This edition of Better Read comprises a found text, the documentation of a fungi specimen submitted to the New York Botanical Society. That documentation in turn comprises several elements: an archivist’s gnomon, a page removed from a mycology guidebook; item labels, notes, and a submission form with NYBG letterhead. They are read from the top of the digitized scan of the specimen record to the bottom.
One thing I noticed, besides the rather remarkable combination of words, and their genesis: after 20 recordings, I only just noticed that Alex, the computer-generated voice, inhales before he starts speaking. Now it kind of freaks me out.
The Hirshhorn Museum offers non-hearing or non-sighted visitors transcripts of audio or video artworks they exhibit. In some cases those transcripts come from the artist or their dealers. For the video art show in the lower level, you can read along for the entire performance of a Polish opera in Jasper & Malinowska’s Halka/Haiti, or [no thanks] all of Frances Stark’s sex chats. [The transcript for Arthur Jafa’s Love Is The Message, The Message Is Death, though, only includes the lyrics to the Kanye West song he laid down, not the dialogue in his video montage.] When they don’t exist, though, the Hirshhorn produces their own descriptive, transcriptive text.
Anyway, I noticed the existence of these transcripts while watching Gretchen Bender’s Dumping Core (1984), a rapid-fire, multi-channel video installation that plays out over 13 monitors arrayed throughout a black box gallery.
The improbability of the existence of one of Bender’s major works was already next-level. MoMA apparently helped restore or recover the work, which had only been exhibited as an abbreviated documentation video like my pic above, as recently as 2013. But the idea of a translating a frenetic video wall into a narrative text seemed too intriguing to ignore. And translating that back into an audio experience? If Bender wouldn’t have approved, I think she’d disapprove in the right way.
I don’t want to steal any of Tulliach’s thunder; only one of the images is in ready circulation online, and they may come from the 1942 report on protecting the patrimony she referenced later. The encasement only gets passing mentions, though, in histories of art preservation in the midst and aftermath of WWII, and I, for one, am psyched to know more.
The director of the Accademia at the time was Ugo Procacci, and he undertook the massive effort to evacuate what artworks he could from the city, and store them for safekeeping in remote villas around Tuscany.
What’s so great is these forms themselves. They’ve been called silos, but I’d think they have to be solid, more like a cairn. In another context, their form is obviously a lingam; and we all know Michelangelo loved the lingam. But anyway, there they are, in a museum.
It turns out to be very difficult to find out exactly what Michelangelo said, or what Vasari said he said, even, about a statue existing in every block of stone, and it’s the sculptor’s job to free it.
But it could be a sculptor’s job again to remake these forms, with a Michelangelo-shaped void at the center of each one. We can bring these back. And we should.
It could be like Your House, that intricately die-cut book Olafur Eliasson made with MoMA’s library, but out of bricks.
In 1991 the artist David Hammons was invited by Mary Jane Jacobs to create a site-specific work in Charleston, South Carolina for a new, visual arts program linked to the Spoleto Festival. Jacobs had patterned the exhibition, “Places With A Past”, after the Skulptur Projekt Münster. Spoleto founder Gian Carlo Menotti hated the whole thing; the exhibition divided the board and got the director fired (he came back a couple of years later, after Menotti quit), but the show’s art historical reputation has only grown.
That said, Hammons’ is the only one of 61 installations left standing, thanks in large part to his early decision to collaborate with Albert Alston, a local builder, who seems to have maintained and championed the work over the ensuing 27 years.
Hammons and Alston built House Of The Future on a vacant, city-owned lot on Charleston’s segregated East Side using architectural fragments and materials from renovation and demolition projects nearby. It is a 6×20-foot teaching model of Charleston’s signature style, with labels for each component. At some point, a young, local artist used the ground floor as studio space, and Alston oversaw other public programmatic uses. On the back of the House, Hammons painted a quote from African American writer Ishmael Reed:
The Afro-American has become heir to the myths that it is better to be poor than rich, lower class than middle or upper, easy going rather than industrious, extravagant rather than thrifty, and athletic rather than academic.
[Though Reed gets–and takes–credit for the quote, it seems that it actually originates with musician/composer/sociologist Ortiz Walton. Reed quoted Walton’s critical history of cultural exploitation, Music: Black, White & Blue in a 1973 review for Black World Magazine. Reed & Walton seem to have been frequent collaborators and interlocutors, so maybe this is one more of those Hammons/Alston situations. In any case, the quote itself was criticized by some in the community, and it has disappeared and reappeared from the wall of House Of The Future with various repaintings. According to an unrelated 1995 lawsuit by a disgruntled muralist, though, it was integral to the community’s embrace of the installation that helped preserve it after the Spoleto Festival ended.]
At some point after the May 1991 opening of “Places With A Past”, Hammons’ second element was realized kitty corner from House of The Future. America Street is a small, grassy bump of a park on another vacant lot, where Hammons’ iconic African American Flag flies from atop a 40-foot pole. A black and white photo of a group of children looking up, as if at the flag, filled a sidewalk-scale billboard that had previously featured ads for liquor and Newports. From this 1996 account of the Spoleto fallout over “Places With A Past”, it sounds like the works survived some entropy, if not straightup neglect. But both the flag and the picture have been replaced over the years.
I have not visited Hammons’ piece(s), except in Google Street View. The first thing I noticed was they differed in appearance from the historical photos. I realized GSV’s own decade of historical imagery is useful here, for marking the changes this tiny house and its neighborhood have undergone.
Clicking through the changes wrought by time on a piece of Southern vernacular architecture, I immediately thought of the work of my late neighbor, the photographer William Christenberry. He would travel back to his native Alabama year after year for decades, photographing the same houses, churches, and stores, usually documenting their deterioration and subsumption by kudzu.
What I was seeing in Hammons’ and Alston’s piece was the opposite: a structure built from the castoffs of renovation and gentrification, surviving thanks to a small but persistent maintenance effort. And through it all, year in and year out, no matter the storms or racial strife that battered some other flags in South Carolina, Hammons’ star-spangled banner is still there.
In the spirit of Christenberry, I decided to make some historic GSV printsets [prints of screenshots; GSV is a screen medium] of Hammons’ and Alston’s House Of The Future and America Street. I’ve followed Christenberry’s format, but I’m skipping the traditional photographer’s approach of making editions of a bajillion in a thousand sizes. Each set of 7-9 images is printed small (8×10 in.), in an edition of 2, plus 1 AP: one for you, one for the museum, one for me. Because srsly, why overthink it? If anyone actually wants to buy them, I turn into some kind of crazed Amazon artworker pick&packing prints all day? Hard pass right now, thanks. If you don’t move in time to get it, just make your own.
There’s a Michael Snow photography retrospective opening this weekend at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and in sync with that, Tyler Green has an interview with Snow on this week’s Modern Art Notes podcast. It’s a great discussion with a great artist about a highly anticipated show. So definitely give it a listen.
There is much of Snow’s influential avant-garde film work available for viewing online, including an excerpt from his extraordinary 1970-71 film La région centrale, and the entirety of his breakthrough 1966-7 film Wavelength. [The Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields” is audible in one short cut of the 42-minute film, so it’s not embeddable.] Wavelength caused an immediate sensation when it was screened by Jonas Mekas, and at the 1967 Knokke-le-Zoute Experimental Film Festival in Belgium, which it won. It consists of a single fixed camera shot of a loft, edited from 14 3-minute rolls of 16mm film, which zooms inexorably toward a photo of the sea, which is mounted between two windows.
It’s as much about the passage of time as anything, it seems, or of seeing time pass. Snow shot it over a week in December 1966 with help and cameos from friends and family. Watching the film again today, I suddenly wondered where Snow made it.
Anyway, when they say anything at all, most references to Wavelength just say it was shot on Canal Street. Some say it was in an “80-foot loft.” The awnings partially visible mid-way in the film weren’t much help. So I drove up and down Canal Street on Google Street View trying to match the windows, with no luck. Then I found a 2007 interview Snow gave to Border Crossings Magazine, where he notes that screening Wavelength led to meeting Steve Reich, who turned out to live right around the corner from where Snow had shot Wavelength: at 300 Canal.
So there you go. 300 Canal St is a 5-story commercial building sandwiched between Pearl Paint and Broadway post office. It’s more like 25×60′. For years it had fake purse stores on the ground floor. In the most recent GSV imagery [Jan 2013], the storefront is empty, with no entrance to the upper floors. Because it’s on the back, where it’s known as 63 Lispenard St. There are two slapdash, sheetrocked 650sf 1BR apartments/floor. Here’s what the set of Wavelength looks like now:
Pretty grim. The original Great Art In Ugly Rooms. Though it probably does have heat now. And maybe the picture hanging between the windows is the current residents’ nod to their loft’s important avant-garde history.
Jerry Saltz tells Artinfo a few of his least-favorite art world things, including:
an endless stream of art-school-trained artists trying to crawl up the asses of Andy Warhol, Richard Prince, and Gerhard Richter in order to stake out a microscopic piece of insular, already-approved territory
Alright, I’ve looked into it and talked to some folks, and while I was and am right to be incredulous, I now feel a little better about Gerhard Richter’s Strip series of digitally printed works Marian Goodman is showing in Paris [above].
So I talked with some Richter collectors, some people who have seen the work in person, either in Paris or elsewhere, and some folks at Marian Goodman, who thoughfully listened to my grave declaration that “I have some real issues with these works,” and gamely engaged it, almost as if a real sale were hanging in the balance, which, obviously, it was not.
The easiest and best first thing to do: ignore Buchloh. I started reading his catalogue essay, and just decided that his ruminations on the implications these digital prints under plexiglass have for the history of facture would just piss me off, so I set it aside for another day. Ultimately, the way I’ve come around to the work, or at least come to see it as credible, is by considering it within Richter’s own practice and history, not as a dubiously hyped innovation of global import.
Invariably, in every conversation, the first reply to my skepticism about these giant pixel extrusions was, “Have you seen the book?”
“The book” is not the slim exhibition catalogue for Goodman’s show, which reproduces 14 examples of Strip, and edition of 72 unique digital prints [53x105cm, mounted on Aludibond] which were chosen from 4,096 possible strips by “chance operation”; as well as the much larger [160x300cm, plexi] works made by combining “selected” strips. [There are also the oil-poured-on-glass Sindbad pictures, but whatever. Off topic. I just want to contrast the different processes, one clearly Cageian, one clearly not, that went into making works out of the system Richter devised.]
And that system is what’s only really expressed fully in “the book.” Patterns. Divided – Mirrored – Repeated, the massive artist book [41x27cm, 520 pages] published by Walther Koenig in an edition of 800+50, is overwhelming. It consists of 221 spreads showing strips from each of the “twelve stages of division” being mirrored and repeated. I found myself constantly turning back to the key, a diagram of Abstraktes Bild CR724-4, the 1990 squeegee painting which is Richter’s “ready-made” source overlaid with the division and subdivision matrix used to generate the strips. I should have snapped a photo of it, but instead, I’ve simulated it here by hand, with only six divisions, instead of Richter’s twelve:
The exponential increase reminds me of the old illustrations of a nuclear chain reaction, which is kind of relevant; Richter has printed digitally manipulated photos of atoms taken with an electron scanning microscope, like his Strontium photomural [below] at the deYoung in San Francisco. Richter conceives of a similarly infinitesimal division continuing here, too, and he apparently only stopped at 4,096 0.8mm-wide strips because the next level of would require magnification to see.
Strontium 2004, 910x945cm, CR888, image via gerhard-richter
Before seeing Patterns, I originally thought these Strips were just pixel-wide extrusions. They are not. The wider, lower-order strips clearly show the mirroring and repeating. Here’s a detail from the cover of Koenig’s 2011 catalogue [pdf] and an unsatisfying page shot from inside. I’d say these are from the 256 and 128 divisions, respectively:
Even on the 2,048 division strips, you can still see the pointy, mini-Rorschach forms. And yet all the stand-alone editions and works came only from the 4,096 level. Which I assume means the static/boring horizontal stripes running across the larger prints should vibrate up close with nearly invisible mirrorings. And since no one has mentioned it, and everyone’s first and last resort to the book instead, I’m going to assume that effect is either not evident, not successful, or not compelling.
This is not the first time Richter has undertaken a photographic dissection of a painting, of course. He reworks reproductions of his paintings for editions all the time. [He also cut at least one squeegee painting into pieces, which were sold separately, but that’s another story.] His most closely related experiment dates from 1978, where he took black and white pictures of an abstract painting, Halifax, which he used in a photogrid, 128 Photographs of A Picture, and in several artist books, beginning in 1980 with the edition that inspired the title of this post,128 Details From A Picture (Halifax 1978) I.
Unlike the computational precision that generated Strips, Richter took the 128 Halifax photos “from various sides, from various angles, various distances and under different light conditions.” And yet the end result of both is an apparently randomized, disorientated view of deracinated fragments. A nod to photography’s mechanical “magnifiying vision,” but also a deliberate and thorough sandbagging of its objective, informational idiom.
128 Details from a Picture (Halifax 1978) II, 1998, offset prints, image via gerhard-richter
For years, I’ve loved the Halifax photow way more than the painting. Richter’s expedition across the surface of the painting turns it into a landscape, which his images don’t even pretend to map. Richter must like them, too, because he’s kept reissuing them over the years as new booksandeditions.
So already in 1978, Richter demonstrates there is no way to reconstitute the image of the original painting from the distorted, incomplete photofragments. Not news. But that might be fine. I bet you could reverse engineer a pretty reasonable approximation of 724-4. Or at least an actionable one. Or an interesting one.
And I would bet that, if you fed a hi-res photo of Halifax and the 128 photos into a computer, it would now be possible to crunch the images and solve the puzzle. Not only could you identify all the parts in the photos, analyzing the light angles and camera distances in a 3D animation program should reveal Richter’s position, sequence, and the path he took as he wandered around the painting with his camera.
Richter was able to stay a generation or so ahead in his flight from intentionality, but it seems to have caught up with him.
Previously: Gerhard Richter Strip Show
Similar but not related: Marion Thayer MacMillan’s Water Pictures
Alright, so I’m back from a day mostly spent at MoMA:
Wow, the Film Department is firing on all cylinders.
I remember one year when Chaka Khan yelled at the crowd for not paying enough attention to her, and now this year, Kanye West is performing to mad hype. Crazy.
Hmm, the fourth floor where I’d hoped to spend a great deal of time studing Jasper Johns’ Flag was “closed for reinstallation,” which means they’re part of the Missing Flag Coverup! Trust No One!
There are some Bridget Riley paintings in the hallway next to the cafe [I know] that look like they came from Bill Seitz’s 1965 Op Art blockbuster, The Responsive Eye. Don’t tell Larry Aldrich, though, or he’ll turn them into fabrics.
Really, a very crowded place.
Oh, I bought this anthology, Curating and the Educational Turn, and I think it’s going to be sweet. Unfortunately, with 27 different authors the chances of anyone topping this sentence, chosen at random from the introduction, are slim-to-none:
For several of the authors gathered here, these primarily function as points of departure for performative or polemical texts which themselves refuse a masterful discourse of explication in an attempt to honour the ethos of counter-institutional and counter-hegemonic practices of dissent and emergence.
Maybe curators have added pedagogical toolsets to their praxis because they’re fed up with people always asking them to explain what the hell they’re saying.
I almost bought what is undoubtedly the greatest book of its kind, Murakami Versailles, but it was too heavy to contemplate carrying it around. Also, I expect it will be entered into evidence in Murakami’s trail before the People’s Post-Revolutionary Court, so I can just grab a scaned version soon enough.
I want to buy this world of chairs, but this signed, dated, handmade Judd ur-chair, from Flavin’s stash in Marfa, even, sold in 2003 for $60,000–and in 2007 for $29,000. At that rate, I figure by 2012, I’ll be able to just pick it up from the curb.
Which, I guess I could make my own for less–five Coke crates at $10-30 each–autoprogettazione x Coke. Sorry, no Pepsi.
I’ve been so focused on generating enough empty plastic Diet Coke bottles to be recycled into a dining roomful of Emeco With Coke 111 Navy Chairs, I haven’t even thought about the crates.
But seriously, I’m kind of kidding. Because as much as I’d like to close the loop and save the planet and all by turning my empties into chairs, the fact that normal Emeco chairs–recycled from cans–last 150 years, and this rPET one has a 5-year structural guarantee makes me a little uneasy. How long would one cast out of recycled glass bottles last?
“Civilization is in an acute form of crisis. But the germs of a future culture are floating in the air. It is possible that one day the first flowers may spring up here on American soil.”
– Gordon Onslow Ford, 29, opening his lecture on Surrealism at the New School, January, 1941.
Gorky, Motherwell, Matta, Tanguy and Pollock were apparently in the audience.
Onslow Ford was sent to the US as part of the Committee to Preserve European Culture. Art historian Martica Sawin transcribed the lectures, which are published for the first time in the catalogue accompanying the artist’s first NY show since 1946, at Francis Naumann.
The only online references to this Committee are in relation to this show, and Onslow Ford’s bio. [google cache here, as the page is not currently visible from onslowford.com] He was an officer in the British navy, and given leave for the lectures. His 2003 obit says “an expatriate group” invited him, and he was certainly preceded to NY by many of his older surrealist colleagues.
But instead of returning to the war, “he decided to join other Surrealists in Mexico seeking greater isolation to travel his own artistic path.” He camped out in a hacienda in a remote village for six years, then moved to San Francisco [where he co-founded that crazy hippie art barge, the Vallejo.] Which sounds an awful lot like ducking the war and hiding out in BF Mexico. Just sayin’. “Gordon Onslow Ford: Paintings and Works on Paper 1939-1951,” curated by Fariba Bogzaran, through Dec. 23 francisnaumann.com via nyt]
Either way, the degraded, abstracted pixelation of user canzona‘s 1000th ripped & uploaded YouTube video is a great digital tribute to experimental composer Alvin Lucier and the ‘photocopy effect,’ “where upon repeated copies the object begin to accumulate the idiosyncrasies of the medium doing the copying.”
As MeFite DU puts it, “I like how it’s called ‘the photocopy effect,’ but was inspired by a sound recording.” I Am Sitting In A Video Room 1000 [youtube via @joygarnett]
Saying they reminded him a bit of the polygonal distortions of the Dutch Landscape images from Google Maps, greg.org reader Patrick passed along these examples of adaptive subdivision from flickr user Quasimondo.
Googling around on it, I gather it’s a tiling technique used in mapping that partitions an image based on the similarity of adjacent data; more similar=larger polygon. More detail/variation=smaller divisions.
I’ve been debating in my head whether to really delve into the actual algorithms and techniques used to camouflage the various military & intelligence sites I’ve been pulling. It’s not clear that it’d help the project along in any way, but it does fascinate me.
What became immediately obvious is that while the geometric abstractions of some sites are clearly based on the underlying image, others have been pasted over by totally unrelated polygon blobs. Compare in the map of The Hague below, the detail of the Noordeinde Palace in the upper left and the outsize blob hiding the Department of Defense on the right.
Score one for the bloggers. I found this beautiful little packet of souvenir photographs at a small, otherwise uninteresting flea market a few weekends ago.
They’re tiny, just 2×2.5 inches, but they’re crisp and beautiful in a way that reminds me we’re losing something tangible in this wholesale shift to digital printing.
The photos reminded me a bit of a miniature photogrid from Olafur Eliasson–he’s done caves looking in and looking out, and some later pieces are documentations of his trip through a place, like the river rafting series.
But more than that, they reminded me of a tiny set of Robert Smithson mirror displacement photos I kind of wanted to buy. Smithson had used a Kodak Brownie to take tiny, square snapshots of mirrors stuck in the snow on his Greenwich Avenue roof. The Met had them on hold for a very long time, and ended up taking them in 2001. There are no images online, but they fall in an interesting place in Smithson’s work, between his contact sheets and his rarer, larger photos.
As for these photos, I have to thank Steve Roden, who helped me notice them at all. Roden had posted this summer about the Luray Caverns, specifically a recording of The Great Stalacpipe Organ, which was made of concert-tuned stalactites. Those Luray promoters didn’t miss a single angle.