some of the scifi undercurrent in the work of John Roloff – Prince’s Purple Piano Kiln ; a model as a work

Prince’s Purple Piano Kiln, as a work of art, has not been realized. But it should be. Were Roloff a Briish artist, it might be. But as an American artist, there is no chance in hell. Meanwhile, UK and EU art production has similarly had it’s potentials cut off with the rest of the culturally nationalist balls. well, unsurprisingly, ‘art’ is as historically usual, waged war upon, defunded, disgraced, and denigrated at every opportunity, by those in power. yet, as has long been established, ‘art’ typically has little political impact on the big picture. yet, it still might. should, ‘art’, get it’s collective ass together. that is, IF, it were to ever be publicaly comprehensible… but that too, requires public acknowledgement and support.


note: what follows is unfair to Niel Forrest, John’s collaborator on the project from which the following images are derived.


Two Sites with a Similar Problem – Niel Forrest/John Roloff

NCECA 2019 / Minneapolis, MN
Architecture Library / Rapson Hall / College of Design / University of Minnesota

usually, i would celebrate collaborations of this type. and in principle i do. that i don’t in this case is only because i know nothing of Forrest’s work. and i know nothing about the collaboration dynamics between the two artists. so, apologies to Niel Forrest.

so the focus in this notebook entry is only on roloff’s contribution to their collaboration.

which, clearly, is only half of the picture, on two sites brought into existence somewhere between Bowie and Prince.

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But to being with their collaborative statement about their project:

Our current project, Two Sites with a Similar Problem, examines vestiges of modernist thought in architectural form, problematized and articulated by ceramic elements, embroiled in an archaeological/catastrophic story line. Here we invoke the shamanistic presence of Prince, Mies van der Rohe and Frank Lloyd Wright and other walk-on characters. We put them in complex conundrums vis-a-vis their habitat, designs, ideologies and stardom… I think John and I both liked the problem that Bowie made for himself…. how to construct the ultimate pop idol within the theoretical problematics of modernist architecture underscored by Diderot’s encyclopedic foundations?

So now we both say that collaboration is some kind of labyrinthian game, a series of tunnels like those dug into Tora Bora, or the ones dug in the sides of Gibraltar, which by the way, have everything in common, yet none of the same attitude. As Neil recounted these two thoughts to John mixed with recent ruminations about Ziggy, Purple Haze, Paisley Park, tsunami’s, asteroids, and sea level rise, the conversation for our current work, Two Sites with a Similar Problem, was catalyzed. Although not the monolithic promontory of Gibraltar, ours is a set of fixed interests that we always believe is different but they never are. It’s like reciprocal breathing, one breath, continuous sound, then sleep, somnambulism and one-on-one hoops…

Site B: below, sculpture, conceptual drawings, studio and installation documentation

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Roloff, a student of Arneson and many others, has forged his own path through ceramics and beyond, abandoning it, almost, entirely for many years, but never completely. He’s a chemist and a alchemist and a geologist. “Clay” is, after all, a geological substrate. It’s the material of geological records, with which Roloff has long been obsessed.

His first works after his graduate work with Arneson at UCSD in the 1960s, took the form of what he called the “Night Ship Series”. Here are a few examples:

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and from there, he radically moved on from works produced ‘in” kilns, to building kilns, as art works:

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Roloff is undoubtedly the most important ‘ceramic’ artist in the US in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. To the degree that, the ‘ceramic’ conceptual basis of his works, has sometimes left ‘clay’ materially behind, while at the same time, never abandoning his ceramic roots.

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my point being – roloff’s work is absolutely fundamental to reassessing the importance of his work in order to revision alternative histories beyond the tragically limited value judgements impossed by the art market, which has nothing to say about the work that artist do, or, about the thought that artist’s have.

draft: to be continued.





some of the scifi undercurrent in the work of John Roloff – Prince’s Purple Piano Kiln ; a model as a work

Paradox and the Ghost Paintings of Alf Lohr

a dialogue in the making: unedited so far

hi mark,

PS  I attach some new work. These are randomly painted bed sheets. The paint gets on them as they are used to dry the paintings. There is pile of 40 paintings standing in the room with their back to the viewer what get to see instead are these lit up sheets. Unintentional  paintings I call them. They are full of images of ghosts, like my sub conscious. As a text I was thinking of adding random thoughts. As the paintings are not intentional why should the text be. If the random thought is good one, it will geo well with the painting/bed sheet.I like the directness in it but as usual I am getting no response. HaHa  Its a like making parcels with concepts and objects instead of books with thoughts and observations, and then sending them to Mars in the hope some one , one day will see the continuity.




hi alf,

that you’re work continues to develop in really interesting ways against all the odds, is truly impressive.

i find the ghost painting very interesting. in part because, i think, they are not ‘unintentional’ at all. that’s the thing about the ‘unconscious’, it’s full of completely intended forces, it’s just that they are ONLY ‘unconscious’ to ‘consciousness’….  but i think it’s very clear, that ‘consciousness’ is a pretty ‘unconscious’ state of being… so why should consciousness get to decide that the ‘unconscious’ is ‘unintentional’?

a bit of a paradox…. but that doesn’t make it untrue.

so, if the ghost paintings are created by layers of ‘consciously’ produced paintings, then every layer is itself also conscious, even though it’s something of a shadow of the original that has left its trace on the sheet.

but, a ‘paler’ version of the original consciousness, is not less conscious or intended, only more dimly so.

so, the ghosts paintings are palimpsests made of a series of intentional, conscious painting choices.

and, you consciously choose when you think a particular ghost painting is finished.

so, QED… your ghosts paintings are not unintentional at all, but a record of your series of conscious paintings that just happen to be superimposed on each other.

so, if every layer is the shadowy record of your conscious decisions, then the sum of the layers must also be conscious, shadowy perhaps, as incomplete impressions of the originals, but no less conscious.

its just that your ‘method’ of producing the ghosts paintings has added an additional step to your process – the repetition of the impressions of the different ‘originals’ over time.

it may be that your ghost paintings are the most intentional of all, and may be the culmination of your years of  investigative processes that you’ve long sought.

such ironclad logic cannot be refuted, my dear friend. and Aristotle would agree.

i think you are the most interesting painter on the planet.

and i’m not bullshitting.

i’m very serious, despite the seeming ‘absurdity’ of paradox of my logic… which is why the best response to their intentional truth is to LAUGH!

that’s beauty. that’s powerful.



Dear Mark

I see the constant sunshine has not affected your brain, at all. If anything, it has made you even more eloquent.  Thank you for your thoughts I find myself agreeing  90% with the initial exception that I do not  think I am  the most interesting painter on the planet because I know of some many interesting paintings.  But I take your point, it is somehow logic to claim this. Would I paint like that if had any doubt in myself not to be the most interesting painter on the planet?

Your conclusion that the best response to their intentional truth is to LAUGH is brilliant. A world class leap of the mind , congratulations.

In my life time the word paradox has changed its meaning.

In my childhood it was an expression of something absurd.

In my youth it was a tool,

now it seems more and more the place where truth can be found.

Me, as the most interesting painter on the planet and you as the most brilliant mind on the planet, we seem to share a certain fate with the most expensive diamond on the planet, which is still not duck up and consequently uncut and therefore not seen. We are getting too old to say that it is bad luck or circumstances. We made conscious decisions to not do certain things. Our conscious told us so. It is this moral implication that is in the double meaning of the world that I find interesting. Perception was such a dominate topic for so many decades, that I now wonder if looking at the moral implications that are always accompanying or decisions have not been neglected. When it came up in the process orientated public art world that we were interested in 30 years ago, it was nothing but political. Exciting in its directness but very naive. I feel ashamed of what I taught in those brief years of employment at art schools

Conscience,  consciousness, awareness, conviction, senses and even beauty, seem to be connected. Isn’t it the artist and the philosophers task to explain how?



hi alf,

sorry for my slow response. been a bit busy here.

trying to make plans to move to Maine…

i’m glad you appreciated my comments about your work, and of course, i’m surprised that you’ve perfectly understood my suggestion that the best response is to laugh.. 🙂

i can’t take credit for that, entirely. i can, in relation to your ghost works. but the general idea is Nietzsche’s. he’s famous for many things. the death of god and all that. but he also spoke of he need to ‘philosophize with a hammer’. but then he equated, in a round about way, the hammer with laughter. because laughter is the hammer that give us joy even in the face of all that is most terrible about the world.

laughter gives us the strength of the hammer in the face of all that has gone wrong, all that is unjust. it allows us to defeat our ‘enemies’ who want to subdue us. laughing in the face of our ‘enemies’ is the only proper response. because its the sign that they are utterly wrong and ridiculous. and that we are right.

and your paintings are right. whether or not they are the most interesting on the planet, they are among the most interesting on the planet.

and you’ve put it exactly right: the meaning of ‘paradox’ has changed in our life time. not only in your life time, or mine. but in general. and yes, while it may have once been a tool, it is now the only form in which ’truth’, might, possibly, reside.


why is that?

it’s because what has been previously thought of as ’truth’ has been proven to be false. and what was once considered to be ‘false’, is sometimes now considered to be ’true’.

this is exactly the ‘cultural predicament’ that Nietzsche understood was at the heart of ‘modernism’, and generally, at the heart of ‘modernity’. so the full statement of the paradox is:

modern ’truth’ is a lie. modernity is based on that lie. and that lie can be described as – ’truth’ exists, when it doesn’t and never has.

so, that view of modernism and modernity MUST make one who understands this, laugh. laugh at the foolhardy nature of humanity. we are utterly ridiculous creatures.

so… if truth is a lie, then, what is the best response?


surely, it’s to laugh at ourselves. to wield laughter as a hammer. to bring the hammer down upon modern ’truth’, and shatter it into a million pieces.

which is what your ghost paintings do, have done.

the have come into existence against your will. yet, it is your will-to-painting that has brought them into existence. that’s your painting paradox.

you thought you could WILL your paintings into existence, but you couldn’t. though you also have done. but it’s only when you discovered/invented a ‘process’ to make you ghosts, that your will escaped you, and instead, you ‘found’ another ‘process’ of making that brought your willless ghosts into existence.

but that was, and wasn’t ‘accidental’. thus their paradoxical ’truth’. you ‘found’ them through a willful recognition of their value. and once you found them, then you ‘intentionally’ ‘made’ them.

and yes, we are too old to say that we are not the product of our own decisions, ‘good and bad’. but how do we evaluate ‘good’ and ‘bad’?

what is ‘bad’ can become ‘good’; and what is ‘good’ can become ‘bad’.

this is also a Nietzchean way of evaluating the social/cultural constructs of ‘good’ and ‘bad’.

which is why he wrote a book called ‘beyond good and evil’…. but, notice, ‘bad’ is not the same as ‘evil’.


‘evil’ is a social construct invented by Christianity. it’s a christian, religious, construct.

so if one rejects Christianity, then, one must reject the concept of ‘evil’.

and then, the ‘bad’, can be ‘redeemed’ as potentially good. perhaps not as ‘bad’ in the moment that it was ‘bad’. but latter, after the ‘bad’ has been transformed into the ‘good’ through other social/cultural forces and time.

the point being, that the ‘bad’ is not ‘evil’. because in christian terms, what is ‘evil’ is forever bad. but the ‘bad’, is not necessarily forever ‘evil’.

so it’s very possible that your ‘bad’ paintings, never having been ‘evil’, might become ‘good’.

who’s to say? who has enough ’truth’ on their side to make that judgment? that judgment of ‘value’.

certainly not the art market…

certainly not some art historian or art critic or gallerist or museum.

to ‘value’ your work ‘good’ is only possible through invention.

i, mark bartlett, think that your work is very, very good. i have made that case many times. why is my opinion not sufficient? it’s based on a deep knowledge of art and painting and history.

but i don’t have the credibility of a famous art historian or critic. but that doesn’t mean that i’m wrong.

its only that i don’t have the social status and market branding that is recognized by Tate or the now criminal, mary boone…

but… eventually, i might.

so… we must invent and stand by our invention of ’truth’.

your ghost paintings are truth in the form of paradox.



Vinca and i have been communicating about her upcoming show. she wrote to me asking for my advice. she is her own person. she will do whatever she does. and that’s what makes her so amazing.

you’re right, she has no clue about the ‘importance’ of Saatchi… which is why whatever she does will be important.

one could spend hours trying to explain to her how ‘important’ Saatchi is. but she would NEVER understand. she’s not wired in a way that would allow her to understand. and the degree to which she does understand, doesn’t matter. it won’t change her approach to the exhibition. though, when i suggested that she must be ’true’ to the extent that she ‘bite the hand that feeds’, she agreed…

she’s the ‘real’ thing. someone who has somehow accidently found herself in the ‘art world’, and doesn’t give a shit about it.

her only focus is to create something in that context to which she is ’true’.

which reminds me of another controversial and paradoxical Nietzsche aphorism: truth is a woman…


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Paradox and the Ghost Paintings of Alf Lohr

and, a bit of musical conundrum: moondog’s ‘bird’s lament’: and alice contrane’s ‘turiya and ramakrishna’

certainly not a cover of ‘bird’, aka, charlie parker, but nonetheless a very moving tribute to him:

no doubt in any case a great, compositional tribute by the viking of 6th ave… “the blind busker,” louis thomas harlan, who remains one of the all time great jazz musicians.

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supplemented, in decon terms, by alice contrane, equally indeterminate… as no kind of cover of her father… as brilliant as moondog’s non-cover of Bird.

and, a bit of musical conundrum: moondog’s ‘bird’s lament’: and alice contrane’s ‘turiya and ramakrishna’

‘pure’ joy in the midst of all the mierda and scheise and shit – what life is suppose to be about, remember? oh! the voice!

for SB of brunswick:

some, many, even perhaps most, seem to think of music as merely entertainment, something one listens to in order to escape, as a side track from what’s most important, work… that view has things entirely upside down. in utopia, work wouldn’t exist, and we’d spend all our time listening to music, looking at art, reading great literature, going to the theater. yes, of course, this view can be dismissed as merely utopian. an unattainable dream and fantasy. still, it’s not wrong. what would ‘art’ do in world free of capitalist enslavement of workers? wouldn’t it have no subjects? no, it wouldn’t. it would celebrate, what? it would celebrate ‘life’, the ‘life’ of the everyday, of everydayness, that aspect of life 99.9% percent of those living live and suffer. there would be no lack of material to sing about, in a utopian. only a demented and barren imaginary whose only ‘subject’ is the politics of capitalism and it’s intentionally manufactured suffering for the greatest number of people, could ‘imagine’ that humans evolved to be workers for the rich who spend their time, not working, but buying art to hang on the walls of their super-yachts and hire art historian consultants to give lessons to their crews so that they don’t use a scrubby to clean vomit off a picasso.

neither does life imitate art; nor art imitate life; art IS life; life IS art. those who don’t live art as life, and, life as art, are dead; today, those who don’t understand this are most exemplified by the ‘businessman’, the ‘accountant’, those for whom ‘value’ is ONLY conceived as monetary, as credits to their balance sheets at the cost of ALL workers, lives. capitalists are truly, barbarian animals who only ‘value’ their own pocketbooks and have no problem with slaughtering anyone, literally, anyone, who gets in the way of that.

sorry, back to the alternative possibility: pure joy as expressed by one of the most robust of the world’s oppressed populations: far more than jews in fact, the gypsies. whose skepticism, cynicism, distrust of others, dignity and resistance, has produced one of the world’s greatest bodies of musical joy of the greatest intelligence. personally, as a committed atheist, i’ve often imagined, if i were forced to chose a religion, what religion would i choose? i’ve often imagined that i would become a zen sufi.  but i’ve realized that ‘zen’ and ‘sufi’ are redundant terms, theologically speaking. musically speaking, they are quite different. i don’t think zen has a dance tradition. and any culture that doesn’t dance is moribund. therefore, i would elect to be a sufi, for whom art and the imagination and the body are inextricably linked. for them, there is no ‘worship’ with dance, and therfore with a body. zen would be happy to do without the body, or, the mind. but in sufism, the body and the mind are so intertwined they are inseparable. but… if gypsy-ism were a theology, it would be my first choice. perhaps it might be conceived as a political-theology, and therefore, a practice, that is, a practice, a practice, of secular spirituality based entirely in/on/about, human being, existential being, as a self-conscious and self-reflective art, in practice. thus i’m a fan of the composer/muscian goran bregovic, a non-gypsie, who gained the respect of gypsies enough so that they would not only play with him, but absorbed his compositions into their own musical tranditions, as he did theirs. now, that, IS, living art as life and life as art, across boundaries. Bregovic is a paradigm of the sociopolitical artist for whom is life can become an artist practice, even utopian, in practice.

and no, i don’t intend to speak here of ‘style’ or ‘genre’. i intend to speak of an artistic practice that grabs hold of everyday life. of an artistic practice that remarkably ‘feels’ and ‘expresses’, human existence as it is, as exactly as possible, without a trace of the market’s demand for branding.

it’s not only the gypsies who do this, of course. though they may have been at it longer than most absorbed into the western musical canon… deep waters here. so i stop here. with armstrong’s  ‘black face’ pose…  and his great ‘gypsy’ music.

‘pure’ joy in the midst of all the mierda and scheise and shit – what life is suppose to be about, remember? oh! the voice!

one of the problems with ID politics gone wrong

this truly fab and unfortunately short lived french band of the 80s, Les Rita Mitsouko, so obviously inspired by the amor between it founders, guitarist Fred Chichin and singer/dancer Catherine Ringer, would be driven from the stage today by the rabid catcalls of the jeering crowds of ID political fanatics. COLONIALIST APPROPRIATERS!! they would scream. That is, if they even noticed the fact that neither Fred nor Catherine were neither japanese nor indian. it’s likely that they wouldn’t. they would merely boo because of what they would perceive as poor visual quality, mistaking great wit and great musical quality for kitsch while lamenting that it wasn’t available on their dumb smart phones and hadn’t been delivered to them through facelessbook. it’s doubtful that they would even know what a ‘book’ is.

yes, perhaps i’m being particularly narrow minded myself and over-generalizing. perhaps. am i being mean-spirited? a bit. with good reason? some. do i have many close friends committed to social media and in particular, facebook? yes. will i offend them? no because they love me despite my polemic views. still, i doubt in the land of trump and adele and beiber that i’m that far off. i’m far from the only one condemning facebook. but how many of those i condemn here have heard of the latest american banjo sensation: songs of our native daughters? or rhiannon giddens? let alone Les Rita Mitsouko?

but back to Les Rita Mitsouko: what happened to humor? humor is not an human pathos devoid of politics, necessarily. what’s happened to the intelligent musical use of the kazoo? last heard with zappa?

and by the way: as reported by the ‘female’ brain scientist, Gina Rippon:

The idea of the male brain and the female brain suggests that each is a characteristically homogenous thing and that whoever has got a male brain, say, will have the same kind of aptitudes, preferences and personalities as everyone else with that ‘type’ of brain. We now know that is not the case. We are at the point where we need to say, ‘Forget the male and female brain; it’s a distraction, it’s inaccurate.’ It’s possibly harmful, too, because it’s used as a hook to say, well, there’s no point girls doing science because they haven’t got a science brain, or boys shouldn’t be emotional or should want to lead.

so much for identity politics. and yes, i realize that brain science doesn’t automatically obviate systemic gender, race and other ID’s that are culturally, socially constructed and maintained. but it’s a start to move away from tribalism and libertarian, socially constructed individualism that only fractures and fragments the social cohesion absolutely necessary to rebuild a viable public human and humanity, and even extend that to include all other animals, and of course, the environment and the planet. the problem is not that men treat women badly, or that white people treat black people badly. it’s that treating non-males and non-whites badly, is not okay, period. that female people and black people share the same problem. that male  white people have more power than non-male and non-white people, is the problem. that’s an ethical problem that can summed up as, treating anyone badly is not okay. so the social strategy is not to empower women and non-white people; but to disempower non-women and non-colored  people. the problem with the strategy of empowerment of non-males and non-whites, is that it seeks only to level the playing field on the terms of those who are already powerful; so that power doesn’t change –it’s only, in theory, more equitably distributed. more non-whites and non-males are allowed into the white boys club, while the club remains the same. the implication of this analysis is that class is indeed the primary locus for political change toward social and economic justice; because, disparity in wealth is ultimately, the gate keeper of power. obama didn’t become president because he was black at a time when the electors were tired of a white ruling class; it was because he had access to power; and he had access to power because he had access to wealth. that’s a bit over-simplified, but not by much. my point being that obama wasn’t elected because of his identity, but because he had transcended it, through access to power = wealth. because of his class, derived in part from his elite standing as a graduate of harvard law school and all the power and wealth that comes from that, because it allowed him access to the brand of higher class social status. remember, that the longer he was in power, the more his support from the black constituency diminished.

Screen Shot 2019-02-24 at 6.43.06 AMobama’s post-presidential vacation on branson’s boat off the shore of the latter’s caribbean home depicting the mock conflict between races and – the mock conflict between corporate and political power. at that level of power, no conflict exists. not even between Trump and Muslims: power and wealth dissolves all ID politics. similarly, the only form of political resistance to racism and genderism etc., is through class alliances. if you’re not a millionaire, then you’re lower class, no matter who you are. the ‘middle class’ no longer exists. if you’re not a multi-millionaire, then you’re merely a wage earning worker. so, worker’s must unite!

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one of the problems with ID politics gone wrong

banksy of england

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Contacted by the Guardian, a spokesperson for the artist said the banknote had been donated by “someone who runs Banksy’s currency exchange”.

As well as showing Diana’s face instead of the Queen’s, the note has been altered to read “Banksy of England” and the motto: “I promise to pay the bearer on demand the ultimate price.”

banksy of england

whoa! inuit punk heavy metal avant-garde classical?

thanks to my dear friend richard steinbacher for passing this on.

in concert with Nanook for the North: First Peoples Cinema kicks off with the world premiere of the acclaimed throat-singer’s new composition, created especially to accompany our screening of Robert Flaherty’s classic documentary, Nanook for the North.

and for contrast, tagaq with native american, buffy sainte-marie

whoa! inuit punk heavy metal avant-garde classical?