Yesterday, I went to Electronic Arts Intermix on 22nd Street in Chelsea to see Charlemagne Palestine, a composer, performer, and visual artist living in Belgium. He was originally a New Yorker, and lived here from birth in 1946 until the mid-70s. He made a lot of ritual actions where he chanted repetitively or clapped his hands against his body, often while holding a video camera, so that the movies that were made also became artwork in addition to the performances. There are strange props in the videos: stuffed animals, clove cigarettes, scarves, and cognac. He is an associate of Tony Conrad and is often associated with minimalism, so everything goes on very repetitively and for a long time. We set down in the gallery to watch a couple of films, like this one:
Then there was supposed to be a moderated discussion, but Mr. Palestine became very agitated about how the lack of social subsidy for ephemeral artists made the art world in America impossible and unworkable, because ephemeral artists did not produce saleable objects. The moderators tried to regain some control over the discussion by allowing the audience to ask questions. Mr. Palestine kept turning the discussion back to systemic dysfunction in the American art world. He talked about how for thirty years it was as if he was dead and no one knew anything about him, but via the internet and Youtube he had been rediscovered and accepted into the art world. He was very agitated and seemed as if drunk. "I have been drinking since birth," he said. "Since before that!" It was enjoyable nonsense. It would have felt very negative if he hadn't been so carefree about it. I took some pictures as he gave his wacky freakout meltdown lecture.
It was quite insane. When he would quiet down they would ask a question and he would start up again. This went on until the curators cut it off. When they were ending it, he said that he was like everyone's uncle from Belgium, who only came around once in a while to get drunk and act crazy. He had great delivery and I had to laugh. The discussion ended and he stormed out of the room, disappearing behind a curtain. I followed him down the hall, and waited for him outside the bathroom he had scurried into. When he came out, I got him to take a picture with me. I put my arm around him, and he embraced me gently in return. Here it is: me with Charlemagne Palestine. I almost posted this as It Looks Cool. It Looks Cool!