Category:documenta, et al

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So everyone dutifully reproduced the press release about Craig Robins putting Buckminster Fuller's 24-foot version of the Fly's Eye Dome through a "historic restoration" by boat fabricator Goetz Composites, yet no one seems to have followed through with picture of the completed job. Well here you go, from Goetz themselves.

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In 2008, Max Protetch exhibited the fiberglass dome, a prototype manufactured in 1976-7--which used to be described as a 26-foot diameter dome, btw--at La Guardia Place in the Village. The photo below is from his installation at Protetch: Beacon last year.

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Said the press release:

Eric [Goetz] and his team, working with Daniel J. Reiser and John Warren who fabricated the original structure with Bucky, have gone to extraordinary lengths to engage this process with the same meticulous detail as a world-class fine art restorer.
Which is apparently not the same thing as restoring a world-class work of art, or even a piece of design, where the patina is to be preserved, even treasured, but more like a Pebble Beach concours-style project, where you chrome-plate all the screws.

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Maybe it could be argued that stripping off the blue paint on the inside brings it closer to its "original condition." But looking at the raw fiberglass interior of the 33-foot dome Jack Lenor Larsen installed at Longhouse Reserve in Easthampton, I wonder if original originally meant something else.

Larsen's dome was first loaned to him by Fuller's daughter Allegra Fuller Snyder. It was constructed by John Kuhtik, whose company Emod had by then been working to produce the Fly's Eye dome "for nearly a decade", presumably with Fuller's blessing and involvement.

Anyway, I guess I'm stoked that Protetch hustled and saved one of Fuller's rare artifacts, even if saving it means stripping it of its history. I'm sure it'll look shiny and fantastic in Miami.

Restoration of Buckminster Fuller's iconic Fly's Eye Dome at America's Cup [archdaily]

I'm getting pretty comfortable with my love affair/obsession with the US Pavilion at the Expo 67 in Montreal. I mean, it's got Buckminster Fuller; Alan Solomon curating gigantic paintings; photomurals; and satelloons, what's not to love, right?

So seeing Design for a Fair, the 1968 promo short film by Peter Chermayeff is awesome just as it is. The vintage footage and photos are some of the crispest I've seen, and it really is pretty crazy on a whole bunch of levels that this thing existed at all.

But maybe the greatest thing--even better than the giant graphic designed flags that look like a lost Ellsworth Kelly, as if there wasn't enough giant, escalator-optimized, actual art already--and even better than the sheer soft power/propaganda play that was so drop-dead awesome it won the future for the day--is the voiceover.

Because the whole thing really sounds like Chermayeff's idea. Every last bit of it, dome to nuts. It's fantastic. Chermayeff, of course, is an architect and exhibition designer, and his former firm, Cambridge Seven Associates, or C7A, was contracted by the US Information Agency to produce the US Expo entry.

And so, as Chermayeff tells it, they knew they wanted a 3/4 geodesic dome, so they ordered one. And they wanted some giant art, so they ordered that. And the moon stuff, and the Hollywood and all the happy parts of American culture.

Now I don't doubt a thing; I'm sure that's exactly how it all went down. It's just that that's not how it's typically remembered. Architects only remember Fuller; the art world only recognizes Solomon and the artists, not the venue or the show or the implications of it; and everything else is artifact and prop. [And the poor lunar photomural, I've hardly found anyone remembering that at all.]

The historical focus is either on the general awesomeness of the spectacle and mood, the political context and propaganda, or on the parts in isolation. What Design for a Fair reminds me of, though, is the visitor's experience, the carefully orchestrated messaging, and the reality that it was orchestrated by a contractor working to a brief provided by the USIA. It was a government-funded gesamtkunstwerk, a massive piece of installation art before the fact, and probably one of the most cost-effective public diplomacy efforts of the Cold War era. It literally seems unimaginable today.

April 26, 2011

Thomas Hirschhorn Stamps

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I ♥ the fact that Switzerland had Thomas Hirschhorn make a series of stamps to mark his involvemente in the 2011 Venice Biennale almost as much as I ♥ Thomas Hirschhorn's stamps.

Stamp | Crystal of Resistance [crystalofresistance.com]

Warm nostalgia apparently equals d-bag public access video + time.

Reading Andrew's report from the Dependent Art Fair, I kept flashing back to the Gramercy, and all the art in the bathrooms, and on the beds, and the insanely crowded hallways.

And whaddya know, there's a link to a 1995 Gallery Beat episode from "the Gramery Hotel," where those asshats wandered in on work by unknown artists like Mark Dion, and Tracy Emin, who was not quite protected by the utterly baffled Jay Jopling.

I'd totally forgotten how much I hated that show. And now I'll probably end up watching the entire archive.

Classic Gallery Beat TV [gallerybeat.net via 16miles.com]

February 19, 2011

I've Got Mail

I order so many random books, usually from random independent or used booksellers on Abebooks, that don't arrive with anything like the robotic precision and up-to-the-minute email notification of Amazon, that I never know what's come in the mail until I open it. And sometimes I've forgotten what I even ordered.

Today's haul was exceptional, though:

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Centerbeam is the 1980 report/documentation for a project that, as far as I can tell, was the largest contemporary public art event ever undertaken on the National Mall: Centerbeam and Icarus, a collaborative experiment/performance organized by MIT's Center for Advanced Visual Studies, under the direction of Otto Piene.

Centerbeam was unveiled at documenta 6 in 1977, and restaged on the Mall in the summer of 1978. It involved video, lasers, giant inflatable sculptures, smoke machines, sound art, a technotopian extravaganza that was apparently a raging success, but also, from the pictures, might have been a hot mess. Not that those are mutually exclusive. Anyway, I thought I'd bought this book a year and a half ago when I first wrote about Centerbeam, but I had not.

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The catalogue for the Musee d'Orsay's Leon Gimpel exhibition arrived, from Italy, and wow, it's beautifully produced. The images that get widely reproduced are some of the most arresting, but just a quick look makes me very excited to study Gimpel's work more closely. The text is only in French, which probably means it won't get the US distribution presence it deserves. [It looks so easy to buy on Amazon.fr, though.]

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And last, whoa, what an incredible surprise: Enclosure 3: Harry Partch? What the hell is this? Experimental composer Philip Blackburn is the last in a series of Partch devotees who labored to publish the visionary composer/ex-hobo's archive. Most of the Enclosure series is video and audio of performances of Partch's music, but Enclosure 3 is a dense, daunting, but engrossing facsimile edition of the notes, drawings, clippings, photos, manuscripts, and correspondence Partch kept for himself. It looks utterly fantastic.

I think my version was published in 2005, but the copyright is also from 1997, and there's only the barest hint at the process of putting the book together. It's pretty raw. But gorgeous. I'd seen it mentioned on some hip curation webshop, one of those Nieves-type outfits, but when I couldn't figure out which one it was [turns out it was collectionof.net], I ended up ordering it [much more cheaply] via some Amazon merchant.

Well, my copy arrived, it's awesome, and it turns out to have come from Squidco, an "improvised, composed experimental music" specialty shop based in, of all places, Wilmington, NC. Who knew, right? Squidco publishes a lot of writing and reviews of experimental music on Squid's Ear, wow, reaching back to 2003. I had no idea, but now I do, and I'm glad.

February 18, 2011

On Frieze At 20

Frieze has been around 20 years? That's crazy. I feel so old.

I'm really liking the dips into the archives by invited Big Thinkers. Jens Hoffmann's picks focus on biennials and such. My favorite has to be Jenny Liu's firsthand report of the Sixth Caribbean Biennial, a giant critique-in-a-boondoggle-in-a-biennial organized by Maurizio Catteland--and Jens Hoffmann:

The idea of a biennial without art could have been cool in a marvellously vacuous sort of a way, puncturing the self-importance of the art world by grotesquely aping it. What we got was a furtive and ungenerous gesture, a covert V-sign flipped at the art world behind its back, when more balls could have made it a divinely impudent mooning in its face. As a critique, the Caribbean Biennial was neutered when the organisers and some of the artists felt the need to prescribe the biennial's public perception and hide the vacation at its heart. The art was so profoundly and deafeningly absent that some artists took to thinking of themselves as both art stars (whose reputations needed protecting) and art civilians (with commensurate expectations of privacy), while curators took on the role of embarrassed publicists and the spectators of poor cousins at a wedding. There's something sad about so cynical and ambivalent a gesture as the Caribbean Biennial: one would think that a critique of one's own practices would be ethical, even idealistic. Here, the humour was both a performance of aggression and a weapon of despair, another cheerless rehearsal of irony and parody.
I still talk to people about the Caribbean Biennial all the time, though as time passes, I have to keep reassuring myself that it actually happened. Or didn't, as the case may be.

But I still remember it as a sly, subversive prank, and Liu's obviously generous but disappointed review reminds me that it was less romantic than I want it to be. Seriously, guys, how could you let Jenny down like that?

Trouble in Paradise [frieze]
frieze.com/20/ [frieze.com]

I cannot believe this has under 1,000 views. I'm only about 8:00 into this YouTube video, and already, Viktor Pinchuk is my hero. While anyone with a yacht or a palazzo could assemble a tranche of the art world powerful on the Grand Canal, only Pinchuk's inspiring artistic vision can bring them all to Kiev. Well, I'm pretty sure it's his vision they're coming for.

Come for the vision, stay for the historic chance to have Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, Andreas Gursky, and Takashi Murakami together on stage, answering incisive questions from Ryan Seacrest's Ukrainian doppelganger. And the pitch for free Prada.

Ah, yes, I just got to the end: "Thank you to the thousands, the hundreds of thousands watching online!" It Gets Better!

Cinthia Marcelle receives Main Prize on FGAP Award Ceremony [ThePinchukArtCentre's YouTube channel, via Gavin Brown's GBlogÉ, pronounced like the French, Blo-ZHAY]

January 23, 2011

On Stage

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In 2002, as I was still trying on various kinds of public writing, I tried to capture the transformative experience of listening to--no, experience is the better word--On Kawara's One Million Years.

That post was even titled like a screenplay: "Setting: Fredericianum, Documenta II, Kassel."

mightymac_on_kawara.jpg
image via mightymac

In April 2004, South London Gallery staged a week-long, round-the-clock marathon reading of One Million Years in Trafalgar Square. Many passersby unfavorably compared Kawara's volunteer readers in their glass box to David Blaine, who had, just a few months before, spent 40 highly publicized days in a plexiglass cube suspended from a crane next to the Thames.

david_blaine_thames.jpg

In 2009, when David Zwirner staged a reading/recording of One Million Years, Brian Sholis wrote touchingly and with great acuity about the experience of reading the years 79,936 AD - 80,495 AD with his then-fiancee.

And yet only just now, somewhere between finding Jerry Saltz's characteristically gossipy, angst-ridden account of reading in the same show, and watching this comical YouTube video of Martin C. de Waal, a Dutch club kid/stylist/Orlan-style conceptual self-portraitist and his dance remix singing partner Marina Prins [!] getting all dolled up for their reading on the open platform at the Stedelijk--the one we'd been standing on a few weeks ago--do I realize the powerful performative essence of Kawara's piece. And with less than a hundred of an anticipated 2,700+ CDs burned, it's barely even begun.

The effect of living in a post-Marina world, I suppose

It's less than a week away, and I can't believe I haven't hyped it yet:

I'm giving a presentation this Friday in Miami during Art Basel Miami Beach titled, "Relational Aesthetics For The Rich, Or A Brief History Of The Gala As Art."

It's based on this similarly titled blog post, which pulls together a lot of things I've been fascinated by over the years, but which was inspired by MoCA's Annual Gala, which the museum relabeled "a Happening," and which they turned over to Doug Aitken to design as an artwork.

At least that was Jeffrey Deitch's original pitch; the results--and the history and context of museum gala art--turn out to be a little more complex.

Anyway, the talk is part of #rank, a program put together by Bill Powhida and Jen Dalton, which will be held at SEVEN, the shared exhibition and program space in Wynwood organized by a group of awesome New York dealers.

There are so many people to thank, starting with Magda Sawon from Postmasters and artist Michelle Vaughan, who are the honorary co-chairs of the presentation. And there are the gift bag sponsors, of course, who will be announced soon. I hope.

The gig goes down at 1pm, and it should be available for live streaming online, in case you are too busy making acquisitions at ABMB or something. But then you won't get a gift bag...

November 13, 2010

Sea Force One

Christoph Brech is the master of the meaningful tight shot. In Sea Force One, he focuses in on a pair of workers in a small boat who are scrubbing the hull of Francois Pinault's black yacht in front of Punta della Dogana during the 2009 Venice Biennale.

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The work is included in "Portraits and Power: People, Politics & Structures," at Strozzina in Firenze. It is interesting to compare their writeup of the piece--

We do not know who was on board the yacht - possibly François Pinault himself, the famous French luxury goods entrepreneur and primary investor in the new Venetian exhibition area. Brech has turned his camera on a moment that would otherwise have gone unnoticed, deliberately choosing not to record the sumptuous affirmation of wealth of the yacht. It is the contrast between the size of the latter and that of the small boat, or between the black hull of the yacht and the evanescent white of the soap and of the reflections upon the water, that brings out the greatness of the vessel, the actual size of which we do not grasp. The artist succeeds in moving beyond the façade of power and wealth by stopping at its surface. He seems to be suggesting that the strategy for the construction of an image of power may lie in its antirepresentation: i.e., the "myth" of power is created by veiling or concealing the identity of those who hold it.
--with the artist's own:
The yacht Sea Force One is anchored in front of a museum at the Punta della Dogna in Venice. The waves of the lagoon are reflected in the black varnish on the ship´s hull.
From a small boat nearby, workers are cleaning the yacht.
A painting emerges from the broad, white trails of foam on the ship´s dark surface, visible only for a short while until erased by cleansing streams of water.
Once again the reflected waves dapple the yacht.
At first read, I thought Brech's focus on the formalist, painterly abstraction was notably less political than the Florentine curators' interpretation. And damned if it doesn't, in fact, look like a negative inversion of a making of film shot in Franz Kline's studio.

Which immediately reminded me of the interview Felix Gonzalez-Torres did with Rob Storr, which I've reprinted and referenced here several times over the years.

I'm glad that this question came up. I realize again how successful ideology is and how easy it was for me to fall into that trap, calling this socio-political art. All art and all cultural production is political.

I'll just give you an example. When you raise the question of political or art, people immediately jump and say, Barbara Kruger, Louise Lawler, Leon Golub, Nancy Spero, those are political artists. Then who are the non-political artists, as if that was possible at this point in history? Let's look at abstraction, and let's consider the most successful of those political artists, Helen Frankenthaler.

Why are they the most successful political artists, even more than Kosuth, much more than Hans Haacke, much more than Nancy and Leon or Barbara Kruger? Because they don't look political! And as we know it's all about looking natural, it's all about being the normative aspect of whatever segment of culture we're dealing with, of life. That's where someone like Frankenthaler is the most politically successful artist when it comes to the political agenda that those works entail, because she serves a very clear agenda of the Right.

For example, here is something the State Department sent to me in 1989, asking me to submit work to the Art and Embassy Program. It has this wonderful quote from George Bernard Shaw, which says, "Besides torture, art is the most persuasive weapon." And I said I didn't know that the State Department had given up on torture - they're probably not giving up on torture - but they're using both. Anyway, look at this letter, because in case you missed the point they reproduce a Franz Kline which explains very well what they want in this program. It's a very interesting letter, because it's so transparent.


I guess it's the curator's job to overexplain things [?] but Brech's title and his discussion of the work in terms of abstraction is plenty political in itself.

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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: documenta, et al

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Social Medium:
artists writing, 2000-2015
Paper Monument, Oct. 2016
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It Narratives, incl.
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TheRealHennessy Tweets Paintings, 2014 -
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Standard Operating Procedure
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CZRPYR2: The Illustrated Appendix
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"Exhibition Space" @ apexart, NYC
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Printed Matter, NYC
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