Ed Marszewski on Version 09

April 22, 2009 · Print This Article


Version 09 begins this Thursday April 23rd. Ed Marszewski took some time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions and let us know what’s going on over in Bridgeport.

So, Version was originally at the MCA and Buddy gallery?  Now that you have been based in the Co-Prosperity Sphere how has Version grown?

It started in 2002 at the MCA and was three days long. Over just a few years it spread throughout the entire city and was held everywhere from the Cultural Center, SAIC, MCA UIC, to contemporary art spaces alternative and trashy. It didn’t get to buddy until the third Version where we started hosting events all over. It once lasted 17 days and we used to boast that this is how we would like to live every day.

Version is really five or six festivals combined into one ten day freak out. We have internationally curated video programs, our own version of an art fair featuring artist run spaces and groups, a great performance art program, incredible music, and works by over 350 artists displayed in our venues. This year we have artists hailing from Turkey, Germany, The Netherlands and of course many from our own back yard.

We like to concentrate our programming to reveal the diversity of tactics strategies and platforms used by cultural workers to expand our networks, distribute ideas, and show how incredible it is to live in this city. The festival is a completely open platform and each year it is created by a different cast of characters. Our role is to facilitate an realize what we think are some of the most exciting projects in the country. This make the festival very flexible and ensures that it will be a fresh (to us) experience each year. We are not stuck doing the same programming year after year and are able to initiate new platforms or initiatives at any time.

This year Version is going local and the festival is mostly taking place on the southside in Bridgeport and Hyde Park. We are hosting shows and exhibitions, live art, music, and some incredible projects at the ZHou B Center, Co-Prosperity Sphere, neighborhood galleries and a 100 year old community center and gymnasium called the Benton House.


Could you talk a little bit about this years theme “Immodest Proposals”?

Each year we have an open ended theme to see what happens with the submissions.

This year we were into the idea of artists suggesting outlandish ideas that would probably not be realized. Fortunately for us many of them will be realized and initiated at this year’s festival.

What is the Bridgeport WPA?

During the depths of the Great Depression of the 1930s and into the early years of World War II, the Federal government supported the arts in unprecedented ways. For 11 years, between 1933 and 1943, federal tax dollars employed artists, musicians, actors, writers, photographers, and dancers. Never before or since has our government so extensively sponsored the arts. – The National Archive


We decided one immodest proposal we would like to see is the Obama Administration kick starting a 21st century Work Projects Administration that puts artists to work. The Bridgeport WPA is that pilot program

What are some of the highlights/ should not miss events for this years

OOO what a horrible question. For sure we are kicking ass all weekend
starting Thursday.

Thursday April 23 The Bridgeport  WPA and Paul Sargents installation 5-

Friday April 24 : Our Audacity of Art group show and happening. *its our big
party) 7 – ?

Saturday April 26 All the programming arond the NFO XPO Our version of what
a dIY art fair should be.
1pm to 8pm

You should also attend: King Ludd’s Analog Arcade at the Experimental
Station 2-8pm

Sunday April 27 if you didn’t come Saturday to the NFO XPO you better come

May 2 : The first annual Chicago Art Parade. Bring your bunny costume.

For more information on Version 09 please check out their site.

Frank Gehry Threatens To Quit Miami Beach Project

April 22, 2009 · Print This Article

New World Symphony Mockup

New World Symphony Mockup

New World Symphony founder and conductor Michael Tilson Thomas was building a new concert hall and convinced long time freind & architect Frank Gehry to design it. A $154 million interactive concert hall, a 2 ½-acre companion park, and, at the city of Miami Beach’s insistence, a parking garage. With the nonprofit symphony footing most of the cost things seemed to be in order.

Now that the concert hall is under way, on time and on budget, things seem to be coming apart. The city aparently didn’t equate the budget fully since now they are renegotiating the fee for the architect and pushing for the next door park to be designed by a less expensive group.

Gehry says fine and said Friday he is withdrawing from the park project. And he threatened to walk away from the project completely if city commissioners continue to harp on his fees, which he says they have exaggerated and misrepresented.

”I really find it insulting,” Gehry said in a phone interview from his Los Angeles studio. “I’m offended. If they keep messing with me, if I get insulted enough, I will withdraw completely.”

More can be read at the Miami Herald Report

Chicago Alderman Restarts Pressure on Art Institute Price Increase

April 21, 2009 · Print This Article

Chicago Art Institute

Chicago Art Institute

Ald. Ed Burke (14th) chairman of the Finance Committee, today increased the pressure on the Art Institute of Chicago say it isn’t affordable for many city residents.

The fee increase, which takes effect May 23, will increase general admission to $18 from $12, and student and senior admission to $12 from $7. But the museum notes that, unlike now, the new fees will include the costs of exhibitions.

”If they want to be a private institution and do whatever they want, that’s fine,” Burke said. “Once they accept taxpayer dollars, it’s a different story.”

Read more at the Chicago Tribune report.

Searching for Bruce Sterling

April 20, 2009 · Print This Article

Yesterday afternoon I read Virginia Heffernan’s essay, “Let Them Eat Tweets: Why Twitter is a trap,” in the New York Times Magazine, and so interesting did I find it that for a good part of this morning and afternoon I bounced around the internet trying to find a podcast or YouTube video or any other web-style recording of Bruce Sterling’s speech at this year’s South by Southwest Interactive conference so I could listen to his words in context–to no freakin’ avail, I might add.

Heffernan wrote about feeling a certain sense of personal status anxiety ever since she heard Sterling (whose rants are an annual highlight of SXSW Interactive) declare at this year’s conference that, as Heffernan paraphrased it,

“the clearest symbol of poverty is dependence on ‘connections’ like the Internet, Skype and texting. ‘Poor folk love their cellphones!’ (Sterling) said.”

Or in other words, as “a friend” quoted in Heffernan’s essay put it, “connectivity is poverty.” Heffernan elaborates on Sterling’s ideas as follows:

“Only the poor — defined broadly as those without better options — are obsessed with their connections. Anyone with a strong soul or a fat wallet turns his ringer off for good and cultivates private gardens that keep the hectic Web far away. The man of leisure, Sterling suggested, savors solitude, or intimacy with friends, presumably surrounded by books and film and paintings and wine and vinyl — original things that stay where they are and cannot be copied and corrupted and shot around the globe with a few clicks of a keyboard.”

Although I’ve yet to find a recording or even a transcript of Sterling’s talk, I did find one blog entry that provided some partial notes on the beginning of the speech (in which Sterling apparently munched on chips and cookies to mirror back what he saw as the inattentive twittering (m)asses in his audience), and that of another blogger named Jim Groom, whose Bavatuesdays blog was referenced in the print version of Heffernan’s article (I think he might have been the author of the “connectivity is poverty” quote, based on the header of his below-referenced blog post), and who summarized Sterling’s argument thusly:

Bruce Sterling’s rant was right on. I was hoping to listen to it again before I talked about it in more detail. In fact, I’ll have to do that cause I can only recall bits and pieces, but there was a point in his stream of thought that really impressed me (well, besides his discussion of the future of publishing as epitomized by survivalist bookstores like Brave New Books—which I loved). He went off about how much we had miscalculated the digital divide theories of the 90s that were to define the digital world of haves and have-nots by whether they were or weren’t connected. It seemed logical to assume that the impoverished would not be connected, whereas the rich would be decadently consuming all the bandwidth.

Well, as he pointed out, it didn’t quite work out that way, connectivity became cheap with cellphones, and he comically noted that “poor folk love their cellphones!” What’s happening is that this increased dependence upon connectivity, rather than being some kind of indicator of privilege, is actually a sign of our increased impoverishment. The fact is that the wealthy are those who can afford not to be connected, not to be pimping their “online brand” so shamelessly, not twittering their asses off at all hours of the day for a quick networking fix.

Note that Groom couldn’t get his hands on Sterling’s talk either, although at least he got to see it in person before writing about it.

Continuing my own search for the elusive Bruce talk brought me to the very, very cool sketchnotes of one Mike Rohde.  Here is a page from Rohde’s sketchnotes on the talk in question:

Mike Rohde, Sketchnotes captured on-site and live in a Moleskine pocket sketchbook while attending SXSW Interactive, March 13-17, 2009 at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas.

Mike Rohde, Sketchnotes captured on-site and live in a Moleskine pocket sketchbook while attending SXSW Interactive, March 13-17, 2009 at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas.

Cool, no? I like how he got all the good pull quotes from the speech. Note too that Rohde’s notes have Sterling saying, “connectivity will be an indicator of poverty rather than an indicator of wealth,” and not connectivity = poverty.

What Rohde is doing is partly a tweak on Twitter (he even live sketchnoted during one  panel) but look at the difference — the drawing/handmade font aspect of Rohde’s notes make it seem so friendly and, well, readable, but also human and therefore subjective.  (You can find all of Rohde’s sketchnotes on Sterling’s talk (they’re sketchnotes 51-56) here, and sketchnotes for the entire SXSW interactive conference here.)

So, from the high of discovering Rohde’s hand-written sketchnotes I descended to the low of Twitter itself, to see what would come up if I searched “Bruce Sterling.” Ooh, now this is kind of interesting. Lots of initial reaction to the Heffernan piece, many seem to be wrongly assuming that the article was written by Sterling himself. Here are a few examples of Tweets related specifically to the Heffernan piece and/or the talk itself (make sure to follow the link to Dan’s blog given in the first Tweet – it gets a comment that’s apparently from Sterling himself, criticizing the blogger for critiquing a talk he didn’t actually attend):

natdefreitas: Dan from @peekinc took on Bruce Sterling‘s comment that “poor people sure love talking on their cell phones” http://www.geekypeek.com/?p=305

jedibunny: good grief, tweeting makes me feel so impoverished now. darn you bruce sterling.

jtzl: great article about twitter is for poor people http://tr.im/poortwits – reeks of insecurity. bruce sterling is the ultimate troll.

marcad: “Futurists” like Bruce Sterling who live high on foppish universities, city budgets, & grand pronouncements are just another symbol.

Argh, I didn’t realize you can only search the past 7 days of Twitter, so recent chatter is all I get, that sucks. So no Tweet-notes on Sterling’s talk, just some quick (and often ill-informed) reactions to the “Poor folks love their cellphones!” quote from Heffernan’s piece.

And last, via Google, I come up with this little sketch, from what I think may be Bruce Sterling’s own flickr stream, though I’m not really sure. The caption under the photo reads: “In Austin, even the 12-year-olds get it about Twitter.”

So what does this all mean? Heck if I know. But I do find it incredibly ironic and stupid and maybe brilliant–but maybe not so much–that Sterling gave this talked-about talk at one of the biggest freaking INTERACTIVE conferences in the country, he’s one of the cultural cognoscenti whose opinion, on certain issues anyway, drives the discourse forward. He puts ideas on people’s agendas, makes writers like Heffernan rethink their assumptions and publicly question them, etc. But I can’t even find audio or video of his talk anywhere online that would allow me to form my *own* opinion about what he said firsthand (well, a recording would make it sorta second-hand, but you know what I mean). As a result I’m forced to depend on other people’s truncated versions, reliable though they may at first appear. Maybe SXSW will eventually post a podcast of Sterling’s 2009 talk, although the conference took place over a month ago, which is an eternity in internet time. Even I probably won’t care about it anymore by the time they post it. Who knows, maybe Sterling didn’t want to give them permission to reproduce his talk in the first place, in an effort to preserve some semblance of ‘the old days’ of which he is said to have spoken.  From live talk to magazine editorializing to blogger’s notes to Tweets…social networking isn’t worth much if all it comes down to is gossip. I want access to the real stuff, not just everyone’s opinion, commentary and tweets about it.  In other words, if anyone finds a link to Sterling’s speech at the 2009 SXSW Interactive conference, please let me know! Thank you.

Holland Cotter Wins Pulitzer Prize

April 20, 2009 · Print This Article

The NYT’s Holland Cotter beats out Inga Saffron of The Philadelphia Inquirer and Sebastian Smee of The Boston Globe for the Pulitzah Prize (and its $10,000 award) for “distinguished criticism, in print or online, or both.” Only 10 grand?? I always imagined an award like that would score you more.

Read more about it directly from The Pulizer Prize website and also at the New York Times.

Updated: whoops, rushing to get this post out pronto and misspelled Cotter’s last name! My bad!

Update #2: My snark about paltry prize money aside, this is a big deal for Cotter and for newspaper art critics in general. As the L.A. Times’ art critic Christopher Knight points out, Cotter is the first art critic to win a Pulitzer in 35 years, “since the late Emily Genauer of Newsday won in 1974.” So bravo to Cotter. Newspaper art criticism may well be in its death throes, but at least not before one of the best of them has received this kind of recognition.