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Fires in Paradise April 11, 2008

Posted by Jennifer in : books,chess , trackback

Last weekend, I traveled to San Diego for "Disorderly Conduct", a program of video arts, conversations and installations at collector Eloisa Haudenschild’s 20-car garage, which she converted into a gallery and performance space. I had some insights and weird experiences that I’d like to share.

1. San Diego is stunning from every vista, almost too good to be true, so I asked around for ugly San Diego tours. The hotel’s shuttle bus drvier Freddy clued me into a  hidden dwarf city, but my answer came at a brunch that was part of the weekend’s decadent schedule of events. I met 15-time author Mike Davis, who co-wrote a book on precisely the topic of my curioisity, "Under the Perfect Sun: The San Diego Tourists Never See. " I’ll get back to you on the book, but here are some photos of beautiful San Diego and one that reminded me that there’s always an ugly side.

2.  The weekend’s headline event was a chess tournament with candles as pieces, Burning Boards by Glenn Kaino. The candles descended in height from king to pawn except the rooks, which despite being the second most powerful chess piece, were actually shorter than the bishops and knights. This,  together with the decision to not do anything about the fact that the black candles burned faster than the white demonstrated that aesthetics, not chess accuracy, was Glenn’s top priority. And he was successful; Burning Boards debuted last year at the Whitney Museum, but even that event couldn’t hold a candle to last weekend’s dramatic, stark installation. Thirty chessplayers and artists lit their pieces on fire and then the diaphanous curtain was drawn, revealing the action to dozens of spectators.

Can you recognize this position?

  I wrote about the chess in a uschess.org article, where you can play through my game with Liu.

I felt lucky to be in a home created out of passion for art. Books were stacked on tables because wall space was reserved for photographs and paintings. The house was so impressive that one probable millionaire from the area looked around and asked  me, "Is this how the other half lives?" but then soon admited that he really meant, "is this how the other .006% lives?"

3. In San Diego, I met my 9queens partner Jean Hoffman, who I email several times a day but haven’t seen since October. Jean has been amazing at promoting 9queens and getting it off the ground.

Jean Hoffman, my 9queens partner

Check out this article in a Tuscon paper, which both describes the organization and promotes the ChessFest benefit that I’ll be attending next month. If you happen to be in the vicinity of Tuscon in May 10, definitely register or come and say hi.

4. The Disorderly Conduct program included a lecture on the Aesthetics of Murder led by artist Daniel Martinez (pictured below playing against Glenn Kaino in Burning Boards) and writer Mike Davis.

The discussion explored whether the repetitive watching of the most disastrous events in our times makes audiences and the media complicit in creating heroes, even artists, out of villains. Another implied idea of the conversation was that you can understand evil better if you momentarily remove morality from consideration. The topic idea came from the 19th century British author Thomas De Quincey’s essay, "On Murder Considered as one of the Fine Arts." Honestly, I was not able to focus my ears, because images of Columbine, Abu Ghraib and 9/11 were projected and running on youtube loop. I purposely avoid those sorts of images as I think they are totally pointless unless educational or edifying. Why do I ever have to see Columbine? I feel that my life and the life of the victims would be ever so slightly better if I NEVER saw it. I felt attacked, which I suspect was part of the point . 

5. Since I was in California, I read the L.A. Times for a change. Of course the L.A. Times is a great paper, but I had to laugh at the front-page story, "Cosmetic Surgery Business Sags as Purse Strings Tighten"  I came up with even better headlines: "Plastic Surgery thins as recession pumps itself with collagen implants" or "Plastic Surgery wrinkles as Recession schedules yet another face-lift." In all seriousness, I found the article surprising; I’d think it would be even more important to look beautiful during a recession.

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