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.
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.
Contraband, photographs of items confiscated at JFK, by Taryn Simon. The unknown meat in a bottle is pretty freaky. Also, I’m amazed to learn that there is such a thing as cow dung toothpaste. (Coudal.)
Santiago Calatrava to do Denver airport expansion. The schematic video that accompanies this piece is pretty dang rad, even if it avoids showing anything that vaguely resembles a nightmarish airport security line. (Cityscapes.)
If there is one recommendation I can make to anyone in the art industry at this moment of global doom, it is: Become really good friends with a fellow at the American Academy in Rome so that you can stay there. Located on a hilltop, above trendy Trastevere, the Academy houses more than two dozen fellows, who live in a McKim, Mead and White building and dine on a local foods menu inspired by Alice Waters. After long days of work and study, they retire to the well-tended garden, where they reflect on the day’s drinking thinking. It’s like a 19th century sanatorium for the nervous children of the well-to-do. I kept expecting to see a nurse rearranging patients in wicker wheelchairs on the patio.
I made it into the Academy as a free-loading guest of San Suzie. For a whopping seven days I hung out in what is effectively academia central, a geek’s wet dream of artists, architects and writers (many with advanced degrees) working on ambitious projects and thinking deep thoughts. There were recitations in Latin. A speech-laden meal that celebrated Thomas Jefferson’s birthday. And a champagne cocktail party for visiting artist Jenny Holzer. Party on, dudes! Any other spare moments I may have had were spent drinking cappuccinos in the company of a barista who told me I looked like Salma Hayek. Clearly, the Academy is an oasis from reality. Kinda like a Canyon Ranch for Ph.D.’s, but with open bar. All I gotta say is that it’s the bestest, smartest hotel I ever stayed at. Though some alum really needs to think about funding a hot tub.
Grazie, Academy and San Suzie! (And to Brad and Dona for loaning us their space.)
The Day in Sublime Lawsuits: Some guy is suing L.A.’s MOCA and Louis Vuitton for selling him repurposed Murakami handbag material as art. Dude: You bought a piece in a purse shop. What exactly were you expecting?
Night of the living Koons. Plus, what promises to be an entertaining take on art in film: The Maiden Heist, which stars C-Mon fave Christopher Walken as a museum guard plotting to steal his favorite works with a couple of buddies.
Pan and the Goat: The Romans had remarkable taste in garden statuary, such as this 24″ high marble depiction of Pan getting frisky with a member of the genus Capra at the National Archaeological Museum. (Photos by San Suzie.)
Despite warnings in every Italian guidebook that we would be pick-pocketed, run over by a motorino, threatened by camorristi, or just plain hosed by restaurant owners and taxi drivers, last weekend we decided to go to Naples to pay homage to the birthplace of the pizza and the baba au rum. A 2,800 year-old seaport founded by the Greeks, conquered by the Romans, Spaniards and Bourbons (the Neapolitans are quick to tell you that they are a thousand years older than Rome), Naples is the veritable promised land of high and low culture. It’s a place where you can see two of the greatest Caravaggio masterpieces (1 and 2) within a stone’s throw of graffiti-covered baroque buildings whose stucco is literally falling to the ground.
Our plan was to grab a few of the sublime slices at the nearly 300-year-old Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba and then head over to the archaeological museum to ogle the Roman pornographic art — contained in a titillatingly hilarious permanent display known as the Secret Cabinet. (Boy, did we get an eyeful!) In addition to admiring all the ancient erections, there were plenty of other things to take in during our visit to Naples as well: the glittering Mediterranean, the medieval castles (complete with round turrets and crenelated tops), the volcano that destroyed Pompeii and the hundreds of cioccolato caldo stands where you can stuff your face with sfogliatelle, ricotta cheesecake, and mini-babas for about $2.
In Naples, you can not only see the life-sized bust that houses the actual lopped-off head of San Gennaro (a.k.a. Saint Januarius) at the Duomo, but also admire a vial of his blood that miraculously liquifies at various times of the year. All this in a city where motorino drivers, piled three to a bike, drive so unnervingly fast, you are encouraged to look both ways even when crossing the sidewalk — or face a martyrdom of your own.
Click on images to supersize. More after the jump.
Inside, no one can hear you scream: An orc in the Bomarzo Monsters Park, which lies just a couple of hours outside of Rome. (Photos by San-Suzie.)
To grieve the death of a loved one, there’s nothing quite like commissioning almost a couple dozen freaky stone statues and then laying them around the yard. In 1552, the broken-hearted Prince Pier Francesco Orsini, of the Italian province of Viterbo, did just that. To mourn the death of his beloved wife, Giulia Farnese, he created the Bomarzo Monsters Park.
The park was designed by architect Pirro Ligorio, known for overseeing construction on the mega-church of all mega-churches — St. Peter’s in the Vatican — as well as designing the formal Villa D’Este gardens, in Tivoli, a UNESCO world heritage site. (The fountains there put the Bellagio in Las Vegas to shame.) At Bomarzo, instead of going for imposing, Christian grandeur or super-duper water show, Ligorio went for all out Dungeons & Dragons nuttiness. The grounds are strewn with super-sized stone monoliths of dragons, a gaping-mouthed ogre, Hannibal’s elephant, and a nausea-inducing, leaning house that looks like the sort of thing Disneyland would shut down for safety reasons. Beats me how one’s bereavement is quelled by statues of giant turtles, but perhaps the answer lies between the gargantuan fins of a stone mermaid with a gaping hairy wishing well.
Click on images to supersize. Mermaid after the jump.