Il Lee: BL-060
Pretty art is dangerous because - what if it's shallow, and you can't see that because of all the pretty?
Lee has so much pretty. Ballpoint pen art has so much pretty. But he has the most.
Still, dangerous. But pretty.
Dore Ashton: An Interview with Marcel Duchamp
There's something endearing about two one percenters of the art world meeting up and using an interview setting as a front to check who can make more outrageously arrogant statements. I'll give this round to Duchamp, but I'm biased. Ashton did her best, though.
Joan Mitchell: Interview with Yves Michaud
Quintin Stokes: Wasp Songs
I know Stokes primarily as a game designer on itch, but now I stumbled over his music on Bandcamp as well, and it shares some lovely attributes with his ludography - it's deliberately, carefully clunky and simplistic, broken down into basic shapes and/or sounds and few things allude to anything non-abstract bar the title. I like film grain and I like how he makes his granular data sensible without having to add it on top like a cheap trick; it's not even a feature - at least to me it feels like the entire point.
Corita Kent: downwards as well
Kent is among my top five of nuns who were also artists. I assume you have such a list as well.
Her art is a bit saccharine for my taste, but it seems so heartfelt and tongue-in-cheek at the same time that it doesn't really matter. Kent's cool far beyond the novelty factor of being "The Pop Art Nun (click here for pics of a NUN doing WARHOL stuff!)", with an interesting evolution in her artistic practice and lotsa good vibes.
Atelier Sheila Hicks: Instagram
Sheila Hicks might be one of the few artists whose works are, at least aesthetically and in the reproductive capacity photographs of tactile works like hers provide, not destroyed by the vapid, superficial, colorful, mind-numbing design philosophy of Instagram. It rather gains some amusement factor once you realize that her works garner the exact same comments food porn and work out selfies receive. Exactly the same. I won't write about how Instagram seems to limit its users' vocabulary to slight variations of the words "stunning" and "queen" because that's hardly a novel nor a sparsely examined thought. Let's just be happy that Hicks' works are indestructible even in the face of social media marketing.
Helen Frankenthaler: Sesame
You can grow up rich, white and conservative and become Eric Trump, or you become Helen Frankenthaler. Your choice, really. Frankenthaler has a better idea of what to do with her hair, in case you're undecided. Also, Sesame is an agreeable example of art that is very open about its eastern influences without becoming downright derivative schmalzy orientalism or Gauguin-esque exploitation art. "Agreeable" because, as can be read here (page 65), this was still very much the latter half of the twentieth century.
Judith Copithorne: The Letter i
Not much of a fan of Copithorne's work from the sixties, but her more recent typographic poems I like a lot better. The Letter i is my favourite though, for its simplicity and superb title. If visual poetry isn't quite what you run into every day (I certainly don't), here's a nicely written dissertation by Michael Borkent in which he talks about and explains the poem and how to embed it into the visual poetry canon as a whole quite well (page 261 ff).
Madéleine Flores: Help Us! Great Warrior (the web comic)
It might be due to the tumblr purge or Flores having moved on with her life, but the original HU!GW web comic has vanished from the web, so I have to link to a Buzzfeed article. What dark times we live in.
HU!GW was an astonishingly funny thing to me when I first found it online. And when it was announced it would be turned into a comic book series, I was happy for Flores to have landed herself a deal with such a unique cutesy style and at the same time I was afraid it would turn out terrible. And it turned out terrible. The extremely short and pointed episodic format translated worse to a serial narrative than I imagined, the style had been cleaned up to look like a Steven Universe spinoff, and someone forgot that you need one or two jokes in a comedy. It was so bland and now the original web comic is gone, too. Nothing is forever, but if Buzzfeed makes a cheap no-content article out of it before it vanishes, a shrine might be left.
Ursula Benser: Frau mit Likör (Woman with liqueur)
I've had days like this.
Granted, even my worst days weren't in 1943's Germany.
5wordsinaline presenting Gertrude Stein: Five Words in a Line
A most necessary Tumblr for a most necessary poem. A+ presentation.
Bjørn Melhus: I'M NOT THE ENEMY
Even if a topic Melhus tackles doesn't quite engage me, his editing is always spot-on.
There's this thing about int'l artists making it their very clichéd mission to dissect, analyze or criticize US pop culture and putting that very original thought at the front of their artist statement, oblivious to the idea that this overabundance of art about how we all listened to Madonna that one time in the eighties and that by time and again retelling the story of its predominance they might just reinforce the idea of US pop as an ersatz religion and allow it to integrate these criticisms into itself and turn them into a feature of this monster. But then some artists certainly give off the vibe that they actually want to be part of the industry they scrutinize and the criticism schtick isn't much more than a grey hat hacker demonstrating their penetration testing skills to a potential customer. Heck, there's even art about exactly that by now that has been re-pop-ified already. It's a loop of bad ideas and unpaid royalties.
I give German artists some leeway here because of Germany's remarkably thorough adoption of American pop culture as opposed to constructing an own, semi-independent pop cultural canon or an environment in which one could seriously happen. But it's still not an excuse for the millions of art pieces whose sole gimmick is to recreate Hollywood pathos, just worse.
Melhus belongs to the generation of artists where the tools to be dissected and to dissect were music videos and film as opposed to now where it's still music videos and film, but more dated and with an ironic Instagram account connected to it or some Super Mario sprites, compression artifacts and low-fi 3D-models of faces with dead eyes sprinkled in somewhere. Also, Melhus is not so much interested in US pop culture's dominance as he is in how it permeates real-life discourses and handles contemporary issues.
Also, he's kinda cute in drag. I'm not the target audience for RP's Drag Race, but I might watch an episode or two if they had more candidates aiming to style themselves like Ayn Rand or conservative midwestern moms in their fifties.
Rosalba Carriera: Ragazza con pappagallo (A Young Lady With a Parrot)
I'm usually not much of a believer in role models (because successful people just get me envious and depressed, probably), but the whole catalogue of women artists connected to Rosalba Carriera proves me wrong. I can barely find any article or encyclopedia entry not mentioning a whole bunch of artists, often women, who drew inspiration from her. Maybe I should stop being a jealous little prick and be happy about other people's success, I was thinking. Then I remembered that some of these people make five grand on Patreon for screaming into the void that is YouTube, and since this is the 21st century and money and exposure are fair devices for measuring short-term success, I resubscribe to just being jelly.
Other than that, I'd like to talk to you about the sheer amount of nipples in Carriera's body of work. It's on Cannon Films superfluity levels. And it's not just the amount, it's also the relative variety - most artists had like, one type of nipple they liked to paint. This one? All over the place. Brownish, pinkish, medium-sized, super-small, borderline translucent, disturbingly pale but kinda round and large I guess? - you get the idea. No man boobs though, we're civilized around here y'know. And what I actually share in the title is an exercise in Rococo subtlety: just a suggestion of nipples, and when you are done with searching for them and have to accept there's no more than that suggestion, poof, cute bird. That's how memes do it too.
NaxNir: x49 demo
Whatever this is, it's good that it is.
John Rafman: A Man Digging
I feel like a conservative commentator riffing on these darn kids and their shiny gadgets and their video games and their MTVs badmouthing one media artist after another, but apparently that's who I am now, so here goes: If more people were media literate, John Rafman would be out of a job. This not only applies to this, but most of his work. Apparently he attempts to represent something like a digital hyper-reality mixed with a melancholic romanticism, but in the end it just looks like he's chasing trends, but always a little bit late or with a dated perspective, with which I mean always a year or two after the online discussions about the topics he tackles have already moved on: Google Street View since 2009. Online sexual minorities and Otaku culture in 2013. Max Payne in 2013. Drones and super computers and archival computer science footage in 2013. Tried his hand on vaporwave and realized it was a dead end in 2014. AI and Deep Learning and Simulation in 2017. Glitch Art in 2017 (very late to the party). Throw in a tad of occasional orientalism and you're good.
This is media art for people who don't know much about media. A quote about Rafman says "Rafman's skill is taking the bizarre and normalizing it, meanwhile forcing the mundane to become mystical" when only the latter is kinda true most of the time, to the work's detriment: He uses very tame material, pieces it together and gives it an unsettling synthwavey soundtrack. Sometimes he intercuts it with a woman stomping on a lobster, juxtaposed with with a calming voice-over just to be sure and heighten the shock value. I'm struggling to see the appeal of most of his videos to anyone who knows anything about the sub cultures and technologies he explores because the exploration stays very surface-level and basic. It just rings so hollow. On the other hand, it's not like there's nothing to like about him. He knows how to structure a video, which is rare enough, his self-indulgent poetry and the decontextualized voice snippets have little edge, but the prose is not too grandiose - it just feels so obviously added to the source material and "Legendary Reality" especially seems like a Dear Esther fan film - and the animations he produces (or commissions) have a nice creepy automated-YouTube-content-for-children-meets-Geocities-nostalgia quality to them, but other than that, I'd describe his work as the Doki Doki Literature Club of media art: Very loud, very obvious, kinda judgmental but ultimately safe for the viewer who knows he's not 'meant' with this, and exciting to those who don't know much about the medium it's commenting on. "A Man Digging", the video I share here, combines the best and worst of his work. It's well written, beautifully shot and structured. But if you know what Max Payne is and what video game culture is and how it operated around 2012, it's got the depth of a slightly experimental RockPaperShotgun review without the context. And don't get me wrong, I like RockPaperShotgun. But they know they aren't being artsy when they report about funny glitches in a game's code or highlight a new Doom mod, or, you know, just comment on the spectacle that is video game violence, as video game outlets often do.
Sam Barlow: Aisle
What's that? Another piece of IF? Oh my.
If 9:05 was still too conventional for some, this oldie surely isn't. Very melodramatic, still kinda fun. Link to the IFDB page because of the handy walkthrough.
Lu Yang: Uterus Man
I once shared a work I dislike and that helped me sort my thoughts a great deal, so here's another one. The difference here is that I get what this one's about and acknowledge its entertainment and 𝖆𝖊𝖘𝖙𝖍𝖊𝖙𝖎𝖈 values and I really like the creativity that went into Uterus Man, but in the end it's just one long and increasingly boring feature trailer about a not too radical concept (wonderfully executed though) that even ends up defeating itself. The titular Uterus Man is a blank slate, a zero-personality bishōnen whose only trait is that he is this extremely organ-based superhero, and trans and inter people are reduced to their sex organs (or ostensive lack thereof) and sex life (or ostensive too much of it) far too often for this to not seem weirldy uncercooked and 'so what?' at the same time. The weaponization of female bodies is nothing new either, although in only very rare cases, it's the non-virginal genital era that is seen as active, powerful or downright magical (aside from some womyn-born womyn branches of feminism that borrow a lot from predominantly western interpretations or imaginations of native cultures), and the unusual perspective is nice, and while I cannot see much gender essentialism in the video, simply applying the usual anime, superhero and internet kitsch with some space wallpapered in the background just doesn't do it here. You can take the message "A uterus gives you superpowers" away from the video, and that's a terrible opinion to have. Superpowers do not come from a feminist (or egalitarian, if you're so inclined, but I hope you're not) mindset - they come from a place where superiority is still an ideal and being a superhero basically means being a lawless vigilante applying their own moral code to their surroundings and no one can do anything about it because the heroes are just right. There's a reason why superheroes are mainly (not exclusively) fantasies of little kids and adolescent boys. Japanese-style heroes can differ from the formula a bit, but it's still mainly about prophecies and chosen ones and biological or cultural exceptionalism. I don't think reimagining female-coded biology into a concept that has its very own harmful mechanics and tropes can do much good except for the shoulder shrug I had after watching Uterus Man for the first time, followed by a "Yeah. Why not", then followed by a "But rather not".
Lu Yang belongs to a strange subset of successful digital media artists whose primary mode of expression can be distilled to a deeply rooted, schmalzy-sentimental digital esotericism whose vaporwavey idiosyncrasies just seem to exist for the heck of it. In interviews, Lu Yang emphasises on how her work is unpolitical (oh boy) and how she's a lonely internet kid who learned big life lessons from anime, which is too much of this to be palatable. Maybe I'm just done with the fetishization of the digital as an anti-material, inclusive, everything-goes-medium made for truly anti-individualistic self-expression; because that definition pretty much sums up any material fetishism.
Adam Cadre: 9:05
Interactive Fiction will probably never fully reach a mainstream audience because people who like to read books prefer books and people who play video games prefer video games, and the IF crowd is trapped somewhere in between, trying to explain the difference between text adventure and IF to people who are largely not interested in that distinction. There was this sudden heightened interest in the medium around 2013-15 thanks to a godsend named Twine, so we have that - but parser-based IF? Nah. There's nothing to be done about it, that stuff is still predominantly written for people who write IF themselves or are fine with having a really, really fringe interest neither their bookish nor their nerdy friends will take seriously. And then there's the discussion if parsers are even necessary, like, couldn't it all just be clickable links or choice boxes?
9:05 would be terrible in every other available medium.
9:05 works in no other format but parser-based IF (well, maybe as a very, very old school verb-based point'n'click, but it'd still feel like an adaptation).
It's glorious. Oh, and very particular about everything. Don't expect this to be anything but opaque and tedious. And funny. Very funny.
Oh, and before I forget: Adam Cadre also hosts the much-needed Lyttle Lytton Contest, which, I quote, challenges entrants to pen the world’s most atrocious first line to a novel. Go read that if IF is not for you after all, for it is the literary contest we want and deserve.
Rosemarie Trockel: es war nacht, es war kalt, und wir hatten viel getrunken (it was night, it was cold, and we had drunk a lot)
I giggled for a second because it was funny how unfunny it was, then it became all the funnier because it's five minutes long.
WillyElektrix: Void Pyramid
"Void Pyramid is a post-apocalyptic RPG set in the space-faring Egyptian empire." - its creator
I am positive that this game has been created in the Official Hamster Republic Role Playing Game Creation Engine because I'd recognize that engine anywhere. And yes, that is a real engine. It's been a minute since I played Void Pyramid, but this game oozes atmosphere like few others do, thus I remember it perfectly. The color palette is eerie and feels as if the pixels themselves are of advanced age; the Ancient Egyptian pyramid in space captures the wonderfully abstract settings of late eighties' and early nineties' 2D video games (including the exoticism video games can't get away from, but it somehow feels more like a take on how stories involving Ancient Egypt are told instead of actually trying to portray its culture), and overall, there is great attention to proper, Porpentine-powerful levels of language and spatial detail, starting with the map actually being a pyramid. I rarely feel like going on digital adventures anymore, but Void Pyramid with its warm and muted colors and slow pace and absolutely basic RPG elements was an invitation I had to follow. If you're one for the 𝖆𝖊𝖘𝖙𝖍𝖊𝖙𝖎𝖈 of older hardware limitations but free of nostalgia for the actual games of that era and don't expect to be treated like it's still 1995, promise, just with better internet and worse internet etiquette, play Void Pyramid.
Berthold Woltze: Der lästige Kavalier (The irritating Gentleman)
It's so rare that a painting becomes a meme without relying on the Impact typeface and some variation of "Everytime this happens..." written on it. Even though this painting is an "Everytime this happens..." par excellence. It made its round in the tumblrsphere five years ago and it never ceases to amuse me when it resurfaces. Here's an explanation of why this image is jarring by a tumblrian who even uses borderline legible CSS.
About Woltze I can say that his overarching leitmotif in his paintings seems to be sad-faced people sitting.
Peter Greenaway: A Walk Through H
I assume this is the most popular thing I ever posted...? I guess...? See, this is where it gets hard for me: The people I know are usually much like me, which means they like art and know a bit about it, and Peter Greenaway belongs to our collective basic repertoire, other than people like Stan Brakhage, Nicky Case or Redlettermedia, who are a bit more special interest for the artsy crowd even though they might be considered more popular to a general audience. Greenaway currently isn't as much of a must-see thing as Hito Steyerl, who however might be forgotten in another twenty years, and less of a household name than Rembrandt, Meese, Barney or Abramovic, but like wallpaper, he's always in the background.
For those who are unfamilar with his work: Greenaway is a British art film dude who has three huge obsessions: Flemish painting, the number 92, and building up his alter ego Tulse Luper. Just as (raging antisemite) Patricia Highsmith never quite let go of her beloved psychotic Tom Ripley or film studios from the seventies to the nineties couldn't let their slasher villains rest, Greenaway never let go of Luper, who seems more psychotic the more works involving him Greenaway produces. There's even a video game about this guy (looking at you, Tom Ripley). Getting seriously into Greenaway is a long-time commitment, but A Walk Through H is just a pleasing one-night stand that you tell your friends about and maybe you even call back once in a while. Or you forward the number.
David Schirduan, Marshall Miller: 200 Word RPG Challenge
Most of the entries I have read so far were either funny, interesting, or full-blown social experiments. More and more I get the impression that the tabletop RPG scene has worked itself through improv theatre, performance art and the concept of author function without anyone outside noticing.
Robert Yang: Cobra Club HD
To quote from his itch.io page: "Robert Yang makes surprisingly popular games about gay culture and intimacy" - this is a very humble self-description given the fact that I remember few games more fondly than The Tearoom and Cobra Club HD. Yang doesn't fall into any of the usual traps many an artistic game designer falls prey to: He knows the difference between abstraction and oversimplification, does not ask leading questions, and presents no scenarios that do have one-sentence answers or just indulge in a cynical shittiness of being. Nothing he releases aims to be hardcore intellectualism and yet his vignettes of gay culture are much more intelligently made and less on the nose than many many of the contrived artworks you find on your usual intersectional Venice Biennial.
Christo & Jeanne-Claude: Running Fence
Never have I laughed more at people in a courtroom than when I watched the documentary footage about Running Fence for the first time. I was a very condescending and frankly disrespectful teen and enjoyed it far too much. I still don't understand the protestors at all and I still don't see where they're coming from, but watching it today, I find this rather baffling than funny, and paradoxically far more likely than I did some years ago. Here's a sufficiently sweet article about the project and its impact on the Sonoma and Marin counties in northern California, which by the way looks like a lovely region landscape-wise.
Claudio Bravo: Phantoms of the supermarket and Abdullah and sponges
Bravo is another guilty pleasure artist of mine. I know full well I should dislike everything he does for a gazillion reasons. But c'mon. Show me another figurative painter finding something 𝖆𝖊𝖘𝖙𝖍𝖊𝖙𝖎𝖈 in two bags of sponges next to a man in a leather jacket. And he never likened himself to the photorealists, which is a plus. It's not naive or superficial painting like your Gottfried Helnweins (whose spectacular child portraits I hate) and your Heinrich Vogelers (whose scenes are way less subtle when seen in person) or that terrible, horrible, no good, very bad phase of early Gerhard Richter we're still all trying to work into an unembarassing canon. But he's also not playing it up like his work is super-deep'n'shit. Nah. He's the baked potato of figurative painting. He's comfort food. And he's here for some good old-fashioned family-value 𝖆𝖊𝖘𝖙𝖍𝖊𝖙𝖎𝖈.
Rosa Menkman: Dear Mr. Compression
Since glitch art has finally reached the social mediaverse and is slowly replacing polaroid nostalgia, might as well post a piece by the authority on the subject. Also, this.
PS: I once picked up the notion that glitch art is just a digitally colonialized and more angsty version of wabi-sabi, and I embrace that notion.
Nicky Case: We Become What We Behold
Case and I disagree on a number of things, mainly that I am fairly certain that game theory is not at all applicable to humans and he likes to use it to explain or describe human behaviour - which is fine. It's far from being a useless theory, it just has the flaws of most theoretical models which are applied long after a field has developed as far as the multiple fields it tries to subsumize. Case's earlier work is a tad more anarchic and unfocused and personal and more on the "Let's play with code" side of things, and it's also much more blunt and funny, in a way. We become what we behold is the worst of both worlds - a blunt, undercomplex and straightforward narrative trying to theorize about human behaviour. And it's good! It's funny! It escalates madly! And it makes the accidental point of how terrifying it is how many, many people believe "the media" works.
Le Corbusier: Modulor
First time linking to a Wikipedia page.
Here's something admirable and fun that is also a huge failure: Modulor, a system of measurement birthed from the mind of no other than Le Corbusier. It is admirable because it is an attempt to take the human body as an ideal system to base architectural mathematics on, fun because it's interesting to read about and experiment with, and a failure because it fails so damn hard. See, Modulor would be an ideal system if a) all humans were cis men and b) all cis men were six feet tall.
And if that didn't make you want to host a parade for more body positivity (and gender equality) in architecture retroactively (we're talking the 1940s), let's also take into account that these men had to be trim, so body diversity is also not really a thing here, and that the mathematics didn't really matter as much as English detective novels describing good-looking men.
So if you are a trim, six feet tall cis man, moving into one of Corbusier's buildings might be your ideal living situation. Or not. There is discussion about how much of the system is just shiny bollocks.
Friedman/Smith/Sawchyn: the Fluxus Performance Workbook
Contains the Lighting Piece by Ono that I mentioned earlier on this list. A quite good collection of Fluxus performance pieces for all of us to re-enact. Random favourites: Larry Miller: Visit: "Visit a caged animal regularly" and George Brecht: Symphony No. 1: "Through a hole." (Having just played through Donut County, especially that last one makes total sense.)
Sonia Delaunay: The Three Women and Propeller
The first time that I could not decide on one piece, because Delaunay's body of work goes in all sorts of different directions. Orphism, fashion design, geometric abstraction, collabs with poets, she's done it all. And since her practice was so manifold, I simply went for the two works I spontaneously liked the most.
Piero di Cosimo: The Return from the Hunt
Piero di Cosimo is a lesser known Renaissance painter (a contemporary of both Leonardo and Michelangelo, though), and the Return from the Hunt is one of his even lesser known works. And it's so interesting! Probably hugely influenced through De Rerum Natura, we, for a change, see a Renaissance painting interested in the dawn of man from an angle that strongly suggests that there was an idea of something like a stone age around the 1500s already. Okay, there were satyrs in this version and that might look silly know, but then let's please remind ourselves that some people have very silly ideas about how the world looked like a couple thousand years ago to this date. Probably most of us.
Talking about di Cosimo's style, let's call it the awkward years of the late Quattrocento/early Cinquecento; the Renaissance puberty, maybe. He didn't adopt all the new cool and hip techniques and topics the younglings used, but he also didn't quite fit in with the older folks. A weird in-betweenish state in which, boom, suddenly a stone age painting shows up. Chubby people in furry Tarzan loincloths. In 1508. That's how awesome this is.
Lorna Simpson: You're Fine, You're Hired
I'm a sucker for works examining image/text relations. Simpson, by now, seems to have moved on to collage-centered works, an art form I sadly never found lasting access to, no matter which format or material was used. But Simpsons' eighties stuff, that, for me personally, works perfectly. And You're Fine, You're Hired is so extremely dark and technocratic.
Additionally, throughout the eighties she photographed people from behind, and not one art critic ever (well, at least online. My catalogue collection is small because catalogues are huge and heavy and expensive and full of drivel that sounds like it was written by Andrew Anglin if he actually knew stuff) drew a parallel to Caspar David Friedrich? That's not fair. Everybody who presents people from behind needs to be compared to him, no matter if neither the aesthetic, movement, intent or technique match. There are things in art we can not leave behind.
Joseph Ritter von Führich: Aristomenes im Steinbruch (Aristomenes in the quarry)
Welcome to the least known work I will probably ever post! I don't even think it's been printed in any other catalogue than the one I'm linking to. So there's that.
Remember when in one of my texts I hinted at there being some naked sexy unconscious or dead men in art history? Well, let's ogle at some of them! And let's add the word "oily" to the description, because boy oh boy, these are some oily boys. And they're dead! And sexy! Seriously, this is obviously not a work to jerk off about. It's about a very little-known Ancient Greek myth (isn't it always?) and it's a very contemplative piece about symbolism. Have you even seen the fox there in the left? It's ALL ABOUT THIS FOX. It makes you want to contemplate really hard.
Honestly, I've seen this drawing in the original and I like it and its composition, oily dudes or not. But for a bunch of corpses, the dudes are really really not-decomposing and not-harmed-at-all.
The link will lead you to a German catalogue excerpt, and the image I'm talking about is on page 7.
On Kawara: Date Paintings (Today)
When leafing through other people's sketchbooks, I often find dates scribbled underneath the sketches (I never know what time it is and therefore never bothered with mine), and that's often much more interesting than the sketch itself - getting its context. Kawara eliminated everything from his paintings but the context.
Kawara's paintings need to be seen in person. That's where they are paintings and not conceptual art: The made-ness of them, for me, is an essential part of their appeal. The concept in itself is good enough, but not exactly fascinating. But standing in front of these is: The viewer can ask themselves "What did I do on that day? What did I think about?" and they can see, physically, what another person made on exactly that day, and can roughly estimate how far the two of them where apart from one another. And the questions the viewer asks themselves don't even have to lead anywhere. We forget most of our lives. Kawara probably forgot most of his paintings. Because he was strict in his approach, he could be sure he made this one painting on that special day, but in the end, they aren't that much markers of time as they are vestiges in time. And vestiges need to be looked at instead of heard about.
In a way, these paintings are fossils from the very beginning of their existence. The actions of looking at a dinosaur's skull and at a Kawara painting showing a date you don't remember - maybe because you weren't even born yet - feel very similar.
Charles Bukowski: 16 bit Intel 8088 chip
Bukowski is my guilty pleasure. You're not supposed to like him if you consider yourself even a half-assed intellectual. He is the poet for people who never grew out of puberty and have no problem idolizing violent alcoholics with questionable views on women and the law in general. But the thing is, as indifferent as I probably would have been about Bukowski in person, his writing still makes me happy, no matter how much he and his contemporary Raymond Carver led to a generation of writers fetishizing poverty and 'simpler times'. He has humor many poets simply lack and I love all of his writing on computers because he was one of the few who did not dismiss the approaching digital age back then. Heck, if you type "bukowski computer poem" in the search engine of your choice, you'll even find multiple poems dealing with the ambivalence this guy in his then-early seventies felt towards machines that randomly crashed and deleted his stuff, but also were just such great omens of what was about to come.
So, thumbs up for the computer age poems of an alcoholic most people prefer the fantasy of paying 300 dollars for an old car and having an affair with a younger woman called Holly about.
Adam Ledoux: Bitsy Editor
I know the proper term is "Bitsy Game Maker", but I prefer the word editor so much that for once, I won't bother using the correct title.
I often assume that everybody in my vicinity already knows about this, and oftentimes they don't, and then I bother them until they succumb to my babbling about it and try it, because Bitsy is the greatest, and I've seen digital experiences created with it Cory Arcangel couldn't come up with in a million years. Also, cat mascot! Almost as good as the Adventure Game Studio mascot, which is a teacup, and also referenced in Bitsy (I'm convinced it is a reference!) - yeah, all in all: I managed to teach children how to build labyrinths with this in just about under ten minutes. 10/10.
Virilio, Renfro et al.: EXIT
I personally don't think of this as great art and I believe the creators would hesitate to even call this art at all. What it is is great data visualization, which is an art in itself. Giving the viewer a connection to numbers and pixels is no easy task.
Damián Ortega: Puente
I like his humour, but even more do I like the fantastic drivel art institutions put next to images of his body of work. They could also write "We want people without an art degree to feel stupid when confronted with this, so we'll only give a description of the piece to people who apply with their educational and employment history via post." I mean, c'mon. It's Ortega. This is an artist you could explain accurately in very simple language to literal children. And that is fine. It's simple, not stupid.
Joseph Beuys: Sonne statt Reagan (Sun instead of Reagan/Rain)
Think of the guy with no detectable sense of fashion what you like, he was dedicated to his cause - to his own personal detriment.
My favorite work of his is 7000 Oaks, but the three minutes I spent listening to this song for the first time are hands down in my top ten musical experiences of whatever year that was. Maybe even of that decade. I listened to a lot of shitty music as a kid.
If you have no idea who Joseph Beuys was, think of him as the pied piper of environmentalist and anti-war art. He was a guy who didn't care if the common man liked his ideas. He'd force them into agreeing through determination and whackiness, and he'd work with whoever was available (also to his detriment - we're talking post-war Germany here) to further his agenda, which included planting trees in a city that back then was still convinced that anything green within the city boundaries would just amount to a huge nuisance and *gasp* nesting sites for those nasty defecating bird-thingies, and living with a coyote for four days in an American-based gallery (while making sure he would not see a millimeter of the USA outside of said gallery) until the coyote kinda liked him - just like all of us. Gotta respect the great shaman and his atrocious almost-rapping.
Look here for additional info and here for a translation to this brilliant piece of songwriting mastery. Not recommended if you think Ronald Reagan was somewhere in the "okay" area. I know, shocking.
Nancy Holt: Sun Tunnels
Haven't been there yet. Would love to go.
Less grandiose version of Turrell, oftentimes.
Adrian Piper: The Probable Trust Registry - The Rules of the Game #1-3
How for once about a work I really, really dislike?
Unless this work is meant as an exceptionally ironic piece - or re-enactment of Brazil - I find just everything about it wrong. What is this? Is this a jab at the idea of 21st century art enthusiasts only being receptive to the idea of leading a moral life through contractual pressure? What kind of priggish idea is 'I will always mean what I say'? - yeah sure. That sounds like a good idea if you're ten. No matter from which direction I approach this piece, it's either a naive, stiflingly straightforward brute force of unrelenting exceptionlessness or a mediocre attempt at being funny. Even the idea of bestowing people the moral high ground over themselves by applying this Freudian contractual superego and then also implying that the morals to be applied are either universal - and then, frankly, unattainable - or subjective enough to be of no effect at all sounds like planting the roots of a mental disorder into the minds of people who take the work seriously to any degree, which fortunately will not be the case because why should they? If they really want to be moral (to these standards even), the contract was unnecessary, and if they don't, it was pointless. So is this not meant to pressure people, but rather to give them the means to pat themselves on the back legally? Riveting.
What does the artist think of her audience?
If you've run into the piece too and liked it, or just have a different opinion on it in general, feel free to try and surprise me with your interpretation. I would actually like to find out that I just didn't get it.
Christina Kubisch: Electrical Walks
Good stuff. Mobile sound art. Feels a bit like an audio version of "They Live".
John Cage/Dead Territory: 4'33
Does it bother me that 4'33 is the most well-known piece by John Cage and taken as a joke by many people that don't really know what the guy was about? That metal bands cover it for clicks and funsies?
No, not at all. It's one of the only ways to convince a great many people that post-war avant-garde had humour.
To see how serious Cage was about his compositions, see him here.
Yeah, he wasn't too serious. Good on him.
Guy Debord: The Society of the Spectacle
I'm a little baffled to read that this book is being read in philosophy/media studies/political science classes. I like this piece, I find it funny and entertaining and poignant and incredibly simple, generalizing, repetitve and unscientific - and if you've ever talked to a philosopher/political scientist who is not just some hack giving life advice and explaining Eyes Wide Shut with a cursory reading of Freud, you know that being accurate and scientific is kind of their thing. This thing here has a reddit post's credibility and a Facebook rant's accidental honesty.
That's what makes it good and entertaining and infuriating. It's a quote farm that falls apart if you think about it too much. It's great.
Felix Gonzalez-Torres: Candy Spills
I recently read that certain STDs are making the rounds again because people get more relaxed about it since HIV is over or something. Only that it's not and I really wish that we never again need to have an artist like Gonzalez-Torres dedicating his work to his deceased intimate partner and a politically ostracized epidemic. Don't get me wrong, this is beautiful and sad and multi-layered; I just wish for there to never again be a need to get people's attention focussed on the fact that STDs fucking exist and are killing people and it's not just a thing that happens to people who are not you and that anyone can choose to ignore.
Jenny Holzer: The future is stupid
At times, Holzer is a little bit to cool for me. With that I mean that it's cool for non-art people to like her and therefore even cooler for art people to like her because she belongs to the "hip" branch of conceptual art. High school kids like her - that should be the single biggest warning sign. The same high schoolers who like Hermann Hesse and Simpsonwave and who are not yet aware that every high schooler who liked Hermann Hesse ever asked themselves what's wrong with their generation, these high schoolers like Holzer.
And, admittedly, Holzer's truisms have been repeated so often that they have become absolutely meaningless, which is exactly what Andy Warhol wanted to achieve with his reproductions and utterly failed to do.
Sure, it's not easy being an aphorist in the 20th and 21st century. Aphorists generally attract the wrong audience - people who like aphorisms, for example. People who kinda see the irony in a t-shirt with the infamous "Abuse of power comes as no surprise" print, but think that's stylish, that it's so ironic and true at the same time.
I won't go into depths why Holzer's scholarly fans aren't any better. They say basically the same stuff, just differently worded. It's a bit fancier if you bring up McLuhan.
With all of that out of the way - Holzer's coolness is indeed undeniable. And it's just great that between all of her hauntingly simple, yet poignant truisms like "Murder has its sexual side" and "Myths make reality more intelligible" combo-breaking stupid shit like "Stupid people shouldn't breed" and "The future is stupid" shows up. And owning a footstool made of granite or marble that I cannot touch because it's an invaluable artwork telling me that the future is stupid is a personal dream of mine.
Tacita Dean: The Green Ray
This film is a film in the literal sense and does not work digitally. But this is the digital age, and as long as analogue reproductions cannot be sent to an infinite amount of people via the digital highway, there's little I can do about that. Find the green ray in your imagination.
Dean is one of those who still believe in analogue film. I've never worked with the material and can neither support nor dispute her argument. And I'm not quite hipster enough to just say that it's cool 'cause it's retro.
Her work helped me understand, as an artist statement, why digital and analogue filming are not interchangeable for many.
Claude Cahun: Selbstporträt
Not many women were in the surrealist movement (probably because in the movement's manifesto, everything female was "the Other" that needed to be depicted, P.S. I dislike Dalì and his paintings are flat and boring when seen in real life - I PROMISE they are underwhelming at best), but this jewish lesbian communist snuck in, casually, while surviving the Second World War and all the other disagreeable things likely to happen to someone like her in the first half of the 20th century, and then some. Kudos, ma'am.
Also, great photography.
Etel Adnan: Untitled
Many of her paintings bear no title. Stylistically, she reminds me of Alex Katz at times, with the exception that I absolutely detest Katz's paintings - they make me unwell in many ways (and knowing that that is not his intention - he just likes rich people and Soho - makes it worse), while Etal Adnan's paintings at their worst might be too calm. They tend to look monothematical and rough, but they have a very clear composition and a visual clarity hardly reproducable on a computer screen. Also, look at all that jagged and skewed geometry. Delightful.
Omer Fast: Talkshow
If you're interested in how the stories and narrative structures we learnt since we were kids, especially if we were exposed to the usual tropes that accompany your average blockbuster movie, structure our capacity to listen and memorize stories that do not quite fit the mold, this is an accurate representation of that. Our brains are mushy garbage and words are evil and Omer Fast is very good at bringing up painful subjects and dismantle all the layers of clichéd storytelling by first thoughtfully stacking them onto his subject matters. It's just great, and close to unwatchable. I find this video so unbelievably painful.
Käthe Kollwitz: Never Again War
This lady came to this conclusion more than a hundred years ago. Man, did we make progress.
It's easy to dismiss Kollwitz as a starry-eyed socialist artist from the last century - even taking into account that she lost her son on the battlefield and her permission to show her work in nazi Germany. There's just something incredibly dated around her style, probably because the lithographs especially have been so widely reproduced. I remember seeing a lot of her earlier works as illustrations in history school books, and even though on closer examination I don't find them any less jarring than Goya's Desastres de la guerra, the images accompanying tenth-grader-friendly text about the first half of the twentieth century weren't exactly flattering for either side. Her political inclination makes it easy to just appreciate her if one agrees with her specific point of view on stuff, but if that stuff includes less poverty and suffering and no more wars, I'm all for it.
This image is barely something one would call a work if it was from any other artist - it's a poster and not remotely as impressive as many of her other works, but it is recognizable and carefully worded: She doesn't say that we need to live peacefully or have to like one another or see the other side's points as valid or any of that mushy stuff. Just plain, simple: no more wars. And it already implies that "not doing war" is an active process - the activist she portrayed isn't just sitting there peacefully, happy with how there's no war right now, but actively trying to protect that state. I'm fine with that, sitting here, comfortably, hoping for the best.
Daniel Buren: 4 Gateways
Buren is a shill and a hack and a sellout and my hero. He went from analytical painting and institutional critique to doing shows for Louis Vuitton. That's definitely selling out, but gracefully.
Also, these gates. Yes. That's a bunch of good gates right there. I was there. They're the good stuff.
Peter Doig: Architect's Home in the Ravine
I'm not a huge fan of contemporary figurative painting (but I'm not too biased - neither am I a fan of contemporary abstract painting), but my god, Doig's kitsch hits the target that is my dead and barren heart. I don't even find his style that interesting or unusual or his choice of motif that good or his visual language that eloquent; but knowing that he works from photograpgy, I am continuously smitten with how a photograph that would be considered uninteresting at best and utterly failed and amateurish at worst translates into a painting that is actually worth spending your time with. I wouldn't gravitate to Blotter or Night Playground at all if they were photographs, but with oil on canvas, they're suddenly amazing; maybe because the little gap between the actual scenes and the differently coloured paints on a two-dimensional space requires just an inch more work from our brains than a photograph would do.
Lotte Reiniger: The Adventures of Prince Achmed
(I couldn't find an English version, but the story is easy enough to understand.)
There are copious amounts of orientalism in this film. Just to make sure no one is surprised about that in a film made between 1923 and 1926 by a German director. On the other hand, not one hint of islamophobia, which is refreshing, and almost all of the story's good guys are muslim. And the story's bestest guy is a witch - how often does that happen? (I know this is a naïve reading. Bite me.)
The Adventures of Prince Achmed is the oldest surviving animated feature film, and it employs effects that are even used in present-day cinema. How cool is that? In general, why aren't we all aiming to be as cool as Lotte Reiniger? Just saying, we didn't invent revolutionary new animation techniques to further both the art of cinema and the art of papercutting, an art form thought of as rather low and female for the better portion of its existence, did we? No, we didn't do that.
Reza Farazmand: Apocalypse Scenario #253
I love Farazmand's storytelling. He's one of the few web comic artists who know the difference between random and absurdist and went for the latter option. No awkward attempts at philosophy, no pandering, no unneeded relatableness. He comes from the standard web comic background of 'random and relatable' and thankfully grew out of it and now it's all weirdly emotionally detached pastel animals that, I am afraid, will at some point start to make meta jokes about being in a web comic, at which point PDL will become unreadable. But for now, it's fine.
What unifies Farazmand's various characters is that they all seem to agree that the world is in an almost unfixable state of chaos and uncertainty, but instead of panicking, most of them quietly and calmly try to find their place in it in the most selfish way possible. They are past morals, caring, or being emotionally supportive or understanding of one another, but somehow not past naïvety. They even understand that they have an influence on the world and their perception of it, but lacking a vision of a better version of their surroundings, they don't change themselves or anything else. It's a perfectly nihilistic universe without trying to be edgy or gut-punching or brutal. It's a calm, lazy and unmoving nihilism that shows no remorse for any collateral damage.
James Turrell: Roden Crater
Today in "the art world's most beloved vaporware": Roden Crater. I've been waiting for this piece of shit to open to the public for 12 freaking years or so - and it's been in the works for roughly 40 years already. So, yeah, Duke Nukem forever is nothing against this. I'm at the point now that I believe this thing won't be done as long as Turrell is alive, and once he's pushing up the daisies, the Dia Art Foundation might actually finish the job in a week or two.
A lot of the delay comes from financing issues, but still: You have to pay around 6500$ right now to be allowed to visit this place ONCE, and it's not even finished - if you still have friends who preorder or buy stuff in early access, you might have experienced some of the most disappointed customers you'll ever see, and also have seen what my mood probably would have been if I had ever succumbed to my urge to pay this fucking fortune.
About the piece itself and why it's interesting: This is probably the most American attempt ever to build a literal contemporary ruin. If you're a space or astronomy nerd, come join me in my impatience: it's a naked-eye observatory masking as land art, made by a guy making all of his awe-inspiring light installation art solely to further this place that, for all I know, is still just a collection of inaccessible stone and short vimeo videos that don't tell me much more than the VHS tapes I watched years ago to garner information about it. All that's really changed over the years is the opening date, which has always been pushed further away; now there's not even a definite date anymore. Much like the end time prophecies of Jehovah's Witnesses.
Wangechi Mutu: Shoe Shoe
Remember when the worst president the USA ever had was George W. Bush?
This is such an interesting relic from that time, and a wonderful thing to bring up when the 'timelessness' of 'true' art is thrown into any conversation. This video's time has come and gone. The aspect ratio isn't disconcerting enough anymore because we're very used to phone screens now, and not a great many people would think of this as CCTV footage. Throwing shoes no longer evokes Iraq or Bush, and I think it doesn't even allude much to defiance anymore. I'd even argue that much of Mutu's entire practice is falling out of time rapidly - magazine cutouts and collage paintings don't evoke everyday commodities like magazines anymore because magazines have not been regular to the point of overabundance for years. Her works about identity still ring true, but the invisibility of black women and the overall idea of blackness have garnered considerable attention over the years, albeit, mostly in pop culture and some academic congresses and very little in the things that constitute history and the sciences as they are currently still established. She's stepping up her game with CGI a bit, but still I think the collage has been mostly replaced by the remix and isn't quite old enough yet to be embraced as a retro technique.
Shoe Shoe is such an idiosyncratic, odd thing. It's so definitely from a very specific and narrow time period and place and made for such a confined audience - all creative work is, but this is just fresh enough for me to be able to deduce exactly how and for whom it was intended, but still already see its meaning and general validity fall apart and vanish.
Connor Sherlock: TRIHAYWBFRFYH
The first game I played on gamejolt and the first time I experienced the work of Connor Sherlock, who has become sort of a mild celebrity in the walking simulator addict scene, probably the smallest and most benign scene to be a celebrity in next to the probably three remaining fans of Hareraiser.
I love this.
Levina Teerlinc: ?
One of the ideas of Wölfflin never seriously adopted by anyone is his proposal of an art history without names - yeah, no, we like our ridiculous superstars (what's a dead rotting shark in a tank without an artist behind it?) and Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni is a very beautiful name, thankyouverymuch. BUT there are artists without works, it turns out, and I'm not even remotely hinting at Tehching Hsieh. Some artists' works have just been forgotten by time (or burned in the fire at Whitehall) - at least that's the case for Levina Teerlinc, who seems to have been a remarkable artist serving as a painter to the English Court of Henry VIII all the way to Elizabeth I and who earned four times the salary of her predecessor, Hans Holbein the Younger, and more than any other court artist for the next couple decades - but of whom no single certified artwork survived. Here are some more links, though most of them bear the same information.
Not a huge fan of historical fiction, but this might just be the perspective of choice for a cool "personal retelling of the Tudor dynasty" story. Just sayin'.
Jay Bauman: Daily Vlog
I strongly believe Bauman is an exceptional experimental film maker who had such a horrible film school experience that he decided to ignore his calling and just goes on directing stuff like Space Cop in a desperate attempt to seem cynical and definitely not an artsy-fartsy dude, no, he just knows every art house film ever made out of a passive interest, promise, can't you see he's holding a beer while talking, like, not even art student brand beer. Sure, his focus is on narrative indie and horror stuff instead of all-the-way experimental goodness, but that can be fixed. Part of him dreams of a video exhibition at MoMa and deeply respects the art weirdos he likes to satirize. One day he'll go serious with the undercut thing and wear the nerd glasses unironically and grow a gruesome art student beard and go completely wild editing an episode of Best of the Worst into something unwatchable for anybody who didn't sit through the entirety of Ryan Trecartin's oeuvre before and then it's time to come out of the closet and it will be fine. We're nice people here at the artsy-fartsy side.
Until then, he tips his hand a bit with his daily vlog.
Pierre Bourdieu/Herwin Simon: Field theory
There's a soccer thing going on in the world right now, so to commemorate this very unexciting event, here's something about soccer that's absolutely not about soccer, but about sociology.
Pierre Bourdieu is pretty much a standard for hip young YouTube sociologists to produce comprehensive guides about, and all of them get the expected things right and other expected things wrong or just explain them not quite right. That's fine, I agree with some videos that got the entirety of Bourdieu's studies wrong more than I do with the actual studies, because I also am a young hip opinionated internet person and definitely not a sentient collection of quotes and footnotes.
So, for sociology and soccer: A charming little introduction into field theory.
Mika Rottenberg: Cheese
My personal favourite of Rottenberg - partly because it made the Venice Biennial '15 less shitty - is Time and a Half, but that's not fully available online anywhere, so let's go with another one that stands out. Rottenberg can seem like a one trick pony at times with her focus on women and labour, but this one is interesting because of its pointed efforts of presenting beauty ideals and rural Heidi nostalgia as means for fradulent business practices with a direct purpose - purposefulness isn't quite her thing usually. She also has the rare quality of not being annoying in interviews.
I read the term 'social surrealism' to describe her work, and it's not quite that - I don't agree with calling everything surrealism that resembles it on a surface level. But that's just me being nitpicky.
Have fun with a bunch of women using their long, silky hair to make cheese.
Merce Cunningham/Elliot Caplan: Beach Birds For Camera
Little do I know about dance, but I do know how to recognize a Merce Cunningham piece: The dancers and backgrounds must look like Star Trek TOS and TNG were intended as slow and depressing musicals.
Yoko Ono/sst1287: Lighting Piece
Performed by a Japan-based collective I haven't heard of since. The piece is over 60 years old already, and Yoko Ono is still around and still mainly remembered for her cameo in the Simpsons that was related to some stuff with a pop band some people seemed to prefer over things like Lighting Piece. How tasteless of them.
Walter De Maria: Vertical Earth Kilometer
If you're into art (who isn't?) and have some spare money and time get to Europe, you've probably been to documenta and it probably was pretty bad, because, well, I don't want to sound nostalgic here, but I'm not quite sure if the documenta without Joseph Beuys and his Fluxus entourage (fight me - I stand with the notion of the Fluxus people being utterly dependent on that weirdo's pedigree) is really anything else but an international curated circle jerk. But if you were there, you probably found out that Kassel couldn't get rid of some works from earlier shows - like the 7000 Oaks and Walter De Maria's Vertical Earth Kilometer, probably the only artwork about a one kilometer long piece of metal stuck in the earth's crust that could rather be described as "subtle" than "phallic". I mean, not terribly subtle, but comparatively - we're talking land art here. We're talking about a realm of art in which drawing circular motifs in gigantic dimensions is not seen as tacky.
Liz Ryerson: Problem Attic
Having read some articles by Ryerson, I don't think she and I are on the same page, which might be entirely a stylistic or choice-of-words problem, because I agree with a lot what she says - I just find some of her rhetoric too dogmatic or essentialist, possibly because she writes about the video games industry, which doesn't seem to be the nicest place in the world.
Her 2013 game Problem Attic now I find wonderfully anti-didactic and colorful and weird, I just wish the Venus and Mars symbols and the strict male/female dichotomy wouldn't show up in the late-game the way they do. For someone so hyper-aware of western depictions of gender, the usage of these particular figures is such an odd choice and narrows the game's scope immediately, even if it's just to disarm what they stand for. She trusts her audience quite a bit with her game design, so why such a trite allegory?
Brendan Vance also has a video on the piece which I find endearing. It takes him ten minutes to get going, but afterwards, it's a great lullaby accompanying an at least visually challenging experience.
Peggy McIntosh: White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack
How about something that's not fun? There's too much fun on the internet.
It speaks for McIntosh's influence on the subject matter that nothing on the list was particularly new for me when I first read it a few years ago. Still, I've seen the word 'privilege' been used quite... inappropriately (?) a couple dozen times online, especially when thought of as a slur or particularized to pieces or dismissed as a pubescent fever dream of tumblr teens. It's quite a harmless concept and the naive idealist in me believes that far fewer people would get so defensive about it if they had actually read a piece of primary literature about it. This is one of the easiest-to-read academic papers to ever be encountered, so - don't have fun, once in a while.
Alexandre-Auguste Robineau: Assaut d’armes Carlton House 9 avril 1787 d’Eon de Beaumont contre Saint George
If any asshole fetishizing Europe's simple binary white history ever gets on your nerves again, I beg you to show them this image of the Chevalier de Saint Georges, a classical composer, violinist, conductor, colonel and champion fencer of African ancestry, having a fabulous fencing match against la chevalière D'Eon, a spy, diplomat, soldier and Freemason who was either genderfluid, transgender, intersex, a really committed transvestite or all of the above, painted by a Catholic priest for George IV between 1787 and 1789. Don't forget to point out how everybody in the background seems to be very chill about the whole situation.
Then tell me what lousy rhetorical strategy they attempt to exploit to convince you that this is not representative of anything because it's actually the jews trying to trick you into believing that this is not a recent image from a masculinized beauty pageant or something.
David Tudor: Rainforest IV
Sound recordings can't really communicate the spatiality of the piece, but instead of a CD or tape with no imagery, this is an on-site recording with video footage from the place where everything was installed. Thumbs up for that.
Bruno R. Marcos: Arcade Game Studio
I wish I knew if Marcos is still working in the games industry. His website is gone (the last sentence written on it being "Closed" - now that's depressing) and his twitter feed hasn't been updated for three years total, and I must be really damn desperate to check someone's twitter. The Wayback Machine has some snapshots of his site, but there's no indication that any of the downloads still work. Luckily, Arcade Game Studio has made the rounds and is still available elsewhere.
I sometimes wonder why this hasn't more of a following, like Bitsy or Adventure Game Studio. Maybe because it's so middle-of-the-road - it's not as versatile as Adventure Game Studio and not as simple to use as Bitsy. But it's still damn versatile and still damn simple. You don't even need a tutorial to use it, yet there are some available (I tried to rationalize the racial stereotypes in this one to myself with it being a retro game reminiscent of 80's arcades and it still feels very wrong, so: watch out for racist imagery). But most beginners I talk to pretty much just want to make a platformer or a small pixel shooter (if they don't want to make "Pokémon, but with larger worlds and more Pokémon and better graphics and more stuff"), and this is pretty much the perfect tool if you don't have the time or means to learn programming. Heck, you can download some copyrighted pixel art from the Spriters Resource and have Sailor Moon in a shootout against an army of Pikachus in about half an hour, if you're so inclined.
To see the engine in action, a good start would be the Game of Thrones 8 bit game.
Isaac Julien: The Attendant
If you're new to the whole race/class/gender discussion because you're, I dunno, young, it might be slightly surprising for you that this is a 1993 film. Set in a museum devoted to the history of slavery and dealing with the sexual implications of power dynamics, it gets somewhat explicit, but it's the internet and we've all seen worse on the one day our ad blocker didn't work.
Jonas Kyratzes: Alphaland
I found the Talos Principle incredibly boring and somewhat tedious and always wondered why that might be; maybe because I had seen the settings in sci-fi movies of multiple decades and because "thinking in allegories" doesn't equal "philosophical", otherwise mother! might be considered somewhat interesting. Anyhow, I really couldn't get behind how pre-programmed disobedience could be an appealing concept. Then I saw that one of the writers of the game was Jonas Kyratzes and experienced an immediate throwback to Alphaland. Ahhh. That's why the game's boring. I've played it before, just without all the Christian motifs, and a character whose awakening comes without the player needing to delude themselves that binary choices lead to conscience. It's just a nice digital fairytale and that's it and that's how Kyratzes' works work best for me.
Agnes Martin: The Sea
Quite the atypical piece for her, at least in public conscience, I believe. People rather think of grids and very faint colors when they think of Martin, but I prefer the paintings that have a little more draftsmanship in them - the rather painterly ones are cool an all, but the more lines I see, the calmer I get, and Agnes Martin calms me down. Tremolo, Aspiration and, uhm, many of her works are simply named Untitled, are pretty good, too.
Somehow I tend to connect her with the works of On Kawara, even though they seem to be polar opposites conceptually. Sticking to the grid and the quite odd rectangular canvas shape make the paintings seem more conceptual and minimalist than abstract or expressionist, as Martin apparently saw them herself. Interviews she's given, though by now almost all sugar-coated with melancholic music and curator's opinions, are interesting to listen to, or read, if you're old-fashioned. Also, she looked like a Vulcan with emotions.
Vivian Maier: VM1975K05679-03-MC
Boy, what a name for an artwork.
I have issues with Vivian Maier. Not as an artist, but rather with how she's treated as one. The tradition of outsider art never sat well with me, as I often experience it as a way in which curators and dealers make a brand out of people who can't fight back. A lot of the things that form the legends around other outsiders seem to be repeated in her story, or at least the story John Maloof formed around her: She was working class, a loner, secretive, possibly had some mental issues (some people argue for high-functioning autism, but I'm not an expert and neither are people on the internet discussing a deceased woman), and was a compulsive hoarder.
I didn't know until yesterday evening that there was an Oscar-nominated movie about her, and from what I've seen so far, many of my fears seem to be confirmed: There's the tale of the accidental find (which is not true. I was around in 2010 and remember the original press coverage before all news about Maier where part of the same PR campaign), the (obvious) rejection by MoMa and other traditional art institutions, and in the end the ultimate pwnage of the elitist mainstream art industry who wouldn't see her genius yadda yadda yadda, because art is produced by solipsistic geniuses with no context or history in any sort of art community establishing something like a canon (not necessarily the canon of successful and recognized art) and it's on the PEEPLE to decide what's art, ya know. It's become a very American van Gogh tale by now, which is even stranger because she was rather French. I don't think the life stories of dead people with no relatives are fair game for the highest bidder, but if I can live with Joseph Mitchell's version of Joe Gould (and himself), I can live with John Maloof's version of Vivian Maier (and himself) - on the other hand, Gould and Mitchell at least knew one another.
Aaanyhow, what separates Maier from a "true" outsider like Miroslav Tichý, who is just bad and voyeuristic, is her apparent knowledge of what the fuck she's doing. There is a wit and an intellect in her photographs most naive or outsider artists simply lack because they themselves oftentimes don't plan their works as "art". I don't know if Maier did, but comparing her pictures with other prominent photographers' works of her time, one gets a feeling that she knew about them and about what was going on in street photography around her time.
So, apart from the obvious otherworldly nostalgia her pictures induce, I do think they have some artistic value that I suppose Maier was aware of. Photography is fucking hard and she nailed it so often that calling her an amateur would just be wrong.
Oh, that one photograph I linked? It makes me happy.
Vija Celmins: Concentric Bearings, B
Most photorealistic painters and draughtsmen are so boring it's unbelievable Celmins is one of them. I mean, look at that beautiful Kuleshov effect.
Celmins' art is very likeable - for anyone, including grandma. It's highly accessible, yet there's something to be seen outside of the "Hey, that looks like a photograph" effect. For one, she makes it known she paints and draws from photographs, even including the errors and scratches from the original sources. She has a thing for subjects without depth or perspective, making her quite abstract for a photorealist, and somehow less jejune than Gerhard Richter, whose comparable works look a lot more like Bob Ross trickery when juxtaposed with her fiddly lines. Second, once you do spot how it's been made, you practically see time. Dozens of hours of time in a few centimeters.
Oh, did I mention she also copied rocks once? It's the coolest shit.
Chris Marker: La Jetée
Sans Soleil is one of the most interesting films I've seen (but I haven't seen many, comparatively). La Jetée, by the same director, loses a bit in originality after years of slideshow-heavy YouTube content and still image storytelling in varying media, but this little art/sci-fi potpourri is from the sixties and, if Marker is to be believed, pretty much his own found footage cut into a movie, which makes it immediately interesting again (and I can forgive the Hitchcock influences. We all had a Hitchcock phase. It happens). In my tradition of gratuitously mentioning Bruce Willis, Ja Jetée has been adapted into a forgettable Hollywood movie starring Willis: 12 Monkeys, directed by no other than Terry Gilliam.
Cao Fei: RMB CITY - A Secondlife City Planning
Wondrously, this is a political movie.
Ellen Oredsson: How To Talk About Art History
Simple language, simple premise, good articles. Nothing mind-blowing, but also not meant to be. This is a blog for people interested in art history without any background or formal training in it, which should be a good portion. Many questions of our time answered, like: "What's the difference between self-portraits and selfies?", "What's up with these small penises?" and "Where are all the lesbians?"
Stuart Ashen: Hareraiser (The Worst Game Ever)
Ashens developed past reviewing Polystations, thankfully. While I enjoyed those reviews, I also enjoy not seeing the sofa once in a while. Hareraiser has been talked about a lot by people on the internet and elsewhere, but Stuart Ashen's entire shtick is reviewing things which are somewhat shitty while being relatively charming about it, so - this one's a home game.
Tilman Riemenschneider: Mary's Altar
Everybody needs a favourite uncool sculptor. Mine's this guy.
I can't gush about him as well as Januszczak does in this clip, but who could, honestly, gush like Januszczak? No other art critic sounds like a People magazine commentator describing Beyonce's gown on a red carpet event.
- Wait, no. Those people usually just sound tired and forced. So, no one sounds like Januszczak.
Anyway, Riemenschneider is the coolest and hottest in wood carving. Here's more. His emaciated saints and woolly Magdalena and stern, bitter elderly are fantastic, and if you live in an area close to one of his pieces, it's worth the travel. Here's a wiki containing a catalogue raisonné, sadly in German. But 'New York' reads 'New York' in most languages.
Vina Jie-Min Prasad: Fandom for Robots
Given the resurfacing of hardcore anime fandom of recent years, I'm surprised this hasn't made the rounds.
Mind, it's fluff. Cleverly written, smartly composed, but it's definitely not hard or high sci-fi. And that's good! Sci-fi bores me to no end. This doesn't. This wanted me to feel something. Not an easy task, but I think I slightly emoted while reading it.
The shipping conversations are awkwardly PG-rateable, though.
Jesper Just: Bliss and Heaven
I tried showing this to a bunch of children once. It didn't go well.
Just's films might be somewhat hollywood-esque and clichéd and simple, but a good version thereof. They are hollywood-esque because their production value and cinematics reference Hollywood's standards for their accessibility instead of just copying the glamour. They're clichéd because tropes are exactly what they are about. And they are simple because they are easy to understand, not mind-numbing.
Also, if anyone ever wanted to see Bruce Willis star in Mulholland Drive, this is kinda that.
Ruth White: Short Circuits
Make it through the first 90 seconds and happiness will ensue. It's one of her more accessible non-educational albums. Favourites for the moment are Verdi, Albéniz and Scarlatti, but the Bach piece has its place in a very fast-paced sidescrolling game that never got made in my mind.
Incredibly, as I write this, White is still alive. I did not know that until five minutes ago.
Joseph Mitchell: Joe Gould's Secret
I have issues with journalists writing novels, and I don't like the particular tone of the New Yorker. Luckily, Mitchell neither really employs the New Yorker tone nor did he write a novel; he just wrote two articles on a man named Joe Gould, and boy, that's a trip. This is just the first one and I heavily recommend reading the second to get the (Mitchell's) full picture. Also, here are a movie and a video game inspired by the two articles.
The back story of Joe Gould's Secret includes that Mitchell would never publish anything significant again after its publication. It's basically two short portraits about two people who both suffer from writer's block (even though this interpretation is largely false, it's the more elegant one; the probably 'true' one - only read after having finished both articles - is this: Joe Gould's Teeth, which tells you a lot about the very idea of the profile as journalism and how much freedom some writers may take to pursue it as an art form).
Teddy Boy: Gameplay Video
I have no idea why this old Master System title which is on no best-of list for anything ever fascinates me so much. I own an original copy with the manual. It's just so weirdly written and I have no idea who the developers thought their target audience was. Why would you ever base an arcade game on a single song by a pop star and then remove all references to that same pop star in the Master System port? Did the licence run out? Was Ishino not poular enough anymore? How do the lyrics and the game connect in the first place? For reference, here is a link to the original, somehow even slightly more bizarre arcade title and here's the song in question.
Hito Steyerl: How Not to be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational .MOV File
Here's a secret: Hito Steyerl's videos do nothing for me. I drove to exhibitions exclusiveley to watch her pieces, and I was always left with the impression that I do get the joke, I just don't find it funny.
I don't find this funny either, and the trashy-on-purpose aesthetic gets quite tiresome after, I dunno, having watched anything by Ryan Trecartin before. But I can't resist pseudo-nonsensical Borgesian lists and taxonomies. They're the best, so this is, too. In case Artforum takes this down, here's a much more reliable illegal YouTube upload.
Corinna Schnitt: Schloss Solitude
A 9-minute version of every costume drama ever, but with a better ending.
Bruce and Norman Yonemoto: A History of Clouds
Probably my favourite film of theirs and one of my favourite films in general. Barely fits in with other films I've seen from the brothers, but they do a tie-in to their movie Made in Hollywood, which is infinitely less interesting - or just didn't hold up that well.
Anyway, this one is about clouds and art history and matte paintings. All the good stuff.
Gregory Avery-Weir: Necropolis
I completely acknowledge Weir's art and everything they want to express and Necropolis probably isn't their own favourite either.
Thing is, it's mine. They might have made better, more interesting games, deeper narratives, more conceptual approaches to explore interaction. None of that can beat my memory of the afternoon I spent with small unremarkable Necropolis, squinting at small squares on my screen, collecting rad tad.
How was it made? An Agate Teapot by Michelle Erickson
The best thing about the pressure of digital transformation is that museums are forced to think about new formats to reach digital audiences because, to put it nicely, I ain't visiting London to look at dishes, but I will click on YouTube videos offering me to watch them for seven minutes. Good on you, V&A, good on you.
n (dot) bodyproblem (at) tutanota (dot) com