July 2008 Archives

July 29, 2008

In The Driver's Seat

Five years ago, someone in North Philadelphia committed suicide by getting hit by the Amtrak train I was riding. I was in the first car behind the engine, where we heard the impact and the aftermath.

I was kind of preoccupied by the incident for some months afterward, and I went so far as to try to identify the person who died, and to inquire with Amtrak about interviewing the engineers and train personnel about what had happened. Though I didn't necessarily want [sic] to make a documentary about the experience, I found myself using the filmmaking process or conceit as a way to frame and make sense of what had happened. As if making a movie is reason in itself to get into peoples' lives, losses, and traumas. Anyway, nothing came of it.

And I'm glad, especially after reading the account of Vaughn Thomas in the Guardian. He was driving a train in London when a man stepped off the platform to die.

Last year I killed a man
[guardian.co.uk via i forget]

So the geocachers I've relied on to provide the link to the USGS real time data about the elevation of the Great Salt Lake have rejiggered their site.

So here's the link I'm using to see if the Spiral Jetty is visible, submerged, or high and dry.

The Jetty's elevation is 4,197 feet above sea level, so with the lake level at 4,194, I suspect it'll be high and dry tomorrow.

update: it was, and it's spectacular, black-on-white, with the shimmering water just off the outer edge of the spiral. Also, we got a flat, which I had to change at the Jetty, which sucked. The flat, of course, not the Jetty.

USGS Water Surface Elevation, Great Salt Lake near Saline, UT [waterdata.usgs.gov]
Previously: lots of Jetty goodness on the greg.org


We're in Southern Utah at the moment, visiting family outside St. George, which you may know as the city with the Polo Outlet outside Zion National Park.

Last night, we went to my second cousin in-law's wedding reception at a Mormon stake center in Santa Clara. [a stake is made of several wards, or congregations. a stake center is the same as a ward meetinghouse, only bigger. There's a wardhouse roughly every ten blocks in this part of Utah.]

It was a very casual affair, with a western theme. The new couples' lassos hung on a coat rack made with horseshoes at the entrance to the cultural hall. Centerpieces of rusted iron hardware, horseshoes, bandannas, and cowboy hats sat on each table, as did a bowl of butter mints the color of over-farmed soil. I'd say they were khaki, but except for me, this was not a khaki crowd.

Men were wearing plaid shirts, jeans, and boots. Kirkland Jeans were surprisingly popular. While I got the belt buckle right--I'd changed from my turquoise truck buckle to my Montana Silversmiths "G" buckle, it's a wedding after all--and those madras Jack Purcells that have been on clearance sale at J. Crew since about five minutes after they were released. I could not imagine a more out-of-place pair of footwear if I tried. If it hadn't been a family affair, I would have--should have--had my ass kicked, just on principle.

After the celebration, we came home and watched our pre-ordered Dark Knight tickets become worthless as the kids refused to sleep on schedule. I snuck an Almond Joy from the 36-count case and a Mexican Coke in a glass bottle, and we sat outside in the pitch black desert, spotting what we believed to be two satellites passing overhead.


The Tribeca Tribune has some rather incredible shots of the last above-ground element of the World Trade Center, now dubbed the "Survivor Staircase," being moved on the back of a flatbed truck for the second time this year.

Though it was uprooted from its original site, and it has lost its original base, the stair treads, at least, are being preserved for eventual installation in the WTC memorial/museum.

Watching the care and effort being expended on this deracinated staircase's behalf, it's worth remembering their totally arbitrary post-9/11 history. Though they're revered as the only remaining fragments to survive the collapse of the World Trade Center, in fact, they're the only above-ground fragments to survive the demolition and clearing and headlong rebuilding of the WTC site. They were damaged during the site cleanup and appear to have survived because they were located on the periphery of an access road, outside the active construction zone of The Bathtub.


The stairs were used to evacuate a day care center in 5 WTC, but when I posted about them in late June 2003 and for a long time afterward, they were apparently ignored. Architect Rafael Vinoly, who lost the competition to design the WTC site to Daniel Libeskind, betrayed no awareness of the staircase. In a speech that month criticizing Libeskind's overwrought reverence for the Bathtub's slurry wall--which had already been reconstructed and resurfaced several times by then--Vinoly went so far as to say that there was "no archaeology" left at the site, that every piece of architecture above and below ground had already been cleared.

It was only when they were finally slated for dismantling by the Pataki administration's Port Authority--with some of the treads being used for the memorial plaza--that preservationists and survivors fought for their future. Last summer, the Spitzer administration announced the compromise: to incorporate the stairs into the stairs leading down to the memorial museum.

As Avi Schick, then chairman of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation told the NY Times, the stairs would become an interpretive element so that memorial visitors are "experiencing the path of travel just as someone else experienced it."

More or less.

Survivor Stairs Moved Again [tribecatrib via curbed]
Previously: Archaeology at WTC Site

-From the otherwise excellent Observer profile of recent NYC returnee Steve Guttenberg, which inexplicably leaves out one of his best New York projects, the Village People vehicle Can't Stop The Music:

"I am a seducer, I'm a salesman," [The Goot] said. "I'm trying to get people to buy my message. I do have a message. I'm as corny as Kansas in August. I'm as high as a kite on the Fourth of July. That's from South Pacific, but yeah, I do have a message ..."

The Center for Architecture, Max Protetch and the Buckminster Fuller Institute have teamed up to exhibit two of the original Fly's Eye domes, the last dome scheme that Fuller developed.

The original 10-ft diameter dome is at the gallery, and this vintage 26-ft version from 1976-7 is currently installed at LaGuardia Park, below Bleecker St, in the Village.

It'd take some engineering, maybe thread some systems and climate management through the structure, but I could totally see turning the largest version of the Fly's Eye into a house somewhere. Just get some of that tasty Bosch aluminum beam and build your free-standing structure within the larger space. Sort of like FAR's Wall House, only with a dome instead of a tent.

I'd like to think that the practical problems of dome living are due to the cheap-ass, DIY nature of most of the projects, and not to something inherent in the structure. But just by virtue of it's being cedar shingle-proof, the Fly's Eye Dome wins the Fuller Dome Off in my book.

the Fly's Eye Dome exhibits run through Sept 14 or so [aiany.org] Previously: Bucky chandelier almost makes up for the severe artifact/object shortage


After seeing it posted here and there, I finally got around to reading the Times article on Rachel Barrett's photo series of NYC newsstands.

The documentation & typology field has been well plowed, photography-wise, but I guess Barrett doesn't have to necessarily break new ground to make good art.

Still, for my money--and I wish I'd been able to spend it, but I was literally like the fifth or sixth hold on it when it took over Andrew Kreps' booth at the 2003 Armory Show, so I never had a chance--no newsstand-related art beats Cheyney Thompson's spectacular, life-size painting of a newsstand on East 86th St, An Event Commencing in the Spring of 1997 (part 2).

Even back then, in 2003, when there were still newsstands aplenty, Cheyney's work was already marking lost time; he'd painted the same newsstand three years before. Never mind that every detail--magazine covers, candies, drinks--were completely different, and yet somehow the same. And never mind the inherent futility of using an excruciatingly slow and laborious medium to capture a single instantiation of an everchanging media landscape. Or actually, mind all these things, which are embodied in the meticulously non-photorealistic brushwork.

According to the Times, Barrett's photos have been overtaken by nostalgia for a disappearing streetscape. Fine with me; the only things I buy at newsstands are Dots and the occasional Sunday Times anyway. But Cheyney's painting has me reminiscing about the good old days, too: the days when an art fair was a major event of discovery, where an energetic young painter would declare his presence with a work three or six years in the making, not three months. Ahh, 2003. Those were the days.

Yesterday's News [nyt]
An Event Commencing in the Spring of 1997 (part 2), Cheyney Thompson, via Andrew Kreps Gallery [andrewkreps.com]
Michael Wilson wrote about Cheyney's work in 2003 for Frieze [frieze.com]


It's been a low-intensity pleasure watching the pre-fab houses being constructed and installed for MoMA's upcoming Home Delivery exhibition. For a variety of reasons, none of which involve seeing it completed in person, mind you, I like Kieran Timberlake's Cellophane House the best so far.

The shortest explanation is it's the one I could most see myself living in. Its vertical plan is urban and density-friendly. It's extremely advanced and efficient in terms of its materials--the Bosch Rexroth extruded aluminum beams have the aesthetic sexiness, functional integrity, and off-the-shelf goodness that updates the innovations of the Eames House without merely aping its form. And its sustainability profile sounds excellent. Beyond this modernist idealism, it seems to truly extend and expand on the efficiency/quality promises of prefabrication; KT's production paradigm of simultaneous component assembly is adapted from the automotive and aviation industries.


And part of the appeal may be the architects' level of engagement and the amount of detail they've contributed to the Home Delivery construction blog, especially compared to some of the other firms. I loved this detail from a couple of weeks ago about bringing the finished building modules into the city from the factory in western New Jersey:

Time constraints, clearance limits for bridges and tunnels, and both local and federal Department of Transportation laws were taken into account to orchestrate the delivery of Cellophane House. New Jersey has a law which prohibits oversized loads from traveling on their roads at night, while New York has a law prohibiting oversized loads from traveling during the day. Therefore, all trucks will park on the New Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge before nightfall, and cross the bridge into New York before daybreak. Rigging is scheduled to commence at 6:00 a.m.
Cellophane House: Delivery [momahomedelivery.org]
KieranTimberlake site [KieranTimberlake.com]
KT just put out a book/DVD about Cellophane House's most immediate precursor, Loblolly House, which was built on a remote island in the Chesepeake Bay [amazon]

July 10, 2008

Opening Ceremonies


Wow, just wow. Paramilitaries forming the five rings and [apparently] performing the haka? Competitive hurdle-sawing? SWAT teams on Segways?? From the photos of Arirang-style military and police parades staged in cities around the country in advance of the Olympics, China is deadly serious about wresting the propaganda gold from Hitler's Olympic legacy.

Anti-Terrorism Exercises in China [the big picture]

July 9, 2008


HE never got in to Juillard, which always rankled, but still ended up with an entirely respectable Ph.D. in Music History and stints as both Associate Professor of Music and Composer-In-Residence at two midwestern universities. He had even had his Second Piano Concerto performed by the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra, and had a CD of it pressed at his own expense. He married a member of the ensemble he played in: she was ten years his junior, and one day he came home to an empty apartment. After that, he gave up teaching and, after going to Paris to study for a while, settled down in the Northwest, dividing time between being a velvet-voiced announcer at a classical music station and giving music lessons to a few students. He married again, this time happily, to a professor of romance languages that he met at a Do-It-Yourself-Messiah concert one Christmas. They adopted a child, a little girl.
just one from Peter Gillis's How it turned out" [mac via waxy]


In 1982, the Public Art Fund commissioned Agnes Denes to create Wheatfield - A Confrontation. She planted, cultivated, and harvested two acres of wheat on the vacant landfill that is now Battery Park City.

The image above is one of several at the Chelsea Art Museum site, relating to a 2004 retrospective of Denes's work. She is also included in a great-looking show at the Sculpture Center right now, “Decoys, Complexes, and Triggers: Feminism and Land Art in the 1970s." Even though, as I mentioned, Wheatfield was done in 1982. [That's sculpture-dash-center, btw.]

Interestingly enough, this year's incarnation of PS1's Young Architects program is called PF1, Public Farm 1 by WORK Architecture Company. It's a giant herb, flower, and vegetable garden suspended in a structure of giant cardboard tubes.

Also, in the From Sea To Shining Sea Department, artist Lauren Bon created Not A Cornfield a 2006 public art project which tranformed a 32-acre brownfield site adjacent to downtown Los Angeles into a, well, a cornfield for an agricultural cycle.

So elegiac. The chandeliers with the painted-on camera flares sequence is particularly beautiful. [youtube via artforum video]

related: Interesting. Paddy put into a coherent statement what I briefly wondered and then forgot: what's the implication of ArtForum showcasing YouTube videos that have presumably not been sanctioned by the artists who made them?

Bush & co copied their torture techniques from the freakin' Communists? Are you kidding me? No, you are not. Where's Hoover when we needed him?

WASHINGTON — The military trainers who came to Guantánamo Bay in December 2002 based an entire interrogation class on a chart showing the effects of “coercive management techniques” for possible use on prisoners, including “sleep deprivation,” “prolonged constraint,” and “exposure.”

What the trainers did not say, and may not have known, was that their chart had been copied verbatim from a 1957 Air Force study of Chinese Communist techniques used during the Korean War to obtain confessions, many of them false, from American prisoners.

The recycled chart is the latest and most vivid evidence of the way Communist interrogation methods that the United States long described as torture became the basis for interrogations both by the military at the base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and by the Central Intelligence Agency.

China Inspired Interrogations at Guantánamo [nyt]
PDF: “Communist Attempts to Elicit False Confessions From Air Force Prisoners of War”, 1957 [via 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.

comments? questions? tips? pitches? email
greg [at] greg [dot ] org

find me on twitter: @gregorg

about this archive

Posts from July 2008, in reverse chronological order

Older: June 2008

Newer August 2008

recent projects, &c.

Our Guernica Cycle, 2017 –
about/kickstarter | exhibit, 2017

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
11 Sept - Oct 23 2016
show | beginnings

Chop Shop
curated by Magda Sawon
1-7 March 2016

eBay Test Listings
Armory – ABMB 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" @ apexart, NYC
Mar 20 - May 8, 2013
about, brochure | installation shots

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