This witty, informative page [via Anil Dash] about the miracle of 40-foot shipping containers reminded me of this great piece by Darren Almond in September 2000 at Matthew Marks, a shipping container with a giant digital clock in its side, synched to GMT via GPS. I remember the opening, on the 15th; the container had barely arrived, and the link wasn't working, so time (or the clock, anyway) stood still. And it was swelteringly hot; people would dart into the steamy gallery to check out the piece, then return to the ersatz street party, hoping for the slightest breeze.

The irreverent science fair tone of was endearing (a guy named Rob seem to be the main author), and after several long flights (where I cemented my disdain for rolling luggage, especially for kids, where it seems insidious), I blithely clicked on "Carry-on luggage," half expecting to find out who invented the offending suitcase. Instead, I found two lists, with photos: items the author felt should be banned from carry-on luggage, and items he felt should be permitted. He compiled them just two days shy of the anniversary of Darren's opening. Rob's concludes his analysis like this:

In addition to the items I recommend leaving in your checked luggage, I also recommend reacting violently to hijackers. Attack before the second sentence leaves the terrorist's mouth. Do not wait. Do not wait for people to be herded into a corner. Attack. Climb on top of the seats. Do not allow yourself to be penned in. Women and men should attack. Kids should attack.

Your acts may get you killed, in fact the entire aircraft may plummet to the earth, killing everyone on board. This is better than allowing the plane to slip into a madman's hands.

Things have changed.

I... This Artbyte article talks about Almond's show, and his work's allusions to stellar navigation during the voyage from London to New York. Then this sentence grabbed my eye: "Stih and Schnock are known for antimemorials, or nonmonuments, an idea which latches on to the inevitable change of time and context as our most fundamental reality." Wary of grand architectural gestures, Renata Stih and Frieder Schnock proposed a "Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe" for Berlin where visitors at the Brandenburg Gate climbed onto buses marked Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Bergen-Belsen, thereby recapitulating the first leg of the death camp victims' journey. "The traditional concept of a monument only encourages people to contemplate a hulking stone building and an abstracted past; nonmonuments instead create the memorial as process. Rather than distance the viewer, Bus Stop invites participation in that process..." I'll revisit this, obviously.

2009 update: seems that Artbyte's site has disappeared. I'm reproducing the article, "Voyeurschism" by Carly Berwick, from the Mar/Apr 2001 issue, below [via e-Xplo]:

The bus moves slowly east, away from the galleries, cafés, and shops that have sprung up along the streets of Williamsburg's north side, now a trendy artist and working-class enclave. Ten minutes into the quiet trip--there is no narration--a symphony of groans, clangs, and syncopated twitters, mixed live by two sound artists, issues from the back of the vehicle. The tour meanders past car-part lots, warehouses, and 24-hour delis to its promised land: blocks and blocks of waste-management treatment facilities serving New York City.

For four weekends this winter, the Dencity Bus Tour made its pilgrimages through the city's trash and raw sewage. The ride, says Rene Gabri, one of the three artists who conceived and produced the tour, was meant "to interrogate the format of the tour itself, which relies on verbal information that is often incorrect anyway." His collaborators, Erin McGonigle and Heimo Lattner, produced the live soundtrack, largely made up of samples taken from the industrial area itself.

According to Gabri, the tour evokes what wireless gadgetry promises to provide: "Moving through space, yet having a constant stream of information." But all tours do that, or at least they try. Unique to Dencity is the detachment and illusory sense of privacy encouraged by the atmospheric music and darkness. On the bus that night, one couple made out, another gossiped, while others stared out the windows. Without the unifying element of a tour guide to produce a sense of community, Dencity has hit on, perhaps accidentally, a lonely vision of a supposedly hyperconnected world where each person has electronic access to all varieties of data, anytime, anywhere.

The Dencity bus tour and several other art expeditions have recently been making the metaphor of mobility material. Mobility as lifestyle has become ever more common in the past half-dozen years as portable electronic inventions allow us to roam further, with greater frequency, for both work and play. At the same time, global tourism has taken hold as a major wage-earning sector for some and a regular pastime for others. Nomad-themed art plays with these two dominants of contemporary life: the international, wireless culture of businesspersons, artists, entrepreneurs, and writers shuttling between Los Angeles, London, and Lagos; and the booming tourist culture that at times seems infected with a case of "scopophilia," as Gabri puts it‹pleasure in looking, particularly at others.

The Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI) in Culver City, CA, has also offered a series of on-the-road looks at waste-related scenery. The combination artists' collective/rock-collecting club launched a self-guided tour in 1995 with their project "Suggested Photo Spot." The "picture spot" was invented by Kodak, says CLUI director Matt Coolidge, "in order to put their logo up in national parks." CLUI's minimalist signs suggest tourists stop and notice more than the area's inherent beauty.

The project planted 50 signs across the country, from the Trojan Recreation Area and Nuclear Power Plant in St. Helens, Oregon, to the Kodak Waste Water Treatment Plant in Rochester, New York, where CLUI's sign informs visitors that "Kodak's industrial waste water is treated at this plant in the beautiful Genesee River" and that "local lore has it that film can be developed in this water." The satire offers pointed instructions to look beyond the "beautiful river" into its history within the landscape, both corporate and natural. Like many of CLUI's projects, "Suggested Photo Spot" transcends the limits of representational art to bring viewers to the actual site of confrontation, where myths of business and government neutrality, even beneficence, toward the environment are readily exposed.

Most recently, CLUI contributed to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles' Flight Patterns show, taking museum visitors on a bus two hours inland to their Desert Research Station. The Flight Patterns tours involved an official guide (although visitors could drive to the staffed station on their own), who pointed out land uses of the region, from the freeway to Fontana's steel industry. "We're talking about erosion, flood control, industrial development," says Coolidge. "Heading out into the desert, we try to read the physical vestiges of contemporary history on the landscape." CLUI's bus ride was more didactic than Dencity's, but, says Coolidge, they didn't "spoon feed" people. "It's important to initiate an interpretative process," he says. Additional CLUI tours have been "taken to ridiculous extremes," says Coolidge. "We've taken tours that cover over 500 miles in a day and kind of wear people out. It's kind of an adventure, an odyssey."

The voyeurism of the tourist on these buses, traveling past unglamorous, often desolate areas, can turn self-reflective. As the Dencity bus passes through neighborhoods where nearly as many people live as tons of waste are transferred on a daily basis, "you feel suddenly uninvited," says Erin McGonigle, the sound artist who recorded most of the samples for the electronic mix. "We were cautious about fetishizing the spaces," says Gabri. "There's a lot of power being able to be in this bus. Mobility is a privilege, people pay for it."

Of course, the inverse of the empowered, self-propelled tourist is the refugee, the person involuntarily displaced. Gabri himself is originally from Iran; his family fled the country during the 1979 revolution.

A bus project directly addressing the difference between choosing to move and having to move was proposed by artists Renata Stih and Frieder Schnock in 1995 for Berlin's Holocaust Memorial Competition. Bus Stop: The Non-Monument engendered controversy even though it was never produced. In the proposal, buses would pull up to the vast, empty space under the Brandenburg Gate in the center of Berlin. There, a waiting hall would offer digitally displayed histories of the destinations, the names of which would also flicker across the buses: Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Bergen-Belsen, the death camps of Nazi Germany. A requirement for the competition was the inclusion of the official project name, which was "The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe." As Schnock has pointed out, placing this phrase on the buses would make it a memorial in perpetual motion. In effect, tourists would replicate the constant state of transit that the Jews endured during the Holocaust, as they either fled the Nazis or were shipped to camps. Although their proposal placed 11th out of 528 in the memorial competition (with Peter Eisenman's "real" monument chosen for construction), it was a public favorite. In 1996, the artists published a 128-page bus timetable that listed the sites that could be reached on current public transportation.

Stih and Schnock are known for antimemorials, or nonmonuments, an idea which latches on to the inevitable change of time and context as our most fundamental reality. Many have argued these structures don't remember events but bury them in myth. Writers and artists in Germany, still sensitive to the memory of Albert Speer and the Nazi fixation with grand gestures, are particularly aware of the loaded meaning colossal monuments can contain. The traditional concept of a monument only encourages people to contemplate a hulking stone building and an abstracted past; nonmonuments instead create the memorial as process. Rather than distance the viewer, Bus Stop invites participation in that process which, like the Dencity bus tour or CLUI's ride to the desert, makes travel and the passage of time essential to the art. Tracking the hours, minutes, and seconds in a world where the pace of change seems to compress time itself is the theme of Darren Almond's Mean Time (2000), a shipping container with a digital display continually ticking off Greenwich Mean Time. The artist rode with the container, linked to a Global Tracking Satellite, from London to New York for his show at Matthew Marks Gallery last fall, documenting the journey with photographs, as well as drawings of the night sky. Almond's drawings allude to an older tradition of triangulating distance at sea by observing the sun and stars; after the 18th century, longitude was determined by calculating the time difference relative to Greenwich. Only in the past few years have mariners been able to rely on GPS. While Almond's outsized clock mechanically ticked off the time in England, he was honoring an ancient system of navigation, by taking notations on the sky.

Also journeying to New York City in a freight container was the art collective etoy, best known for the "Toy War" waged when an American online toy store tried to take the European art group's domain name. The etoy.TANK, one of four bright orange containers sent for a spring show at Postmasters Gallery, is "the office, studio, hotel, storage, and webserver at the same time," according to the group's Agent Zai. Members of the group, spread across Switzerland, Germany, and California, reside in these "walk-in webservers" when participating in exhibitions. While the tank provides a physical manifestation of the group's nomadic nature, the website hosts etoy. TIMEZONE, an online Twilight Zone where minutes count 100 UNIX seconds and a midday time embargo halts the clock for an etoy hour. "TIMEZONE," writes the group, "is the solution to the insanity of the continuous physical travelling through international time zones, for time shifts in international markets and to the problem of getting older." Through the eyes of artists like etoy, Dencity, CLUI, and Almond, nomadism today is as much about keeping up with a vision of ourselves and the time we're constantly losing as it once was about tracking basic things‹food, weather, water‹across the land.

One need not be a member of etoy, however, to travel with attention to one's creature comforts. With the global traveler in mind, New York's OPENOFFICE and Denmark's cOPENhagenOFFICE / Tanja Jordan created the NorthousEastWest (NhEW). The NhEW is a portable dwelling unit, custom-designed for around $7,000, that makes almost as much sense in crowded Manhattan as on the cold expanses of Greenland, where it got its inspiration from Inuit dwellings. Made of an aluminum frame, wood base, aluminum and plastic paneling, with a sealskin rug optional, the entire house can be packed up quickly into a crate. Inside her NhEW, the mobile citizen is at home in the world, no longer a tourist moving through someone else's garbage-strewn, contaminated community.

The Spiral Jetty is back. Although it was submerged when we checked in July, my college senior sister said it was visible from the hill above it when she took a first date out to see it a couple of weeks ago (talk about a litmus test; it's a 3+ hour drive one way, half on rutty dirt paths.) Sure enough, the SL Tribune has an article about it (Thanks, Artforum.) Read Smithson's own comments on making the Jetty here.

Underwater or not, Geocachers have logged Spiral Jetty; it's not surprising, given its obscurity, limited-but-not-prohibitive access, and non-mainstream nature. Geocaching would suit Smithson fine, I think:

After a point, measurable steps...descend from logic to the "surd state." The rationality of a grid on a map sinks into what it is supposed to define. Logical purity suddenly finds itself in a bog, and welcomes the unexpected event...The flowing mass of rock and earth of the Spiral Jetty could be trapped by a grid of segments, but the segments would exist only in the mind or on paper. Of course, it is also possible to translate the mental spiral into a three-dimensional succession of measured lengths that would involve areas, volumes, masses, moments, pressures, forces, stresses, and strains; but in the Spiral Jetty the surd takes over and leads one into a world that cannot be expressed by number or rationality.

Geocaching examines the gap between the natural and the rational worlds, too, coming at if from the grid side. Spiral Jetty is locatable in grids, of course, including USGS satellite photos and via latitude/longitude coordinates, translated from GPS orbital data. But for geocachers, getting there is more than half the fun; the rush comes from "mapping" the "distance" between the two worlds.

Back in New York, Smithson sat down with friends to make his film about the Jetty.

Film strips hung from the cutter's rack, bits and pieces of Utah, outtakes overexposed and underexposed, masses of impenetrable material. The sun, the spiral, the salt buried in lengths of footage... And the movie editor bending over such a chaos of "takes" resembles a paleontologist sorting out glimpses of a world not yet together, a land that has yet to come to completion, a span of time unfinished, a spaceless limbo on some spiral reels...[Editor Bob] Fiore pulled lengths of film out of the movieola with the grace of a Neanderthal pulling intestines from a slaughtered mammoth. Outside his 13th Street loft window one expected to see Pleistocene faunas, glacial uplifts, living fossils, and other prehistoric wonders. Like two cavemen we plotted how to get to the Spiral Jetty from New York City.

Smithson uses the road, going forward and backward (in time as well as place) to tie his film together. "The disjunction operating between reality and film drives one into a sense of cosmic rupture. Nevertheless, all the improbabilities would accommodate themselves to my cinematic universe."

When I went to Spiral Jetty in 1994 (it's first reappearance in 24 years), I was overwhelmed by how different experiencing the work in person (glistening salt crystals, cotton candy pink water, and that drive...) was from seeing it in pictures (aerial B&W on the last page of the art history text). Now it seems that that was the point. Mapping the distance between two worlds is what filmmaking's all about.

I got back this morning, with a broken toe and a completed script for an ultra-short, but I'm getting ahead of myself. Here are the things I posted in my head while on vacation:

  • Hawaiian Grafitti. The drive from Kona to our hotel crosses a basically 20-mile lava field, an otherworldly (read, Icelandic) landscape devoid of humanity. Except, of course for the ubiquitous/distracting/engrossing white-coral-on-black-lava grafitti. There's surprisingly little online, so I took a picture. There are some petroglyph-style examples, and a few hearts, but most tags are just head-on text (including a few in Japanese and Korean). Maybe it was tagging along at an astronomy conference, but I thought making constellation grafitti (foreshortened, so it can be read from a speeding car) would be truer to the medium.

    hawaiian grafitti. it says heck. Calling Roe Ethridge...

  • Heat The fine officers on Hawaii Five-0 did all that great detective work while wearing suits. Even with a childhood in the South and more than a little fashion victimhood, I could barely put on a t-shirt. (Fellow salad bar diners, don't worry; I did put it on.)
  • Crime. The pervasive "pay before pumping" signs made me think gas-n-go is the most common crime on Hawaii. Not a Triad or a jade smuggler in sight. Where did McGarrett & co. (and Magnum, too, for that matter) find all these criminals?
  • Christian Hip-Hop. While we were driving through the vast ranchland and lava fields, we found Urban Filez, hosted by DJ Sizzle; favorite lyric excerpt: "after three days and nights He popped up like a toaster." Righteous living=righteous music + righteous gear. Fosheezy is the clothing line named after a non-swear word I'd previously only heard on trips to Utah (where it dominates other f-words like "flippin'," "friggin', " and "fetch"). Maybe the proliferation of ChristAltRock cleaned up the crime; it's certainly influenced the taggers.

  • On the road: On the sea, actually. I guess it's reassuring to get complaints about this site, at least when they're about the recent paucity of postings. We're in Hawaii, a conference/vacation at an
    insane resort. Like Ben Stiller's Mel in Flirting With Disaster, we're not not "B&B people." Somewhat unsurprisingly, we're not "Take-a-monorail-to-swim-with-the-dolphins-before-the-authentic-luau-Resort people," either. [Here is a live webcam. I can attest that it looks just like that right now.] While we're actually sleeping at a slightly lower-key part of the complex, the conference (and the wireless networks) are all at the veritable Ka'aba of leisure.

    Anyway, there's much writing to be done, but screen technology being what it is, that'd mean staying indoors most of the time, so we'll see. So if you're upset at the infrequency of my posts, this week may be a good time to browse the archives, explore the projects, look up some references to films or artists, or to get away from the computer altogether and kill a little time outside. Mahalo

    Souvenirs from Utah: (NOTE: These are some finds from a weekend in Utah. Not related to any current film project, they're bonuses, the equivalent of a tub of CoolWhip for the bowl of fruit salad that is the rest of the site.)

  • ("Chase and be chaste."), an online personals site for (hot) single members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, who are thick as fiddlers around these here parts.
  • ("not legal in BC Canada. . .but - not illegal ?"): "A polygamy plural relationship website for women seeking a 'Sisterwife.'" Best piece of advice, especially for those polygamy-minded newbies out there: "Don't mail letters to a polygamy site from the computer at your work place. You will be caught."
  • "Modest Bridal, Modest Proms, Modest Prices": For after your successful foray onto one of the preceding sites. On a billboard near Provo.

  • Souvenir updates from the road: Spoke with some folks in Austin, and submitted Souvenir (November 2001) to the festival. As you can discover by surfing through the Souvenir-related links at left, the film is a sytnhesis of scripted narrative and documentary language; Austin is very adamant about it's "NO DOCUMENTARIES" requirement, which I can respect, but which I think has to be considered in a contemporary context. After talking to a couple of people in the short film selection office, they sounded persuaded; their requirements would not exclude the film. So, off it went.

    I also signed up as a betatester for Withoutabox's electronic press kit application. So far, it's not bad, but I can't yet feel/see the benefits. If I were a festival programmer with piles of Priority Mail packs all around me, I could see some advantage, though. We'll see.

    In the mean time, I've had some good breakthroughs in group (Oh, wait, that was Scott Evil.), in writing the script for Souvenir, the feature-length ensemble into which Souvenir (November 2001) will be interwoven. We're going away soon for a solid week offline, and I expect to finish a draft then. Ideally, I'll post it then.

    One memory-related anecdote: After five years away, I visited a storage space I keep in Philadelphia. It was like running into a college-era friend, in a way; he's changed, but you still recognize him, and (fortunately for you both) you're not embarassed by him. Contents of this inadvertent time capsule include:

  • MBA detritus (Carefully boxed and preserved Wharton desk tchochkes, hard-earned, which seemed so precious pale in comparison to other manifestations of the experience.)
  • Early collected art (Good guess on that Brice Marden. Whod'a thought? Besides Dia, I mean.)
  • junk (five deodorants and some lotions, a bathroom cabinet hastily emptied and not restored a season later, as expected. Funny how things turn out.)
  • Surprisingly transparent evidence of who I was (brainy-yet-idealistic attempts to understand and make the future: Wittgenstein, Teilhard de Chardin; happy/goofy posse pictures from benefits, beaches and living rooms)
    It was an unexpected chance to mark-to-market (something I would've said with self-conscious pride then. Of course, I also wanted to name some dogs LIFO and FIFO, but with the French pronunciation, "Leefo."), to see how who I am now measures up to who I was then (and who I expected/hoped to be). It was reassuring to know that, despite some volatility and the current trends in the market, I have no need to take huge writeoffs or restate earnings.

  • A pair of COMMANDERS-IN-CHIEF are having problems with their PowerPoint presentations, berating an INTERN. They proceed and address the troops.

    Where is MRS Company?

    CARLA and JANE look around sheepishly and raise their hands.

    COMMANDER Right. You will lead the all-important Operation Human Shield. Take the Burrito Guy with you.

    Where is MBA Company?

    Several rows of MEN in polo shirts (tastefully embroidered with the logos of their companies or Burning Tree C.C.) and Tasmanian gabardine khakis raise their hands.

    Right, you are Operation Get Behind The Housewives.

    Listen to a reading of this scene (mp3 via

    A lot of weblog-related stuff. I've been working on a website project for a Museum friend of mine, which feels good and potentially very interesting. With some new projects emerging (total=5, for those playing at home), the armchair IA in me thinks's a bit unwieldy these days. Look for a redesign soon. Also, I've been exploring Movable Type (Can I write that on my Blogger Pro server?), which I set up on another server,
    [There's nothing there that isn't here; far less, in fact. Though it was originally the main way for people to find me, has long since taken over the vanity Google searches. As a result, is now like some increasingly invisible sculpture in Central Park, which makes the web equivalent of the Balto statue: frequently visited, and sporting an explanatory plaque and--most importantly-- a movie tie-in.]

    Serendipitous mis-click: From Evhead, I accidentally clicked on Heath Row's weblog, and I'm glad I did. It's called Media Diet, but Heath's clearly eating for two. At least. One delicacy: Andy McCaskey, Sr.'s weblog, Topic. Mr. McCaskey's 86 years old, and writes what he knows. His seems to be the case of a lived life, well worth examining. (Heath compares him to Paul Harvey or Garrison Keillor; I wouldn't. Harvey's authentic but annoyingly glib. Keillor's phony and just annoying. McCaskey's both authentic and thoughtful.)

    August 11, 2002


    Returning from the bathroom where he brushed his teeth using his new toothpaste, Arm & Hammer P.M. ("Fights Nighttime Mouth!"), a MAN leans over to kiss his WIFE goodnight.

    Do you like my minty fresh breath?

    You HAVE no breath.

    Even though a friend at Vanity Fair is so sick of hearing about him she puts her hands over her ears and starts screaming "la la la la la la" when I mention his name, I've been listening to Robert Evans read his book, The Kid Stays in the Picture. It's a grating riot. And I will see the movie, which I think will be overkill, but I've seen clips where they have done some interesting-concept animation of still photos. That's something I've been kicking around with for a few years. Never mind. You can listen to a brief excerpt of the audiobook here. Buy it if you wish. (But if you're on Wes Anderson's Christmas list, you already got it; it briefly replaced muffin baskets and surfwax as the Hollywood Christmas Gift of Choice in 2000.)

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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.

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