Mapping the Muddle: "It's __________ to me."

Strange Maps has a fascinating post about how different cultures fill in the blank of the expression we English speakers formulate as "It's Greek to me." As this cartogram shows we're not alone: Persians, Swedes and Spanish speakers are among groups that refer to Greek when considering something incomprehensible. But it's not the most popular expression of the idea:
But it is Chinese that, according to this cartogram, is the incomprehensible lingo of (p)reference for almost a dozen other languages, from Greek and Polish to Dutch and Lithuanian. Spanish, Hebrew and Greek are also quite popular, understandably so in the case of the latter two languages (isolate, relatively small languages) but more inexplicably so in the case of Spanish - a world language in its own right.

Which begs the fundamental question: why is language X considered the summit of incomprehension by language Y? Doesn’t that at least require some passing knowledge (or to be more precise, an awareness of the existence) by Y of X?
A fun tidbit at the end of the post:
Even Esperanto-speakers have been endowed with their own expression, pointing the finger at another constructed language: “Estas Volapuk al mi!” (”It’s Volapük to me!”)

As US talks about boycotting racism conference, The Nuge calls Eric Holder a coward

Conservative rocker Ted Nugent -- who once claimed to be a "bigger nigger" than Def Jam founder Russell Simmons -- is back, this time scolding African American Attorney General Eric Holder for calling the U.S. a "nation of cowards" for not talking candidly about race relations. He starts out a nearly incomprehensible op-ed on Tuesday in a familiar way, establishing his black bona fides by stating he grew up in Detroit where all of his "musical heroes were and are black musical gods." Then, falling short of giving a "You be the man" shout-out, he calls Holder a coward and moves on. "Does he want white, red, yellow and black folk to get together to discuss culinary similarities, religious views, cultural differences, political ideologies? I have neither the time nor inclination for this kind of trivial small talk," he writes. "I like to get next to the matter real quick like."

Speaking of bravely engaging in discourse around race, the U.S. is now threatening to boycott a UN racism summit in Geneva because some texts prepared for the conference are critical of Israel.

Photo: Wikipedia

Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel wiped out by Madoff

Holocaust survivor, author and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel calls Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff "evil" and a "swindler." With good reason: Wiesel reports that his personal wealth and the assets of his foundation -- as much as $37 million combined -- are obliterated. "All of a sudden, everything we have done in forty years--literally, my books, my lectures, my university salary, everything—was gone," he said yesterday. The author of The Night Trilogy added:
"Madoff is one of the greatest scoundrels, thieves, liars, criminals. How did it happen? I have seen in my lifetime the problem is when the imagination of the criminal precedes that of the innocent. And Madoff had imagination...We have no idea that a person is capable of that, but then I should have learned, of course, that a human being is capable of anything."


The Big Picture: Congo portraits

Yet another remarkable edition of The Big Picture from the Boston Globe. Its Congo series includes the shot below of a war-displaced boy wearing an improvised sun hat made from wood and flip-flops. Above, an 8-year-old with machete scars on his head, Faustin Mugisa was "left for dead in a pile of corpses when ethnic Lendu militiamen hacked to death his mother and seven siblings in 2003."

Bits: 02.27.09

Work by Deuce Seven, who's showing at Minneapolis' SooVAC Mar. 13-Apr. 12

• Drawing inspiration from WWII conservation campaigns, the Green Patriot Posters contest is calling on designers, including names like Michael Bierut and DJ Spooky, to create posters to mobilize people around the crisis of climate change. (Via Good.)

• Tyler Green links to a great gallery of WPA posters from the Library of Congress.

• Good comments on my Art:21 post about why there's so little rightwing street art. Hrag sends along a link for Gipper graf; unsure if that qualifies.

• I'm liking the murals of David de la Mano from the slate quarries of Salamanca.

A uniquely Minnesota art moment.

• OK, Cher definitely, but I kinda like the Black Sabbath one. The (allegedly) 100 worst album cover art. (Via Rat.)

• Total non sequitur, but here's Bob Barr.


Shuga: New record store coming to Northeast Minneapolis

Amid the economic woes that are forcing retail stores and arts organizations alike to shut their doors, I'm excited to share some good news: the heart of Northeast Minneapolis' arts district is getting a new record store. Shuga Records, currently among the top three sellers of vintage vinyl on eBay, is leasing the former site of the Minnesota Center for Photography on 13th Avenue NE -- and opening a retail store in late May or early June. Run by my friends Adam Rosen and Danielle Nester, the shop will sell records and CDs, editioned art, books and more. Look for their new website to launch soon, with information about all they're planning, including a music-and-art blog, in-store performances and, hopefully, a Shuga Twitter account that can alert vinyl junkies about new rarities Adam's finding. Also, Shuga is talking to a local artist about commissioning the first in an annually refreshed mural for the building's west wall.

Update: Minneapolis-based artists Broken Crow, with guest OverUnder, will be creating a large-scale mural on Shuga's exterior. Update: And here's a video on the completed mural.

[Shuga on: Facebook | MySpace]

Comments are now closed on this post.

Tom Fruin's drug-bag art

Marveling at all the colors drug dealers used to package weed, heroin and crack, different from the clear baggies he noticed growing up in LA, artist Tom Fruin started collecting them, soon gathering enough to make found-art textiles. Via Unconsumption.

The Coen Brothers spoof "clean coal"

Twin Cities natives Joel and Ethan Coen have cut a commercial for The Reality Coalition lambasting the coal industry's dubious claims about "clean coal."

Bits: 02.26.09

Pages from Artforum cut to the exact size of $100 bills and banded, by Scott Nedrelow

Artist Lawrence Swan: "Someone I know commented that Damien Hirst, by bypassing the dealers and taking his work directly to the auction house, screwed with the system and offered a 'critique' of the market. He gamed the system, he didn’t critique it. I’d argue that Bernie Madoff’s performance art was a more profound critique of the market itself, or made a critique unavoidable, by exposing our whole system as a pyramid scheme.On the other hand, aesthetically (and you may quote me on this), Hirst puts the 'formal' back in formaldehyde."

• Twin Cities artist and writer Andy Sturdevant "investigates the shadow gallery circuit of in-home exhibition spaces, and talks with these DIY gallerists about the hows and whys of opening their homes to the public to show artwork."

• As Justin finds it interesting that MuseumsSuck.com doesn't allow comments, Utne Reader calls out a Brendan Kiley piece from The Stranger on the "ten things theaters need to do to save themselves" -- many of which could apply to visual arts venues as well.

Paul Villinski's Emergency Response Studio is a solar-powered, mobile artist's studio, repurposed from a salvaged FEMA-style trailer.

• Adbusters is holding a contest to design the "One Flag," a flag to represent the entire world. Here's the 32 finalists. Via Another Limited Rebellion.

Art21: Where's all the rightwing street art?

My latest at Art:21. Go... comment!


Found: Princess Hijab's source material

Reading more about guerrilla artist Princess Hijab, I recognized the source material for her "Hijab-Ad" series of wheat-pasted posters. I saw it in Berlin in 2005 and took a picture: A plastic-wrapped hijab was for sale beside a bottle of "Latin Lolita" perfume at a stand in the outdoor Türkischer Markt in East Kreuzberg.

@MnIndy: GOP state Rep. tells northside kids to "plug bullet holes" with wooden nickel

One of the strangest stories I've reported, but with a glimmer of hope at the end.

Bits: 02.25.09

Princess Hijab strikes!

Is culture jamming, the new Jihad? Princess Hijab thinks so, "hijabizing" advertisements across Paris.

• The alleged culturejamming of MoMA's ads in a Brooklyn subway station was really a job by Poster Boy in cahoots with the CEO of the agency that created the campaign. Hrag reports that MoMA says they didn't commission the work.

• Jennifer Dalton's "every adjective used to describe artists and their work in Artforum’s 'Best of 2000."'

• A mini-retrospective on one of the Twin Cities unsung artists, James Kielkopf, who "can seem like an emotional cousin of Sol LeWitt."

• The BBC reports: "Two child actors from the film Slumdog Millionaire will be moved from slums to new houses by Indian authorities." That's two, but what about the rest? The Beeb reports that around half of Mumbai's entire population lives in slums. (Via my Mom.)


Art21: Chakkrit Chimnok's banana-leaf utopia

Chakkrit Chimnok at a Chiang Mai Cafe. Photo: Paul Schmelzer

My latest from Art21:

Chakkrit Chimnok dreams of a "banana world," a utopia in which overlooked or discarded items -- specifically, the ubiquitous banana leaves that litter the streets in his home city of Chiang Mai, Thailand -- can become the material for a renewed world. Chimnok's recent forays into this idea (or ideal) transformed the ever-present leaves into clothing modeled after western haute-couture.

"One day I was sitting in a banana garden, when a banana leaf fell on me," he told me last year. He picked it up and felt it: It was smooth and flexible, unlike the dried leaves many locals get rid of by burning. Senses piqued, he began paying attention to how the leaves had different characteristics, depending on where he found them, their age and the level of humidity where they grew.

He says he was struck by how perfect banana trees are. Both the fruit and the flowers are edible, and the leaves -- as his explorations would later prove -- could be made into apparel. Chimnok (pictured above) enrolled in a clothing-design class, taking 60 hours of instruction on sewing and pattern-making, and then set out to make functional objects, including a space suit and a dress (sized for his parents), handbags, boots and tennis shoes.

This functionality is questionable -- as the leaves dry, they become too brittle for regular use -- but he appreciates the various layers of symbolism as well. He's taking gentle jabs at both Thai and western cultures. To often brand-conscious Thai people, he offers fashions from one of the country's most plentiful, banal and unbranded materials. He patterns his ensembles after western styles, forgoing patongs and flip-flops for western-style skirts and shoes, in order to put the designs both within the vocabulary of fashion but also starkly opposed (the hard, crunchy leaves also stand in contrast to the silk textiles for which Thailand is best known). "We always have the sense that the west looks at us as the third world," he told me.

While his message addresses international audiences -- it was featured in the 3rd Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale 2005 and was shortlisted for the 2008 Signature Art Prize by the Singapore Art Museum -- it is, in essence, local. In his artist's statement, he writes, "Following the west is viewed as part of the destruction of community culture." His art is a celebration of the local, he says, even if it showcases one of that environment's more overlookable features.
Chakkrit Chimnok, "Body – Imagination – Dried Banana Leaf," 2006. Courtesy of the artist.Photo: Courtesy the artist

But he's not Thai-centric about it. During the project's showing in Fukuoka, Japan, he promoted a local variation of recycling. By the end of his three-month residency, he was showing at a fashion show the 20 kimono-inspired garments he'd created -- from bamboo leaves.

Bits: 02.24.09

Modified MoMA ad showing an Andreas Gursky photo, via Artinfo.

• Since Feb. 10, MoMA has been doing marketing blitzes in which they buy up every ad space in select New York subway stations. Last Saturday night, such a "station domination" got dominated itself. Ads in Brooklyn's Atlantic/Pacific Street station were modified by a street artist: Nan Goldin’s photo Nan and Brian in Bed was tweaked to show Mr. and Mrs. Fred Flintstone (the MOMA logotype altered to read WILMA), Andreas Gursky’s Ratingen Swimming Pool with the addition of what looks like the Fail Whale, etc.

• Ten-year-old dubbed the "female Banksy." Via @cmonstah.

Kerry James Marshall's 27 x 32' murals depicting George Washington's and Thomas Jefferson's homes go on view at SFMOMA on Thursday. Visible Means of Support: Mount Vernon and Visible Means of Support: Monticello, commissioned by the museum, include mazes, optical illusions and hidden images of slaves.

• This Thursday at noon, Rev. Billy is announcing he's running for mayor of New York.

• Via @walkerartcenter we learn that mnartists.org has made some new tweaks which allow for larger photos and easier editing by users. A welcome change.


Seeds not revolution: My first Art21 post on art and social change

Michael Rakowitz's paraSITE

I'm guest blogging at PBS's Art21 blog this week on art and social change, and my first post lays out some of my thinking, including my growing belief that although art might not have the power to radically change the world, its unique role can be in planting seeds. Here it is:

This weekend I went to an opening at The Soap Factory, a scrappy and often-excellent nonprofit art space a block or so off Minneapolis’ riverfront. The description of the work, a Clive Murphy installation called Almost Nothing, was intriguing enough to draw me there: he’d filled the entire space with a series of air-filled tubes created from black plastic garbage bags, mimicking the architectural geometry of the space—which, as its name states, was once a soap-making factory, reeking of lye.

But when I arrived, the piece immediately struck me as so much hot air. Here’s my progression of thought: it’s February in Minnesota. This building is virtually unheated. We’re facing twin catastrophes of economic downturn and human-made climate change. And this guy’s art requires electric air blowers to drone constantly on whenever the gallery’s open?

Murphy's work is what it is—a project influenced by “radical architectural proposals from the sixties” and inflatable carnival games that examine “themes of hierarchy, inter-relationality, and meaning formation”—and I don't knock it for that. But it isn't what I've been looking for lately: contemporary art with immediacy, that pragmatically or poetically addresses the challenges we face today. Not all art needs to do that, but it's what I'm looking for. Something more along the lines of another inflatable-bag art project: paraSITE, in which artist Michael Rakowitz collaborated with homeless people to construct temporary inflatable housing designed to leech warmth from heat outtakes from apartment buildings.

In considering “political” art—especially in a non-election year, especially facing the economic and environmental problems we do—I’m reluctantly coming to believe that art doesn’t have the power I once believed it did for bringing about social change.

Perhaps it’s creeping cynicism. As a journalist covering the Republican National Convention in St. Paul this fall, I saw magnificent, irreverent and funny artworks – from full-fledged contemporary artworks (including Ligorano/Reese’s The State of Things, gigantic ice letters spelling out the word DEMOCRACY, which melted away on the capitol lawn as time passed, or Suzanne Opton’s Soldiers billboard series) to creative protest signs and hilarious chants by nonviolent demonstrators (“You’re hot, you’re cute, take off your riot suit!”). Still, the police crackdown was powerful, unrelenting and sometimes violent—and, if hearing from Republican delegates on the convention floor is any indicator, protesters’ messages didn’t seem to register. The art was dismissed as mere protest.

My doubts also have to do with responses to my oft-asked (and admittedly naïve) question, “Can art change the world?” As an editor at the Walker Art Center and at Adbusters Magazine, I posed the question to a number of people: critic Robert Storr; artists Rirkrit Tiravanija, Sam Durant, and Thomas Hirschhorn; Artforum editor Tim Griffin and independent curator Hou Hanru, to name a few. While they all said they hoped it had that kind of power, few wholeheartedly agreed it did.

But from some of these same people, I found hope for smaller incremental change—one heart (or mind) at a time, perhaps.

During a residency at the Walker, Art21 artist Guillermo Calzadilla told me his take. Art, unlike protest, is difficult to pin down, he said, and therein lies its power. Overt agit-prop is easily to spot, categorize, and therefore dismiss wholesale by opponents of the message it carries. But art is something… else. Something nebulous and multidimensional and hard to get one's brain around.

Before we can dismiss it, we have to figure out what it is.

Bits: 02.23.09

Yoram Wolberger's Red Indian #4 (Spearman) via Artnet.

• Antony Gormley, Jeremy Deller and others are protesting tightened visa rules that are preventing top artists, musicians and actors from visiting the UK.Via Regine's Delicious feed.

Photo gallery and essay: The KKK is alive and kicking in 2009.

• Jerry Saltz: "[I]t’s utterly ridiculous to claim that the art world is 'less ethical than the stock market'. The stock market made more people richer, made more people lose money, and brought the US to its knees. By comparison, the art world is relatively benign, and the unethical parts are relatively limited. No one in the art world jumped out of a window because a painting’s price decreased."

• The Times Online's list of top 100 blogs includes must-reads Wooster Collective, ArtFagCity, ArtForum.com's diary, BLDGBLOG and David Byrne's blog, plus tons more.

• In contrast to George W. Bush's favorite painting, the Obama's are considering artworks for their residence by Robert Raushenberg, Jasper Johns and Ed Ruscha.

• The New York Times looks at an artform unheralded by the Oscars -- the art of film titling.

• I'm guest-blogging at PBS's art:21 blog this week. Topic: How can art effect political change?


Bits: 02.22.09

Photos from the Motherland: Mark Brautigam's "On Wisconsin" series

• Via Twitter, Glowlab contrasts Takashi Murakami's vision for the Japanese art market with a New York Times story today about how frugal living by Japanese following that country's economic downturn in the mid-90s continues to wreak havoc.

• Pentagram on MoMA's new (old) identity. [via]

• Trust Art, "a stock market for cultural renewal." Here's how it works.

• John Halpern's 1979 documentary Transformer, in which Joseph Beuys discusses, among other topics, "how his life changed when the Russians shot down his German airplane during World War II, as well as his opinions on art, mankind, the state of the world, and some of his artistic inspirations."

• Via Ed Kohler's Gmail status, a great story I'd like to see more of: "Dinner with a stranger."

• Today's "word of the day" on Hasbro's official SCRABBLE page: Dildo.

"On the side of the egg:" Haruki Murakami on Gaza

Haruki Murakami via Wikipedia.

Novelist Haruki Murakami accepted the Jerusalem Prize for literature last week, amid controversy over whether doing so meant he supports Israel's recent violent incursion into Gaza. Here's a bit of his stirring speech, in which he shares a personal philosophy:
"Between a high, solid wall and an egg that breaks against it, I will always stand on the side of the egg."

Yes, no matter how right the wall may be and how wrong the egg, I will stand with the egg. Someone else will have to decide what is right and what is wrong; perhaps time or history will decide. If there were a novelist who, for whatever reason, wrote works standing with the wall, of what value would such works be?

What is the meaning of this metaphor? In some cases, it is all too simple and clear. Bombers and tanks and rockets and white phosphorus shells are that high, solid wall. The eggs are the unarmed civilians who are crushed and burned and shot by them. This is one meaning of the metaphor.

This is not all, though. It carries a deeper meaning. Think of it this way. Each of us is, more or less, an egg. Each of us is a unique, irreplaceable soul enclosed in a fragile shell. This is true of me, and it is true of each of you. And each of us, to a greater or lesser degree, is confronting a high, solid wall. The wall has a name: It is The System. The System is supposed to protect us, but sometimes it takes on a life of its own, and then it begins to kill us and cause us to kill others - coldly, efficiently, systematically.

I have only one reason to write novels, and that is to bring the dignity of the individual soul to the surface and shine a light upon it. The purpose of a story is to sound an alarm, to keep a light trained on The System in order to prevent it from tangling our souls in its web and demeaning them. I fully believe it is the novelist's job to keep trying to clarify the uniqueness of each individual soul by writing stories - stories of life and death, stories of love, stories that make people cry and quake with fear and shake with laughter. This is why we go on, day after day, concocting fictions with utter seriousness.

Atlantikwall: Paul Virilio and the experimental geography of war bunkers

When he was 25, urbanist, art critic and political theorist Paul Virilio happened upon the Atlantikwall, a series of nearly 1,500 military bunkers erected by the Germans on the French coast during World War II to ward off Allied incursion. It was 1958, and the structures had begun blending into the surroundings through familiarity: bikes were stowed there by sunbathers, for instance, and even a young Virilio found he'd failed to truly recognize the sturdy war huts he'd on occasion used as a beach cabana. But once he really looked, the squatty forts conjured cultural memories of "the Egyptian mastabas, the Etruscan tombs, the Aztec structures…as if this piece of artillery fortification could be identified as a funeral ceremony."

Virilio's 1975 book about his explorations was only recently translated into English and published by Princeton Architectural Press. The Morning News posts photos from the book along with Virilio's introduction, in which he shares his thinking on the odd fortifications, which point out into the Atlantic abyss. Virilio, it dawns on me, was doing "experimental geography," long before the term was invented: He ponders the placement of the bunkers (not "oriented toward a specific, staked-out objective" as such fortifications typically were, these "concrete altars" were "built to face the void of the oceanic horizon"), how such modern edifices came to be overlookably normal ("Why continue to be surprised at Le Corbusier’s forms of modern architecture? Why speak of 'brutalism'? And, above all, why this ordinary habitat, so very ordinary over so many years?"), and how they'd been modified over time, plastered with anti-German graffiti and later ads.

The essay concludes with Virilio entering one of the dark enclosures, lit only by a few stabbing shafts of sun slicing through the gun slots:
[T]he whole structure weighs down on the visitor’s shoulders. Like a slightly undersized piece of clothing that hampers as much as it enclothes, the reinforced concrete and steel envelope is too tight under the arms and sets you in a semiparalysis fairly close to that of illness.

Slowed down in his physical activity but attentive, anxious over the catastrophic probabilities of his environment, the visitor in this perilous place is beset with a singular heaviness; in fact he is already in the grips of that cadaveric rigidity from which the shelter was designed to protect him.
Read it.


Bits: 02.21.09

Knitta, Please! hits Paris, via Flickr.

• Clive Murphy's Amost Nothing, " a series of meticulously crafted inflatable sculptures made entirely of domestic trash bags," will fill the entirety of Minneapolis' Soap Factory starting tonight.

Social Design Notes points out 40 key articles on radical geography, including Neil Smith and Phil O'Keefe's "Geography, Marx and the Concept of Nature," compiled to commemorate Antipode's 40th anniversary.

• The Creative Capitol/Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant recipients for 2009 have been named: Congrats to all -- including blog pal Paddy Johnson and former Walker curator Joan Rothfuss, who's writing a book on Nam June Paik collaborator Charlotte Moorman.

• The Taliesen Mod.Fab is a prototype prefab green home sized to be transported via railway and designed to be wired or unplugged, "relying on low-consumption fixtures, rainwater harvesting, greywater re-use, natural ventilation, solar orientation, and photovoltaics to reduce energy and water use." Via Dwell.

• Guerrilla knitter Magda Sayeg recently yarnbombed a bus in Mexico City. Watch the video.

• "Tetris for typophiles": The KERN iPhone app.


Bits: 02.20.09

Antidote to the flag lapel pin: Richard Barlow's Save Your Own Soul

• In December, Damien Hirst demanded remuneration -- to the tune of $284 -- from a 16-year-old artist who sold collages that used imagery of his diamond-encrusted skull. Now, as ArtInfo reports, a group of British artists -- Jimmy Cauty, formerly of The KLF; Jamie Reid, who designed the cover for the Sex Pistols' God Save the Queen single; and artist Billy Childish -- have produced a series of limited-edition prints mocking Hirst -- with proceeds helping the young artist, "Cartrain," pay off his debt to zillionaire Hirst.

• San Francisco's Asian Art Museum offers a slideshow on the cleaning and conservation of thangkas, devotional paintings and embroideries from Bhutan. Conservator Eddie Jose worked with Buddhist monks, training them how to maintain the delicate textiles back at their monasteries. The Dragon's Gift: The Sacred Arts of Bhutan is on view at The Asian through May 10.

• Administrators at Ottawa's Carleton University have removed from campus a poster promoting "Israeli Apartheid Week" Mar. 1-8. It depicts an Israeli helicopter firing a missile at a Palestinian boy with a teddy bear who stands above the word "Gaza."

Folkstreams.net, an archive of documentary films about folk culture, has an amazing array of films, essays and previews, including Pete Seeger's movie about Ghanaian fisherman songs and films about bluesmen, outsider artists, street games of Los Angeles and hip hop in Clarksdale, Miss., to name a few. Via Flavorpill's Daily Dose.

La Entrada, a project in San Diego that aims "to infuse art into a low income housing project as it is being built." Watch the video.

• Highly recommended: Ray Lee's sound installation Siren, at the Walker tonight and tomorrow. Saw it last night -- it's amazing: haunting, meditative, surprising -- and hope to write something up on it yet. (Two perspectives on Siren here.)

Typographic illusions (or, optical eyesores) via FiddlyIO.

• Flickr thumbnail galleries as art: A gallery of colorul old German currency and every iteration of the Walker Teen Art Council's web page.


The Axis of Schmelzer

Ed Kohler points out a cool tool: Facebook Nexus, which maps your Facebook connections. Above, my Facebook universe.

Bits: 02.19.09

From “Way to Go Go (The Tao of the Pink Slip)” via 2buildings1blog.

• Creative Capital's just-announced 2009 grants include a local: playwright, poet and humorist Robert Farid Karimi. Artistic director of Kaotic Good Productions, Karimi will receive an initial $10,000 grant plus career consulting worth another $25,000. His project, The Cooking Show con Karimi y Comrades: Diabetes of Democracy, "uses the framework of a live cooking show to engage audiences on the subject of diabetes in communities of color." Among the other 60 grant-winning artists: Matthew Coolidge of the Center for Land Use Interpretation, poet Paul Beatty, writer Rebecca Solnit, artist Beatriz da Costa, media art collective neuroTransmitter, former Minneapolis playwright Lisa D’amour and Walker Art Center regulars Young Jean Lee and Tere O'Connor. See all the winners.

• Via @artsMIA, an Eames-inspired prosthetic leg.

• John MacArthur on Studs Terkel in Harper's: "Studs called himself a 'radical conservative,' asserting that 'radical means getting to the core of things.' At the core of his life was the importance of memory and of hope."

White Canvas goes into the "bittersweet" world of illustrator Gary Baseman.

• I wasn't aware of the contoversy, but apparently magenta is a color. Whew.

• House Minority Whip Eric Cantor created a music video bragging that no Republicans supported the economic stimulus package. Now Aerosmith, whose "Back In The Saddle" made up the soundtrack, has asked YouTube to pull the video, which used their song without permission.

• The Decemberists are looking for poster designs for their SXSW NPR showcase.

Obama sushi.

Water-powered jet-pack

Jet-packs are no longer in the realm of sci-fi, thanks to the JetLev Flyer. But this pack has a key difference: it uses water for propulsion, fed by twin hoses hooked up to a separate vessel tethered behind the user. With top speeds as high as 30 mph and a blast of power than can shoot you 50 feet in the air, it looks like a lot of fun. But with a pricetag hovering (ahem) around $230,000, it certainly ought to.


Bits: 02.18.09

Justin Heideman's rendering of Spoonbridge and Cherry, Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen's Minneapolis icon, which will see its cherry disappear for refinishing next week.

• "Who is remembered? Who is mourned? Who is responsible? How do we, as artists, choose to respond?" The founder of IraqMemorial.org, Joseph DeLappe, is calling for artist submissions for a memorial to civilian casualties in Iraq. "Memorials exist for a variety of reasons: to create an opportunity for the contemplation of loss; to honour sacrifice; to celebrate heroism and to consecrate a process of mourning that is ongoing and public. This call for proposals for memorials to the thousands of innocents killed in Iraq is an effort to establish an opportunity for the creative community to conceptualize works that seek to recognize, reveal, and process the true cost of this war." Via Flavorpill.

• Video documenting Lawrence Weiner's The Crest of a Wave, the physical manifestation of the phrase, "a cloth of cotton wrapped around a horseshoe iron tossed upon the crest of a wave." Read more at Latitudes.

Catherine Opie interviewed by nomorepotlucks (via Art Threat).

• "A Communications Primer," by Charles and Ray Eames. [via]

• Suggesting that the NEA's $50 million stimulus windfall is a pittance, Tyler Green has a suggestion: "The arts community should take a lesson from how policy is made in Washington, from the policy-driven infrastructure of the city. The first step: The arts should join Washington's think-tank culture."

• How a bookseller stumbled upon a rare "Keep Calm and Carry On" poster -- and into a career selling posters. While we're on the topic, could someone buy me a "Keep Calm and Carry On" rug?

• Your moment of Conchords: "Too many dicks on the dance floor." (Thanks, Ron.)


This art made possible by...

Well put, Jörg:
With so many people - especially from the right - railing against government funding for artists, here's another way to think about it. Without the US government giving money to photographers to document life during the Great Depression, this iconic photograph, one of the most important and famous photographs ever to be taken in the United States, would not have come into existence...
But wait, he's not done.

The Piñata Factory

As Twin Cities homeless people take over foreclosed homes in a kind of "modern underground railroad," Chicago's Piñata Factory enlisted more than 100 Chicago-area kids to create hundreds of colorful piñatas -- filled with functional blankets -- and place them under overpasses to raise awareness of homelessness. Watch the Current's video.

Bachmann's back: “We’re running out of rich people in this country.”

Oy vey. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., who brought us October's rant about "anti-American views" allegedly held by members of Congress, is back, telling a local rightwing radio host that “We’re running out of rich people in this country.” Check out her factually challenged ideas here.

Bits: 02.17.09

Eugenio Merino on For the Love of Gold: "[Damien] Hirst is always trying to think of ways to make his art the most expensive. If he killed himself, then the value of his art would increase a lot.”

• "God save the Damien Hirst rip-off industry!"

• Who signs their pajamas? Julian Schnabel, that's who. He's auctioning off a pair, along with an Annie Liebovitz photo of him actually wearing said PJs! My goodness: "The dark blue, yellow-striped pajamas are a laundered, paint-splattered, lovingly mended and patched two-piece collectible, signed by the artist." Top bid so far (reserve not met!) is just shy of $2,400. Now, if only Eugenio Merino, who's sculpture of a suicidal Damien Hirst is shaking up ARCO, could put a gun to Schnabel's pajamas...

Arts & Ecology interviews Superflex on their "Flooded McDonalds" video: "Of course climate change is also one issue that we wanted to point out with this. But we wanted to try to keep it as open as possible, even though we chose a McDonalds. McDonalds is iconic for a certain type of consumption, but it was also trying to make a film that would give you the impression of these consequences."

• PBS offers a nice interactive tour of "backyard paradises," outsider-art environments including Palais Ideal in France, Grandma Prisbey's Bottle Village in California, and the Forevertron by my old pal Dr. Evermor near Madison, Wis.

Gradients for sale.

• Minnesota's got the world's largest ball of twine and, I've just learned, the world's fastest banjo picker: 260 beats per second (video).

• "41% of museums don’t know how dogs actually walk."

• More misheard lyrics.

• No artblogs make the list, but, yow, TIME's top-25 blogs of '09 list is teemin' with libruls: TPM, Huffington Post, Paul Krugman's blog, Daily Kos, Crooks & Liars, etc. Local conservative blogger James Lileks makes the cut as does unclassifiable, but once thought to be conservative, political blogger Andrew Sullivan.

New for foodies: The Heavy Table

The upper midwest's newest foodie site. Give 'em your love.



Bits: 02.16.09

Detail of a project by JR, the "hippest street artist since Banksy," in Kibera, Kenya.

• Yoko Ono does the "25 things" meme.

• Peter Schjeldahl on Shepard Fairey's ICA Boston show: "I found myself regarding the show as strangely wholesome, like a vaccine that defeats the virus it imitates. It’s as if Fairey meant to ridicule rebellion." [Thanks, Jake.]

Bruce Sterling launches the Imaginary Gadgets project, "a catalog of the weirdest things imaginable."

• Frank Lloyd Wright's "Falling Water" in Legos. [via]

Horses in street art.

• Sarah McLachlan's "World on Fire" music video cost $150,000. See the breakdown of where the money went.

• Apparently, this is the thing to blog about: The Simpson's new title sequence, now in HD.


Bits: 02.15.09

Huang Xu's Fragment No.26, made from tattered bags from Chinese dumps, via Arts & Ecology.

• As the art industry's bubble bursts, there's hope for a return to, y'know, art. That's the gist of Holland Cotter's New York Times piece today. While he gets nostalgic for scrappy '60's NYC art, he makes some quoteworthy points, like: "It’s day-job time again in America, and that’s O.K. Artists have always had them — van Gogh the preacher, Pollock the busboy, Henry Darger the janitor — and will again. The trick is to try to make them an energy source, not a chore."

• Modern Art Notes' Tyler Green tweets that Cotter can't "see past the trading floor. He thinks market equals art, artists equal retail. (Groan.)"

• Régine reports that an exhibition that documents the practices of butchers in rural Mexico has been postponed. The show by Abdel Abdessemed at Italy's Fondazione Sandretto Rebaudengo includes a work that shows six videos of animals at slaughterhouses -- raised specifically to be turned into meat -- being killed with sledgehammers. When the work, Don't Trust Me, was shown at the San Francisco Art Institute, it was shut down after four days, following death threats against the artist and gallery staff over what they termed "animal snuff films."

Hoopla, the "world's most revolutionary craft zine," is looking for submissions.

• Kick(gr)ass! Our own Snarkmarket says that the entire "American Experience" documentary on Walt Whitman is available online.

• Yes, that really is John Cleese tweeting "with all the other... twats."

• Eat your heart out, Lakoff! "GOP votes against biggest tax cut in American history."


Manufacturing (Dis)content: Shepard Fairey in 2000

Nine years ago next week, back when Shepard Fairey was big enough to be the subject of a documentary, but well before he became a household name, he came to the Walker Art Center for a lecture series about "how big ideas get big without going bad." David Logan (now Kennedy-Logan) came up with the list of speakers -- Fairey, Burning Man founder Larry Harvey and HATE comics artist Peter Bagge -- and the Chomskyan series title, "Manufacturing (Dis)content." (Five years later, that would become the title of a book by Michael Perelman.) And he turned to me to help with the marketing concept.

From the start, we wanted to collaborate with Shepard on a poster, but it took some time for us to come up with a compelling concept. (I remember one headline favorite -- "Pissing in the mainstream" -- which we knew wouldn't fly with our institutional bosses.) Eventually, we agreed upon the lline "Revolutionary ideas don't end in ." In retrospect, the trademark symbol perhaps didn't read clearly, but at the time we felt it conveyed the spirit of the series: how can good ideas take off without being co-opted, commodified or watered down.

Shepard created the imagery for the poster, appropriating an image of a beret-wearing African American man he's used on other pieces since. We also commissioned him to make a series of four buttons for the Walker's Target Free Thursday Nights. (I couldn't find a copy of the fourth one, but I remember it vividly, a fistful of dollars and the words "Free Enterprise.")

Here's the final poster:
Shepard Fairey

Bits: 02.14.08

Mural by Minneapolis' Broken Crow, a.k.a. John Grider

• As Steve Dietz at Northern Lights ponders whether the iPhone and iPod Touch are "new spheres of public art," his Minneapolis-based digital-art organization curates Add-Art, now through Feb. 26. Artists featured on Add-Art, a Firefox extension that replaces online ads with art, include Jodi, Jennifer and Kevin McCoy, Vivian Selbo and others.

Roadsworth: Crossing the Line, the new documentary about Montreal "street" artist Peter Gibson, makes its US debut at SXSW, through Feb. 21. Watch the trailer.

• Word of the day: Misconceptual art, "artists who shortcut to the now via conceptual art without understanding history of conceptualism."

This posting by the Vigilance Organisation in India (shot by my friend Kate) could be a Jenny Holzer Truism: "Moral contempt is a far greater indignity and insult than any kind of crime."

• Christie's reports a 19 percent decrease in art sales (down to $5.1 billion) from 2007 to 2008. Plus, C-Monster gets a whiff of Greed.

• Dude loves him some Bon Jovi: Jeremy Fry captured on the Celtics Jumbotron.

• In honor of Valentine's Day, here's some meat.


Minneapolis homeless to announce "takeover" of foreclosed homes on Valentine's Day

While delivering a where’s-the-love message on Valentine’s Day may seem like a gimmick, an action by homeless advocates to be announced this weekend is anything but a stunt, according to its organizer. On Saturday, Cheri Honkala (above, center) of the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign will reveal to members of the media its long-running project to find housing for homeless people in some of the many foreclosed and vacant homes on Minneapolis’ North Side and South Side.

Photo: Harvey Finkle

Bits: 02.13.09

Detail from the Radical Islam t-shirt via FiddlyIO.

• I've heard of seat-fillers, but for architectural firms? After massive layoffs, a firm boss "was offering $100 cash to employees' friends who could come in during the meeting, sit at desks, and look busy" -- all for the benefit of an important client.

• Photojournalism bits: NEED magazine has a nice gallery of Nepalese girls spared from human trafficking, and the World Press Photo of the Year goes to a news shot of a sheriff clearing a home after an eviction.

• With all due respect to Twin Cities illustrator Mary GrandPre, M.S. Corley's speculative Penguin Classic-style book covers for the Harry Potter series are a refreshing change of pace. Via Curate.

Vito Acconci on VBS.tv, via Culturebot: "The great thing about words is they seem so definite but they're so hazy and cloudy."

• This starts out as a bit of classic culture-jamming, but then gets weird: Shoppers in Grand Forks return to their cars to find fake parking tickets on their windshields, with a note to go online to see evidence of their infraction. When they get there, malware is downloaded to their computer.

• Improv Everywhere wants to give you a high-five.

Pie chart of pie-shaped light.


Bits: 02.12.09

A page from the tome created to rationalize Pepsi's multi-million-dollar logo tweak.

• Pepsi logo tweakers seem to see branding as a metaphysical art. The overinflated design rationale behind the minor noodging of the Pepsi logo is either an elaborate joke, a con job or as Gawker puts it (referencing the title of the branding document) "Breathtaking bullshit."

• Dave Combs of PEEL Magazine, who was with Shepard Fairey when he was arrested last week, writes: "
It is my belief that the Boston Police Department had carefully planned to serve their warrants in front of an audience of approximately 800 excited Shepard Fairey fans, some of whom had reportedly paid as much as $500 on Craigslist for a ticket to the event. In my opinion, the BPD had at the very least set out to make a public spectacle of the arrest, and at worst were intent on provoking the agitated crowd to riot. They clearly had it out for Mayor Menino, and had engineered the perfect scenario with which to simultaneously tie Menino to a 'criminal graffiti vandal' and conveniently show up to be the heroes of their own story."

• Milton Glaser finds "the relationship between Fairey’s work and his sources "discomforting."

• A new Americans for the Arts study, "Arts and Economic Prosperity III," finds that "[n]ationally, the nonprofit arts and culture industry generates $166.2 billion in economic activity every year—$63.1 billion in spending by organizations and an additional $103.1 billion in event-related spending by their audiences."

• When I worked in advertising years ago, we sent a rubber monkey named Weegee on the road -- with Beck and the Old 97's, to Paris and Washington -- and now Weegee's kin, a plush monkey, is making the rounds at MoMA.

• I will read this and then write a proper blog post on this, I will! Marco Deseriis and Brian Holmes on "
today’s dilemma of producing critical culture within recuperative ‘ semiocapitalism’."

• Finally, the quote du jour comes from Cloaca-maker Wim Delvoye: "This machine doesn't just make poop, it makes reflection, it asks questions. It is a big metaphor for art creation: digesting influences from other artists and making it your own."


Trailer: Our City Dreams

"Our City Dreams," on view through Tuesday at New York's Film Forum, is a new documentary by Chiara Clemente (daughter of artist Francesco Clemente) that features five women artists: Swoon, Kiki Smith, Ghada Amer, Nancy Spero and Marina Abramovic. While it's conceived as a "love letter" to New York, the trailer suggests a strong Minneapolis connection, too: Kiki Smith (above) is interviewed at the Walker Art Center, and Swoon is shown at the local launch site for the Miss Rockaway Armada. Watch the trailer.