5.29.2008

American News Project: Iraq soldier testifies


Very disturbing testimony by a soldier formerly stationed in Iraq. Difficult to watch, but important to do so.

5.28.2008

Rock some sense into the Republicans

"The Republican National Convention is coming to the Twin Cities in September, and wouldn't it be a shame if there was no one to play deafening power chords just up the street?" So reads text at the website of ProVention, online homebase for a concert planned in Lowertown St. Paul on Sept. 3 and 4 to coincide with the GOP convention. But the point isn't an antagonistic, Noriega-psyops kind of thing, but to welcome Republican guests with "music, beauty and rational engagement" (here's the group's platform).

The lineup -- which may change, "probably in the direction of more and more ginormously powerful" -- has elephantine star power: Tapes 'n' Tapes, Haley Bonar, Nellie McKay, The Honeydogs, Charlie Parr, The Alarmists and others.

Stake a claim on democracy. In yer yard.

A cacophony of voices and a one-(wo)man-one-vote policy on which messages get amplified: Sounds like the Republican National Convention, right? Not really.

As a stark counterpoint to the "scripted democracy" of this fall's GOP nominating convention, a project by mnartists.org, the Walker Art Center and the UnConvention is inviting people of all political stripes and artistic abilities to create yard signs to coincide with the RNC -- and, fittingly, the 50 designs getting the most online votes will be produced and distributed around the Twin Cities and near the convention site.

Visitors to the My Yard, Our Message site can submit designs by June 30; then open voting will be held from July 1-27.

Don't want to leave the fate of your design in the hands of we, the people? For $20 bucks, the project will produce and deliver a one-off of your design.

Featured: "Ugly Partisanship" by Emmet Byrne; "Convention" by Andy Pressman; "Groove" by Emmet Byrne; "Now or Never" by David Barawski

5.27.2008

[Fake] global self-portait

A guy sends a suitcase around the world and, thanks to the GPS device he embedded in it, creates a self-portrait -- the biggest drawing in the world. (Thanks, Ben.)

Update: Wired calls bullshit, and the art fesses up that it's a fake.

5.23.2008

Democracy: "I'm mellllting!" [RNC DIY! launches]

Over at Minnesota Monitor, we just launched RNC DIY!, an ongoing series looking at creative responses to the Republican National Convention (if you've got a suggestion, let me know). Here's our first installment:


Even John McCain has acknowledged things are worse in America today than they were eight years ago, and according to artists Nora Ligorano and Marshall Reese, democracy agrees. The duo who brought us "Contract with America" underpants (signed by Newt Gingrich!) will present their work "The State of Things" in the Twin Cities during the Republican National Convention. A 900-pound, 15-foot ice sculpture of the word "democracy," the work will melt away over the course of a day. As it does, Ligorano/Reese will stream video, audio and photography related to current sociopolitical realities.

According to The UnConvention, a collaborative project by arts groups like Intermedia and the Walker Art Center, the piece is "a testimonial to the impact eight years of extreme judicial, legislative, and executive actions have had on American democratic institutions -- from the landmark Supreme Court decision 'Bush v. Gore' in 2000 to presidential signing statements to illegal FISA surveillance." The work will also be "performed" at the DNC in Denver.

Earlier: Democracy in oil!

Photo du jour: Wall of Fire

Jason Lazarus' photo Wall of Fire, Labor Day 2006 (Cleveland, OH), available as a print at Humble Arts Foundation.

Photos from TV

Mike Sacks' photos from TV offer a hilariously absurd look at media culture. Look at the whole set and see how screenshots taken out of context give a telling glimpse of the entire context of television itself.

Stop-action smokes

Here's a clever stop-action animation made only using cigarettes to make the point that smoking kills more people than war. The Brazilian campaign by F/Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi also features an artist on the street making visages of Hitler and Bin Laden with the tagline "Cigarro Mata Mais."

5.21.2008

Eye Contact: Errol Morris on Abu Ghraib and the Interrotron

Watching Errol Morris' new documentary, "Standard Operating Procedure," I was reminded of a Jean Baudrillard quote I'd jotted in a notebook years ago: "Perhaps our eyes are merely a blank film which is taken from us after our deaths to be developed elsewhere and screened as our life story in some infernal cinema or despatched as microfilm into the sidereal void."

The film, like all of Morris' recent works, was made using his patented interviewing tool, The Interrotron, a device that puts a video image of Morris where the camera lens should be. It makes interviewees more comfortable and gives movie-theater audiences direct eye contact with them. Given what some of the Abu Ghraib guards have seen with those eyes -- often as perpetrators of horrible acts -- this contact can be unnerving, and I found an odd disconnect: the intimacy of eye contact is in such stark contrast to the distance I felt seeing those bizarre photographs. Here's what Morris had to say when I asked him about the use of the device in the specific case of Abu Ghraib:


Listen to the official Morris interview here.

Pictured: Spec. Sabrina Harman, featured in Standard Operating Procedure

Interview: Errol Morris on "Standard Operating Procedure"

"Here's one irony," Errol Morris told me in a recent interview. "You take a picture and you see the culprit in the picture, but you don't see the culprits who have not been photographed."

That pretty much sums up the thesis of his new documentary, Standard Operating Procedure, which opens at The Lagoon in Minneapolis this Friday. An unflinching reconsideration of the iconic photos taken at Abu Ghraib prison, the film talks mainly to low-level military personnel and contractors (only one higher-up, Col. Janis Karpinski, would talk) but still manages to look beyond the frame of the photos we've all seen a million times to find some of the context for these unfathomable acts. My interview, conducted for Minnesota Monitor, covers what we don't see in those shots: the "obscene" violations of the Geneva Conventions, the vast tent cities and cellblock networks of the prison, and the countless people -- MPs, intelligence officers, commanders and civilian contractors -- who were there when these supposed "bad apples" were at Abu Ghraib.

"Photographs can make us feel like we've seen everything when in fact we've hardly seen anything at all," Morris said. And in yesterday's post at his New York Times blog, he addresses one such case, that of Spec. Sabrina Harman, whose smile in her snapshots with a battered Iraqi corpse is not what it seems. He told me:
"There's one photo that endlessly fascinates me. It's Sabrina Harman with her thumb up smiling over the corpse of an Iraqi prisoner. I looked at the photo and thought, initially, what a monster. I now know she had nothing whatsoever to do with this man's death and she was secretly taking photographs to prove that a murder had occurred and the U.S. military was attempting to cover it up. In fact the picture means something much closer to the opposite of what we think it means."
Listen to the interview.


More: Listen to an interview outtake, where Morris discusses his interviewing tool, The Interrotron, and the power of eye contact in Standard Operating procedure.

5.20.2008

"To hell with Shakespeare!": Rightwing radio host decries Hmong rapper's work with schools

Listening to Minnesota conservative radio host Jason Lewis, you'd get the impression that a week of hip hop in a public school will shatter the very foundations of Western civilization. During his May 2 show, the KTLK talker went off about plans by Woodbury's Lake Junior High to bring in Hmong hip hop artist Tou Saiko Lee for a series of classes teaching sixth graders about Hmong culture, collaborative poem-writing and emceeing. The week would conclude with an all-school assembly featuring a performance of student work.

"My god! What is going on," Lewis moaned. "To hell with Shakespeare, to hell with Tennyson, to hell with science and math; we're going to teach our sixth graders how to be hip hop emcees!?" Hip hop is "garbage," he added, and as evidence, he quoted that font of high culture, the former Mr. Christie Brinkley: "Even Billy Joel says rap is crap."

Lewis' opinions have raised ire among local hip hop and spoken-word artists, many who have for years used spoken word as a teaching tool in educational and artistic settings. Writing at CultureBully, spoken-word artist Kyle "El Guante" Myhre says, "Mr. Lewis is fighting a straw man; no one is ever going to suggest that we replace math and science (or Ethan Frome, for that matter) with hip hop... To somehow suggest that Shakespeare is taking a backseat to 2pac in our public schools is, even for conservative talk radio, laughably ridiculous, unfounded fear-mongering."

He talked about Lewis' rant with Tou, who says his aim is to teach kids about self-expression, understanding where they come from and ways to tell the stories of their lives here. "I don't teach students to become hip hop emcees; I just expose them to hip hop music as a medium to speak through," he said. Further, he sees it as a way of turning kids on to the kind of literature Lewis is shouting about.

"I feel that hip hop emcees are modern day poets, and that studying them can open doors to having more interest in learning about the classics such as Shakespeare, Robert Frost and so on," Tou said. "It did for me."

Tou's interest in hip hop is also about preserving his own culture. As a recent New York Times video on Tou explains, Hmong people in Laos, including Tou's grandfather, fought against the Communist Pathet Lao, with CIA backing, in the Vietnam era, and are persecuted for that help. The US government helped resettle many Hmong refugees here, including around 60,000 in Minnesota. Tou says he fears that Hmong Americans are losing touch with these roots and the continuing violence against the Hmong in Laos. Some of his work directly relates to the troubles there, but another project tries to use hip hop to link a younger generation to older cultural traditions. He's collaborated with his grandmother on a fusion of spoken word and the ancient form of poem-chanting (Kwv txhiaj) she's mastered.

"How," he asks, "can we find ways that reconnect back to our culture?"

For Lewis, there's only one culture that matters -- his own.

"You know, it might be a good idea to teach Western culture before we start going into all of the other cultures," he said. "Might be a good idea for our friends in the Hmong community, and the Somali community, and any other community, to learn our culture. Let's have an assembly and a weeklong fine arts program teaching them Shakespeare."

More: Read the Twin Cities Daily Planet's profile on Tou Saiko Lee, or listen to Lewis' May 2 program.

5.19.2008

Talk about commitment

Egad: A sports photographer covering a track meet in Utah got hit in the leg by a javelin... and kept shooting.

[via]

Rightwing bloggers decry Obama's meeting with imam Bush kissed

When George W. Bush met Imam Hassan Qazwini in 2003, he gave the leader of America's largest mosque a hug and a kiss on the cheek. When Pope Benedict visited the U.S. last month, Qazwini was called forward to speak individually with the pontiff. But when Barack Obama met with Qazwini, it's time to sound the alarm -- at least according to rightwing bloggers.

Minnesota's Power Line claims Obama's meeting was shrouded in secrecy and passes along word that Qazwini is "Hezbollah's most important imam and agent in America." Power Line's source is rightwing blogger Debbie Schlussel, who says the meeting "says a lot about the company Obama keeps . . . and why he shouldn't be President." Trouble is Schussel offers only one outside link to substantiate her claims, which given her track record might give one pause: she speculated that the Virginia Tech shootings were done by a "Paki" Muslim and were part of "a coordinated terrorist attack," and she's said that the liberal watchdog group Media Matters is funded by Nazis.

That one source link goes to a matter-of-fact news report on Obama's visit by the Detroit Free Press. While Power Line's Scott Johnson acknowledged Bush met with Qazwini several times during the 2000 campaign (he doesn't mention the 2003 encounter pictured above or Qazwini's attendance at a 2001 interfaith event at the White House), Schlussel doesn't. In the post Power Line links to she quotes extensively from the Detroit paper, but omits the key last sentence: "Qazwini has also met several times with President Bush and other elected officials."

Photo du jour: Hillary

[via]

5.14.2008

TC Art: Great write-up on this weekend's Heliotrope festival


As I've mentioned before that the fifth edition of Heliotrope is this weekend. The annual underground music festival got a good write-up in City Pages today, covering what I think are the best aspects of the festival: shared profits among band members; its make-up of musical "experimenters, agitators, and aesthetes"; a low-key atmosphere; and a truly DIY spirit.
Rich Barlow, co-founder of Flaneur Productions and co-curator of the festival, says, "I'd get really tired of everyone I knew saying there was nothing going on. My feeling is that you can either complain about stuff or you can change it. I don't particularly like complaining."

The story also mentions the "bittersweet return" of this year's headliner, Japan's Suishou No Fune. It will be a bittersweet return for Suishou, who became friends with the band Salamander and played a few shows with them last summer; in November, drummer/visual artist Matt Zaun passed away at age 34. Part of the Ritz's lobby will be dedicated to a small exhibition of Zaun's graphic art.

Pictured: This year's poster by Burlesque's Steven Boettcher

5.13.2008

Rauschenberg is dead.

The Times reports.

How the world sees us: "D'oh, pardner!"

Steve at MinMon posts this ad from the Mexican newspaper Milenio. Translation: "A world so complex needs a good explanation."

TC Art: The Gaards at the Phipps

Gaard3.jpg
Painter Frank Gaard and his wife, painter/mixed media artist Pamela Gaard, have a joint show on view at The Phipps Center for the Arts, just across the border in Hudson, WI, through June 1. We checked out the artist-curated show during the opening two weeks ago and met up with Frank and Pam; Frank had a copy of Charley 05, the newest publication on the "stray dogs" of contemporary art edited by Maurizio Cattelan, Massimiliano Gioni and Ali Subotnick. A beautiful -- and thick -- catalogue (designed by Conny Purtill, formerly of the Walker), it features an eight-page spread on Frank's work (you'll also remember Frank's contribution to the Walker's billboard project in '04 and this piece, which was published alongside an Adbusters essay I wrote in '05). Notably absent from the show: Frank's trademark x-rated comics. Probably good, considering the family-friendly atmosphere of the Phipps. See more photos here.
Gaard6.jpg

Bill O'Riled.

As old footage of Bill O'Reilly going ballistic on the set of Inside Edition burns up the Internet, RevoLucian makes an NSFW remix sure to make Dick Cheney proud.

5.10.2008

McCain's Burma problem: RNC chair resigns after Newsweek reveals pro-junta PR work

The man John McCain picked to organize the Republican National Convention, Doug Goodyear, has resigned today, after Newsweek revealed that his firm made $3 million last year lobbying for ExxonMobil, General Motors and other clients -- so much for McCain's anti-special-interests posturing, eh? More damning: the consulting firm Goodyear heads up, DGI, made nearly $35o,000 in 2002 for work for the Burmese junta, including a PR campaign to burnish the human-rights-violating military dictatorship's image. Newsweek's Michael Isikoff:
Justice Department lobbying records show DCI pushed to "begin a dialogue of political reconciliation" with the regime. It also led a PR campaign to burnish the junta's image, drafting releases praising Burma's efforts to curb the drug trade and denouncing "falsehoods" by the Bush administration that the regime engaged in rape and other abuses. "It was our only foreign representation, it was for a short tenure, and it was six years ago," Goodyear told NEWSWEEK, adding the junta's record in the current cyclone crisis is "reprehensible."
There's more. Lots more.

5.09.2008

Beat-up Buddha

Banksy on China's continuing crackdown against dissent in Tibet, from the Cans festival.

Urban Art: The Islands of LA National Park

Dozens of "national parks" are being christened in Los Angeles, according to the LA Times. Brown signs with white type spelling out "The Islands of LA Nat'l Park" are appearing everywhere from Venice to Watts to West Hollywood. They're the work of artist Ari Kletzky, who sees the tiny islands in the middle of traffic as "inquisitive places" -- in-between spaces where we can pause and ask questions. Part activist project, part artwork, his Islands of LA series is a "gesture," he says: "An appetizer that inspires an appetite. I'm looking to generate discussion to explore use of public space by turning islands into a work of art."

The LA Times writes:
His motivations were personal as well as political. Like so many Angelenos, Kletzky, 36, had been feeling hemmed in. "I was driving around, sitting in traffic and I just wanted a break. I wanted to take a vacation," he recalls. His eyes drifted over to a traffic island, "And I thought, 'I want to take it here.' " He pauses, smiles. "Well, I don't know if that's entirely true . . ." -- that is, that it happened in a moment. But the anecdote conveys the overall sentiment. That patch of green looked inviting enough. Why not sit a spell? Why not be carried away with a feeling?

Kletzky, a former rhetoric major at UC Berkeley, had come to making art late. To help cope with his father's passing, Kletzky began writing poetry in 1995, which led to photography, video and then video installations and performance. Art became not a form of expression, but rather "a form of exploration, interaction . . . even transformation." (He will begin working on an MFA in art and integrated media at CalArts come fall.) And once the island seed was planted, he started making connections. "I started reading philosophical theory about why it is that individuals are more interested in ideas than in objects. That's when I got the idea about prompting discussions and inviting people to think. To be involved -- be participants in the blog, or in their communities," he says. "The discussion itself is part of the project."
Via Modern Art Notes.

5.08.2008

Fairey: I'm not blind!

I'm glad I used that question mark in my post, "Shepard Fairey is going blind?" He's not, although he admits he's had some big eye problems in the past. Gothamist reports.

Robin Rhode: Recent Work

New works by Robin Rhode, like this one from 2007, at Perry Rubenstein.

Designer chainsaws

For his show at Gallery 1998, Peter Gronquist presents a series of chainsaws and machine guns as if they were designed by couturiers like Louis Vuitton, Fendi and Prada. I wonder if he'll get a nastygram from Vuitton's clueless lawyers...Via Agenda.

Update: In comments, Whitney points out a fitting passage from Pynchon's Vineland:
The already confused Zoyd, whose survival instincts may not have been working all the way up to spec, decided to produce the chain saw from his bag. "Buster," he called plaintively to the owner behind the bar, "where's the media?" The implement attracted immediate attention from everyone in the room, not all of it technical curiosity. It was a tailor-made lady's chain saw, "tough enough for timber," as the commercials said, "but petite enough for a purse." The guide bar, handle grips, and housing were faced in genuine mother-of-pearl, and spelled out in rhinestones on the bar, surrounded by sawteeth ready to buzz, was the name of the young woman he'd borrowed it from, which onlookers took to be Zoyd's drag name, CHERYL.

5.07.2008

Walker: Best one-liner wins concert tix

This one goes out to Taylor, who's hoping to score tickets to Rock the Garden (Andrew Bird, New Pornographers, Cloud Cult, Bon Iver): The Walker's hosting a contest, in honor of artist Richard Prince's joke paintings. They're soliciting the best one-line jokes. Winner gets two tickets to the June 21 outdoor concert plus a pair of admissions to "Adventures in Mating" by Joseph Scrimshaw. (If you can't read it, the Prince painting above reads, "I met my first girl, her name was Sally. Was that a girl, was that a girl. That’s what people kept asking.”)

iGoogle art: Tezuka, Koons, Fairey

ArtObserved reports on Google's new customization feature that lets iGoogle users choose from visual themes created by 68 contemporary artists, designers and musicians. The diverse list includes Shepard Fairey, the Beastie Boys, Tezuka Osamu (above), Philippe Starck, and Architecture for Humanity founder Cameron Sinclair (below).

Branded to death: Coke coffin in Ghana


Rob Walker points out a story on branded burial vessels in Ghana. Honoring the dead through the use of "brightly colored coffins that celebrate the way they lived," Ghanaians apparently sometimes use name brands, from Coke to Mercedes Benz to the local beer, to encase their loved ones as they head off to the next life.

Update: For my Google-impaired commenters, a few more shots:
By Missisippi Snopes on Flickr

Via Squidoo

5.06.2008

How I spent my stimulus check: Buying 41 Ron Paul books

Fifty (losing) lottery tickets. Prescription drugs. Bar beers during the NBA playoffs (for a TV-less guy). Those are few of the ways visitors to HowISpentMyStimulus.com used their economic stimulus checks.

A local entry comes from Tom (not this Tom; I checked), a 26-year-old IT professional from Minneapolis, who's hoping for a different kind of stimulation. He says he spent his Bush bucks on 41 copies of Ron Paul's book, "The Revolution: A Manifesto." He writes, "We need a man with sound monetary policies in office to prevent things such as this 'stimulus check' from happening again; stimulate my ass!"

5.05.2008

Flak Radio on The UnConvention

Flak Radio interviews the Walker Art Center's new media designer and, uh, polymath Justin Heideman on The UnConvention, a consortium of artists and art groups (the Walker, MCAD, U of M Design School, Intermedia Arts, among many others) who'll be organizing around creative democracy during the RNC.

Shepard Fairey is going blind?

Update: Not true, says Gothamist.

I didn't know this: Shepard Fairey is losing his eyesight due to diabetes and, according to one source, could be legally blind by year's end. From ANIMAL/NY:
"That's why he's having so many gallery shows and making so many prints," the source, who requested anonymity, said. “The Faireys are trying to pump out as much artwork as they can before he can't see anymore -- time is running out.”

Before his Obama work, Fairey was best known for littering countless urban landscapes with his 'Andre the Giant Has A Posse' wheatpastings and and has been compared to a modern-day Andy Warhol by many in the contemporary art world.

Fairey has never attempted to hide his condition and has mentioned it in several interviews and even spun records at nightclubs under the name “DJ Diabetic"—he's spinning at the Guggenheim tonight.

ANIMAL asked Jonathan Levine, Shepard's NY rep, if the price of his work could potentially fetch more when news like this gets out. "I don't know enough about it. I think it's possible. Even if he's legally blind, it doesn't necessarily mean he's fully blind, so he still might be able to make work," said Levine who refused to confirm or deny Shepard's condition.

5.03.2008

Archdiocese: Pro-choice speaker can't talk about torture at Minneapolis church

Dr. Steven Miles, an internationally known expert on medical complicity in torture at places like Abu Ghraib (and professor at the University of Minnesota's Center for Bioethics), was scheduled to speak at St. Joan of Arc Church in Minneapolis before tomorrow's mass. But when the anti-choice lobbying group Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life got wind of it, they called on the Catholic archdiocese to shut it down. They did -- on grounds that, while Miles' work on torture is exemplary, he doesn't toe the church's pro-life line. St. Joan's, a church I attend, welcomes everyone "wherever you are on your journey." I take that to mean, saint and sinner, pro-choice, pro-life, somewhere -- like many of us -- in between. And that motto has applied to speakers as well: The church has welcomed a range of controversial figures from, famously, Gloria Steinem, to Creation Spirituality theologian (and former Catholic priest who was kicked out of the Dominican order) Matthew Fox, Democracy Now's Amy Goodman and peace activist Cindy Sheehan.

Miles told me, "The position the MCCL is taking is that no voice can address any subject within the church unless that voice is anti-abortion, which would seem to cut the church off from a fair amount of social dialogue." In fact, that's the church's stated policy too: 100% conformity. The bishops' statement on such issues bars speakers who "act in defiance of our basic moral principles." (Talking to Miles, it sounds like the archdiocese or MCCL dug up something he either wrote or said many years ago; is that an "action"?)

There's a happy, if ironic, ending: St. Joan's excellent social justice coordinator Julie Madden got on the phone and arranged a new place for the talk: It'll be held this Tuesday night at the Carondelet Center in St. Paul, owned and operated by another Catholic institution, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.

Read my piece at Minnesota Monitor (which includes the pdf of Miles' planned talk), and Nick Coleman's followup at the Strib, in which he describes what happened as: Miles got Tutu'd.

5.02.2008

Street-art: Found fishery in Nova Scotia

While it's often powerful when street artists "go big," there's something refreshing about the quiet discovery of a subtle, out-of-the-way piece. This one, spotted by John Devlin on four sides of a traffic-control box in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, features marker renderings of one of the peninsula's top industries. Devlin emailed that the piece is located just down the road from a fisherman's cove where lobster, tuna and smelt are hauled in. "The fishery of course is (still) a large part of life in Nova Scotia," he writes, "the collapse in the Newfoundland cod stocks notwithstanding."

Update 5/21/08: John writes back that the piece was really just sketches for a full-color version by commissioned artist Bill Johnson. Which is too bad; I much preferred the subtlety of the lineart version. At any rate, here's to more art in public places!

5.01.2008

Luck's Guns

During a trip to Thailand in February, I connected with Luck Maisalee, a Chiang Mai-based mixed-media artist. A prolific and playful artist, his "Shoot" series features paint-on-cloth depictions of illogical or impossible guns. More to come on Luck.

Consume®econnection

I don't have much to say about this project that GOOD hasn't already said, but this is an idea I can get behind. And part of this blogging experiment is amplifying ideas I believe in. So, behold the Consume®econnection Project, in which New York's Scott Ballum (founder of Consume®evolution magazine) spends his 30th year trying to reconnect with the people behind the products he consumes. He describes the project:
The plan at the outset is to spend the next year, my 30th as it happens, hyper conscious of every consumer purchase I make. For every transaction, there must be a personal connection with someone along the production chain. Whether its the designer, factory worker, chef, farmer, or maybe even trucker, being aware of the lives touched by every product I buy will certainly enlighten me, probably surprise me, possibly shame me, and absolutely provide me with some good stories.

The experiment/challenge will most likely direct me to consuming primarily local goods– grown, produced, created somewhere near Brooklyn, NY. I will not necessarily hold this as a rule, however. I hope to be able to make some connections across the country, and possibly internationally. I'll probably want to buy something that was made in China over the next year, won't I?

Obama for president... of Canada

Nothing unusual about this photo by John Devlin of an Obama banner, except it's location. He spotted it in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Public art victory: $1.1M settlement in suit over destruction of LA Ruscha mural

Back in 2006, with little fanfare and no warning, a gigantic mural of artist Ed Ruscha by LA muralist Kent Twitchell was painted over. Twitchell sued the building's owner, the Department of Labor, citing the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA), created in 1990 “to prevent any destruction of a work of recognized stature,” especially public art. The work was damaged by asbestos-abatement crews and then painted over. This week Twitchell settled his suit against the government and 12 other defendents to the tune of $1.1 million -- thought to be the biggest ever settlement in a VARA case. The government's kicking in $250,000.
In a statement issued on behalf of his lawyers, Twitchell said, "This settlement sets an important precedent which will benefit other artists. This resolution makes it clear that when it comes to public art, you have to respect the artist’s rights, or incur significant liability.”
Twitchell's attorney says the settlement could help the artist restore and/or move the 11,000-square foot Ed Ruscha Monument elsewhere, but art conservators say that could be tricky and expensive.