The Tonight Series

dove_moon_diary_AAA.jpg
Arthur Dove moon drawings, from Helen Torr Dove & Arthur Dove’s diary, 1936, image: aaa.si.edu
In 1936 Arthur Dove and his wife Helen “Reds” Torr were living upstate, in Geneva. That fall Reds went to Hartford to take care of her injured mother, and was gone for what turned out to be more than two months. Alone and pining for his wife, Dove eventually began making sketches of the moon each night in the diary they kept together.
From Jennifer Stettler Parsons’ 2012 essay on Dove and the moon:

In addition to recording the temperature and weather conditions, Dove began making drawings in his diary (1936 diary, p. 137). These sketches, with their shadings and mysterious markings, appear to be evidence of the artist tracking the moon. The moon drawings continue each day with notations of temperature and barometric pressure, until Reds returned home on 8 November 1936.13 (1936 diary, p.155, 160). They mysteriously cease for two days on 15 and 16 November, but recommence on 17 November. (1936 diary, p.164-165) Dove continues to draw the moon every day until the end of the year. The new 1937 diary contains no moon drawings.(1937 diary, p.2) The drawings do not directly correspond to any established system of astronomical recording. The lunar notations, with their symbolic shadows and arrows (which change and move in each drawing), might be said to represent an individual system that Dove invented to document his observations in a personal and meaningful way.

Dove and Torr’s papers are at the AAA, which has digitized their diary.
Absence and Presence: Arthur Dove’s Paintings “From the Radio” by Jennifer Parsons [aaa.si.edu]
Helen Torr Dove and Arthur Dove diary, 1936 [aaa.si.edu]

Uber, But For Artists

Monochromes. Why’s it always gotta be monochromes?
In his recent NYT Magazine profile of Stefan Simchowitz Christopher Glazek writes about the emerging artist Kour Pour that “several artists I spoke with had initially assumed that Pour did not in fact exist — that he was a computer-generated figment of Simchowitz’s prodigious imagination.” One reason Glazek gives is that Simcho’s email was the contact link on Pour’s website. Another, he infers, is because Pour’s digital image tapestry paintings seem so perfectly suited to Simcho’s Instagram- and minor tech billionaire collector-centric art dealing operation.
But Glazek saves the biggest reveal for his annotation of his own article on genius.com: he’d heard that Simcho had already fabricated an artist, and had put his work up for show and sale in 2011. That artist’s market-optimized multi-culti name was Chen Obogado.

An artist told me Simchowitz had approached him to make paintings under a false name, though it seems possible that Simchowitz actually painted them himself. I’m not sure if money ever exchanged hands for the paintings. It may have been more of a prank than a scheme, and the art world is forgiving of pranks.

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China Art Objects, Mind Games, installation view with Chen Obogado [L] and actual artist Evi Vingerling [R], Jul/Aug 2011
Let’s review Obogado’s known body of work and brief exhibition history. It won’t take long. As far as I can tell, Chen Obogado made his debut in a summer group show at China Art Objects called, appropriately enough, “Mind Games.”
Chen_Obogado_MS6_01_chinaartobj.jpg
Chen Obogado, MS6 01, 2011, resin, pigment, aluminum, image: caog.la
Like many actual artists at the time, simulated artist Chen Obogado [SimChO?]’s practice interrogated chemical process-based abstraction; two works are pigmented resin slabs, possibly on aluminum panels, but definitely in tray-like aluminum frames. They retain the traces of their skll-less pour [!]: bubbles, pour lines, and pigment mixed unevenly within each batch. I guess this is supposed to be works’ content. If I were trying to sell them, I’d reference the foam scenes from Fischli & Weiss’sThe Way Things Go and let the zombie abstraction momentum do the rest.
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Chen Obogado, MS001PB001, 2011, polyurethane, aluminum, image: caog.la
The third, smaller work is made of polyurethane in aluminum. It is glacial, sculptural and reductive, and appears to be a piece of Stingel-ian insulation board that’s been scraped with a solvent-dipped spackling knife. They have inconsistently formulated serial numbers for titles. Their irrelevance is a standout, even among the forgettable flotsam that seems to have washed up in Culver City that summer. [Like car crash videos in drivers ed, anyone starting a new painting series should be forced to surf 3-yr-old group show installation shots.]
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Chen Obogado, CO MSM 001 S1, 2011, resin, platinum powder, aluminum, est. $3,000, opening bid: $1,500. image: laxart
Which wasn’t enough to actually forget them. The fourth and last Obogado to make a documented public appearance was in November, at the LAXART benefit auction. This work was made of resin and platinum powder on/in aluminum. Which sounds like it might be kind of metallic and shiny, a poor, stupid, unconnected man’s Jacob Kassay.
It was listed as a “donation of the artist and an anonymous donor,” which makes little sense in the benefit auction context, and even less if he actually didn’t exist. But it does seem like the credit line of an artist who didn’t exist who wasn’t buying his own materials. Last summer Simcho told Artspace, “I help dealers decide which artists to represent, how to represent them.” Was SimChO presented to CAO and LAXART as a Simcho joint? Was he pitching the glorious future where artists-as-brands soared free of the foibles and frailties of actual artists? The next step in the end of authorship? That would be more than a scheme OR a prank.
The Kassay mention above is interesting because Summer 2011 was when Kassay had his first show in LA, and L&M. And Henry Codax had his first show in New York. Is it too late to organize an east coast/west coast monochrome show of these two non-existent artists? Please say no. #Sumer2015
Though rumors of Kassay and Olivier Mosset’s involvement in Codax’s work were reported at the time, I’ve come to think that Codax must be a gallerist’s dream: all that margin without all those hassles. Assuming it sold, of course, and you could keep it moving. And maybe that’s what doomed SimChO’s work: Simcho couldn’t keep up the act well enough to sell it, or maybe it sucked so bad even his buy-it-now yesmen network didn’t click, and so Simcho decided to eat the cost of two buckets of resin and call it a day?
It’s worth considering Chen Obogado in the Simcho’s own preferred, network/platform/disruptor context [My favorite quote, from another of Glazek’s annotations: “All he demanded was a minimum level of respect. ‘You can’t say I’m bad–I created the post-internet movement!'”] Stories of artists feeling exploited by Simcho remind me of reports last year of the drivers who were the pawns in Uber’s anti-competitive attacks against Lyft. Which LOLjobsWTF when Uber’s CEO talked about how psyched he was to replace all the drivers with robot cars. If Chen Obogado’s any indication, Simchowitz may feel the same way about artists.
Christopher Glazek annotates himself [genius.com]
When he has a fawning audience Simchowitz really lets the vision flow. Must read. [artspace]

A Statement-As-Question From Fractures Of The Civilization

It’s taking longer to gather these things together, but I just found another fascinating statement-as-question from the Q&A session of a panel discussion. This time, it’s “Fractures of the Civilization,” a discussion by composer/philosophers C.C. Hennix and Henry Flynt, along with John Berndt, held in June 2013 at the Goethe Institut in NYC. The talk was organized in conjunction with a realization of Hennix & Flynt’s ‘The Illuminatory Sound Environment” at ISSUE Project Room.
I’ve been a fan of Flynt’s music for quite a while, but in the last couple of years I’ve also tried to step up my engagement with his writings, his talks, his ideas. I must say, it’s exasperating; there’s real genius and groundbreaking thought, action and insight there, but Flynt’s a maddening interviewee, and even more frustrating on a panel. My operating theory is that he’s been not listened to for so long, he can’t but vent. And his views often have that determined, hermetic brittleness of someone who’s had to figure out the world and what’s wrong with it by himself. His far-ranging intellect and the rapid vigor with which he makes leaps and pronouncements makes it basically impossible for anyone to ask a follow-up question, or to challenge or probe something further.
My hope is that someone smart enough and well-versed enough will go deep with him on the art and music where his contributions are still only feebly understood. Anyway.
ISSUE Project Room’s video of the talk is here; the question comes at around 1:19:00:
There’s like this thing that I think about sometimes–
oh, thanks [gets mic]
There’s this thing that we–about the Cold War, Progress science in the 20th century, there’s this fight between the superpowers in order to get to some,
you know, higher place
to prove some sort of animalistic thought
When that fell apart with the end of Communism,
with this idea that,
you know, Capitalism,
Neo-liberalism’s gonna go all through the world
people don’t have this thing to fight against, as far as this race,
we’ve kind of–
the science that we have–
the futurism that we’ve come to
it’s very social and helpful,
but it’s not the futurism that we had in the 60s and 70s that idea of what we’d be like
now.
So there’s this need
or something
for these
you know people,
Futurist Transhumanists,
to fill in this blank area, that’s sort of this faith area that I think you’re talking about
where,
you know
they’re taking this place of–
basically we work more, as humans now
at some point they thought
robots were gonna
DO most of the work
And people were actually worried
what the lower classes are going to do with all their free time.
But apparently, we work more
than we did in the 60s and 70s,
at least in this country.
So there’s this, like,
WANT
for
something to happen with futurism,
this futurism that might be based on a science fiction or something, but
essentially these people are running away with it
and it captures people like a relgious-type
experience.
So I just wanted to say
what do you have to say about that?
Previously: ‘I’m going to fail,’ or Protocols of Participation

‘I’m Going To Fail’, or Protocols of Participation


I like to keep up with the discussions and presentations at NYU’s Institute of Fine Arts. They recently posted video of a panel I’d been waiting for from late April titled, “Protocols of Participation: Recent Models of Socially Engaged Art in the United States and Europe,” where Creative Time’s Laura Raicovich, and Xavier Douroux and Thérèse Legierse from Nouveaux Commanditaires, who commission and mediate public artist projects in France. IFA’s own professors Thomas Crow and Alexander Nagel participated as well. [It was organized as part of ART², a whole month’s worth of events I missed across the city.]
It was an interesting comparison of the two systems designed to facilitate artists’ engagement in their politics, culture, and communities. So watch the whole thing.
I had it playing in the background while I worked, and during the audience questions, I was suddenly alerted to the change in cadence. I knew what was coming: the long, winding, potentially discourse-derailing statement disguised as a question.
It’s a cliche of the panel discussion/public lecture format, the kind of interaction that organizers sometimes like to head off by explicitly warning against, or even by soliciting written questions. It’s almost always an uncomfortable, flow-breaking moment, met with either indulgence or annoyance. No one’s come to hear some rando bounce his pet theory off the headliners.
It breaks form, yet it is the form. Such questions and their possibility are intrinsic to the very format of open, public discourse. So when the breach of protocol came for an event titled, of all things, “Protocols of Participation,” I resisted the urge to close tab or tune out. And I was transfixed by this unseen, unidentified woman’s speech, how she said it, and even what she said. It occurred to me that probably no one would ever take her comment seriously, or even know about it.
[I vividly remember my first audience question in New York City. It was to Brice Marden at MoMA’s Cy Twombly artist panel. Years later, when WPS1 posted the audio of the event, it omitted the audience Q&A segment entirely. Which can be interpreted on several levels.]
In every panel or discussion I attend, I, like everyone else, always fantasize about revolutionizing the format. Or at least fixing it. It never feels optimal. And yet it never, ever changes. So I’m going to start collecting these marginalized, random, dodged, cut-off, derailing statement/questions from audience members and see what comes of it. Do you have a favorite? Send a link, let’s add it to the collection!
As you can see from the complete transcript of the audience member [with a couple of interjections and a response by Prof. Nagel], maybe these things should be written down and studied after all. Because as a text, I think it’s rather fascinating. Expectations and context.
Watch/listen to the question, beginning around 1:27:10. I wanted to capture the sense of hearing it, so I left in the ums and repetitions. Line breaks are pauses.
I’m going to fail
um I missed a little bit, but I was misdirected to the wrong place, sorry
um

Continue reading “‘I’m Going To Fail’, or Protocols of Participation”

Sister Corita’s And John Cage’s Rules

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Usually the Internet solves mysteries by yielding definitive information. Sometimes it makes it worse, though, and more confusing. Tumblr, I’m lookin’ at you.
Artist/artist book hero Dave Dyment emailed the other day, wondering what I thought about the source of 10 Rules For Students And Teachers From John Cage, which was famously on the wall at Merce Cunningham’s studio for years, and which has been circulating online in various photocopied and scanned forms.
Except for Rule 10, which is a quote from Cage’s book SILENCE, Dave didn’t think it really sounded like Cage, and I certainly agree. And he’d never been able to find the other texts in Cage’s published works. So who might have written it, if not Cage? And if he didn’t write it, how did it get attributed to Cage, while it was hanging on the wall of Cage’s longtime partner’s studio?
In 2012, Brain Picking had said that despite what everyone thought about Cage, 10 Rules’ actual author was everyone’s favorite serigraphicist nun, Sister Corita Kent.
Which was funny, because in 2010, blogger Keri Smith wrote about 10 Rules because she’d heard exactly the opposite: that despite what everyone had heard about Sister Corita, those rules were actually written by John Cage. And one source of that information was none other than Laura Kuhn, of the John Cage Trust.
Smith’s post attracted some seriously high quality comments in 2010-12, including students of students of Sister Corita who remembered the Rules; and scholars of dancers who remembered the flyers. Then in June 2012, Jill Bell quoted “Richard Crawford who was in on the creation of ‘The Rules’.” Crawford was a student of Sister Corita’s in 1967-68, and says she gave the class the assignment to come up with a list of rules one night, and then to design and print them up. Cage’s quote was contributed by one of the students.
Which, even if it’s definitive, still doesn’t explain how they got to Cage, and to Merce with Cage’s name. The Rules circulated among Kent’s students and school. They were included in the 1986 edition of the Whole Earth Catalog, with Cage’s name in parentheses following Rule 10. Whether Kent sent the Rules to Cage before this, or after, or Cage found them and posted them, or a Merce dancer found them, they were connected to Cage and had a resonant presence in Cunningham’s and Cage’s community. If the last two years have uncovered any additional history from the MCDC side, I haven’t seen it, but I’d love to.
2012: 10 Rules for Students, Teachers, and Life by John Cage and Sister Corita Kent [brainpickings.org]
2010: You Know I Love A Good Mystery [kerismith]

Toward A Less Reflexively Damning View Of Plagiarism

I don’t want to pick on Ruth Graham, just the opposite. I have had “Word Theft,” her Poetry Foundation essay on plagiarism open in my tabs for two months because the relentlessly negative framing of the issue is so representative of the way text copying or reuse is discussed practically everywhere.
Graham focuses on a particular type and context and history of plagiarism: the republishing of poetry. Most of the cases she describes involve less-established poets rewriting or adding to poems published by someone else. They often happen across borders or continents, with poems transplanted from one national/regional ecosystem to another, from one tiny journal to another. Invariably, the original writer is not credited or notified when her work is reused.
Here is how Graham tries to explain these plagiarists’ sins, starting with a set-up from Ira LIghtman, a British poet who became a sort of plagiarism vigilante last year, unearthing unauthorized copying and notifying the victims:

“I don’t see them all as these sinister, plotting, Machiavellian characters,” he said. “I see it as a corruption. And we’re all vulnerable to corruption.” He suggests that transgressors retreat to self-publishing for a few years, prove themselves honest, and then return to the fold.
If plagiarists are not sinister and Machiavellian, then why do they do it? This question gets asked every time there’s a fresh revelation of plagiarism, whether it’s in the literary world, journalism, or academia. There’s never a satisfying answer, but there are at least lots of guesses, often somewhat at odds with each other: laziness or panic, narcissism or low self-esteem, ambition or deliberate self-sabotage.

First, I love this notion of a self-publishing wilderness these sinners are supposed to wander. But it’s really the professed bafflement at the copyists’ motives. It is apparently impossible, ever, for the poetic imagination to muster even a non-pathological explanation for copying or reuse, much less a sympathetic one. And if the poetry universe were ever to come into contact with a constructive or affirmative explanation, a defense, a championing of plagiarism, I’m sure it would annihilate in a flash of crackling heat.
And yet. And yet, Graham’s own historical set-up notes that Coleridge was “an inveterate thief,” and Hart Crane “borrowed heavily from a lesser-known” contemporary. Literary outlaw Laurence Sterne’s success with Tristram Shandy is an historical disgrace, according to Graham’s telling, but frankly, despite her scolding, the novel comes out sounding kind of awesome.
Again and again, it strikes me that the pieces are there to assemble a clearer, more productive view of plagiarism, but people are too blinded by the pain, the hurt, the effrontery of it all.
Is there a way to pick this dynamic apart, though, and look at its constituent elements? Cultural norms and expectations of each field differ. People may not know them, or they may ignore or reject them, or they may challenge them. This matters. I think the direction of reuse matters: up, down, or across? So does the perceived tenure or seniority or insiderness of the parties, or conversely, their tenure-seeking, amateurism, or marginality. The utility of publication for a career, or a brand. The effects of not being credited, not “getting one’s due,” recognition in a field where recognition is almost the only compensation available.
Is there a way to even have a conversation about plagiarism where it’s not a priori evil? How would that go? How would it be if poets whose work was reused or reworked thought it was great, not offensive? What if complete internalization and adoption of a poem by a reader was considered the highest praise and achievement, not an insult? What if Google or whatever obviated any presumption of undetectable reuse, and everybody came to expect that sources or similarities were always only a search away? What if, when it came to expecting or demanding credit, poets took the road less traveled, and it made all the difference?
Word Theft, by Ruth Graham [poetryfoundation.org]

A Report From The Las Vegas Piece Junket

Last summer I wondered about finding and visiting Walter de Maria’s Las Vegas Piece, three miles of trench bulldozed into the Nevada desert in 1969. [Technically, I wrote about the Center For Land Use Interpretation’s account of leading curator Miwon Kwon’s graduate seminar on a hunt for Las Vegas Piece, and about how the artist prepped people for visiting the piece, and about just recreating the damn thing already, we have the technology! Did you know Sturtevant worked on plans to make a double of Double Negative? On the ravine on the Mormon Mesa right next to Michael Heizer’s fresh original? Holy smokes, people, read Bruce Hainley’s book. But that’s another post.]
Yes, the piece is supposedly lost, and now de Maria is, too. And so all we’re left with is his description of Las Vegas Piece from his 1972 oral history interview with Paul Cumming.
But no, there is another. The late curator Jan van der Marck wrote about visiting Las Vegas Piece in the catalogue for an exhibition of “instruction Drawings” from the Gilbert and Lila Silverman collection at the Bergen (NO) Kunstverein in 2001. van der Marck was a founding curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and was involved in organizing artists’ response to the police violence at the 1968 Democratic Convention. But that’s another post, too. Here’s van der Marck’s crazy story of what amounts to an Earth Art junket: [with paragraph breaks added for the internet]:

Earth art turned into a personal experience for me in February 1970 when Virginia Dwan invited me and a few German art writers and museum directors to join her and the artists Michael Heizer and alter De Maria on a quick inspection of some new works in the Nevada Desert. From the Las Vegas airport our small band traveled ninety-five miles in north-northeastern direction on unpaved roads, in the back of Heizer’s pickup truck.
That afternoon was going to be devoted to De Maria’s Las Vegas Piece, which he would describe to us only as “an extensive linear work on a flat valley floor.” An hour before sundown we arrived at our destination and were gripped by the stillness of the landscape. Before us stretched a freshly dug, eight-foot deep ditch in the sage brush-covered desert soil, in the distance loomed the purplish mesas.
We had to lower ourselves into the bulldozed trench, which wind and erosion already had given a natural look, and we were to start walking. Other trenches would branch of, the artist warned us, and choices had to be made, but it would not take us long before the layout could be deduced from the turns with which we were faced. The first man or woman able to draw a mental map was encouraged to shout and would be declared the winner. And, by the way, De Maria added, ‘don’t go the full three miles, because if you do, you are not much of a mathematician!” The configuration we were to discover for ourselves in the least amount of steps was a one-mile incision into the landscape meeting another one-mile incision at a right angles [sic]. At the midpoint of each one-mile stretch a set of half-mile ditches branched off, meeting each other at a right angle and forming a perfect square. Walter De Maria’s Las Vegas Piece, long reclaimed by the desert and inaccurately described in the literature, was seen by a hand-full [sic] of people.

Yes, let’s take things in order. First, the hilarious image of Michael Heizer blazing down a dirt road in BF Nevada with a truckload of German museum directors. This is a thing that happened.
Next, “declared the winner”? De Maria apparently positioned the experience of his piece as a game and a competition, a mathematical mystery that visitors were supposed to calculate with their bodies and draw in their heads. What is that about? And anyway, who is going to judge this competition? If a curator cracks an earth art mystery in the desert, and no one’s within a mile of them to hear it, do they make a sound?
There’s a big point I’ll get to, but let’s jump to the end, where van der Marck calls out [in the footnotes] Carol Hall’s 1983 paper “Environmental Artists: Sources & Directions” for an inaccurate description of Las Vegas Piece. Well, my diagram above would need correcting, too. According to van der Marck, the two mile-long lines in Las Vegas Piece met, and each was bisected by a half-mile trench, which met in turn to form the square. Which would look more like a right angle bracket, like this:
demaria_las_vegas_piece_revised.jpg
But the artist himself needs correcting, too. Because the diagram I drew was based on de Maria’s explanation to Cumming. And the biggest difference of all, of course, is that de Maria told Cumming the trench was “about a foot deep, two feet deep and about eight feet wide.” Yet van der Marck said it was eight feet deep and that they had to lower themselves into it. This is a non-trivial difference. If it was the former, then visitors would be in constant sight of the surrounding landscape and each other. If it’s the latter, they’re completely cut off. From everything. All they have is the view along the trench, and the darkening sky. It’s the difference between a meditative labyrinth path, and an actual FPS-style labyrinth.
Also, if De Maria’s piece was really eight feet deep, it would relate more directly to Heizer’s nearby Double Negative–and it would still almost certainly be visible, or at least findable.
And now the fact that as august a scholar as Miwon Kwon relied on as ambiguous a guide as CLUI tells me that no one actually knows what the deal is with Las Vegas Piece. Except, perhaps Virginia Dwan.
UPDATE: Indeed. Virginia Dwan donated her gallery’s archives to the Smithsonian, but they are currently closed for processing. According to Margaret Iversen’s 2007 book on post-Freudianism, Dwan told Charles Stuckey in an 1984 interview that De Maria forbade any photographs or documentation of Las Vegas Piece, partly to abjure the work’s commodification.
demaria_las_vegas_piece_aerial_bw.jpg
Yet an unsourced, undated aerial photo reproduced on this French webpage seems to depict Las Vegas Piece. The scale is about right. And when I flipped it 180-degrees, the geographic features look like they match the area just to the right/east of the map marker above. But what are we actually seeing? Isn’t that top line a road? And there’s a diagonal line. Yet if they’re not Las Vegas Piece, who would take this picture here, and why? If it’s really credible, I’d guess that the photo was the source of CLUI’s coordinates, identified by the same method I just did: by eyeballing.
When Dwan accompanied Calvin Tomkins on a visit to Las Vegas Piece in 1976, they followed a map De Maria made, but never located the work itself. This despite Dwan’s having visited the site before. Lawrence Alloway made it, though, for his October 1976 Artforum article, “Site Inspection.” [Both accounts are only online as excerpts in Iriz Amizlev’s 1999 dissertation, “Land Art: Layers of Memory,” from the Universite de Montreal. (pdf). Amizlev also ID’s Carlos Huber of Kunsthalle Basel and John Weber in the back seat of Heizer’s pickup.]

‘I Had No Intention Of Making Good Paintings’

I said it publicly a couple of times now, and I was more cynical about them then than I am now, but when I first saw Richard Prince’s Canal Zone paintings, I thought he was trying to see how bad he could paint. I half-joked that he wanted to see if his new dealer Larry Gagosian could really sell whatever shit he literally slapped together.
The higher concept way of putting that, of course, is that Prince was interested in process over product, in setting constraints and parameters on his practice, and in destabilizing himself by experimenting with techniques he knew he hadn’t mastered.
I really came to appreciate the paintings, not so much for themselves–they’re still undeniably shitty–but for their catalytic effect, the way the Cariou lawsuit compelled Prince to talk at length and under oath, about his work. His deposition is really pure art historical gold, and the way art is discussed in the legal context is disorienting and exciting to me, language-wise.
gh_banalzone.jpg
Still, as the legal case drags on, I find the paintings themselves–more precisely, the images of the paintings themselves, since almost no one’s seen the actual objects for years now–kind of tedious, beside the point. And my interest wasn’t rekindled by Banal Zone, Jomar Statkun show of Chinese Paint Mill copies of Prince’s paintings. Literally any idiot can order Chinese Paint Mill paintings. Ask me how I know! And anyway, those joints were Inkjets by NancyScans.
But I am glad that Statkun’s show serves as the catalyst for Prince to birdtalk about making the Canal Zone paintings. Because CALLED IT:

But aren’t I curious about the “Chinese” paintings my anonymous friends ask? No I’m not. From what I’ve seen they look worst than some of the paintings I’ve already painted. You have to understand that when I started out painting my Canal Zone paintings I had no intention of making good paintings. In fact most of them were never finished and the majority were an experiment with new painting techniques. (This is the first time I’ve gone on the record about this stuff). Anyway… there are a couple of Canal Zone paintings that WERE aggressive and satisfying in ways that hard to describe… they were done quickly and under the influence of certain music I was listening to at the time… and part of this “screen play” I was toying around with. They started out as storyboards for a “pitch” called Eden Rock. (You got to start somewhere). They started off innocently enough when I found this Rasta book on vacation and I simply starting to use some of the images in the book for collages. (Early on I pasted a guitar over the body of one of the Rasta’s, kind of lined it up so that the Rasta looked as if he was “wailing” away… and there you go… off to the races). I can’t say it more simply. Wild History.

Expecting Good Paintings out of Richard Prince is as crazy as expecting Good Photographs. It’s just not how he rolls.
BIRDTALK 2/12/2014 [richardprince.com]
Garis & Hahn Presents Jomar Statkun’s ‘Banal Zone’ [hyperallergic sponsor; direct to garisandhahn]

Thank You So Artist Much: Another Comment Spam Text, Annotated

OK, I really can’t do this every day, but this is the second time the text of a comment spam has caught my attention, and I have to chase down its sources. Maybe the algorithms are getting smarter:

Aaaand we’re done Thank you so artist much for joining my studio and then re-photographed these as a homage to James Van Der Zee [ and I had that camera everywhere. The screenshot below shows the progress so far. In terms of gender, pleasure and sexual politics well before the founding of the women’s art movement, he said.

I was first thinking the text sources were uncannily coherent in their arty grouping. But maybe it’s just what you’d expect for a comment spam for a Florida makeup artist left on a blog post about C-Section cakes. Anyway, see the list after the jump.

Continue reading “Thank You So Artist Much: Another Comment Spam Text, Annotated”

The First Panfish Back On The Piers In Spring

The first line of this comment spam caught my eye as I was deleting it from another blog this morning:

Let me be the first panfish back on the piers in the spring and fall, the feeding trout will be moving very high in the pool, I pull on the oars and they dive under. The loss of fishing rod gimbal her mom and her passion for the sport any other time of the year.
Preserve the LandMake sure you fishing rod gimbal know the different varieties of fish
that can be had from the general fish market in you area.

I know people have used spam for poetry and such. My first thought is to see where this text actually originated.
But Googling for highly specific phrases turns up nothing but itself; no source, just the copy. It makes me wonder if unique texts are part of a feedback loop, key performance indicators for spammer. Do the Google results for “Let me be the first panfish back on the piers” [first 81, now 147] tell spammers something useful about the success or persistence of a deployment? Does it help identify sites that remain open to comment spamming?
Just as I was creating that link, I actually searched for a shorter phrase, “first panfish back on the piers in the spring,” which turned up “Carolina saltwater anglers getting in a last blast of sea mullet fishing,” a 2011 article from the Charlotte Examiner:

If the water stays warm whiting will continue to hit longer, if it gets too cold they will shut off. But they will be the first panfish back on the piers in the spring.

So the spam text generator’s standard unit is shorter than a sentence, but longer than a phrase.
Searching for another phrase, “moving very high in the pool,” somehow only turns up six results, and two of them are for a different sentence altogether:

Regardless of your exact location andd specific charter you
select, you will be moving very high in the pool as not to spook the holding fish. Hopefully we can start oout close and not have to despair because they cannot keep their trophy.
Bruce was having a great time, even if you did call me a ruin!
I make fishing estes park standard dishes every week,
but I could see it was murkier below annd the water was heavy.
Pink salmon are easy to catch, handle, hold, and release catfish will reduce stress and fishing estes park increase survival.

Here is one from the Grey Friars Pub in Ontario, whose second and last blog post, “How To Get Perfect Grill Marks,” has accumulated over 56,000 comments in 14 months. The “high in the pool” comment spam was posted on Oct. 21, 2013. The other instance, from just a couple of weeks ago, doesn’t have the typos. Do algo-generated comment spams have copyeditors?
The full text of my comment spam first turned up a month earlier, Sept. 28, 2013, in Honig Biene’s Gästebuch, which I can’t usefully link to, so I took a screenshot:
honig_panfish.jpg
I don’t know what any of this means, if anything. Greater literary minds than I are probably putting together comment spam conferences as I type. But like the first panfish back on the piers in spring, I am gorging on the textual sand fleas of the internet, and I have been lured and caught by the text bait that has been dangled in front of me.

Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Café, Society

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Sometimes it takes a little while to piece things together. I just opened a book for the first time which I bought in 1997: Lavoro Localizzata/Located Work, the 2-volume publication that accompanied Joseph Kosuth’s July 1995 graduate workshop for the Fondazione Antonio Ratti. Kosuth’s project was to have students write out 1-page instructions for an artwork which would be realized by another student. The resulting show was both the instructions and their realizations, and the objectives were primarily related to upsetting ideas of process and authorship. Alas, none of the instructions in the otherwise bilingual catalogue are translated, so who knows how the images relate. What interested me were the conference essays by eminences like Iwona Blazwick, Francesco Bonami and Nicholas Bourriaud, who graciously made the trek to Lake Como. They’re almost nowhere online, only in an archive here on undo.net.
Bourriaud’s quite explicit on the exhibition, not the artwork, as the relevant unit of art production. I am a bit more sanguine about this quote now that its date is fixed to 1995, and not 1997:

While interactivity has, of course, become something of a buzzword, my concept of interactivity goes beyond gadgetry such as the internet. Interactivity begins with a handshake which is, in a way, much more interesting than all the interactive technical devices on offer. As regards my interest in interactivity, I would like to give the following definition of artistic activity: the artist invents relations between people with the aid of signs, forms, actions or gestures. My first point is that I firmly believe it is difficult, nowadays, to represent reality. In a way, I think we are through with the representation of reality. These are times when we should be producing reality.

Bourriaud’s talk feels like a time capsule, just opened to reveal the important ideas and artifacts of the day, preserved untouched by editing or the passage of time:

In my opinion, the most important process to come about since the beginning of Modern Art has been the transformation of the artwork from a monument into an event. An event is something we have to share if we are ever to understand it; nobody understands an event by himself; it calls for discussion, and an attempt to establish an exchange with the participants or other viewers. Another notion worthy of note is conviviality, particularly important over the last few years. Rirkrit Tiravanija, for instance, at ‘Aperto 93’, installed an area where the viewers could partake of instant soup and noodles. Elsewhere, Angela Bulloch has worked extensively on the idea of putting people together, as has Andrea Fraser with his [sic] lectures held in museums. Felix Gonzalez-Torres, too, has insisted on the same issue with his work regarding cafés, including a recent Grenoble outing. If we look slightly further back in time, Gordon Matta-Clark set up a restaurant in 1971, Daniel Spoerri was wont to organize meals in the 60’s, and Robert Filliou and George Brecht had a shop together near Nice in the late 60’s. The point I wish to make, however, is that while conviviality or the production of relationships between people was, for artists in the 60’s and 70’s, an objective, it is now a starting point for artists.

Art as event. The freshness of instant noodles. We now know more how these have panned out. But what is this about a Felix Gonzalez-Torres café? I was drawing a blank, even though I thought I was pretty familiar with Felix’s work–and more relevant here, perhaps, with his non-work. Maybe Bourriaud’s reference was to a project that had been edited out of Felix’s body of work.
So I looked through the documentation and publications of Felix’s work. The only exhibition in Grenoble he’s listed in was “I, Myself and Others: a place to come to” a group show curated by Thierry Ollatt, the director of Le Magasin, which ran from July – Oct. 1992. The show also included Andrea Fisher, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Sean Landers, Philippe Parreno, Philippe Perrin, and Joe Scanlan. The show seems to have been about the title, autobiography.
But the Gonzalez-Torres catalogue raisonné doesn’t list any works as having been shown in Grenoble. There are several go-go boy dance platforms from 1992 listed in the “Registered Non-Works” section, but none have any obvious connection to Grenoble. Seems like a dead end.
Then as I tried digging up installation shots, or any discussion of the show, I tried looking in the Magasin’s file directory:
magasin_myself_dir.jpg
It’s a good day for random corners on servers. Here’s magasin03.jpg, an installation shot with Scanlan’s bookcases.
magasin_myself03.jpg
And here’s magasin02.jpg, the archival image of “Untitled” (USA Today), 1990, Felix’s third corner pour, but the first shown in a museum.
magasin_myself02.jpg
Maybe it’s better to say it’s the first mature corner candy piece. “Untitled” (Fortune Cookie Corner) and “Untitled” (A Corner of Baci) both came before it, but the former is defined by the number of unwrapped [and therefore increasingly gross] cookies, and the latter is small (ideal wt: 42lbs) and pricey to replenish. So “Untitled” (USA Today), ideal wt. 300 lbs, which was shown at the New Museum at the end of 1990, has a symbolic weight and title, and has the take-one-and-replenish dynamic figured out. It also turns out that “Untitled” (USA Today) was originally exhibited with the title “Untitled” (Mirage). The work was shown in at the same time, December 1990, in Berlin, and in 1991 in Kassel, in a two-person show with Cady Noland. [Gotta look that one up next.]
I guess what interests me is not the evidence of shapeshifting and mutability in Felix’s work, which is normal for an artist as he goes along, but which is also a specific characteristic of Felix’s work in its public and posthumous incarnations. It’s how foreign Bourriaud’s brief mention felt to me, how unrecognizable, how far from the way Felix’s work–and particularly the candy pieces–has come to be perceived and discussed. I think the conviviality thing is still valid, so maybe it’s not so far, but I just can’t imagine ever describing his work in terms of a café. Rather than frag Bourriaud, though, it makes me think how prone we are to settling into our experiences with art, and how the present inevitably overwrites not the past, but our memory of it. I know people who know what was in this show, but it never occurred to me to ask, because I never realized I didn’t know.

Than Friend Brad

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Than Friend Brad, 2013
via @willak comes this collaboratively written essay by Brad Troemel, Artie Vierkant, and Ben Vickers, Club Kids: The Social Life of Artists on Facebook. It is so perfectly and myopically descriptive of their situation as social network artists and curators without recognizing the situation as deeply problematic, that it’s exasperating to read. Until the very end, when they seem to conclude that yes, Facebook is not the world, or even the internet, but a “bad infinity” [pace Hegel], where the seeming endlessness of choice is a controlled, corporate deception.
And so, too, would be the very idea of an artistic practice or an artistic dialogue that centers/exists/originates on Facebook, and that is comprised of posts documenting “the artist’s online brand” and her “lifestyle,” activity driven by and judged by likes and friendings and other technosocial cues.

Why go to such great lengths to make and photograph a painting that will net 5 Likes when a photo of you and your friends eating 50 McChickens could net hundreds?

First off, don’t get me started on the “make and photograph a painting” thing; I’ve curated Contemporary Art Daily-only shows in my head the same as anyone else. So please don’t pretend that actually painting a painting–especially one that requires going to “great lengths,” whatever that may mean–doesn’t change your very being just as surely as eating 50 McChickens does.
And anyway, it seems like this essay was written well over a year ago, before Facebook’s IPO, and Troemel and friends are still ordering exclusively off Art’s Value Meal, tumblin’ rebloggable insta-art, curating themselves into IRL group shows without a critical care in the world.
In this new age of Smarm we suddenly find ourselves living in, Brad and Artie’s mapping of their platform’s spectrum of critical discourse seems very apt:

Feedback, if any, is always on a scale ranging from positive to non-existent–the Like function itself being explicitly designed as a binary function between total consensus and total lack of response. Instead of moving the artistic conversation forward, most people are literally just happy to be part of the online conversation, to be part of the club or whatever other indistinct social group they silently pledge allegiance to.

This seems like a very shitty environment in which to make art, and frankly, I’d be surprised if people who spend six figures for two years of MFA crits would put up with it. Or maybe that’s exactly what they crave after they’re out of school: affirmation, reassurance, participation, belonging, naked acknowledgement of one’s existence and activity.
But what’s the alternative?

Posting work to the internet with no social network readily in place is synonymous with the riddle ‘If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?’ For young artists on the internet the answer to the forest question is ‘no’- their work will easily go unnoticed, making their participation as a social actor an a priori necessity to contextualizing what they do as art.

Except it turns out that just because you can’t hear it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t make a sound. Elephants can hear sounds below the range of human detection. 7-Eleven owners blast music at loitering teenagers at frequencies Olds cannot perceive. Don’t make art only for your friends’ affirmation, or for Hans Ulrich’s attention. There are people in the world you don’t know.
It would behoove the Facebook Artist to get off Facebook once in a while, at least, where you can find critical responses beyond “total lack of response,” and people making and engaging art that is not interchangeable with lifestyle, and who don’t give much of a damn about fave parties.
Club Kids: The Social Life of Artists on Facebook [dismagazine]
UPDATE Wow, so much quietly delivered support for this post. Intriguing! And thanks!

Hito, Alexander, October & Yves Peintures

Hang with me, there’s a lot here, and I don’t really have the bandwidth to go into it right now, so I’m just going to slap it up here for now:

Walker Art Center curator Bart Ryan recently talked with Liam Gillick and Hito Steyerl about writing as part of their/art practice.

It’s part of 9 Artists, Ryan’s show about, well, I’m sure the title says plenty. Until I read the 28,000-word catalogue essay, I’m just going with the title. Steyerl’s 2007 work Red Alert is in the show, though. It’s three redscreen monochrome monitors mounted in landscape, a gesture she describes as “the logical end of the documentary genre,”
rodchenko_pure_red_yellow_blue.jpg
Pure Red Color (Chistyi krasnyi tsvet), Pure Yellow Color (Chistyi
zheltyi tsvet), Pure Blue Color (Chistyi sinii tsvet)
, 1921, each panel 24.5 x 21 or so

in a similar way to Rodchenko declaring his 1921 three-panel monochrome, Pure Red Color, Pure Yellow Color, Pure Blue Color represented the logical end of painting.
rodchenko_red_yellow_blue_black_white.jpg
image of October reproduction of Rodchenko monochromes via e-flux
Which paintings now always remind me of a 2010 e-flux journal article about October magazine, which it turns out I’d misremembered a bit, but that’s OK. Bernard Ortiz Campo wondered about art writing and why October only printed black & white images of artworks:

In the spring of 2000 in an article on Nikolai Tarabukin, the journal reproduced three monochrome paintings by Alexander Rodchenko: Pure Red Color, Pure Yellow Color, and Pure Blue Color. These three paintings, reproduced in black and white, resulted in three rectangles showing different shades of gray. As I looked at them, I found myself asking whether it made sense to reproduce them at all. I even entertained the possibility that the reproductions weren’t images of the actual paintings, that perhaps they had been “rendered” by the journal’s photomechanical process, and that the only thing that identified them as paintings by Rodchenko were the captions. I intuited that this extreme case could offer a reason for the black-and-white reproductions–hypothetical, of course, for being the fruit of my speculation, but a reason nonetheless.

I remembered this as imagining that the Rodchenko monochromes themselves didn’t actually exist except as illustrations. And black & white ones at that.
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Yves Peintures, 1954, image: yveskleinarchives.org
Which reminded me of one of my absolute favorite Yves Klein works, a book, or maybe it’s a portfolio? More a catalogue. Yves Peintures bears the mind-bogglingly early date of 1954. The Klein Archives lists it as “his first public artistic action.” It is a looseleaf booklet with ten color plates of monochrome paintings that don’t exist.
yves_peintures_londres.png
They are commercial samples of colored paper, tipped in and given arbitrary dimensions and locales/titles: a Londres, 1950 (195 x 97); a Tokio, 1953 (100 x 65), &c. The accompanying text, credited to Pascal Claude, is entirely strikethroughs, assuming it was ever any less fictional than the paintings. [Speaking of writing, Philippe Vergne loves Yves Peintures even more than I do; he goes nuts for it in this 2010 essay about how Klein basically started and ended everything ever.]
yves_peinture_tokio.png
I’ve never been able to figure out quite how many copies of Yves Peintures exist, much less how I will get my hands on one. The Archives illustrates five examples, each different. The Archives has also authorized a facsimile of Yves Peintures, produced by Editions Delicta, in an edition of 400. I don’t know how many variations are in that one, if any. I will guess none. The obvious solution is to make one myself, as the logical end of fictional monochrome artist book making.

OPCW Verb List

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Richard Serra, Verb List, 1967-68, image: moma.org
When the US’s demand to destroy all of Syria’s chemical weapons was first being discussed in September, I heard a report on NPR about the Office for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, and how they went about their mission. It struck me as an almost sculptural process, a cross between Paul Shabroom, a Matthew Barney gallery installation, and Richard Serra’s Verb List.
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5 March 2007
Now that the OPCW is on the ground, has won the Nobel Peace Prize, and is completing their inspections and such, I thought I’d pull together some news accounts of these CW destruction techniques for reference. When I get a bit more time, I’ll try digging through the OPCW’s site for official protocols and such. At some point, like Jeremy Deller’s bombed out car from Iraq, I guess this stuff should be exhibited.
A slightly facile FAQ-style AP article, Chemical Arms Inspectors Gird For Risky, Dirty Job” [npr.org]:

THE SIMPLEST WAY TO DISABLE EQUIPMENT? SMASH IT!
Inspectors can use any means they deem necessary to render equipment inoperable, including techniques that are crude but effective. Options include: taking sledgehammers to control panels; driving tanks over empty vats or filling them with concrete; or running mixing machines without lubricant so they seize up and become inoperable.

From the Washington Post, same day Chemical weapons officials say coordination with Syrian government has been ‘efficient'”:

He said OPCW officials charged with destroying Syria’s chemical weapons production capabilities by Nov. 1 will use “expedient methods” to fulfill their task.
“It might be a case of smashing something up with a sledgehammer. It might be a case of smashing something up with some explosive. It might be a case of driving a tank over something,” he said, or filling vessels with concrete, ruining valves and running bearings without oil so that they get stuck.
That won’t take long or cost much money, he said, but disposing of the chemicals themselves “is going to cost a lot.”

From a McClatchy report on Sept. 30, “Experts optimistic Nov. 1 deadline can be met for ending Syria’s chemical threat” [miamiherald.com]:

Once combined, the chemicals result in a mixture that is unstable and dangerous to handle. But before they are mixed, the chemicals generally are far less dangerous.
The equipment needed to mix those chemicals is easily destroyed, said Ralf Trapp, a chemical threat consultant who was among the original staffers who set up the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. “You can drills holes, cut pipes and flanges, remove wiring, crush computer boards, fill tanks with concrete,” he noted.
Disposal of the separated chemicals also is relatively easy, he said. One, an alcohol, “can simply be poured out onto the desert to evaporate without any risk,” he said.

A quick search has not yet turned up any photos or documentation of these practices, b

The Next Pynchon Novel Will Be Written By A Bot

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I somehow missed the announcement for this when it was published in 2011, but here’s Anne Truitt Minimalism, Color Field, Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland, Bryn Mawr College, Psychology, James Truitt, edited by Eldon A. Mainyu.
It’s a 112-page collection of Wikipedia articles for $56. And it’s one of the 6,910 titles by Mainyu for sale at Barnes & Noble. It’s the on-demand publishing equivalent of Artisoo’s Amazon Art mashup of Google Images and Chinese Paint Mill. And it, too, caught Anne Truitt in its indexical merchandise net.
Whoops, he just cranked it to 6,911. Here are the bestsellers:
audpublishing_screenshot.jpg
Which you’ll note veers to the alphabetical pretty quickly. I would guess that so far, BN has sold copies of seven Mainyu books.
Anyway, Mainyu’s not alone. He fronts Aud Publishing, which is just one of the 78 Wikipedia-centered imprints launched in 2011 by the Mauritius- and Germany-based book mill known as VDM Publishing. The division was apparently created and staffed by running the text of Foucault’s Pendulum into a Pynchon Name Generator:
Dismas Reinald Apostolis, Dic Press
Gerd Numitor, Flu Press
Agamemnon Maverick, Ord Publishing
Elwood Kuni Waldorm, PsychoPublishing
Indigo Theophanes Dax, The
The! Every one of them has several thousand titles and several hundred thousand Google results, tracing the invisible contours and channels of publishing’s automated datascape.
The crazy thing is, now I actually want to see some of these books, see how they turned out, but also see how they were spidered together. Because that Truitt title is not just an automated grab of the first ten links in the Wikipedia entry. Or at least it’s not now. Maybe it was in 2011.
permanent_food_4_adaweb.gifWhat would assembling a more complicated or randomized chain of Wikipedia links yield? Is there a Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon-like connectedness between any and all bits of human knowledge [on Wikipedia]? Is there poetry or literature to be found/made there? Could an algorithm surfing through Wikipedia produce meaning or newness, or something beyond the temporary frisson of WTF juxtaposition?
I think of magazine projects like Maurizio Cattelan & Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster’s Permanent Food, which solicited and compiled tearsheets from around the world, in hopes of creating what Maurizio called a magazine with no personality. [I forgot ada’web also did a web version, Permanent Foam. 17 years later, I guess I should be more surprised that one of the 14 links actually still works.] Then there’s the more associational daisy chain of visuals that was Ruth Root’s wondrous press release for her 2008 show at Kreps. And of course, The Arcades Project.
So it seems entirely possible to make an engrossing read, maybe even a story, out of a Wikipedia surf session. Someone has to have done this already, right? But I guess the gantlet Mainyu has thrown down is to find the genius in the automation, to see if you can write the bot that creates the iconic literature of its time.