The smooth jazz stylings of Metallica

"Enter Sandman," smooth jazz version, via @thanland.

The Yes Men on James O'Keefe: "Incredibly sad and pathetic"

"For O'Keefe and Brietbart to be targeting ACORN is incredibly sad and pathetic," says Mike Bonanno, whose culturejamming group the Yes Men has been cited as an inspiration by ACORN sting operator James O'Keefe. "Most of its members are lower-income home owners, so these are model Americans -- pull themselves up by their bootstraps type of people -- people who are often very poor."

The Raw Story has more.


Vancouver is burning...

Isabelle Hayeur's video installation Fire with Fire (2010) seemingly sets a Vancouver building ablaze -- even bringing firetrucks, as the video below shows. The Montreal-based artist's work alludes to the history of the city's oldest neighborhood, one now in the throes of urban decay "plagued by social problems due to poverty." Set against the backdrop of rampant real-estate speculation leading up to the winter Olympics, the work addresses anxiety, destruction and perhaps rebirth. In her artist's statement, Hayeur writes:
It is striking that the history of the Downtown Eastside began in destruction and disappearance. In 1886, soon after the city was incorporated, the Great Vancouver Fire swept down on the neighbourhood and razed almost all of it to the ground. The video installation Fire with Fire recalls this troubled period of Vancouver’s history. It also alludes to the neighbourhood’s present conditions by reminding us that many lives have been consumed there, worn down by years of homelessness, drug use, street prostitution, and violence.

Via The Pop-Up City.

Bits: 03.29.10

Moss graffiti by Anna Garforth (more here)

• New Museum chief curator (and former Walker chief curator) Richard Flood, falling just short of opining that the internet is a "series of tubes," reportedly said recently that he "just found out about blogs three months ago." It's likely been a steep learning curve this week: His comments that the internet is a "ghetto" and bloggers are a monolithic bunch of fact-averse "prairie dogs" have been ridiculed on Twitter, meme-ified, reblogged by top art bloggers and prairie dogs alike, and picked up by critic Jerry Saltz, who writes, appropriately, "Richard... You need to learn about the Internet."

• While Utne's Keith Goetzman writes that much wildlife photography is shot using captive animal "models" at game farms, The Mail Online shows how Greg du Toit photographed wild lions in Kenya: he half-submerged himself in a watering hole for 270 hours, contracting malaria, Bilharzia, hookworms and other parasites in the process.

• Via Burlesque, KAMCHRUACH, a mix of Thai and Cambodian pop and rock from the '60s and '70s. The download is free, but all donations go to Tiny Toones, a youth center in Phnom Penh.

"Wikipedia Saves Public Art" aims to document public art around the world.

• Jake at Abstract Archive presents an adorable father/daughter trip to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

• From the mind of Dan Sinker comes Cell Stories, a cellphone-based (but not app-driven) delivery system for daily short stories by authors including Minneapolis' own Jeff Severns Guntzel.

• "Erykah Badu shed her clothes as she walked along a Dallas, Texas, sidewalk until she was nude and then fell near where President Kennedy was assassinated."

• There's a photo of me avec furrowed brow here, within a good post about the Walker Art Center's planning for this summer's Open Field programming around "the commons."


RIP Jim Marshall

Jim Marshall, creator of some of rock 'n' roll's greatest images -- Janis Joplin with her Southern Comfort bottle, Dylan kicking a tire, this proto-punk Johnny Cash shot -- has died at age 74.


Bangladeshi police shut down photo show symbolically critical of police

Wall, Shahidul Alam

Police in Dhaka, Bangladesh, have shut down an exhibition of photos by Shahidul Alam, prompting students to create a human chain in protest and seek legal action to see the show reopened. The content of the exhibition?

The photography exhibit was a symbolic treatment of the wave of executions carried out by the Rapid Action Battalion, an anticrime squad whose many critics say that it engages in violent social cleansing.

Rather than document actual killings — something already done at great length by groups like Human Rights Watch — Mr. Alam created a series of large, moody prints that touched on aspects of actual cases...

...Although the killings have drawn international condemnation, they have continued, despite promises by the government to rein in the battalion. Mr. Alam, a photographer, writer and activist, had hoped that his track record and international reputation would offer the “Crossfire” show some protection.

The artist, as director of the exhibiting gallery, Drik, released a statement that reads, in part: "The unfortunate event, which was broadcast worldwide, has tarnished the image of this democratically-elected government. We call upon the government to immediately remove the police encirclement, so that the exhibition can be opened for public viewing and Bangladesh's image as an independent democratic nation can be reinstated."

The show's curator, Jorge Villacorta, introduces the show with a description of the image above:
There is a wall running along a street. The writing on it is fragmented and cannot quite be made sense of. The image was taken in the middle of the night and a yellow glare was allowed to invade the site, as the wall slipped away at an angle. A shadowy presence barely registered on the shot. This urban setting, one is tempted to say, could be nothing but the scene of a crime. The sinister, uneasy beauty of this work by Shahidul Alam informs other images that are part of his new series, again and again. Others are eerie, otherworldly; and others still, seem familiar yet are anguished, as if the common ground for existence was being subtracted from the picture altogether...
Hat tip @Yumi_Goto

Bits: 03.23.10

A sheet of stamps from Steve McQueen's Queen and Country

• Artist Steve McQueen, who for years has been trying to get create postage stamps honoring 160 British soldiers killed in Iraq, has hit a wall: the Royal Mail refuses to make the stamps. His Queen and Country is on display at the National Portrait Gallery in London until July 18.

• Trailer: The Dhamma Brothers, a documentary about a Vipassana meditation program at one of Alabama's most dangerous prisons. Via @brookpete

• Minneapolis exhibition: The Sylvan Screen: Richard Barlow and Regan Golden at Bethel University closes Mar. 28. Don't miss more of Barlow's "Covers" series.

Redesigned: the Walker Channel, now with HD video, captions, transcripts and better searching for Walker Art Center events.

• Trailer for the probably-not-to-be-made biopic, Weird: The Al Yankovic Story, starring Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad, Big Love) as the weird one.

• Jason Kottke: "I didn't know it until just now, but I had been waiting all my life to watch a short film featuring Werner Herzog voicing a plastic shopping bag."

• Sincere thanks to all who linked to my interview with Izabella Demavlys about her portraits of Pakistani acid-burn victims: Joerg Colberg, Utne Reader and Utne on Tumbr, Secrets of the City, METRO Magazine, RESPECT, and all those who have tweeted, retweeted and reTumbled. Thanks for spreading the word.


Without a Face: Izabella Demavlys on photographing Pakistan's survivors of acid attacks


A former fashion photographer now doing documentary work, Izabella Demavlys writes in her artist's statement that "to illustrate a deeper definition of female beauty, I photograph women whose pictorial beauty radiates from their accomplishment, character and personal struggles." Her latest series, "Without a Face," offers a direct and profoundly affecting kind of beauty: portraits of Pakistani women healing after attacks by men wielding kerosene oil or battery acid. One, 20-year-old Memona, was attacked by a boy on her way to school; she's undergone some 30 reconstructive surgeries. Saira (below) was burned by her husband for refusing to move in with him. According to Demavlys, 400 women in Lahore alone are currently awaiting surgery from such attacks.

In an email interview, Demavlys told about her move from fashion photography -- which she says presents a distorted image of beauty -- to these portraits of women who, while disfigured by acts of hatred, force us to reconsider ideas about beauty and resilience. In discussing what she feels her earlier work lacked, she used a fitting term, one used by Roland Barthes: The images in "Without a Face" undeniably have "punctum," the ability to "wound" or "pierce" the viewer.

Paul Schmelzer: In thinking about blogging this, I confess having some hesitation: I didn't want to use an image of pain and disfigurement to stand for an entire multidimensional person. Can you talk about the rhetoric of the "Without a Face" series? Did you fear you'd reduce a woman like Saira to just the story of her attack and suffering? Or, perhaps, is that what's happened to women like her -- disfigured this way, they're reduced to this one moment in their history every time someone sees their scarred faces?

Izabella Demavlys: I was going around in circles for many years making meaningless work. Meaningless and uninspiring for others and myself. When I saw a story about a young girl, an acid burn victim working as a beautician in Pakistan last year, I immediately thought, "This is a person I need to meet." I thought this woman stood for everything I wanted to express with my work. I never went to Pakistan with a fear that I would reduce them by photographing them, but rather feared that I wouldn’t be able to enhance them enough, showing what a source of inspiration they really are to me and to be able to convey that to others.

To not show these photographs to the world would be to deprive them of their courage for sitting down for a portrait and later telling me their stories.


What a paradox, what is going through someone’s mind getting her makeup done when the beautician’s face is so severely burned? Does it make you more thankful, does it make feel more empathy? What does it tell you about beauty? Can this woman change someone's perspective about beauty?

All the dimensions of a person cannot be viewed in one single photograph. But the pain and disfigurement these women have survived is a large part of their identity. One in which I would like to expose to others. Their pain is a reminder to all of us how small our problems often are.

I would like to point to Joerg Colberg's blog entry, why we must see, posted on March 10, 2010. [Note: It's through Jörg's post that I learned about Ms. Demavlys' work.]

PS: In Regarding the Pain of Others, Susan Sontag wrote, "Harrowing photographs do not inevitably lose their power to shock. But they are not much help if the task is to understand. Narratives can make us understand. Photographs do something else: they haunt us."

The shocking nature of "Without a Face" is contrasted by the softer-edged "Saira" series, where you capture one of these women in the context of her home and family, who were welcoming to you. Is this series your "narrative"? Comment on Sontag's notion (which was specifically about war photography)?


ID: I don’t think we can ever fully understand what is going on if we’re not in the same situation ourselves. But we can feel empathy. In anger, rage, compassion, etc., and become more aware of these issues through the solidarity of human emotion. We can come to a point that we want to help by looking at harrowing photographs. I can’t comprehend waking up every day without having a nose or being blinded because someone decided to throw acid on my face.

The images I make may haunt you deeply, but they will never make you fully understand.

PS: What do you hope viewers of your work come away with? I feel outrage, but it's undirected (what can I do about such atrocities?). Then after I get accustomed to seeing these disfigured faces, I wonder what their lives are like now, where they find joy, how they struggle to heal after such attacks...

ID: Many people have emailed me and asked for more information about acid burn victims and how they could help. There’s always something we can do. We have to stop thinking we cannot play a part.

[For information on how to help, contact the Acid Survivors Foundation, Pakistan.]


I want to disturb people's oblivion; like I’ve pointed out before, I want to make people feel something. It’s easier to turn to the sport channels when news about the war comes up. It’s easy to talk about how depressed we are as a rich nation, and we do this even though 1.4 billion people live at the poverty line or below.

Many of us in the West live in a bubble, but I still believe we can shake people up from their daily routines.

It all comes down to educating myself as well as others, and appreciate what we already have because so many people have to deal with such greater hardships.

PS: How do you see the "Without a Face" work relating to your other projects (say, your NYC portraits)?

My NYC portrait section is lingering from the past. I’m moving away from that type of imagery and I hope in the future to work more on projects like "Without a Face." Projects that touch sensitive and important subject matter. Even so, I am very inspired by artists such as Alec Soth and Richard Renaldi. The aesthetics of the large-format camera, the interest in portraiture, and the focus on women will always be present in my work.


PS: So much of mainstream photography idealizes the female figure and face. While those photos allow us to gaze on "beauty," yours allow us to linger on images we don't often see in person -- and, if we did, ones we'd likely be shy to examine closely in person. How do you see this project as responding to or reacting to beauty-focused photography? Are you, in some way, monumentalizing women who don't fit the mainstream (western) beauty paradigm? Is there a link between fashion (your past field) -- which seems in large part based on male preferences for the way women "should" look -- and these crimes against women which are perpetrated by men?

ID: A true observation...

One of the reasons I shifted over from fashion photography was its conceptualized views of women. I came to a point where I couldn’t work in that environment anymore. My past in the fashion world wasn’t giving my viewers any images that had punctum (Roland Barthes), nor did my work change perceptions, behaviors, or engage the viewer in any issues. I simply fueled the fashion world with more images of young women who would represent what I believe is a distorted idea of beauty.

I had an urge to show my definition of beauty. Beauty to me does not sit on the surface, it’s radiates through how you make an example of yourself to others. How you directly or indirectly inspire others through your personal struggles and through your accomplishments in life.


Bits: 03.19.10

Photo from the new monograph Bird Watching by Minneapolis-based artist Paula McCartney, who photographs synthetic craft-store birds in natural settings

• The Architect's Newspaper reports that Eli Broad has arrived upon a location for his new contemporary art museum in LA, "on the site of two parking lots just south of the Walt Disney Concert Hall and across the street from the LA Museum of Contemporary Art and The Colburn School."

What kind of font is your dog?

• Downtown Journal (Minneapolis) looks at Allen Brewer's (excellent) show at Chambers, which is made up mostly of intricate carbon-paper transfers on found materials from yellowed paper to foundry blocks to a gradeschool desk.

Guernica's not going anywhere. Board decides Picasso's painting won't move to the Salon de Reinos del Museo del Ejercito. “The extraction of the Guernica from the [Centro de Arte de Sofica Reina] Pavilions’ context, and from the collection not only means treason to its historical specification, but also the dismemberment of the union of exceptional significance within the history of contemporary universal culture,” said the Board in a declaration.

• The first edition of Triple Canopy's podcast on "the politics of urban sound," Bangkok is Ringing.

• Minneapolis event: The Weisman Art Museum's WAM Chatter -- a series of art-themed pecha kucha presentations -- continues Mar. 25 with a discussion on the commons, with art professors Jan Estep and Jennifer Marshall and English prof Paula Rabinowitz.

• Artist William Powhida holds a tangle of contradictions in both hands in his Art:21 piece on ethics, morality and the New Museum -- the topic of his recent work, How the New Museum Committed Suicide with Banality.

• On the to-listen-to list: Art on Air's latest upload, audio of an Oct. 2009 summit featuring curator Nato Thompson, Democracy Now's Amy Goodman, and the Yes Men.

• Your moment of bedazzled cranium.

Cataloging Twin Cities graphic design blogs

The Walker Art Center design blog

You've seen the art blogs and the artist-created blogs, now here's a list of Twin Cities graphic design blogs. Great quality, poor quantity: so please submit links to other Minneapolis design blogs in comments. I'm less interested in commercial sites that are showing off client work and more interested in sites that are discussing the aesthetics of design and its role in culture, as well as pointing out examples of great design.

Anthem Heart
Better Matters (Kristina Fong)
Geotypografika (Erik Brandt)
Kindra Is Here (Kindra Murphy)
Matthew Rezac
MCAD Design Club
MCAD DesignWorks
World Famous Design Junkies (Chris Burns)
Walker Design


Cataloging Twin Cities artist blogs

Alec Soth's Little Brown Mushroom Blog

Following up Monday's post on noteworthy Twin Cities–based blogs about visual art, here's my running tally of local blogs by artists. My aim isn't to create a comprehensive catalogue of all artist bloggers, but to highlight what I think are some of the more interesting examples of working contemporary artists discussing or presenting their work in a blog format. Got a suggestion? Leave a link in comments or email me.

... ___ ... (Hardland Heartland)
Big Time Attic (Zander Cannon, Kevin Cannon)
Jennifer Davis
FrankGaard.org (Frank Gaard)
Fox and Owl (Erika Olson Gross)
Good Morning, Andrew (Andrew Schroeder)
Gut of Art (Nick Harper)
Little Brown Mushroom (Alec Soth)
Little Brown Miscellanea (Alec Soth)
Now that we're being honest... (Lacey Prpic Hedtke)
Ongoing (Margaret Pezalla)
Meat Market (Garrett Perry, Kristina Mooney, Suzanne Mahoney)
Mt. Holly Mayor's Office (Mike Haeg)
Ruben Nusz
sostonedrightnow (Crystal Quinn)
Terrence Payne
Rephotographica (George Slade)
Amy Rice
Marilyn Stevens
Scott Stulen
Swank Dollar (Annie Larson)
Tectonic Industries (Lars Boye Jerlach, Helen Stringfellow)
Tonja Torgerson

Graphic design blogs in Minneapolis-St. Paul.


Bits: 03.16.10

Rooster, by Jennifer Davis

• Rest in Peace, civil right–era photographer Charles Moore. Watch the aptly titled documentary on this white, Montgomery native's career: I Fight With My Camera. Via Art Beat.

• Minneapolis exhibition: Spree, a solo show of paintings and drawings by Jennifer Davis, opening Mar. 27 at First Amendment Arts.

• Video: Mono Lake (1968–2004), a road trip movie, of sorts, by Robert Smithson, Nancy Holt and Michael Heizer.

• He may have lost his jaw and his ability to speak, but Roger Ebert hasn't lost his voice: in a new column, he sticks it to Glenn Beck for saying his viewers should leave churches that preach about social and economic justice.

• Better Matters shows off some flattering street stencils.

Happy St. Urho's Day!


Cataloging Twin Cities art blogs

When I look at Modern Arts Notes' Minneapolis art blogs list, I cringe: Just two? So in the spirit giving visibility to Twin Cities makers and thinkers about art, I'm going start cataloging blogs by and about contemporary art and design. First in the series -- led off by an image from my favorite local visual-culture blog, ROLU -- is blogs about art. I'll follow it up with posts listing artist-created blogs and blogs by graphic designers. (Sorry, as theater and dance aren't my forte, I'll skip those; ditto with personal photoblogs.) If you've got titles of active blogs about contemporary art or design, please leave them in comments or email me. Hopefully the list will grow over time...

Art of This Blog
Arts Orbit
The Chronicle of Artistic Failure in America
Northern Lights
Public Address (Northern Lights and Forecast Public Art)
South Twelfth
Springboard for the Arts
Start Seeing Art
Walker Art Center blogs
We Work Here

Next: Cataloging Twin Cities artist blogs


Bits: 03.12.10

Nina Katchadourian, Shark Journal (2001), from the series "Sorted Books"

• The artists behind the artists: Art:21 interviews several of Julie Mehretu's studio assistants, while the Walker shows the installation -- and installers -- of its new Abstract Resistance show.

• Apparently, Gavin Brown's kid, Max, -- who points out that he was painted by Elizabeth Peyton, a friend of the family -- is on Reddit.

• Speaking of Brown, he's hosting the first solo show of artist Nick Relph, now through Apr. 3. Matt Olson at ROLU takes a look.

• Books that caught my eye: Rizzoli's Performing/Guzzling: Kim Gordon; Princeton Architectural Press' Interactive Architecture and Bioreboot.

• Minneapolis exhibitions:
Allen Brewer / if not it, then what?, opens tonight at the Burnet Art Gallery at Chambers. Mike Perry: Lost in the Discovery of What Shapes the Mind, opens Mar. 26 at the MCAD Gallery.

Congrats to Joy Garnett on 10 years of NewsGrist. Always looked up to her and saw -- and see -- her as a kindred spirit.

• As the U.S. Post Office issues stamps paying homage to abstract expressionists including Rothko, Motherwell, de Kooning and others, it's probably a good time to remember advice from the Minneapolis Institute of Arts: Please Don't Lick the Art.


Bits: 03.11.10

The landscape of helipads (above), by the Center for Land Use Interpretation.

• Tyler Green looks at Kendall Geers' proposal for the Guggenheim's Contemplating the Void exhibition through the lens of torture. Geers' plan would install his 1995 text-based work in the museum rotunda:
A bomb has been hidden, somewhere within this exhibition, set to explode at a time known to the artist alone. While it is not my intention to kill anyone, that risk does exist. I apologize in advance for any injuries, fatalities, damage or other inconvenience that my work, will cause. In this matter I have no choice, being as much a victim of the course of Art History and contemporary politics as those who are hurt in the process. I take consolation in the fact that chance will be entirely responsible for the final statistics.
• Hrag on the New Museum's unofficial new ad campaign.

• A work by the late Simon Sparrow, a self-taught artist and preacher in Madison, Wis., and the subject of one of my first in-depth bits of art writing, was featured on Antiques Road Show last week (fast-forward to 3:56). Here's a piece of his at the Smithsonian.

Architecture of Consequence, on view now through May 20 at the Netherlands Architecture Institute, Rotterdam. Via The Pop-Up City, which calls out a floating island designed for Amsterdam by Dutch architect Anne Holtrop with Studio Noach and botanist Patrick Blanc.

• The daughter of Korda, the Cuban photographer whose image of Che Guevara is inarguably the most iconic in the country's history, is suing those who use the now-copyrighted image.

• Burlesque interviews Broken Crow about their SXSW murals.

• This video of Kirsten Dunst singing "I'm Turning Japanese," directed by Takashi Murakami, is "so two months ago," I'm told. Via Hiroshi Sunairi on Facebook.


Bars v. grocery stores in the upper midwest

I live in a red state after all -- when red means there are more bars than grocery stores in a given area. Via Andrew Sullivan via Flowing Data.


Bits: 03.02.10

A photo from Umida Akhmedova's censored series on women in Uzbekistan

• Last month, an Uzbek court found documentarian/photographer Umida Akhmedova guilty of slander -- er, "offense through mass media" -- against the nation for her photographs and film about the plight of newly married women there. While she could've been sentenced to three years in prison, she was released under an amnesty tied to the 18th anniversary of Uzbekistan's independence. Created through a grant from the Swiss embassy, her film The Burden of Virginity hasn't been shown in her native country, but is viewable online. Here's a selection of the offending photos, from the series "Woman and Man: From Dawn till Night."

Assignment 3 of ROLU's participatory poster project Scattered Light is out. Send your "photo of a wall" today.

Bovine bombing by "popagandist" Ron English.

• Avatar is the top-grossing film of all time... only it isn't.

• It's about time: "Crumpled City Maps are soft, yet hard-wearing, waterproof and meant to be creased and crumpled."

• When mascots defy the brand, things get apocalyptic: The logo-laden Oscar-nominated animated short Logorama features a foul-mouthed, AK-47-toting Ronald McDonald, a bird-flippin' Michelin Man cop, a booger-flinging Big Boy and hundreds of other corporate symbols run amok. NSFW: language, implied Jolly Green Giant wiener. (Via A Whole Lotta Nothing; thanks, Ed.)

Banksy, on why he won't be doing any gallery shows soon: “I’ve come into contact with a lot more villains since I moved from vandalism into selling paintings. The art world is full of shady people peddling bright colours. Anti-graffiti groups like to say tagging intimidates people, but not as much as modern art. That stuff is deliberately designed to make normal people feel stupid. I could try and get more legitimate mural work, but scaling a drainpipe is still probably a lot easier than getting an original idea past a committee.”

• Another animated short: David Lynch recounts meeting with George Lucas, who wanted him to direct Return of the Jedi.

• The Groundswell Collective's new journal is dedicated to crisis folklore. Just ten bucks.

Alec Soth is on Twitter.

• Telling: The first image in ArtInfo's slideshow preview of the Armory Show isn't art, but a bejeweled woman in a cocktail dress.

• Your moment of barfing Windsor guard.