Archive | Art RSS for this section

Reminder: The Living City at Van Alen, tonight

That headline just ’bout says it all, but just in case further clarification is needed:

Come see David Benjamin and Soo-In Yang of The Living demonstrate their Living City project, tonight from 18.30 at the Van Alen Institute, 30 W 22nd betw. 5th & 6th.

Living City is, of course, featured in my and Mark Shepard’s Situated Technologies pamphlet Urban Computing and its Discontents, and I think Soo-In and David are among the clearest-thinking people I know. I look forward to seeing you at this evening’s event.

Shade by day, shine by night

Man, I love living in a time in which the borderlines between art, craft, architecture and engineering seem to get blurrier with every passing day.

Marked as today’s Exhibit A in this regard is Eric Howeler and Meejin Yoon’s lovely Hover project for New Orleans. Hover is a suspended canopy of textile cells, each of which harvests solar gain by day and emits that energy as a gentle LED glow at night – a single, self-contained intervention that provides shelter, shade and public illumination, all without drawing on the grid.

It’s not too much to say that this is the kind of wise and aesthetically-guided use of technology that makes me hopeful about the future of cities. I continue to think that Howeler and Yoon are doing some of the most creatively multidisciplinary design work out there, and anticipate with a certain glee the day they have the resources to scale that work up. ‘Cause, let me tell you, that day is coming.

Artists only

Super-exciting news, not every detail of which I can share yet. But here’s the gist: I’ve been asked by a local arts institution to organize an evening of discussion and screening for sometime in the spring, most probably in April.

I’ll be looking for artists whose work touches broadly on the intersection of urbanism, everyware, and mapping/infovisualization, and (here’s the great part) I’ll actually have a budget. There should be enough to bring a few folks to town and, very happily, to acknowledge their effort with a modest honorarium. I have a few names on my wishlist already, of course, but I’m wanting to look beyond my own immediate network. Any suggestions you might have are most warmly solicited.

New Museum New

Just back from the last of the New Museum opening events, which our pals Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries were kind enough to get us into.

That’s their gorgeous installation “Black on White, Gray Ascending” you can see from the street at night, and if we’re far from the most objective observers, I’d have to say it’s just about the only interesting piece of work you’re going to see at this inaugural show. I confess that I really do not like what’s happening in art right now, aesthetically or intellectually, and for the most part that’s what you’re going to see at the New Museum during the run of “Unmonumental.”

In fact, you could argue that the show actually does a fantastic job curatorially, in that it surely does reflect what’s going on in the galleries, the collections and the schools. Even that, though, is probably letting someone off the hook too easily; it’s not like there aren’t any museum shows (e.g. the one we saw last summer at Helsinki’s Kiasma), galleries (Chelsea’s own Yossi Milo springs to mind) or curators able to gather a large corpus of contemporary, engaged, intellectually curious work. I guess I’ll wait to see the next show in the space before drawing any lines under my conclusions, but I’m not happy that the augurs are what they are.

About the building itself, I’m honestly not entirely sure what to think just yet. I’m acutely aware that I blundered pretty badly the last time I considered a New York museum by a Japanese architect on the day of its opening – in that case erring on the side of generosity, and utterly missing the profound structural weakness latent in Taniguchi’s design. So I’m going to refrain from saying most all of what I felt on experiencing the space, and will confine myself, for the time being, to simply giving props for the very elegant way in which the lobby confounds any sense of transition between inside and outside.

I will say this: sometime in the last two or three years, I began to number SANAA first among those architectural practices to keep an eye on, and then among those that I consider my favorites. And it’s a sobering thing, not only to realize that this judgment was made solely on the strength of representation, but to recognize that it might not survive an actual encounter with their built work.

Finally, I admit to being a little saddened at the date the New Museum chose for its grand launch. The first of December is, of course, World AIDS Day, and since the late 1980s it’s been marked by an annual Day Without Art. Unless I’m missing something, it strikes me as being in questionable taste, at best, to schedule a museum opening for that particular leaf of the calendar, Gran Fury or no. (UPDATE: Some interesting commentary here.)

“Space” rocked

Back, now, from Boston, from Nurri’s GSD talk and a thoroughly dense and delightful 36 hours in the company of some intensely creative people. We basically set out trusting that any event curated by with the participation of Bryan Boyer could not fail to be anything less than impeccable, and we were not disappointed, from the choice of presenters to the speakers’ dinner to Fish‘s note-perfect Star Wars-meets-AC/DC event posters. (If nothing else, I’ll be tasting the other night’s wood-grilled sirloin with foie gras butter in my dreams for years yet to come.)

Given that I literally own something on the order of a third of the books they’ve published in the last five years, Irene Hwang’s exploration of Actar‘s process and philosophy was intensely interesting to me. Brooklyn Foundry‘s articulate Brian Lemond and John Szot delved into some of the tensions between architect, client, and audience expectation that emerged in their building-scale motion-graphic project for Gucci’s Ginza flagship, while irrepressible N. Rain Noe gave us an inside look at some of the thinking behind the gorgeous Theme magazine. And I thought Nurri’s Tokyo Blues work looked incredible projected on a single seamless screen/wall twice as large as life.

The one major disappointment, frankly, was Groovisions. The renowned Japanese motion-graphics aces do turn out some incredible work – among other things, you just knew I’d have a weakness for anyone who loves Helvetica as much as I do. But even with a skilled and friendly translator close at hand, they chose to say nothing about their work (“This next one is also a plan-view animation,” and so forth) and unassed the AO entirely within minutes of clearing the podium. I don’t even think any of the organizers managed to talk to them, let alone presenters or anything so humble as an audience member. Bad form.

But seriously, that was the one blot on an otherwise splendid event. Especially after having come fresh from DUX, which felt a little diffuse and discombobulated, my sense is that the organizers managed to craft something with an ideal power-to-weight ratio. Congratulations to Bryan, to AsiaGSD’s Helen Han, Daisuke Hirabayashi, and to the entire dedicated, friendly crew of volunteers. I’d happily come see just about any event you chose to put on. And, yes, many thanks for the heads up: but for a deeply unfortunate lack of gin, Rendang was a much better choice of farewell-dinner venue than Wagamama. : . )

They don’t mean asteroids

Just back from Philadephia, about to get on a plane for DUX, but I wanted to hip you to something you’ll surely want to check out if you’re anywhere close to Cambridge MA on November 10th: an innovative event at Harvard GSD called “Space Rocks.”

Space Rocks is a one-day unsymposium dedicated to exploring depictions of spatial conditions in contemporary art and design, with a distinctly trans-Pacific flavor lent to it by its provenance – it’s being held under the auspices of student group AsiaGSD. You know all this is already red meat for me, but what seals the deal is that speaker list.

First and most importantly, yeah buddy, Nurri’s giving a rare North American presentation of her Tokyo Blues work. This is a series for which Nurri spent over two years documenting the myriad ways in which that humblest of materials, the standard blue vinyl construction tarp, is used to make space in Japan’s largest city. It’s almost dizzying to see all of the things this one abject sheet can become, from communal cherry-blossom viewing platforms meant to last an afternoon, to personal shelters so ingenious they make you question whether “homeless” is even a relevant word to use in describing their occupants. It’s amazing stuff, she rarely shows the whole series, and you shouldn’t miss this chance. (If you’re not able to make it to Cambridge, fear not: some of the work will be gracing a volume on temporary architecture due out on MIT Press next year.)

I’m also looking forward to seeing what presenters like Brooklyn Foundry, Dana Cho of IDEO’s Smart Space practice and Actar’s Irene Hwang have to share with us – it should be a dense and fascinating day, and I hope to see you there.

Coum fly with me

Coming into Toronto yesterday, I was overjoyed to find myself singled out for a quarter hour of “special treatment” at Customs and Immigration. I’m not complaining, mind you. Or not much, anyway. Honestly, I think I asked for it.

This I did by stupidly slapping my copy of Simon Ford’s authoritative and supertasty Wreckers of Civilisation up onto the inspector’s podium as I reached for my passport. (I know: what was I thinking, right? A [S]leazy-looking, bearded, shaved-headed guy in head-to-toe black announcing himself as nothing less than a Wrecker of Civilisation. Sure, he’s gonna just sail through the entrance interview.)

Wreckers is a book I first saw at Spoonbill and Sugartown and stupidly did not buy immediately – little did I know it would take Amazon close on five months to source me a copy. As a rich vein of insight on Throbbing Gristle and their immediate precursor, the performance art unit known as COUM Transmissions, it is far superior to the slender Re/Search volume that I’ve had since, hmm, 1985, and which has hitherto constituted my sole real source of information on the topic.

As an extra bonus, Wreckers shows the same attention to detail in design as so many of the artifacts under discussion. It makes extensive use of a modular font which looks an awful lot like, but is not, lineto’s classic Terminal One – deploying it to particularly good effect in the title spread, where its grid segments have apparently ablated away under the scouring of the praise/condemnation presented alongside.

But the nicest thing about the book? It’s still dangerous. I sincerely do believe that a single glance at it was enough to spook our friend at Customs…and when I went down to the hotel lobby for a burger and a beer and dragged the book along for company, I had to keep kind of scrunching over into my seat so the pleasant young lady who brought me same wouldn’t see things as she passed by, and get the wrong (right?) idea. It’s kind of thrilling to think that simple things like ideas and words and images are still dangerous.

Grab bag o’ links for the week of Monday, 07 May 2007

– You can enjoy the work of our Urban Computing students (and their equally diligent peers) at the ITP Spring Show 2007 starting tomorrow evening.

– Kazys Varnelis has been serializing his ambitious, accessible Rise of Network Culture. You’ll want to start here.

– Just a reminder: you really, really don’t want to miss Dan Hill and crew holding forth for five days of urbanist goodness down at Storefront, under the Postopolis! aegis.

– Jan Chipchase reminds us that blue is the color of becoming.

– Via Jamie, a recommendation for Bill Viola’s Works from The Tristan Project, through 15 May at James Cohan Gallery. Though it must be admitted he’s been a little hit or miss these last few years, Viola’s mid-late 90’s work was nothing short of numinous – odds are this is well worth your time.

– And it looks like Dan’s not the only friend swinging through town for a rare visit while I’m gone? Dang and double dang.

Serra at MoMA: Approaching the religious

Boy howdy, I cannot wait for the Richard Serra retrospective opening at MoMA in a little over a month. Serra is very probably my favorite sculptor: his work never fails to provide me with moments of awe, peace, and stillness – even, and this is the real trick, while overrun by gleeful, shouting kids, or uncomprehending tourists. (Perhaps surprisingly, given the uncompromising brutalism of his work, children seem to have some special affinity for Serra. I’ve seen the selfsame uncomplicated pleasure at Dia:Beacon, at the Bilbao Guggenheim, and now at MoMA.)

Through their monumentality and mass, through the way they inscribe space with crisp gradients of sound volume and ambient temperature, Serra’s sculptures do what very few other works of art I’ve seen can: they create environments all their own. They’re at least as much assertions of architecture as they are anything else.

And for me, anyway, these assertions are never neutral. I always feel somehow holy inside a Serra, where by “holy” I mean richly called to contemplation, to reflection, to being-in-the-moment. Whatever it is that the man does to these slabs of shipbuilding steel, it consistently and reliably takes me to the best place that’s in me. (In some obscure way, too, this feeling is informed by my knowledge that Serra shares with the Christos the unwanted distinction that a piece of his has collapsed on a bystander with fatal results. There is some element of risk attendant on walking through a Serra piece, however attenuated: matter matters.)

The two pieces already in the Sculpture Garden – Intersection II (1992-3) and Torqued Ellipse IV (1998) – epitomize all of this. You can experience them for yourself, even before the show proper kicks off.

As placed here, Torqued Ellipse even manages something I didn’t think anything or -one could pull off: it redeems the single most wretched thing on Manhattan’s skyline, the Chippendale crenelation on the pediment of Philip Johnson’s atrocious AT&T Building. When you stand just so in Ellipse, in the hour before dusk, the two circles rhyme, the enclosing curve of the sculpture coming neatly into alignment with the egregious Johnson. It’s a moment of grace that I very much doubt is accidental.

It’s true that the two Serras kind of overwhelm the carefully proportioned garden – the Taniguchi redesign apparently didn’t countenance the idea that objects of this scale would take up residence here, even temporarily. It has to be conceded that this is not the ideal environment for these pieces, nor are they ideal for this environment – if nothing else, those rust streaks look like they’ll be a pain in the ass to remove. Nevertheless, what a treat it is to have them right here in Manhattan for a little while, a walk or at most a subway ride away.

A footnote: as it happens, we weren’t even at MoMA to see the Serras in the first place. What drew us was “Fifty Years of Helvetica,” and as wonderful as it is that my favorite font is celebrated in this way, to call the actual show a disappointment would be an understatement.

For starters, this is more an installation than it is an exhibition: one paltry vitrine, a few paragraphs of curatorial copy and a mere handful of (admittedly fabulous) examples do not a proper explanation make. The most important font of the twentieth century deserves more and better than the few pieces you can see here, a plurality of which aren’t even set in Helvetica – you know I love me some Akzidenz Grotesk, but come on. The whole thing stinks of missed opportunity.

“Tokyo Blues” roundup/talk announcement

Hey, I just noticed that Nurri got a shout-out from Cameron Sinclair in this Worldchanging piece on the space of homelessness – right on.

It’s a nice excuse to announce that she’ll be giving a talk at Insa Art Space in Seoul in May, to coincide with an exhibition of her “Tokyo Blues” series there, specific date TBA shortly. I’ll be headed over immediately after Pervasive and XTech, to help her mount the show and generally fulfill my responsibilities as President of the Nurri Kim Fan Club. Hope to see all our Korean friends there!

PS: There’s also a chance we’ll be able to work in a rapid tactical incursion Tokyo-wise. For chrissakes, Narita’s like an hour and $150 away. Let this serve as your warning. : . )