May 12, 2011

Point Break

Untitled (Point Break), 2010, Roe Ethridge, via andrewkreps

This is in Le Luxe, Roe Ethridge's awesome show at Kreps, through July 3rd.

Related: Crafting Genre: Kathryn Bigelow, a retrospective of the director's film titles, combined with her early videos, paintings and conceptual artworks, opens at MoMA at the end of May. Point Break will be screening twice in early June, and once in August. [see the complete schedule.]


You know, every once in a while, I think that it's crazy to be considering satelloons as art instead of what they really were--aestheticized objects designed to be seen and exhibited.

And then I'll catch a glimpse of Expo 67 somewhere, and realize I'm still well inside the bubble.

A still from The World of Buckminster Fuller, which is on DVD, available at Amazon, not, why would it be?

Previous Expo67 posts:
not that anyone asked, but here's Fuller's own idea for the US Pavilion
on the American Painting Now show, organized by Alan Solomon
the Canadian fracas over Barnett Newman's Voice of Fire
Forgot how much I loved writing this post on art protestor/greenhouse owner John Czupryniak's Newman knockoff, Voice of the Taxpayer
Expo 70 design finding the Expo 67 Pavilion hard to beat

January 27, 2011

The Global Puppy On Terror


In reviewing Johan Grimonperez' 1997 film, Dial H.I.S.T.O.R.Y., which was exhibited at Deitch, Ronald Jones underscores artists' failure to, well, to matter very much in contemporary culture. And he reminded me of this, which I had completely forgotten:

Paul Goldberger's piece in the New Yorker on Frank Gehry's Bilbao museum made an important claim: 'The politics of the Guggenheim Bilbao', Goldberger writes, 'are evident in a single word, "MUSEOA", that is plastered onto the building's facade in enormous letters'. Goldberger's point is that, 'museoa' is not Spanish but means 'museum' in the language of the Basques. We take from the Goldberger essay that a collision between art and politics was inevitable in Bilbao. As a part of the Bilbao Pageantry Jeff Koons' well known Puppy (1992), the floral sculpture that made its magnificent debut in Kassel a few years ago, was to be erected and brought to life with local flowers. Languidly watching workmen hang pots of flowers over the gigantic pup, the police ran a casual check on the license plate of the truck which had been used to deliver the flowers. The truck and plate did not belong together and that's how the terrorists were found out. When the police began nosing around they discovered that the 'gardeners' were arming the adorable puppy with flower pots containing remote-controlled grenades. After the shoot out, in which one policeman was killed, the florist-bombers, members of the Basque group ETA, escaped. Several have since been arrested.
[via frieze]
Related: Felix Gonzalez-Torres on politics and art

Tom Scocca posted about the story just before Christmas, but apparently, Mao Zedong was a Bruce Lee fan.

That's how the Chinese press is reporting the story of Liu Qingtang, [刘庆棠], a ballet dancer and close ally of Mao's wife Jiang Qing, who, as the deputy minister, was put in charge of films at the Ministry of Culture.

Mao was encouraged because of cataracts to cut down on his reading, and to switch to film. Liu was charged with programming and procuring prints for Mao's private screenings.

Scocca picked the story up from Raymond Zhou in China Daily, but Liu's account was first published in November in the Yangcheng Evening News, a major daily out of Guangzhou. It was posted online a few weeks later. Here's the Chinese, "毛泽东有多迷李小龙?", and a choppy Google translation, "Mao Was a Bruce Lee Fan?" [It's remarkable how far Chinese-English autotranslation still has to go. We're barely at Babelfish levels here.]

Liu says his story is from 1974:

Mao Zedong's like to watch movies there are several categories: first, the international award-winning film; second film biography, "Abraham Lincoln", "Napoleon," he loves; third is like watching garden scenery film, like most British films. Often, Mao heard good movie, the file will be down to watch, watch movies right away, very happy.
. At some point, then, Liu traveled to Guangzhou, and on to Hong Kong, where he had not a little bit of trouble getting prints of Lee's films, The Big Boss, Fist of Fury and The Way of the Dragon, from the wary movie mogul Sir Run Run Shaw.

Where Mao would watch only a few minutes at a time, taking up to ten days to finish another film, he apparently sat straight through Lee's movies, and even demanded repeat viewings. Liu was afraid to send the prints back to HK, in case Mao asked to see them again.

The incorporation of Mao into the Bruce Lee fan club, the American-born, Hong Kong-raised, one-quarter German Lee [who is known by his given Cantonese name, Li Jun-fan (李振藩)] was timed with the premiere on CCTV6 of a documentary, "Legend of Bruce Lee," which debuted at Beijing University. It all serves to retroactively position Lee as an inspiring, nationalistic hero of all Chinese, including the Mainland, where he was unknown during his lifetime.

And it all makes me wonder what was actually going on film-wise in the PRC during the tumultuous waning days of Mao's rule. Because there are some contradictions and gaps in Liu's story as it's reported:

Wikipedia, which has the only actual date I can find so far, says Liu was installed as Deputy Culture Minister in February 1976.

Jonathan Clements' 2006 biography of Mao dates the cataracts to 1974, but also says that Mao was nearly blind, and his slurred speech could only be decoded by his nurse.

As Reeve Wong pointed out to China Daily, Bruce Lee's films were actually produced by Shaw's rival studio, Golden Harvest. It's not clear how or where, but Liu still insists that he got the prints from Shaw.

Given the difficulty in tracking down prints of Hong Kong's most popular films, I have to wonder what "international award-winning films" and biopics Liu was able to get his hands on. I mean, was there a copy of John Ford's 1939 film Young Mister Lincoln laying around a cinema after the Revolution?

And the big question, did he watch Michelangelo Antonioni's epic 1972 documentary Chung Kuo? Antonioni originally shot Chung Kuo/ Cina as a left-to-left cultural gift, with Communist Party participation and supervision. After it came out, though, Madame Mao & her cinematic comrades denounced spectacularly as a capitalist reactionary insult to the Motherland.

A lengthy bio of Liu Qingtang at says that in 1976 as the Gang of Four maneuvered for post-Mao power, Minister Liu personally oversaw the production of three "hit films," Back [反击]、Grand Festival, [盛大的节日], and Fight [搏斗] which attacked Deng Xiaopeng.

After Deng regained and consolidated power and began undoing the effects of the Cultural Revolution, Liu followed the Gang of Four into public disgrace, trial and jail. But he's apparently out now, and doing fine, if not quite keeping his dates and titles straight.

We go to History with the culture we have, not the culture you want, or might wish to have at a later time.


316 pages. 136 Mb PDF download. Not including the copyright notices, well under 1,000 words.


I can't quite put my finger on why, but I feel that, at least when The Future looks back on us, here, in this moment, in this culture, in the--as the flight attendant unexpectedly put it when he announced our arrival at Schiphol--in this, the 2,010th Year of Our Lord,


the instruction manual for the 5,000+piece Lego Set 10179-1: The Ultimate Collector's Millennium Falcon may just end up as the touchstone, the most meaningful book, the best we managed to do. It is certainly the pinnacle of something.


During the unboxing, a giddy Amazon customer notes: "The bound instruction book weighs almost as much as the completed model! Almost. It's huge!!!"


Seriously, I'm thinking it should be sold as a stand-alone. On the shelf next to The 9/11 Commission Report. And published in a limited edition art book version, on archival paper. Or at least given a fighting chance by being uploaded onto

I mean, it's allowed, right?

If you plan to print the building instruction, please be sure to download the correct version:
# Building instructions labeled "NA" or "V39" may be printed on US standard letter size paper (8½ in × 11 in, 215.9 mm × 279.4 mm).

# Building instructions labeled "IN" or "V29" may be printed on EU standard A4 paper (210 mm × 297mm, 8.3 in × 11.7 in.) [via things magazine, so this might be the A4 formatted file, fyi]
UPDATE: Lego does have the Instruction Manual available for sale separately. It is $53, plus shipping. []

", slowly and patiently, Mr. Lamson, wearing welder's goggles, moves his drawing machine along."

William Lamson's show at The Boiler, "A Line Describing The Sun," got a nice review from Ken Johnson in the Times today.

The 2-channel video of the making of is pretty awesome.

While I've mentioned it on my Twitter feed--the 500 people who read this blog are the same 500 who follow me there, right? @CheapDrugs4U?--I should say here, too, that I have been invited by the folks at 24|7 Creative, a Facebook group sponsored by HP and Intel, to guestpost some of my favorite art, video, and video art picks on their wall.

This is in a run-up to the Big Event this Thursday, some live coverage of the [also HP and Intel-sponsored] YouTube Play blockbuster/extravaganza/show/event at the Guggenheim. So stay tuned, because while my mother did raise me to be a gracious guest, the 24|7 Creative folks are certainly not paying me enough to sway my opinions on anything.

If you haven't decided whether or not you'll be attending the YouTube Play gig, and your current lack of tickets is a factor in your decision, then hop on over to this comment contest, where you can win a free pair of tickets to this sure-to-be-landmark spectacle.

I tell you, though, it's not a slam dunk. Because holy smokes, Thursday at 6:30 is the only scheduled screening so far at the Film Society at Lincoln Center for Sasha Waters Freyer's new documentary, Chekhov for Children, which tells the incredible-sounding story of Phillip Lopate's 1979 quest to to a Broadway staging of "Uncle Vanya" with a cast made up entirely of New York City 5th and 6th-graders. Including the filmmaker herself. :

Using incredibly rare archival video and super 8mm student-made films and videos, Chekhov for Children explores the interplay between art and life for a group of students across 30 years--including the filmmaker. It is a rare document of its time that meditates upon the reckoning that comes with middle age through the very moving lens of universal themes: first love, mentoring, and parenting.
I'm getting a little verklempt just typing about it.

image: vintage silver gelatin print, signed, Ezra Stoller, 1939, via morehousegallery

Do turning back another chapter or two in the history of enlarged pictures, photomurals, and photomontages, where do they turn up the most [besides/before the Museum of Modern Art]? Expos and World's Fairs. Even more than dioramas, and like the grand cyclorama paintings of earlier eras, giant photos were used by architects--in the service of governments and companies--as modernist, machine age, marketing, mass communication, and propaganda. They were basically highly credible-looking billboards.

None of which is necessarily a bad thing in itself, of course. It's interesting to note, though, who was creating and using them, because for the most part, it was not artists.

Alvar Aalto's Finnish Pavilion at the 1939 World's Fair in New York turns out to have been a stunning and especially instructive example of enlarged photos integrated with modernist architecture. That's it up top in a photo by --let's just say I could just as easily title this whole series, "Everything I Know About Photomurals, I Learned From Ezra Stoller."


In a plain, rectangular building, Aalto wrapped a second floor exhibition space with an undulating wood-slatted wall, inset with three rows of giant photos [Aalto's section plan above, via domus, I think] to create a dramatic, infotaining, 52-foot high atrium. A mezzanine restaurant [below] allowed for closer viewing of the photos, which showed, from top down, "Country," "People," and "Work," which culminated, naturally, in the bazaar of real Finnish products underneath.


And what's that box up there hanging dramatically off the wall, besides the key to the photomurals' media context and appeal? It's a projection booth. Films, presumably on the subject of Finland's awesomeness, were projected onto the atrium wall above the exit. I can't help but see the effectiveness and popularity of large-scale photos as inextricably driven by architects' attempt to harness the modern media magic of the cinematic experience. And as antecedents for the now-ubiquitous, immersive projection and installation art works. Like steampunk Pipilotti Rist.

1939 Finnish Pavilion info [designboom]

From about 44 minutes into John Ruth's 1975 TV documentary, The Amish: A People of Preservation comes this picture of a horse-drawn, single-row corn picker in what looks like galvanized steel:


It's about right here that the sculptural beauty of this machine--I do believe it's a Dearborn-Wood Bros. single-row corn picker, perhaps a precursor to those designed by Clarence Richey and John O'Donnell in 1956 after Ford bought in the company--starts to sink in:


And as soon as you're caught up in the unexpectedly futuristic, asymmetrical, jet wing-like, origami-like form,


it's gone.


On another note, the Amish in 1975 appear to have been a lot less self-conscious about cameras in their midst. I blame Witness.

The Amish: A People of Preservation []

September 16, 2010

La Dolce Book Trailer

Wow, if I didn't worry the ghost of Fellini would come back and smack me upside the head, I'd say the book trailer for Chris Lehmann's Rich People Things is the The Bicycle Thief of book trailers.

Instead, let's go with, "It'll make you say, 'Hitler in a bunker who?'" That'll fit on a marquee, won't it?

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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: movies

recent projects, &c.

Our Guernica Cycle, 2017 –
about/kickstarter | exhibit, 2017

Social Medium:
artists writing, 2000-2015
Paper Monument, Oct. 2016
ed. by Jennifer Liese
buy, $28

Madoff Provenance Project in
'Tell Me What I Mean' at
To__Bridges__, The Bronx
11 Sept - Oct 23 2016
show | beginnings

Chop Shop
curated by Magda Sawon
1-7 March 2016

eBay Test Listings
Armory – ABMB 2015
about | proposte monocrome, rose

It Narratives, incl.
Shanzhai Gursky & Destroyed Richter
Franklin Street Works, Stamford
Sept 5 - Nov 9, 2014
about | link

TheRealHennessy Tweets Paintings, 2014 -

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

"Exhibition Space" @ apexart, NYC
Mar 20 - May 8, 2013
about, brochure | installation shots

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)
about | buy now, 376pp, $17.99