March 31, 2009

A Modest Proposal Re- Dating Conventions and Kitty Butts

Soon we'll have semantic computing and even good image search capabilities, but personally I think it'll be a while before they can beat an organizationally-inclined brain.

I find it helpful to include dates in some of my file names; e.g., I identify some files of photos using geographical location and date (in case I went to a location more than once). E.g., marfa04.

So . . . if you date items using the English conventional dating system -- e.g., 3/31/09 for March 31, 2009 -- all listed March files from whatever year will be clumped together -- not helpful.

If you date them using the European conventional system -- 31/3/09 -- the results are even more cockeyed (although the European has always seemed more logical to me otherwise).

However, if we adopt a convention of year/month/date, all files are listed in chron order. That's how I've begun dating my files. And I suggest we use a four-digit year -- it's worth it in the long run.

The pic has nothing to do with this proposal -- just something to rev up the post; you can see the whole of Rupaul's new music video here.

More Insight into the Economic Crisis

and our gummint's putative efforts to fix it -- just a taste of what I'm trying hard not to feel sick with rage about this morning. (Emphasis {bolding} supplied in all instances.)

From Buzzflash 3/30/09, citing economist Jeffrey Sachs, WaPo, and The New York Post (much more at the foregoing link):

The banks have zeroed in on Geithner's cash giveaway bonanza, the "Public Private Investment Partnership" (PPIP) . . . . As expected, Bank of America and Citigroup have angled their way to the front of the herd, thrusting their pig-heads into the public trough and extracting whatever morsels they can find amid a din of gurgling and sucking sounds. . . .

"As Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner orchestrated a plan to help the nation's largest banks purge themselves of toxic mortgage assets, Citigroup and Bank of America have been aggressively scooping up those same securities in the secondary market, sources told The Post...

"But the banks' purchase of so-called AAA-rated mortgage-backed securities, including some that use alt-A and option ARM as collateral, is raising eyebrows among even the most seasoned traders. Alt-A and option ARM loans have widely been seen as the next mortgage type to see increases in defaults.

"One Wall Street trader told The Post that what's been most puzzling about the purchases is how aggressive both banks have been in their buying, sometimes paying higher prices than competing bidders are willing to pay."

. . . . Thus begins the next taxpayer-subsidized feeding frenzy featuring all the usual suspects. The race is on to vacuum up as much toxic mortgage paper as possible so it can be dumped on Uncle Sam at a hefty profit. Nice. These are the same miscreants the Obama Administration is so dead-set on rescuing. It's crazy to help people who use the cover of a financial crisis to fatten their own bottom line. Let them sink and be done with it.
From Geopolitics-Geoeconomics, 3/30/09 (more at the link):
What Geithner does not want the public to understand, his ‘dirty little secret’ is that the repeal of Glass-Steagall and the passage of the Commodity Futures Modernization Act in 2000 allowed the creation of a tiny handful of banks that would virtually monopolize key parts of the global ‘off-balance sheet’ or Over-The-Counter derivatives issuance.

Today five US banks according to data in the just-released Federal Office of Comptroller of the Currency’s Quarterly Report on Bank Trading and Derivatives Activity, hold 96% of all US bank derivatives positions in terms of nominal values, and an eye-popping 81% of the total net credit risk exposure in event of default. [The five are, in order of decreasing magnitude, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citibank, Goldman Sachs, and the merged Wells Fargo-Wachovia Bank.] . . .

The Government bailout of AIG to over $180 billion to date has primarily gone to pay off AIG’s Credit Default Swap obligations to counterparty gamblers Goldman Sachs, Citibank, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, the banks who believe they are ‘too big to fail.’ In effect, these five institutions today believe they are so large that they can dictate the policy of the Federal Government. Some have called it a bankers’ coup d’etat. It definitely is not healthy.

This is Geithner’s and Wall Street’s Dirty Little Secret that they desperately try to hide because it would focus voter attention on real solutions. The Federal Government has long had laws in place to deal with insolvent banks. The FDIC places the bank into receivership, its assets and liabilities are sorted out by independent audit. The irresponsible management is purged, stockholders lose and the purged bank is eventually split into smaller units and when healthy, sold to the public. The power of the five mega banks to blackmail the entire nation would thereby be cut down to size. . . .

This is what Wall Street and Geithner are frantically trying to prevent.

From Rolling Stone, 3/19/09 (much more at the link):
The global economic crisis isn't about money - it's about power. . . .

People are pissed off about this financial crisis, and about this bailout, but they're not pissed off enough. The reality is that the worldwide economic meltdown and the bailout that followed were together a kind of revolution, a coup d'état. They cemented and formalized a political trend that has been snowballing for decades: the gradual takeover of the government by a small class of connected insiders, who used money to control elections, buy influence and systematically weaken financial regulations.

The crisis was the coup de grâce: Given virtually free rein over the economy, these same insiders first wrecked the financial world, then cunningly granted themselves nearly unlimited emergency powers to clean up their own mess. And so the gambling-addict leaders of companies like AIG end up not penniless and in jail, but with an Alien-style death grip on the Treasury and the Federal Reserve — "our partners in the government," as Liddy put it with a shockingly casual matter-of-factness after the most recent bailout.

The mistake most people make in looking at the financial crisis is thinking of it in terms of money, a habit that might lead you to look at the unfolding mess as a huge bonus-killing downer for the Wall Street class. But if you look at it in purely Machiavellian terms, what you see is a colossal power grab that threatens to turn the federal government into a kind of giant Enron — a huge, impenetrable black box filled with self-dealing insiders whose scheme is the securing of individual profits at the expense of an ocean of unwitting involuntary shareholders, previously known as taxpayers.

From NYT, 3/29/09 (more at the link):
Mercy James thought she had lost her rental property here to foreclosure. A date for a sheriff’s sale had been set, and notices about the foreclosure process were piling up in her mailbox.

Ms. James had the tenants move out, and soon her white house at the corner of Thomas and Maple Streets fell into the hands of looters and vandals, and then, into disrepair. Dejected and broke, Ms. James said she salvaged but a lesson from her loss.

So imagine her surprise when the City of South Bend contacted her recently, demanding that she resume maintenance on the property. The sheriff’s sale had been canceled at the last minute, leaving the property title — and a world of trouble — in her name.

“I thought, ‘What kind of game is this?’ ” Ms. James, 41, said while picking at trash at the house, now so worthless the city plans to demolish it — another bill for which she will be liable.

From Information Clearing House, 3/30/09, citing The Wall Street Journal and WaPo (much more at the link): "If Obama is serious about restoring confidence in the markets, he should replace current SEC chief Mary Schapiro with Eliot Spitzer." If Obama were serious, that is.

The lesson to me is, we ALL need to start working a lot harder to understand what's being done to us.

March 30, 2009

A Few Items from the Current DU T-Shirt Contest

(here) ("DU" =


Nice post, Freeper.
[I mean . . . that's my entry.]

Something about narwhals. Maybe something like "NARWHALS RRRRAAAAAWWWWWWRRRRRR."

'What's that?' (pic of DU/brain). 'That's the brain cells you're saving with DU.'

Democratic Underground: Where Stoners and Gun Nuts Coexist Happily (most of the time).

Girls, Guns, Gays, and Government Spies -- all at DU.

Republicans: Bugs on the Windshield of Progress.

Democratic Underground: The Letters in Our Name Can Be Rearranged to Spell, 'Red Ground - A Comedic Turn.'

We're Democrats Because the Letters in 'Republican Party' Can Be Rearranged to Spell, 'Prepay Lubricant.'

PAUL KURGMAN [sic] IS A PASTY [followed by pic of a past

DU: Casting Asparagus on Morans Since 2001

DU: Where Sinners Post Logic

DU: We've Told You So Since 2001

DU: Now with Even More Democracy!

DU: You probably Won't Like Our Hair

DU: You Can't Not Look at It

Peace: Not just for Hippies Anymore

My mother spends all her time on Democratic Underground . . . and all I get is this crappy t-shirt.

DU: Because You
Can Handle Reality.

We Come to Bury Conservative Idiots, Not to Praise Them.

The truth awaits you.

March 29, 2009

New Robot with Biological Brain

Per Seed,

"Life [for Kevin] Warwick’s new robot began when his team at the University of Reading spread rat neurons onto an array of electrodes. After about 20 minutes, the neurons began to form connections with one another. 'It’s an innate response of the neurons,' says Warwick, 'they try to link up and start communicating.'

"For the next week the team fed the developing brain a liquid containing nutrients and minerals. And once the neurons established a network sufficiently capable of responding to electrical inputs from the electrode array, they connected the newly formed brain to a simple robot body consisting of two wheels and a sonar sensor.


"At first, the young robot spent a lot of time crashing into things. But after a few weeks of practice, its performance began to improve as the connections between the active neurons in its brain strengthened."

Big Brothers Are Watching You

Per The New York Times,

"A vast electronic spying operation has infiltrated [at least 1,295 computers in 103 countries] and has stolen documents from hundreds of government and private offices around the world . . . .

"R]esearchers said that the system was being controlled from computers based almost exclusively in China, but that they could not say conclusively that the Chinese government was involved [because, as one of the researchers commented, 'this could well be the C.I.A. or the Russians.'] . . .

"Intelligence analysts say many governments, including those of China, Russia and the United States, and other parties use sophisticated computer programs to covertly gather information. . . .

"The malware . . . has not been merely “phishing” for random consumers’ information, but “whaling” for particular important targets . . . [and it] can, for example, turn on the camera and audio-recording functions of an infected computer, enabling monitors to see and hear what goes on in a room. . . ."

March 27, 2009

Still Think We Don't Need Paper Ballots?

By Greg Gordon | McClatchy Newspapers:

"WASHINGTON — The CIA, which has been monitoring foreign countries' use of electronic voting systems, has reported apparent vote-rigging schemes in Venezuela, Macedonia and Ukraine and a raft of concerns about the machines' vulnerability to tampering.


"In a presentation that could provide disturbing lessons for the United States, where electronic voting is becoming universal, Steve Stigall summarized what he described as attempts to use computers to undermine democratic elections in developing nations. His remarks have received no news media attention until now.

"Stigall told the Election Assistance Commission, a tiny agency that Congress created in 2002 to modernize U.S. voting, that computerized electoral systems can be manipulated at five stages, from altering voter registration lists to posting results.


"Stigall said that voting equipment connected to the Internet could be hacked, and machines that weren't connected could be compromised wirelessly. Eleven U.S. states have banned or limited wireless capability in voting equipment, but Stigall said that election officials didn't always know it when wireless cards were embedded in their machines."
(Emphasis supplied. More at McClatchy, one of the few decent print sources left.)

UPDATE: You can find an updated analysis of the stats from the last few national elections here.

March 24, 2009

Texas: the Other Canada?

Many don't realize, there actually is some cool stuff from TX (such as Southwest Airlines -- and remember, the Bushes are fake Texans).

A few more cool people, places, things from or that started (or got revived first) in Texas: Janis Joplin, Ornette Coleman, Barry White, Leadbelly, Michael Nesmith, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Buddy Holly, Willie Nelson, Roy Orbison, Buck Owens, Lyle Lovett, Meat Loaf, Dale Evans, ZZ Top (ok; but they're cool ironically), Wes Anderson, Owen Wilson, Luke Wilson, Richard Linklater, Farrah Fawcett, Tommy Lee Jones, Sissy Spacek, Ethan Hawke, Joan Crawford, Steve Martin, Tex Avery, Terrence Malick, Alvin Ailey, Molly Ivins, Ann Richards (can't resist including this quote from her speech at the '88 Dem. Nat'l Convention re- Bush Sr., just in case anyone hasn't had the pleasure: "Poor George, he can't help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth."), Walter Cronkite, Jim Lehrer, Katherine Anne Porter, Gene Roddenberry, the Dallas Video Festival, SXSW, and/or gallery, the Webb Gallery, Cadillac Ranch, regional theater (thanks to Margo Jones), Undermain Theatre, Julian Schnabel, Robert Rauschenberg, Donald Judd, James Magee, James Surls, Vernon Fisher, Good/Bad Art Collective, Erick Swenson, The Art Guys, Robyn O'Neil, Trenton Doyle Hancock, lots of other cool artists and galleries, the Rollergirl revival (see the Texas Rollergirls), Kitty Wigs, the silicon-based integrated circuit, the microprocessor, Whole Foods, Austin ("more music venues per capita than any other U.S. city"), Chinati, chicken-fried bacon, fine tex-mex dining, and Big Tex!

List by no means complete; still, not bad for a state that's big but still pretty sparsely-populated.

March 23, 2009

Another NASA F-up (Not):

Per MSNBC, "NASA's online contest to name a new room at the international space station went awry. . . . The name 'Colbert' beat out NASA's four suggested options in the space agency's effort to have the public help name the addition. . . . NASA's mistake was allowing write-ins. . . . [The 230,539 votes for Colbert] clobbered 'Serenity,' one of the NASA choices, by more than 40,000 votes. . . ."

Any chance NASA secretly wanted Colbert to win? He certainly contributes to my serenity.

More at the link.

March 22, 2009

GREAT Article on AIG and the Bail-Out

in Rolling Stone.

(Seems like they and The New Yorker are among the few print media left in the U.S. doing real journalism anymore. Wonder if they're suffering as much as the print media owned/eviscerated by conservatives {i.e., most of the rest})?

Big Art Group's New Production, "SOS"

Absolutely brilliant.

The group's description says, "[t]his latest project explores futureness, survivalism, revolutionary movements, and contemporary rituals, examining the notion of sacrifice to make space for a new beginning within a supersaturated, hyper-acquisitive society. . . . A multi-camera and multi-screen set creates a nexus of environments that eventually . . . [transform] the stage into a celebration of chaos verging toward the freedom of annihilation."

The show opens with a bunch of human plushies with cameras strapped to their chests having a panic attack in a dark "forest." The photo shows part of what was left of the set after the show ended.

The use of technology was dazzling; the acting and writing were terrific, too. More about Big Art Group here.

At The Kitchen (NYC) through March 28.

March 21, 2009

Ongoing Consolidation of Organics in the Hands of Big Business

Great charts etc. here. Via HuffPo.

Could We PLEASE Get this Straight Re- AIG:


Ok, the bonuses are bad; but they're the LEAST of the problems with what's going on.

AIG is insolvent; it lacks assets or income sufficient to pay off its obligations to its existing creditors.

When you or I get into this situation, if we fail to file bankruptcy, our creditors can force us into it, to provide for an orderly liquidation of our assets and debts. We have to fully disclose all of both. Our assets are sold on terms reasonable under current conditions, and the proceeds are divided fairly among our creditors -- i.e., none of the unsecured creditors get 100% on the dollar owed them, but they all get the same percent -- there's no favoritism.

AND, if you or I get into this situation, NO new creditors come along to give us yet more money. New creditors are on notice that we're insolvent and, guess what, they don't lend us any more money! Our existing creditors can give us more or less time to try to work things out; but ultimately, THEY bear the brunt of their original and/or subsequently mistaken judgments -- not new creditors.

This is what should happen to AIG.

Instead, AIG is NOT in bankruptcy, because its existing creditors would like us taxpayers to step in as new creditors and throw enough new, bailout money into AIG so the existing creditors won't actually have to suffer any losses -- WE will be the losers, instead of them.

So, that's where our tax money's going: to save AIG's existing creditors from the consequences of their mistakes in acquiring debt obligations of AIG. THAT is what is happening right now.

The bonuses are TRIVIAL compared to the amounts being paid to AIG's existing creditors.

AIG is just a conduit. The real robbers are its creditors, Goldman Sachs -- surprise! -- being one of the biggest.

As usual, Elliott Spitzer's nailing it:

The Real AIG Scandal
It's not the bonuses. It's that AIG's counterparties are getting paid back in full.
By Eliot Spitzer Posted Tuesday, March 17, 2009, at 10:41 AM ET

Everybody is rushing to condemn AIG's bonuses, but this simple scandal is obscuring the real disgrace at the insurance giant: Why are AIG's counterparties getting paid back in full, to the tune of tens of billions of taxpayer dollars?

For the answer to this question, we need to go back to the very first decision to bail out AIG, made, we are told, by then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, then-New York Fed official Timothy Geithner, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke last fall. Post-Lehman's collapse, they feared a systemic failure could be triggered by AIG's inability to pay the counterparties to all the sophisticated instruments AIG had sold. And who were AIG's trading partners? No shock here: Goldman, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, UBS, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank, Barclays, and on it goes. So now we know for sure what we already surmised: The AIG bailout has been a way to hide an enormous second round of cash to the same group that had received TARP money already.

It all appears, once again, to be the same insiders protecting themselves against sharing the pain and risk of their own bad adventure. The payments to AIG's counterparties are justified with an appeal to the sanctity of contract. If AIG's contracts turned out to be shaky, the theory goes, then the whole edifice of the financial system would collapse.

But wait a moment, aren't we in the midst of reopening contracts all over the place to share the burden of this crisis? From raising taxes—income taxes to sales taxes—to properly reopening labor contracts, we are all being asked to pitch in and carry our share of the burden. Workers around the country are being asked to take pay cuts and accept shorter work weeks so that colleagues won't be laid off. Why can't Wall Street royalty shoulder some of the burden? Why did Goldman have to get back 100 cents on the dollar? Didn't we already give Goldman a $25 billion capital infusion, and aren't they sitting on more than $100 billion in cash? Haven't we been told recently that they are beginning to come back to fiscal stability? If that is so, couldn't they have accepted a discount, and couldn't they have agreed to certain conditions before the AIG dollars—that is, our dollars—flowed?
More at; see also Newsday.

The bonuses are just a diversion.

Trends in Works Shown at the 2009 NY Art Fairs

Not necessarily deep observations, just hastily-noted, over-simplified trends -- some old, some not so old -- and partly informed by art I've seen elsewhere. My original posts on the fairs are here: Armory (more pics and vidis starting here), Pulse (more pics and vidis starting here), Scope (more pics and vidis starting here), Volta (more pics and vidis starting here) (all visuals were shot by me with the permission of the galleries).

I should perhaps mention I was somewhat disappointed not to see even more work that was media-based and/or dealt with the grittier media or technology-related concerns (e.g., re- how our relationships and mentation are being affected -- seriously -- by our immersion in new technologies, or re- our dependence on the "Cloud" and the power thus ceded to online facilities over which we have no meaningful control); and although the influence of tech visuals was pervasive, I don't recall any work I'd actually call 'net- or even computer-based {although Jon Kessler may have had a computer running his wonderfully gonzo contraption?}). Of course, fact of our capitalist life, the galleries sometimes have to show what they think they can sell.

That said, on to what I did see.

Maybe it's just me, but after living for eight years under an administration with no apparent regard for history, science, or reality in general, I'm seeing a desire among artists to recall our attention to all of the foregoing.

The artistic project is, of course, not just to retrieve lost knowledge, though that alone is valuable, but -- potentially more exciting and more fun -- to translate the all-but-lost into the present.

One term I'll use below is "nostalgia," but what I mean is really broader. It is NOT an uncritical sentimentality toward "the good old days," although it may involve an appreciation of something we're on the brink of losing. It's rather a concern to critically understand just exactly what it is that we stand to lose -- what media, what modes of expressing meanings that perhaps cannot be precisely and fully expressed any other way, and hence what bodies of knowledge.

All of the works referred to below utilize multiple strategies and could be categorized in any number of ways. And as I've mentioned elsewhere, except as specifically noted, pls don't infer any judgment from inclusions or omissions -- there was stuff I just didn't get to, and stuff I include below mainly to illustrate a point.

Clicking on an artist's name below will bring you to an image of the piece I have in mind. There may be additional pics or vidis of the piece linked to; click "next" and "previous" for more. Again, sincerest apologies for instances in which I failed to get the artist's name; again, any comments supplying the missing info will be much appreciated.

History: Importing/Transforming the Past into the Present.

Whose version of history, whose curation of what should be remembered and how, gets airtime/linked to? For me, one of the most interesting recent art works concerned with history is Matthew Barney's Drawing Restraint 13 (seen elsewhere). Barney, meticulously impersonating General Douglas MacArthur, presented a scene reminiscent of two critical moments in WWII, both of which were carefully staged and documented by MacArthur to begin with. Barney's version of these scenes differs from MacArthur's productions in important ways, however, with the result that his importation of the past into the present transforms our understanding of both. (More on DR 13 here; see also Barney's DR site.)

Other artists also seem concerned to explore connections to historically important people, events, or bodies of knowledge and to translate them into the present. Seen at these fairs:

In Laurina Paperina's animated cartoons, contemporary art stars are squared off against greats from the past, to the detriment of the latter (fun!)
R. Luke DuBois's "State of the Union address" tag clouds-cum-eye exam charts. (I can't help but wonder whether artists would feel less motivated to do work like this {or Mark Lombardi's!} if journalists et al. were fulfilling their proper function.)
Nicholas & Sheila Pye's photographs look like escapees from an Old Master's painting, grittily yet lusciously de-idealized.
Debbie Han's images of eerily-neo- Greco-Roman statues.
In a painting by Gino Rupert, a Paris Hilton-type meets Photoshop meets Medieval art, on location with palm trees.
Vik Muniz translates group photos from the past into a chocolate-y present.
Work shown here (sorry I don't have the artist's name): "grocery store"-style signage featuring quotes from Hippocrates, Bertrand Russell, Bertolt Brecht, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Oscar Wilde et al.
Enoc Perez's "Flash Forward" screenprint of a vintage Pan American Airlines terminal.
Nostalgia for Old Media (Including Words).

"The medium is the message": an (extremely useful) over-simplification (by Marshall McLuhan; some great video of him here).

Artists have always known the distinction between form and content is specious: it's simply impossible to express the exact same content in any one medium fully and perfectly in another.

This perhaps partly explains why artists are so often not only the first to explore new media but also the last to forsake media abandoned by everyone else -- there are still artists hand-illuminating texts, hand-weaving, spinning vinyl, deploying pinhole cameras, etc. etc. No surprise, then, that no sooner was the death of print foreseen than artists began exploring what, exactly, we might be losing.
Nostalgia for Words, Books, Newsprint, Magazines:
I hesitate to include Jenny Holzer here, since her use of words is so obviously so very complex; but certainly it involves an appreciation of what can be done with them that cannot be accomplished by other means. (Similar concerns re- my own over-simplification pertain throughout this post.)
Airan Kang's electrified "books" -- how did he select the titles? (Who'll get to select which ones we read in school, translate into electronic or other media -- will "controversial" material be included?) (This could definitely go into the "History" section above.)
Alina and Jeff Bliumis's portable library of foam-and-acrylic-fabricated "books" installed and photographed in a series of locations.
The Center for Tactical Magic's book containing nothing but hundreds of Tables of Contents from other books on magic.
Dmitry Gutov's painterly transcriptions of Marxian truisms.
Fahamu Pecou's simulated magazine covers featuring himself.
Gordon Cheung's painting on newsprint stock market reports -- although I think he may have done so mainly for other purposes.

Nostalgia for Painting:
Sabine Dehnel's use of old paintings as an element in photographs (this work could definitely go into the previous section on History).
Yum Joongho uses video to transform what looks like traditional asian painting or writing into a moving, real-time landscape encompassing viewers.

Nostalgia for Handwriting:
Michael Waugh's paintings consisting of handwriting (you probably have to like handwriting to make this work).

Nostalgia for Old T.V.:
Erica Eyres' Male Epidemic (which gets even funnier after my clip ends).
Simulating Simulations . . .

i.e., one or more media masquerading as one or more others, exploring, among other things, how new media are affecting our perception and cognition:
Jasper de Beljer's re-photographed cut-and-pasted photographs (sort of like Oliver Herring's work, only 2-D. {B.t.w., I have to mention, at first the visual impact of Herring's sculptures seemed to me so stunning that I wasn't sure their substance could live up; but judging from the myriad references and implications seen in other artists' work, his work clearly has been very important.})
Vik Muniz's re-photographed paper cut-outs (the same artist who used chocolate sauce to simulated old photos).
Patrick Hamilton's actual collage masquerading as a photoshopped photo.
Mike Bayne's highly photo-realistic paintings.
. . . Including Some Especially Obvious or Deliberately "Bad"

Now that our ability to fake reality is virtually complete, obvious fakes seem more "real," at least initially:
Lossy Data Lab's laptop and other machines made of cardboard. But their work was also relational: visitors were invited to complete a survey (the attending scientists' analysis of my answers indicated the presence of lossy data, described as both good and bad).
Work shown here: hand-drawn screengrab of YouTube video, "How Not to Be Seen."
Francisco Valdez's painting of a video still of a "Star Wars" helmet.
Dasha Shishkin's painted-on wallpaper. Several artists made enjoyable wallpapers, presumably using Photoshop or the like; Shishkin took real or fabricated wallpaper and added hand-painted modifications -- I'm hoping partly as a comment on the other, computer-fabricated wallpapers.
Consumerism vs. DIY.
Amanda Ross-Ho's quilted Pregnant Again! and Again! and Again!
John Bock here and esp. here.
Ryan McGinley's Hi 5 on 5.
Tanja Boukal's trompe l'oeil knitted couch throw.
Among other examples; with Liliana Porter's teeny knitter of a mountain of blue knitting offering a possible last word.
Environmental Concerns: Nostalgia for Earth as We've Known It, and Animals Are People Too --

or at least, they can't stop us from anthropomorphizing them.
Olaf Breuning. (I'll probably regret mentioning, this piece was a little too dogmatic or whatever for me.)
Gimhonsok's big, reclining bunny.
Work shown here (I've called this, "enough with the deer"; but then, sometimes I'm done too soon).
Fu Jijang's clay critters.
(There were additional pieces evincing environmental concerns, some of which may be referred to in other categories in this post.)
Some Notables in the Race to Re-Purpose Media.
Tom Molloy modified a screengrab of Google Images search results on "mohammed" by cutting out M.'s image.
Irene Presner's tattoo gunning-cum-flocking in a "wallpaper" design features Casper the Friendly Ghost.
Taro Izumi used paint to fuel "rocket"-propulsion.
Fernando Mastrangelo: well-lit cocaine glows! (some of you knew that).
Some Personal Faves that Might or Might Not Have Fit into the Foregoing Categories:
William Pope.L's amazing pseudo-sauvage assemblage totally deserves in-depth study.
Michael Joaquin Grey's "Self Organizing System: Artificial Muscle Contraction" of the proteins actin and myosin inside a test tube, shot with micro video." (I was sorry not to see more work actually utilizing bio-tech.) More of his work at bitforms gallery.
Jon Kessler's contraption demonstrating, among other things, how little technology it takes to fool us.
The fun and funny, relational project, Lossy Data Lab; see discussion, with link to pics, here.
Alex Rose's amazing collages (lots of pics in "previous" and "next," though none do the work justice).
I also loved pretty much everything in the Parkett booth, John Bock's sculptures, Ryan McGinley's work, Jim Campbell's work, Gino Rupert's paintings, Li Wenqiang's work, Nicholas & Sheila Pye's work (yummy), Zhou Jun's painting, EVOL's paintings on corrugated cardboard, and Alexandro Diaz's hilarious sculptures.
More NYC highlights of other kinds here.

March 20, 2009

Extreme Sheep Herding LED Art

The new flashmob:

(Thanks, Ben!)

Re- the Death of Journalism

Excellent article in The Nation, by John Nichols & Robert W. McChesney (much more at the link):

"Our founders never thought that freedom of the press would belong only to those who could afford a press. They would have been horrified at the notion that journalism should be regarded as the private preserve of the Rupert Murdochs and John Malones. The founders would not have entertained, let alone accepted, the current equation that seems to say that if rich people determine there is no good money to be made in the news, then society cannot have news . . . .

"The founders regarded the establishment of a press system, the Fourth Estate, as the first duty of the state. Jefferson and Madison devoted considerable energy to explaining the necessity of the press to a vibrant democracy. The government implemented extraordinary postal subsidies for the distribution of newspapers. It also instituted massive newspaper subsidies through printing contracts and the paid publication of government notices, all with the intent of expanding the number and variety of newspapers. When Tocqueville visited the United States in the 1830s he was struck by the quantity and quality of newspapers and periodicals compared with France, Canada and Britain. It was not an accident. It had little to do with 'free markets.' It was the result of public policy.

"Moreover, when the Supreme Court has taken up matters of freedom of the press, its majority opinions have argued strongly for the necessity of the press as the essential underpinning of our constitutional republic. First Amendment absolutist Hugo Black wrote that the 'Amendment rests on the assumption that the widest possible dissemination of information from diverse and antagonistic sources is essential to the welfare of the public, that a free press is a condition of a free society.' Black argued for the right and necessity of the government to counteract private monopolistic control over the media. More recently Justice Anthony Kennedy, a Reagan appointee, argued that 'assuring the public has access to a multiplicity of information sources is a governmental purpose of the highest order.'

"But government support for the press is not merely a matter of history or legal interpretation. Complaints about a government role in fostering journalism invariably overlook the fact that our contemporary media system is anything but an independent 'free market' institution. The government subsidies established by the founders did not end in the eighteenth--or even the nineteenth--century. Today the government doles out tens of billions of dollars in direct and indirect subsidies, including free and essentially permanent monopoly broadcast licenses, monopoly cable and satellite privileges, copyright protection and postal subsidies. (Indeed, this magazine has been working for the past few years with journals of the left and right to assure that those subsidies are available to all publications.) Because the subsidies mostly benefit the wealthy and powerful, they are rarely mentioned in the fictional account of an independent and feisty Fourth Estate. Both the rise and decline of commercial journalism can be attributed in part to government policies, which scrapped the regulations and ownership rules that had encouraged local broadcast journalism and allowed for lax regulation as well as tax deductions for advertising--policies that greatly increased news media revenues."

March 15, 2009

Stewart vs. Cramer

You've prolly seen it by now, but if not, you should, even if you think you probably know what they said.

Stewart: "When are we going to realize in this country that our wealth is WORK . . . ." (The wealthy have always known that -- that's why they've kept us working so hard.)

and "Maybe this is purely ridiculous, but I'm under the assumption that you don't just take their [Paulson's et al.'s] word at face value, that you actually then go around and try to figure it out."

and "So maybe we [you, Cramer] could remove the 'financial expert' and 'in Cramer we trust' and start getting back to fundamentals on the reporting as well, and I can go back to making fart noises . . . "

Warning, Comedy Central's interface is really annoying: no embed, and if you try to move the cursor any distance, you have to watch another commercial.

Stewart has single-handedly done a lot more of the media's and Congress's jobs than they have -- and they know it.

More of Jim Cramer here.

March 12, 2009

One-Eyed Filmmaker Conceals Camera in Prosthetic

"A one-eyed documentary filmmaker is preparing to work with a video camera concealed inside a prosthetic eye, hoping to secretly record people for a project commenting on the global spread of surveillance cameras.

"Canadian Rob Spence's eye was damaged in a childhood shooting accident and it was removed three years ago. Now, he is in the final stages of developing a camera to turn the handicap into an advantage.

* * * * *
"Spence said he plans to become a 'human surveillance machine' to explore privacy issues and whether people are 'sleepwalking into an Orwellian society.'

* * * * *
"His special equipment will consist of a camera, originally designed for colonoscopies, a battery and a wireless transmitter. It's a challenge to get everything to fit inside the prosthetic eye, but Spence has had help from top engineers . . . ."

More at

(Thanks, Ben + Danny!)

2009 Volta NY

More pics and vidis starting here.

As I understand, this show was curated based on the artists -- the curators first selected artists they wanted to include, then invited galleries to show those artists.

Alex Rose's collage-based work was knock-out; I took several pics starting here, but they don't come close to doing it justice.

What may not be obvious from my pics of the Tabula Magica (starting here) is that this very thick volume is filled exclusively with tables of contents of other volumes relating to magic. And the glowing, life-size figure in Fernando Mastrangelo's installation is, I take it, actually made of cocaine.

I also liked a lot of the other work including Troels Carlsen's.

I shot the t-shirt in honor of Misty and Brian!

Note the sign behind Alejandro Diaz's tortilla stand: "MARFA: 1,600 MILES." Finally, Erica Eyres' The Male Epidemic just gets funnier as it goes on from here.

I learned only on the last nite that Volta had curated video screenings every evening, at another location. I caught most of the last one; the pieces I saw were vintage and worthwhile and, I expect, were items that one doesn't often get the chance to see. I hope they'll do video programming again next year.

(B.t.w., in case you can't read it, the sign on Alejandro Diaz's birdcage says, "Lost our Lease.")

2009 Scope NY

More pics and vidis starting here. It didn't hurt that it was smaller, or that the first thing you saw when you walked in said, "Enough with the deer already." Or that they created a couple of goofy, lounge-y spaces (e.g.) where people actually seemed to want to hang out.

My personal experience was also enhanced by encountering the relational Lossy Data Lab (see also here; pics starting here), whose work was not only intelligent but really fun and funny. They had me fill out a questionnaire, on the basis of which their "computer" determined that there is "Lossy data present in [my] readings, which is both good and bad" – just as I feared. And The Poem Store (pics starting here), whose proprietor also offered art reviews; so I commissioned a review of the Lossy Data Lab. I thot his product was pretty fine considering he pounded it out on a 1970's (?) Japanese Olivetti knock-off while maintaining cogent conversation with a constant stream of customers (text of poem/art review reproduced below). Pls see the visuals at the links above for a fuller appreciation of these works.

I also liked the work of EVOL and of the artists at 798 Avant Gallery, among others. It's hard to tell from the pics, but EVOL's paintings are on ordinary corrugated cardboard using silver paint along with a spare palette of other colors; all the tan parts are just the cardboard showing through. Irene Presner's piece was created with a tattoo gun.

A certain pic at the first link above is included solely to doc. another artist inspired, shall we say, by Erick Swenson.

Here's the text of The Poem Store's review of the Lossy Data Lab (pls excuse, I can't reproduce the original format here, which is indented one space more at the beginning of each successive line; see pic here):

the lossy data lab makes
something of information
when given to people
as a return form
causal loop
of seems
for its
as visual
but assuredly
thorough and
confident even
in their sprawling
ambiguity and un
i think they
are more in line
with the future
of art as a
responsive public
on the
edge of
what anoil [sic]
to do about relational aesthetics

March 9, 2009

2009 Pulse; Plus New Beecroft at Deitch, and Eyebeam

More pics and vidis starting here.

I began the day at Art in General, where Sandra Skurvida gave a helpful and thought-provoking talk about the show she curated there, Custom Car Commandos (unfortunately now closed, and yes, tipping the hat to Kenneth Anger's Kustom Kar Kommandos showing at P.S. 1 through September 14, 2009). Angie Waller's piece was pretty hilarious, and I esp. liked Lars Mathison's.

I enjoyed the first piece I encountered at Pulse, by Eyebeam alum R. Luke DuBois; he'd made something like "tag clouds" for each of the U.S. Prez's based on their State of the Union speeches, laid out like eye exam charts. (Reminded me of a John Cheever Wapshot tale, in which a the protagonist plugs the complete works of Shakespeare into a program that spits out a list of words in order of most frequent use, which list itself turns out in the Bard's case to constitute a sonnet.) DuBois's results are evocative and sometimes ironic: Washington appealed to our higher selves as "Gentlemen"; Nixon's most-used word was "truly."

I really liked Airan Kang's "illuminated" books -- his and the Bliumis' works evince a trend I'll maybe call nostalgia for old media, including words; Gino Rupert's work; Michael Joaquin Grey's work (starting here); Li Wenqiang's work. And, fellow M.B. fans, don't miss Laurina Paperina's Joseph Kosuth versus Matthew Barney (Barney wins)!

One thing that sounded like a good idea but didn't really work in the setting was Pulse Play: curator Marina Fokidis invited various artists to select their own fave YouTube videos. While the list is appreciated and I hope to explore it, who's going to sit there and watch a faded projection during fair hours when they can see the same quality or better at 4 a.m. in the comfort of my own home.

Also at Pulse, ran into artist Fahamu Pecou (his work was being shown there by Lyons Wirr Ortt, NYC; I originally met him at his Dallas, TX gallery, Conduit) -- thanks for encouraging me to go to everything, Fahamu! Not that I need much pushing.

I left Pulse to catch the new Vanessa Beecroft performance/sculpture at Deitch Projects (see here).

Next, the MIXER performance(s) and party at Eyebeam; and as I go thru the pics and vidis (starting here), I'm pretty knocked out at the talent and effort that went into creating this event. Eyebeam has always been among the most worthwhile destinations for me, and a lot of people deserve a lot of credit.

Re- Mark Shepard: I had to include that vidi, which isn't much, but: he created the umbrellas as part of his project, called Hertzian Rain, and as I understand, the deal was, they were covered with a (radio?-) wave-resistant fabric, and waves were being transmitted from different points in the building, and as you walked around under an umbrella, depending the angle you held it and your location, different sources would come through or be cut out. For more on the performers and attractions, see here.

Eyebeam will welcome new residents 3-26 at 6PM; I will be there.

2009 Armory Show

This is the first in a series of posts re- the art fairs in NYC. Please see disclaimers in the side bar at left.

More pics and vidis starting here. Because of time constraints, I only went to Pier 94.

A few of my faves at Armory were the Parkett editions (starting here), the Ryan McGinley pieces, the William Pope.L [sic] piece (starting here), and the Jon Kessler piece (starting here). I was also glad to get to see some John Bock sculptures (here and elsewhere; also see my previous post and search the page for "Bock").

I shot Pregnant Again! and some other crafty pieces partly for you, snarky! Although I also liked them. And Pan Am for you, Cris! Although I liked it, too.

I hope to discuss various trends or themes in a separate post (after I finish compressing and uploading all the pics and vidis from Pulse, Eyebeam, Scope, and Volta).

March 7, 2009

Vanessa Beecroft at Deitch Projects

As mentioned, I'm in NYC for a month. Below is a Vanessa Beecroft performance/sculpture that opened at Deitch Projects last nite (click on the image for a larger version) -- I understand it's her first in 8 years.

The super-white figures are cast sculptures; the not-so-white ones are people. There were about 20 of each in this room. They just lay there with their eyes closed, then gradually a few opened their eyes. As you can see, the figures are in various poses suggesting greater or lesser comfort with their nudity. One oddity was that most of the cast figures seemed to have been created with something under their heads, so that, unlike the life figures, the cast heads were a few inches off the floor. In the other room, there were about 8 similar, black figures -- no live people -- lined up on a simple table.

The big art fairs are in town -- Armory, Pulse, Scope, and a new one called Volt NY -- so there's lots going on and I'm having a great time and shooting lots of pics and movies, which I'll blog as soon as I have the chance. I just picked this piece out to post 'cuz I figured my sig. other would like it. (Click on the pic to enlarge.)

March 3, 2009

Sabbatical . . .

or 40 days in the wilderness? Whatever; I got offered a deal on a month-long sublet near NYC. Wi-fi supplied, but I'm not sure how fast, or how much time I'll feel like sitting around the apt. blogging. So posts may be a bit sparse for a few weeks.

Don't give up on me. For one thing, I've been invited to write about work at the Fusebox Festival in Austin – and not only will I get to see stuff for free, but they're paying my expenses!

Fusebox runs Thur., April 23 - Sat., May 2. The Austin Chronical has a good article about last year's fest. See Fusebox for details about the works shown at right.