Category:making movies

Stan VanDerBeek and Ken Knowlton at Bell Labs collaborated on a series of digital structuralist computer/graphic/text animations in 1966. They used BeFLIX, [Bell Flicks], an 8-bit graphics programming language Knowlton developed in 1963.

The Tate's clean version of Poemfield No. 2 isn't loading right now, so here's the YouTube version:

Meanwhile, go back to the Tate's site for several other crisp copies of VanDerBeek's works.

update: Fuller, VanDerBeek, Cage, I'm just following Steve Roden around. Check out the collection of 1967-8 event posters from the University of Illinois he just posted.

March 3, 2010

The Not So Spiral Jetty


For a generation of art watchers, Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty existed primarily as an image, via the making-of film and Gianfranco Gorgoni's iconic aerial photographs, which were exhibited at MoMA's seminal Information show and were published in Smithson's Artforum essay on the work. This mediated encounter with the work inevitably affected its interpretation. But similarly, the 16 years of visibility and visitability since the Jetty's re-emergence from the Great Salt Lake can lull you into a sense of complacency that you now know the work. And by you, of course, I mean me.

The latest issue of the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art Journal includes an excellent essay, "Spiral Jetty through the Camera's Eye," by doctoral candidate Kathleen Merrill Campagnolo, which looks at how Smithson used photography and film to shape not only the reception of the Jetty, but its conception and evolution as well.

For example, at first, and even until a week after it was supposedly completed, it wasn't actually a spiral. The image above is from a contact sheet Gorgoni took in April 1970. It shows the Jetty:

...with a single, simple curve to the left, creating a hook shape with a large circle of rocks at the end...In a recently published account of the construction of the sculpture, the contractor Bob Phillips reveals that Smithson considered this first curved jetty, as seen in Gorgoni's photographs, to be complete, but about a week after the construction crew had been sent away, he called them back to alter the configuration...

...Not surprisingly, the early version of the sculpture was not included in any of Smithson's Spiral Jetty works. In fact, by the time he had finished his essay in 1970-71, the text reads as if the form the jetty took was a foregone conclusion from his first arrival at Rozel Point.

Campagnolo's article has another Gorgoni photo, of Smithson and Richard Serra looking at a lost/destroyed sketch of Jetty v1.0 with v2.0 superimposed on it.

To see the sketch, you should really read the article. But I am reproducing the top half of the image here because I am in awe of Serra's impressive Jewfro.


PDF: Vol 47: 1-2, The Archives of American Art Journal [ via the Archives of American Art Blog Really? Yes. It's awesome. [, probably via tyler green, since it mentions hockey]

For their "Art of Two Germanys" show in 2008, LACMA recreated part of a 1966 gallery installation by Gerhard Richter called Volker Bradke, which was designed to mimic or reference the postwar German bourgeoisie's penchant for ticky tacky floral wallpaper.

But instead of real wallpaper, the museum used an artifact from the original installation, loaned by the piece's owner via the gallery: a rubber stamp roll with a design carved into it. LACMA's curator and gallery manager talk here about printing up the walls, but for some reason, I just can't get enough of this video of them actually doing it.

This reminds me a bit of Christopher Wool, and it's a fantastic-looking method of generating an image. Or a design, or a surface, whatever you end up calling it. The fact that it's a painted simulacrum and not actual wallpaper, though, seems pretty relevant, as does the curator's instruction that "the printing is not supposed to look perfect." It sounds like an early example of Richter reminding the viewer that he's looking at an image, not the thing itself.

Anyway, this is all coming down today because Bradke is the subject of Richter's only film, a 14-min black & white short which was part of the installation. It's just been released on DVD, along with a book, »Volker Bradke« und das Prinzip der Unschärfe ["Volker Bradke and the Uncertainty Principle] by art historian Hubertus Butin. From what I can tell, the whole project was designed to turn Richter's friend and studio assistant into a celebrity, using paintings, posters, banners, and a fawning profile film. We'll see how the film turns out when it arrives; but so far, Richter doesn't seem too compelled to revisit the medium. [via @gerhardrichter]

Wallpaper in Art of Two Germanys, part II [lacma blog]


I've been searching for historical and primary source material for Project Echo, one of NASA's earliest missions, which kicked into high gear in 1958. The giant, inflatable satelloons were functional--passive reflection communication satellites. That they were shaped just like Sputnik, only a hundred thousand times bigger, and were visible to the entire world with the naked eye, were, I'm sure, just a happy Space Race coincidence.

Echo I [above, right] was 100 feet in diameter and launched in 1960. Echo II was 135 feet, and launched in 1964. By then engineers at NASA's Langley Research Center figured out that over-stressing the aluminized Mylar would help the giant sphere keep its shape, even if it deflated a little bit. [Echo I was found to have partially caved in a few months after launch.]

Film and TV cameras were included in the Echo II rocket--the film canisters were recovered in the ocean, but I haven't found images from the footage. Video of the Echo II Inflation, however, is right here. Retired Goddard engineer Ron Muller screened it as part of a history of The Echo Project at a 2004 NASA conference on solar sails. It's pretty awesome, right down to the end. [The avi is available for download at the conference page.]

I put a little film strip together after the jump, too:

January 29, 2010

Danish Moisture Farmers


Ten years, people. That's how long it took me to spot this. Ten. Years. What can I say, I got no excuse. I let you down.

Olafur Eliasson, Double Sunset, 1999 []

While I'm on the topic, my friend John Powers has been killing it with his new blog Star Wars Modern.

You may know him from such web awesomeness as Star Wars: A New Heap, which he published on Triple Canopy last year. Clearly, there's more where that came from.


So awesome. With a few skateboard wheels, some L-brackets, and some grip tape, Brussels-based videographer VJ Aalto turned the ladder-shaped side bracket from Ivar, my Ikea component system of choice, into a EUR18 dolly track.

The great-looking test videos are on Vimeo, and the complete parts list is
in the comments on Ikeahacker.

EOS 7D + DIY dolly / 1st indoor test from Aalto on Vimeo.

Hey, look, next to the window, another bookshelf waiting to be sacrificed! Run it from the ceiling for a Professione: reporter remake!

Ivar loves dolly [ikeahacker via @MatthewLangley]

So I was watching Marie Lorenz' video, Capsized, on WNYC's Culture Blog, like I was told to do.

And not just because she had co-curated Invisible Graffiti Magnet Show inside those Richard Serra torqued spiral segments stored along the Bronx waterfront, I clicked through to see photos from Lorenz' less harrowing journeys down the Tiber in her handmade boat.

Including Tiber River III, where she and a colleague from the American Academy look into the Protestant cemetery at Keats' grave.

Which contains the epitaph that ends, "Here lies One Whose Name was writ in Water," which prompts Lorenz to wonder what it means.

"I'm not really sure." said Margaret. "Something about spirituality maybe, or the eternal nature of art. Its just good writing." She said.
Well, the last one out of three, sure, but. So I looked it up.

And the full inscription overexplains it a bit:

This Grave
contains all that was Mortal,
of a
on his Death Bed,
in the Bitterness of his Heart,
at the Malicious Power of his Enemies,
these Words to be engraven on his Tomb Stone:
"Here lies One
Whose Name was writ in Water."
Feb 24 1821
Which makes wonder if Keats was murdered by his editor.

No, The Phrases Finder entry from 2003 tells me that Keats, 25, whose tuberculosis was not, in fact, getting better on his winter trip to Italy, and whose pursuit of true love was thwarted by his poverty, composed the last bit, at least, as a reference to a line from a Jacobean tragicomedy called "Philaster, or Love Lies-Ableeding,": "All your better deeds/ Shall be in water writ."

Which is spiritual in an "All we are is dust in the wind," sort of way, I guess.

But then the Google Ad next to this epitaph is from an outfit called


She was everything to you
Mark her history
with something more
than a gray toaster-shaped
Which, Bread of Life and all, maybe is something about spirituality, but really, it's just good writing.

January 2, 2010

Neto > Bloc > Klein

While poking around last night looking for more films and videos made by Ernesto Neto, I found this clip, a black & white making-of short for Looking for the end, an installation Neto made in the southern Paris suburb of Meudon in 2007.

For Looking for the end Neto filled Andre Bloc's 1964 Habitacle with a construction of giant Octon-shaped elements cut out of strandboard

The look of the film--by Benjamin Seroussi, who grew up in Bloc's house, and whose dealer/collector mother Natalie Seroussi commissioned Neto's piece--echos very nicely with the Habitacle's most famous on-screen appearance, in the opening scene of William Klein's awesome 1966 debut feature, Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?

Who Are You, Polly Maggoo? is a Cold War fashion satire, the freakishly beautiful lovechild of a post-protest march hookup between Funny Face and Dr Strangelove. It's bizarre to think it came out the same year as Blow-Up.

Klein used Bloc's post-constructivist brick pile as the stage for a ridiculous fashion show, where models inserted or bolted into creations of razor-sharp, polished metal [by Paco Rabanne, of course] paraded in front of magazine editors perched on scaffolding. In the post-show scrum of designer adulation, the Diana Vreeland character proclaims, "Je suis galvanisée!"

The opening's on YouTube, but it turns out Criterion released Who Are You, Polly Maggoo? in 2008 as part of a 3-title box set, Eclipse Series 9 - The Delirious Fictions of William Klein.

December 29, 2009

The Battle of Hürtgen Forest


For the Allied forces, The Battle of Hürtgen Forest was the longest and one of the bloodiest, most pointless battles of World War II. Between October 1944 through February 1945, over 33,000 US soldiers were killed in the dense fir forest filled with minefields and fortifications.

Even when the battle turned immediately hellish, far-off Allied generals kept pressing for "victory," which at the time basically meant preserving the pride of the US Army by not retreating, even though there was no apparent strategic value to the German territory.

At least that's Charles Whiting's point in The Battle of Hürtgen Forest, his harrowing-to-overwrought, GI-friendly history, published in 2000. [I bought my copy on Amazon.]

As Wikipedia points out, though, Germany suffered almost as many casualties defending the forest because it stood between the US and a potentially vital dam, and it was a staging ground for the fast-approaching Ardennes Offensive/Battle of the Bulge.

Still, none of that was known or acted upon at the time by US forces, and it certainly wasn't communicated down the line to the soldiers pinned down for days in their nearly useless foxholes.

The photos in Whiting's book are somewhat cursory, and when I imagine the conditions, I inevitably fall back to the episode on the wintertime siege of Bastogne from HBO's Band of Brothers. So Dmitri Kessel's 1951 photo for LIFE, depicting the bombed out, burned out ruins of the once-impenetrable forest kind of caught me off guard.

My great uncle Lark was a staff sergeant in Hurtgen Forest. He'd already fought in Africa, Sicily and France when he was killed on October 9th, one of the earliest casualties of the battle. When it published his obituary a month later, The Richfield Reaper (UT) said only he died "somewhere in Germany." I'm not sure if anyone in my family has ever inquired after or discussed Uncle Lark's experience during the last months and days of his life. But I suspect it was pretty damn grim.

Hurtgen Forest, Germany, 1951, photographed by Dmitri Kessel for LIFE Magazine [life@google]
The Battle of Hürtgen Forest [wikipedia]

Spectacularious music video for "Style," a song from Shankar's Sivaji: The Boss [2007], the most expensive and highest grossing Indian film in history. It was shot on location in Spain, and stars Rajnikanth [b. 1950], the superstar of Tamil cinema, as a--oh, who cares what the plot is? We've come a long way from watching bad VHS dubs on "Namaste America" [Saturday night on Manhattan Cable's leased time channel], let me tell you.

This was my favorite production blurb from Sivaji: The Boss:

5. The team of Shankar saw important footages of most of Rajnikanth's films since his debut in 1975. They found that Rajnikanth looked best in Padikkadavan (1985) film. Then Shankar summoned the make-up artist to come up with a similar hairdo for Rajnikanth 22 years later.

6. Rajnikanth donned 15 different hair styles for this film. He also tonsured his head and shaven off his mustache for a get-up in this film. A make-up artist from France is flown in for this purpose.

Until I found this. Turns out they used CG to lighten Rajnikanth's skin in "Style," to show "how the superstar would look had he been a European." They cloned the skin tone of a British backup dancer frame by frame. Took over a year.

Which I guess makes Rajnikanth the Tamil Bruce Willis and Sivaji: The Boss the Indian Hudson Hawk.

Here's a higher-quality version of "Style" than the one at [via afc]

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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
greg [at] greg [dot ] org

find me on twitter: @gregorg

about this archive

Category: making movies

recent projects, &c.

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
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It Narratives, incl.
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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
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Destroyed Richter Paintings, 2012-
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"Richteriana," Postmasters Gallery, NYC

Canal Zone Richard
Selected Court Documents
from Cariou v. Prince (2011)
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