StreetLegalPlay by Kyle Thomas Smith

Assignment: Smith, Mapplethorpe

Posted in Uncategorized by streetlegalplay on August 16, 2008

White Horse Magazine, which covers the international art scene, liked the writings on my site!

(By the way, I’m at Somebody has to teach me how to embed hyperlinks.)

They asked me to make a few pitches. They jumped right on the one I made about Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe.

This past May, Julius and I were in Paris. We went to see Land 250, an exhibition of Patti Smith’s visual work at the Fondation Cartier.

Smith had gone on a sojourn in Paris at some point in the Seventies, partly to track the pathways of Arthur Rimbaud whom she deified. The exhibition featured, under glass cases, a dossier of correspondence (letters, postcards) from Smith to Mapplethorpe, who stayed behind in New York. Most of them contained elegies to Rimbaud.

There was an installment that was a recreation of her erstwhile bedroom, laden with graffiti and stacked with books of Symbolist poetry and notebooks filled with half-finished apocaclyptic odes.

There were whole walls full of Symbolist-inspired video, where Smith looked as though she was going to go cold turkey at any moment while raucous jam sessions pounded all around her on the East Village streets.

Mapplethorpe filmed other black and white videos of Patti in a virginal white nightgown, a direct contrast to her ratty black hair. The camera would zoom in and out as she writhed on the floor or spun in a trance with a Crucifix in her hand or held private ceremonies over large, burning red candles. Mapplethorpe’s home videos of Smith played up the macabre ad absurdum.

Not much would happen in those videos either and they seemed to go on forever, just like an Andy Warhol movie.

Which brings me a little closer to my pitch to White Hot Magazine. Both Andy Warhol and Robert Mapplethorpe (I don’t know if the two ever met) were gay iconoclasts from devout Catholic homes who seized on iconic rock stars. For Warhol, it was the Velvets and the Stones. For Mapplethorpe, it was Patti Smith, though he knew her well before she became famous.

It seemed to me that the themes of saints and martyrdom suffuse even Warhol and Mapplethorpe’s most outrageous work. In fact, Warhol admitted that, in his images of Jackie Kennedy after the assassination, he’d deliberately depicted her as the mater dolorosa of America.

Shortly after Julius and I came back from our trip to France, we went to the Whitney Biennial. (That event is not worth my blog time here.) While at the Whitney, we went up to see the Mapplethorpe exhibit.

Goddamn, that was hard core! Just like in his Guggenheim room, Mapplethorpe made Tom of Finland look like a Peanuts cartoon. But, especially in his S&M shots, there is tons of imagery of martyrdom, much of which seems to be in direct reference to St. Sebastian – the tied-up, loin-clothed, arrow-pierced saint whose picture inspired Yukio Mishima’s first orgasm at the age of 12.

Once again, Patti was plastered all over the walls of his exhibit. And it occurred to me that she might have been a sort of a perverted, Symbolist saint for Mapplethorpe, though more of a Magdalene than a Madonna figure.

So, I told White Hot Magazine that I wanted to explore that Symbolist saint dynamic in Mapplethorpe’s relationship with Patti Smith. They ate it up.

So, tomorrow, Julius and I are taking a field trip to the Mapplethorpe Room at the Guggenheim. Then, on Monday, I’d better get my ass to the library and make sure I can stand this thesis on its legs.

It’s due September 10.

Is It Complacency or Just Plain Good Sense?

Posted in Uncategorized by streetlegalplay on August 16, 2008

I’ll start with a segment of an article I found from the great Martha Beck called “Martha Beck’s Anti-Complain Campaign.” It was published in a 2007 edition of O – The Oprah Magazine. (I don’t know which month.) The following paragraph – about a young woman named Dinah – specifically addresses why it is foolhardy to bitch and moan about the government:

College sophomore Dinah spent hours with her friends ranting about a certain high-ranking elected official, who shall remain nameless. This, Dinah told me, was activism. I said it looked more like passivism — neither activism nor pacifism but an excellent way of feeling intelligent and important without studying.

Today, I found myself thinking the following:

I know who I’m voting for. I support Barack. I give him money. I sign petitions. I volunteer. But do I have to keep checking polls? Do I have to keep blogging about this election? Do I have to keep taking the GOP to task? Should I even bother talking about the presidential race? About Barack vs. McCain?

Frankly, should I even care? I mean, how much can little ole me do to turn the tide of stupidity, the kind that the majority of American voters raised to such overwhelming heights in 2004?

Why don’t I just go merrily on my own way and let the chips fall where they may?

Then another monologue starts up in my head:

Why are you even letting that complacent bullshit run through your head? The fate of the world is at stake! Even if stupidity overruns this nation again (which it might with the electoral college, at the very least), I for one should not let us suffer silently!

But, if I were to cling to that line of thought, wouldn’t I just exhaust myself in an attempt to control – or at least inveigh against – what I cannot control?

Wouldn’t I be better off just making my donations of time and money to Barack and then stop checking polls and just ignore the presidential race entirely until voting time?

I can’t be the only one out there weighing these same questions.

I welcome any answers anyone might have.

The Electoral College

Posted in Uncategorized by streetlegalplay on August 16, 2008

Is the popular vote just a gesture?

Then why bother?

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