Harvard Law Record — Profile

Harvard Law Record -- Profile

The Harvard Law Record recently did a profile piece on me, “From Law School to Novelist and Art Critic.”

Alexander Boldizar ’99 became recognized by Slovakia’s president as the “first Slovak citizen to graduate from Harvard Law School” when, as he puts it, “small country nepotism” got him back the citizenship he’d abandoned in 1989 (he thought it would be unsafe to keep it during a visit to the crumbling Berlin Wall). Since then, he has managed an art gallery in Bali, established a flourishing career in editing and freelance writing, and has continued to seek publication of his magnum opus, The Ugly, a satirical novel about a dispossessed Siberian tribe that sends one of its members, Muzhduk, to learn the ways of lawyers from HLS, a plotline which helps express Boldizar’s frustrations with law and legal reasoning. Below, Boldizar writes on his path from the law to novelist and art critic, followed by an excerpt from The Ugly.

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Ashley Bickerton’s Sad Anthropologists

Reprinted from C-Arts Magazine, July 2010.

“The purpose of poetry is to remind us how difficult it is to remain just one person.” —Czeslaw Milosz

Ashley Bickerton’s paintings are a form of combat between attachment and its opposite, a fusion of subject matter with distance between the parts. His mastery of tone—tone as defined by writers, not painters; that elusive internal, fluid, ambient quality in art that is shaped by the attitude of the artist towards his subject, or towards his audience, or towards himself and his way of painting, that nearly impossible-to-define tug of war—through a dialectic, sometimes dialogic, angular use of tone he holds things together but also always apart, and that is refreshing. Total integration is a terrible thing. In any work of art, and probably in life as well.

Chekov once said that if a playwright hangs a gun on the wall in the first act, there had better be a murder by the third. And that is the reason I don’t watch plays, except when they’re written by a friend and I can’t find an excuse fast enough. They feel claustrophobic, an elevator, a closed box taking you in a simple line, opening up into the deracinated self-consciousness of the artist’s private aesthetic salon or, at the very least, onto a grotesque scene of the artist clutching his subject like a monkey.

It’s exhilarating to find an artist who can sip a slurpie while watching an atrocity without losing his capacity for care.

I stood in Bickerton’s Bali studio looking at Preparation with Green Sky, a vaguely Polynesian bacchanal taken to bounteous limits, and a part of my mind kept drifting towards the callipygian shape in the background. “I like something about the unselfconscious glee in which the fecund young women proffer their piglets and their buttocks to no one in particular while the blue man offers his bounty directly to the viewer,” Bickerton says.

And the critic answers, “I can’t stop looking at that butt.”

Continue reading Ashley Bickerton’s Sad Anthropologists

The Happy Anarchist

The Happy Anarchist

Reprinted from Liberty Magazine (October 2009)

Over the years the people I’ve met who self-identify as “anarchists” tend to be among the dumbest and the smartest people I’ve had the pleasure or displeasure of knowing. Very few reasonable people attach that label to themselves. In an attempt to avoid being lumped with the dumbest, I thought I’d distill my reasons for doing so, from the least to the most important.

1. Anarchism as the conscience of law. Given democratic notions of legitimacy, the fewer people who believe in “the rule of law” (i.e., the more who believe it is just a veiled imposition of power), the more transparent the veil, and the more the law has to obey its own rules in order to maintain legitimacy. When rule-of-law marketing and propaganda are insufficient to create legitimacy, the powerful have to limit the arbitrary use of their power and shrink the number of cases they can treat as extraordinary. Anarchists weaken the faith element within law, and by doing so force it to obey its own rules.

Continue reading The Happy Anarchist

I, Muzhduk (prologue of The Ugly)

The River Lena

Reprinted from Transition Magazine, issue #96, where it was published as The River Lena. Official representative of Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference to Best New American Voices Anthology.

Muzhduk stepped left to put himself in the path of the flying boulder. It was the size and shape of a small woman curled up in a ball, but much heavier, and it came at him like a cannon shot. Muzhduk leaned forward to meet the boulder, knees bent, hoping to absorb the impact with his legs. He staggered backward with the force of the blow, but did not drop the big rock.

The audience erupted with clapping, cheering, and mumbling, and a cloud of yellow butterflies scattered from the noise. His opponent was Hulagu, arguably the strongest Slovak in the tribe, and all six villages were present for the Dull-Boulder Throw. All the Slovaks who lived in the mountains of northeastern Siberia were there, lined up along the edges of the saddle-shaped mountain ridge. Even those so old or sick they knew the trip would kill them. Two had died on the way.

The audience looked at Muzhduk intently. He knew that some of them were wondering whether he would disqualify himself. He hadn’t ducked or moved out of the way, of course, but no one had ever tried to absorb the shock with his legs before. Arms and chest were normal, and he could see Hulagu bite his fat lips wanting to make a charge of dishonor, which would itself be dishonorable.

Continue reading I, Muzhduk (prologue of The Ugly)

Magic

Reprinted from C-Arts Magazine, January 2010.

“Homo vult decipi; decipiatHeironymous Bosch, The Conjurer, oil on panel, 53 x 65 cm, 1496-1520 (date unknown), Courtesy of Musée Municipal, Saint-Germain-en-Layeur.”

.Through years of traveling the world and writing articles in magazines, I’ve developed psychic powers. I can influence your actions by controlling the cadence of the text on the page as you read it. Unlike some charlatan astrologers, psychics and witch doctors, my skill is based in science, a lifetime of studying how the rhythm of language influences brainwaves, particularly certain passages buried deep within the English language, passages that were dictated to me by an old woman, a hermeneutic. The study of those passages demanded supreme scholarship to interpret, years of intense application, and it has still not been wholly worked out. In order to help me, the old woman gave birth to my grandmother, who bore my mother. When my mother gave birth to me, there I was, deciphering the dictations of the old woman.

Continue reading Magic

Damien Hirst: New Paintings (Interview)

Reprinted from C-Arts Magazine (1)-Websized-Damien-Hirst-in-his-Bali-studio,-2009,-Photo-by-Ashley-Bickerton-as-JPEG(Issue #10), September 2009. The interview took place in February of 2009.

One of the very best things that can happen to a thinking person is to have his assumptions flipped. When I met Damien Hirst on Bali’s Brawa Beach, where he was finishing an intense three-month painting session, I expected him to have a bumper sticker on his lap t op that said, “Suck my cock vomit.” Which he did. But I didn’t expect him to be extraordinarily down-to-earth, generous, and aware of his own position in a way that is caring rather than cynical.

This interview is the first he’s given since deciding here in Bali to stop all his production pieces in order to focus on making his own paintings. In the process, it touches on everything from the suicide of his close friend to the essence of painting to five-foot wooden gi raffes—with a detour on the nature of visual language using Vaseline and a cucumber.

Alexander Boldizar: So you’ve stopped your production?

Damien Hirst: Yeah, I’ve stopped it all.

Continue reading Damien Hirst: New Paintings (Interview)

Fear

Reprinted from C-Arts Magazine, September 2009.
 

The desire for security stands against every great and noble enterprise. —Tacitus

In New York City you can get a ticket for sitting on a milk crate or taking up two seats on a subway or putting on a puppet show visible from the street or climbing a tree or driving a taxi while wearing shorts. NYPD officers walk through the stairwells of housing projects where crack gangs once ruled, not with drug dogs but with decibel-meters to hand out tickets to teenagers playing their music too loud. Central Park was once both dangerous and beautiful, but now someone has installed a fence every ten meters and it feels less natural than even the densest maze of Brooklyn concrete.

During my four years in New York, I walked alone at night into five or six of the worst projects in Brownsville, East Ne w York, Harlem and the Bronx (to interview people), and I never experienced a moment of fear—something that only an escapee from a mental institution could have said fifteen years earlier.

Continue reading Fear

Art as a Lifestyle

Paul Renner, Theatrum Anatomicum, KUB Plaza, 2007

Paul Renner, Theatrum Anatomicum, KUB Plaza, 2007

Reprinted from C-Arts Magazine (November 2008)

Art as a Lifestyle—those four words have such fundamentally opposite possibilities of meaning that it’s like titling an article “Precision and the Soul” and then trying to decide where to start.

The idea of art as a lifestyle requires a definition of art. Artists have asked what is art? for a very long time now; some illustrate the question with every piece they make. And, perhaps, at one end of the spectrum of opposed meanings, art as a lifestyle is the process of artists living out the question of what is art? every day. It’s the vague magic that still dares to believe art is a real thing, interesting because of the impossibility of defining it, gathering people who still quest for it. This is the vaguely utopian, perhaps naïve view of an artful life. In “Precision and the Soul,” this interpretation of art as a lifestyle would be the soul bit. It’s the part not easily amenable to textual interpretation. Writing about it sounds unsophisticated, talking about it best left to freshmen in art school. But it is also the ineffable essence of art, the starting point where art is still art, before it becomes celebrity, marketing, politics, corporations, image or an assimilatory safety valve by which our markets absorb enemies of the state.

Perhaps this should be called art as a mindset, the mental plasticization of a lived reality, where walking through the streets of Delhi can be art, whether you’re from there or not, where every morning you walk out of your house to a new garden because the garden along with all physical reality is determined by subjective layers of shifting meaning.

Some artists have tried to extend and magnify this idea, turning life actions into art, like Hermann Nitsch Dionysian naked baths in the intestines of freshly slaughtered pigs and lambs—as Otto Mühl wrote in the Vienna Actionists manifesto, “Far more important than baking bread is the urge to take dough-beating to the extreme”—or one of Paul Renner’s Hardcore Dinners, in which I was lucky enough to participate once.

Continue reading Art as a Lifestyle

Ugly Blog

I asked my three-year-old son for a word that starts with “A.”

Samson said, “Asshole.”

I said, “There’s no such word.”

He said, “That’s strange, the asshole exists but the word doesn’t.”