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iBerkshires.com Columnist Section

Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

Mojo Chronicle

By Mark Mulherrin
12:00AM / Saturday, January 13, 2007

Mark Mulherrin
Welcome to Mojo Chronicle, a monthly column focused on the up-front and behind-the-scenes workings of the regional arts community and written by artist Mark Mulherrin.


You should be careful what you wish for.

As a working artist and teacher in the Berkshires for the past six years I have thought from time to time about the possibility of writing art criticism. This perverse desire came from several directions at once.

While there is an energetic amount of artistic activity in the region, a great deal of it apparently goes largely unnoticed by the local press. I’m not talking about press releases, which are usually generated by the concerned parties themselves, but criticism, which is ideally both praise and blame in equal measure.

A press release only tells me in glowing terms what is going to happen. What is lacking is an accessible and consistent voice that might deign to describe what in fact did happen. I can assure you that the absence of such a voice can have a curious effect on the artists themselves.

After a while one can begin to doubt that anything has actually taken place at all.

The opportunity arose and this first installment, by way of an
introduction, will be a brief column about the possibility of a column.

The title; well, you got to name the baby. This part is already
tricky because it prematurely sets the tone for the whole shooting
match. Having tried a few things on for size I got stuck between
pompous and trite. I almost went with Critical Mass. but nixed that one at the last minute for two reasons.

After I laid it on Sean R. in the parking lot of Nassif’s Drug Store one recent sunny day ( the t-shirts read “I get my drugs at Nassif’s” ), he asked me if I knew about the other Critical Mass..

The only other one I knew about was an atomic phenomenon but it turns out there is a national organized movement involving bicycles blocking traffic to protest cars which makes about as much sense as tossing vegetables at cows to protest meat.

The other reason was my wife didn’t like it, she thought it sounded harsh.

Mojo is a word for me that exists purely as connotation.... I don’t know specifically what it means. Though the term itself originated in Africa and refers to a red flannel bag containing implements for conjuring or magic its' meaning has eroded through mixed usage in American culture and lost its' way.

The first time I recall hearing it Mr. Mojo was Rising. Then Hunter S. Thompson frequently referred to this thing he had, a mojo wire, which sounded like a cross between a teletype and a fax machine through which terrible news would stream into his fortified bunker.

Austin Powers lost his.

There is also a frequent - to the point of meaningless - use of
the word in the subcatagorical microcosm of vintage guitar collecting
referring to some unknown, unclassifiable but ultimately desirable
quality. It was this function of the term that caused me to
appropriate it with reference to the art game some years ago.

You could say it is equal to Art Quantity plus X with X being that magical unknown but tangible something or other that keeps us coming back. I would call it a Palpable Energetic Presence. It can occur in the most unlikely places. It can ring your doorbell and run away or evaporate quicker than acetone. Then again it can reside calmly in the cold, busted torso of a Khmer stone carving for a thousand years.

Chronicle is less personal than diary, more formal than blog,
blog being a word that I must confess is hard to take seriously no matter what the content. It sounds vaguely unsanitary.

A chronicle suggests to me an unfolding, living document as it were, the verbal record of a time and place.

The concept was for a weekly column of commentary on the local art scene, the larger art world and the business of being an artist. A week comes around fast but I also realize this is something I do pretty much constantly anyway, to anyone who’ll even pretend to listen.

A month seems more reasonable. The beauty of the idea was that I didn’t think of it. The chance to develop a line of commentary in this way opened up my initial question about writing criticism into something much less conventional than I had originally intended (see show, review show). The column itself could take the form of art reviews, musings, profiles of artists known and unknown, rants and raves on the vicissitudes of this strange profession, an attempt to understand what’s going on.

I am open to suggestions and would appreciate your input if there is anything important that is missing. It is a pleasure to linger, however briefly, in that happy place where anything is possible and which lasts precisely as long as it takes for your habits to catch up with you.

For the privilege of addressing a larger audience I’m willing to
endure the anxiety of educating myself in public and hope you will findit an endearing rather than foolish endeavor.

See you in the funny papers.


Mark W. Mulherrin is a visual artist living in North Adams.
Your Comments
Post Comment

sounds great!
...i will be tuning in
from: hezzon: 01-31 00:00:00-2007

I have experienced some of your rants raves and musings first hand. They are good stuff. I hope you let them percolate freely as you wonder through this art world and then bring them to your column without looking back. I look forward to reading more.
Tony Israel
from: Tony Israelon: 01-22 00:00:00-2007

My best wishes to the Mojo Chronicle.
I eagerly await the next entry.
Congrats Mark.
from: Sean R.on: 01-22 00:00:00-2007


 
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