June 2007 Archives

There's an excellent, loong interview on Archinect with Kenneth Goldsmith, the artist, poet, dj, theory karaokeist [?], professor, and web developer behind the incomparable UbuWeb.

Ubu began with just texts, and as collections and formats and partners came their way, it's expanded into other media: sound, performance documentation, artist film and experimental video. The focus remains resolutely on the undeservedly inaccessable and out of print/circulation.

Goldsmith: "My only regret though is that there aren't fifteen or twenty UbuWebs." They talk about theater, dance, and architecture Ubus, but I confess, I have a hard time seeing how those might come together as well as Ubu's collection of conceptual/concrete poetry. Could happen, though. Anyone have some unlimited bandwidth and server space? There may be a MacArthur in it for you.

UbuWeb Vu - Kenneth Goldsmith [archinect]

June 26, 2007

Huge Props


So if you're going to see the Richard Serra exhibition at MoMA--and you should, it's really quite spectacular--you should see it when the museum is closed, because then you have the whole place to yourself.

A friend John and I went last Tuesday morning, and we started on the sixth floor. By the second room, it was obvious that the experience of the show was really incredible. Serra's an artist who, by design, almost prevents you from seeing multiple examples of his work; they're site-specific--not just permanently installed in or made for, but actually about the site and the experience of being in it. By the second Serra, then, you realize you're in rarified territory. And the first three room-filling works you encounter at the entrance of the sixth floor space really makes this clear.

The silence was shortlived; there was a crowd of middle school students sitting on the floor in the next gallery, which was crowded with very early works. I wanted to go grab each of these kids by the shoulders and shake him, saying "Do you know where you are? Remember this!" But I figured they'd figure it out by the time they got downstairs.

Was it Peter Schejldahl who mentioned how sad and domesticated the corral of prop pieces looked? I'm afraid he was right. I'm also afraid I couldn't imagine any other way MoMA, with its constant crowds, could show the precarious work. These delicate, human-scale pieces are not the Serras around which the new building was designed, and it shows. [The hands-down best prop piece I've ever seen, by the way, was in the office of a dealer on 24th street. It was a square metal sheet held up by a roll that sat on the floor like a lead umbrella. The fleshy soft surface was in seductively pristine condition, too, a testament to a life in careful storage, I guess.]

The massive second floor galleries, where Serra's early lead and timber scatter piece seemed so lost in front of the Twombly when the museum reopened, now seemed complete. The torqued ellipses and ribbons of Serra's late/current period are, as John aptly pointed out, our real Peace Dividend. They're made possible--and made--by advances in Military Industrial design software and manufacturing. Prowling around NASA in the past, I've seen utterly utilitarian instruments, objects, and components whose stunning aesthetics would drive a hundred MFA's into the web design business.
Serra seems like one of the few artists to make a sustained, legitimate attempt at actually engaging the means of production of the Cold War. And when you consider the price tag of the new MoMA as a purpose-built context machine for these works compared to, say, the Pentagon's weekly expenditure in Iraq, the ROI is off the charts.


All that said, my favorite piece in the show was not, in fact, one of the sexy, transporting, transformative curved mazes on two, but a much earlier piece on six. [It could be, but it's not To Lift, the 1967 piece made of sheet rubber, which is easily the most elegant.] Circuit II, [1972-86] is a giant prop piece which has been in MoMA's collection for a while. Four straight steel plates are wedged into the corners of a room, creating an unsettling, compressed void where they would intersect. Circuit II was installed when I first moved to New York; it was in the Philip Johnson annex gallery known as the basketball court, which, at the time, had been the largest space in the Modern. The simplicity of the execution and the visceral spatial experience left a real impression on my fragile little just-graduated college mind. It was a kind of non-academic awe that my skeptical art history professor's cursory lessons on contemporary art had not prepared me for.

I'd like to say I felt that sensation again, but to be honest, the new sixth floor galleries are so high, and the beautiful skylight overhead was so open, Serra's once-overwhelming plates felt a bit quaint and conceptual, the idea of awe instead of awe itself. Or maybe it's just me. Maybe it's not so much the work, but my own spatial nostalgia, the kinaesthetic memory of it, that I'm loving so much, that thrill of paradigm-shifting discovery when you're young and stupid--and your paradigms are due for several hefty shifts. Maybe Richard Serra's works are not just shapers of space; after you've encountered them once, they become manipulators of time, too.

Richard Serra Sculpture: Forty Years [moma.org, thanks alex]


Holy smokes. Artforum reports that chef Ferran Adrià is participating in this year's Documenta 12 in Kassel, Germany, by leaving a table for two open at El Bulli every night for exhibition visitors. El Bulli is in Costa Brava, outside Barcelona. Barcelona, Spain.

D12 director Roger Buergel will select two people at random every day during the 100-day run of the exhibition, who will receive airfare and dinner. El Bulli is officially known in the Documenta program as "the G pavilion."

[Though judging by David Velasco's predictably self-important Artforum reportage, a free ticket away from Kassel is just what this Documenta requires.]
Adrià's G Pavilion [artforum]
Adrià traslada su participación en la Documenta de Kassel a "El Bulli" [lavanguardia.es, google trans]
image of El Bulli's beet ribbons via chez pim's stunning photos. [chezpim and flickr]

hebrew_shower_via_reutc.jpg altered by greg.org, original image via flickr user reutc
greg.org, based on flickr user reutc's original image

This report from Church Solutions ["formerly Church Business"] Magazine:

Faith-Based Amusement Association Launches
Posted on: 12/07/2006

With the goal of providing "influential amusement" in their industry, a group of 48 met last week as the founding members of the Faith-Based Amusement Association (FBAA). The group gathered during the recent International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions convention.


"We take great pleasure in sharing our faith and praying with all of our employees," says Johnny Blevins of Splash Kingdom Waterpark in Canton, Texas. "Second, we have some of our favorite Bible verses around the park and play Christian music all the time. Hopefully, as we interact with our guests and employees, we're showing Christ’s love for others."

An interview with Mr. Blevins of Splash Kingdom is on the FBAA's blog:

Reagan Hillier: How would you describe the “faith based initiative” at your park?
Johnny Blevins: We are less than low key with our approach, not extremely overt or in your face. But our guests know where we stand as a family and as a business. For example, we play positive, encouraging Christian music around the park and our mission statement is clearly visible on our website. We don’t use the cross as a marketing tool, but we have had tremendous support and success in partnering with churches.
The park also sponsors a popular vacation Bible school program featuring "water related themes from the Bible." [via nyt]

June 7, 2007

Untitled (America)


It's actually happening. Ever since it was first announced that Felix Gonzalez-Torres would be the artist representing the US at the Venice Biennale, I've kind of held my breath to see if it would actually come off. And it has.

The New York Times plays to the ambiguity of meaning and open-ended experience in Felix's work, which I guess is diplomatic. But to anyone who delves into Felix's work and the politically charged ideas that underpinned it, I can't see how this exhibition of these particular works, which had to be approved by the State Department, can be read as anything but an unfettered indictment of the present administration, its policies, and the culture of fear, authoritarianism, corruption, and bigotry that it foments and feeds upon.

Part of me is baffled that curator Nancy Spector and the advisory committee who recommended Felix's inclusion "managed" to "get the work by" the State Department. But the more realpolitik side thinks that it's just evidence of the total disregard and disinterest the administration has for something as irrelevant and inconsequential as art. In some random gallery somewhere. In Italy. Made by a dead Cuban homo. And fawned over by a passel of rich effete liberals from New York and who else? That's it.

So really, it's like two indictments, pushed up against each other, a damning pair.

felix_posters_sophiegrel.jpgAnd speaking of pairs, the posthumous pools look absolutely stunning. I'd wondered and doubted about them when I first heard of the project, but a while back, Andrea Rosen and I were talking about them, and their validity, not just as work, but as Felix's work, really sunk in. Now to see them--or to see pictures of them, we're not at the opening this year--they are spectacular. And to remember that the original commission for them was scuttled when a university official learned Gonzalez-Torres was gay, well, they fit all too well with the rest of the show.

Hats off to flickr user SophieGrel, who is the first to post any real photos of the Biennale, including the beautiful detail above of the pools in the rain. Another favorite, which will no doubt be repeated over the next five months, is the abandoned posters around Venice.

I remember realizing I was getting closer to Felix's show at the Museum of Modern Art in Paris as the concentration of people carrying free, rolled up posters increased. The inverse, seeing how far and how long people will carry the posters before they decide to leave them behind, is an interesting metaphor for something, too, I'm sure. What that is, I'll leave to your own interpretation.

Previously: 1985 Act Up 1989 FU State Dept. 1996 Died 2007 Venice Biennale
Death and Venice
"On Politics And Art", transcript of a 1995 interview Rob Storr did with Felix Gonzalez-Torres,

hirst_diamond_skull.jpg, image: science, ltd and white cube

First things first: if someone DOES buy Damien Hirst's diamond-and-platinum skull, it won't be for $100 million. Any shlub billionaire walking in off the street would get 10% off, and any actual collector would get 20%. So if someone's been around the art block already, that's where he'll start talking.

Second, by floating a $20 million cost figure, Hirst is taking a page--and a number, even--from Christo's playbook that likely has more to do with setting a context for potential buyers than with the actual outlay.

Hirst told the Times, "The markup on paint and canvas is a hell of a lot more than on this diamond piece.” but the difference is far less than it first appears.

8,160 diamonds but only 1,100 carats, those are some small stones. A quick glance at the Rapaport Report will tell you what dealers would pay for 1,000 carats of 0.125 carat D-F stones. [0.23 carat D IF stones are $4,900/carat retail on BlueNile.com. Comparable 0.5c stones are double that, so let's assume comparable 0.125 stones are half, or $2,500/c retail.] Depending on how far back along distribution chain Hirst was able to reach, the actual cost--or if you're cold about it, the actual "value"--of his diamonds could be a half, a third, a quarter of that.

Diamonds, it turns out, are a lot like art: heavy on perceived, light on actual, value. They're are no more or less intrinsically valuable than dead flies, another medium Hirst has employed for his art. The only difference is the cultural assumptions of decadence or disgust attributed to them [and given the bloody, terrorist- and tyranny-funding origins of so many African diamonds, decadence and disgust aren't mutually exclusive.]

Apart from their subjective value, then diamonds and art share an aura of exclusivity. Which turns out to be almost entirely artificial as well. Diamonds have been historically rare because of their geographical concentration and the difficulties in extracting them, but the DeBeers cartel has also manipulated the supply and perceived scarcity of diamonds for over 100 years.

Even as diamond stocks from beyond DeBeers' direct control have entered the market, it remains in dealers' and suppliers' economic interests to maintain the DeBeers-created industrial and distribution system--and margins. But those monopolistic days are numbered.


In 2003, Wired reported on two companies who were developing technologies to manufacture flawless diamonds for use initially in jewelry, but the real goal is to revolutionize the semiconductor industry by making diamonds economical enough to replace silicon. From there who knows how cheap diamonds could become?

Before mass production techniques were developed in the 1890's, aluminum was a rare and precious substance, too. For example, in 1858, Charles Christofle made an extravagant centerpiece from aluminum for Emperor Napoleon III's Chateau de Compiègne. By the turn of the century, aluminum was being used for luggage. Now I have an aluminum centerpiece decorating my table: a pyramid of empties made for me by Diet Coke.

If there's any significance at all to Hirst's skull, it's as a symbol of a far-reaching, manipulative cartel of dubious ethics at the center of an elaborately collusive web of mutually beneficial delusion. Whether that's the diamond market or the art market or both, as subjects go, it's not bad at all.

On the bright side, Hirst may be onto something in his quest for museological immortality after all, even if our grandchildren are paving their driveways with diamonds a hundred years from now. By employing master craftsmen with royal warrants to create an object of superlative, if fleeting, value, an object that has been the subject of religious, artistic, and cultural interpretation for millennia, and an object that doesn't take up even a fraction of the vitrine space of, say, a tiger shark in a tank of formaldehyde--Hirst may have guaranteed that at least one piece of his art will be shown in a museum a hundred years from now.


Update: Hirst suggested the British Museum would be a good spot for his skull. A reader reminded me that the British Museum is the home of the Crystal Skull, which was a controversial hit in the Age of Aquarius [ie., the Seventies]. That's when no less an authority than Leonard Nimoy suggested the only way the Mayans--or was it the Atlantisans?--could have carved it 3,600 years ago was with extraterrestrial help. Turns out it was manufactured in Germany in the 19th century. And like all the world's Crystal Mystery Skulls, it originated with a French art dealer in Mexico named Eugene Boban.

If the British Museum is looking to deepen their holdings of shiny, over-hyped skulls made by charlatans that lie irrelevant and forgotten within thirty years, Hirst may be in luck. Then again, judging by the similarities between the Museum's photo of the Crystal Skull and Hirst's own images, it looks like that was his plan all along. And he's only out a couple million pounds to pull it off? Brilliant.

June 2, 2007


Open news conference at the Cannes Film Festival are such absurdist theatrical frenzy, I half wonder if movie publicists didn't cook them up as a job security measure. The event serves up celebrities for an intense, dadaist interrogation by the world's most randomest journalists, whose competitive, provocative questions are designed to elicit a controversial or "newsworthy" [sic] non-scripted quote, something they can use.

In a more rational world they wouldn't be chopped up into meaningless squibs of quotes in the Hindustani Times; they would be televised in their entirety on a C-SPAN of the entertainment business, celebrity reality--no, celebrity verite--television.

The one or two quotes I've seen from the Oceans Thirteen conference, for example, are easily as entertaining as the post-scrum junket sitdown Time's Josh Tyrangiel got with Clooney, Pitt, Damon, and Barkin. Freed from artistic pretense, seriousness, or faux populism, these people sound like what they are: giddy, privileged multi-millionaires who decide to have a good time while doing the more tedious or repetitive parts of their jobs.

That said, what jumps out at me in the Time interview is what's apparently unsaid. Read the whole thing, but check out these parentheticals and tell me why they had to be there:

Are you worried Matt Damon, Brad Pitt and George Clooney are going to start a pogrom?
BARKIN: I worry that every time I go to my hotel room, there are going to be areas that are cordoned off from me.
PITT: What's a pogrom?

It's an anti-Jewish riot. Pretty common in 19th century Eastern Europe.
CLOONEY: [Jokingly] You guys got a long memory. Jeez.

And what went under this one? "Whatsername"? "The Old Ball & Chain"? "Her"?
As we're talking, there are paparazzi in boats out in the harbor taking pictures. Having just been through the celebrity muck of Cannes, who gets it the worst?
CLOONEY: There's no question, it's Brad.
PITT: Well, exponentially, with us together ...
CLOONEY: But even before he was with [Angelina Jolie], we used to chum the water with him.
PITT: This is not a joke. They used to send me out to take the hits.
Lucky Stars [time via kottke]
[not disclosed anywhere because the company's called Time Warner, I guess?: Time and its partner CNN and People and Oceans Thirteen's producer/distributor, Warner Brothers, are all the same company.]

Just as he has done for insurance executive Robert Rosenkrantz's thoughtful affairs, for just a few basis points, Christopher Hitchens will pepper your next client-heavy dinner party with not unfollowable latin legalisms:

“I think there’s a big incentive among people in finance to prove to themselves that they aren’t just bean counters or whatever,” he said, adding that he had recently been paid to attend a small dinner party with a group of strangers from the hedge fund industry. “They don’t want to just be the fat guy with a cigar in the New Yorker cartoon.”
Also Rosenkrantz does not have a jet, only a jet share. Just the kind of revelation that might have once made for an awkward revelation at a dinner party. Sounds like progress to me!

A Hobby That’s Part Party, Part Debate, All Intellect [nyt]

June 1, 2007

Postopolitan Diary

Missing Postopolis, the architecture and urban situational blogfest at Storefront For Art & Architecture, has been one of my big regrets for being out of the city this week.

Fortunately, I've been following along on City of Sound's excellent liveblog recaps. It's not as immersive, but it's also not as hot and stuffy, which is both good and bad.

City of Sound coverage of Postopolis [cityofsound.com]

June 1, 2007

My So-Called Audience

When I heard that Christopher DeLaurenti used body mics and a mini-disc-equipped vest to make his surreptitious recordings of orchestral intermissions, I was like, "Half the recording is probably the squeaks of his leather vest. What he's actually capturing isn't just music; it's his experience of listening."

As I read on in the NY Times article about his new CD, I was pleased to learn the "Seattle-based 'sound artist' [quotes? please, this isn't Seattle -ed.] and composer" agreed:

The recording itself became a performance, he said, because every movement of his body would alter the way the sound was captured. "I became entranced in doing it," he said.
The illicit nature of the project not only informed the recording process, it provides the aural rhythm, a 6bpm directional bassline:
He honed a technique of often shifting his posture and moving around. "Most people are not observant and rarely look at one thing for longer than 10 seconds," he said.
Any John Cage reference or influence is always welcome around these parts, of course, and the transformation of ambient sound into music is one of my personal favorites.

But Cage also had an interest in the transformed roles of peformer, composer, and audience. In a 1972 interview, he said:

...more and more in my performances, I try to bring about a situation in which there is no difference between the audience and the performers. And I'm not speaking of audience participation in something designed by the composer, but rather am I speaking of the music which arises through the activity of both performers and so-called audience. . .
When a piece like 4'33" is ultimately peformed/composed/experienced in each listener's ears and head, does it still make sense to keep using an implicitly passive term like "audience"? Does it matter that DeLaurenti declares himself an artist, not just an audience member? Does it matter that he published his work? Or that he released a commercial recording?

DeLaurenti's project also reminds me of another artist of the experiential whose practice is also technically illegal: the videocam-wielding moviegoer Jon Routson.


Routson used to shoot video while he was in the movies, not to create a bootleg of the feature film--justifiably afraid of getting caught, Routson usually didn't even look through the viewfinder of his camera, which turned the secreen into a skewampus trapezoid--but to document the experience of watching a movie. Ambient, quotidian life became art; art was what the artist did--including sitting through three screenings of Mel Gibson's The Passion .

Looking back on how he developed his early studio practice, Bruce Nauman told an interviewer [pdf] that he wondered, "... what an artist does when left alone in the studio. My conclusion was that I was an artist and I was in the studio, then whatever I was doing in the studio must be art." And in the cases like DeLaurenti and Routson the studio is expendable.

guy_ben-ner_elia.jpgBut artists like Vito Acconci, who made video art from his daily doings, and at-home dad/artist Guy Ben Ner, who transforms primary caregiving into production by enlisting his kids as characters and crew in his video works, have it easy.

The two bootleg guys face a unique challenge because their experience involves consuming--and recording--someone else's intellectual property. The most remarkable thing about the Times' intermission article is how laid back almost all the orchestra spokesmen are about DeLaurenti's recording. Granted, no one's going to go ballistic to the Times in a culture feature, but it's like winning the Turner Prize compared to the draconian treatment that Routson faced.

Maryland criminalized videotaping in a movie theater while the Baltimore artist was still making his works. He moved production to New York for a while, but the film industry's aggressive campaign against 'piracy' and the subsequent changes to federal law ultimately forced him to abandon his series.

So all the world's a stage, and we are merely gloriously players. And playwrights. And composers. And artists. Except that large swaths of our production--our lives--are declared the exclusive property of the expensively counselled copyright and trademark industrial complex. All the world's a store, and we are merely consumers. Meanwhile the cameravans prowling our city streets are from Google. All the buildings on the Sunset Strip seems really quaint right about now.


The Concerts Found Onstage While Everyone Else Takes a Break [nyt]

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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about this archive

Posts from June 2007, in reverse chronological order

Older: May 2007

Newer July 2007

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Our Guernica Cycle, 2017 –
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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
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Chop Shop
curated by Magda Sawon
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eBay Test Listings
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It Narratives, incl.
Shanzhai Gursky & Destroyed Richter
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TheRealHennessy Tweets Paintings, 2014 -

Standard Operating Procedure
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CZRPYR2: The Illustrated Appendix
Canal Zone Richard Prince
YES RASTA 2:The Appeals Court
Decision, plus the Court's
Complete Illustrated Appendix (2013)
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"Exhibition Space" @ apexart, NYC
Mar 20 - May 8, 2013
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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)
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