I recently found a poster for a Pontus Hulten exhibition at Moderna Museet called "Utopier & Visioner, 1871-1981," which I think may have come from Billy Kluver's own collection.

There's not much information online about the show with that title, but the Getty mentions it; they hold the archives for E.A.T., the art & technology collaborative Kluver founded with Rauschenberg and Robert Whitman.

Turns out "Utopier & Visioner" was the site of one node in E.A.T.'s project, Telex: Q&A, an early attempt at networked communication. E.A.T. set up public telex machines in Stockholm, Tokyo, New York [at MoMA] and Ahmedabad, India, and invited people to ask each other questions. Hulten's show provided the theme; the dates in the title referred to the Communards and to imagining what the world would be like ten years into the future.
Questions about the future would be daisy-chained along to the different venues to give people a chance to read and respond. [The connections were not real-time; data was only transferred 10 minutes/day.] And to prime the pump, "wise men" in each city were invited to offer their answers as well.

E.A.T. was planning to publish the resulting conversations, but I can't see that they ever did. The Getty has several folders stuffed full of telex strips collated into roughly chronological order. It might be interesting to look through them.


Or maybe, uh, not. The Daniel Langlois Foundation in Quebec has digitized some materials from E.A.T.'s archives, including the original press release for Telex: Q&A, which contains sample questions:

1. What will the rents be like?
2. Will pot replace alcohol?
3. What will replace pot?
4. What will the ratio be between liquid & dry foods?
6. Will food be more natural (raw meat and vegetables) or more artificial (pills)?
20. Will men wear neckties?
24. What nature will bureaucracy have?
29. Where will solutions to problems lie--technology, sociology, politics?
49. Will there be a difference between work and leisure?
Maybe I do want to know Kenzo Tange's opinion on neckties, but frankly, it's almost interesting enough to think that in 1971, people were seriously expecting dramatic changes would sweep through society. I mean, sure, Twitter and all, but still. Pills!


Telex: Q&A was closely related to another E.A.T. project in 1971, Children and Communications. Led by Robert Whitman, E.A.T. set up kid-sized labs in the various boroughs of New York, and connected them via fax and telex, and let kids loose in them to communicate with each other.

Langlois has some of those documents up, too; it's kind of hilarious, in that except for a tictactoe game, and an attempt at an exquisite corpse-style story, most of the interaction is about the interaction itself. Just like Thaddeus S.C. Lowe's first telegram from a balloon to like 90% of cell phone calls today ["I'm calling from the train."] My favorite is this drawing, which pretty much sums it up, a screen asking the kid, "Who do you love?":


Related, interesting: Tokyo Terminal documentation for Telex: Q & A []


"Our lives are spent trying to pixellate a fractal planet." - A. King in Society. [via mathowie]


I may be too late to see the Getty Research Institute's exhibit on postwar Japanese art, but I think it's also past time I hotfoot it out there and start digging through the E.A.T. archives.

If there are more photos like this of Fujiko Nakaya's fog sculpture at E.A.T.'s Pepsi Pavilion at the Osaka '70 expo, I should be booking my study carrel right now.

Pepsi Pavilion with Fog Sculpture, Japan World Exposition '70 []

Before I talk about Microworld, the 1976 industrial film made for AT&T by Owen Murphy Productions, let me just state the obvious, and get it out of the way:

We are long, long overdue for a comprehensive, scholarly retrospective of William Shatner's spoken word pieces. The mandarins who keep our cultural gates should not be able to just drop a masterpiece in our laps on their own whim, not we who have known "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" for decades. I give you three months, and if I don't see any movement, I'm taking the curatorial matters into my own hands.


OK. Microworld. Holy crap, who made this thing? Owen Murphy Productions, who made several other films for Bell Labs over the years, including Incredible Machine (1968) which screened as part of the film program [PDF] at "The Machine As Seen At The End Of The Mechanical Age," Pontus Hulten's 1968 exhibit at The Museum of Modern Art. [that's the show with the exhibition catalogue with the crazy, stamped metal cover.] Owen Murphy probably needs his/their own retrospective, too.

[11/2011 UPDATE: Thanks to Robin Edgerton, who has been working on the AT&T film archive, for pointing out that the correct title was Incredible Machine, not The Machine, as MoMA's press release had it. You can watch Incredible Machine online.]

That will give us a chance to appreciate the backlit photomurals


and the rather incredible prop circuitboard dioramas. [I left the timestamps in for easy reference.]


Shatner marvels for us at the minute intricacy of circuitboards reduced to eye-of-a-needle-sized microchips. Microchips which are apparently still designed in large-format, paper schematics.

Which are drawn. With a pen. By a [computer? punch card? stencil?] controlled mechanical printer.


Holy crap, people, this is a drawing.


Turned into a backlit transparency, but whatever. A DRAWING.


Jean Tinguely's Metamatics drawing machines, we know. Olafur Eliasson's studio folks set up that acoustic drawing machine at Tanya's in 2008. [Wasn't there also a thing with pulleys that drew on the wall? Who was that?]

Anyway, just saying, there are--or were--amazing drawing machines creating amazing, massive drawings, in the service of America's most advanced scientists and engineers--who apparently didn't bother keeping them? Where are they? What are/were they? Do any survive? What else could they be used for? I think I must find the answers to these questions.

Thanks to Beau [aka @avianism], who points me to pen plotters and their adaptation and creative deployment, apparently in the last few years, by artists such as Douglas Repetto, whose drawing below, is part of the chiplotle group on flickr.


Chiplotle is a Python library created by Repetto and Victor Adan at the Columbia University Computer Music Center which allows you to code for and operate pen plotters from a laptop. The future of the past is here.

UPDATE UPDATE And whaddya know, via @johnpyper, there is a show of the Spalter Collection of computer code-generated art right now at the deCordova in Lincoln, MA, which includes, of course, Stan VanDerBeek, who worked on early animation and computer graphics languages at Bell Labs.


Holy smokes, Richard Prince, Patrick Cariou, Larry Gagosian, Judge Batts, Bob Marley, Richard Serra [! I know, right?], Brooke Shields, $18 million in artwork, the fate of appropriation, the implosion of the gallery system, copyright apocalypse, there's so much mayhem to discuss, where to start?

Let me cut to the chase here, and focus on the single most important takeaway of the Cariou v. Prince & Gagosian Canal Zone case: he won't be suing me.

During a deposition, Cariou's lawyer Daniel Brooks asks Prince about his 2005 work Spiritual America IV [above], for which he appropriated Sante d'Orazio's photo of an adult Brooke Shields re-staging the 1975 Gary Gross photo of a 10-year-old Shields which Prince rephotographed and showed in 1983, in a temporary storefront gallery he rented on the Lower East Side and called Spiritual America:


I totally remember seeing John Cage's The First Meeting of the Erik Satie Society in the summer of 1994. An unbound version was on view at the Fuller Building on 57th Street. Susan Sheehan Gallery. It was on during Cage's phenomenal retrospective/exhibition/performance, Rolywholyover: A Circus, at the Guggenheim SoHo. [I followed that show around the country like a Phish head, from MoCA, to the Menil, the Guggenheim, to the Philadelphia Museum. The PMA show coincided with my graduation from business school, and I had a couple of weeks where I was able to go every day, and watch the museum's art handlers perform their I Ching-generated list of reinstallations. A formative experience, one of the absolutely greatest museum exhibitions ever, and probably the greatest catalogue I own. Reproductions of works, poems, and texts are packed loosely in a mirrored aluminum box. It's a good segue to the Satie Society, and 'm going to go pull it out right after I post this.]

Anyway. The Merce Cunningham Dance Company just sold a copy of The First Meeting of the Erik Satie Society at Christie's last week, and I'm a little surprised at how vague the description is. Apparently, Cage's box set of artist books, drawings and prints was supposed to be an edition of 18, or 9, but then the edition of 9 is described as unrealized, plus an "unbound" edition of 6... Sounds a bit of a mess.

The gist of the piece is that in 1992 Cage invited artists to a birthday party for the French composer who influenced him so profoundly, and the gifts are the artworks, which Cage combined with his own Satie-themed mesostic/acrostics based on writings he admired, too. It's basically an exercise of homage, inspiration, collaboration, and transformation. Folks like Johns, Rauschenberg, Sol Lewitt and Robert Ryman contributed works, and Cage used texts from the likes of Joyce, Duchamp, Thoreau and McLuhan. The whole thing came in a steel-framed, broken-glass valise, a reference to Duchamp's famously cracked Large Glass.

I'm going to guess that the version I saw was unbound, because the elements were mounted between freestanding glass panels around the gallery. So there's one. How there could be ambiguity about work produced by this constellation of major artists just a few years ago--holy crap, almost 20 years ago--is a mystery to me.

Sale 2441, Lot 177: The First Meeting of the Erik Satie Society, by John Cage, est. $90-120,000, sold for $116,000 []
Holy crap, $500? Rolywholyover: A Circus on Amazon [amazon]
Previously: Richter's 4900 Colours and Cage's Rolywholyover via sippey

Frieze's 20-year retrospective of itself continues apace, and wow, it's like running into an old flame on a train platform.

I hadn't thought about Daniel Birnbaum's 1996 essay, "IKEA at the End of Metaphysics" in years, but wow, it's just all flooding back.

From a Heideggerian perspective IKEA best sellers such as 'Billy', 'Ivan', and 'System 210' do not represent a corruption of everyday life, but have merely formalised what is already there; the IKEA catalogue only makes the tendency towards uniformity more conspicuous. Heidegger's global 'levelling' is not a critique of the common forms of everyday life as such, but of their passive acceptance. At the end of metaphysics, levelling is complete - no one questions the catalogue.
Obviously--well, now it's obvious, anyway--my own Ikea X Enzo Mari mashup project has its origins in the critical perspective of the company and its ideology which Birnbaum mapped out 15 years ago, and which I absorbed.

Also, I'm reminded how I miss Jason Rhoades.

IKEA at the End of Metaphysics [ via ronald jones]

February 17, 2011

Bus, 1967, Mason WIlliams


A 1968 NY Times review of Robert Rauschenberg's giant Autobiography edition by Hilton Kramer was titled "Art: Over 53 Feet of Wall Decoration." And the abstract mentioned simultaneous installations at the Whitney and MoMA, so I was interested to see what else Kramer hated. Turns out it wasn't a Rauschenberg or a Broadside Art project at all: it was Mason Williams' Bus.

Mason Williams' Bus is one of the most awesome photomural/artist book/oddball objects of the Los Angeles 1960s. I love it. It is a life-size photo of a Greyhound bus, folded up and put into a box. It was made in an edition of 200, but existed primarily as a joke, or a poster, or a decoration, and only rarely has it been perceived as an art object.

Which is hilarious--and hilariously wrong--because Williams is a childhood friend and longtime collaborator/co-conspirator with Ed Ruscha, whose deadpan artist books were busy not being recognized as art--or as proper books--at the same time.

This lack of critical appreciation may have something to do with Williams' primary occupation, which was TV writing and composition; he was the head writer for The Smothers Brothers and wrote "Classical Gas." Bus was an irreverent stunt, though he took it very seriously.

[For a rare, serious look at Bus, there's no place better than Design Observer, where Lorraine Wild wrote about it in 2008; Michael Asher had donated his copy of Bus to MOCA, and the museum had just installed it. Wild has Williams' making of story, the hilarity of which is only hinted at in the parodic text Williams included with each numbered edition:

Actual size photograph of an Actual bus.
10 ft. 3 1/2 in. x 36 ft. 2 in.)
Weighs 10 pounds, 7 ounces.
Conceived by Mason Williams.
Photograph by Max Yavno.

Enlargement made from a 16x20 print of a 4x5 negative. Printed on billboard stock in 16 sections by silk screen process. Printed by The Benline Process Color Company of Deland, Florida and Pacific Display of Los Angeles, Califfornia. [sic] Hand collated, rolled and transported early in the morning by three people (two men and one woman) in one car over a period of several days. Each copy individually hand assembled by three people, using hands, feet, tape sissors [sic] and a Barlow knife. Assembled with 120 ft. (per copy) of Scotch Brand double-faced tape (No. 666).

Folded by hand and foot by three people.

Assembled and folded quietly on television sound stages on Saturday mornings in Los Angeles, Califfornia [sic]. Assembly time, nine man hours per copy.

Cover concept by Bob Willis. Designed from a box found under his bed by his wife. Cover constructed of corrugated fiberboard, 200 lb. test, #1 white. Printed and fabricated by Nehms Company of Los Angeles, California.

Published on the 24th of February, 1967 in a limited edition of 200 copies.

Love that so much, I want to start silkscreening and double-taping life-size photos of things.

Anyway, MoMA installed a copy of Bus in the lobby in Jan. 1968, and then invited graphic designers participating in the Museum's upcoming poster show to tag the bus with graffiti. Here's a photo of the result, as seen on the cover of Go Greyhound magazine.


100%, Lorraine Wild [designobserver]
Art Projects by Mason Williams [masonwilliams-online]
Awesome LIFE Magazine photo of Bus at Reference Library

I cannot believe this has under 1,000 views. I'm only about 8:00 into this YouTube video, and already, Viktor Pinchuk is my hero. While anyone with a yacht or a palazzo could assemble a tranche of the art world powerful on the Grand Canal, only Pinchuk's inspiring artistic vision can bring them all to Kiev. Well, I'm pretty sure it's his vision they're coming for.

Come for the vision, stay for the historic chance to have Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, Andreas Gursky, and Takashi Murakami together on stage, answering incisive questions from Ryan Seacrest's Ukrainian doppelganger. And the pitch for free Prada.

Ah, yes, I just got to the end: "Thank you to the thousands, the hundreds of thousands watching online!" It Gets Better!

Cinthia Marcelle receives Main Prize on FGAP Award Ceremony [ThePinchukArtCentre's YouTube channel, via Gavin Brown's GBlogÉ, pronounced like the French, Blo-ZHAY]

February 14, 2011

Richter's Balls, Regrets

So I'm reading along in my new copy of Gerhard Richter: Writings 1961-2007--which is pretty awesome, and which does appear to supersede the artist's previous collected writings, The Daily Practice of Painting, which is good to know, but really, what to do with all this information?--and I come across this discussion of glass and mirrors and readymades in a 1993 interview with Hans Ulrich Obrist, and I'm like, holy crap!

When did you first use mirrors?
In 1981, I think, for the Kunsthalle in Dusseldorf. Before that I designed a mirror room for Kasper Koenig's Westkunst show, but it was never built. All that exists is the design--four mirrors for one room.

The Steel Balls were also declared to be mirrors
It's strange about those Steel Balls, because I once said that a ball was the most ridiculous sculpture that I could imagine.

If one makes it oneself.
Perhaps even as an object, because a sphere has this idiotic perfection. I don't know why I now like it.

Richter's mirror Steel Balls? Whew, never mind, they turn out--I think--to be Kugelobjekt, 1970, these odd, little postcard-sized objects, three steel ball bearings suspended in plexiglass in a shadowboxed photo of a staircase.

Kugelobjekt I, 1970, image:

And anyway, on the next page, Richter explains how all the work on the dimensions and framing and installation of 4 Panes of Glass meant it's "not a readymade, any more than Duchamp's Large Glass is," when he goes,

At one point I nearly bought a readymade. It was a motor-driven clown doll, about 1.5 metres tall, which stood up and then collapsed into itself. It cost over 600 DM at that time, and I couldn't afford it. Sometimes I regret not having bought that clown.

You would have exhibited it just like that, as an uncorrected readymade?
Just like that. There are just a few rare cases when one regrets not having done a thing, and that's one of them. Otherwise, I would have forgotten it long ago.

And I'm like, the clown! the clown! I swear, I'd written about it before, but I can't find it anywhere. And then I realize I'd written about it for the NY Times in 2005.

Previous most ridiculous sculptures I could imagine: The International Prototype Kilogram or Le Grand K, and the Avogadro Project

UPDATE:, uh, no. Richter has more balls than I thought.

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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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