Sunday, August 31, 2008

Keith Haring v. Banksy: Why what looks cool now looks lame later

It's hard to imagine that Keith Haring was once considered a cutting-edge artist in the same way that Banksy is today. This video doesn't help his case at all, unless the presence of Seinfeld music is ironic.

But it raises the point that the art is significantly less important than the context of the artist. In the 1980's, Keith Haring was famous and sold his work without shame, while Banksy is anonymous and doesn't profit much (though more than most people seem to think). So: will Banksy's anonymity look as cheesy in ten years as Haring's image does today? What might replace it? Will we look like a bunch of whiney, melodramatic mopers, whose restraint and hesitancy prevented us from making work that could withstand the coming decades?

Perhaps the Keith Haring/Banksy continuum in 2020 will involve some third reaction to anonymity and celebrity: the first hive-minded flash mob graffiti artist collective? An Al-Qaeda influenced series of artist cells? A twitter network?

Parts 2 and 3 of the Haring documentary. And, my god, just watching the first :18 of part three will tell you everything you need to know about what went wrong with Haring's work.

Lastly: He's from the same tradition and the same scene, so: Why does Jean-Michel Basquiat still look so damn cool?

Friday, August 29, 2008

What's so great about Ryan McGinley?

I have this theory about photographs: If you take pictures of naked, beautiful people, you will probably end up with a photograph that people want to look at.

So, I was instantly skeptical of the hipster art world's obsession with Ryan McGinley and his photographs of young, beautiful people taking a cross-country road trip and hanging out naked in trees and whatnot. It's like the worst art-world-preoccupation hybrid: The Romanticised, tragic "Youth," and the ready-made beauty of getting them naked.

The problem with this theory is that Ryan McGinley trudges through in spite of all of that bullshit and still makes unbelievably stunning images, despite the fact that his subjects are one of my most resented go-to art cliches.

I wanted to know what is up with it. So I decided to look at some of his non-naked-young-people, leading-a-life-you-can't photos, and turned to his photos of people at Morrissey concerts.

First off, this is a great idea for a photo series. Second, in this picture and in this one (opens in another window), it strikes me that there's a theme going on: the careful observation of light. In terms of concert lighting and in terms of the space that the light is allowed to permeate.

What McKinley does in this series is not so much take a photograph of his subjects, but takes photographs of the light around his subjects.

This might be a trite, photo-102-ism, but in terms of textbook examples, I can't think of someone who does this better than Ryan McGinley. These are not images about bodies, they are images about the spaces that surround bodies:

The works McGinley creates are desexualized, despite the raw sexual energy that should exist within them. That's because the point of the nudity, despite the years of training by Calvin Klein ads, is not about sex, but about power: the power of a body to mold space. The light exists because it is shaped by the human form; the result is that all of his images carry the reminder of the power of human will, combined with the gentleness of human fragility.

(More NSFW examples here and here.)

This is missing from, say, his straight-up pictures of people fucking, which lack everything awesome about what McGinley can do and instead teeters into dumb American Apparel advertisement + vacuous (worst of) Warhol territory. Which is a shame. I know, I know: Edgy, fringe-of-society, blah blah blah. Very progressive or whatever. Sadly, it's also been made instantly boring since its appropriation by Vice-magazine-styled douchebaggery.

Don't get me wrong, Ryan McGinley, you're brilliant and I tend to resent other artists who are my age most of the time, so totally rack that last paragraph up to good old-fashioned envy. But I wish you'd stick to the light, is all, sir.

(Oh PS he did the album art for the last Sigur Ros album).

Erik Boker, "Product Dissections"

"Oral-B Stages for Kids: Bubble-Gum Magic - Disney Princesses," part of Erik Boker's "Product Dissection" series. "God for Dummies" is a lovely series, as well.

As usual, c/o Shoot!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Miniature Street Art

I just found these images from British street artist Slinkachu's 2007 show at the NuArt gallery (Norway, not New Mexico) and thought it was pretty clever. Slinkachu has another great project I've been meaning to post about: Inner City Snail, in which miniatures are affixed to snails and set loose on the city. This looks like it has got great potential, but there's nothing particularly stunning on the blog yet. I hope we see more updates, though - and if I ever find the book, I'll probably invest.

Friday, August 15, 2008

David Maisel's "Library of Dust"

"... these canisters hold the cremated remains of patients from an American psychiatric hospital. Oddly reminiscent of bullet casings, the canisters are literal gravesites. Reacting with their ash inhabitants, the canisters are now blooming with secondary minerals, articulating new metallic landscapes." — Geoff Manaugh, Contemporary

To do these photos any kind of justice, you should read the rest over at the amazing Bldg Blog. David Maisel has a Web site here.

Choosy Moms

If you don't love Sweet Gifs then we're not really friends anymore. (Heads up to the less-savvy: use the arrows under the triangle to navigate it).

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Finally, a generation gap

Kalx just tipped me off to a whole new level of wtf: a youtube phenomenon in which the kids are taking small samples of Super Mario Brothers cartoons and looping them for several minutes. It's like Musique Concrete, which means it is also as horrible as Musique Concrete is. Yet, strangely compelling.

Here is toast coming out of toasters for three minutes. Believe me, it's the best to emerge from the underground Mario-noise-video scene so far:

And Luigi saying "Spaghetti" for five minutes:

It's official, I am old.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Art of The Republic of Georgia: Safo

The above is obviously a polaroid, but it appears from some self-portraits that she's also using a Zenit, which is sometimes packaged here as a version of the Lomo LC-A. You could probably tell that from the photos themselves anyway.

More photos at her Flickr site.

Earlier Art from The Republic of Georgia: Ako Kharistvalashvili

Latest news: Russian military pushes into Georgia

Errol Morris in the New York Times

HANY FARID: This picture? It’s a fake. But you know what people remember? They don't remember, "It's a fake." They remember the picture. And there are psychology studies, when you tell people that information is incorrect, they forget that it is incorrect. They only remember the misinformation. They forget the tag associated with it. They did these great studies, especially with older people. They give them information about health, Medicare, Medicaid, that kind of stuff. And they say, "this information that you heard? It's wrong." And what ends up happening is, that information gets ingrained into their brains, and even if they are subsequently told it's wrong, they end up believing it.

New York Times, Photography as a Weapon, essay and interviews by Errol Morris. Anyone interested in photojournalism and "fauxtography" should read this. Even the footnotes are fascinating.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

M83's "Kim and Jessie" Video hates Rollerskating, Synchronization and Lesbians

Something about the new video for M83's "Kim and Jessie" bothers me. And while this may be petty to most people, I have found myself thinking about it for days. It's something I should like: A Video About Rollerskating.

But rollerskating is such a ripe music-video fruit that I will not settle merely for its presence in a mediocre video, and everyone else should demand more. And that's not the only problem.

1. You can tell the girls in the video don't really love to roller skate. Compare them to the hula-hooping girl in the Frankmusik Video for "In Step:"

That girl clearly loves what she is doing. In contrast to the M83 girls. Who are smiling but don't love roller-skating.

Here's where it gets deep: I'd bet the difference is that the Hula-Hooper is Italian, and the M83 girls are likely British or American. Anglo's aren't as good at feeling joy at the expense of their image, we're too self-consciously dorky to be dorky in a purely liberated manner.

2. Speaking of liberation: Why not just let them be lesbians? For the love of god, the video is clearly supposed to be about lesbians. There's no reason we have to keep fictional characters in the closet care of some douchey-looking roller-hippies.

3. I know this is supposed to be "synchronized" roller skating, but outside of about 30 seconds, it's not synchronized. At all. It's constantly annoyingly unsynchronized: "No one really gives a shit about roller skating anyway so let's just get it done in two takes, ladies!" People leave the frame at different points, are different distances from the camera when they shouldn't be, etc.

Look, I know this is petty stuff. The reason I care? Most of it comes down to the Anglo-cultural "Can't look like I give a damn" idea of "cool" and frustration with a culture that is terrified of looking dorky. Dorky here is a synonym for passionate, I suppose. It is more troubling to me when it reinforces this cool detachment with the "Nah, we're not REALLY lesbians!" finale. This seems to me like a video about restraining yourself from what you love, except that no one was aware of it.

M83 = fail. Lesbians who love rollerskating deserve to be recognized.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Art of The Republic of Georgia: Ako Kharistvalashvili

I particularly love the work of Ako Kharistvalashvili. These are Lomo from the lands that invented it. I can't find much else about him, not sure if he's specifically from Georgia or nearby — partially because the language is not Google-able — but these are gorgeous.

85, originally uploaded by AKO KHARISTVALASHVILI.

More of Ako's work is available here.

A Gold Medal for Subversive Architecture?

Or is someone just trying to appease a guilty conscience? SPIEGEL talks to the architect of the Olympic Stadium in China, which was completed this year and is already being depicted on Chinese currency. The primary architects are Swiss, Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron.

Herzog: We see the stadium as a type of Trojan horse. We fulfilled the spatial program we were given, but interpreted it in such a way that it can be used in different ways along its perimeters. As a result, we made everyday meeting places possible in locations that are not easily monitored, places with all kinds of niches and smaller segments. In other words, no public parade grounds.

SPIEGEL: They exist in front of the arena.

Herzog: But the stadium itself is more like a mountain with all kinds of different routes and paths where people can run into each other in unexpected ways. Although we have done similar things with museums in London and Barcelona, in a country like China these kinds of urban spaces acquire a different, almost political meaning. We think that many people in Beijing will understand it this way and use it for their pleasure...

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Jonathan Jay Murder is a good man

People telling stories directly is a rare find in print journalism. Steven Hirsch has an amazing project called Courthouse Confessions in which, simply put, he approaches people leaving a New York City courthouse, photographs them, and transcribes a brief interview.

(I'm leaving the photos out of this post, for various reasons).

Found via Shoot! - which you should probably be reading instead of me.

Mary Ellen Bute, "Dada," 1936

Animated work by an American pioneer. I can't help but think this thing could be suitably appropriated for some modern-era noise, but then it also reminds me of this video for Stereolab's "Noise of Carpet" (and apparently re-used for several other videos for Emperor Tomato Ketchup):

Bute's film found via Today and Tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Mr. Toledano

A lot of people are talking about Phillip Toledano's photo essay, Days with my Father, and rightfully so: I recommend it to anyone who has some time to spend and hasn't seen it yet. But on the other end of the spectrum (in many ways) from that project is Toledano's Video Gamers series of portraits capturing people's expressions in the midst of some heavy video-game action, which is quick and fun. His whole site has some great work, and it's worth a linger.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Syrian Street Decay, by way of New Zealand

New Zealander Ben Smith's photography is all quite good, but I particularly love the street-art element incorporated into his "Campaign Phanthoms" series, photographs of Syrian campaign posters — or the remnants of them, anyway.

8-bitten, Twice Shy

There's some old-school, broken-video-game graphics (my favorite kind) over at, by French VJ Julien Ducourthial.