Know Hope: The Good Machine No-Budget Filmmaking Commandments

Good Machine producer turned Amazon Studios producer Ted Hope gave a boost to a classic post on his blog about no-budget filmmaking, and it’s worth a boost here, too. He developed the tips list with his GM partner James Schamus, and it holds up.

8. Write for a very limited audience – your closest friends. Do not try to please anyone – crowd pleasing costs.

I recently listened to my first director’s commentary in a long time, and was struck by the director’s awareness of giving advice to filmmakers, as distinct from just telling production stories or even discussing craft. But it oddly felt like the kind of conscious narrowcasting Hope mentioned.

13. Make the most of a day’s work. It’s easier to get a commitment for one day than it is for a week. Exploit people’s willingness to give a day.

I get the point, but I’ve grown wary of that word, exploit. If you’re bartering your time and project for theirs, fine, but it just feels important to respect people’s labor, not just their time.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking of filmmaking more lately for a variety of reasons, and this is a good thing to read.

The Good Machine No-Budget Film Commandments [hopeforfilm]

More, Please, About Lorenzo Cremonini’s Palazzina Corticella

Lorenzo Cremonini’s Palazzina, c. 1970s, via gmaps

It will give you a clue about how old the folder is if I tell you my collection of riot gear photos is called Kiev Shields. Alas, it is ongoing. And this report about Bolognese police with clear plastic shields facing off against housing rights activists led me to this rundown of the various empty buildings in Bologna that have been occupied by squatters and protestors, including the amazing modernist house? above, on via Corticella.

the via Crespi side of the Palazzina, with that great face, and before they installed the horrible external AC units. I mean, come on. image via gmap

The information on it is maddeningly slight. It is apparently from the 70s, and by the architecture professor Lorenzo Cremonini. It has three levels above ground, plus at least a garage below. It is 200 m^2, around a 60/90/50 split, and from the outside, it feels too proscribed to be anything other than a house.

the rear facade, with its own giant sunset? sunrise? image via gmap, obv

It is apparently privately owned, so though it has been a library in recent years, then a daycare center/preschool, it was not a public building. While it was for sale for many years, it was empty when protestors briefly occupied it in March 2016. As of this past spring, it apparently houses a co-working space called Voxel.

o ti amo, palazzina mia! image: zero.eu

Besides its simple, cantilevered concrete slab construction, its most distinguishing feature is obviously its supergraphic tile skin, which is fantastic at every angle. VERY of the period, yet somehow intact. That gigantic concrete canopy feels slightly too big. (Oh, but maybe not from the back, as in the photo above!) The curved section that forms the terrace railing sometimes feels like it should have been straight. Or does tile make it work? So it’s not perfect, it’s awesome.

Except for some boring  presentation clips on Voxel’s facebook page, the only interior shot I have found so far is maybe this video of riot police raiding the place? Or nah, doesn’t that seem like an other library, plus the date’s wrong. Still low-key amazing how throwback the Bologna riot police are.

From the unhelpful articles I’ve found, it does seem to be “known” as the Palazzina, but I just can’t say for sure. The absence of almost any info about the building, or Cremonini, is shocking, not the kind of thing I’d come to expect in these internet days. I feel like his 1992 book, Colore e Architettura, might have more information, but it is in Italian, and in Italy. So it will have to wait a little longer.

Hey Sailor! Three Early Works by Michael Jenkins

Naval works by Michael Jenkins, 1988-89, image: Ogletree

I’ve been low-key fascinated with people in the art world who stopped making art, particularly dealers like Gavin Brown, who didn’t really get much traction with his art practice, and Michael Jenkins, who did.

It’s on my mind at the moment because three early works by Jenkins are coming up for auction (again). They turn out to be some of the Navy-related works Jenkins discussed with Bill Arning in the 1992 Bomb Magazine article that is the primary critical text for his work (or the top Google result, half dozen of one…)

Like contemporary and collaborator Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Jenkins created minimalist- and conceptualist-inflected works imbued with emotional and psychological power. During the escalating AIDS crisis the works referenced gay love and loss, fraught youth and unabashed romance, and quarantine, disease, and death. I’ve only ever seen a couple of his pieces in person, but they really do feel like fellow travelers with Felix’s work, at least for a time.

Or Jim Hodges, another friend, whose 2010 installation of a fenced in seating area at his amazing two-person Felix show at FLAG Art Foundation reminded me of Jenkins’ picket fence gates and shower stalls.

Anyway, That Sinking Feeling I (1988) and II (1989) are basically human-scale (5′ 8.5″ feels specific) shadowboxes with a sailor hat and shoes on wool blanket material. A third, related work, Gob Box (1989), is a hat centered in a square shadowbox. Seen from their tops, the circular hats really do show off what Jenkins calls their “graphic nature.” The shoes, meanwhile, feel more totemic; the absence they reference is more pronounced.

Michael Jenkins, Rounded Top Gate, 1991, ganked from bombmagazine

Jenkins and Arning talk a lot about this symbolism, the erotic image, even the caricature of the sailor, as well as the real sorrow of separation. I’m not sure it holds up, frankly; the conversation feels sort of slight, in retrospect. But that could literally just be me. Or Jenkins. There’s a subjectivity at play, evocations of specific memories or associations, in a specific time and context. Arning credits Jenkins’ emergence in the 80s with helping “point a way out of the dismal cycle of self-referential criticality and ironic distance then in place.” And if we’ve come a long way, baby, it’s still worth remembering how we got here, and where we were.

After not selling a few months ago in Atlanta, Jenkins’ three works are estimated now at $1,500-3,000. Bring a truck.

Lot 203: Three Mixed Media Works by Michael Jenkins, Sept. 16, 2018 [ogletree/liveauctioneers]
Michael Jenkins by Bill Arning, July 1, 1992 [bombmagazine]

 

White Flag, 2018

White Flag, 2018, Encaustic, oil, newsprint, and charcoal on canvas, 78 5/16 x 120 3/4 in. (198.9 x 306.7 cm)

“One night I could not have dreamed that I painted a large American flag, but the next morning I got up and I went out and bought the materials to begin it.” Those materials included three canvases that the artist mounted on plywood, strips of newspaper, and encaustic paint—a mixture of pigment and molten wax that has formed a surface of lumps and smears. The newspaper scraps visible beneath the stripes and forty-eight stars lend this icon historical specificity. The American flag is something “the mind already knows,” but its execution complicates the representation and invites close inspection.

By draining most of the color from the flag but leaving subtle gradations in tone, the artist shifts our attention from the familiarity of the image to the way in which it is made. “White Flag” is painted on three separate panels: the stars, the seven upper stripes to the right of the stars, and the longer stripes below. The artist worked on each panel separately.

White Flag, 2018, I: Encaustic, oil, newsprint, and charcoal on canvas, 41 3/4 x 64 3/8 in. (106.1 x 163.6 cm). II: Encaustic, oil, and collage on fabric mounted on plywood, 22 1/2 x 32 1/2 in. (57.2 x 82.6 cm)

After applying a ground of unbleached beeswax, the artist built up the stars, the negative areas around them, and the stripes with applications of collage — cut or torn pieces of newsprint, other papers, and bits of fabric. The artist dipped these into molten beeswax and adhered them to the surface. The artist then joined the three panels and overpainted them with more beeswax mixed with pigments, adding touches of white oil.

cf. Study for White Flag, 2018, Crayola washable marker on coloring page, 8 1/2 x 11 in. (21.6 x 28 cm)

How Ya Conserve Me Now?

“Found painting, FOUND courage” images: @videodante

The stairwell in the entrance to the University of Oregon library contains a large mural, Mission of a University, painted in 1937 by art professor Nowland Brittin Zane, of a quote by another faculty member, Frederick George Young. A social science professor and dean in the 1920s, Young saw the divine mission of a university aligned with the founding principle of Oregon itself: to elevate and preserve the white race.

Installation view of Nowland Zane’s mural, Mission of a University, 1937, in U. Oregon’s Knight Library, before intervention, image: uoregon.edu

Last night @videodante tweeted out photos he’d received of a fresh painting intervention on Zane’s mural: a slash of red paint crossing out “racial heritage.” As interesting, though, is the handwritten label for the new work, left on the wall [below].

“Which art do you choose to conserve now?” via @videodante

The materials, “Found Art, FOUND courage” are almost as awesome as the title, “WHICH ART DO YOU CHOOSE TO CONSERVE NOW?” Is it the title, or an epic challenge to the institution’s perennial decision of which facts, which history, which brushstroke, and whose heritage are their actions perpetuating? This quote has been recognized as racist and offensive–and has been the subject of critical and activist efforts to remove it–for years. There are at least three spots in the bottom corner of Zane’s painting where conservators chose to erase someone’s addition. So this is one more choice to be made in an ongoing dispute, and the artist knows what is at stake.

The author of this new work, though, offers another solution in a “fine print” addendum, apparently added on the spot, as the text curls up the side of the label. If the library is troubled by impending conservatorial complicity in reasserting white supremacism, the “artist gives permission to replace this placard with a more permanent one.”

What if they just leave it?

With David Hammons on the brain at the moment, I think of his 1989 outdoor painting of a blonde Jesse Jackson, How Ya Like Me Now? which was vandalized as it was being installed across from the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC. Hammons subsequently showed it with a row of sledgehammers. And of six American Indian activists who painted Theodore Roosevelt’s statue in front of the American Museum of Natural History in 1971, who had their charges dropped if they paid the museum’s cleanup costs.

Since the beginning of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the increased protests of confederate memorial statues, I’ve come to see painting as crucial, even central. After decades of inertia, monuments are suddenly painted or pulled down. Then they’re quickly covered with tarps or boxes or removed. Take an object. Do something to it. Do something else to it.

What if we recognize these gestures as generative, not destructive? What if we leave them? Keep them? Look at them? Study them? And when the time comes, conserve them?

Public Enemy Nos. 2–?

David Hammons, Public Enemy, installation at MoMA, 1991

I’ve written about “Dislocations” before. It’s one of the contemporary shows at MoMA that left a deep impression on me when I first moved to New York. It was in 1991-2 when Rob Storr curated huge, room-dominating sculptures by Chris Burden and Louise Bourgeois, and installations [!?] by Bruce Nauman, Adrian Piper, the Kabakovs, and David Hammons.

I just found this 5yo photo of Hammons’ Public Enemy, which I guess I had looked up because I was deep into photomurals at the time, and really wanted to find (or make) Hammons’ big photocube of the piece’s namesake, Teddy Roosevelt and his Grateful Savages [sic, obv].

Public Enemey, 1991, installation view from MoMA’s archive

In the intervening years MoMA has upped their archival game significantly, by putting a ton of exhibition material online, including the press release, checklist, brochure, installation photos, and a pdf of Storr’s catalogue. [Oh wow, Sophie Calle was in that show? Guess her intervention–removing paintings from the Modern’s galleries–was so subtle, I forgot.]

This was the first work of Hammons’ I’d ever seen, probably the first time I’d heard of him. Which seems crazy now, but reading the show’s time capsule of a catalogue, maybe I wasn’t so far behind. Storr waxes and marvels at what is now known about Hammons’ practice:

Hammons has preferred the city as a workplace and its citizens as his audience and sometime co-workers. Street flotsam and jetsam are his materials. What he brings to the gallery is all and sundry that it traditionally excludes. What he extracts from those materials and brings to the objects and installations that he has created outside the museums are the marvels and mysteries that lie already and everywhere to hand along heavily trafficked thoroughfares, in public parks, and in the so-called vacant lots littered with the evidence of their constant nomadic occupation and use…

“I like doing stuff better on the street, because art becomes just one of the objects that’s in the path of your everyday existence. It’s what you move through, and it doesn’t have superiority over anything else.” [he said in an otherwise unpublished interview which I now think we should unearth. -ed.]

Storr goes on about Hammons’ improvisatory process, “like jazz,” in which, despite a year of lead time, “all options remained open and the result wholly unforeseen” until the artist arrived to install the work. Which must have given MoMA an institutional heart attack.

And which, really? Because you can’t just pick up four huge photomurals or a substrate for them. And those sandbags seem very manufactured and ordered from somewhere. True, if you just work fast enough, those NYPD barriers were all over town, free for the taking. [Do they still have those? For throwback protests?]

Silent Sam confederate soldier statue suddenly torn down at UNC Chapel Hill, image: @yesyoureracist

What I thought about yesterday was whether Public Enemy still existed, or could be recreated. What I wonder about today, though, is what it’ll take for Uncle Teddy to get the Silent Sam treatment.

Public Enemy was installed in “Dislocations” at The Museum of Modern Art from Oct. 1991 through Jan. 1992 [moma.org]
Previously, related: Chris Burden’s Other Vietnam Memorial was in “Dislocations”, too

After Giacometti

Octagonal caryatid table by Diego Giacometti, 1983, sold by Hubert de Givenchy and Philippe Venet in 2017 for EUR3.7m. image: christies.com

In the 80s Hubert de Givenchy and his partner Philippe Venet commissioned Diego Giacometti to make furniture and stuff for a house they bought in BF France, 2 hours southeast of Paris. Last year they sold a bunch of it at auction, 21 lots, including three of the bronze tables above, which have carytids sticking up from all the legs. Together the three tables sold for EUR 11 million, almost a third of the total sale, which is sort of bonkers. But that’s not important now.

a Giacometti table in front of a painting by someone, who really knows who at this point, image via habituallychic

In this month’s Architectural Digest, after Givenchy’s passing, there are reminiscences from Venet and a bunch of their friends, including this:

[PHILIPPE] VENET: Hubert asked, “Why don’t we have some Giacometti?” We had just sold our chalet in Megève—I was a very good skier and served in a mountain patrol during my military service—so I said, “Why not?” When Christie’s auctioned our Giacomettis [in 2017], we had a ferronnier make us a copy of the octagonal table. There are many homemades at Le Jonchet: a “La Fresnaye,” a “Picasso” that Hubert drew. After selling the big Joan Miró in his atelier to the Pompidou, I told him, “We must make a Léger.” So we did a collage together.

[MOMA TRUSTEE MERCEDES] BASS: It’s very hard to tell the difference between their works and the real things, though they never copied; they made renditions. Most were wonderful collages: Hubert and Philippe would prepare the backgrounds, then cut the paper and create a collage of a painting.

AD captions this like it’s the replacement table, but this same photo shows up in that pre-auction HC post, so who knows? And if you can’t tell the difference… image:architecturaldigest.com

I love this have your cake and eat it, too, sell your tables and paintings and make them again–and still have people describing it in these equivocating terms about copies and renditions. Givenchy studied at the Beaux Arts, and his obituary in The Guardian described his retirement from fashion with, “He had long since set up an alternative life as an ‘amateur d’art.'”

If I’m reading AD’s caption right, that’s Givenchy’s Picasso on the left. The smaller Picasso behind it looks like Twombly’s Picasso, tho, so who knows? image:AD

So if your question is, would you rather have a Giacometti table in your chateau, or a remoulade Giacomettian table in your chateau and EUR33 million, my question is, how close do you need to get to the table?

Guerrilla Florist

NYC Bouquet via @jeffreytoobin

My first thought on seeing this bouquet in a garbage can on the corner of 73rd St & West End Avenue was that it looked like the Lila Acheson Wallace-endowed bouquets in the Great Hall at the Met.

My second thought was that guerrilla flower arrangements should be a thing. And as soon as I saw the credit line spraypainted on the sidewalk “[LMD x NYC]” in Jeffrey Toobin’s picture, I realized it already is.

Lewis Miller recycles flowers from private commissions and events into impromptu, public flower arrangements. They’re instagrammed, and admired for a moment or two IRL–then scavenged and destroyed by passersby.

Writing about Miller’s project for T Magazine last fall, Nancy Hass made the connection to Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ candy pieces. Only there’s no replenishment, just moving on.

Fountains For The Next 100 Years

Out with the old Fountain

Well, Marcel (or Baroness Elsa), your Fountain changed the course of art for a century, but it’s time to move on. There’s a new Fountain in town. Correction: Fountains.

The old Fountain, a urinal on its side, since lost, was captured in a single photograph by Alfred Stieglitz. The ex-post-facto Stieglitz of our future’s Fountains is @SqueezyMcCheesy. Who did not, AFAIK, attend Betsy DeVos’s niece’s wedding, but did drop by the 2016 ranch dressing pop-up shop for the Cartoon Network comedian Eric Andre.

in with the new Fountain image: @SqueezyMcCheesy

The ranch dressing fountain appeared at the pop-up shop exactly two years ago tonight, and then, like the urinal a century ago, it disappeared.

That shape. That surface. That material. I mean just look at it. The sound you hear is not the ranch dressing pump; it is Paul McCarthy weeping. He was so close, and yet.

Paul McCarthy’s Chocolate Santa, 2007, via maccarone

Where the ersatz backdrop for Fountain (1917) was a painting by Marsden Hartley, the new Fountain was shot in front of a banner with Andre’s catchphrase, “Ranch me, Brotendo.”

image: theculturefiles.com

If we only had ranch dressing Fountain to guide us in making art for the next 100 years, we would be busy. But pretty damn white. Fortunately, there are other Fountains. Behold Fuente de Queso.

What other food can be melted and dribbled in shiny, pulsating skins over a tower of stainless steel domes? What can’t, right? [I just googled ‘soylent fountain.’] Let’s fount’em all. And like our every food, our art will be liquefied and pumped and recirculated through an endless, nauseatingly spectacular cascade. How will we even notice?

Destroyed Felix Gonzalez Torres Billboard

A couple of months ago while looking at those Danh Vo Japanese plate editions, I came across Blake Byrne, an LA collector who had sent one to auction.

That led me to Open This End, a 2015 traveling exhibition from of works from Byrne’s collection, organized by various college museums and his Skylark Foundation. One stop was Ohio State University, which housed most of the show at the Urban Art Space, except for this: “Just off campus on the façade of the former Long’s Bookstore on the corner of 15th Ave and High St, is a work by Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Untitled (For Parkett) (1994).”

Felix Gonzalez-Torres, “Untitled” (for Parkett), 1994, a billboard edition of 84+15 AP

Which made me wonder how that worked? Actually, I’d wondered for several years how Felix’s Parkett edition billboard worked in real life. It comes rolled up in eight big, silk screened panels, and once it’s installed in a site, that’s it; it’s permanent. So far, my attempt, begun in 2012, to document all 84+15AP editions had gone nowhere. But now I had a new datapoint. Maybe. How does a one-and-done billboard in a traveling show from a private collection work?

“Untitled” (for Parkett), 1994, installed on at Ohio State University in 2015 for Open This End, image: c.2015 GSV

Sure enough, here it is on Google Street View in 2015, facing the OSU campus entrance right by the Wexner Art Center. Let’s scrub forward to see how it has held up?

“Untitled” (for Parkett) 1994 nowhere to be seen at Ohio State University, image: c.2017 GSV

Oh.

I emailed Skylark Foundation executive director Barbara Schwan to find out what happened. She looped in Joseph Wolin, curator of Open This End, to explain. After much consultation with the Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation and Parkett, Byrne donated his edition of the billboard to OSU, where it was installed for several months on a building that was slated for demolition.

When the building came down, the billboard came down with it. Wolin wrote:

We were told, I forget if it was by Parkett or the Foundation, that this was one of the very few times, if not the only time, the billboard had been installed as a billboard, so we were pretty excited about that. Blake himself had acquired the work at auction and had it rolled up in storage for many years, so for me it felt rather wonderful, if bittersweet, to be able to realize it as the artist had intended. Apparently, when the work is installed indoors, as in Parkett’s exhibitions, the panels are often just pinned to the wall and rolled up again after.

So many questions answered, so many questions raised. Six years ago I lamented that “Untitled” (for Parkett) is “doomed by its own nature to exist in a state of fungible incompleteness, or worthless realization, or inevitable destruction.”

Which, thanks to a generous donation and successful realization with full knowledge of its destruction, we realize is a feature, not a bug. I hope more owners of “Untitled” (for Parkett) follow Byrne’s lead by realizing their billboards and letting time take its toll in public rather than in storage. It is what Felix would have wanted.

Previously, related:

You Don’t Complete Me, Or Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ “Untitled” (for Parkett), Part 1
Infiltration & Replication, “Untitled” (for Parkett), Part 2

A Complicated Charles Sheeler

Charles Sheeler, Aunt Mary, 1941, just deaccessioned from the Museum of Modern Art, image via Christie’s

Where to even start? As a huge Charles Sheeler fan from early on, my first reaction was “GET IT.” This 1941 Sheeler photo is unusual so many ways. First off, the subject is a person, though one who is surrounded by the artifacts of early Americana that provided a grounding for the artist’s own modernist and precisionist leanings.

More on this person in a second, but second, this print was just deaccessioned by the Museum of Modern Art, and I missed the end of the Christie’s online auction because I was driving–and I forgot.

Installation view of Portraits, a 1943 photo exhibition at MoMA, featuring Berenice Abbot’s Atget (L) and Sheeler’s Aunt Mary (R). via MoMA, obv

2.A? It was a new acquisition included in a 1943 exhibition of portrait photography. It hung next to Berenice Abbott’s portrait of Atget, which was a loan from the artist.

The print was a gift of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, the Modern’s co-founder. It is unsigned. The back has adhesive residue and an accession number. So I guess technically it might have been an exhibition print; back in the day, the connoisseurial taxonomies of photography were obviously less rigid, as were the accession guidelines of the Department, never mind there was a war on.

Anyway, such an illustrious provenance should smooth over any concerns. And yet the Christie’s estimate was only $5-7,000, a tiny fraction of a more typical Sheeler print. And the thing only got one bid, $1,500, and sold for just $1,875.

Maybe it’s time to go back to the first and most obviously striking thing about this portrait: the subject, an elderly African American woman with an apron, sitting in an antique kitchen, who, according to the photo’s title, is “Aunt Mary.” But whose Aunt Mary? Not the photographer’s, presumably, and not Abby Rockefeller’s, right? Well.

photo of an unidentified African American performer as “Aunt Mary” at Colonial Williamsburg, c. 1933

“Aunt Mary” turns out to be a character, a fictional enslaved worker in the kitchen of the Governor’s Palace at Colonial Williamsburg, another Rockefeller-founded culture venue that had just opened in 1934. On decades worth of Williamsburg postcards “Aunt Mary”, described as a “servant,” sits, head down, in a placid, domestic tableau.

Colonial Williamsburg postcard featuring “Aunt Mary” from eBay

To his credit, Sheeler photographed this unidentified performer as a person, not as a prop. Who was she? What was her job like? Assuming she’s from the area, southern Virginia, she looks too young to have been enslaved herself, but certainly old enough to be the child of former slaves. Until a push by activists and historians in the 1970s, “Aunt Mary” was one of the very few non-white historical characters in Williamsburg.

But why was Sheeler making it? I know and love his documentary photos from the Metropolitan Museum, but did he cover Williamsburg, too? Last year Kirsten Jensen curated a show of Sheeler’s fashion photography for the Michener Art Museum in Pennsylvania. What other Sheeler series and projects are lurking undiscovered in archives out there?

Lights and Mirrors at Eileen Gray’s E-1027

Entry light at Eileen Gray’s E-1027

On a first visit to Eileen Gray’s masterpiece e-1027 since its restoration (still in progress), I was impressed by the details as much as the overall design. Gray’s house on the sea at Roquebrune Cap Martin, built in 1929 on the far side of Monaco, isn’t perfect, but it is extremely well thought through and basically marvelous.

The lights stood out. The front door, which is sort of a back door, and a patio where dinner was sometimes served.

Eileen Gray light fixture originally over Jean Badovici’s desk at E-1027

The lower bedroom for Jean Badovici, or for guests, which had this interesting construction over where his desk would be (the desk is out to improve circulation in the tiny space, which felt small even with just the six people on our tour.). In addition to light, the fixture was positioned to mirror and double the view of the Mediterranean from the bed. This use of mirrors and reflectivity is a feature throughout the house.

Mirror for shaving the back of one’s head, by Eileen Gray for Jean Badovici at E-1027

like I said. This shaving mirror in the corner of Badovici’s room has a light embedded, and another mirror on an articulated, chrome-plated arm, at Badovici’s request, so he could shave the back of his head. It’s a style that’s come around again.

These fixtures are all replications; the first and third pieces were long lost, but the original overhead light was stolen, probably to order, in 2003.

Some Objects At Topaz Internment Camp

Workers Wanted sign made from scrapwood at the Topaz Internment Camp, image: UofU Library

While reposting those old Daddy Types entries about the US’s imprisonment of Japanese American citizens, I came across a couple of  images of Topaz, Utah that were new to me. They were added to the University of Utah Library’s collection in 2012, and originated in a 1987 documentary about Topaz produced by KUED, the local PBS station.

The top image is sort of mundane, but the form of this make-do scrapwood sign just sticks with me. That might be an actual blackboard, or maybe not.

1944 photo from the Topaz Internment Camp in Utah showing the prison’s service flag. Each of the 325 stars represents a detainee serving in the US military. image: UofU Library

It doesn’t stick with me like the object in this image, though. Four unidentified people standing in front of the Service Flag for the “community” of Topaz, which included one star for each detainee serving in the US military. 325 at the time this photo was taken. Soldiers serving while their families were in prison because of politicians’ racial bigotry and fear.

KUED Collection of Topaz Camp photographs at the University of Utah Library [lib.utah.edu]

Pablo Picasso’s Guernica Facsimile Objects

Guernica or no? Experts suggest this is not the photo facsimile installed for testing at the Reina Sofia, but the real thing. image via kingstitt

Guernica is a big painting, 3.5m x 7.75m, which spent much of its early life on world tour, and which was parked at MoMA at Picasso’s request, from 1943 until a democratic Spanish government was able to bring it back in 1981. Including a couple of construction-related rehangs, MoMA packed and moved Guernica twenty times during its stay. Still, for touring exhibitions organized by the Modern in the 1940s and 50s, they sent a scaled down, but still large, photograph of Guernica instead.

Exhibition requests blossomed for Nelson Rockefeller’s authorized, full-scale tapestry replica of Guernica, which he commissioned in 1955. Like the photos, the tapestry became a stand-in for the original, expanding and amplifying its reach.

Two other tapestry versions were eventually produced, which ended up in museums in France and Japan. Rockefeller loaned his to the United Nations, where it’s gone on to have its own loaded history.

[Goshkua Macuga borrowed the Rockefeller tapestry for a 2009-10 show at the Whitechapel Gallery which referenced Colin Powell’s 2003 war speech at the UN where he covered the tapestry while lying about Iraq.]

Guernica photo replica on exhibit in 1975 at the Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg Museum, image: ngbk.de

A nearly full-scale photo replica of Guernica was the center of a left exhibition in Berlin in 1975 organized by the neue Gesellschaft für bildende Kunst.

photo replica of Guernica on the floor of the Reina Sofia in 1981, image: archivocs estatales via mrs

The last, best photo replica of Guernica is probably Spain’s own. The Reina Sofia created a full-scale, multi-panel photo of Guernica in order to test the exhibition design and installation of the painting in the Casón del Buen Retiro in 1981 [top, above, below].

Parts is parts, war is war. Guernica photo replica being assembled at the Reina Sofia in 1981. image: archivos estatales via mrs

I have not seen any mention of any of these photo replicas still existing. A full-scale prop version of Guernica appeared in a scene in Alfonso Cuaron’s 2006 film Children of Men, and points to the very recent development of printing technology that allows a 3.5m tall image to be reproduced on one panel.

Which, I think I must now do if I can’t find these earlier photo versions. And even if I can.

[Shoutout to @br_tton, who was on the trail of the Reina Sofia’s photofacsimile as recently as this week and as far back as August 2014. Most of the rest comes from the Reina Sofia’s own minisite, Rethinking Guernica, which has an extensive of chronology of Guernica-related institutional documentation, though much less from their own institution.]

Previously, related: Gerhard Richter Facsimile Objects

A Brief History of Blogging About America Imprisoning Children, 6/X

Everything’s bigger in Texas, including the family prisons. image: ICE

I’ll be honest, when I first heard that the ICE immigrant family detention centers full of Central American refugee kids and moms had animal-themed cell blocks like red bird and blue butterfly, I imagined they were using Eric Carle drawings, and I got a dark, blogging thrill.

But no. The South Texas Residential Center in Dilley, the largest family detention center in the world, run by the for-profit prison contractor, Corrections Corporation of America, was too cheap to license Carle’s work, and just used random clip art instead.

ICE, ICE, babies.

Also, the government’s punitive detention of these people is shameful, and it can’t end soon enough. Most of these families are fleeing war, violence, and abuse in their home countries and have already qualified for refugee hearings the US, but remain in these remote prisons, guarded by actual prison guards, temping in khakis and polo shirts, as a feeble deterrent to other refugees.

Home of the free, land of the brave. image: Bob Owen for San Antonio Express News

I resisted comparing ICE’s outsourced prisons to the desert detention centers Japanese-American families were forced into during WWII, even when I saw Bob Owen’s photo in the San Antonio Express News, which is a damningly straight-up evocation of Dorothea Lange’s photos of the War Relocation Authority’s internment camp at Manzanar, California.

Dorothea Lange, flag and barracks at Manzanar internment camp, July 1942

Ansel Adams also took photos at Manzanar, which he published in a book, Born Free And Equal, alongside a text that reads today as disturbingly upbeat in its praise of the gumption and loyalty of American citizens forced into desert prisons. I’ve always viewed Adams’ project as a protest, a condemnation of the injustice visited upon Americans because of the racist fears of their neighbors and political leaders. But that is over-optimistic hindsight. Re-reading Adams’ text now is pretty depressing. To think that it’s all the Constitution and fundamental principle that wartime white America could handle at the time.

Dilley want to build a playground? image: Will Weissert/AP via themarshallproject.org

At least it helps make sense for how this country could get so cross-wise with its own professed ideals today; we really have not changed that much at all. And when I tried to put some evolved distance between the ironies of Adams’ treacly government-reviewed-and-approved fluffing and this account from inside Dilley, I couldn’t. So here it is:

While children wait for their mothers to talk to lawyers and legal aids, they are usually watching kids’ movies dubbed in Spanish, namely Rio or Frozen. The children of Dilley, like children everywhere, have taken to singing Frozen’s iconic song “Let It Go.”The Spanish-language refrain to the song “Libre soy! Libre soy!” translates to “I am free! I am free!” It’s an irony that makes the adults of Dilley uneasy. Mehta recalls one mother responding to her singing child under her breath: “Pero no lo somos” (But we aren’t).

Do you know the chorus of “Let it Go” in Spanish? I did not, but it is one helluva song for kids to be singing in a corporate prison in 2015:

Libre soy, libre soy
No puedo ocultarlo más
Libre soy, libre soy
Libertad sin vuelta atrás
Y firme así me quedo aquí
Libre soy, libre soy
El frío es parte también de mí

I am free, I am free
I can’t hide it anymore
I am free, I am free
Freedom without turning back
And I’m staying here, firm like this
I am free, I am free
The cold is also a part of me

‘Drink more water’: Horror stories from the medical ward of a Texas immigration detention center [fusion.net]
which is basically a re-reporting of this: Immigrant families in detention: A look inside one holding center [latimes]
Ansel Adams, Born Free And Equal, 1944 [loc.gov]
Related: Translating “Frozen” into Arabic [newyorker]
“Let it Go” in 25 languages [youtube]

[Originally published on Daddy Types on July 23, 2015 as Libre Soy, Libre Soy]