double molecule rmx


thanks to pepper for this - FWIW the unglitched version was one of my first GIFs. sally mckay helped me lighten the original, after I made it using my Sony camera, which had an in-camera GIF creation feature (but the frames came out dark). the molecules are stop-motion photos of paper spheres and struts pinned to my studio wall.

book idea (thought experiment) 2

Animated GIFs: The E-Book

This idea died after a little investigation into what's possible with e-books. To begin with, you have several commercial e-book formats, either based on PDFs or something similar. These are imaged pages, as opposed to dynamically generated ones that could pull up other media and incorporate it into text.

The open-source "EPUB" file in theory works like a browser and could assemble pages with animations. No one is actually doing that because of (i) the variety of hardware devices EPUBs would be loaded on (ii) general unreliability.

It's a shame because it would be nice to have some books on the subject of internet-based expression that weren't dependent on verbal descriptions of unseen processes. Unlike web-based publications, books force you to stay within their confines and confront the points they're making, rather than letting you wander off into the link wilderness.

book idea (thought experiment)

Art on Facebook, 2007-2012, by Frankfurt Sorbonne

When established New York art critics such as a Jerry Saltz and Howard Halle opened Facebook accounts, what culture critic Frankfurt Sorbonne calls a "discursive shift" took place. Criticism up to that time had been print-based, edited, and advertiser-influenced. Suddenly a level of art writing opened up that more closely resembled "art talk" -- fleeting spoken conversations, larded with gossip and politics and treated as "back channel" even though they could be read and saved by privileged readers of these writers. Unlike phone conversations and face to face talks, text and screenshot records were being kept of these "convos."

Gradually after 2007 most of the art world, up to that point shy of cyberspace and blogging, moved onto Facebook and began "sharing." Art conversations proliferated, from critic-to-critic, critic-to-artist, critic-to-public and every imaginable combination of those linkages. Sorbonne contends that this shadow world of "chatter," given Facebook's size and influence, constitutes an alternative discourse as influential as the old media structures' but for one thing -- a lack of formalized, centralized, prioritized record-keeping.

This book, then, based on Facebook conversations, chats, pics, posts, and comment threads compiled and solicited by Sorbonne and his students, gives us the first glimpse of a "new, digitally-mediated art world." Examples are given where particular artists' works are vetted critically and economically, where a consensus on artists or movements develops over time, and where various opinion leaders fell in and out with each other via tools such as "unfriending." Many of the conversations occurred within Facebook's ever-shifting onion-skin layers of access, so there is a quality of frankness to this writing one does not find in say, print media monthlies.

[Publisher's note: this book has been held from publication pending legal action by various persons and entities.]

from the vault: gerhard richter at MOMA, 2002

An earlier post questioned the value of internet tags such as "cars," "apples," "flowers," and "rural landscapes" for Gerhard Richter paintings. This post gives some context:

Gerhard Richter, painter of emotionally-distanced images and even-more-emotionally-distanced abstraction, is currently being rehabilitated as Gerhard Richter, warm and fuzzy lover of children, pets, and beautiful women. First came the portrait of his infant son, clutching a spoon and cutely smeared with baby food, on the cover of the January 2002 Artforum. Then came the Museum of Modern Art's retrospective (which opened last week), emphasizing portraits over abstractions and quality over quantity. Then came Michael Kimmelman's gooey New York Times review, comparing Richter to Vermeer and waxing sentimental over the painter's family pictures. (Postscript: Strangely, none of the skepticism in Kimmelman's contemporaneous New York Times Magazine profile--which made Richter out to be a freak on the family level--found its way into his review.)

MOMA curator Robert Storr has chosen to focus the viewer's attention on individual "masterpieces" rather than highlight Richter's relentless, factory-like production. In an interview in the same Artforum, Storr expresses a preference for "the many things that can be said about individual works," rather than "the few things that could be said about large groups of paintings." This contradicts Richter's own view of his work, which can be divined from various early catalogs, the artist's self-produced catalog raisonne, and most importantly the Atlas--an encyclopedic, gridded compendium of photos, abstract brushstrokes, and studio experiments, which filled an entire floor at the Dia Foundation a few years back. In the latter work, as interviewer Tom Holert describes it, the "single picture vanishes in the ordering system; the grid, the context of the images, reclaims the individual work."

Atlas: Panel 8, 1962-66

This more radical--and accurate--view of Richter could have been conveyed by including more works in the retrospective, and by hanging them less respectfully: by using the Atlas as a model, in other words. In the past, Richter has shown his 48 Portraits, grisaille images of mathematicians, writers, and other dead white dudes, in an imposing grid; at MOMA they wrap spaciously, in two rows of 24, around the inside of a stairwell, exactly as they might be seen in a institution that meant to celebrate them. Richter did scores of "color chip" paintings in the '70s, elegant enlargements of the gridded colors you find in paint stores, and it would be hard to find better icons of ambiguity towards the work of modernists such as Mondrian and Kelly. Presenting, or interspersing, a profusion of these paintings (or more abstractions in general) among the other works would have given the show the clinical, confused feel that it is the paradoxical essence of Richter: the artist as lab technician, studying image overload and seeking its underlying "rules." Instead, MOMA showed only two color chip paintings (one big and one small), presumably those the curator thought were "best."

Storr's hanging led directly to Kimmelman's treacly review, which fawns over Richter's "tender" brushwork, traditional subjects (landscapes, portraits), and eye for the beauty "that's still out there" after one "strips away the cliches and false rhetoric" of mass culture. Not a word is said about Richter's compulsive use of the squeegee to smear and eradicate imagery--one gets the impression that it is used only as a tool to make abstractions. Kimmelman ascribes to one work, Richter's painting of his father Horst holding a dog on his lap, the quality of being "under water," like a memory "surfacing but being sucked back down." But couldn't one could also say that Richter attacked the image, by dragging the half-dried paint across the canvas, as if trying to scrape away that same "memory"? Or perhaps that his father was just one more smeary image in the overcrowded mass media darkroom?

Richter's 70, and a big gun in the art world, so late-career flattery and hagiography is inevitable. Thus, it was extremely refreshing to read Donald Kuspit's artnet piece criticizing the show. Of course, Kuspit's a grouch who lately judges all art on the basis of whether it has "healing power," but he's also knowledgeable about contemporary German painting, and after Kimmelman it's exhilirating to hear the Great God Richter described as "the dregs of the German Wave, the last ripple in what once seemed a riptide." Discussing Richter's East German-ness, and the presumption of authenticity it gives the artist in rich Western art circles, Kuspit reminds us that the East was also a zone where state-sponsored "Socialist Realism" thrived. This leads to a discussion that raises far more interesting questions than the Storr/Kimmelman attempt to reinvent Richter as a humanist. Here's Kuspit:

Richter's work takes Socialist Realism as its point of departure and continues to be Socialist Realist in modernist drag. Socialist Realism is people’s art. It uses the styles of the acceptable past, cutting them down to the reproductive terms that are comprehensible to the people. Their vision is cancelled in the name of the Great Cause--the People--and they are banalized into instruments of ideology and propaganda. Richter does the same thing with abstraction and representation. They are reduced to dumb shows of art--a kind of visual mummery--or, to put this another way, a visual sound and fury signifying nothing, whatever its subject matter. They are reduced to people's art, simplified and trivialized. All one has to do is to look at his mock Mondrian to get the point. It is people’s abstraction, just as Richter's Abstract Expressionist paintings are the people's platitudinous idea of Abstract Expressionism--a Socialist Realist scam on Abstract Expressionism.

Kuspit omits to mention that Richter, early on in his career, attempted an ironic reinvention of Socialist Realism for the West, calling it "capitalist realism." Whether this was an ultra-serious form of Pop or "Socialist Realism in Modernist drag" is a question still worth debating. It may be, as Storr says, one of the "few things that can be [discussed] about large groups of paintings," but surely it's more interesting than talking about Richter's search for beauty in the face of his own pessimism.

Coming back to tagging, if Richter stands for anything it's anti-taxonomy or making a hash of taxonomy. The best way to make sense of him is probably chronology. That his staff is now using tags on his website -- "rural landscapes," how ordinary -- should inspire no one to consider tagging as a model for other artists. Most artists in their guts resist labels.