Thursday, August 30, 2007




i wanted to post a few quick shots of the structures now that they are installed. it was a pretty wild ride, but everything has gone great. the piece on top holds around 5 people at once, the hanging piece, probably 3 people can stand beneath at one time. the architect did an unbelievable job translating my model into large scale structures (the fact that the cleaning crew mistakenly threw away my cardboard model will tell you all you need to know about what i gave him to work with!).

i arrived in the rain to see the pieces constructed in the carpenter's studio, then the next day they were taken apart and driven to the biennial site, and then we spent some days re-building, tweaking, etc. it was an unbelievable job by everyone involved, and it has been quite exciting to see something realized in this way.

the sound was added last, and fortunately stands on its own even with structures at such a large scale, with much presence. now i will have to figure out if i ever want to work at this scale again... but for the moment i'm quite happy.


Friday, August 24, 2007

when cardboard becomes CAD...


while i try not to keep the blog roden-centric, leaving town always seems a good moment to insert my own work into the fold. this morning i'm going back to porto alegre to finish working on the sculpture sound work "when stars become words", which i posted about on july 29. a few days ago the architect sent me a stunning little film, where my wonky cardboard model has been transformed into an elegant little space ship via a CAD program.

this little film has me both elated with the experience of working with fabricators, as well as incredibly afraid of presenting work for the first time that isn't mud stained from my own hands. it seems a good moment for both hanging onto the things i hold dearest, as well as being open to the potentials birthed from letting go of things that are less so...

i'll try and post some images of the progress and results while i'm gone. if you want to see my slick little film, click here. if you want to see notes, etc. related to the project click here.

needless to say there will be a lot less oddball architecture, black and white scratchy photos, and old recordings around the archives for the next 10 days or so (but if anyone happens to be in porto alegre on sept. 1, please come by the opening of the mercosur biennial and say hello!).


Thursday, August 23, 2007

stinky from main street...


one last find from sunday's flea market... an 8" record of some serious amateurs, probably from a record booth of some sort (i'm not sure if carlee art recording in santa monica was a manufacturer of recordable discs, or a place where you could make your own recordings).

i have to say that my luck with these kind of discs has been extremely disappointing, but this one more than makes up for a long streak of misses. it's from christmas eve, i'm guessing early 1940's; and features a small group of sailors goofing off, making jokes, and singing songs as though they've been nipping at the hard stuff.

click here to listen.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

from bucky to biosphere... and back again...


here's a souvenir from the buckminster fuller designed giant geodesic globe that encased the us pavilion at expo 67. the metal badge (which i also found sunday) is slightly convex, forming a very low dome, so the form and image are either unintentional reflections of each other, or an unbelievably beautiful design.

you can read much about what the pavilion contained during the expohere.

remarkably, after the expo ended, the dome was deemed important enough to be left standing. it survived intact until the mid 70's, when a fire melted the plastic panels. the steel structure remained intact; and the hollow skeleton sat unused for years until the early 90's. in 1995, a museum opened in the interior space dedicated to environmental issues relating to water, and was dubbed the "biosphere" museum. i believe this was fuller's largest geodesic, and considering it was designed for a world's fair, it's kind of amazing that it still exists on site.

i googled the word biosphere to find some history, and got to a site that said it was a term coined by vladimir vernadsky. it seems verdansky did write a book called "biosphere" in 1926, but the term was supposedly first used by edward seuss in 1885. the interesting thing is that vernadsky seems to be responsible for another term... the noosphere (what a word!) - "the sphere of human thought".

according to verdansky via wikipedia, the noosphere is "the third in a succession of phases of development of the earth, after the geosphere (inanimate matter) and the biosphere (biological life). just as the emergence of life fundamentally transformed the geosphere, the emergence of human cognition fundamentally transforms the biosphere."

in the "see also" section at the bottom of verdansky's wikipedia page there's a link to "buckminster fuller". a click reveals that the fuller page doesn't mention either sphere - bio or noo, but it's nice to know that everything still comes back to bucky in one way or another...

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

mother bell...




a few more images from the photo scrapbook i found sunday...

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

wheels of the head (or when cowboys become constructivists...)


i've started looking at a lot more photo scrapbooks at the flea market, hoping to find old music photos; and it's amazing how completely uninteresting the majority of family photos can be. the scrapbook that contained the above photo was already a cut above the usual drivel, mainly because of the hand scrawled captions to photos of rodeos, cowboys, and rural scenes in kansas, wyoming, and oaklahoma circa 1915. of course, the last thing i thought i'd come across in an album like this would be a photo captioned "the wheels of the head".

i'm wondering how in the world someone in rural kansas decided to take a double exposure that looks right out of rodchenko's oevre? i'd like to say i've discovered the life's work of an unknown cowboy photographer who is the missing link between the early american prarie and the avant garde; but there's not a single other image in the scrapbook that is remotely related to this one - technically or stylistically. based on everything else in the book, i'm pretty sure the person who took this photo knew nothing about the photography and collage work of the russian constructivists, much less the work of man ray or the dada and surrealists. the image reminds me a bit of raul hausmann's dada sculpture of 1919 of a wooden head with a tape measure and other things affixed to it.

when i blew up the image, i noticed the distant face in the upper right, which adds a whole other level of victorian pathos, and the feeling of germaine dulac's film the seashell and the clergyman.

there are other photos in the book that i'll probably post - standard faire, but interesting for the subjects or the arrangement of photos and captions/drawings on the page; some of it compelling, but none as remarkable as this...

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

when bands become maps...


1930's rppc of an iowa school band, practicing what is probably their school song, while at the same time forming an outline of the state of iowa with their bodies.

along with the simple idea of humans forming a map, the image reminds me of a lot of 60's avant garde music performances where musicians would be placed around a space rather than on the stage. makes me wonder how spatial the music might sound for the musicians in the center(who, incidentally, are forming an "I" for iowa). i love that an image of a 1930's college football band can bring up ideas related to stockhausen... now if they were playing sternklang it would get really interesting!

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Friday, August 17, 2007

the grain of sand which will be my world...


"my ear - whose ear? - harks to the rustle, the grating shriek and whistle of the moving sea - the solid liquid sea of the numberless grains of sand. but i - i am under the sand; seeded way in some still cell of my body, like the grain of the desert, biding my time. i am still and wait to enter the drop of water, the grain of sand which will be my world, my universe. from the center of me within the grain, i shall shoot up one bursting letter written in that air which is nothing until i write it."

brion gysin, unpublished text, 1960 - 63.

brion gysin comes from a long line of writers, who also spent a serious amount of time exploring drawing and painting (his doppelganger is probably henri michaux - both explored painting as writing under the influence of some serious hallucinogenics).

like most of the writers (and composers) who explored the visual arts, gysin's visual works are vastly underrated, and are generally mistakenly viewed as secondary to his writing. if you look at the things he made and the ideas he worked with, it wouldn't do his oeuvre justice to simply call him a writer. gysin was working within his own complex universe, where he continually experimented with writing, recording, painting, drawing, and light (with the dream machine). in some ways, the visual works developed more depth over time, than any other aspect of his work.

the small ink drawing above (which i managed to snare from a used book dealer ages ago), seems to encompass so many of gysin's ideas and approaches; but mainly i love how it connects with the short text above. the little rows of fragmented brush strokes are so evocative as fragments of other worlds, and seem to suggest that if one looks at them, and listens to them, long enough - they might contain an entire universe.

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

visual music (or the logger's horn is spewing red sound...)



nice RPPC of a kitchen crew at a logging camp. i posted an image of one of these meal call horns awhile ago, but this one is even better.

there's the architecture, the guy is posing with the horn as if he were blowing it, and the red ink smudge to indicate the sound.

i'm not quite sure why the sound of a long horn would be red, but these things always make me wonder what kind of colorful clouds and maps we'd see if sound really did burst forth visually from throats, beaks, instruments, machines, etc.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

when pipes become earthworks...

1930's construction photo


found this 1940's construction photo in a scrapbook of photos at sunday's rosebowl. it immediately reminded me of nancy holt's incredible sun tunnels sculpture of 1976, which i'm still hoping to visit someday.

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Monday, August 13, 2007



there's nothing quite like the nadhaswaram (or nagaswaram... or nadaswaram)... according to wikipedia it's the loudest non brass acoustic instrument in the world... no wonder it's played at all hindu weddings.

here's a track off an LP by one of the masters...sheik chinnamoulana (if you google him you must also try chinna moulana). considered a master of the instrument, he gave his first preformances around 1960 and passed away in 1999. this LP is from the middle of his career, recorded circa 1972. there are a bunch of indian bootleg cds of his music, but none of them have covers to match this columbia LP.

rather than describe the music and take all the life out of it, you can listen to sri ragukula by clicking here.

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

event architecture






in 1972, antioch college built an experimental "pneumatic bubble campus" over an acre of land in columbia maryland. the campus was designed by a group of students under the supervision of archict rurik f. ekstrom, and the idea was that the campus could be deflated and the shell and parts could potentially be relocated to a permanent site. unfortunately, due to a lack of funds, even though the design was fully realized, it was dismantled a year later, never to be built (or inflated) again.

in terms of a learning environment, there were many innovative approaches conceived by the architect with the students in 1971 : the interior space was completely modular with both open and enclosed spaces (including small geodesic domes to enclose lectures and create private space), the interior was still connected to the outside world and thus could be continually landscaped and re-landscaped (and reshaped), and the vinyl skin of the dome could be rolled back in various areas so that inside and outside became interchangeable depending on weather.

rurik's approach, which allowed the students to make major decisions in the design and production of a facility they would potentially inhabit, hearkens back to the ideals of the bauhaus, and set a precedent for a future that would eventually pave the way for things like the maverick workings of samuel mockbee's rural studio.

in the only text on the project i've seen (in an old issue of the walker's design quarterly publication - where the above photos are from), ronald beckman writes about the antioch college bubble as a hugely successful experiment because of the experiences it offered the students. even though the structure existed for only a year, beckman states," still exists as an idea. it was never intended to be more than an objectification of an idea. the antioch college bubble was "event architecture". the fact that it could happen, and the experience of that happening is a significant matter for education... there is a difference between understanding and knowledge. to understand an abstraction intelligently does not guarantee personal ability. to know a reality requires an experience of that reality. the antioch experience allowed a student to know in first-hand terms the realities of design and construction, to feel and see the abstractions of "pounds of pressure", "quality of light", or "density of usable space."... many people bemoaned the fact that the antioch pneumatic campus was never used... what makes it unique is that fact - it was a model built at full scale...the lesson of antioch is at the same time aesthetic, social, technological, practical, and ecological... participation must replace observation..."

remarkably a google search on ekstrom yielded almost nothing on the architect, and absolutely nothing on the project. in fact i couldn't even figure out if ekstrom is still alive or not. i did find this great little video from 2005, shot in virginia during what seems to have been a remembrance of ekstrom and his architecture, so perhaps he passed away, but his firm does come up in a google search. anyone out there have any more info?

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Friday, August 10, 2007

this is not a dream...


"this scenario is not the story of a dream and does not profess to be such; and i shall not try to justify its incoherence by the simple device of labelling it a dream." (antonin artaud, preface to the shell and the clergyman, 1930)

one of the strangest RPPCs i own. it looks a bit like two hillbillies in an early surrealist film still. the strange white lines seem like visible liquid electricity. the white glows, connected to early spirit photographs. the scenario, some pagan ritual in a dumpy urban apartment - film noir meets michaux and artaud's darkness. it certainly has the hallucinatory feel of a dream state. i have no idea what the hell is going on here...

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

before low-fi and free jazz...


"of course i had no experience whatever with the tape-recorder. it was only later that i became aware of the imperfections of my recordings, made directly on my amateur's machine, in comparison with those made by professionals. but, paradoxical as it may seem, i am not convinced of the superiority of the latter, in the same way that i often prefer poorly-crafted amateur's photographs to those of specialists. later, when i was in contact with technicians, i felt that all their precautions and installations counterbalanced certain advantages with a deplorable inhibitory effect and also that the recordings thus obtained, however much clearer they may be to the ear, however much freer from flaws and minor mishaps, do not speak louder to the spirit as a result. i believe that in all areas art has everything to gain by simplifying the techniques it is obliged to use... such an incredible number of extremely diverse effects can be obtained from the first instrument to come to hand alone that one wonders if it is really worth searching for others. where practical experience and good methodical knowledge of how to play the instruments used is concerned, i am evidently seriously lacking and the benefits of acquiring this knowledge are clear to me. it may be however, that in doing this there is also a risk of losing an advantage: that afforded by the improvised use of an instrument whose proper handling is not known, with the unexpected discoveries that this can bring about. having said all this, the records collected here are not presented in the spirit works with any pretentions of their own, but rather as the first experimentations of someone venturing into an area about which he knows practically nothing and it is in this spirit that i ask musicians to accept them."

jean dubuffet, musical experiences, 1961

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

before the half bat...



when i was a kid we used to play baseball by trying to hit a tennis ball over my friend's neighbor's hedge. "dork" had a nice selection of bats, but for some reason we always gravitated towards using the one which had been broken in half, split down the center of the "barrel" so that if you looked at the top of the bat it was not an "O" shape, but a "D". we always called it the half bat.

well, here's a nice italian printed postcard (not an RPPC), of two professors with a seemingly normal mandolin, and some kind of odd looking harp guitar. what's even more interesting is the instrument on the left edge that looks like the half bat's distant cousin. it seems to be a guitar sawed in half with the bridge and strings going across the depth rather than the half "face" of the shell. unlike the half bat there's also a little "horn" attached to its side for sound amplification. maybe it is some strange monochord or ??? if anyone has any info on this one, i'd appreciate it. i would of course love to hear what this thing sounded like!

(and speaking of timely half bats, in light of tonight's giants game; i reserve the right to continue to view hammerin' hank as the all time home run king...)

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

thinking differently in each direction...



"i keep thinking of a very simple phenomenon that struck me when i was a little kid. i used to walk to the beach every day, down to the end of a jetty and back the other way, and it always struck me as being completely significant that the ocean was on the left when i was going down, and when i turned around, it was on the right, and i had a totally different experience just from turning around and walking the other way. i always thought this was very curious. i always thought there were two different places. everybody knows that you don't have the same experience in turnabout - your relation to the sun has completely changed, left/right brain coordinates are off - everything is different. in fact, you probably have a side you favor as you walk. you probably think differently in each direction. your anticipation and memory change. to me, that's a sculptural concept. if a sculpture allows for that experience, it implies self-awareness. the content of the work is that the viewer looks at himself in relation to what he's looking at..."

richard serra, interviewed in the pratt journal of architecture, 1985.
(images from todd's new astronomy)

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

simple syllogism's for movie makers...















stan van der beek's "simple syllogism's for movie makers on insight-outsight-sidesight-backsight" from film culture no. 29, 1963.

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Saturday, August 04, 2007

when hopscotch blends into hats...

"you see, the way the words are used in films mostly derives from the theatrical tradition in which what you see makes the sound you hear. and so, in that sense, they would be redundant in film if they were used as a further projection of the image. however if they were brought in on a different level, not issuing from the image which would be complete in itself, but as another dimension relating to it, then it is the two things together that make the poem. it's almost as if you were standing at a window and looking out into the street and there are children playing hopscotch. well, that's your visual experience. behind you in the room are women discussing hats or something, and that's your auditory experience. you stand at the place where these two come together by virtue of your presence. what relates these two moments is your position in relation to the two of them. they don't know about each other, and so you stand by the window and have a sense of afternoon, which is neither the children in the street, nor the women talking behind you, but a curious combination of both, and that is your resultant image, do you see? and this is possible in film because you can put a track on it."

maya deren to arthur miller during a poetry and film symposium, 1953. reprinted in film culture no. 29, 1963

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Friday, August 03, 2007

sound and architecture


a small brochure for le corbusier (and xenakis) philips pavilion from the 1958 brussels world's fair. there are numerous sources for information on this most important early fusing of sound and architecture, not the least of which are here, here, and you can see corb's original film that was projected inside, here. there is also talk of the pavilion being rebuilt for the 50th anniversary next year, some info here, and finally some of varesse's tape cues for his score here

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Thursday, August 02, 2007


Wednesday, August 01, 2007



i was recently asked to write a text about collecting, that will be published in a few weeks. a few things came up, specifically a revisiting of walter benjamin's text on book collecting and translation, which i hadn't read since undergraduate school. i would highly recommend re-reading illuminations to anyone and everyone who reads this blog. i generally prefer the dentist to theory, but benjamin's writing is pretty darn sublime, and he absolutely nails the complexities of being a collector. i'll most likely post some quotes by him here at some point.

the other thing is that i remember the exact moment and the exact object that began my collecting trajectory through life. you can see it above. i'll post a link to the article when it runs; but suffice to say in 1972 i saw baseball cards for the first time, and became obsessed with this one. it wasn't the player, it was the picture, and i think the following quote by henry miller (about film!) sums up what i seek in objects (as well as the things that i make)...

"exhausted by longing, the spirit of man strives perpetually to surrender its burden through wonder... wonder expands the inner orb, making it wax like a golden moon. at the full, the darkest recesses of our soul are illuminated."

h. miller, art in cinema

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