Magazine article Artforum International

David Byrne. (Top Ten)

Magazine article Artforum International

David Byrne. (Top Ten)

Article excerpt

David Byrne is a musician, producer of music and films, and photographer. His images appeared most recently in a fall 2001 solo show at the Maryland Institute College of Art's Decker Gallery.

1 ALEXIS DE TOCQUEVILLE DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA This guy saw it all coming. In 1835 de Tocqueville predicts US dominance in world trade, recognizes the influence of religion on the work ethic (way before Max Weber), and anticipates young democratic institutions fostering a culture and mind-set that resonate well outside politics and economics. How did he do it? He took the wide view. And he made me appreciate our shaky democratic and judicial institutions, which I was maybe all too ready to pronounce dead after W.'s coup d'etat.

2 DENIS JOHNSON, SEEK: REPORTS FROM THE EDGES OF AMERICA AND BEYOND One essay in this collection-- "The Small Boys Unit"--is an amazing, horrific, and brutally personal account of the war in Liberia. Although Johnson envelops the reader in a sense of the hallucinatory capriciousness of our species, there is some kind of optimism at work, possibly based in the beauty of his writing--a beauty that confronts, by its existence, these horrors.

3 "HERE IS NEW YORK" AND GREGOR SCHNEIDER AT THE GERMAN PAVILION, VENICE BIENNALE Artforum readers are probably familiar with both of these great shows, and are probably skeptical of the artistic worth of the first--a SoHo exhibition of photographs taken on and after September 11--partly because of its popularity. Gregor Schneider's house/maze was a marvel. The rigorously re-created bad German house-paint colors and fixtures were perfect down to every tiny detail.

4 TOSHIO IWAI, PHOTON At last year's P.S. 1 exhibition "Buzz Club: News from Japan," visitors, each outfitted with a lens and headphones, entered a darkened room. On approaching different light sources (Christmas-tree bulbs, a snow-screened TV, sodium-vapor lamps), they heard various electronic sounds transmitted into the headphones. Modulating volume and pitch by moving the lens around the light sources, silent museum-goers were transformed into bad modern dancers.

5 W RADICAL (96.9 FM) Appropriately named, this Mexico City radio station is pop culture pushed to an extreme so freaky it could easily. be seen as conceptual. It plays techno and trance 24-7. And not the name-brand techno and trance of Thomas Brinkmann, Aphex Twin, or Orb: None of the tracks were recognizable to myself or my friends. But what amazed me most was its endlessness. Total pulse and throb all the time. The station pours out of the little VWs all over town. It's said that the factory workers love it--their bosses, too, as it tends to stimulate production. Listeners feel so modern, so in touch with the global zeitgeist. No matter how rickety your car or kiosk, this music puts you in the twenty-first century!

6 THE NUTSHELL STUDIES OF UNEXPLAINED DEATHS The official slogan of Baltimore-- where I grew up--was once "Baltimore: Charm City." Now it's "Baltimore: Greatest City in America." (Really! Who knew?) John Waters has suggested "Come to Baltimore and Be Shocked." He's exaggerating, but not by much. On a recent trip, I visited several small local museums: the Museum of Incandescent Light (a dentist's light bulb collection), the American Dime Museum (ten-cent sideshow attractions), and the Great Blacks in Wax Museum (African-American history told in waxworks and set in tableaux). …

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