October 2005 Archives

October 30, 2005

Nicholson In, On Antonioni

On the occasion of the theatrical re-release of Michelangelo Antonioni's classic film, The Passenger, its owner and star lead actor Jack Nicholson reminisces about working with his mentor.

It kills me that this is all we get from a 90 minute interview, though.

Nicholson resurrects `Passenger' [lat/chitrib via robotwisdom]
Manohla Dargis's article still packs more punch, I think: "Antonioni's Characters Escape Into Ambiguity and Live (Your View Here) Ever After" [nyt]

arthur_temple.jpg

There was a Church film in the 70's that showed what happens when you don't do your home teaching. Mike Farrell (the BJ-Hunniccutt-on-M*A*S*H guy) played an auto mechanic/Mormon bishop, who asks a young, career-focused lawyer in his congregation to be a home teacher to a troubled family where the father was becoming less active in the Church. Time goes by, the lawyer's busy and can't ever find the time to visit the family each month and check in on their spiritual well-being. One evening, he gets a distraught phone call from Sister Brown: her husband's gone, fed up, the last straw, and now they're getting a divorce. "Is there anything I can do to help?" the lawyer asks, which sets the wife up to drive the film's message home: "There was probably a time when you could have done something, but now it's too late."

Greg Whiteley's first film, N.Y. Doll, on the other hand, is a testament to the blessings that can come from doing your home teaching. Not only does your home teachee get his band back together after 30 years, your first film gets a raucous reception at Sundance.

When Whiteley was assigned to be fellow Los Angeles ward member Arthur Kane's home teacher, all he really knew was that the middle-aged Kane was a quiet, seemingly rootless reformed alcoholic who'd been in a band as a kid, long before he joined the Church.

Typically, home teaching takes the form of short, friendly, monthly visits, where you read a verse or two, share a prepared inspirational message from church leaders, and ask, slightly awkwardly, "Is there anything we can do for you?" And every once in a while, you help someone move.

Arthur Kane's home teachers, including Whiteley and the guy before him, who's interviewed in the movie, clearly magnified their callings. They gave Arthur money to get his prized bass guitar out of hock. Whiteley started videotaping Kane, making him the star of a film which, at the time, had no story and no prospects; all the big, archetypal plotpoints that occur in NY Doll--the Dolls reunion, the intervention of Morrissey, Kane's illness--only happened after filming had begun.

[At least that's how it appears. Most of the footage in the film appears to have been shot in small, intense bursts, even single sittings: Kane on the bus, at the Family History Center, the NYC reunion/rehearsal, picking up all the rock legend interviews backstage at the Meltdown 2004 performance in London. It's entirely possible that N.Y. Doll started out as a favor from a filmmaker, to help a friend tape his conversion story and his colorful personal history.]

In any case, NY Doll deftly and sensitively navigates two, even three paths as it tells Kane's tale: there's the VH1-style "where are they now?"/reunion rockumentary; the tearjerking, feel-good "grant a wish" by-the-book PBS special; and--and I don't imagine many people, Mormon or not, will spot this--a matter-of-fact lesson in the exercise of religious faith.

While the NY preview audience [heathen journalists all] I saw the film with tittered at the mention of answered prayers, miracles, and Kane's explanation of how the Holy Spirit revealed The Book of Mormon's truthfulness to him ["it's like an acid trip from the Lord"], that kind of experience and language will seem utterly commonplace to LDS audiences. So much so, that it may go unnoticed; but Whiteley's ability to document LDS religious doctrine and sentiment without resorting to either media-outsidery cynicism or church-insidery didacticism is such a rare achievement, I'm tempted to call it a miracle. He that hath ears, let him hear, I guess.

kane_johansen.jpg

The film's arcs aren't perfect, however, just the best they got on tape; I would have liked some more from Kane on the breakup and supposed bad blood that kept him and Doll lead singer David Johansen apart for 30 years. This reconciliation/making amends thread is pegged by his bishop--and by Kane himself--as the real dream-come-true; it's the "right" answer, Jesus-wise, but in retrospect, it didn't feel supported by the reunion buildup. And Kane's Family History Center co-workers could have been a little less cute-ified ["Q: you could be groupies! A: hee hee"]. But these are quibbles, really.

The moments of real emotion that Kane fans like Bob Geldof, Morrissey, and that one critic chick...sorry, Love...evince, and the patience/tolerance/goodwill/what-have-you when Kane leads the band in a pre-performance prayer are incredibly touching. Especially considering how obviously out of touch Kane could be [his Joseph Smith-inspired stage costume was called a pirate outfit by one person backstage]. If anyone spoke ill of his subject, Whiteley's heart was too full of charity to include it.

In the production notes, the filmmakers asked reviewers not to talk about the ending, so instead, I'll talk about the end of the ending credits. That is where I and one other guy who stayed were rewarded with one of the most inspired musical mashups ever: an unplugged rendition of the archetypal Mormon hymn, the dirge-like "A Poor Wayfaring Man Of Grief,"--a favorite of both Kane and Joseph Smith--sung by NY Doll David Johansen in his hard-lifeworn, gravelly, and heartfelt voice. It's no cover of the Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt," but don't we all fall short of the glory of Johnny Cash?

It's a generous gift from Johansen to his once-estranged bandmate, all the more so because it's so utterly unexpected. This is one pearl of great price that I hope someone will rip and get into wider circulation immediately.

N.Y. Doll opens today in New York (at the Angelika) and Los Angeles. See the New York Doll website for more info and release schedules. [newyorkdollmovie.com]
Is There Life After Rock 'n' Roll? [stephen holden's nyt review]
previously: Oh My Heck! Brother Greg Whiteley's NY Doll

To differentiate 2001 from the "flying saucer pictures" that owned the sci-fi genre at the time, Stanley Kubrick planned to begin the movie by showing interviews with 21 real-world scientists about their predictions for the future and the likelihood of extra-terrestrial life.

This prologue was dropped for length, and the footage has yet to be located, but recently discovered transcripts of the interviews will be published next month in the UK. The Independent reports that Carl Sagan was on the list to be interviewed, but was cut when he demanded editorial control and a percentage of the gross. millions and millions.

2001: The secrets of Kubrick's classic
[independent.co.uk via...um]
Are We Alone?: The Stanley Kubrick Extraterrestrial Intelligence Interviews [amazon.co.uk]

Guy Debord's films have been getting re-released on DVD; the late Spectacle-hating French theorist had pulled them from distribution in the 1980's when, well, when they weren't succeeding in destroying the neo-capitalist movie industry from within, I guess.

"He was against film when it was a symptom of the bourgeois order, an oppressive instrument of capital, a soul-destroying high mass," writes [Le Monde's> Jean-Luc] Douin. "But he agreed to use film to extend his written work."
"Dans le cinÈma, Debord s'est toujours proposÈ de ne rien faire de ce qu'on y faisait, et de faire tout ce qu'on n'y faisait pas." Which is exactly what I was trying to explain to someone the other day.

Guy Debord, dynamiter le cinÈma par le cinÈma [le monde via artforum via the wit of the staircase]
guydebordcineaste.com [via archinect]
Guy Debord: Contre Le CinÈma box set of 4 DVD's (region 2, heads up) and a 136-page book is due out Nov. 8. Pre-order it for EUR60 [amazon.fr]

gwb_nancy.jpg

In his efforts to duplicate Ronald Reagan's political career, he forgot one crucial lesson: watch your back around Nancy.

Here's a paragraph from Elizabeth Bumiller's NYT story, "At California Ceremony, Bush Reaches for Reagan Mantle":

Laura Bush and Nancy Reagan were at the president's side for the dedication. In brief remarks before he spoke, Mrs. Reagan recalled that on her husband's last flight on Air Force One, home to California, his staff poured Champagne and shouted, "Mission accomplished, Mr. President!" On Friday those words seemed an echo of Mr. Bush's own "mission accomplished" moment, now regretted by his aides, in which a banner with that message hung above him on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln when, in May 2003, he declared major military operations in Iraq at an end.
Suddenly, the Bush banner takes on a whole new dimension which I've never seen discussed anywhere. [This, I think, would be the time to confess I've never read Reagan's autobiography.]

Reagan chose his "Mission accomplished" anecdote as the cinematic ending for his book, for which he clearly envisioned a sequel: "Finally, champagne was poured and glasses were raised. 'Mission accomplished, Mr. President,' someone called out, 'mission accomplished.' Not yet, I thought to myself, not yet. ..." The Reagan faithful would've recognized Bush's 2003 banner as a direct reponse--a "now, at last"--to their Great Leader's call. To which Nancy replies, "I don't think so."

Previously: Sforzian Backstabbing

For the 1993 Venice Biennale, PS1 produced an exhibition of and about John Cage's work calledIl Suono rapido delle cose. This week, WPS1 has added a webcast of the accompanying CD to their archive. The CD features performances by Lee Ranaldo, John Zorn, David Byrne, Joey Ramone, among many others, interspersed among Cage reading his own stuff. Definitely worth checking out. [warning: don't expect any babies to sleep through Ranaldo's jarring chords.]

Meanwhile, the Cageian embrace of randomness is alive and well on WPS1's blogs [who knew?]. It seems there are 13 feeds-in-one, although not all have been kept up to date. Upbeat updates from one blogger's happy Scandinavian/Los Angeleno curatorial collaboration called Civic Matters are interlaced with another blogger/dj's virtual spitting on Rehnquist's grave. It may be a perfect embodiment of the WTF-chaos that gives PS1 its edge.

In the magazine header, image: newyorker.com
Issue of 2005-10-24
Posted 2005-10-17

THE TALK OF THE TOWN
COMMENT/ GAME PLAN/ George Packer on what the Republicans' troubles mean for the opposition.
NOSEBLEED DEPT./ RARE AIR/ Nick Paumgarten visits an office with altitude.
WHO R U?/ HARRIET 4 JUSTICE/ Mark Singer trades thoughts with Harriet Miers's alter ego.
GOOD WORKS/ BED BATH & BOWERY/ Lauren Collins on the best-friend benefactors of the New Museum.
EVERYBODY'S AN EXPERT/ DRAWING PITCHERS/ Michael Rosenwald on an illustrator with a secret.

SHOUTS & MURMURS/ Bruce McCall/ Only cronies need apply.

THE CRITICS
BOOKS/ Jill Lepore/ People Power/ Revisiting the origins of American democracy.
BOOKS/ H. Allen Orr/ Turned On/ A revolution in the field of evolution?
ON TELEVISION/ Nancy Franklin/ Big Mac/ At long last, a woman in the White House.
MUSICAL EVENTS/ Alex Ross/ Fresh Faces/ City Opera's fall season.
DANCING/ Joan Acocella/ Paper Tiger/ Michael Flatley in a new step-dancing extravaganza.
THE CURRENT CINEMA/ David Denby/ Family Matters/ "The Squid and the Whale" and "Elizabethtown."


FROM THE ARCHIVE
http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/articles/050228fa_fact1">A REPORTER AT LARGE/ Michael Specter/ NATURE'S BIOTERRORIST/ Is there any way to prevent a deadly avian-flu pandemic?/ Issue of 2005-02-28

One week of The New Yorker not enough for you? How about 80 years worth? Buy The Complete New Yorker, an 8 DVD-ROM set and companion book complete with every page of the magazine, ever, through last September, at Amazon.

yohji_shirt.jpg

It's the kind of thing you'd expect, sadly, of a clothes horse in a bubble economy: he buys a the turquoise-est, maroon-est, and black-est striped Yohji Yamamoto shirt he can find. That it cost $675 in 1999 is no surprise. That it's made of 100% polyester of the kind that litters mid-western thrift shops also raises no eyebrows.

He he wears it proudly on the flight to Salt Lake City to spend that post-IPO Christmas with his family. Somehow, he loves this shirt, even the second when he steps off the plane and realizes that it is his oh-so-Grand Street purchase that has, in fact, returned home; it turns out to be oh-so-indistinguishable from every potbelly-filled, cotton twill, line dancing rodeo shirt coming at him on the concourse. There had been nothing else like it in SoHo, but context was all.

"Dry Clean Only," the label said, and that's what he did, religiously. He respects the dry cleaner, cowers a bit, even. Does what he's told. You want your $675 shirt ruined by your own cheap laziness? I didn't think so.

It's 2005, a late autumn night on the road. Sweat's built up on his shirt--it's one of two in his bag--but there's no dry cleaners, and no time to wait until Thursday after 3:00 for pickup even if there was. What to do? He takes a chance and throws the shirt in with the rest of the laundry. It's late, one mixed load. He'll take it out to air dry, anyway, how bad could it be? Besides, it's been months since he's cleaned the damn thing, late winter/early spring, anyway, before he had to abandon it for the humidifying summer.

The shirt comes out barely wet, safe, fresh, perfect. Nearly as soft as those cashmere sweaters the first time he machine washed them on the advice of the 85-year-old knitter for Vogue Knitting, who, he figured, oughta know. And to think that all these years, he'd been so needlessly cautious sending it to the dry cleaners. All that money, that time, that waiting, that inconvenience, that dependence, for what?

It's only well into the next day when he remembers he's made a movie about a dry cleaners, his grandfather's old dry cleaners, in Utah. The kind of small town place where rodeo shirts get a pressing before the big dance, and where bootcut jeans get a crease so sharp and starch so heavy they don't hang, but arc like rainbows on the hanger. Is some familial longing somehow transmuted into his reverent care of a shirt? Or has his ironed-on faith in dry cleaning's infallibility finally started to crack and fade? After waiting decades to buy his own brand of toothpaste, has the man finally broken another enviro-genetically imposed bond?

The euphoria of suddenly discovered self-suffiency hasn't worn off yet, and until that flares down it's really too hard to say.

October 14, 2005

Get A Grip

You can fake the accent, you can fake the peppy talks with the troops [oh, actually, you can't fake those anymore, sorry], and when it's off-camera, you can fake being a rancher. But what you can't fake, turns out, is looking like you've ever hammered a damn thing in your life.

The problem here is the same as it's always been: too many conflicting backstories for the character either muddles the plot along the way, or it mucks up the ending [guess which one we're at now]. The jus'folks ever'man-o-God vs the "happy bottom quartile" Andover/Yale legacy vs the HBS Big Picture CEO President who supposedly picks the most talented people around and doesn't sweat the small stuff.

Well, you should've had a grip build this set, GWB, because as David Letterman points out, you hammer "like a little girl."

Choking The Hammer
(not Tom DeLay, sorry) [onegoodmove.com, video via robotwisdom]

Regine posts about British designer Tom Hawes' line of skateable street furniture which, despite having come about "by recognizing skateboarding as an unstoppable urban pathology," makes me feel good. Finally, someone's thinking of the children.

skateable furniture [via wmmna]

October 13, 2005

My Architects

bobanddenise.jpgJames Venturi, son of architects Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, has made is making a film about them and their highly influential ideas and designs:

This film is the story of their struggle, their ideas, and the meshing of the two in their architecture. The coupleís work and theories have been widely misinterpreted. While Venturi is credited as the father of postmodernism, he feels this movement perverted his ideas rather than embraced them. As Bob rose to fame, however, Denise remained unrecognized as a full design partner. The film will explore this inequity, her pioneering role for women in the field, and the ìstar systemî that propagates the myth of the ìguru architectî over the reality of shared creativity in collaborative design. This story will be told via the firmís buildings and by interviews with the two subjects, their coworkers, clients, colleagues, friends, and critics. The filmmaker, their son, hopes this film will inspire those whose ideas go beyond what the dominant culture promotes.
Sounds a little apologia-etic, as if perhaps the Venuri/Scott Browns worry about their important historical contributions being thrown out with the currently unfashionable post-modernist bathwater. I figure as long as they don't have any projects in the Hamptons that need preserving, they're set.

But it also goes to show you, your great architect dad [Or mom. Sorry, Denise!] doesn't have to be a secret polygamist mystic who visits you in the middle of the night, and who dies in the bathroom of Penn Station for you to make an interesting movie.

Oh, and whaddya know, Nathaniel Kahn is on the advisory board for the project, as is my friend Andrew. Looks like I've got some emails to write; we'll straighten out these damn architecture critics yet.

Learning From Bob & Denise [bobanddenise.org, via archinect]
Previously: On My Architect: The Path Of Kahn and On Understanding The Architect [I remember I was so pleased with myself after writing that post.]

October 12, 2005

On The Apprentice

martha_stewart_lars.jpg lars_vontrier.jpg

So I was stoking the fires of ill will against Martha Stewart by watching the last half hour of The Apprentice, and I'm thinking, "Damn, but that woman bugs the crap out of me," and "DAY-UM, but I hate the artificial claptrap of reality TV." And then I decide to clear my Netflix queue by finally watching The Five Obstructions, and damned if it isn't The Apprentice - The Lars von Trier Edition.

It's got everything I hate to hate about reality TV: a smug, annoying, self-annointed omnipotent pseudo-god forcing a supplicant to jump through ridiculous, contrived hoops. Von Trier achieves something I never thought possible: he's actually more annoying and passive aggressive a control freak than Stewart. [I guess Nicole Kidman and Bjork could've told me that; I'll have to bring it up next time I see them.]

The twist in The Five Obstructions, of course, is that von Trier himself IS the apprentice. His mentor/inspiration/victim is the elder Danish director Jorgen Leth, who must remake his 1967 short film, The Perfect Human five times, each time acceding to von Trier's intentionally capricious constraints [a cartoon, shot in the most miserable place on earth, no edit over 12 frames, etc.].

And just because Lars is more honest than Martha--in the end, he cops to the fact that, yeah, it IS all about him, always was--it doesn't mean he's any less unpleasant.

It's supposed to keep raining through Friday, when artist Pierre Huyghe is planning to shoot an element of a new video art work in Central Park's Wollman Rink. Huyghe is transforming the rink into a black ice floe, home for an albino penguin, apparently, and also to a 42-piece orchestra.

The public is invited to come and participate as audience/extras during three run-throughs of the piece. Even as he held out the possibility of some kind of surprise ending, Huyghe tried to manage expectations about the performance/shoot. He told Randy Kennedy of the NYT, "'There will be no crazy dancing girls,' he stressed. 'In fact, there will be almost nothing - for all 20 minutes.'"

Listen, I know the guy schlepped to Antarctica for a month searching for some damn albino penguin; thanks. But if we're gonna sit in the rain for two hours watching "almost nothing," we better damn well see some penguins. And I'll incite the crowd to storm the zoo if I have to.
An Antarctica Sighting in Central Park [nyt]

On the occasion of the UK opening of Mike Mills' Thumbsucker, the Observer (their Observer, that is) gives the nearly aristocratic Tilda Swinton a good, hard, philosophical fawning over:

I ask Swinton what were considered virtues in her family. She thinks for a while, then says, with an ironic smile, 'Not drawing attention to yourself. Not expressing an opinion. Stoicism. Being a good host - something that I still stand by. I'm very grateful for that genetic programming. Being able to laugh things off - also happy to have that one. Camaraderie - you know, trench warfare. I have a brother who's a soldier and whenever I talk to him about why he's in the army, the things he mentions are the reasons I love making films.' Funnily enough, Jarman once noted in his diary: 'In my own strange way I'm in love with both Keith [his companion] and Tilda, though love is perhaps not the right word. Perhaps a camaraderie, something more military. A friendship and partnership.'
Still worth a read, though.

Tilda opens up: "Pale, posh and scarily clever..." [observer.co.uk]

October 6, 2005

Shlog-Hinten Mountain

So the new year's not starting off that great. I found this great vintage Jewish cowboy belt buckle on ebay...

jewish_cowboy_buckle.JPG

Beautiful old belt buckle has nice detail. Features the Star of David. It is intricately worked in sterling silver. The buckle is marked Plata de Jalisco .925 V.H.L.C. Guad. Mex. and also has the number 43 on the back buckle. This buckle measures aprox. 3.5" long by 2." Take a look. Nice from estate. Prominent Jewish family on Chicago's north shore whom enjoyed Western style attire...ordered shirts, belts, shoes and other items from Porters Cowboy Store/Catalog Pheonix, AZ...

...but I just lost it at the last second to a hardcore Westernwear collector.

See, I wanted it for a Yiddish remake of Brokeback Mountain and uh, well, never mind. Back to the drawing board.

Previously: So You Want To Read "Brokeback Mountain"
Belt buckles I DID buy once for a movie crew

October 6, 2005

On Accepting Feedback

The sagest exegesis, however, comes from one of three short, squat, mushroom-Afro'd white teens who emerge from Royce Hall in Acid Mothers Temple T-shirts with ehhh-whatever sneers on their faces. "It's not that I don't like feedback," one of them shrugs, clearly at the beginning of an aesthete's lifelong journey of cred-proving. "It's that I don't like this feedback."
Terry Riley's birthday concert; armchair juroring Berlin's baldfaced copy of the Turner Prize; the New Yorker Festival's fashion panel.

It's not all whipped cream these days at the Artforum Diary; there are some sweet berries of art experience there, too.

Deaf Jam [artforum diary]

huyghe_penguins.jpgWhat is it with French people and penguin movies? Next Friday evening, French video artist Pierre Huyghe will be filming the second part of "A Journey That Wasnít," a musical based on a trip to Antarctica.

The first part was filmed in June by a crew setting out from Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego to an Antarctic island.

The performance will be shot after dusk on Friday at Wollman Rink. The work will debut at the 2006 Whitney Biennial, presumably with a new voiceover by Morgan Freeman.

Pierre Huyghe's "A Journey That Wasn't" [publicartfund.org]
Previous Huyghe worship [greg.org]

Three years ago now, I cynically lamented the absence of a "Memorial Mall concept" from the Port Authority's poorly received master planning massing studies. I guess I should have been more patient.

The Post reports on the PA's recently announced plans to develop "street-level retail" on the WTC site: "For one thing, a five-level retail galleria of the sort now in the dream stage exists nowhere in Daniel Libeskind's master site plan."


GROUND ZERO RETAIL IN FLUX [nyp]
"Manhattan's Most Respectful Mallô" [curbed]

October 5, 2005

Powersearching IMDb

The power search page of IMDb is indeed, um, powerful.

But for random delights, the filming locations browser is better.

Pimp my Searching: Internet Movie Database [sew, via rw]

October 5, 2005

Bill & Nada's "Always Open"

bill-nadas-portrait.jpg

Bill & Nada's was an unassuming Salt Lake institution, a 24-hour diner ["we never close"] that sat on a downtown corner for decades, providing eggs & brains, pancakes with coconut syrup, hot coffee and a haven for folks who didn't care for the uptight, corporate-flavored fuss of Denny's or Village Inn.

While it's been years since Nada passed away, Bill and his second wife ran the place until a few years ago; it closed down as giant bigbox retail stores moved into the neighborhood.

The December night Bill & Nada's closed, I went through with my DV camera, documenting what details and ambience I could, for later reference. [I have a script somewhere about the restaurant]. I wanted to be able to recreate the counter, the booths, the big wheel, the murals [like the one above, Bill outfitted for a parade. He showed and rode horses a lot over the years.]

Far more interesting is longtime customer Bert Singleton's Bill & Nada's tribute website. He's been collecting pictures of Bill & family, and of as many of the regulars at the counter as he can round up. He also has a picture of the place as it looks now. Apparently, the business that was set to take the restaurant site over never took off. Rather than being razed and erased from the map as people figured, the building has stuck around, now never open, a sad jog to the memories of the family of strangers who grew around it.

Bert's page is always open.
[billandnadas.com]

Previously: Bill & Nada's Cafe

bunshaft_travertine_house.jpg

Modernist architect Gordon Bunshaft's widow willed his exquisite travertine-clad Georgica Pond home--his only domestic design-- and their carefully installed collection of modern art to MoMA when he died in 1994.

MoMA sold it to Martha Stewart in 1994 without any restrictions or covenants. Stewart, caught up in the Minimalist revival of the day, hired John Pawson to redo it.

Several years later the house, a gutted shambles on the brink of a poorly conceived expansion and with some of its travertine scavenged for Stewart's Bedford, NY kitchen, was transferred to Stewart's daughter Alexis, who put it on the market in 2004.

It sold to retro textile guy Donald Maharam, who disingenuously declared the house an unrestorable ruin and razed it in July.

The culpability compounds with each set of hands that touched this property.

Bunshaft could have put covenants on it before willing it to MoMA, but didn't, possibly on the assumption that the Museum would, by the nature of its mission, take steps to preserve this important design.

MoMA could have put restrictions on the house when it sold it to Stewart but didn't. MoMA's not in the house business, so the idea that MoMA woulda shoulda kept it is naive at best. As is any idea that Bunshaft could've intended for MoMA to do anything but benefit from the gift of the house.

But still, the operating principles here were fiduciary, not curatorial or conservationist; and yet the "understanding" with Stewart and the publicity around it at the time, points to a perceived responsibility beyond merely maximizing the museum's return from a donation. Q: Did the Museum set aside the proceeds from the sale for future acquisitions? "Art-for-art," as befits a deaccession? I highly doubt it. If not, however the sale was presented--or spun-- in the press, on the museum's ledger, the house was a financial asset, not a work of art.

Stewart could have left the house as is, but didn't. Can anyone be surprised by that? Martha Stewart is a hack. The queen of hacks. It was her penury and negligence that let the house deteriorate. She's lucky that an over-inflated sense of your own aesthetic superiority leading to the decimation of a modernist landmark isn't a crime, or she'd still be in jail.

Ever since the sale, MoMA said it had a "good faith agreement" with Stewart to preserve the house, which was a stripped, weed-covered shell when her lawsuits with the house's next door neighbor were finally settled.

Pawson's a frickin' hack, but he coulda--no, he was just Stewart's hack.

Alexis... this was a wealth transfer mechanism, nothing more.

Maharam's a hack, and a spineless hack at that. He could have restored the house if he cared to, instead he hides behind the excuse that it was beyond help. The incremental expense of doing so is approximately zero compared to the price of the land. And it's not like he can build anything else; wetlands zoning restricts him to Bunshaft's original footprints (and whatever Stewart/Pawson managed to get approved.)

Did someone mention approvals? That'd be the East Hampton town board who sat by while one of the few interesting feats of architecture in the whole place was modified and destroyed. But then, why should important modernist design get any better treatment in the potato fields of the Hamptons than they do on the corner of Central Park?

In LA, three of Frank Lloyd Wright's concrete block houses hover on the brink of ruin. Important corporate headquarters--including one of Bunshaft's--get redeveloped with impunity. Modernist preservation groups like Docomomo whimper to no effect. How many 20th century landmarks must be lost before something changes?

Without any explicit agreements anywhere regarding its preservation, without any laws, zoning, landmark designations or other institutional protections, and in the face of the Hamptons real estate juggernaut, the house was doomed before Mrs. Bunshaft's assistant ever called Frank Campbell.

I used to sail and kayak on Georgica, often with the express purpose of seeing Bunshaft's art and the luxurious simplicity of his house. So excuse me if I seem especially pissed and despondent.

Martha's Touch [nationaltrust.org via archinect]
Also: The Architecture Newspaper's earlier coverage [archpaper.com, includes pic]
Disrepair At Martha's [the easthampton star, 2002]
HC&G says MoMA chose Stewart's bid over her Georgica neighbor, developer Harry Macklowe, on the understanding that she would do righter by the house.

[11/05 update: An earlier version of this post criticized the Preservation article as cribbed from previously published accounts of the Bunshaft house saga. This speculation was prompted by similarities in quotes and by a dangling reference to a "Krinsky," Bunshaft's biographer who goes otherwise unmentioned in the Preservation piece. The writer of that piece has since contacted me--presumably because I unfairly called him a hack--and provided further information that shows my purely text-based speculations were incorrect. The Krinsky thing was a copy editing oversight; and guess what, the same people talking about the same thing tend to do it in similar ways, so no surprise if their quotes sound similar.

Anyway, my apologies to the writer, an innocent bystander who got hit when I started flinging all those "hack"s around.]

October 2, 2005

Atelier Bow-Wow House, Blog

bow_wow_lot.jpgThe awesome and ingenious Tokyo architecture firm Atelier Bow-Wow (the Japanese translation, Atelier Wan, sounds nicely like "1," too) is keeping a blog of the combination house/studio they're building for themselves in Naka Meguro, a central, dense, and expensive section of Tokyo. The lot they found was affordable only because it's tiny and enclosed on all sides. Still, it's zoned for more than 660 sqm, (including underground) of live/work space.

Because of their shape--a square-ish lot blocked in and invisible from the street, and connected to it by only a narrow passageway or easement--plots like this are called flagpole sites. The site poses just the kind of severe challenges that AB-W has specialized in addressing, though.

To fit their live/work program into the envelope of the building, they have integrated and jig-sawed the home and studio spaces together, and they seem to have managed to carve out incredible space, light, privacy, and even some views on a lot that looks like something out of a Gordon Matta-Clark exhibit. Of course, it's all in Japanese, so good luck with that excite.co.jp translator...

House & Atelier Bow-Wow [via archinect]
Tokyo House: projects for flagpole, eel, and box sites

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When I first met John Powers five+ years ago, he was like a Tibetan monk with a pile of sand. Only instead of sand, he had thousands of 1-inch woodblocks, which he transformed into a huge, impossibly intricate, mandala-like sculpture that sprawled across the floor of Exit Art's gallery. Every day throughout the exhibit, he scooted around on a little skateboard chair, replicating and altering dense patterns of blocks as he went. The work wasn't "finished" when the show ended, and he swept the whole thing away, but that, I think was part of the point.

Now, in his latest show at Virgil de Voldere Gallery in the Chelsea Arts Building, Powers is reconfiguring hundreds? thousands? of white, Sol Lewitt-like grid modules into a new sculpture every day. The gallery's website has pictures of the ones you've missed, but you can also stop by until Oct. 9th to watch new pieces come together.

John Powers at Virgil de Voldere through Sun., Oct. 9 [virgilgallery.com]

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 October 2005, in reverse chronological order

Older: September 2005

Newer November 2005

recent projects, &c.


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Social Medium:
artists writing, 2000-2015
Paper Monument, Oct. 2016
ed. by Jennifer Liese
buy, $28

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Madoff Provenance Project in
'Tell Me What I Mean' at
To__Bridges__, The Bronx
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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eBay Test Listings
Armory – ABMB 2015
about | proposte monocrome, rose

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It Narratives, incl.
Shanzhai Gursky & Destroyed Richter
Franklin Street Works, Stamford
Sept 5 - Nov 9, 2014
about | link

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TheRealHennessy Tweets Paintings, 2014 -
about

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Standard Operating Procedure
about | buy now, 284pp, $15.99

CZRPYR2: The Illustrated Appendix
Canal Zone Richard Prince
YES RASTA 2:The Appeals Court
Decision, plus the Court's
Complete Illustrated Appendix (2013)
about | buy now, 142pp, $12.99

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"Exhibition Space" @ apexart, NYC
Mar 20 - May 8, 2013
about, brochure | installation shots


HELP/LESS Curated by Chris Habib
Printed Matter, NYC
Summer 2012
panel &c.


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Destroyed Richter Paintings, 2012-
background | making of
"Richteriana," Postmasters Gallery, NYC

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Canal Zone Richard
Prince YES RASTA:
Selected Court Documents
from Cariou v. Prince (2011)
about | buy now, 376pp, $17.99

archives