Thursday, May 31, 2007

Richard's Show

Liza's son Sebastian says the MOMA opening last night was full of hedge fund traders. There didn't seem to be many people from the art community. Or maybe there were, but they were just out numbered. Or maybe they are so much younger that I don't know anyone. There were many people but never any crush at the drink tables. Maybe because one of the sponsors was Moet Hennessy. The large pieces didn't seem "site specific." They look crowded. There wasn't enough space to get the "big picture". They look better at Gogosian's or on the street. Even in the expanded MOMA garden the pieces looked so squeezed in.Upstairs the prop pieces retained their power, though all surrounded by plexiglass. The white walls of the museum were a stark contrast.I miss the anger of Richard's Bush poster and the gritty presence of the thrown lead pieces. Was it the insurance companies or MOMA's lawyers who prohibited their exhibition?In the seventies I worked with Richard on several films. Shulea Cheang, David Shulman and I taped the trial of his piece, Tilted Arc, which was ultimately removed from Federal Plaza. Joel and I both testified to keep the piece in place.My family has had strong connections to Richard. Every summer I would trek to Cape Breton with my three boys (Ezra, Peter and Tovey) for time on the beach near Richard's place up there. Tovey was an assistant to Richard for over ten years. Tovey made many of his macquettes and drawings. Tovey probably has spent more time with Richard than he ever has done with his own father. The architecture of the new MOMA seems to swallow the art. Even Richard's art. The giant plates are beautiful and the interior spaces of the curves and elipses are sublime, but the sort of clutzy architecture of the MOMA overrides especially the pieces on the second floor.

The crowd at the opening seemed like extras on a movie set. But that is what the art world these days is like. Someone my age muttered: This is why we are occupying Iraq. Most of the board of directors have seats on boards of corporations immeshed in the war. The new officers of the MOMA board have connections with Israel. Can MOMA allow artists to honestly assess the world situation? I guess that is why the other show that is up is cartoons.

Coming home on the subway the crowd was so different and so diverse and not at all the same people at the MOMA opening.

For another point of view go to

The best sculpture idea I have seen recently was posted on e-flux: a proposal for a memorial to the Iraq War by Sam Durant.



by Donald Kuspit

"Titan of sculpture," we're told, comparable to -- no, greater than -- Michelangelo. Mentored by Jasper Johns, implying a "Greek hero-and-mentor myth," goes the story, suggesting the passing of the baton of avant-garde greatness from the older to the younger generation. (Serra is now 67; thus the truth of Adorno's wry view of the avant-garde as "aging youth.") Installing the works for the current Museum of Modern Art exhibition, he "looked a bit like a druid" in his "heavy olive-green coat with a hood pulled down over his head," implying that he's a high priest in the mystery religion of abstract art.

A clearly "dominating, master-of-all details personality," Serra is supposed to be greatest thing to hit sculpture since -- well, I already said Michelangelo, so how about the builders of the pyramids? They too are pompously Minimalist, their huge stones fitted together without mortar (like those of Machu Picchu, another favorite comparison of Serra fans) the way Serra's metal plates are held together by their own weight and careful placement, and thus in no need of binding solder. They too function as monumental architecture as well as autonomous sculpture. Both are self-contained yet inhabitable. People can move through Serra's curved sculptures, enveloped by them if not exactly interacting with them -- in the aftermath of the Tilted Arc disaster, Serra said "art is not for the people," but his giant sculptures seem to grudgingly acknowledge them -- and the huge pyramids house the bodies of dead people (Pharaohs, and thus more pretentious and presumptuous than the masses who visit the Serra exhibition).

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007


I've only been to one ICA (International Communications Association) conference before. My work, even my work as an academic, has not been writing research papers, but I thought I would attend this year's conference in San Francisco, partly to visit my sisters in the Bay Area, but mostly to try to generate some institutional sales for Deep Dish. Deep Dish has a tremendous library of DVDs that should be available in university libraries.
It was great to see the many contributions at ICA by colleagues from the Department of Communication at UCSD (where I taught for seventeen years!) Here I am with Lisa Marie Tripp, Katynka Martinez and Heide Solbrig. I also saw Mary Gray, Fred Turner, Ferruh Yilmaz, Dan Hallin, Regina Marchi, Ellen Seiter, Robert Horwitz and Vicki Mayer who organized the feminist track.This is Dan and his family at the opening reception.
Geert Lovink was part of a plenary on blogging. He showed some surprising statistics. Japanese now out polls English in the blogsphere.
One of the highlights was the terrific film series which Susana Kaiser and John Kim organized. Included was a presentation of some of Craig Baldwin's treasures and an amazing film by Kevin Epps.Kevin Epps' film is about Hunters Point, one the the biggest poluted sites in the world, a former naval base, where many black families still live. Kevin's film is a terrifying look at the destruction of a community: Straight Outta Hunters Point. The audience loved it so much, he and his colleague were able to sell many copies, looking like one of the scenes from the film!

A cheerful change from the academy's dreary pundits was a presentation by a group of young people from East Oakland. They are in a "Digital Storytelling" project.This is the first time ICA has had such young presenters!. A disappointment with the meeting was the total lack of any effort to acknowledge the wars and occupations that this country is perpetrating. I recall during the Vietnam War that any professional convention would have caucuses against the war and at the very least an anti-war declaration or some other form of protest. But at ICA here was barely a mention and certainly no organizing taking place. I was on a panel that Michael Griffith from Carlton College organized on "Creating Alternative Channels on Iraq." I spoke about the Shocking and Awful project. The panel was scheduled at the last possible slot--beginning at 12 noon, which was also the time that people had to check out of the hotel. One of the panelists didn't even show up! There were about eight people in the audience. One was the mother of Megan Boler, the panel discussant and two were my sisters and one was my brother-in-law. So that leaves an audience of four.
Some of the earlier panels were interesting: copyright and blogs were sexy topics.

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

Max Schumann's Show

As much as I love art, I'm not really a painting collector. Most of the paintings I have are gifts from friends or what I make myself. The one exception is Max Schumann. I've known Max since he was born. He is the same age as my son Peter and our families used to hang out with each other on the Lower East Side. The playground in Tompkins Square Park was a favorite meeting place.

I think the first painting of his I acquired was for five cents and it was of the Three Musketeers. Max was about six at the time. Since then I have tried to keep up with his career, occasionally buying some of his work. It's easy to do that as Max is part of the Cheap Art Movement, initiated at Bread and Puppet Theater in the 1970s. Last week I went to a closing of Max's show of his latest work: wry comments on our life and times in the era of Terror. All of the paintings were $100.
This one is from a speech Bush made and someone photographed Cheney hiding in the bushes.
"The Last Terroir is from the Style section of the New York Times.

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

My Uncle Bud's Radio Station

While I was at my sister's in Atlanta, I went through some old photographs and came across this of my Uncle Bud and his radio station. He had his own station in the 1920s. It was in his bedroom in Webster Groves. Later he worked at the transmitter at the airport in Saint Louis. He transmitted the weather to incoming pilots. He then took flying lessons and became a pilot.He worked for American Airlines for a while, but was drafted and died in a training flight.

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Palestine on the Woodstock Green

The Middle East Crisis Response held a vigil on the Woodstock Green on Friday to commemorate the NAKHBA, which is Arabic for catastrophe and stands for the terror assault by Zionist forces on Palestinian villages in the spring of 1948 that lead to the flight of 700,000 people, the destruction of 531 villages, and made possible the founding of the modern state of Israel..

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Tale of One World: Welcome to Corporate Information Society Day

On Thursday I attended the "Tale of Two Worlds" event at the UN for "World Information Society Day". The event was billed as addressing the "Digital Divide" and was subtitled "Keeping Pace with a Moving Target". The military sounding subtitle was a bit incongruous with the peace themed utopian 50's modernist architecture of the meeting room and the whole UN complex. It is in keeping, I guess, with the current "War Against Terror" that the UN entrance has been taken over by a huge security tent where everyone is submitted to intense searches. As the woman in front of me said, "This is worse than the airlines." Well, the UN has certainly been one of the victims of the violence, so I understand their caution.

The meeting was held in the ECOSOC Chamber.There was not much participation by any of the Civil Society types that made an important presence at the World Summits on the Information Society in Geneva and Tunis.
At this meeting, the VP of Nokia was a keynote. His theme was that cell phones can save the world. Most of speakers were from tel-coms (Nex-tel, Microcast, Telefonica, CITEL, POphoneBox, etc). There was a live feed from Claudia Benassini Feliz from Monterrey Mexico. She and Heather Hudson from USF were the only women and only non-corporate, non-gov presenters. However their mantra was very much private "partnerships" forever. Basically the corporations were present want to promote UN funding to set up corporate training and telecenters using their products.This is the power point presentation of Randolf Saint-Leger, CFO of POphoneBox Communications.One of the questions from the floor was about the rights of disabled people to have access to all levels of participation. These were the flags that lined the hall outside the General Assembly room. I wanted to take a picture of the flags outside, but by the time the session was over, the flag poles lining the UN entrance were empty. Do you ever wonder how they hang those national flags every day in front of the UN? I noticed that each flagpole has a little box attached at the bottom which contains the flag that goes on that pole. Each box is supposed to be locked, but many of the locks are broken and you can see the flags peeping out.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Save Access!!

On May 12, The Santuary for Independent Media in Troy held a day-long media event. A backdrop was made as a workshop in the morning with Eric and many many hands. George Stoney lead a workshop about the history of cable access and why we need to get involved with recent attempts to defeat local franchising. For more information, go to www.saveaccess.orgGeorge Stoney and Red Burns founded the Alternate Media Center at NYU in the 1970s and sent their students out to help local communities negotiate community channels as cable was developing across the US.There was good representation from Ithaca. Many people from around New York are concerned about state telcom policies. To find out more about the struggle against the telcoms, go to for a wonderful discussion about why PEG (public, government and public access) is important. Nick Johnson, former FCC commissioner who was instrumental in initiating access in the 1970s is one of the panelists. If you care about access, don't miss this discussion! It is unfortunate that Free Press, the media reform organization has not made local franchising one of their priorities.

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