Rich Barlow at the Chambers: "I Didn't Ask for Sunshine"

Rich Barlow, a Minneapolis-based artist I hope to feature here soon, captures my own conflicted feelings about going to certain art openings: out-of-place, aching slightly to fit in with the hobnobbers and well-to-do art speculators, but ultimately an outsider. In my favorite bit of art writing in awhile he recounts seeing exhibitions by Megan Rye and Andréa Stanislav at the Chambers Burnet Gallery in downtown Minneapolis. Finding works by Stanislav, which depict pop culture icons from New York Dolls guitarist Johnny Thunders (right) to Omar from "The Wire" in layers of glitter and resin, "relentlessly bleak," he heads to the bar:
These ideas bouncing vaguely about my head, I walked out past the Angus Fairhurst gorilla, more snow-back than silverback, to the ice bar to purchase an $8 beer. (I should point out here that even Microsoft Word seems to think that "$8 beer" is a typo.) "Cheap dialogue, cheap essential scenery," perhaps, though somehow I doubt an outdoor bar carved of ice is cheap, or essential. It is pretty remarkable, though, like so much of the surroundings at Chambers, as well as seductive and fun. Just like seeing one's reflection in one of Stanislav's wall pieces, it all leads to feeling complicit in this production of desire and consumption. It's an uncomfortable sensation, and like Johnny Rotten in "Holidays in the Sun" [from which Stanislav's exhibition takes its title] it's enough to make you want to climb over the wall. Or, to see if there's enough cash left for a scotch, inside with the outsiders. They pour them pretty generously.
Read it.

Shoe-thrower memorialized

A new statue honoring shoe-throwing Iraqi journalist Muntadar al-Zaidi has been erected in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit -- only it doesn't depict al-Zaidi. It represents his shoe.

Al-Zaidi, who's reportedly been tortured in police custody, faces 15 years in prison for what's considered an act of aggression against a head of state.


Quote: Armless, legless...

Cover page of my recently unearthed advertising portfolio from circa 1997.


Media and the pen

This shot of news photographers immortalizing the pen Obama used to sign his first executive order "functions symbolically [...] as an indictment of the media, and its tendency to become overwhelmingly focused on the politically trivial." Now I wish I could see a shot of the photographer who shot this picture as he did so.

Jon Stewart: "One of the genius moves of the Founders was not writing the Bill of Rights on the back window of a dusty van."

Must-watch Daily Show segment. My favorite bit starts with a clip of Bill O'Reilly discussing Obama's inaugural address: "I didn't like the line [...] about 'we don't need to compromise our values to protect ourselves.' I think sometimes we do."

Jon Stewart replied: "If you don't stick to your values when tested, they're not values! They're hobbies. One of the genius moves of the Founders was not writing the Bill of Rights on the back window of a dusty van."

Crashers for Christ

Yesterday near San Antonio, Texas, a driver in a pickup truck rear-ended another motorist because he felt she wasn't “driving like a Christian.” Michael E. Schwab told first responders at the scene that "it was Jesus' will for him to punish the car.” This comes a few days after a somewhat similar incident here in the Twin Cities: On the anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision, an abortion activist smashed his SUV into a St. Paul Planned Parenthood office; when police found him, he was reportedly praying. A good question raised by Chris Steller: Given the criteria for charging Republican National Convention protesters here, could the driver be charged as a terrorist?

Pictured: DIY Jesus hood ornament

Gitmo, licked.

Here's a post in which I use two-day-old news about Obama's order to close Guantanamo within a year as an excuse to post this excellent stamp produced by Amnesty International in 2006. The fine print reads: "Write to him and help us stop torture at Guantanamo Bay. Remember, use simple words."

GOP: Thanks to us, the economy is strong!

"Thanks to Republican economic policies, the U.S. economy is robust and job creation is strong." So says the first line of the "Economy" section on the National Republican Congressional Committee's website.

Uh... Pick up a paper much, GOP?


The Golden Girls: Rock stars

The new video by Pistol Youth is pure gold. Via Coudal.

"The power of a logo in public space"

Setting out to "prove the power of the logo in a public space," Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman created fake logo wraps for his vehicle, mimicking the look of vans driven by couriers for TNT and DHL. Proof of that power? Parking wherever he wanted, as couriers do, he never once got a ticket.

Obama changes executive privilege; W has less to hide behind

This new era of transparency might make George W. Bush a tad nervous:
On his first day in office, President Obama put former president Bush on notice. His administration just released an executive order that will make it difficult for Bush to shield his White House records--and those of former Vice President Dick Cheney--from public scrutiny by invoking the doctrine of executive privilege. Shortly after taking office, Bush handed down his own executive order, amending the Presidential Records Act to give current and past presidents, along with their heirs, veto power over the release of presidential records, which are considered the property of the American people.
On Wednesday, Obama said, "Going forward, anytime the American people want to know something that I or a former President wants to withhold, we will have to consult with the Attorney General and the White House Counsel, whose business it is to ensure compliance with the rule of law. Information will not be withheld just because I say so. It will be withheld because a separate authority believes my request is well grounded in the Constitution."

Paglen on closing Gitmo

Trevor Paglen, my pick for 2008 artist of the year, has reached a noteworthy point: he's an artist quoted by major media as an expert on one of the subjects of his art -- although his art isn't mentioned. Paglen, who co-authored a book on the CIA's extraordinary rendition program called Torture Taxi, is quoted by a San Francisco ABC station on Obama's order to close Guantanamo and the CIA's "black site" prisons. I'm sure Paglen, an experimental geographer at Berkeley, had something more interesting to say than the quote ABC used -- "Hopefully this is a step towards restoring a kind of rule of law around how the war on terror is going to be prosecuted" -- but what's most striking to me is that he was quoted at all.

Above: Paglen's photo of "The Salt Pit," a CIA prison in northeast of Kabul, Afghanistan.

Coming soon: On Feb. 5, Paglen's newest book comes out. Pre-order Blank Spots on the Map: The Dark Geography of the Pentagon's Secret World.


One minute in Antarctica

Each week during his four-month residency at the Halley Reseach station on Antarctica's Brunt ice shelf, artist Neville Gabie is making a one-minute video. Given the current "summertime" temperature -- minus-10 during the day -- Gabie's weekly videos are all the more remarkable. Last week, he flew a kite, while this week he's drawing vehicles presumably driven by his hosts at the British Antarctic Survey. Follow his progress at oneminuteweek.tumblr.com.

Aerial view of Minnesota's Art Shanty Projects

One of the best -- and oddest -- cold-weather pastimes here in Minnesota is the Soap Factory's Art Shanty Projects. Appropriating the tradition of icefishing, the annual outdoor exhibition on Medicine Lake showcases icehouses made for artistic purposes. Projects in the past have ranged from a Korean karaoke shanty to a mobile pedal-powered house (which briefly appears in my MnIndy video of last summer). Via @walkerartcenter we find a great series of aerial photos, taken from a kite, of some of this year's entries.

Inaugural Addresses: War v. Peace

According to SpeechWars, presidents have said the word "peace" 248 times in inaugural addresses. "War" has come up 168 times.

"Great Moments in Presidential Speeches": The Final W Edition

Hair-removal product gets political

An ad for the hair-removal product Veet takes advantage of the political moment, running an ad in an Australian paper with the headline "Goodbye Bush." I wonder how long the agency that created it has been holding onto the idea...

Flak's 100th at the Ritz

Next Monday:
...Flak Radio will be celebrating its 100th episode LIVE from the lobby of the Ritz Theater in NE Minneapolis. We’ll have a pretty sweet set-up, including an interview with the J.O.Z. from the PiPress, a 30” pizza, some Niggtistics from Eric Nigg and a bunch of other stuff. January 26th, 7 p.m. Ritz Theater [Minneapolis].

Star Wars Yoga

Hilarious. (Via C-Monster.)

Bush St. > Obama St.

Via @brainpicker, a Flickr pool of street signs changed from Bush to Obama. Jeff Poskanzer's shot from San Francisco above.


Christian protester at Obama's inauguration

By Gerry Canavan via Cynical-C.

The Kinda Sutra

In her latest film, documentary director Jessica Yu (In the Realms of the Unreal) looks at youthful misconceptions about sex and childbirth.

Alec Soth: "The Last Days of W."

Osama, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Photographer Alec Soth's series "The Last Days of W." is a worthy purchase on this, inauguration day. Sharing its title with a poem by Lester B. Morrison, the series presents “a panoramic look at a country exhausted by its catastrophic leadership," Soth says. Read more at MnIndy.

Where Obama and Run DMC intersect

C-monster tweets about "that sublime point where Obama and Run DMC intersect."


The new New Yorker cover.

Imagining Bush: Artists on the official presidential portraits

While the official portrait of George W. Bush, unveiled last month at the National Portrait Gallery, has drawn criticism, little of it has been about the artwork itself. (Last week, Sen. Bernie Sanders successfully called for the painting's label to be changed to delete mention of causation between the 9/11 attacks and the two wars Bush has waged.) So, over at MnIndy, I asked artists, curators and designers to weigh in on the portrait of Bush and First Lady Laura. A sample:

Dan Ibarra, graphic designer and co-founder of Aesthetic Apparatus:
The foundational flaw with this portrait, and with the entire Bush presidency, is that this would be an interesting portrait for a Fortune 500 CEO or a city politician. But the last thing this world needs is an American president that was not at his utmost level of professionalism and intelligence. Yes, I relate to an Everyman, but I don’t want him for my president. George W. Bush is proof of what happens. And this portrait is proof that he makes no apologies for that.
Mason Riddle, St. Paul-based critic and writer on visual arts, architecture and design; former director of Minnesota Percent for Art in Public Places program:
“In Christian iconography, the color white and the flowering lily usually signify innocence and purity; it is the flower of the Virgin Mary and is an attribute of Archangel Gabriel. In some instance it can symbolize chastity. A smiling President Bush dresses casually in a white shirt, backgrounded by a vase of blooming lilies. Given that today is President Bush’s last full day in power, we can only reflect on what poor or misrepresentative fashion color (Bush’s white shirt) and flora choices (vase of blooming white lilies) these are. Wars, ambitious deregulation leading to economic collapse, loss of world respect, torture and environmental degradation. The color white does not come to mind. (Although his AIDS effort is laudatory.) Given Bush’s evangelical enthusiasms, and his professed inside communiqués with God, one can only surmise that the President predetermined these choices. But sanctioned by God? With that said, the portrait likeness is good, a casual, smiling W — thank our lucky stars there is no audio. Go hither to Texas past-president; do good, and cross not our path again.
Rich Barlow, Minneapolis-based painter and musician:
Why do official portraits all have to be paintings in this day and age? It’s weird that there is still this idea that a painting is more legitimate than a photograph, yet I feel that these paintings are less legitimate as art than many excellent photographic portraits are.
For responses from artists Todd Norsten and Frank Gaard, curator Max Andrews, and photographer Cameron Wittig, visit MnIndy.

Media T-shirt: Yes, We Canned

This new shirt by ASSME, the American Society of Shitcanned Media Elites ("a support organization for newly downsized members of the magazine, newspaper, book publishing, advertising, TV and web industries"), captures the mood in a media industry seeing continued job cuts and newspaper bankruptcy filings.


MLK: "I call on you to be maladjusted"

From Martin Luther King's speech on June 4, 1957:
I call upon you to be maladjusted. I never intend to adjust myself to segregation and discrimination. I never intend to adjust myself to mob rule. I never intend to adjust myself to the tragic effects of the methods of physical violence and to tragic militarism. I call upon you to be maladjusted to such things. I call upon you to be as maladjusted to such things. I call upon you to be as maladjusted as Amos who in the midst of the injustices of his day cried out in words that echo across the generation, "Let judgment run down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream." As maladjusted as Abraham Lincoln who had the vision to see that this nation could not exist half slave and half free. As maladjusted as Jefferson, who in the midst of an age amazingly adjusted to slavery could cry out, "All men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights and that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." As maladjusted as Jesus of Nazareth who dreamed a dream of the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. God grant that we will be so maladjusted that we will be able to go out and change our world and our civilization. And then we will be able to move from the bleak and desolate midnight of man’s inhumanity to man to the bright and glittering daybreak of freedom and justice.
[via and via]

Hail Minnesota!

The past week or so, as temperatures dropped to negative 29, I've grown less fond of my adopted state. But maybe my problem is headgear. This new poster by Aesthetic Apparatus renews, if only a little, my love for Minnesota winter and the apparel that makes it bearable.

Harper's Index: The Bush years

A gigantic edition of the Harper's Index dedicated to the Bush years. It's not pretty. A sampling:
Total amount the Bush campaign paid Enron and Halliburton for use of corporate jets during the 2000 recount: $15,400

Percentage of the amendments in the Bill of Rights that are violated by the USA PATRIOT Act, according to the ACLU: 50

Minimum number of laws that Bush signing statements have exempted his administration from following: 1,069

Estimated number of U.S. intelligence reports on Iraq that were based on information from a single defector: 100

Number of times the defector had ever been interviewed by U.S. intelligence agents: 0

Portion of [Bush's] presidency he has spent at or en route to vacation spots: 1/3

Percentage of EPA scientists who say they have experienced political interference with their work since 2002: 60

Days after Hurricane Katrina hit that Cheney’s office ordered an electric company to restore power to two oil pipelines: 1

Days after the hurricane that the White House authorized sending federal troops into New Orleans: 4

Portion of the $3.3 billion in federal Hurricane Katrina relief spent by Mississippi that has benefited poor residents: 1/4

FOIA request: Iraq psyops leaflets

Last week, in compliance with a Freedom of Information Act request, the Defense Department released 247 pages of documents related to the Iraq war. Russ Kick at The Memory Hole points out a section on psychological operations (psyops) in Iraq and, specifically, leaflets designed (but apparently not used) to be dropped over civilian areas. A few of the designs, which drew a note of approval from an unnamed Pentagon employee ("These look very interesting!"), are featured here in English; had they been approved, they would've been translated into Arabic. And here's a gallery of actual psyops leaflets dropped in Iraq in 2002 and 2003.

MAD props to Bush

The Bush years as told through MAD magazine covers.


Vintage Russian ads

A delightful gallery of vintage Russian ads from Brainpickings.org. (My favorites have to do with shoes. A latent commemoration of the Bush shoe-hurler on this, Bush's last workday in office?)

DeTouch: The art of manipulation

Interesting project by Evan Roth with support from Eyebeam and Electic Artists:
"The Art of DeTouch explores the manipulation of images related to the human form. Drawing photographs from existing online portfolio sites of professional re-touch artists, this application allows a user to explore precisely how the images were altered. Using Processing, an open source programming language and environment, before and after images are compared algorithmically pixel by pixel to generate visualizations of the alterations."

Video: Shepard Fairey on Colbert

Stephen Colbert on the fact that Shepard Fairey hasn't benefited personally from his Obama poster design: "Aren't you just proving that Obama's going to be a socialist? You're saying the poster belongs to everyone?! C'mon, turn a buck on this, man!" [via]


Slow Joe

Joe Lieberman apparently doesn't know what a PDF is.

Rock vases

Continuing the theme of heavy metal, a series of ceramic rock vases by Pierre Blanc: The Misfits, KISS, Metallic and others. [via]

Fuck Yoga: "Eleanor Roosevelt meets her post-modern doppelganger"

Hrag Vartanian, posting on a recent visit to the Smithsonian's exhibition of presidential portraits, snaps his friend husband's non sequitur Eleanor Roosevelt t-shirt along with the portrait that inspired it. "Fuck Yoga," a little Googling reveals, was the phrase New York's Barnaby Harris put on a joke t-shirt he made for his yoga-loving wife for her birthday. It's since become something of a movement.

"Jackie Gleason didn’t do yoga, either did Jackie Robinson, Eleanor Roosevelt or any Pope ever," he writes. "Yoga has survived for thousands of years and will survive for thousands more. It’s just that it has gone unopposed for too damn long."


RIP: Sculptor Coosje van Bruggen

Coosje van Bruggen -- sculptor, art historian, writer, curator and wife of Pop artist Claes Oldenburg -- died Saturday at age 66 after a battle with metastic breast cancer. She was best known in the Twin Cities for her iconic work with Oldenburg at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, the gigantic fountain/sculpture Spoonbridge and Cherry. [via]

I almost miss him already (part 2).

Seven days and counting.

Mpls Art: Salon Saloon launches Feb. 3

Salon Saloon 02/03 - Playbill V1
A monthly event organized by Colin and Shanai.

Interviewing the "Paul Rand of Metal"

Christophe Szpajdel, the "Paul Rand of metal," says he's designed logos for more than 7,000 death- and black-metal bands. Vice's Klaus Pichler met up with the 37-year-old Belgian, who seems a bit oblivious to his interviewer's jokes:
So do you sit alone by candlelight in the uppermost chamber of a castle and draw sinister things all night?

No. Besides drawing logos, I am a forestry engineer and I have a regular job as a customer-service assistant in retail. I need a job to support my artistic activity.


So you work in forestry engineering. Isn’t it contradictory to work for the protection of the environment while at the same time supporting music that wishes to lay waste to the earth until it’s a stinking heap of sulfur and bones?

I wouldn’t say so. In fact, it is some kind of a yin-yang. There are bands that make extreme music but lyrically deal with the purity of nature. They offer the perfect fusion between my fascination with nature—especially mountains—and metal. But a lot of extreme metal bands deal with the destruction of mankind, which I think is needed...
Via Emvergeoning.

Earlier: Arthouse filmmaker rock logos and the heavy metal band names flowchart