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Brian Eno's installation at SF MOMA in "010101: Art in Technological Times"

Wednesday, Mar 7 2001
If we could only get a machine to write about music Brian Eno has been at the crossroads of music and technology for 30 years, from his days as a founding member of Roxy Music to his production work with Talking Heads, U2, and David Bowie to his groundbreaking ambient albums. So it makes sense that he would be asked to take part in "010101: Art in Technological Times," the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art's new exhibit. The show, which (despite its name) opened this week, features recent and commissioned work from 35 international artists, architects, and designers who have examined how technology infuses the modern world. The ultimate irony is that Eno's sound installation, Compact Forest Proposal, is admittedly low-tech compared to the work of some of his fellow exhibitors. "The guy next door has so many computers," Eno says with a laugh.

When putting together his installation, Eno "tried to think of places I wished existed in cities." At first he wanted to fill his high, cube-shaped display room with 12 tree trunks, but changed his mind when he found out they would have to be fumigated to keep bugs from eating the rest of the museum's pieces. Instead, he arranged small lights in a tubelike fashion, running from pods on the floor to grids at the ceiling. "It's got a marine and rocket feel," Eno says. Even with the lights on, the room is quite dark; when viewers' eyes adjust, they see an officious live man hovering nearby. "I want it to feel like a government proposal for an architecturally simulated forest, from the Gap or something," Eno says.

For musical accompaniment, Eno has taken a piece he composed, separated out the instrumental components, and placed each on a different CD. The discs are played in a random sequence on different boom boxes while speakers attached to the grids emit high-frequency noises. The result is a constantly shifting, continually evolving soundtrack. "I want people to experience art "in time,' instead of seeing it and just moving on," Eno says. "The idea is to seduce people into staying longer. In other cities where I've done these installations, people come for hours and sit and eat their lunches."

The security staff has been duly warned.

In keeping with the exhibit's techno bent, the museum will present "Zero: One," a dance event on Saturday, March 10, from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. As with past evening programs for Sol LeWitt and Bill Viola shows, "Zero: One" will allow attendees to browse the collection late into the night -- and enjoy the work of electronica DJs from the Bay Area and around the world. Scheduled artists include Swayzak, Twerk, Evil Eddie Richards, Jonah Sharp of Spacetime Continuum, and DJ Nikola. Tickets are $25; call 789-7690 or visit for information.

Nobody gets on David Bowie's case for "China Doll" anymore Mark Kozelek, leader of local group Red House Painters, certainly has his fans. SF Weekly reader Stephanie Chin is currently not one of them. After witnessing Kozelek's recent solo performance at the Great American Music Hall, Chin wrote us a letter saying that she was "shocked when [Kozelek] made some openly offensive and racist remarks about Asians." According to Chin, Kozelek sang a song about an "erotic brown-eyed toy," mimicked his Asian landlady's broken English, and related a story about introducing a cat song to a South Korean audience by saying, "Oh, but you guys eat cats here." Chin said he then imitated a Korean girl's response ("No, we eat dog, we no eat cat, we eat dog!"), to the crowd's amusement. "When did it become acceptable to perform a debased characterization based on ugly ethnic stereotypes in order to bring a few cheap laughs?" Chin wondered.

When asked about the show, Kozelek offered to fax us a response to the letter. In it he explained, "I felt that in the lighthearted way that I made the jokes, no one could have taken offense to them." He related that the 400 Koreans who heard his cat joke laughed at it, and insisted that he was making fun of his landlord's absurd actions, not her language skills. As for his imitation, he suggested, "If someone does an impression of George W. Bush with a Southern drawl, it doesn't necessarily mean that they have an agenda against Texans." (Of course, Texans aren't technically a racial minority.) And the song lyric? "It is obviously about a playful period in a relationship between two people."

"The comments were made with a sense of humor and without bad intentions, and I'm shocked to be getting this call," Kozelek wrote. Not as shocked as I was to be making it. While I'm sure Kozelek is sincere in his apology, he doesn't seem aware that racial stereotyping is yesteryear's yucks, like "President" Bush's drinking problem. As for his lyrics, they're not exactly William Butler Yeats, are they?

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Dan Strachota


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