September 2008 Archives

From the AP Bureau in Utterly Incongruoustan:

Paris designers defy economic woes

Filed at 11:34 p.m. ET

PARIS (AP) -- As retail stocks plunged on Monday, Paris designers came up with antidotes to the economic blues plaguing the luxury industry.

British designer John Galliano tapped tribal influences in his ready-to-wear show for Christian Dior. Yohji Yamamoto created a haven for Zen contemplation, while Vivienne Westwood had simple advice for fashion addicts hit by the downturn: do it yourself!

French fashion label Cacharel celebrated its 50th anniversary as the Dow Jones index lost nearly 800 points.

I'll let you know when this headline is changed to "Paris designers blindsided and rendered ridiculously irrelevant by economic woes".

AP EU France Fashion Week Day 1 [ap/nyt]

September 27, 2008

Yeah, Quasi-Reality!

The documentary or at least the naturalistic mode seems to be all the rage this year at the NY Film Festival. I'm all for it, of course; since it's what I do. I just hope all that HD looks alright on the big screen at the Ziegfeld.

Quasi-Reality Bites Back [nyt]

Is he done? I think so. Tyler Green has turned Modern Art Notes into State of Spiral Jetty Notes this week, and it seems clear to me that the biggest entropic threat Smithson's masterpiece faces is not natural, but institutional.

Green looks at the mining and commercial interests with development plans for the Great Salt Lake; Utah state government officials who court industry and economic development and who are only beginning to grasp the Jetty's global significance; local conservation and environmental groups whose shoestring grassroots efforts were the only thing that stopped the oil drilling near the Jetty this past spring; and last and unfortunately least, Dia, the art institution which is steward--and in many cases, commissioner--of many Jetty-vintage earthworks.

I wonder if it means anything that Smithson's widow and estate representative, Nancy Holt, isn't really discussed or quoted in the otherwise exhaustive series? Or that there's no mention of Dia's total ball-dropping in regard to the state's apparently unilateral decision in 2006 to "clean up" the shore line near the Jetty, a process which involved removing several dozen truckloads of "junk," including some industrial ruins that Smithson referenced in his siting of the piece.

Dia's lack of involvement and strategic vision for the Jetty is complicated at the moment by the institution's own turmoil and leadership transition, but I can't help but feel worried even calling Dia an "institution." Even under Michael Govan's high profile leadership, Dia has always felt like a virtual organization, an instantiation of the whims of whatever deep-pocketed funder was around at the moment. [Wow, was MIchael Kimmelman's look at Dia's manic history really from 2003? It feels much longer ago than that.] The kinds of political and coalition-related imperatives that Tyler discusses--and on which the Jetty's very survival apparently now hangs--seem completely alien to a bauble like Dia.

MAN Series on Preserving Spiral Jetty [modern art notes]
Oil drilling was part of the picture when Smithson sited the Jetty
Cleanup crew: 1, Entropy: 0
Related rumination: What if sprawl is the real entropy?

September 25, 2008

We're All David Lettermans Now

John McCain lied to David Letterman, and Letterman is pissed.

John McCain called Letterman personally to cancel his appearance on the show last night, claiming he was rushing right back to Washington to save the economy. Then he went to do an interview with Katie Couric.

This is not Sforza we can believe in.


I first encountered filmmaker Stan VanDerBeek's work in Aspen Magazine. His 1964 collaboration with Robert Morris, Site, combined dance/performance, art, and film. Performers create a physical, 3-D approximation of camera wipes and reveals using large black and white panels. Though Morris and VanDerBeek made it years before, it reminds me of early video art work from WGBH that explored the functions and visual properties of the new technology.

Throughout his career, VanDerBeek was an "advocate of the application of a utopian fusion of art and technology." [That's from his E.A.I bio on Ubu, btw.] Which would be interesting enough on its own. But until I get down there to see the actual show, what I find most fascinating about Guild & Greyshkul's current survey of VanDerBeek's varied output is the intricacies of how his family began dealing with it after he passed away.

Two of G&G's artist-owners are VanDerBeek's children, and the process they went through--part biographical, part familial, part art historical, part archive/conservational--is just awesome. Sara VanDerBeek's discussion with Brian Sholis is at

The image above is Panels for the Walls of the World, a 153-panel "fax mural" which VanDerBeek sent from MIT to various places around the country in 1970. Phase I, above, was transmitted to the Walker Art Center. There were four "phases" of Panels, and it's possible that a significant percentage of all the fax toner in the country in 1970 was exhausted printing out VanDerBeek's murals.

Stan VanDerBeek runs through Oct. 18 at Guild & Greyshkul; Navigate from this crazy page, too [guildgreyshkul]
500 Words | Stan VanDerBeek by Sara VanDerBeek [artforum]
Films of Stan VanDerBeek [ubu]

September 21, 2008

Overheard On 24th Street

"Hi, this is Dash."

September 20, 2008

Just Do The Line.

From the i-banking obit the NYT has waiting on the shelf for just such emergencies:

"I hate to use the phrase 'masters of the universe,' but they're not in investment banking anymore, they're in hedge funds," Mr. [Tom] Wolfe [who, excuse me, owns that damn phrase and should have it hung around his neck every time the market tanks] said. And "hedge funds don't need glass office towers. They can run $15 billion with 25 people" in the leafy suburban sanctuaries where their directors live.

"The new Wall Street," he said, "is Greenwich, Conn."

Next he'll say he hates wearing white suits.

Yes, they went there: Dim LIghts, Big City [nyt]

September 19, 2008

someone died across the street

someone died across the street, originally uploaded by gregorg.

This morning I watched as a masked and gloved demo crew emptied an apartment in the building across the street. Shitty traditional furniture from decades, not centuries, ago; an emptied bookcase; a disgusting-looking twin mattress; a couple of large garbage cans full of stuff small enough to stuff in a garbage can.

All the kind of stuff left behind by someone who died old, and thrown away like the stuff of someone who died alone.

When I finally realized they were done, I thought I ought to take a picture, not enough time to open the screen on the window.

The autofocus on my phonecam caught the grid and created an unexpectedly beautiful pixellated effect, which I thought was nice. Dying alone and having your entire life summarily tossed into a landfill, not so much.

September 14, 2008

Finite Jest

Holy crap, David Foster Wallace died Friday night. [1] I thought we had a deal [2] we were going to grow old together.... dammit

[1] hanged.
[2] the deal: he writes, I read.

September 13, 2008

Madness, Madness

On the occasion of a Film Forum series of his work, Terrence Rafferty has an interesting, if brief and kind of depressing think about David Lean's method in the NY Times.

Maybe the series can wrest Lean away from the clutches of the cinematic cliche crowd that always puts Lawrence of Arabia in their award show montages. He's kind of like the Dalai Lama; a no doubt great god who attracts the most annoying sort of sycophantic groupies. [Or is that Tarantino?]

Bonus: block out Katherine Hepburn's schtick and just treat Summertime as a fantastic documentary of 1950's Venice. Also, the movie was blurbed by the film critic of the Daily Worker. !

Related: David Ehrenstein's relook at Lean in Artforum makes me feel a little guilty.

September 9, 2008

Met Throws Lot In With Curator

I really didn't follow the Metropolitan Museum's horse race to see who would replace Philippe de Montebello as director, but I find myself caring deeply that it's tapestry curator Thomas Campbell.

Campbell's two shows on Renaissance and Baroque tapestries in 2002 and 2007 respectively, were some of the most unexpectedly spectacular and intelligent exhibitions I've ever seen. The Renaissance show was quite moving, even, which still surprises me.

So given all the possible museum world follies that could have befallen the selection, it feels very heartening that the museum has chosen someone with curatorial depth and scholarship, who's able to make highly relevant cases for even seemingly secondary arts, and to put on truly beautiful, important shows.

I'm not sure, but I think the references to porcupines and garage doors in this editorial in the Anchorage Daily News is some kind of GOP code.

Keep right, quills

I've never seen a porcupine sprint.

The other night I almost hit one while riding a bicycle home. Waddle and roll, old quills was in a hurry on the right side of the trail just shy of the overpass that leads to the landfill outside of Eagle River. Headlamp light caught his tail a few feet before my front tire would have. I swerved. Quills kept going in a straight line.

No dash to the safety of brush and shadow. Just straight on, huff and puff and still slo-mo.

I had a vision of a leg full of quills if I'd hit the critter and fallen on it. Having pulled quills from the swollen muzzles of yelping dogs, I've got no desire to feel their pain.

Quills can kill, but the porcupine never seems to mean any harm.

Good thing they're nocturnal. They don't move fast enough for daylight living.

"Death on dogs," is how an acquaintance once described them. He recommended shooting them. Another old Alaskan once told me they were walking wilderness survival kits. Easy to kill with a stick. Fresh meat.

Deal death to a porcupine? Its very nature rules out fair chase. I once watched one go up a birch tree to escape a dog. The leaves grew faster than the porcupine climbed. Fortunately for both dog and porcupine, it was already out of the dog's range by the time the dog saw it.

Another time a porcupine huddled, head tucked between front paws against a garage door as I walked up to it in the dark. It raised its head once and looked back to see if I was still there, then put its head back down. It seemed to be thinking that if it didn't see me, I wouldn't be there anymore.

So I left. I waited half an hour before checking to see that it was gone. I figured the porcupine needed at least that much time to get away.

-- Frank Gerjevic

Former NGA curator and Dia director Jeffrey Weiss writes about the state of Land Art in the latest issue of Artforum. His focus: T.S.O.Y.W., a 3-hour Earthworks road trip movie/installation by Amy Granat and Drew Heitzler shown in this year's Whitney Biennial, and the Sculpture Center's recent exhibition of feminism and Land Art in the 1970's [which featured the Agnes Denes work, Wheatfield - A Confrontation in Battery Park City that I mentioned a couple of months ago.]

As Earthworks come of age, their fate has begun to look contingent and fragile. Those who are charged with caring for the sites are rightly doing what they can to forestall change; but a true poetics of Land art--given the very nature of the medium--must at least contend with the conflict between an ethic of preservation and the entropic pull of nature and culture that belongs to the content of the work. In this setting, Granat and Heitzler are melancholic visionaries. Their wheels, like reels, turn in order to draw a straight line and follow it: Their line is the road, a figure for unbounded space and inexhaustible time. But as their bike moves forward, their eyes gaze, historically, back; T.S.O.Y.W. shows us that memory has become a chief element of the temporal condition of the Earthwork. The film's end is a running-down and out, a sudden shift from images of the infinite desert to scarred film leader, then, abruptly, to nothing at all. Forever turns out to be the ultimate conceit. [emphasis added]
Hmm, let's ignore the conceit of a film ending abruptly while it's actually screening on an endless loop in a gallery.

I'm intrigued by the idea that memory is a "chief element" of Land Art and its "temporal condition," if it somehow equates to the divergence between the contemporary condition and experience of visiting the work/site and its various representations, whether in film, photograph, or documenting ephemera.

For most art audience members over the intervening decades--curators, critics, collectors and artists included-- Land Art exists as books, photos, gallery presentations, and texts. At the Whitney's Robert Smithson retrospective in 2005, one symposium panelist went so far as to argue that Spiral Jetty was primarily a film and photo work, as if the jetty itself were just a location, a bit of IMDb trivia. It sounded to me then like just the kind of critical reading that a New York art worlder would make who'd come of age when the Jetty was submerged, and who'd never bothered going to Utah in the 10+ years since it re-appeared.


With images and expectations formed in our head, actually visiting an Earthwork can be as disorienting as meeting your favorite NPR host. Or if, as Weiss points out, the work has deteriorated over time, it's like meeting an author who hasn't updated his bookjacket photo for a while. And the disconnect can be jarring; When Titus O'Brien made his pilgrimage to Smithson's last work, Amarillo Ramp, he found the powerful sculptural form of the iconic 1973 photograph had become "a worn down, weed covered, neglected berm of dirt you'd just mistake for an old watering trough dam. A phantom."


But memory is more than the gap between reality and what we think reality is; it's the reconciliation and construction of the two. Weiss's concerns about the complications Land Art curators face is right, but maybe not in the way he says. From Marfa to the Lightning Field to the Jetty to even Michael Heizer's Double Negative and Turrell's Roden Crater, the Earthworks Road Trip has matured in the last decade as both a real experience and a concept. As more people make the pilgrimages and have personal encounters with these works, not only do their memories of the works change, but other people begin to perceive the works not just as images in a book or on a wall, but as visitable sites.

I wonder how the perceptions and understanding of Walter deMaria's Lightning Field change when they're based, not just on John Cliett's dramatic, official photos [via], but on firsthand accounts of the 24-hour visiting experience, very few of which appear to involve actual lightning? And how would that change if Dia and deMaria allowed visitor photographs? When it comes to Land Art in the present and future, there are still a few more conceits left to be addressed.

September 5, 2008

Why I FFFFFing Hate FFFFound

I'm sorry, but I think the deracinated, uncredited, untraceable image orgy Ffffound to be the nadir of the eye candy, surface-uber-alles design world. And the people at Things offer my contempt a half-full glass of niceness:

We've always known that the object in isolation is not as fascinating as the object within its cultural context. The internet provided not just a new context, but a new way of looking at existing contexts. It took a while to realise it, but the collection, presentation, and curation of objects has become an intrinsically revealing way of tracing the ins and outs of modern culture.

September 5, 2008

A School Called Hope


"This is the place that matters." And this just gets better and better. Walter Reed Middle School served as the backdrop for the presidential candidacy of Democratic congressman Matt Santos--as played by Jimmy Smits on West Wing.

West Wing producer-writer Eli Attie told the Guardian in February that the Santos character was based on Barack Obama:

"I drew inspiration from him in drawing this character," West Wing writer and producer Eli Attie told the Guardian. "When I had to write, Obama was just appearing on the national scene. He had done a great speech at the convention [which nominated John Kerry] and people were beginning to talk about him."

Attie, who served as chief speechwriter to Al Gore during the ill-fated 2000 campaign and who wrote many of the key Santos episodes of the West Wing, put in a call to Obama aide David Axelrod.

"I said, 'Tell me about this guy Barack Obama.'"

Axelrod is, of course, Obama's chief strategist for the campaign.

Watch Santos' hope-themed speech [youtube via tpm]

From West Wing to the real thing | Scriptwriters modelled TV's ethnic minority candidate on young Barack Obama


As a student of Sforzian backdrops, this scenario being discussed here is almost too... and yet...

Did the GOP really use:
- an image of the main building at Walter Reed
- only it's not the Army's Walter Reed Medical Center but
- Walter Reed Middle School in North Hollywood
- that looks like a giant Mediterranean-style mansion, perhaps the McCain's place in Palm Beach?
- And which has a giant green lawn
- that ends up recreating the horrible green backdrop of McCain's speech the night Obama took the nomination?

- and which has been used as a location for filming Malcolm in the Middle, Growing Pains, and Transformers?
It's like the Sforzian equivalent of blinking out a secret message in Morse code: O-B-A-M-A.

related? A WSJ profile of McCain's creative director and the guy responsible for "the planning of the program and the production of the videos shown [at the convention]," "Hollywood" Fred Davis []

"Just from what little I've seen of [Michelle] and Mr. Obama, Sen. Obama, they're a member of an elitist-class individual that thinks that they're uppity," Westmoreland said. Asked to clarify that he used the word "uppity," Westmoreland said, "Uppity, yeah."

-Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, Republican congressman from Georgia's 3rd District, as quoted in The Hill

You know, I was going to make a joke about how John McCain had said, "We're all Georgians now," but then I realized Westmoreland is the guy could only come up with three of the Ten Commandments on The Colbert Report. And I can't top that.

This is the classic, Southern good old boy in the building industry racism that we have in North Carolina, too. Only stupider.

September 3, 2008



Laura Bush tells the audience at the GOP Convention that a new life awaits them in the off-world colonies. [image: Damon Winter/NYT. He's got a great one of Fred Thompson, too]


There's no photo credit, but I'm assuming that Gawker scanned this image of Gov. Sarah Palin from an issue of Alaska Interiors. I hope McCain keeps her on for a while, this is awesome.

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.

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

find me on twitter: @gregorg

about this archive

Posts from September 2008, in reverse chronological order

Older: August 2008

Newer October 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