Category:bloghdad.com

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installation shot of Richard Prince, "New Portraits," photo: Rob McKeever, via Gagosian 980 Madison

They're getting more attention now because they're on canvas and at Gagosian, but Richard Prince's Instagram Portraits have been circulating for a while. Do we think of them differently then when he was assembling them in the spring and summer? When they were printouts on the floor instead of canvas on the wall? Or when they were $12 a sheet at karma in the Hamptons, or a couple hundred dollars a box at Fulton Ryder's B-List book fair?

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image: AA

Turkey is trying to control the flow of refugees from Syria and the unregulated trade and traffic across the open border by constructing a "portable" wall near Kusakli, a border village under the jurisdiction of the nearby town of Reyhanlı, in the Hatay province. No biggie, though, this wall's just 1200m. Really more of an installation.

The AA photo above shows workers installing the prefab concrete segments with a crane. They look like jacked up Jersey Barriers.

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As this DHA photo shows, they are jacked up Jersey Barriers, 30cm thick, and 3m square. Each weighs 9 tons. From their popular use in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the US military's technical term for a jacked up Jersey Barrier may be a Texas Barrier [3.7m] or an Alaska Barrier [6m], or a Bremer Wall, after Paul Bremer, who did so much to create the demand for them during the early days of the occupation.

All these US-style barriers, though, are thinner, rectangular, more 2001 monolith-shaped. Their design heritage traces back to the model for an instant wall along the US-Mexico border that congressman/earthworks artist Steve King (R-IA) exhibited in 2006. And to the decidedly non-temporary, non-portable wall Israel built in the occupied West Bank.

Turkey apparently does not want to use Israeli-style oblong walls, so they go with the square. A little heavier, but fewer lifts. They're apparently installing the wall at around 75 segments/day.

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I looked Kusakli up on Google Maps, and the awesome, gridded Benday dots of the olive orchards in the surrounding landscape are suddenly the second most interesting feature. Because there is this unusual Pentagon overlay around the town. What even is that? There's no way it's the wall. Or the demarcation for a wall, since the wall's only 1/8th built. Right? That'd turn Kusakli into West Berlin without limiting the flow of Syrians anywhere except in this tiny village. So it's something else.

Turkey builds portable wall on border with Syria [hurrietdailynews, image: AA via @aljavieera]
Turkey builds portable wall on Syrian border [todayszaman, image: DHA]

Previously: Study For A Fence And A Wall (2006)
Related: Afghanprogettazione: HESCO X DIY Troop Furniture

October 27, 2013

OPCW Verb List

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Richard Serra, Verb List, 1967-68, image: moma.org

When the US's demand to destroy all of Syria's chemical weapons was first being discussed in September, I heard a report on NPR about the Office for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, and how they went about their mission. It struck me as an almost sculptural process, a cross between Paul Shabroom, a Matthew Barney gallery installation, and Richard Serra's Verb List.

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5 March 2007

Now that the OPCW is on the ground, has won the Nobel Peace Prize, and is completing their inspections and such, I thought I'd pull together some news accounts of these CW destruction techniques for reference. When I get a bit more time, I'll try digging through the OPCW's site for official protocols and such. At some point, like Jeremy Deller's bombed out car from Iraq, I guess this stuff should be exhibited.

A slightly facile FAQ-style AP article, Chemical Arms Inspectors Gird For Risky, Dirty Job" [npr.org]:

THE SIMPLEST WAY TO DISABLE EQUIPMENT? SMASH IT!

Inspectors can use any means they deem necessary to render equipment inoperable, including techniques that are crude but effective. Options include: taking sledgehammers to control panels; driving tanks over empty vats or filling them with concrete; or running mixing machines without lubricant so they seize up and become inoperable.

From the Washington Post, same day Chemical weapons officials say coordination with Syrian government has been 'efficient'":
He said OPCW officials charged with destroying Syria's chemical weapons production capabilities by Nov. 1 will use "expedient methods" to fulfill their task.

"It might be a case of smashing something up with a sledgehammer. It might be a case of smashing something up with some explosive. It might be a case of driving a tank over something," he said, or filling vessels with concrete, ruining valves and running bearings without oil so that they get stuck.

That won't take long or cost much money, he said, but disposing of the chemicals themselves "is going to cost a lot."

From a McClatchy report on Sept. 30, "Experts optimistic Nov. 1 deadline can be met for ending Syria's chemical threat" [miamiherald.com]:
Once combined, the chemicals result in a mixture that is unstable and dangerous to handle. But before they are mixed, the chemicals generally are far less dangerous.

The equipment needed to mix those chemicals is easily destroyed, said Ralf Trapp, a chemical threat consultant who was among the original staffers who set up the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. "You can drills holes, cut pipes and flanges, remove wiring, crush computer boards, fill tanks with concrete," he noted.

Disposal of the separated chemicals also is relatively easy, he said. One, an alcohol, "can simply be poured out onto the desert to evaporate without any risk," he said.

A quick search has not yet turned up any photos or documentation of these practices, b

June 30, 2013

Laserpointer Pyramid

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Khaled Desouki's extraordinary photo of crowds in Cairo tonight forming a pyramid of laserpointers trained on a military helicopter [AFP].

Reminds me of the searchlight wigwam converging on nothing over the skies of a frightened Los Angeles, 1942:

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I've got a few reservations, but I'm really quite smitten with London-based Scottish artist Robert Montgomery's poetically critical billboard artworks.

The one above was unfurled at a Stop The War protest in Trafalgar Square last October. It reads:

WHEN WE ARE SLEEPING, AEROPLANES CARRY
MEMORIES OF THE HORRORS WE HAVE GIVEN
OUR SILENT CONSENT TO INTO THE NIGHT SKY
OF OUR CITIES, AND LEAVE THEM THERE, TO
GATHER LIKE CLOUDS AND CONDENSE INTO
OUR DREAMS BEFORE MORNING.
If the stark white-on-black text and the clouds and the protest didn't already remind me of Felix Gonzalez-Torres, this particular photo, which ran on Purple's blog, even has a bird in flight in the upper right corner.

Montgomery's standard M.O. is to paste his billboards guerrilla-style, without permission, on top of existing advertisements. But for
an exhibition last month at KK Outlet, the gallery got authorization to install a series of three billboards with something of an Occupy theme. [Occupy had been occupying nearby at Shoreditch, and the artist had a collaborative project planned, but, as he told the Independent, "they got turfed out on 25 January so that didn't happen."]

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The deployment of poetry as protest takes its cue, Montgomery readily acknowledges, from the Situationists and Guy Debord, which, baby and bathwater and all, I will accept. My ambivalence, such as it is, really has more to do with Montgomery's apparent activism on the fashionista front, his day jobs at Dazed and Confused, his carousing with Olivier Zahm, even the galleries that tout their Occupy shows one month, and their design studios working for LVMH the next.

But who's to complain, seeing as how I followed the linkstream to his work while surfing for extraordinary calf leather shoes myself?

Let he who is without consumerist sin throw the first stone. Is being the global street fashion industrial complex's social conscience is any more damning than being the art world's anything?

Montgomery's disarming, enticing, depressing, enlightening poems are still there, still catching advertising-conditioned passersby, only to release them with an unsettling thought in their heads.

Givin' me 500 Errors right now, though: Robert Montgomery portfolio site [robertmontgomery.org]
It turned out this way cos you dreamed it this way [kkoutlet.com]
Robert Montgomery opening and installation shots via KK Outlet's flickr [flickr]
The artist vandalising advertising with poetry [independent.co.uk]

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Maybe it's because I was reading about Jean-Pierre Reynaud and Superstudio's Quaderna furniture last night, but for the first time, I suddenly noticed the incredible, grid-like mesh gabion fortification and construction system that defines the forward operating bases in Afghanistan: HESCO.

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The HESCO Bastion Concertainer, obviously just called Hesco, is a galvanized steel mesh cage lined with non-woven polypropylene geotextile, which can be deployed with local fill ten time more quickly than sandbags, and with 90% less manpower.

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It's light enough to deploy by hand. It folds flat for easy transport. A shipping containerized system called RAID [Rapid In-Theatre Deployment] can be rolled out 1000 feet at a time from the back of a moving truck.

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It protects against bullets, car bombs, and artillery fire, and it's structural, so you can build with it. It's water- and erosion-resistant, so you can do flood control with it. It's ubiquitous in Afghanistan to the point of invisibility.

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Which is where it starts getting really interesting. Here is a gym, constructed with Hesco pilings and a flattened out Hesco floor, built at a Hesco'd-out Australian forward gunnery base in Helmand last February.

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When Hesco meets the ingenuity that produces awesome, homebrewed field furniture knocked together from shipping pallets [above, below]

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You end up with an entire Hesco living room set, including sofas, a TV stand and side table,

hesco_lounge_au_lowres.jpg

and club chairs and even a garbage can--all apparently noteworthy enough for a visiting commander to photograph and explain in 2010.

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It's like the Amerafghan love child of Staff Sergeant Frank Gehry. Admit it, wouldn't you have paid more attention to the war if you'd known the troops were hacking such awesome design all this time? Please send more pics!

HESCO Bastions [hesco.com]
Field Furniture, from the Iraq & Afhanistan theaters [pallet images via militaryphotos.net]
12 February 2010 | Commander Joint Task Force visits Aussie gunners in Helmand Province Afghanistan [defence.gov.au]

I need a way to put the people in my Twitter feed in touch with each other.

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Because what are we fighting for, if not the right to all 50 flavors of Doritos?

February 22, 2011

Bloghdad.com/Issues

April 7, 2003 11:46 AM


TO: Doug Feith

FROM: Donald Rumsfeld

SUBJECT: Issues w/Various Countries

We need more coercive diplomacy with respect to Syria and LIbya, and we need it fast. If they mess up Iraq, it will delay bringing our troops home.

We also need to solve the Pakistan problem.

And Korea doesn't seem to be going well.

Are you coming up with proposals for me to send around?

Thanks.

The release of this memo by warrior/wrestler/poet Donald Rumsfeld made me wonder what I was writing about in early April 2003, when the Iraq War was just underway.

And it turns out I was writing about the devastating poetry of Donald Rumsfeld.

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Last month I watched the essentially sculptural process of designing and making fiberglass Eames chairs, and I wondered "how design and art ever stayed separate in those days."

The answer, of course, was that it didn't. David Zwirner just opened "Primary Atmospheres: Works from California 1960-1970," the kind of show I'd totally expect to see in a museum [1] [2]. From the press release:

While most of the artworks included in the exhibition can be referred to as minimal in form, their seductive surfaces, often madeout of nontraditional materials, and their luminescent use of color and light characterize them as uniquely Southern Californian.

...

The works on view capture some of the more specific aesthetic qualities of the Los Angeles area during the1960s, where certain cutting-edge industrial materials and technologies were being developed at that time. Many of the artists employed unconventional materials to create complex, highly-finished and meticulous objects that have become associated with the so-called "Finish Fetish" aesthetic.

These artists were also influenced by the industrial paints applied to the surfaces of surfboards and cars, as well as the plastics of the aerospace industry.

Industrial and commercial materials and processes, surfboards, cars, signs, aerospace. As awesome and long-overdue as Zwirner's show is, it sounds like there's a lot more about the relationship of postwar art and design to be discovered, written about, and shown. So hop to.

Primary Atmospheres: Works from California 1960-1970, through Feb. 6, 2010 [davidzwirner.com]
16miles reports beautifully from the scene of the opening [16miles.com]

image above: works by Craig Kaufmann in vacuum-formed plexi; Larry Bell in mineral coated glass; and De Wain Valentine in fiberglass-reinforced polyester, via zwirner.

[1] In fact, it feels like a slice of the Pompidou's much larger 2006 survey of Los Angeles, hopefully without the negligent destruction of the non-traditionally constructed art. Several of these artists were also in PS1's odd "1969" show last year, so not quite as unexposed as the press release implies.

[2] Zwirner's last Flavin show was the same museum-quality, but not to be found in a museum. And then there was the Flavin Green Gallery and Kaprow shows at Hauser & Wirth. How are there not more museums in town doing small-to-medium-sized, historical contemporary shows like this? The exhibition equivalent of an essay instead of a book? It seems like such a free way to work and think. PS1 is the closest I can think of, though I'm always ready to believe I just don't get out enough.

April 1, 2009

Demands On Washington

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Tyler Green turned his critical shredder on the National Gallery's new group of Thomas Demand photos depicting his life-sized re-creation of the Oval Office:

The result is a photographed stage set of a stage set used by the United States and its presidents to project and wield power. In a way, Demand has found his ideally reflexive subject. As such, if the NGA wanted to own a Demand, it's the perfect suite.

But therein lies the disappointment: Demand is a minor academic conceptualist whose use of specially constructed sets to examine memory and to question photographic truth was long ago wrung dry. Ultimately Demand's Oval Offices look like a kind of illustration -- the exact sort of intentionally temporal decoration a magazine would logically commission to illustrate a story.

I'm not as down on Demand's work as Tyler is, and I think there's more to the questioning of "photographic truth" that he probably does. Demand's works have always seemed to me to be about the construction of photographic likeness or verisimilitude, simulation, which is not at all the same as truth. In no small part, they're about themselves as well, and the deadpan absurdity of their construction.

Sure, the "aha! it's paper!" moment is fleeting at best, but that's no different from any number of visually transformative conceptual artists, whether it's Vic Muniz, James Turrell, Roni Horn, or Charles Ray. It should be a hook, an in to the work, not the end in itself, and I think Thomas clears that hurdle.

And I don't mind that the photos were commissioned by the NY Times Magazine; and his use of the terms "illustration" and "decoration" are needlessly prescriptive and pejorative, especially coming so soon after Tyler's own near-mandate that museums have the responsibility to be pursuing politically charged work. [Hold that thought.]

If there's a problem for me with Demand's Oval Office photos, it's the way their "ideal reflexivity" seems so predictably perfect for the National Gallery. Washington is a city obsessed with itself and its own importance, and I can't imagine how gigantic photos of the epicenter of power could be read here as anything other than adulatory. Actually, it's not the reading so much as the institutional presentation that's the problem.

Because context matters, and taken in the context of much of the Demand's work, I'm not sure if these Oval Office photos are quite the monuments to itself Washington might think they are.

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Demand's critical interest in photographs is inseparable from what MoMA curator Roxana Marcoci called, "his reassessment of the narratives of twentieth century history."Unlike the instantly recognizable stage set of the Oval Office, many of Demand's works re-create the generic, banal, unrecognizable sites where uncomfortable History was made: Bill Gates' Harvard dorm room where he hatched his software plans; the fleabag hotel where L. Ron Hubbard wrote Dianetics; Jeffrey Dahmer's apartment hallway; Leni Reifenstahl's personal film archive.

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And his reassessment marches right on into the present. Kitchen, 2004 [above], was based on soldiers' snapshots of the compound where Saddam Hussein was captured. Demand's last show in New York, in 2007 consisted of re-creations from the artist's own memory of investigative visits to the cramped offices of Niger's embassy in Rome. The show was titled "Yellowcake," and the embassy was the source of the obviously forged documents claiming that Iraq was seeking to build a nuclear bomb, the evidence that George W. Bush called the "smoking gun."

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Are we connecting the dots yet? Demand's Oval Office photos created in the last weeks of the Bush administration are not flat explorations of symbolic power; they're re-creations of the scene of the crime. And now they're hanging in the National Gallery. If we look at Demand's photos and see nothing more than "The Presidential backlot...so familiar -- it's in news photographs nearly every day," the failure of memory is ours.

Acquisition: Thomas Demand's 'Oval Office suite' at NGA [man]
Thomas Demand, "Oval Office," November 25 2008 - January 17 2009, Sprueth Magers [spruethmagers.com]
"Yellowcake," November 3 - December 22 2007 at 303 Gallery [303gallery.com]

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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
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Category: bloghdad.com

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It Narratives, incl.
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Standard Operating Procedure
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