Category:bloghdad.com

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Insult to Injury, 2003

I did not like Jake & Dinos Chapman's work to begin with, so I was not inclined to like their project Insult to Injury, where they drew animal and clown faces on a suite of actual Goya etchings, when it debuted in 2003. And I haven't thought much about it, or looked at it since.

But I have come around. Working on the Our Guernica Cycle project has sent me looking back at Goya's big Fifth of May paintings, and their influence on Guernica, and that inevitably brings the Disasters of War prints back into the mix.

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Plate 39 - Grande hazaña! Con muertos! (A heroic feat! With dead men!)

Things I didn't really pay attention to stand out now. Like Goya making prints during a war and a famine when materials were so scarce, and the situation so uncertain, that he had to reuse and destroy the copper plates from other prints. And making a series of 80+ prints over the course of years, which he finally expected to never publish in his lifetime. And which were only published decades after his death. And which were then republished over and over again, in seven editions, over 70 years, including a "final" edition in 1937 to support the Republic in the Spanish Civil War, nearly 1,000 sets in total, plus hundreds of proofs. [That's the one the Chapmans bought to use.]

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Plate. 37 - Esto es peor. (This is worse.)

Things like Goya drawing such devastating connections between revered fragments of classical sculpture, like the Belvedere Torso, and the tortured and dismembered bodies of the war's victims. Neo-classicism was hot at the time, in the Napoleonic era, and Goya impaled it on a tree.

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And then there's the Chapmans, whose project was sparked by the Bush/Blair Iraq war machine which marched in front of their already Goya-soaked practice. Here is Fiachra Gibbons writing about Insult to Injury in The Guardian:

Although they are both against the current war, the Chapmans say they are not making a statement about it. Insult to Injury is more about the inadequacy of art as a protest against war. Art can't stop wars, they insist, just as Picasso's Guernica was a "pathetic" statement in the face of the oncoming second world war.

"Not to be too glib, but there's something quite interesting in the fact that the war of the peninsula saw Napoleonic forces bringing rationality and enlightenment to a region that was marked by superstition and irrationality," Jake Chapman said. "Then you hear George Bush and Tony Blair talking about democracy as though it has some kind of natural harmony with nature; as though it's not an ideology."

I was not this pessimistic in 2003; maybe I just needed some time.

And now to look at Disasters of War again, and Insult to Injury again, and more closely, and as I "embellish" my own prints I'd once expected were "finished," I realize the Chapmans were right. The reflexive disapproval of their alteration of another artist's work is specifically misplaced and unnecessary. Even Jonathan Jones is right about something. It's all a pretty big shock, tbh. And even when it feels necessary, art still doesn't make these disasters any better.

Insult to Injury, 2003 [jakeanddinoschapman.com]
The 2004 Steidl edition of Insult to Injury is pretty remarkable, actually [amazon]

March 20, 2016

Bloghdad.com/Torture

It's the 13th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. Former Pentagon interrogation contractor Eric Fair wrote a simple and wrenching essay in the New York Times about trying to regain his humanity after torturing Iraqis for the US government.

If I had the opportunity to speak to other interrogators and intelligence professionals, I would warn them about men like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. I would warn them that they'll be told to cross lines by men who would never be asked to do it themselves, and they'll cross those lines long before they consider anything like waterboarding. And I would warn them that once they do cross the line, those men will not be there to help them find their way back.
We owe it to conscientious Americans like Fair to make sure this doesn't happen again. Not torture, not a bullshit war ginned up out of lies and garbage, none of it.

Owning Up To Torture [nyt]

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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.

kusakli_turkey_pentagon_gmap.jpg

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.

deller_car_new_museum.jpg
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:

wigwam_lat_1942_version.jpg

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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.

hesco_gym_au_lowres.jpg

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.

hesco_chair_au_lowres.jpg

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.

occupy_twitter_juxt.jpg

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.

zwirner_cal_2010.jpg

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.

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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
greg [at] greg [dot ] org

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Category: bloghdad.com

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Social Medium:
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CZRPYR2: The Illustrated Appendix
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