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Gravy number 10

Last Updated Summer 2001

Adam Mikos, publisher
Janet Overby, editor

Still Going
After All These Years

Spring 2001


Gravy (Maga)zine - 1998-2001
Three Years High and Rising

With issue 8/9 of Gravy in print, we crossed the three year marker. Who knew we would be still doing it? I guess you couldn't stop a speeding train if you tried. Most of what you'll read about in 8/9 has since been taken down, vandalized, erased, etc. This is unfortunate, but unavoidable. Unlike TV however, these events took place in time and space and had an impact on all those involved. We, collectively, were there.

So read on, writings from Japan, Singapore, the streets of Chicago, the upper crust, and the grungy underbelly. Enjoy.

the Publisher

an introduction we still owe our readers

11 Jun 2001

First, I'll stick to the facts. I'm 25 year old fella from the Chicagoland area and currently serving in the Peace Corps in a tiny West African country named The Gambia.

To give you an idea of how small this country is take a large map of Africa and hock a lougie onto Senegal. That's Gambia.

As for the philosophical aspects of the topic at hand. Who knows?? Maybe that's why I joined the Peace Corps? To seek the answers not in a book but on the road. The Wandering Spirit collects Wisdom through Experience, enlightenment through Poverty? Looking through the eyes of the world? Who knows. Not me. All I know is the answer to the question will never be the same for each of us and is so elusive that it changes almost everyday for me.

So all I do is try to find joy in the smallest details, especially in times of pain, and writing is one of those releases for me. I'm happy that the editors of this here magazine thang have given me the chance to share my thoughts with all of you. Keep fightin' the good fight and remember..... it ain't easy being green.

Later Daze, McCamie Cole PCV

Apartment Show
at Suitable
through June 3

Promising to be the first apartment show to open during the Art Expo week in Chicago, Suitable reopened their garage, which had collapsed with the snow of last december. But the garage, rebuilt from the sleepers through the rafters, only held a few planks and bags of wall-board compound, and a proposal from Joel Alpren to remodel your garage or gallery also, and "at no cost to you." Titled "Gut Rehab, a traveling exhibition."

The actual "Apartment Show" curated by John Neff, and including works by Paul Dickinson, Felipe Santos, Kirsten Stoltmann, and Marc Schwartzberg, was located in the basement of the adjacent two-flat to the garage. The nominal topic was sleep. John Neff wrote an introduction, and promises to sleep in the basement during the night. Of particular note, and very haunting, was Paul Dickinson's CDROM of recorded sleep talk, spanning many years and 300 megabytes, of grumblings and short phrases.

The other particularly effective piece was a photograph, "two people, two hairs, one pillow," by Marc Schwartzberg, short labeled "pillow" on the price list. The full title as noted by Neff makes more sense.

-- MB

at the Cultural Center
through June 17

The show: Ouch, my head hurts. But it hurts so good!

The rant: The argument over the absence of a big space showing Chicago artists is as fresh today as it was six years ago. Somehow the Cultural Center slips under most peoples radar's. Screw the MCA, who wants to wait any longer for them to clue in? The Cultural Center is much more vital.

-- AM

Edith Altman, Kristin Avery, Mark Booth, Adam Brooks, Stephany Brooks, M.W. Burns, Jane Calvin, Max King Cap, Mary Dritschel, Carol Jackson, Stephen Lapthisophon, Christine LoFaso, Lou Mallozzi, Helen Mira, Karen Reimer, Ellen Rothenberg. Curated by Lanny Silverman.

DJ Spooky
at the SAIC Ballroom

Paul Miller, AKA DJ Spooky, packed the ballroom. The line waiting to get in looked like a python after a feast. When was the last time you were actually worried that you might not get into a lecture? I snatched the first seat I found as the room filled, and the rest were forced to park it on the floor. Is that excitement in the air? Everyone was wondering what he would talk about. His music, artwork, or something from left field? I personally wanted some beats for the cheap seats. Imagine, a full bass assault on the assembled faculty and staff....

Spooky's reputation is solid. He has worked with major hip hop headz, designers, film makers, and web activists. He has albums of his own music out, and he has also toured the world as a DJ. Once I got settled in my seat and looked up at the stage, I realized he was going to cover it all. He had a giant screen hung behind him, and a long table in front of him. On the table was a G3 laptop, and.. his Technics 1200's!! Oh thank god! He's gonna spin some records! Now I'm excited.

We were all going to have to wait for it though. The first half of his lecture was all tech geek material. He had his desktop projected onto the screen and pulled up a variety of the sites he cruises. Some very cool stuff and he is obviously very into web technology. He mentioned it as a frontier; colorless, ego-less, and open to everyone. More than a few people were writing down all the spots he hit for a closer examination later.

During all this the guy didn't shut up. Serious chatterbox, but with more than a few nuggets of info. One piece I found very interesting was his comparison of the internet and file sharing to Joseph Beuys theory of "social sculpture".

Finally, he put on his head phones. Here we go, I thought. Maybe it was a case of the nerves, or maybe it was his left turntable being hooked up wrong. Whatever the reason, he sounded awful. I knew his skills as a DJ weren't incredible, but this was worse. Whoever was in charge of sound and set-up that night should be fired. A little fade here, some crab scratching there.

In retrospect, Spooky made me feel like I do when I've spent too much time on the web. Spooky is full of esoteric and valuable information. He never lost my full attention, but I found his personality to be much like his music. He pulls material from every corner of the planet and tapes it together; sampling. While it was deep and diverse the lecture seemed to not have a foundation, lacking focus.

Here's kudos to the SAIC Visiting Artist Program for bringing Mr. Miller here. Also a part of the "Art Of Club" series was film maker Charlie Ahern (last week however, so if you didn't go, you ain't going). Apart from the dorky name, this was a series that we wanted to see. And see more of, please.

-- AM

Check it out: [http://www.djspooky.com]

Transcendent Visions
above Hi Ricky

Swaleh Dorman, Michael DuQuette, Scott Olson

A friend received an invitation to the private preview before the public opening of April 21 of some show above Hi Ricky produced by two "arts Managers" and "curators." The invitation and attendant documents (and catered goodies) had all the look of agents representing artists, with bios of the "The Management/Curating Team" and "The Artistic Team" listed on the same sheet of paper. This sort of stardom on equal terms is unusual.

The Management Team of Jennifer Anthony and Victoria Malone both have connections to Columbia College, as does artist Swaleh Dorman. The other two members of the Artistic Team do not.

Touted as "three of Chicago's most talented artists," I for one would not put money behind them. My friend, on the other hand, thought the snacks catered by Spago were just fine, although a little dry.

Swaleh Dorman is a Kenyan who paints. Nominal subject: Africans. But give me a break, painting Africans in quaint headdresses, or half naked blue boys holding a goat or sheep, does not a "cross-cultural experience" make. It is the painting of a leopard, especially, which marked this work as seen before at street art fairs. I have seen more interesting photographs of Kenya taken by my friend's uncle.

Michael DuQuette constructs framed collages of decorous odd objects, but the mileage varies, despite the fact that his work is represented in 30 collections. The subject matter for this exhibition was the ten commandments (and two additional pieces), which is an enormous aesthetic hurdle to attempt to jump, considering that the ten commandments are mostly composed of prohibitions, "Do not.. do this," "Do not.. do that." The diversity and shininess of the collaged objects did not enlighten or even illustrate. It wouldn't be easy at any rate. Pretty, though, my friend noted.

Scott Olson is a portrait photographer, or at any rate one dealing in people against dark backgrounds. The results are a delight to look at, in brown or sepia, with expanded middle tones, and mounted by sewing the photos to cardboard or kraft paper with sisal rope, using a blanket stitch - supposedly Japanese bookbinding. The result is that the roundness of the figures is enhanced by the fact that the photos bulge outward. Additionally, Olson uses some chemical process which lifts the dark backgrounds destructively, so that the emulsion looks spalled.

The purposeful look of mishandling and age seems to enhance the work, making many look like they were found in a mildewed trunk in some dusty attic. I'm not sure how the end aesthetic adds or subtracts from the images, but it is a surprise to find photographs not in the usual form of overmatted and glassed images. My friend said, "Cool."

-- J.O.

Brian Wells, paintings and prints
at Joymore gallery

What am I to make of this, when the artist won't talk about it, and the gallery director says, "I let the artists do what they want. He has been painting for a long time."

It looks more like he has been erasing for a long time. I actually really liked the blackboard paintings, which had the look of bad erasures, maybe done with the palm of a hand, or wet napkins. But other painting were disconcerting, especially with canvas shaped like mines and cuts of cheese. I'm all about rectangular still.

Mixed in with the larger paintings were prints consisting of scrawls and swirls. And then I am told that the titles have nothing to do with the content -- just as I am staring at "Strike the Match" and I have already found the match, the hand holding the match, the face behind the hand holding the match. Oh well.

-- M.D.

Helidon Gjergji - Three New Projects
at Temporary Services
through May 19

As a first "project" see a really neat kaleidoscope, consisting of a tube five feet high, with tiny TV monitors at the bottom. Not at all what I expected - having expected three mirrors on a single screen, maybe playing porn videos. So the result here was to present a field of monitor images reflected up the sides of the mirror lined tube. With gels, so in red, green, blue.

I don't buy Temporary Services' writeup about "the kaleidoscope makes visible the formal symmetry of the different channels and programs. It reveals the conspiracy of the underlying powerful interests that constitutes the politics and economics of today's media...." But there is more.

The second project consists of monitors which you cannot see from the entrance to a room, you can only see their reflection against a shiny black painted wall. And more gels, of course. I suppose this too has to do with conspiracies. I would have preferred "500 channels, and nothing to watch."

The last project was expected to be a typical Temp Services monograph, but it turns out to be a handout TV Guide, using Brueghel's "the Blind leading the Blind" as the cover, some perverted ads ("Scott Tissue, 1000 Shits"), and an hour by hour listing which at first looks straight, until you start reading capsule descriptions like "ABC - Politically Incorrect - Mayor Daley speaks about Bush family nepotism" or "PBS - Chicago Tonite - Democracy: a new city law allows up to two people to walk together on Chicago streets," and more. This is indeed funny, sarcastic, spoofy, and points to the underlying powerful interests that constitute... Wait, somebody said that already.

-- M Daley

hours: Thursday 10 am - 8 pm; Fridays and Saturdays 12 - 5 773-645-5443

Art and the Web,
in Chicago

I just got an e-mail addressed to 'support@chicagoart.net' which read

"wow, you like send out tons of mail... amazing.
(signed) -- zac "

That's a lot more interesting than the typical e-mails which are forwarded to me from Allegra, which inevitably read "Delete Failed," although I am Allegra.

The e-mails to (or from) Allegra are actually composed by a script, which takes incoming e-mail to ChicagoArt.Net and assigns database actions. A typical e-mail from (what we call) a "patron" will requested to be deleted from our database, but the "patron" can't quote his own e-mail address correctly. The script, unable to find a matching entry, forwards it to me (a human) to inspect and follow up.

This script is an instance of our high-tech low-cost database web site. But don't tell anyone in Chicago that we are actually a fly-by-night zero-cost based web site, with machines located in an attic down the street from where I live. Just let them believe what they want as far as legitimacy is concerned.

For the sake of legitimacy, we actually applied for and received an Illinois Arts Council grant for start-up costs, through the auspices of Gallery 312 in Chicago, and have promised to keep this experiment running for two years.

And Zac has it right, not only do we send out a lot of e-mails as single instances, but also in bulk: an estimated 350,000 during the last seven months. Not much, if we were spamming, but still plenty.

In fact, 'spamming' is exactly what we are trying _not_ to do. When we set up this idea of galleries and art organizations sharing a database of Chicago-based e-mail addresses we incorporated passwords for everyone, exhibitors and patrons alike, and secured the database against being seen by anyone, even the galleries who add e-mail addresses.

We have some 2200 e-mail addresses currently, without ever having produced a single piece of promotion. This will be our first. Many of the newer start-up galleries soon signed on, and an unexpected number of established galleries - some 89 at last count. A few still haven't figured out how to do anything at the site, even though we set it up for, uh.. art dummies. A few may have changed their mind, and have never gotten around to sending any announcements. We will weed them out later. But then, art things seem to be slow this season in Chicago.

It is the "exhibitors" who compose and send the announcements concerning art events. Because of our let's-see-what-happens attitude we started with very few limits on what they could do with the site, with the predictable result that many galleries would compose announcements which might have looked great on a 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper, but got mangled when viewed with Hotmail's small box on a Mac, or Pine on a Unix machine.

And then one gallery really went overboard, and sent a 986 line e-mail announcement. Next day we rewrote the script so that 30 lines became the truncation limit, the lines got folded at 78 spaces (rather than allowing infinitely long lines), and all the extra white space got eaten by our recomposer.

Then there are things totally outside our control. At the beginning of April Microsoft's Hotmail switched over to some new high-tech servers (as they did once before) and started bouncing about 20 percent of all e-mail sent to them, mostly randomly, with the wrong return message -- one which would be read by an e-mail engine as something to the effect that they did not exist, and therefore the e-mail was fatally undeliverable.

Don't ask me how they figured that; it is not untypical of Microsoft, or of e-mail postmasters in general. Nemesis (our partner) holds that there are a hundred system administrators in this country who go around correcting the errors of 10,000 other system administrators.

But anyway, our scripts started deleting all the Hotmail e-mail addresses which bounced with these fatal errors. Luckily, again, there was a human (me) who did the post database-action inspections, and I (the human) noticed that the Hotmail mail servers had things horribly mangled. We reinstituted the deleted patrons, and suspended our automatic bad-address deletion script.

"We" includes Nemesis, our hacker and ace "C" programmer, who put all of the PHP scripts for the site together in one week -- 7000 lines of code. And I should modify the comment about our fly-by-night status to list at least one clear distinction: we control all aspects of the services -- ownership of the domain names, the hosting domain, the computers, the internet connections, selection of the OS, the server, the database scripting language, etc. And in case no-one has noticed, the software is all public domain, the slickest and best maintained, and the most widely used on the internet.

Let me recommend that to anyone wanting to add yet another service to the internet: hire a web designer last - concentrate on database design and programming, let the "looks" come last. If it looks good but don't work, you have nothing. As of right now, we haven't even picked a name yet for the site.

ChicagoArt.Net is also an emerging new paradigm. The owner of Joymore Gallery last week mentioned in passing that she doesn't send postcards anymore. Yes, her artists still send postcard announcements to their relatives in Iowa, but the gallery simply hits "send announcement" at ChicagoArt.Net, and lets the machinery deliver 2200 e-mails to patrons in Chicago. And it brings them in.

But ChicagoArt.Net is but one example of internet art activity. There is an increasing "web presence" among Chicago galleries. Since 1999 the number of gallery-maintained sites tripled from 40 to 120, and exhibition sites which exist on the web only pop up on a daily basis.

And there are other mailing lists. Keri Butler's weekly e-mail "FYI" synopsis of local art openings and on-going exhibitions is one example. And there are listservs (yeah, that is the correct spelling) in operation between dealers of some of the newer galleries and writers.

There is a proliferation of art criticism on the web, both web copies of irregular magazines otherwise presented in hard copy, and some which are entirely web based. [Uturn] (formerly a national magazine) produced three massive on-line-only Chicago issues before they cleared their site for other projects. [CACA], the broadside of the Chicago Art Critics Association, has appeared in both forms, although irregularly. And there is [Cakewalk], 10x10, [Good Looking], upcoming Charming, and web based [ArtScope.Net].

And then there are the usual "web presence" of regular hard copy publications -- the [Chicago Reader], [New City], and the reluctant [New Art Examiner], who dares to posts only a few come-ons.

And of course there are all the individual artists who have discovered e-mail as an alternative to the traditional postcard, and who will send you a giant unsolicited e-mail, complete with numerous attached images. I have received megabyte-sized e-mails, I have received e-mail entirely composed in some foreign language. I get e-mails for shows in Tokyo, Chile, Hongkong, Amsterdam.

But for all the internet activity, if you really needed to know about the state of art in Chicago from me I would be stuck. Art in Chicago is dreadful this Spring. It is like an extension of the endless gray winter we have been suffering through.

You can weigh in the Chicago Reader [art listings], which have shrunk from a 96K on-line file in Fall to 60K in spring, or count the number of Fred Camper reviews in the Reader this spring. And any round of weekend visits leaves you wondering where the good stuff is hiding. I think everyone is waiting for the 'Art 2001 Chicago' fair, the mega-million dollar art dealers' trade show in May. And hoping... for something.

-- Allegra

check out [http://ChicagoArt.Net/]

This is to appear in some Baltimore on-line magazine (fill in URL here), in June, in shorter form.

Letters from Gambia


Salaam Malleekum

Greetings from the Gambia once again! Life as usual is full of surprises as those wacky Gambians are always keeping me guessing. I just returned from a week long nursery management training session on the north bank of the country and had a blast! All week I've been sleeping in a grove of eucalyptus trees with a few other volunteers. In the mornings we'd wake up the the eternal humming of bees gathering their eucalyptus nectars at around seven a.m. Its one of the most amazing sounds in nature I've ever heard. To wake up to this low underlying hum surrounding us and waking us with a warmth of a natural alarm clock. The spookiest part was the humming was everywhere in the grove but I couldn't spot a single bee. They must've been ghost bees haunting the eucalyptus grove from the beyond.

This training session was probably one of the best times I've had here yet. First of all, this is a huge nursery created by peace corps with veggie gardens, cashew orchards, mango orchards, and basically every tree and shrub we could possibly work with in the Gambia. Everyday I stumble from the eucalyptus grove to breakfast and then all day we'd be in sessions learning to propagate, and maintain all of these trees. Once the day was over we were free to wander around the local town of Njawarra where the locals cultivate palm wine and reefer and that's about it. I've been told everyone there (young and old) indulges in these activities at a rate that would put Salmon Beach to shame.

But what I wanna tell ya about is the night of my birthday. It was the last night of the training session and one of the second year pcv's spoke with some of the rasta's in town and arranged for them to come play drums for us. Now I'd like to think I'm a seasoned drum circle participant; whether it be dancing or playing, I've seen my fair share. But every single circle I've ever been a part of was put to shame by these guys.

First of all, there were 3 dreads who showed up, each with a splif hanging from the mouth and hauling a drum. Needless to say our director wasn't too happy about their indulgences ... so he left and let the leaves smoke where the may. Our director is a really cool guy who's been in Africa for the past thirty years working here and there and for the last 15 with peace corps. He's an old ex-beatniks who's leaving us to go back to the states (more on that later) soon but basically doesn't give a shit because he's leaving in four or five months anyway. So we got irie.

Now needless to say, these guys were damn good! I've never heard drums this good in my life, and I 've heard a fair amount of drums. But that's not what blew me away the most. I was ready for that. It was the dancers that truly sent me for a spin. This was a Wolof village which is one of the more animalistic cultures in terms of beliefs and religion and once those drums started going, the villagers flocked to them like ghost bees from the beyond. Everyone was sitting around in a circle and clapping as the drums got going and every now and again a few would get up and dance. As they began they would kick their legs in the air and the drummers would match their motions with the beats. So when a girl got up and kicked and then started shaking her ass, the drums would follow her feet. Women would get up and just start flying away kicking up dust like a tazmaninan devil cartoon and the drums would start going crazy!!!! Freaking out, ladies and fellas would get up and just start rolling, stomping, shaking, rollicking, and the drums would match every beat and then settle back into the back beat once the individual dancers would stop after a minute or so to let another dancer up and the drums would follow right back up again. And when the evening came further over the skies and the only light was a single kerosene lantern in front of the drummers and a cheshire cat smile of a moon with the stars poking through the canopy of the nursery, it just got crazier.

Women began dancing in front, holding their long skirts and every now and again would flash the drummers and the drummers would respond by just wailing on these drums and freaking out, screaming with emotion in grunts and wails to their corresponding beats. I've never seen such sensual silhouettes rolling with the rhythms. And I swear to god, I saw some village fella flash his cock for the ladies which received a response of laughs and shrieks and even more dancers. There was so much sexual energy in the air you could cut it with a drum beat.

After 3 hours of this, the drummers packed up and took off and we fled to the salt flats to the river with a bottle o' Jimmy and 5 or 6 joints, a candle and my guitar and spent the rest of the evening dancing in the sands watching the cheshire cat set and the grand theater of the universe unfold before our eyes. It the best African birthday I've ever had.

Well time is knowledge and I gotta get back to site to start teaching and learning about the trees. Hayeeso (Until later),

-- McCamie Cole


Sallam Malleekum!

It's wonderful to hear from all of my brethren and their trials and tribulations back in the good ole U.S.A. As for me... well... the world is burning.

The dry season is now in full force and the winds raging from the Sahara fill the air with swirling clouds of dust and banshee howls at night. The vast and empty peanut fields add fuel to the dusty fire and the air cracks from lack of moisture. And I'm a water sign. I am still searching for the river. It can't be far. I went looking for it the other day and came across a monitor lizard. Now for those of you that aren't familiar with this beast of burden here's a little description. If a group of Komodo Dragons put on a performance of The Wizard of Oz, Monitor Lizards would be from Munchkin land. Needless to say, I didn't stick around to see if this guy represented the lollipop guild.

I was walking through the bush the other day, heading to my garden, and came across a stretch of scorched land that spread way beyond my field of vision. Some Peanut farmers (Yes, here in the Gambia people do literally break their backs for peanuts and the phrase lives up to its name), had lit their fields ablaze to clear the grasses and weeds that had grown in between harvest and sowing seasons and it apparently got out of control. This is a very common occurrence in the Gambia and normally while traveling down that one famous Highway, stretches of scorched bush go on for miles.

But we still fight the good fight. We still plant the trees and we still scream at the fires. But the fires still burn and we scream louder... so what can be done about it? Scream with me. I can hear you. I can hear you screaming when you teach the children, when you walk to the grocery store, when you take the bus, when you sing the songs, when you work from home, when you share the knowledge. I can hear the screaming when you avoid the multinationals, when you visit the Mom and Pop dime stores, when you bring your own bags and say neither paper nor plastic. I can hear the hollers of the small business owners, the cries of environmentally conscious e-mails being forwarded to save the forests. But what I hear even louder these days, are the cries of the wild.

Africa is the oldest continent on Earth. It is the cradle of humanity. It is the home of beautiful cultures and creatures who are now living on the fringes of the modern world still trying to survive. It calls vast landscapes of beauty home and beaming smiles of beauty its kin. It is also the home of some of the most horrendous crimes against both humanity and nature. And most responsible for these tragedies and the corporations behind two products. Oil and Diamonds. The Congo is a perfect example of it. Check it out on yer own.

Yes these people are striving not just for life but for wealth. At ALL costs. America is a beacon of light, it is the city on a hill for the Africans and all prizes held dear to us, all symbols of success, have become the carrot tied to the stick. And while we try for the carrots we miss the ripples in the river. We miss the piles of crap left behind because our eyes are on the prize. And this is not just happening in Africa... it is all over the world. So please... I beg you... scream with me. Kill your car, walk a mile for the world everyday. We shrug at the oil spills that kill, we admire the shine of the diamonds that crush, we eat the burgers of rainforest cows, we spray the earth for the emerald lawns, we powercruise the lakes and oceans for joy rides and the self caught meal, we buy the tickets to the megacorp sponsored games, we give our money to those who already have more than enough. Why not share the wealth? Buy African Cashews but not African Peanuts!! Support Organic Farming!! Want to know more? Start asking the right questions. As for me, I got trees to plant and people to teach.


Sorry 'bout the sermon.... Here's a lil humor to brighten things up a bit. I was traveling down here to Serekunda when I saw a donkey cart loaded with timbers and a driver on top. This poor donkey was hauling this huge load up this small incline when he hit a rut in the road. Well the load became stronger than the mule and I watched from the bus as the cart slowly began tipping backwards and the see-saw effect brought the mule straight up into the air and the driver tumbling of the back. This mule just hung suspended in mid air form his harness screaming like a cow stuck in a turbine engine. It was straight out of Charlie Chaplin. Kinda makes me hope re-incarnation is fact. Later Daze.


O.k. so I realize the last e-mail wasn't exactly uplifting and this one isn't either. But its a story that needs to be told. And my next e-mail will be all warm and fuzzy. I promise.

It was around noon when I heard the death-wail. I was sitting in my mud hut trying (in vain) to escape the heat when it started. It's a sound that doesn't take long to register, like a banshee scream from the beyond, it crawls through your membranes till your mind begins to shun the disbelief of it all. That's when it began to feel like a dream, or more appropriately, a nightmare. I went through my door and began to run.

I started off at a trot following the trails of tears and rubbernecking to find out what happened. I began running faster when I heard the news. Aminatta, a 25 year old girl in the village, had fallen down an abandoned well. When I got closer, weaving through the wailing women and men, I knew she was dead. All the women of the village where flailing their limbs and screaming to the sky. Some had fallen to the ground and began convulsing or bowing at the disbelief of such an occurrence. Men were walking away with hands over their eyes trying to hide their grief. Children looked at me with faces of puzzled disbelief. I ran up to the well.

The first reaction I had was this is it. This is the face of death, fresh, untouched, uncensored. It missed you and took someone else and a phrase from an e.e. cummings poem came to mind, "How do you like your blue eyed boy now, Mr Death?" But when I looked down the 35 foot drop to the bottom, the broken body moved. I didn't believe it at first so I called her name. She lifted her arm to shield the sun from her eyes and said, "Help me Dembo."

The people around me, especially the older generations, had given up already. They had accepted the fate laid before them and had begun raising their voices up to Allah. I looked next to me and there stood a friend of mine, a 16 year old boy asking what can we do? Get some rope.

We sprinted back to the village and grabbed whatever supplies we had laying around. I ran in my house and grabbed nails and a hammer and brought them back to the site. I screamed at an older man to call an ambulance. I begun constructing a ladder out of the most decrepit wood known to man while some people began tying a rope around the waist of a 200+ lbs man. I stopped and explained if that rope broke, there was no way in hell anyone could get him out. He agreed and began help with the ladder. By the time I finished the ladder, they had lowered the rope down with a stick tied to the bottom and pulled Aminatta up and out. So much for the ladder.

We took her back to the village and laid her in the coolest room in the compound. That was when I had a good look at her. Ankles the size of grapefruits, leg twisting the wrong way, and severe back pain. The rest of the village had worked their way into this single room for a look at their undead and I screamed at all of them to get out. In the intensity of the moment, English was the only tongue I could master but they understood. I ran to my house and gathered some Ibuprofen, some bandages, and some sticks.

When I returned, people were pressing on her back like a chiropractor would; both hands on the lower spine and applying all their weight. It sent a shiver up my spine. I asked again to get out but some wouldn't have it. So I dug into my brain and tried to remember.

I've taken basic first aid and CPR courses three or four times now, and although I wasn't exactly certified at the time I knew my tab A's from my slot B's. This is something I encourage each of you to do because you never know when the Fates, or God, or Allah, or whoever will lay this hand in front of you and say, "Whattya got?" I gave her the Ibuprofen, more as a placebo than anything else (white man's medicine) and began constructing splints while shouting out orders and asking whether the ambulance was coming or, for that matter, even existed. It was on the way. After twenty minutes of pinning this poor girl down to keep her from writhing in pain and possibly severing her spinal cord they arrived while trying to help this guy get the gurney out, they carried her out to the ambulance. By this time I felt it futile to try an explain such things so I just let it be. We loaded her up and away we went.

I realize this is getting long so I'll cut to the chase. The hospital was a joke. We waited for twenty minutes to have two cuban doctors come in and send her somewhere else. Another two hours away. Her mother was with her and the police asked me to stay and give a statement. She had painkillers in her and there was really nothing else I could do so I agreed. This all happened yesterday.

There were a number of factors involved in why this girl is still alive and is currently stable but I think the most important one, the one factor that truly saved her life was the the telephone installed just 3 days earlier this week. Yes folks, communication saved this girl's life. And that's what this is about. Communication.

I realize this is a heavy load to bear. In America, a girl falls down a well and it's national news. In Africa, it's a whisper in the woods. So please, do what you can to share the wealth. Even if its just coins in the jar at the gas station counter. The money may not be in your wallet but its not gone. Just going to a better place to buy a better hospital, or telephone, or kidney, or whatever. Life may be harder for some more than others, but sometimes its a luxury we often forget.

Love Life Light
-- McCamie

McCamie Cole
U.S. Peace Corps
Box 582 Banjul, The Gambia
West Africa

UIC graduate thesis exhibition
at Gallery 400

Sarah Conaway, Cindy Loehr, John Neff, Anne Olson

Saw one of the graduate shows from UIC at Gallery 400. Sparse is in. Had to walk upwards of 60 feet between images. Four graduates, four images.

Cindy Loehr, in addition to another boat people image, also finally showed us the whole church, in an adjacent room, a three minute taped sermon, the central speakers and tape player flanked by purple draped banners, appropriate for Holy Week. You would recognize that if you were Catholic. The topic dealt with the suicide of her brother, two years ago, and concludes her varied efforts to date, riveting and effective. There was a warning that more was to come, "I will have more to say." Artists never let their wounds heal.

-- PB

Wednesday, April 11

A Show With Some Movement
at The Dreaded 7/3 Split
through April 21st

Work by Marc Herbst, Brian Shapiro, Eric David Johnson, J. Marc Hellner, and Joel Kriske

First of all, there was not one title, artists name, or text of any kind to be found in the gallery. Initially this troubled me, but in the end it seemed appropriate.

Featured, if you can call it that, were two hanging wood block sculptures, three video pieces, and some stick and paper constructions in the back corner. All part of the same piece? Same artist? No indication around. The videos were in the same vein of much of what has been coming out in the last few years: mundane imagery coupled with repetitive sound. I hesitate to call it music. Major snoozer. I understand these people may have a UIC connection, which would explain a lot. The two sculpture pieces were fashioned out of wood blocks similar to what four year olds play with, in the image of Super Mario Land, and held little substance. While they were easily recognizable as such, so what? Now you have a three foot wood block sculpture of Super Mario.

The relationship of the of the work to the absence of explanation in the gallery was apparent. This work didn't need any explanation, it was very nearly a non-show. At no point was I interested who had done any of it.

hours saturdays 12-5 312-829-3743

Can Instant Happiness
at can
through April 10

Where did this place come from? Nice to see an opening so crowded (who were all those people?) on a cold March night.

Luckily this dense throng of art aficionados blocked any chance at a good look at the work on the walls. From what I could piece together, this was a great decorative painting show. Since when did it become necessary to paint patterns? These were neither inventive or new. A bunch of (sloppy) colored circles on a canvas is not going to blow anyone away. One piece I did enjoy, two sections of black felt hanging on the wall, with one section having "fucking cool" (or something similar) written on it. This was hung underneath a black light, causing the letters to glow. This artist apparently just learned something the hippies have know for decades. A little late, but I think it's still cool too.

-- A.M.

Phoebe Fisher
at Heaven
through April 25

For a plethora of reasons, it can be bad to meet the artist at their opening. This can possibly sway a judgment or otherwise influence a review. In this case, Ms Fisher is kinda foxy. Luckily I had seen the entire show before having the pleasure of an introduction. The work was very cool. I preferred the front section to the main space, which looked to be all color copies of the originals. The originals themselves are colorful and sly in a Japanamation kind of way, also similarly alluring. There is a solitary girl in each individual painting/drawing/rendering, who is usually looking directly at the viewer. These characters are all eyes. The pieces in the show looked to be originally done as sketches for clothing design or theater renderings.

As a side note, this was my first visit to the old Beret since its demise. Going up the stairs, I half expected to see things as they were in the past. Sadly, it didn't happen. Happily, Heaven is a cool space too.

-- Ted Freely

Ride Like the Wind
at deadtech
through April 6

This was my first visit to Deadtech, not due to lack of interest in their space but rather, their location. They are located way out on Fullerton and Kedzie, a little west of the Fireside Bowl. I don't know how we can solve the logistics of getting around to the cooler spaces in the city, but it would be great if we could.

So, about "Ride Like the Wind" now. I found the work to be either impenetrable or an empty gesture. Physically, this piece (the show consisted of a large single structure) looked like it was put together from materials boosted from a local construction site. I am not a stickler for finishing touches generally, but in "Ride" the silver tape and choppy cuts only added to the frayed ends of the total piece.

The namesake of the show was found inside of this structure, a stationary exercise bike. Upon sitting down and peddling, the existing lights dimmed, a strange screen in front of the bike came alive with images of fuzzy balls bouncing, and an eerie metallic sound came through the ceiling. Continue peddling, the metallic sounds fluctuate, the balls continue bouncing, and the lights stay down. Stop peddling, and everything returns to "normal."

The main problem with "Ride Like the Wind" was I never understood why I was riding like the wind. What is the context? While all the circuitry was visually pleasing, I couldn't understand why I was peddling. Why are there ping pong balls floating around? I found the sound element interesting, but I was told by the artist that it actually wasn't his. He had collaborated with someone who just attached the set up on top of his piece.

Still, "Ride Like the Wind" was an enjoyable piece due to its elaborate construction and inventive playfulness.

-- A.M.

Ride like the Wind
at DeadTech

Jeff Shore and Jon Fisher

Here is another exhibition which shows off the artists' expertise in mechanics and electronics, not at all untypical for DEADTECH gallery, but not at all mainstream among other galleries. There is of course no reason not to promote electro-mechanical devices as an art form, although one will wonder how it approaches the meditative experience of painting, or how it comments on life and art making through some metaphorical twist.

The problem, for those of us raised among clods of paint or chips of marble, is that we just don't get these electro-mechanical thingies. And this exhibition, too, is just not one of those slap-on-the-forehead experiences where suddenly you say, "Yes, that is what I would have done." But let's try; a description -- hate to do that -- would help.

Enter a small cubicle, and mount an exercise bike. The gallery lights go off (why?) as you start to peddle and on a screen in front of you a white round shape moves erratically about. Actually, it bobs up and down, but you have to be told that you are seeing a video image of a ping-pong ball hovering above an airstream -- and seen from above, but presented horizontally as a projected video image, and maintained uplifted by your peddling efforts.

So there is the air stream connection for you. Not fans in your face (that would have been nice), but a circumlocution of metaphors.. uh, from wind, to air stream, to something bernoullian. But wait, there is more.

Actually, I really liked the "more" part. Concurrent with the lifted ping pong ball is the production -- when someone is peddling -- of an eerie sound produced by six steel strings mounted above the space and connected to the cubicle with resonating cigar boxes (or something like that).

The sound is made by the vibration of the strings as a oscillating current is passed through them. With magnets mounted near one end, these in effect become voice coils for the audio signals they carry. Not wind instruments, mind you, but string instruments. But in effect these are aeolian harps, and the aeolian harps of antiquity were wind operated. Touche.

What I particularly liked was the array of audio amplifiers mounted on an adjacent wall, with all the various wires for whatever electronic purposes stapled to the wall like so much spaghetti, as if each wire were certain of its purpose and destination. It would have been totally cool to have the various circuit boards also splayed out in flat format, but these were contained instead in typical SAIC style gearhead plastic see-through boxes -- complete with pilot lights.

The sound was intriguing, however, although I don't get the connection to the peddling efforts and the floating ping pong ball. The aeolian harps could have stood by themselves, perhaps viewer activated like a theremin. The sounds, in fact, seemed very reminiscent of the same; random overtones, untuned chords, and a changing volume made for some really strange, affective sounds.

Don't let me diss this exhibit. It is worth experiencing, and it is worth seeing the massive concoctions of interfaces which bring you the floating ping pong ball image and the sounds of Aeolis.

-- Janet Overby

Watch your back
Art vs the Real World

Way back in June of 2000, a friend and I started looking for a big raw space to move into. Big, 'cause bigger is better, and raw, because raw means cheap.

After a few months, we had found and looked at a number of possibilities. When you're looking for what we were you have to cast a wide net and sort through the flotsam and jetsam. We found a number of cool places, but either they were too expensive for what they were or shit holes in soon-to-be-fashionable neighborhoods ($$$). Months passed, and patience ran thin.

Finally we came across the Golden Goose.

I had always thought in the back of my head there was some building, some where, that was fucking huge and cheap. We just had to keep looking. This soon to perish idealism was persistent in my subconscious. A small, but warm flame.

Along comes a day in early June, when Ness (the aforementioned friend) tells me about a building he found. I don't recall many of the details from the conversation, it was nearly religious in its latent power, but here's what he told me: there was a building for rent on 24th Street. This was an entire three story warehouse (three floors at 12,000 each -- 36,000 square feet), with a new security system, freight elevator, and a twelve foot garage door that allowed you to drive directly onto the first floor, and a new roof. The new roof may seem like a small detail, but it isn't. The total price for all of it, $3,000.

We almost didn't even need to see it to want it. But we did, and we wanted it. The neighborhood was sketchy, but thirty-six thousand square feet is thirty-six thousand square feet. It was nice and empty, but needed the basics immediately. I vowed to figure out a way to make it happen.

Long story short, I couldn't make it happen. No one wanted to move, too rough, too this, and too that. After three months of various schemes I threw in the towel, c'est la vie. The possibilities were endless with the building, but I couldn't get in the door. We could have made a roller rink in there without missing the space! Two roller rinks!

Eventually I was able to fall asleep at night again. A restless sleep, also pregnant with latent energy. Occasionally, while the colors were changing in the trees and a nip was returning to the air, I would wonder if the building was still vacant. Months passed.

Around October-ish, I dug up the phone number for the building and dialed them up. You wouldn't believe, but it was still available! I said to Ness, "let's go see it again." This time I was determined. I had been bemoaning the loss of the Golden Goose since back in September, long enough to meet some people who might now be interested.

Shortened story shorter, I did it this time. And it wasn't some jerry rigged scheme that depended on a bunch of chances. They knew we were going to live there, didn't care what we did there, there was a year lease, thank you very much. We were well chuffed, if you know what I mean. We conferred with the lessors to inform them of our intent to rent, and date was set for the following Monday to sign a lease. In giddy expectation, we borrowed a set of keys from them so we could show some friends around.

The keys were ... a tangible figment of our imaginations. When we unlocked the door for ourselves later that night, that fateful night, it was like stepping into another dimension. One of not only sight and of sound, but of.... We had come to the building to show our friend, we'll call him "Bart", around. As it happens, "Bart" works for an environmental testing agency and familiar with a variety of toxic materials, and such.

"Click," and the key works. We tour the first floor excitedly. "And check this out! And this too!" Then up the front stairs to the second floor, where the art spaces were slated to go. "Bart" took a couple steps onto the second floor and looked around. I suspect he knew why the place was only three grand a month before he said anything to us. "That's lead paint," he said. It took a second for it to register fully, and few more after that to realize that there was no way around lead paint. Not just some lead, but thirty-six thousand square feet of lead. The huge number had turned on me; one instant a blessing the next, a curse.

We staggered up the same stairs to the third floor. I didn't even want to look up. Looking down wasn't any better.

We brainstormed on what we could do about the paint, how we could do it. We kept walking around the third floor.... In the south east corner of the third floor an office of some sort had been built by a previous tenant. Ness's Dad had seen the building and dated it as early twenties construction, so one could presume that there had been many tenants since then. One could imagine the layout easily because all that was left was the tile that had been put down on the floor. Walls had since moved, but the now dingy red and white tile was still holding the original square roughly intact. Pointing at it, Bart says, "That's asbestos."

The story gets very bitter after that revelation. By the time we left the building that night, we had 2,000 sq ft of asbestos and 36,000 sq ft of lead paint to contend with. I was fuming.

Three days later, I left a message on the building managers voice mail. "So wwwhhhhhen were you gonna tell us about the lead paint and the asbestos?"

From start to finish it had been seven months since we first talked to "Tom" about his building, and never a word to us about the toxic clean-up. Enough questions had been asked by that time that he had obviously evaded giving a full answer to a few of them. What if "Bart" had gone to a bar instead of out with us to see the building? We wouldn't have known. "Bart" would come over sooner or later after we had moved in, but by then we would already be up to our necks in it and legally bound to it.

In a later, very heated, conversation with a friend the inevitable proverb was pronounced, "If it's to good to be true, it probably is." What irritates me the most though, is that this goes deeper than that. This building didn't just have bad floors or wiring, it was an actual health hazard that meant nothing to the people who would have been pleased as punch to take our money. Two of those people own the Hudson Club, and certainly don't need to fuck anyone over this bad for money. Or maybe that's how they got where they are? So, don't go to the Hudson Club, or if you do, break something for me.

-- A.M.

Mr. Henley's Video Lounge
Animated Videos by John Henley

Ala Turk
The Moldau
The Legend of Thane Livingstone

One of my favorite painting teachers was a splendid raconteur and incurable name-dropper. He cultivated the artiste stereotype: all black wardrobe, neatly trimmed goatee, silver saint's medallion, occasional beret, and was all too willing to tell you all about his first wife's affair with a famous actor, studying with Francis Bacon, playing chess with Duchamp, or shooting the shit with Matta. According to Instructor X, Matta once turned to him over Pernod at a café in Nice and said, "You know, I would like to receive a commission. I would like someone to come to me, and to say, so, I would like this painting, and it must have green in it, and a grandfather clock, and eight cats. And then I would make such a painting."

Who knows if half of what Instructor X said was true, but that's beside the point. He told good stories, and was willing to suggest that the visual arts could be 'merely' decorative, that craft and visual pleasure are ends in themselves. This thing called beauty. It conflicted with the tenor of the times, but he posited that skill and aesthetics have relevance. "I go to the Whitney and see work that tells me Racism is bad," he once kvetched at a critique. "I know that racism is bad."

Instructor X is the decadent cartoon devil that sits on my left shoulder with a seductive hiss, counterweighed by the milquetoast nightie-clad angel that insists that all art must exist only to expose social injustice and the painful hypocrisy of our daily lives, and should probably be made exclusively from recycled materials procured by enlisting the help of fiscally challenged urban youth. Fortunately, we can have both.

Mr. Henley's videos are both clever and pretty, and that's enough for me. I may stupidly and contagiously desire only to be entertained, but he does it well, and I don't care if I want intelligence and humor in my art. Is it so wrong? I first viewed the work at the California Clipper, where the crowd added their own voice-overs and commentary, but found the visuals intriguing enough that I wanted more. The images possess whimsy and polish: plaid puppet montages, dancing snails, red Rorschach spirals, ecstatic athletic homoerotic amphibians frolicking in the marsh ("Let me show you my manly frog love," one viewer slurred over his pint -- I believe that the position is called amplexis), and shadow puppets that struck me as Balinese, but apparently were inspired by the Turkish tradition. Three screens displayed these stories, and the medium gave me an impression of the work as commercials, but for what? Gender ambiguity? Eating gastropods? Life as a merry jokester in cut-tin profile?

Actually getting to hear the narrative, I was further pleased. Mr. Henley tells stories with irony, but not ennui, incorporating assorted media with wit and charm. The words make the work weightier, although by no means didactic. In "Ala Turk" the villainous architect Delicate Flower yearns "to be an innovator, but yet he knew that he had insufficient talent." Mr. Henley possesses the ability to charm with originality, combining media to produce documents that contain a range of cultural references, aesthetic enjoyments, and parabolas of parable with delightful detail.

My favorite line from Brecht is the admonition, "Feed us before you preach to us." Sometimes it's nice to be fed cake without polemic, and perhaps even be served dessert with buttercream frosting and candied violets. Or a plate of escargot. As Karagoz and Hacivad, the puppets of Ala Turk, note in the moment before their execution, "May my transgressions be forgiven."

-- Erika Mikkalo

Unsolicited E-mail

can gallery

Date: Tue, 1 May 2001 22:57:12 -0500 (CDT)
From: (can gallery)
To: Adam Mikos
Subject: time to pan again (fwd)

Dear Gravy writers,

We cordially invite you to our next show at can gallery. The show opens on the 12th of May, on a Saturday evening. You panned our last show, we know you'll love this one. Come early and have a beer, and before you write your next reaction, if you are inclined to do so, we cordially invite you back the next day, for another look and maybe even a little talk with the artist. We are looking forward to it.

We will be sending two big guys in suits and sun glasses -- ed

Vito's Craft

Date: Fri, 27 Apr 2001 09:04:14 +0200
From: Vito Maria D' Abundo (it)
To: (Gravy index)

Dear Gentlemen,

I thing that beside the articrafts that usually you sale, you can also sell (or to give in gift) the items I make. In spreading copies of Masterpieces that have underlined the Art through the centuries, you make a service to the Art and the culture all. It means that always more people will turn direct to Art. Less hamburgers and more paintings.

The paintings and statues I have selected (mythological characters) directly talks to human beings of any race, credo and culture, also because artists, just when they depicted nudes, in all times, expressed themselves better.

Few words to say what Mythology is:

In my Web [www.moralmind.org], in the section Telemarket, after having read the page regarding Myths, are the 3 paintings and the 3 statues that I already make. Soon the series will be of 10 statues + 40 paintings.

The statues are on hard paper and the paintings on the same canvas used by painters, and all in artistic golden Florentine Frames. Each reproduction has a main side of Cm 90, due to the maximum allowed size to send a parcel by mail, but it is possible to have greater sizes.

The cost for each framed Cm 90
Statue is Euro 150
Painting 250
(plus) transport

After having seen this first 3 + 3 items, soon you can have reproductions of Raffaello, Leonardo, Michelangelo, and other artists that you like.

Yours truly
Vito Maria D' Abundo - Corso, Italia

Support Vito, if you can -- ed

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