August 2008 Archives

Don't mind us, We just need to borrow The Big Board for a minute to take some pictures...


...and to see how Roddick's doing. No, no, don't let us bother you. You just keep looking like you're working."


From the Washington Post:

Even war has not disrupted political conventions in recent years, but the extraordinary decision to alter what had been a meticulously planned coronation reflected the powerful and lingering political impact of Katrina. Although convention officials refused to discuss any political links between the Bush administration's response to Katrina and their current predicament, some Republicans here were clearly hopeful that by quickly shifting the theme of the convention to aiding relief efforts, they could buttress their efforts to show that a McCain administration would represent a departure from Bush. "It's beginning to creep around the edges that this could be a plus," said one GOP operative who listened in on a campaign conference call Sunday.
And by "this" he means, "using the destruction from a giant hurricane as the backdrop for McCain's nomination speech."

[images: reuters/john gress; afp/robyn beck via yahoo]

The water that falls half as long falls twice as bright.

If the best part of Olafur's New York City Waterfalls is how their manmade nature is emphasized by their somewhat arbitrary schedule, well, they just got twice as arbitrary, and so twice as good.

The Public Arts Fund has announced a 50% cutback [from 101 hrs/wk to 50] and revised operating hours for the waterfalls after complaints that the salty mist is killing shrubs in Brooklyn.

Beginning Sept. 8th, the new hours are:

5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays
12:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Please plan your dog walks accordingly.

Hours Are Cut for 'Waterfalls' [nyt/ap]

August 29, 2008

We're All Americans Now


Arrivederci, Sforza.

I've had some intense conversations with people who wanted to know what the US presidential candidates thought about the arts, who is advising them, and what their policy statements were on the matter. Frankly, I couldn't have cared less at the time, and now that I know the answer, I can hardly think of a less significant or important issue on which to base a decision. What the two presidential candidates do and say in other realms--in fact, their entire governing philosophies and the way they would lead the country--will have exponentially greater impact on US's culture, arts, and artist communities than whatever handful of legislative bullet points they throw out in a campaign.

Which incorrectly makes it sound like both candidates have even thrown out some bullet points. John McCain's arts policy is apparently not to have one. His website doesn't mention the arts, arts education, or federal arts organizations like the National Endowment for the Arts at all. His stated education policy makes no mention of the arts at all. I have a hard time trying to imagine an issue that would matter less to McCain and his campaign, much less to a McCain administration, and when the campaign can't pull together a comprehensible policy for technology and the internet, an articulated arts policy seems unlikely to come during McCain's lifetime, even.

In place of any official position of the McCain campaign, I took a look at the GOP's 2008 Party Platform. Which turns out to be a kind of grass roots/YouTube stunt to allow everyone to write the platform together. Interactively! There are five submissions that mention the arts. One is a cutnpaste 10-point "bipartisan" position paper from Americans for the Arts.

John from Damon, TX recommends eliminating most cabinet-level government departments including the "department of veterans affairs (I think the world of our veterans, but they don't need a cabinet position), and if you need more, take out the department of engery (they haven't done anything use full to date). then turn our attention to social programs. Most should be eliminated over time. Grants to the fine arts should be eliminated NOW (including PBS)."

Two others mention liberal arts in school, and then there's Stephen from Coopersburg, PA:

I would like to see martial arts added to the standard curriculum in schools, Not only because I teach Tae Kwon Do to kids age 4 & up, (and that would be a sweet job) but because it teaches them to focus, helps them with agility, and cardiovascular training, instills self confidence, dicipline, and teaches them how to overcome obsticles & fear (as well as kick Butt if needed).
I don't see McCain's folks improving significantly on these proposals, frankly. I think they should just go with these.

As reported on Artsjournal, Barack Obama does have an arts policy, freshly drafted by a 33-person arts advisory committee. The policy, grandly titled "A Platform In Support Of The Arts," [pdf] closely mirrors the issues championed by the Arts Action Fund, an advocacy group and PAC associated with Americans for the Arts that's hosting the document. It's a tiny bundle of noncommittal platitudes and proposals ["reinvest in arts education," create an inner city "artists corps"], expressions of support for existing programs [public/private school partnerships, the NEA], general campaign issues that impact the arts world [universal health care, US stops acting like a total dick to rest of world], and a tax code tweak proposed by Senator Leahy that lets artists donate works to museums at fair market value. That's it. You feeling the Obamamentum yet?

The advisory committee, too, seems as slight as the platform they propose. It's headed by the veteran producer/director George Stevens Jr., whose name you might recognize because he was an uncredited PA on two of his father's landmark films, Giant and Shane. His own work tends toward the Kennedy Center Presents programs, celebrations of what passes for culture in Washington, DC. The other co-chair is Margo Lion, the Broadway producer behind Hairspray. Then there's Michael Chabon, and a raft of arts industrial complex types: foundation directors, a few philanthropist/trustees, arts council and university folks. Despite the prominence of the artist tax deduction--it's the only legislation in the proposal--there doesn't appear to be a single person affiliated with a museum or associated with fine art.

update: poking around Americans for the Arts' website, I found ArtsVote 2008, an attempt to raise awareness during the presidential campaign and conventions for the arts industrial complex. There's a page with links to policy statements by all the candidates. All the candidates who responded and submitted them, anyway. Which is to say Obama has three statements. McCain, none. Also, John Baldessari made a poster.

No doubt, Cai Guo-Qiang has always had a tricky line to walk, working in the ephemeral, unpredictable medium of explosives and fireworks and all. The expectations for spectacle get built up in the art world among collectors and work/performance sponsors, and ideally, there's a payoff, a takeaway, something received in return for one's outlay. If it's not the breathless experience of watching something explode [beautifully, one hopes], then at least there's the scorched canvas or charred hull or whatever that can be sold or donated later as, ironically, ephemera.

[Let me say I speak with experience, as someone who felt painfully but predictably sandbagged by Cai's rainbow firework arc across the East River, a work commissioned by MoMA to celebrate the temporary move to Queens. It is not easy to turn Kiki Smith riding a sedan chair into a highlight, but Cai's instantly underwhelming piece somehow managed to pull it off.]

Anyway, I was never too worked up about NBC's use of fake, computer-generated fireworks footage for Footsteps of History, the foot-shaped firework march across Beijing during the opening ceremony. Rewatching the scene, it was clear by the announcers' careful descriptions of the magic that they were trying not to get busted for claiming it was real.

But Cai himself issued a statement that tries to declare the CG, which, by his description, amounted to a backup video for the broadcasters, as a valid work of art itself:

From my own perspective as an artist, there are two separate realms in which this artwork exists, as two very different mediums have been utilized. First, there is the artwork that exists in the material realm: the ephemeral sculpture. This was viewed by people attending the ceremonies inside the stadium and standing outside on the streets of Beijing. This artwork was documented from various vantage points on video, which has been broadcast by many international media outlets.

Second, there is a creative digital rendering of the artwork in the medium of video. It is a single version of the event viewed by a large broadcast audience. Such a conceptual work can exist simultaneously in these two separate realms. And perhaps to also take Footprints of History into this second realm was necessary because in many of my explosion events, such as Project to Extend the Great Wall of China by 10,000 Meters, the very best vantage point is not the human one.

Uh-huh. So essentially the work is designed for viewing by some omnipresent TV eye, yet the actual work isn't good or resolved enough to be shown, only its virtual mockup? I guess it's his prerogative, but creating CG's of fireworks seems like a vastly different medium, substantively and conceptually, from the artist's sculptural/performative work.

The video above shows Footprints from the human vantage point, a crowd in Tianenmen Square. Frankly, it works; it's pretty cool, in fact, though the footprints march across the vast space and are gone before some folks in the crowd even realize they're there. I would hope Cai managed to capture footage or images from his intended [sic], god-like vantage point. But in the mean time, the fleeting human view of Footprints of History needn't be discounted; it's interesting enough.

Cai Guo-Qiang Responds to Olympics Fireworks "Controversy" [ via c-monster]

These British losers sound awesome, but I guess I missed the part of the article where they force the bars to sell them eight drinks for a euro or whatever:

Reports of scandalous incidents rumble on regularly here [in Greece's Redneck Riviera] and elsewhere, helping to cement Britain's reputation as the largest exporter of inebriated hooligans in Europe.

Earlier this summer, flying home to Manchester from the Greek island of Kos, a pair of drunken women yelling "I need some fresh air" attacked the flight attendants with a vodka bottle and tried to wrestle the airplane's emergency door open at 30,000 feet. The plane diverted hastily to Frankfurt, and the women were arrested.

In Laganas, on the Greek island of Zakinthos, where a teenager from Sheffield died after a drinking binge this summer, more than a dozen British women were charged in July with prostitution after taking part, the authorities said, in an alfresco oral sex contest.

More alarmingly, a 20-year-old British tourist partied with her sister and a friend into the early hours in Malia also in July, then returned to her hotel room and -- although she had denied being pregnant -- gave birth. Her companions say they returned later to find the baby dead; she has been charged with infanticide.

And I missed the part where they're too unruly, so they're not allowed in.

Some Britons Too Unruly for Resorts in Europe

That's a very non-elitist-yet-gravitassy typeface you got there, Senator.


"The guys from The Politico brought her [my mom, Cindy McCain] flowers, which I still think is the most adorable thing ever, so thank you. I thought it was so cute that they decided to bring my mom flowers, because it's rare; they are journalists. [laughs]"

That's my favorite line from Meghan McCain's video of the Memorial Day weekend BBQ her parents hosted for the DC press corps at their ranch in Sedona. The first time I heard it, I thought Meghan was being a snob about how poor journalists' manners are.

But after seeing how she's so kind towards the help--the family's chef is a "longtime friend" and the caretaker couple at the ranch are "our other really good friend[s]"--I realized she wasn't being snobby or mean, just the opposite.

The wheels of Washington journalism are greased by a vast supply of hostess gifts, but many news outlets refuse to reimburse reporters who buy their hostess gifts instead of using something from the company's official hostess gift closet.

Of course, it would have been equally adorable and cute if they had made Cindy something themselves; a loaf of banana bread, perhaps, or a mosaicked flower pot in the colors of the Southwestern desert?

Wow. Turns out the arrangements of the national anthems being played at the Beijing Olympics are unauthorized, uncredited, and uncompensated copies of the 2004 Athens games. The Beijing Olympic Committee apparently transcribed and re-recorded the unique orchestral arrangements, over 200 pieces, by composer Peter Breiner. Though anthem melodies themselves are [mostly? all?] in the public domain, the orchestral arrangements and interpretations constitute new compositions under copyright law. Breiner's label Naxos is currently getting the Great Stonewall of China over the issue.

Anthem Arrangements Raise A Red Flag Over Authorship [washpost]

Awesome. a Lego Mini-Fig interpretation of the first scene of Beckett's "Endgame." The grandparents are just hilarious. [youtube via choire]

Daniel Birnbaum in Artforum, discussing "Beckett/Nauman," a Spring 2000 exhibition at the Kunsthalle Wien

The organizers of "Beckett/Nauman," Kunsthalle Wien curator Christine Hoffmann and art historian Michael Glasmeier, aren't really out to prove anything, but their juxtaposition of works by the two artists provides ample ground for comparison and analysis of thematic affinities. This is not a major Nauman show in the ordinary sense, even if a number of important pieces--A Cast of the Space under My Chair, 1965-68, lots of videos, and two "corridors," one shown for the very first time--are effectively installed. It's not a major Beckett show either, for there's no such thing. This is something else entirely: a gray inventory of impossible connections or an archive of discontinuities. It's a genealogical space rather than a show. Full of detailed information--manuscripts, drawings, notebooks, and sketches--the exhibition piqued curiosity and made the viewer attentive. I liked it a lot.
Emphasis added on the part I liked a lot. But wait, there's more...

Birnbaum makes the argument that Beckett and Nauman aren't actually intergenerational inspirational source/recipient, but contemporaries. Did you know Beckett adapted a play for the BBC in 1977, and produced several teleplays and what must be considered video art pieces for TV as late as the Eighties? Here's a clip of Quad I & II, a wordless experiment in rhythm and rulemaking created for the German broadcaster Süddeutscher Rundfunk. Come to think of it, yeah. When was Mummenschantz again? Oh, wait, I thought I was totally kidding.

, meanwhile was Beckett's first and only film screenplay. 40 pages, comprising notes and diagrams around a "fairly baffling when not downright inscrutable six-page outline," Becket wrote it in 1963 and shot it in New York in 1964. Film dealt with E and O [for Eye and Object, apparently] and "the question of 'perceivedness,' the angle of immunity, and the essential principle that esse est percipi: to be is to be perceived." For 20 wordless minutes, a camera follows an aged Buster Keaton as he tries to avoid being seen.

Is Film online? Of course it is, thanks to UbuWeb. [There's also a clip on YouTube.] Ubu also has director Alan Schneider's account of making the film, where I got the quotes in the previous paragraph.

[thanks reference library]

August 19, 2008

The Architect's Wife

From Paul Goldberger's review of 2 Columbus Circle, which began as Edward Durrell Stone's Gallery of Modern Art and has ended up--for now, anyway--as Brad Cloepfil's Museum of American--wait, what did the Craft Museum change its name to at the very moment that Craft gained such widespread recognition and acceptance?:

The Gallery of Modern Art, one of several quixotic cultural projects launched by Hartford, an heir to the A. & P. fortune, who died earlier this year at the age of ninety-seven, was originally intended to house his collection of figurative works and to stand as a riposte to what Hartford saw as the reign of abstraction at the Museum of Modern Art. The architect was Edward Durell Stone. Stone had been a leading American exponent of the International Style, but, in the fifties, his new wife, a fashion writer he met on an airplane, encouraged him toward elegance and decoration, and he began to fill his buildings with glitter and marble and screens and gold columns.
Oddly, he doesn't mention that Stone was an architect on the original MoMA building, too. But what strikes me is the connection between Stone's new, fashion-y wife and his move to decoration.

I followed the 2 Columbus Circle battle intensely closely; I practically lived next door to the Stone family on 64th St; I drive under his Russian wedding cake of a Kennedy Center whenever we're in DC. And yet, I've never heard this thing about his wife. I'd always just understood that the International Style was petering out, following the Baroque/Rococo arc as architects sought to differentiate themselves and began responding to each other, with minimalist modernism echoing itself in the built environment. But really, it was the skirt "he met on an airplane"? [Not to get too Mad Men about it.]

What other random plane encounters do we need to rewrite into our understanding of history and how the world got to be the way it is?

Hello, Columbus [newyorker]


Here's a picture of what turns out to be the finishing tower at the Bosbaan in Amsterdamse Bos. It was demolished when the Bosbaan was widened to meet international rowing competition requirements. I can't tell, though, if this was the same as the "tribune building" "from the twenties" [??] that Korteknie Stuhlmacher Architects mention was also demolished in order that they could build a new boathouse for Okeanos, the student rowing association, and RKNB, the Royal Dutch Rowing Association.

There's also a new finish tower, but it's not really a tower, just a box.


Roeigebouw Amstelveen, 2000, 2005 | Korteknie Stuhlmacher Architecten []

The Bosbaan, or Woods Course, is the oldest manmade rowing lake in the world. It was built in the Amsterdamse Bos in 1936, and it was expanded in 1954.

Which gives a couple of interesting date possibilities for this awesome opzichtershuisje, or foreman's house. The simple, clapboard and wood frame construction makes me think it's the latter, though, a post-war modernist bonus. Here's a Google Map view of it.

Do you see that floating staircase on the front corner there? Do you wonder if Winy Maas saw it at some point, too?

Unfortunately, "gesloopt" is Dutch for "demolished."

caravans, originally uploaded by Elmer Kroese.

Awesome, just awesome. Catherina Scholten's set design for a 2005 production of Chekhov's "Ivanov" at the outdoor theater in the Amsterdamse Bos [Woods] is just awesome.

Shipping containers topped with mobile homes and trailers, it's the bestlooking mashup of prefab/modular and adaptive reuse I've seen in a long time.

As someone who grew up in North Carolina, where our rural landscapes were always dotted with trailer homes, and where our local newscasts were always dotted with reports of these same trailer homes being destroyed by tornadoes and hurricanes, the prefab and shipping container architecture industry's condescending silence on the subject of trailer homes has been an embarrassment.

Get in touch with your brokeass roots, hipsters! The Dutch have already leapfrogged ahead!

There are wider and more detailed photos at mijn Amsterdam [via]

Wes Anderson and Jason Schwartzman, "Live at 01"

"Recorded entirely on location at
Borders Store 01
Ann Arbor, Michigan"

I was almost too busy rolling my eyes at these two smug knuckleheads doing a promotional prowl of the CD and DVD aisle to notice the real eyeroller: the corporate reverence for "01" as if a giant, shitty, homogenized bookstore can somehow be unique because it's the one they've cloned everywhere else. [via fimoculous]

I haven't been paying too close attention to the imagery of the current presidential campaign, but looked at through a Sforzian lens, the McCain campaign stop is mind-bogglingly bad news. The photographs are from McCain's daughter Meghan's campaign blog which, by some meaningless sleight of hand, is considered to not be a part of the campaign.


Though the flags and the banner provide wire service photographers with some generic background shots, a look at their product shows they're free-ranging around just shooting whatever. Not a signature image in the bunch. "Town hall meeting" apparently means "speech in the round, no podium." Which meant that McCain is lost in the not-that-big crowd, a tiny white-haired dot in the wide shot above.

McCain Blogette's backstage photos at a recent campaign stop in a warehouse-like arena in York, PA show some slack roadies and handlers hanging around, which is fine, if a little pathetic. Not exactly a tightly run ship, the Straight Talk Express.


None of which means there aren't interesting/revealing shots. AFP's Paul J. Richards picked up a sweet product shot of McCain's not-famous-enough $520 Ferragamo loafers, for example, but that's not all [via afp/yahoo]:


That rug doesn't just say "McCain 2008" on it; it says, "Paid for by John McCain 2008" on it. Unless the FEC requires disclosure be included on all indoor/outdoor furnishings ["I'm John McCain, and I approved this rug."], I think someone just took a screengrab from a campaign commercial and sent it to the rug printer.


I'm still trying to decide who made this sign, though. It's "M-C-C-A-I-N" spelled out in tap code, a cipher used by prisoners in solitary confinement. It puts the letters into a 5x5 grid [minus the K]. So M is third row, second column, etc. This sign, in other words, says "JOHN MCCAIN, POW." I can't figure out if it was printed by the campaign and handed out, or if this guy just happened to make it himself. [It doesn't have the two-color printing of the official McCain signs, and the blue is slightly off. But would a random guy put at otherwise meaningless star on the top, and the campaign URL?] Whether it's supposed to telegraph McCain's POW bona fides to a knowing audience, or whether it's meant to imply that McCain's POW experience somehow qualifies him for the presidency, the relentless playing of the POW card seems beyond the pale.

More 1970's video awesomeness from Anton Perich's YouTube channel: this time it's John Chamberlain with a flensing knife in The Dakota.

The site is a smallish, park-facing room in writer John Hersey's Dakota apartment. Much of the space is taken up massive, chest-high foam blocks lashed together with cords, which a gruff Chamberlain, dressed in full Pacific Theatre-veteran style--work shorts, mermaid tattoos, back hair, and suspenders--casually carves into one of his trademark sofas as a clutch of jaded groupies look on.


Unlike the low-slung prototype Chamberlain famously made for Donald Judd, Hersey's couch stays high enough to climb into.; and it has two seating pits, not one; also, it doesn't get the sleek, silk parachute cover, just a bunch of striped navy sheets, probably from Bloomingdale's. Also, as far as I can tell, no one videotaped the inaugural line of coke being cut on Judd's sofa.


The scale of Hersey's sofa, plus the rawness of its fabrication remind me of Andrea Zittel's space-filling Raugh Furniture series in a way that both Judd's and Yvonne's more furniture-like sofas don't.


And watching Chamberlain, it's impossible not to think of whale blubber being carved, either, which brings to mind--of all people--Matthew Barney. For all the car crashing of Cremaster 3 and the Vaseline-slice&molding of Drawing Restraint 9, I'd never thought of these two sculptors together before.

Anyway, if you've always wanted a Chamberlain sofa, but didn't want to spend five figures for it, this is a great how-to video.

Just, wow. John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Louise Nevelson, and yet the sycophancy and superciliousness of this 1974 interview in SoHo by a couple of early Interview contributors is almost unwatchable. Almost. I just watched it again:

R. Couri Hay: My name is Couri Hay. Tonight Anton Perich and I are in SoHo, and we're very privileged and happy to be at Louise Nevelson's house where we've just had a fabulous extravaganza in black and white, a benefit. party for Merce Cunningham and his dance studio. We're gonna hear--talk tonight with John Cage, who has done much of the fabulous avant-garde music for Merce's work. And of course, in the middle, we have Louise Nevelson sculptress extraordinaire, and then, of course, Merce Cunningham, who I guess has been the star of the party.

Merce Cunningham: [laughing] Louise Nevelson has been the star of the party. Look at her! What more do you have to see?

Louise Nevelson: [talking over]

MC: What am I supposed to say, should I thank--

CH: No, no, just tell me: did you have a great time?

John Cage: [running interference] Everyone has been a star, we've had practically, what, 200 stars?

LN: We've had 200 stars, but some stars shine more than others.

And on it goes, for like 35 minutes. I listen to every Cage interview I can dig up, and I have never found one so content-free. I guess it's good to be reminded of the social context in which even the people you revere had to work.

[via artforum/video]

I've never been enough of a fashion trender or a socialite for him to really need to know me, but my office used to be on 57th street, and I'd see Bill Cunningham all the time. Then I'd see him at parties and such, so I'd always say hi. When he came back to work after his bike accident, I told him, "Welcome back!" and he smiled and said "Thanks!"

So it's been a grinning pleasure to listen to him narrate his weekly On the Street photocollages for the NY Times:

Here we are, the first week in August, and the New Yorkers are all in black clothes! Well, not all, but you know what I mean.
On the Street | Ravenwood [nyt]

Malcolm Mclaren gives Artforum 500 words on the occasion of his portrait series, Shallow:

I think our culture today can be summed up by two words: authenticity and karaoke. They can both fit together, but you've got to be a bloody magician to make that happen, you've got to be some extraordinary alchemist. And some of these contemporary artists are. Many contemporary artists spend their days trying very hard to authenticate a karaoke culture.
Not quite sure I agree with Malcolm Mclaren, but he's quotable, so I'm quoting.

August 4, 2008

Jeff Koons On Adwords


interesting, i'd never have thought.


Alright, so last night I made some wisecrack about a scene from Kevin Costner's 1997 film The Postman, where a mutant general pacifies his slave army by showing The Sound of Music on a floating theater on a lake at the bottom of an open-pit mine, might be a mashup of a couple of Robert Smithson's unrealized installations. Little did I know.

I rewatched the scene just now, and it's positively Smithsonian. I remembered some things incorrectly. [I hadn't seen the movie since Christmas Night, 1997, when I had a private screening--on what turned out to be opening night, whoops--at a desolate multiplex in Salt Lake City.] Like I'd forgotten how spectacular it is, really well-crafted and poetic, even, for what amounts to a single note in the film [hats off to cinematographer Stephen Windon and the wonderfully named production designer Ida Random].

And the slave soldier army isn't floating around, watching; they're perched on the tiers of the open pit mine; I got that mixed up with the harborside cinema scene in Cinema Paradiso: in The Postman, only the projectionist is floating, in his little booth that looks like the offspring of Smithson's Floating Island and his Partially Collapsed Shed.

I'd also forgotten completely about Dolph Lundgren. As the scene opens, and the ersatz movie theater is revealed, the screen first fills with explosions, the opening credits of Dolph Lundgren's Universal Soldier. But--unexpectedly!--the crowd of soldiers revolts and starts raining rocks down on the poor projectionist in his floating booth. He quickly changes the movie [beat] to The Sound of Music, and the mob is subdued.

In his Cinema Cavern, Smithson wanted to show only one film, Film On The Making [of] Cinema Cavern. But after a long day of killing in the mines, the "ultimate film-goers" in The Postman reject their own "making of" film, preferring instead the escapist fantasy of Julie Andrews, the singing, Nazi-thwarting nun.

Anyway, there are a bunch of tasty screencaps on flickr and after the jump. Enjoy.

previously: "truly 'underground' cinema"

Spectacular. New York artist Peter Coffin flew a 7-meter, LED-studded, SMS-controlled flying saucer on unannounced trips around the harbor in Gdansk, Poland last month. The lighting and structure were created with London's Cinimod Studio and with the help of the Art Production Fund and others. It just flew underneath a rescue unit helicopter, but it looks incredible.

Peter Coffin's UFO Project, July 4th 2008 [ via andrewkreps]


I loved Cabinet before I wrote for them, and I love them after. In the latest issue, #30 The Underground, Colby Chamberlain looks at an awesome 1971 drawing by Robert Smithson titled, Toward the development of a Cinema Cavern or the movie goer as spelunker. [Colby's piece is not online, but Smithson's complete drawing is at the Estate site.]

According to a contemporaneous Artforum essay titled "A Cinematic Atopia," Smithson described the project:

What I would like to do is build a cinema in a cave or an abandoned mine, and film the process of its construction. That film would be the only film shown in the cave. The projection booth would be made out of crude timbers, the screen carved out of a rock wall and painted white, the seats could be boulders. It would be a truly "underground" cinema....
Smithson's interest in cinema was phenomenological: the idea that you sit there, motionless in the dark, experiencing a continuous stream of light and sound patterns. The Cinema Cavern's closed, self-referential loop devolves into an abstract, multi-colored blur, with the "sluggish," sloth-like movie goer none the wiser.

Colby puts Smithson's cinema into context with the Underground-brand cinema of the day, as embodied by Stan VanDerBeek, Jonas Mekas, and friends. Which is fine and all; meanwhile, I've added the Cinema Cavern to the list of sketchy Smithson ideas I'd love to see realized here and now.

Part of me--the part who, admittedly, has not delved into the Smithson archives, and thus doesn't know more than the single sketches--sees the Cavern Cinema as just as fully developed and thus, valid for realization, as, say, Floating Island. And part of me is still smarting for not getting to Les Arennes de Chaillot, the subterranean theater and couscous boite built in Paris by la Mexicaine de Perforation, a group of explorateurs urbains. [read my 2004 LMDP interview here.] And


Also on the list: the 1973 Bingham Copper Mining Pit - Utah Reclamation Project. Smithson called for a giant, revolving viewing platform at the bottom of Kennecott Copper's mountain-sized hole on the western side of Salt Lake Valley, all the better "to survey nature's gradual and inevitable reclamation of man's invasive enterprise" with, my dear.

[Every time I fly into Salt Lake, I'm reminded of this drawing/collage, which I rather impulsively bid on--and lost--when it came up for auction in 1993. I later met and became friends with the winning bidder, but I suspect I lost my chance at the drawing; its next stop will most likely be a museum.]

But what if Smithson's visions already have been realized, and I just didn't realize it? What if the Cinema Cavern and the Bingham Copper Mining Pit were combined and installed in the post-civilizational, entropic future, offering a front-row seat to nature's reclamation?

I don't know if it's in David Brin's original mid-80's sci-fi novel, but in the 1997 film version of The Postman, the dopey title character, played by Kevin Costner, has a showdown with a "hypersurvivalist militia leader named General Bethlehem [played by Will Patton.] In one of the funniest scenes in the unintentionally hilarious fiasco, Bethlehem pacifies his troops--scraggly, murderous slaves who float around on rafts and inner tubes in a giant, water-filled, open-pit mine--with movies. As the battered projector whirs to life, the a battleworn print of The Sound of Music

PDF of "A Cinematic Atopia" in portuguese and english []
Cinema Cavern, 1971 - Robert Smithson Estate - Drawings []

August 2, 2008

Salt Lake City Modern

SLC Mies, originally uploaded by gregorg.

I almost never associate Utah with great--or even good--architecture, and certainly not with modernism. Even though I've been head over heels for this eye-popping, uncompromisingly International Style house on Salt Lake City's east bench for something like 25 years.

Before I knew who Mies was, I just liked it for its alien qualities. With the exception of a couple of steel beamed ski cabins, it literally looks like no other house in Utah. And then there's that giant boulder. It always comes back to the boulder.

Whoever built this house in 1959 [IIRC] did it just right; the juxtaposition of the two forms, the balance of their sizes, the tension of their placement, is all nearly perfect.

As McMansionization has swept the state--and the neighborhood, where the low-key, low-ceilinged original homes are regularly scraped and replaced with jacked up stone dream chalets--I take a lot of smug satisfaction from knowing that the coolest house in town is totally off the local radar.

I figure the boulder and the busyness of the street will help preserve it, even if its architectural merits are lost on the SLC real estate community. Or maybe a bunch of those Eichler groupies from California will discover Salt Lake's under-appreciated modernist heritage. There's nothing this stunning, but there are quite a few decent 60's modern houses in the Foothill Village area. [I've posted some more pictures on flickr.]

Since 2001 here at, 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 that time.

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

find me on twitter: @gregorg

about this archive

Posts from August 2008, in reverse chronological order

Older: July 2008

Newer September 2008

recent projects, &c.

Our Guernica Cycle, 2017 –
about/kickstarter | exhibit, 2017

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

Madoff Provenance Project in
'Tell Me What I Mean' at
To__Bridges__, The Bronx
11 Sept - Oct 23 2016
show | beginnings

Chop Shop
curated by Magda Sawon
1-7 March 2016

eBay Test Listings
Armory – ABMB 2015
about | proposte monocrome, rose

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

TheRealHennessy Tweets Paintings, 2014 -

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

"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.

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

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