Ghost bike for Dennis Dumm

Ken Avidor's sketch of a Ghost Bike in memory of Dennis Dumm, a cyclist (and friend of some Eyeteeth readers) killed by a truck in Minneapolis in May, via the Twin Cities Urban Sketchers blog.

Picasso lawn gnome

Artnet tweets a new work by Elliott Arkin: Seedbed, which continues the artist's practice of making art-related figurines with this Picasso lawn gnome.

Minneapolis street art: Aerosol-can tree

I spotted a dozen or more of these painted aerosol cans last summer in a tree that's growing inside the spiral ramp that leads from I394 near Penn Avenue in Minneapolis to the bike path below. By the time I got back with a camera, yesterday, only six or seven remained. While the stencils look familiar, I can't place the artist.

Update: It looks like it's by Sweet E. Domestic -- a.k.a. S.E.D. Thanks, Bri!

Aerosol-can art, Minneapolis
Aerosol-can art, Minneapolis


Bits: 07.28.09

A postered-over recycling bin by the German street-art collective Mentalgassi

• Video: Mentalgassi at work in Berlin.

• Chinese dissident artist Ai Wei Wei is now being monitored by authorities for his work that's critical of the government, including a recent project in which he posits that deaths from the May '08 Sichuan earthquake were exacerbated by local officials who skimmed funds intended for school construction. He and his family have been hassled by plainclothes cops, and his blog at Sina.com has been shut down (he started a new Chinese-language one here).

• Tod "Sucka Pants" Seelie (of Miss Rockaway Armada fame) is bicycling through Indonesia. Follow along on Flickr.

• The cataclysmic filming of Werner Herzog's 1982 film Fitzcarraldo, chronicled well in Les Blank's must-see documentary Burden of Dreams, is now retold in grueling detail in Herzog's new book Conquest of the Useless. Unlike Blank's film, writes Flavorwire, this diary penned during filming "reveals the inner struggles and pitiless frustration of the sinking ship’s stubborn captain."

• Juxtapoz interviews Minneapolis design trio (apparently, they recently added Jonathan Shuster) Aesthetic Apparatus.

• Tyler Green covers the next potential threat to Smithson's Spiral Jetty, the proposed expansion of evaporation pools in the northern end of the Great Salt Lake.

• The Damien Hirst-designed bike for Lance Armstrong's Stages project with Trek is the best yet -- butterflies -- but I'm starting to think bikes aren't the best canvasses for 2D works by visual artists.

• Via Utne, a devastatingly intimate portrait of grief.

• Charles Bukowski gives a tour of Hollywood (1985).

• An analysis of 2,400 graffiti tags in Paris in April shows the diversity and prevalance of certain letterforms.

• A truly bizarre story of a Japanese man's love affair with a stuffed pillowcase.

William Shatner performs Sarah Palin's farewell speech.


Poster pocket plants

Continuing the urban gardening theme around here (earlier: seed bombs, guerrilla flower boxes, tube gardens), here's a clever bit of green billboard reclamation, pointed out by Tyler Green. Toronto residents Eric Cheung and Sean Martindale have devised a way to cut advertising posterboards to make cone-shaped, in situ flowerpots. Martindale tells Torontoist that the duo is "activating public space," introducing nature "to the urban environment in ways that might encourage others to do the same, or to at least consider such possibilities." To that end, they've made the design of their templates available under Creative Commons license.

The genuine Merce

In this photo, shot last September by the Walker Art Center's Cameron Wittig, legendary choreographer Merce Cunningham was looking at Sage Cowles, his longtime friend, former dancer and arts benefactor. Cunningham, then in a wheelchair, was in Minneapolis to mount the monumentally scaled Ocean in a granite quarry near St. Cloud, Minnesota. Despite the spectacular scale of that piece -- not to mention that of Cunningham's fame -- Wittig witnessed an ego of miniscule proportions, remembering Cunningham as "the sweetest, most generous person" during the short time he had allotted for photography.

"Sage was with us and I noticed that while I was adjusting the lights or the camera, he would look over at her and he would give her this really beautiful smile. So when I was ready to shoot I asked him to look towards her and he just lit up with love. It was really genuine."

Cunningham, who died Sunday at age 90, has been "almost routinely hailed as the world’s greatest choreographer," the New York Times writes. "For many, he had simply been the greatest living artist since Samuel Beckett."

Related: In addition to a dance legend, Merce was also a hell of a good sport, signing my name as part of my autograph project, Signifier, signed...

Eyeteeth interview: Zack Bent on mythology, Joseph Beuys and bottling tears

Zack Bent, Romantics, 2009

This is part two of an interview with Seattle-based photographer and sculptor Zack Bent about his recent exhibition at 4Culture, Buffalo Trace. Read part one.

Paul Schmelzer:
One of the more enigmatic pieces in your 4Culture show in May was Lachrymatory (below): a clear vial and medicine-dropper lid. As I understand it, you'd use the dropper to collect tears whenever your kids, you or Gala cried, but all that remained to see in the gallery was the residue of tears (seemingly) long dried up. Our mutual friend Jim tells me that after you installed the 4Culture show, one of your kids, when crying, asked where the dropper was -- as if he needed it to process his emotions. Kind of an Art 101 question, then: Is the "art" what's presented in the gallery or the act (performance?) of collecting the tears? It seems it became therapeutic for the family, but do you also run the risk of instrumentalizing grief in the name of art? (Does the public commemoration of tears through art elevate or diminish the real emotion that generated them?)

Zack Bent, Lachrymatory, 2009

Zack Bent:
I am interested in the mythology that can be established by having artifacts or fragments of a process that become works. My previous photographic works with my family were situated in our domestic environments. The line between the real and uncanny was of utmost concern for me. The goal was to locate photos that drifted between a tableau and a snapshot. There was often a curiosity that left the viewer with an unanswered question. The vial of tears is my attempt at sculptural version of that. In the case of the tears, the audience doesn’t know whose tears, what types of tears, or how many were collected. Tears fall often in our house. Collecting them in the vial became a similar ritual to kissing a bump on the head. It became an act of love. This is a case where my art practice heightened the quality of our inter-family relationships and made physically manifest our maternal and paternal care giving.

Zack Bent, Praxis, 2009

PS: Your dried tears are in that vial. Is there an element of commemorating a man's tears? Buffalo Trace includes some tough-guy imagery of hunting and fire and conquering, but is this also a way of instructing your three (now) sons in being a "whole" person?

ZB: The title Lachrymatory comes from the ancient tear catching vials that were often filled by grieving widows. The medicine bottle I used was recovered from a fallen and abandoned shack on my parent’s land in rural Indiana. There is a fair amount of collecting in scouting and a few merit badges focused in that arena. I collect a lot of tears as a father. The piece definitely memorializes mourning and weakness. The result of the collection is salt; an element of preservation. So yeah, I don't buy the tough-guy routine, I think it's a costume for a tear maker.
Zack Bent, Clean Break, 2009

PS: There's a celebration or playfulness in photos featuring your kids and wife, but I can't help also feeling some tension: between strength and vulnerability, between vivaciousness and death. Your red-cheeked boys on one wall, a rotting deer carcass on the other. The sharp edge of a hatchet, but taped up as if by Boy Scout medics. A presumably sharp-bladed Swiss Army knife that also has colorful plastic kids silverware. A scorching fire and your boys. One son's arm splinted with a coloring book. Can you talk about these tensions?

Zack Bent, St. Jerome Contemplates Preservation, 2009

ZB: The tension you sense is what is lurking beneath the surface of the whole exhibit. Some people find the images humorous…and they are to some extent. Yet for me the show was situated in tense place of unknowing and scrambling. Look toward the future, fearing the past. The deer carcass (St. Jerome Contemplates Preservation) was an arrangement, an effort to set something right, to face a type of wrong. For the Birds [a totem-like post bearing two dozen or more birdhouses] is a similar piece, an obsessive effort in achievement and resource management. I was hoping to be revealing about my own sense of failure and limitations while making visual the efforts to correct errors and cut off new ones at the pass. We live with "vivaciousness and death" on a day-to-day basis. I find it hard not to isolate these paradoxes we live with when I am working. Tensions seem to permeate everything; including the tradition of scouting along with American history.

Zack Bent, Family of Five, 2009

PS: Tell me about the placement at 4Culture of Family of Five, a small jam jar that contains five dead bees, and Lachrymatory. Is each a vanitas?

ZB: While the work was fresh, I titled the images of us tackling the climbing wall while Gala looks into the distance, Romantics (top of page) and Conquerors in reference to Caspar David Friedrich’s paintings. Our futile yet awestruck engagement with a faux natural setting seemed a fitting contemporary refiguring of his work. All that to say, many people have said the photographs are seem rather painterly which was a curious surprise. I didn’t imagine the two sculptures you mentioned as vanitas. But by definition, the suggestion is rather fitting as I do see them as encapsulating a sense of wonder for our natural state, while mourning its limitations.

PS: An obvious comparison for this series is Joseph Beuys: he dealt with themes of wounding and healing (his fat and felt are similar to the splints and tape in your work), and his was the realm of personal mythology. His story of being shot down as a World War II pilot in the Crimea, where he was rescued by nomadic Tartars, is now considered to be a bit of clever storytelling rather than bona fide biography. Likewise, the intrepid scout leader -- you -- in some of your photos blurs the real you (former scout, dad) with a fictive one.

Zack Bent, Something About Restraint 2009

ZB: Beuys' philosophical investment in social collective was beautifully earnest. That and his ability to mythologize his own life is something I completely resound with. Our lives are full of fabrication. In my work, I hope to super-fabricate my existence with my family so that we can entertain play and imagination as valuable. For me it gets back to photography’s fictive nature. Images are read so differently. People's real knowledge of me affects their perception of our myth making. A good portion of the press that surfaced from the exhibit was wrapped up in trying to figure "us" out. Some may think it all a sort of theater, and some may just think we are strange people. By playing these hands so similarly though, confusion is often created which I can’t just straighten out. I hope to be able to move freely between our real lives and our imagined lives, just as my children are able to. When I am called to answer for that it feels like such an overly rational approach to understanding the art process.

See Part I.

Eyeteeth interview: Zack Bent on rites of passage, family tribes and the Boy Scouts

Zack Bent, Conquerors, 2009

That I was just downstairs as an auspicious event occurred in the family of Seattle-based artists Zack and Gala Bent -- the home-birth of their third son, Caspar, in May -- was only fitting: A day earlier my friend, playwright Jim Bovino (who shares a house with the Bents), and I toured Buffalo Trace, an exhibition of Zack's sculptures and photographs, which features a very pregnant Gala and sons Solomon and Ezra. The inseparability of family and art -- as both theme and medium -- has marked much of Zack's work, both as an MFA student at the University of Washington and since.

In 2008, the family lived for four days (and Zack for a full week) as "contemporary frontiersmen" in Seattle's Crawl Space Gallery.
Buffalo Trace at Seattle's 4Culture this spring continued the theme, presenting the real Bent family -- including an awkward Zack, scaling a climbing wall in spit-shined shoes and a scout leader's uniform -- in rugged, vaguely mythic settings. The exhibition included a dozen or so mid- and large-scale color photographs, plus a few sculptures, on themes related to outdoor survival, the fatherly instruction of sons, and rites of passage. Zack's photos often have a painterly quality, appearing at times as heroic tableaux, but always with subtle details: a glint of light on the heel of a vigorous scoutmaster, a bunched first-aid bandage supporting a pregnant belly, a burgundy neckerchief paralleling the outstretched finger of a boy's splinted arm. The sculptures are both more simple and more enigmatic: an unexplained jar of dead bees; a camp hatchet in a cast, its sharpened blade exposed; a barkless tree trunk comically overloaded with birdhouses.

Over several weeks, Bent and I had an email discussion about his work. Here's part one of the exchange.

Zack Bent, Contusion, 2009

Paul Schmelzer: The Boy Scouts of America is an organization fraught with baggage for artists who reference it, thanks to high-profile news about homophobia, allegations of sexual abuse of minors and, as critic Regina Hackett put it, in reference to your work, "anti-eco greed." Your artist's statement is quite clear about these issues: you acknowledge that the scouts have at times failed in preserving values like conservation and social responsibility. In your artist's statement you write, "I have not sought to directly comment on contemporary controversies. Instead my aim has been to reference scouting traditions (honor, merit, first aid etc) while allowing my family to become a tribe of scouts that aims to understand its own limitations in relating to each other, to the natural world, and to the divine." But in Hackett's case, the general topic of scouting carried too much baggage to see beyond. Did you underestimate how volatile the topic can be? Or are you working to present an alternative narrative to those prevalent about scouts and, say, homophobia?

Zack Bent: While meeting with Regina in January to do a feature piece for the [Seattle Post-Intelligencer], I told her about my project. She wasn’t too keen on the idea as you can tell from her review! I left that meeting realizing how volatile the project was. In fact, I was sort of paralyzed for a month or so. I met with several confidants to get their opinions on whether I should proceed. They all resounded emphatically – yes. I decided to proceed with trepidation. I sunk my teeth into a great piece of writing by Jay Mechling On My Honor: Boy Scouts and the Making of American Youth. Mechling is an Eagle Scout who teaches American Studies at UC Davis. In his book he presents an engaged and rich cultural narrative of a BSA troop he shadowed while weaving in a study on the court cases in recent years concerning the 3 G’s -- girls, gays, and God. It is a spirited work that shows BSA’s historical evolution that became distinctively conservative in the 50’s.

Zack Bent, Spasms, 2009

I think someone could address the issue of homophobia in the institution of BSA more directly. What is perhaps most important is that I didn't set out to make a show about the Boy Scouts of America. I was hoping to focus on the essence of survival skills and relational teachings that make up the essential educational form that scouting dictates. Specifically, taking young people out into nature to teach them rather adult skills. While focusing on this, my effort was to present a type of vulnerability wrapped up in existential dilemma that isn’t present in the do-good codebook of the contemporary institution of BSA. This was my attempt at an alternative narrative.

PS: Something Regina seemed not to notice: your scouts aren't Boy Scouts. Their uniforms are of the style, but aren't official BSA uniforms, and -- more importantly -- this troop includes young children and a woman... and a pregnant one at that. Is this a critique of BSA, or simply a product of available casting: your family?

ZB: The driving force in all of my work surrounds the tense space between seeming dichotomies. This work both contains my real experience with scouting and simultaneously attempts to conjure up an imaginary scout tribe. The casting is deliberate -- and it breaks from BSA and American scouting traditions consciously. The break is less a critique and more my re-situating the context and dialog inside my family experience.

Zack Bent, Stress Fracture, 2009

PS: Did I hear you sewed the uniforms yourself? What did you learn in the (probably grueling) process of doing that? Did you get a sewing merit badge as a scout?

ZB: Actually, I didn’t make them from scratch. I spent a long time gathering clothing components that would match; unfortunately the boys' were much too big, and Gala's had to accommodate her belly. So indeed they required quite a bit of alteration to function. I didn’t receive a sewing merit badge as a scout… but my mother was a high school home economics teacher which came in handy for learning certain "domestic" skills. I do like to sew though, and having several items that are made in the show breaks form with the typical hands-off quality of photography.

PS: In mainstream culture, rites of passage, especially for boys, seem to take revolve around unhealthy things: first sex, first time getting drunk, etc. Boy Scouting seems geared toward having some positive rites of passage into manhood. Beyond scouting, is your work addressing that need for alternative rites of passage?

Zack Bent, Swiss Family Pocket Knife, 2009

ZB: Scouting contains a multi-tiered system of rites of passage, from learning social code, to simple tools and skills, moving upwards to lifesaving and independent leadership, and even onwards to Order of the Arrow which is comparable to a spiritual coming of age rite. Selecting scouting as a tribal play frame for my family was at points an exercise in examining my ability to instruct and lead through fathering. Maybe the scrutiny of legacy is aptly applied here, which is inherent in the dogma of scouting. The viewpoint I offer is more vulnerable than didactic and was directed at a presentation of weakness, teeming failure, obsession etc. A reliance on community seems to be the binding principle between the two.

PS: Your work, at least as a grad student at the University of Washington, frequently involved your family: you lived in a gallery with them for a week (in what you've described as a Daniel Boone-like experience), and you've included them in your photos and videos. Do you plan to continue using your family as one of your media, and, if so, do you see Buffalo Trace as a jumping off point for a new, related series that involves them?

ZB: I continue to imagine new tribal forms that we as a family can "become." I envision us as a troop of sports mascots, and cavemen with dinosaurs. I also see us jumping back to domestic scientists, and contemporary pioneers. They all serve as different studies. This project has a trail of unfinished works that I hope to exhibit, a few large sculptures and videos. Buffalo Trace left a media fire behind it so I am still reeling a bit from such a wide array of response.

See Part 2.


Utne's AltWire: Seed/bombs, Jaydiohead and the presidential election of 1973-1/2

Utne Reader's Jeff Severns Guntzel invited me to contribute to the magazine's online AltWire series, "a digest of spoon-fed inspiration curated by our favorite editors, journalists, artists, and visionaries." I rounded up links on five topics from seeds and bombs and seed-bombs to hand-penned street screeds to the peaceful coexistence of the likes of Rick Astley and Nirvana, Jay-Z and Radiohead, in musical mashups. Read it here.


Arte poovera

Via Artworld Salon.

Bits: 07.20.09

Ottmar Hoerl's Poisoned

• Artist Ottmar Hoerl is under investigation by authorities in Nuremberg for his sculpture of a gold-gilded gnome. Nazi symbols and gestures are verboten there, but Hoerl -- who says he didn't put the sculpture in the gallery where it was found -- says it's a critique not a celebration: "With my gnomes I'm highlighting the danger of political opportunism and right-wing ideology. I get the feeling that this gnome has reopened an old wound." Via NewsGrist.

• Toronto's Posterchild has created tear-off, fill-in-the-blank fliers for "Urban Masters Exterior Painting Solutions": just fill out a slip indicating why you'd like an urban surface painted over it and leave it at said location.

John Baldessari sings Sol Le Witt (1972).

Nonsek, a just-launched site that lets you remix designs by Aesthetic Apparatus, Art Chantry and others to create your own unique t-shirt, also has a blog about remix culture. A recent post visits Baraboo, Wis., outsider artist Dr. Evermor and the world's biggest scrap-metal sculptural installation, his Forevertron.

• A user-modified Google map of the world marking where album covers were photographed. In Minnesota, we've only got a few -- Hüsker Dü, The Replacements and The Jayhawks.

Behold the mesmerizing world of Kuroshio Sea, the world's second-largest fish tank (at 35m wide and 27 m long, it's big enough to house four tiger sharks) in Okinawa.

Caetano Veloso sings "Billie Jean"!

Stop-action Lego videogames!

Drink 'til you reach Savasana

First came Star Wars Yoga poses. Now... Drunk People Yoga Positions?


How the healthcare industry discredited universal care

After Bill Moyers aired a clip from Michael Moore's Sicko which showed how well-served and happy patients in Canada and the UK were with government-run healthcare, former Cigna exec Wendell Potter says Moore "hit the nail on the head" with the film. Yet, the trade group that advocates for health insurance companies like Cigna mounted a successful smear campaign against the documentary -- the kind of campaign we're seeing aimed at healthcare reform today. The group AHIP released talking points to counter the film's claims, including one that read: "highlight horror stories of government-run systems."

Potter says there's a big truth to take away from Sicko: "We shouldn't fear government involvement in our healthcare system. His must-read testimony before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation last month (which I found at Harvard's Nieman Watchdog blog) echoed that sentiment:
Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to be here this afternoon. My name is Wendell Potter and for 20 years, I worked as a senior executive at health insurance companies, and I saw how they confuse their customers and dump the sick — all so they can satisfy their Wall Street investors.

I know from personal experience that members of Congress and the public have good reason to question the honesty and trustworthiness of the insurance industry. Insurers make promises they have no intention of keeping, they flout regulations designed to protect consumers, and they make it nearly impossible to understand — or even to obtain — information we need. As you hold hearings and discuss legislative proposals over the coming weeks, I encourage you to look very closely at the role for-profit insurance companies play in making our health care system both the most expensive and one of the most dysfunctional in the world.
He concluded:
The industry and its backers are using fear tactics, as they did in 1994, to tar a transparent, publicly-accountable health care option as a "government-run system." But what we have today, Mr. Chairman, is a Wall Street-run system that has proven itself an untrustworthy partner to its customers, to the doctors and hospitals who deliver care, and to the state and federal governments that attempt to regulate it.
Via Ed Kohler.


Quote: Samuel Gompers

“Labor wants more schoolhouses and less jails; more books and less arsenals; more learning and less vice; more leisure and less greed; more justice and less revenge; in fact, more of the opportunities to cultivate our better natures.”
Labor leader Samuel Gompers, 1893, via my dad, William Schmelzer


Confirmed: Lake Creature is a Cameron Gainer artwork

The Loch Ness Monster-like creature bobbing in Minneapolis' Lake Harriet for the past week is indeed a Cameron Gainer artwork, created in cooperation with the Minneapolis Parks Foundation, according to the foundation's website.

Pictured: Gainer with his work _[ in Key West, Florida, January 2008.

NYC Os Gemeos mural defaced

The newly completed Os Gemeos mural at Bowery and Houston in New York -- already something of a tourist destination -- has been tagged with the words, "Blog about it." So I did.


Bits: 07.15.09

Patricia Renick, Triceracopter: Hope for the Obsolence of War, 1977

• "In 1977 Patricia Renick mounted an extraordinary solo exhibition at Cincinnati’s Contemporary Arts Center. The exhibit comprised one exceptional sculpture crafted of fiberglass and built on the frame of a Vietnam era U.S. Army OH6A/Cayuse helicopter. Triceracopter: Hope for the Obsolescence of War is now available for acquisition by a qualified museum, institution or individual." Via Worlds Best Ever.

Damien Hirst makes Fast Company's list of the "100 Most Creative People in Business." Ranked #22, Hirst is cited for selling $200 million at auction last September, "cutting out the middleman and raising the real possibility of the death of the art dealer."

• Among the other artsy types on FC's list: anime pioneer Hayao Miyazake (#31), Sandman and Coraline creator (and Minnesota resident) Neil Gaiman (#40), Helvetica/Objectified director Gary Hustwit (#74), Brian Eno (#80) and Cai Guo-Qiang (#86).

• Jen Bekman opens Summer Reading, featuring works by Eyeteeth friends Brian Ulrich, Alec Soth, Steve Lambert and others, July 16 in New York.

• London Exhibition: Radical Nature: Art and Architecture for a Changing Planet 1969–2009 at the Barbican through October 18.

• Design guru Steven Heller rebrands the GOP as "Grand Old Plagiarists" for a logo by Maine gubernatorial candidate Les Otten that "looks like it was copied out of the Obama stylebook." He adds that the Republican's website "typographically looks like Scott Thomas, Obama's web guy [and co-star of the Walker's "Desiging Obama" discussion], designed it."

• Call for proposals: Conflux City is looking for "artists, urban geographers, technologists and others to organize and produce innovative activities dedicated to the examination, celebration and (re)construction of everyday urban life" for a September 20 open-format event in New York. Deadline: July 20. Via Proximity.

• Call for writers: The excellent Laundromat Project -- which invites artist to present public art in laundromats across New York City -- is seeking writers for its Create Change artist residency. Writers, who'll receive a $500 honorarium, will be paired with visual artists to write about their projects. Deadline: July 22.

• Apparently, Minneapolis stencil-artist John Grider (Broken Crow) was commissioned by Green Day to make an artwork inspired by the band's album 21st Century Breakdown. (Also, congrats to John and his now-wife Christin, who got hitched over the weekend.)

• Grider's buddy, hip-hop artist P.O.S., has a new video out, featuring familiar Minneapolis locales and figures, including Doomtree cohort Dessa.


Os Gemeos in NYC

Os Gemeos' New York mural on the corner of Houston and Bowery is complete. See it all at Hypebeast, from whom I nicked this image.

Project your own bike lane

As a born-again cyclist living in the 'hood, I love this idea: Light Lane is a bike tail light that projects high-visibility bike lanes around you as you ride. The all-in-one design combines a red LED tail light and green DPSS lasers, plus a rechargable battery. Brilliant!

Via The Suggestion Boxer.

A mind-bogging review of the Walker Art Center

I find I can't write about St. Cloud State University student Ben Kaufman's visit to the Walker Art Center without... um... editorializing. So just read his review of a visit that he says "bogs my mind."

Update: Reactions to Kaufman's review have been posted at Secrets of the City and Fresh.mn. And C-Monster calls it the BEST. ART. ESSAY. EVER.

CIA agent: U.S. waterboarding predates Bush administration's official OK

Former CIA agent John Kiriakou tells the BBC that Abu Zubaydah (right) was waterboarded by the CIA in May or June 2002. But waterboarding wasn't OK'd by Bush administration lawyers until August 2002 when they issued memos on the topic. The CIA won't reveal when Zubaydah was waterboarded.

"If waterboarding was being used then, there's no one who would be able to say that they were relying on a legal opinion because there was no legal opinion at that point to rely upon," says Chris Anders of the ACLU.

One day's air travel compressed into one minute


Loch Ness Monster spotted in Minneapolis lake

The Loch Ness Monster has been spotted on Minneapolis' Lake Harriet. While some speculation exists, at least by a joking guy interviewed by KARE-11, that the creature is part of a millfoil-abatement plan, my guess from looking at the website LakeCreature.com is that it's art. (It's got a Twitter account, too.) The work has a striking resemblance to that of artist Cameron Gainer, whose sculptures -- entitled _[ — have showed up in Brooklyn, Key West, and other locales. Gainer, formerly based in New York, now calls Minneapolis home; he's engaged to Walker Art Center director Olga Viso. Next week we'll see if I'm right: the project's site says it'll officially reveal details on Thursday.

United Brands for World Peace: The Nike burqa?

Converse, an exhibition of works by Czech collective Pode Bal at Divus Unit 30 in London, is an unlikely product-design show, combining "notorious symbols of Muslim and 'Western' cultures into an unseen system of products in order to strive for their joyful coexistence that would please all consumers." This togetherness-through-consumerism notion is reflected in so-called "United Brands for World Peace" that include a Nike burqa, Gore-Tex turban and a Victorinox edition of the jambia dagger used in Qatar and Yemen. Converse is on view through August 1.

Ballard billboard modification

Jim sends a link for old-school culture-jamming in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood.


"Should museums strive for political neutrality?"

Rachel Hooper, a curatorial fellow at the University of Houston's Blaffer Gallery, posts an online poll that asks, "Should museums strive for political neutrality?" Cast your vote.


Guerrilla placard: "Struggle" at Nicollet Island

Struggle on Nicollet Island
Flickr user The Gradient of F, a recent transplant to a neighborhood near Minneapolis' Nicollet Island, spotted this guerrilla placard at the bottom of steps near the bike trail. It's a bit hard to find, but check out the Nicollet end of the bridge connecting to Boom Island.

(Thanks for the tip, Chris.)

Bits: 07.08.09

Bucky/Fly's Eye/Dymaxion Car, 1980, featured in the just-closed MCA Chicago exhibition on Buckminster Fuller. Photo © Roger White Stoller. Via Art or Idiocy.

"Weeping Barbie syndrome" hits two of the Walker Art Center's Beuys' works!

• The Walker's Peter Eleey narrates a quick video about Pierre Huyghe's outdoor installation Wind Chime (After Dream), a series of wind chimes hung in trees in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and tuned to each of the notes in a 1948 John Cage composition. It's a remarkable piece, surprisingly contained within the trees that reveals itself bit by bit only as you wander among the trees.

• As Barry Hoggard offers an aerial view of New York's High Line, Steven Heller describes the elevated park as "one of the best New York experiences I've had since my bath water turned from light brown to clear."

• At Art:21, Hrag Vartanian crunches the numbers about arts funding and the federal stimulus.

• Walt Whitman shows up in two interesting places: a Levi's ad, where a voice that's purportedly his reads from his poem "America," and in a wonderful to-die-for obituary that Tyler Green pointed out to me is that of Akron Art Museum director Mitch Kahan's mother-in-law.

• Via C-Monster, a spot-on letter to Dwell magazine.

The Fourth Plinth and the "democratization of art"

A participant in Antony Gormley's installation at Trafalgar Square's Fourth Plinth project, by photojournalist David Thompson.

Since Monday, artist Antony Gormley has been asking Britons to use Trafalgar Square's Fourth Plinth to make "a portrait of the UK now." For the next 100 days, he's opened up the remaining empty plinth -- built in 1841 to support an equestrian statue of William IV, but never completed due to lack of funds -- in central London to anyone for an hour, to do whatever they'd like. (Currently, I'm watching a guy muttering and doing what appears to be Tai Chi, but there have been many more artful hours spent.)

In a nice video (below), Gormley says the ensuing 2,400 hours -- until October 14 -- are "about the democratization of art":
"We know what Trafalgar Square is like: It's full of generals and kings and queens and [Admiral Horatio] Nelson and [Sir Charles James] Napier. This is a chance for you and I, people who live on the ground, to have a look at the world from the point of view of art, from the point of view of that elevated frame that, in a way, we've inherited from the old order. I hope this is about making a new order. Or anyway, expressing our hopes and fears now..."
Best part: it's all being webcast live.

Next up: After Gormley's project, the plinth will feature a commission by British/Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare, who'll make a scale replica of Nelson’s ship, HMS Victory, in a giant glass bottle.


Bits: 07.06.09

Clement Greenberg, a readymade from Katya Mezhibovskaya's Access Excess, her BFA thesis at School of the Visual Arts. Via Steven Heller.

We Make Money Not Art presents Jen Hui Liao's Self-Portrait Machine, a contraption that "takes a picture of the sitter and draws it but with the model's help. The wrists of the individual are tied to the machine and it is his or her hands that are guided to draw the lines that will eventually form the portrait." Video here.

The River Café in Brooklyn is suing New York's Public Art Fund and Danish artist Olafur Eliasson for damage to its building and foliage caused by Eliasson's The New York City Waterfalls. Via @cmonstah.

• Exhibition: Foodprint "shows crucial moments relating to food, food production and the city." at Stroom Den Haag, The Hague, through August 23.

• Is this another threat to Spiral Jetty? Via MAN.

• Osama bin Laden: "Missing" street-art.

ARTnews' Top 200 collectors' list.

• A gallery of Chinese propaganda art.

• Andy Sturdevant, writer, curator, fashionista.

Utne looks at Afghani war rugs.

• The prez already has a Chia Obama.



By Nic Hess, via iheartmyart.com

Yoko Ono: Dream

Via Yoko Ono on Flickr:
To celebrate Yoko Ono receiving The 2009 Venice Biennale Lifetime Achievement Golden Lion, Luigi Bonotto's ArchivioBonotto has installed over 1000 Billboards in Italy - in Milan, Rome, Venice, Florence, Bologna, Mestre, Padova & Verona.


Scott Nedrelow at Sellout Gallery

Scott Nedrelow, who I've featured here and here, has a show with artists Eric William Carroll and Lex Thompson at Minneapolis' Sellout Gallery, starting tonight. Nedrelow's current work
"began as a communication with a distant friend by writing notes on torn pages from popular art publications such as Art Forum. These texts, photographed and printed in large formats (some are over 144 inches long), have morphed into abstract forms that merge and depart from the appropriated source material. The resulting work creates a new narrative of contextual distortion that questions the appropriated artist’s motivations as well as the commercialization of contemporary art."
It's on view through July 18.