Fred Schmalz Responds to Alan Gilbert’s “Transdermal express”

Seven thoughts on “Transdermal express”
These thoughts do not correspond to the seven sections of “Transdermal Express.” “This is the mixtape version of the mixtape” is one way of putting it. But so is “a living room.” So is the late, fleeting mention of a daughter who needs protection. Or, to bastardize Lenny Bruce: this is an example of the extravagant times we live in.

Sometimes a great leap. Sometimes restarting. Renaming. Sometimes resultant from a decision. Vague feeling that chance operation determines sequence but that the elements are pre-ordained. The elements are chiseled. The elements form sentences. Modular units. With the sentence no coherence is lost. We can tell what’s said, but what’s meant may be much harder to determine from these parts puzzled together, the logic of the sequence more expansive than its components. What does it add up to? From “I do this I do that” to “this happens that happens.” Which is not to say “I am passive” but “I am witness I am affected.”

In Stephen G. Rhodes’ recent exhibition at Metro Pictures gallery, “Grundlegung Zur Krankisch Grundrisse Kopf bis Magen Innere Wirkung Natur Kapputt Aus Gemacht” (, four projectors rotate at intervals from a kind of totem pole in the middle of a darkened room. Each projects a different, complimentary film. What is more disorienting than the shifting images is the mash-up of four soundtracks. Four layers from the center ricocheting around the gallery space, while the eyes can not watch all four images. At an electronics store, sometimes the TVs are tuned to single channel, other times a salesperson on probation, who may as well quit anyway, has tinkered with the remote and now 200 screens show 200 stations. This is a problem for the eyes as well as a riddle for the ears. What voice goes with what talking head?

The angst of the abundance of options. Angst for the unknown. Angst felt by the guardian. The angst that our private past submarines our public persona.

A hollowness here, peeling the onion, of occurrence consuming itself until, in the absence of the real, the only viable option is re-inhabiting a barely-habitable space. Settling for a settlement. Retrenchment in the face of the onslaught of detritus. Irrigation is a last resort, but it is a resort.

The answer is “nothing” or the answer is “sensation” or we all go to L.A. to jump the shark. Whose posse? Whose hangers-on? Sailors, surfers, swimmers have angst for real or imagined dorsal fins. It is often over long before it ends.

We have lost control of the machine, if we ever had it. Projectiles unmaneuverable. What shot from cannon or musket, reenactment of migrating geese, only the foggiest notion where they are headed, past catapulted into the present, constellations beamed at ceilings or into night skies. We throw out and it adds up.

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