Of making many books there is no end

the first letter, second page


Filed under: at arm's length, ,

IAN BURN why did you drown.

“Often-heard remarks implying that it is not enough to be ‘just an artist’ are merely public admissions that, as a role in society, ‘artist’ is a sterile one. …This is clearly reflected in the desperation of more and more artists to escape their political impotence, in their attempts to reconcile the paradoxicality of their lives wrought by being hopefully ‘radical’ in politics but necessarily ‘conservative’ in art.

The inside story of this is that there is no ‘radical theory’ in the arts today, and there can be none while the present state of affairs prevails.  That also explains something about the extreme poverty of ‘critical theory,’ since a critical theory which sets itself the task of revealing the various forms of conflict and exploitation needs to be informed by some (prospect of) radical theory, something which denies the current ideology and economic class values embodied in modern art.  Current and recent art criticism has become at best a means of policing and regulating, at worst a sheer celebration of the impotence of the status quo.

In this light, most of the chatter about ‘plurality’ in the contemporary scene comes over as so much liberal claptrap.  What use is a sort of ‘freedom’ which can have no other effect than reinforcing the status quo?”

Filed under: The Contradiction, you are part of the problem, ,

Break-A-Way // The Contradiction, agency, & girl group music


Irma Thomas, Break-a-Way

I made my reservation

I’m leavin’ town tomorrow

I’ll find somebody new and

there’ll be no more sorrow

That’s what I do each time, but I can’t follow through

I can’t break away, though you made me cry

I can’t break away, I can’t say goodbye

I’ll never, ever break away from you no no

“The oppressed suffer from the duality which has established in their innermost being.  They discover that without freedom they cannot exist authentically.  Yet, although they desire authentic existence, they fear it.  They are at one and the same time themselves and the oppressor whose consciousness they have internalized.  The conflict lies in the choice between being wholly themselves or being divided; between ejecting the oppressor within or not ejecting them; between solidarity or alienation; between following prescriptions or having choices; between being spectators or actors; between acting or having the illusion of acting through the action of the oppressors; between speaking out or being silent, castrated in their power to create and re-create, in their power to transform the world.  This is the tragic dilemma of the oppressed which their education must take into account.”

–Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed


This song is imprinted somewhere at the very core of my body. HER VOICE. It is a train barreling forward on its tracks, no wavering, no pausing, forward, singular, I don’t think she even breathes.  And I hear her, I experience her, not as a singer of a song, it’s her, as a fabric of robust living tissue. I feel it resonating. I feel it in her biography. I feel it, to a much milder yet somehow deeply penetrating extent, in my own autobiography, in the spaces where words are never enough.


Claudine Clark, Party Lights

I see the lights I see the lights

I see the party lights

They’re red and blue and green

Everybody in the crowd is there

but you won’t let me make the scene


“As a network of discourse and institutions, an accretion of beliefs, a field of positions, an amalgam of historical effects, [the art world] is fully ideological in that it orders and effects real relations, it hovers above and around them, determining, forecasting. It seems fully adequate, after all, it includes the names and work you already know, those names you can call to mind, can compare yourself to, have an opinion about, someone or something you need to learn and teach. Indeed, teaching it and learning it are crucial, how it is transmitted, how it is continued. Students are, once again, both its most important product and its target audience, its believers. One could say, to use a little psychoanalytic theory … that the art world is always as Freud described the unconscious, ein andere Schauplatz— that other show place or the place of the Other’s show. If the art world is in some sense elsewhere, that does not mean that its boundaries, its inclusions and exclusions are not felt.”

–Howard Singerman in his essay Excellence and Pluralism, a history of the UCLA Art Department


Her voice is cracking with desperation, she is stuck in her bedroom, watching a spectacular party take place across the street, begging her mom to let her go to it. She’s not singing to us about it; she’s singing directly to the person who has the power to keep her confined. The song isn’t called “Stuck in My Room” or “I’m Grounded;” it’s named after the flashes of the over-there, the not-here. What is most important is elsewhere. She can see the over-there, she is reaching out for it like an asymptote: red and blue and green, viewing her own powerlessness reflected through the visual flickers of a world to which she has no access. I can’t help but poeticize this song to indulge my own narrative, but I must also say that when you consider the overwhelming lack of a voice that black girls had in 1962, you can understand why Susan Douglas wrote that her howling “sounded like someone who had been in Alcatraz for twenty years and would simply explode if she didn’t get out.”


The Exciters, He’s Got the Power

He makes me do things I don’t wanna do

He makes me say things I don’t wanna say

And even though I wanna break away

I can’t stop saying I adore him

Can’t stop doin’ things for him

He’s got the power, the power of love over me

( me memmeemememmee)


“A system of valuing songs that insists on their honesty and an absence of mediation in the circumstances of their creation cannot apply to songs by and for girls, because girl culture and girl identity are always built on foundations laid by others. Accepting the roles and images offered to them and experimenting with prefabricated identities are fundamental strategies for girls’ self-fashioning and should not be dismissed as submissive and derivative. Summarizing Laura Mulvey’s important writings on women as objects of a male gaze, Valerie Walkerdine [writes], ‘[Girls’] fantasies are shaped entirely by the available representations: there are no fantasies that originate with girls, only those projected onto them.’

… Dismissing girl groups on the grounds that they are like windup dolls whose material is forced upon them by other, more creative minds ignores the parallels between girl music and girl identity in its largest sense. The important question, then, is not whether girls imbibe experiences fabricated for them, but how they do it, and how they make meanings from doing it.”

–Jacqueline Warwick in her book Girl Groups, Girl Culture: Popular Music and Identity in the 1960s


She is somewhere between screaming and singing, the drums pounding relentlessly like exclamation points, the backup vocals are street sirens, curling and pulsing. “OH BUT I LOVE HIM,” she paints pleasure in his grip over her, she feels it, she convinces us of it. Like in Break-a-Way, she can’t leave her lover/controller/abuser, even when it makes her do things she doesn’t wanna do, even when she wants to break away; but unlike in Break-a-Way, she’s never even bothered to make plans to leave. She knows she can’t. Because to her, his power is love. So she revels in it.


Patty and the Emblems, Mixed-Up, Shook-Up, Girl

Am I crying because you left me

Or am I crying because I don’t know what to do?

One day you said we’d never part

Am I sad or am I glad?

I’m a mixed-up, shook-up girl over you


more Jacqueline Warwick Girl Groups, Girl Culture:

“… John Berger explores the divided identity that is naturally enacted by females:

To be born a woman has been to be born, within an allotted and confined space, into the keeping of men. The social presence of women has developed as a result of their ingenuity in living under such tutelage within such a limited space. But this has been at the cost of a woman’s being split in two.

Berger’s analysis echoes W.E.B. DuBois’s observations about the experiences of black people in white culture:

It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others… One ever feels this twoness–an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings, two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.”


The version I have of this song is live, and I like it a lot better than this version, its shouts and sways of the crowd and of Patty and how she just lets them scream the words “mixed-up, shook-up girl” rather than sing them herself. (Also, I love how “Am I sad or am I glad” does not rhyme whatsoever with the line before it.)

But mostly it means this to me: if you can’t fix the conflict on your own, if you can’t make sense of it or smooth it out, if you can’t make it stop making you cry, if it’s tearing you apart yet you can’t breakaway… whether or not there’s an audience in front of you, whether or not anyone will ever hear you… There is one thing you can do. You can sing the fuck out of the conflict.


Note: I owe my love of these songs to the ultimate girl-group-of-one, Julia Sull, who shared many of them with me while lying in my bed in Charlottesville, on the same night that Dave Matthews made a remark to Nicolas in a bathroom about eyebrows.

Filed under: at arm's length, The Contradiction,


Filed under: Ray Johnson didn't have a blog,

beginning pt 3/3

Filed under: reconciliation as a work of art?,

when both of you can not be survive without each other

From: Nedko Solakov <solakov@intech.bg>
Subject: Re: a really long letter
To: “Jaymee Martin” <jaymee@tryandmake.org>
Date: Tuesday, June 23, 2009, 5:44 AM

Dear Jaymee,

What a letter, thank you for the sincerity!

Listen, I can perfectly understand you, but not because I was part/opposing the system before but because I am part of (and I am trying to oppose again) the Art World. A bad news – you can’t beat it, not really. At that very moment when you want to share your thoughts/actions against the system with somebody from or against the system you become part of it. It is so simple, but believe me – it is not so bad. You can’t imagine how many really nice people you can approach using some channels of the system. For example, I guess you know my “Fears” Phaidon press book. It was a pain in the ass to discuss that publication with them, it was the ultimate surrender (on my opinion) of an artist in front of one of the symbols of that system. But then, as soon as the book was out, I was flooded with so many and so nice and touching emails from all over the world. Believe me – it was rewarding.

How to be “underground” in present day? This is a good one, I was also thinking about it (because I am missing the good old days). The thing is that to be underground in a certain place you have to have a substantial ground – watching you – in another place. The Soviet underground made sense also because the actions were monitored by the West and evaluated too. There was a process in the other direction too – there were artists who were popular in the Soviet Block but kind of low key (well, not exactly underground) ones in the West. So if you want to do it now perhaps your undergroundness will be recognized by Iran, Columbia, etc. all states which are enemies of US ;-). It’s not really worth trying.

The things are not so bad, don’t get the feeling that you sold yourself if you do things that are part of the system. If you are smart (it seems you are) you can say all the things you want to say within the same system. And the fact that the system will be happy because of this (any self-respected system needs to breed its own criticism), will not cast a shadow on what you have done, the audience is not so corrupted, believe me.

Good luck and all the best and thank you for the nice words!


P.S. You know my website, right? www.nedkosolakov.net

From: Vadim Zakharov <vadimzakharov@web.de>
Subject: Vadim
To: jaymee@tryandmake.org
Date: Monday, June 29, 2009, 3:13 PM 

Dear Jaymee,
Sorry for silence, but your questions not good for simple answer, BUT my english not enough for that. What I can say. First of all, of course, you will get a lot of problems, if you start make works “political not correct”. To find and get “Iron Curtain” to tоuch this specific areas not so complicated. Question – Are you need that? Non-official position not only position of confrontation with ideology and art-system!!!!
Yes, to be without curators, managers, Gallery and istr – sound is great! But we can not be isolаted  total. We not living on uninhabited island.
My point, we need to have dialogue not with art system, but with culture itself. This is different process. But (sorry again) to find your kind of dialogue with depth of culture not easy. This is main point of every artists.
You have to hear and understand first of all, what culture talk to you. Only after that you can start slowly thinking about your answer. I guess east or west not main problem today. You need turn round culture to you, when both of you can not be survive without each other.
I will be in august 3-18 in Cologne. Nikolas know how to find me. Also you can look my web site
All the best

Filed under: "Officialdom", tough and unmoveable as the soviet bloc,

beginning pt 2/3

Filed under: reconciliation as a work of art?

Ray Johnson did not have a blog

The first attempt I ever made to “get this out there” was a sort of packet-thing I gave to Howard Singerman, circa November 2009. I tried to make Howard my BFF because we both lived in Charlottesville and reading his book was a really big deal for me at UCLA. I named the packet-thing “An Unfinished Case History of Being-For-Others” and it included photographs, emails, pieces of writing, etc that tried to express every single freaking thing I was thinking about and dealing with. A lot of these things specifically related to his book about art school: hinging your value on how you are viewed by others/the Art System, needing to comply with the discourse of the Art System in order to have a voice in it. As he wrote, “Nowadays, especially at our best schools, we teach ‘artists’– both a litany of names and a fashioning of individuality. Instead of working on a practice, it is the artist him- or herself who is worked on, pushed to internalize the art world, to take it seriously and to produce an identity in its image.”

A couple of things he said in that meeting are suddenly resurfacing these last few days:

  1. 1. At one point we were talking generally about ‘the art school problem’ (sorry about how that sounds) and he asked me if I’ve looked at that new Art School Book that’s out. I said something to the effect of “I’ve glanced at it, but like over 80% of the people in it are [white] dudes. And the things I’m talking about about art school, about ‘being-for-others,’ about needing to be perceived by others to have meaning, etc., …actually relate overwhelmingly to the experience of being a girl. Also it bothers me that the vast majority of art students are women yet that book is mostly dudes.” At this point he said something like, “…Well maybe you could read some Feminist Theory, do you read much Feminist Theory?” and I said something like “Ewwww feminist theory grosssss why would i EVER do that!!” To which he responded quite simply, yet in a way that dropped like an anvil: “Sooner or later you’re going to have to own your feminism.” At this point I recanted slightly, saying something like, “Well yeah, some of the shit I witnessed at UCLA was really fucked-up” (I remember actually using those words), and he replied, “Are you kidding!!? When I was there, UCLA was the most sexist place on the planet!”
  2. If I interpret correctly, he was being really nice about the packet-thing. He was telling me that I should “get it out there,” send it out to more people, send it to people I don’t even know personally, etc etc. And I was like “… I AM RAY JOHNSON. I AM A GHOST-LURKER WHO LINGERS ON THE PERIPHERY OF THE ART WORLD SENDING THE ACTUAL MEMBERS OF THE ART WORLD THINGS IN THE MAIL?” So for a moment we tried to come up with un-Ray-Johnson-like ways that I could go about “getting it out there,” at which point he said in passing, “Well Ray Johnson didn’t have a blog…”

Zoom to now, a year and a half later. Guess how I’ve been spending most of my free time over the last year or so? If you guessed “Creating lots of art without over-thinking it until it debilitates you from making anything at all,” you would be wrong. I have been reading Blogs!! Blogs about feminism. And anti-racism. And thinking about oppression (both others’ and my own) and privilege (both others’ and my own), and how these factors deeply influence the ways social Systems and institutions regulate who gets to have a voice and who does not.

For a long time I was embarrassed about wiling hours away on the internet. MAKE ART, you have spent hours staring at a screen, MAKE ART, you are wasting your life away, MAKE ART, you are unproductive and getting older. But this way of thinking serves to massively undermine the amount of learning I was doing, without even fully realizing it.

The weekend after I got my paintings back / the weekend before last, these things happened:

a) It was pouring rain and exaggeratedly cold in Monterey

b) someone’s dog pooped all over the walkway to my tiny apartment, a very narrow walkway that one must traverse to get to my front door. Dog shit was tracked onto my floor four times by four different people (including myself). I couldn’t clean it up right away because it was pouring and pouring rain.

c) I paid a visit to “Sudz Cyber Laundry,” came home (narrowly avoiding dog shit) and lay some of my clothes out on the flat surface of my heater. A few hours later, I turned on the heat (cold in Monterey), completely forgetting about the clothes. Favorite sweater = burnt forever

d) I throw off the thermostat, I grab the clothes off the heater. I am swinging the front door back and forth to get the smoke alarm to shut off. After it stops, I try to turn the heat back on. NOTHING HAPPENS. NO MORE HEAT – HEATER BROKEN

e) Dad date on Saturday at 2. He shows up at 2:30, wants to come inside. “Do you have to? There’s dog shit everywhere.” He assures me that he will tread gingerly. As he enters and I see the dog poop footprints he’s leaving, he approaches the carpet, I’m like “NOOOOOO” and he pivots and sees what’s happening– but he’s starving! He’s holding a to-go container with a half-eaten burger sort of thing. Can we get out of my apartment though? My heater is broken and there’s dog shit everywhere. We leave and go to a coffeeshop. He insists that we enter it despite his immediate need for his burger thing. He sweetly asks, “what kind of tea do you like……” while I notice the gentleman behind the counter giving the stink-eye to his burger thing. “Do you plan to eat that in here?” the gentleman asks. “We have a No Outside Food or Drink policy.” We leave dejectedly and sit in the car while it pours cold rain as he eats the equally cold burger thing. After he finishes, we get inside, order the tea, sit down, and

f) my dad realizes he locked his keys in his car.

g) He is crawling underneath his car because he thinks he has one of those magnetic key things. Can’t find it. Comes up for air like a snorkeler, covered in rain and dirt. “Can I go to your place to warm up? I won’t make you deal with this”

h) My apartment has no heat!  And… dog poop! and it’s the size of a glorified bathroom, there’s no way I could ignore you!

So I walked home.

And guess what I did, to “restore” and to be alone and to treat myself right on a shitty day? I READ OLD, QUALITY POSTS ON MY FAVE FEMINIST BLOG. And it made me feel better.

This weekend, combined with the previous weekend in which I got my artwork back, combined with the recent echoes of Howard’s comments, made me realize a few things.

I love the internet, and there is nothing wrong with that. The education that it’s provided me with has been pretty fucking incredible, and has drastically shifted the lens through which I view the world. Sometimes I wonder if I overdo the lens, if thinking everything is racist makes me miserable. But at the same time, I am less afraid. I am less afraid to say “fuck you” at problems that affect me, and far less afraid to speak up about the problems that don’t affect me directly. It has provided me with better tools to realize how and when and why those problems occur, how to pick them out; it has provided me with a linguistic framework to articulate precisely why they are a problem and why they should stop; it has, most importantly, given me the ability to recognize ways in which I am part of the problem, and to start there.

The ways that I’ve tried to “get this out there” didn’t work for a reason. Up to this point, over more than a year, I have gone about this in pretty much every wrong way possible.

The more I think about it though, going about it in every wrong way possible was probably the best thing I could have done. Because somehow, after all the unfinished attempts, after all the “Okay this is the real deal this time, I’m finally going to ‘get it out there,’ I’m going to tell the whole story” overtures that get suspended in stasis like a flight delay, I am here on a blog. I am here on a blog because I’ve finally reached the point where I realize that perhaps the most obvious, easy, even stupid way to “get this out there” is actually the way that makes the most sense. It doesn’t require the white walls, the obligatory plastic cups, the song-and-dance routine. It doesn’t have to have a specific audience (i.e. …Howard) in mind. In particular, it doesn’t have to hold an audience of legitimizers in mind, legitimizers who have more authority than me, who are more “inside” than me, who are often straight white dudes (no offense Howard). It has no commercial value, I don’t have to send it in the mail, and most importantly, anyone can read it regardless of their participation in the System. I can put it out there for the System to see, but (to return to my first post) if it doesn’t listen, at least I said something. Getting it out there is all that I can do.

Filed under: a world where not everyone looks just like you, Ray Johnson didn't have a blog, you are part of the problem,

Jaymee Martin says goodbye to college joys

Filed under: "Officialdom", at arm's length, tough and unmoveable as the soviet bloc