Category:dc

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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 targeting 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?

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"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.

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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.

Listening to David Diao's amazing talk on Barnett Newman at Dia a few weeks ago, and then seeing his painted references to Newman, and especially to the 1966 Guggenheim catalogue for Lema Sabachthani, the debut exhibition of Stations of the Cross reminds me that Newman's work has been experienced and considered quite differently than it is today. [The Internet Archive has digitized Barnett Newman's The Stations of the Cross catalogue, btw.]

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Which reminded me of these old photos of Newman sculptures. The top one's from 1967, the first installation of Broken Obelisk at the Corcoran, the museum which commissioned it. It was included in the same large-scale sculpture exhibition as Tony Smith's Smoke and whatshisname's giant X.

This, first edition was removed from the Corcoran in 1969 [according to Washington Post courtier/reporter Paul Richard, there was turmoil after the departure of the museum director. Go figure.] and was eventually installed at the Rothko Chapel in Houston, dedicated after the fact to the memory of Martin Luther King. But there are a couple more. Has a Broken Obelisk ever been exhibited in DC since? And I keep looking for a photo of it from the other angle, with the actual Washington Monument. I mean, that shot was possible, wasn't it? [Yes, from the FDIC building, apparently.]

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And this one, which blows my mind, is Lace Curtain for Mayor Daley, a grid of barbed wire across a cor-ten window frame. Newman made it for a series of protest exhibitions hastily organized by Richard Feigen and Claes Oldenburg, after Chicago police attacked anti-war protestors at the Democratic National Convention. [Oldenburg was one of those beaten.] Annalee gave Lace Curtain to the Art Institute of Chicago in 1989, which has exhibited it only rarely.

Like I said, the perception of Newman's work has been quite different than it is today.

While huh, wtf? investigating the backstory of this tweet this morning, I was reminded of the time Strom Thurmond screened Jack Smith's Flaming Creatures at the US Senate in 1968:


Which, wow, has it really been two years since "Hide/Seek"? I found videos of the symposium presentations I was stunned by in 2011:

Jonathan D. Katz on Agnes Martin, abstraction & sexuality, and Zen ["and though she was not a practicing Buddhist, she did her best to both look and sound like one," strikes me now as a heckuva hook, but keep watching]:

Dominic Johnson on disgust and Jack Smith's Flaming Creatures, and the context for the Senate hearings and screening, which had been "confirmed" by the courts as obscene:

I assume Johnson's book Glorious Catastrophe: Jack Smith, performance and visual culture, includes more information on the Thurmond screening. No reviews or discussion of the book yet? Really?

UPDATE With this recollection of that paragon of traditional virtue that was the late segregationist senator from South Carolina, we note the passing of Ms. Essie May Washington, 87, Strom Thurmond's secret daughter, who was born to his family's 16-year-old African American maid when Thurmond was 22.

January 15, 2013

Brought A Trailer

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I hate malls in general, Tyson's in particular, and Tyson's at Christmas most of all. So I was beyond annoyed that it was the nearest/soonest Genius Bar appointment when the foot came off my laptop.

All was forgiven, though, when I saw this slightly amazing portable building. An office module on a trailer.

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I do not know what it was for--I didn't notice that now-obvious sign by the steps. And I don't know whether to put it in the tiny home, prefab, shipping container, or cabin porn category.

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It's really one space on the inside. With a window unit A/C, a little bit of a hack. It looked a little shabby, i.e., used, broken in, so it presumably wasn't [just?] a materials/color mockup for reskinning a nearby office building.

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If it's a temporary building, though, such as one might find on a giant construction site like the one enveloping the entire Tyson's Corner area, we should definitely give credit where it's due; this thing is far sweeter than the standard issue site office.

The sad part is, now that I've insulted their mall, I feel bad about calling and asking what it's for. Maybe someone else can be the citizen journalist here and cold call the mall with a, "What's this awesome thing I saw on the internet?? You guys are so awesome!"

January 9, 2013

Supreme Sforza

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image: protestor in front of the US Supreme Court on Jan. 8, 2013, the 11th anniversary of the opening of the Guantanamo prison. by Saul Loeb for AFP/Getty

I've been meaning for a couple of weeks now to post a photo of the extraordinary construction scrim on the front of the US Supreme Court, which has a full-scale photo reproduction of the actual building. Here we go, since this tweet:

I had no idea. So I looked it up. And was troubled by the fact that I had no idea it had been in place since last May. During the 21-month west facade stone restoration project, "The scaffolding and ongoing conservation work will be concealed by a scrim that will mimic the Court's architecture."

The Supreme Court building was designed by Cass Gilbert with John Rockart, and completed only in 1935. From its overall classical Greek temple design to the sculptures on the facades to the smallest ornamentations of the bronze flagpoles and handrails, is highly symbolic. As Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes said at the laying of the cornerstone in 1932, its very creation and existence are symbolic:

The Republic endures and this is the symbol of its faith...the national ideal of justice in the highest sphere of activity.
So it is entirely appropriate, then, to take a symbolic view of the scrim as well, and its illusionistic simulation of Equal Justice Under Law. As symbolic curtains go, it's the most inadvertently damning drapery since Colin Powell covered up the UN Security Council's Guernica tapestry in 2003.

The anniversary of Guantanamo coincided with the unreleased ruling in the hearing on Pvt. Bradley Manning's illegal and abusive detention without charge. The cancer of vengeance and torture that the US government first directed only toward foreign others has spread to its treatment of our country's citizens.

And so the thing that gets me about Saul Loeb's photo above is not the hooded Abu Ghraib/GTMO/Fort Meade protestor, or the Court's photogenic tarp, but the police officers spread long the steps between them.

Interesting, related, and surprisingly full of scare quotes for a 2009 show: Ben Street's review of Goshka Macuga's Whitechapel installation about Guernica, which included the UN tapestry.

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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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about this archive

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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