July 2012 Archives


As soon as I learned of Chris Marker's death, I went to look at what I'd written about one of his most recent projects, which I'd been so stunned by, only to find that I hadn't written anything at all, only tweeted about it, which is barely more persistent than thinking about it.

And I don't mean Marker's show of surreptitious Metro chick photography at Peter Blum last year, which was cliched to the point of embarrasment. It's the short Flash video Stopover in Dubai, which appeared almost unannounced on Gorgomancy, a pseudonymous Marker website. [I prefer the direct link to the .swf file]


For all i thought I knew and admired about Marker's work, from the touchstones of La Jetee and Sans Soleil, up to the improbable Immemory CD-ROM, Stopover In Dubai stopped me cold. But not [just] because of the content, though it is chilling.

Stopover in Dubai is the meticulous reconstruction of a Mossad hit squad's surreptitious mission to assassinate Hamas military commander Mahmoud al-Mahbouh in his hotel room on January 19, 2010. The entire thing plays out silently, via CCTV surveillance video from all over the city. Not that anything actually ever "happens" in front of the cameras; the footage only shows the most seemingly banal images of people crossing hotel lobbies or waiting for elevators.


The footage was available because the show actually assembled, not by Marker, but by Dubai's General Department of State Security, as part of their investigation of Mahbouh's death. The riveting, 26-minute account of the hit, titled, The murder of Mahmoud Al Mabhouh, was provided by the government to Gulf News TV, the video news service of the UAE's leading English language newspaper.

It was only after watching Stopover in awe, figuring out what it was, and then tracking down and watching the original version, that I realized Marker had appropriated GNTV/Dubai State Media's footage exactly as they aired it, edits, captions, graphics and all. And yet he had completely remade the film. Marker replaced the news program's generic, royalty-free, techno-lite soundtrack with a haunting, ominous string composition written by Henryk Górecki for the Kronos Quartet.

The music seems to fit perfectly, like it had been written, scored, or at least timed, to the film. Until I started digging, I'd assumed Marker had used segments of another film score, the way he'd mashed up this riot slideshow by the Times of London with music from The 400 Blows. But Marker actually just plays Górecki's piece, "String Quartet No. 3 ('...songs are sung')" straight through.

Where I'd once questioned my interpretation and response to the film, wondering who was actually responsible for the elements of its success-its narrative, structure, pacing, and suspense--I now marveled at Marker's ability to recognize how these two things existing in the world--the edited footage and the Kronos recording--resonated so powerfully with each other, and with himself and his artistic sensibilities. Marker didn't need to do any more than make this impossible connection; it was the slightest gesture necessary, and yet the result is no less remarkable.

I don't know if Marker saw it--maybe it's in the liner notes for the Kronos CD--but a Nonesuch text complicates the relationship between the Górecki composition and the Mahbouh assassination in unexpectedly poignant ways.

GNTV's opening titles tell us that the Mossad had been pursuing Mahbouh for years without success. Kronos, meanwhile, had originally commissioned Górecki to create a third work for them in 1992, and it was set to debut in 1994. But nothing came. For over 13 years. The composer finally delivered the work in 2005, with a dedication,

"To the Kronos Quartet, which for so many years has waited patiently for this quartet." In a commentary attached to the score, Górecki added that the work had been completed in 1995, "but I continued to hold back from releasing it to the world. I don't know why."
The quartet's title, meanwhile, "is inspired by the last line of a poem by the Russian poet Velimir Khlebnikov, 'When people die, they sing songs.'"

Just as Kronos' long, patient wait for its song resonates with the Mossad's long-fruitless hunt for vengeance/justice/death, the suspenseful score of a found footage, real life spy thriller is revealed as the song the target--who barely appears in the movie itself--sings when he is drugged, paralyzed, and smothered in his hotel room, out of the cameras' view, but still within the auteur's reach. Who was, in this case, Chris Marker.

Untitled (MOCA Mercedes, After Mike D), 2012, detail, 54" dia., an edition of yet-to-be-determined size at a price which will remain in effect until Deitch leaves MOCA. Stay tuned.

Previously, Study for Untitled (MOCA Mercedes, After Mike D)

July 30, 2012

Mack & Stack


To Whoever Just Bought This Amazing 1977 Photo Of Founding Museum of Contemporary Art President Joseph Shapiro, Credit Card In Hand, Macking On His Lovely Wife Next To A Judd Stack,

Thank you. I'd been wanting it, but also not, being entranced but also slightly weirded out by it, and so hesitating over it for a couple of days now. I was about to cave. But tonight, I'll give my extra $40 a little hug instead.

PS. If you ever Google your way across this, I'd love to do this photo justice with a better, watermark-free image, please.


Via the New Yorker's photodesk, an excellent slideshow of a sampling of Louise Lawler's photographs of artworks by Gerhard Richter, in situ and in transit.

My favorite is still the site-specifically distorted No Drones, which I posted about last winter. But for the newly published book, Louise Lawler and/or Gerhard Richter, Richter archivist Dietmar Elger looks to have stuck with each of the 29 photo's original dimensions.

Interestingly, the US edition of the book has retitled its way out of the authorial ambiguity of the original: Louise Lawler: The Gerhard Richter Photographs.

Slide Show | Louise Lawler's Gerhard Richter [newyorker via @janehu and @briansholis]
Previously:the disco ball next to the Lawler
About Destroyed Richter Paintings
Also: the crates for Richter's 4,900 Colours are so sexy


I so wish I was in town for this:

July 28th, 5-8PM, Eric Doeringer, Cowboy Photography Workshop

Artist Eric Doeringer will bring vintage Marlboro advertisements from his collection and will assist participants in re-photographing them in the manner of Richard Prince. Visitors will leave with a high resolution digital file and information on how to have it printed at a large size. Participants are welcome to drop in anytime during the workshop. There will be a small materials fee.

Just another day in the life of HELP/LESS, Chris Habib's amazing show at Printed Matter.

Doeringer has searched out original copies of the Marlboro ads Prince began rephotographing in 1980, and began his own re-creation? re-enactment? re-performance? of Prince's Untitled (Cowboy) photos last year.

After the jump, I've transcribed a section from Prince's court deposition where he discusses his early rephotography process:

Just go read Brian Phillips' awesome analysis of the bizarre hermetic superlatives of rhythmic gymnastics:

[L]ike all insular civilizations, [RG]'s evolved in a certain direction, it's developed hard-and-fast attitudes about what's beautiful and proper, and a corresponding need to defend those attitudes. It's putting on a show, and it does what it knows how to do. The result is that it feels a little unbalanced to outsiders, in the same way as, say, ice dancing, or dog shows, or a lot of judged activities.
This notion of competition, judgment and the pursuit of perfection within an insular world happens to be a minor fascination/obsession of mine. At some point probably 10 years ago, after surfing past yet another aerobics world championship on ESPN3, I started a posterboard spectrum, which I changed to a 2x2 grid, and then just a bubble chart. All the sports and "sports," I can find are laid out on it, from bodybuilding to dressage to cheerleading to college marching bands [both historically black and not]. Rhythmic gymnastics is there, too, in a cluster with regular gymnastics, synchronized swimming, ballet, drill team, and child beauty pageants. Here's Phillips again:
There is, in the contrast between the poise and seriousness of the athletes and the princessy kitsch of the setting, something really kind of dark and wonderful. Just imagine it: devoting your life, mercilessly and with absolute commitment, to the task of dancing with little twirly clubs to a synth-folk soundtrack while wearing a spangled bathing suit designed to look like ladybug wings. Imagine doing that as well as it can humanly be done, being the person who embodies that accomplishment. I'm not making fun of anyone; I find it strangely noble.
I find it WTFcrazy. With two daughters of my own now, it feels like my parental prime directive is to steer these kids as far the hell away from these freakshows as possible.

I mean, how can it be that less than ten years after Chris Rock identified keepin' his baby off the pole as a father's only job, there is a petition by an Irish member of the International Pole Dance Fitness Association [which is different from the World Pole Dance Federation] to make pole dancing [or "Vertical Bar Dance"] an Olympic sport?

I haven't figured it out yet, what it all means, but the more you think about it, these kind of esoteric, competitive evaluation systems are everywhere, and the desire to excel within them is, too: business, politics, religion, literature, art. Is the only difference popularity, which is apparently just a function of time?


Maybe to achieve a Theory of Every WTF Thing requires looking beyond the gut, cultural affinities of a judged system, to its language, attempting a close read of the texts it produces. Phillips again:

RG has its own language, which non-RG initiates mostly perceive as a series of ultrasonic clicks and emoji hearts. What, for instance, is the precise distinction between the tournaments Miss Valentine 2012 (Tartu, Estonia, February 10-12), Pearls of Varna 2012 Academic (Bulgaria, July 2), and the 4th International Waves Cup (Germany, March 24)? I have read the rulebook in effect for the Olympics, the 125-page Code of Points: Rhythmic Gymnastics 2009-2012 [pdf], and let me tell you -- you thought football had a lot going on. Between the aggro-ballet terminology (fouetté, entrelacé), the extensive use of pictograms, and the radical linguistic uncertainty ("The French version is the official text," the front cover proclaims, in English), this thing reads like Finnegans Wake as drafted by the unicorn debate team.
Yes. RG has its own language. Just like everything else. And it has roots in aggro-ballet, and there are 43 words for ribbon twirling.

So the top hundred or so international sport and "sport" federations' codes, preferably in print, to fill a bookshelf, and then to begin the data-intensive synthesis between them all. I'll get right on that.

Sparkle Motion [grantland via @felixsalmon]

So tomorrow evening, Friday, I'll be speaking at Printed Matter. If anyone reading this is in town and interested, I hope you'll stop by. Bring a fan, though; it gets hot in there.


Eric Doeringer and I will be discussing appropriation and artist books, though he's already won the night, merch-wise, thanks to his two new titles he's launching. Fellow Prince appropriator Hermann Zschiegner will be moderating.

The whole evening, which starts at 6:30, is part of HELP/LESS, Chris Habib's frankly awesome-looking show of authorship, originality, reproduction, and appropriation, which is taking over the whole store this summer. If you can't make the talk, you should still swing by to see the show.


Eric Doeringer + Greg Allen/ Book Launch + Discussion [printed matter's facebook invite for the event]
HELP/LESS, curated by Chris Habib [printedmatter.org]

Previously, related: Untitled (300x404), a print after Richard Prince
Canal Zone Richard Prince Yes Rasta: The Book

July 17, 2012

Twin Towers

Add Damian & Cosmas' importance to Joseph Beuys and his renaming in 1974 of the then-new World Trade Center towers after the twin physician saints to the list of things I did not know about but probably should have.

From Marina Warner's generous discussion of Damien Hirst in the LRB:

[Hirst] is named after the patron saint of doctors (usually spelled Damian), who, with his twin brother Cosmas, performed the first surgical transplant when he grafted the leg of a Moor who had fallen in battle onto the stump of a white Christian knight. This operation, depicted on altarpieces in the saints' many churches, can't be consigned to the antique glory hole of weird Catholic legend, for it was crucial to Joseph Beuys's dream of revolution: a vision of inter-racial fusion, of the resurrection and reconciliation art can achieve. In one of his works, Beuys eerily renamed the two towers of the then newly built World Trade Center after the brother saints: did he do so in some wan hope that the towers could be transfigured into instruments of good?

Beuys, needless to say, is second only to Duchamp in importance to the current philosophy of making art.

Needless to say, I would have known if only I'd been a little more faithful in my Brooklyn Rail reading. Because that's where I found David Levi Strauss's thorough, if slightly Nostradominous, discussion of Cosmas und Damian, Beuys' multiple [?] based on a 3D postcard of the Twin Towers.


Once A Catholic... [lrb.co.uk]
IN CASE SOMETHING DIFFERENT HAPPENS IN THE FUTURE: Joseph Beuys and 9/11 [brooklynrail.org]
David Levi Strauss's essay was also just republished as one of those 100 chapbooks from documenta 13 [amazon]

Change I Can Believe In

So Todd Lapin at Telstar Logistics is starting to roll out The $50 Paint Job, and it's really got me thinking.

Basically, it's Rustoleum household enamel, thinned by 50% or so with mineral spirits, and applied with high density foam rollers, with wet sanding between each two very thin coats. This guy did it on his Corvair, and that moparts.org thread goes on for days, months, years about it.

As I've been building up layers of Rijksoverheid enamel on my own panels, using various brushes and rollers, and wet sanding in between, I've been working toward an ideal that's really eluded me so far: a hand-applied painted surface that shows no marks from the application. Like, for example, a Gerhard Richter mirror painting.

Part of the motivation for this is the ease with which you [I] could order these panels from a body shop. It'd be Moholy-Nagy easy--even easier since there's no design, just color--to just order these monochromes by the official Dutch governmental auto paint code on the phone. I have the list right here. But I wanted to do them myself.

And so far, that perfectly self-leveled, brushless, orange peel-less surface has eluded me. But reading The $50 Paint Job stories, it's obvious why: the paint straight out of the can is too thick. And for whatever misguided, paint-can-as-unaltered-found-object reason, I have resisted thinning it. Well screw that, because the next six coats are going to be nearly water-thin. I can't wait.

Previously: rijksoverheid rood in process
The original idea, to paint monochromes and 2-color gradients based on the 21 officially approved colors in the Dutch government's Rijkshuisstijl, plus the five blues of the country's new logo, all of which are derived, we're told, from Golden Age Dutch painting and the Dutch light that inspired Dutch painting.

July 16, 2012

Save The Whale


It's Chicago Day here at greg.org; I just got my copy of Matthew Witkovsky's rather amazing-looking exhibition catalogue for his show at the Art Institute, Light Years: Conceptual Art and the Photograph 1964-1977, along with this awesome photo from a little later, August 10, 1989, to be exact.

That's when the folks at Chicago Sculpture '89 and The Equitable held a reception inside Richard Serra's 1986 sculpture, Call Me Ishmael, trying to raise $575,000 to purchase the sculpture for the city of Chicago. In a clipping from a Chicago Sun-Times article about the event, Serra's sculpture is "said to depict a whale."

Mhmm, not sure who said that. What's not said is that Call Me Ishmael is basically two tilted arcs. Serra's date for the work is 1986, after Tilted Arc itself was threatened, but before it was actually removed/destroyed.

Unlike Tilted Arc, Call Me Ishmael was not site-specific. Or at least, Serra has presumably approved the installations by its subsequent buyers, Doris & Donald Fisher, who loaned it to Stanford, though it was replaced last year.

Meanwhile, back in Chicago, not only did they not get the Serra, that plaza in front of The Equitable Building has since been host to two of the abso-$)(%ing-lute worst kitsch public sculptures ever: J Seward Johnson's massive American Gothic remake and that Marilyn Monroe mess. It's like the Chicago Cubs of sculpture up there.


In the summer of 1994, MoMA installed a new work by James Turrell, A Frontal Passage, for the first time. I've seen it so many times since, now I can't remember the experience of seeing it for the first time. But I do remember the experience of seeing Turrell's one-man show at ICA Philadelphia in 1993, where I'd just started business school. There were a couple of light spaces, plus an anechoic chamber piece, some of his early corner projections, and a big table model of Roden Crater [which, frankly, made no sense at that diorama scale, and felt entirely, confusingly speculative, equal parts California real estate development and Richard Dreyfuss' Close Encounters dining table.]

Anyway, while going through some envelopes full of slides [!] last night, I just found a MoMA Film schedule from July 1994 with some notes on it. And now I remember that I camped out in A Frontal Passage for a while, just standing in the corner, listening to peoples' reactions, and then wanting to write them down. So I headed out in search for the first piece of paper I could find:

A Spanish mother and son awed into silence whispers.

"I don't like this. I can't see. I'm not going down there."

"What is this? Is it so bad, he doesn't want it seen in the light?"

A family comes in Grandma waits outside. Then the father goes out, gets her guiding her by the shoulders. She looks for a second or two, and then he guides her out.

Son to dad: Is there a floor?

Two elderly British ladies ask a guard, "Where's the dark room?" He excitedly shows them the way. He stands at the hairpin turn his white shirt a beacon. "Hold onto the rail."

"What's the purpose? Where are we going?"

"Ladies, can you see me?" Some general jostling around the corner.

The eager guard: "And here it is."

"What is it? A statue? Is that a statue?"

"No, that's a man."

I laugh and somewhat regret my intrusion.

"It's the light at the end of the tunnel."

"A little piece of heaven," says the guard.

"Is that what it is?"

"I'm waiting for God to come out, I have some things to tell him," smiling.

"Laddy, in World War II it was dark all the time. That's what it reminds me of," as they head back into the hall.

In the main gallery, "Oh, it's so bright."

"I remember when they said we could turn the lights on. It was so bright then."

Previously: apparently, scribbling notes about Turrell is what I do
stumbling across an outdoor Turrell at Kijkduin

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.

July 14, 2012

Mike Mills Photo-Murals


So I start looking around for installation/shop shots of Aaron Rose's Storage Unit Fire Sale, which just opened at Known Gallery in LA, and what's the first thing I see? At The Hundreds?

That's right, not decks or kicks or posters. Photomurals. By Mike Mills.

They're vinyl prints, of course, as most giant images are these days, but they are rather awesome nonetheless.

Except technically, they're not by Mills, but of him, spraypainting his messages in his suit. There's "Let's all be human beings," and "Stop Hiding." I called about them, and learned there's are some other ones, "Love is worth it," and "Neither of us can get to heaven unless the other one gets in," somewhere. Ah, here's the latter, in Ann Duray's coverage at Juxtapoz. I like the way the low-res original fits with the vinyl inkjet. Meanwhile, yow, Duray's also got a picture of a larger-than-life full-length of Terry Richardson. Roll that one back up.


And then that huge pink and white image up top on the opposite wall is also by Mills. Before the Known guy could look them up for me, I found the images on Mills' website; they're all from a 2004 show at the Mu Museum in Eindhoven titled, Not How When or Why But Yes.

Mills mentions the "cross-disciplinary work" of Charles Eames as an influence, but then only mentions furniture, "architecture, films, exhibitions and toys," not art per se. And he's expressed some wariness toward the gallery-centered confines of the art market. Though he's since married Miranda July, who has since been making sculptures that have turned up in public venues, the Biennale, etc.


Which, it's not clear how he considers these awesome prints, but I bet he'd not think they're art objects in the commodity sense, just large prints, souvenirs from the show that were too awesome to trash in Holland. And then what was that giant, plush reclining Buddha sticking his/her head out of that Mu Museum installation, right? D'oh, no way, scroll down to the last photo there. It's in the show and for sale, too! Rose really stored that thing for eight years? That's gotta be $10k right there. Impressive.

It's kind of interesting to see things outside the "gallery system," though, and how they're considered and discussed--and shown and priced and bought and sold. In the case of these murals, they're unique, and pretty cheap--$1,400 or so, and the big pink one's like $5,000. They roll up for easy storage.

One Man's Treasure [thehundreds.com]
Aaron Rose Fire Sale at Known Gallery [knowngallery]
Graffiti, Mike Mills, 2004 [mikemillsweb.com]
Not How When or Why But Yes,


Well those worked out rather nicely. Wrapping the star tonight. We'll see how that goes.

I don't know where to plot this fashion show for Hövding, the amazing, new Swedish air bag bike helmet startup, on the grid containing the Blade Runner chase scene, bike messenger tribe, post-triathlon hangout, Otakon registration, and Walter Van Bierendonck, but it's definitely on there somewhere. [via @timoarnall]

Oh, will you look at that. Right at the epicenter of the continent's financial crisis, Banco Sabadell, a mid-sized Spanish bank, commissioned a flash orchestra to casually assemble with their instruments in front of their closed building on the plaza and to just toss off the last, best thing the European Union's got going for it right now, its anthem, the prelude from Ode To Joy, Beethoven's Ninth.

That always gets me right h--oh, wait, what's that? NPR and WQXR organized a flash choir to perform Philip Glass--and to sing a specially commissioned adaptation by the composer himself, no less--for his 75th birthday, in the center of freakin' Times Square?

Hah, in your FACE, Europe!

Flash Choir Sings Philip Glass In Times Square [npr.org]


Check out Charles Burton's 1851 proposal for turning the first modern building into the first modern skyscraper:

Design for converting the Crystal Palace into a tower 1,000 ft high! in commemoration of the World's Fair and as a repository of science, art, manual and mechanical operations.
Which is all well and good. I'll let skyscraper historians figure that one out.

I'm wondering if there was a commonly discussed plan to install a replica of Stonehenge in Hyde Park, though, or if this, too, was Burton's innovation.


The crazy era slips piling up in this one painting make me wonder if this was bought in 2011 by a time-traveling 1990s Verne Dawson.

Lot 171: C Burton, 19th c, sold for £6,600, 19 Jan 2011 [bonhams.com via things magazine]


I fell for the first one ever saw, which was CNN, but in 2002 Thomas Hirschhorn started a whole series of gigantic, bling-inspired sculptures out of his signature, cheap-ass materials: foil, cardboard, mylar, and packing tape.

CNN was an edition of 50, published by Schellmann for Okwui Enwezor's documenta 11, and it quickly sold out--and started getting flipped, as Pedro Velez' artnet photo from c.2003 Art Chicago shows.


But the tricky thing is that though they were produced from the same crap as his mass edition, Hirschhorn's other chains were unique sculptures. And that might have hurt them in the market. Phillips couldn't sell Opel Chain (2002) for $60-80,000 in 2008, even though that was a bargain for a large-ish Hirschhorn at the time.


And though I'll be forever grateful for introducing me to Hirschhorn's work in the 90s, I could never ask what Chantal Crousel Galerie wanted for Toyota Chain (2002), but it was still hanging around in 2009.

I love Alison Gingeras' quote from Parkett 57 (1999), for which Hirschhorn made an edition, Swiss Made, a giant, aluminum foil, cardboard, and packing tape watch:

Thomas Hirschhorn--an artist easily recognized for his persistent use of low-grade materials such as tinfoil, cardboard, plywood, plastic, and masking tape in his sculptural assemblages--perfectly illustrates cheapness in all of its senses. From the connotation of poor quality or shoddy standing to appearing easily made, despicable, or having little value, Hirschhorn has cultivated more than aesthetic consistency in his oeuvre. Underlying the objects that he fashions out of these meager materials is a sophisticated machine whose inner workings produce affects and interpretations that extend beyond mere formal statement. Cheap is no longer just an adjective; Hirschhorn makes it a procedure.

Wood Chain VII, Great Wall of China image: stephenfriedman

By 2004, Hirschhorn was making his large chain pieces out slightly more durable, more upscale wood, but I was not feeling it. I'm still not. So mylar and foam and aluminum tape it will be, simultaneously filling the Hirschhornian gap while saluting the three M's: MOCA, Mercedes, and Mike D. Cheapness in all of its senses.

Mike D has traded up

OK, people, who has not been telling me about this? In Transmission LA, the very important exhibition Mike D just curated at MOCA, sponsored by Mercedes Benz?

Fortunately, Tyler Green used flickr user Eli Carrico's image, above, for a MOCAWTF roundup, or I might have missed it for even longer.]

Here are a couple of other views, from sadjeans, who reports that "this Mercedes emblem was six feet wide," which, really?


And these from Nicolas Arias:



Oops, sorry, that one's from inside the show.

Besides its own self-evident awesomeness, it reminds me of one of my favorite artworks from Documenta 11, by Thomas Hirschhorn. Hirschhorn installed his Bataille Monument in a Turkish housing complex out of Kassel's city center.


To get to it, he'd come pick you up in a worked-over, old Mercedes, which I can't believe I can't find a photo of? Really, Internet? But that's not important now.


Because the work I'm talking about his contribution to the Documenta Collection by Edition Schellmann, sold exclusively at the show. CNN is a 2.5meter-wide piece of gold chain bling with the once-relevant news network logo dangling from it. An edition of 50, the original price was just EUR1200. And when it's come up for sale it's been just $5,000. So it's an awesome--and inexpensive--way to fill a wall.

Obviously, if I can't track down this original--do we know who the artist is? Mike D? Or the edition size? Did it enter MOCA's collection?--I will be making my own edition in the Hirschhorn-ian style to celebrate MOCA's and Mercedes Benz's unwavering support and incisive relevance to contemporary art.


OK, then, it's a go. Notcot has these hardhitting photos from the opening. The artist is indeed Mike D. His subversive appropriation of the Mercedes logo and his deployment of it as a readymade were not limited to the patio. He had at least two more, one leaning against a fence, and one inside, tucked into a corner.


I assume they're from dealerships. No idea how he got a hold of them. But that does not look like six feet across; more like four. Okay, that one may be six feet. And the chains are gold[en].


Also from Notcot: this gripping firsthand report:

So it's only natural that when curating this art festival (which they gave him carte blanche on!) he created a HUGE Mercedes emblem hanging on a large chain in the central pavillion of the exhibition... as well as a few huge emblems tucked around the space... and then around 25 special chain necklaces with authentic Mercedes-Benz emblems for the artists and key brand folks...
Which was enthusiastic enough ["Here's Anders-Sundt Jensen, Head Of Brand Communications, modeling one of the necklaces!"] for Anders-Sundt Jensen, Head of Brand Communications, to give said necklace to said blogger at the end of the night.


Hmm, do we have a photo of Deitch wearing a Mercedes chain necklace?

July 7, 2012



Why yes, that is what that is. A spiral "Jetty," in fact.


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]

It's not that I feel a need to apologize for breaking some imaginary overall narrative flow, but I just need to put these here for current and future reference.

First, the SS Leviathan, as seized from Germany and as outfitted in WWI-era Dazzle Camo livery:

Leviathan in camouflage

[boston public library's flickr via proscriptus]


And then there's the Lockheed Martin HALE-D, a next-generation military communications airship that obviously traces its design DNA back to the glorious Echo and PAGEOS satelloons of yesteryear. Unfortunately, like those ships, the HALE-D, and many of the inflatable, unmanned surveillance airships the Pentagon has burned $1 billion developing the last four years, have turned out to be an evolutionary dead end; the HALE-D crashed on its initial test flight, and the program is now on the chopping block.

First things first, yes, I've heard the footsteps of the Tate's awesome, new, online exhibition/project, the Gallery Of Lost Art behind me, and I will be trying to wrap up the search for the lost Short Circuit Johns flag painting very soon. At least soon enough to give them time to write my triumphant detective work into their essay. Ahem.

Meanwhile, let's give credit where it's due, because the Tatefolk have lured SFMOMA's infrared imagery of Erased de Kooning Drawing out and onto the net.

Last year at CAA, one of SFMOMA's design & web people Chad Coerver talked about the debates over whether or how to present the wealth of information in the Museum's Getty-sponsored Rauschenberg Research Project. Whether to publish new infrared imagery of EdKD, for example, which might alter the way people perceive the object in ways the artist did not want or anticipate.

I guess they figured it out, because not only does the GOLA have it, the IR image is the teaser today on SFMOMA's tumblr. [via wiblog and MAN]

Or maybe they're still working on it. SFMOMA's Erased De Kooning Drawing page has this footnote:

The use of advanced imaging technology and its implications for our understanding of Erased de Kooning Drawing will be explored fully through SFMOMA's Rauschenberg Research Project, a four-year in-depth research program that will result in an online catalogue, slated for launch in summer 2013.
Carry on, then!

But the page also has this description, which seems to reflect a fuller, and different, understanding of the work than what was discussed during Rauschenberg's lifetime:

After Rauschenberg completed the laborious erasure, he and fellow artist Jasper Johns devised a scheme for labeling, matting, and framing the work, with Johns inscribing the following words below the now-obliterated de Kooning drawing:


The simple, gilded frame and understated inscription are integral parts of the finished artwork. Without the inscription, one would have no idea what is in the frame; the piece would be indecipherable. Together the erased page, inscription, and frame stand as evidence of the psychologically loaded deed of rendering another's artwork invisible, enacted in the privacy of the artist's studio.

Which, hmm. It seems vital that Johns's central role in creating EdKD is acknowledged. I'd even argue it was equal, or equivalent, his precisely drawn marks the precise counterweight to Rauschenberg's vigorous erasures. And the title, even the titling, and thus the conceptual framing, is Johns.

Or at least it was. But the gilt and the current matting, has been changed, once and maybe twice or more, since Johns and Rauschenberg broke up. So it is Bob's. And the evidence of this evolution can be seen even more clearly, thanks to the Gallery of Lost Art's zooming feature, on the back of the work.


I'll get back to the Rauschenberg thing in a bit, but it's already been too long that I haven't noted the passing of Ivan Karp. He had been an amazingly generous, interesting, and informative resource to me over the years I've been delving into the history of postwar art, always ready to share a story, or an opinion, a recollection, or a corrective. And I'm sad to think we won't be having any more chats. My thoughts are with his family, and especially his wife, the artist and historian Marilynn Gelfman Karp, who has also been very thoughtful and generous with her insights and stories.


An anecdote in Ivan's NY Times obituary about how he and Marilynn met in what became an epicenter of the 1960s New York art world reminded me of a better version, from Ivan's 1969 oral history interview for the Archives of American Art:

So kind of unknowingly the gallery by being what it was, an outgoing open place became a center of activity. People come in here and spend a lot of time. They'd meet each other. Every Saturday was an important event at the gallery. Dozens of people standing around in the back room discovering each other. There was a lot of romantic atmosphere. Always a lot of beautiful girls there. What always made the gallery activity worthwhile for me was the number of beautiful people and especially the beautiful girls who always came in. They were always particularly welcome; as they are to day still. That's where I met my wife -- at the gallery. She brought in slides and, in fact, brought in some paintings of an artist she was interested in. And I guess I was more interested in her than I was in the painter. But I think we did show the artist. And then I married his sponsor.
This painter was Vern Blosum. When I met Blosum almost 50 years later, it was clear he remembered the sting of losing his girlfriend as if it was yesterday.

For his part, when I called Ivan several years ago out of the blue and told him I wanted to talk with him about Vern Blosum, he just laughed and laughed. The jig was finally up.

images: Ivan and Marilynn Karp from their Screen Tests, ST171 and ST173, both 1964, obviously ganked from Callie Angell's Warhol Screen Tests Catalogue Raisonne. Marilynn was also filmed for Warhol's The Thirteen Most Beautiful Women.


One of the first and only reports I could find that discussed San Francisco photographer Morton Beebe's pioneering 1979 copyright infringement lawsuit against Robert Rauschenberg is Gay Morris's Jan. 1981 article on photo appropriation in ArtNEWS. The title pretty much says it all: "When Artists Use Photographs: Is it fair use, legitimate transformation, or rip-off?" [excerpt here.]

Beebe and Rauschenberg settled before the case really got rolling--for $3,000; a copy of Pull, the Hoarfrost Edition that included a two-layer, screenprinted version of Beebe's "Diver" image; and a promise of a good faith effort on the part of Gemini and Rauschenberg to include a photo credit for Beebe whenever Pull was exhibited or published. [The extent of Gemini's subsequent ability and/or effort to secure such credit from institutions can be seen in the print studio's own catalogue raisonne at the National Gallery of Art. Where there's no mention of Beebe.]

When I first called him a few weeks ago, Beebe told me what he told Morris, even though the settlement was paltry, and his lawyer got basically all of it [including, if I understand correctly, Beebe's initial copy of Pull]: I consider it a victory for myself and for photographers." [update: nope, according to his website Beebe kept his copy of Pull and only sold it in 2004, along with his correspondence, and a print of his original photo.]

Rauschenberg's and Gemini's lawyer, Irwin Spiegel, meanwhile, continued to assert the right of artists "working in the medium of collage...to make fair use of prior printed and published materials in the creation" of their original artwork.

Though he opens with Beebe v Rauschenberg, which may be the first actual lawsuit filed against an artist for using a photograph, Morris's ArtNEWS article covers a lot of photographic territory. It conflates the use of photographs by artists to make paintings or prints--like Warhol's use of Patricia Caulfield's flowers photo, taken from a magazine, or Larry Rivers' drawing based on Arnold Newman's portrait of Picasso--with companies using photos in fabric patterns and in publications without permission or payment. Which seem like completely different scenarios, though it's not like the copyright world reflects that, even 30 years later. It's still "a legal issue," as Caulfield said in 1981, "because there's a moral one."

photo of hibiscus flowers by Modern Photography executive editor Patricia Caulfield, published in that magazine in 1964 where it was found and used by Andy Warhol

What bugged Caulfield, she said, was the way using an image without recognition or permission "denigrate[s] the original talent." [Definitely read Martha Buskirk's account of Caufield's sexist denigration at the hands of Team Warhol in her great 2003 book, The Contingent Object of Contemporary Art.] For Newman, it's the way these artists "think it's just a photograph" without considering that there is a person behind the photograph, as Morris writes, "just as there is a person behind a painting." Beebe's complaint, too, was primarily one of "recognition."

And undeserved anonymity never hurt so bad as when you have to find out about it in Robert Hughes' Time cover story that the World's Most Famous Artist's latest , greatest masterpiece was basically your uncredited photo:

But the delicacy of his touch produced its masterpiece in the Hoarfrost series he did with Gemini in 1974. The Hoarfrosts are sheets of silk, chiffon, taffeta, one hung over another. Each sheet is imprinted with images from Rauschenberg's bank. In Pull, 1974, the dominant one is of a diver vanishing into a pool, seen from above, swallowed in blue immensity like a man on a space walk. No reproduction can attest to the subtlety of its play between the documentary "reality" of collage and the vague beauties of atmosphere.
And that comes just a few paragraphs after Hughes praised Bob's amazing aversion to fame and his generous love of collaboration, even at his own expense. ["Dozens of people ripped Bob off for money and time," a friend from the '60s recalls, "and he knew it, but he never said a word against them."]

I mention all of this, partly because it still sounds so familiar: the indignation of wronged photographers. The artists defending their innocent intent, freedom of expression and transformative practices. The vast disparities in celebrity, critical response, and economic value between the sourcer and the sourced. The near-universal frustration with the expense and hassle of the court system, which almost always culminates in a privately negotiated, not litigated, settlement.

Beebe told Morris that he settled rather than "risk losing the case on 'a technicality.'" He told me that Rauschenberg, whose LA-based lawyer had argued to have the case dismissed or moved out of [Beebe's hometown] San Francisco because of the onerous burden of traveling there, caved rather than go through a deposition. [Which, given Richard Prince's fraught experience being deposed, is understandable.] Though Beebe also touted the judge's sympathetic-bordering-on-slamdunk statements to me, I think he recognized that the settlement was the best deal he was gonna get.

I've obtained and reviewed the court documents in Beebe v. Rauschenberg. In the case's one court hearing, held on June 13, 1980, Judge Robert H. Schnacke scoffed at Spiegel's assertion that just being "an artist of international repute" didn't mean that Rauschenberg fell under the Bay Area court's jurisdiction, and anyway, Los Angeles was far easier for his client to reach. And he repeatedly voiced skepticism toward what he called, "copying":

THE COURT: I'm a little concerned that an artist of international repute finds it necessary to copy photographs into his finished product. I appreciate that I'm not current on all present modes of art, but I thought there was a distinction between copying and artistry.

MR. SPIEGEL: Well, certainly, but that gets into the merits of the case and when we get to the merits--

THE COURT: Apparently the international repute of the artist in some way was relevant to our argument. I was just wondering if [his] international reputation was built upon the fact that he copied other people's work.

Nevertheless, Judge Schnacke ruled that Beebe would need to front Rauschenberg's travel expenses to San Francisco for a deposition. Which might have had some impact on Beebe's priorities as well.

I think I'll do at least one more post that looks at the way the conflict unfolded--the timeline feels nontrivial to understanding the case itself--and to looking into the "technicalities" of Beebe's image, where it ran, and how Rauschenberg & Gemini used it. And I'll probably scan and post at least some of the key court documents, especially Beebe's complaint and Gemini's rather extensive information requests and affirmative response.

Meanwhile, to start, I've transcribed the first letters of exchange between Beebe and Rauschenberg, which were precipitated, Beebe said, by Christo & Jeanne-Claude recognizing Beebe's "Diver" from Time Magazine. It all sounded so amenable and promising.

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 2012, in reverse chronological order

Older: June 2012

Newer August 2012

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