So I'm watching the PBR Bud Light Cup World Finals, and there's a camera guy in the ring, all decked out like he's, well, like he's going to the biggest bullriding rodeo event of the year, thank you very much, and he's got a Glidecam, just like we used in France.

I know of at least one place where you can get Vitamin Water in Paris:

I forget the name, but it's a clean little deli on Rue Danielle Casanova, just north (and just east) of Place du Marche Saint-Honore (that's where the Commes des Garcons Perfume Shop is).

image of Isabella Blow in Yoshiki Hishinuma, by bill cunningham, via nyt 2002

"To be contemporaine de tout le monde--that is the keenest and most secret satisfaction that fashion can offer a woman."
- The Arcades Project, Walter Benjamin

Apparent egalitarianism is the great appeal of the Street Fashion concept, especially in New York, and especially in the street photos of Bill Cunningham in the NYTimes. If you just be yourself --and that self is someone who's got a bit of the trend radar that puts you in cargo pants about six weeks before it shows up in Cunningham's Sunday street collages-- your embroidered jeans-wearing booty may just surprise you by turning up in the paper. Bill never put your name under your photo, not even if yours is recognizable; credit goes to the man with the camera, and your just appearing is reward enough.

But when someone like Isabella Blow --who's got "Muse" printed on her carte de visite --walks down the street, it's the street fashion equivalent of George Bush making a speech in a national park: the setting says "See, I < heart > nature," but be surprised if the clearcutters wait till FoxNews cuts back to the studio before revving up their chainsaws. Blow's not on just anyone on any street any time. She's a Muse. In Paris. During The Shows. Walking (or wafting, in this case) amidst photographers, designers, editors, stylists, and groupies. Fashion industry types. Just like her.

One of the designers Blow muses for is Jean-Paul Gaultier, who I once sat next to on the Concorde [that was totally uncalled for, I know]. Nice guy. And a brilliant miner of both the street-as-walkway and the street-as-runway. The Mixture, a new culture site with an old-school appreciation of editing, is streaming Gaultier's latest show in its entirety. It's worth watching.

Benjamin called the flaneur "a spy for the capitalists, on assignment in the realm of consumers." If so, in the lead of France's fashion industry (an "occult science of industrial fluctuations" if ever there was one. The Arcades Project is like a can of Pringles: once it's open, you can't stop at just one.) is just where Gaultier belongs.

France's fashion week definitely has an industrial air, with trade associations, official this and that, and weighty government sanction. It's like the Expositions Universelles that made Paris the center of the 19th century world, where innovations were unveiled: things like "electricity" ("The City of Lights") and "Photography," which debuted there in 1855. Benjamin again, on the group that re-defined the term, avant-garde:

The Saint Simonians, who envision the industrialization of the earth, take up the idea of world exhibitions...[They] anticipated the development of the global economy, but not the class struggle...World exhibitions glorify the exchange value of the commodity.

Nice work, if you can get it. Nobody knows better than Benjamin that the image and (the street) reality have a very complicated (business) relationship. When Bill Cunningham takes Isabella Blow's picture on the street in Paris, we have to know that the image is manufactured, constructed in a myriad of ways, some obvious and some not, by all parties involved. (Isabella, even the panhandling woman in my neighborhood changes into her garbage bag before starting work.)

And I found the same issues face the filmmaker, even/especially the documentary filmmaker. To what extent do you just "let something happen" and you "happen" to film it? To what extent to you "make something happen," or stage it? Can't stage it? Wouldn't be prudent? Wouldn't have street cred? Well, how about if you just go to the spots where you know what you want to shoot is gonna happen? Then, you can just "happen" to film it. It all involves choices; editing before, during, and after the fact; having an eye (and a camera), and deciding what to do with it. All things being equal, then, some things just look better. And that can make all the difference.

The Age of Street Fashion [nyt]

Camp Delta, Guantanamo, USA, Cuba
image via

Last month I wrote about art and architecture made from connex containers, the standard 40-foot steel boxes used for international shipping. #1 architects MVRDV proposed a complex made from them for Rotterdam, their home town (and a major port). As the discussion on this architecture message board shows, container architecture is an idea with a lot of adherents.

Now you can add the Department of Military Aesthetics to the list. Containers were used to construct Camp Delta, the more permanent neighbor of Camp X-Ray, on the military base under US control (if not jurisdiction) in Guantanamo, Cuba. Here's a description from Joseph Lelyveld's very long NY Review of Books article about the quandary of the Guantanamo detainees:

Delta was thrown together for $9.7 million by a private contractor, Brown and Root Services�a division of Vice President Cheney's old company, Halliburton�which flew in low-wage contract labor from the Philippines and India to get the job done, in much the same way that Asians were once brought to the Caribbean to harvest sugar cane. The cell blocks are assembled from the standard forty-foot steel boxes called connex containers that are used in international shipping: five cells to a container, eight containers to a cell block, with four lined up on each side of a central corridor where the lights and fans are installed. Welders cut away three sides of each container, replacing them with sidings of steel mesh, leaving the roof, floor, and one steel wall into which a window was cut. Floor-level toilets were installed�the kind requiring squatting, traditionally described as � la turque�and now these are sometimes mentioned as an example of American sensitivity to the cultural needs of the detainees.

In this article in Moviemaker Magazine, David Geffner lays out the latest crisis in independent film: distribution. Sure, DV and laptop editing may have spurred a renaissance in indie production (Hi, nice to meet you), but in the same period, a whole swath of veteran indie distributors flamed out or were bought out by studios.

Non-studio box office dropped as a pct of total [use whichever data source will get someone else to pay for your drink]: says it's 7% in 1999 down to <5% in 2002. The Hollywood Reporter says it's down from 8.4% in 2000 to 3.4% in 2002. According to Moviemaker, while everyone else is dancing around My Big Fat Greek Wedding breaking plates, Indie Distribution is moping in the corner, wondering how little he can tip the valet parking guy.

Turns out it matters which numbers you use, especially if you look at B.O. receipts, which grew from $7.4b in 1999 to $9.7b (proj.) in 2002 (THR, Goldman Sachs). Using the-numbers' numbers, indie B.O. dropped from $521 to $468 million, the difference of a few films. THR shows a nearly 50% drop, from $645 (in 2000) to $331 million, the difference of a few companies.

But every year's take follows the 80/20 rule, with one or a couple of breakout hits (Crouching Tiger, Greek Wedding); so if one more independent film a year broke $100 million, the "crisis" could disappear. And on the company front, well, if Universal gobbles up couple of specialty distribs (and their releases get reclassified as studio product), it's the End of The World As We Know It.

So why do I feel fine? I read something about this in May. And I heard it was The End of The World when Miramax, New Line, and October got gobbled up. Hmm. Guess not. Peter Broderick (Next Wave Films, got slammed by IFC) issues the call for new distribution models, like the Internet. Seems like the Star Wars/Missile Defense approach to me. Turns out Indie distribution is like the campaign against Iraq: a lot of hysterics about a phantom menace, while the real problem, sitting in plain view, gets ignored.

Broderick laments, "Without a built-in core audience or a proven star, its tough to cover your P&A costs, let alone make money when you open one of these films." And producer Scott Macaulay says stars won't return your heartfelt calls, either: "The days of getting some movie star to work for scale plus 10 because they love the project are over. Actors and agents are savvier and have come to make more demands." [note to self: stop needling yoga instructor about passing script to Fammke Jannsen's brother.] That leaves "built-in core audience."

My Big Fat Demographically Targeted Wedding--with it's It's Not Just For Greek-Americans Anymore! trailer--did for roots-proud, middle-aged mothers what God's Army did for Mormons and what Gregg Araki's The Living End did for gay Gen-X'ers: it found a new way to identify a "built-in" audience. Once these new audiences pan out, they're movied to death, of course. (Kiss Me, Guido could've hit the trifecta if only a pair of missionaries had knocked on the door.) Even if the Net's power as a distribution channel is still imaginary, it's a very promising way to build an audience, especially for an independent film.

Online, audiences or communities don't necessarily build so much as grow or accrete. Whether it's through weblogs, smart mobs or Quake III, innovation will appear in unexpected ways. Check out the fascinating emergence of computer game-based filmmaking (also known as machinima). Ithis is a conference speech now, not a weblog entry. I don't remember hitting anyone up for a registration fee...

Even though I'm on the record (ad nauseum) as hating musicals, it's probably more accurate to say I hate most musicals or bad musicals. The shows I've seen by Adolph Green, who collaborated for sixty+ years with Betty Comden, don't fall into either category. Unbenknownst to me, they were sitting right in front of me at The Public Theater's 1997 revival of On The Town; right before the show started, an announcement was made and they stood to accept a round of applause. It was the first show for Comden, Green, Jerome Robbins and Leonard Bernstein.

In mid-November, Singin' In The Rain is screening at Film Forum in a new 35mm Dolby Stereo print. Adolph Green died today at his home in Manhattan.

First Sally Logo

Have spent most of yesterday and today writing, researching, annotating the AM script. As discussed before, it's based partly on a real-life crime story, so it's critical from a CYA standpoint to document the sources of characters, facts, events, and evidence in the publically available record. It's a rather laborious process, but fortunately, I've kept a fairly comprehensive file of source material for the last 2+ years. Obviously, I didn't imagine using it for a movie--much less an animated musical--until very recently. And to those with deep misgivings about an animated musical based on a true-crime story, bad Star Treks, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and Citizen Kane, I say, welcome to my world.

In addition, I've been working on updated press kits, press screening copies of the movie, prouction stills, mailing lists, bios, PR ideas, and other planning for the MoMA Documentary Fortnight premiere. The Museum's releasing the full list of films to be screened this week. Stay tuned. And if you have any ideas or comments on PR/press, please chime in.

Untitled (Two Windows), 2002, Toba Khedoori

Drawing Now: 8 Propositions at MoMAQNS, for Toba Khedoori, Chris Ofili, Russell Crotty, Paul Noble, Kai Althoff [Roberta Smith's NYTimes review; Walter Robinson's artnet review] [There's a Toba Khedoori show at David Zwirner right now, too.]

Lazlo Moholy Nagy Color Photographs at Andrea Rosen Gallery: They look like they were made yesterday, not in the '30's/'40's. (Actually they were. Moholy Nagy's estate had them printed for the first time ever. Liz Deschenes did the printing. They're amazing and exquisite.)

Staged/Unstaged at Riva Gallery: for (Souvenir cinematographer) Jonah Freeman's entrancing new video work and a funny video piece by Maria Alos. Curated by Lauri Firstenberg. Chris Ofili and his crew climbed 11 flights of stairs for the sweaty opening.

The (S) Files Bienal at El Museo del Barrio: It opens tonight, but I figure if there's a little portrait of me by Maria Alos in the show, it must me good.

Shmoology at M3 Projects in Dumbo: Curated by Bill Previdi, who's 3 for 3 on shows he's done that I've seen. Go now. Ends this weekend.

Uta Barth at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery: for the photographs of the spaces between--sometimes between the camera and the background, this time between the branches out the artist's window.

Karen Kitchel at Cornell deWitt Gallery: for crisp, precise, beautiful paintings of grass.

Martin Creed at Maurizio Cattelan's Wrong Gallery: for something to talk about, since a lot of people are talking about it. [Same Walter Robinson review as above, just scroll down.]


Rem Koolhaas's Projects for Prada, Part 1, underneath a table-like sculpture by Wade Guyton

From the NY Post:

Firefighters had to rescue shoppers from a stuck elevator in the super-trendy Prada store in SoHo the other day. A mother and her two young daughters were celebrating one of the girls' birthdays at the Rem Koolhas [sic]-designed boutique at around 4 p.m. when they entered the high-tech, round glass elevator. The thick double doors jammed, trapping them inside for an hour and a half with a mannequin dressed in a see-through plastic raincoat. Since Koolhas neglected to include an escape hatch, the FDNY used a power saw to cut a hole in the steel roof big enough for a ladder. The store was closed for 45 minutes while sparks flew and onlookers gawked from the sidewalk. The apologetic manager presented the liberated shoppers with free cosmetics.

Prada representatives have not responded to requests for confirmation/information, and store employees have been asked not to comment.

For more of Koolhaas's views on current trends in retail, check his two most recent publications: The Harvard Design School Guide to Shopping and Projects for Prada Part 1. stay tuned. [I particularly recommend the Prada book.]

Thinking about Koolhaas' Delirious New York again. This 1978 book, billed as a "retroactive manifesto," tells the story of Simeon deWitt, Governeur Morris and John Rutherford, who boldly mapped out the Manhattan Grid in 1811. "...Each block is now alone like an island, fundamentally on its own. Manhattan turns into a dry archipelago of blocks." The grid set the terms for Manhattan's future and foreordained--according to Koolhaas--NYC's vertical development (ie., the skyscraper). Apex Art had an interesting exhibit in 2000, "Block," which featured Austrian architecture students' responses to what Koolhaas called "Manhattanism."

My street was barely a twinkle in deWitt & Co's eyes then. In fact, the two buildings above both date from the 1920's, when Park Avenue got its first real upgrade (from putting the NY Central railroad below grade. It's the train to New Haven, you know). But like the rest of Manhattan, it's character is inexorably derived to the grid. But not in the way Koolhaas thought. It's the street, not the block, that's really wonderful. On approach my street's most interesting feature is the forest-dense trees that fill the space between the blocks.

John Cage was interested in the spaces between, whether between sounds or between notes or text on a page. It's one of the reasons I wanted to use Cage's music in Souvenir (November 2001). And Gustavo Bonevardi, a creator of Towers of Light (a project which played a role in my writing Souvenir and which has an indirect reference in the movie) said of it: " effect, we're not rebuilding the towers themselves, but the void between them."

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Since 2001 here at, 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 that time.

comments? questions? tips? pitches? email
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about this archive

Category: art

recent projects, &c.

eBay Test Listings
Mar 2015 —
about | proposte monocrome, rose
bid or buy available prints on ebay

It Narratives, incl.
Shanzhai Gursky & Destroyed Richter
Franklin Street Works, Stamford
Sept 5 - Nov 9, 2014
about | link

TheRealHennessy Tweets Paintings, 2014 -

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

"Exhibition Space"
Mar 20 - May 8 @apexart, NYC

HELP/LESS Curated by Chris Habib
Printed Matter, NYC
Summer 2012
panel &c.

Destroyed Richter Paintings, 2012-
background | making of
"Richteriana," Postmasters Gallery, NYC

Canal Zone Richard
Selected Court Documents
from Cariou v. Prince (2011)
about | buy now, 376pp, $17.99