Category: Ivory Tower

Don’t know if it’s art? The ‘Is This Art’ iPhone app will tell you.

Finally, the iPhone app you needed and wanted.

We’ve all been there: you’re looking at a stack of wood that’s been covered in dust bunnies, dipped in resin and topped with decaying vanilla cakes covered in strawberry frosting. Is it art? Good question. It could be. Or it could simply be junk. These days, it’s hard to tell what separates art from everything all around us.

Which is why the good folks at the Mattress Factory (the contemporary arts center) and Deeplocal (a new media development and marketing company) in Pittsburgh have developed this must-have tool for the contemporary art aficionado: an iPhone application that tells you — definitively — whether what you’re looking at is truly art. (For the record, the staff here at C-Mon may have had something to do with the writing of the application’s text.)

You can read all about how the Is This Art? app came together at WNYC. And download it — for FREE — from the official website,


A very special thanks to the wonderful Jeffrey Inscho at the Mattress Factory and Nathan Martin, David Evans and Eamae Mirkin and the rest of the incredible team at Deeplocal. You guys are the best mischief-makers a girl could ever ask for.

The crunch of gravel: Sadegh Tirafkan at LACMA.

Persepolis Part II by Sadegh Tirafkan at LACMA. (Photo by C-M.)

There is something about the crunch of boots on gravel that I find indescribably appealing. It’s something I associate with being a kid, when, every evening, I’d hear the sound of my dad’s pick-up pulling up outside our house, followed by the percussion of his boots all the way up our gravel driveway — and I knew that it was time to eat. (I was born hungry.) Which is why I was so excited to run into Sadegh Tirafkan‘s video piece, Persepolis Part II in the Ancient Iran galleries at the L.A. County Museum of Art

The piece consists of two monitors, each with video of Tirafkan walking silently through the ruins of Persepolis, the ancient Persian capital. The video is rather dreamlike: the two images of the artist continually walk deliberately towards each other, but never meet. And all that is audible is the scraping sound of his feet on dry rock. It transforms the gallery, which is filled with lifeless shards of ancient pottery, into something more dynamic (if nostalgic).

If you happen to be popping into the museum to check out Art of Two Germanys, a detour to the Ahmanson building to check this out is totally worthwhile. The installation will be up through March.

In other news: I’ve got a lot going on workwise, so I’m cutting The Digest back to four days a week, Monday through Thursday. Thanks for reading, xox, C.

Garish: Narchitecture and its offspring.

Good gaudy: Narchitecture reinterpreted. Love the gold. (Photos courtesy of John Jackson.) 

Just in case anyone is wondering what makes the staff here at feel good in funny places: it’s knowing that every once in a while we inspire a reader to use their powers for evil instead of good. Such is the case of John Jackson, an MFA student in Exhibition, Design and Museum Planning at the University of the Arts in Philly. For a recent assignment, Jackson had to choose a word and use it as inspiration for a model. Being a wise man, Jackson chose “narchitecture,” a term coined by my super wicked collaborator, San Suzie, and employed in a post that went up as part of our incisive coverage of Miami during last year’s Art Basel. Narchitecture, as long-time readers will know, is architecture that looks as if it was commissioned by drug traffickers.

Jackson reports that the goal of his assignment “was to make a representation of the word in visual form. It was meant to be a purely affective experience — no text panels or anything else didactic.” So, for his project, titled Garish, he created a set that employed “marble” columns made out of wooden dowels and foam core, custom-made fleur-de-lys wallpaper, and “carpet” fashioned from a thrift-store jacket. Symbols of garishness were also liberally applied, including portraits of Li’l Kim, Tammy Faye Bakker and Nancy Reagan in a power suit. In keeping with the tenets of narchitecture, it is spectacularly tasteless. Though if Jackson had had several more lifetimes to produce the thing, I woulda suggested several hundred Italianate balustrades. You can never go wrong with those. Either way, this imaginative project gets a gold star from us!

In sort-of related news: I am pleased to report that someone (not us) posted “narchitecture” as a word on Urban Dictionary. Please feel free to click through and give the entry a “thumbs up.” We won’t rest until Merriam-Webster comes calling.

More images from Jackson’s project after the jump.

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Ivory Tower: Rome Prize winners in NYC.

Lucius K Wilmerding
Lucius K. Wilmerding (that’s his name, for reals), President of New York City’s Union Club from 1920 to 1923. (Photo by C-M.)

The American Academy in Rome announced the winners of the 2008 Rome Prize at the Union Club (no denim, no sneakers) last week and C-Monster was there! I was so eager to attend the ceremony, in fact, that I fell flat on my face on Park Avenue just prior to my arrival, irrevocably screwing up my favorite pair of pink, polka-dotted tights and skinning at least two square inches off my left knee. Being the devout reporter I am, I sat through the ceremony nonetheless, which included an interesting lecture about contemporary archaeological practice by Brian Rose. The geek in me was absolutely riveted.

The big part of the evening, however, was the presentation of the nearly three dozen prize winners, along with a cursory description of each of their projects – all delivered in a lilting Italian accent. Bellissimo! Rome Prize fellows, just so you know, get to go hang out in Rome, where they can live, think, research, ponder and write – all on the Academy’s dime. Naturally, most of the winners are working on projects related to Italy-centric topics, with the Tiber River popping up as an especially popular subject. But there were a number of projects that jumped out at us:

  • Cathy Lang Ho is going to be working on a paper about how new media outlets are challenging print publications in the world of architecture.
  • Matthew Monteith, a Brooklyn photographer, will be undertaking a project in which he photographs people interacting with art in Rome.
  • And covering a subject we’re particularly fascinated with here at Rosa Lowinger, an L.A. conservator, will be doing a report on the history of art vandalism. Hell yeah!

After the announcements were made, and a somewhat viscous scab of equal parts dried blood and Park Avenue asphalt had formed on my knee, we all retired to the Union Club’s atrium (under the steady gaze of Lucius K. Wilmerding) to air kiss and sip white wine and dip into a platter of crudité…

…with Ranch dressing.

Now, after all the we-love-Italy buildup during the ceremony, the food came as a bit of a disappointment – to say the least. I would have figured that this being the American Academy in Rome, they’d lay out a little mozzarella di bufala or some prosciutto di parma. Instead, we got celery sticks and Hidden Valley. C’mon guys, couldn’t you find someone to whip up a tray of Totino’s pizza rolls? Someone needs to have a sit-down with the folks in catering. As far as these things go, however, the ceremony wasn’t a bad time. Grazie mille for the vino. And next year, please have the Band-Aids waiting when I arrive.

Posted by C-Monster.