what is this i don't even
March 20, 2010 9:01 AM   Subscribe

Recommend me art that will blow my mind.

I don't just mean good art, or even great art. I mean art that I'll look at and think: I didn't know you were even allowed to do that. Or better, art that'll leave me incapable of thought.

Examples, for me, include work like David Lynch's Eraserhead, which gripped me and didn't let go for the full ninety minutes; Venetian Snares' album Rossz Csillag Alatt Született, with its fusion of classical, jazz, and electronica; James Joyce's Finnegans Wake, which... yeah; and, recently, the architectural work and manifestos of Friedensreich Hundertwasser, who goes at making buildings in a completely different way from most everybody else.

I don't care what art form. I have no biases. Sculpture, dance, photography, whatever. I just want things that will somewhat overload me.
posted by Rory Marinich to Media & Arts (57 answers total) 95 users marked this as a favorite
The textures, the expressions, the implications...The Ecstasy of St. Theresa
posted by Gorgik at 9:04 AM on March 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

There are a couple of gallery rooms in the Chicago Art Institute that do this to me - in particular, there's a room full of Monet, and another right at the top of a staircase that houses some of the most stunning works of Impressionism ever created. I've spent hours in these rooms and could easily do so again, and it's noticeable that people walk into them and just get quiet. Worth a visit (or twelve).
posted by Rallon at 9:05 AM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

The Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake.

Anything by Hayao Miyazaki.

Pavane by Keith Roberts.

Round About Midnight
by Miles Davis.

The Peake and Roberts because I know you're a writer and these works are just brilliant, especially the Peake.

Hunters in the Snow by Pieter Breugel the Elder.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 9:12 AM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

The Rothko Chapel
posted by volpe at 9:18 AM on March 20, 2010 [5 favorites]

Anything by Gaudi. in person.
posted by The Whelk at 9:22 AM on March 20, 2010 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Guy_Inamonkeysuit: I was actually just considering getting Davis's Sketches in Spain. Would you recommend Round About Midnight over Sketches?
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:24 AM on March 20, 2010

Joel-Peter Witkin
posted by Gilbert at 9:31 AM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

I love Christian Vincent. Not sure if he's what you're looking for, but beautiful nonetheless.
posted by wwartorff at 9:41 AM on March 20, 2010

Beksinski fascinates many people, including me.
posted by sanka at 9:52 AM on March 20, 2010 [5 favorites]

Dali's work in person. Rothko's. There's no point in looking at representations of either. Same for Monet's Waterlilies. Boticelli. Guernica.

I keep recommending Maus on here. Anything by Jim Woodring or Gary Panter.
posted by cmoj at 10:02 AM on March 20, 2010

Dale Chihuly


posted by xingcat at 10:07 AM on March 20, 2010

Big Round Cubatron
posted by jcruelty at 10:40 AM on March 20, 2010

The Homosexuals: inspiring, manic, sui generis smearing together of punk, jazz, reggae, garage rock, psychedelia, "world music"- pretty much every sound that was available in mid-70s London. Start with "Astral Glamour".

Peter Brötzmann: his LPs from the late 60s - especially "Machine Gun" - are startling, overwhelming, and completely original.

La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela: visit the Dream House in New York, then spend some time with "The Well-Tuned Piano", "The Tamburas of Pandit Pran Nath", and their mid-60s recordings. If they're up your alley, they'll change the way that you think about time, attention, and what it's possible to get out of listening to music.

For Miles Davis, check out "In a Silent Way", "A Tribute to Jack Johnson", and "Live-Evil".

posted by ryanshepard at 10:41 AM on March 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

Two musical artists that, just as you requested, literally left me thinking "I didn't even know you were allowed to do that": Cardiacs, Conlon Nancarrow, Iannis Xenakis.

On the literary side, the first work that comes to mind is Ben Marcus's The Age of Wire and String. William Gaddis wrote a few super novels entirely in unattributed dialogue, which is pretty amazing.

I bet you would like Guy Maddin's movie The Saddest Music in the World, which is Lynchian in some ways and also left me feeling "You're allowed to do this in a movie?" at times.
posted by dfan at 11:15 AM on March 20, 2010

Three musical artists, that is. Xenakis came to mind during preview.
posted by dfan at 11:15 AM on March 20, 2010

Response by poster: Ryan: Oh, wow. I didn't know Dream House was still open. The Well-Tuned Piano absolutely is the sort of thing I was talking about; I'd never heard of The Tamburas before you just said them.
posted by Rory Marinich at 11:26 AM on March 20, 2010

I always find Kris Kuksi's surrealist sculptures to be mental-short-circuit engaging.
posted by fatbird at 11:28 AM on March 20, 2010

Doug Winger's Mall drawings. (Should start about halfway down that page.)

First time I saw this stuff, I just stared.
posted by egypturnash at 11:48 AM on March 20, 2010

God's Debris by Scott Adams. Take two hours to read it and the rest of the year to think about it.
posted by aheckler at 12:01 PM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: It's taking me forever to look at even one or two of these people, which is exactly what I wanted. You guys rock.

dfan, I've just fallen hard for Cardiacs.
posted by Rory Marinich at 12:03 PM on March 20, 2010

I only saw this today. Giuseppe Andaloro plays György Ligeti's Étude Nr. 1 "Désordre"
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 12:13 PM on March 20, 2010

The experience you are describing, in my opinion, is the very reason that art is so fascinating to study. Isn't it just great when you can stand in front of a canvas and think: "Holy Shit!"? Having your worldview so viscerally challenged by a painting, a drawing, a building, a sculpture, is nothing short of a religious experience. It is also the hallmark of great artistry; creating something so powerful and so moving that standing in front of it is an experience someone will carry with them for their entire lives. Creating something that will be memorialized for ages by human civilization, standing in a museum long, long, long after society as you know it has crumbled away.

Studying art in college made me realize that this is what museums are full of. It gave me a new understanding of what I used to think of as "boring" art. I used to dismiss Renaissance, and most continental European art as 'bland', 'religious', and 'uninteresting'. Now I can't get enough. Every artist memorialized in those halls- every one- had enough of an impact on society that we consider it worthwhile to preserve their message. Every one of those artist's made someone stop and say: "Holy Shit". Even as a firm atheist, I'm still blown away by a lot of religious works.

Bernini's Ecstacy of St. Theresa, the first example given, sums up a lot of my feelings about being blown away. I mean, you have this very religious, very well-connected artist, with a close personal relationship to the pope, and here he is, working on a commissioned piece for an important cathedral, and what does he make? An extremely attractive nun, having a hardcore orgasm as an agent of God pierces her heart with a flaming arrow! What the FUCK is going on here? Wow.

Carravagio's works are incredibly beautiful, stunning pieces of religious work. Here's a famous one: "Supper at Emmaus". These works are considered some of the best work ever produced for the Catholic Church. And Yet they were created by a veritable ruffian, an offbeat, deviant genius who felt more at home with beggars and prostitutes than he did with Church officials. He used the homeless as models for his religious figures, and caused an uproar.

These are just two examples, from Renaissance/Baroque Italy. Just pick a time period, read about their great artists, and go check it out in your local museum. Guaranteed to blow your mind every time.
posted by HabeasCorpus at 12:15 PM on March 20, 2010 [3 favorites]

I should probably add Magma to this list too. I saw them a few years ago in London and they were.. they brought tears to my eyes; confusion, love, I had no idea. Steve Davis the British snooker player was also there. He originally brought Vander and his band to London and made a massive financial loss. Frankly, his loss was my emotional gain.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 12:19 PM on March 20, 2010

MURAKAMI Takashi, My Lonesome Cowboy, 1998 (NSFW) is astounding when you consider that somebody payed over $15 million for it.
posted by bonobothegreat at 12:19 PM on March 20, 2010

Shintaro Kago's comics have been featured on MetaFilter before -- they are basically sequences of mindblowing NSFW WTF moments.

Here's a collection of his short comics in an awkward gallery that requires you to press "Full size" repeatedly to read the pages. I haven't read most of them, but "Mr. Urashima" is profoundly fucked up, and "Fetus collection" is pretty funny, even while the subject matter makes you wince.

They're read from right to left.
posted by martinrebas at 12:42 PM on March 20, 2010

dfan, I've just fallen hard for Cardiacs.

Awright! I love them to death but I hardly ever recommend them to anyone because the chances they will be loved rather than hated is so small. If you want to explore them further, here's a list I made of YouTube videos to check out.
posted by dfan at 1:02 PM on March 20, 2010

A friend of mine described Ligeti's 'Continuum' as 'the Rapture, orchestrated for solo harpsichord'. Pretty accurate.

Every time I watch one of Martin Arnold's films I forget about the rhythm of reality for a few minutes, how things actually move and exist and occupy space. My favourite one is Alone, Life Wastes Andy Hardy.
posted by voronoi at 1:09 PM on March 20, 2010

This is a wonderful post. I don't want to derail, but can anyone tell me how the harpsicordist in voronoi's post managed to get that amount of music from such a small amount of reading data (ie 3 pages of information). That astonishes me.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 1:25 PM on March 20, 2010

Response by poster: dfan: That's an excellent primer. I'm gonna work my way through them today.

Incidentally, in that blog post you mention Paul Kline; got any recommendations of his work?
posted by Rory Marinich at 1:25 PM on March 20, 2010

Robert Gober tends to leave me feeling pretty unsettled for awhile after looking at his work.

Vik Muniz's Verso series blew my mind for all kinds of reasons I can barely articulate.

3rding Bernini's Ecstasy of St. Theresa.

Lee Bontecou.

Cormac McCarthy's Child of God bothered me for a long time after completion.
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 1:27 PM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Midnight over Sketches, yes. It hooked me on Davis. I have the latter album but Midnight gets lots more listens. Follow up with Kind of Blue and you're there.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 2:03 PM on March 20, 2010

Incidentally, in that blog post you mention Paul Kline; got any recommendations of his work?

It's Phil Kline, not Paul, and yeah, I forgot about him! He does lots of music using boomboxes, often recording into them and then playing from them in an immense feedback loop. His recent record Around the World in a Daze has gotten stellar reviews but I haven't heard it; what blew my mind in particular was a piece called "Bachman's Warbler", for harmonica and 12 boomboxes, in which he plays a bit of harmonica into all the boomboxes and then has them start listening to each other and playing back until a gigantic cloud of unparseable sound is generated. It's not on YouTube or anything, but I found a live performance on Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar (which incidentally is a great resource for out-there modern classical music). Click on the "Listen to the interview" link on this page jump to 45:00, and be patient - the piece is about 15 minutes long and it takes time to build up.
posted by dfan at 2:04 PM on March 20, 2010

Alvin Lucier's I Am Sitting in a Room is based on what seems like a simple and unremarkable conceit -- playing an identifiable sound into a particular room, re-recording the result and repeating the process -- but listening to the actual process is amazing, and it interacts richly with both the statement he reads and his tendency to stutter.

A more conventional musical work from the WAM tradition is Thomas Adès' Violin Concerto, which blew my mind because it's one of the most ornately layered and textured orchestral pieces I've ever heard. In general I'm very skeptical of grandiosity in art, but I can't help but submit to and enjoy the hell out of that piece.
posted by invitapriore at 2:12 PM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

OH and on another wavelength is Konono No. 1. They're from DR Congo, and besides the electric thumb pianos, they have an insane set of instrumentation that's mostly salvaged from junkyards and the like. That's not all there is to it. It's hard to describe. Check it out.
posted by invitapriore at 2:18 PM on March 20, 2010

Agreed on Rothko. From looking at reproductions, I never thought his work could live up to the hoopla. But then I saw one in person, in the right kind of lighting, and it just kicked my ass.
posted by jenmakes at 2:24 PM on March 20, 2010

Peter Greenaway's film of Shakespeare's Tempest, Prospero's Books.
posted by Jasper Fnorde at 2:29 PM on March 20, 2010

Neo Rauch.
posted by EL-O-ESS at 3:08 PM on March 20, 2010

The most profound art experience I've ever had was at an Yves Klein retrospective. Everything he did had that "I can't believe he did that" element and is just deeply beautiful. I wandered around the museum on a hot summers day in Nice in a daze. I'm an atheist but that was a spiritual experience.
posted by Kattullus at 3:13 PM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Ed Keinholtz
posted by metaphorical at 4:55 PM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Achilles Rizzoli
Henry Darger
posted by rabbitsnake at 5:16 PM on March 20, 2010

- Sally Cruikshank animations like this one: Face Like a Frog.
- Bobby McFerrin doing classical music (example 1, example 2), and probably Bobby McFerrin's work in general.
- Sun Ra can be out of this world.
- You've probably already seen 2001. Also Fight Club, The Usual Suspects, Julie Taymor's version of Titus, just of the top of my head.
- The Saragossa Manuscript.
- Great art is everywhere these days? Charlie bit my finger - autotune version. Well, it blew my mind!
posted by belau at 5:41 PM on March 20, 2010

Response by poster: 2001 certainly qualifies. Fight Club... eh. I like it more than I thought I'd like it before I saw it, but a masterpiece it ain't. It's clever. And Julie Taymor I'm afraid of approaching, because Across the Universe so thoroughly offended me.
posted by Rory Marinich at 6:00 PM on March 20, 2010

I second many of the above recommendations, particularly Darger and Bontecou, La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela.

I would add the films of Cassavetes, the music of Alice Coltrane (particularly journey to satchidananda) and Daniel Higgs, the drones of Eliane Radigue, The radio dramas of Joe Frank, and the books of Haruki Murakami.

They're all straight out heroes, all completely blew my mind at one time or another.
posted by extrabox at 7:02 PM on March 20, 2010

Vanja Borcic. I saw some of his work last year when he was in town and I wish I had the cash to buy it.
posted by zombieApoc at 7:04 PM on March 20, 2010

I love this question.

Alexey Titarenko's City of Shadows series is gorgeous.

Seconding Dali's work in person.

posted by biscotti at 7:38 PM on March 20, 2010

Have you seen Holy Mountain? If you haven't, it's well worth having a look.
posted by surenoproblem at 11:27 AM on March 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've always loved the tragically sad story of Dinu Lipatti (especially this). Listen here.

Another truely mindblowing piece of 'art' (it is more likely to be 'just' an experiment) is Traffic Crossing Leeds Bridge. Widely regarded as the second film ever made in 1888, and the most amazing is that it's a very brief slice of everyday life. Three seconds of 1888. An ordinary day, 122 years ago. And we can experience 3 seconds of it.
posted by Harry at 3:34 PM on March 21, 2010

I meant to say "second film, ever". But it was also the second film in 1888.
posted by Harry at 3:35 PM on March 21, 2010

Oh god, if we can do any medium....

yes yes yes to Alvin Lucier and Gyorgy Ligeti, and I'd possibly add Varese and Panderecki and maybe even Bruckner...and if you like Lucier you'd probably like William Basinski's Disintegration Tapes. And maybe Harry Partch too. And Laurie Spiegel and Pauline Oliveros. And, selfish slip-in here because it's not that kind of stuff but it blew my mind anyway WRT what can constitute a piece of music, This Heat.

Maya Deren's experimental films, esp. given when they were made. Dreyer's Ordet or The Passion of Joan of Arc, dear god. A Woman Under the Influence reminded me in a startling way of what is possible in acting, and how the very way it's born is a tenuous, delicate, fragile thing that needs to be nurtured...I hadn't felt that way since, heh oddly enough, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?.

Henry Darger did, but I was 16. I'll probably get stuff thrown at me for saying this, but the entire Cremaster Cycle, watched properly, on a big screen in the right order with full attention...

YMMV but Louise Nevelson and Joseph Cornell, those sorts of mixed media arts, always punch me in the gut for some reason. Brancusi too. And Yves Klein.
posted by ifjuly at 4:18 PM on March 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Matthew Barney's Cremaster Cycle is amazing on many levels, to me the scope of the project is just as mind boggling as the actual product.

Of course, there's Piss Christ from Andres Serrano

And the entire Dada Art Movement is still food for thought for me.
posted by evalenza at 6:26 PM on March 21, 2010

Here's the trailer for the aforementioned Cremaster Cycle. Watch and be baffled.
posted by evalenza at 6:30 PM on March 21, 2010

I short film titled "Skhizein" by Jeremy Clapin. It kind of left me in the "Wow, that's unbelievably sad and beautiful and how did someone create that" kind of mood. It gives new meaning to the phrase "beside yourself".
posted by shesaysgo at 9:30 PM on March 21, 2010

How about Unforgiven?

Aguirre, the Wrath of God

Dead Man

But yeah... Cremaster Cycle never fails to induce confused sputtering by viewers.
posted by cmoj at 10:50 AM on March 22, 2010

Llamasoft's Space Giraffe. Play it until you can make it through "Shock of Enlightenment". Just trust me on this, okay? You will have to figure out new ways to use your brain. This commentary on it might help you figure out how to do that.

The first time I made it to that level, my eyes were wide open and I just had this torrent of "what the FUCK, Jeff? Holy SHIT…" coming out of my mouth, as my ears and eyes struggled to collect enough information from the total visual overload on the screen. I made it through without dying despite (or perhaps because of) this amazement. My boyfriends say this proves I'm a different order of being than they are.
posted by egypturnash at 1:23 PM on March 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

Vampyr (1932) by the aforementioned Carl Theodor Dreyer (The Passion of Joan of Arc is amazing too). I just got goosebumps looking at that image.

Also Night of the Hunter.
posted by nathancaswell at 3:22 PM on March 26, 2010

Oh, and if you ever get a chance to see it live, Decasia.
posted by nathancaswell at 3:30 PM on March 26, 2010

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