Archives are Awesome!

June 10, 2011 · Print This Article

I spent the first part of this week in my bedroom, blinds drawn, air cranked, trying to escape the heat. I caught up on a bunch of reading, and actually finished a few books I’d been reading for so long that I feared that at any moment they might turn in to those books that just never get finished. But all of that ground to a halt when the weather changed and the temperature dropped, like what, 50 degrees? So here it is Friday, and I spent all of yesterday pissed off because it’s so cold and rainy, and there’s just more of that to come.

What are you doing during all this rain? I’ve these storms have made me too restless to either read or write so instead I’ve been frittering my time in the bosom of the interwebs. So for today’s post, I thought I’d suggest three art and media archives that are an amazing way to kill a few (dozen) hours. Think of them like giant time sponges that will suck every available minute. Maybe more like the Borg, pulling you in until it’s impossible to tell where you end and the site begins.

Europa Film Treasures houses a vast selection of historic (mostly) European films. A majority of them are shorts, which isn’t hard to understand as the films reach all the way back to the 1800s. This archive is particularly attractive for those interested in film history. There does seem to be the expectation that visitors will know exactly what they are looking for. It was a little hard to navigate, but since I had no real business there, clicking around on whatever caught my fancy worked well enough. You can search by date, director, country, sound or silent, black and white, color, hand colored. If you are doing real research, I’d definitely check this out.

Last winter I went on Chicago Detours’ Pedway tour. At each historic spot, we clustered around a handful of iPads to watch archival footage of Chicago and interviews with awesome folks from the 70s. I asked our guide where the footage came from and she said Media Burn. Turns out this site is politically minded, with a definite Chicago slant. Though not as extensive as some other sites, Media Burn: Independent Video Archive is a great place to see documentary footage. Much of the video came from the producer of the show Image Union and also Studs Terkle. It also seems like Media Burn is actively working on expanding the site to include historic documents as well.

Lastly, the grandmother of all online spoken word libraries, UbuWeb. Think of it as a digital repository of the avant-garde. Some of the cool things I’ve pried from there is Gertrude Stein reading “If I Told Him: A Completed Portrait of Picasso,” Takashi Murakami’s ad for Louis Vuitton, and Joan Logue’s “30 Second Spots: TV Commercials for Artists, ” with Nam June Paik, Orlan, and Laurie Anderson among others. It even has some Gavin Bryars pieces that it took me forever to track down back in the day. To be honest, since UbuWeb has been around for so long, I’d nearly forgotten about it. But recently, I dropped by again and was stunned by the staggering video additions. The library is extensive and seems to be growing everyday. UbuWeb is not university affiliated, which I’d always assumed, but was instead started by poet Kenneth Goldsmith in 1996. UbuWeb is free and is committed to making available works that would otherwise languish, out of print, and eventually forgotten.

So here are three places to spend your time just in case it stays miserable. But if the sun comes out, go for it. Take advantage of it while you can. Winter’s just around the corner.




The Battle of Trafalgar Square Continues

July 23, 2010 · Print This Article

Yinka Shonibare Nelson Trafalgar PlinthThe fourth plinth in London’s Trafalgar square has been on our radar for a while and I am sure will continue to be so since the British government plans on using it as a compliment to the Turner prize or so by using it as a soapbox to debate and showcase contemporary art.

The current work  that is on display at the plinth, Yinka Shonibare’s Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle is slotted to be taken down in 2012 and the fight to see who gets the spot in time for the Olympics has begun. Here is a quick rundown of the shortlist via UK’s The Independent (my money is on Katharina Fritsch) :

Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset A sombre wit underpins the serious nature of work by the Scandanavian couple who have collaborated since they met in 1995. They have made work in memory of gay victims of the Nazi regime and, in 2005, they built a Prada boutique in the middle of the Texan desert. Whatever their proposal for Trafalgar Square, we hope they don’t lose their sense of humour.

Mariele Neudecker German born, 45-year-old Neudecker made her name with sculptures of landscapes, placed inside glass vitrines. Self-contained worlds, that come out of the Romantic tradition in art – although her work is anything but traditional. She used the cry of seagulls on London’s Millenium bridge in 2008. And she sank a boat and a house underwater that question our relationship with the environment.

Allora & Calzadilla Allora and Calzadilla are an artist couple who live in Puerto Rico. Their work is usually political and they have a strong reputation in the UK. At the Serpentine gallery in 2007 they made a large chamber, like a war bunker, and inside musicians played military music. They work in many mediums, using film, sound, sculpture, performance and photography.

Hew Locke Locke’s work explores colonial themes in an exuberant kind of pop art. He has played with ideas about the British royal family. Princess Diana became a voodoo doll and he covered a figure of the Queen Mother with skulls. He critiques the past, looking at how our world interrelates: from African wars to empire, pop culture to Shakespeare.

Katharina Fritsch Like the Surrealists, Fritsch is known for artwork that makes the familiar appear strange and uncanny. Born in Germany, Fritsch has represented her country at the Venice Biennale and had major exhibitions at London museums. Giant rats and monochrome men wearing suits appear in her work, which have popular as well as critical appeal. She is a mature artist and her proposal will be polished and spectacular.

Brian Griffiths An eccentric sense of adventure runs through sculptures by Griffiths. A graduate of Goldsmiths college, the British artist has used old furniture to construct an elaborate wooden gyspy caravan. His work plays with myth as well as history and his sculpture comes from an imaginary world as fantastical as a child’s. No doubt, his proposal for the Fourth Plinth will be made from old junk but his idea, we hope, will contain a touch of magic.

  • Also Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland (MOCA) has been greenlit to start construction on it’s $150-plus million development project in University Circle later this year and be completed in 2012. Read More Here
  • We talked a while back about the Guggenheim’s Youtube partnership entitled “Play” where artists were invited to submit their videos to possibly be part of a juried exhibition later this year in every one of their museums. Well that jury list has been announced: Takashi Murakami, Ryan McGinley, Douglas Gordon, Marilyn Minter and Shirin Neshat, artists known for their work in a variety of mediums; Stefan Sagmeister, a graphic designer; Laurie Anderson, the performance artist, musician and filmmaker; the music group Animal Collective; and the filmmakers Darren Aronofsky and Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Read More Here
  • Sorry but I have a hard time calling something revolutionary or defying categorization when it’s been done for over two decades in general and over a decade by Michigan Avenue Ad houses. Its akin to saying an artist doing Matrix style bullet time video leaves you speechless if it was done in 2040. Film is sequential still frames that create motion, find something to write about NPR that is actually Art if you want to be breathless NPR not a music video esque work done in After Effects. It’s only slightly annoying when Artists speak of their work as revolutionary, interdisciplinary or an exciting hybrid that redefines a genre since it’s hard to promote as a artist but it is greatly annoying when a publication ruberstamps such hyperbole as true. I know it’s the NPR blog but….. still. Don’t Read More Here