John Cage’s Truckera: The Making Of

From 1985-87 John Cage worked on one of his most ambitiously scaled projects ever, a full-scale opera created by chance operation. “Europera 1 & 2” debuted at the Frankfurt Oper in late 1987, and they have been an object of longtime interest and fascination on this blog. But because my interest was first in the visual and material aspects of the production—the props, the canvas flats with blown up vintage opera imagery—I missed a key sound element: “Truckera.”

“Truckera” was a 3-minute sound loop made of 101 opera LPs recorded in batches, and mixed down in layers into one “thick” truck-like sound. “Truckera” was to be played by the percussion section of the “Europera” orchestra. Which, fine.

What is wild, though, is that Cage produced “Truckera” live, on air, on the Columbia University radio station, WKCR, with a studioful of turntables and DAT decks and a team of dozens of audio engineers. It took almost three hours.

In between takes and mixes, Cage and host Brooke Wentz chat; Cage reads excerpts of collaged-together synopses from “Europera’s” 12 different programs; and they play recordings of various recent or related works. All the while, the sounds, cues, and logistical banter of audio production continue in the background [or whatever the Cagean equivalent is.]

At times the broadcast feels like, if not quite a Cagean composition, then definitely a Cagean performance, the kind of lecture/musical event Cage did often on college campuses. But it’s actually something rarer: a chance [sic] to eavesdrop on some central moments of Cage’s actual production.

This all comes up now because the Truckera broadcast was recorded, and rebroadcast, and rebroadcast again. WKCR aired it last September 5 to mark Cage’s birthday. And Laura Kuhn, director of the John Cage Trust, just finished airing it—in three one-hour installments—on her weekly show, All Things Cage, on WXGC. I haven’t actually gotten through all three yet, but it’s already the best Cage recording I’ve heard this year.

All Things Cage on WXGC via Wavefarm:
30 Dec 2023: Opera Mix For and With John Cage (1987) Part I
06 Jan 2024: Opera Mix For and With John Cage (1987) Part II
13 Jan 2024: Opera Mix For and With John Cage (1987) Part III

From 356 Mission To Luna Luna

screenshot of lunaluna.com

I woke up this morning thinking about the Boyle Heights anti-gentrification protests against 356 Mission, the studio/exhibition/performance space run by artist Laura Owens and bookstore owner Wendy Yao, with support from Gavin Brown, that preceded, if not precipitated, the project’s closure in 2018.

It’s just a couple of minutes walk from 356, south toward the Instagram Influencer Bridge, past the Explore Vatican Immersive Sistine Chapel Experience, to Luna Luna, the Artist Carnival Immersive Experience Drake just installed in a 60,000 square-foot soundstage that’s part of the 18-acre property being assembled by Anderson Real Estate, which owns and manages 4.5 million square feet of commercial properties in California, Hawaii, and the US Virgin Islands.

The Doors

an unidentified photo of Duchamp’s 1938 installation, with paintings hung on one of two revolving doors he put on either side of the perforated iron brazier that provided most of the light. ganked from Elena Filipovic’s dissertation

Another thing I learned from Christopher Murtha’s thesis on Sturtevant’s engagement with photography and installation in the making of her Duchamps works is about the doors.

Specifically, I never really noticed or heard that much about the revolving doors Marcel Duchamp used as exhibition devices in the 1938 Exposition internationale du surréalisme he designed/curated at the Beaux-Arts in Paris. As Murtha pointed out, Duchamp later considered other elements from the show to be artworks—1200 Coal Bags Suspended From The Ceiling Over a Stove, for example—but the doors didn’t get the same treatment. Despite, as I see below, Duchamp’s well-documented interest in doors—and Large Glass works that, you must admit, look rather doorish.

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The Second Deposition of Richard Prince (2023)

It feels like worlds ago, and world ago all the way down. And also just yesterday.

For a few hours in the Summer of 2023, an Instagram account that tracks the work of artist Richard Prince posted a picture of a rusty shoe tree, standing in front of an abstract painting. It echoed the original image of Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain, which Alfred Stieglitz photographed in front of a Marsden Hartley painting in 1917.

Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain, photographed in front of Marsden Hartley’s The Warriors on April 19, 1917 by Alfred Stieglitz

The Instagram image included text elements: DEPOSITION above and RICHARD PRINCE below, with a url and password to an unlisted video file. The video, more than six hours long, appeared to be a recording of Richard Prince’s deposition in a pair of conjoined lawsuits filed by photographers Donald Graham and Eric McNatt, in 2015 and 2016, respectively. Both men objected to photos they took, posted to Instagram by others, which appeared in Prince’s 2014 New Portraits series.

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How Does Sturtevant’s Candy Pour Work?

From the jump, the experience of encountering a Sturtevant is different from almost all other artworks. The moment of recognition, of loading up your assumptions and expectations of an artist’s work, of anticipating a certain kind of engagement is the same, until the instant it isn’t. Sturtevant’s work triggers a recognition, and then it thwarts it. When you realize a work is by Sturtevant, you consider how close she has gotten to the artist you thought it was by; then you start marking differences. You may also start to reflect on your upended expectations, and to question the systems that produced them.

July 2023 installation view of Sturtevant’s Gonzalez-Torres Untitled (Blue Placebo), 2004, at the Whitney, via Scott Rothkopf’s IG

And by you, I mean me. And the Sturtevant work that has been confounding me for months is Gonzalez-Torres Untitled (Blue Placebo). The 2004 sculpture is a repetition of “Untitled” (Blue Placebo), a 1991 pour of blue cellophane-wrapped candy. The Sturtevant was acquired by the Whitney Museum in 2016, and it went on view for the first time this summer in “Inheritance,” an expansive collection exhibition about legacy and lineage curated by Rujeko Hockley.

As far as I can tell, Sturtevant only made one candy pour. It was shown at least twice in the artist’s lifetime, and this is the second time since her death. How does it work? What does it do? How does a museum handle it? Is there a certificate?

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Cash4YourGenzken

Was ist das at 1h17? an Isa Genzken Weltempfänger on the 6 Sept 2023 episode of
Bares für Rares XXL, all screencaps via ZDF

Alex Greenberger has the English report at ARTnews, but there is apparently a German version of Antiques Roadshow called Bares für Rares, or Cash for Rarities, and it is hosted by Jerry Saltz starring in Gilbert & Sullivan’s adaptation of Death in Venice? I don’t really speak German. But that’s not important now. What matters is that an Isa Genzken sculpture was crumbling on prime time German television.

“Der Zustandsbericht macht mir Angst.”/”The condition report is scaring me.”: screencap via ZDF
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Non-Existent Cady Nolands

Once I could confirm she included no LL Bean tote bags, I made my peace with not blogging every review and post and image of Cady Noland’s one-room exhibition at Gagosian. But it’s hard to resist, especially in this window before I get to the show in person.

detail of a photo of archival Polaroids from Cady Noland’s exhibition at Park & 75th, showing an undated sculpture with the label, “doesn’t exist,” via octavio-world
Another detail of the archival Polaroids, with another Cady Noland that “doesn’t exist,” from octavio-world

On tumblr Octavio has posted some intriguing photos that were not in the gallery checklist: a collection of archival Polaroids, some stacks several pictures deep, of earlier installations and details of work. I’m going to wait to go through them more carefully, but I will absolutely rush to post the discovery of a new category of Cady Noland sculpture alongside “destroyed by refabrication” and “disavowed because of damage and conservation shenanigans”:

“Doesn’t exist.”

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I Have A Few Bluesky Invites

As the poisoning and destruction of twitter continues apace, I’ve been expending more of my social media energy on Bluesky, which is still in testing mode. The current owner of twitter has apparently taken to disabling accounts that publicize Bluesky or Bluesky invites, but that is fine.

If you are a greg.org reader and would like an invite, please email me. I have a few to share, and would love to see more folks there. First-come, first-served.

[UPDATE: OK, I’m out of invites for the moment, but will share more again when they come.]

[I am also on tumblr, at gregdotorg.tumblr.com, and would love to connect with greg.org readers there, too. Follow and let me find out.]

Why Does Andrea Fraser’s Work Make Me Cry?

There are some Dia Artist on Artist Talks I go to regularly, like Amie Siegel talking about Donald Judd’s furniture in 2016, and David Diao talking about Barnett Newman in 2013. But I somehow never worked my way through the series, and so when I quickly downloaded a bunch of talks to listen to on the plane, I was completely blindsided by Andrea Fraser’s 2004 talk about why Fred Sandback’s work made her cry.

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One Acre And Dia Mule

Last Sold: 8/6/2018, Zestimate®: None, Zillow screenshot

Until 2018 Edisto Island meant one thing in the contemporary art world. Then after, it meant another. Or rather, it meant two things. On August 6, 2018, Cameron Rowland bought an acre of land that had once been part of an enslaver’s plantation; then was part of a “forty acres and a mule” Freedmen’s reparations order; and then was almost immediately repossessed by the former enslavers. Rowland bought the land and placed restrictive covenants on its deed that remove any use or monetary value. The land and the deed constitute their work, Depreciation, and Dia just announced stewardship of it.

The work comprises the land and the deed, but that is not all. Depreciation is owned by 8060 Maxie Rd, Inc., a not-for-profit corporation Rowland established to execute the work. The company is named after the land’s address on a road named after the enslavers. Rowland maintains the corporation, and thus ownership of the work, and has put it on extended loan with Dia.

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FLOW LGS Autoprogettazione by Yamamoto Daisuke

Flow Homage to Enzo Mari, 2022, low gauge steel, for beautifulpeople by Daisuke Yamamoto

Does the algorithm have me? I was unable to resist the suggested instagram post featuring this Enzo Mari autoprogettazione project at the Salone in Milan. But I at least did track down the actual designer and the actual project, rather than credit the insta-clout-chasing design aggregator.

beautiful people unseen archives pop-up made of LGS, including these Enzo Mari chairs, by Daisuke Yamashita, photo Kozo Takayama via IDREIT

Daisuke Yamamoto’s FLOW project is an exploration of material reuse and recycling that proposes to make furniture out of decommissioned light-gauge steel (LGS) beams. In Milano Yamamoto made chairs not only by Enzo Mari, but by Gerrit Rietveld and others. The origins and evolution of the project are documented by the Melbourne-based Japanese design site IDREIT.

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On Remembering Dooce

ngl, part of the reason I’m running away to the countryside today to see art I’ve just seen is because it’s unexpectedly hard to sit at a computer, at a blog dashboard, and know that Heather Armstrong was around, and now she’s not. Our paths ran in parallel for a long and formative time, and they intersected in many ways, both major and minor, and they diverged. But her voice, her presence, her influence, has been a constant in some form for decades of my life, and it’s painful to know she’s gone. It’s painful, too, to even get glimpses of the suffering and challenges she dealt with, and it is gutting to know that her family and friends will have a hard road ahead. So yeah, I’m going to take a minute.

Presumably Destroyed Cy Twombly Safety Curtain

You cannot overestimate my incredulity when I saw this jpg that purported to be a three-storey tall Cy Twombly painting at the Vienna State Opera. image: mip.at

I saw this gigantic Cy Twombly painting on the landmarked firewall of the Vienna State Opera, called the Iron Curtain, and was like, that is totally fake. It is a rendering. And it was.

OK maybe this is real? But still not a painting, though, right? image: mip.at

This is what the Twombly fire wall looked like installed in 2010-11. So pretty close, except for the color of the canvas and the paint. Except this 176 square meter image was inkjet printed on PVC mesh, like a billboard. The picture is of an untitled 2005 painting from the Bacchus series. Twombly painted these dripping red loop paintings with giant brushes on sticks, like if Cold Mountain-era Brice Marden just got back from the Iraq War. Everyone wants the Bacchus paintings to be about the Iraq War.

Untitled paintings installed at Cy Twombly’s Bacchus, 2005, uptown Gagosian

The original is 10×16 feet or so. Here it is installed at Gagosian in 2005. They really cropped that right down. In 2008, between this show and the Vienna State Opera commission, Twombly showed a couple of a third batch of Bacchus paintings at Tate Modern. After his death, the Foundation ended up donating three of them, plus some sculptures, enough to fill a permanent room, which feels astute.

The Safety Curtain Project has been selecting contemporary artists for the Vienna State Opera fire wall since 1998. It is run by Daniel Birnbaum and Hans-Ulrich Obrist, the only two curators in Europe. Oh wait, there’s a third now. Bice Curiger has joined the group chat. I love them all like brothers, sisters, and/or non-binary siblings, but seriously, enough.

Previously, related: Destroyed Cy Twombly Backdrop