Meanwhile, In The American Pavilion…

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Here’s a description of the American Pavilion at the Osaka ’70 Expo from an online exhibit at Columbia called, “Housing The Spectacle: The Emergence of America’s Domed Stadiums”:

Trying to best R. Buckminister Fuller’s Geodesic Dome built for the U.S. Pavilion at Expo 67 in Montreal, the architects of the Expo 70 Pavilion first envisioned it as a huge floating sphere, inspired by NASA’s Apollo 11 mission that put the first man on the moon. This spherical scheme was the winning entry (submitted by Davis – Brody Architects and deHarak, Chermayeff & Geismar, Designers) in a competition sponsored by its future owner, the United States Information Agency (USIA). The competition scheme would have included exhibition space inside the sphere, and used its inner surface as a giant projection screen for continuously played film clips. The Pavilion ultimately erected at Osaka marked the birth of a new structural building type — the longspan, cable stiffened pneumatic dome — which would for a time become the predominant roof system over America’s emerging sports palaces. Remarkably, the U.S. Pavilion’s pneumatically supported 465 foot by 265 foot clear span dome was developed largely in response to Congress’ 50% reduction in the project’s budget. The completed Pavilion cost $450,000, which was about half the cost of the Montreal dome.

Those budget cuts meant The Great Balloon was replaced by a flat, quilted dome derided as “the world’s largest bunion pad.”
“Space balloons” were a prominent element in another of designs invited by the US Information Agency. According to an exasperated-sounding 1968 Architectural Forum review of ten of the eleven invitees, Isamu Noguchi proposed an underground exhibition space topped by a “vividly colored” and contoured playground landscape, comfortably shaded by a giant balloon. A space balloon.
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Davis Brody’s winning plan for the Great Balloon originally included a spiral exhibition-filled ramp leading up to a panoramic platform where films would be projected on the entire upper half of the dome.
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When that didn’t work out, the quest for giant, space exploration-evoking spheres, though, seems to have been moved inside. I can’t make much sense of the exhibition design or its purpose from photographs [the clearest picture I’ve seen so far is a tourist’s snapshot], but there were certainly some Project Echo-esque Mylar spheres floating in there.
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Also, the entire surface of the earth berm walls were covered in silver Mylar.
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Especially with the dot-covered spheres, you see how short a trip it is from the Triumph of the Cold War and the Space Race to the Age of Disco.
There are more and larger images at the Columbia site. [columbia.edu]
The US at Osaka, Arch Forum, Oct. 1968 [hosted at columbia.edu]
Previously considered unrelated. Now? Helmut Lang’s self-portrait, a scavenged, battered disco ball

Q: Was The Pepsi Pavilion Art?

Of course, I’d only need to recreate The Pepsi Pavilion from Osaka 70 if it didn’t exist anymore. Does it? No. As relations between Pepsi and Billy Kluver, the engineer founder of E.A.T., deteriorated over issues of budget and esoteric programming [Pepsi had originally envisioned their dome-shaped pavilion as a site of a string of rock concerts to entertain The Pepsi Generation coming to the Expo], Kluver argued that the entire Pavilion was a work of art and thus, a success, and thus, worthy of continued expenditure and preservation. Pepsi, literally, wasn’t buying:

As an artistic experiment, though, it can be considered a success, and according to Klüver deserved to be treated as an art work.
In the case of the Pavilion, he therefore suggested to Pepsi-Cola to officially recognize the total work as an art work, in order to give it a legal structure. In a letter to Donald Kendall, President of Pepsi-Cola, Inc., he wrote “Our legal relationship to Pepsi Cola has developed so that the artists are put in the category of commercial artists designing a commercial product. One consequence of this is that we must obtain rights from all artists and engineers and others involved, particularly with regard to use of the Pavilion after Expo ’70. Of course, there is no question of Pepsi’s ownership and right to use and exhibit the Pavilion. Our dilemma is whether the artists have created a work of art or a work of commercial art to which there are rights which must be guaranteed… A decision to recognize the Pepsi Pavilion as a work of art and to treat it as such will set a much needed precedent in this area.” Pepsi-Cola never took this step and eventually the Pavilion was left in a state of gradual desolation and decay. This was certainly due to the fact that the relationship between E.A.T. and Pepsi-Cola had considerably cooled down, to the point that the company, the sole sponsor of the project, withdrew its support when E.A.T. presented a maintenance contract for $405,000, instead of the proposed sum of $185,000.

Too bad the strategy didn’t work; art seemed to be the only ticket to surviving the end of Expo 70. Today, almost all that’s left of Expo ’70 are Taro Okamoto’s massive sculpture, Tower of The Sun, and Kiyoshi Kawasaki’s International Art Pavilion, which until four years ago, housed the National Museum of Art, Osaka. Whoops, never mind: “The old museum was demolished and turned into a car park.”
From Ch. 2, “The Nine Evenings,” of M.J.M Bijvoets’ Art As Inquiry [stichting-mai.de]
No museums, but m-louis’s Expo70 photos do have sweet pavilions and the Tower of The Sun [flickr]

E.A.T. It Up: The Pepsi Pavilion

Let’s get one thing out of the way first: I’m a Diet Coke guy. The very fact that The Pepsi Generation existed in 1970 should blow a hole in their brand’s supposed youthy credibility big enough to drive a 90-foot mirrored dome though. Oh, and what do we have here?
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Holy freakin’ crap, why has no one told me The Pepsi Pavilion at the 1970 World Expo in Osaka was an origami rendition of a geodesic dome; obscured in a giant mist cloud produced by an all-encompassing capillary net; surrounded by Robert Breer’s motorized, minimalist pod sculptures; entered through an audio-responsive, 4-color laser show–yes, using actual, frickin’ lasers– and culminating in a 90-foot mirrored mylar dome, which hosted concerts, happenings, and some 2 million slightly disoriented Japanese visitors?
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And that large chunks of it were conceived, developed, and programmed by E.A.T., Experiments in Art and Technology, the pioneering art/engineering collaborate founded by [among others] Robert Rauschenberg and Bell Labs’ Billy Kluver? And that the four artists working with Kluver–Breer, Frosty Myers, Robert Whitman, and David Tudor–had planned months of even freakier happenings for the Pavilion, but the Pepsi gave them the boot for being too freaky–and for going significantly over budget? Still.
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The least you could’ve done is tell me that Raven Industries made a full-size replica of the Pavilion out of Mylar and test-inflated it in a disused blimp hangar in Santa Ana, CA? Apparently, all it took was a 1/1,000th of an atmosphere difference in air pressure to keep the mirror inflated within the outer structure.
Because, of course, you know that Kluver was the guy at Bell Labs who helped Warhol with his seminal “Silver Flotations” exhibit in 1966 [seen here in Willard Maas’s film poem on Ubu]. And Bell Labs was involved in Project Echo, which launched and tracked two gigantic mylar spheres, satelloons, a couple of years earlier. Which makes the Pavilion’s similarities to the satellite below purely non-coincidental.
Which means that after recreating these two, earliest NASA missions as art projects, I’ll have to recreate the Pepsi Pavilion, too.
I’ve ordered by copy of Kluver et al’s dense-sounding 1972 catalogue, Pavilion and expect to be revisiting this topic in some depth within 5-7 business days. Meanwhile, if there are any other giant, mylar spheres of tremendous-yet-overlooked artistic and historical importance lurking out there, now’s your chance to come clean.
E.A.T. – Experiments in Art and Technology «Pepsi Pavilion for the Expo ’70» [mediaartnet.org]
Previously: Must. Find. The Satelloons Of Project Echo
D’oh, or else I must make the satelloons of Project Echo, which would mean I’m an artist, freak, or both
echo_satelloon_color.JPG

Autoprogettazione: The Making Of An Enzo Mari Dining Room Table

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The economic and ecological and aesthetic far-sightedness of Enzo Mari’s 1974 Autoprogettazione still blows my mind. Translated variously as “self-projects,” and “self-design, self-made,” Mari’s collection of designs for furniture you could build yourself with just a hammer using cheap, off-the-shelf lumber anticipated several key design principles that resonate right now: DIY; sustainability; small-scale, local production and consumption; simplicity; handmade; hacking commercial products; and the open-source/creative commons movements [the furniture could be built by anyone except a factory or a dealer.]
Mari intended his Autoprogettazione to be made of #2 medium-grade, knotty pine, some of the humblest material on the market. He arranged for a company to pre-cut the lumber and sell it in packs as Metamobile. Naturally, one of these vintage 1974 kit tables sold for $14,400 at auction last fall.
Naturally, a gallery in Chelsea, Demisch Danant, just closed an exhibition of Metamobile furniture which they had made, and which they arranged for Mari himself to sign. Which seems to defeat several purposes of the entire Autoprogettazione concept, but that’s life.

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I’m looking for photos of the first Metamobile furniture I saw, which is still my favorite: In 2004, Rirkrit Tiravanija produced Mari’s square dining table [above] and some chairs in chrome-plated stainless steel. The pieces weighed a ton, but they were truly spectacular, like Koons picnic furniture.
Anyway, we’re just in the middle of moving our place in DC, which gives me the occasion to need a bigger, nicer dining room table. Mid-century modernism is too relentlessly tasteful; recent prices of “good” furniture make me laugh out loud. Though I’m an unrepentant Ikea fan, it only goes so far [i.e., no serious furniture]. Mari’s furniture feels like the perfect counterpoint to the homogeneous mega-catalogue stores: C&B, Pottery Barn, CB2, West Elm, etc. etc. etc.
So I’m thinking of getting the Truss Table [top] known as the EFFE Table. As a city dweller, I’d have to have it made, or at least have the lumber cut and finished and delivered for my own assembly.
An ex-pat design firm in Japan used sugi, Japanese cedar, to make their EFFE table. For me, I think it’s key to use Mari’s intended pine. So far, I’ve sourced two wildly disparate, but potentially interesting woods:

  • Though it sounds like an oxymoron, I tried to find the most unique, most refined pine around. In the US, at least, that’s longleaf pine harvested from sunken logs. Known as sinker pine or river-reclaimed pine, these logs were up to 500 years old when they were felled 150-200 years ago. A few specialist mills salvage and process the wood, mostly into flooring. So producing the 1×2 “run of the mill” lumber needed would require custom milling. Which has an amusing irony to it. And a comfortingly expensive price tag.
  • The other option is even more ironic, though: get the wood from Ikea. It’d be the ultimate Ikea hack to turn a mass-produced bookcase and bunkbed into a handmade, Italian designer dining table. Ikea could supplant Home Depot as the go-to source for Everything. So far, though bunkbeds might work, the only Ikea products with promising dimensions and wood supply are bed slats. They’re essentially a bundle of 1×2 boards stapled to a canvas tape. At $9.99, they’re cheaper per board-food than actual lumber at Home Depot. Once I get my calculator warmed up, and then my tape measure, I’ll know if an original Enzo Mari dining table can be had for $19.98, $998, or, $14,998.
    update: Those Demisch Danant pieces appear related to a series of 18 pieces put up at auction last June in Paris. Artcurial has a making of video, though they don’t actually show what they made. An EFFE Table went for EUR2,231.

  • outline for Wed. Seminar

    Ignore me. I’m making notes for a seminar at CCNY that Paul Myoda invited me to speak at and screen some of the films. I should probably make a Venn Diagram for this…
    Production diary of my own films
    Ideas behind my own films (including development of some scripts, why the hell I’m doing a musical)
    Influences and inspiration, whether filmmakers, artists, writers
    Subject matter, themes, background and continuing dialogue/unfolding events (death, grief, 9/11, memorials, architecture)
    Art & architecture I like, because it impacts me and my worldview
    Other peoples’ filmmaking news, experiences
    Filmmaking trends I find relevant (DV, Machinima, Animation, DVD, documentary-style, video game-film dialogue)
    Topics that develop a life of their own (shipping container architecture, powerpoint, Liza Minnelli for a frightening minute there-blame Gawker– Sforzian backgrounds and the entertainment techniques of politics, putting this war in context, religiosity, WTC Memorial Competition)
    Insights and interviews with filmmakers I think are worth paying attention to/learning something from
    Self-admittedly brilliant ideas I’m confident everyone in the world will benefit from reading (note: heavy overlap with other categories)

    Shoot sequentially, post asynchronously

    Gerry, still, Gus van Sant

    Don’t know how I missed this; in Feb., Gus Van Sant talked to The Onion A.V. Club about making his films. The sequential filming mode from Gerry was used again on Elephant; with a small, light crew, Van Sant was practically flying along, shooting whatever he wanted. It was an approach he’d missed since his first feature, Mala Noche.
    One review of Gerry deadpanned that Los Angeles is enough of a desert itself, why go to Death Valley; since reading it, I’ve wanted to do a shot-for-shot remake of Gerry, set in teeming east LA. After all, for a west-side anglo, being stuck on foot in East LA could be as alienating and threatening as an empty desert.
    [Update: I finally found it; It was a Voice interview with Van Sant, who said: “In the West, as soon as you get out of town, depending on which direction you go, you can hit desert, especially in L.A. I mean, L.A. is really a desert anyway.”
    Unfortunately, there’s something screwy going on with the DVD release of Gerry. Criterion is apparently handling it, but there’s no mention of it at all on their site.

    On how I always think I have two more days than I do, sort of a staggered Groundhog Day

    Sent off entries to festivals in Rotterdam and San Jose, even though Rotterdam’s short film deadline was last week (I got as close to special dispensation as they’re willing to do in these circumstances, pleading and dropping the heavy name of the festival that accepted the film for December.)
    The memefeeder online film project doesn’t have a upload deadline Monday, it goes live on Monday, so I’m scrambling to shoot, edit, digitize and upload that by Friday night. Net net: the storyline I posted a couple of days ago may only be released on the DVD…
    There are a lot of thanks to give out. First, Evan of Blogger, who kindly annointed this site and brought it to the attention of some people besides those Googling “Albert Maysles and Glitter“; travelersdiagram, Ftrain, Camworld and boing boing, where I’ve tapped some rich info veins lately; fellow filmmakers Ryan Deussing, Stefan DeVries, and Roosa, who’ve said very nice things; folks at themixture.com, who were also very kind; Tyler at MAN, whose site is a great read despite all the comments I post on it; Eric Banks and Nico Israel at Artforum for alighting (from the heights of print) on the net for a good exchange.
    If all these thank you’s sound elegiac, don’t worry; I’m only going to the gym.

    Memefeeder scene preparations

    from to

    Currently prepping to shoot a 1-minute scene for an online collaborative film at Memefeeder.com. I’m doing Scene Three, “Commute,” for which the first and last shot of the scene has been provided; what actually happens in the scene is up to me.
    The story: previous instances of missing his ride flash through the mind of a commuter worried about being late once again.
    shot 1: a failed attempt to hitchhike in Greenwich, CT
    shot 2: missing the bus
    shot 3: searching unsucessfully for a cab
    shot 4: missing a flight at JFK
    shot 5: running for the closing subway doors
    Web links I’m using: Planespotting.com’s JFK runway guide, Cached maps of JFK. Apparently, original map images have been removed from the web. No telling yet if the planespotting roads are still accessible. The Pan Am (now Delta) terminal’s rooftop parking most certainly is not

    MemeFeeder online film project

    And speaking of composite films by collections of directors, MemeFeeder is a collaborative online movie I am participating in. Based somewhere in the aether (the use of the phrase “first in best dressed” makes me think at least one Australian is involved), MemeFeeder has invited ten directors (and other contributors) to each create a one-minute silent film based on a scene from the storyboard they’ve provided. The ten completed minutes will be runtogethertomake a ten-minute short, which will screen online in mid-October.