Libre Soy, Libre Soy

Based on this photo at the opening of the world’s largest family detention center in Dilley, Texas last January, I’d say San Antonio Express News photographer Bob Owen is very familiar with Dorothea Lange’s photos from the Japanese American detention camp at Manzanar, CA. It’s almost like the only thing that’s changed in this country since WWII is now the government outsources its illegal, immoral detention of non-white children to a giant, for-profit prison company.
And what do kids do in Dilley, besides get dangerously incorrect vaccinations and medical treatment?:

While children wait for their mothers to talk to lawyers and legal aids, they are usually watching kids’ movies dubbed in Spanish, namely Rio or Frozen. The children of Dilley, like children everywhere, have taken to singing Frozen’s iconic song “Let It Go.”
The Spanish-language refrain to the song “Libre soy! Libre soy!” translates to “I am free! I am free!” It’s an irony that makes the adults of Dilley uneasy. Mehta recalls one mother responding to her singing child under her breath: “Pero no lo somos” (But we aren’t).

Do you know the chorus of “Let it Go” in Spanish? I did not, but it is one helluva song for kids to be singing in a corporate prison in 2015:

Libre soy, libre soy
No puedo ocultarlo más
Libre soy, libre soy
Libertad sin vuelta atrás
Y firme así me quedo aquí
Libre soy, libre soy
El frío es parte también de mí
I am free, I am free
I can’t hide it anymore
I am free, I am free
Freedom without turning back
And I’m staying here, firm like this
I am free, I am free
The cold is also a part of me

‘Drink more water’: Horror stories from the medical ward of a Texas immigration detention center []
which is basically a re-reporting of this: Immigrant families in detention: A look inside one holding center [latimes]
Ansel Adams, Born Free And Equal, 1944 []
Related: Translating “Frozen” into Arabic [newyorker]
“Let it Go” in 25 languages [youtube]

One Song More

Wow, is it that time of Election Year already? When superblogger and apparently self-hating theater queen Andrew [Lloyd] Sullivan posts a WTF Obamafied version of a Les Mis anthem?
This time it’s “One Term More” which, Holy Cameron Mackintosh, people. Just go watch it this very instant. Don DeMesquita, ladies and gentlemen.

Because it even has “A Political Parody” right in the subtitle, I’m forced to wonder what, exactly, it’s a parody of. And then how do I really know it isn’t some kind of super-jiujitsu triangulating GOP countermeasure to psych out musical theater liberals? But no, the fair use disclaimer is so desperate, they must be real.
HOW COULD I HAVE EVER DOUBTED UPDATE: I forgot the couplet, “Emboldened by Star-Spangled myth,
We want a JEDI…NOT a SITH!!!”
Anyway, in 2008, it was “Les Misbarack,” UltimateImprov’s straight-up lipsynch of “One Day More,” set in the Obama National Campaign HQ on election eve.

Which Sullivan introduced on Sept. 12th, at 4:53 AM, with the comment, “Whatever happens, the McCain campaign could never pull this off. Patience, steel… triumph.”
To which I will only add, “Malgre tout, la Resistance demeure.” Or in this case, “So hat doch, la Resistance gesiegt!”

The Road To Victory And Beyond

So in my ersatz zigzagging through the history of photomurals, I kind of skipped from Edward Steichen’s landmark Family of Man exhibition in 1955, where Paul Rudolph deployed enlarged photo prints for content and experience, as well as architectural elements in his exhibition design; to Capt. Steichen’s 1945 exhibition Power in the Pacific, which featured the work of the US Navy photography unit he commanded; to Steichen’s participation in MoMA’s first photography exhibition ever, a 1932 photomural invitational, which was intended to serve as a showroom for American artists, who faced stiff mural competition during the Depression from south of the border.
Sensing a trend here? Wondering what I missed? Wow. Michael from Stopping Off Place just forwarded me the link to MoMA’s bulletin for Road To Victory, a stunning 1942 photo exhibition that rolls up so many interests, it is kind of freaking me out right now. And the man who is bringing it to me? Lt. Comm. Edward Steichen.
I mean, I kind of stumbled onto the photomural trail last October, when a vintage exhibition print of Mies’ Barcelona Pavilion came up at auction. Its size, scale, and iconic modernist subject suddenly made the photomural seem like a missing link in the contemporary development of both photography and painting. And yet it’s also seeming like not many of these pictures survived, because they were merely exhibition collateral, functional propaganda material, no more an artwork than the brochure or the press release.
And yet these things existed. Is it possible at all that any of these prints still exist in some art handler’s garage?
Anyway, it’ll take me time to process this Road To Victory show, so I’m just going to skip across the most stunning parts: the show’s awesome, explicit propagandistic objectives; the utterly fresh painterly abstraction of these giant prints; the spatial, experiential design of Herber Bayer’s installation; the texts surrounding the exhibit, which traveled around the country in 1942 to apparently wild, patriotic acclaim; and the ironic, complicating aspects of authorship of the show and the work in it.
[Hint: they barely identify, much less mention the actual photographers at all. I, meanwhile, am happy and grateful to credit PhotoEphemera for these small versions of much larger scans of MoMA’s 1942 documentation of the show. Definitely worth diving into.]

Continue reading “The Road To Victory And Beyond”

Len Lye Is Famous In New Zealand

I came across a mention of Len Lye’s spectacular-looking kinetic sculpture a couple of weeks ago, while reading 1965 coverage of the Buffalo Festival of the Arts. Sandwiched in between a photo of Robert Morris and Yvonne Rainer in a nude dancing embrace and a headless mannequin dangling on the set of a Eugene Ionesco play was an installation shot of Lye’s Zebra at the Albright-Knox: “It consists of a nine-foot rope of fiber glass which, when set in swirling motion by a motor, bends into constantly changing shapes.”
Lye’s kinetic works had been getting some traction in New York–the Govett Brewster Gallery in his home country of New Zealand begins its sculpture section with Harmonic (1959), another spinning work similar to Zebra, which was shown at MoMA in 1961. But according to his biographer Roger Horrocks, the Buffalo exhibition and the concurrent solo show at Howard Wise Gallery in Manhattan were really his first chances to show multiple pieces at once.
Thanks to some steady evangelizing, some scholarship, technological advances that help realize–or keep running–his work, Lye has become something of a posthumous hero in New Zealand. There was a retrospective in Melbourne and New Plymouth NZ last year that included refabrications of several sculptures.
But Lye’s most frictionless path to history and fame is probably not his sculptures, but his films. He was probably the earliest practitioner of direct animation, drawing and scratching carefully synchronized abstractions and imagery onto celluloid as early as 1935, when Stan Brakhage was two years old.

Lye made A Colour Box as a pre-feature advertisement for the British General Postal Office. Other of his early animations were commercials, too. I’m so glad he did them, because they are awesome, but seriously, they seem like some of the most ineffective ads imaginable.
But as art and filmmaking, holy smokes. Just try, as you are mesmerized by all the separations and compositing and abstraction and color in Rainbow Dance, to remember that Lye made this in 1936:

He also made commercials using stop-action animation and puppetry, such as the rather incredible 1935 short for Shell, The Birth of the Robot, whose tiny kinetic figures and machines look like the missing link between Alexander Calder’s Circus and Ray and Charles Eames’s Solar Do-Nothing Machine:

It didn’t occur to me until just now, watching Trade Tattoo, a 1938 GPO short in which Lye incorporates both direct animation and coloring and found footage, but the saturated, post-production colors and the collage of abstraction and photo/film realism suddenly reminds me of Gilbert & George’s distinctive visual style.

I don’t know what WWII did to the GPO Film Unit’s output, but both Gilbert and George were born during the war, in the early 40s, and only George grew up in the UK. [Gilbert was born in Italy and moved to London to study.] Perhaps there was a Lye/GPO legacy lingering around St. Martins in the 60s. Or maybe it was all lava lamps and LSD. Who knows?
All of these YouTube clips, by the way, are from user BartConway, who turns out to be an OG filmsnob of the highest order, and thank heaven for it. He seems to be getting them from the BFI’s extraordinary-looking PAL DVD collection of works by the GPO Film Unit.

In The Beginning There Was Not Just Tron

So while we were staring slack-jawed at the computer graphics in Tron, Loren Carpenter had already produced and shown Vol Libre, this incredible fractal mountain flythrough animation two years earlier at SIGGRAPH–and had been hired on the spot by Industrial Light & Magic? And you’re only getting around to uploading it now, nearly 30 years later?

Vol Libre from Loren Carpenter on Vimeo.

What else you hiding, Pioneers of Computer Animation? [via kottke]

Mafiaboy Has A Book Coming Out

I suppose before I order and read Mafiaboy’s book is as good a time as any to mention that the as-yet-unannounced animated musical screenplay I’ve been noodling on is a kind of fantastical retelling of the Mafiaboy hacking attacks and their aftermath.
Starting in 2000, and throughout the whole Mafiaboy saga, I published regular updates and links to news coverage of the search and the trial at It was my my first blog-like web publishing endeavor, but I could never get Grey Matter to work, so I just kept adding posts [sic] to the single html page by hand. I guess I oughta dig that one back up.
mafiaboy_seanjohn.jpgHere’s a 2001 snapshot from
My interest at the time was in documenting the superficial lifestyle shorthand the media used to describe hackers generally and Mafiaboy specifically. Because Michael Calce, Mafiaboy, was a minor at the time, the Canadian press was forbidden from publishing his name or picture during the trial. This complicated the press’s attempts to celebritize Calce, though it never stopped them from trying. By the time I took the site down, I’d sold about 20 Rocawear jackets and a bunch of other merch through’s affiliate links.
I’m interested to see what the book’s like and how close the media image of Mafiaboy was to Calce’s account–and to see how coincidentally right and wrong my imagination is about what it was like on the inside. Though as the screenplay’s gone through several drafts, the particulars of the real life Mafiaboy’s internals have come to matter less and less–i.e., not at all–to the movie story.
The synopsis on–and the title–sound pretty broad, and make me wonder if there wasn’t quite enough story to fill a book. We’ll see.
‘Mafiaboy’ writes book about the day he shut down the Internet [nationalpost via, uh, wired, maybe? I forget]
Buy Mafiaboy: How I Cracked the Internet and Why It’s Still Broken []

Dara Friedman’s Musical

Dara Friedman is unobtrusively videotaping people singing show tunes in public in New York City for a project commissioned by the Public Art Fund:

The policeman on the staircase barely looks up; the two little girls beside him continue giggling about whatever it was they had been giggling about.
“For a second,” Ms. McLean said afterward, “you’re like, ‘Am I doing this in my head or am I doing this?’”
She walks down the stairs and hits a crescendo: “‘Romance is mush/Stifling those who strive/ I’ll live a lush life in some small diiiiive. …’”
Two businessmen glance at each other cynically and keep walking. An unkempt woman stops to offer compliments. Two tourists look around, see no reaction and walk on. And those are the ones who are paying attention.
For a few minutes it’s as if everyone in Grand Central is actually in a musical, where somebody singing about unrequited love makes more sense than somebody not singing about it.

Turning All of Manhattan Into A Broadway Stage [nyt]

We’re Zero One! We’re Zero One!


So a couple of weeks ago, Sir Norman Foster and his firm announced the creation of Masdar, a 6 million sqm square, solar-powered development in Abu Dhabi that will be “the world’s first zero-carbon and zero-waste city.”


Now Rem Koolhaas is all pissed off because Masdar’s plan [above] looks too much like the Rak Gateway project for nearby Emirates [below], which OMA is set to unveil next week in Dubai.


So Rem’s all up in Foster’s grille, trying to establish credit for building a giant, geometrically idealized, self-sustaining, sun-powered megalopolis in the middle of the Arabian Peninsula by saying, “We want to establish that we launched this project in November last year”?


Excuse me, but The Animatrix came out four years ago, in 2003. So concept credit must go to the Wachowski siblings, Geof Darrow, and Mahiro Maeda. Then again, claiming credit for building Zero One is the Matrix universe’s equivalent of bragging about founding SkyNet. And what kind of inhuman, power-drunk megalomaniac would–
Aha. Verdict: Koolhaas.
Norman Foster’s Green Desert Utopia in Abu Dhabi [inhabitat]
Koolhaas, Foster clash over ‘similar’ designs [bdonline via dailydose]

Hugh Harman’s Peace On Earth (1939)

In retrospect, 1939 was a rough year to be a diehard pacifist. But that’s when Hugh Harman’s Peace On Earth anti-war cartoon was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Mahatma Gandhi was nominated that year, too, but ’39 was the beginning of five-year stretch when the award was not given.
The timing makes me think of some of the giant WWI memorials in France which were conceived at the height of unalloyed pacificism. The Australian National Memorial in Villers-Bretonneux, for example, wasn’t finished until 1938, just in time for the French to use it–unsuccessfully–as a position for repelling the German invasion.
Anyway, the cartoon is about the merry little forest creatures of Peaceville, who are picking up the pieces after all the humans have killed themselves off. Enjoy. [via fred]

How To Tell Cannes And Slamdance Apart

Ian at Water Cooler Games has been writing about an incident at Slamdance. Seems the founder of the alt-alt festival yanked Super Columbine Massacre, a charming -sounding RPG that tells the tale of some innocent, young, all-American scamps, from the Slamdance Guerilla Gamemaker Competition.
At first, the line was extreme sponsor displeasure with having a Columbine-themed title in competition. [I mean, just look at what it did to Cannes and Cannes. No one’s ever heard of them again.] But now it turns out that it was really just Slamdance president Peter Baxter’s own call in anticipation of possible sponsor displeasure–or else his own distaste for the game itself. Either way, it sounds like crap.
There’s a lot of heated discussion among gamers and developers about the artistic merits of games vs their “mere entertainment” value. I think that’s ridiculous and beyond discussion. Games have as much claim on “art” as film does. If anything, the nexis of creative, literary, and narrative innovation has shifted to games and away from almost any other medium I can think of at the moment.
This just sounds like a dumb-ass move by a blindered geezer whose vested interests are too tied up with the establishment. Exactly the kind of rejection and narrow-mindedness that spurred the creation of Slamdance in the first place. The only proper response, obviously, is for gamers to break off and make their own damn festival in response.
Then after this happens seven times, the Matrix collapses and has to be restarted from scratch.

Slamdance: SCMRPG removal was personal, not business
[ via boingboing]
the always awesome Greg Costikyan’s reponse, plus they posted the game: SCMRPG: Artwork or Menace? []
Previously: Gus Van Sant’s Elephant is part of the canon around here. Read my interview with producer Dany Wolf about the in-movie homebrewed video game based on Gerry.
Also: the art-movie-as-video-game-at Sundance, Gerry/video game connection.
1/9 update: Costikyan reports that to date, five gamemakers have withdrawn their titles from the festival. Yesterday, it was just one.

Nice Article On The Anime/Otaku Business Model

Dan Roth wrote a sweet article on AD Vision, the American anime distribution and production powerhouse, for Fortune last year. I just stumbled across the version of it on his blog.
One great example of their approach: bringing fans into the creative process, and very early to boot:

The flip side is also true: The fans can help wreck a show if they don’t like what they’re seeing. With that in mind, Ledford makes a point of keeping his fans in the loop. Since 2003 he’s been shopping the idea of making a live-action version of Neon Genesis Evangelion, the same show that spurred Ledford’s stalker–it is to otaku what Star Trek is to Trekkies. Ledford signed on the Weta Companies, the New Zealand special-effects firm behind the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the new King Kong, to come up with plans for what the Evangelion world might look like. But instead of micromanaging the project, Ledford had Weta answer to two Evangelion fanatics at his company.
Richard Taylor, Weta’s co-founder, says he’s never experienced anything quite like it. Twice a week he’d have a conference call with the fans at ADV, sending them renderings of his designs for things like the 100-foot-tall robots and getting in return their encyclopedic take on the interpretations. “These are people who could be considered scholars on the world of Evangelion,” says Taylor. “We had to appease them and find their approval.”

I’m thinking he may not have written the title, though:
Anime: It’s….Profitmon!

What Requiems For A Dream May Come

It feels like ages since I’ve posted about actual moviemaking around here. I was a fan of Darren Aronofsky’s Pi, and a fleeing refugee from the theater of Requiem for a Dream, but I have to give props to his vision and instinct for making his new film, The Fountain:

No matter how good CGI looks at first, it dates quickly. But 2001 really holds up. So I set the ridiculous goal of making a film that would reinvent space without using CGI.

Aronofsky and his crew flew to Central America to consult with legendary Mayan experts like Moises Morales Marquez, who has guided scholars through the ruins of Palenque for half a century. They made a pilgrimage to the Guatemala location used by George Lucas for the rebel-base scene in the original Star Wars film, high in the crumbling temples of Tikal.

The microzoom optical bench furnished Aronofsky’s film with something neither a computer nor an old-fashioned matte painter could deliver – chaos, in all its ultra high-definition fractal glory. “The CGI guys have ultimate control over everything they do,” Parks says. “They can repeat shots over and over and get everything to end up exactly where they want it. But they’re forever seeking the ability to randomize, so that they’re not limited by their imaginations. I’m incapable of faithfully repeating anything, but I can go on producing chaos until the cows come home.”

Steve Silberman interviewed Aronofsky for Wired [wired via bb]

Wow [Make That, “WoW”]: In-Game Photography


We’re beyond Machinima, people. Some titles have photography as part of the gameplay, and some players are tweaking the games themselves to take in-game photographs.
The results are finding their way onto flickr, like Gregory Perez’s homage [top] to Andreas Gursky’s 99 Cent Store [above], which he shot inside “Grand Theft Auto 4: San Andreas”.
Check out the out-of-focus foreground in this shot by Daniel Kuhne from inside SWAT4. Same focal length effect here, too, in Perez’s shot of a plane.
Marco Cadioli “reports from the war online,” covering battles in MMORPG’s. Some of his black & white photos from “Counter Strike” remind me of stills from Pontecorvo’s The Battle of Algiers. He also “works” as an in-game freelance photojournalist named Marco Manray in Second Life.
There’s even a book coming out, Gamescenes: Art In The Age Of Video Games which includes in-game photography and other artistic and journalistic repurposings.
[via wonderland, where a whole bunch of links are accreting in the comments]

WOW, Southpark


I missed the hilarious machinimesque World of Warcraft episode of South Park on Wednesday, and I managed to catch half of it last night. Did I mention it’s hilarious? The whole thing is streaming at for the moment. Personally, I’m happy to watch it with commericals.
And while I, too, have a life and so don’t know my Warcraft macros from Final Fantasy’s, but even though the lingo’s as authentic-sounding as any ER claptrap, it was Cartman’s hypnotic ascending tone that had me laughing out loud. [via waxy]