October 2007 Archives

October 27, 2007

Cabinet's Got Huge Balls

The Joshua Foer photo timeline, "A Minor History of Giant Spheres," that got me all hopped up on Satelloons, is now online. It's in the latest issue of Cabinet Magazine.

And while you should always buy or subscribe to Cabinet, the photos online are, on average, much bigger. The curse of the printed timeline format, I guess. [via kottke]

Previously: I will someday install a Satelloon in Grand Central Station, the Pantheon, and/or the Piazza San Marco.
"the most beautiful object ever to be put into space"

nytimes_blackwater_compound.jpg

Modular, prefab, minimalist, outdoor space, nice matte finish, shipping containers... Just slap a couple of solar panels on the roof and get a book stylist in there to add a Moholy-Nagy monograph to the coffee table, I think we have our January cover!

Under Siege, Blackwater Takes On Air of Bunker [nyt]


se/sthlm/swedish shell/04, originally uploaded by Hagen Stier.

where we'll live in this unused 1954 Shell station by Peter Celsing. It's so funny, I always imagined Sweden was cold and dark, but just look at this picture, taken at 3AM. Now we know that Ikea gets its blue from the color of the always-sunny Swedish sky. [via andy]

Here are photos of the Shell station when it was still in use. [zlattes.com]

Previously: I want to live in a gas station

October 23, 2007

JMW Turner Overdrive

Time has a great review of the big JMW Turner exhibition--at the Museum of Modern Art in 1966.

The Washington Post, meanwhile, has an incomprehensible ramble about the bigger Turner exhibition at the National Gallery. Does Turner's 40+ year-old position as an ur-Impressionist, ur-modernist still hold up? Who knows?

Landscapist in Light [time.com]
Turner, In Full Light [washingtonpost.com]

The Drawing Center has invited me to participate in a "Curator Slam" this Friday to celebrate the launch of their new Online Viewing Program. One of the Center's greatest strengths has been its slide registry, which enabled artists who hadn't shown in New York before to get their work in front of collectors, curators, dealers, critics, and the public.

Now the Viewing Program is available online, and offers a variety of search techniques--by medium, artist location, keyword, date, and artists' text--to dig into the registry.

The Curator Slam will be--I'm told--a live, real-time curating/surfing event, where several of us simultaneously search the registry in front of the crowd, in order to put together a virtual exhibit of works on a given theme [to be provided that night, possibly via a fancy envelope or a fishbowl full of paper scraps.]

So far, I've played around with the Registry a bit, trying to see what kinds of results various searches produce. I can already feel that the "exhibit" produced will be as much about the process and the search tool as about the work or the artists. Reviewing work from gridded thumbnails inevitably impacts how and what you see; intimate subtleties are lost, while bold or easily read gestures and compositions are, well, easily read. Likewise, the artist's statement and her very words, in fact, take on a more prominent role than they ever would in a gallery. It's literally a filter by which the registry audience reaches the work. [On the other hand, I can't imagine a single reason why the artist's hometown would be relevant for searching/discovering his work. Though there are plenty of non-art reasons I can think of...]

The slam is free, and if you're in town and easily amused, I would love to have a sympathetic face or two in the crowd--or at least an articulate heckler. It starts at 6:30, which gives you plenty of time to get in and out of Lucky Strike afterwards, and on with the rest of your evening.

Viewing Program Curator Slam, Friday, October 26, 6:30 PM, The Drawing Center, 35 Wooster St [drawingcenter.org]
The Drawing Center Viewing Program

Related: The Drawing Center's 4th annual benefit auction is Nov. 7th. Check out the donated works.

October 22, 2007

It's A Small Warhol's World

I'm still looking around for anyone who gave an account of yesterday's discussion of Warhol films at the American Museum of the Moving Image. Warhol Film Project director Callie Angell and film critic Amy Taubin were supposed to "discuss the artistic significance of Warhol’s films, the social and cultural milieu surrounding their production, and the history of their reception and their restoration."

If you see something, please say something.

warhol_inner_outer.jpg
still from Inner and Outer Space, 1965

And as for the AMMI's ongoing Warhol's World film screening series, you should definitely see something. There are several reels of Screen Tests being shown. On Nov. 3rd, Saturday afternoon, a new print of Outer and Inner Space, the innovative double image, video-on-film portrait of Edie Sedgwick is screening. After that is a new print of Chelsea Girls. And the next week, Nov. 11th, is a new print of Lonesome Cowboys, which stars--among other people--Allen Midgette, the actor who pretended to be Andy during a 1967 speaking tour of western university campuses.

Warhol's World - Screenings & Events, through Nov. 11th [movingimage.us]

Previously:
Have you seen me? Warhol's lost videos
The Fake Warhol Lectures

Untergunther-crates-gregorg.jpg

It looks like the RISD Mall Dwellers have some stiff, French competition. Via UX frontman and UnterGunther spokesman Lazar Kunstmann comes this most excellent photo of the crates the guerilla restorers used to camouflage their workshop in the Pantheon, the mausoleum of the stars in Paris.

I would totally buy one of these--or two, really, since you'd want a matching pair--if they were exhibited and made available, say, as an art edition. And how cool would it be to have a little mantle-sized replica of the 19th-century clock movement the group repaired while hiding behind those crates for a year? Though I really do like the idea of urban exploring for fun and country, not fun and profit. Still, a guy can dream. [thanks, Lazar!]

Previously: the full UnterGunther Pantheon story, plus more urban exploration

paris_pantheon_dome.jpg Leviathan_Pantheon.jpg
l: Pantheon r: Pantheon w/Ernesto Neto's 2006 installation, Leviathan Thot

Wow, worlds collide, I feel like I'm in an Umberto Eco novel. At nights over the course of a year, a group of urban explorers in Paris who call themselves UnterGunther slipped into the Pantheon, the national mausoleum for French giants from Voltaire to Hugo to Marie Curie, and the site of Foucault's original pendulum experiment. [yikes! I am!]

untergunther_clock_tf1.jpg

Once inside, they hid behind a wall of fake crates, and set to work restoring the movement of a massive clock, not working since the 1960's, which they say had been neglected and left to rust into oblivion by the French government. The group enlisted a professional clockmaker, Jean-Baptiste Viot, to help on the project, which required fabricating several parts from scratch.

On October 10 2006, they presented the restored clock to Bernard Jeannot, curator of the Pantheon, who was expressed his profound thanks on behalf of a grateful nation. HAHA, kidding. He was horrified and launched a criminal investigation into the repair of the clock.

untergunther_tf1.jpg

UnterGunther's stated motives for these clandestine restorations--besides restoring things, of course--is to highlight "the incapacity of the French National Heritage administration, Monum, to preserve the heritage it is in charge of." It's a message that takes on unfortunate resonance with reports that drunken revelers recently broke into the Musee d'Orsay and punched a hole in a Monet--and then escaped unmolested by museum guards or police.

In an interview last month with the Times of London, who should turn up as the spokesman for UnterGunther's urban explorer network, l'UX, but that underground cinema guru himself, Lazar Kunstmann. Fascinating and disturbing and invigorating stuff.

Unter Gunther's report, english [urban-resources.net]
UnterGunther's home page, with media coverage, in french [ugwk.eu, images above via the TF1 news story, 19Jul07]
Underground ‘terrorists’ with a mission to save city’s neglected heritage [timesonline.co.uk]

Related: Meanwhile, Americans sneak into malls and have parties for a year

Previously, Oct. 10, 2004 [!]: Exclusive: the greg.org interview with Lazar Kunstmann & La Mexicaine de Perforation
Les Arenes de Chaillot subterranean cinematheque's complete programme guide

Ted at Big Screen Little Screen has a nice phoner with Mike Mills on the occasion of his new documentary, Does Your Soul Have A Cold?, which premiers on IFC Oct. 22. In the movie, Mills follows around a group of Japanese early adopters, some of the first people to take anti-depressants for what is essentially a Western-paradigm condition:

What surprised you? For me, there’s a scene early on where we see their daily routines. You list off the different prescriptions that each of them were taking. Daisuke rifles through a large box of pills and then downs them with Dr. Pepper and alcohol…

With a homemade White Russian; that was one. And I interviewed some other people for the film who took even more pills. And for whatever reason I just couldn’t film enough of their lives, and they didn’t end up working out in the film, but they’re very interesting. I met people that were taking eight pills at a time. Part of that is just the Japanese medical world where if you have the flu, you would go to the doctor and he would give you three or four different medications. With anything, they are prone to taking medicine or believing in chemical solutions to a problem. That’s part of the deal...

I assume it's in the film, but doctors in Japan make most of their money from prescriptions, so they overwrite and oversell like crazy. In any case, Mills' interest in the "everydayness" of his subjects is always a quiet treat.

Interview: director Mike Mills [via goldenfiddle]

echo-1.jpg

Yes, I do have a ton of other things I should be doing, but I can't seem to get Project Echo out of my head. I really want to see this, 100+ foot spherical satellite balloon, "the most beautiful object ever to be put into space," exhibited on earth. But where?

serra_moma_gregorg.jpg

When MoMA was designing its new building, a lot of emphasis was placed on the contemporary artistic parameters that informed the structure. The gallery ceiling heights, the open expanses, the floorplate's loadbearing capacity, even the elevators, everything was designed to accommodate the massive scale of the important art of our time: Richard Serra's massive cor-ten steel sculptures.

And they did, beautifully, until just a few days ago.

But is there anything more anti-Serra, though, than a balloon? Made of Mylar, and weighing a mere 100 pounds? And yet at 100 feet in diameter, a balloon of such scale and volume, of such spatially overwhelming presence, it dwarfs almost every sculpture Serra has ever made?

The original Echo I was launched into space, but it was explicitly designed to be seen from earth. It was an exhibition on a global scale, seen by tens, maybe hundreds, of millions of people over eight years. People from the Boy Scouts to the king of Afghanistan organized watching parties. Conductors stopped mid-outdoor concert when Echo passed overhead.

rose_center.jpgpantheon.jpg
L: Hayden Planetarium = 87-ft diam. R: Pantheon = 142-ft. HEY!

What would an Echo satellite do to the art space it would be exhibited in? Are there even museums or galleries who could handle it? Or is the physical plant of the art world still organizing around the suddenly smallish-feeling sculptures of, say, Richard Serra?

sphere_in_cube_wireframes.jpg

Echo satelloons were first seen--or shown, isn't that why there's a giant NASA banner draped across it?--in a 177-foot high Air Force blimp hangar in North Carolina. There are plenty of non-art spaces where an Echo could be exhibited, but that misses the whole point.

What art spaces in the world are able to physically accommodate an 10-story high Echo? A gallery or museum would need unencumbered, enclosed exhibition space of at least 120 feet in every dimension:

  • MoMA: No. the atrium is technically 110 feet high, but the sixth floor catwalk cuts across the space. Also, it's not wide enough.
  • Guggenheim NY: No. Daniel Buren's mirror installation went from the floor to the skylight, and it was 81 feet tall.
  • Guggenheim Bilbao: No. Gehry's rotunda is 165 feet high [though it's also reported as 138' and 150', in any case it's taller than Wright's, which is all Krens wanted.], but it's also roughly cylindrically shaped, i.e., too narrow.
  • Tate Turbine Hall: You'd think "Yes," but No. 500 feet long, 120 feet high--and 75 feet wide.
  • Centre George Pompidou: No way. ceiling's too low.
  • Metropolitan Museum: No. the Great Hall turns out to be too narrow.
  • Getty Center: No. Meier's atrium is impressive as far as it goes, but it only goes maybe 60 feet.
  • High Museum: No.

    Suddenly all these atriums and rotundas you think are just grossly oversized turn out to be too small. I guess the art world's space limitations will be the constraining parameter for my Project Echo exhibition.

    echo_grand_central.jpg, greg.org redstone_grand_central.jpg

    Maybe the only thing to do is to show it in a non-art-programmed space after all. Grand Central Station's concourse is 160 feet wide and 125 feet high in the center. And as a bonus, a US Army Redstone rocket was exhibited there in mid-1957 [via wikipedia]. It was lowered through a hole cut in the constellation-decorated ceiling.

    struth_pantheon.jpg, greg.org

    And then there's the Pantheon, which is built on a 142-foot diameter sphere. As readers of Copernicus, Walter Murch, and BLDGBLOG will know, the Pantheon "may have had secretly encoded within it the idea that the Sun was the center of the universe; and that this ancient, wordless wisdom helped to revolutionize our view of the cosmos." What better venue for displaying a satellite which indirectly helped revolutionize our view of the origins of the cosmos? And not that it's necessary, but it even already has a hole in the roof.

    gregor_cube_gregorg_sphere.jpg, greg.org

    Unless I do it outside, Maybe in the Piazza San Marco, where Gregor Schneider's 46-foot, black, shrouded Venice Cube sculpture was supposed to be installed during the 2005 Biennale. But would a recreation of a relic of American military and media propaganda be any more welcome in Venice than a replica of the Kab'aa? [So I just follow Schneider and install it two years later in the plaza in front of the Hamburg Kunsthalle? I'll get right on that.]

    skywalkers_mie626.jpg

    Or maybe the answer's right in front of me, and I just don't want to admit it. Here's what I wrote last winter about the Sky Walkers parade staged last December by Friends With You [and sponsored by Scion!]

    It's what I've always said Art Basel Miami Beach needed more of: blimps.
    The only art world venue which can accommodate a 100-foot satelloon is an art fair.


    Also of interest: A 1960 Bell Labs film, The Big Bounce, produced by Jerry Fairbanks, tells a very Bell-centric version of the Project Echo story. That horn antenna is something, though. [archive.org, via Lisa Parks' proposal to integrate satellites into the traditional media studies practice]

  • echo_satelloon_color.JPG
    image: NASM

    From about 1956 until 1964, US aeronautics engineers and rocket scientists at the Langley Research Center developed a series of spherical satellite balloons called, awesomely enough, satelloons. Dubbed Project Echo, the 100-foot diameter aluminumized balloons were one of the inaugural projects for NASA, which was established in 1958.

    In his 1995 history of NASA Langley, Space Revolution, Dr. James Hansen wrote:

    The Echo balloon was perhaps the most beautiful object ever to be put into space. The big and brilliant sphere had a 31,416-square foot surface of Mylar plastic covered smoothly with a mere 4 pounds of vapor-deposited aluminum. All told, counting 30 pounds of inflating chemicals and two 11-ounce, 3/8-inch-thick radio tracking beacons (packed with 70 solar cells and 5 storage batteries), the sphere weighed only 132 pounds.

    For those enamored with its aesthetics, folding the beautiful balloon into its small container for packing into the nose cone of a Thor-Delta rocket was somewhat like folding a large Rembrandt canvas into a tiny square and taking it home from an art sale in one's wallet.

    The satelloons were made from a then-new duPont plastic film called Mylar, which was micro-coated with aluminum using a then-new vacuum vaporizing technique developed by Reynolds Aluminum Co. Originally conceived as research tools to collect data on the density of the upper atmosphere, the reflective satelloons also served as proofs of concept for space-based commmunications systems.

    The original research proposal put forward by a Langley engineer named William J. O'Sullivan called for a 20-inch balloon, which was increased to 30 inches. These "Sub Satellites" were followed by a 12-foot diameter Beacon satelloon, the size of which was determined, not by any scientific requirements, but by the ceiling height in the Langley model fabrication room.

    echo_beacon_folded.jpg

    In the post-Sputnik euphoria of a 1958 congressional hearing at which a Beacon was inflated in the Capitol Building, O'Sullivan assured politicians that a communications satelloon "10 stories high" could be readied and launched very quickly which could be used "for worldwide radio communications and, eventually, for television, thus creating vast new fields into which the communications and electronics industries could expand to the economic and sociological benefit of mankind." Such a large, American satellite would also be visible to the naked eyes of everyone in the free world and in the rest of the world. Just like Sputnik, only much, much bigger. It was these 100-foot satellites which were called Echo; the rocket system that would launch these giant balls into space was called Shotput.

    project-echo_container.jpgecho_flight_spare.jpg
    l: nasa. r: flight spare at nasm

    With this exponential increase in scale, NASA's Project Echo team faced major engineering challenges in packing and deploying the satelloon. They eventually devised a two-piece spherical payload container laced together with fishing line and ringed by a small explosive charge, which would deploy the balloon.

    Then there was the issue of seams. At a 1959 inflation test in a disused blimp hangar in Weeksville, North Carolina, the original General Mills Echo split apart. A photo in Hansen's book shows O'Sullivan and his colleagues sticking their heads through a gash of the collapsing balloon. The top photo is from a later 1959 test, also at Weeksville.

    Folding was another major challenge. G.T. Schjeldahl, the Minnesota packaging manufacturer contracted to build the Echo satelloons after General Mills, had the adhesive question solved, but they couldn't figure out how to fold the thing. [Founder Gilmore Schjeldahl is credited with creating the first air sickness bag in 1949. In the 1950's, his company also made inflatable buildings known as Schjeldomes.]

    After watching his wife unfold a tiny plastic rain bonnet, however, Ed Kilgore had a "Eureka moment," which set Langley's technicians in motion:

    At Langley, Kilgore gave the hat to Austin McHatton, a talented technician in the East Model Shop, who had full-size models of its fold patterns constructed. Kilgore remembers that a "remarkable improvement in folding resulted." The Project Echo Task Group got workmen to construct a makeshift "clean" room from two by-four wood frames covered with plastic sheeting. In this room, which was 150 feet long and located in the large airplane hangar in the West Area, a small group of Langley technicians practiced folding the balloons for hundreds of hours until they discovered just the right sequence of steps by which to neatly fold and pack the balloon. For the big Echo balloons, this method was proof-tested in the Langley 60-foot vacuum tank as well as in the Shotput flights.
    The first Shotput flight occurred almost exactly 48 years ago, in the late afternoon of October 28, 1959. The launch and deployment were successful, but the Beacon exploded, most likely due to residual air left in the balloon to aid its inflation in the vacuum of space. The result was a spectacular, 10-minute light show all along the east coast of the US as "the thousands of fragments of the aluminum-covered balloon...reflected the light of the setting sun."

    To uncover the cause of any future failures, the engineers coated the inside of each satelloon with red fluorescent powder. Then they set up a 500-inch focal length camera on the beach near the launch site to document the unfurling in space. They also publicized the launches well in advance, so they could get mitigate any negative publicity of an explosion--and possibly get some credit for another light show.

    Echo 1 was destroyed when its rocket failed. Echo 1A, which was commonly known as Echo 1, was successfully launched August 12, 1960. Bell Labs in Holmdel, New Jersey beamed a radio message from President Eisenhower to it on its first orbit, which was reflected back to the world:

    This is President Eisenhower speaking. This is one more significant step in the United States' program of space research and exploration being carried forward for peaceful purposes. The satellite balloon, which has reflected these words, may be used freely by any nation for similar experiments in its own interest.
    echo_horn_antenna.jpg

    To communicate with the Echo satelloons, Bell Labs built a 50-foot long horn-shaped antenna in Holmdel, which could rotate and pivot on several axes. Later, in 1964, while calibrating the antenna, Drs. Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson detected microwave background radiation, the first concrete evidence of the Big Bang theory. They were awarded the Nobel Prize in 1978.

    Echo II was launched in 1964. Both Echo satelloons stayed aloft for years [until 1968 and 1969, respectively] Though not very efficient, their passive communications technology spurred on the development of active signal-transmitting communications satellites like Telstar. An Echo II was exhibited at the 1964 New York World's Fair, and a folded backup is on display at the National Air & Space Museum.

    I've highlighted some of the aesthetic or non-scientific elements from Hansen's long, somewhat rambling but detailed chapter on Program Echo to make a point. Or more accurately, to pose a challenge. In the art world, thanks in no small part to Duchamp, we privilege intentionality above all; anything--even the most mundane or found object, situation, and action--is art if the artist declares it to be so. But nothing else.

    kapoor-publicartfund.jpg sachs_alys.jpg

    Rirkrit Tiravanija cooking curry; Anish Kapoor employing an engineering firm to build a giant tension-fabric cone or a polished steel parabolic mirror; Michael Heizer etching patterns on the desert with his motorcycle tires; Cai Guo-Qiang exploding an arc of rainbow-colored fireworks across the East River; Tom Sachs replicating Fat Man for Sony; Francis Alys contracting hundreds of laborers to move a mountain of dirt one foot to the left.

    How does the remarkable historic, political, cultural, aesthetic, performative, and conceptual achievement of NASA's Project Echo fit into the cash-and-carry art world? Or, because I'm sure NASA, et al could not care less, and it's really the art world's problem, how does the collectively accepted framework of the art world deal with the fantastic, innovative, creative, and life-changing realities of the world around it?

    The continent-spanning light show? The largest minimalist sculpture to ever orbit the earth? The hundreds of hours spent folding balloons in a bricoleur's clean room? The meticulously choreographed performance of folding it? The stop-action artifacts of exploding powder bombs? The emotional and political manipulations of narratives of success and failure, and the rush of collective ego-boosting as a country watches from their porches for Echo to pass overhead?

    In practice, product, experience, and impact, Project Echo is every Tate Turbine Hall project, plus half the Turrells [OK, maybe not Roden Crater], plus Happenings, Minimalism, Post-Minimalism, the Wilsons, Sachs, Murakami, Rhoades, Mir, Hayakawa, deMaria, Kapoor, Semmes, Hirshhorn, Hamilton, and more rolled--or should I say folded--into one.

    And yet has anyone outside the space stamp collecting community even heard of Echo 1 before Cabinet Magazine published a tiny photo of it in their current issue? I'm an art collector married to a satellite-building NASA astrophysicist, and the whole store party atmosphere of the art fair/biennial circuit's never felt more like a giant, hermetic NetJets conspiracy than it does right now.

    Frankly, I'd rather track down the remaining test models and photos of the Beacon and the Echo. By the time I need a place to install it, hopefully the art world will have caught up/on. Which is a long way of saying I won't be at Frieze this week.

    online: , Ch. 6: The Odyssey of Project Echo, SPACEFLIGHT REVOLUTION by James R. Hansen [history.nasa.gov]
    not online: A Minor History of Giant Spheres, by Joshua Foer [cabinetmagazine #27]
    The Inflatable Satellite [americanheritage.com]

    Previously: Dugway Proving Grounds, the world's awesomest earth art?

    sony_ripoff_bunnies.jpg

    kozyndan_bunnies_det.jpg

    Whoa, so it turns out that Sony's new Bravia ad full of city-hopping bunnies [top] is a ripoff of the LA-based design team kozyndan.

    According to Core77, Sony's commercial production company Passion Pictures had invited kozyndan to present their portfolio which, in addition to the bunnyscape panorama USA-chan [detail above], also included Uprisings, their Hokusai-inspired wave of bunnies. After receiving the materials, the agency never called the designers back.

    [Dumb-ass smart-alecks like 95% of the commenters on Gizmodo take note: there is a substantive economic and ethical difference between kozyndan openly referencing a centuries-old, famous work of art by a long-dead artist and an ad agency taking tens of millions of dollars from a client for creative concepts and work it solicited privately from independent artists, and then used without either credit or compensation.]

    This also seems like a good time to point out that Sony's agencies appear to have a problem with this. The idea of the first big Bravia ad, the one with 250,000 bouncy balls let loose on the street, was originally exhibited in Canada and the UK by the Canadian artist Lucy Pullen .

    [Not that Sony's alone in this ripoffery. Apple was in touch with artist Christian Marclay to use his 1995 piece, Telephones, for the first iPhone commercial that ran during the Academy Awards. Marclay finally refused, but Apple went ahead anyway.]

    Will the Real Bunnies Please Stand Up? [core77]

    October 5, 2007

    You And Me Both, Errol

    It was an historic occasion. I arrived with my cameraman, Bob Chappell, and his first assistant, Eric Zimmerman, within a few days of the 150th anniversary of the fall of Sebastopol on September 8, 1855. The airport at Simferopol — the Crimea’s capital — was clotted with dozens of elderly British tourists arrived on the afternoon flight from Istanbul. For a brief moment I had this fantasy that I would make a movie about people at the end of their lives reaching back into some unknowable past, trying to recover something perhaps unknowable about their own past. I would follow them about. Record their attempts to reconnect with history. [emphasis added]
    In one offhand comment made and dismissed, it feels like Errol Morris summed up the entirety of the reason I decided to start making films myself, way back in ought one. Kind of wish he'd done it sooner, but hey.

    There's blogging about making films, and there's Blogging About Making Films. Morris's NYTimes blog account of discovering the circumstances behind Roger Fenton's iconic 1854 photos of the Crimean War is dense and long and convoluted, and absolutely fantastic. Part two went up last night [Part one has been up a while.]

    Of course, this is no random blog brain dump, but I suspect it will be part of the book written with Philip Gourevitch that accompanies his next film, Standard Operating Procedure. If not, it should be.

    Which Came First? (Part Two)

    tape_art_devlin.jpg
    tape portrait of FDNY B.C. Dennis Devlin
    23rd St, north side, between Park & Lex

    Wow. Before he became known as Apartment In The Mall Guy, artist Michael Townsend was Tape Art Guy. Over the course of five years, beginning soon after the attack on the World Trade Center, Townsend and his friends created 490 life-sized silhouette portraits of people killed on Sept. 11th using painter's tape.

    Sometimes working with permission, but mostly without, the Tape Art crew installed the portraits across Manhattan in locations that, when viewed on Google Earth, create the outlines of several overlapping hearts emanating from the WTC site. In an article last year for the 5th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the Providence Journal called the project, "the world’s first stealth-memorial."

    The are a few execution problems with the project: the heart shapes are a bit too Hallmark-y, and the decision to create portraits only of certain categories of the dead-- airplane passengers, police and fire workers--feels like a missed opportunity to universalize the memorial.

    One of the most powerful, visceral memorial ideas I ever heard was to place bronze plaques in the form of the "missing" flyers that blanketed the city's lamp posts and mailboxes and the walls around the 26th St Armory, which served as an early rescue center in the days after the attack. Townsend's ephemeral, handmade tape portraits dispersed throughout the city get close to the shared sense of loss, and it stands in diametric opposition to the isolated, concentrated, formalized notion of memorializing the dead at a central site.

    I wonder how many of these are still around and how long they'll stay?

    Tape Art: The Eleventh of September [tapeart.com]
    The Art of Remembrance [projo.com]

    "Dude, you totally missed out on the shadow boxes from the Pottery Barn."

    apartment_mall_pb.jpg

    Spectacular. It's the suburban corollary to the urban explorer-style underground cinematheque of La Mexicaine des Perforation: surreptitiously creating and programming space in that most sprawling of American of institutions, the mall.

    A group of artists in Providence, RI built a secret apartment in the mall, and inhabited it on and off for nearly four years. To hide it [in plain sight of the mall maintenance and security staff], they built a cinderblock wall with a utilitarian metal door in the back of a storage space. It was furnished with products bought or scavenged from the mall:

    During the Christmas season of 2003 and 2004, radio ads for the Providence Place Mall featured an enthusiastic female voice talking about how great it would be if you (we) could live at the mall. The central theme of the ads was that the mall not only provided a rich shopping experience, but also had all the things that one would need to survive and lead a healthy life. This, along with a wide variety of theoretical musings about my relationship to the mall - as a citizen and public artists - provided the final catalyst for making the apartment.

    From those Christmas seasons to the present, I have spent the time to quietly create this space and occupy it from time to time. I cannot emphasize enough that the entire endeavor was done out of a compassion to understand the mall more and life as a shopper. It has been my utmost priority to not disrupt the security forces working at the mall, and I have gone to great lengths to make sure that my project did not interfere with their work.

    Plans to finish the kitchen, install the wood flooring, add a second bedroom and replace the outdated cutlery were put on permanent hold recently as I was apprehended leaving the apartment. The security personnel who took care of the situation did so in a fluid and professional manner. I admit to being caught off guard after four years, and apologize for not being as forthcoming immediately with information regarding my work.

    That's Michael Townsend, of RISD, who pleaded no contest to a trespassing charge, and received 6 months probation last Thursday. His site documenting the project, Trummerkind, or "Children of the ruins," is a reference to the German orphans left to fend for themselves in bombed out cities. Townsend's wife, Adriana Yoto, also makes mall-based work. Her Malllife project explores the connection between shopping and identity.

    The survivors of a ruined civilization angle reminds me of a recent post on BLDGBLOG about--what else?--JG Sebald, that ties the post-war German rubbledwellers to the survivors of our own impending apocalypse. Unless the just-in-time inventory replenishment is too efficient, malls might be the rallying point for bands of rebel shoppers, like the wooden fort redoubts in Costner's The Postman.
    1 room, no view [providence journal via reddit]
    Trummerkind: The Apartment At The Mall

    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 2007, in reverse chronological order

    Older: September 2007

    Newer November 2007

    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