Sotheby’s is selling this sweet little early Rauschenberg combine next week. It is titled State, dates from 1958, and originally belonged to Emile de Antonio, who got it from Leo Castelli in 1959. Various aspects of this are interesting.
State is one of at least seven small combines on canvas dating from early 1958. There are at least another seven similar combines from 1957, and a bunch are still owned by people close to the artist, including Jasper Johns and the Castelli/Sonnabends. De Antonio would fall into this category, too. They also stayed close to home; most of these small combines don’t have any exhibition history at all, or only began to be shown much later. These were not the major, groundbreaking, space-taking, attention-grabbing combines like Monogram, Minutiae, or Rebus, or even the bigger ones like Bed or the Factums.
With similar strategies across them–a collaged image or two, a piece of fabric shellacked into place with white, some quick drippy brushstrokes of a handful of colors–it feels like they could have been made side by side, if not all at once. Or maybe they were made as a regular exercise, a daily practice of combining? We know a little of how combines changed and accumulated as Rauschenberg lived with them, but there’s only one person left alive who was in the studio where these happened.
A (Patriot) B (Historian) C (Ranchman) D (Scientist) E (Soldier) F (Humanitarian)* G (Author) H (Conservationist) I (Naturalist) J (Scholar)** K (Explorer) L (Statesman) M (Club 21)***
“Untitled” (Natural History) is a set 13 photographs by Felix Gonzalez-Torres, twelve of which are of the words above, carved into the entrance plaza of the American Museum of Natural History, and one which is of the entrance of the 21 Club. It was realized in 1990 as an edition of three. The first two sets were kept together; the prints from the third were sold separately.
The images were created for Out There: Marginalization and Contemporary Cultures, an anthology to which Gonzalez-Torres provided illustrations. Ten of the twelve images of the Teddy Roosevelt memorial comprised one of three projects for the book, the only one with a title, “Untitled” (I Think I Know Who You Are), (1989), and to have been described as a work. It was nevertheless not included in the artist’s catalogue raisonné. ****
“The artist’s acceptance of such mutability,” Russell Ferguson later wrote, “is not so much inconsistent as it is integral to his practice and to his work’s relationship to its own authority.”
“Untitled” (Natural History) was first shown publicly in 1991. It was installed for the opening week of Every Week There Is Something Different. Three prints–”Soldier,” “Humanitarian,” and “Explorer”–remained on view for the second week, when a platform and a silver hotpantsed go-go dancer were added.
* 3/3 Gift of Robert Gober to the Walker Art Center, 1999 [via] ** A smaller print of this photo exists with the title, “Untitled” (Natural History), 1990. It is listed in the appendix of the CR for “additional material.” *** While the thirteenth element was included in the first exhibition of this work, the thirteenth element is not intended to be shown publicly. [via] When Carol Bove repeated Every Week There Is Something Different at the Fondation Beyeler in 2011, she wrote that “Gonzalez-Torres requested that it continue to be part of the larger artwork but no longer be publicly exhibited with and as the work” [emphasis original]. “As Gonzalez-Torres did in 1991, I showed all the photographs that comprise “Untitled” (Natural History), including the forbidden 13th element, “21 Club,” which could be seen from the back room. In doing so in 2011, I went against the rules of the piece the artist had constructed…[but] I decided it was ethical and necessary to show it as part of the historical reconstruction.” [Filipovic, p. 207] **** The other two categories of photos in the anthology were found or appropriated photos, flyers, and postcards; and childhood portraits of the editors and contributors.
[I really started this post thinking it would be just the list of texts of the 12 photos, one and done, bam, not all the monument’s going away. But I’d forgotten the 21 Club one, and then it just started spiraling from there, the breaking up the edition, the not showing one, the reconfiguration of a work, the original source/impetus for the images, the erasure of a work from the CR and the discourse, the restaging of shows, the calculated ignoring of the artist’s instructions. And after all that I have not been able to find any discussion of the inclusion of the 21 Club image in the first place, and only this one comment on the gesture of excluding it from public view. I guess I could just ask Andrea, but it’s midnight, and all I’d originally wanted to do was to type twelve words by Felix about Roosevelt, and you’d think I’d be aware by now of how this happens. Anyway, the American Museum of Natural History just announced they will remove the giant bronze statue of Teddy Roosevelt, flanked by so-called “Grateful Savages.” I guess it will no longer be with and as the monument.]
Getting the colors of that Melvin Edwards X Blinky Palermo joint in my head was like learning a new word: you start hearing it everywhere. Like in Dana Chandler’s 1975 painting, Fred Hampton’s Door 2, which is in Soul of the Nation at the Brooklyn Museum. Greg Cook has a great post on Wonderland about Chandler, a prominent Black Power acivist and artist from Boston, who painted at least two versions of Fred Hampton’s Door, complete with [bullet] holes, to memorialize the young Black Panther leader and to protest his murder at the hand of Chicago police.
Chandler’s painting in Soul of a Nation was made in 1975, after his original 1970 painting was stolen from Expo ’74 in Spokane, Washington. The original was a framed painting of a section of Hampton’s door; the second version was actually a door. Both had holes that are meant to be read as bullet holes. The original had one big white star that read (to me, anyway) as an armed forces service star; the second one has a cluster of four stars, arranged like an admiral’s insignia. But the dominant colors are Pan-African red and green.
This is the only photo I’ve seen of the original painting; it ran as a full page in Time Magazine in April 1970, illustrating an article on Angry Black Artists [sic].
It is the 100th anniversary of the execution of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht by the fascist Freikorps in Berlin. After several years of unsuccessful attempts, a memorial to these and others killed in the German phalanx of the Bolshevik Revolution was finally built in Berlin’s central cemetery in 1926. It was designed by Mies van der Rohe with the sculptor Herbert Garbe.
According to Edward Fuchs, who was instrumental to the project, Mies said, “As most of these people were shot in front of a brick wall, a brick wall would be what I would build as a monument.”
At the Charnel House from whence these images come, Ross Wolfe notes that the jagged bricks of the memorial “had been assembled from the bullet-riddled remains of buildings damaged or destroyed during the Spartacist uprising” Luxemburg and Liebknecht triggered. It became an iconic backdrop for speeches, and the site was the focus of annual memorial marches and rallies until the Nazis destroyed the memorial in 1935.
Wolfe also traces some of Mies’ political shifts, from Bolshevik memorial designer to apolitical pragmatist Bauhaus head as the Nazis came to power, to whatever he was in the US. But wait, there’s more! Mies was also the favored architectural visionary and mentor to America’s own greatest Nazi architect Philip Johnson. He got called before McCarthy’s House Un-American Activities Committee in 1951. And he rejected student efforts to rebuild the memorial in 1968, and got protested when his Neu Nationalgalerie opened in Berlin.
I guess I would like to see it rebuilt, bust mostly I’d like to live in it, which is complicated, I know. In the mean time, I will try to find Mies’s HUAC testimony, which seems rather underdocumented onlne.
Nancy Spector posted this to Instagram today. For the second World AIDS Day, December 1st, 1989, and the first Day Without Art, she and her then-boyfriend/husband-to-be Michael Gabellini unfurled a massive, black shroud from the Guggenheim. The original call for Day Without Art was to close museums, or to cover works of art as a reminder of the art that would not be made because of AIDS-related deaths.
“At the time, we didn’t know the depth of loss we would be facing in the art community,” Spector wrote.
The stairwell in the entrance to the University of Oregon library contains a large mural, Mission of a University, painted in 1937 by art professor Nowland Brittin Zane, of a quote by another faculty member, Frederick George Young. A social science professor and dean in the 1920s, Young saw the divine mission of a university aligned with the founding principle of Oregon itself: to elevate and preserve the white race.
Last night @videodante tweeted out photos he’d received of a fresh painting intervention on Zane’s mural: a slash of red paint crossing out “racial heritage.” As interesting, though, is the handwritten label for the new work, left on the wall [below].
The materials, “Found Art, FOUND courage” are almost as awesome as the title, “WHICH ART DO YOU CHOOSE TO CONSERVE NOW?” Is it the title, or an epic challenge to the institution’s perennial decision of which facts, which history, which brushstroke, and whose heritage are their actions perpetuating? This quote has been recognized as racist and offensive–and has been the subject of critical and activist efforts to remove it–for years. There are at least three spots in the bottom corner of Zane’s painting where conservators chose to erase someone’s addition. So this is one more choice to be made in an ongoing dispute, and the artist knows what is at stake.
The author of this new work, though, offers another solution in a “fine print” addendum, apparently added on the spot, as the text curls up the side of the label. If the library is troubled by impending conservatorial complicity in reasserting white supremacism, the “artist gives permission to replace this placard with a more permanent one.”
Since the beginning of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the increased protests of confederate memorial statues, I’ve come to see painting as crucial, even central. After decades of inertia, monuments are suddenly painted or pulled down. Then they’re quickly covered with tarps or boxes or removed. Take an object. Do something to it. Do something else to it.
What if we recognize these gestures as generative, not destructive? What if we leave them? Keep them? Look at them? Study them? And when the time comes, conserve them?
I’ve written about “Dislocations” before. It’s one of the contemporary shows at MoMA that left a deep impression on me when I first moved to New York. It was in 1991-2 when Rob Storr curated huge, room-dominating sculptures by Chris Burden and Louise Bourgeois, and installations [!?] by Bruce Nauman, Adrian Piper, the Kabakovs, and David Hammons.
I just found this 5yo photo of Hammons’ Public Enemy, which I guess I had looked up because I was deep into photomurals at the time, and really wanted to find (or make) Hammons’ big photocube of the piece’s namesake, Teddy Roosevelt and his Grateful Savages [sic, obv].
In the intervening years MoMA has upped their archival game significantly, by putting a ton of exhibition material online, including the press release, checklist, brochure, installation photos, and a pdf of Storr’s catalogue. [Oh wow, Sophie Calle was in that show? Guess her intervention–removing paintings from the Modern’s galleries–was so subtle, I forgot.]
This was the first work of Hammons’ I’d ever seen, probably the first time I’d heard of him. Which seems crazy now, but reading the show’s time capsule of a catalogue, maybe I wasn’t so far behind. Storr waxes and marvels at what is now known about Hammons’ practice:
Hammons has preferred the city as a workplace and its citizens as his audience and sometime co-workers. Street flotsam and jetsam are his materials. What he brings to the gallery is all and sundry that it traditionally excludes. What he extracts from those materials and brings to the objects and installations that he has created outside the museums are the marvels and mysteries that lie already and everywhere to hand along heavily trafficked thoroughfares, in public parks, and in the so-called vacant lots littered with the evidence of their constant nomadic occupation and use…
“I like doing stuff better on the street, because art becomes just one of the objects that’s in the path of your everyday existence. It’s what you move through, and it doesn’t have superiority over anything else.” [he said in an otherwise unpublished interview which I now think we should unearth. -ed.]
Storr goes on about Hammons’ improvisatory process, “like jazz,” in which, despite a year of lead time, “all options remained open and the result wholly unforeseen” until the artist arrived to install the work. Which must have given MoMA an institutional heart attack.
And which, really? Because you can’t just pick up four huge photomurals or a substrate for them. And those sandbags seem very manufactured and ordered from somewhere. True, if you just work fast enough, those NYPD barriers were all over town, free for the taking. [Do they still have those? For throwback protests?]
What I thought about yesterday was whether Public Enemy still existed, or could be recreated. What I wonder about today, though, is what it’ll take for Uncle Teddy to get the Silent Sam treatment.
I was absolutely floored by this tiny quote from Zora Neale Hurston’s 1928 field interview with Cudjoe Lewis, who was one of the last known survivors of the last slave-ship to come to the United States. He arrived in the US from what is now Benin in 1859 or 1860, smuggled in on the Clotilde at the age of 19. His given name was Kossula.
“I want to know who you are and how you came to be a slave; and to what part of Africa do you belong, and how you fared as a slave, and how you have managed as a free man?”
His head was bowed for a time. Then he lifted his wet face: “Thankee Jesus! Somebody come ast about Cudjo! I want tellee somebody who I is, so maybe dey go in de Afficky soil some day and callee my name and somebody dere say, ‘Yeah, I know Kossula.’ ”
Hurston spent three months interviewing Kossula, and even longer trying to get his history published. Because of her training an anthropologist she refused publishers’ demands that she rewrite Kossula’s vernacular testimony. 87 years later, it is being released for the first time, and I just bought it.
[This is where I originally expected this quick post to stop.]
Kossula was a leader of the community of Clotilde survivors who after attempting to return to Africa, created a settlement outside Mobile, Alabama called Africatown. In a 1914 book called Historic Sketches of the South, Emma Roche Langdon recounted the stories of the Clotilde’s voyage, the survivors, and their descendants. She spelled his name Cudjoe Kazoola Lewis.
The original was carved in wood, to be cast in bronze. When the bronze bust was ripped off the base and stolen in 2002, the pastor said it had been in front of the church for “about three decades.” Was he off by 15 years, or had it taken until the 1970s to make the cast of Rhodes’ sculpture?
In 2008 a new, similarly shaped sculpture was unveiled, though this picture from a local newscast shows it next to a wall, not on the brick pyramid, because it was installed at the Africatown Welcome Center alongside a bust of John Smith, a mayor of the nearby town of Prichard. The sculptures were donated by two filmmakers from Africa, Thomas Akodjinou from Benin and Felix Yao Amenyo Eklu from Togo, in 2007.
On his blog Akodjinou honored John Smith for his involvement in the Alabama Benin Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum, which saw Africatown as an historic symbol of reconciliation between the two interconnected cultures.
In March 2011, both sculptures were vandalized, with their heads ripped off. The sculptures were originally described as marble, but from the look of this painted and chipped base, I am doubtful.
The headless busts were still visible in 2016 when Belgian artist Maarten Vanden Eynde visited Africatown. His account is disheartening, if not downright harrowing. Besides the historic cemetery, which is sinking, many of the structures and homes are run down or abandoned, and the area is threatened by surrounding industrial redevelopment. [Tho tbh, it looks kind of typical on GSV from 2011-2017.]
In 2016 sculptor April Livingston launched a GoFundMe to make a new bust, just the head this time, to be cast out of iron. It was bolted to the base in February 2017, when she promised the local news that she could cast a million more. Me, I’m most interested in the history of the previous three.
Untitled (Newport Center Monument) IV, 2017, 72 or 84-in. x 108 or 156 in. by 12 in., Ruddy Oak and Bright White on panels, installation image: gmaps
In 2011 The Irvine Company installed two identical monument signs in the grassy quarter-rounds on the East Coast Highway entrance of Fashion Island and Newport Center. They feature the names of three major tenants each, on both sides. Seven feet tall and 13 feet wide, they exceed the maximum dimensions (6′ x 9′) permitted under the Sign Standards of the Newport Beach Zoning Code, and required a variance. [In person the other day, I would never have guessed they were 7×13; they definitely feel like 6×9. Is it possible they were reduced in size after the permit was granted?]
Untitled (Newport Center Monument) III, 2017, 72 or 84-in. x 108 or 156 in. by 12 in., Ruddy Oak and Bright White on panels, installation image: gmaps
Though they also exceed the Code’s letter size limits, the signs comply with the requirement that letters be “individually fabricated” and of high contrast for easy legibility. At least at their genesis, they were specified to be finished with Reflective Coating #1460 Bright White from Axon Aerospace, Inc.
No aesthetic delectation here, Ruddy Oak! hashtag Spanish-Mediterranean, hashtag Craftsman, hashtag Perfect Palette®, image: dunnedwards.com
The 2011 permit application [pdf] describes the new signs as having “a faux plaster finish,” but they sure looked painted to me. They match the color specified on plans [pdf] for a similar sign for an adjacent Irvine Company office building: a reddish brown from a local manufacturer, Dunn-Edwards Ruddy Oak (DE5188).
I can find no public record of this color being specified or required in either Newport Beach or Irvine Company codes or styleguides, but it is in heavy use for shopping center and commercial signs within the boundaries of The Irvine Ranch. It also appears on the permitted color lists of at least eight homeowners associations (HOA) in coastal Southern California.
Untitled (Newport Center Monument) I, II, 2017, 43 x 4 ft each, Ruddy Oak and Bright White on substrate, installation image: gmaps
They also match the color and finish of the main signs at the East Coast Highway entrance, a pair of 43-foot-tall pylons installed in 1985. Which is also the first year The Irvine Company used the “sunwave” logo. Over time the text on the signs has changed to reflect the evolving brand distinctions between Newport Center, a massive, multi-use development, and Fashion Island, the vast mall at its center.
For their part, the Newport Center signs also exceed the 20′ height limit for pylon signs by 115%, but I presume they predated the creation of the code, and/or that no one will tell The Irvine Company what it can’t do in Newport Beach. Their letters are individually fabricated.
There are at least eleven other signs at other entrances to Fashion Island/Newport Center, but they’re more architectural than sculptural, with concrete plinths and stucco-finished capitals. Only the four signs on the ECH exhibit this rigorous, minimalist aspect.
[l. to r.] Untitled (Newport Center Monument) III, I, II & IV, 2017, installation view, image: gmaps
Fashion Island was and remains a leader in the mall industry for experiential design. In an essay called, “The Archaeology of ‘Shoppertainment,'” Matthew Cochran and Paul Mullins wrote about RTKL/ ID8, a mall interior design company which worked on the Fashion Island Experience. They quote an RTKL brochure:
[Mall experience is] about storytelling. Great places tell stories, and people love to find themselves in those stories. Often this has less to do with the way a building or a district is assembled and more to do with how we read it…Experience is in the details. If a place tells a story, then the details of that place make the story interesting. The smallest elements-from manhole coves to water features-conspire to create a dynamic, authentically human environment.
What story do these signs tell? What authenticity do they conspire to create, with their approved colors from a gated community on a bluff? Can the gestalt of the minimalist object be achieved from your car, at speed, as you pass the mall, or do you have to turn in?
This ID8 quote, too, turns out to have more to do with how I read it:
What makes us linger, pause, sit and think? The building blocks of place probably have less to do with the buildings and more to do with the spaces between those buildings.
In 2002, the day they flipped the switch, architect Gustavo Bonevardi explained how he and John Bennett arrived at their solution for what became the Tribute of Light World Trade Center memorial:
We’re not reconstructing the towers in their original size, but the distance between the two squares of light is the same as the distance between the actual towers. So in effect, we’re not rebuilding the towers themselves, but the void between them.
Because I cannot look at the Newport Center signs, and their proportions, and their void, and not see the World Trade Center.
But maybe that’s just me. I invite you to visit, view, linger, think, and pause at this installation of new work and pursue your own authentic, dynamic, human experience.
Previously, unexpectedly related, c. 2002: On reading (between) the lines On’s Location
I saw this picture by Rey Baniquet in a “best photos of the day” roundup at The Guardian yesterday. The caption read, “MANILA, PHILIPPINES/ President Rodrigo Duterte shows a list of police and government officials allegedly involved in the illegal drug trade during a forum with local and foreign businessmen”. The original photo’s actually wider.
Two things that struck me about the photo. One is the framing, which turned out to be taken from amid a tableful of glasses, and which reminded me of the video of Mitt Romney dissing the 47%, which was made surreptitiously from atop a catering bar. The other, more important thing is the list itself.
Googling around for more information, I kept coming across what the Philippine press called a “thick list” that Duterte had been circulating to the army, the legislature, the judiciary, implicating an untold number of people in the drug industry.
This event involved the Wallace Business Forum, a private business consulting group that advises international companies on doing business in the Philippines. Duterte spoke for two-plus hours at a dinner at the Malacañan Palace on December 12. The transcript and video of his speech are available online.
Duterte discussed the illegal drug industry, including three or four, let’s go with four million, “drug addicts,” as a national security threat. Then he mentioned the reported killings by his government:
You know, this is the drug industry. Sabi ko nga eh [I said, eh] you worry about the 3,000? Dead? A third of them during police encounters, I don’t know about the rest. And you do not worry the drug industry?
“You want a visual thing? Okay. This is the drug industry of the Philippines,” he said, as he had the list brought to him. This occurs at around 36:30.
The top of the stack is filled with a grid of headshots, like a yearbook. And like the Time magazine issue listing a week of US gun fatalities which Felix Gonzalez-Torres used to create his 1990 stack work, “Untitled” (Death By Gun) [below]. That list included 460 people.
Duterte says the list in his hand contains 6,000 people. While flipping through the list, he tosses of names and titles, mayors, judges, generals, in a way that makes it sound like he and everyone in the room knows them.
Duterte’s stack turns out not to be all photos, though. That is only the first deck. Several binder clips appear to break out the drug industry roster by region. The stack looks to be about 1000+ pages, more than two reams, for sure, maybe the clips throw it off a bit. Let’s say the ideal height [sic] is 15 cm.
I am wrestling with how, and whether, to make a work out of what is apparently an active kill list being circulated by a government. The visual, formal, even content reference is immediately clear, but the parameters are not. And neither are the possible implications.
On just a formal level, is the stack a single work, with no takeaways, or is the deck the data, which gets laid out into a larger grid, then turned into a stack? I feel like Duterte’s grasp on the entire stack gives me that answer [one work], even though it contradicts the typical Felix stack format. But of course, so did Felix, who created one stack, “Untitled” (Implosion), 1991, as a single unit comprised of 200 screenprinted sheets. So it’d be a single work. Maybe it’d be a publication. Maybe you print it out and save me the hassle.
And maybe it’s not the kind of thing that you do casually, or at least while the killings are ongoing. Or maybe not the kind of thing I should do as a white guy. Duterte’s mention of 3-4 million more reminds me of Chris Burden’s The Other Vietnam Memorial, 1991 [above], which mashed up names from a Vietnamese phone book into 3 million anonymized stand-ins for the real, unheralded dead. The people in the Philippines are real, and they have their own names.
It also reminds me of the million-who-knows people on the US’ no-fly list, about whom we know almost nothing except some part of the government deemed them a national security risk. And there are lists of known communists in the State Department, suspected homosexuals in the US Government, climate change scientists in the Energy Department, Muslim Registries, the list of lists goes on.
I tweeted yesterday that I don’t really know why I do these works; that ambivalence and uncertainty was brought to the fore by this photo. So until I think it through a bit more, I am really not comfortable right now with enshrining or recontextualizing Duterte’s “thick list” as an artwork. Even though it is, as the president himself said, a very important “visual thing.”
previously, somewhat related: Better Read #008: Death By Gun
image via @alexismadrigal
I haven’t been, but I feel like I’m very familiar with the border wall that extends into the sea between the US and Mexico.
Several artists have made projects around it, including using it as a volleyball net, or painting one side of it. It’s telling that the Berlin Wall was also painted, on the free side, or rather, on the side that did not erect the wall. Israel’s wall in the occupied West Bank is painted in that direction, too.
Anyway, when I saw Alexis Madrigal’s photo of the border wall built in the ocean, I thought what I always thought: it’s as cool as it is terrible. [I think Madrigal was attending #RiseUpAsOne, concert/festival sponsored by Fusion at Friendship Park on the US side.]
When the political divisions currently ripping the US apart, and the political, cultural, racial, security, and economic differences between the US and our neighbor get sorted out, and our terrified, weaponized national border stance eases, I hope that this section of the wall will stay and become a memorial.
Teresa Margolles’ La Sombra, installed at Echo Park Lake, photo: Carolina Miranda/LAT
Teresa Margolles has contributed a memorial to Current: LA Water, the “public art biennial,” which started last week. La Sombra (The Shade) is near Echo Park Lake and looks to be the most significant and prominent work in the program, which runs, incredibly, for less than a month. La Sombra is a six meter-high…pavilion? Awning? Structure? In her onsite report for the LA Times, Carolina Miranda calls it an installation, a memorial, and a monument. It looks like it’s made of concrete, but if it’s going to disappear in a couple of weeks, I suspect it’s gunnite or stucco sprayed on a plywood box.
Which hurts. Margolles created La Sombra as a memorial to 100 Los Angelenos murdered with guns in the last 18 months. The sites of these killings were visited, washed, and the water re-collected for use in mixing the concrete. This circulatory element echoes Margolles’ previous works which incorporate the water used to wash corpses in the morgue in her home city of Juarez. La Sombra is a stark, powerful form that draws people to it, especially on a hot, sunny day. In this way, perhaps, the deaths of these hundred people might yield some comfort to the living. Maybe family and friends can come sit under it. Maybe people will be motivated to act against gun-related violence.
“I wanted [La Sombra] to be on the scale of what has happened,” says Margolles in the Times. “I wanted it to have presence.”
Donald Judd, One of 15 Untitled Works in Concrete, 1980-84, 2.5m x 2.5m x 5m, Chinati Foundation, image via wiki
The scale and presence of La Sombra are indeed notable. It seems quite large. It looks like it could be concrete-Judd-in-Marfa-fields-size, but it is actually 4x that. It has an architectural presence and is not slight. It feels like about the right scale for 100 people. Maybe it is even the size of 100 people standing within it, I don’t know.
Memorials use scale to convey their meaning. Some memorials, like for the people killed in the Oklahoma City bombing and the AA77 crash at the Pentagon, use a cemetery-like field of individual-scale objects-chairs and benches, respectively-to represent the dead. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the World Trade Center Memorial, meanwhile, incorporate individual names into a larger, holistic experience of loss. nodding to a larger, shared sense of mourning, of a community, a nation. It really depends on the scale of death, whether it is thousands (58,195 or 2,977), hundreds (168 or 184), or one.
By remembering 100 otherwise unrelated deaths with one La Sombra, Margolles appears to have found a new scale for memorialization: a memorial unit that modulates between societal tragedy and individual loss. [I just remembered that the Pentagon Memorial actually called the benches “memorial units”.]
There were not just 100 people killed in LA with guns in the 18 months Margolles bracketed; there were 975. Even if it was just because of the prohibitive the logistics of washing down all those murder sites, the artist knew her temporary memorial alone could not account for that “scale of what has happened.” She’d need nine more La Sombras, just in LA. With an average of 55 people being killed each month, that’s another La Sombras every two months.
Imagine these 3-meter tall Judd concrete sculptures at Chinati are actually 6-meter tall Margolles La Sombras, each commemorating 100 people killed with guns. image: chinati.org
And now scale them up. There are 30,000 gun deaths in the US-half a Vietnam War or ten September 11ths-each year. Margolles’ La Sombra could be the optimal form and size for memorializing the people killed by gun violence across the country. But some details would need to be worked out. How far back in time do we go? We could need thousands of La Sombras right from the start. Seems impractical, at least at first.
Where should they be placed? Do we combine them all into one sprawling site, like an AIDS Quilt of concrete, an ever-growing Holocaust Memorial for a slaughter we refuse to stop? I think a La Sombra site could take into account the hundred people it memorializes within a city or perhaps a state, without getting too granular with your data; you wouldn’t want them to pile up and stigmatize a neighborhood, though having a few together could totally work.
Spread them out at least a bit. Though maybe a city or state could decide to stack them up in a public space, magnify their presence, so the absence of the dead can’t be ignored. Of course, you’d also want to avoid gamifying them, having them treated as kills to be racked up by violent forces in society, or even just a run-of-the-mill gun-toting psychokiller. They need to stay present in the landscape, but also just ominous and uncomfortable enough to prick the consciences of we who remain. An artist’s imposing new monument at Echo Park Lake honors Angelenos killed in violent crimes [latimes] Current: LA Water, LA’s Public Art Biennial, runs through August 14. [currentla.org]
“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.
About five years ago I began collecting dead websites. It started in 2010 with Thomas Hirschhorn, after his first website, made for the Bijlmer Spinoza-Festival in Amsterdam, disappeared from the net. The Spinoza project was the third in a series of temporary projects dedicated to philosophers.
“Presence” and “Production” are terms I use for specific projects which require my presence and my production. It means to make a physical statement here and now.
I believe that only with presence – my presence – and only with production – my production – can I provoke through my work, an impact on the field.
When the project is over, the programs end, the materials are dispersed, the artist moves on, and a couple of months later, the website where the entire thing had been documented disappears. Then the links go dead, the URL expires, and gets scooped up by some zombie ad network. All that remains are some jpgs illustrating Marcus Steinweg’s Bijlmer lectures.
I’d been to the first at Documenta, the Bataille Monument, in 2002, but not the Spinoza Festival, and so the website was it for me. I’d wanted to read and see more, longer. And then I discovered I couldn’t. It was gone.
So when Hirschhorn launched his second website the next year, for CRYSTAL OF RESISTANCE, the Swiss Pavilion at the 2011 Venice Biennale, I was ready. Almost. I grabbed the whole site several times, but l missed some galleries. And then it was gone.
The GRAMSCI MONUMENT site in 2013, I definitely got that one. And Hirschhorn’s project at the Palais de Tokyo in 2014, FLAMME ETERNELLE, I got that one too.
When the greatest website in the world got edited into oblivion, I grabbed it from the Internet Archive and made a piece out of it last year: Untitled (Embroidery Trouble Shooting Guide).
Then a few months ago I heard MOCA had deleted the informative and interactive mini-site for Philipp Kaiser and Miwon Kwon’s Land Art show, so I rebuilt that one. Or I’m in process. I still have to reconnect the Google Earth links. [Google’s deprecated KML API may have led to the page’s demise.]
This is how I started posting them as subdomains, similar to found texts or found web objects. In the case of Hirschhorn, I was very aware since Venice that these were different, and very much not his work: “This website is neither an artwork, nor part of the artwork <>”, it said on the front of the site.
But wasn’t, but now it was, but of a different work. Hirschhorn’s projects required his presence and his production, and my sites had neither. They appeared the same but were the opposite.
They weren’t just for me anymore. At least I didn’t have to think so.
I do edit them, leave my mark, track changes, in the text somewhere, or the source, in ways that are invisible or imperceptible, where I imagine literally no one will ever know or care. At one point, in a more cynical mood, I rewrote the entire Gramsci Monument to be entirely about me. But the more I consider Hirschhorn’s practice, the less sure I am that the gesture works as critique. [Of him, anyway. Of me, OTOH… At least I kept a clean version too.]
For example, here is something I wrote in the source of Ends of the Earth:
Though it is still available on the Internet Archive, this is the kind of thing that should, I feel, exist within an art context. It is too off-the-cuff to imagine these two mirrors as a site and non-site, but that is an apt reference, I won’t throw it out. What ultimately motivates this repetition of the site is a bafflement at why MOCA removed it in the first place. Huge shoutout to Kimberly Drew (@museummammy) for calling this to my attention.
I just feel like I have to grab these things, even the ones that get scraped into the Internet Archive. It’s an urge that I can’t dismiss, even when I can recognize the futility of it. I have to save them.