I've always considered John Cage's politics to have been those of conscious non-engagement, but that's because I have really not known anything about "Lecture on the Weather," a text/sound/film/stage performance commissioned by the CBC for the US Bicentennial in 1976.

Cage had twelve performers read chance-selected texts from Thoreau's writing, "On Civil Disobedience," combined with projected images and a weather-related soundscape. Ubu's own poet-creator Kenneth Goldsmith posted the text of Cage's remarkable preface to the Poetry Foundation's website a few years ago.

[It was a couple of years after Goldsmith published his own Cage-inspired work, "The Weather," which consists of transcriptions of a year's worth of Manhattan weather reports from 1010 WINS News, which as Marjorie Perloff wrote about at length, is more fascinating and unexpected than it might first seem.]

In this post on the John Cage Trust's blog, Laura Kuhn writes about a remarkable 2007 restaging of "Lecture on the Weather" to mark the transfer of the Cage archive to Bard College. The slideshow below has a recording of Cage reading his preface and photos of the rather amazing collection of Thoreau readers.

As of last year, the Trust was waiting for some "angels" to fund the release of a recording of the Bard restaging. Maybe they should do a Kickstarter campaign or something.

As I mentioned the other day, I've been going through our storage space, getting these time capsule-like pops of memory from old files and boxes and stuff. One of the more unexpectedly unexpected encounters: print photos. I just don't have envelopes of photos or snapshots sitting around anymore, not like I did in the 1990s.

And in that way, at least, I am like Tacita Dean, an artist whose films I've long admired, but whose work in photographs I haven't really thought of much until now.

For her 2003 show at the Kunstverein Dusseldorf, Dean excavated a set of forgotten negatives she shot while living in Prague in 1991. As Catrin Lorch put it in her review of the show for Frieze:

[Dean] printed almost all of them to make a series of black and white, small-format photos. The almost forgotten scenes reveal a cross-section of the early years of post-communist Central Europe: broken-up cobbles, blurred, speeding trains, gracefully curving stairwells suffused with the crumbling charm of Eastern European modern architecture. A woman's fat legs in black tights; a friend at the breakfast table. Looking at these photos arranged in open wooden boxes on a small table was like opening a message in a bottle.

In 2008, Sotheby's sold a set of Dean's Czech Photos, which she'd published in a small edition, for a remarkable 3,750 GBP. [Sotheby's flash-based e-catalogue site, where this screwed up double image comes from, is a web-breaking disaster,, btw.]

And then this morning, the lately irascible Jonathan Jones [h//t modernartnotes] mentions Dean's "ambitious prints derived from photographs," which he calls "her most powerful creations." Well, which, what?

Sure enough. And ever true to her analogue roots, they're photomurals. And overpainted photomurals to boot.

Beauty, 2006, 3.6 x 3.75m, collection sfmoma

Dean showed these large-scale works in her 2007 show at Frith Street Gallery in London, titled Wandermüde, which is the little-known corollary of Wanderlust. She made what are essentially portraits of the oldest trees in Southeast England, printed them on a large scale--using Steichen-style photomural-as-wallpaper technique--and then painted out the non-tree elements of the photo with gouache.

Crowhurst, 2007, 3x4m, collection: moma

That's one in SFMOMA's collection up top. Above is Crowhurst, from MoMA's collection. I like how the oblique view clearly shows the work's materiality, its seams and curled edges. MoMA's website says they showed Crowhurst in 2007-8, but I confess, I don't remember seeing it. I hope I didn't mistake it for a Ugo Rondinone tree drawing and keep on walking.

June 13, 2011

Dutch Camo Domescapes

I love it when a plan comes together. Or at least when several subjects of interest converge unexpectedly.

It seems the Dutch art world is about to be decimated by sudden and substantial government funding cuts and reorganizations. [for angry details, check sven lutticken's recent post; for plaintive, possibly resigned reaction from the affected institutions, try the open letter at the Dutch public arts organization, SKOR.]

If the proposed changes really do take effect, and the status quo of one of the most highly developed state-sponsored ecosystems for the arts is actually dismantled at a stroke, I think it's really important to requestion every comfortable assumption of the involvement between art and politics. It has a lot of obvious problems and weaknesses, but the Dutch system, at least as perceived from abroad, has always seemed like the apotheosis of certain ideals of cultural industrial policy, which, Lutticken argues, now "don't seem to be worth a penny."


Anyway, not that they saw them coming, but SKOR tried to understand the political shifts that precipitated these cuts in the December 2010 issue [#20] of their excellent journal, Open, which examines populism and the persistent need for narrative and myth in the democratic process.

Dutch populism seems to center on--surprise--issues of immigration, assimilation, and Muslim vs. Christian cultural influence. As it turns out, one of the contributors in Open 20 is Foundland, a graphics, art, and research group that seems part collaborative, part design firm.


In 2009, Foundland created CACHÉ ÉXPOSÉ, an investigation into the remote, largely invisible, and unreported system of detention and deportation facilities in the Netherlands. The majority of the people imprisoned in the facilities or subjected to the system seem to be immigrants and refugees from largely Muslim countries.

When I read the description of the project, I wanted to see if, like the intelligence- and military-related sites, these politically sensitive detention sites were obscured on Google Maps. Fortunately, Foundland had created a Google Maps list as part of the CACHÉ ÉXPOSÉ project.


And the short answer is no. Their industrial anonymity is camouflage enough. But then hey-ho, looking at the waterfront detention center in Zaandam, a commercial city northwest of Amsterdam, what do I see? Awesome-looking domes.

Double geodesic domes of unknown purpose, but which look to be at least somewhat transparent or translucent from Street View. What a wonderfully open society the Netherlands must be that in can allow the Google Street View car to drive right up into the middle of its immigrant prisons. Oh wait.


What strikes me, besides the lone figure standing outside the double barbed-wire fence? Is irony the right word to see a geodesic dome, a form which was once erected to great fanfare in Afghanistan, where it served as a symbolic center of friendship, trade, democracy, and political cooperation with the west, being deployed in a back alley prison in Europe filled, presumably, with impoverished immigrants from the Middle East?

Then again, Afghans in 1956 apparently did see the US's Kabul Dome pavilion as representing The Future. So.

Water Pictures - Alice in Wonderland

I found a beautiful and odd book the other day, Reflections: The Story of Water Pictures, published in 1936 by Marion Thayer MacMillan.

While vacationing in the Indian territories surrounding Georgian Bay on Lake Ontario, soon after the end of World War I, McMillan discovered a Rorschach-like phenomenon where still waters would occasionally produce perfect mirror images of the craggy coastline.

Over 15-plus years studied and photographed perfectly mirrored reflections along the coastline of Georgian Bay, Lake Ontario. [She tells of teaching herself photography in order to capture these ephemeral landscape images.]

MacMillan began showing her photos around, first to the local population and Indian craftsmen, and she came to the conclusion that such visual phenomena were apparent to centuries of canoeing Indians, who drew inspiration from them for their myths and artifacts. She particularly saw radially symmetric totem poles as permanent representations of these phenomena.

Water Pictures - Maya

Eventually, she began giving slide lectures of the photos at museums, universities, and art societies, where she drew connections between this "primitive" visual language, which was surely a common thread among all "savage" cultures, and the most advanced modernist, abstractionist movement being put forward in the art world of the day.

Water Pictures - Child's Head by Brancusi

And so the caption on her photo, titled Child's Head by Brancusi, reads, "The oval of the child's face, with bend head, fingers in mouth, is so obvious that it needs no description."

Many, or really most, of her photos are similarly titled and labeled; in her search for meaning in this optical, perceptual phenomenon, MacMillan repeatedly found "obvious" representations of artistic, literary, and religio-spiritual subjects. Which only temporarily distracts from the beauty and now-historically tinged aesthetic of the images themselves. I imagine there are some sexy, old prints out there somewhere.

The art and anthropology worlds seem to have been politely intrigued but largely unaffected my Mrs. MacMillan's work or discoveries. Though she does mention a photographer she'd introduced the effect to had taken some accomplished Water Pictures of her own, which she showed at Julien Levy's gallery, to generally positive reviews.

Basically, as long-lost art goes, MacMillan's book doesn't feel like a masterpiece, or even that important. In one way, I feel a bit implicated, as I sit here, finding or creating world-changing images and rewriting art history, in my little blog canoe. But then, it was important to her, and maybe it's enough to recognize that.

Reflections: The Story of Water Pictures is usually available on Abebooks, though my $20 inscribed copy seems like an outlier [abebooks]
I posted a couple more images in the gregorg flickr [flickr]

Von Heyl-bait: Spatial Force Construction, 1921, Lyubov Popova

A couple of weeks ago Charline von Heyl made a refreshingly badass presentation on painting at the Hammer Museum. [It was organized by UCLA's art department.] The tenor was quite different, it quickly became one of my favorite artist talks since Thomas Houseago's Public Art Fund lecture at the New School last year.

Von Heyl talks a lot about her sources and tactics, including design, folk and indigenous art, and overlooked and bad [Bad?] painting. Rather than narrating a trajectory for her work, or elaborating on her technique, she focuses on how she looks, and on how central that is to what she does eventually turn out.

So obviously, this from the q&a:

I find the idea of time in painting super-interesting in every respect, you know, the speed of the brush, the way the backwards/forwards thing goes, the time of the paradox, which is probably my idea of irony, the material thing that switches things around.

And so all those things really feed into each other, and the time of looking is constantly feeding into it, constantly. And it's really--one of the first things I do when I go to the studio is to get different books and check different things out.

And for me, the whole blog thing is a godsend. If I put in one of my favorite paintings, some weird Popova painting or something like that, and go to images and blog, there's a kindred soul, you know, somebody who has the same taste. And from there, you find other blogs because he's going to go somewhere, And I think books have been so important for me, but now, blogs, painters' blogs are, I mean, there are a lot of people who are super smart when it comes to looking, and it's really fun to look at it. I use that a lot, too.

A follow-up question asked what blogs she looks at, and she balked; she can't name her favorite books, either, she said, because she doesn't know the titles. It's a result of being immersed in "this community of images." So it makes sense that the one blog she did manage to namecheck is Bibliodyssey. [She also said she does read Notes on Looking, too.]

UCLA Department of Art Lectures: Charline von Heyl [, thx permanent link |


I just watched Tarkovsky's 1975 film The Mirror for the first time as an adult, basically; when I saw it in college, I had no clue and was bored out of my gourd by it. In fact, for a long time, I'd conflated it, burning houses and whatnot, with The Sacrifice.


Anyway, the largely plotless, highly autobiographical film is a memory-like collage of documentary footage and vignettes set in disparate time periods. When I say, plotless, though, I mean it's a movie about a guy who spent ten years trying to make a movie about his childhood purely as an excuse to show the awesome scenes of a Soviet military balloon from the Spanish Civil War. At least that's how it looks to me now.




Previously: an image of a guy on a balloon inspecting Echo II at Lakehurst, NJ


Not quite sure what to make of this, but this image showed up this morning on the golden livestreaming page for Man Bartlett's piece, #140hBerlin.

And though maybe he wasn't even born when it came out, it immediately made me think of... Sandra Bernhard's 1990 performance film, Without You I'm Nothing


So yow, I just watched that clip on Which, while it might offer Man some programming, if not costuming, ideas, also ties into Berlin's own history.

And wow, I just listened to Bernhard's cabaret cover of "Little Red Corvette" for the first time in maybe a decade, and damned if it isn't one of the most American things about America this American has ever heard.

#140hBerlin runs for 140 hours through May 17. []

Richars Serra's work, and especially his drawings and sketches, have a pretty foundational place in my art worldview. So I'm stoked to see the Met's drawings retrospective, especially after Brian Dupont's process-oriented perspective on the work and the show.

I get really wonked out thinking about Serra's process and have tried to imagine how to capture the conception and fabrication of his steel sculptures in a show--or in as visceral a way as his corner splash pieces do. Besides the rare chance of seeing Serra's sketchbooks, I think Brian makes a good case that the large oilstick drawings embody their own making as much as anything Serra's ever done.

Intent or Artifact: Richard Serra's Drawings. [briandupont]

April 16, 2011

Source Material

What is the point of books if you're just going to store them out of sight?


I mean, just look at the back cover of A.R.T. Press's 1992 interview of Vija Celmins by Chuck Close. If only I'd had this book somewhere besides my storage unit all these years, I might've realized sooner that what I've been doing, basically, is reconstructing the pile of photos on Vija Celmin's desk.

image via Morioka Yoshitomo's online syllabus of Art & Technology

I don't collect posters, I really don't. I just buy some. And then some more.

But when I saw the description of this poster in the Getty's E.A.T. archive finding aid, I knew I had to add it to the list:

Pepsi Pavilion
printed in Japan, Shunk-Kender photograph of interior of the mirror dome. It shows a rehearsal of the work by Remy Charlip, "Homage to Loie Fuller," performed at the opening ceremonies. The photograph is printed upside down to emphasize the three-dimensionality of the real image the concave mirror dome produced. Signed by all artist/engineer participants, unnumbered.
Signed or not, I have to track it down.

E.A.T.'s Pepsi Pavilion still kind of blows my mind, several years after I first fixated on it. And it only belatedly occurs to me that though the project was officially a failure, which E.A.T., Kluever, and Whitman were left trying to make the best of, there is a Japanese domestic perspective on it that remains largely unexplored, at least in the English-speaking world. I will have to look into that.

Meanwhile, it's almost enough to know that the Japanese term for Pepsi Pavilion is ペプシ館, pronounced Pepsi-kan.

Also, Remy Charlip's "Homage to Loie Fuller"? Do we even have a complete list of all the artists, happenings, programs, and performances that went unrealized when Pepsi cut off the cash?

Also, Shunk-Kender? Those guys really, really got around. Have we already done shows or books or something on them? Art History, I'm talking to you.

UPDATE WHOA, and I have heard back from Art History. At least I got her voicemail. Stay tuned.

Previously: E.A.T. it up: the Pepsi Pavilion at Expo 70 in Osaka
Q. was the Pepsi Pavilion art?

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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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greg [at] greg [dot ] org

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about this archive

Category: inspiration

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Our Guernica Cycle, 2017 –
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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
'Tell Me What I Mean' at
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Chop Shop
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1-7 March 2016

eBay Test Listings
Armory – ABMB 2015
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It Narratives, incl.
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Franklin Street Works, Stamford
Sept 5 - Nov 9, 2014
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TheRealHennessy Tweets Paintings, 2014 -

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)
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"Exhibition Space" @ apexart, NYC
Mar 20 - May 8, 2013
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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)
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