9.18.2014

Back Alley Design Show: Erik Brandt's Ficciones Typografika at re:form

Erik Brandt, Ficciones Typografika, 641–643 (72”x36”).
“It’s a community of people who are — it sounds so corny — just dreaming," says designer Erik Brandt of Ficciones Typografika, the international design poster show he's been curating on his Minneapolis garage for the past 15 months. "People experimenting and doing something idiosyncratic, for no other reason than that they want to do it.” With no rules, no deadlines, and no pay, the project has become a vibrant playground for a range of design innovators from around the world, from legendary names (Ed Fella, Reza Abedini, Anthony Burrill) to new-generation innovators (Sang Mun, Felix Pfäffli, Janneke Meekes). Following up last summer's Eyeteeth interview with Brandt just after the project got started, here's my new feature on it for Medium's design site re:form. Enjoy!

10.01.2013

Low starts a meme: #replacecongresswith

Duluth slowcore trio Low launched a pre-government-shutdown meme on Twitter Monday, suggesting that Congress be replaced by a “nice grouping of cheese.” Since then, dozens of other ideas -- equally as absurd, but appropriate, given the irrationality of congressional tea partiers -- surfaced, from an ore boat to a biodegradable fork to “a lazy Boston terrier.” Hashtag: #replacecongresswith

9.24.2013

Bits: Godspeed, Pussy Riot, and Me

Godspeed You ! Black Emperor. Photo Tom Øverlie,NRK P3, via Flickr
• The amazing (and reclusive) Montreal collective Godspeed You ! Black Emperor was awarded the Polaris Music Prize Monday night for their album Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! The band didn't show up to receive their jumbo-sized check, though. Instead, they sent a rep from their record label who announced they'd be using the $30,000 prize to buy musical instruments for inmates in Quebec prisons. Later they released a statement about the prize and accompanying soiree, noting three "quick bullet-points that almost anybody could agree on maybe":
-holding a gala during a time of austerity and normalized decline is a weird thing to do.
-organizing a gala just so musicians can compete against each other for a novelty-sized cheque doesn’t serve the cause of righteous music at all.
-asking the toyota motor company to help cover the tab for that gala, during a summer where the melting northern ice caps are live-streaming on the internet, IS FUCKING INSANE, and comes across as tone-deaf to the current horrifying malaise.
• With massive cuts at newspapers over the last decade, museums are turning into media organizations, a topic I was invited to discuss -- along with Sree Sreenivasan, the Met's new chief digital officer -- in this month's Museopunks podcast.

• Imprisoned Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova began a hunger strike Monday, protesting inhumane conditions in the prison where she's held and claiming a senior jail official threatened her life. Sentenced to two years for her role in the August 2012 protest "punk prayer" in a Moscow cathedral, she says she'll contintue the strike "until the administration starts obeying the law and stops treating incarcerated women like cattle."

• I recently interviewed Dia Art Foundation director Philippe Vergne about Thomas Hirschhorn's recently closed Gramsci Monument, controversial Times critic Ken Johnson's opinion on the piece, and how Hirschhorn's monument to an Italian philosopher represents both Dia's future and the best of the art world. 

• I also previewed Doug Aitken's cross-country art train Station to Station, and then recapped its stop in St. Paul. It was okay.  

8.28.2013

Bits: Putin in Panties, Hurricane Perry

Konstantin Altunin's portrait of Medvedev and Putin in drag. 
• After police seized paintings that, among other topics, depicted Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev in women's underwear, artist Konstantin Altunin has fled Russia and is reportedly seeking asylum in France. Also removed from view, a painting of lawmaker Vitaly Milonov titled Rainbow Milonov. It was Milonov who made the complaint that led to the confiscation of Altunin's art. His legislative claim to fame: he authored the bill, signed into law by Putin in June, that fines those who promote "sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality and transgenderism among minors” in St. Petersburg up to 500,000 rubles ($15,150). Russia, of course, will be spreading Olympic spirit in Sochi next winter by prohibiting “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations”--i.e. any expressions of homosexuality or displays of solidarity with LGBT people.

• In case you missed it, here's a photo of Tilda Swinton holding a Pride flag in front of the Kremlin last month.

• Artist Mishka Henner uses Google web tools like Street View and Google Earth to open up conversations on transparency, secrecy and surveillance.

• Hurricane Rick Perry: What if hurricanes were named after climate change deniers?

• Yemen's 12th Hour graffiti campaign surfaces political issues on city walls.

• Minneapolis security expert Bruce Schneier on why the UK government did what it did to Glenn Greenwald's partner, David Miranda: "They're lashing out: sending a message and demonstrating that they're not to be messed with -- that the normal rules of polite conduct don't apply to people who screw with them. That's probably the scariest explanation of all."

• Your moment of: Edward Snowden folk songs.

On Kawara tweets: I AM STILL ALIVE

As you read this, there's a good chance that On Kawara is in the midst of painting today's date: Aug. 28, 2013. Just about every day since since January 4, 1966, he's done so -- painted the date, which usually takes all day, on a small canvas, rendering the month in the language of the country this frequent traveler happens to be in -- as a meditative act and an ongoing work of conceptual art. The rules: he must complete each "date painting" on the day he started it, and if he fails, he must destroy it. Fascinated by time, On Kawara also has been known to send telegraphs and postcards to friends with the reassuring words, "I am still alive."

"He is like one of those peculiar, driven characters in a Paul Auster story, except On Kawara deserves a better fate than to be memorialised in Auster's overrated fiction," wrote Adrian Searle in 2002. "On Kawara creates his own memorial every day, in the eloquent silences of his works. He exists, and his art is the proof of it."

Via @museumnerd, we learn that On Kawara has been using Twitter since January 2009 to reiterate his existence. Just about every day he tweets "I AM STILL ALIVE  #art" (occasionally he breaks form, like he did on April 29, 2009, when he tweeted, "i might die soon ..."). It's a surprising medium, yet a perfect one for the artist. On one hand, the evidence of the artist's hand is missing, his painstaking day-long painting replaced by a few keystrokes on a computer (maybe even aided by cut-and-paste commands and Twitter's tweet-scheduling function). But on the other, it's an apt medium for those obsessed with time, as On Kawara is: beneath each tweet is its timestamp--both day and date--offering more evidence of a moment of living catalogued.

Update 8.28.13: After all that typing, turns out I've been had. Sort of. The On Kawara Twitter account is the work of Pall Thayer, who way back in 2009 revealed this, which is pretty awesome:
On Kawara on twitter is a Perl script that gets automatically run once a day on a server in a cabinet in my living room. I haven't done anything to publicize his activities on twitter. All he does is announce, "I AM STILL ALIVE" once a day. He doesn't follow anyone. Yet, somehow, it seeped out into the twitter community. The "Perl Net::Twitter" client name should be a dead give away.

The interesting thing about this (and my original reason for launching it) is that it blatantly negates the whole idea behind On Kawara's "I AM STILL ALIVE" messages. Whereas those did indeed confirm that he was still alive, this doesn't. It's an automated process that he doesn't even control. Were he to die, he would continue to announce "I AM STILL ALIVE", everday, on twitter. So it really does two things; by falsely confirming that he is alive, it casts doubt on the issue but it also keeps the notion of him actively announcing that he is alive, alive.

So what may sound like a simple prank is actually pretty complex and gets more complex the more you think about it.
Thanks, Yuki Okumura, for pointint out.

8.16.2013

Bits: Žižek, YACHT, Questlove, Drones

Adrian Piper, Imagine [Trayvon Martin], 2013
Žižek: "Assange, Manning, Snowden… these are our new heroes, exemplary cases of the new ethics that befits our era of digitalized control. They are no longer just whistle-blowers who denounce illegal practices of private companies (banks, tobacco and oil firms) to the public authorities; they denounce these public authorities themselves when they engage in 'private use of reason.'"

The music duo YACHT (Jona Bechtolt and Claire Evans) has put out the protest dance song "Party at the NSA," available for free download, along with a limited-edition shirt (with art by Tim Lahan and designer Sang Mun's OCR-thwarting ZXX typeface), with process supporting EFF. They tell Nothing Major why they made the song a protest "party jam":
It evokes the classic punk-rock satires we grew up loving, like the Dead Kennedys's "Holiday in Cambodia," or the Descendents' "Suburban Home." To have fun at the NSA's expense while simultaneously doing something active, raising money, to fight against it—in our minds, this is a combination that works. A lot of people are subconsciously deterred from involvement in these kinds of issues because the very thought of what is actually happening in this country makes them anxious, and they'd rather ignore it. We want to reframe that impulse, giving people an engaging, spontaneous, expressive context for protest. Poetic terrorism, if you will.
• Questlove from The Roots spoke about racial profiling, stop-and-frisk, and Trayvon Martin on Democracy Now this week. Must-watch. Earlier: Questlove's Facebook post that went viral. On the George Zimmerman ruling: "i dont know how to not internalize the overall message this whole trayvon case has taught me: you aint shit."

• From Gizmodo, here's what they're hawking at the world's largest drone fair

• Also, don't call them drones, says the drone industry.

8.15.2013

Bits: Art Smackdown, Drone Speedtrap, Lego Architecture

Speed Enforced by Drones, a guerrilla sign project by Stephen Whisler
•  William Powhida and Jade Townsend's newest collaboration--on view through Sept. 7 at New York's Freight + Volume gallery --illustrates in Boschian detail the various art-world feuds going on today. Bellum Omnium Contra Omnes features an apocalyptic landscape of burning Artnet offices, a ruined Relational Aesthetishop, and a Hennessey Youngman tank. Look for Nato Thompson, a King Robbo graffito, Jerry Saltz, and archers disguised as as Warhol and Picasso. So good.

• During yesterday's Day for Detroit--which included art blogs and museums (including Eyeteeth and the Walker) posting favorite shots of works from the Detroit Institute of Arts' colleciton that could be threatened if the city moves to sell art to settle civic debts--included a guerrilla action: artist Jerry Vile slapped a "for sale" sign on Rodin's The Thinker and other sculptures at the DIA. Staff quickly took it down.

• Architecture Studio, a new set from Lego, "comes with 1,210 white and translucent bricks. More notable is what it lacks: namely, instructions for any single thing you’re supposed to build with it. Instead, the kit is accompanied by a thick, 277-page guidebook filled with architectural concepts and building techniques alongside real world insights from prominent architecture studios from around the globe."

• ArtPrize's Kevin Buist interviews Creative Time's Anne Pasternak.

• Artist Fritz Haeg and author Michael Pollan talk ethical clothing, specialization, folk microbiology, and reviving the domestic.

• And here's a new video on Fritz's yearlong residency at the Walker Art Center. 

8.14.2013

A Day for Detroit

Marcel Duchamp, Photorelief, 1935 (printed 1953)
Those who view art in the Detroit Institute of Art's collection with dollar signs in their eyes -- and the city's emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, who announced Monday he's hired Christie's to appraise some of DIA's art for potential sale, may be among them -- seem to miss a key point: that the arts can, and likely will, play a key role in the economic revival of post-bankruptcy Detroit. Selling off masterworks by Van Gogh, Rivera, and van Eyck would effectively scatter a collection built with intention, reducing access for Detroit residents.

To highlight the DIA's amazing, diverse collection and showcase artworks that may be threatened should such a sale take place, I'm joining with Modern Art Notes and more than a dozen other art sites to observe A Day for Detroit, in which we'll all be sharing our favorite works from the Institute's collection. Here's a list of all the sites that will be participating today.

Claes Oldenburg, Inverted Q, 1976
Morris Louis, Number 205, 1961
Dorothea Lange, Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California, 1936
Charles Eames, Side Chair, 1951
Yayoi Kusama, Silver Shoes (23 objects), 1976/1977
Albrecht Durer, The Four Horsemen, 1497/1498
Update: Some of my colleagues at the Walker Art Center share their favorites from the DIA collection for A Day for Detroit.

8.13.2013

Bits: Trickle-Down Art, Fast's Drones, Sekula

Still from Omer Fast's 5,000 Feet is the Best, 2011
•  Trickle-down theory--aka "Reaganomics," once derided as "voodoo economics" by George H.W. Bush--is what's behind the notion of selling off part of the Detroit Institute of Art's collection, writes Christopher Knight:
The claim of such a plan goes like this: Privatize a great art collection owned by the public, and the benefits will trickle down to the people...  Will we fall for it again in Detroit? Supplying art masterpieces to a booming luxury-goods market will supposedly mean ponies and party hats for pensioners. Fat chance.
• For its inaugural exhibition, the Imperial War Museum's new IWM Contemporary program presents Omer Fast's 30-minute video 5,000 Feet is the Best. On view through Sept. 29, the piece draws its name from an interview the artist did with a Las Vegas-based Predator drone operator, who (under condition of anonymity) shared what he believes to be the optimal altitude for the unmanned aerial vehicles. "It is a lot like playing a video game," he told Fast. "But playing the same video game four years straight on the same level." GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham says the US has killed 4,700 people using these video-game-like weapons. Commonwealth Projects shares a 9-minute excerpt from the video, which blends interview footage with actor dramatizations, while The Guardian offers another.

• With the launch of its Open Content Program, the Getty is "making roughly 4,600 high-resolution images of the Museum’s collection free to use, modify, and publish for any purpose."

• Your moment of private escape--a book read on your Kindle or Nook--isn't so private, writes James Bridle. According to EFF's most recent E-Reader Privacy Chart, "almost every service tracks searches for books, meaning not just what you read, but what you're interested in, is stored" for corporations to use and/or sell.

• Speaking of Bridle, here he is discussing his Balloon Infrastructures workshop with Fabrica. 

• RIP Allan Sekula, artist, photographer, educator, writer.

• Your moment of: bullet cross-sections.

8.12.2013

Punks v. Hippies: A Graffiti Call-and-Response

Graffiti reading "Kill the hippies," which appeared on a wall in Minneapolis' diverse (and admittedly lefty) Powderhorn Park neighborhood last month, recently got buffed and re-tagged. Here's the exchange:
July 2013
August 2013

8.09.2013

Bits: Bromides, Tasered for Graffiti, Herzog's PSA

• Miami Beach police tasered to death 18-year-old artist and graffiti writer Israel Hernández-Llach early Tuesday morning. His crime: writing an R -- that's as far as he got in writing his tag, "Reefa" -- on the side of a shuttered McDonalds. “The officers were forced to use the Taser to avoid a physical incident," said the chief of police.

Werner Herzog takes the dreaded driver-safety PSA into new territory with From One Minute to the Next, a new 35-minute documentary, which offers an unflinching and distinctly Herzogian cautionary tale about texting while driving. He forgoes the genre's usual scare tactics, instead opting for humane portraiture of both victims and perpetrators. It's every bit as engrossing as Grizzly Man or Into the Abyss, making the haunting case that any one of us could find ourselves an unintended killer for checking the iPhone one more time.

Edward Winkelman posted this remarkable story on Facebook: a Russian man, displeased by the terms of an unsolicited credit card offer he received in the mail, scanned and modified the agreement -- to include terms like a 0% APR and no fees -- and mailed a signed copy back. The back approved a card, apparently without reading the fine print. Long story short, it's now two years later and he's suing the back for $727,000 for breach of contract.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/08/07/v-fullstory/3548779/graffiti-artist-dies-after-tasering.html#storylink=cpy

• PJ Harvey's new single "Shaker Aemer" -- available as a free download -- draws attention to the plight of the last British resident in Guantánamo: Held without charge or trial and cleared of any wrongdoing in 2007, Aamer has been locked up for 11 years. The song recounts the 46-year-old's four-month hunger strike and forced feedings.

• Of its Jay Z/Taylor Swift "Picasso Baby" mashup, Pop Culture Pirate writes, "I love that both artists use their status as outsiders to connect with audiences despite being very much ‘insiders.' I think that dichotomy resonates with the art world attendees as well."

• Painter Rich Barlow tells MN Daily about his "Daily Bromides," a series of  watercolor postcards he sends out anonymously -- one a day for a month to a random recipient -- depicting William Henry Fox Talbot's Reflected Trees, one of the first photographs ever made.

• Apparently, today is go-armed-to-Starbucks day.

8.01.2013

Bits: León Ferrari, Trayvon's Hoodie, Youssef Abdelke


David Hammons, In the Hood, 199
• The Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture, now under construction in Washington and expected to open in 2015, hopes to acquire and present the hoodie worn by Trayvon Martin the night he was killed. Director Lonnie Bunch -- who has gathered civil rights touchstones from handcuffs used to restrain Henry Louis Gates, Jr. in 2009 to a guard tower from Angola State Penitentiar -- says the hoodie became "the symbolic way to talk the Trayvon Martin case. It’s rare that you get one artifact that really becomes the symbol. Because it’s such a symbol, it would allow you to talk about race in the age of Obama.”

Vice reporter Tim Pool says his hacked Google Glass is the biggest change to his reporting toolkit since the iPhone. Pool--who with his organization The Other 99% started Occupy Wall Street's livestream--has used Glass to cover conflicts in Cairo, Istanbul, and New York. “Glass allows me to keep my focus--When I'm running, having my hands free is particularly important," he says. "When things get intense with plastic bullets, I don't want to stare at a camera, I just hit record. It puts me more in the moment when I have a POV shot.”

•  Hours before he was arrested by Syrian regime forces July 18, artist Youssef Abdelke signed a pro-democracy petition that called for "the departure of Bashar al-Assad." Petitions are appearing online calling for his release, and artists in the region are rallying in solidarity. One, Syrian artist Houmam Alsaye, says, “From the point of view of the regime, Youssef is a weapon – one that uses pen and paper.”

• George Saunders gives a commencement speech: "Do all the other things, the ambitious things – travel, get rich, get famous, innovate, lead, fall in love, make and lose fortunes, swim naked in wild jungle rivers (after first having it tested for monkey poop) – but as you do, to the extent that you can, err in the direction of kindness.  Do those things that incline you toward the big questions, and avoid the things that would reduce you and make you trivial."

RIP León Ferrari: the Argentine political and conceptual artist whose work tackled issues from human rights abuses by his government to the "barbarism of the West" has passed away at age 92. Best known for his sculpture showing a nearly-life-sized Christ crucified on a Vietnam-era US fighter jet, his work often used religious imagery. Highly critical of Argentina's military rulers, he left the county to live in exile in Brazil from 1976 to 1991. His son was taken by the military and is presumed dead. Of the political nature of his art, he once wrote:
“The only thing I ask of art is that it helps me express what I think as clearly as possible, to invent visual and critical signs that let me condemn more efficiently the barbarism of the West. Someone could possibly prove to me that this is not art. I would have no problem with it, I would not change paths, I would simply change its name, crossing out art and calling it politics, corrosive criticism, anything at all, really.” 

7.26.2013

Billboard correction: "To fight monsters, we created monsters"

Culturejammers the California Department of Corrections has modified a Pacific Rim movie billboard, putting a new twist on the film's tagline: "To fight monsters, we created monsters: The National Security State." (Via AnimalNY.)

7.24.2013

Bits: Lefty Hoarders, Pirate Utopias, Artist Pay

Docked raft at night. Photo: Tod Seelie

• In the spirit of the Miss Rockaway Armada and Swimming Cities of Serenissima, Swoon and her band of DIY eco-art rafters are heading out on another excursion next month, accordint to crew photographer Tod Seelie--this time down the Willamette River in Portland. Wired looks at this "Burning Man Aquatic" through Seelie's photos documenting these "pirate utopias."

• The Interference Archive--begun as the personal collection of activist ephemera of "lefty hoarders" Josh MacPhee and his late wife Dara Greenwald--now houses some "12,000 posters, 7,500 books and 7,500 pamphlets, zines and other objects" from radical social movements from modern American history. “Use is its own form of preservation,” MacPhee (of JustSeeds) tells the New York Times of a collection that visitors to its Brooklyn location can handle without gloves. (Note to Josh: This non-New Yorker would donate to a crowd-funding campaign for digitization.)

• Regardless of how well art institutions or art markets are doing, most artists aren't the beneficiaries. Alexis Clements writes for Hyperallergic about five models for change, ranging from a renewal of artist labor unions to certification programs that ensure “ethical payment practices" (like the one W.A.G.E. proposes) to going off the grid altogether.

• For his show at the Natural History Museum in London, Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado is showing works that depict the “stunning mosaic of nature in all its unspoilt grandeur." Surprising then is the show's sponsor: mining company Vale, which is accused of despoiling the Amazon and was dubbed company with the “most contempt for the environment and human rights” in the world by the Public Eye in 2012.

Impeach returns with more boxcar graffiti: this time an obituary for the middle class.

• Your moment of stripes: Italian street artist Mimmo Rubino paints the rotating tank on a cement mixer.

7.18.2013

Bits: US Stasi, Trayvon, #occupygezi

• Berlin police say they've opened an investigation following artist Oliver Bienkowski's protest over US spying Sunday night: he projected the phrase "United Stasi of America" on the exterior of the US embassy, which may violate a law against "insulting organs and representatives of foreign countries." The words were accompanied by the image of Kim Dotcom, the hacker icon and internet activist.

• "I decided today that until the 'stand your ground' law is abolished in Florida, I will never perform there again," Stevie Wonder told concertgoers in Quebec Sunday night following the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case. "As a matter of fact, wherever I find that law exists, I will not perform in that state or in that part of the world." His boycott, writes Slate's Jack Hamilton, is "politically savvy, morally righteous, and it could be enormously important."

• The latest installment of Erik Brandt's Ficciones Typografika--a poster series by global designers rotating on his garage wall--takes on a local political issue: an ICE investigation into the Spanish daycare chain Jardin Magico that lead to the departures of some 60 teachers—40 percent of the staff. Designed by Brandt, the triptych features three languages stating "No human being is illegal." He writes:
A set of three posters dedicated to the teachers and staff of Jardin Magico that lost their positions due to pressure from the Department of Homeland Security. Their dedication to educate children in a bilingual environment was exemplary, inspiring, and loving. This action does not make our country safer, indeed, it threatens our immediate future. No human being is illegal. These posters are the voice of my family. We demand amnesty for all immigrants and an immediate end to this betrayal of the promise of America. 
• "Having suffered from military coups and oppressive regimes, our parents raised us to be as apolitical as possible," writes New York–based Turkish curator Ceren Erdem on the Walker Art Center homepage. "I am sorry — no, actually, pleased — to say that it didn’t work." She recounts her experiences at #occupygezi, from the cooperation of disparate activist groups--including anti-capitalist Muslims, LGBTQ people, and women--and creative resistance that took many forms, from the famed Standing Man to "earth fast-breaking," a communal feast in the streets to mark the first meal of Ramadan.

• Eugenio Merino emails to share the results of last week's court ruling on a lawsuit filed against him by the Franco Foundation over artwork it felt disparaged the late dictator: "We have won! But the Franco Foundation is going to appeal ... and they are also going to sue me for the punching Franco work," a reference to a sculpture he made of a punching bag shaped like El Generalissimo's head. Digital Journal has more.

• Artist Florentijn Hofman's outrage over a Chinese knockoff of his giant inflatable rubber duckie is "a curious reaction," writes Hyperallergic's Alicia Eler, "considering that Hofman himself created a work of pop art which is, in and of itself, already a copy of a copy of a copy, ad infinitum."