March 31, 2012

Worst Album Covers of All Time

. . . or greatest? It was really hard to pick one to show you; you've got to go to the site.

March 30, 2012

Spring/Break Art Show (NYC Armory Week)

Spring/Break Art Show was a new, curator-driven "this can be a fair," located in Old School, NoLIta and featuring projects by 23 curators; and it may have been my favorite of the shows I saw during Armory week. Among the curators were the fair's founders Andrew Gori and Ambre Kelly, Natalie Kovacs, Patrick Meagher, Eve Sussman, and Chen Tamir. The theme was "Apocalist: A Brief History of The End." The show also has a Facebook page with some photos here; Artinfo has an article with some good photos; Vernissage TV has a 6.5-min. video tour here; and my photos, such as they are, are here.

As usual, I'd have liked to have had more time here – everything I saw seemed to warrant it – but the evening ran out before I made it through the whole thing. Out of the works I saw, some faves were:

1. An installation featuring work by Eve Sussman – the labelling was a bit confusing to me, so I'll quote it: "Eve Sussman, Waiting for an Icon, 2012. Crazy Daisy, 2012, 3 channel site-specific video round with Patricia Thornley, Jeesu Kim, Leslie Thornton, Bat Or Kalo. Eve Sussman's site-specific work at Old School is inspired by a stained glass artwork she has brought back to life, animating it with the projections of several singers attempting the title song from the film Pull My Daisy. The musical rendition of the Neal Cassidy [sic], Allen Ginsberg, and Jack Kerouac poem was featured in Robert Frank and Alfred Leslie's 1959 film." You can view the 26-min., classic Pull My Daisy at Ubuweb; the title song lyrics actually modify those of the poem; both are weird and suggestive; and the melody is wonderfully discombobulating and, I'd say, hard to sing. Sussman's projection onto stained glass was flanked on each side by projections of video'd windows through which you sometimes spied a young woman, apparently washing dishes or the like – the "glass" was frosted, except for a circle framing the young woman's head (see here for the layout).

2. Sp33dGuided Art Tour by Dora Budor + Maja Cule was a charming, thoughtfully goofy, iPhone-narrated tour with guide and guidee cuddled awkwardly on one Segway, purportedly touring the art in the show but in fact limited to the courtyard and an attempted trip around the block, although in my case we turned back after a close call involving a tree root and a fence. The artists explained they'd always wanted to try a Segway; me, too! The tour launched from a room featuring twin projections of Earth, positioned like views through a pair of binocs, except the planet spun differently in the two views; but I think this was a separate work.

3. In Sea of Fire by Fall on Your Sword (2012), an antique piano had been hooked up to video equipment in such a way that, in its default mode, the video showed one of those fake statue guys dressed up like the Statue of Liberty; but when you pressed one of the organ keys, this was interrupted by a clip from a disaster movie, with each key seemingly triggering the destruction of the Statue by a different, apocalyptic means – bombing, a tidal wave, alien invasion, etc. It was, simply, awesome. Trailer here; but it's nothing like being able to trigger a Liberty-annihilating tsunami with a key stroke.
I also saw a piece in which purported art objects were incorporated into an improvisational, audience-participatory art performance, which was a lots of fun; apologies that I can't say who deserves credit, except I think it may have been hosted by ArtLog? (I've requested more info and will update this if I get it.)

(Posts on other 2012 Armory week art shows here; three more to come.)

Wind Map

The still at right is from Mar. 21, 2012. Here's a real-time animation of the wind as of right now.

March 28, 2012

Last night

. . . I had a dream suggesting that the world is a computer and my art projects are software for it.

March 27, 2012

Find a Non-Violent Action Training Event Near You

One concern w.r.t. activist efforts during the last few years is that it seems that few of us fully understand just what our rights of free speech and peaceable assembly really include and what to say or do when others try to stop us from exercising them. Also, how could those rights be affected by recent legislation (see, e.g., this, this, or this)?

I personally believe that, the more people who understand the answers to these questions, the better off we'll all be. I hope to receive answers at one of the events being organized per the following from National People's Action, re- an effort called the "99% Spring":

During the week of April 9-15, in small towns and big cities all across America, 100,000 people will come together for an unprecedented national nonviolent, direct action training. We'll learn to tell the story of our economy and what went wrong; we'll learn the history of nonviolent direct action; and, we'll learn how we can take action and create great change in this country.
You can find a training event near you, here.

This is a coordinated effort by, among others: Jobs With Justice, United Auto Workers, National Peoples Action, National Domestic Workers Alliance, Civic Action, New Organizing Institute, Movement Strategy Center, The Other 98%, Service Employees International Union, Rebuild the Dream, UNITE-HERE, Greenpeace, Institute for Policy Studies, United Steel Workers, Working Families Party, Communications Workers of America, United States Student Association, Rainforest Action Network, American Federation of Teachers, Leadership Center for the Common Good, UNITY, National Guestworker Alliance,, The Ruckus Society, Citizen Engagement Lab, smartMeme Strategy & Training Project, Right to the City Alliance, Pushback Network, Progressive Democrats of America, Change to Win, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, Campaign for America’s Future, Fuse Washington, National Day Laborers Organizing Network, Alliance for a Just Society, The Partnership for Working Families, United Students Against Sweatshops, etc.

UPDATE: Here's a helpful article on the origins of this effort. Here's an article expressing reservations about the effort (based on the fact that its statements omit any objection to the US wars in the Middle East).

FURTHER UPDATE: I just learned that Noam Chomsky has endorsed the 99% Spring coalition .

(Note, 99% Spring is separate from but apparently congruent with other Occupiers' May 1st General Strike.)

March 21, 2012

NASA Video of Solar Flare March 7

"The sun erupted with one of the largest solar flares of this solar cycle on March 6, 2012 at 7PM EST. This flare was categorized as an X5.4, making it the second largest flare . . . since the sun’s activity segued into a period of relatively low activity called solar minimum in early 2007."

The grid did not fry, this time. More info re- the flare at NASA.


This exhibition of works by DFW-area MFA candidates took place in an interesting old warehouse property at 500 Singleton in Dallas during the weekend of the "Bridge-O-Rama" Peggy Hill Bridge celebrations. The show was organized by Stephen Lapthisophon; more details at the FaceBook page for the event or at its website, 500WEST.

I shot these photos right before leaving town and unfortunately didn't include much labelling; my recollection is that maybe it was a little harder to find than usual? Sorry about that. Given what I take to have been part of the exhibition's premise of working with and responding to an existing building or place with its own character, however, it was in fact satisfying to explore the show the way you would any other place, rather than as a series of discretely identified sub-experiences.

Maybe 2/3 of the way through the show, the power went out; so, starting with P1130029.JPG (red spray-painted graffiti on a white-panelled wall), there was no light other than my camera flash or natural light.

I greatly enjoyed the allure and complexity of the piece that starts here – the piece started calling you as soon as you stepped into the building. Once you found it, it was just dam' beautiful, with lots of intriguing components. To start, what was the salt-white powder on the floor? And I liked the slyly humorous suggestion of a little old t.v. skidding to a stop with the aid of braking parachutes, like a race car or the batmobile – also implicating the velocity with which t.v.'s transmissions enter our minds, often bypassing our critical faculties to a greater degree than, say, the contents of texts (see, e.g., here). All this kept me in the room long enough to discover the aperture revealing the small painting of a cat (Schrödinger’s?), sleeping or dead, in a small, painted room very like the room in which the t.v. sat, all configured in an arrangement not unlike a diorama – was the cat run over, or dreamed, by the t.v.? or is the t.v. the dream of the cat? or did the painting represent a history or future of the room to which it was attached, or an alternate reality? is this reality semi-fractal? Among many other intriguing details and possibilities. Unfortunately, the audio was a bit unclear for me, and I never managed to decipher just what it was calling. (UPDATE: I've been informed by Randall Garrett that this installation was by Jeff Gibbons – thanks!) (FURTHER UPDATE: Jeff's told me that the audio says, "The sun will come out . . . "; more in his comment below.)

I also enjoyed the piece that starts here (in the first photo, the actual piece starts to the right of the white door) – I appreciated the combination of references to the art of meditation and the ultra-orderly science of math, and the chaos and aesthetic appeal of deterioration and trash; and I especially liked the way the audio both surprised me and drew me around the far edge into a dark corner with small light sources and more, not-fully-visible detritus – with an implication that maybe this nook was the most important part of the installation; yet you weren't sure what if anything much were there. (UPDATE: I've been informed by Ali Starr that this piece was by Matt Heller – thanks!)

And there were other fine works. This seems as good a time as any to mention that Lapthisophon has organized a pretty long series of pretty terrific exhibitions lately, and to say thanks! and that I hope he and his collaborators will keep doing interesting things here.

March 20, 2012

Moving Image Fair

Dedicated to video art, this fair was co-founded by Murat Orozobekov and Edward Winkleman. My photos here. Art Fag City has collected 7 of the vidis here, full-length though compressed; and Hypoallergic has a helpful review of this and the Independent Fair here (I expect to add a post on the Independent here soon).

Moving Image included works by 31 artists, some very well-established. As a videophile, I'd have been happy to see much more; but with so many fairs and so little time, I spent only the better part of one day there, and wished I could have stayed longer.

I was intrigued by Daniel Phillips' River Street (2012), three projections onto three large, suspended concrete slabs, shot in the vicinity of an abandon elevator tower that became his studio for the duration, and glad to see Martha Wilson's now-iconic "worst fear" in the virtual flesh, I have become my own worst fear/ Deformation (2009/1974). I'm always interested to see Valie Export's work, and her Ein Perfektes Paar oder die Unzucht wechselt ihre Haut/A Perfect Couple, or Indecency Sheds Its Skin (1986) was, among other things, a blast from her prescient past. Alex Prager's exquisitely, absurdly cinematic Despair (2010) seemed to allude to persistent dilemmas re- femininity. AES+F's Allegoria Sacra (2011) was exquisite, as was the work I saw in Venice, Last Riot (2007; see visuals starting here), hypnotically slo-mo yet possibly even more visually riveting; and I very much liked Kate Gilmore's Built to Burst and Julia Kul's Passport Reading.

I regret not getting photos of Jaan Toomik's three works, in which: (1) a man hanging from a rope strung high between two trees plunges to and through the grass beneath him; (2) a man in a wheelchair rolls himself along the bottom of a full swimming pool (Seagulls (2004)); and (3) a naked man, his genitals tethered by a rope to a stake in a muddy field, circles the stake, facing outward, with his genitals pulled backward between his legs, with apparent strain.

And there were many other fine works, mostly installed reasonably well, which is a challenge for most video exhibitors; I look forward to future iterations of this fair. I just wish it were up longer . . . perhaps the organizers should consider that, if Moving Image opened a few days before the other fairs, it could have us almost to itself on Monday and Tuesday, when so many other art venues are closed.

For my posts on other fairs or exhibitions seen in NYC during Armory week, see here (5 down, 4 more to go).

March 19, 2012

Useful Wikileaks Links

My left sidebar's getting too cluttered, so I'm moving most of the Wikileaks links into this post:

~ You can donate to Wikileaks and/or to Assange's defense fund (t.p.t.b. are trying to financially strangle WL.)

~ A website with summary updates on the status of the legal proceedings against Assange, at

~ A summary of The Case for Wikileaks, with supporting links PLUS (scroll to the bottom) additional useful items and things you can do to help.

~ Ten Things You Need to Know About the Infowar, including Assange's 3-Pronged Strategy per his own writings.

~ Facilities for searching the cables for words or phrases: dazzlepod, cablefinder, leakysearch, cablesearch, and leakspinsauce. UPDATE: Great summary of available facilities, with links, at WL Central.

~ An excellent documentary on Wikileaks, Wikirebels, produced by Sveriges Television.

Info about events and protests in support of WL, at
WL Central, and a flyer you can distribute, here.

~ Some cool graphics that can help you map the areas addressed by leaked info or provide other info in visual form, here.
And you can find more posts re- Wikileaks here.

New Museum Triennial: "The Ungovernables"

Exhibition website here; a very helpful NYT review here, with a slide show with some beautiful photos; my own photos here; and Art Fag City has a good slide show here.

Among the pieces I found exciting was a video by Wu Tsang, The Shape of a Right Statement (2008; still, right, from Clifton Benevento gallery). In it, Tsang re-speaks a text I found fascinating, from the second part of a video manifesto by autisim rights activist Amanda Baggs, embedded below. Thoughout the 5 min. run of Tsang's piece, he does not blink, a feat which, for me, greatly heightened the intensity of the work.

I saw this piece before encountering Tsang's other work, including Wildness in the Whitney Biennial. Various commentators have expressed concern w.r.t. many contemporary works that one needs a lot of info extraneous to the work itself in order to begin to appreciate it. While Tsang's work draws heavily from its sources and context, for me, it's a great example of a piece that was sufficiently arresting in its own right to make me go look for that info; and I'm glad I did.

Another of my favorites was The Propeller Group's project, TVC Communism (2011), from which two pieces were shown. First was a video installation comprising synchronized video on 5 large screens arranged in an inward-facing circle. Each screen showed one individual in a meeting in which the Propeller team collaborated to develop p.r. to re-brand Communism. Unfortunately, viewers seemed to enjoy being the apparent center of the virtual attention of the Propeller team so much that, while I was there, the area within the 5-screen circle was full of chatting museum-goers, making it impossible to hear the the audio "conversation" among the characters in the videos. The second piece shown from the project was the resulting commercial ad.

It's hard to resist comparing the Triennial and the Whitney Biennial. Perhaps the main observation yielded for me so far is that there was more socially- or politically-engaged work at the New Museum. Given how much of the most exciting art made during recent years has had overtly political concerns, the relative paucity of the political at the Whitney seems striking.

Below is Amanda Baggs' manifesto:

March 17, 2012

Brucennial 2012

Self-described as “Harderer. Betterer. Fasterer. Strongerer,” the Brucennial was probably my favorite fair for quality per square inch; photos here. Legible attribution was sometimes hard to find, and I got tired of looking after a while; plus, again, I wish I'd shot more; my usual apologies for all deficits.

Real-Life Batman

" . . . Zoltan Kohari, from the southern Slovak town of Dunajska Streda, has donned a leather Batman suit that he’s stitched together himself, in an attempt to help the people of the town. He goes around cleaning the streets, helping the old, and calling the police when he spots something suspicious.

" . . . Kohari was a petty criminal prior to his superhero-avatar . . . . This was before he realized that he had a larger mission – to make life in his community better. . . . “I take care of order and help clean up the environment so we can keep living on this planet,” he says. Since Kohari doesn’t really have a full time job, he’s moved into an abandoned apartment in a dilapidated building on the edge of town. . . .

The unusual thing about Kohari is that he’s a bit of a peace-loving Batman. He says that he never resorts to physical violence, he’d rather make peace between people."

More at Oddity Central; photo and original story from Reuters; and Oddity Central has previously noted another real-life batman, here. (Thanks, Ben!)

March 16, 2012

Marina Abramovic Made Me Cry

Photos of some of those with whom she shared stares here. (Thanks, Julie!) From Abramovic's 2010 exhibition at MoMA, The Artist is Present.

March 15, 2012

The Whitney Biennial

The show was mobbed, though I went on a weekday. I left with fewer photos than I'd have liked; you can see 80+ here.

Pieces I wish I'd shot but didn't include LAST SPRING: A Prequel, by Gisèle Vienne with Dennis Cooper, Stephen O’Malley, and Peter Rehberg; Green Room by Wu Tsang; Sarah Michelson's Devotion Study #1–The American Dancer; and RP47 by Lucy Raven. I also really enjoyed Werner Herzog's video installation, Hearsay of the Soul, with its powerful audio of music from his film, Cave of Forgotten Dreams.

My photos also don't do justice to many of the works, e.g. Sam Lewitt's "self-organizing" installation comprising magnets, fans, and a pool of sticky-looking ferrofluid; or Nick Mauss's installation, which included, in addition to the twin-doored vestibule he built and "painted" with sewn fabric, a number of not-obviously connected objects: a small projection plus works by Andy Warhol, Gary Winogrand, Ellsworth Kelly, Charles Demuth, Ira Delaneaux [sp?].

Additional informative audio and bits of visuals re- the exhibition are available at the Whitney's site; more images at PaperMag.

(Image left: detail from installation/performance set by Georgia Sagri.)

Roberta Smith has a glowing review in the NYT, with an excellent slide show here. A couple of aspects she identifies are that (1) the biennial includes lots of modes of art, including an impressive array of time-based works in video, music, dance, and performance as well as painting, sculpture, and installation – without particularly privileging any of them (although I don't recall much photography, unless you count photographs used in larger works, such as Dawn Kasper's installation, which comprised the entire contents of her living quarters/studio); and (2) the show is artist-centric, in that it focusses to an unusual degree on artists' processes and in some instances had them curate other artists into the exhibition.

These aspects seem so sensible and right that I confess I didn't notice them 'til I read Smith's review after seeing the show; and I'm glad she praised them. (Now that I think of it, even the cover image for the biennial {above right} seems to reflect an ambition to make the museum a more transparent vessel for its contents.) And I did notice, as I think Smith also mentions, that the written explanations of the works were unusually helpful.

I personally wish that more of the video had been easier to see. With respect to most of the videos as well as performances, each was only presented at certain times and for only a few days during the run of the exhibition, making it impossible to see all unless you can return multiple times over a 13-week period.

I saw only a few minutes of Wu Tsang's Wildness in his Green Room installation (video embedded below), which was packed.

I also saw the dance performance choreographed by Sarah Michelson. The set and costumes were relatively simple (you can see a few images and another review here), and for the vast majority of the near-90 minute piece, four or less of the same 4 dancers walked rapidly backward in mostly counter-clockwise circles, all more often than not tracing the same basic movements and path while separated by a more or less fixed distance, with occasional pauses that seemed necessary in order to give the dancers much-needed breathers. During the latter part of the performance, a 5th dancer wearing a (race-?) horse's head strolled through, lingered briefly – observing? – and left. The audio consisted of the same, musically interesting but short loop throughout, without any variation in instrumentation, tempo, or volume, etc. – except that, at the beginning of the piece, there was additional audio of a relatively brief conversation, seemingly between Michelson and a male artist, with the male doing most of the talking, mostly about feeling uncertain whether he'll manage to come up with anything much for his current commission; plus other bits of Michelson's voice near the end, enjoining the dancers to "make it very beautiful" and then relating a story of God's other child Marjorie, in which I'm afraid I got a bit lost, between acoustics that were, for me, less than crystal clear, plus being by then fairly stupified by the monotony.

(Image right: detail from collage by Robert Hawkins.)

All in all, I enjoyed this biennial and found it well done and rewarding of time and attention, though it could perhaps have been more exciting.

Here's the trailer for Wildness:

March 13, 2012

NYC Art Fairs 2012, and "It's the Political Economy, Stupid"

Pulse may have decided, wisely, that the field's gotten too crowded; they've moved to May.

Within four days (Mar. 3 - 11), viewers were offered the Armory Show, Scope, VOLTA, the Moving Image Fair, the Independent Fair, the Dependent Fair, the Fountain Art Fair, the Spring Break fair, and the Brucennial; not to mention the Whitney Biennial, the New Museum Triennial and plenty of other shows, most of which could only be viewed Wed. thru Sun., i.e. mostly the same days the fairs were open, and mostly only during roughly the same hours. Given that most exhibitions include a lot more video and other time-based work than they used to, any hope of seeing and doing justice to all the work shown has become even more remote.

I saw (in no particular order): the Armory Show – just the contemporary Pier and some of the Armory Film programs; the Moving Image Fair; the Independent; the Dependent; Spring Break; the Brucennial; the It's the Political Economy, Stupid show at the Austrian Cultural Forum; the Whitney Biennial; and the New Museum Triennial.

I shot lots of photos, which I'm in the process of culling and putting online. The first up are from It's the Political Economy, Stupid, curated by Gregory Sholette and Oliver Ressler. The exhibition borrows its title from Slavoj Žižek's twist on Pres. Clinton's old campaign slogan. (Image above from The Bull Laid Bear (2012), video, 24 min., Zanny Begg & Oliver Ressler, from this show.)

As you may know, I've followed the economic situation for a while and am concerned that economic reform is essential but that few non-experts understand the problems well enough to know what should be done about them. But the problems aren't all that hard to understand; it's just that the perpetrators have done a terrific job obfuscating them. (My own grasp happens to be a little better than average, since I happened to write a paper on Glass-Steagall back when it was being repealed, and I've also had experience with commercial loans that were rolled into the kind of securitized mortgage pools blamed by some for the economic meltdown.)

The works in Political Economy were really brilliant, using various documentary and imaginative strategies to greatly further this discussion. More info at the Austrian Cultural Forum; and there's an excellent review of the show on the art:21 blog.

UPDATE: Posts on the other shows I saw will be available here.