Category:expo

expo58_corbu_philips.jpg

Hello, Earth to Le Corbusier archive!

Corbusier conceived Poeme electronique for the Philips Pavilion at the 1958 Expo in Brussels. It was an 8-minute immersive light, film and sound experience which told mankind's long, hard slog towards peace.

Don't forget the architecture. The multi-channel version of Poeme electronique, with a score by Edgard Varese, was projected on the walls of the tensile tent-like pavilion, which was designed by composer/architect Iannis Xenakis, who was working for Le Corbusier's firm at the time. Xenakis recalled--perhaps wishfully, I don't know--that the parabolic concrete forms came directly from his graph-based score for his 1954 composition, Metastasis. [The piece was staged last March at the Barbican as part of a Xenakis program, concurrent with the Corbusier exhibition.]

xenakis_metastasis.jpg

Here's Poeme Electronique in its single channel version:

This brief segment produced in 2000 for a virtual reality recreation of the Poeme Electronique experience also includes period footage, photos, and a couple of interesting looking models from the Philips archives:

Le Corbusier; Iannis Xenakis; Edgard Varèse
«Poème électronique: Philips Pavilion»
[mediaartnet.org via things]
previously: E.A.T. and the Pepsi Pavilion, Osaka Expo 70; a lost piece of corporate-sponsored installation art?

I've had some intense conversations with people who wanted to know what the US presidential candidates thought about the arts, who is advising them, and what their policy statements were on the matter. Frankly, I couldn't have cared less at the time, and now that I know the answer, I can hardly think of a less significant or important issue on which to base a decision. What the two presidential candidates do and say in other realms--in fact, their entire governing philosophies and the way they would lead the country--will have exponentially greater impact on US's culture, arts, and artist communities than whatever handful of legislative bullet points they throw out in a campaign.

Which incorrectly makes it sound like both candidates have even thrown out some bullet points. John McCain's arts policy is apparently not to have one. His website doesn't mention the arts, arts education, or federal arts organizations like the National Endowment for the Arts at all. His stated education policy makes no mention of the arts at all. I have a hard time trying to imagine an issue that would matter less to McCain and his campaign, much less to a McCain administration, and when the campaign can't pull together a comprehensible policy for technology and the internet, an articulated arts policy seems unlikely to come during McCain's lifetime, even.

In place of any official position of the McCain campaign, I took a look at the GOP's 2008 Party Platform. Which turns out to be a kind of grass roots/YouTube stunt to allow everyone to write the platform together. Interactively! There are five submissions that mention the arts. One is a cutnpaste 10-point "bipartisan" position paper from Americans for the Arts.

John from Damon, TX recommends eliminating most cabinet-level government departments including the "department of veterans affairs (I think the world of our veterans, but they don't need a cabinet position), and if you need more, take out the department of engery (they haven't done anything use full to date). then turn our attention to social programs. Most should be eliminated over time. Grants to the fine arts should be eliminated NOW (including PBS)."

Two others mention liberal arts in school, and then there's Stephen from Coopersburg, PA:

I would like to see martial arts added to the standard curriculum in schools, Not only because I teach Tae Kwon Do to kids age 4 & up, (and that would be a sweet job) but because it teaches them to focus, helps them with agility, and cardiovascular training, instills self confidence, dicipline, and teaches them how to overcome obsticles & fear (as well as kick Butt if needed).
I don't see McCain's folks improving significantly on these proposals, frankly. I think they should just go with these.

As reported on Artsjournal, Barack Obama does have an arts policy, freshly drafted by a 33-person arts advisory committee. The policy, grandly titled "A Platform In Support Of The Arts," [pdf] closely mirrors the issues championed by the Arts Action Fund, an advocacy group and PAC associated with Americans for the Arts that's hosting the document. It's a tiny bundle of noncommittal platitudes and proposals ["reinvest in arts education," create an inner city "artists corps"], expressions of support for existing programs [public/private school partnerships, the NEA], general campaign issues that impact the arts world [universal health care, US stops acting like a total dick to rest of world], and a tax code tweak proposed by Senator Leahy that lets artists donate works to museums at fair market value. That's it. You feeling the Obamamentum yet?

The advisory committee, too, seems as slight as the platform they propose. It's headed by the veteran producer/director George Stevens Jr., whose name you might recognize because he was an uncredited PA on two of his father's landmark films, Giant and Shane. His own work tends toward the Kennedy Center Presents programs, celebrations of what passes for culture in Washington, DC. The other co-chair is Margo Lion, the Broadway producer behind Hairspray. Then there's Michael Chabon, and a raft of arts industrial complex types: foundation directors, a few philanthropist/trustees, arts council and university folks. Despite the prominence of the artist tax deduction--it's the only legislation in the proposal--there doesn't appear to be a single person affiliated with a museum or associated with fine art.

update: poking around Americans for the Arts' website, I found ArtsVote 2008, an attempt to raise awareness during the presidential campaign and conventions for the arts industrial complex. There's a page with links to policy statements by all the candidates. All the candidates who responded and submitted them, anyway. Which is to say Obama has three statements. McCain, none. Also, John Baldessari made a poster.

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Here's a description of the American Pavilion at the Osaka '70 Expo from an online exhibit at Columbia called, "Housing The Spectacle: The Emergence of America's Domed Stadiums":

Trying to best R. Buckminister Fuller's Geodesic Dome built for the U.S. Pavilion at Expo 67 in Montreal, the architects of the Expo 70 Pavilion first envisioned it as a huge floating sphere, inspired by NASA's Apollo 11 mission that put the first man on the moon. This spherical scheme was the winning entry (submitted by Davis - Brody Architects and deHarak, Chermayeff & Geismar, Designers) in a competition sponsored by its future owner, the United States Information Agency (USIA). The competition scheme would have included exhibition space inside the sphere, and used its inner surface as a giant projection screen for continuously played film clips. The Pavilion ultimately erected at Osaka marked the birth of a new structural building type -- the longspan, cable stiffened pneumatic dome -- which would for a time become the predominant roof system over America's emerging sports palaces. Remarkably, the U.S. Pavilion's pneumatically supported 465 foot by 265 foot clear span dome was developed largely in response to Congress' 50% reduction in the project's budget. The completed Pavilion cost $450,000, which was about half the cost of the Montreal dome.
Those budget cuts meant The Great Balloon was replaced by a flat, quilted dome derided as "the world's largest bunion pad."

"Space balloons" were a prominent element in another of designs invited by the US Information Agency. According to an exasperated-sounding 1968 Architectural Forum review of ten of the eleven invitees, Isamu Noguchi proposed an underground exhibition space topped by a "vividly colored" and contoured playground landscape, comfortably shaded by a giant balloon. A space balloon.

noguchi_expo70_cu.jpg

Davis Brody's winning plan for the Great Balloon originally included a spiral exhibition-filled ramp leading up to a panoramic platform where films would be projected on the entire upper half of the dome.

great_balloon_expo70.jpg

When that didn't work out, the quest for giant, space exploration-evoking spheres, though, seems to have been moved inside. I can't make much sense of the exhibition design or its purpose from photographs [the clearest picture I've seen so far is a tourist's snapshot], but there were certainly some Project Echo-esque Mylar spheres floating in there.

expo70_echo_balls.jpg

Also, the entire surface of the earth berm walls were covered in silver Mylar.

expo70_us_speheres.jpg

Especially with the dot-covered spheres, you see how short a trip it is from the Triumph of the Cold War and the Space Race to the Age of Disco.

There are more and larger images at the Columbia site. [columbia.edu]
The US at Osaka, Arch Forum, Oct. 1968 [hosted at columbia.edu]

Previously considered unrelated. Now? Helmut Lang's self-portrait, a scavenged, battered disco ball

February 15, 2008

Q: Was The Pepsi Pavilion Art?

Of course, I'd only need to recreate The Pepsi Pavilion from Osaka 70 if it didn't exist anymore. Does it? No. As relations between Pepsi and Billy Kluver, the engineer founder of E.A.T., deteriorated over issues of budget and esoteric programming [Pepsi had originally envisioned their dome-shaped pavilion as a site of a string of rock concerts to entertain The Pepsi Generation coming to the Expo], Kluver argued that the entire Pavilion was a work of art and thus, a success, and thus, worthy of continued expenditure and preservation. Pepsi, literally, wasn't buying:

As an artistic experiment, though, it can be considered a success, and according to Klüver deserved to be treated as an art work.

In the case of the Pavilion, he therefore suggested to Pepsi-Cola to officially recognize the total work as an art work, in order to give it a legal structure. In a letter to Donald Kendall, President of Pepsi-Cola, Inc., he wrote "Our legal relationship to Pepsi Cola has developed so that the artists are put in the category of commercial artists designing a commercial product. One consequence of this is that we must obtain rights from all artists and engineers and others involved, particularly with regard to use of the Pavilion after Expo '70. Of course, there is no question of Pepsi's ownership and right to use and exhibit the Pavilion. Our dilemma is whether the artists have created a work of art or a work of commercial art to which there are rights which must be guaranteed... A decision to recognize the Pepsi Pavilion as a work of art and to treat it as such will set a much needed precedent in this area." Pepsi-Cola never took this step and eventually the Pavilion was left in a state of gradual desolation and decay. This was certainly due to the fact that the relationship between E.A.T. and Pepsi-Cola had considerably cooled down, to the point that the company, the sole sponsor of the project, withdrew its support when E.A.T. presented a maintenance contract for $405,000, instead of the proposed sum of $185,000.

Too bad the strategy didn't work; art seemed to be the only ticket to surviving the end of Expo 70. Today, almost all that's left of Expo '70 are Taro Okamoto's massive sculpture, Tower of The Sun, and Kiyoshi Kawasaki's International Art Pavilion, which until four years ago, housed the National Museum of Art, Osaka. Whoops, never mind: "The old museum was demolished and turned into a car park."

From Ch. 2, "The Nine Evenings," of M.J.M Bijvoets' Art As Inquiry [stichting-mai.de]
No museums, but m-louis's Expo70 photos do have sweet pavilions and the Tower of The Sun [flickr]

Let's get one thing out of the way first: I'm a Diet Coke guy. The very fact that The Pepsi Generation existed in 1970 should blow a hole in their brand's supposed youthy credibility big enough to drive a 90-foot mirrored dome though. Oh, and what do we have here?

pepsi_pavilion_mist.jpg

Holy freakin' crap, why has no one told me The Pepsi Pavilion at the 1970 World Expo in Osaka was an origami rendition of a geodesic dome; obscured in a giant mist cloud produced by an all-encompassing capillary net; surrounded by Robert Breer's motorized, minimalist pod sculptures; entered through an audio-responsive, 4-color laser show--yes, using actual, frickin' lasers-- and culminating in a 90-foot mirrored mylar dome, which hosted concerts, happenings, and some 2 million slightly disoriented Japanese visitors?

pepsi_pavilion_inside.jpg

And that large chunks of it were conceived, developed, and programmed by E.A.T., Experiments in Art and Technology, the pioneering art/engineering collaborate founded by [among others] Robert Rauschenberg and Bell Labs' Billy Kluver? And that the four artists working with Kluver--Breer, Frosty Myers, Robert Whitman, and David Tudor--had planned months of even freakier happenings for the Pavilion, but the Pepsi gave them the boot for being too freaky--and for going significantly over budget? Still.

pepsi_pavilion_test.jpg

The least you could've done is tell me that Raven Industries made a full-size replica of the Pavilion out of Mylar and test-inflated it in a disused blimp hangar in Santa Ana, CA? Apparently, all it took was a 1/1,000th of an atmosphere difference in air pressure to keep the mirror inflated within the outer structure.

Because, of course, you know that Kluver was the guy at Bell Labs who helped Warhol with his seminal "Silver Flotations" exhibit in 1966 [seen here in Willard Maas's film poem on Ubu]. And Bell Labs was involved in Project Echo, which launched and tracked two gigantic mylar spheres, satelloons, a couple of years earlier. Which makes the Pavilion's similarities to the satellite below purely non-coincidental.

Which means that after recreating these two, earliest NASA missions as art projects, I'll have to recreate the Pepsi Pavilion, too.

I've ordered by copy of Kluver et al's dense-sounding 1972 catalogue, Pavilion and expect to be revisiting this topic in some depth within 5-7 business days. Meanwhile, if there are any other giant, mylar spheres of tremendous-yet-overlooked artistic and historical importance lurking out there, now's your chance to come clean.

E.A.T. - Experiments in Art and Technology «Pepsi Pavilion for the Expo '70» [mediaartnet.org]

Previously: Must. Find. The Satelloons Of Project Echo
D'oh, or else I must make the satelloons of Project Echo, which would mean I'm an artist, freak, or both

echo_satelloon_color.JPG

echo_satelloon_color.JPG
image: NASM

From about 1956 until 1964, US aeronautics engineers and rocket scientists at the Langley Research Center developed a series of spherical satellite balloons called, awesomely enough, satelloons. Dubbed Project Echo, the 100-foot diameter aluminumized balloons were one of the inaugural projects for NASA, which was established in 1958.

In his 1995 history of NASA Langley, Space Revolution, Dr. James Hansen wrote:

The Echo balloon was perhaps the most beautiful object ever to be put into space. The big and brilliant sphere had a 31,416-square foot surface of Mylar plastic covered smoothly with a mere 4 pounds of vapor-deposited aluminum. All told, counting 30 pounds of inflating chemicals and two 11-ounce, 3/8-inch-thick radio tracking beacons (packed with 70 solar cells and 5 storage batteries), the sphere weighed only 132 pounds.

For those enamored with its aesthetics, folding the beautiful balloon into its small container for packing into the nose cone of a Thor-Delta rocket was somewhat like folding a large Rembrandt canvas into a tiny square and taking it home from an art sale in one's wallet.

The satelloons were made from a then-new duPont plastic film called Mylar, which was micro-coated with aluminum using a then-new vacuum vaporizing technique developed by Reynolds Aluminum Co. Originally conceived as research tools to collect data on the density of the upper atmosphere, the reflective satelloons also served as proofs of concept for space-based commmunications systems.

The original research proposal put forward by a Langley engineer named William J. O'Sullivan called for a 20-inch balloon, which was increased to 30 inches. These "Sub Satellites" were followed by a 12-foot diameter Beacon satelloon, the size of which was determined, not by any scientific requirements, but by the ceiling height in the Langley model fabrication room.

echo_beacon_folded.jpg

In the post-Sputnik euphoria of a 1958 congressional hearing at which a Beacon was inflated in the Capitol Building, O'Sullivan assured politicians that a communications satelloon "10 stories high" could be readied and launched very quickly which could be used "for worldwide radio communications and, eventually, for television, thus creating vast new fields into which the communications and electronics industries could expand to the economic and sociological benefit of mankind." Such a large, American satellite would also be visible to the naked eyes of everyone in the free world and in the rest of the world. Just like Sputnik, only much, much bigger. It was these 100-foot satellites which were called Echo; the rocket system that would launch these giant balls into space was called Shotput.

project-echo_container.jpgecho_flight_spare.jpg
l: nasa. r: flight spare at nasm

With this exponential increase in scale, NASA's Project Echo team faced major engineering challenges in packing and deploying the satelloon. They eventually devised a two-piece spherical payload container laced together with fishing line and ringed by a small explosive charge, which would deploy the balloon.

Then there was the issue of seams. At a 1959 inflation test in a disused blimp hangar in Weeksville, North Carolina, the original General Mills Echo split apart. A photo in Hansen's book shows O'Sullivan and his colleagues sticking their heads through a gash of the collapsing balloon. The top photo is from a later 1959 test, also at Weeksville.

Folding was another major challenge. G.T. Schjeldahl, the Minnesota packaging manufacturer contracted to build the Echo satelloons after General Mills, had the adhesive question solved, but they couldn't figure out how to fold the thing. [Founder Gilmore Schjeldahl is credited with creating the first air sickness bag in 1949. In the 1950's, his company also made inflatable buildings known as Schjeldomes.]

After watching his wife unfold a tiny plastic rain bonnet, however, Ed Kilgore had a "Eureka moment," which set Langley's technicians in motion:

At Langley, Kilgore gave the hat to Austin McHatton, a talented technician in the East Model Shop, who had full-size models of its fold patterns constructed. Kilgore remembers that a "remarkable improvement in folding resulted." The Project Echo Task Group got workmen to construct a makeshift "clean" room from two by-four wood frames covered with plastic sheeting. In this room, which was 150 feet long and located in the large airplane hangar in the West Area, a small group of Langley technicians practiced folding the balloons for hundreds of hours until they discovered just the right sequence of steps by which to neatly fold and pack the balloon. For the big Echo balloons, this method was proof-tested in the Langley 60-foot vacuum tank as well as in the Shotput flights.
The first Shotput flight occurred almost exactly 48 years ago, in the late afternoon of October 28, 1959. The launch and deployment were successful, but the Beacon exploded, most likely due to residual air left in the balloon to aid its inflation in the vacuum of space. The result was a spectacular, 10-minute light show all along the east coast of the US as "the thousands of fragments of the aluminum-covered balloon...reflected the light of the setting sun."

To uncover the cause of any future failures, the engineers coated the inside of each satelloon with red fluorescent powder. Then they set up a 500-inch focal length camera on the beach near the launch site to document the unfurling in space. They also publicized the launches well in advance, so they could get mitigate any negative publicity of an explosion--and possibly get some credit for another light show.

Echo 1 was destroyed when its rocket failed. Echo 1A, which was commonly known as Echo 1, was successfully launched August 12, 1960. Bell Labs in Holmdel, New Jersey beamed a radio message from President Eisenhower to it on its first orbit, which was reflected back to the world:

This is President Eisenhower speaking. This is one more significant step in the United States' program of space research and exploration being carried forward for peaceful purposes. The satellite balloon, which has reflected these words, may be used freely by any nation for similar experiments in its own interest.
echo_horn_antenna.jpg

To communicate with the Echo satelloons, Bell Labs built a 50-foot long horn-shaped antenna in Holmdel, which could rotate and pivot on several axes. Later, in 1964, while calibrating the antenna, Drs. Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson detected microwave background radiation, the first concrete evidence of the Big Bang theory. They were awarded the Nobel Prize in 1978.

Echo II was launched in 1964. Both Echo satelloons stayed aloft for years [until 1968 and 1969, respectively] Though not very efficient, their passive communications technology spurred on the development of active signal-transmitting communications satellites like Telstar. An Echo II was exhibited at the 1964 New York World's Fair, and a folded backup is on display at the National Air & Space Museum.

I've highlighted some of the aesthetic or non-scientific elements from Hansen's long, somewhat rambling but detailed chapter on Program Echo to make a point. Or more accurately, to pose a challenge. In the art world, thanks in no small part to Duchamp, we privilege intentionality above all; anything--even the most mundane or found object, situation, and action--is art if the artist declares it to be so. But nothing else.

kapoor-publicartfund.jpg sachs_alys.jpg

Rirkrit Tiravanija cooking curry; Anish Kapoor employing an engineering firm to build a giant tension-fabric cone or a polished steel parabolic mirror; Michael Heizer etching patterns on the desert with his motorcycle tires; Cai Guo-Qiang exploding an arc of rainbow-colored fireworks across the East River; Tom Sachs replicating Fat Man for Sony; Francis Alys contracting hundreds of laborers to move a mountain of dirt one foot to the left.

How does the remarkable historic, political, cultural, aesthetic, performative, and conceptual achievement of NASA's Project Echo fit into the cash-and-carry art world? Or, because I'm sure NASA, et al could not care less, and it's really the art world's problem, how does the collectively accepted framework of the art world deal with the fantastic, innovative, creative, and life-changing realities of the world around it?

The continent-spanning light show? The largest minimalist sculpture to ever orbit the earth? The hundreds of hours spent folding balloons in a bricoleur's clean room? The meticulously choreographed performance of folding it? The stop-action artifacts of exploding powder bombs? The emotional and political manipulations of narratives of success and failure, and the rush of collective ego-boosting as a country watches from their porches for Echo to pass overhead?

In practice, product, experience, and impact, Project Echo is every Tate Turbine Hall project, plus half the Turrells [OK, maybe not Roden Crater], plus Happenings, Minimalism, Post-Minimalism, the Wilsons, Sachs, Murakami, Rhoades, Mir, Hayakawa, deMaria, Kapoor, Semmes, Hirshhorn, Hamilton, and more rolled--or should I say folded--into one.

And yet has anyone outside the space stamp collecting community even heard of Echo 1 before Cabinet Magazine published a tiny photo of it in their current issue? I'm an art collector married to a satellite-building NASA astrophysicist, and the whole store party atmosphere of the art fair/biennial circuit's never felt more like a giant, hermetic NetJets conspiracy than it does right now.

Frankly, I'd rather track down the remaining test models and photos of the Beacon and the Echo. By the time I need a place to install it, hopefully the art world will have caught up/on. Which is a long way of saying I won't be at Frieze this week.

online: , Ch. 6: The Odyssey of Project Echo, SPACEFLIGHT REVOLUTION by James R. Hansen [history.nasa.gov]
not online: A Minor History of Giant Spheres, by Joshua Foer [cabinetmagazine #27]
The Inflatable Satellite [americanheritage.com]

Previously: Dugway Proving Grounds, the world's awesomest earth art?

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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: expo

recent projects, &c.


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Social Medium:
artists writing, 2000-2015
Paper Monument, Oct. 2016
ed. by Jennifer Liese
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Madoff Provenance Project in
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at SPRING/BREAK Art Show
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1-7 March 2016

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It Narratives, incl.
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Franklin Street Works, Stamford
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TheRealHennessy Tweets Paintings, 2014 -
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Standard Operating Procedure
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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-
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"Richteriana," Postmasters Gallery, NYC

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Canal Zone Richard
Prince YES RASTA:
Selected Court Documents
from Cariou v. Prince (2011)
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