Letter of the Week
Sounding off

Re Tobi Tobias's review of the Francesca Selva Group, which danced in Danspace in New York [September 21–27]: I think that a person should always express her opinion, but in a well-mannered tone. I find Tobias's article a wholly uncalled-for criticism, considering that we are not responsible for the quality of the sound. The problem is with Danspace, I think. If a choreographer is not good enough to make a work understandable, probably she is not a good choreographer. But I think that if a critic is not constructive and if she reviews the performance very superficially, she is not a good critic. Perhaps if the critic had a good dinner, the criticism would be different?

Marcello Valassina
Assistant, Francesca Selva Group
Siena, Italy

Mall rats

In Jerry Saltz's article "The Battle for Babylon" [September 21–27], he seems to imply that there is no indigenous New York City art community with its own unique paradigm, just a lot of wannabe hordes descending upon the edifices of visual culture. Artists who come to New York from anywhere and everywhere immediately refashion their résumés to read "New York City artist." Soho was just such a community before the late adopters—the gallery dealers—descended like ravenous locusts on what had been an artists' colony. The art retailers transformed the community into an art mall, scattering the artists and many indigenous avant-garde creators and venues to other places. By the time the media arrived to validate the magick of Soho there was the appearance and the assertion that it was the art dealers who discovered and indeed anointed the scene there: Paula Cooper, Max Protech, and the 420 Broadway "gang of four" under Leo Castelli's dollar-sign banner. They, in fact, destroyed Soho; first by giving it that stupid name and second by driving out most of the genuine originality and native visions of the indigenous artists.

If there is any reason that art itself has been diminished in relevance and has morphed into various forms of public entertainment rather than inhabiting its traditional vocational role as the paradigm of a culture, it is that art writers like Jerry Saltz look to the art supermarkets for their understanding of art rather than to the artists in their studios and hideaways—hideaways as far from the art malls as possible. The magazines and media do not appear until it's time to laud the aftermath, so Jerry Saltz can rest assured that not only is there a healthy avant-garde—perhaps several varieties—in the New York City environs, but that he won't ever find it until it's too late.

Peter Barton
Hudson, New York

Nimrod's lead

"The Battle for Babylon" was a refreshing read. I am in full agreement, but may I add: Our "hyper-driven" art scene is simply the result of an organized system of art making and art collecting.

Across the board we are experiencing a loss of interest in immediacy. Our art today is aligned with Madison Avenue. We must go a step further, even long for the ghetto—a city against the city—where ideas are made outside the protective, structured systems of thought and the revolving doors of higher education. Our art world is tainted by M.A. degrees.

Today in New York City, even with endless access to the great examples of art as influence, our artists seem only to comprehend the formal structure of such masterworks. We see cubism but share nothing resembling the intellectual life and times that produced such work. I am amazed that in our time of world calamity our artists lack emotional gesture. They are settling for superficial art making, painting from the tube. In today's compositions there is no temper. We are making art from the point of view of method, untouched by any authentic intellectual concerns—an art surmounting mounds of eclecticism.

Great art is tested by the extreme, history has shown. But when did this become the program? Bypass the years spent confessing to graduate advisers and exchange your faux lens for a genuine eye—an eye for experience. More importantly, edit to that which defines your art. Fewer but greater works will slow our hyped market. Only the best work should become the property of the bourgeois (even at great demands of dealers, even if it leaves one moneyless). We need to find the desire to create on the organic level—either angry like de Kooning or quiet like Tworkov.

The same goes for our curators and gallerists. Technology, e-mails, and jpegs must not surpass a genuine knock on the studio door. Technology carries a tithe. The raw human exchange is what we are missing. Artists across America, as a collective, can no longer make art that isn't aware of what is happening around the world. In many great cities artists are twisting, wrestling, destroying, and building. And yet we continue to feed on comfort food—"Art becoming a good job," as Saltz states. Where is our struggle?

J. Andrew
Rouses Point, New York

Politically wrongeous

In your Best of New York [October 12–18], page 44, you promote some place called Uncle Ming's, started by men who took an "Asian sex tourism vacation." Is that supposed to be edgy and cool? You've sent these pigs lots of business and called their joint "best of": It would seem you think so.

The "sex tourism" trade is based on the worst of human greed and exploitation. Many of these women, men, and children could only be called slaves. This "anything you want" that a rich American can get includes some cruel stuff—fucking little kids, trapping and abusing people of all ages economically and sometimes by force. Do you think these "college friends" have a clue about what went into providing their jollies? I thought you were a politically righteous paper.

M. Boloff

Scarred for life

Once again we have to thank Jennifer Gonnerman for showing us in "Tanisha's Scars" [October 5–11] the substandard mental-health care the people in the New York State Department of Correction Services receive from the mental-health providers at the Office of Mental Health. OMH did nothing to prevent Tanisha from getting worse and getting more punishment. She went in with a two-to-six-year sentence and 11 years later she is still there. Why did they not do something to prevent her from getting more prison time? Instead of treating her behavior as severe symptoms of a deteriorated mental condition, they chose to look at Tanisha as a criminal, sentencing her to solitary confinement for years on end. Shuttling her back and forth between Central New York Psychiatric Hospital and the SHU accomplished nothing. It is unconscionable that public policy allows such cruelty and inhumane treatment of a person with a psychiatric disorder. It is time to stop using the prisons as a substitute for treatment. Mental illness is not a crime.

Leah Gitter
Rights for Imprisoned People With Psychiatric Disorders

Forever young

Re Mark Holcomb's review of Kurt Vonnegut's A Man Without a Country [October 5–11]: Vonnegut was a pillar of the counterculture during the heyday of the Voice. Holcomb's lack of appreciation for his new book springs from Holcomb's appetite for producing clever-sounding, lightweight, slapdash criticism. Seniors are such easy targets. Who is cold enough to accuse an octogenarian literary past master of "brain farts"? May you become so lucid by the time you reach 83.

Robert Sidney LaVelle

Niles's a jewel

The characterization "who-the-fucks like John Jacob Niles" in Jon Dolan's review of Scorsese's No Direction Home shames the Voice [October 5–11]. Niles's reputation and stature are not diminished by such comments. It is a sad fact that none of his many recordings are currently available. But this is a comment on the pathetic state of the recording industry and a reflection of ignorant comments like Dolan's rather than on Niles and his importance.

William Messing
St. Paul, Minnesota

Didn't deny

James Ridgeway fumbles the ball in "The Whistleblower and Harriet Miers" [Mondo Washington, October 4, villagevoice.com]. He writes: "Barnes hit the headlines during Bush's first campaign because he supposedly was the man who got young George out of the draft and into the Texas National Guard, a charge he denied." Wrong. In fact, ol' Ben acknowledged on 60 Minutes (September 8, 2004) that he had arranged a position in the National Guard to help Georgie avoid the draft.

Leslie Pool
Dripping Springs, Texas

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