Category:scott sforza, wh producer

October 3, 2012

Crusoe Umbrella X Satellite


On the eve of the first presidential debate, I gank this photo, taken in March 1988:

The Claes Oldenburg sculpture, Crusoe Umbrella, on Nollen Plaza in Des Moines, Iowa, is surrounded by satellite dishes and equipment trucks beaming live video from the Iowa caucuses earlier this year. The demand for satellite video technology has gone far beyond television. (MUST CREDIT: Los Angeles Times Photo by Larry Davis)
You can buy this photo, in fact, for like $28. [ebay]

Three words: Oh my heck. [ via @petcobra]

Maurice Berger has a fascinating post on the NY Times Lens blog about Malcolm X's sophisticated use of the media, particularly photography, and particularly the antagonistic white/mainstream media, to reach out to potential black constituents.

Exhibit 1--actually and unfortunately, it's the only photo in the post--is Robert Flora's 1963 photo for UPI, the caption for which:

Malcolm X, the nation's number two black Muslim leader, reads a story about the Muslims in a national magazine as he sits in court with other Muslims awaiting verdict of an all-white jury deliberating the face of 14 Muslims accused of criminal assault against Los Angeles police officers.
manages to mention Muslims four times in once sentence. Impressive.

As Berger notes,

The men in the picture are focused on articles about the Nation of Islam. The Life magazine story that engrosses Malcolm, for example, was typical of the derisive coverage of the Black Muslims in the mainstream press: "The White Devil's Day Is Almost Over: Black Muslim's Cry Grows Louder," screams its headline.
It only proves Berger's astute point to point it out, but Malcolm X is anything but engrossed; he's holding the magazine up for the photographer. Even if he were able to read at that angle--he seems to actually be looking at the paper in the hands of the man to his left--a quick search of the actual LIFE Magazine article shows there is nothing to read. The other half of the spread is a full-page shot of Elijah Muhammad, by Gordon Parks. [The cover line for the feature reads, "A Negro Photographer Shoots From The Inside - THE BLACK MUSLIMS."]


Which, it turns out the man to Malcolm's right is also reading. Berger doesn't mention the headline on the paper the guy behind is very much not reading: "Seven Unarmed Negroes Shot in Cold Blood by Los Angeles Police."

Which turns out to be Muhammad Speaks, the NOI's newspaper. The first Google result for it appears, perfectly, in Gordon Parks' LIFE feature. Parks was following Malcolm at the trial. Which only underscores the newspaper's--and eventually, the magazine's--function as a prop, intended not [necessarily, nor not solely] for the jury, but for the photographers covering the trial.


If there's any doubt of the paper's message-within-a-photo, here are other shots by Parks, of Malcolm X selling the paper,


and holding it up at a Black Muslim speech in Harlem. [images via Gordon Parks Foundation]

I don't know why it has literally never occurred to me, but Berger's account of the vehemence and derision Malcolm X received from the white establishment, and the extraordinary calculation and discipline with which Malcolm carried and presented himself, and his unfailingly calm, cool, self-assured and buttoned-down image, really jumps out at me now. Especially when it's coupled with the terms Muslims and Black Muslims, which get repeated in the press of the day with such divisive, alienating force.

As if that was the absolute worst, scariest thing you could call someone. In 1963. In 2012, meanwhile, it's settled into a niche birther conspiracy.


Malcolm X as Visual Strategist [nyt lens blog]

September 17, 2012



It's not like this hasn't happened before. I remember one time, in the late 1990s, at the Stedelijk, being transfixed by a series of videos Gabriel Orozco had made. I was already very interested in his work for a while, but there was something about those videos.

Orozco had basically edited them in-camera while walking around New York and Amsterdam, and they had this wonderful, stream-of-perception-like quality, almost as close as you could get, it seemed, to the artist's own visual experience.

It basically changed the way I see. He was making off-hand, formal connections between things. There were a lot of circles, for example. Cups, bicycle tires, stickers on windows, bar coasters, bubbles. And once the connection had been made, it became impossible not to think of Orozco every time I saw circles in the world. There was much in Gabriel's early work that was similarly, quietly powerful in the way it awoke you [me] to nuances of seeing and understanding the world around you [me].

Which is not quite the point here, except that just as with Orozco and his circles, it's now basically impossible for me to see a blur and not think of Gerhard Richter. And not wonder, for example, how awesome it might be as a painting.1

Like--oh, I'll just pick any random thing--a still from the damning video of Mitt Romney speaking unguarded Republican truthiness at a private fundraiser in Florida, which was shot and disseminated anonymously for weeks before Mother Jones picked it up today. And attempted to protect the video's source--by blurring the footage. Except for Romney himself, whose face is unblurred, and the Corinthian capital behind him. Hey look, a circle.

1 The answer, of course, is it'd look awesome. Just look at those colors. The different segments of the video have different blurs, too. I think this one's especially velvety. Chinese Paint Mill certainly has their work cut out for them.

September 11, 2012

One Song More

Wow, is it that time of Election Year already? When superblogger and apparently self-hating theater queen Andrew [Lloyd] Sullivan posts a WTF Obamafied version of a Les Mis anthem?

This time it's "One Term More" which, Holy Cameron Mackintosh, people. Just go watch it this very instant. Don DeMesquita, ladies and gentlemen.

Because it even has "A Political Parody" right in the subtitle, I'm forced to wonder what, exactly, it's a parody of. And then how do I really know it isn't some kind of super-jiujitsu triangulating GOP countermeasure to psych out musical theater liberals? But no, the fair use disclaimer is so desperate, they must be real.

HOW COULD I HAVE EVER DOUBTED UPDATE: I forgot the couplet, "Emboldened by Star-Spangled myth,
We want a JEDI...NOT a SITH!!!"

Anyway, in 2008, it was "Les Misbarack," UltimateImprov's straight-up lipsynch of "One Day More," set in the Obama National Campaign HQ on election eve.

Which Sullivan introduced on Sept. 12th, at 4:53 AM, with the comment, "Whatever happens, the McCain campaign could never pull this off. Patience, steel... triumph."

To which I will only add, "Malgre tout, la Resistance demeure." Or in this case, "So hat doch, la Resistance gesiegt!"

September 1, 2012

Running Presidential Fence


I'm really trying to get this writing thing done tonight, but I just have to point out that Richard Smith's photo of the Secret Service's six-mile perimeter fence at the RNC in Tampa is awesome. It's like if Christo and Serra were cellmates and Cady Noland was their baton-wielding guard.

Fence Comes Down [narrativemag]


Speaking of Running Fence, there are two historical markers in Marin County commemorating Christo & Jeanne-Claude's 1976 project.


see full size images at the Wikipedia entry for Running Fence. Please.

This anniversary marker is located in the quarter-acre Watson School Historic Park in Bodega. An outdoor vitrine contains an installation photo by the artists onto which was added the following text:

Running Fence
September 10, 1976

On September 11, 2001,
the Board of Supervisors of the
County of Sonoma selected this
site to commemorate the contributions of
Christo and Jeanne-Claude.
Their vision,
dedication and
perserverance made
the Running Fence
possible. This art
project consisted of:
42 months of collaborative efforts with ranch property owner participation, 18 public hearings,
3 sessions at Superior Court, an environmental impact report and the temporary use of the hills, sky, and ocean.
Rising from the Pacific Ocean south of Bodega Bay the 19 foot high 24.5 moile long Running Fence ran west to east,
following the rolling hills of Marin and Sonoma counties to the Colati ridge.
[Format and italics original.]

Watson School Park is currently listed as closed for renovation. It is not known whether the marker is affected.


Meanwhile, in December 1976, the County Landmarks Commission in Sonoma designated Pole #7-33 as Historic Landmark #24, and installed a bronze plaque [above] that reads:

September 10 through September 21, 1976

A majestic work of art, 18 feet high 24-1/2 miles long, which extended east-west, near Freeway 101 at Cotati on private property of 59 ranches following the rolling hills, crossing 14 roads, through the town of Valley Ford, and dropping down into the Pacific Ocean at Bodega Bay. Conceived and financed by Christo, Running Fence was made of 165,000 yards of heavy woven nylon fabric cut into panels 18 feet wide by 68 feet long, hung from a steel cable strung between 2050 steel poles set 62 feet apart. Each pole was embedded 3 feet into the ground and braced laterally with guy wires and earth anchors. The lower edges of the fabric panels were secured to the bottom cable. All parts of the structure were designed for complete removal and novisible evidence of Running Fence remains on the hills of Sonoma and Marin Counties today. This pole #7-33 was erected permanently by Christo at the request of the citizens of Sonoma County to commemorate this historic event.

The County's landmark information lists the site as "containing steel pool [sic] from original art installation."


I believe this is it, next to the post office. Looks like it's presently being used as a flagpole.

Oh, the Bodega bay Heritage Gallery has a photo of the fancier plaque on the other side of the pole. Also, Running Fence was acquired by the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Remembering Running Fence was on view in 2010.

If moving it away from that mural didn't destroy its context, I would definitely replicate that, as is, stanchions, flag and all. Maybe a vinyl wallpaper photomural would work.

August 30, 2012

We Built It.


A photo I've been waiting to see from the RNC in Tampa, unidentified source via brian boucher

factchecking update: you know, I'm gonna go with: this debt clock photo is as true as this one.


Ooh, the party conventions are coming, Sforzian Fashion Week, and the NYTimes' advance team is reporting on the GOP advance team whose once-every-four-years job is to make the Republican candidate for president come across as a man of the people on TV. Here's Jeremy Peters:

The campaign aides are determined to overcome perceptions that Mr. Romney is stiff, aloof and distant. So they have built one of the most intricate set pieces ever designed for a convention -- a $2.5 million Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired theatrical stage. From its dark-wood finish to the brightly glowing high-resolution screens in the rafters that look like skylights, every aspect of the stage has been designed to convey warmth, approachability and openness.
Yes. OK.


This time, Samantha Stark reports in the Times video, the stage is now fronted by open, non-hierarchical stairs reaching down into the crowd. Which, yeah no, ask McCain, Bush, and Dole about that convention convention.


What is actually different is that the 13-screen video wall is now all asymmetrical and casual-like, with all the screens "framed in dark wood to give the feeling of looking into someone's living room."


Why, it's practically a Sforzian frame cluster, a slightly enlarged version of the one the Romneys have on the grand piano at Lake Winni.


If you can see any FLW, please let me know, because all I can see in Edward Linsmier's sexy still and video images is Herbert Bayer's all-encompassing field of vision [above]. Maybe a Bauhaus reference is too heady [or foreign] for Romneyvolken to cop to. Or maybe they're wary of acknowledging the importance of the fundamentally subjective viewing experience they're trying to manipulate.


Except, oh wait, that's the whole point of the show, the event, and the article: letting us know how it'll be just you and me, America, TV-hangin' living room to living room with our bestest, richest friends.


More than hang, though, Linsmier's images of the set's big, test-pattern-y bands of glowing color, stacked against each other like that, with silhouettes of roadies all around, make me want to paint. Crank out a whole $#)%ing frame cluster of to-scale paintings.


Stephen Prina meeting Olafur Eliasson at Liz Deschenes' place, with a cameo by Jeremy Blake.

Rainbow Panorama - Olafur Eliasson

Romney Campaign works feverishly to project relaxed image [nyt]

August 14, 2012

The New Sforzian Aesthetic


This is awesome. Someone flew a banner over a Paul Ryan event in Lakewood, Colorado, carrying a @PaulRyanGosling-esque quote, "Hey Girl, Choose me, lose choice." And though he didn't know what it was, CNBC reporter @EamonJavers tweeted a photo of it.

We're all Scott Sforzas now.

Banner Above Paul Ryan-Led Event: 'Hey Girl, Choose Me, Lose Choice--P. Ryan' [theatlantic via @alexismadrigal]

July 14, 2012

Sforzian Acoustics

One of Karl Rove's objectives for his Sforzian backdrops was "to set up picture so that if the television sound is turned down, that it gets across what it is the President wants."

With this new ad, "Firms," [direct YouTube link, in case you're seeing a freakin' Swedish bike helmet fashion show up there instead, which, #iframewtf?], the Obama campaign has turned Rove's formula on its head.

Sure, the sound-off visuals get the point across just fine: dolly shots of news stories of Romney's outsourcing and, apparently, job-destroying history set into depopulated locales: closed factories, empty conference rooms, and abandoned parking lots--and then headlines about his Cayman Islands accounts are tucked into shots of isolated beaches.

But the only sound is Mitt Romney himself singing "America the Beautiful." Which they've tweaked ever so slightly to match the ambient aural quality of each shot, giving the sense that Romney's singing in each place. Even without the visuals, you get a visceral feel of Romney wandering alone across a desolate America, singing to himself.

As a filmmaker/reader at Talking Points Memo describes the effect,

[P]lacing Romney's voice in the various locations builds the implication in the mind of the listener that Romney is present and witnessing it. It's almost like he's in America's front office, singing into a PA microphone while the building rots. This highlights another feature of sound design: it's a good way of giving people information in such a way that they don't even know how they know it. You see the ad and there's no cognitive speed bump to keep you from concluding that Romney was there in that empty factory, or there in the abandoned conference room, or there sipping Coronas on a beach in Grand Cayman.
Well, I know that's the ad it most resembles, but he probably wouldn't be sipping a Corona. But it's a good point. And I think I may have a new ringtone.

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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.

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Category: scott sforza, wh producer

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