June 2003 Archives

Must. Learn. To. Photoshop. Properly.
Must. Learn. Illustrator.
Must. Admit. Powerpoint. Is. Not. A. Real. Graphics. Program.
Must. Say, puffy fabric paint and a scanner is easier than learning Form-Z.
Must. Say, I have newfound appreciation for the way artists' studios accrete materials and tools. You can't just go out and buy some of that stuff.
Must. Add, that the world of craft supply stores is actually a solar system of tinier worlds: the claymolding world, the tole painting world, the modelmaking world, the balsa world, the cast-and-paint-your-own-doll-head world, the make-your-own-gel-filled-candles-or-soap world. Oh, and the puffy fabric paint world.

Finally, for the the half dozen people who are as intrigued by The Atomic Revolution, the Cold War propaganda comic Ethan Persoff put online, here is at least part of the story of its origins.

Mushroom cloud, The Atomic Revolution, image: www.ep.tc Mushroom cloud, from The Atomic Revolution, image: www.ep.tc

The comic itself is copyrighted 1957, by Mr. M Philip Copp, an artist nearly subsumed in an Eisenhower-era Establishment. At a time when comic books were being attacked in Congress and the popular media for contributing to juvenile delinquency, in an denigrated-yet-promising medium populated largely by second generation Lower East Side Jews, the Connecticut WASP Copp sold leased his artistic soul to custom-publish public relations comics for the government and major corporations, quaintly remembered as the Military Industrial Complex.

According to a Sept. 1956 profile of "industrial comics," which annointed Mr Copp as the go-to guy for American Business Interests' comic needs, TAR, which was "largely devoted to the peacetime uses of the atom," was designed as a resource for those "interested in learning something about the fundamentals of atomic life." [emphasis mine.]

M Philip Copp-R and artist Samuel Citron - L, reviewing The Atomic Revolution, image: nytimes 1956 M Philip Copp, right, reviews artwork for The Atomic Revolution with artist Samuel Citron. image: NYTimes, 1956
More than a year in the making, Copp farmed out the creation of the book to "no fewer than eleven free-lance artists and four writers. (The artists and writers are frequently replaced until the combination jells.)" Oliver Townsend, a one-time aide to Gordon Dean (ex-Chairman of The Atomic Energy Commission) is credited with the "basic text," and Life's science editor Warren Young turned in the final script. The only artist mentioned is Samuel Citron, shown reviewing the artwork for page 30, the "spotless" domed Antarctic mining city and "complete control over our environment" that the atom would soon make possible.

But where did the grand vision for TAR come from? Not from Copp, a self-proclaimed "catalyst," whose real talent seems to be his eye, and whose own "creations" were limited to fawning profiles in the Times of the more accomplished members of his Connecticut shore yacht club. But ships do factor into the story.

TAR was the brainchild of John Hay Hopkins, the chairman of Groton-based Electric Boat, a WWII submarine manufacturer, which, under Hopkins' leadership, became General Dynamics. According to the corporate history, Hopkins "saw that the need for defense was a permanent need, and not one that could be satisfied by improvisation in a time of crisis. 'Grow or Die' were words by which Hopkins lived..."

Hopkins turned General Dynamics from a shipbuilder to a diversified one-stop-shop for the Cold Warrior, and the atom was a major part of GD's offering. It built the Nautilus, the first nuclear submarine, and launched its General Atomic Division in 1955. Do the math. A year in the making, profile in late '56, TAR could've been conceived on the deck of a vermouth-soaked General Atomic after-party.

Or perhaps it was part of a much more comprehensive media strategy. Hopkins turned to his slipmate M. Philip Copp for a $50,000, 500,000-copy run of an atomic comic, but to make "Grow or Die" the operating principle for military expenditures would require a multimedia lobbying public education campaign. You know, get that Disney fellow on the phone.

Check out Prof. Marc Langer's amazing AWN article, "Disney's Atomic Fleet." After keeping his studio afloat during WWII by making animated training and propaganda films for the US armed forces, Walt Disney was asked to participate in Eisenhower's "Atoms for Peace" program in 1955. The result: a multi-year, multi-channel atomic edutainment extravaganza that reminds us that skilful collaboration between the media's and military's big guns didn't start with embedding Jessica Lynch on MTV.

Disney began producing a live-action/animation program, Disneyland, for the emerging ABC TV network. In turn, ABC was asked to invest, alongside Western Publishing, in the new theme park the show would promote. In 1957, Disney aired My Friend The Atom as a Tomorrowland segment on the show. The program, along with millions of copies of the accompanying book, went into schools. When Tomorrowland actually opened at Disneyland, it featured a fleet of "nuclear powered" submarines. Vice President Richard Nixon accompanied Disney on the sub's maiden voyage on June 14, 1959; the event was broadcast live on ABC.

My Friend The Atom promised a future where "'clean' nuclear reactors will replace grimy coal and oil power plants. Radiation will be used to produce better crops and livestock. People will zoom from place to place in atomic cars, trains, boats and planes. 'Then, the atom will become truly our friend.'" If that future sounds familiar to you, it's because it's almost an exact frame-for-frame description of the contents of The Atomic Revolution.

Like TAR, My Friend, The Atom was produced in collaboration with General Dynamics Corporation. John Hay Hopkins passed away in 1957, and while he never got to visit Disneyland, and it's unlikely that he saw the completion of MFTA, he surely got to see a final proof of The Atomic Revolution, thanks to the tireless work of Mr M. Philip Copp.

Related links:
from the Eisenhower Library, a 1953 report by the [William Hay] Jackson Committee on international information warfare
Part 2: M. Philip Copp, State Dept. Info-warrior

June 21, 2003

Archaeology at WTC Site

In the MIT speech I posted last week, Rafael Vinoly made a comment that there was "no archaeology left" at the WTC site. It had been stripped to bedrock. The Bathtub/slurry wall had to be rebuilt/refaced/replaced already. The Twin Towers' footprints themselves now only exist as coordinates in an XYZ grid. I went to the site yesterday morning to map out my idea for the Memorial Competion, and to take reference pictures, and I found there IS "archaeology" on the site.

For all the destruction, demoltion, clearing, and (now-begun) reconstruction, a part of the original WTC has been left standing. I've never heard anyone mention it, and I can't find any reference to it online, but there it is, plain as day. It ain't much, but it's all there is.

5wtc_stairs.jpg

About 50m west of Church St, the pedestrian entry point to the original plaza, a crumbling staircase runs from street level on Vesey St, to what used to be the plaza level (which is marked in green above). It connected to 5WTC, one of the low-rise buildings that framed the plaza. On this map, it's the green stairway next to the Children's Discovery Center.

Read entries on the WTC Memorial Competition or more far-ranging memorial topics

[6/23 updates: in the Times, Glenn Collins writes about rebuilding/stabilization efforts for the wall. And a WSJ story about the successful evacuation odyssey of the Children's Discovery Center.]

It's been a while since I've posted about working on Souvenir November 2001, my first short. I decided a while ago that it really needed a proper sound edit, but my new Final Cut Pro install has had problems opening the project, and writing has distracted me from debugging.

Still, this week, I met with a cool young composer, Avery J. Brooks, about redoing the soundtrack for the film. We had a productive, fascinating discussion. Avery's a friend of a friend (Fred Benenson, who, it turns out, is interning for Peter at Gizmodo. Is there anyone not working for Nick Denton these days?), and is alarmingly talented. Watching the current cut of SN01, he spotted emotional and narrative cues in the music that I never noticed.

Intuited, maybe, but never articulated. Jonah and I put tracks down by feel, more or less. Avery labelled one track "success," another "disappointment," another "random," and so on, which mapped pretty closely to the main character's emotional state as he half-blindly searches for a memorial he doesn't know much about.

It'll make a good summer project, we decided, and I'll post updates of our discussion and clips as we go along. Meanwhile, check out Avery's own site, where he posts performance info and some examples of his work.

It's Rashomon meets Inside the Actor's Studio over at the Guardian, where Sam Delaney cross-references contradictory behind-the-scenes accounts from various score-settling or credit-grabbing Hollywood memoirs. His movie matching list: Apocalypse Now, The Godfather, Rosemary's Baby, Jaws...and Flashdance.

Truth is not exactly coin of the realm in Hollywood, Delaney notes, "but - with reference to this array of movie-making exposÈs - it can occasionally be pieced together." Good luck. Considering the sources he's quoting-- a talented megalomaniac (Copolla), a mobster (Sinatra), an delusional liar/raconteur (Evans), a slimeball (Esterhaz) a sycopantic snake (Bart) and a passel of betrayed writers and producers--a piece o' entertaining diversion is the best you should hope for.

What'd be more useful, though, is to open up the standard for DVD commentary tracks. Last year, Roger Ebert wrote about alternate tracks as a way for everyone to become a critic, which inspired the creators of DVDTracks.com. [The cool, movie-focused Tagline has a concise post on pre- and post-Ebertian developments in the alternate track story.]

Frankly, I'd rather hear people like Jaws editor Verna Fields talking about their experience making a film, than watch the hundredth fan make the same realizations about The Matrix Reloaded ("See the way Neo falls? Matrix-within-a-matrix!").

Bjork once said that when you break up with someone in Iceland, you usually stay on good terms, since you're probably going to be crossing paths the rest of your lives. Maybe if everyone knew they'd have a chance to air their side of the story--and to be refuted-- they might think once about being a pain-in-the-"arse" on the set. (Thinking twice seems a lot to ask; seriously, how many Godfathers has Iceland produced?)

June 20, 2003

(via cel)

judging from this train car, cel phones strapped to heads, sucking conversations out of us = the start of the matrix.

Turner Classic Movies is showing a dozen Bollywood classics on Thursdays in June, introduced by Ismail Merchant. As might be expected whenever Merchant's involved, the movie menu reads somewhere between vegetarian and vegan: noble, needs some spice, and definitely not enough cheese.

But that's just how it looks to a guy who discovered Bollywood through Diesel Jeans commercials and Namaste America, an Indian music video show on NYC's public access channel Saturday mornings. Merchant/Ivory's own meta-Bollywood film, Bombay Talkie is good, too, but unfortunately, it's not in the series.

[via Scrubbles] The Golden Age of corporate comic books coincides nicely with the Golden Age of industrial musicals. Jonathan Ward tells their history.

These lavishly produced sales-and-morale-boosting programs were usually performed only once or twice, at a company's sales or management conference. Souvenir records were pressed in extremely small numbers and distributed only to the conference participants, making them very rare.

The non-comic comic book is often cited as a phenomenon of these troubled times...These garish publications are marked by horror, violence and practically everything but humor. They have evoked nation-wide condemnation.

In recent years a far different kind of "unfunny comic" has made an appearance. It is a publication, drawn in newspaper strip form, prepared for and distributed by American business concerns...These little books are becoming an important tool in industrial public relations. They go to stockholders, employes, schools, civic organizations, and the general public. As a medium of goodwill, they have proved extremely effective.
- New York Times, Sept. 1956

The driving force behind these "industrial comics"? Mr M. Philip Copp, a commercial artist-turned-agent-turned-publisher, a Connecticut sailing man from the Ivy League (well, he attended both Princeton and Yale), who set out, quixotically, to win over the leaders of the American Establishment for the "juvenile delinquency"-inducing medium they were, at that very moment, condemning-- comic books.

During the Forties, Copp repped Noel Sickles, whose cinematic chiaroscuro style influenced generations of comic artists. Copp apparently sought to leverage this powerful style for Larger Purposes than just entertainment. He comped up a "Life of Jesus" comic book, but neither the Lord nor his churches provided, and the project was shelved.

Detail, The Korea Story, M Philip CoppStiffed by God, Copp turned to Caesar, then Mammon: in early 1950, the State Department bought over one million copies of "Eight Great Americans," in eleven languages, for its worldwide propaganda war against the Soviet Union. Then in September, Copp flipped another million copies of "The Korea Story," a comic booklet denouncing the communist North Korean June 25th invasion of South Korea. It was distributed in the Mid-East and Asia as part of the State Dept's "Campaign of Truth."

1952 was at least as busy for the M. Philip Copp Publishing Company. He made commemorative comics for utility companies, followed by a 50th anniversary book, "Flight," which was purchased in large runs by the Aircraft Industries Association, Douglas Aircraft, Lockheed, IBM, and GM. Oddly, his probable classic, "Crime, Corruption & Communism," went unmentioned in the Times puff piece which is the source for many of these details.

Copp took a Company Man view of his comic books, calling himself "a 'catalyst: [I] furnish the basic idea, bring together artists, writers and researchers, and out comes the finished product." It may have been an attempt to reconcile the comic art he had an eye for with the highly circumscribed, WASP-y world he lived in. Copp didn't quite finish school; he ran a job shop, selling the Latest Thing to his classmates, neighbors, and yacht club slipmates; his boat was only a 14' knockabout, but he was funny and, later on, wrote glowing profiles of his sailing friends for the Times.

Maybe I'm imagining (or projecting), but Copp's eager desire to please his native tribe has kind of a sadness to it. The Atomic Revolution is remarkable in part because of the incongruity of powerful artwork and the patently hollow Military Industrial message it delivers. But it hints at what might have been, if Copp'd had been less concerned with his standing at the yacht club and more concerned about his place among artists.

Related posts:
Part 1: On M. Philip Copp, The Military Industrial Complex's Goto Guy For "Unfunny Comics"
Finding The Atomic Revolution: Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a winner

Q. You're posting about magazine cruises?? If TMN told you to jump off the Empire State Building, would you?
A. Could I basejump?

Mr George Loper and Molly Ivins on The Nation's 2000 cruise, image:loper.org Mr George Loper and Ms Molly Ivins, aboard the MS Ryndam for The Nation's 1998 reader cruise. image: loper.org

Eric Wemple's report of the failure of The New Republic's reader cruise is good, but doesn't reach the hilarity of Eric Alterman's New Yorker account of The Nation's near-mutinous first cruise.

A cruise consultant who had helped set up the trip was taken aback by the ambience. 'I've never seen a cruise audience be so ornery to its guest speakers,' he confided to me by the Stairmasters, adding, 'and it's not only the New Yorkers, either.' He was grateful, though, that no one tried to unionize the crew's largely Indonesian wait staff.
It's part of Mr George Loper's [pictured above] The Nation Cruise Anthology. Nick's experience with one Nation editor begs the [gender biased. So sue me.] question, "Would YOU go on a cruise with this woman?"

Able efforts all, but for my money, David Foster Wallace is still king of the Reportage From Cruises You Don't Want To Go On hill.

There's a 2000 Smart Car for sale on Ebay, which appears to be legal in the US. Colorado registration, 12.5K miles. No mention of the EPA/DOT paperwork, but you can email the seller for details.

We've rented a Smart in France, and we beat our heads against the Smart dealership wall in Nice for several days, trying to get them to tell us how/why they helped Sally Jesse Raphael get one into the US, but they wouldn't help/tell us. [But isn't it because she was a star, you ask? Non. Any one of us is arguably more famous in France than Sally Freakin' Jesse Raphael.]

For almost three years, I've carried a little red movie ticket in my wallet, the old-fashioned pulpy kind, from a big roll. It says "Emergency Re-admit" on it. It enables me to return and see Dancer in the Dark, which I went to see one weekday afternoon in 2000. After 15 confusing minutes, I snapped and decided I'd better get back to work, and I hastily, if temporarily, abandoned the controversial film.

Dancer in the Dark, image: finelinefeatures.com
Last night, I watched it on DVD, and it blew me away. It's not just a movie starring a singer, it's a musical. All this time, I'd assumed that meant it had some aggressively amateurish Sound of Music renditions, with Catherine Deneuve and Bjork as added gimmicks. So I was half-watching while writing when the first actual musical number came on, almost halfway into the film. After that, I was transfixed.

Von Trier was intent on "covering" the musical numbers in one take, as live events--come what may audio-, image-, and mistake-wise-- using 100 cameras. It didn't quite happen that way. They did use 100 fixed, synch-coded DV cameras (140 for one song), covering the entire performance area, and they shot several takes, all the way through. Additional crews shot close-ups of Bjork. The result: a staggering amount of footage (68 hours for one three minute song) and, presumably, a big job in post.

Rapid cuts between fixed shots stands in sharp contrast to the never-resting hand-held camerawork in the rest of the film. From the commentary tracks, the choreographer Vince Paterson, who did the Vogue video, meted out whip-cracking tough love, Madonna-style, on his Dogme-soaked, improv-happy collaborators. Vince made sure the 100 cameras positions and framing was actually based on the staging. His impressive combination of imperiousness and restraint comes through in his commentary, ("We found out it would serve our purpose much better to involve me.") and it's not hard to accept von Trier's comment that Paterson saved the movie.

The limitations of this ultimately low-tech, handcrafted sophistication are apparent, though. Von Trier rightly laments the short cuts it produces: "Maybe if you had 2,000 cameras, you could get some longer cuts and closeups." At the same time, he argues strongly against editing between multiple takes and for multi-camera coverage of a single performance. It all reminds me of The Matrix Reloaded, of all things. Specifically, the god-like CG camera technique the Wachowksis and Maeda used to film The Burly Man fight, the one with 100 Agent Smiths and thousands of cameras.

June 16, 2003

Venice: Vidi, Bitchy

The Venice Biennale is finally over open, and not a day too soon. For a bunch of whiny Americans, anyway. In the Times, Carol Vogel complains about having to see art "amid relentless heat intensified by the power needed for lighting and video installations." Meanwhile, artnet's Walter Robinson, an apparent Venice virgin, complains about having to see art in "some historic buildings," the heat and the dearth of video. [After the massive sucking sound that was 2001's video choices, less is definitely more, Walter.]

Lisa Dennison, chief curator of the Guggenheim ("Where the sponsor's always right!"), complained to the Times about the curators having too much say. [Or the Guggenheim not having enough: they apparently lobbied hard for Matthew Barney's Cremaster Cycle to be chosen for the Guggenheim-owned American Pavilion. Fred Wilson got it instead.]

Wilson has an African street vendor selling fake purses at the entrance to his installation of Venetian Moor-related art. Via Vogel: "Richard Dorment, an American who is an art critic for The Daily Telegraph of London, said he was speechless when he saw the pavilion. 'To put a seller of handbags in front of a pavilion is condescending to both Americans and Venetians,' Mr. Dorment said. 'This is a person, not a work of art. Where are the days when major American artists represented our country?'"

[Rowrr. Dorment apparently lived up to his name; his sniping ignores 1) the inside of the pavilion, which many people praised, 2) the major majorness of the 2001 show's Robert Gober, and 3) Maurizio Cattelan showing a buried person--an Indian fakir, whose praying hands stuck out of the sand--in 1999. And besides, in 2001, Venice was plastered by billboards for some museum exhibition which pulled the same street vendor stunt as Wilson.]

Elmgreen and Dragset, Spelling UTOPIA, image: e-flux.com Elmgreen & Dragset's e-flux poster, starring Lala, image: e-flux.com
People, if you're looking for Pitti, it's in Florence. Venetian art parties rank below even Cannes film premieres on the Burdens Likely To Evoke Sympathy scale. It's a lesson well learned by the Guardian's Cannes crank, Fiachra Gibbons, who clearly looked on the bright side in Venice. His reports are giddy fun, from his Black Power shoutout for Wilson's work, and Chris Ofili's British pavilion to his star-struck love letter to Lala, the diva chimpanzee star of "Spelling U-T-O-P-I-A", by my pals Elmgreen & Dragset. [There's something for the blogosphere to figure out: at what point does "in the interest of full disclosure" become "shameless touting of my connection to famous friends"? Ask me tomorrow when I post about my friend, Olafur Eliasson.]

As I sit here in New York, recovering from my A/C-induced cold, I'm working on an "I Survived the Venice Biennale" T-shirt, for those who truly suffer for art. Stay tuned (or feel free to send a design suggestion or two).

(not in chronological order)

  • Christopher Benfy's argument on Slate for why much less is more for a WTC Memorial.
  • Benfy misuses an interesting term, "countermonument," which comes from Competition juror, Prof. James E. Young. [it's used on this syllabus]
  • Speaking of syllabi, this outlines a Radcliffe Women's Studies graduate course titled The Politics of Traumatic Memory: History, Place, and Art in Societal Examinations of Memory. It's dated August 2001.
    Week 1, Sept. 12: Introduction: Interdisciplinary Course Themes
    1. Politics, history and public process after societal trauma
    2. Traumatic memory in art and material culture
    3. Place, memory, the built environment, and memorial dialogues

    Topics to be addressed
    1. The distinction between memory and history
    2. The challenges of remembering/commemorating past events
    3. How memory, the body and place are inter-related
    4. How memory is used to serve a political purpose

  • in 1999, Young and Philip Gourevitch conducted an engrossing email discussion on Slate about remembering the Holocaust in America. [Uncanny update: GreenCine Daily's David Hudson just wrote an article for Telepolis on the troubling persistence of Hitler as Narrative, which mentions yesterday's NYTimes article on "too many Holocaust documentaries.]
  • Young is critical of the "fetishization of ruins" in the Holocaust memorializing context, and makes a connection that startles me about a "tradition that already makes the ancient remnants of a destroyed temple in Jerusalem its holiest shrine." I'd never EVER considered The Wailing Wall as a reference for the WTC slurry wall, although according to Jan Herman, ViÒoly and others have.
  • The exposed slurry wall has been rebuilt once, is being rebuilt now, and will probably be redone again. There is no archaeology at the site; everything will be recreated. [via Rafael ViÒoly]
  • Daniel Libeskind has dual Israeli and American citizenship. ViÒoly's wife and child are Jewish.

  • June 16, 2003

    Everyone's Making Movies

    Well, Jason is, anyway. It's a love story. Believe me, you'll laugh, you'll cry.

    The Korea Story, 1950, excerpt, published by M Philip Copp

    Discovering The Atomic Revolution--a stunningly drawn, cheerleading 1957 comic book for Our Friend, The Atom--and being in an apocalyptic Animated Musical state of mind, I set out to discover its origins, and its elusive creator, Mr. M. Philip Copp, whose only other known (to Google) publication was a 1952 comic book, Crime, Corruption & Communism.

  • There's a new Struth museum photo on my street; it moved in next door to an old Frank Stella painting. People who have good art rarely bother with curtains.
  • Researching The Atomic Revolution, that rad Establishment comic book I want to rip off for my Animated Musical, I ventured into the library of The Society of Illustrators, which turns out to be just around the corner. Who knew? It's sort of an inker's Friar's Club; there's a gallery on the ground floor, a bar/dining room (which I'd imagine fills up with crusty cartoonists around, oh, 11:00AM), and an eclectic library on the third floor. Alas, no trace of Mr M. Philip Copp or The Atomic Revolution. [At least not there.]
  • On my corner, then, an entrepreneurial neighborhood scamp from the co-op had set up two Hammacher & Schlemmer-y folding tables, and was doing brisk business in home-baked goods. A couple of years ago, the kid--he's probably 12 now, with new braces--set up one table in front of my building to sell gum. (Parents buy a case at Cost-co, kid sells the packs individually. It's like printing money, for a 10-year old. Still, as our now-closed neighborhood fountain pen store proved, you need more than one product; I gave him a couple of books to sell.)

    He's since learned the importance of location--and foot traffic--to a retail operation. And he's got his schtick down pat; as the neighborhood ladies marvelled at the marble cake ("And is that red velvet? I make that!"), he let it slip that he'd baked it himself last night. That's right, those kids over on Fifth may be foisting their nanny-cake on the doormen, but on Lex, the law of the retail jungle prevails: it's every man for himself. By the time his parents brought the Range Rover around for the drive to Southampton, he'd sold out his entire inventory of brownies and (bundt and red velvet) cakes.

    Lizzie Grubman, if you ever actually open a bakery here, you'll have some stiff competition.

  • I broke down and subscribed to Harper's after they jacked up their newsstand price. I can't go without my Harper's [You shouldn't either.] But apparently, much like David Remnick before him, the illustrious Roger Hodge somehow neglected to notify me of Harper's Weekly Review, which resides online. I had to learn about it from The Morning News. Not bad, but still. When is Big Media going to realize it's real problem is not paying me enough attention?

    But nevermind that for now. Here's an excerpt from this/last week [Urgent note to Mr Hodge: What, no archive??]

    President George W. Bush staged a handshake between the Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers at a summit meeting in Jordan. President Bush, Prime Ministers Ariel Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas, and King Abdullah II of Jordan stood outdoors together in the hot sun wearing suits and ties but were kept free of unsightly perspiration by tubes installed by White House operatives that blasted cold air from an ultra-quiet air conditioner that was hidden nearby. Sharon and Abbas read statements about the "road map" to peace that were largely written by American officials. "I think when you analyze the statements, you'll find them to be historic," Bush told reporters later. "Amazing things were said." Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade responded to the summit with a joint attack on an Israeli military outpost in Gaza, killing four soldiers. Elsewhere, in the West Bank, Israeli forces shot a seven-year-old Palestinian girl in the abdomen.

    The Venice Biennale is opening right now, and the artworld (minus 1 or 2) is trying to crash each other's parties. Far from regretting not being there, I am getting a full Biennale experience, thanks to Frieze Magazine's, SMS reports. For the second morning in a row, we were repeatedly startled awake by my cell phone vibrating across the room.

    Here's one from yesterday: FriezeSMS Venice 03: Text message codes: Pav=Pavilion. Gia=Giardini. Ar=Arsenale. IO=Invite Only. Pa=Party.

    And this morning, a splash of a review: FriezeSMS: Not even the Op Art effect of the glittering lagoon prepares you for Ofili + Adjaye's luminescent rooms. Paradise is within reach. Sun Factor 40...

    Last Biennale, too, we waited until later in the summer, avoiding the art masses, at least. Here's my Sept. 7, 2001 post about the visit, from back when the weblog was young.

    [via Archinect] Last month, MIT's Dept. of Architecture hosted a presentation by Rafael Vinoly, the Al Gore of last year's WTC competition study competition. Vinoly was part of Team THINK, and he tells about the antics at Herbert Muschamp's NYT Ground Zero (about 20 minutes into the stream), coming up with their plan for building a World Cultural Center (about 40 minutes in), and winning the campaign.

    Some highlights: (1:15:00) "Libeskind was courted; he was actually in Germany and decided not to enter, and the LMDC went to Germany to get him-- because he was the Owner of Death or something (audience laughter)."

    Vinoly may be more polite, but he's not alone in his criticism of Libeskind. "Dream Teamers" Peter Eisenman and Steven Holl weren't shy in discussing their disgust, either. And as Gothamist reports, Libeskind's design is still under fire from many sides.

    Though he pointedly doesn't talk about waking up the next morning to find out they'd lost, Vinoly does give some advice on the Memorial Competition: (1:42:00) Q. Should entrants in the Memorial Competition take the Libeskind scheme as a departure point? A. "The major prob with the [Libeskind] scheme is that the scheme does the Memorial... I know for a fact...that what [the LMDC and memorial jury] are expecting is precisely somethng that actually changes this...Do what you want, because that's what they're expecting."

    June 11, 2003

    Utopia Station


    Utopia Station is a project opening at the Venice Biennale, curated by Molly Nesbit, Hans Ulrich Obrist, and Rirkrit Tiravanija. In Venice, there's a space, a Station, designed by Tiravanija and Liam Gillick, which will host a series of programs, performances, whatever, around the insistent reimagining of Utopia. Some friends, Michael & Ingar (aka Elmgreen & Dragset) emailed a heads up for their ongoing performance (today until the 15th), and it seems AgnËs Varda will be stationed at the "entrance of her cabane ý patates (potato shack)" as well, so take your screenplay with you.

    Utopia Station, Olafur Eliasson/Israel Rosenfield, image:e-flux.com

    The curators also commissioned 160 artists, filmmakers, and brainy types to design posters, which will apparently be popping up beyond Venice as well. Varda's poster has her heart-shaped patates refusÈes from The Gleaners; Olafur Eliasson and psych prof Israel Rosenfield's poster [above] ties in nicely to yesterday's Bloghdad.com post. [and even though E&D emailed me, and even though I recently spent a day locked in a room with all three curators, I found Utopia at GreenCine Daily.]

    Maybe a Tarkovsky movie works best as a memory; watching The Sacrifice again after many years was a little trying. However easily I got distracted by some of the antic, theatrical acting, the make-or-break single-take scene at the end, where the < SPOILER ALERT> house burns < /SPOILER> has a langorous, unassuming awesomeness. It's not your typical one-shot, in so many ways.

    Anyway, The Sacrifice's post-nuclear armageddon setting reminded me of a good Wim Wenders film, Until The End of the World. Actually, it was listening to the even greater soundtrack, which reminded me.

    June 10, 2003

    On Taste Tribes

    via Boingboing: On Mindjack, Joshua Ellis writes at length about what he calls Taste Tribes, friendship by cultural affinity--liking people who like the same stuff. Blogs are the engines for the smarter artist/chiefs of their own taste tribes.

    shagpad logoI cooked something up along those lines in 1999 at Shagpad, which was based on the Austin Powerish, Abercrombie & Fitchy theory that people bought stuff in direct relation to its ability to get them laid. Or as the VC-Powerpoint presentation-ready slogan goes, "Shagpad.com leverages web and e-commerce technology to monetize aspirational lifestyle portfolios that facilitate getting mad play." The idea came out of some client work which became, in part, Pop.com (They chose the wrong part, I thought.) At Shagpad are a couple of essays that are not quite embarassing enough to take offline (and besides, the buy-this-lifestyle Amazon links usually pay the hosting).

    [Update: It should be noted that I peeled off my friend Jeff's last name; he's a sculptor in Red Hook, and the Google searches were beginning to cramp his style. Now that Wallpaper* has declared Red Hook trendy, I'll probably have to change that, too. Aaron, you have my sympathy.]


    First, the BBC uncovers the truth behind the too-good-to-be-factchecked Saving Private Lynch story, calling it "one of the most stunning pieces of news management ever conceived."

    Now, according to the Guardian, a BBC news program shows the Wholesale Looting of The Baghdad Museum story to be just as made up.

    Question for media: When it's a Ba'ath party official playing you, do you still call it "news management" or is it just lying? Bigger question for media: Now that you've been demonstrably managed lied to by nearly everyone in this war, are you going to start demonstrating a scintilla of journalistic skepticism?

    Donald Judd, image:chinati.org

    Mmmm? In Art Papers, the artist Evan Levy tells the story of visiting The Chinati Foundation, Donald Judd's minimalist mecca in Marfa, Texas. He found "a flaw, a missing corner, in one of the concrete sculptures," which Judd placed in the field beyond his converted army warehouses. Later, Levy discovered a meteorite nearby, and wondered if it's "the only intergalactic rock to have struck a work of modern art?" He built a show around it, apparently.

    It sounds implausible to me, and not just because he was supposedly forbidden to take any pictures of the sculpture. (I have all kinds of pictures from my trip to Marfa.) But ask him yourself next week. He's giving a promisingly titled artist's talk, ennui & asteroids, Sunday June 14th at 2pm at the Sandler Hudson Gallery in Atlanta.

    [Bonus alliterative update: Memories of Making Movies in Marfa]

    turrell_ando.jpg

    Ando and Turrell collaborated on Minamidera, a Buddhist temple on Naoshima, a small island in Japan's Inland Sea. Is it worth noting that Ando was a boxer and Turrell was a Quaker? Here is one exchange from their conversation inside the completed space:
    Ando:The color is really nice. I have no difficulty just being here for 10 minutes.
    Turrell:Sometimes 10 minutes is difficult in modern life. This is fine that the situation of a work like this in a small town, puts together traditional and the contemporary. It's a way that makes some sense. I think that things in contemporary art must be something for you.They need to be near your life, too. People here at first, may wonder about this work, and about the architecture. Over time, it should be very interesting for them, because other people will come on a long journey just to see their town.
    The Naoshima Contemporary Art Museum oversees "The Art House Project," where disused traditional buildings are restored in collaboration with a contemporary artist. In addition to Turrell, the artists Tatsuo Miyajima, Rei Naito, and Hiroshi Sugimoto have completed Art Houses. The hotel on the island, Bennesse House, was designed by Ando. The crappily decorated rooms each have generally good, unique, contemporary art in them.

    G, in the Garden, 2002, Lisa Yuskavage, image:marianneboeskygallery.com
  • See Christian Marclay's amazing 4-screen work, Video Quartet, now showing at the Hammer Museum in LA (I've mentioned this before, and I'll mention it again. This piece ROCKS.) [via TD and ArtKrush]
  • See The Cremaster Cycle in Washington, DC (or, apparently, in San Rafael, CA) [via me, because I'm in DC]
  • See the exhibition of Raghubir Singh's photographs at the Sackler Gallery. It's a thousand times better than the silly, irrelevant Ethiopian show next door, which Tyler got worked up about on Modern Art Notes.
  • See any Chris Marker film you can in NYC, either at Anthology or Film Forum. His Remembrance of Things to Come was haunting and depressing; One Day in the Life of Andrei Arsenevich is playing Saturday.
  • See Meredith Danluck's blownout abstract paintings at Andrew Kreps Gallery and Lisa Yuskavage's blowaway gorgeous paintings at Marianne Boesky Gallery.
  • The Atomic Revolution Comic Book, image: ep.tc detail, The Atomic Revolution, image: ep.tc

    [Dublog, you rock.] If I could get the artist of The Atomic Revolution to do my Animated Musical, I would. Ausin-based artist Ethan Persoff found the mysterious 1957 comic book at an estate sale, along with "a corporate memo, a vinyl recording discussing Einstein's theories and a large calendar-sized brochure of modern-art-inspired paintings using a number of atomic weapons companies' logos." He scanned it and posted it online.

    The caption for the above image reads: "On December 8, 1953, President Eisenhower proposed to the United Nations that the world join together to 'strip the atom of its military casing and adapt it to the arts of peace.' Even now the United States is building portable atomic power stations that can be shipped by air to any part of the world. These capsules of civilization [??] can be used to produce heat, power, and radioactivity."

    Some of the gorgeous line drawings are based on photographs. They have a stunning combination of clarity, obfuscation, optimism and eerieness. If there was an Government-Issue Version of Detective Story, the noir installment of The Animatrix, this is what it'd look like. Cowboy Bebop director Shinichiro Watanabe did both Detective Story and Kid's Story, which gives the backstory on Neo;'s exasperating Zion groupie. Free will does not extend to not getting Animatrix. Buy it now. We have quotas to meet.

    Billmon compiles and documents a list of US administration quotes on Iraqi WMD's. Additions continue in the comments (but I confess, I could only get through about 20% of them. It seems people ARE talking about something besides the Matrix

    I, of all people, should like a sponsored roadmovie featuring an Audi, and a Handspring. Go figure.

    Another GreenCine find, Wim Wenders has directed a The Other Side of the Road, a 6-minute filmmercial for the introduction of the Audi A3. See it at Audi's Germany site. Like most Wenders work, plot takes a backseat to scenery (and since the A3 is a hatchback, it's a very small backseat). Some grungy couple, a sleek couple, a lot of desert driving, cleverly placed signs with the ad agency's slogans: admire me, push me, love me, etc.

    Wim Wenders Photos, image:wim-wenders.com
    There's a Making Of montage, too, which I found more engaging. The whole thing's wordless, with a repetitive porny soundtrack. And there's an interview with Wenders in German. The film takes a lot of visual cues from Wenders' photos (above), which he exhibited in 1995-6.


    [via GreenCine] David points to a GreenCine article last year where a table of film festival directors review the history and future of the festival.

    Some started as propaganda (Venice, Cannes, Berlin), some as flukes founded by freaks, but festivals are constantly balancing the art and commercialism, pure love of cinema with selling out.

    How can festivals avoid falling into the trap of becoming just another stop along way for the Hollywood press junket? "Cultivate Internet critics," insisted [Toronto FF head Piers] Handling. "They are young, they are hip, they are different, they have a very different sensibility. And they are trying to discover young talent, new talent... they are not as fixated on Julia Roberts."

    June 4, 2003

    Bloghdad.com/Roadtrip

    One man decides to up-and-go to Iraq and see it for himself. Check out his writings and photographs (via Kottke:

    i decided to go, probably, during the second week of the war, when my frustration with the western media had hit a boiling point. it was during the second week that al-jazeera was banned from the NYSE and told by the british to censor its imagery. meanwhile their ratings were skyrocketing and they laughed through a 10-fold increase in viewers while being surreptitiously bombed in baghdad (by american shells). but mistakes happen, people dont get along and wasn't it a war, anyway?

    Jeff "Many Irons in the Fire" Jarvis posts an interesting proposal: weblog up Iraq in the name of free expression and democracy.

    An earlier post of Salam Pax's about discovering free internet access got him started thinking, you see, now he wants to create "a hundred Salam Paxes."

    I'm sure the New Yorker won't complain. Get a subscription to Salam Pax's favorite magazine here. Hint: it makes a great, humanitarian gift.

    Now some more folks are picking up on it, including Slate writer Paul Boutin and MSNBC weblogger Glenn Reynolds.

    THIS sounds like a job for the Gates Foundation

    Fogh and Guldbrandsen, image: drsales.dkHearing a story on the wide-ranging political turmoil which followed The Road to Europe, a documentary on the Danish prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, I wanted to know more; but the reports I found still left me unsatisfied.

    Deutsche-Welle, The Economist, even NPR's On the Media, referred to the documentary as "reality TV," a term which belittles both the film's message and impact and which ignores the history and context of "fly-on-the-wall" filmmaking.

    To get the still-untold story of how The Road to Europe was made, I contacted the film's 32-year old director, Christoffer Guldbrandsen, at DK, the Danish public broadcaster. Here are my questions and his responses:

    G: How did you develop the idea for The Road to Europe, and what challenges did you face in gaining permission and access from prime minister Rasmussen?

    C: I wanted to make a portrait of Rasmussen and the anatomy of decision making in the EU at a historic moment in time. To make a political documentary that also worked as a well told story. The idea had simmered in me for years, but [had] never been possible to realize until last year, when Denmark held the [EU] presidency.

    The process of gaining permission and access to Rasmussen consisted of four meetings with his head of communications and an e-mail correspondance. We discussed in detail what kind of access I would need to make the film. The prime minister had the following conditions: he wanted to see the final film before is was aired. If there was material that, according to Danish law, threatened the "national security" he could ask to have it cut. Furthermore, civil servants [who] wished not to be in the film should be respected.

    I was concerned that the issue of "national security" could be used as a loophole for the prime minister to have controversial material removed. We discussed it in detail, and his office made it clear that the spirit of the deal was to interpret "national security" in a very narrow way and not abuse the clause.

    G: How did you shoot it? What was your crew and equipment? What restrictions or limitations did you have on equipment and access?

    C: I shot it myself on a Sony PD-150, with a Sennheiser [416] camera mic. I used a monopod to increase stability.[that's him in the pic. -greg.] There where no restrictions on the equipment. I chose the compact set-up because I wanted to be as discreet as possible. Another problem was that Rasmussen did not want to carry a microport [ie., a wireless mic]. This meant that I had to be close to him all the time to pick up the sound and always point the camera/mic at whoever was speaking. This, of course, limited my freedom to shoot.

    In terms of restrictions: there were a lot of people trying to stop me from working, ranging from bodyguards to various secretaries -- I worked in all fifteen EU countries, and not everybody welcomed my presence. However, the staff of Rasmussen quickly got used to me and began to help me out in difficult situations. The rule was that I could film Rasmussen all the time, but that he could, as an execption, ask me to leave.

    G: When did you start to identify the key elements of the program? Did they reveal themselves as you were shooting, or in the editing process? Did this influence how/what you shot?

    I made a series of interviews before I began shooting. I tried to analyse the process, to see were the challenges were for Rasmussen. I looked at who his allies and enemies would be and tried to locate the conflicts. I don't think it influenced the shooting too much, but it gave me something to steer by when I got lost. A lot of the key elements only surfaced in the editing room, but I always like to have a script when I start out, because I find that it gives me focus.

    For me the script mostly works as a starting point. I had decided to let the camera roll virtually all the time, and then pick up on what I could. In my opinion, the best political documentaries are those that capture the human relations in the story. In my experience, politicians try to control the situation when the camera is rolling, but when they interact with other people, this control erodes. And sometimes, if I'm patient, I can get a glimpse of who they are.

    4. What are the influences or models you used for the program? In the English-language press, the phrase "reality TV" is used frequently, but descriptions of the program make me think of The War Room, D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus' documentary about Bill Clinton's first campaign for US president. Are you familiar with this film, or other works by Pennebaker or Albert and David Maysles, who also became very well known for "fly-on-the-wall" documentaries, beginning in the 1960's?

    The War Room has definitely inspired me. It's a brilliant film that uses human relations to tell a fantastic story. I draw heavily from the tradition of the American Direct Cinema filmmakers. Not directly, but I have their work in the back of my mind. Pennebaker is, in my opinion, outstanding. Another source of inspiration is the Dogme movement -- mostly in terms of aesthetics, particularly the camerawork of Anthony Dod Mantle ( The Celebration, etc).

    G: In the US, George Bush's team is becoming known for its elaborate preparations or productions of imagery, especially for TV. What does your experience show about politicians' attempts to take advantage of film/entertainment techniques?

    C: That it can backfire badly. I think it is almost immpossible to control a filmmaker if he takes his job seriously. I always search for the honesty of the moment. And even the most staged and controlled situations can contain this honesty - if you deal with them in a right way.

    For news, stories and links, check the earlier post.

    Peter Maass redeems himself. It seems Salam brought some CD's to work, which, when combined with road songs from David O. Russell's Three Kings, makes one helluvan Amazon List:

    "the best music imaginable for driving around anarchic Baghdad"

    June 2, 2003

    What are the odds?

    Bombing suspect/NC survivalist Eric Rudolph, image: ap, via nytimes.comQueen lead singer, Freddie Mercury, image: bbc.co.uk

    What are the odds that Eric Rudolph, NC mountain man and religious fundamentalist extremist suspected of bombing a gay bar, would look so much like late Queen lead singer, Freddie Mercury?

    cf. From the mountains to the sea. Artist Donald Moffett's courtroom sketches from the murder trial of "Christian soldier" Mr. Ronald Gay, who a shot up a gay bar in Roanoke, VA. Also, Larry Clark's Bully, not on the DVD list.

    Turns out the Times Magazine had Salam Pax on the payroll, translating pizza orders for their Man in Baghdad, Peter Maass, but they didn't know it. That copy of the New Yorker mentioned in Rory's Guardian piece? It's Maass's. Looks like that "virtual felled forest of [warblog] postings" landed on Peter's head. And Nick's been sitting on the story for ages, poor guy.

    Hmm. I wonder if Slate knows they have a column named Bloghdad?


    Spa64, 64th Street & Lexington Ave, image: greg.org

    For it's US release (no doubt on a Fox network), they should call it The Real World: Copenhagen, or maybe The Anti-War Room. The actual title of 32-year-old director Christoffer Guldbrandsen's documentary depends on the language--it's "Fogh Behind the Facade," in Danish and "The Road to Europe" otherwise--and it follows the Danish president, Anders Fogh Rasmussen through his rotation as president of the European Union. It shows what happens when EU dimplomats stop being polite and start getting real.

    Fogh and Guldbrandsen, image: drsales.dkBefore this Fogh was pronounced faux, but now, it should probably have that yiddishy hard-consonant ending that art history poseurs give to "Van Gogh." (As in "Lars, dude, we are so Fogh'ed.") The fly-on-the-wall crew, traveling with Fogh's approval, captured embarassing comments from other EU heads (like Chirac, Putin, Germany's Joschka Fischer) which have set off political storms all over.

    It's interesting to note, and I'll take credit for noting it, thank you, that just as with Bush/Rove's Sforzian backgrounds, the "official" media coverage proves more revealing than the independent press.

    Asked by Le Monde what he discovered during filming, Guldbrandsen replied, "Avec les hommes politiques, je pense que l'on n'obtient jamais la vÈritÈ quand on la demande." Translation for "freedom" fighters: "With politicians, I think you never get the truth when you ask for it."

    Coverage: here's a BBC article; a better Deutsche Welle article; Guldbransen's three questions in Le Monde, a piece at the end of today's On the Media, and the film's official page [in Danish] and rights sales info [in English] at DK1, the Danish public broadcaster.

    June 1, 2003

    Update: DVD Recs

    Thanks to the folks who've emailed suggestions for DVD's to order up. Here's a sample, along with recommendations from some other people:

  • Kurosawa's Ran; Resnais' Hiroshima, Mon Amour; and any Kubrick (I decided on Full Metal Jacket and Lolita)
  • I culled The Iron Giant from Jason.
  • By buying it the other day, Roger Avary recommends The Breakfast Club, from which I extrapolated Fast Times at Ridgemont High. (Added Avary's own Rules of Attraction, esp. for the commentary track by Carrot Top.)
  • Finally, though he may not have intended to, Larry Wachowski is suggesting Orlando. Read the book, too.

  • June 1, 2003

    Catching up: WTC

    Thursday night, seven of us got together to discuss our questions and challenges for the WTC Memorial competition. [Here's a sublog for the topic.] It was an extremely helpful and insightful couple of hours. The group included a journalist/weblogging guru, an architect, two artists, a designer, and me. Conversation was free-ranging; here's Jeff Jarvis's take(away), and here's some of mine:

  • Take "performance pressure" off the Memorial, by limiting it to its Mission. Use the rest of the program at the site, e.g., the Tower, the Museum, etc. Don't boil the ocean.
  • That said, meeting the needs of all the constituents/those who will be honored, is probably the single biggest challenge. It's not something to approach blithely.
  • Excuse the language on a Sunday, but Libeskind's a pain in the ass. His design has so many loaded elements in it, things that intrude on the memorial site, it's not designated, so much as leftover; options that stay within the official site are severely constrained. The odd ramps, some mega-waterfall, trenches, glass walls, his cultural buildings; in order to pretend one cultural building doesn't impinge on the footprint of the North tower, it's being called a bridge. And sewer rat may taste like pumpkin pie, but I'll never know. The right memorial has to correct aspects of Libeskind's plan.
  • Practical notes: working back from the delivery deadline, factoring in production time for the board/images/text, leaves two weeks, max, from today to pin down the design. Unless you're a 3D rendering master (and even if you are, but you don't have infinite time/resources), adapted photocollage is the medium of choice. Of course, Maya Lin submitted a pastel drawing so abstract, one juror figured whoever the guy [sic] was who submitted it sure must know what he's doing to send something so simple.
  • With over 13,000 submitters, you've also gotta factor in the amount of time your board will receive. Is it 15 seconds? 30? It has to be quickly compelling enough to make that first cut.
  • There's more, but I can't give away all my strategies...

  • Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

    Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting greg.org that time.

    comments? questions? tips? pitches? email
    greg [at] greg [dot ] org

    find me on twitter: @gregorg

    about this archive

    Posts from June 2003, in reverse chronological order

    Older: May 2003

    Newer July 2003

    recent projects, &c.


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    Social Medium:
    artists writing, 2000-2015
    Paper Monument, Oct. 2016
    ed. by Jennifer Liese
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    Madoff Provenance Project in
    'Tell Me What I Mean' at
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    11 Sept - Oct 23 2016
    show | beginnings

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    Chop Shop
    at SPRING/BREAK Art Show
    curated by Magda Sawon
    1-7 March 2016

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    It Narratives, incl.
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    Sept 5 - Nov 9, 2014
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    TheRealHennessy Tweets Paintings, 2014 -
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    Standard Operating Procedure
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    CZRPYR2: The Illustrated Appendix
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    "Exhibition Space" @ apexart, NYC
    Mar 20 - May 8, 2013
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    Summer 2012
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