November 18, 2002

On Illegal Art


Superstar still, 1987, Todd Haynes
Superstar, 1987, Todd Haynes

Last night we (finally) saw Todd Haynes' Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story last night. After years of being snubbed by the clerks at Kim's Video when I'd ask for it, and half-hearted attempts to get a bootleg copy from someone or other, we just walked over to Anthology and there it was, showing as part of Illegal Art!.

(The first time I went to Kim's, a Suit workin' for the Mouse but livin' in Chinatown and yearning for street cred, I cannily asked if Bladerunner wasn't in the Ridley Scott section. The scornful reply: "Noo, the Douglas Trumbull section.")

Anyway, Superstar turned out to be both better and worse than I imagined. Definitely worthy of its reputation, it's a canny film; it's a little eerie how well the Barbie doll concept works. The bootleg copy they showed, though, sucked. If only there were a medium you could copy without generational degradation... [If you don't have connections to the video underground either, you can watch Superstar in even lower-res online.]

Giant Steps, 2001, Michal Levy Giant Steps, stills, 2001, Michal Levy

Other films screened with Superstar, all using unauthorized/illegal footage or music in some way. For my money, the best ones were not about appropriation per se; Michal Levy's Giant Steps, for example, is a fun, beautiful CG interpretation of John Coltrane's canonical (and surely impossible to clear) recording.

A slightly unrelated note: Apparently, my new haircut is something of a proto-mullet, not unlike Todd Haynes'.

Image from Aspen 5+6, 1967, Sol Lewitt Serial Project #1, 1966, Sol Lewitt, from Aspen 5+6

Unbelieveable. The entire collection of Aspen: The Magazine in a Box, is now online. It's the magazine equivalent of Kieslowski's Dekalog: almost completely unknown, yet highly respected and influential within its narrow audience.

In a fit of John Cage admiration, I tracked down and bought Aspen 5+6 several years ago. In addition to some floppy little records with Cage and Morton Feldman on it, there's a reel of 8mm film with works by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Robert Rauschenberg, and others; documents of Sol Lewitt's seminal 1966 exhibit at the Dwan Gallery in LA, Serial Project #1, and a little Tony Smith sculpture you can make yourself.

Not owning a record player or an 8mm projector, my edition of Aspen has been more a glassined, bubblewrapped holy relic than anything else. Until now. The Moholy-Nagy film is full of glare, shadows and light reflecting off of machinery, as if Jeremy Blake and Paul Thomas Anderson were the same person. Check it out. Thanks, UBU (and thanks, Fimoculous for the link.)

Print
Talked to MoMA today to finalize the exhibition format for Souvenir November 2001. A film transfer would be really lush and sexy. Yesterday, I saw a video projected version of a short I'd seen at the New Directors/New Films series last spring. The difference in the image, particularly in the color intensity, was marked. A film transfer would also be a couple grand, and given that I still feel a slight itch to finetune the sound (and/or music) a bit, it's money I'd rather save for when the movie is triple-locked and padlocked locked.

Advertising
Been working on advance press, doing selective flogging, and talking to a couple of publicists. We're preparing a mailing to go out to the collective lists of the crew, which includes most NY media, all the art media (Jonah, the DP has been getting a lot of attention lately for his own fine art photography and video work), and a bunch of dawgs, to use the vernacular.

Something's working. I was introduced to someone (with a much higher Q-rating than mine) who promptly asked, "You have a website? about a movie? Is that you?" First time that's happened.

Pot
Walking through midtown today, I was surprised to come across three people firing up old school (ie., on the street)r than tobacco among the traditional smoker exiles. Was it a coincidence that they were each in front of a company whose chief product is idea generation?

Auction
Went to the contemporary art auctions Wed./Thurs. at Christie's. If there's a pop coming to that bubble, it wasn't yet. Crowds were, well, crowded, and bidding was consistently active.

I definitely don't collect to make money. Making money'd entail selling, and the idea of parting with a work just confounds me. Still, watching an auction can be like repeatedly clicking Reload on your E*Trade account; in your head, you mark your own taste to market. When a Flavin and some Donald Judd sculptures did very well, for example, the Italian woman next to me whipped out her mobile phone and rattled off the results. << Si, como nostro. como nostro >>, she repeated excitedly. Molto buono, indeed.

my favorite: an amazing, early Judd desk and chairs, in Mahogany.  $300,000 Desk & Chairs, 1988, Donald Judd, sold at Christie's Nov. 14, 2002 (image: Christie's)

So how'd my taste do? Pretty good, I have to say. Strong, smart pieces by artists whose work I really enjoy--Donald Judd, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Olafur Eliasson, Hiroshi Sugimoto--did well; the prices seemed right, not overheated, like some others (Gursky, Demand, Murakami). One downside: it hurts to see work rise beyond your reach (note to self: close that the five-picture deal...) It's almost enough to make you wish the bubble'd pop.

BusinessWeek's pic of Jack Grubman In June, I wrote about an extraordinary instance of reporting the morning the Worldcom fraud story broke. CNBC's Mike Huckman ambushed Salomon analyst Jack Grubman (until then "The Most Powerful Man In The Telecom Industry") outside his townhouse. Grubman was shaken and disoriented; you could see him struggling to respond to something other than a softball question.
But you could also see then and there Grubman's realization that the world he imagined to be well within his control would soon start falling down, and there was nothing he could do about it. You couldn't write this stuff. (Well, I couldn't. Tennessee Williams, maybe...)

If Grubman's tragedy follows the ancient structure, (and so far it does), this week features the amoibaion or lyric dialogue, what we now call "e-mail." Slate condenses all the salient lines from this episode, where Grubman asks Sanford Weill (his boss's boss's boss's boss) for help getting the Grubman twins into pre-school in exchange for, well, aye, there's the rub. In his e-mail, Grubman gloats: "[AT&T Chairman Michael] Armstrong never knew that we both (Sandy and I) played him like a fiddle." (Note to Jack: Your Rome's burning, dude.)

If there are too many allusions in this posting, it's because I can't figure out if this is a biblical, Greek, Roman, Shakespearean or fable-like drama. But maybe it doesn't matter; the end is likely the same. I do know how the second verse of the nursery rhyme goes: Take the keys and lock 'em up.


Listen to director Harry Shearer (he's the voices in your head, you know) and another independent filmmaker talk about getting people interested in their films and getting their films into theaters [10.5 min.]. From WNYC's On The Media (via Romenesko's MediaNews).


In a NY Times article by Tony Smith: Harley-riding "hackers" clear Sao Paulo's roads for motorcades, score photos with the VIP's they escort. These police escorts are officially called "outriders," but they call themselves batadores, (hackers, after the Brazilian pioneers who cut roads through the jungle), and they apparently leave their royal, diplomatic, and rock star charges in awe. The Empress of Japan insisted on taking a picture with them; Elton John sent an emissary to one batadore's funeral

The Pitch: It's The Bodyguard meets Black Orpheus. International and Conveniently-Multiracial Pop Star on tour in Brazil falls in love with a swaggering bike cop in her motorcade. Get Hazelden on the phone; I need to talk to Mariah Carey...

Ewan McGregor in a car, from fansite eccentricity-online.com Ewan, up close. Image: Eccentricity-online.com

The Guardian has an interesting interview with Ewan McGregor who talks about singing, about directing his first short, and about working with directors. There's audio as well, in case you're into the accent.

Ewanspotting, an awe-inducing McGregor fansite confirms a trend: names derived from the first/big movie. Ex. Being Charlie Kaufman and Paul Thomas Anderson's Cigarettes & Coffee (named after his first short).

showgirls_audition_ice.jpg

Welcome to Special Edition of greg.org answers, where I provide information you thought you'd find on my weblog but didn't. Until now:

Q "Herbert Muschamp" +Showgirls
A
Honestly this had me stumped for most of the day. Then, at the bottom of this NY Post Page Six column (I was reading about my friend's new publishing job, I swear.), I found a short article about "Just as I Expected, These Plans Suck," a parody of the NY Times architecture critic's writings on the WTC.

The opening line: "Striding down the row of design proposals for the WTC site, balefully eyeing each inert mien and artificially enhanced plan, I was reminded of the scene in Showgirls where the choreographer grimly surveys his topless charges." The original press mention was in the LA Times; also, check out Michael Sorkin's wickedly telling tabulation of recurring themes and pet architects in Muschamp's columns. I'm working to get a copy of the actual parody. When I do, I'll let you know, so stay tuned.

[Frankly, I've always seen Muschamp's looong Times articles as a Fountainhead-size-novel-in-progress, which (if Sorkin's analysis holds true) is about the madcap theoretical adventures of three architects--Rem, Diller, and Scofidio--as they turn Manhattan into a giant museum/store.]


Pentagon Memorial Ramp, a response by Greg Allen
Proposed Pentagon Memorial Ramp, Greg Allen

Thanks to a very talented friend--no stranger to the question of memorials--who can sketch in 3-D modelling programs the way I can...crank out a Powerpoint deck or a term sheet, I guess, I have some new depictions of the Pentagon Memorial design I created as a response to the finalists chosen by the Army Corps of Engineers and the Competition Jury. See all the greg.org entries about memorials here. It's a subject that interests me so much, I made a movie about it.

November 12, 2002

Oh, Canada!

Working on the Animated Musical, which is humming right along, thanks. There's a whole Canada thing in the script, which keeps me on edge a bit. Some puppet-wielding treehuggers may blame South Park for depleting Canada's natural comedy resources, but I'm sorry. When I stare into the deep comedic wells of the whole Canada Concept, I get as giddy as a moose-stepping Republican in the Arctic. Bumperstickers flash before my eyes: Faster, Fat Cat! Drill! Drill! and Fill up my SUV--with cheap laughs!. Ahem.

Twas ever thus, at least as far back as Steve Martin's 1974 debut TV special, "The Funnier Side of Eastern Canada":
Some guy John's Canada parody of Apple's "Switch" Ad? Funny.
The Molson "I AM Canadian" ad it dovetails so well with? Funny.
CBC's Larry Sanders-like series, The Newsroom? Not just funny, but Canada Funny (think "Minnesota Nice").
Suck's early-and-often Canada-bashing? Very Funny.
South Park? Dude.

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Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting greg.org that time.

comments? questions? tips? pitches? email
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