Twit Twat Twut, The Art of Twitter

March 23, 2009 · Print This Article

What do you call an artist who uses Twitter as their main medium–a Twartist? Ugh, forgive me; I’ve been exposed to too many stupid Twitter puns lately and I still haven’t had enough coffee this Monday morning. As part of my ongoing (if admittedly somewhat half-assed) efforts to track the intersection of contemporary art and social networking technologies, I present for your consideration a couple of interesting upcoming Twitter-related art projects that have crossed my screen of late. The first is “Twitter Island,” a social networking experiment and art performance piece that will take place here in Chicago this Saturday, March 28th.

Organized by Seth Gershberg and Lauri Apple for The Chicago Art Department, the project is limited to 30 volunteer Twitterers who will convene at the Chicago Art Department with their laptops and/or cell phones and be given an anonymous Twitter account. The volunteers will be divided into two groups of fifteen; the control group will be asked to respond to specific questions from a moderator, the other group allowed to tweet to their heart’s content without outside influence. The experiment will last for ninety minutes, after which both groups will be invited to “create something” (as the press release puts it) based on their experience.

Notes Apple, again from the project’s press release:

“What I’m most curious about is the tension that will inevitably be created as people are required to use Twitter to communicate with people who they could just walk over and say hello to — how will this manifest in how the participants act, and what they say? I’ve seen people texting at crowded parties and social functions; why not talk to the people who are already in the room? Also, I have friends who live down the street who don’t call me, but will tweet or Google chat me to tell me how lonely they are. What is driving these choices we’re making, and are we cognizant of the emotions that result from these choices? With Twitter Island, we’re telling people they don’t have a choice to talk to each other — they have to use technology. Will they rebel? Get bored? Get angry? Or will it seem perfectly natural to stay at their computers and phones?”

Secondly, @platea is a still sorta nebulous something that sounds somewhat similar to the Twitter Island project (without the control group part). Spearheaded by artist An Xiao, it’s an ongoing public art meets social media project. On the project’s blog, Xiao offers this description of @platea:

“a stweet art collective consisting of artists and non-artists who share an interest in the power of public art carried out in the digital megacity. “Platea,” from the Latin for “street”, came to signify in medieval theatre a neutral space on stage. It morphed and changed as necessary, depending on the actors’ actions and the assumed setting. I find it a fitting analogy for the swiftly-evolving, redefining nature of social media, whose tenors change with the tide of user activity but whose effect–discussion and connection–remains overall the same.”

I’m still cringing over the term “stweet art,” just give me a few seconds to get over that….ok, better. Xiao was interviewed recently on the blog smArts&Culture (oh yeah, today is gonna be shitty pun day) about her thoughts on Twitter as a medium; she also did a “Twitterview” with art blogger Hrag Vartanian last March 18th that’s hard to follow when read only in retrospect, but a summation of the conversation is supposed to be forthcoming on Vartanian’s blog soon here. In addition, @platea’s first large-scale online “happening” is slated for this week; apparently, you can join in by following @platea on Twitter.

If you wind up participating in either of these events, I’d  love to hear your take in the comments.

Paul H-O interviewed by C-Monster

March 22, 2009 · Print This Article

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One of my favorite blogs, C-Monster, has an interview with ‘Guest of Cindy Sherman’ director Paul H-O. “During a series of exclusive interviews, Paul and Cindy fall in love and begin a romance. Unexpectedly, the relationship forces Paul to confront issues of ego, gender and identity as he gets caught up in the aura of Cindy’s celebrity.With unprecedented access, the documentary places us in the company of the great artist. Spanning over 15 years and including more than fifty interviews with art world and entertainment luminaries…” The interview is a bit random. No mention of Sherman, mainly just some random questions but might be worth it if you like Paul H-O.

Guest of Cindy Sherman opens March 27th in selected theaters.

via C-Monster
C-M: What’s the biggest stereotype about art?
H-O: That tremendous macho attitude that someone like Picasso embodied. Martin Kippenberger established a certain style for himself that way, too. Then there’s Schnabel. People don’t think I like Julian Schnabel, but, in fact, I adore him. He’s given me great material. He is that larger-than-life figure. He adopts the attitude of being Picasso, and since he’s such a visible figure, Hollywood people see him and say, “Here’s an artist!”

Read the entire interview here.

Christie’s Sued Over $40M guarantee for Unsold Francis Bacon Painting

March 22, 2009 · Print This Article

Francis Bacon "Study for Self Portrait"The Family trust led by the Connecticut collector George A. Weiss which owned a Francis Bacon painting sued Christie`s Inc on Friday, saying the company reneged on a minimum price guarantee of USD 40 million.

The lawsuit, filed in US District Court in Manhattan, alleged Christie`s reached a minimum price guarantee regarding the sale of Bacon`s “Study for Self Portrait” and has refused to pay the minimum guarantee. Christie`s is the US unit of Christie`s International PLC.

An agreement was struck in late July, but by September, after the auction house already had the painting, Christie’s said it would no longer honor the guarantee because of the faltering global economy.

The painting failed to sell at Christie`s November 2008 Post War and Contemporary Art sale, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit is seeking USD 40 million, plus interest and damages.

Rachel Mason at Andrew Rafacz Gallery

March 20, 2009 · Print This Article

Rachel Mason’s show at Andrew Rafacz Gallery inspired something in me I never thought I’d feel: the desire to pick up the grizzled Fidel Castro and put him in my pocket.

Rachel Mason, Fidel Castro, President of Cuba

Rachel Mason, Fidel Castro, President of Cuba

Or at least, the little bust of him that Mason has made, along with dozens of other late 20th century political figures that have been arranged on a shelf spanning three of the gallery’s walls.

Mason has done a pretty good job at capturing the likes of Castro, Margaret Thatcher, Leonid Bhreznev and an astonishingly numerous array of  others whose heads we’ve seen on television screens or in newspapers but which have here been reduced to the scale of domestic knick-knacks. This editioned series of sculptures is part of a long-term project in which Mason fantasized about the emotional lives of world leaders embroiled in war and conflict.

Rachel Mason, I rule with a broken heart

Rachel Mason, I rule with a broken heart, installation view

In an attempt to gain a subjective and emotional understanding of their controversial actions, she’s projected herself into their personas via live performances, videos, writings by herself and others, and sculptural figurines made over the last four years (check out the artist’s website for examples of texts, music and performances from this project, which is titled “The Ambassadors”).

Rachel Mason, "I Rule With A Broken Heart"

Rachel Mason, "I Rule With A Broken Heart"

andrewrafaczgallery0001221This multi-faceted project is difficult to contain in a single gallery (Rafecz is showing the sculptures, an artist’s book, and apparently a video which wasn’t on when I visited the gallery last Wednesday). I have to admit I don’t always have a lot of patience for sprawling, multi-part performance-based works of this type. It’s a weakness on my part, I know, but the fetishist in me remains fully under the sway of objects, be they two – or three-dimensional, and I do tend to think that objects work best when left to their own devices. Mason’s great feat is her ability to take historical leaders, some revered, some loathed and feared, and shrink them to the size of Hummel figures without simultaneously rendering them objects of kitsch. There’s a certain pathos to the artist’s labor-intensive efforts to create things that could so easily be dismissed as cutesy jokes; but Mason’s sincerity comes though in the way she inserts her own, slightly smaller ambassadorial figure into the parade of statues as a persistent disruption. The empathy with which Mason approaches the subject of war and political leadership is an anomaly in this age of hard-line factionalism and harsh political rhetoric. It’s easy to wear your politics on your t-shirt, but far more difficult to cloak yourself in the garb of your political Other and, heart on sleeve, sing a song or write a poem in their name. The show closes Saturday, so if you want to see it, go over right away.

Dave Hullfish Bailey at The Suburban

March 20, 2009 · Print This Article

Sometime over the weekend, as I was pouring coffee beans into a canister, I happened to read on the package that proceeds from the coffee had been used to fund a library. Pretty cool, I thought; but then in my cynical way, I began to speculate about just what kind of structure this library actually was, how big, how many books, and what, exactly, constituted a library in the minds of the coffee bean distributors. Maybe their library was more like a bookmobile, or maybe it was just a partitioned section of a large hut somewhere far away, with a few piles of donated paperbacks stacked haphazardly on a couple of wooden stools. At any rate, when I came across the L.A.-based artist Dave Hullfish Bailey’s images of the Lizard Tree Library in Slab City, California (not far from Imperial City), my first thought was, aha–here’s the kind of library that coffee money might have funded.

Dave Hullfish Bailey, Working approximation of a conventional form, re-determined by prevailing conditions (first version: Noritsu JPEG scans; Xerox model 250; SKU # 866095/remaindered stock), 2008

Dave Hullfish Bailey, Working approximation of a conventional form, re-determined by prevailing conditions (first version: Noritsu JPEG scans; Xerox model 250; SKU # 866095/remaindered stock), 2008

Bailey’s installations converge with social historiography and land use studies in their exploration of alternative models of community and urban planning. Slab City, a squatter and R.V. community built over an old U.S. military base, provides a case study that, in his exhibition at The Suburban, Bailey has approached in a more or less documentary fashion.  A series of 15 framed photocopied images of the Slab City library have been installed sequentially along the gallery’s four walls. Each image presents a view of the library from a slightly different vantage point that corresponds to the photographer’s path around the perimeter. I didn’t know about Slab City before encountering these images, but a little Internet scouring brought up a few useful websites, particularly this one.  Slab City’s inhabitants would probably not describe themselves as “squatters,” though none pay rent. They’ve built the physical structures that house this community from the ground up, along with the social institutions or “clubs” that bring residents together. The library appears to be one of several sacred spaces here that have been constructed entirely by human hands, in this case by a woman named Rosalie who died in 2003.  It’s a quiet place where people can borrow books without I.D. cards, read on the patio, or retreat to in the middle of the night when insomnia hits.

Bailey is interested in the ways that idealism shapes space concretely and ideologically, as when, for example, people from very different backgrounds come together in the wake of hurricanes or riots to create ad hoc spaces of refuge and community support. These chaotic moments have the potential to transform utopian impulses into pragmatic solutions. In Slab City, ordinary folks have put their highest aspirations of self and community to the test. Baileys’ trajectory around the Slab City library circumscribes a Utopia twice removed; one that looks and feel a lot more down-to-earth than we, or its residents for that matter, may have previously imagined.