Category:scott sforza, wh producer

September 13, 2013

Hell Yes, Francois Hollande!

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image: reuters via @noonz

My gosh, have I been wrong in trying to ignore French president Francois Hollande all this time?

Watch the video how the robot's handler, from Aldebaran Robotiques, turns its head toward the cameras. Presumably so it doesn't look like it's nursing. [francetvinfo.fr]

The robot told Hollande it's name was Nao, and that it is seven years old. I would have guessed at least eight:


Algorithm Exercise with QRIO by daisu


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Denis Charlet/AFP

Congratulations, François Hollande, you have made the dumbest on-camera face of any international leader since 2005, when George Bush tried to exit a Beijing press conference through a locked door.

gwb_beijing_doors.jpg

Decision to withdraw unflattering photo of François Hollande is criticised [guardian]
Previously, 2005: Mandate of Heavens to Murgatroid

July 25, 2013

Dome Half Full

You know what? It's the little differences.

When Americans think of Buckminster Fuller's Geodesic dome, they probably remember the eternal, benevolent optimism of the US Pavilion at the 1967 World's Fair in Montreal. Oh yes, good times.

If only Europe could look back to these days, and past the array of geodesic domes dotting the continent, the ones in which NATO radar dishes and surveillance equipment have been cloaked, then everything would be awesome once again.

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Looks like Der Spiegel didn't get the memo.

What spate of unfortunate public disclosures and Oscar losses could ever have precipitated the CIA's decision to allow coverage of its "museum"? Or maybe what beat needed to be freshly greased by NBC, that it would propose a tour of the awesome, closed-to-the-public historical exhibition spaces at Langley?

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image: John Makely/NBC News

We'll never really know, but the day before military prosecutors made their closing arguments against Pfc Bradley Manning, we were somehow lucky enough to see the AK-47 that belonged to Osama bin Laden himself, or at least the one that was found, in undiscussed circumstances, near him in the Abottabad room where he was killed.

I am most impressed by its presentation, on a simple painted grey shelf, with a bullet-riddled book of some kind, which is mounted against a tumultuous photomural of, of what, exactly? A massive explosion ripping apart a heavily forested hillside? I'm sure that's not an image from the botched attack on the caves of Tora Bora, where the US, already chomping at the Iraqi bit, let bin Laden get away in 2002. The CIA would not have such self-criticality [on unclassified display].

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Haim Steinbach, installation, 1979, image via bard.edu

But one thing we do know: at least one operative in Langley is a fan of Haim Steinbach.

'Secret' CIA museum features Osama bin Laden's AK-47 [nbcnews]
Haim Steinbach: Once Again The World Is Flat, runs through Dec. 20, 2013 at CCS Bard [bard.edu]

June 30, 2013

Laserpointer Pyramid

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Khaled Desouki's extraordinary photo of crowds in Cairo tonight forming a pyramid of laserpointers trained on a military helicopter [AFP].

Reminds me of the searchlight wigwam converging on nothing over the skies of a frightened Los Angeles, 1942:

wigwam_lat_1942_version.jpg

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James Bridle of the New Aesthetic and Dronestagram Bridles opened a show at the Corcoran this evening, and I attended. It was the first time James and I have met in person, after several years of blogging at each other.

The show itself is small and drone-centric, containing a grid of Dronestagram images and Google Map dronespottings, but also video, a 10-volume printed excerpt of a UAV-related webcrawling database project in development, and Bridle's classic drone identification kit [below].

bridle_dronekit_corcoran.jpg

The most stunning and disturbing image in the show is a realization Bridle made of the "Light of God," a nightvision goggle-eye view of a targetting laser descending from the heavens. It's based on a drone pilot's commentary in an Omer Fast video, and it's gorgeous, eerie, and chilling as hell.

During his talk in the adjacent auditorium, Bridle began by mentioning how he is compelled to make physical the things he studies. His most powerful piece, the life-sized outline of a drone drawn on the ground, is an excellent example of this.

In answer to one of the last questions, about materialist formalist dialectic, Bridle noted how he often found himself making an object of something from the network, in order to photograph it and reinsert it into the network. The Corcoran show feels like this: a physical instantiation of digital content.

The idea for the show, or particularly, for Bridle to be the go-to guy for such a show, more than just The New Aesthetic Guy, but certainly that, came from the Corcoran's IT department, said the curator who introduced the evening. I will choose to take this as evidence of the Corcoran's cross-disciplinary innovation and flat organization, not as a sign of a vacuum at the top of the institution. Anyway, the whole affair seems closely linked to the school side of the Corcoran, i.e., the still-functional side. The crowd was crowded, and felt student-heavy.

Anyway, James Bridle. Bridle noted that we in Washington are lucky to have a real Predator drone in our midst, right there at Air & Space Museum. It is exceedingly rare, he said, and he would know, to be able to be in the presence of an actual drone. They're either largely invisible, or they're bearing down on your village. And there's one hanging on the Mall.

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And now there is the shadow of one, the outline of one, really on the sculpture pad of the Corcoran. That's how it's described, as being sited on the sculpture pad. Obviously, it doesn't begin to fit on the sculpture pad. It's painted on the pad, the rocks, the curb and sidewalk, with white paint of some no doubt temporary kind.

It is much bigger than you might imagine, which is exactly the point. That, and imagining it being overhead and casting a shadow on the ground, the thing a Pakistani wedding party might see right before the missile hits.

Bridle noted as to how not many people will get to see this privileged view from above. I would note that White House staff in the Eisenhower Old Executive Office Building will get to see it every day, and that right there is quite something.

But he's right, and it underscores his point, that the drone outline reads quite differently from the ground. It's not Nazca Lines different, but that's the sense of it.

I asked James later how he'd decided which way to point the drone. There was really only one good way to fit it, he said, and also, he knew he didn't want to aim it at the White House. Which is understandable. When he installed his first drone drawing in Istanbul, Bridle similarly made sure not to aim the drone at Mecca. In consciously not aiming at the White House, Bridle's drone ends up feeling like it's coming directly from the White House. Which probably intensifies its critical position a bit. It worked for me, at least.

In between these moments was a cogent, timely, and depressing talk about technology as a tool of control and a reflection of the political and social systems that foster and use it. If it was recorded or streamed, I will try to find a link.

Meanwhile, as I walked around the drone on my way home, I did think of one piece missing. Not to tell James how to do his job or anything. But it occurs to me that the sound of drones is distinctive and terrifying. Perhaps a sound element to recreate the perpetual presence of drones in the vicinity of the Corcoran, would provide a visceral experience. Who knows, it might even wake the neighbors.

Indeed: Corcoran College of Art & Design: Quiet Disposition by James Bridle, through July 7, 2013 [corcoran.edu]

May 17, 2013

Booya

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As soon as I saw these images of Marines called in to hold umbrellas over Presidents Obama and Erdogan yesterday, I laughed imagining how the Booya! diaspora of military fanbois from the previous administration would take it.

And right on cue, they declared a scandal, because male Marines do not hold umbrellas. Which, honestly.

This round goes to Obama on points. [images uncredited somehow on booyahoo! it's like the first step of their tumblr acquisition is to stop crediting image sources]

February 4, 2013

Chinese Transcendentalism

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Photojournalist Feng Li has some truly epic images of Tienanmen Square in the recent post on Beijing pollution at In Focus. Like the giant video wall above, which feels like a cross between Blade Runner and Happy Together.

feng_li_tianenmen_02.jpg

And this extraordinary image of a flag-raising ceremony just out of frame, which sure? Whatever you need to say in order to get that amazing gradient.

If Frederic Edwin Church were alive today, he'd be wearing a panda mask and painting in Beijing.

China's Toxic Sky [see fullsize images by Feng Li/Getty at The Atlantic]
Previously, related: Kodak Colorama

January 9, 2013

Supreme Sforza

ussc_gtmo_loeb_afp.jpg
image: protestor in front of the US Supreme Court on Jan. 8, 2013, the 11th anniversary of the opening of the Guantanamo prison. by Saul Loeb for AFP/Getty

I've been meaning for a couple of weeks now to post a photo of the extraordinary construction scrim on the front of the US Supreme Court, which has a full-scale photo reproduction of the actual building. Here we go, since this tweet:

I had no idea. So I looked it up. And was troubled by the fact that I had no idea it had been in place since last May. During the 21-month west facade stone restoration project, "The scaffolding and ongoing conservation work will be concealed by a scrim that will mimic the Court's architecture."

The Supreme Court building was designed by Cass Gilbert with John Rockart, and completed only in 1935. From its overall classical Greek temple design to the sculptures on the facades to the smallest ornamentations of the bronze flagpoles and handrails, is highly symbolic. As Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes said at the laying of the cornerstone in 1932, its very creation and existence are symbolic:

The Republic endures and this is the symbol of its faith...the national ideal of justice in the highest sphere of activity.
So it is entirely appropriate, then, to take a symbolic view of the scrim as well, and its illusionistic simulation of Equal Justice Under Law. As symbolic curtains go, it's the most inadvertently damning drapery since Colin Powell covered up the UN Security Council's Guernica tapestry in 2003.

The anniversary of Guantanamo coincided with the unreleased ruling in the hearing on Pvt. Bradley Manning's illegal and abusive detention without charge. The cancer of vengeance and torture that the US government first directed only toward foreign others has spread to its treatment of our country's citizens.

And so the thing that gets me about Saul Loeb's photo above is not the hooded Abu Ghraib/GTMO/Fort Meade protestor, or the Court's photogenic tarp, but the police officers spread long the steps between them.

Interesting, related, and surprisingly full of scare quotes for a 2009 show: Ben Street's review of Goshka Macuga's Whitechapel installation about Guernica, which included the UN tapestry.

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On July 11, 2006, on the floor of the US House of Representatives, Congressman Steve King, Republican from Iowa, presented a model of "a fence and a wall" he had designed. It was a site-specific proposal, to be located on the US-Mexico border.

The fence/wall could be built, Mr. King explained, using a slipform machine to lay a concrete foundation in a 5-foot deep trench cut into the desert floor, a gesture that immediately brings to mind the Earth Art interventions of Michael Heizer. Pre-cast concrete panels, Post-minimalist readymades 10 feet wide and 13 feet high, could be dropped in with a crane.

"Our little construction company," Mr. King said, referring to the King Construction Company, which he founded, and which was then being run by his son, "could build a mile a day of this, once you got the system going."

Mr. King demonstrated the construction of the wall using his tabletop model, made of cardboard boxes, silver-painted wood slats, and a couple of feet of coiled wire [representing the wall's crown of concertina wire, which would be electrified "with the kind of current that would not kill somebody...we do that with livestock all the time."]

It's true that the remarkable simplicity of the design and the economy of the materials resonate the work of Richard Tuttle. But in the scale and especially the form, King seems to be making a conscious reference to the early work of Anne Truitt.

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Seven, 1962, image: annetruitt.org

Obviously, at some point after his arrival in Washington in 2003, King studied the iconic Truitts in local collections: the highly fence-like First (1961) [at the Baltimore Museum] and slab-on-plinth structures like Insurrection (1962) [at the Corcoran]. But even I was surprised to see King make such an explicit homage to Truitt's Seven (1962) [above, collection of the artist's estate].

Much like Christo and Jeanne-Claude, King conceived of his site-specific fence/wall to be temporary, at least conceptually:

You could take it back down. If somehow they got their economy working and got their laws working in Mexico we could pull this back out just as easy as we could put it in. We could open it up again or we could open it up and let livestock run through there, whatever we choose.
Whatever we choose. Thus the fence/wall becomes a symbol of American freedom.

According to the Congressional Record, Mr. King, appearing as an expert witness, exhibited his Study For A Fence And A Wall again a week later, in a joint hearing of the House Committees of Homeland Security and Government Reform.

The current whereabouts of King's model is not immediately clear, but I guess I could call about it. Meanwhile, I would love to see this work realized at full scale, if only temporarily, where it was conceived: right here in Washington DC. Perhaps in the National Gallery's sculpture garden, or along one of the sketchier sections of Pennsylvania Avenue, where dangerous elements threaten Our Freedoms.

January 2017 inevitable update: Oh how we did not need to worry that this work might not have survived. On Jan. 13 Congressman King tweeted out a photo with it, and the new appointee for DHS. Study was installed on his coffee table in his office. It will be noted that it has a new base, set in unpainted wood feet, presumably a pair. The articulation of the wall at the ground and the underground footing are now fully visible. The box representing the desert floor, and the notch, where "you put a trench in the desert floor." are not seen. What was once site-specific is now available for installation anywhere, I guess. Though it's really tough to say at the moment.

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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.

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