Tuesday, June 23, 2009




Monday, June 22, 2009

sublime as well

These two songs feel a lot like the area in Korea where I live. They're both a little sad, but sublime as well. Things layer on top of each other and with each overlap they grow a little bit warmer, and more connected, but still tossing shavings off to the side which glitter a bit. And this punctuates them with reflection.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Human-faced fish, 이물고기 엄청 보고싶어요.

Well, this is pretty interesting.

One of two 19-year-old fish with human-like facial features in Chongju, about 140 km (88 miles) south of Seoul on January 10, 2005. The hybrid species fish were born between a carp and a leather carp in the pond of a personal house in Chongju. Each of the two female fish is 80 cm (32 inches) long and 50 cm (20 inches) in circumference. The owner of the fish said on Monday that their faces have begun to look more and more human over the last couple of years.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Incomprehensible yet moderately poetic English text on a Korean T-shirt for the day:

Light Source


and furthermore:

2 methods of sustainable agriculture that I've been really feeling lately:
1 - In certain terraced rice fields in China they introduce koi fish into the field when it's flooded so that when it's time to harvest they can eat rice and fish.
2 - Growing a sun-loving vine-like crop on a raised structure over crops that need shade so they both get what they need and grow way better as companions, and then in the end there's more to eat.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Games of chance and aleatoric photography

Music: Savath + Savalas. Assorted tracks from the album "La Llama". I guess you could say when Psyche-folk-rock meets downtempo electronic glitch.

Guillermo Scott Herren must be one of my favorite music artists. It would seem like when you integrate glitch into your sound it would end up sounding gimmicky sooner or later, but somehow he always makes it work, and his sound opens wide up everytime and gets deeper. My friend Alex and I sometimes use the word van veen to describe music, poetry, or art that really grabs us, or hits at the center. Van Veen is a type of claw machine that is dropped all the way to the ocean floor to collect a sample of sediment or something. It really scrapes bottom and lifts something fascinating back up to the light. Vanveen music is the type that I really want to listen to most often.

I began an aleatoric photography project with Stefani again. Only this time, it's intercontinental. Alea means dice in Latin. For background please check out:

Aleatory wikipedia
Aleatory music wikipedia

and the blog Stefani and Chrissy started

I'm pretty excited about it. Personally, I think it's amazing what kind of results the element chance will bring to art, and it's a tradition with strong roots in experimentation of all kinds. Accidental photography, and images made through processes of indeterminacy.

Here's the rules and resulting images for one game played by both Stefani (in California) and myself (in Korea). Hopefully the rules will start to mutate and evolve for many further games to come:

roll die:
1 - walk 10 steps
2 - walk 20 steps
3 - walk 30 steps
4 - walk 40 steps
5 - walk 50 steps
6 - walk 60 steps

stop. and roll die again:
1 - make a photo of something in front of you
2 - make a photo of something behind you
3 - make a photo of something to your right
4 - make a photo of something to your left
5 - make a photo of something below you (maybe not specifically "down" since it will most likely always be just ground, but anything in a downward direction)
6 - make a photo of something above you (maybe not specifically "up" since it will most likely always be just sky, but anything in an upward direction)

after photomaking:
1 or 2 - go right
3 or 4 - go left
5 or 6 - go forward
**(if any of these directions are blocked or impossible to pass, then roll the die again until you are given a direction that is possible to traverse)**

then roll to see how many steps you walk and begin again. Repeat as many times as necessary.

start: Family Mart, Jangseong-dong, South Korea
end: my home, the Hongik Apartment

results & remarks: At the outset, I became aware of certain geographical restrictions that I did not foresee while making the rules for this game. The area of Taebaek that I live in is essentially one main road that runs down the length of a narrow valley, so I could not readily proceed in left or right directions without excessively climbing up trail-less mountains or frequently hopping over a fence into a river. Due to these factors, I was forced to modify the game by eliminating the third dice roll completely. So the game became more like: walk straight down one road, and roll to determine how many steps you take before stopping to make a photograph. In many ways, I think this works even more nicely, as you end up covering a lot of ground along the way, and there's no danger of the dice leading you in circles. Furthermore, about three-quarters of the way into the game, I decided to play a bonus round and add one-hundred steps to every roll of the first die (so a roll of 6 would be 160 steps and so forth). This way I could cover even more ground and keep playing the game while walking the rest of the way back to my home. There were also many instances of blatant rule-breaking behavior that transpired openly. Many times, things would catch my interest while I was still walking the number of steps dictated by the die. And I still photographed them anyways. I decided to leave a few of these images in, indistinguishable from those made while exactly following the rules of the game. It seems like these games of chance are intended to be a catalyst for art-making, so in this situation, all rule-breaking behavior which leads to further or excessive production of images should be encouraged, if not applauded.

misc. findings: The images made so far through aleatoric photography seem to be very reductionist in nature. It's cool that it forces you to make photographs where and when you normally never would. So the games end up also becoming exercises in the act of revising or altering (involving reconsideration and modification of what you see in front of you by means of a camera). It's really different and interesting working in grids because the images lose their individuality, in a sense. Individual pictures only matter so much as they relate to and affect everything else around them, and so you have to give up your attachment to them, in a certain sense.

during photographing: The area of town that I live in is pretty low-income for Korea, and a lot of my students' parents are coal miners, since there's still an operational coal mine nearby (along with a handful of closed ones). I noticed while photographing that some people even live in makeshift shacks up on a hill by their small, almost terraced field of crops. Being the only foreigner to live in this part of town, I felt a certain distance form between myself and the place I live by photographing it indiscriminately. I gained more piercing and confused stares than usual, and I'm sure a tall American dude walking around making random photos and randomly throwing dice down on the sidewalk didn't help their confusion. An elementary school age kid, that I noticed staring at me earlier and making a disapproving face, came up to me while I was photographing a badly aging apartment complex and told me in polite Korean that I shouldn't take pictures. When I asked him why, I didn't understand his answer, except that it had something to do with "not seeing". I think it might have been the apartment complex where he lived that I was photographing at that time.

suggestions: Buy a stopwatch and integrate that into a similar type of game next time instead of counting steps. That way, it'll be easier to walk and observe the surroundings without thinking about counting up numbers all the time and often losing track.

Here is Stefani's grid:

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Upwards and onwards, expansive and circuitous

Today I woke up in half-dream to a shrieking air raid siren. The sound shot straight through both sides of my consciousness, one in dream and one half-awake, pierced and shattered. For some reason, still mostly asleep, the idea gained control of my mind and body that this was it: the North gone mad, chemical attack, nuclear strike, war, having no control over it, nowhere to go, not me, not us, this couldn't possibly happen now. Adrenaline filled me, my body shot straight up in a sitting position, and Lindsey said I was even making some strange noises (not quite shouts or screams) and had a look of indescribable terror on my face. And she said if there had been a real attack, chances are my face would still not have displayed an expression to that degree of primordial terror, I imagine like that of a child who first experiences thunder and lightning, having no understanding of the forces behind it and why it does not put them in actual danger. I don't really remember all of this, because strangely, the episode passed and I lied back down, heading again towards sleep.

When I first looked out the window I saw no one, just a neighborhood emptied out of it's people. But then I saw this old ajuma woman walking down the street with her cane as if at that moment there was not a screaming siren sound filling the air at all (or at least she wasn't bothered by it). Damn. That was embarrassing.

I kept thinking of the last scene in Antonioni's L'Eclisse. Perhaps one of the all time worst ways to wake up in the history of my life. I think waking in the middle of the night as a child and finding that my room and bed had become a plane hitting turbulence in a storm because there was actually an earthquake happening is the only time I can even remember waking up close to that piercingly and that terrified, and that was a real event. This was not. And that speaker must have been so close to Lindsey's bedroom window. And why would they pick 10 in the morning on a Saturday for an emergency siren test?

Even though I felt silly after waking up that way, the feelings I had lingered with me pretty intensely all day. And strangely, even now when I think back on it, I can feel the residue of waking up, I can feel the terror of that dream memory indistinguishable from other real memories I have, as if the source of my fears were real and not imaginary. The mind has such awesome forces. It can really take hold of everything inside us, in one fell swoop, and spit us out after it's over and done with.

On another note, the world has a lot of colors for me right now. As far as my perception, saturation and vibrancy are high. I realized that I've been watching these mountains around me change for almost an entire year now. I saw the bright green foliage of last summer curl up into sleep and shed into a harsh brown during the winter, where the green's absence appeared complete. And now it is growing and becoming lush with such force, perhaps partly because it has such a short period of time with which to grow and shoot up into the air and intermix and wind itself around everything like some prolonged asphyxiation fetish. It only has one go at it, so it doesn't hold anything back.

On Sunday we hiked to the source of the Han River, where it's waters just bubble up from this spring incessantly and, with the help of confluence later on, pick up enough speed down the way to split Seoul in two parts with a shit ton of bridges, all the way on the other side of the country. There were meadows along the way and near the summit of Daedeok Mountain with all kinds of plants growing into each other, colliding and interweaving. One of those places where you just want to sit down and chill everywhere but you don't have enough time.

I've been listening to this Scottish band called Orange Juice. They're from the late 70's and early 80's. I guess "post-punk" or early "neo-pop" whatever those words really mean. But I like them. And I realized it's one of the only things in name that directly relates to the title of this blog, so none too soon. I put up all the songs I like from their album "You Can't Hide Your Love Forever". But my favorite one is Tender Object. I really like how the electronic sounds come in right near the end.

Below is a re-up of a video that Stefani once sent me that I have not forgotten, and I think most eloquently expresses the idea behind Permanent Citrus, which, admittedly, is an expansive and circuitous idea to express. I'll write more on this video later, but I can't think of many better ways to blend art and music with the natural elements, all at once, in what is essentially a celebration of living life in its purest form:

Hermeto Pascoal - Sinfonia do Alto Ribeira

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Looking way up

My friend Alex sent me this CD in a small package that arrived today. The album is called Morning Song, by Don Menza Septet. Recorded in Munich, 1965. This song is called Devil's Disciples.

My slippers reappeared mysteriously in the same place I left them yesterday when I took them off to leave work. No explanation. Fishy.

On top of that, I just got a letter and some gifts from Alex, sent from Taiwan. He's the type of person who will bring you a gift not only when entering your home for the first time, but literally everytime you hang out just so he doesn't "leave you empty handed" as he told me once.

He included a notebook with this written on the front: "Concentrate on a single delight: a sound, and experience or concept- you are well on the way to experiencing the pleasure of it."

There's always a lot of quotes in Alex's letters, my favorite one this time round is also the one without a name attached to it. So I'm not quite sure who said this:

"I WANT NO MORE than to speak simply, to be granted that grace.
Because we've loaded even our songs with so much music that they're slowly sinking
and we've decorated our art so much that its features have been eaten away by gold
and it's time to say our few words because tomorrow the soul sets sail."

I'm really connecting with the speak simply and concentrate on a single delight parts right now.

one shot one kill

Korean T-shirt with English text of which it is most likely the wearer does not understand for the day: In Seoul I saw this short middle-aged woman walking with her husband and family wearing a baby blue oversize tee with bold rainbow colored block letters that said

Also: This is a sign for a restaurant in Hongdae. For those of you who are tired of the real thing, or just for some reason like two degrees of imitation better, here's an "American style Japanesse Resturant" in Korea.

Futhermore, This morning at school I had to sit for 20 minutes with no shoes, only socks. Apparently, someone stole my slippers. This is a little bit of a tragedy, since I had to go all the way to Emart to purchase them, and they don't often even have slippers of my size there. I felt lucky to find those ones. You can't wear shoes in school, you have to change into slippers of some sort, it doesn't matter what kind (in winter, kids wear huge puffy stuffed animal and rabbit and wolf and sponge bob and hello kitty ones). At first I thought this was at least partly to keep the wood floors nice, but they don't care if you wear the slippers while walking around on dirt outside and come back in. So this makes it seem like it's simply the traditional act of changing footwear that they care about and enforce. Although, as this is a formal academic institution, walking around without slippers and only socks is not cool either. They'll offer me some guest slippers that are insanely too small, and when I tell them it's much more comfortable to just wear socks than have the back third of my feet hanging off the slippers, they'll just keep coming back in displaying generously with their hands different pairs that are all also WAY too small, until I finally cave and say I'll wear one of them just so they stop. So I found my old pair that are comfy, but held together by a thread. So when these ones go, if Emart doesn't have my size, it's gonna be sock time, and that's all there is to it.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Three mound grids and a song and a picture

A couple of times, about a month back, I believe to celebrate the advent of spring, the administration decided that the entire student and teacher population of my school should do a short hike in the mountains behind the school grounds. I noticed several off shoots from the main trail, and so the other day after work I decided to explore them. I walked off the path into a more heavily forested area of tiered hills interspersed with clearings, and found myself in a cemetery, of sorts. There were a series of small burial mounds, and they extended everywhere and in every direction. I got lost among them. This wasn't a cemetery in the maintained or organized sense, it was more like what you would find in the Appalachian Mountains: a random series of clearings that families made to preserve in dirt and stone their own sense of memory and their history. I started making photographs, and then I couldn't figure out which way was out, and realized I kept circling about and finding the same grouping of mounds that I had found earlier. Here's three grids of images I put together in chronological order from left to right and top to bottom, so you can get an idea of my movement through the space. And above is a song from the African Pearls compilation featuring music from Senegal.

I was researching burial traditions in Korea a little bit and here's what I found:

The eldest son of the family is the one responsible for preparing and cleaning the burial mounds of the most recently deceased ancestor. The corpse is traditionally buried standing upright and should either face south or toward an important spiritual part of the landscape. Many times, they are set to face mountains, since mountains are said to be the homes of the spirits of the land and the sky. The coffin is made from six planks of wood. Four of the planks represent the four cardinal points on the compass. The fifth one is for heaven and the last one for earth.

"fresh chestnuts gathered from the forests are cut into jewel-like shapes, for easy stacking. Stacking things, whether stones or food, is a form of prayer."

"And they carry out a very formal and artistic exorcism..."

Maybe it's the constant arpeggios played in the background which remind me of pracicing piano when I was younger, but, for some reason, this song got me thinking about metronomes. Every musician uses some form of metronome at first, at least during their formative studies. But once they get it down, they just have this internal clock, ticking away, while they play, blindly if necessary, or as a group, with their internal clocks ticking away, clicking together, filling in everything around the abyss of the repetitions.

It is music in its purest form that exorcises. It is music that is formed from the most basic of repetitions, and it creates trance, it creates ecstacy, smiles, laughs and cries. It comforts death and the grievers at funerals. It is the centerpiece at ceremonies, the necessary background or foreground for so many rituals. It mimics every sound and rhythm and pattern in nature, and at the same time that sound and rhythm and pattern in nature is music itself. It follows oceans while oceans are following it. It breathes on its own and it breathes with us, together. It fills in the gaps.

I was thinking that I live in a country where, sadly, I lack the pleasure of being able to eavesdrop. I can't understand the great majority of conversations around me. Furthermore, I spend most of my time listening to music sung in a multitude of foreign languages, which I can't understand either. I wonder what has led me to fill my audible world with so much incomprehension.

Fumbling about in the dark

Been listening to the African Pearls compilations. They're all pretty fantastic. These songs are from the one that's called "One Day on Radio Mali"

On Saturday morning, Lindsey was fiddling around with her hiking boots in the shoe-shedding chamber of the motel we were staying at in Seoul, and she said "I feel like I spend a lot of time in Korea flailing my arms around trying to keep motion sensor lights on."

It never really dawned on me until that point how much time I really did spend dealing with motion sensor lights. The main problem is the lights always stay on for an amount of time just short enough to never let you finish what you need to do before being left fumbling around in the dark. Just like elevator and subway train doors in this country, they are pretty much unforgiving. Motion detecting lights are usually the only thing lighting up hallways in most apartments and motels, so if you don't modify your behavior a bit in various ways (i.e. flailing your arms about wildly) you can easily be left fumbling about in darkness quite often. In the apartment building where I live, for instance, I know that if I come home at night, I have to get my key out of my pocket and get it ready for action before I exit the elevator on my floor. Otherwise, the light will turn off right after I get the key out and at the exact moment I need to see the key hole in my door. Energy efficiency gone harshly off-course.

Another thing is the sheer lack of incandescent light bulbs. Try finding one in the city I live in. It's actually pretty tough. I understand that fluorescent energy is a lot more efficient and good for energy conservation, but I would kill to sit under incandescent lights for just one day. People do have their limits.

I went to Seoul over the weekend because my friend Ashleigh was leaving Korea on Sunday (for good), so there was a night out at Big Mammas to see her off. Lindsey and I stayed in a love motel called the Grand Prix. Most of the midrange options for motels in Korea are love motels. They are ever-present everywhere. It's very common for Koreans, especially women, to live with their parents until they are married, so there are a lot of "alternatives" made available for couples in this situation, such as love motels or DVD rooms (for the less expensive and more brief meetings). It's not that the rooms have any overtly erotic themes or anything, but there is usually some sort of mood lighting available, a couple of terrible porn channels (really Korean porn must be the worst in the world), and the occasional vending machine distributing some hilarious and surprising accessories, as well as the complimentary condoms next to the complimentary hair products(?) and brushes.

What's interesting is that it's fairly commonplace for families to stay in these motels, because in some areas, it's the only option available if you don't want to upgrade to the Hilton or something. So I asked Elvis how Koreans usually deal with the more adult elements of the place when they bring their children. And apparently, they just ask the motel worker to prepare the room a little differently and to disable the free porn channels. Simple as that. Multi-purpose, you have to appreciate that.

The rooms do a great job of keeping the daylight out though, so you can really blast the AC and sleep forever. On top of that, sometimes the showers come with these crazy mist jets, or there's even a spa tub, maybe shaped like a shell with free packs of bubble bath powder. So they can be pretty nice places to stay, and it's always fun to find out what odd surprises they've supplied or modified the room with.

All motel rooms in Korea have a shoe-shedding chamber, which at times is a closet sized room with tile floor where you take off your shoes before going through another, completely extraneous door before entering the room. Sometimes this door has another set of locks on it, so I guess this can function as an added security to the room, although this couldn't be more unnecessary anywhere than in Korea.

Wow, I had this terrible dream last night that I woke up in the morning and had this long weird mustache with a part in the middle. Where did that come from?