Bits: 03.31.09

"Louis Vuitton watermelon slice" lollipop by Massimo Gammacurta

Misquoting Voltaire: It turns out the famed French philosopher never said, "I disagree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

• Excellent: 27 visualizations and infographics to understanding the financial crisis. Via Proximity.

• Marilyn Minter's latest lip-goo video installation.

• "Anti-globalization activists Attac distributed 150,000 fake copies of Die Zeit, Germany’s largest weekly newspaper. Headlines present reports the group said it thinks can become reality within 13 months, from nationalized banks to agreement among global leaders."

• How an African-American in the White House plays in Russian advertising: "Chocolate in Vanilla."

Think twice about getting Red Stripe beer to sponsor your art opening: Boycott Jamaica says rights activists have dubbed the island the "most homophobic place on earth."

• RIP: Photographer Helen Levitt

• Video: 8 Million Stories, 2009 by David Ellis, in which he and his crew "discovered how to precisely control the player-piano solenoid systems that automate the recycled garbage in their work."

• Bauhaus B&B: Famed art/design school in Dessau opens up student quarters for tourist lodging.

A Seattle crosswalk that lights up when you set foot on it.

Kid's rooftop weiner drawing viewable from space.

Amnesty ad: "Everybody is against everybody, but somebody has to be for them"

This ad for Amnesty Portugal offers a "big message, delivered in a heightened reality, given appropriate weight without vibing like overbearing charity bullshit," writes AdRants. Agreed.


Sign of the times: "America is dying" graffiti

31st and Clinton, Minneapolis

Culturejamming Claes: Spoonbridge and Cherry "replaced" with an exact replica

While the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden's centerpiece, Spoonbridge and Cherry, is undergoing refinishing, it has been replaced with a "recent acquisition," Spoonbridge (before Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen) -- "an exact replica of the original sculpture's spoon bridge." At least that's what the sculpture's new descriptive panel now says. The new work, attributed to American artist Evan Drolet Cook (b.1984), was discovered by one Peter Englund, who emailed me his photos of the sculpture and didactic label. The label includes Oldenburg's famous quote about being "for an art that grows up not knowing it is art at all," as well as a quote by aritst Maurizio Cattelan, and reads, in part:
Meant to toy with Spoonbridge and Cherry's undisputed status as an icon of the Twin Cities; a marvel that (like all sculptural icons whose image over time begins to stand in for the city's skyline itself, as the Eiffel Tower does for Paris, the Statue of Liberty does for New York, or the Flying Pigs do for Cincinnati) has inhabited the public's image bank for so long it has become frozen, like a picture affront the postcard that made it famous. By replacing the sculpture for a limited period of time with an exact but imperfect replica for a finite amount of time, it begs us to revisit the site and thusly rediscover the true icon's scope, importance and magic in the notable dissonance of its absence.

Click for larger version

Indeed, that seems to be how Englund discovered the altered label. Englund explained in an email that he was photographing the sculpture, but didn't bother reading the label ("who does? it's the the friggin' Spoon and Cherry after all"). Only when he dropped his lens cap, did he notice the culturejammed curatorial statement. "Appropriation to its logical end, it seems," he wrote.

Another layer of intrigue: Cook -- if he's really behind this -- is a gallery monitor at the Walker Art Center, which owns Spoonbridge and Cherry, and a former Film/Video intern and blogger at the institution.


Bits: 03.26.09

Sam Spenser's Bloom, via rebel:art

• Obama and the arts: "[T]he three lesser appointments Obama has so far made in the cultural arena — a Chicago lawyer named Kareem Dale, a Hollywood fund-raiser named Jeremy Bernard, and an Obama Senate staffer named Anita Decker — have been strange at best and, at worst, deflating. None has much arts expertise; what they do have are political connections."

Mussolini's Rome bunker transformed into a contemporary art gallery.

• George Orwell's adopted son recalls his dad's “heart of deep paternal affection.”

• Bachelard, Benjamin, Bey.... An experimental geography reading list compiled by Rhizome's Marisa Olson.

• LACMA takes a look at Jedediah Caesar’s Gleaners Stone, a public sculpture in Culver City "assembled from resin, pigment and various found objects culled from the environment and the artist’s studio."

• Video: A 2007 "urban camouflage" performance in Stockholm.

• After art and politics, Art:21 takes on art + economics, and they want your input.

• Weatherization rap: M.I.A.'s Paper Planes becomes an ode to double-pane windows. ("We've got fewer leaks than the KGB.")

• KFC seems to think that filling potholes (and spraypainting their logo on the black fill piles) is going to make me want to fill my belly with their fried chicken.


Find more videos like this on AdGabber

Janeane Garafolo painting with her armpit hair is less of a turnoff than the Big Turn Off, the World Wildlife Federation's action this Saturday at 8:30 p.m. when everyone is asked to switch off the lights for an hour.

Trailer: Spike Jonze's Where the Wild Things Are

Here's a first glimpse of Spike Jonze's theatrical adapation of the book, Where the Wild Things Are.


Minnesota's Finest: Bachmann's bizarre questions on financial bailouts

Just...wow. Minnesota Republican Michele Bachmann questioned Timothy Geithner and Ben Bernanke today about financial bailouts and succeeded in annoying just about everyone and exposing her lack of knowledge about governance. Right out of the gate, Barney Frank introduces Bachmann as the "gentleman from Minnesota" (am I hearing that correctly?). Then Bachmann asks Treasury Secretary Geithner what specific clause in the Constitution give the Treasury the authority to do what it's done since March 2008; she didn't seem to grasp that, as Geithner said, “Every action that the Treasury and the Fed and the FDIC has been using authority granted by this body, the Congress.” She then asked both Geithner and Fed Chair Bernanke if they "categorically renounce" China's call for a global currency. "They both are like uhh, obviously," Wonkette reports. "And then it’s a few more questions until Barney Frank finally tells Bachmann to shut the fuck up." (Note the guy behind Bernanke who at 3:54 starts shaking his head, I'd guess in disbelief.)


Bits: 03.23.09

Brian Ulrich, CIRCUIT CITY, 2008, courtesy of the artist

• Chicago photographer Brian Ulrich's new series on abandoned big-box stores and empty malls is featured in the Mar. 23 issue of TIME. From the archives, here's my audio slideshow/interview with Brian from last March. Related: The trailer for the film Malls R Us.

• This Saturday, Moore College of Art and Design, Philadelphia, presents the international panel, "Curating and Activism," a daylong shindig featuring videos by Andrea Bowers and Josephine Meckseper; lectures and panels with guests including Michael Rakowitz, Sharon Hayes, Steve Kurtz and others; and more. The Galleries at Moore has the details.

• Forecast announces its 2009 public-art grant recipients.

Spacesick redesigns logos for evil fictional corporations from movies, including Tyrell Corporation from Blade Runner and Rekall from Total Recall. Related: Your Logo Makes Me Barf. Via Adfreak.

• A German company that makes Obama-Fingers fried chicken tenders "says it was unaware of the possible racist overtones of the product.”

• While no empirical evidence exists yet, animal rescue groups say black dogs are more discriminated against than dogs of other colors-- meaning longer shelter stays and higher euthanasia rates. [via]


Bits: 03.22.09

German artist Johan Lorbeer floats above the crowd at a Madrid train station (his leaning arm is fake, concealing a support structure connecting to the wall).

• Israeli arms manufacturer RAFAEL tries to sell "indigenous air systems" to India with a cheesy Bollywood-style video.

• The Walker's red-turned-yellow giant cherry is now green (temporarily).

• Improv Everywhere turns a Manhattan subway station into a temporary art gallery.

Video of a 1994 project at Southwestern College in Chula Vista, Calif., by Nina Katchadourian, Steven Matheson and Mark Tribe in which "50 professional and volunteer parking attendants directed the arriving cars to predetermined lots according to car color" -- nearly 3,500 cars in all.

• Pharrell William's suggestive "Perspective Chairs."

• Thousands of LED lights + night time + hundreds of sheep = art.

• A young Hunter S. Thompson plans his spectacular funeral.

• Shuga Records, opening this spring in the former Minnesota Center for Photography space gets a write-up in Finance & Commerce.


Bits: 03.17.09

Rirkrit Tiravanija's Less Oil More Courage on view in the Kunsthalle Fridericianum (Kassel) rotunda through June 21

• Andrei Molodkin, whose past sculptures have rendered Jesus and the word "Democracy" in liquid petroleum, is taking that idea a step further: He's developed a way to boil human corpses down into a "yellowish, sweet crude" oil, which he'll pour into clear molds to create sculpture. He's already got two volunteers, a BBC reporter and a French porn star. The latter wants to be turned into a sculptural depiction of praying hands. Molodkin's Oil Evolution is on view at New York's Daneyal Mahmood Gallery into April.

Meet Death, Detroit's long-defunct all-black punk band, which preceded Bad Brains by nearly five years. Listen to an mp3 of their frickin' amazing 1976 song "Politicians in My Eyes."

• In New Orleans, artist Mel Chin is enlisting kids to make "fundreds" of millions of dollars. The goal is to make three million of the symbolic bills -- equivalent to the number of real dollars needed to clean up the toxic lead in the city's soil. In the meantime, the bills are stored in a "safehouse," a home transformed into a symbolic bank. Listen to Studio 360's audio report. [via]

Lion in a sidecar! Plus more on 1930s motordomes.

• Your moment of AIG Guy in a Ché T-shirt.

Landescape: Rich Barlow's "Covers"

I don't intend this as faint praise, but I'm comfortable with Rich Barlow's paintings. At first I attributed this ease to a familiarity with the type of work he makes, which references traditions of landscape representation, and the way he softens familiar motifs by using sumptuous silver leaf and multiple layers of vellum. Then I realized: I recognize them -- at least one of them. The image below is based of the cover art from Hüsker Dü's 1984 album New Day Rising, focusing only on the landscape. (For others of his 12 x 12"-square works, I had to look at the titles: below are Amon Düül II's Phallus Dei and Further by Flying Saucer Attack.)

Barlow's "Covers" series, part of the group show Landescape now on view at Minneapolis' Thomas Barry Gallery, plays with notions of landscape and subtly suggests an interrogation of what landscape is and how we ascribe significance -- or commonly in the realm of rock records, myth. In a general statement on his recent work, Barlow writes:
Though inherently meaningless, the natural world is again and again imbued with meaning in visual art. It is treated as a repository of emotion, emblem of nation, and expression of spirituality, inscribed with myth and history and controlled through our gaze. When viewing the natural world and its representations, there is a seductive tendency assume that the meanings we ascribe to it are themselves natural. These meanings are arbitrary, ephemeral and dependent on context, but the desire to render them universal is powerful.

But this series seems not to grasp for meaning but to muddle it in dreamy layers of vellum and foil, raising more questions than answers. He continues:
I am interested in how this imagery is used to produce meaning within the album covers themselves, supposedly saying something about the artist or music they represent, but also in how album covers and other popular culture imagery is used to produce self. I reproduce the images in silver leaf on several layers of vellum, making the images frustratingly unstable and difficult to consume. This difficulty in fully comprehending or consuming the image creates a deferral and heightens the desire to consume the image. The more the meaning is drained from these images and the more their consumption is deferred the more beautiful they become.

Barlow's installation of 25 album-sized works at Thomas Barry delivers on beauty -- trapped under a layer of vellum, the metallic foil appears foggy white; the layers of silverleaf shift from shine to flat black in the gallery's light -- but the significance of the source material gets lost. The gallerist offers neither didactic cards telling the artwork titles or material (they may have appeared on a price list located elsewhere in the gallery) nor the artist's statement to offer a clue that "A Forest," say, is an interpretation of an album by the Cure, instead of say, a painting of... a forest.

But on second thought, perhaps that entirely misses the point.


Bits: 03.15.09

Jota Castro's Mortgage (2009) via C-Monster

• MSNBC told their staff not to mention Jim Cramer's abysmal performance on Thursday's edition of The Daily Show on the air.

Mug shots of Phish fans arrested at the band's Mar. 11 return concert; street value of confiscated drugs: $1,213,882.80.

Painted patches, including the I-94 sign.

• Dollars for "goners."

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.: "The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake."

The Andy Warhol-directed video for The Cars' "Hello again."


Bits: 03.13.09

• Pardon the hiatus from "Bits." Blame Norm Coleman and whoever gave his donor database to Wikileaks.org.

• Yoshitomo Nara was arrested in New York last month for graffiti writing (above) in the Union Square subway station. After his release from jail he said he enjoyed being locked up: It was just "like in the movies."

• Röyksopp's new video envisions a live-action Space Invaders attack!

Deuce Seven's show at Minneapolis' SOOVAC opens tonight from 6 to 9.

• Adbusters' video "The Production of Meaning" (2006), "a collection of television spots and video clips produced over the years by regular culture jammers," is now on Ubuweb.


The Land, Mar. 1, 2008

Here's a scan of a photo taken at The Land, Rirkrit Tiravanija and Kamin Lertchaiprasert's sustainability/art project near Sanpatong, Thailand, last March 1. It appeared months later in Chiang Mai Magazine. (That's me, front row, third from the right; Kamin is back row center in the white shirt.) More photos from the trip here.


Bits: 03.06.09

From Elizabeth Heyter's The Travelers: James "La Smoothe" Patterson Jr. Born: September 1966; Died: February 2004

Worldchanging looks at lk RIP: About death and self-representation on the internet at Mediamatic Amsterdam. An exhibition that looks at "what you leave behind in the online world," the show appears to be in turns macabre, funny and sobering, ranging from Elizabeth Heyert's nearly life-size photos of elaborately dressed deceased Harlem residents, a Ghana-made teddybear coffin, and the website ikRIP.nl, which includes digital last wishes for online profiles.

• Must-read: Bruce Haley's Tao of War Photography (via Kottke). Some of Haley's musings are incredibly funny (i.e don't wear shorts when riding an Asian elephant), but if you look at Haley's porfolio, the more serious offerings stand out: "11. Do you believe in a personal, loving God who really cares about us mortals down here...? Go to a few war zones and famine areas and watch all those innocent children die, then answer this question." (It's followed by: "12. On the flipside of #11: many of the people who have actually suffered through such hardships show the greatest faith I’ve ever encountered on the planet... go figure...")

• In two posts on "branding the recovery," NYT Magazine "Consumed" columnist Rob Walker looks at the Obama administration's recovery logo, calling it, "a bit wimpy to me, a bit, I don’t know, Facebooky or something — or like it represents an iPhone app." (Co-worker Chris emailed that his concern is that the gears don't mesh.) Here, apparently is the rightwing version of it.

• Thoughts about MoMA's NewYorkTimes-worthy MoMA's new website design?

• Opening tonight: Landescape, a group show reconsidering landscape at Thomas Barry Fine Arts. (I plan to review it, so check back.)

• "God Hates Signs!"

The Walker's yellow cherry

Spoonbridge and Cherry, the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden's iconic centerpiece, is getting refurbished, and right about now you'd hardly recognize it. The cherry's been removed from the spoon and shipped to Hugo, Minn., to be sandblasted (above) and resurfaced. A coat of yellow primer (below) will be followed by "another coat of grey epoxy primer, followed by a green fairing compound (similar to bondo), followed by even more layers of primer, paint, and clear-coat." Follow the progress on the museum's Flickr page. (Currently, there are only these two shots.)


And in local cereal box design news...

General Mills is doing throwback cereal boxes...

Bits: 03.04.09

San Suzie at C-Monster: "In Naples, even the street art depicts gory acts of martyrdom."

• Stephen "The Art of Getting Over" Powers, interviewed by GLOB. A taste: "Q. If Tom Cruise made art what would it look like?" "A. hopefully paintings of the volcano on the cover of the dianetics book. maybe he’s a performance artist that puts a giant couch at 76 grand and jumps up and down on it for 30 days." (It, like all of them, are repeated questions; see how other New Yorkers answered.)

• The Winterhouse Awards for Design Writing & Criticism, an AIGA joynt, seeks to "increase the understanding and appreciation of design, both within the profession and throughout American life." Deadline: June 1.

• MAKE Magazine's Make Day is coming to the Science Museum of Minnesota, March 14.

• Via @mnstories, we learn that the Minneapolis Institute of Arts is reducing its staff by 6.1 % -- 11 full-timers and 8 part-timers. MIA director Kaywin Feldman will be taking a 10% cut in pay, and other senior staffers will see salary reductions as well. Read the MIA press release (pdf). Word from the Walker, meanwhile, is that there will be an institution-wide 10 percent budget cut; no details yet on how or if staffing levels will be affected.

• Paddy Johnson, doing a guest post at Art:21, introduces three activist artists you should know: Aaron Gach, Center for Tactical Magic, Jill Magid, System Azure and Carrie Moyer and Sue Schaffner, Dyke Action Machine.

• Pleased to meet you, Provisions Library.

Graffiti zipper

Zip Tape by French-born, Rotterdam/Brussels-based artist Benoit Lemoine. Via Urban Prankster.


For you and your unruly goatee


Gandhi stencil: "Pacifism kicks ass"


Bits: 03.02.09

A map of "Philippe Gonzalvez Island" via Strange Maps.

• MoMA has fired ad guy Doug Jaeger for authorizing Poster Boy to alter its ads in a Brooklyn subway station. As Gawker puts it, "MOMA has 'completely severed' its relationship with Jaeger, because he went and let this stupid artist mess up their perfectly good ads."

• "You never call, you never write..." Jackie Chan is tired of waiting for Hong Kong to respond to his request for a site to exhibit seven antique homes he owns (including one that's 480 years old). He's been asking for a decade, to no avail. When he asked Singapore officials if they were interested, they got back to him in a week.

• Following up my Art:21 post on Amy Franceschini's Victory Gardens project in San Franscisco, here's an in-depth interview with the artist in the Journal of Aesthetics & Protest. (Thanks, Kelly.)

• Paddy Johnson declares Art in America "officially relevant" for hiring former Curbed.com San Francisco editor Sarah Hromack as its managing editor for online. She's in turn brought in writers like Grammarpolice's Kriston Capps and Paul Laster of Artkrush. (Kriston has more.) My suggestion for giving them more relevance: Add RSS!

• The trailers for the documentary Brooklyn DIY (via updownacross) and for Art Spiegelman's new collection of sketchbooks, Be a Nose!

• A gallery of bad paintings of Barack Obama.

Justseed's Josh MacPhee on the dearth of rightwing graffiti

At the 2009 Conservative Political Action (CPAC) conference this weekend, The Daily Beast's Max Blumenthal found a rare kind of artist: a conservative hip hop musician. Self-defined "Republican rapper" Hi-Caliber says he takes inspiration from the likes of Michael Savage and Rush Limbaugh to lay down lyrics like: "A socialist in the White House / what have we done? / You think Bush was bad? / Now the real fun has begun / The Democrats want to take my gun..."

But what Blumenthal found at CPAC, I haven't had much luck in finding in the visual arts: interesting street art coming from a right-of-center perspective. In my search, raised in my Thursday post, "Where's all the rightwing street art?," I got in touch with artist Josh MacPhee, who founded Justseeds, an artists' cooperative, online store, and blog. He couldn't offer examples of artists, but he shared his thoughts on the topic of why they're so hard to find.

He says the American political Left draws from a long history of visual agit-prop, whereas conservatives have used other vehicles. "When [the Right] is marginalized, it has built itself through local radio broadcasts, direct mailings, election to local office, etc.—channels that appear to be legal, mainstream, and legitimate," he says. "The Left has no problem appearing to be speaking from the margins (even if they are speaking from a position generally held by the vast majority, i.e. the anti-war position right now), but the Right always wants to speak from the center, to claim they are being marginalized, but simultaneously appear to be legitimate and supported by the majority."

He posits that illegal or guerrilla art has long been a way for people whose voices aren't represented by corporate media channels to be heard. "For most of the history of this country, and more specifically for the past eight years, the ideas and opinions of the right wing, and even the extreme right wing, have been common currency. They are seen in daily newspapers, heard on the radio, even spread across billboards," he says. "There is much less of a need for right-wing graffiti, when the right wing speaks to the hundreds of millions from TV screens and evangelical church pulpits."


Practical propaganda: Amy Franceschini reinvents the Victory Garden

Ever since stumbling upon an exhibition by Amy Franceschini in San Francisco in 2007, I've wanted to talk with her about her artistic practice and, specifically, her mission to revive San Francisco's famed Victory Gardens program, which were used during the World Wars to grow food for citizens. Guest-blogging at Art:21 provided the perfect opportunity. The founder of Futurefarmers, Franceschini set out to create everything she needed to attract would-be gardeners and help them get started: seed kits, promotional propaganda posters, uniforms, and both symbolic and functional sculptures, hybrids like the "pogoshovel" and "bikebarrow" (above), which she calls "playful sculptural invitations."

An excerpt from Art:21:

Wanting to welcome the broadest range of people, she struggled with what role aesthetics should play in the project. “I tried to convince myself that aesthetics could get in the way of a potent message,” she remembers. “Some people maybe would only go to the surface and not go any further. And I think in the last couple of years I’ve tried to figure out a balance. If you look at Futurefarmers’ work, the aesthetic is always very strong, and that’s been a really positive thing. But I think it can also be a negative thing where certain people only see that surface layer…Right now I’m very much like: aesthetics are really important. That’s what people respond to, it lures people in, it lures in people who maybe wouldn’t have looked at it in the first place, and if they only get to that surface level, fine. At least they got there.”

She sees objects like the pogoshovel as propaganda in sculptural form. She wanted to create a “wonderful and fantastical image —that if someone saw a bike and a wheelbarrow connected, it would make them do a double-take,” she says. “Just to provoke people through a playful image was interesting to me.” (Some of these pieces are functional, as well. When a family is selected to be part of the program, the project delivers their starter materials, fittingly, via pedal-power in a VG Trike/Wagon.)

Read it all.