Bart Plantenga

Fuck Art: A conversation with Sally Eckhoff by bart plantenga

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F*ck Art (Let’s Dance):

A conversation with Sally Eckhoff

 

by bart plantenga

party pic smaller

Eckhoff [middle] shows that art is a serious 24-7 business

“I became an artist of lots of different things besides painting: an artist of ordering takeout, dancing all beered up in downtown bars, banging around my own head in the night, walking home without getting mugged, of wanting –  sometimes begging and self-deceiving, too.”

• Sally Eckhoff

I must say I was worried when I began reading artist-writer-equestrian Sally Eckhoff’s exuberant ode-critique of New York from her decidedly engaged, joi de vivre, painter’s point of view as it portrays the NY “we” knew during its second-to-last gasps of affordable decadence, the mid-1980s. Since then – the exact date is unknown and debated – NYC has managed to descend into a state of tortured opulence, of clichéd bling, something like trannie makeup on a corpse – something like that. 

This decline is much bickered and written about on social media. But that’s OK because, even if the breakfast joint sucked back then it sucked with a certain panache that makes it superior to sucking today. Or so goes the argument. NYC is now a playground-backdrop for the elite’s commercials, their bonuses, their exploitations. Sally articulated this well: “I always under-estimate rich people’s ability to transform their routines for the sake of amusement.” And make no mistake, it is their amusement park now.

That the book was like one thick, page-turning, mnemonic device means that each page pretty much recalled or continued the already driving, pumping, heated, babel-like soundtrack as brought to you by jazz legends from the 50s, acid jazz, Fugs, Borbetomagus, Don Cherry, Lou Reed, bad FM radio like WNEW-FM & PIX-FM, the Ramones the Clash when they became obsessed with NYC, the Paladium concerts, the Limelight nights, the general din that seemed to keep our souls vacuum-sealed and hooked on the IV drip that was adrenalin + loud, clangorous and jangly sounds  – I think of the elegant, edgy beats at 99 Records – ESG, Liquid Liquid, Y Pants, Singers & Players – and that seemed to speak to us more than any visual or poetic works, that seemed to both criticize and lionize, both transcend and indulge in the tumultuous and frenetic out there where our the nerve endings of all of our extremities seemed to tingle day and night suspiciously until one day you just passed out. Each page in F*ck Art recalls a specific sound, each sound recalls a specific corner, each memory of that corner is a page in my/our diary.

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bart plantenga — in conversation with John Wisniewski and Mark McCawley

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bart plantenga

in conversation with

John Wisniewski

and Mark McCawley

 
bart-university of writing
 

John Wisniewski: When did you begin writing, bart? When did you publish your first writings?

bart plantenga: On any conscious level? It was probably in high school. A kind of prosaic awakening. First in 9th grade, for an assignment where we had to “travel” through South America and keep a diary I did one – times 10. Mine was over 100 pages long, about 3x longer than anyone else’s – I didn’t know I liked writing about places I had [never] been to. I wouldn’t know for another 2 years that that could be a talent – and what I’ve come to realize many years later an extremely underpaid talent at that.

For instance: Did you ever get into a discussion with friends or coworkers about being underpaid, earning a shit wage and such. Well, I have only done this once or twice: tried to estimate how much per hour I earned for an article or book I was paid for. You don’t want to know. THEY don’t want to know. It is like 10 American cents per hour. You point that out and nobody wants to hear it or believe.
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The Geographical Rewriting of Memory by bart plantenga

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The Geographical Rewriting of Memory

 

bart plantenga

Listen to Wreck Travel Memory as you read 

It all begins with some lit fuse, an old jingle for Palisades Amusement Park you’re still able to sing along with [“shows & dancing are free”], or the snap of a finger, the way she used to from the edge of the bed with a smirk, some glance of exposed warm skin holding the aroma of sun tan lotion, the sea lions in Central Park Zoo that remind you of Salinger – & reading Salinger on the 1979 F-Train & meeting Sylvina. I used to be a foot messenger & would pass through the zoo when it was rundown but free & I would talk to the animals between deliveries. [The old zoo serves as the final destination in BEER MYSTIC.] Or maybe its some vintage news report from the 1968 Chicago Riots, or an email from an old flame you came to NYC with from Ann Arbor who is wondering how you’re doing, or a sound – in my case, the sound bites here included, plus a few elusive bars from “Funk #49” by James Gang. Or is it Paloma taking photos of turtles in Central Park because she remembers my touching stories about my turtle “Spotty” when I was 10 & how the neighbors released him & I was heartbroken. “Was that what Spotty looked like?” she kept asking.

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Purple Manta Ray: Death of a Playboy by bart plantenga

Posted on by bartplantenga Posted in Audio / Video MnemoTechnics, Bart Plantenga, Essay, Writing | 3 Comments

Purple Manta Ray: Death of a Playboy

 

bart plantenga

 

The other night I heard Paul Mauriat’s 1968 hit “Love Is Blue.” It’s forever associated with my childhood bedroom where I’d notate the weekly Top 40 while building model cars like this one, the purple Manta Ray, the only one I ever photographed.

purple RayMy friend Paul’s father, who worked at the Ford plant just down US 1, always wore neatly ironed, striped linen shirts & combed his hair after his shower like he was in a rockabilly band, & maybe he had been. Like a young Frank Gorshin, with a smile sharp as a blade & stinking of a brisk splash of Aqua Velva, exhaling onto the couch after his shift, feet up on the coffee table, a bottle of Country Club – it’s called malt liquor because it’s a totally different kind of drink – in his right hand.

He was cool – or at least as much as a constellation of product choices & a few borrowed affectations can hint at – he had over 50 LPs (a lot back then – for a father) from Dave Brubeck to Martin Denny, through to Gene Vincent & always had a stack of Motor Trend, Playboy & cheesier magazines piled neatly on the lacquered coffee table, although it was probably Paul’s mother who piled them up so neatly – & chronologically.

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From Captain Yossarian to Captain Stanley & Back by bart plantenga

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From Captain Yossarian to Captain Stanley & Back

 

bart plantenga

 

Yossarian was so well known by his pseudonym and he had so seamlessly tailored his being to being Yossarian that the name & man seemed inseparable; so much so that many people – even friends – didn’t know that Yossarian wasn’t his real name.

img682I don’t think this was totally by chance or some hasty decision on his part. He had indeed – in his own way – embraced the glorious absurdity embodied by the probably not-so-fictional main character in Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 or at least the way this book allowed us to understand our contemporary cognitively dissonant reality.

Having just read other people’s moving memories and accounts of knowing Yossarian [here pictured with under-regarded artist Valerie Haller] at “Remembering Yossarian, ‘Original Hipster and Legendary Cartoonist’” on the Local East Village annex to the online New York Times, where a truncated version of this appears, makes you/me/one realize what a dodgy, game-playing muscle the brain is: from a hyper-realistic, in-medias-res, up-too-close now we get lazy-sloppy or just plain overloaded with sensory details & so your later memories of times & events begin to fade only to be filled in with our brain’s own version of Photoshop – things get tweaked & pimped. When you’re in the middle of the tumult your memory-visualization of an event will be quite different from that of an outsider who may detail it with all the verve of a tourist in Times Square for the first time. That is the exciting but lamentable side of living in the all-immersive present; the present makes cuckolds of us all with its persistent dominance & greedy need to suck all attention into its vortex & then leave you stranded, disillusioned, looking down at your untied shoelaces. I say this because some of the details others noticed in their contributions to “Remembering Yossarian” are sides of him that had gotten misplaced on my hard drive.

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