Today’s Must-Read: Martin Amis’s (disavowed) guide to video games. Sample text, on Pac-Man: “Do I take risks in order to gobble up the fruit symbol in the middle of the screen? I do not, and neither should you. Like the fat and harmless saucer in Missile Command (q.v.), the fruit symbol is there simply to tempt you into hubristic sorties. Bag it.” (Fank Yew @KristonCapps.)
Things I deeply covet: Moby Dick as illustrated by Rockwell Kent. Double. Whoaaaa. The image above is from Vol. 1, Ch. 8: “Yes, the world’s a ship on its passage out, and not a voyage complete; and the pulpit is its prow.” (Image courtesy of SUNY Plattsburgh.)
On Intellectual Property: A fascinating piece that looks at the fuzzy overlap of ideas, using Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech as the focus. For artsy types debating the creative boundaries between one work and another (as in: Cariou versus Prince), this is a must-listen.
Brent Staples argues that advertising portrays African-Americans in more forward, nuanced ways than the dramatic arts.
MUST. READ. A stunning 1988 essay by Joan Didion on our political “process” and its coverage in the media, and how it bears absolutely no resemblance to reality. Though I’m still trying to figure out what the hell “housemaid Spanish” is. (@citizen_kahn.)
Why solar energy is not as green as we might like to believe. A good reason to stop air conditioning shit to death.
Michael Kimmelman has an interesting piece about large-scale housing developments in the New York Times. He takes a look at the fate of the infamous Pruitt-Igoe projects in St. Louis and draws a comparison to the Penn South buildings in New York’s Chelsea, which have been largely successful as a housing development. He discusses how economic and other urban development factors can affect the success or failure of architectural design. All around an interesting piece. But while I dig Kimmelman’s focus on publicly-minded design (a breath of fresh air after Ourossoff’s era of mega-projects), it seems like a bit of an oversight to pen a very long story about these types of constructions and not even mention places like the Marcy Houses in Bed-Stuy or Red Hook Houses in Red Hook — two places with a history that is infinitely less rosy than that of Penn South.
In an essay in Vanity Fair, Kurt Anderson says we are in a period of cultural stasis — relentlessly remixing everything that came before, but not necessarily adding anything new: “In our Been There Done That Mashup Age, nothing is obsolete, and nothing is really new; it’s all good. I feel as if the whole culture is stoned, listening to an LP that’s been skipping for decades, playing the same groove over and over. Nobody has the wit or gumption to stand up and lift the stylus.” Sure explains a lot of the art I see…
“The main thing to remember is the sunlight, and the immense expanse of sky and earth that it illuminates: it sucks the color out of everything that it touches, takes the green out of leaves and the sap out of twigs, makes human beings seem small and of no importance.” — Mystery writer James Cain, on California in the 1930s.
Billboard by French street artist Ox, in San Bernardino. Part of a billboard project on I-15 last month. Image courtesy of the artist.)
The New York Times has a story on Mexican narchitecture. And I’m supremely jealous I didn’t write it. Be sure to check out the splendiferous slideshow, complete with bullet hole façades and zebra-stripe furnishings.
Speaking of which: The house where Pablo Escobar was gunned down is for sale.
KCET Departures has just launched a highly intriguing online series about the laws (starting with the Laws of the Indies) that have shaped L.A.’s landscape. The second essay is on how helicopter landing pad laws have resulted in the city’s boxy architecture.
It’s a bummer that Robert Smithson never got to build the land art pieces at DFW airport described in this essay. Would make landing in Dallas infinitely cooler. (See a design schematic here.)
Late on this, but still important: Jeff Weinstein reminds us that Helen Frankenthaler helped gut the NEA.
UNAM is putting the materials from their libraries and collections online. This is very cool.
It all rests on transformation: Some discussions about the Patrick Cariou versus Richard Prince copyright case (in which Prince was sued by another artist for copyright infringement). The NYT has an overview. Hyperallergic also has an explainer. Anyone else think that both sets of works are not at all interesting?
Sort of related: Copying stuff is now a religion in Sweden.
Information Doesn’t Necessarily Want to be Free. Or so argues Robert Levine in his new book Free Ride, a treatise on cultural parasitism — on how technology companies have used cultural content they don’t produce to make money. I’m not sure I agree with all the conclusions in the book review (not everything free is bad or evidence of a cultural wasteland), but I find some of the arguments quite compelling, especially since I’m one of those poor slobs who pays the bills by producing ever-more-poorly remunerated cultural “content.” Plus, the stuff on how Germany has preserved its independent booksellers (by outlawing aggressive discounting by chain bookstores) is pretty damn interesting.
Using image recognition software to decode graffiti. There seems to be an implication in this story that all graffiti is gang graffiti. C’mon dudes, don’t you know that graff has been co-opted by art school types?
On Occupy Art Museums
There’s been a lively debate online about the whole Occupy Museums protest (starting with Karen Archey’s piece on ArtInfo, Will Brand’s rebuttal in Art Fag City and Hyperallergic‘s follow-up here). As is usually the case, I’m not in 100% agreement with anybody. But I did want to speak out about the blanket way in which the word “museums” seems to be identified with institutions such as MoMA and the Gugg. Those institutions are more the exception than the rule, cultural juggernauts connected to the super powerful. But there are countless other smaller, community-minded institutions — places like El Museo del Barrio, the Bronx Museum, the Queens Museum, teaching museums like the Vincent Price and the Fowler, places that show the kinds of artists that never get seen anywhere else. There’sa lot of grey in this debate. Personally, if there’s one area of the art world that I think needs occupation it’s the art fairs. I can’t think of an atmosphere that’s less amenable to art and ideas than those overpriced flea markets.
“The wealth of resources we apply to entertainment serves only to shield us from the poverty of the product.” —Tony Judt, on austerity.
This story about the growing use of emoticons is fucking hilarious: “If anybody on Facebook sends me a message with a little smiley-frowny face or a little sunshine with glasses on them, I will de-friend them. I also de-friend for OMG and LOL. They get no second chance.” LOL.
Love digging up old stories on the internetz, such as this 1993 New York Times article about “The Art World Bust.” The piece is entertaining all around (and strangely relevant). But my favorite bit has to be the quote from Julian Schnabel’s assistant, to Deborah Solomon of the Times, who was seeking an interview: “Julian says he doesn’t have the mind space to think about your questions. He’s busy with renovations.”