Thursday, February 23, 2006

It's TED!

Art Teachers Menaced by Ted Kennedy's Giant Head. The entire CAA program had consisted of people speaking fairly quietly at the podium in the dark conference room giving awards when we were all startled out of our elbow patches by TED Kennedy's GIANT glowing head on huge screen BOOMING over the crowd on speakers that hadn't been tested and were hastily turned down within a few seconds (he was getting an award for supporting the arts and was thanking us via videotape). Other notes: Ted has an absurdly plush website, and CAA has blog

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Interesting Analysis of MySpace

Identity Production in a Networked Culture: Why Youth Heart MySpace by Danah Boyd is good read that is getting attention out there. As previously noted MySpace gives me the creeps, but I am prepared for that to be just some kind of "...these kids today" fear of the unfamiliar on my part. I've thought since i was a teenager that i would always be wary of the impulse to ossify as one ages. I felt that our generation (Atari wave Gen X) was the first one (was it?) to grow up with the assumption that we would spend our entire lives in an inherently unstable world where technologies were constantly changing, culture churning, and that there would never come a point when we would be "done" running to catch up- and that was before we knew the internet was coming!

My itunes collection is very heavy on music from the 80's and 90's but i don't kid myself thinking that no better music is being created now. I'm sure that (as it ever was and ever shall be) 90% of what is being created right now is utter crap that will be forgotten in 10 years and some smaller percentage is timeless fantasticness that i could find if only i took the time to sift through it (aided, of course by our wonderful new cultural sifting mechanisms growing more powerful all the time - some one want to hip me to some new music blogs i should be reading?).

Boyd's essay seems to run contrary to Amy's concern about the hollowness of the social interaction on myspace. It occurred to me as i was reading that there is always a kind of hollowness to many of the relationships one has as a teenager- or maybe not a hollowness but a frantic quality? I can remember even thinking that at the time.

Another interesting (IMHO) bit in the essay was this
....majority of adults and teens have no desire to mix and mingle outside of their generation, but digital publics slam both together. In response, most teens just ignore the adults, focusing only on the people they know or who they think are cool.
Which strikes me as an artifact of the medium and the situation being new. It seems to me that what will happen as the digital public space matures is that teenagers (the next batch) will learn to 'double code' everything they do and say so that it will be either interpreted incorrectly or just incomprehensible to adults while saying what they want to say to their peers. The 'slamming together' of different age groups on the internet is like the slamming together of different subcultures that i describe in Is Karl Rove a Genius on Par with Marcel Duchamp Part I and propose as an opportunity for a new kind of artwork in Part II.

A couple days ago I was having an argument with a peer about wether or not in the future everyone will have a website, or at least a public profile / blog (i was on the "PRO" side of the debate). I wonder what the MySpace kids will do when they get to be 25- will they delete their profiles or just move them to another site and update them with a more mature font, a copy of their resume and a review of the nice little french restaurant they just found in the village?

Monday, February 20, 2006

A t-shirt someone might want

I finally came up with a T-shirt design that might appeal to more people than just me or people who happen to be exactly like me.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

At first this sounded like a good thing...

I mean, honestly - what could be so wrong with teaching US soldiers Iraqi Arabic, including hand gestures and other cultural tics that might actually help them to communicate? Sure, the idea of learning all you need to know from an 80 hour video tape seemed creepy, but I also understand the practicalities of this sort of thing.

And then I read this quote, from their website (linked above). Fucking beautiful. Yeah, I mean - God forbid you should force people going into a foreign country to actually have to spend time learning about that country:

"Oh, it's wonderful. I see great future for it. We need to teach soldiers enough Arabic to, say, find where the weapons are. These guys aren't going to sit in class learning Arabic. This is a computer game, and all soldiers like computer games." -- Sgt. Amy Perkins, Arabic linguist, 3rd Army Cavalry Regiment, United States Army

Ok, now it's officially creepy. Oh, and what I wouldn't get to add those three simple words "of mass destruction" to the above...

Friday, February 17, 2006

My Space

This is not a real post, i don't have time right now- its just a 'me too' - this article Why MySpace Scares The Crap Out of Me I was there when (here?) when friendster swept across my social circle and everyone was obsessed with it for about 2 months- and then it was over- Myspace is way uglier even than the very ugly friendster -- which i realize doesn't matter to most people- but what makes it better than friendster? anything? why does it keep getting bigger, while friendster was a fad that is now over?

Yet Another Thing To Do Next Weekend In New York

I guess i picked the wrong weekend to be in boston. This looks really interesting (to me). I found this thanks to this page which i found because this toronto exhibition which i wish i could see was promoted by this mailing list which I really enjoy.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

On Kitsch


Thursday, February 23, 7pm
School of Visual Arts
209 East 23rd Street
3rd-floor Ampitheater
Free and open to the public

The BFA Fine Arts and Art History Departments of the School of Visual Arts (SVA) present On Kitsch, a panel addressing the confluence of the high and the low in art today. Panelists include Brian Boucher, Melissa Brown, Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt, Lisa Small and Amy Wilson. The event takes place Thursday, February 23, 7pm at School of Visual Arts, 209 East 23rd Street, New York City. Admission is free.

“Kitsch,” a term widely used to describe mass-produced objects of questionable taste, was once reviled by the purveyors of high culture, who saw it as the antithesis of fine art. Today, many fine artists – among them Jeff Koons, John Currin, Lisa Yuskavage, Takashi Murakami, and Liza Lou, to name a few – draw their primary inspiration from this lowbrow aesthetic. What was once the hallmark of ridiculously poor taste now accounts for some of the most provocative art of our time.

In his landmark 1939 Partisan Review essay “Avant-Garde and Kitsch,” Clement Greenberg wondered how it is that a culture can produce “simultaneously two such different things as […] a painting by Braque and a Saturday Evening Post cover.” To contemporary ears, his question may sound quaint, but it remains relevant to anyone trying to understand the place that art occupies in our culture.

Given that the line between art and kitsch has now become so blurred, what is the fundamental difference between the two? And who gets to make that distinction?

Panelists include:

Brian Boucher, writer, editorial staff member of Art in America. He has also written for New York Magazine, Parachute, Flash Art and Art Review.

Melissa Brown is represented by Bellwether in NYC and recently exhibited with Kenny Schacter in London. She will be included in the upcoming “Interstate Show” at Socrates Sculpture Park and performs regularly with the group Slow Jams Band. She teaches at Lehman College.

Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt has been exhibiting his work since 1965, and was included in “The American Century: Art & Culture 1900-2000” at the Whitney Museum and “The Downtown Show” at the Grey Art Gallery. His work is in the collection of many museums, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, and the Whitney. He teaches at the School of Visual Arts.

Lisa Small is Associate Curator at the Dahesh Museum in NYC. She is the author of Highlights from the Dahesh Museum Collection, published in 1999, and of a 16,000-word manuscript examining that museum's version of Alexandre Cabanel's Birth of Venus.

Amy Wilson is represented by Bellwether in NYC. Her work has been included in exhibitions at P.S. 1/MoMA, Wesleyan University, and The Drawing Center, and reviewed in various publications including Art in America, The New York Times, and The New Yorker. She teaches Understanding Kitsch at the School of Visual Arts.

For more information, call 212.592.2010.

School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York City is an established leader and innovator in the education of artists. From its inception in 1947, the faculty has been comprised of professionals working in the arts and art-related fields. SVA provides an environment that nurtures creativity, inventiveness and experimentation, enabling students to develop a strong sense of identity and a clear direction of purpose. For more information, contact Michael Grant, Assistant Director of Communication at 212.592.2011 or

Act like nothing's wrong

Does it strike you as weird how little everyone seems to be talking about this whole stupid Danish cartoon scandal? Maybe it's just my circle, but I haven't talked to anyone about it in depth. If you turn on the news, the story is there - but I mean, I haven't had a conversation with any of my friends about it. It seems like the sort of thing artists should be talking about endlessly, but somehow we're not. I feel a little like we're all admitting defeat in the culture war. Nobody seems especially pissed off that the right is manipulating Muslims by purposefully running offensive images, and nobody seems especially disappointed that many Muslims are taking the bait. Artists, in general, seem to be rolling their eyes and just going with it. I have no idea what I think the proper reaction to all this is. I'm just more frustrated about the fact that we're in the business of images, and while we all sit around in NYC not talking about all this, the biggest story rocking the Middle East has to do with images. I don't know - I really don't know; it's just that it all strikes me as strange. My best reaction to all of this was to take the characters I use in my drawings and send them to a museum. It's what I'm working on right now, as in today.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Is that a Chris Burden tote you're carrying?

Here's one of the things I've been doing for kicks: Making really silly objects with my favorite works of art on them, courtesy Avery's new iron-on labels and my fab inkjet printer. I absolutely adore this tote bag I made. I'm working on a t-shirt for a friend who's turning forty with Yves Klein's Leap into the Void on it. It's the ultimate expression of art-geek-chic, or so I think. Plus, it's funny as hell when people realize you have Chris Burden being shot on the bag that you use to carry your lunch in.

Todays Secret Word Today is... Disintermediation

I can remember my Dad taking me to the small downtown of our small city and pointing at the 4 or 5 buildings over 20 stories tall and pointing out to me that they were all either banks or insurance companies. He said - "people who are in the business of money make the most money". With the advent of Prosper, the "Ebay of Money" web technology brings disintermediation to the world of money- thanks to trying to get it right for turning me on to this term while describing another disintermediator, Zillow. I'm officially predicting that this will be huge. We'll see.

Back again after oh-so-long

Well, that Jay Van Buren is one helluva guy, let me tell you. Not only does he look past the fact that I haven't paid him for my website updates and that I only logged onto this thing after months and months to hype a friend's site, but he goes so far as to welcome me back with open arms. Thanks, Jay - that's awfully sweet of you.

Well, I've been gone, but it's not like I've been lollygaggling all day. Sometime directly after my Summer of Hell (ie: Daily News vs. Drawing Center/Me), I walked myself over to a shrink and started going to therapy. Then, just as I was adjusting to the notion of paying to cry once a week, the semester started. I've found myself back at my alma mater SVA, where in the fall I was teaching a class on kitsch (it's true!) and this semester I'm teaching painting to freshman in a pilot Honors program.

It's been a great experience - all of it; after the Summer of Hell, that is. I love teaching so much it's sick; if I loved it any more, they wouldn't have to pay me. And I started this weird project with my students (linked to the title of this post, above) where we blog every week. Well, I blog more than that, but I have no life; they blog once a week and we all check each other's blogs.

I wasn't sure how it would go. Basically forcing a class of over twenty 18-19 year olds to pour out their innermost feelings in a forum where all their classmates (SVA keeps freshman together, so they're all taking the same classes together) can read it was a tricky prospect at best. But I'm very pleased at how it's been working out. I've learned an awful lot from them a lot quicker than I would if I just met up with them once a week in class. And it's been a huge help in my getting-to-know the illustrators, graphic designers, and cartoonists, who are into different artists and references than the fine arts majors.

So, yay for blogs. And yay for spilling your guts out. I really want to start writing more on here, because I've been writing so much on my class blog my students are starting to think I'm crazy. Well, I sort of am, but you know - professionalism and all that stuff is important, too.

So, yay. I'm happy to be back.

Jay, can I please pay you now (or give you work) and could you also update my webpage? I wish I had an adorable emoticon to insert here: _____. Eh, either way, I'll keep writing.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

another new kind of art

Wappenings? Over at MTAA they're having someone stand on a street corner until someone hands him an orange.

favorite photographer of the week

Brian Urlrich- wow! Love it. His site is flash and doesn't allow for deep linking which is faulty web strategy (IMHO) but c'est la vie- the thumbnail here is of a photo in the 'thrift' collection- have a look at them- they're really worth seeing full size- remarkable images.

Friday, February 10, 2006

The Drawing Center

The latest early-adopter project just launched this week. Check it out. Thanks to the very talented Mike Mills who was the lead designer on this project, and the amazingly resourceful Bill Ye who was the programmer, and is my partner in developing the art gallery content management system that this site is based on. See full screenshot

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

big surprise

Thanks to Dorky Dad for showing me this tiny political quiz. Turns out I'm a liberal.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Is Carl Rove a genius on par with Marcel Duchamp PART II

Please read part I

It’s not just what happens, it’s how what happens is interpreted that matters.

Seen through a lens of traditional warfare, the attacks on the US on September 11 were completely ineffectual. Although, obviously the effect on the individuals and the families of those killed was devastating, in purely big-picture strategic terms to knock down a few buildings, crash 4 planes and kill a few thousand people out of 275 million, is nothing, its just a scratch. The same could be said for all terrorism. It is a tactic of last resort, used by (in my opinion, morally reprehensible) people who are hopelessly out matched in traditional military terms.

Like all terrorism, (hence the name) the purpose is its psychological effect.

For the families of the people that died this was wholly a specific, tangible loss of specific people they loved. For a great many other people it was mostly (regrettably) as a symbolic event that has been interpreted differently by different people, for example, during the election of 2004, 64% of Republicans still thought IRAQ was behind sept 11th.

It’s the event’s meaning as symbol that has caused the over-all effect of those attacks on world history as we’re seeing it played out before our eyes, it was huge. The invasion of Iraq was a neo-con pipe dream before 9-11. There is no way that Bush II could have rallied enough political support to invade Iraq without that attack having taken place. Because certain members of the Bush administration was able to see this event, not as what it was, but as what it could be spun into, they were able to jump on it and use it as a pretext to do something they’d wanted to do for years. The invasion of Iraq is a huge strategic event that will have repercussions on millions of people’s lives for decades to come.

In 1917 Macel Duchamp created the first of his famous “ready-mades”. It was called “fountain” and it was a urinal entered in an open art exhibition. The urinal looked like a perfectly ordinary mass-produced urinal that anyone could buy at a plumbing supply store. To the largest percentage of people at the time it was an absurd hoax (because Duchamp had done no ‘work’ to create it and it was ‘just’ a urinal) but a few saw it for what it was- the first case of an artwork where the real work involved was in the thinking that went into it- and the value that it had was in the questions that it generated. (For general intro to why this mattered, and what it was about click here) In recent years, some evidence has come to light that, seems to suggest that the “ready-mades” were actually hand-crafted replicas (made with tremendous care) of mass-produced objects that were slightly different from any actual mass-produced models available at the time. More on this here This amounts to a little time-bomb in-joke for between us, the people who discovered what Duchamp had really done, and Duchamp on the other artists of 1917. It means that even in 1917, Duchamp understood the full implication of what it meant for art to move into the conceptual realm. By doing this he is letting us know that he knew this a full 40 years before Andy Warhol, and the rest of the art world would get it. He understood, even back then, that what was important about a work of art was what it meant, and that what it meant was more dependant on what it was thought to be than what it was.

How things get spun and interpreted and re-interpreted at different levels of our culture is key to understanding another recent bit of history:


To re-cap: Dan Rather on CBS’s 60 minutes II, broadcast a story about President Bush’s service or lack there of, in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam war. This happened right after the RNC, with Bush up in the polls,. This story and another in the Boston Globe threaten to break through into the consciousness of America with the idea that Bush had received special treatment during Vietnam and had subsequently lied about it. The Broadcast included memos that were supposedly written by A Col. Killian, Bush’s superior officer, and saying among other things that Bush hadn’t followed orders but that he (kalian) had been pressured by his superiors to give Bush a pass.

Almost immediately after the memos appeared on CBS blogers on the left and the right kicked into high gear. A posting on the right-leaning “free republic” website questioned the authenticity of the memos, asking if the font, and certain other features of the memos could have been created by an early-70’s typewriter. With literally thousands of political junkies as researchers, the “blogosphere” amassed a staggering amount of information almost literally overnight. By the next day it was beginning to be clear that the documents were forgeries, with major media outlets reporting on, and struggling to keep up with, developments on the blogs. CBS interviewed Killian’s secretary who said she remembered having typed memos containing the same information, but that these memos didn’t look like the memos she’d typed.

But if these documents were forgeries, where did they come from, and why would they contain correct information? If someone were going to go to the trouble to forge documents, why wouldn’t they do a better job? 1970’s typewriters are available on eBay after all. At first CBS, kept their source confidential, but later they revealed that they had come from Bill Burkett, a well-known bush critic, with a spotty reputation and a history of mental illness. Burkett claims they were handed to him at a livestock show, by a stranger, in a meeting arranged by a different stranger in a phone call. Its pure speculation, but it would explain several things (and it’s a damn interesting story) if the memos were the work of Bush’s chief political advisor, Carl Rove. Rove is sometimes called “bush’s brain” and is believed by many to be a political (evil) genius of the first order. Consider this: You’ve got a candidate who, years ago did some things that don’t reflect well on his character, and that he’s since lied about. You know that there is still enough evidence out there (there always is) that someone will put the pieces of the puzzle together eventually. So, you take true information damning to you candidate, (the real memos) you re-type them in a form that can be proven to be forgeries (easily)—you give them to someone you know will A) desperately want to use them to hurt bush B) is not likely to realize they are fake and C) will be easily discredited – Rove need not have anticipated that they would end up on CBS, that could have just been gravy, but he knew they would come out somehow, and once they did—one phone call to a conservative blogger with the suggestion they might be forgeries and everything falls into place.

The real genius of this plan is knowing how the various audiences will interpret it. Political junkies on left and right will know all the details and will see it all through their own biases lenses, and therefore won’t be persuaded one way or the other, the major media will see it as a story and will chase the ratings to the juiciest part of the story. 30 year old documents are juicy, but FORGED documents are even juicer, The content of the documents gets completely forgotten in the rush to decide if they are forgeries or not and Burkett is a much more interesting character (tends to shoot his mouth off, looks a little nuts, that makes for great TV) than either Killian (dead) or Bush (already known). And lastly, swing voters, many of whom aren’t paying too much attention anyway, just get the general sense that there was something in the news about Bush and the Texas Air national guard, but that it was all fake in the end so who cares? Lastly, after this any reference to this issue can be dismissed by Bush spin-doctors as discredited and worse, old news. The plan is sol convoluted that anyone (like me) trying to describe it can easily be dismissed as some nut-job, but if its true, then Rove has completely neutralized an issue that might otherwise have made a serious dent in the president’s popularity. Bush’s supporters are for him because they believe he is an honest man and a good man, not a liar whose family got him special treatment when his country needed him most. Read this for another example (maybe) of Rove using the same technique.

So think of the Killian Memos themselves as artifacts/ artworks if this theory is correct. They are marvelous objects. They are forgeries of real documents who’s purpose was to be known as forgeries so as to cast doubt on the real information they contain. Like the readymades they were made to be understood by a series of different audiences in different ways. Unlike the readymades they were understood in all those different ways immediately because we’re living in a time when every conceivable sub-culture has instant access to every other sub-cultures dialogues.

To my mind it opens up the possibility of new kind of artwork. One which is meant to play simultaneously upon all the interlinked stages of all of our hyperlinked world.- It would mean different things to different audiences with the real craft being in the way those meanings relate to and inform each other.