clockwise from top: "May Dav IV," 2000, by Andreas Gursky; Thai Elephant Orchestra; Takashi Murakumi's "The Lonesome Cowboy"
1. SUPERFLAT. This enlightening aggregation of all thats new and ancient in Japanese visual culture concludes its run at L.A.s Museum of Contemporary Art on May 27 and then moves east. Its a megamix of cherry blossom branches, Akira exploding orbitals and current Tokyo art sensation Takashi Murakamis signature sculpture: a buxom anime waif who jumps rope with an unbroken stream of her own breast milk.
2. THAI ELEPHANT ART. Russian art-pranksters Komar & Melamids intriguing (though, for animal-art lovers, insufficiently illustrated) volume, When Elephants Paint (HarperCollins), and ethnomusicologists Dave Soldier and Richard Lairs haunting and mostly inhuman CD, Thai Elephant Orchestra (Mulatta Records, mulatta.org), suggest that some of the worlds most intriguing contemporary art may be locked away in trunks. Pacydermically speaking, that is.
3. FLYING HIGH. First The Matrix had people diving off buildings, then Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Charlies Angels took flight with characters spinning, diving, whirling and sometimes falling in midair. Now the flying craze continues with Christopher Walken dancing himself into an aerial ballet in Spike Jonzes new video for Fatboy Slims "Weapon of Choice." And to remind us where it all began, on April 8 Walt Disney is presenting a once-only screening of Herbert Brenons 1924 silent classic Peter Pan at the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood.
4. ANDREAS GURSKY. Currently featured in a mid-career retrospective at New York Citys Museum of Modern Art, Andreas Gurskys large and expensive color photographs are both seductive and disconcerting in their capturing of the sociological forces at work in our globalist culture. But it is the Germans selective use of digital retouching sometimes arranging individuals to form a crowd, other times compositing architectural forms that nudges our synapses and provides the photos eeriest pleasures.
5. WR: MYSTERIES OF THE ORGANISM. Director Dusan Makavejev has lived in exile ever since his groundbreaking 1971 film, WR: Mysteries of the Organism, was indicted as "ideologically harmful" in his native Yugoslavia and he was officially banned from making films there. Thirty years later, with Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic stewing in a Yugoslav prison, WR has lost little of its incendiary power, as Facetss recent rerelease of the film (and five other equally astonishing Makavejev titles) demonstrates. Alternately standing for World Revolution and for Wilhelm Reich, the controversial psychoanalyst who believed that suppression of the orgasm leads to neuroses of which fascism is but an extreme variation WR remains one of historys most subversive films both in form and content. Deftly intercutting documentary footage from a variety of sources with a more traditional narrative about a Yugoslav womans obsession with a frigid Russian figure-skating star, WR is a classic example of intellectual montage.
6. BERLIN: CITY OF STONES. Jason Lutess Berlin: City of Stones, Book One, (Drawn & Quarterly, $15.95, drawnandquarterly.com) collates the first eight of 24 installments of the Seattle-based comix artists epic, tender undertaking: a provisional topography of the German capitol at the onset of Nazi rule, painstakingly rendered in delicate pen strokes, lovingly embracing the quotidian disparate characters from many social strata, slipping through the lives and dreams of everyday souls in an incendiary time and redeeming them from historys most banal clichés.
7. MAJESTIC. In a world in which the concept of privacy is subjected to its own digital relativism, gaming behemoth Electronic Arts this spring premieres the game of the future or, perhaps, 1997. Loosely based on David Finchers The Game, Majestic is an online entertainment that, for $9.99 a month, takes players through a narrative adventure by bombarding them with e-mails, Instant Messages, faxes and even threatening telephone calls. Players can preset the games "adjustable realism settings" to make its communications clearly "game-like" or else, like the Michael Douglas film, of creepily indeterminate authenticity. For more on Majestic, visit Electronic Artss Web site (www.majestic.ea.com), which thoughtfully answers such questions as "Majestic will know a lot about me is my personal information secure?" and "What if Im nervous about getting threatening phone calls and mysterious faxes from the game? Can I turn it off?"
8. AESTHETIC NIHILISM. Follow a link from famed filmmaker Kenneth Angers Web site (kennethanger.com), or go directly to Aes-Nil Productions (holyterror.com/aesnihil), and delve into the "mass schizophrenic breakdown at the end of the second millenium A.D."