High Five To The Warhol Foundation Arts Writers

Awesome, I just read through the announcement of the 2008 Arts Writers Grant recipients, and I have to give a huge shoutout to Paddy Johnson whose Art Fag City is one of the first two blogs to be recognized by Creative Capital and the Warhol Foundation [the other is Guerrilla Glass, a “post-glass art” blog project by Anjali Srinivasan and Yuka Otani.]
The Arts Writers program has danced around the new media for three grant cycles now, but this is the first time their solicitation explicitly mentioned blogs. Needless to say, it’s about time, and Paddy’s project is highly deserving and should lend the Arts Writers program some nice publicity and online cred.
Which is ironic, since the reason I applied for a grant last cycle was to leverage CC’s and the Warhol Foundation’s credibility for what would otherwise have to be seen as a cockamamie scheme. I had proposed a blog about the art history of satelloons. The idea was to consider NASA’s Project Echo inflatable satellites–instantly obsolete but spectacularly beautiful mylar spheres which were visible to the naked eye–as an exhibition, a propagandistic and aesthetic exercise akin to the US government’s better-known Cold War-era promotion of Abstract Expressionism abroad.
That would give me the impetus to research and document the development and history of the satelloons from primary source material. But it would also be a stepping-off point to explore the history of art and politics in the Space Age, Pop and Minimalist contexts; the history of art and technology collaborations, including the artists who worked with Bell Labs, a key Project Echo participant. [I especially wanted to see if I could trace the use of mylar balloons from Project Echo through Bell Labs’ black box to Andy Warhol.] By looking at scientifically driven production from an art world vantage point, the satelloon blog would question the defining premises of art, especially intentionality and the aesthetic experience of the viewer. It’s all stuff I will probably pursue here with slightly less urgency over the next year or so.
Just as it was reassuring to see Paddy’s excellent writing recognized, it made me feel slightly less marginal that at least two other grant recipients have projects that resonate with my satelloon idea, if not quite overlap. Art historian Douglas Kahn was awarded a grant for Arts of the Spectrum: In the Nature of Electromagnetism, a book about an intriguing vein of art&science interplay. And Annette Leddy, from the Getty Institute, is writing an article on Robert Watts’ “Space Age Home,” an artist in the 1960’s who apparently “extensively re-imagined the home, its furnishings, and its gardens in terms of an ironic Space Age aesthetic.” No idea, but it sounds like the future to me. Or at least the history of the future.
see the full list of Arts Writer grant recipients and their projects [artswriters.org]