Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Cameron Jamie

Last night, on the way home walking down Bedford Avenue, I stopped at Spoonbill & Sugartown, for a just-before-going-home browse where I purchased the Walker Art Center catalogue for a recent show of Cameron Jamie.

A few years ago my first encounter w/ Cameron Jamie's work was the book Rugburn, which is photographs of Jamie, in what looks like modified Dr. Dentons & a wrestling mask, wrestling in an apartment with a Michael Jackson look-a-like. With no other context (who is this person? what is going on?) than what I saw before me it was such a great delight - the humor & excess have not diminished for me yet. Jamie was also an editor of a Taschen book of Theo Ehret's Exquisite Mayhem, of erotic photographs of "apartment wrestling" such as that duplicated by Jamie & the Jacko look-a-like - all of which piqued my interests - both in terms of seeing more of Jamie's work & also finding more apartment wrestling pix.

(Also, a few years ago with Tim Lehmacher, in a junk shop on Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint I found a few - when I went back a few weeks later to get more, the store had disappeared. It all seemed like a dream).

The catalogue from the Walker is the first museum show of Jamie's work, in the US. The binding is eccentric - slipcased in gray cardboard, with a faux "typed" name on the front, the glue binding is exposed rather than covered - it is deliberately poor, unfinished, abject looking. Other than a foreword, an introduction by Philippe Vergne, & a poem by Charles Bukowski, there is no other identifying text. The book exists as images only, of artwork, installations, photographs. As such, as well as with its "industrial" binding, it reads more as an oblique artist's book, than a museum retrospective.

Identified as a child of the San Fernando Valley, Jamie's work primarily embodies the fantasies, fears & dissociations of a teen culture one would associate with a generic US suburbia, not necessarily the Valley in particular. Although I can't help but think that southern California is a sort of ur-Suburbia for the rest of the country. A place both new (without history, without depth) & obsolete. A place with the semblance of home, a home at its phoniest, & yet not home to anyone: who could belong to such a place? Made from blueprints of cliches, charted with commodities, which are the true subjects of this post-war domestic idyll. Jamie's work also addresses the flux & indeterminacy of adolescence as it makes sense of a society of junk, transforming the weird, the obscure and the lurid into rituals, into cargo cults centered around horror movies, old porn, loud music.

When I see Gillian Barberie on Good Day, LA, speaking about living in the Valley (hanging with her girlfriends Carmen Electra & Pamela Anderson), or more luridly, some of the late-night fare on Skinemax, such as Bikini Escort Company, I think to myself: this garbage is the dreamed-for Valley, this is mall-nirvana, but what it's really like is what I see in Cameron Jamie's work, which is more withdrawn & yet rages more too (besides being more interesting - no offense to Gillian Barberie). One could call it a kind of documentary of frustrations & horrors & stupidity too.

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