World class at last!

Giacomo Giacometti, founder of neoliteralism, calls Sacramento America’s most enigmatic city

Photo By r.v. scheide

Like most Europeans, Giacomo Giacometti smokes and drinks like a pig. This morning, it’s triple espressos at the Starbucks situated inside the R Street Safeway, each cup punctuated by a Marlboro Red nailed down outside in the parking lot. On the third cigarette, he turns to me and asks the question that’s been hanging on the breeze like secondhand smoke for the past hour.

“Have you considered the horse?”

“Of course I’ve considered the horse,”I answer apprehensively. Few sentient Sacramentans haven’t pondered the 12-foot-tall chrome steed that prances proudly in front of the R Street Safeway. According to reports in the local daily, which once conducted a fruitless effort to name the sculpture, most local residents “like” the horse, even though many regard it as “too kitsch.”

I’m not certain if those reports were based on actual interviews or merely cribbed from the pages of disgraced Sacramento Bee columnist Diana Griego Erwin’s seized notebooks, but in my own experience, most Sacramentans, including me, have kept their feelings about the horse close to the vest, a natural phenomenon that also happens to the be one of the main subjects of Giacometti’s research.

Although he is almost entirely unknown in the United States, in Europe, Giacometti, 32, is celebrated as the founder of “neoliteralism,” the philosophical precepts of which are succinctly summed up in the title of the intellectual firebrand’s 2009 blog post, republished as a downloadable academic mini treatise, “What If Things Really Are as They Seem? A Manifesto Calling for the End of All Speculation.”

“Giacometti throws philosophers from Descartes to Derrida under the bus! Neoliteralism has arrived!” raved Der Spiegel about the most downloaded PDF file in Europe last year, which so far is available only in Italian, German and French.

When Giacometti contacted SN&R upon his arrival in Sacramento last week, he was quick to point out the purpose of his visit was to secure funds from a number of anonymous patrons and that his call should not be misinterpreted as a precursor to the English language release of his manifesto. At the same time, after spending several days in the River City, he felt compelled to put neoliteralism, “which, after all, is a philosophy of action,” to the test.

To be sure, Giacometti is perhaps the worst English-as-a-fourth-language speaker I’ve ever encountered, and his quotes included here have been thoroughly scrubbed. Yet his repeated insistence, “Your city is an enigma, no?” couldn’t help but intrigue me, and I agreed to meet him at the R Street Safeway Starbucks the next morning.

The man who greeted me was well into an out-of-control caffeine/nicotine binge after spending the night sleeping in one of the vacant lots between R15 and Safeway—apparently no one noticed a well-dressed, passed-out European with wads of money stuffed in his pockets snoozing face down in the dirt. I barely had time to introduce myself before he began ranting about the previous day’s adventure, which began near Archives Plaza.

“What is this, ‘Broadway Boogie Woogie’?” Giacometti recalled, thinking upon encountering the Mondrian glass facade gracing the State Employees Building, constructed in 1960. “Here we see reflected the erratic bebop notes of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, who had the hubris to imagine they had created original works of art, as much as the followers of John Maynard Keynes believed they’d discovered a brave new economic world. We’ve seen how such delusions can destroy the human spirit—witness Bird’s OD, the work of Jeff Koons, or the state worker furloughs ordered by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.”

Giacometti has a phrase for artists who think they can transcend what most observers agree are reality’s normative bounds. “People shouldn’t be afraid of their artists, artists should be afraid of their people,” he says. His Archives Plaza foray ended when, after consuming an untold number of vodka tonics at Posey’s, he attempted to urinate on the plate steel housing sculptures right down the street and transit police chased him away from the Archives Plaza light-rail stop.

“No. 1, the phony houses reminded me of the so-called housing bubble, and the amazing number of homes constructed in California, and the Sacramento area in particular, during the past decade. More importantly, especially at the time, they reminded me of the public urinals in Amsterdam.”

In Giacometti’s view, the “so-called housing bubble” is exactly that, so-called. He claims American homebuyers knew exactly what they were getting into, overvalued, cheaply constructed boxes reflected in the artwork he pissed on near the Archives Plaza light-rail stop. Giacometti doesn’t decry the failure of the greatest financial minds in America to recognize the $8 trillion housing bubble. He applauds it.

In fact, like Alexis de Tocqueville’s 19th-century work, Democracy in America, Giacometti sees much to admire in American individualism, epitomized by the notion that every American should own a home, even if it’s just a silhouette of a home nestled in the fungal sprawl south, east, north and west of Sacramento. The vacant suburban Home Depots, Wal-Marts and Best Buys at the center of these foreclosed neighborhoods don’t perturb this freethinker in the slightest.

“Never work outside the box,” Giacometti advises. “In all things work inside the box, especially love.”

It’s love where this admittedly eccentric European scholar is coming from.

“Most academics don’t include emotions in the equation,” he told me over his third cigarette, as we stood beneath the horse sculpture’s shimmering light. “That is why art has become so boring and you are afraid to tell me your own feelings about the horse, which you have obviously considered.”

He’s right, of course. I have considered the horse, as have many others. Local anarchists, focused on the fact that the sculpture was donated by Paul Petrovich, the developer of the R Street Safeway project, have declared the horse a symbol of the corporate takeover of America. While most of us are loathe to admit it, the anarchists do seem to have a point, but we’ve remained mute, if only out of embarrassment.

Giacometti will have none of it.

“I have considered the horse, and this is what I have to say,” he proclaims, snuffing out his smoke on the statue’s pedestal. “In form, it reminds me of the work of Frederic Remington, but even more so, its chrome hypertrophied musculature seems like it has been shrink-wrapped on Secretariat’s skeleton.”

In this sense, he says the horse represents the indomitable characteristic of Western individualism, an essential component of the neoliteralism critique. At the same time, he claims the materials used by artist Sean Guerrero to construct the sculpture, discarded automobile bumpers, point not only to the futility of art but to the erroneously perceived failure of capitalism.

“The form of the horse represents the great conquests of U.S. imperialism,” Giacometti says. “Democracy and the free market are loaded in the belly of this beast, which some observers have likened to a Trojan horse. At the same time, the sinews and tendons crisscrossing its mirrored surface create a texture evoking nothing less than the fractured soul of the modern individual. This is as it must be in an advanced society, and to say that this horse is ‘kitsch’ is to imply the entire Western project is bankrupt.”

The ability for most of us to unconditionally accept this critique is what makes Sacramento the most enigmatic city in the world, Giacometti explained, because …

to be continued …


Pope’s on a roll!
Freeport Bakery patrons line up to view disgraced pontiff’s features in custard wheel

by R.V. Scheide

Pope Benedict XVI custard wheel.

Photo By r.v. scheide

When Giacomo Giacometti says, “In all things, work inside the box, especially love,” he means it. Neoliteralism defines love as the “the will to cum.” In Giacometti’s view, this will can be male or female, and denying its existence is futile, because it is all around us all the time, even at a place as innocuous as the Freeport Bakery, where, as we were waiting in line to place our pastry order, Giacometti, a lapsed Catholic, spotted a custard wheel resembling Pope Benedict XVI.

“Look at his beady and shriveled eyes like raisins!” Giacometti exclaimed, startling both the bakery’s customers and its staff. Indeed, the custard wheel did bare a striking resemblance to something with two eyes, be it a child, a Pope or an endangered baby elephant seal. When I attempted to point this out to Giacometti, he would have none of it, as usual.

“Life imitates art, it is never the other way around,” he said mysteriously. He insisted that Benedict’s face, in real life, with its bulbous nose, pasty countenance and cream-cheese-filled nooks and crannies, amazingly resembles the texture of a typical Freeport Bakery custard wheel.

“We know that the custard wheel will add centimeters to our waistlines, but still we allow ourselves this indulgence,” Giacometti said. “In a similar fashion, Pope Benedict indulged the appetites of pedophile priests.”

Freeport Bakery, after hearing of Giacometti’s impromptu rant, took immediate steps to preserve the custard wheel in question. Although it is already beginning to fester, local residents can view the pastry through the Easter weekend, after which it will begin to deteriorate, perhaps even faster than the career of God’s messenger on Earth, Pope Benedict XVI.

“He stepped outside of the box,” Giacometti said. “For that, he will pay the price, and pastry chefs around the world will be grateful.”