Gore-B, protecting today’s perishables for tomorrow. (Image courtesy of Gore-B.)
The New York Times has a story about the oh-so-scary rise in graffiti. I’d love to spend more time dissecting this, but unfortunately I’m slammed with work. Thankfully, Joerg Colberg pointed me to this vey smart essay over at No Caption Needed, which does just that. In it, Robert Hariman argues that the main issue with this story (and in so many others like this) is that it throws the problem at the feet of the culture industry, without bothering to examine any of the other causes that might lead to an uptick in graffiti:
In what may appear to be sophisticated coverage, the Times reports that ‘The upturn has prompted concern among city officials and renewed a debate about whether glorifying such displays — be it in museum exhibits, tattoos, or television advertisements — contributes to urban blight and economic decay.’ And there, in a stroke, we have it: The Times channeling Fox News. The leading explanation faults culture, not economics or politics, and suggests that a culture war is underway and the rightful center of public debate, and that the real danger comes from curators and other liberals who promote transgression in the arts…
The essay is all kinds of excellent, so please click through and read it. But I will add a couple of thoughts: One, we live in a period where there is less arts education ever. Where we choose to spend our funds on grotesquely punitive measures against graffiti, rather than providing people with alternative outlets for art. We also live in a time in which our public spaces are wallpapered with advertising (a lot of it illegal). In other words: the corporations get to talk to us, but we never get to talk back. Most irritating is the fact that the story’s accompanying slideshow features legal graffiti-inspired murals — but fails to identify them as such. (The photos also fetishize graffiti to the max.) Lastly, the story provides absolutely no historical context: the urge to paint walls is as old as civilization and, perhaps, even predates it.
The fact is, that as long as people have something to say (even if its for blatantly commercial reasons — like getting a sneaker deal), then people are gonna paint on walls. I agree, graffiti is not always aesthetically pleasing. But maybe, just maybe, we should simply learn to live with it.
A collar that chokes, a menstruation machine and bacteria that colors your poops. I have a piece up at Techland on the five most bizarre piece at MoMA’s new tech show, Talk to Me. (Which, by the way, is all kinds of excellent.) Please click through!
- R.I.P. Lucien Freud. The Guardian obit, which I link to here, has some great recollections from Sue Tilley (the model for Benefits Supervisor Sleeping), which involves a joke about whales wanking.
- That sublime point where wild primates and copyright laws intersect.
- Speaking of awesome intersections: The extraordinary meeting point between Chicano and Japanese hip-hop.
- And it looks like the Spiral Jetty will go to…Dia.
- The Medium is the Message: The Fishko Files on Marshall McLuhan. Which makes me wonder what McLuhan would think of Snookie.
- On the (nuanced) failures of one of the United States’ most famous housing projects, Pruitt-Igoe in St. Louis. I really want to see this doc. (@JohnPowers1.)
- A profile of artist Tania Bruguera, who as part of her latest piece, is living the life of an undocumented migrant in Queens — surviving on minimum wage and sharing an apartment with 11 roommates.
- The Machine of Death: A very worthwhile Al Jazeera doc on the violence in Juarez.
- Frida Kahlo, the forebearer of “me” art. The best quote comes from Kahlo, describing the European art scene: “[I’d] rather sit on the floor of the market of Toluca and sell tortillas than have anything to do with those ‘artistic’ bitches of Paris.” (@KnightLAT.)
- Sort of related: Gustavo Arellano is right. Damien Cave of the New York Times has managed to excrete the world’s most asinine tortilla metaphor.
- No doubt the sort of thing Jennifer Dalton could have a ball with: Vintage NY Mag profiles of art dealers.
- John Cage’s Lecture on the Weather.
Ai Weiwei’s Detention
I feel like I’ve been uncharacteristically silent on artist Ai Weiwei’s imprisonment by the Chinese government, partially because the news of what happened caught me while I was on the road. The short of it is that Ai’s detention is now entering its third month and blogs such as Art City, Eyeteeth, Modern Art Notes and Hyperallergic have been covering the hell out of the story, so read them!
Naturally, a lot of the talk is about how U.S. museums and other Western cultural institutions should deal with China’s imprisonment of Ai, a figure who has been a vocal critic of his government’s corruption, censorship and negligence. (The government is accusing him of tax evasion.) Certainly, I think it’s important to have powerful institutions protest Ai’s detainment, as well as the imprisonment of countless other intellectuals, writers and activists. Keeping pressure on the Chinese government from all angles is key. But I also think we each have a personal connection to what’s happening, supporting an oppressive regime by slavishly purchasing the goods that come out of the country, be it the latest, hottest iWhatever or the bounty of pressed wood furniture that lines our living rooms. Even the rebel flag shot glasses that clutter so many gas stations in a wide swath of our country are…made in China. Yes, it’s significant that our cultural institutions protest Ai’s detainment. But I wonder how effective these condemnations can be as long as we continue to support such an oppressive regime with our wallets.
My 15 Nanoseconds of Fame
I made it onto Google Street View while riding my bike in the vicinity of the Brooklyn Museum. (Full disclosure: I saw the Google car and followed it for a few of blocks because that’s the kind of cheap, internet fame whore I am. Sorry, Joerg.) The whole thing inspired me to look up some of the addresses I’d lived in over the course of my life on GSV— the vast majority of which aren’t online because my family had a penchant for inhabiting incredibly bizarre, out-of-the-way places. It was a trip back in time, except it wasn’t, because I’m seeing all of these spots in the pseudo-present. (A selection: the place I was born in, the road leading to the house we lived in when I was 10, the donut shop where I used to ditch high school English class and the college dorm that was the site of various inebriated indiscretions.) Which brings me to this highly interesting essay — which I discovered by way of Conscientious — about photography in the age of GSV.
- There’s craziness afoot with Dia’s management of Spiral Jetty.
- Harnessing social media for the purpose of art.
- How American gun politics affect life and death elsewhere: The WSJ has a good piece on an American gun in Mexico.
- Artist Marie Lorenz takes the New York Times Magazine on a paddle along the Erie Canal in her handcrafted boat. I had the honor of doing the same in the vicinity of Randall’s Island. See a report — with awesome video by Jennifer Hsu — right here.
- Do Not Fuck With The Artist: A nice round-up of artsy fartsy vengeance.
Phnom Penh graffiti, by Andrew Pope, as featured on his blog, Primitive Nerd. (Image courtesy of Pope.)
Congrats to Elizabeth for winning the Street Art New York Giveaway Extravaganza! I hope your class enjoys it.
- James Franco, author. (@giovannigf.)
- Must-read: A writer’s search for journalism in the age of branding. (@nicknotned.)
- Foreclosures lead to a pool skating renaissance in Fresno. (Coudal.)
- Disaster tourism. (Eyeteeth.)
- A David Lynch short in which Marion Cotillard is stalked by a Dior handbag.
- But will it include olfactory elements? CBGB’s graff-covered bathroom to be recreated by artist Justin Lowe at a Connecticut museum. (Arts Journal.)
- The future of the Jersey City Museum: Not so certain.
- The BP Grand Entrance at LACMA not looking so grand, reports the L.A. Times, using a pretty awesome art juxtaposition.
- On the other hand, LACMA’s Art of Two Germanys wins curators group award. Congrats to Stephanie Barron for putting on one bad-ass show.
- Arcimboldo, hot hot hot. (Modern Art Notes, which coincidentally, has a new RSS feed.)
- Sweet. God. Posh and Becks now an “art power couple.”
- Franz Kline’s booze bill and Leo Castelli’s to-do list. The Morning News has an excellent photo essay on lists. (Art Fag City.)
- Embroidered Wonder bread. (The Rumpus.)
- A Tumblr devoted to animated album covers. This Joy Division one is stonerrific. (Flaming Pablum.)
- Today’s Graff: Woaow getting geometric in Mexico.
- A fascinating story in New York Magazine about the complexity of building at the former World Trade Center site: “Everyone always says it’s like doing open-heart surgery on a marathon runner in the middle of a race.”
- Starchitects now doing set design.
- Don’t tell Kermit. Frank Gehry not into being green.
- Looks like Santiago Calatrava’s Chicago Spire is dead as a doornail: The development company that intended to build it has closed its sales office.
- A super-twisty airport tower in Berlin. Trippy.
- An app that de-Biebers the internet. Handy. (@destinationout.)
Click on images to supersize. (Photos by C-M.)