Saturday, October 27, 2012

additional information, misc

Reading the book Hans Haacke: Unfinished Business that I found at Moes I stumbled on his c. 1983 piece MetroMobiltan which externalizes the relationships between the Metropolitan Museum and it's corporate funding tits by examining the influence that Mobil Oil had on the show, Treasures of Ancient Nigeria. It also extends the thesis that the then Met director, Thomas Hoving, innovated the whole concept of corporate blockbuster funding. Looking a bit deeper (actually quite a bit, as this particular type of information is not so easy to find online) I found that my memory was correct that, 1) The 1972 (1976 in the US) Treasures of Tutankhamen was the first popular blockbuster; and, 2) It was funded -- in the National Gallery at least -- by Exxon, c.f.:

That last little tidbit is the hard part to find as all the gee-whiz online information about these hugely popular shows conveniently ignores who paid for them.

Anyway.... My point is that the early '70's date exactly lines up with the end of the big Art-Tech shows which were, 1) Funded by large corporations -- Pepsi, Phillips, Bell Labs, AMC, etc; and, 2) Contained new work that was research oriented -- rather than greatest hits from the past. So, what happened was that our corporate masters realized that they could get much more bang/buck out of old dead artists than they could from work that better aligned with their scientific and engineering pursuits. And PFFFTT went the collaboratory milieu.

Fortunately, I Am a Sensitive Artist, so I don't actually have to support this hypothesis with actual data...

In Other News

Something has changed about the Lazzaroni Amaretti Cookie wrappers. They no longer fly. The paper doesn't form the ash chimney as shown in the video. It appears that it is not just me as I've found a number of complaints online dating from 2008. But no explanation. I would have at least expected the box to have a warning and liability disclaimer about lighting anything on fire.

The only constant is change. For the worse.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Trip So Far

I'm in the midst of a road trip from Santa Fe to the Bay Area -- and presumably back. I took the scenic route through southern Colorado, Utah, and Nevada. The leaves were turning:

view from Kiva Coffee on Utah Highway 12
and there were only a few Romney-Ryan signs to be seen in the clutter of local election trivia. I have not seen a single Obama-Biden sign, even here in Berkeley though. It could be that we just don't care anymore?

Following the grueling ups and downs of NV Highway 50, I over-nighted at Circus Circus in Reno. I can definitively say that I have now seen the present and it is omnipotent:

underground dividing line between Circus Cicus and Eldorado casinos
The downtown casinos seem to be connected via mazes of underground passages full of flashing lights and bleeping sounds, all watched over by security cameras of amazing grace (one camera got facial shots of everyone who entered a particular restroom complex). In a cultural full-court-press, I was served all-you-can-eat-average-sushi by an tiny older Japanese woman, sporting a "Godzilla" name tag, working in a place called Kokopelli's Sushi at the back of Dos Geckos Cantina somewhere underneath Circus Circus. I also couldn't figure out how to give them any of my money because there are no longer coin operated slot machines. I think you need to plug your credit card directly into all the devices so as to make the draining of your accounts more efficient.

Thankfully, I got out of town the next morning and through the Sierras to the b.Area without further incident. The Berkeley Art Museum has a show of graffiti-street art stuff which I found to be mostly uninteresting. The mechanized spray-boys sprinkled around the space were kinda fun -- variously sized figures with mechanical arms holding spray cans, pretending to tag whatever they could. However...upstairs:

Barry McGee's head

The same motor-crank mechanism is used to bang this guy's head against the wall with a satisfying clunk-clunk-clunk. And on the top floor is a review of recent acquisitions which are well signed and in many cases actually thoughtful and interesting. I'm off to the real Maudlin Art Museum in da-city later today -- there may be more art reportage later. I also found one of the Hans Haacke books I wanted at Moes, so all is not yet lost.

Then I went to the old Berkeley Bowl:

an acre of fruits and vegetables at Berkeley Bowl

And nearly broke into tears...

All this plus oysters at Cafe Rouge, Sushi at Uzen, a Sazerac at Cesar, and the Zuni yet to come.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Double Order of Nostalgia

While rummaging through the "Schippling Archives" I found an envelope full of copies of one of my favorite comic strips: Odd Bodkins by Dan O'Neill. I looked him up and he seems to be still kicking AND a fellow blog-site user. I encourage you to peruse the aforementioned link...

There are two Odd things about my history with this comic strip:
  1. I first saw the strip in the mid-1960's in the Riverside Press Enterprise, one of the most editorially conservative publications you could find in those roaring days of John Birch. It was the weirdest thing I'd ever seen.
  2. Twenty years later I would (and still) own a Norton Commando motorcycle. To my shame I've never given him a Magic Cookie.

I do however live with a rather large Space Bunny...

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Turbulence -- Day of Reckoning

So it's all over but the documenting. My Axle installation has been deconstructed:


Even if it didn't make manifest all the hoped for effects, kids loved it. Adults had more reserved reactions, like, "So that's where packing pellets go to die". And there are some lessons learned.

First, as I should have known from my Exploratorium days, those darned kids will destroy everything:
Road Warrior
On the plus side, I got to use the Holy Trinity of Bricollage: duct tape, bailing wire, and Goop.

Second, the pellets slowly destruct and get into everything:
Stuff Everywhere

So if it was to be a more permanent installation there needs to be an easy way to clean it out.

Third, the critical angle of the pellets I used is just about 30°. This is just about what I used for the backing ramp, except that the truck got parked at various angles every day. And there was an intentional, but not entirely functional, lip right at the end of the ramp which (I think) provided too much resistance:
The Lip Problem

Due to the variable angles sometimes things flowed too freely and other times not quite at all. Unfortunately the last two days, at Harry's Roadhouse and the Children's Museum, were down-slope days so there was not much pellet action after things got settled. Ah well...

Fourth, the pellets didn't really circulate through the length of the truck. They mostly blew up and then fell back down near the window and fans. I should have put a deflector at the top of the window to encourage full-flow behavior.

Fifth, the whole Moody Interactive Thing didn't really come off. It took too much observation and was probably too subtle to observe. I erred on the side of making sure something would happen no matter what so as to avoid getting the, "Stupid Shit's Broken As Usual" response. This was probably a good choice overall...

Play it Again Sam?

Maybe. I could see putting this into the corner of a room with a glass wall in front. Given a stable setting the angle management and flow behavior could be improved. I would also paint the space black and use white pellets -- I considered this for Axle but didn't want to de-gallerize their space, maybe I'm too timid? The whole pastel thing, while raising the New Mexico State Question, "Red or Green?", was a little too, well, pastel for my taste.

I've got the fans if someone's got the room...

Monday, October 1, 2012

Conceptual Framing

Recently I've been to two shows here in Santa Fe where the signs are better than the work itself. ...I am of course overstating things -- there are pieces in each show that, with a push, could stand on their own...

The first show, More Real? Art in the Age of Truthiness at SITE Santa Fe, has room after room of stuff that needs explaining. Now, all Modern and Contemporary art (and maybe all art in general) needs a little background to appreciate it appropriately -- just look to Duchamp. However the stuff that sticks with me has a visceral component that is amplified by the explanation, not the other way around. My feeling about the SITE show is that they should have kept the signs and dispensed with the work.

This lack of grounding is the fundamental problem of Conceptual Art, and probably the reason that almost every artist described in the book Conceptual Art (Ursula Meyer, 1972) -- which has been an interesting re-read after all this time -- has returned to making objects again.

An exemplar is the giant-trailer-skeleton-in-the-dim-room piece (IƱigo Manglano-Ovalle, Phantom Truck, 2007). You have to work at figuring out what it is if you have the patience to let your eyes adjust to the gloom. Or you can read the sign to find that it is a model of the hypothesized Iraqi mobile chemical weapons factories that were never found. Bada-Bing! No trucks were necessary to the making of this realization!

Nor did we get a mention of Baudrillard's Simulacra in the lengthy windup.

The second show, Dust in the Machine at the Center for Contemporary Art, follows conceptual suit but at least has some intrinsically interesting pieces. Such old hat as nicely done architectural photographs and simple video projections play well. But the attempts to make a statement -- a tar-pot-trailer-devoid-of-that-new-tar-smell parked in the middle of the space (?!) -- need those lengthy signs, which are missing, to get.

Maybe it's just the use of trailers indoors that frustrates me? I dunno...

Anyway. Since Santa Fe is all about the Light I need to come up with a proposal for CCA to actually use those Munoz-Waxman Gallery windows. Every show I've seen there goes out of its way to prevent that wonderful illumination from permeating the space.