I’m the King of Jubilee Jumbles

artist Nayland Blake natters on about art and other things

Archive for June 2004

Day Two (but actually five)…

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The weather is shocking up here this summer: seventies during the day, fifties at night. A far cry from the high, humid nineties of two years ago that left us miserable in our stuffy dormrooms, sweating and laying as still as possible.

So what happens here? The idea is that students meet one on one with faculty during the day, while working in their studios. Then everyone gathers in the early evening for program wide critiques, where a person presents work and everyone else comments on it for 20 minutes. One of the things I always forget about, and am never prepared for, no matter how often I’ve been here is the clapping. We applaud everything in this program: the end of each video,poetry reading or music performance, the end of each critique, every visiting speaker. For a first timer it can be quite jarring, looking suspiciously cult-like.

The one-on-one meetings take an hour and the idea is for faculty members to book three or for of them a day and to meet with as many people as possible. What this means is that upon arrival I have been swamped by students looking to book appointments; an abrupt blizzard of need. The PDA gets a workout. Inevitably there is some event that occurs during the day that you didn’t know about and meetings must be rescheduled. The faculty are like roving shrinks, moving from building to building during the daylight hours, and then comparing notes at night. We fret over students who can’t seem to get it together, exchange analyses, surmise and despair.

Because it’s a small, provisional community there is flirtation, betrayal, gossip. “Issues” flare up and die off. there was the year when someone was kicked out and then seemed to be stalking someone else on campus and until the cops had to be called. There was the year where a student seemed to be goading another into a racial confrontation. There are squabbles over who is using too much space, over the visiting artists who turned the other visiting artist’s presentation in to a shouting match, over the person who is getting a degree even though they barely did any work, over the person who really didn’t do enough and who isn’t going to graduate.

All of it takes place on a campus that mixes early 20th century mansions with prefab houses, that spreads over a thousand acres and is brimming with finches, bats, skunks, groundhogs, wild turkeys, chipmonks, fireflies and the occasional deer.

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June 30, 2004 at 9:27 am

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Regime change…

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Here’s how I’m hoping to have my days go while I’m up here:

7:00am Wake, Breakfast, pulling self together
8:00am Update Journal (tada!)
9:00am Gym
10:30am Reading
11:00am-2:00pm One on one meetings with students
2:30pm lunch
3:00pm Drawing
5:00-7:00pm Program Critiques
8:00pm Evening fun
12:00 midnight Bed

So is this going to happen? It leaves out a bunch of the other components of the summer program here: seminars, artists’ presentations, graduate boards , faculty meetings. But if I can stick to something close to it, I’ll be feeling pretty darn good by the end of the month
Am I just setting myself up, though? Providing myself with a blueprint that I’ll look at with regret in a couple of weeks. The time has a way of getting a way from one up here. And my history with Bard is so complicated. Am I now sitting a a dorm room pledging that this time I’ll get it right? This time I’ll be a good student (even as a teacher?)

Bush just said that he believed that freedom is the future “for all humanity” with an intonation that that made it sound like a death sentence.

Things I love about teaching up here in the summer: 1)the NPR station carries “The Writer’s Almanac”. Today, we find out, was the day that the Globe Theater burnt down and the day where Edith Wharton’s “The Age of Innocence” won the Pulitzer prize. The plummy, folksy announcer reads poems that always seem full of baby animals, children and minor epiphanies. But he signs off by telling me to be well, do good work and keep in touch, three things I actually aspire to. 2) Movies are 6.50 at the Lyceum theater in Red Hook, except for Tuesdays when they are 4.00. Last night, my four friends and I were the only attendees for “The Chronicles of Riddick”. Before the movie, we kidded with the projectionist and then giggled all the way through the movie’s blizzard of ass-kicking, chelsea muscle queen psuedo-bondage and relentless catwalk stalking. The whole thing is basically a western, tossed off with gobs of cgi that are treated so casually it’s a real relief from the ponderousness of recent starwars movies. Vin Diesel has an early scene in long stringy dreads and beard which makes him look less like an ambulatory circumcised dick. Everything looks a lot better when you didn’t have to pay 10.25 to sit through it. 3) The surrounding farms have peach orchards that produce amazing fruit.

Tomorow: update on how the new schedule fares. Be well, do good work, and stay in touch -we do this for all necromongers

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June 29, 2004 at 9:07 am

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…at Bard at last. It’s time for my annual four week long teaching stint in the MFA program here. Yesterday was a long wrangle of packing and taking care of the house, capped by a drive courtesy of Phil Montana, a friend who with his bf Avram runs two cool businesses: Gold Goat and a new company where they sell among other things, “Dirty Linens” which are bed sheets featuring a design of Tom of Finland toile. Phil and I left the city by 4pm and sat in traffic on the BQE for a bout and hour and a half. But through it all he was amiable. I feel like I’ve brought too much stuff – in the name of efficency and having a system, it feels like my Bard kit has ballooned. But I have to say when I look around the room, everything is kind of right and comfortable, so maybe that’s an empty misgiving.

The sumer program is an odd and at times exhilarating experience, One that I alternately dread and pine for. It’s a hot house atmosphere and emotions can sweep through the assembled community at a dizzying pace.

On the heels of Friday’s poker blowout at the apartment, I now see Bard as a plce where I am quite cut off from the people that I care about in New York, and adrift. There are plenty of interesting folks here and some very good friends, but it’s not quite the same.

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June 27, 2004 at 10:32 pm

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Out of it…

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I’m feeling, well, out of it.

I had a marvellous and challenging weekend. Never let it be said that urso isn’t a delightful houseguest (among other things). So I should be an occupant of the planet Blisstonia these days and yet – not.

Sunday I missed out on Folsom Street East, heading instead down to Baltimore to be part of a panel on Black Aesthetics at the BMA, as part of the opening ceremonies for Kerry James Marshall’s touring exhibition, “One True Thing”. The show was a brave and impressive one: Kerry has taken on the issue of “what is a black aesthetic?” and made a huge number of works in many different modes that all reflect various takes on that problem. A real stretch for him and almost Homeric in it’s fusion of local incedent and grand themes.

As for us on the panel, it was the usual mix of earnestness and misunderstanding that happens when people get together to try to talk about things that mean a great deal to them in front of a bunch of strangers. We got bogged down on various points and had to thrash through to some sort of clarity. I’m interested in these events, and I see them as an important part of what I do, but they are only rarely a “good time”.

The best part of the day, aside from getting to see Kerry, his wife Cheryl and curator Thelma Golden, was getting to ride the Acela express to and from Baltimore. It’s a smooth and comfortable, almost European ride. I wish that rail travel hadn’t declined so much, because I much prefer it to flying.

I find myself coming up against the issues of how much I actually want to put in this journal. Part of my vagueness stems from once again being unsure what it’s all for. Perhaps this is just anxiety about the impending month at Bard and the sense that I’m unprepared for that.

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June 23, 2004 at 1:36 pm

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And now…

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…. one more thing you can worry about happening to you after you die:


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June 22, 2004 at 10:20 am

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Swag and such…

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At last! A logo to slap on all sorts of cheesy crap er, low budget collectables.

Get your Nayland Blake tie in merch at:http://www.cafeshops.com/naylandblake

and don’t hate me

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June 17, 2004 at 12:41 am

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Pictures from Saturday

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See today’s earlier post for the background information on these snaps

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June 15, 2004 at 10:34 pm

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