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Now that the Gipper's in the grave and we're all sick of the subject: he was a mediocre-to-bad1 President who did not end the cold war or break the back of inflation but did cause a lot of suffering in the world, particularly in Central America. Some pretty good negative obits are Ted Rall's, Greg Palast's (scroll down to June 6), and Alexander Cockburn's. American politics became surreal in 1980 once people decided to hire a movie actor as President. Wasn't that when the Athenian democracy went into decline, when they started electing actors? The folks writing his scripts weren't surrealists, though: they had a very straightforward agenda of turning the clock back to some perceived Eisenhower '50s while plunging their hands deeply into the till. David Lynch nailed the era in Blue Velvet--behind the facade of old Gus waving from his red fire truck lurked the sexually depraved, oxygen-huffing criminal. Reagan's men had to wait 12 years before they found another wax dummy Average Americans could fall for--they almost succeeded in recreating what they had in the '80s, except Frank Booth keeps popping up on people's television screens. Reagan was a much better animatronic doll than George Junior.
1. Mediocre in that we're all still alive.
I made a few tweaks to my main site page. Since I've been doing more animation than installation lately I put the animation log higher up the list. Also I made a page for my music .mp3s. The artist's statement remains intact because it's what I still believe--I just added a little update about my growing interest in "time- and internet-based work."
I originally created that family of pages to apply for the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council's World Trade Center studio program. They said you could submit a URL instead of slides, so even though I was basically painting and drawing (with the computer & printer) I was happy to dispense with the whole slide ritual. I've since found out the LMCC only wants URLs for new media or net-based projects--painters still have to submit slides. How techno-provincial is that? I guess the LMCC new media judge opened my URL that year and went, "hey where are all the moving parts and sounds making a profound comment on databases as art, the economic biases of the web, etc? These are just abstractions and drawings of pretty girls!"--if it even got that far.
There has been some discussion of late (here, and scroll down) of moving some "major cultural institutions" to the World Trade Center site. Names being tossed around include the New York City Opera and the Drawing Center. I offer the following modest proposal, which is that no cultural organization move to the site for the following reasons: (a) too much suspicion and lingering questions about the destruction of the first buildings to just "move on," (b) fear of a second attack in a Bush-increased terror atmosphere, (c) commercial motivations and personal greed of the present property owner, (d) distrust of any environmental bill of health given the site by the owner, the City, or the Feds, and (e) not enough attention to calls to keep the land empty as a memorial to the dead.
UPDATE: Item (d) was added in response to a comment by selma on the other thread.
UPDATE 2: Per this Newsday article, it's just been announced that the Drawing Center and some other institutions that don't share the above concerns will be moving to "ground zero," as the article refers to the site.
Making art in the age of abusive copyright enforcement.
Negativland and Public Enemy are two '80s groups who became experts on copyright whether they wanted to be or not. U2's overbearing record label forced Negativland to defend appropriation theory in court (and radicalized them to a point of complete obsession on this issue, as trauma has a way of doing); Public Enemy quickly learned what they could and couldn't create after sampling suits brought hiphop's most innovative phase to a halt. Negativland now maintains an online database relating to "fair use" and other copyright issues (be sure to check out their interview with U2's The Edge if you haven't), and Public Enemy's Chuck D and Hank Shocklee recently gave an industry-savvy interview on "how copyright changed hiphop." Along with law professor Lawrence Lessig (and many others) these groups are urging fundamental changes to American copyright laws. This is important but don't expect it to happen anytime soon, given the strength of the music and film industry lobbies. For those planning to make art in the meantime, these are your sole options:
1. Stay poor. The humorless twit who sued Jeff Koons over that "string of puppies" photo would never have done it if Koons hadn't been an "art star." Very few people sue to make a point (except RIAA); it's too expensive.
2. Record live versions of other people's songs, or song fragments, for the sole purpose of sampling them--you avoid the "master recording" fee for the sample and only have to pay the "publication" fee. Just kidding: this is actually done by the big-bucks hiphop performers, as described in the Chuck D/Hank Shocklee interview, but it sounds fake as hell--essentially having a lawyer as a creative partner.
3. Stay several steps ahead of the shysters by mutating the sounds so they're virtually untraceable. A lot of drum and bass producers do this. You don't get that bang of recognition ("Oh that's Richard Dawson in Running Man!") but the texture of the sound is yours to play with.
4. Make completely original art. No more samples, no more collage, it's back to the Modernist dictate "make it new." It's always possible you heard or saw something subconsciously that crept into your work and could get you sued, but creativity isn't just about mixing up other people's stuff. (Dumb, I know; I just put it in in case Jed Perl stumbled across the page).
This Financial Times essay by Michael Lind argues that the US failures in Iraq and Afghanistan have damaged not just the neoconservative cause of establishing
UPDATE: A couple more iterations are in the comments.
Via thickeye we learn about an upcoming Michele Handelman performance where she surreptitiously photographs and audiotapes people in a public park and then, on another day and in the same places in the park, stages reenactments of what they were doing and saying. Live performers--surrogate humans with white hair, white skin, white clothes, and orange-lensed goggles--will sit in the same positions as the tapees and the audio of their conversations will be transmitted through loudspeakers. Fine, so far, but the press release description just gives me hives:
Michelle Handelman will spend one day in Bryant Park clandestinely documenting visitors to the park, recording their conversations, photographing them, and taking note of their location/time in the park. During a single performance, entitled Passerby, she will work with performers to recreate five of the situations she observed in the exact locations at the same time they originally occurred. Handelman's project addresses the possibility for or lack of privacy in public space as well as the prevalence of and high tolerance for surveillance and will take place on Tuesday, June 29th, from 1-4PM in Bryant Park, 6th Avenue between 40th/42nd Streets. Rain date is Thursday, July 1st.The phrase in bold is the type of earnest curatorial recap they use in Whitney wall labels, taking the edge out of the art and making it "socially responsible" for skittish newbies. Plus, it's not accurate. To say the work addresses our "high tolerance for surveillance" is just wrong if these people don't know they're being taped. What if a kid is agonizing out loud about whether to come out, or a couple is trying to decide whether to have an abortion, or, if this seems too farfetched, what if a guy is just obsessing to his girlfriend about his BO? Will Handelman edit conversations down to material she feels is "not too invasive"? Is she going to get releases, now that likenesses and voices are increasingly treated as intellectual property? Or is she just going to throw caution to the winds and see what happens?
Many of the same issues were raised by Sophie Calle 25 years ago in her "Venetian Suite" pictures, where she followed a man around and photographed him without his knowledge. Is the artist critiquing surveillance or just being a voyeur? Also, films such as The Conversation and Blow-up taught us that these little slices of life can be utterly unlike what they appear to be and have only as much meaning as one reads into them. Maybe that's where our tolerance of surveillance, if it's true we tolerate it, comes from? At any rate, those are the kinds of issues that ought to be raised in the press release. I look forward to checking out the performance.
More things will be said about the upcoming show in which Handelman's work appears, "public.exe: Public Execution," organized for Exit Art by Michele Thursz and Anne Ellegood with participating curator Defne Ayas. Stay tuned.
Update: review of the Handelman performance here.