Category:scott sforza, wh producer


Nice hack. I didn't realize James Bridle made the awesome ALL HAIL SAURON placard at the The Shard laser show; I just thought he spotted it.

Anyway, Phil Gyford thinks placards could become a platform, a way to integrate protest into the fabric of everyday life. It'd be fresher, he argues, and less invisible than bumper stickers or t-shirts.

And as much as I'd love to see Barack Obama get met in the Oval Office by someone wearing a Katharine Hamnett-style STOP THE WAR ON DRUGS or STOP FRACKING t-shirt, I think it only underscores the point that such deployments are still rely on a media to make or preserve their contextual power.

I don't think that's what Gyford's suggesting, though; his placard-a-day proposal is speaking truth to power by everyone speaking truth to neighbors and people on the street.

Of course, imagine placards manage to catch on, and to survive the regulation and censorship that already befall t-shirt wearers and bumper sticker sporters, who've been kicked out of public [and privatized public] spaces and fired from their jobs and blurred out of reality TV shows. They'd get professionalized--in fact, they already are. The "it's not a billboard; it's a hapless guy with a sign!" free speech loophole is the advertising medium of choice for apartment complexes and suit outlets.

Or it used to be. Now it's public performance art and a highly evolved sport. Last year San Diego-based Aarow Advertising held the 1st Annual World Sign Spinning Championships. The company's founders, then 18-yo, say they invented signspinning in 2002 as a way to save themselves from what was "pretty much the worst job in the world," standing on a busy corner holding a sign.

image via noel y.c.

As for the rest of us, how many people would communicate anything different than the message of whatever corporate brand tribe pushes their buttons correctly? Placards would become shopping bags with worse ergonomics.


Which reminds me, I just found this OG Helmut Lang shopping bag in our storage unit. I would totally carry that into every Prada store in town. STOP PATRIZIO BERTELLI.

Placads for everyday life [gyford via dan phiffer's twitter]


The first thing I noticed about George W. Bush's official White House portrait unveiled yesterday was the way he stared off into space. Also in the painting. And the next thing was the painting-in-painting right over his shoulder. It was a western-style painting of men on horseback charging up a hill, and all I remembered about it was that it was Bush's favorite painting, and that's why he had it right next to him in the Oval Office.

Well, Christopher Knight has the almost too good to be true story of the painting, which was originally uncoverd by Jacob Weisberg in 2008. The work was commissioned from Wilhelm Heinrich Detlev Koerner in 1916 by the Saturday Evening Post, and it was apparently used to illustrate several entirely different stories over the years before finally acquiring the religious associations Bush fell in love with it for.

Knight goes into exquisite detail on them, but my favorite caption has to be from the painting's 1917 appearance, "Bandits Move About from Town to Town, Pillaging Whatever They Can Find." Bush said the posse reminded him of the people who served in his administrations, which, well.

[And if you're wondering, yes, having Chinese Paint Mill make one is the obvious thing to do, and hell no, I'm still not going to make a near-lifesized portrait of George W. Bush.]

George W. Bush's unusually frank portrait [latimes, image: Olivier Douliery, MCT via LAT]


Here is Mitt Romney deplaning in Las Vegas, where he met with Gingrich's bank, and where reality [sic] TV personality Donald Trump is hosting a fundraiser for him.

Suffice it to say, Romney is either actually courting the Trump Birther Faction, or his campaign has yet to master the stagecrafting subtleties of Sforzian backdrops. Either way, it's win-win for the wire service photographers. [AP via tpm]


Ooh, that is interesting. By covering themselves in paint, members of Occupy Frankfurt effectively inverted the crowd control technique where police use dye cannons to disperse protesters--and to tag them for easier identification and roundup later. Nice to see that painting's only detained, not dead. I wonder if this kind of painting project happens every May?

Police spraying protesters in Kampala, Uganda, May 10, 2011 [image james akena/reuters via]

Occupy Frankfurt protestor and German riot police photographed by Kai Pfaffenbach for Reuters [via boingboing]
Previously: May 16th: Police Action Painting


The Japanese blog Itai [Painful] News has a nice photo roundup showing how North Korea's missile rocket control room compares to those of other spacefaring countries. I think it's safe to say that Japan is cowering in fear at North Korea's state-of-the-art powerstrip technology.

痛いニュース | 北朝鮮、発射施設公開 コントロールルームがひどすぎると話題に/ On The Subject of North Korea's Ridiculous Launch Control Room [dqnplus via @camcavers]


I've got a few reservations, but I'm really quite smitten with London-based Scottish artist Robert Montgomery's poetically critical billboard artworks.

The one above was unfurled at a Stop The War protest in Trafalgar Square last October. It reads:

If the stark white-on-black text and the clouds and the protest didn't already remind me of Felix Gonzalez-Torres, this particular photo, which ran on Purple's blog, even has a bird in flight in the upper right corner.

Montgomery's standard M.O. is to paste his billboards guerrilla-style, without permission, on top of existing advertisements. But for
an exhibition last month at KK Outlet, the gallery got authorization to install a series of three billboards with something of an Occupy theme. [Occupy had been occupying nearby at Shoreditch, and the artist had a collaborative project planned, but, as he told the Independent, "they got turfed out on 25 January so that didn't happen."]


The deployment of poetry as protest takes its cue, Montgomery readily acknowledges, from the Situationists and Guy Debord, which, baby and bathwater and all, I will accept. My ambivalence, such as it is, really has more to do with Montgomery's apparent activism on the fashionista front, his day jobs at Dazed and Confused, his carousing with Olivier Zahm, even the galleries that tout their Occupy shows one month, and their design studios working for LVMH the next.

But who's to complain, seeing as how I followed the linkstream to his work while surfing for extraordinary calf leather shoes myself?

Let he who is without consumerist sin throw the first stone. Is being the global street fashion industrial complex's social conscience is any more damning than being the art world's anything?

Montgomery's disarming, enticing, depressing, enlightening poems are still there, still catching advertising-conditioned passersby, only to release them with an unsettling thought in their heads.

Givin' me 500 Errors right now, though: Robert Montgomery portfolio site []
It turned out this way cos you dreamed it this way []
Robert Montgomery opening and installation shots via KK Outlet's flickr [flickr]
The artist vandalising advertising with poetry []

February 7, 2012

R-Money, R-Problems

R-M-O Oh my heck! N-E-Y

This awesomely remixed version of this AP photo [by Gerald Herbert, below] from a campaign event in Elko, Nevada last Friday makes me marvel at the many lost opportunities for Sforzian hacks in the past.


I mean, why should wire service photographers have all the fun? But then I read all the way through the Democratic Underground forum thread where the Photoshopped version first appeared, and where dozens of armchair politicos oneupped each other with their media acumen:

Mark D.
63. Romney is an anagram for R Money
As this photo made me realize that.
Tweet what I'd said-go viral with it.

43. a quick or even long Glance still looks like "money"
if i was adivising them and saw this i would have recommended against it.

59. Something else
What bothers me more about this picture is that all the participants are male and white. That doesn't seem to bother Mitt at all!

3. Is that real?
Ohhhh, please-please-please-please let it be real so we can bury him with it!!!

74. R. Money, Mitt's new rap name. nt

19. :: very slow golf clap ::
you couldn't make this shit up.
"r" "money" our money... yep.. can't make this shit up.

[barrage of slow clap animated gifs deleted]


And then while trying to find the source info for the original photo, I came across Bryan Snyder's shot for Reuters of the Fisher family waiting to meet The Man behind the curtain, and doing the wave or something.


And then there was another shot, by another AP photographer, Ted Warren, of the Fishers meeting Romney again. Or for the first time. This is from the front of the flag, where the Fishers had been waiting from the get go--and photographing themselves. And being photographed by Warren in turn.


And so somewhere in between these photos, after the event, Mitt put his bomber jacket on, the Fishers got invited backstage, and they got a private [sic] photo-op.

Y? Because we like you!

And then Snyder--and Proud Mom--both snapped a photo of Romney autographing the shirt of the most disinterested little Fisher of them all. Actually, look at "E"; his shirt's signed, too.


And then there's the kid whose dad--given the BYU hat, I'm gonna guess he's a supporter--drove two hours to the event with a Romney bobblehead [above]. And the shot of Mitt reflected in a thickset supporter's aviator glasses, and the soft focus cowboy hats in the foreground signalling The West.


And I realized all these images exist on a hacking continuum between real and faked, homebrewed and happenstance. Whether it's the inkjetting family, the pack of weary photojournalists, the local handlers, or the messageboard trolls, people are just trying to do the best with what they're given. Given all the stars that have to align, and all the fingers in the pie, I guess we should be lucky to get any shots at all.

Pic of the moment [ via @akaczynski]
Everything else from AP & Reuters via Yahoo News.

December 31, 2011

How Firm A Foundation


See, this is the kind of frugal Sforzian stagecraft that Mitt Romney learned from his Mormon pioneer ancestors: just use the replica sets from The Music Man and con a local into holding your chair!

There's no trouble in Mason City with the end cut flooring, though; I'd totally vote for that.

Campaign Photo of the Day [MSNBC's @JamilSmith via Yahoo News's @Chris_Moody via NYT's @nickconfessore [yahoo]
"You'll feel as if you'd rented a video of the movie." []

While I was painting today, I first listened to a slightly underwhelming Q&A from MIT with Otto Piene and Hans Haacke, which was short, and so my iTunes started shuffling, which never happens. I don't really listen to music, so iTunes ends up being a repository of things I wanted at one point--but then pretty much didn't listen to. Like the audiobook version of Barack Obama's Dreams of My Father, 2-3 min. segments of which would turn up at random every few tracks.

Which reminds me, kind of hilariously, of what, for me, is one of the most remarkable artistic achievements of the year, the awesomeness of which may actually push me to make a best-of list, which I don't like to do, just so I can put it where it belongs, near the top.

I'm talking, of course, about Dan Warren's remix masterpiece, Son of Strelka, Son of God, a surreal, mythological epic about a dog-headed demigod who destroys, and then recreates, the world, which Warren created by stringing together 3-10 second snippets from Obama's recording. Here's the synopsis:

Our hero's name is Stanley, but he doesn't really show up until Chapter 3. Stanley's father is the first proto-man, who fell as a fruit from the first tree. He found the world an empty and desolate place, so he climbed to the top of the tree and began creating animals and plants and whatnot just by speaking their names. He gets really excited about the process, and accidentally creates a monkey in thin air, which promptly plummets to his death. He realizes that he needs to be a little more thoughtful about this process, and finishes by creating many of the beautiful things in the world. Then he disappears.
The first of the story's nine chapters was animated by Ainsley Seago; the whole thing is pulled together nicely by Atlanta DJ EBA's soundtrack. The whole project's just extraordinary and feels like the future.

Son of Strelka, Son of God audio odyssey, links + a synopsis []
download Son of Strelka, Son of God for free from Warren's site []

I don't know what, if anything, these mean, but these two stories last week made me wonder about the relationship of art and politics and Washington DC as viewed from a political/media perspective.

First up, and most disturbing, was the Washington Post Arts/Style section's discussion of an American Psychology Association study [which, right?] linking creativity with lying & cheating. The Post was not alone in referencing artists--it took its headline, "Are artists cheaters?" from The Economist, "Are artists liars?". But unlike the Economist, which actually didn't discuss artists or art at all, the Post framed its entire story about the study around the inherent dishonesty of art and artists in a way I found facile and offhandedly hostile:

It's not a wholly new idea. Being a liar is a requirement of being an artist, Ian Leslie argued in the Economist. "If art is a kind of lying, then lying is a form of art, albeit of a lower order -- as Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain have observed," writes Leslie. "Both liars and artists refuse to accept the tyranny of reality."

Lying and cheating for one's art -- as in making up stories, cultivating a persona, and even appropriating other's work -- is different than cheating for personal gain, though. There have been prominent examples of artists who have engaged in both forms of it. Paul Gauguin's numerous ethical breaches -- beyond sleeping with teenage girls in his adopted homeland of Tahiti -- included misrepresenting his paintings of the island to collectors back in France as a garden paradise, when in fact, it was colonized and stricken with alcoholism and disease.

So artists are prone, even required to "act unethically." And so when someone who is, by every definition, an uncreative non-artist lies with the express, unethical intent to deceive, it is called art.

That's according to an anonymous Mitt Romney campaign official rationalizing his candidate's patently dishonest misrepresentation of a statement of President Obama:

"First of all, ads are propaganda by definition. We are in the persuasion business, the propaganda business.... Ads are agitprop.... Ads are about hyperbole, they are about editing. It's ludicrous for them to say that an ad is taking something out of context.... All ads do that. They are manipulative pieces of persuasive art." [The Reinvention of Political Morality, -NYT]
Which, of course, is all on the heels of Rachel Maddow's ongoing mockery of Herman Cain's delusional, lie-filled campaign as "performance art."

This conflation of art and lying not only serves to justify, albeit cynically, the actual unethical behavior in the political realm, it also weakens and pre-emptively discredits art itself as a vehicle for protest, speech, idealism, or whatever intent/content the artist might have. It seems like one [more] way in which politics plays politics with art in ways that art is not even fully aware.

If there's any good writing or thinking on this kind of thing, I'd love to hear about it. Honestly.

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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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