“Untitled” (Death By Gun), 1990, endless. collection: moma.org
We’ve come to reading the names of the dead, to intone them, as a form of memorial.
I’ve never felt Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ “Untitled” (Death By Gun) was a memorial per se, more a statement. Remembering for different ends. But following the massacre of Latinx gay people at Orlando’s Pulse night club, and the subsequent readings of their names, it occurred to me that I’d never read and did not remember the names of the people who appeared on Felix’s 1990 stack piece.
I looked for the original Time magazine article that was the artist’s source, and I couldn’t find it online. I couldn’t find it in libraries. I ended up buying an old print edition of the magazine itself on eBay. July 17, 1989.
And I transcribed the names of the 460 people who were killed in the US the first week of May 1989, the week Time chose to document, in the order Felix chose to lay them out, and had them read aloud by a computer.
Download Better_Read_008_Death_By_Gun_20160620.mp3 from dropbox greg.org [dropbox greg.org, 16.7mb mp3, 11:37]
Better Read #007: Spinoza’s Ethica from Sturtevant’s Vertical Monad
Better Read #006: The Jetty Foundation Presents, Send Me Your Money
Better Read #005: Frank Lloyd Wright Speaks Up
Better Read #004: Why We Should Talk About Cady Noland, a Zine by Brian Sholis
Better Read #003: Sincerely Yours, An Epic Scholarly Smackdown By Rosalind Krauss
Better Read #002: A Lively Interview With Ray Johnson, c.1968
the Ur-Better Read: W.H. Auden’s The Shield Of Achilles, Read By A Machine
Sturtevant’s Vertical Monad, 2008, installed at Anthony Reynolds Gallery, London
In case the last Better Read was too mainstream podcasty for you, here are the first few pages of Spinoza’s Ethica Ordine Geometrico Demonstrata, in Latin, which Sturtevant included in her 2008 installation Vertical Monad, read by a computer.
Better_Read_Sturtevant_Spinoza_20160610.mp3 [dropbox greg.org, 35Mb, 24:28]
A couple of days ago I received a check. Actually, The Jetty Foundation, of which I am the president, received a check. It was from the State of Utah for fifty dollars, an overpayment of a filing fee for annual withholdings taxes.
[I created The Jetty Foundation as a not-for-profit corporation in 2011 in order to bid on the lease for state-owned land underneath Spiral Jetty. Though the Foundation’s bid was not accepted, the terms we proposed ended up getting baked into the renewed lease the state signed with the Dia Foundation, so that was nice.
The Jetty Foundation was not party to any of the negotiations or activities of Dia and its new local Utah partners, and has had no formal activities since 2011. Recently, though, I have discussed making a publication of historical documents related to the Jetty and its site. And also the feasibility of conducting open-access conservation surveys. For these possibilities and any others, that might arise, I have maintained the corporate entity in good standing. Corporations are people, too, after all.]
Alas, this corporate person does not have a bank account, and cannot sign over its check to me, the president, who paid the fee in the first place. And it seems kind of ridiculous to set up a corporate bank account solely to deposit one check.
I considered offering the check as an artwork, a unique work on paper, whose worth might surpass its face value. I thought of copying it a bunch of times as an edition. I half-joked on Twitter of just gathering a bunch more money for the Foundation, enough to make opening a bank account worth the effort. Well, no one’s laughing now.
greg.org is pleased to announce A Very Special Episode of Better Read, an adaptation of Chris Burden’s 1979 radio work, Send Me Your Money, benefitting The Jetty Foundation, as re-performed by a robot.
[Just as I am not interested in the various art student re-performances of Burden’s more physically extreme early works, the several other human re-performances of Burden’s Send Me Your Money kind of bored me. I did find it interesting that the robot voice cut nearly fifteen minutes off Burden’s time, even after I tried to manipulate its pacing. But It was listening to a pledge drive on a local public radio station tonight that sealed the deal; this is audio vérité.]
Download Better_Read_Jetty_Fndn_SendMeYourMoney_20160513.mp3 from dropbox greg.org [mp3, 41min, 59mb, via dropbox greg.org]
examples of Taliesin Square Papers from the Frank Lloyd Wright Library at Steinerag
Welcome to Better Read, an intermittent experiment at greg.org to transform art-related texts into handy, entertaining, and informative audio. This text is excerpts from a pamphlet essay by Frank Lloyd Wright, “In the Cause of Architecture: The “International Style” (Soft Cover), published by Taliesin Fellowship in February 1953. It would be the last of what were called the Taliesen Square Paper Series. The editorial was republished in the July 1953 issue of House Beautiful magazine with the title, “Frank Lloyd Wright Speaks Up.” Wright was 85 years old at the time, and he hated hated the International Style.
I could not find print copies of either of these publications available anywhere. Library holdings of House Beautiful are spotty and incomplete. When I tried the authoritative-seeming, five-volume Frank Lloyd Wright Collected Writings, I also came up short. There are only five copies of Vol. 5 (1949-1959) listed in libraries in the US. How could this be? I ended up buying a used copy for a couple of bucks from Goodwill in Michigan, which turned out to have been deaccessioned by the library in a federal prison. Anyway, the text comes from there [pp. 66-69].
I wanted to find this text because it is the source of two popular zingers from Wright: the great opening line, “The ‘International Style’ is neither international, nor a style,” and saying supporters of modern architecture are not only totalitarians, fascists, or communists, they “are not wholesome people.” This line came up, for example, in a recent Atlas Obscura article about Hollin Hills, a nice but innocuous mid-century modernist subdivision near Washington DC.
I wanted to see the fuller context of Wright’s criticisms, partly because one of the objects of his scorn, the MoMA-affiliated architect Philip Johnson, was actually a Nazi and an aspiring leader of US fascism at one point. [I’ve come to think Johnson recognized the disadvantages of political affiliation for his real interest: himself and his career, and that his devotion for the rest of his life to establishment power was quite sincere, but that’s not the point right now.]
The main reason is because Wright’s communist and anti-modernist bogeymen sounded familiar, like they might resonate with the conservative or rightist campaigns against everything modern, from abstraction to Brutalism to Post-Modernism, to Tilted Arc to the Culture Wars, Wojnarowicz, you name it. Wright’s architecture has been generally assimilated into our historical narrative, but, I thought, it’s come at the cost of our understanding of the political context in which he created it, and from which he attacked those who didn’t ascribe to his own views, or pursue his particular agenda.
Anyway, Wright’s text is after the jump, or you can listen to the text read by a robot.
better_read_frank_lloyd_wright_intl_style_20160505.mp3 [dropbox greg.org, 18mb mp3, 13min or so]
Cover, “Why We Should Talk About Cady Noland”, a zine published by Brian Sholis in 2004, image: archive.org
It’s been a while since I’ve put up an edition of Better Read, audio works made from worthwhile art texts read by a machine. But yesterday I listened to “Why We Should Talk About Cady Noland,” Brian Sholis’ 2004 zine essay while I was working, and I decided to clean it up for public enjoyment. Which basically involves extra punctuation marks to smooth the flow, and tweaking the spellings so the computer voice will read French or German plausibly.
As the title implies, Sholis’s essay argued for the continued relevance of Noland’s work and writing at a time when firsthand encounters with both were hard to come by. Now it’s also a useful reminder that there’s more to talk about than auction prices and lawsuits.
Better Read #004: Brian Sholis on Cady Noland 20150810.mp3 [dropbox greg.org, mp3, 25.5mb, 14:36]
Original text: Jan. 20, 2004: Cady Noland [briansholis.com]
Previous Better Reads: #003 – Rosalind Krauss; #002 – Ray Johnson; #001, the ur-Better Read – W.H. Auden
Auguste Rodin, The Three Shades, plaster, for The Gates of Hell
This edition of Better Read, an experiment in transforming art-related texts into audio works, is awesome. I really feel like the kinks are working out, and this whole computer voice-generated pseudo-podcast thing is really going to take off in a big way very soon.
Like an hour from now, when you’ve finished listening to “Sincerely Yours,” by powerhouse art historian Rosalind Krauss. In 1981 Krauss published one of her foundational texts, “The Originality of The Avant-Garde,” in October Magazine, which prompted a long, irate response from Rodin scholar and curator Albert Elsen. “Sincerely Yours” is Krauss’s fierce, icy, and vigorously argued, 9,200-word response to Elsen’s criticisms. It was originally published in October 20, in the spring of 1982. And it is performed here by Ava, an American English synthetic voice from Apple with a surprisingly good grasp of French pronunciation. The 80mb mp3 file lasts around 56 minutes. Like I said, this is going to be big, I can feel it.
Sincerely Yours, Rosalind Krauss (1982), read by a computer [dropbox greg.org, mp3, 80mb, 56:00]
Previously: Better Read: A Lively Interview with Ray Johnson c. 1968
The ur-text: W.H. Auden’s poem “The Shield of Achilles” read by a machine
Ray Johnson, The Paper Snake, 1965, published by Dick Higgins, image: rayjohnsonestate
I’ve been thinking of various audio projects, something this side of an actual podcast, perhaps. But unlike a podcast, it’d be useful and interesting and not something being done already by everyone else.
And so I’m experimenting with a series I’m calling Better Read, art-related texts transformed into audio. While I’m working, I’ll often use text-to-speech to listen to papers, interviews, essays, and other various longform writings. It’s imperfect, but also an improvement. In the car, we’ve been listening to Moby Dick | Big Read, in which each chapter is read by a different person. It generally works.
So for Better Read, I am envisioning a mix of live and computer readers. Sometimes I’ll get the author herself; other times, someone can read from a text they really like. I might read a few myself, but to be honest, I really don’t like listening to me. Maybe you do? We may find out!
That W.H. Auden poem I posted the other day may become Better Read #1, and once I figure out the frequency, &c., I’ll set up a dedicated URL
But for now, please enjoy this 1968 interview with Ray Johnson, recorded for the Archives of American Art’s Oral History project. It really is a standout among an invaluable collection. And I especially like the idea of using a transcription of a recording as a script for another recording; fine tuning this process will be useful before I tackle any large, intense deposition transcripts [*cough* Canal Zone/Yes Rasta]
So definitely let me know your thoughts, advice, feedback, suggestions, requests, &c., and we’ll see how this thing shapes up.
Better Read: An Interview with Ray Johnson [45min, 22mb, dropbox greg.org]
I’m not BFF’s with Siri, but sometimes I do like to have things read to me by my computer. So when I finished reading Michael Sacasas’ post about psycho dad videos and performative parenting, I wanted to read the rest of W.H. Auden’s “The Shield of Achilles”. And then I wanted to hear it, so I had the text-to-voice synth Alex read the poem, too.
And for no particular reason, I’ve put it online.
The Shield of Achilles, by W.H. Auden, read by a computer [mp3, 4.7mb dropbox, greg.org]