Category:movies

What you need is a system. To keep you going, to avoid artist's block, to keep the pipeline filled.

I think Lewitt's cubes were less a system than an idiom. Flavin's fluorescent tubes, too.

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Shapes from Maine, 2009, image: petzel.com

Allan McCollum's got a few systems going. Systems are his medium. Define some parameters, calculate the total set, start producing, and don't stop till you--or your market--drops. The Shapes Project, started in 2005, has 31 billion possible permutations, enough for everyone ever to be born on earth to have one. Personally, I'm largely unmoved by McCollum's results, but I respect their jawdropping systemic integrity.

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But On Kawara's Today Series, now that's a system I can get behind. It's a bonus when your system is conceptually tight, also when it can carry you out of this world.

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As that Kawara link above mentions, Hirst's spots are also a system, which operates autonomously and, he's even hinted, which could continue posthumously. [Kawara's date paintings and Hirst's spots were up in NYC at the same time in 2012, and Karen Rosenberg said one series was about time, and the other was about money. I love that.]

Anyway, you want to make sure you don't get trapped by your system. Flavin had a helluva time with that, especially towards the end. So keep enough irons in the fire, throw a system or two into the merchandise mix. Like Richter's new Strip paintings; he'll be able to pull those off the printer till the very last. And he could leave the print queue open in his will, even. [I wish him all the continued health and happiness and look forward to seeing his show at the Beyeler.]

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One would want a system to be ambitious, to stake a large claim, but to be doable, sustainable, saleable over the course of its realization. When Bruce High Quality Foundation announced their project to recreate all 17,000 objects in the Metropolitan Museum's antiquities collection in Play-Doh, it seemed daunting. I guess you could say they'll probably have product available as long as they're able to keep selling.

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Danh Vo, We The People, 2014 installation at Brooklyn Bridge Park, Public Art Fund, image: James Ewing

Danh Vo's We The People project to recreate the Statue of Liberty as 250 separate panels, meanwhile, has a finite end, even though the ridiculously awesome scale of the project seems impossible. On a purely physical object level, this has to be one of my favorite art undertakings ever, a confluence of abstraction & representation, metaphor & literalism, presence & absence. As soon as I get to Vo's pieces on view in City Hall Park and Brooklyn, I'll try to write more about it.

From Kawara [solo] to Hirst [factory] to McCollum [vector files] and Richter [digital] we can see a diminishment of the artist's hand in inverse proportion with the expansion in scope, approaching capitalist nirvana, an industrial-scale infinity.

This is all nice and terribly important, but it's also prelude to what might be the most ambitious readymade art generation system ever, which I'm totally calling dibs on: Webdriver Torso.

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Webdriver Torso is the largest of at least four related YouTube accounts which have been uploading randomly generated videos [the pace is currently two videos ever 8-12 minutes] since mid-2013. Webdriver Torso has nearly 80,000 videos now; on all four accounts there are more than 130,000 videos total. Webdriver Torso's channel now has more than 38,000 subscribers. Where a few weeks ago, almost all the videos had zero views, or maybe one, now videos of seemingly nothing immediately get several dozen views. [The other channels still have mostly zero views.]

Since being discovered and publicized a few months ago, various websites have speculated on the purpose and origin of Webdriver Torso, calling it an alien communications tool, or a crypto-spy numbers station, or a test channel for some video software developer. The most persuasive explanation I've seen so far is Italian blogger Paolo B.'s theory that the Webdriver channels are connected with a YouTube uploader development initiative for 3D videos or multiple videos, run out of Google's Zurich office.

Each video is eleven seconds long and contains ten slides, each with a composition of blue and red quadrilaterals. That's 1.3 million possible compositions, with more being added at an average rate of one every six seconds. And they all look more or less like a Malevich, or Lazslo Moholy-Nagy's Telephone Paintings.

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So obviously turn them into paintings. It seems impractical to sort through all the videos, looking for some "best" composition. Better to stay true to Webdriver Torso's random nature, and grab a few. Or even grab one and use it [all], make nine paintings at a crack. Or maybe use the slides in the most recently uploaded file from the moment you make a sale, or the moment you place the order with Chinese Paint Mill. Then it becomes an indelible, but meaningless, marker, an index of its own creation. Like On Kawara's date paintings, they can be made in various sizes. Maybe you get a giant hard edge monster to anchor an important wall. Or maybe you get a smaller, complete set and grid them up, a la Olafur.

A web storefront that offers paintings in only the compositions from the last few minutes of uploads wouldn't just reward quick purchase decisions: it would demand it. Out with this fair-wandering nonsense of, "Oh put it on hold for me, I'll let you know." and in with Buy It Now. Of course, what'll happen is that someone will sit there and hit refresh all day, in eternal hope that the next batch of nine will have the Webdriver Torso Mona Lisa in it. [Just a second, gotta check Twitter.]

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Ooh, tmpK89znn, which just went up, has some really nice ones in it:

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Let's see how those turn out.

A timeline of Webdriver Torso [botpoet via @soulellis]
the truth about Webdriver Torso [ventunosu21]

I'm really stoked to contribute a top ten list to UbuWeb this month.

When Kenny Goldsmith invited me to submit a list, I first tried to come up with some new, revealing, conceptual strategy for generating it. I thought of the top ten most viewed items, and then the ten least viewed. But then I learned that Ubu doesn't keep logs. I thought of the ten largest files, but then figured it'd just be the longest movies, and big whoop. I thought of a top ten list of top ten lists. And when I worried that I would just be mirroring some taste or trend, I thought of identifying the ten items most frequently included in other peoples' lists. Several more ideas were patiently disabused out of me, and I began running through my chance operations options.

Then I realized I'd already begun making my list, starting back in 2002, when I linked to ubu.com from my blog for the first time. Ubu at that point was still quite mysterious, and much smaller--mostly ancient and arcane concrete poetry reprints I frankly hadn't heard of. But I kept coming back. A huge collection of video and audio appeared, Kenneth Goldsmith came out from behind the curtain, seeming much older and august in my mind than he turned out to be--I imagined he was a survivor of this lost underground scene, not an explorer.

Anyway, I assembled my list from twelve years links here at greg.org, highlights from my life with UbuWeb. They're roughly chronological which has become an indispensable collaborator, not just a source of discovery and inspiration.

September 23, 2013

Lead & Glass

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The High Priestess/Zweistromland, 1985-89, collection: astrum fearnley museet, best photo ever is actually here at kunstkrittik.no

I fell hard for Anselm Kiefer's impossible but seductive lead books back in the day. I was in college and just making my way from religiously/symbolically loaded Italian Renaissance to contemporary art, when I found the lush catalogue for Kiefer's The High Priestess on a visit to Rizzoli in NYC. [NY was then still in the wake of a big Kiefer retrospective, which I'd missed.] It was like the guidebook to the historically saturated, emotionally fraught world Wim Wenders had just captured in his 1987 angels documentary, Wings of Desire.

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The High Priestess, 1989, photos by the artist, image of a signed copy available from bythebooklc in Phoenix

After a few years, I cooled a bit on Kiefer, got a bit more context, began to recognize and be [a bit] skeptical of my own susceptibility to the allure of superlative materialism. So the show at Marian Goodman in 1993, which consisted of the contents of the vanished artist's abandoned studio in Germany--a teetering stack of once-valuable, ruined, dirt-encrusted paintings, and a long table strewn with semen-splattered ledger books--didn't hit me as hard as it did some folks.

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20 Jahre Einsamkeit/20 Years of Loneliness, 1971-1991, image via schjeldahl/artnet

[Re-reading it now for the first time in 20+ years, I realize that Jack Flam's 1992 NYRB essay on Kiefer's work and the euphoric literature it spawned was the source of my unconscious reboot. I basically internalized Flam's argument in its entirety; I must have been a hit at parties, parroting that thing.]

Anyway, the point is, I guess, is I have a long and conflicted relationship with artist books, especially the most physically luxurious and sublime ones. I know this. I live this. I make books myself with as little aestheticizing consciousness as possible because of this.

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And yet, here I am, swooning like an undergrad at the amazing video of Olafur Eliasson's A View Becomes A Window, an edition of nine handblown glass-and-leather books produced for Ivorypress, which is on view in Madrid through this week:

Seeing the colored glass samples stacked up around his studio for the last several years, AVBAW seems like the most normal, logical extension of Olafur's recent work. Which is just the cool, analytical inevitability it needed to get past my sublime defenses.

May 26, 2013

On Hilma Af Klint

In the era marked by the discovery things like electromagnetic waves, radio, and x-rays, invisible realities beyond visual perception, Hilma af Klint sought to depict the higher/spiritual/imperceptible world in paintings, drawings, and writings that she largely hid from public/male view during her life. It all seems like the future, though, by which I mean the present. It's uncanny.

Anyway, here's a documentary where curator Iris Müller-Westermann talks [in Swedish] about the work and practice of Hilma af Klint. The retrospective she organized at the Moderna Museet closed today. It will be in Berlin in June and Malaga in October. [via and a half]

UPDATE: Make that Alfred Leslie and Frank O'Hara's Lamp [see below]

UPDATE UPDATE Just to be clear, let's make that Alfred Leslie and Frank O'Hara's Lamp by Larry Rivers

Obviously the best part of Richard O. Moore's 1966 WNET profile of Frank O'Hara is the poet reading "Having A Coke With You." But 2nd and 3rd best are a tossup between footage of New York back in the day, and this totally bonkers, homemade floor lamp in Alfred Leslie's studio. That's how awesome that lamp is.

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UPDATE
Thanks to Maureen O'Hara for pointing out that this scene was actually shot in Frank's loft, and that the lamp was his, made by Larry Rivers.

Though I did wonder how Alfred Leslie's range included figurative portraits and the large abstract painting behind them, I didn't wonder hard enough to realize it wasn't by Leslie at all. [It's by Mike Goldberg, the subject of O'Hara's 1957 poem, "Why I Am Not A Painter."]

Anyway, clips from Moore's film, as well as other Frank O'Hara interviews and readings are at frankohara.org.

And now that I know a bit better what to look for, here are a couple of additional photos of the lamp in O'Hara's loft, taken, I believe, by Mario Schifano in 1964:

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l-r: Kenneth Koch, John Ashberry photobomb, Patsy Southgate, Frank O'Hara, lamp

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l=r: Southgate, lamp, Bill Berkson, O'Hara (seated), Ashberry, Koch (seated)

This bottom one is almost clear enough to reconstruct the lamp, if need be. Oh, wait, yes, Schifano, as seen in Homage to Frank O'Hara, Berkson and LaSueur's 1988 Pinterest board-avant la lettre, and tumbld by poets.org. So basically, I could take Lamp with Poets here to Canal Hardware and walk out with a complete lamp kit:

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And for additional context, here's at least one other lamp/sculpture Rivers made, this one from 1966.

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Blue Lamp looks like a spray painted construction of welded metal scraps and industrial hardware, with a "studio label" and a stock number on the bottom. Acquired directly from the artist, it didn't sell at Wright20 in 2011, because est. $5-7,000.

USA: Poetry: Frank O'Hara (1966) [youtube via VNY via @jameswagner]
Frank O'Hara - Video [frankohara.org]

I swear I did not know about this when I put up the last Jack Smith/Flaming Creatures post.

The Central Utah Arts Center has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the City of Ephraim in Sanpete County and its mayor, alleging official censorship and discrimination. CUAC was evicted last summer from the city-owned building it had restored and occupied for nearly two decades, and its city funding and school-based programs were canceled after various public officials complained about offensive content in at least two art exhibitions.

The one that started the censor ball rolling, it seems, was a 2011 traveling exhibition which included Jack Smith's Flaming Creatures. In CUAC's court complaint, they quote an email where the mayor of Ephraim calls the showing not "Sanpete appropriate." The City Manager and Economic Development Director of the City then emailed "to share my disgust with the 'art' on view." "I know there are places in the world where smut like this is tolerated but the last place I expected to see it was in Ephraim." And there it was!

The city had filed suit against CUAC after evicting them, and approved turning the building over to a newly formed arts group, one which promised not to show "abstract 'contemporary art' that many residents found esoteric and difficult to understand."

CUAC is seeking damages, restitution, and attorneys fees, as well as to be reinstated in its former premises. This, even though the organization and its director Adam Bateman have fled to that notorious den of permissiveness, Salt Lake City.

Ephraim art center founder says censorship behind eviction [sltrib via artforum]

OK, wow, so this is a music video by Michelangelo Antonioni, one of the first/few things he shot on video. It's a song called "Fotoromanza" from "Puzzle," the first hit album by the Italian pop singer Gianna Nannini. As you can tell just by looking at it, it's from 1984:

Here is Antonioni discussing the music video with Aldo Tassone, in a 1985 interview that first ran in the French cinema magazine Positif, but which is published in English in The Antonioni Project's 1995 compilation, The Architecture of Vision: Writings and Interviews on Cinema

You have shot a feature film and a few shorts on video: how did you find that experience?

It was a very interesting experience, even if at the time, in 1980, the techniques of transferring videotape to film weren't highly developed. The copy--on tape--of The Mistery of Oberwald is very beautiful. I don't understand why the French television didn't distribute it more widely. In America, the commercial I shot for the Renault 9 [!? -ed.] was judged the best commercial of the year. It cost eight hundred million lire to make. For the video I shot for the rock singer Gianna Nannini (the song is called "Fotoromanza"), I only had forty million lire to work with--and in fact I don't much like the end result. To make intelligent videos you need seri­ous money.

I think video is the future of cinema. To shoot on video has so many advantages. To begin with, you have total control over color. The impor­tant thing is to work with a good group of technicians. Video reproduces what you put in front of the camera with almost total fidelity. The range of effects you can achieve is not even comparable to cinema. In the lab, you always have to compromise. On video, in contrast, you have complete control--you always know where you are because you can play it back at any stage, and if you don't like it you can redo it.

The Internet tells me this is Antonioni's spot for the Renault 9. Which looks to me like at least 600 million of those lire went to Jacques Tati:

Which, apologies to the professore, is only the second best driverless Renault commercial I've seen.

Sergio Leone and Ennio Morricone drop mic and leave the stage.

[via @filmstudiesff and @Coburn73]

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Destroyed Richter Painting #03

First off, a huge thanks to everyone who came to the opening of Richteriana Saturday, and a high five to Magda, Postmasters and the artists in the show. It really does look great, and interesting, and provocative. If you can, you should definitely see it in person.

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Destroyed Richter Painting #04

Which is actually one reason I debated not posting images of the Destroyed Richter Paintings paintings I put into the show. One of the real drivers of making the paintings was to approximate the experience of standing in front of paintings that could now only be seen through photos. Or transparencies. Or JPGs. And to measure what the difference is between these different modes of mediated perception.

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Destroyed Richter Painting #02

I did not have access to the actual dimensions of Richter's original works, but I worked hard to deduce the size as well as to approximate the image, so as to make the feeling of seeing a picture in person as authentic [sic] as possible, even while acknowledging that Richter made such an experience impossible.

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Destroyed Richter Painting #05

But looking at jpgs of paintings [of jpgs of paintings of photos] obviously falls short of this idealized encounter. As so much of our art encounter/consumption does. It's a distinction that most people miss or gloss over, but which is not lost on Tyler Green, who recently addressed the subject of critics reviewing shows they haven't seen by tweeting, "I never 'work' off JPEG."

Richter actually showed most or all of the paintings depicted here between 1964-67, so in a way, there's an aspect of going back in time, to encounter Richter and his work at the beginning of his Western career. A time when the context of the work wasn't hype and adulation and skyrocketing prices, but bafflement, resistance, and indignation. There are early photo paintings that survive only because someone bought them or kept them; so these works, which were once good enough to be exhibited or put on sale, were rejected by the market before they were ultimately rejected by the artist himself.

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Destroyed Richter Painting #01

The one exception/mystery is Grau. This is one of the 70+ paintings that did make it into the catalogue raisonne, but which are now listed as destroyed. And if there's a surviving image of the three destroyed grey monochromes [CR395-1-3], I couldn't find it. So all that's known publicly is the dimensions, and the unusual support [wood panel]. But that's part of the beauty of the grey paintings, I thought, that you could think you could credibly extrapolate an actual painting from such minimal information. And seeing it in person really makes me miss Richter's version--and to wonder what happened to it.

At first I was thinking this is odd seeing Warhol himself going at something with a big ol' brush. But then I figured the bloctchy paint scheme for the 1979 BMW M1 was similar to the underpaintings on his portraits, and to the Shadows paintings from the same time, so maybe it wasn't that unusual after all. At least for him.

Though it was for BMW. Warhol was the first artist to paint directly on his art car rather than have the company execute his maquette, which according to Art Car Project responsable Herve Poulain, was done with "exaggerated gestures, like a dancer." Combine that with his signature pit crew jumpsuit, and all the cameras, and it seems clear that Warhol was performing.

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Poulain describes Warhol's concept as camouflage, and a critique of the "war-like" aspect of racing, a reference neither he nor BMW apparently cared for.

commentary-free version of Warhol painting a BMW M1 [via warholstars]
Chattier, bouncier, talking head version of the making of Warhol's BMW Art Car [via bmwdrives.com]

New Yorker music critic Alex Ross posted this extraordinary video of Philip Glass and the Occupy Wall Street General Assembly outside Lincoln Center, where the Metropolitan Opera performed Satyagraha, the composer's 2008 production of his 1980 telling of the early life of Gandhi.

Starting at about 3:00, Glass and the peoples' mic recite the closing lines of the opera:

When righteousness
withers away
and evil
rules the land,
we come into being,
age after age,
and take visible shape,
and move,
a man among men,
for the protection of good,
thrusting back evil
and setting virtue on her seat again.
As operagoers begin to realize what's going on, and that Glass is there, they start ignoring the police cordon trying to direct them away from the protest, and start drifting down the stairs. It's pretty extraordinary.

The Satyagraha Protest [therestisnoise]

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Since 2001 here at greg.org, 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 greg.org that time.

comments? questions? tips? pitches? email
greg [at] greg [dot ] org

find me on twitter: @gregorg

about this archive

Category: movies

recent projects, &c.


sop_red_gregorg.jpg
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

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


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


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

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

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