predicated by the appearance of Seinfeld, was in fact a calculated arrack on the city, led by the ruling class and fought through its minions in the suburbs, who had laid siege to embattled urban residents for a half century. Like a pillaging army, suburban shock troops laid waste to all they found, precisely recreating the sterile scrip malls that characterized their homeland.

As the suburban pre-fab landscape encroached further toward the city centers, the diversity that had characterized the metropolitan center vanished, unable to resist the virulant weapons of wealth, conformity, and mediocrity. Soon, the city itself was extinct, enveloped completely by its imperialist neighbors.

The colonial arrogance of the suburban bourgeoisie was in fact indistinct from other imperialists through history: the Starbucks they constructed on every corner were echoes of the cricket fields the English had once smeared across Burma.

The city had historically been the enemy of the ruling class. Its serpentine paths and multifarious holes provided the perfect settings for 19th century Bakuninites to raise hell. To protect government from possible insurrection, bucolic cowtowns were often chosen to house the precious innards of the various regimes: Versailles, Vichy, Bonn, Washington, Brasilia. But during the years of France's Second Empire (1851-70), Louis Napoleon appointed Baron Haussmann to construct a new, more policeable Paris, which would be the template for the 20th century city."

‘The Cosby Show' (1984–1992) Cliff and Clair Huxtable: 10 Stigwood Avenue, Brooklyn

"The "Haussmannization" of Paris eradicated two-thirds of the old crowded, asymmetrical, medieval city and replaced it with a place of promenades and parks for the bourgeoisie to stroll and shop. Paving stones, the rioters' weapon of choice in the revolutions of 1789, 1830, and 1848, were covered in modern pavement, streets were widened, and slums were disassembled.

Paris's broad boulevards and defensible circles were vaunted as revolution-proof, designed for easy deployment of artillery and cavalry, and its model was enthusiastically copied, particularly in the new world. But even in the safety of the new city, the working class was still unpredictable, often radicalized, and despicable to look at.

The rise of the Paris Commune (1871) showed that strategic city planning was not a cure-all. With the opportunities presented by WWII's economic upheaval, the ruling class moved to conclusively isolate their ancient proletarian nemesis."

‘Klute' (1971) Bree Daniels: 443 West 43rd Street

"In the late Forties, the "Big Three" of Detroit, fat from war contracts, bought and demolished the nation's urban bus and light rail systems in a lightning campaign to ensure the population's total sub-servience to their "motor carriage." Lobbying Congress to build the interstate system as a tax funded "defense" device, they smashed the country's train system. From these insidious origins, the decentralized, suburban American landscape was born.

As the bourgeoisie moved from the newly desolate urban husks, the black proletariat who'd been lured north by wartime industry was economically abandoned, and "urban blight" set in. Riots, actually symptoms of this fiscal terror, were instead blamed as its root cause, as the now-dysfunctional city's wealthy refugees indignantly laid blame on the victims.

"White flight," a term designed by Madison Avenue, was marketed by the auto industry to sell cars after contriving this scenario of interracial warfare. Successful "flight," of course, was contingent on ownership of a reliable car. The so-called middle class became tourists in their own country, who motored about as self-satisfied voyeurs: "I wouldn't wanna run outta gas/break down in this neighborhood," was their mantra as they peep-showed the institutionalized poverty.

The construct of race terror had worked its paranoiac magic in prompting the population to comply with the new unspoken rule: mandatory automobile ownership. Meanwhile, the ruling class's paranoia of the compressed proletariat led them to recreate the city as a concentration camp; instead of Zyklon B, alcohol, heroin, and eventually crack were administered cheaply and efficiently to the inmates. This ensured the modern American city's new role as social scapegoat and tawdry freakshow, a place disfigured by poverty and crime: phenomena that were in turn inferred to be synonymous with "blackness." This new race construct of "black" person as marginalized social pariah incapable of rehabilitation was a psychological breakthrough for the ruling elite, useful as invocation for social control."

‘Do the Right Thing' (1989) Mookie and Jade: Stuyvesant Avenue near Lexington Avenue

"Generations were weaned on this orthodoxy, indoctrinated via TV serials such as Sanford and Son, Good Times, What's Happening, and their suburban white counterpart programs The Brady Bunch, Three's Company et al. The miscegenation that would rarely occur on these shows always underlined the essential conditions incurred by race; the black children on Diff'rent Strokes were poor and from the "inner city," while the white father was a blue-blooded Park Avenue CEO (the Eighties version of a plantation owner). All the urban comedies were predicated on the idea that the city was a miserable place, the black man's inherited burden to bear. Later oddities, such as The Cosby Show and Martin, were merely portents of the approaching gentrifiers.

In 1989; after seventy years of capitalist attrition, the Soviet Union began its collapse: this meant that, in the US and internationally, political discontents were psychologically isolated, radical ideology was extinct, and the threat of the working class no longer raised executives' eyebrows. Meanwhile, with industry exported overseas, there was no need to retain an urban black "underclass" as racial foil to control and manipulate the American proletariat. In the same year, Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld began work on the pilot for The Seinfeld Chronicles, the show that would emerge as Seinfeld. Coincidence? Once again, no...

The bourgeoisie's abandonment of the city and subsequent return had coincided precisely with the parameters of the Cold War. The suburbs had been presented as a futurist utopia by big oil and GM at the '39 World's Fair, were constructed feverishly under Truman and Eisenhower, and then were suddenly shunned under Clinton, upon the dissolution of the USSR and with the appearance of Seinfeld."

‘Taxi Driver' (1976) Travis Bickle: Address unknown

"Though it was promoted as a sitcom, Seinfeld was really a commercial designed to promote the city as the rightful home for the elite. With the threat of class war vanquished, the rulers determined the city to be the most effective device for delivering goods, showcasing products and inculcating the population with "the Joneses" - the desire to live up to the standard set by the fashion, beauty, and luxury industries.

The city was reborn as the super mall, its allure augmented by its storied history, born of the diversity which would be abolished. Cheap white labor, in the form of aspiring artists, could be lured via this history, mythologized in books which marketed the city through the very idiosyncratic or marginal character its advertisers had helped to systematically exterminate.

The city's new privileged inhabitants would wear their city's outlaw image as a badge of honor and even venerate it with fervor, fiercely proud of a history they had never experienced, let alone contributed to -like suburbanites living on a Civil War battlefield and boasting about Pickett's charge.

In a sense, though, they earned bragging rights: the city's premium rents and boutique prices came with this fantasy narrative. Ethnic cleansing would be accomplished via eviction: the mass deportation that had worked so well on the Native Americans.

The indigenous city people, who had survived urban blight, gangs, systemic unemployment, police brutality, the state-sponsored crack epidemic, and PCP, finally met their match when faced with Seinfeld Syndrome."

ESSAY TEXT, "SEINFELD SYNDROME" BY IAN SVENONIUS, TAKEN FROM THE BOOK THE PYSCHIC SOVIET, DRAG CITY, 2006; ALL IMAGES AND CAPTIONS VIA NEW YORK MAGAZINE, "THE HOME ON SCREEN" BY DAN KOIS, APRIL 3, 2011



Wednesday
Mar302011

Mugler: Fall 2011; Paris, 1981

[L TO R: 1970s Cube Armchairs via Cain Modern; "Miroir Fait-Mur" by Vincent Darré/Maison Darré; Chrome Torchier Lamps via Venfield]

“Fashion designer Thierry Mugler explained the minimalism of his Paris apartment this way: ‘There must be room for the human body to move.’

‘I don’t want real possesion. What I need and what I wanted in this apartment was its space - and to keep it as empty as possible.’

By playing with contrasts and not with objects and by placing everything very low - such as the symbolic frescoes by paointer Keso Dekker situated at eye level - he has managed tokeep a maximum of space free to be filled with light. ‘That is my second reason for living here,’ he said, ‘the incredible luminosity of these three rooms.’ His study is striped down to the bare essentials, a threshold table and a high-tech stool facing a wall full of pinned mementos, invitations, bill, and photographs.

A key to this private world is his bedroom. There, nothing interrupts the flow of light, nothing attracts the attention of eyes in need of interior inspiration. As a matter of fact, the room’s only furniture is a king-size mattress on a very low plywood stretcher. ‘This is all one needs in a bedroom,’ the designer said.”

[L TO R: "Corkscrew" Table by Johan Tapp, 1940s, via Mix Gallery; Iridescent Pink Vistosi Sputnik Chandelier via Venfield]

SHOWROOM VIGNETTE/COLLAGE BY MYSELF, INDIVIDUAL PIECES CITED VIA CAPTION; RUNWAY IMAGES OF MUGLER FALL 2011 VIA THESHADEANDTHESCARF.COM; TEXT AND IMAGES OF THIERRY MUGLER’S PARIS APARTMENT AS PHOTOGRAPHED FOR LIVING WELL: THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK OF HOME DESIGN AND DECORATION, ED. CARRIE DONOVAN, 1981; TEXT BY JEAN-PASCAL BILLAUD

Tuesday
Mar292011

Lot's Wife / The Weeknd / Various Images 

Still taken from A Song of Love/Un Chant d Amor, dir. Jean Genet, 1950

THE WEEKND: WICKED GAMES

"First of all, she had a name, and she had a history. She was Marah, and long before the breath of death's angel turned her to bitter dust, she had slipped from her mother's womb with remarkable ease, had moved in due time from infancy to womanhood with a manner of grace that came to be the sole blessing of her aging parents. She was beloved."

via Flickr

Mod Poster Bed, via Converso and You Have Been Here Sometime

"And like most daughters who are beloved by a mother and a father, Marah moved about her city with unflinching compassion, tending to the dispossessed as if they were her own. And they became her own. In a city given to all species of excess, there were a great many in agony - abandoned men, abandoned women, abandoned children. Upon these she poured out her substance and her care."

Photo of Whitney Houston's bathroom, via The National Enquirer and hollywoodrag.com

Marc Handelman at Sikkema Jenkins & Co., via joshuaabelow.blogspot.com

Judith Beheading Holofernes, Caravaggio, 1598-99

"Her first taste of despair was at the directive of the messengers, who announced without apparent sentiment what was to come, and what was to be done. With surprising banality, they stood and spoke. One coughed dryly into his fist and would not meet her eyes. And one took a sip from the cup she offered before he handed it back and the two disappeared into the night."

Brutalist Lamp by José León Cerrillo, via Tell You Today

Image result for "Victorian Opium Den", via writingwomenshistory.blogspot.com

Richard Artschwager at Carlson, via Contemporary Art Daily

Frank Majore, via Jason Cawood/eightiesart.tumblr.com

"Unlike her husband - coward and sycophant - the woman remained faithful unto death. For even as the man fled the horrors of a city's conflagration, outrunning Marah and both girls as they all rushed into the desert, the woman stopped. She looked ahead briefly to the flat expanse, seeing her tall daughters, whose strong legs and churning arms were taking them safely to the hills; she saw, farther ahead, the old man whom she had served and comforted for twenty years. In the impossible interval where she stood, Marah saw that she could not turn her back on even one doomed child of the city, but must turn her back instead upon the saved."

Lobby floor of the Pegasus Apartments by Kelly Wearstler, via diannvalentine.com

via Webshots

Home on the grounds of the Spahn Movie ranch, home to the Manson family, via Google's Life Magazine archives; Samuel Steward's murphy bed, via cruiseorbecruised.tumblr.com

Still Life, Dean Sameshima, 2011, via cruiseorbecruised.tumblr.com

IMAGES SOURCES CITED VIA CAPTION; TEXT OF "LOT'S WIFE" BY SCOTT CAIRNS, TAKEN FROM RECOVERED BODY

Thursday
Mar242011

A Ceremony of Senses: Snoezelen & Controlled Multisensory Environments 

WENDY CARLOS: A WOMAN'S SONG

"The concept of Snoezelen was defined in the late 1970's by two Dutch therapists, Jan Hulsegge and Ad Verheul. While working at the De Hartenberg Institute in Holland, a center for people with intellectual disabilities, the two therapists learned of the positive responses a colleague was able to elicit from his severely challenged clients while exposed to a sensory environment he had assembled. Hulsegge and Verheul set up an experimental sensory tent at their annual summer fair to further test the idea. Constructed simply as a roof on poles with plastic sheeting dividers, this first sensory tent was filled with simple effects such as a fan blowing shards of paper, ink mixed with water and projected onto a screen, musical instruments, tactile objects, scent bottles, soaps, and flavorful foods. It was a tremendous success, especially with low-functioning clients who demonstrated positive verbal and nonverbal feedback. The following year, they built another creation with a concept name: "Snoezelen", a contraction of "snuffelen" (to explore) and "doezelen" (to relax). News of the successful experiments quickly generated interest across Europe and therapists began creating permanent and semi-permanent "Snoezelen" rooms at their centers." [1]

"Another landmark Snoezelen centre was installed in 1987 at Whittington Hall, a large institution for adults with intellectual disabilities located in North Derbyshire, U.K. Joe Kewin, a senior manager and his team offered six sensory environments to their clients and also pioneered early research examining client response to the Snoezelen multisensory approach. The results were impressive, specifically in clients who showed a marked reduction in self-abusive behaviors. Snoezelen is now used widely in education and care settings for children with disabilities and autism spectrum disorders. Encouraging results have also been shown from people suffering from mental illness, chronic pain, acquired brain injury, and stress. Over the past fifteen years, Snoezelen has expanded into 30 countries with thousands of installations, a worldwide foundation, national and international conferences, and research projects." [1]

"Ideally, snoezelen is a non-directive therapy and can be staged to provide a multi-sensory experience or single sensory focus, simply by adapting the lighting, atmosphere, sounds, and textures to the specific needs of the client at the time of use. There is no formal focus on therapeutic outcome - the focus is to assist users to gain the maximum pleasure from the activity in which they and the enabler are involved. An advantage of snoezelen is that it does not rely on verbal communication and may be beneficial for people with profound autism, as it may provide stimulation for those who would otherwise be almost impossible to reach.

Snoezelen is used for people with autism and other developmental disabilities, dementia, and brain injury. However, research on the benefits of treatment is scarce, based on variable clinical study designs.[1][2]

A small research study carried out in Brussels compared the behavior of nine adult clients with profound autism in both classroom and Snoezelen settings. Though individual results varied, the study claimed a 50% reduction in distress and stereotypical behavior, and seventy-five percent less aggression and self-injury in the Snoezelen environment." [2]

ALL IMAGES OF SNOEZELEN ENVIRONMENTS TAKEN FROM VARIOUS SOURCES, CITED VIA CLICK-THROUGH LINK; TEXT TAKEN FROM OMNISPACE.ORG [1], AND FROM WIKIPEDIA [2]; MORE SNOEZELEN GALLERIES ARE AVAILABLE HERE; MORE INFORMATION ON SNOEZELEN THERAPY AVAILABLE HERE AND HERE