Wednesday, October 31, 2007

after james ensor...



you really have to click on the top image and see it huge to appreciate the insanity here... a large mounted photograph from 1906 of a costume party picked up at the rose bowl flea a few months ago.

in the lower right corner says "the hugo bal masque" - i'm guessing there is no relation to hugo ball the dada artist, but since it reminded me of him you might want to click here and hear marie osmond reciting one of ball's dada poems... what could be scarier than that masquerade for halloween!

this grande ensemble of mask wearing humans certainly also reminds me of ensor's great 1889 painting christ's entry into brussels, which can be visited at the getty (and is hands down one of the best paintings in any museum in los angeles). if you live in the area and haven't seen it in person, maybe a halloween pilgrimage is in order...

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007


uguisu record label

of all the japanese 78s i have, this label might be my favorite. the image, design, and colors seem much more related to 1920's japanese design and painting than japanese records on columbia, victor, etc., which tend to reflect a kind of generic 78 aesthetic (if there is such a thing...).

i picked this up several months ago as part of a big lot of japanese 78's that i'm still going through. because of the label, it was one the first discs i listened to. unfortunately the shellac surface was so hammered, i set it aside. i recently started going through some of the records again, and gave it another try. indeed side two is almost copletely shrouded in noise and the "music" most of the time can barely be found. fortunately, side one which features some insane shakuhachi playing by kobayashi shuzen, has a little more presence. it does sound a bit like listening to someone play music through a bad telephone connection; and the sound does feel distant at times, as it struggles for presence beneath the audible scars of the record's previous life of abuse. i suppose the noise is what gives this early recording an even more pronounced presence of another time...

the song is titled sugomori, which means something along the lines of "staying in the nest". i'm guessing it's probably pretty rare for a song title and record company logo image to be so connected.

click here to listen

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Monday, October 29, 2007

when they were "students 5"...

starving artists ad

starving artists detail

found this ad in an old advertising/design industry mag, from 1959 which contains various articles and ads related to art directors, graphic arts services, package design, tv commercials, fonts, printing, etc.

the ad says: "we use gas & electricity! eat with knives, forks & spoons from dishes! sit in chairs & wear wrist watches! live in authentic bohemian settings! visit or send for free newspaper article! we are "students 5".

and then a list of the members: don moore, jerry mcmillan, patrick blackell, joe goode, and edward ruscha....!

i have no idea if this was a sort of anti-ad, intervention artwork, or if these guys were looking for some kind of work. if indeed this was an artwork of sorts, then it certainly pre-dates goode and ruscha's entry into the artworld, as well as ruscha's early bookworks, which certainly developed out of an interest in the language of graphic design, art direction, etc. i would certainly love to see one of the newspaper articles they sent out!

wall batterton was also part of the group, possibly a bit later. wall recently had a show at pharmaka gallery and their site included a text by ruscha about wall. here's the bit where he discusses the students 5 group: “As students, we were always searching for names for the surface area an artist happens to work on. We called it a working area; then, we called it a “playing field.” Wall once referred to it as a “construction site” amusing us to no end. My mind keeps referring to a small painting he once did of a desert landscape. In his construction site, each object, item or thing displayed had gone through a period of scrutiny, then it was put to use in the picture. Likewise, all the pictures on display in this exhibition have gone through similar moments of introspection, adventures and accomplishments.”

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Saturday, October 27, 2007

michaux on sound ...

henri michaux1957

"man also had in him a cord that could vibrate - a double cord, no less.

he uses it mostly for talking, or the child, for shouting. for song his mannered voice tends toward the excessive

as for birds, they mostly use their sonorous powers judiciously - brief call or hasty dispatch for the flight they're always ready to take. signals without insistence flashed across savannah or clearing.

signals for a little place in the sky.

birds of prey generally don't linger over music...

henri michaux, tent posts

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Friday, October 26, 2007

a piano in the hand is worth....

Thursday, October 25, 2007

the two worlds of music...

two worlds of music / udo kasemets

a 1968 chart by composer udo kasemets mapping "the two worlds of music - macroworld and microworld - large and small - triangle." it's part of a longer text that is sort of a manifesto, sort of a fluxus/concrete poem mostly related to the use of graphic notation. the image connects, of course, my love of all forms of attempting to notate a belief system or group of ideas as an abstract form/chart/map... connecting kasemets logic system with heroes from alfred jensen to emma kunz...

here are some bits of the text that covers about 14 pages:

"what if gutenberg had never been born?

the print-era turned the composer into a writer, distinctly apart from a musician... and totally remote from the listener...

the pre-print era man lived in soundspace. he was surrounded by silence and had a keen awareness of the sounds which emerged from it. the print era man lived in sightspace. he became more and more unskilled in reacting to non-visual information. the post print-era man lives again in soundspace, but in one which surrounds him in constant composite sounds. he is learning to distinguish between desired and not desired information...

the most reluctant to abandon their print era concepts are the performers at the cathedrals of music education that have been preaching the gospel of the written score... it's holiness and infallibility. is it any wonder that most of them, when asked to play music, not notes, don't understand what it is all about."

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

when graphic design was great...

1940's littlefuse ad

one of my favorite ads ever, from the 1940's by burton browne advertising for littelfuse...

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

lumia for the masses...

lafayette electronics catalog late 60's

from a 1968 lafayette electronics catalog.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

performance tuesday night...

one man band cdv

double whammy post today... the above cdv is from the late 1890's and pictures a one man band with all his gear. the double whammy part is that i'm doing a performance tuesday night, and this is pretty darn close to my own live set up (although i won't be wearing a tuxedo...).

tuesday october 23, i'll be performing at the hammer museum in los angeles at 8PM sharp (and it seems they really do mean sharp!). my set up will include the following items also shown above: various small bells, a record player, a zither/dulcimer like stringed object, possibly a banjo but also probably a surrogate banjo in the form of a lap steel guitar... and much more. the live soundmaking will be accompanied by a new video work.

the evening is FREE and will also include sawako and william basinski...

and last but not least, i recently posted a nice recording of a live set on 12k's term site, so you can click here and download it for free...

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

as relevant as ever...

paul huxley no. 105, 1969


yesterday morning, while searching for an article on hans jenny, i got sidetracked by an article on the british painter paul huxley from a 1969 british art mag. i have to confess knowing absolutely nothing about his work, but being completely bowled over by the two images in the article. huxley, born in 1938, has had an illustrious career, is a member of the royal academy, has work in the tate's collection, and is still painting and exhibiting... but here in los angeles, i've never heard him mentioned.

coincidentally, i went out to see a number of gallery shows yesterday and there was a lot of painting. the problem was that i couldn't get huxley's works out of my head; and i kept feeling that the paintings above seemed fresher and more inventive - and potentially more genuine - than much of the recent painting that unknowingly references this work. along with huxley, i saw a lot of paul feeley (who matthew marks recently put back on artists' radars) and another british painter from the late 60's, robyn denny.

i really wonder why it is that at this particular moment in time, the flat spare abstraction from the mid 60's and 70's has returned to painting, with, unfortunately, none of the substance, and all of the style.

huxley's work - and feeley's - are not refined, as much as they are exploratory. sure, they are consistent, but not at the expense of making an awkward one, a pathetic one, or an incredibly beautiful one.

i think it boils down to the experiences an artist is after - the experiences the artist wants from the making, and the experiences the artist wants to offer a viewer in the exhibiting.

here are some of huxley's words: "paintings today should be about question making, not story-telling... the sermon and the conducted tour have been dealt with and painting can only be enlightening by posing questions and making reconnaissance trips rather than supplying answers. we become more wise by by not knowing. if i were asked to give a guide as to how my work should be understood i would remember mailer's quote from gide: please do not understand me too quickly..."

perhaps huxley's words are the keys to the difference. a lot of the work i've seen lately has no room for "not knowing" in it. there is no way for me to step outside of the "conducted tour" and fall into quicksand, and i am rarely allowed to "not understand too quickly". most of the work offered no questions, and in many cases the answers were just not evocative enough to set one wandering.

bryan robertson ends his article on huxely with a quote from eliot's four quartets:
we had the experience but missed the meaning,
and approach to the meaning restores the experience
in different form, beyond any meaning
we can assign to happiness.

like huxley's painting, eliot's words are simply a number of small parts arranged on a plane. like huxley's painting, eliot's words suggest that their form is fixed in space and time. and like huxley's painting, these fixed things can be read and re-read to reveal multiple levels of thinking, reading, and meaning - they offer experiences of slowness and they reward questions with more questions.

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

his city's voice...


a tiny picture from the 1940's, of "the newest addition to the albany, ny skyline." a four ton 25 and 1/2 foot tall statue of "nipper" the rca victor dog... probably the largest of such statues ever made.

the original idea behind the logo was that the dog with his head cocked to one side above the phrase "his master's voice" meant that the recordings were so clear, that the dog thought he was hearing his dead master speak again. one wonders what this giant dog, looking out over the cityscape in a state of heightened audio awareness, was listening to, or listening for.

atop a four story building, the listening dog could supposedly be seen for a distance of five miles, and even had an airline warning light mounted to his right ear "to serve as a guide for pilots". one hopes that the blinking red light was silent, otherwise i think this poor fellow would've gone insane with a perpetual mechanical click attached to the surface of his ear... unless the repetition somehow became its own little lilting immersive drone... nipper's little doggy dreamhouse...

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Friday, October 19, 2007

before boetti...

1940's big map painters

a great old 8" x 10", probably early 1940's featuring two "muralists" painting a large wall map. since they are in military uniforms, i'm guessing it's from wwII era. some of the countries look misshapen and the scale seems a bit off in places.

i can't help but think of the work of Alighiero Boetti when i see beatiful awkward maps on a wall...

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

when colors suggest sounds...

pacific hotel interiors japan architect 1967

kid's glock

an image of a page from a 1967 japan architect magazine, featuring the interior color schemes for kyonori kikutake's pacific hotel. ikko tanaka, who devised the room colors writes about an attempt to use color in response to the cylindrical spiral basic forms of the hotel, and to create spaces "totally unlike the ones we daily experience".

tanaka describes the seven basic colors that make up the designs as "rainbow tones" and notes that, other than the wall colors, most of the colored elements can be moved from room to room to create new combinations - making the entire scheme of color combination somewhat modular.

the idea of modularity (shifting harmonic and dissonant relationships), as well as the use of the word "tones" to describe color, had me thinking about these images - these rooms - as potential scores for making sound. of course, the little color coded glockenspiels i used to generate the sound for siza's serpentine pavilion, and which i always have hanging around my studio, make perfect sense with tanaka's sense of color...

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

from cones of light to sticks with stripes...


tim robinson book cover

andre cadere Barre de Bois

when stars become words post

"Line Describing a Cone is what I term a solid light film. It deals with the projector beam itself, rather than treating the light beam as a mere carrier of coded information, which is decoded when it strikes a flat surface. The viewer watches the film by standing with his or her back toward what would normally be the screen, and looking along the beam toward the projector itself. The film begins as a coherent pencil of light, like a laser beam, and develops through thirty minutes into a complete, hollow cone."
anthonly mccall, 1974

last november, i was finally able to see anthony mccall's piece in person at the hamburger banhoff in berlin. six months later, in the midst of an incredibly dark, cold, and windy night in april, i sat alone on a remote island in norway feebly attempting to take video footage of a lighthouse beam.

"i imagine that the beam of the lighthouse sweeping over the rooftops of aran's westernmost village gives night a pulse so familiar that its cessation in dense fog must wake the households, as one is woken by a ticking clock's falling silent. and i can also feel how that cone of light, or as much of it as has failed to contact rock or ship or human eye, sails on over the horizon to drown itself in infinite space."
tim robinson, the view from the horizon.

i never would've connected these two moments until i rediscovered tim robinson's "the view from the horizon" on my very disorganized bookshelves a month or so ago. when the book was first published in 1997, it was my first encounter with both robinson's exquisite writings about landscape, and his earlier workings as a visual artist under the name of timothy drever.

i remember initially picking robinson's book up in a bookstore because the images of his drever sculpture reminded me of the beautiful "barres de bois" sculpture of andre cadere, whose work i have always loved and for some reason is never brought up... then yesterday, i gave a talk on my own work at usc, and was asked about cadere in relation to the posts on my larger work from brazil...

someone also asked me about my process of research in relation to my work, and it is this kind of linking of things for various intuitive reasons that sets me upon a path. it's not research as much as finding dots of inspiration and then finding the right line patterns that connect them. when the posts for "when stars become words" were almost finished, of course, cadere's work came to mind, as i realized that his work had finally found a way to bubble to the surface of my own (my initial inspiration for the stripe patterns were the color vowel equivalents of rimbaud)... looking at robinson's book cover this morning, i wonder is his sticks with stripes were also hovering unconsciously.

mccall's cone of light would seem to make little sense as an influence, although standing inside the larger sculpture, one is faced with a cavity that is basically a cone. of course it is a cone of wood and sound, rather than light; but one stands in exactly the same orientation of experience as with mccall's film - and listening to sound, just like watching a film, is a time based experience... and in both cases one is staring at the source.

it is through all of these things that my work begins as points on various maps of inspiration, process, making, and meaning. it's not a particularly straight line from a lighthouse on a remote norwegian island to anthony mccall's cone of light to tim robinson's writing (and the landscape of aran) to his alter ego timothy drever to andre cadere's striped wooden poles to my own work... but it is a line with room for straying and wandering, as well as line of much potential.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

a button can be the stage of your fate...


“there is in the life of a collector a dialectical tension between the poles of disorder and order. naturally his existence is tied to many other things as well… to a relationship to objects which does not emphasize their functional, utilitarian value – that is, their usefulness, but studies and loves them as the scene, the stage, of their fate.”

“to the true collector, the acquisition of an old book is its rebirth”.

“every passion borders on the chaotic, but the collector’s passion borders on the chaos of memories… for what else is this collection but a disorder to which habit has accommodated itself to such an extent that it can appear as order”

“one has only to watch a collector handle the objects in his glass case. as he holds them in his hands, he seems to be seeing through them, into their past as though inspired.”

“ownership is the most intimate relationship one can have with objects. not that they come alive in him, but it is he who lives in them.”

walter benjamin, illuminations

(of course, the old photo above is not walter benjamin, but one of my favorite snapshots in the archive, of john clark and his collection of 22,000 terms of the photo, the notion that the strand of buttons is running from the inside of the storfront window to his shoulder outside, like a long hideous snake, is mind bending...)

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Monday, October 15, 2007

when fiddles sound like birds...


picked this up sunday at the flea for a buck. i really bought it for the other side, which had a version of billy in the lowland that i wanted to send to some friends, but while giving it a nice hard cleaning it snapped in half (you can see the sad little crack in the photo)... luckily i had already recorded side A - listen to the mocking bird, on which fiddlin red herron is certainly having his way the fiddle strings. i couldn't find much info on him other than he's part of the fiddlers hall of fame... but here's as strange and remarkable a reading of listen to the mocking bird as i've heard... click here to listen...

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

not quite the men in the moon...



two somewhat surreal RPPC's circa 1920, featuring faces superimposed on the skin of banjos...

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

wishbone house...

wishbone house 1967

a 6 foot tall playground design by artist colin greenly. this precast concrete structure was designed for a competition initiated by art in america and the corcoran gallery in 1967, with 5 visual artists invited to submit models for the final round (art in america and the corcoran chose the winner). the wishbone house won, and was supposedly installed in a washington dc playground (anyone out there ever see this in person?).

"the piece was executed specially for the competition insasmuch as the work i have shown previously would in no way be appropriate for the location contemplated. i considered the problem in this order: playground, sculpture, climb on, climb in, sit on, shade essential, minimum upkeep, maximum shape, minimum cost, reproducibility." colin greenly, 1967

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Friday, October 12, 2007

of pipe stilts and concrete skeletons...

schindler letter to architectural forum

surprised to find this letter to the editors in a 1947 architectural forum magazine:

forum, i am much interested in your historical outline of contemporary architecture in the may issue, but i feel that you have slowed down the pace of our development unnecessarily.

you show under the date of 1929 a house by corbusier and one by neutra. i enclose pictures of a beach house i designed and built in 1929, which introduces the radical features of both buildings, except that instead of using the architecturally infantile device of pipe stilts, the house is raised on concrete posts that are an organic part of the concrete skeleton supporting the two upper stories of the building.

i should like to use this occasion to set another date. i built my own house in 1922, and it has become the prototype for most of the now fashionable california houses. it introduced the following characteristic features:

a cellarless, rambling, one story building, low on the ground, the floor extending without steps into the garden.

a full-height glass wall with large sliding doors on the patio side, under ample overhangs.

a flat shed roof with clerestory windows.

a solid back wall for privacy and movable partitions for flexibility.

the wall construction uses a prefabricated standard concrete wall unit, which also was a step ahead of contemporaneous experiments with precast, full length walls containing conventional window openings.

it might be interesting to publish this correction to see if the historic dates might be set back still further by others.

r.m. schindler, los angeles, calif.

i'm not sure if this short text by schindler has been published in any of the monographs, but figured aside from sharing some of his words in case it isn't, that it is interesting to note that as late as 1947, his work was still under recognized by the architectural hipsters running the show. left off of more than silly time lines, his work was generally overlooked in most of the important national and international exhibitions. the hints of bitterness here (particularly calling corb's and neutra's use of pipe stilts infantile) was perhaps a reaction to the publicity neutra was receiving by this time.

because of the idiosyncratic and experimental nature of schindler's work from project to project, and perhaps the consistency and cleanliness of neutra's; critics tended to fawn over neutra who never failed to deliver a "neutra house". neutra's work always fit comfortably into the established canon of modern architecture, while schindler's sometimes awkward (yet elegant!)forms and unusual material presences veered into uncharted (and potentially "unacceptable") waters.

in terms of "architecture" it seems ridiculous to compare two geniuses; but it is interesting to think of someone as important as schindler being overlooked 25 years after he designed one of his masterpieces. clearly schindler paid for his willingness to experiment by continually being left out the dialogue; while neutra's development, which followed a path of refinement, would eventually land him on the cover of time magazine...

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

marfa and the road to it...

Thursday, October 04, 2007

architecture on the go...

dymaxion car

well in the midst of architecture month i'm off to austin for an exhibition and to finally visit marfa. it seems a good time to post a recently acquired snapshot of one of the greatest examples of architecture on wheels... buckminster fuller's dymaxion car.

the first of only three prototypes was built in 1933, and in 1934 the last one was built for conductor leopold stokowski (one more merging of sound and architecture...).

this image is of number two (based on the two tone paint job). the thing that is so extraordinary about the snapshot is that most of the photos i've seen of the car show it in all its lonely glory. here, you get way more of a sense of just how strange this car must've looked sitting casually next to regular cars of the era.

p.s. i'll be back in a week.

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

because it's still architecture month in los angeles...

pictorial living 1960's los angeles examiner

pictorial living 1960's los angeles examinerpictorial living 1960's los angeles examiner

pictorial living 1960's los angeles examiner

more architectural newspaper insert covers, this time from the los angeles examiner in the late 1950's.

the top one is from 1957, and is of course, the monsanto house that was built at disneyland. the second, from 1960, features richard neutra architect as rock star. the third features a great example of the kinds of things these newspaper magazines covered, but not the major progressive architecture mags. it's from 1959, designed by harry gessner. the bottom image is from 1957. it's a shulman photo of the spencer house, designed by richard o. spencer in 1955. this house seems to have collapsed circa 1975.

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

it's architecture month in los angeles...

la time home magazine 1940's

la time home magazine 1940's

la time home magazine 1940's

since it's "architecture month" in los angeles, i figured i'd do a couple of posts looking at southern california's architectural past through some rare and colorful newspaper insert covers.

along with arts and architecture magazine, home magazine, which was an insert in the sunday edition of the los angeles times, would regularly cover modern architecture in southern california. one of the main differences, was that along with the well knowns, home covered a lot of houses that were by lesser known architects - whose work was never featured in arts and architecture.

not only are the home covers great, but much of the photographs were taken by julius shulman; and esther mccoy, an early champion of california modernist architecture, was a frequent contributor.

these are some of the earlier issues in the collection. the top cover is a 1951 issue devoted to california design. the middle cover, from 1947, shows the house albert frey designed for uber-design icon raymond loewy in palm springs - the photo was taken by celebrity photographer bernard of hollywood. the last cover, also from 1947, features an interior shot of wallace neff's airform dwelling in pasadena (also home to the airform archives), and an article on the house titled "outwitting mars"...

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Monday, October 01, 2007

when ads become scores...

klh stereo ad 1965

the first page of a 4 page ad campaign for klh stereo components from a stereo/hi-fi magazine circa 1965. the "why" page faced another white page that says: (at klh we ask it softly but persistently.)

looking a lot like the visual poetry of ian hamilton finlay or the typewriter poems of henri chopin, one could easily imagine the image of the whys and the description facing them as a score for a performance...

simply speaking the text "softly and persistently"... reading across or down or a combination of various directions where the words dissappear into sounds.

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