I don't know much about Imi Knoebel's Sternenhimmel photos, except they look awesome. And by awesome, I mean, like the gridded slice of sky seen captured by the Palomar Observatory Sky Survey photos I installed at apexart a couple of years ago.


Sternenhimmel is actually Sternenhimmel - für Lola, a portfolio of 54 prints, each 40x30cm, that Knoebel apparently shot in 1970, but only produced as an edition in 2006. He has a granddaughter named Lola who looks to be about that age, so maybe that's why.

This is ed. 1/7, plus 2APs, and this is the second time it's come up for sale at Christie's. I'd like to think his 8yo granddaughter is not hard up for the £12-18,000 they didn't sell for in 2014 or the £7-10,000 they're estimated at now. But maybe she got an AP.

Not much is online about Sternenhimmel, except Joerg Heiser's discussion of seriality and Knoebel's 1975 Kunsthalle Düsseldorf exhibition:

The conceptual focus of the pictures of stars, which were brought together into one large picture in the exhibition, is that one star was added to each photo, but this information is not supplied in the catalog. The star motif makes the refusal to communicate sexy; it does not reflect obtuse mental sloth, but is mysteriously seductive due to the cosmic, unending series of stars. It is minimal techno, so to speak, long before it existed, digital in the analog age. Black and white as 0 and 1.
Imi Knoebel, Projections, 1974, 28 photos, ed. 2/9, image: christies

Knoebel was making a series of 250,000 line drawings (Linienbilder) and photos documenting the flashing patterns of lights in a closed room (Innenprojektionen, above), so maybe taking a picture of every star was just one more grand project doomed to futility. (Not to get too On Kawara about it, but if he kept it up, he probably could've finished the drawings by now. 250,000 drawings in 50 years is only like a dozen a day.)

14 Apr 2016, lot 168, Imi Knoebel, Sternenhimmel - für Lola, 1970/2006, est. £7-10,000 [christies]
Seriality and Color in Knoebel's Work []

December 8, 2015

Your Star, Skystar

Ice Watch, 2015, image:

The big Olafur Eliasson news out of Paris last week was obviously Ice Watch, the circle of ancient Greenland glacier fragments melting and popping in front of the Pantheon.

depiction of Your Star test flight, 2015, image:

This week Olafur is in Stockholm launching Your Star, a public art commission from the Nobel Committee. It is inspired, he explains, by the "space before an idea," the space from which an idea emerges, the moment when you first register a curiosity or change. In this case, it is the change in the night sky over Stockholm caused by an LED tethered to a balloon, which is powered by a battery charged by a solar panel that captured the energy of the summer sun. Your Star is a new star that returns the light of summer to the dark night of Stockholm in December.

RT-LTA video still of Skystar 180 deploying from its monitoring station

But even if you're still in Paris, you can get a sense that something is different in the sky, and change is afoot on the ground. @domainawareness notes that Paris intelligence officials have leased a surveillance balloon from the Israeli defense contractor RT-LTA Systems, to monitor protestors and other members of the public during the climate talks.

RT-LTA press photo of Skystar 180 deployed with 360-degree surveillance camera

The Skystar 180 was used in Israel's war on the Gaza Strip last year, and is deployed near contested holy sites in the Old City of Jerusalem, as well as throughout East Jerusalem and Palestinian areas in the occupied West Bank.

One is art, one is policing. One you watch, one watches you. It's easy to think of differences, but Skystar and Your Star look so much alike that I have to wonder what else they have in common: they are both designed to exist in and affect public space. In his Nobel Week greeting, Olafur talked about the importance of public space:

It is where people come together, to exchange opinions, to disagree, to agree, and through doing all of this they help co-creating society. So does culture. I think it's very important to keep our public space alive, resilient, and open for change and renegotiation.
Think of that in Paris, where protestors try to influence the political negotiators, primarily by influencing media narratives--and where the looming presence of police surveillance seeks to document what it can't intimidate or silence by its presence.

O hi. I am here, watching you.

And now think of the original public sites where these aerostats are permanently deployed: occupied neighborhoods where Palestinians and Arab Israelis under decades-long seige or contestation where renegotiation takes place with rocks, bullets, tear gas, and bulldozers.

It turns out both Skystar and Your Star function by being seen. The former as a projection of power and potential deterrent, the latter as an inspiration. This turns out to bear an uncanny resemblance to the original Project Echo satelloon, which was created to be a visible presence in the sky, an inspiring beacon of American power and progress. It was also intended to acclimate people to the presence of satellites overhead, to normalize the eventuality of being watched by surveillance satellites.


When he originally conceived of a large inflatable satellite to win the hearts and devotion of the developing world, Werner von Braun called it an American Star.

Your Star []
Jerusalem - Spy Balloons Give Police New View Of Jerusalem [vosizneias, the voice of the orthodox jewish community]

November 30, 2015


Ringo Starr and Barbara Bach are decluttering and downsizing, from Monaco/Surrey/Snowmass/Beverly Hills to LA and a London apartment. Nearly 1400 lots of furniture, art, clothing, memorabilia, and borderline boot sale junk will be auctioned this week in LA. Here are some of the things:


First up, Lot 79, Originally John Lennon and Yoko Ono's Refectory Table [est. $5-7,000, sold for $19,200]

"'This refectory table was left at Tittenhurst by John and Yoko when I took over the house. Enjoy!' - Ringo." That would be in 1971. Tittenhurst Park was outside London. Starr sold it to the Emir of Abu Dhabi in 1988, but took the table with him. Hey, here it is in the living room of Rydinghurst, Starr & Bach's Jacobean estate in Surrey, which they put up for sale last year. Look at how they lay down a Google-like blur on the artwork in estate agent photos.


And speaking of tables, what is up with that coffee table? It's big and moon-shaped and filled with gazing balls. Or giant Christmas ornaments? I cannot tell, and the designer Ringo Starr doesn't weigh in this time.

Lot 351, Moon Coffee Table Designed by Ringo Starr [est. $1,000-2,000 sold for just $1,920]


And speaking of gazing balls, holy smokes. Lot 608, Two Monumental Gazing Spheres [est. $3,000-5,000] They're from Rydinghurst, and each one is 36 inches across. Let's see Jeff Koons try to handle those. [WHAT, sold for just $1,920? Why didn't you ever get back to me with the condition report??]


And finally, speaking of satelloon-looking things, Lot 411, Galaxy Theme Platform Bed [est. $800-1,200] "'When we bought the house in 1992 in LA, we had this bed made so we could sleep under the stars and moons, and surrounded by the stars and moons.' - Ringo." Will the presumably LA-based Master Of The Ringo Starr's Bed Starscape with the initials SWG please come forward and take a bow? [Yes, well, sleeping in Ringo and Barbara's bed? Priceless, but apparently they'll take $875.]

Lot 1005, **RINGO STARR'S UK 1st MONO PRESSING WHITE ALBUM NO.0000001 [est. $40-60,000]

Oh wait, no, one more: It turns out Ringo got the first numbered copy of the White Album, and he put it in a vault. Now it is selling for at least $55,000. What a world. #monochrome [WHAT A WORLD INDEED: $790,000.]

Property from the Collection of Ringo Starr & Barbara Bach, 12/03/2015 [julienslive via jjdaddy-o]

September 4, 2015

On The Golden Record


Could this really be happening? Four years ago I wished for a way to play back the Golden Record, the earthly calling card stuck to the sides of the Voyager space probes nearly 40 years ago. I knew all the recordings and diagrams and photos Carl Sagan and friends recorded on there, but I wondered what it would actually be like to play it back? What would the 116 images turn out like if you played them off an analog record with a needle, and then assembled the 512 raster lines?

I wanted to find an extra Golden Record and play it, which turned out to be hard-to-impossible. And also unnecessary. [Though I'm still game, if you have a Golden Record I can borrow!] Because the Record has been played.

A few weeks ago, Man Bartlett tweeted about some strange electronic passages in a NASA recording of the Golden Record:

And then sound artist Ranjit Bhatnagar identified them as the encoded data for the 116 photographs. Here's one of the first images Ranjit processed, the aliens' intro to Earth Math:


above: Image of math chemistry from Voyager 1 by Frank Drake, below: same image decoded by Ranjit Bhatnagar

So this is it. The answer was sitting right there on the Internet Archive the whole time. And yet.


above/below: image of Earth, and image of Earth decoded from Voyager 1 by Kyle McDonald

Within a few minutes of Ranjit's decoding, code artist Kyle McDonald happened by, and blew things wide open with his distortion adjustments, which he promptly documented and pushed to github. So it just took four years and one serendipitous hour. And now we know that the images we've sent out into the universe look like a 1970s TV with a tinfoil antenna.

Voyager1 audio track []
Kyle McDonald | Voyager 1 Decoding [github]
Previously: Off The Golden Record


The first successful photographic image of the sun's corona was taken 164 years ago today. A daguerrotypist named J. Berkowski was brought to the Royal Observatory in Königsberg, Germany (now Kaliningrad, Russia) by the director, Augustus Busch, to record a solar eclipse on 28 July 1851. According to this 2005 paper in Acta Historica Astronomiae, Berkowski soon made some daguerrotype reproductions. Busch commissioned Robert Trossin of the Royal Academy of Painting to make a steel engraving of the daguerrotype. In 1891, CFW Peters had Berkowski's original daguerrotype photographed for publication. It has since been lost.

Four of Berkowski's copies were known, including one in the Jena Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, Germany [above]. The order of copying events in the Jena description does not quite line up with the 2005 paper, even though the author, Dr. Reinhard Schielecke, is the same.

The moon in the 2nd-generation daguerrotype is tiny: 8.7mm across. The original was under 8mm. The Jena print is thus only around 5x6cm, as wide as the screen on an iPhone 4s, but shorter. It was recently conserved, and the Google translation makes me wonder if images of the daguerrotype have been Photoshopped a bit.

I don't expect to beat diehard collectors of Prussian daguerrotypes to the rediscovery of another of Berkowski's prints. It would probably be easier to start from scratch and make a new daguerrotype of a solar eclipse somewhere.

ABSTRACT: "On the Berkowski daguerreotype (Königsberg, 1851 July 28): the first correctly-exposed photograph of the solar corona" [ via @coryspowell]
Daguerreotypie der Sonnenfinsternis vom 28. Juli 1851 []
Konservierung der Berkowski-Daguerreotypie abgeschlossen []

We'll talk about this in the morning.

Chris Burden, Modified Moon Piece, 2010 image: manpodcast


November 2011: This was sitting right there in the first episode of Modern Art Notes Podcast, waiting. And even though he wouldn't tell me who the guest was, Tyler had been goading me before the launch, that I better listen, there is a surprise. Because he knew about the satelloons.

And I did not know about Chris Burden's unrealized 1986 proposal for The Moon Piece, which is basically to launch the biggest possible spherical inflatable mylar balloon satellite into orbit.

Which was basically the same idea I'd had four years earlier. Or nineteen years later, depending on who's counting.

Or was it? Maybe it's fine? Maybe it's different? Relationship status: it's complicated. Green teed the question about Burden wanting to build something like the Eiffel Tower. And in discussing The Moon Piece Burden said it could be a giant spherical balloon or an even more "giant parabolic mirror you could control." Which, if you made it about "the size of Lake Havasu," [78 km2, btw. -ed.], you could use to "light [all of] New York from above."

So maybe it's not a satelloon at all, then. And he's talking about something permanent, and big enough to light cities from space. This sounds like the Russian thing. Except it can't be, at least not originally. Green cited a 1988 interview with Paul Schimmel as the source for this proposal. And solar mirrors didn't really show up until the 90s. Russia ran a proof-of-concept solar mirror program called Znamya from 1992-99 which, it was hoped, would boost solar power production and bring light to darkest Siberia. But it only had one success: a 20-meter-diameter mirror launched in 1992 which produced a 5km-wide beam as bright as the full moon. Later, scientists at Livermore Lab proposed massive solar mirrors as one extreme technological approach to geo-engineering humanity's way out of the climate change crisis. So this solar mirror aspect is different, maybe an adaptation, an addition, and it shows the artist was keeping tabs on things. But Burden's original The Moon Piece idea is/was a satelloon.

It turns out Burden first pitched The Moon Piece in a letter to Edward Fry, who was co-curating Documenta 8 (1987) The letter was [first?] published in the appendix of the amazing 2005 monograph, Chris Burden. [Which I bought in 2008, but didn't read all the way, even after getting more into his work in 2009.]:

[The satellite's] "only function and purpose would be to reflect light back to earth. This special satellite would function much in the same manner that our present moon reflects sunlight. I foresee that this huge satellite could be manufactured out of fairly inexpensive, highly reflective Mylar film and be carried into outer space in a deflated state (like an uninflated balloon).


The Moon Piece will be highly visible to the naked eye and appear, in relation to the pin points of starlight, as a bright automobile headlamp moving rapidly across the night sky, one-fifth to one-tenth the size of the moon. The most sophisticated and the most primitive of cultures will be aware that something has changed in the heavens.


This is not simply a conceptual project. This project is technically feasible and to function as a work of art it must be actualized.


Obviously more research and information needs to be done on the specifics of the Mylar balloon such as size, thickness of Mylar, weight, etc., but I believe that The Moon Piece is physically and financially feasible given enough energy. If this idea, of putting into orbit a highly reflective satellite that would light up the heavens, could come to fruition I believe it would well be worth the effort.

On the one hand, it's nice to feel like you're on the same wavelength with someone whose work and career you admire. On the other hand, damn.


But some things stood out. Like Burden "foreseeing" the possibility of the satellite's existence, and not knowing any of "the specifics." Is it possible that Burden really did not know that these exact objects had already been created and deployed in the 1960s, when he was a teenager? I can't believe it. Was it not important to his concept, or his pitch, to reference their historical sources, or their current non-art uses? Apparently.

And he adapted The Moon Piece, which began with the assumption that after 20 years, an inflatable satellite could be bigger, and after 30 years it could be bigger still. Or it could use future-state-of-the-art technology and be a mirror as big as a lake. Burden's constants were big, reflective, and in space. But other than that, the 2010-11 version didn't sound any further along than 1986's.

Thumbnail image for exhib_space_install_01.jpg

A few months later (in 2012) I was working on making and showing a satelloon at apexart in New York, and I uncovered aspects of satelloons and their history that mattered. The concept had originated with none other than Wernher von Braun, who proposed, not a new moon, but a new, "American Star" which would awe the lesser nations into supporting the US in the Korean War. Von Braun wrote that in a widely published Time | Life book on space travel. Burden's language about "primitive cultures" knowing "something has changed in the heavens is straight from von Braun's pitch. The NASA engineer who had claimed the most credit for Project Echo came up with the idea at von Braun's V-2 rocket conference. It was OK'd after Sputnik because US military leaders wanted a visible satellite would normalize people to the presence of spy satellites and surveillance.

This is context I only pieced together after five years of researching. Burden missed or omitted not just this, but the very existence of Project Echo, when he proposed Moon Piece for Documenta1. Would it have turned up in Kassel? How would that've gone over? I can't even imagine.

Except that I did, and I still do. My apexart experience has made me very wary of satelloons, which are seductive, but also politically problematic. Their beauty and surface make them impossible to ignore, which makes it worse. I've also found that where I once felt daunted and insecure about having the same idea as a major artist I admired, I am OK with it. Partly because I realized my project is better.

And that, plus a $25,000 Marquis Jet card, can get you to Basel. Burden nailed it the first time: this is not a conceptual project, destined merely for Hans Ulrich's files. It must be actualized. And so it's especially unfortunate that Burden, whose genius was superlative physicality, can't see The Moon Piece in the sky himself.

After hearing about The Moon Piece, Green's follow-up question was whether Burden would be OK with people "mining his files" to produce his unrealized projects "after you're no longer with us." It's a conversation that obviously sounds very different now than it did in 2011, which is just one reason it's taken me more than a week to write this blog post. "if somebody wanted to do that after I'm not around, that'd be fantastic," Burden said. "I think that's why people become artists, you know. To have a life beyond them. I mean, it's a way to become immortal."


The Project Echo satellites stayed in orbit for five and eight years before gravity pulled them into the earth's atmosphere. It's not quite immortality, but it's a start.

Related, devastatingly: Chris Burden dies at 69 [latimes]
2007: If I were a sculptor, but then again
2013: Exhibition Space []
Listen to the entire discussion between Chris Burden and Tyler Green on Episode 1 of MANPodcast [manpodcast]
Or listen to the 3:00 MANPodcast excerpt where Burden & Green talk about The Moon Piece [dropbox, 4.6Mb mp3]

[1] What did Burden end up showing in Documenta 8, anyway? I have found him listed in the participating artists on Documenta's own site, as showing "audio". Of Burden's four pre-1987 audio works, only The Atomic Alphabet and Send Me Your Money, both 1979, seem likely. For his part, the artist's official CV only mentions Documenta 6, in 1977. Fry was the American co-curator on both.


This post is for the archivists out there, and is inspired by putting away sweaters and Paul Soulellis's Rhizome post about zip files.

In September 2010 I wrote about what I called the Gala-as-Art Movement.

installation image of Untitled (#rank Gift Bag) via hyperallergic

In December I presented an expanded history of Relational Aesthetics For The Rich at #rank, Jen Dalton and William Powhida's Art Basel Miami Beach follow-up to #class. Both #rank and #class were done for Ed Winkleman Gallery. #rank was actually part of Seven, the independent satellite exhibition. I later put a poorly edited audio/slideshow version of the Gala As Art on Vimeo. I expect I will edit the transcript and images into book form as well.


I decided at the last minute to create an edition for the #rank event, and that the most appropriate form was a gift bag. I was reminded of how, staying true to its gift bag nature, I had not explained the edition, and had not identified it as an edition per se, even though, if you looked, there were clues. Up until now, this Hyperallergic photo of Veken and Jesse Lambert was the only public documentation of this edition.

Then I was putting some sweaters away this weekend, and I found a bag of leftover parts from editions that had gone uncollected after the event. I will now describe the edition, its elements, and its development.

The impetus for an edition was the gold-leaf chocolate lips dessert edition created by Kreemart for Marina Abramovic's The Artist Is Present after-gala. I put edible silver leaf on red wax lips, and repackaged them. I also bought edible gold leaf, which, having never bought it before, I found unexpectedly expensive. I tested with the silver and found it satisfying, but I did not return the gold.


The lips alone were insufficient, however, and thus the gift bag idea was reached. The color theme came from the silvered lips, which, as the colors of a Diet Coke can, also evoked the autobiographical. I wanted to add a tchotchke, like a LIVESTRONG bracelet, but the lead time was killing me.


I decided to publish the supporting media for the project the way Doug Aitken had made an artist book for his MOCA Happening. I thought of burning a bunch of DVDs, but I didn't want to get all designy. I thought of a customized USB stick, but again, I had too little lead time. These two objects merged into one, though, when I found a silicone bracelet with USB memory embedded. I signed and numbered the band, and named each drive with its edition number. I remember after the event, hearing people not realizing it was a USB stick, and thinking oh well, no one gets it, and no one will ever see it.


In the few minutes between finding these USB bracelets and opening one again, I imagined publishing the whole thing as an e-book, or a PDF. I'd remembered more texts and fewer videos. Which is why Soulellis's zip file art publishing stuck in my mind. But that's the beauty of zip-based publishing: it can take anything. And so they're here, as The contents are as seen in the screenshot above.

The bag also contained a card, in the format of a gala invitation, in which all the artists mentioned were listed as benefit committee members. I have not found the leftover stack of these cards, which were hastily and unsatisfyingly produced on the ground at some Kinko's in Miami Beach. But when I do, I will document it here.

The bags are similarly suboptimal, looking nothing like their pictures in the Oriental Trading Co. catalog. The silver mylar, however, is just right, and should be properly considered by future historians of the exhibition history of satelloons.

Untitled (#rank Gift Bag) is the second time I've introduced an artwork in the context of a presentation. Instead of site-specific, they're situation-specific. In each case, I took Cary Leibowitz's practice to heart, and signed something "so you won't throw it away." And yet even considering fluxus and James Lee Byars and the stuff I've got socked away in storage, I expect that few if any examples of either piece have survived in the wild. I also expect that it doesn't matter.

So while this doesn't reconstitute the works, and I'm not inclined to do anything with the leftovers, when it comes to ever discussing the works and their experience, I have changed my position on whether you really had to be there. [dropbox]

Previously: An Incomplete History of The Gala-as-Art Movement []
The Gala As Art As Slideshow [ibid.]
The Gala As Art,, at #rank 2010 [vimeo]
Why Ed Winkleman did #rank at the Seven Miami Art Fair [hyperallergic]


What's that? #20 - Soyuz TMA-5 Flown Flag? Oh nothing, just a flag, like you'd see anywhere.

Next month RR Auction is selling a Confederate Flag that flew on the International Space Station. It is signed by Salizhan Sharipov, the Russian cosmonaut who brought at least five of the flags to the ISS in 2004-5, and by NASA's own Leroy Chiao, who was the commander of the pair's 6-month expedition.

The flags caused an uproar when they first started appearing on the flown souvenir market in 2006, and both Chiao and Sharipov acted like they had no idea how those flags might've--Confederate flags, you say? Well how'd that--who coulda--

Which seems like total crisis PR-driven bullshit, and a lot of needless racist hassle for a couple hundred bucks. But anyway, here one is.

#20 - Soyuz TMA-5 Flown Flag, est. [rrauction]

Satellite Communication: Untitled (YOUR NAME HERE), Study for Dasha

Previously: If I Were A Sculptor, But Then Again

June 17, 2014

On Roman Balls


I was looking up something else entirely when I came across this post at the travel blog, Rome the Second Time, an architecture professor explaining how giant balls are a "very fascist" architectural element, which were popular starting in the 1920s.

The photo above is of a fascist-era housing complex in Garbatella, for example, and there are several more great examples.

Which, on the one hand, good to know, because seven years ago, when I first mapped out the world for places that could accommodate showing a 100-foot-diameter satelloon as an art object, the Pantheon in Rome was one of only a handful of possibilities. In concept, in fact, it seems like it'd be the perfect choice. [Eventually the Grand Palais in Paris joined the list, too.] But if spheres read to Romans as fascistic artifacts, you'd need to take that into account.


The perfection the fascists loved also made Gerhard Richter very skeptical of spheres. He complained that with spheres it's "impossible to get any closer to perfection," and so you stop. Except when you don't; 16 years after he said this Richter created his own shiny steel sphere editions.

The Balls of Rome [romethesecondtime]

If I Were A Sculptor, But Then Again...
Les Sateloons du Grand Palais
Shiny Balls by Gerhard Richter

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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: documenta, et al

recent projects, &c.

Chop Shop
curated by Magda Sawon
1-7 March 2016

eBay Test Listings
Mar – Dec 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"
Mar 20 - May 8 @apexart, NYC

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