Five Things
Final: 03/11/03
FIVE THINGS documented the ideas, experiences, events and objects that inform the artistic practices of members of the creative community in Washington, DC.
Ken Ashton
Charles Colten
Carole Greenwood
Peter Ferko
James Huckenpahler

Copyright (c) 2003 All rights reserved worldwide.
Ken Ashton
Ken Ashton
Stacker 5:
This has been a stacked week, but the weekend was super stacked.
1 Monday night Brandon Butler from Canyon Played a solo set at the Black Cat. What a performance! I have seen a lot of local bands perform, and Canyon is one of them. But Brandon is an artist. It was just him and his ax. The music just flowed out of his head and hands. You don't get to see artists like painters or photographers at their craft, but musicians do it all the time. Brandon once told me that he will always write songs no matter what happens. Maybe in a few years he'll do a solo CD.
2 I saw the Richter exhibit at the Hirshorn on Sunday. Afterwards I saw the talk by the curator Robert Store. It was good to see the whole range of his work and then listen to the curator give his thoughts after seeing the show. Later that evening I read the Post's review by Gopnick. There has been much discussion about the Critics in DC lately. I'm not sure how to take it yet. I'm still waiting for a true critical response to my work. (I better get a show first, huh) Artists need it from everyone, and the newspapers and magazines put it out there for the whole world to see. To hope for the best is a dream. To get the worst is a great fear. But, for a critic to get it wrong or give fluff is truly frustrating, and that seems to be happening the most these days.
3 It's been a while for 5T. But the art forum for DC has been strong thanks to Modern Art Notes, and Muse. MAN has been keeping DC up to speed in the art world and I mean WORLD. Faith Flanagan has made MUSE the place for artist to get the nitty-gritty on the deep end of the DC art scene. Keep up the good work guys!
4 My eyes have been happy. My ears have been happy. And thanks to Rocky's and el Pollo Rico my tastes buds have been happy. Every now and then I need my fix of my favorite foods. I have to fuel the artist fire you know.
5 On my art front, I've been printing from the backlog of negatives. But I just found myself shooting and printing for the Megalopolis project. Maybe next time I'll have something new to show you.

Charles Colten
Naked Language
“There’s another kind of language, another form of communication: by means of feeling, and images. That is the contact that stops people being separated from each other, that brings down barriers. Will, feeling, emotion—these remove obstacles from between people who otherwise stand on opposite sides of a mirror, on opposite sides of a door…”

Andrei Tarkovsky, Sculpting in Time

In writing, if words are the clothing in which we wrap our thoughts and feelings, what would a completely naked language look like? What would it be capable of expressing? By extension into other art forms, what exists beneath the colors on a canvas, in the uncarved marble of Michelangelo’s Prisoners, in the silences of a Bach cello suite, in the space between the lips of two lovers just before their very first kiss? This may be the realm of “naked language”

But how far can we extend our nudity…? Can we wear it boldly only in the shower stalls without mirrors? Can we stretch it out in the public sanction of the nude beach? Can we shit with the bathroom door wide open, or roam the streets sniffing each other’s histories and deepest urges with canine precision and unselfconsciousness?

In short, can we communicate without mediated symbolic interfaces? And if the artist succeeds at this unmediated communication, will he, like the best teachers in the world whose students surpass their wildest hopes, work himself out of a job?

The artist is working within a medium, an image construction, a symbolic interface which provides an outlet, satisfies a need, brings joy, suffering or both in the gestation of its expression and communication. He may not be able or willing to pursue a naked language for he would strip away not only the medium of expression but also his source of livelihood. Copywrite law has not yet, and hopefully never will extend its avaricious and small-minded tentacles into the realm of our individual or collective unconscious. And how could it? Without packaging and marketing, our ideas and feelings are as free as oxygen, only entering the marketplace once they have been packaged, bottled, priced, pitched, bought and sold.

But what would a naked language ‘look’ like?

In the occult, one could allude to telepathic connections…the perception of vibrations that usually remain outside of our ken…instant, direct communication without a symbolic intermediary. For what is perception but the reception of a select set of vibrational frequencies for which we are uniquely adapted? When we look at a painting, a flower, a lover, our eyes don’t go out from their sockets to the object of our vision. Rather, we filter-feed the photons bouncing off the object, through the ocean of the air we breath, and those vibrations that fall within the bands of visible light in the spectrum activate our optic nerves, travel along the trunk of neurons in discreet packets, in a particular rhythm (24 images per second), arriving in the brain where the information is processed, assembled, inverted, and raised to consciousness. Similarly, sound is received within the limited range of 20-20,000 cycles per second, and even within that range, the mesh of our nets is only so large and only so small as to capture a tiny fraction of the specious moment. The other senses…tactile, olfactory, and gustation, while they require chemico-physical receptivity, which for the moment avoid the particle/wave duality of light, they still exist within this time-space continuum in which Einstein already eliminated the myopic need for the dichotomy between matter and energy. As such, the chemical stimuli and receptors still fall into the category of vibrational entities and the gossamer nets that convert them into ideas, feelings, and thoughts.

Perhaps a functional naked language exists in some elusive space between telepathy and concrete symbol construction…

In attempting to communicate using a naked language, the writer is perhaps most plagued by this reality, using the blatant symbolism of words to express his thoughts, desires, fantasies, fears, hopes, and ultimately his personal truth. And yet, if the goal is communication and not merely publication, recognition, and money, then the attraction of a naked language is as alluring and intoxicating as having sex with your lover in silence, without breaking eye contact for even a millisecond, and orgasm is possible even without physical touch.

And yet, I have no desire to throw out the baby with the bathwater…the quivering colors on a canvas, the savoring of mama’s homecookin’, the fluid warmth of a fine whiskey, the smell of jimson weed, your lover mingling with you in tactile immediacy, or the transportative quality of music (arguably the most naked that language can get). These are not merely forms of communication, but joys that dwell in the deepest springs, connecting us to the earth and each other…they make life worth living. But the pursuit of naked language makes them neither obsolete nor superfluous.

Approaching a naked language allows us to work forward from the most fundamental pulse outward to a symphony of expression, instead of working backward from the symbolic image to the feelings behind it. It is this regressive approach that is taught and practiced in all too many academic settings as gurus and disciples alike race to carve out their “look”, their “sound”, their “voice”…but instead of finding their voice, they find a pattern of symbol construction that the world at large, or at least the world of art consumption at large, can readily associate with the “name” that the artist makes for himself. This is in precise contrast to the approach from which naked language derives both its path and its power.

In approaching truth scientifically, one could catalogue the myriad forms in the natural world, and after a lifetime of data collection, discern a pattern and describe it in probabilistic terms with an error term of “x”. To an artist, this mere approximation of truth is ultimately unsatisfying, and so naked language works in the other direction, beginning not with the outward manifestations but rather with the inner distillation of one’s personal truth and then working outward, using basic principles and algorithms to the expression of that truth within the context of its nascence.

I have no formula to offer that will, like a dose of ayahuasca, allow the spirit to leave the body, stripping off not only the clothing but the flesh and bones as well. There is no paint by numbers here, no nets below the high wire, and noone to hold your hand beyond the final circle…not even Dante’s Virgil could take the last step with him.

And yet, there seems to be a fundament involved in walking naked in the sunlit streets of time and matter.

First, is the going beyond fear…acknowledging its presence like a dragon guarding a treasure, but then going past its paralyzing presence.

Second, is the ability to be unattached to the outcome. Come what may, we are explorers in terra incognita. Stepping into this void, if we are lucky, we may be able to become enveloped in linguistic nudity, arriving at a ‘place’ in which a feeling expressed by a painter 150 years ago can speak to someone’s personal truth today. Tarkovky again puts it better than I can…”If two people have been able to experience the same thing even once, they will be able to understand each other. Even if one lived in the era of the mammoth and the other in the age of electricity.”

Working out from there to the expression of this discovered truth, the transmission and subsequent reception of it undoubtedly requires the same painstaking practice as does a mastery in any medium.

But there are no teachers who can guide us in this development. And maybe that is just the point…

Carole Greenwood
Carole Greenwood
why i wrote 5 things

five things was born of a need to make some kind of record of the dialogue and work in progress between james, colby and jason. the group got to some consensus that writing down what was <influencing their practices> was as valuable, if not more so, than merely talking amongst themselves. colby very self-consciously shared this with me early on, and i was knocked over by the depth and breadth of their recorded ideas. it is rare that any artist is willing to share such personal reflections on the daily business of their work, and i found myself beginning to want the usefulness of memorializing these influences on a regular basis. i watched from the wings for a while, then later got more comfortable with the idea of contributing after one week's post was so boy's club, that it nearly undermined the success of the ideas contained. so after some real trepidation - i threw my stuff into the mix.


for artists to instill any structure into their working patterns, or to build some sort of fabric of community takes much effort, for in my world, the artistic practice itself is a very solitary journey. often we are struggling so with this quest of self-discovery, that we have no time to think of others or of the good of the group. but i like to think, we were different. jason, james and colby gave so generously of themselves and their community to me as i built and opened my restaurant, i felt the need to add whatever resources i had, as a writer, artist and chef to this loose group that was beginning to take shape.


as <5> became more and more of something that people read and talked about and commented on, it took on it's own organic quality. when it was good it was very very good, but when things didn't work - well, quite frankly it was gossipy, long-winded, exclusive and overly navel gazing. we met and struggled with trying to bring it back. our topical valentine's day <5> last year was one of my favorites. the loose assemblage of artists finally could come to some sort of consensus on the influence of love in their practice. it had to be one of the most human and genuine collections of writing i have ever read - and is something i reference still.


just as we labored to assemble, we worked hard on our individual projects - some of us ventured outside the boundaries of the city, others changed the direction and scope of their work. but as contributing to <5> was an attempt to find slowness and reflection in the daily practice, we found it harder and harder to do this on deadline and on command. so we sought the peaceful collaboration in other ways. james, jason and colby mounted <situation room> at st. mary's this past january - the second showing of their original <group>. the activities surrounding the show - planning, curating, orgainzing, hanging, discussing and finally closing the project, also brought a new sense to me, that although our collaborations as a group have been practice altering, a change in the pattern of <five things> was inevitable. some of us want the site to be not just d.c. based, others think it should be a chat room of sorts - but somehow no consensus and insufficient energy was present to get it to the next step. so by default, we finally decided to go dark, in anticipation of a newness. for the one thing we all agree upon with certainty is change.


for the time being the archive of five things remains. james is reachable through the site. and even tyler has picked up the slack a bit with modernartnotes so we are all still here, still practicing, still sharing with the others what is affecting our daily practice. i wrote <fivethings> to help me to sharpen and clarify my influences, to share in a dialogue with the other members of this bunch of artists i live near and work with. and i will continue to do so, whether it appears in a weekly post or not. <five things> has shaped the way that i and my colleagues view ourselves as a group, our city as a collective resource, and a sense of community we all believe to be necessary in order to be successful as individual artists.

Peter Ferko
Peter Ferko
Transition Time

five things

colby never capitalized his
jason never had an editor
james's felt like breakfast at Teaism
carole's stirred with her emotions
annie's were terse in verse and time

Five things taught me important lessons, some melancholy, but all beautiful. It taught me how valuable a nurturing environment is and how one should fight to maintain a nurturing environment, which will always be a fight against the odds. The conclusion of five things attests to the latter. The run of five things and its remarkable notoriety attests to the former.

Five things taught me how exciting it is to share one's quirks. I saw numerous people dance on an imagined precipice before jumping into the pool to write. It was delightful to see the ripples of their emotional bravery. What they and we wrote showed me how brilliant the people around me are.

Five things taught me to notice the constant procession of wonders in my life. It was a lesson in gratitude.

James Huckenpahler
Breaking up the band:

Way back in January, the 5T writers had discussed our usual top 5 for the previous year. Sadly, between shows and other responsibilities, we weren't able to get the critical mass up to make it happen. I still have my top 5 sitting on the desktop of my machine so I'll use them as a point of departure to sum up the '5T experience.'

Above are 2 Jasons [Gubbiotti on the left and Falchook on the right] doing a crazy little dance during the installation of my solo at Fusebox. from the start, it's really been 'Team Fusebox;' the participation has been full-spectrum, from the details of getting signage up in the window, to figuring out how to install an LCD projector in the least obtrusive manner, to debating the role of visual culture in a a city whose M.O. is best described as covert.


One of my passions is for 'lost works' - like the first Marx Brothers movie [so bad they abandoned it in a rented theatre during a screening...]

Above is a small fresco that Gubbiotti painted in Miami for ArtPoint - most folks in DC never had a chance to see it. Now it's probably under a few coats of white latex. For the culural record.


An essay Gubbbiotti almost wrote for 5T: Cremaster for the People: Mike Myers vs. Matthew Barney - what could have been...


Spiritual tech cooler than Moriko Mori and more indulgent than Takashi Murakami, for packing all of the tunes I cribbed from Colby. CRUNCH, Team Doyobi, but the Gilbert and George ring tones I discovered on my own. I regret that we didn't get Brian Miller to do 5 audio tracks for 5T.


Nursury rhymes for adults. Fade audi.