Category:dc

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Gretchen Bender, Sensurround, 1983, silkscreen and c-print on tin

From Andrew Russeth comes Cindy Sherman's 1987 interview with Gretchen Bender, published in BOMB Magazine:

CS There's an article in an L.A. paper describing you as a TV terrorist, saying that you can attain a critical edge through overload.

GB Yeah. There are artists who talk of using silence as a weapon, an alternative and an act of resistance. That's one end of it. I've gone in the opposite direction but with the same desire. I think it's more important to mimic and provoke at this point.

CS Your theatrical pieces are counterpointed by the tin pieces, which ironically, make objects out of paradigms.

GB Either way, it's only temporarily effective. Hans Haacke uses part of the dominant high culture to criticize the function of the whole system through his object/displays. The question is--how broadly effective do you want to be? That is a difficult question with artists. Artists can be confused about their situation as a powerless elite. We operate from the protective base of the art world, a situation in which we can develop ideas but a place from which it is complicated to launch media-related art work without it getting co-opted by the very structures it criticizes. Although I use those structures. I'm resisting one channel television because I haven't figured out how to effectively communicate except in a theatrical setting.

Again, I started wanting to quote the silence and art's engagement/fear of politics, and I didn't want to stop reading. Plus, it's all talking about the tin pieces:
CS You've been criticized for being high tech, which is another way of infiltrating popular culture--using the technology that they use.

GB It's something visual artists tend to resist although that resistance is steadily breaking down. More artists are figuring out how to use computer technology . . . there's so much that's happening visually. It's strange that the art world resists using the visual tools of our time. What's that about? It is scary when you have this heritage that you invoke--art history.

CS It's supposed to be more pure if you use materials like paint or make it all yourself or use another person to make it for you.

GB The art world is trying to protect this antiquated territory and what is most disturbing about switching over to the newer technologies is that there is no authority to invoke. There aren't any guidelines to tell you that you're making 'good' art. No one knows enough or understands enough. There's so much experimentation to do, so many blind visual forays to risk, so many conceptual implications of the newer technologies to try to comprehend. Many artists aren't willing to take those risks. You don't know if you are going to be effective or not, if you are going to make silly or profound works. I think that's what terrifies most artists and I think that's why the art world is so slow to accept the culture of today.

CS You have used imagery from other people's art work in some of your own pieces. I interpreted that as reducing expensive works of art by male artists--paintings--to this disposable imagery level.

GB I wanted to use the art as signs and not as valuable objects. I decided to combine those found art reproductions as one combines words in a language or even just parts of an alphabet. I saw them as a moving language. I have been working with the equivalent flow of television. Before that, I was actually dealing with the equivalent flow of art objects. What's really being said? At the same time, I realized that because we had gotten so much of our art out of magazines and reproductions, we weren't contemplating art anymore. So I made those tin pieces to be a scan. You couldn't fall into the pieces and contemplate. I go into galleries to see shows, to be aware of what is going on and it takes three minutes to see a show. Where are we? And what are we doing? It's our nervous system--the time we live in--it's not about reverie.

...

GB Artists using media have taken on a more complicated position in the culture than painters. Painters like tradition. And I think it's a hundred, or a thousand times more difficult for a painter to make politically engaged work. They know that if it smells like art and looks like art and tastes like art--it's painting. There's not much risk in the art world.

CS Especially now, it seems really dull right now.

GB At the same time, I constantly examine my . . . I'm still operating within the art world. There is that base. Maybe it's a base to reaffirm your goals or your sanity in trying to develop ideas. You do have people who want to see you succeed in producing important work.

Silkscreen on sheet metal must have caught Cady Noland's attention. BOMB Magazine: Gretchen Bender by Cindy Sherman [bombsite]

When I started transcribing this section of Mike Kelley's 2004 Q&A with Gerry Fialka , I was only in it for the Duchamp and Cage. But I'm glad I stayed for the art, entertainment, and politics:

[49:31] Gerry Fialka: Duchamp said, "How do you make a piece of art that's not a piece of art?" Well Cage did it with music, maybe 4'33", [Kelley shaking head]
Mike Kelley: No,
GF: Well--
MK: Duchamp did never not make a piece of art, and Cage did never not make a piece of art. That's a game they played, that's a game they played to pretend they were doing something that wasn't art. Of course it was art. What else was it?
GF: Well put, let me finish. And then Joyce wrote uh--
MK: Pshhh
GF: Finnegan's Wake and invented the Internet, and disguised it as a book. And George Manupelli--
[Audience noise]
George Manupelli is someone we both encountered in Ann Arbor, Michigan, who started the oldest experimental film festival in the world, the Ann Arbor F--
MK: The Ann Arbor Film Festival, which is, I tell you, I got my whole film education from that festival.
GF: It was a great place for me, too. to view experimental films
MK: They don't do things like that anymore.
GF: And he had a piece called Film for Hooded Projector, so why is it important to shake up constructed belief systems, and do we need'em?
MK: Of course. Why else would you want art?
The only social function of art is to f things up. It has no other social function. Absolutely none. That's why, if you merge it with the entertainment industry, make it about the desires of the masses, it doesn't have any social function.
Also, what that idea about art--what separates it from politics, politics has a purpose. It's about power relationships. Art doesn't have anything about power relationships. It's simply about fucking this up for the pure pleasure of fucking them up.
So it's about formal--it's about analysis, and formal, uh, uh, scrambling, and it both escapes the practicality of politics and the--what was the other side? I forget.
Audience: Entertainment.
MK: Eh?
Audience: Entertainment.
MK: Yeah, entertainment which is, drugging the masses. So art should be something in between that's not practical in terms of power relationships, because it's fantasy, but it allows for power. Because art allows for power shifts over a slow time because people's minds change. Entertainment never changes people's minds. It just drugs them to reality, and I completely agree with Marx in this, in this way.
So I'm, I'm against the idea of art being subsumed either into the political sphere, or into the entertainment sphere. I think it has to be a separate social entity, especially in America.
I think in Europe, social and class differences are different than they are here. But in America, since it's such an anti-intellectual culture, it has to be a separate milieu, that's purposely--um. What would I say? Purposely purposeless.
It has to be. Otherwise it has no social function.

Alright, I know it all looked like a black hole of boring embarrassment last week, but Amazon Art just broke through to the other side.

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Artisoo Surrogate Painting [No. 783] - Oil painting reproduction 30'' x 26'' - Allan McCollum, $193

Kriston Capps and Joy Garnett were tweeting this link to what seems to be an Allan McCollum Surrogate Painting (No. 783), a 30x26-in original oil painting, offered on Amazon by a gallery called Artisoo--for $193. Kriston pointed out that Amazon's gallery system has a forgery problem, or at least an authenticity problem. Which could very well be the case! But this is not why.

Because Allan McCollum's Surrogate Paintings are not oil on canvas, but acrylic on plaster. Or as in the case of [No. 783], which was made in 1978, acrylic on wood. They're painting-shaped sculptures, really. And what Artisoo is selling here is actually an original oil painting of the jpg reproduction of the McCollum. Artisoo is making an artwork that's the picture of an artwork that the original artist hoped would help a gallery "become like a picture."

Artisoo guarantees that your Surrogate Painting [No. 783] will be "100% hand-painted by our experienced artists. We stand by our top quality." And you can order with confidence knowing that "The original motifs presented by Artisoo are created by artists from the most prestigious art schools and academies of fine arts. [emphasis added, because, 'motifs'! -ed.]"
Chinese Paint Mill has appropriated Google Images and put it up for sale on Amazon. There are at least 18 other McCollum jpgs available as oil paintings. They all appear in the first page of the artist's Google Image results. Artisoo currently offers 8,124 other paintings on Amazon, and unnumbered thousands more on their own website. In your choice of seven sizes.

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It's the fine art equivalent of LifeSphere, the Spamerican Apparel botcompany Babak Radboy wrote about that systematically turns every public domain image into every possible Zazzle product.

At least it's trying to be. After a quick surf, I'd say that this Artisoo McCollum Surrogate Painting counts as a rare conceptual gem; easily 98% of the company's merch is Chinese Paint Mill fluff. I'd call it pure over-the-sofa art, but that'd only account for one of the eight options in their Shop By Room function.

But there's something sublime about the way a painting of a photograph of a minimalistic, monochromatic painted object encapsulates the entirety of orthodox post-war art history, collapses it, and drops it into the world's biggest online vending machine. It's painting pared down to its barest essence as a privileged cultural signifier: a decorative picture of whatever, made by hand. Painting sells its soul for Dino Sponges. But wait, there's more!

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Like any serious collector, I like to shop for my art alphabetically, which means the first post-war artist to emerge in Artisoo's stable is Anne Truitt. Artisoo offers 62 paintings with an Anne Truitt "motif," including installation shots of her trademark acrylic on poplar columns; monochromatic works on paper; sumi ink drawings; and even the barely visible washes of the Arundel paintings. Can't wait to see how those come out.

Artisoo's daring paintings, uh, interrogate the conventions of scale as deftly as the notion of medium, date, authorship, context, and form. At 30x10 inches, this painting of a Parva sculpture is easily three times the size of Truitt's original.

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Artisoo Signal - Oil painting reproduction 30'' x 28'' - Anne Truitt

In a move that feels appropriated from my own playbook, Artisoo even offers paintings of early works that Truitt destroyed, the aluminum sculptures she created in 1964 while living in Japan. Unlike Destroyed Richter Paintings, however, Artisoo's Artisoo Signal - Oil painting reproduction 30'' x 28'' - Anne Truitt ($204) does not attempt to recreate the experience of being in the original's presence; it promises only its own, bold self: a painting of a vintage Kodachrome of a nautically colored sculpture bathed in the light of Tokyo courtyard.

I'm on slow wireless at the moment, so I gave up hope of surfing through all 340 pages of Artisoo's products, and instead started plugging in names of artists I liked, or rather, artists I'd like to see appropriated by Amazon Chinese Paint Mill. It didn't really pan out. No Kosuth, no Andre, no Beuys, Lewitt, Gober, Sherman, Levine, Hesse, Newman or Prince, and no Richter. The company's web-indexical curation strategy is clearly still a work in progress. There are several dozen Johnses on Artisoo.com, though. I wonder if I could order a copy of Flag in the exact dimensions of the Short Circuit original? Yes, there's no Sturtevant.

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Artisoo Abstract Painting - Oil painting reproduction 30'' x 30'' - Ad Reinhardt, $221

There are Alma Thomases, though. And 63 Calders. Would you like a painting of a stabile? Oh, nice, there are 50 Ad Reinhardts. Those ought to be interesting. Likewise the 23 Agnes Martins.

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Artisoo Happy Valley - Oil painting reproduction 30'' x 30'' - Agnes Martin, $239

Here's a standout, though, which reveals a lot about Artisoo's practice. It's a painting called, Http En Wikipedia Org Wiki File Hamilton Appealing2 Jpg 1956, and it comes 4x-36x larger than Richard Hamilton's 10-inch paper collage.

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Http En Wikipedia Org Wiki File Hamilton Appealing2 Jpg 1956 ($125-650)

Everything about Artisoo is so immediately and obviously fantastic, I almost don't want to spoil it by seeing actual paintings. Almost.

I'm surprised to not be hearing or reading more about "Here and There," Peter Coffin's show at the Hirshhorn, curated by Kelly Gordon.

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Hirshhorn installation view via @bluelikechagall

Maybe it's the show's unusual format; with seven works, it's bigger than a project, but smaller than a mid-career retrospective, and Coffin's works are dispersed throughout the museum (and one online). Jane Holzer's copy of the eyecatching Untitled (Spiral Staircase) is in the courtyard. And my absolute favorite of Peter's work, Untitled (Designs for Colby Poster Company), is on view, all 80 posters, in the elevator landing. [The Hirshhorn apparently bought Colby Poster in 2008, which was definitely the right time to get it, but the checklist and walltext says these particular examples are Collection of the Artist. I hope there's a trivial explanation for this, especially now that Colby Poster Company is gone. (RIP). Also, has it ever been shown in the museum before? I don't think so. I would've put that thing up at the end of Warhol's Shadows instead of that Estate Edition Flavin wall. Just sayin'.]

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Donald Moffett, Aluminum/White House Unmoored, 2004, image via marianneboeskygallery

Anyway, the big news is the center of the show, a [commissioned?] project, Untitled (Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum), 2013, a 12-minute animated projection/installation on a dozen or so works from the collection. It's not so much site-specific as institution-specific and work-specific; each projection is timed and tailored for a particular painting or drawing.

When Donald Moffett first showed projected still video landscapes on paintings in 2003 (above), his silver and gold monochrome canvases served as uneasy, even dubious screens. Coffin, though, has selected a wide mix of figurative and abstract work onto which he projects Jeremy Blake-like animations that overlay their own representational/abstract painterly arguments.

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For Jasper Johns' pastel 0-9 (1962), for example, Coffin articulates each collapsed digit in turn, rendering the illegible temporarily legible. For Sargent's portrait of random London shipping heiress Catherine Vlasto (1897) [left], Coffin highlights different elements of the picture, including the piano keys, her décolletage, and the gilt frame, referencing the viewer's own reading process, the very museum experience that has been digitally usurped.

I've watched the program through several times, and I got to where I can identify and anticipate favorite passages, moments where the original artwork and Coffin's projected images work well together (or against each other.) The last 5 seconds or so of the video clip above, for example, where Coffin makes de Kooning's painting seem to blur in and out of focus, is a standout that deftly addresses the painting's abstraction.

Overall, though, Coffin's various animations don't seem designed for contemplation. Instead they fall under the rubric Gordon calls, "serious fun," a new, different, and "subversive" way of looking at traditional artworks. I imagine that for many viewers, especially those who wander in from Air & Space, Coffin's 12 minute loop will be several times longer than they'll spend strolling through galleries where they can actually see the paintings. In that sense, they're the apotheosis of a certain kind of entertainment-centric museum-going experience, just what the curator ordered.

Peter Coffin: Here & There runs through Oct. 6, 2013 [hirshhorn.si.edu]

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Model for set design, "L'Ephemere est eternel," 1926, recreated in 1964, photographed in 2008 at Vanabbemuseum by Jeff Werner

After reading Michel Seuphor's Dada play "L'Ephemere est eternel" in 1926, Piet Mondrian surprised his friend by designing sets for each of the three acts. The little models were photographed amidst Mondrian's paintings in his studio, a nice parallel to the play's denouement, in which a model of a theater is destroyed by an executioner. It also resonates with a play Mondrian himself wrote in 1919, which ends in his studio. For someone trying to change all the world, the stage was a nice place for a dry run.

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Susanne Deicher noted that Mondrian refused to be photographed painting in his studio.

Mondrian often said that "new life" could be found in the free space opened up by reason and thought. The empty plane at the centre of the small painting on the easel reflects the absence of the artist.
During this period Mondrian frequently spoke of the end of the subject in the new age to come. He designed his studio as an imaginary setting for a theory without an author, where the "new" appears to evolve in the non-space of the empty center of his abstract paintings.
This absence to Mondrian's ideas for the staging of "L'Ephemere" as well. He really wanted sets that concealed the actors as they delivered their lines. To what extent Seuphor was on board with Mondrian's creative involvement, I don't know.

I also don't know in what form it circulated at the time, or how widely it was read or known, but Seuphor's play was not actually ever performed until 1968. By then Mondrian's original models had been lost; someone--perhaps Seuphor himself--had refabricated one in 1964. It's in the collection of the Vanabbemuseum in Eindhoven. [That's where Vancouver designer/blogger Jeff Werner photographed it in 2008.. I first saw it a few months ago in "Inventing Abstraction" at MoMA.]

Remarkably, the US premiere of "L'Ephemere est eternel" took place in 1982, at the Hirshhorn Museum. It was one of several ambitious elements of Judith Zilczer's exhibition, "de Stijl: Visions of Utopia: 1917-1931." The show also included a large-scale recreation of Theo van Doesburg's lost interior of the cinema/cafe in the Aubette in Strasbourg. The opening was attended by Queen Beatrix, who, on a state visit, discussed nuclear proliferation and anti-NATO protests with Ronald Reagan.

Georgetown University theater professor Donn B. Murphy directed his and Zilczer's 60-minute adaptation of Seuphor's absurdist, plotless, and wordplay-filled script, which ran for at least seven public performances during the weekend of June 25-27. The show was in the museum's auditorium, which barely has a stage, more of a podium, but which was apparently able to accommodate a full-scale version of Mondrian's spare, shallow set.

The Washington Post hated it. In his review David Richards summed up the play's Dadaist, traumatized historical context as "the intellectual's version of 'Hellzapoppin,' music-hall for the nihilists born of World War I." Which, well, I guess it could be worse. Whatever could Dada tell the world of Washington during the throes of the Culture and Cold Wars and at the onset of the AIDS pandemic? [On the same page, the Post hated on John Carpenter's remake of The Thing, starring Kurt Russell, even more.]

In the Dada spirit of non sequitur, and to add one more datapoint to calibrate the Post's critical settings, I can't not quote from the their review of a local stand-up performance by one Jay Leno:

Leno's nasal delivery, which resembled Andy Rooney's, expanded to a colorful palette of characters as he worked through subject matter including the Phil Donahue show, photo stores ("How come they can transmit pictures 80,000 miles through space, and you walk across the street to Fotomat and they can't find yours?"), male strip shows, Steven Spielberg movies, video games, and even local deejay Howard Stern.
Anyway, the Hirshhorn has a [VHS!] videotape of the performance in their archive. I will be making my appointment pronto.

In Japan, I woke up a couple of nights angry from dreams about having dinner at the White House, and sitting across from Pres. Obama, and arguing with him about hunger striking prisoners at Guantanamo.

We talked--I talked at him, because, I guess my mind was incapable of imagining a viable retort, really, what could he say?--about Yasiin Bey's video demonstrating the standard procedure the military uses to force feed hunger strikers through their noses. And I asked if the Constitution was now as quaint as the Geneva Conventions, a reference to Bush era torture theorist John Yoo's position on following the rule of law and international treaties the US had nominally upheld for decades.

It was the kind of dream where I felt that surge of adrenaline, that this moment, this conversation, was going to be what opened the President's eyes to the awful urgency of this situation our country is in. These people are in.

I had seen the reports by investigative journalist Jason Leopold which revealed JTF-GTMO's recent, extraordinary revisions to the prison hospital's forced feeding procedures. But it wasn't until a couple of days ago that, with Jason's assistance, I found the actual military manuals and memos themselves. They are in an archive of documents produced in response to Freedom of Information Act requests maintained byThe Department of Defense's FOIA Service Center.

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I can't not do something, so I have published the three sets of detainee treatment regulations, known as Standard Operating Procedures, as a book. Which, believe me, I know. I feel a bit like an outraged @Powhida jamming @BarackObama into all his tweets, until the non-effect wore him out.

It's weird feeling compelled to do something that you recognize is irrational and irrelevant. But again, I can't not do something, and this is one thing I do. Andwith all due respect to Richard Prince, this text, as it is, and as it drives the world, is the kind of thing I feel must be propagated and put examined and contextualized if appropriation, or art, or attention, really, is going to mean anything at all.

Standard Operating Procedure includes the SOP Manual for Camp Delta, the prison side of GTMO, which was implemented in 2003. It's 240-some pages, not including the various classified appendices for detainee transport and adjudication, which have not, apparently, been released. It also contains the 2003 version of SOP for the detention hospital for "Voluntary and Non-Voluntary Total Fasting and Re-Feeding," which has several p.ages completely redacted. And then there's the May 2013 revision to those procedures, which are contained in an SOP for the Joint Medical Group for the "Medical Management of Detainees on Hunger Strike." That's the regime the detainees are currently under.

Of course, as Leopold and others continue to report, the situation of detainees is even worse than what these SOP prescribe. There are indications that regulations are extensively, if not routinely ignored by guards and prison commanders. These primary documents embody the best case scenario for people who have been cleared for release for years, but who remain in harsh, indefinite, imprisonment.

So whether youbuy the book [which should be is finally available to order this weekend, I think; I've been experiencing some friction from the printer/publisher, which is kind of annoying, and it's been going on all week.] or read the regulations in electronic format, read them, and know that they exist.

Buy Standard Operating Procedure, 284pp, unsigned edition, $15.99 +s/h [createspace]

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James Bridle of the New Aesthetic and Dronestagram Bridles opened a show at the Corcoran this evening, and I attended. It was the first time James and I have met in person, after several years of blogging at each other.

The show itself is small and drone-centric, containing a grid of Dronestagram images and Google Map dronespottings, but also video, a 10-volume printed excerpt of a UAV-related webcrawling database project in development, and Bridle's classic drone identification kit [below].

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The most stunning and disturbing image in the show is a realization Bridle made of the "Light of God," a nightvision goggle-eye view of a targetting laser descending from the heavens. It's based on a drone pilot's commentary in an Omer Fast video, and it's gorgeous, eerie, and chilling as hell.

During his talk in the adjacent auditorium, Bridle began by mentioning how he is compelled to make physical the things he studies. His most powerful piece, the life-sized outline of a drone drawn on the ground, is an excellent example of this.

In answer to one of the last questions, about materialist formalist dialectic, Bridle noted how he often found himself making an object of something from the network, in order to photograph it and reinsert it into the network. The Corcoran show feels like this: a physical instantiation of digital content.

The idea for the show, or particularly, for Bridle to be the go-to guy for such a show, more than just The New Aesthetic Guy, but certainly that, came from the Corcoran's IT department, said the curator who introduced the evening. I will choose to take this as evidence of the Corcoran's cross-disciplinary innovation and flat organization, not as a sign of a vacuum at the top of the institution. Anyway, the whole affair seems closely linked to the school side of the Corcoran, i.e., the still-functional side. The crowd was crowded, and felt student-heavy.

Anyway, James Bridle. Bridle noted that we in Washington are lucky to have a real Predator drone in our midst, right there at Air & Space Museum. It is exceedingly rare, he said, and he would know, to be able to be in the presence of an actual drone. They're either largely invisible, or they're bearing down on your village. And there's one hanging on the Mall.

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And now there is the shadow of one, the outline of one, really on the sculpture pad of the Corcoran. That's how it's described, as being sited on the sculpture pad. Obviously, it doesn't begin to fit on the sculpture pad. It's painted on the pad, the rocks, the curb and sidewalk, with white paint of some no doubt temporary kind.

It is much bigger than you might imagine, which is exactly the point. That, and imagining it being overhead and casting a shadow on the ground, the thing a Pakistani wedding party might see right before the missile hits.

Bridle noted as to how not many people will get to see this privileged view from above. I would note that White House staff in the Eisenhower Old Executive Office Building will get to see it every day, and that right there is quite something.

But he's right, and it underscores his point, that the drone outline reads quite differently from the ground. It's not Nazca Lines different, but that's the sense of it.

I asked James later how he'd decided which way to point the drone. There was really only one good way to fit it, he said, and also, he knew he didn't want to aim it at the White House. Which is understandable. When he installed his first drone drawing in Istanbul, Bridle similarly made sure not to aim the drone at Mecca. In consciously not aiming at the White House, Bridle's drone ends up feeling like it's coming directly from the White House. Which probably intensifies its critical position a bit. It worked for me, at least.

In between these moments was a cogent, timely, and depressing talk about technology as a tool of control and a reflection of the political and social systems that foster and use it. If it was recorded or streamed, I will try to find a link.

Meanwhile, as I walked around the drone on my way home, I did think of one piece missing. Not to tell James how to do his job or anything. But it occurs to me that the sound of drones is distinctive and terrifying. Perhaps a sound element to recreate the perpetual presence of drones in the vicinity of the Corcoran, would provide a visceral experience. Who knows, it might even wake the neighbors.

Indeed: Corcoran College of Art & Design: Quiet Disposition by James Bridle, through July 7, 2013 [corcoran.edu]

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Here's a shot I took today of the scaffolding around the Washington Monument for its post-earthquake restoration.

Every time I go by I think how awesome it would be, and until I hear or see otherwise, I'll just keep hoping and assuming it's the case that, instead of Michael Graves' tired, pomo cartoon scrim, the National Park Service is actually encasing it Budweiser cans, installing a massive adaptation of the 1989 work, This Piece Has No Title Yet, by DC's own Cady Noland.

What? I'm sure Don and Mera could totally make it happen!

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This Piece Has No Title Yet, 1989, Dimensions variable, you guys! [rfc.museum]


DAY AFTER UPDATE: Whoa, well, then. The Hirshhorn board split and Koshalek announced his resignation by year-end. What a way to go.

While designer Liz Diller made her politico-architectural case for The Hirshhorn Bubble in her 2012 TED talk, the Museum's own justification for the project has been unclear and uncompelling.

Explanations center on making the Hirshhorn "an agent for cultural diplomacy." In February director Richard Koshalek told Kriston Capps, "This institution should be the leader in terms of setting arts and cultural dialogue. Cultural policy is set in Washington, D.C." This is debatable enough, as both mission and content.

The programming that's always discussed, though, a "Center for Creative Dialogue," involves conferences and discussions created by the Council on Foreign Relations and outside staff, not the Hirshhorn itself, or even the Smithsonian. Critics of the Bubble vision like Tyler Green note this disconnect, and that the Museum doesn't need a bubble to host such policy-flavored forums and events; they could do it right now, in the existing auditorium. And in fact, they did just that last Fall, where a capacity crowd watched TV journalist Judy Woodruff moderate a panel on "Art and Social Change" during to the Ai Weiwei exhibition.

No, The Bubble is a thing apart, apparently, from the programming that would inhabit it. Its absurdist form on this symbolic site, and the transgressive gesture towards Gordon Bunshaft's concrete donut, are meant to be self-justifying. Capps calls it "a public art stunt," and the Washington Post suggests it could "break DC from stagnation." It's starchitecture as spectacle and a catalyst for attention and, eventually, one hopes, the holy grail of Washington existence: relevance.

Meanwhile, it's amazing that until Capps' reconsideration of the project last winter in the City Paper, there was no mention of what would be, for lack of a better term, the business model: The Bubble would be a for-hire event space.

Koshalek swears the Inflatable will engage the Hirshhorn's curators, too. When the Bubble is inflated, part of its programming will correspond with whatever's lining the gallery walls of the museum. The rest of the timeshare will go to whichever universities, think tanks, and corporations rent it out--a money-making proposition for the Hirshhorn which could lead to exclusive uses not quite in keeping with Diller's civic scheme. (And certainly not with the museum's artistic mission.)

May 20, 2013

Big Swingin' D[iller]

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The Hirshhorn's board is scheduled to vote on whether to proceed with The Bubble, the most prominent initiative of director Richard Koshalek since he arrived at the museum in 2009.

Even though The Bubble was the subject of one of my all-time favorite posts, I have not written much about it since. I have reservations about it, but I have only wished the museum's success, and so have been willing to give the current regime the benefit of the doubt as they pursue their vision.

But that has been a vague slog, and far from a sure thing. It's remarkable that the board which hired Koshalek is apparently reluctant to support his efforts to do what they presumably hired him for: raising the profile of the Hirshhorn, and raising money for the Hirshhorn and its exhibitions, acquisitions, and educational programs.

Maybe that is because there are persistent and unaddressed issues with The Bubble and its ostensible purpose. It is true that Koshalek's stated vision for The Bubble--to host some kind of cross-disciplinary cultural forum, with content generated not by the Museum, or even the Smithsonian, but by the Council on Foreign Relations--still comes across as squishy and alarmingly unconcerned with actual art and artists. That disconnect is even more inexplicable for being unnecessary.

About The Bubble itself, though: I didn't care much either way before, but after watching Liz Diller's TED talk from March 2012, I am really starting to sour on Diller Scofidio + Renfro's design and their entire approach. Titled "A Giant Bubble for Debate," Diller's speech is the rare, unmediated, extended discussion of The Bubble by a principal. As such, it's worth a closer read.

For Diller and her client, who wants to take advantage of the Museum's unique and symbolic site "at the seat of power in America," the National Mall, "the question is, 'Is it possible, ultimately, for art to insert itself into the dialogue of national and world affairs?' and 'Could the Museum be an agent of cultural diplomacy?'" Technically that's two questions, which not only are not answered, but which beg more questions--insert itself to what end, and agent for whom?

diller_bubble_TED.jpg

"I blush whenever I show this," says Diller of the slide above, to laughter. "It is yours to interpret." Wait, what? So I guess she interprets this insertion into the Hirshhorn's hole as a phallus? Or given the material, I guess it could be a sex toy, or a condom? Or at least some flavor of kink, given the "study of some bondage techniques" that went into the tension cable design on the next slide?

Diller continues: "We were asked by the bureaucracy at the Mall, 'How long would it take to install?' And we said, 'The first erection will take one week.'" And if it lasts longer than that, I guess, call your architect.

diller_panel_TED.jpg

Diller shows the interior space of The Bubble in use, with renderings of a panel discussion in the round; a spotlit performer; a movie screening; and a Barbara Kruger-style text projection. In every instance, the activity is the same: an audience sits and watches something happen. This "breath of democracy" turns out to be just more entertainment and spectacle. And this purportedly transgressive, iconoclastic structure does absolutely nothing to change or challenge the programs of the Mall's museums Diller just criticized, or by extension, the structures of power she pretends to subvert.

Diller's claim that her structure, built to house extravagantly ticketed events like TED, the WEF, and CFR fora, will somehow embody "the ideals of participatory democracy" is obviously nothing but hot air.

Which is still just part of the problem, seeing as how the ideals The Bubble is embodying are those of pay-to-play capitalism. More on that in the next post.

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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.

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Category: dc

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

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