Saturday, November 24, 2007


novel 8

. . . image as a managerial guru.
Art in Review; Cory Arcangel; Cory Arcangel and Paper Rad

Published: February 4, 2005

Team Gallery
527 West 26th Street, Chelsea
Through Feb. 12

'Super Mario Movie'
Deitch Projects
76 Grand Street, SoHo
Through Feb. 26

The idea that all things digital and electronic are as easy for artists to use as found images or objects receives exciting corroboration in Cory Arcangel's solo debut at Team Gallery. For the occasion, Mr. Arcangel, an artist, musician and computer wizard whose work was seen in the 2004 Whitney Biennial, created a mélange of found or manipulated music, music video and video games.

At Team, he demonstrates an impressive range of possibilities, as well as surprising affinities with Formalist, Conceptual and Process Art. There are several of the ''handmade hacked Nintendo cartridges,'' to quote from the exhibition checklist, for which he is best known, most notably a stripped-out version of ''Space Invaders.'' It reduces the action to single alien craft, replacing freneticism with quieter contemplation of the image's changing iridescent colors.

Making more of a social point is ''Beach Boys/Geto Boys,'' in which Mr. Arcangel juxtaposes music videos of these bands; its obviousness is redeemed by an inspired blending of their songs. Authorship itself takes a holiday in ''Private Eyez,'' which pairs karaoke music with more bright colors, and ''Message My Brother Justin Left Me on My Cell From the Slayer Concert He Went to Last Week,'' which is exactly that.

''Dooogle'' is a monomaniacal search engine where all the results pertain to the television series ''Doogie Howser, M.D.'' And the video ''Cat Rave'' features a wall-size video projection of Mr. Arcangel's cat zoned out in its own small day-glow environment.

At Deitch, Mr. Arcangel joins forces with the Internet collective Paper Rad to create ''Super Mario Movie,'' a single, ambitious work. In it, the image component of the early ''Super Mario Brothers'' Nintendo game is rerouted to create a narrative about the program's erosion and its effect on one of the perpetually dazed brothers.

An admiration for formalist painting is evident here, too, with extraordinary patterns pulsating in time to music composed by Jacob Ciocci of Paper Rad on a program by Mr. Arcangel. The notion that everything made by humans can be remade -- disassembled, recombined and diverted toward new purposes -- shines forth in these shows. ROBERTA SMITH

Correction: February 23, 2005, Wednesday A brief art review in Weekend on Feb. 4 about Cory Arcangel's exhibition at Team Gallery in Chelsea, which has since closed, misstated the ownership of the cat that appeared in a video, ''Cat Rave.'' While the work was a collaboration between Mr. Arcangel and Frankie Martin, the cat was owned by Mr. Martin.


In the decades when what was then Czechoslovakia was under Communist rule, addicts largely had to produce their own highs by concentrating medications. These drugs were produced by small, tight-knit rings of users, known as squads, for their own consumption rather than for distribution and sale.

The national police here say that such tight circles of users are the norm, and the decentralization is part of the difficulty in shutting down operations.

Lenka, a 23-year-old user who refused to give her last name, said that on a recent morning she knocked on the doors of five neighbors — all of whom use meth — and could not find anyone who could give her a clean needle. “Many people don’t start snorting like they used to,” she said. “Many people start with needles.”

Though she has been using for six years, Lenka said she refused to cook the drug herself. “If you start it can get really dangerous,” she said, “because you never stop.”

The local meth cook agreed. “When people ask me to show them how to do it, I tell everyone, ‘I will not show you,’” said the man, as he added more iodine into his batch. “Don’t do it. When you learn to cook then you will die.”

“I think I will die because of this,” he said, keeping watch on the thermometer buried in the thick red mixture.


To help these newly titanic brands retain an air of old-world luxury, marketing executives played up the companies’ heritage and claimed that the items were still made in Europe by hand — like Geppetto hammering in his workshop by candlelight. But this sort of labor is wildly expensive, the executives routinely explain, which is why the retail prices for luxury goods keep going up and up.

In fact, many luxury-brand items today are made on assembly lines in developing nations, where labor is vastly cheaper.

How do the brands get away with this? Some hide the “Made in China” label in the bottom of an inside pocket or stamped black on black on the back side of a tiny logo flap. Some bypass the “provenance” laws requiring labels that tell where goods are produced by having 90 percent of the bag, sweater, suit or shoes made in China and then attaching the final bits — the handle, the buttons, the lifts — in Italy, thus earning a “Made in Italy” label. Or some simply replace the original label with one stating it was made in Western Europe.

To please customers looking for the “Made in Italy” label, several luxury companies now have their goods made in Italy by illegal Chinese laborers.

Luxury brand executives who declare that their items can be made only in Western Europe because Western European artisans are the only people who know what true luxury is are being not only hypocritical but also xenophobic. They are not selling “dreams,” as they like to suggest; they are hawking low-cost, high-profit items wrapped in logos.


Not Quite Child’s Play
“The 4th Graders Present an Unnamed Love-Suicide” is “the first drama I’ve ever seen that so literally takes the form of a suicide note,” writes Jason Zinoman. The clever-yet-chilling conceit: A fourth-grader writes a play, then kills himself; his classmates (played by a talented cast of young adult actors) stage the work as an homage. “Imagine Harold Pinter as a 9-year-old, and you get something of the idea,” Mr. Zinoman writes. “By the shattering conclusion of this unusual work, it has achieved its own kind of poetry.” It’s running only for the next two weeks at the 59E59 Theater, so get your tickets now.
“Familiar Thoughts on Suicide? Not So Fast,” by Jason Zinoman

Domains: Jimmy Wales
The Encyclopedist’s Lair
Preston Mack

Interview by EDWARD LEWINE
Published: November 18, 2007

Idea of a perfect day: Spend about 10 hours online getting lots of things done. Then go out for a drink.

Greatest misconception about Wikipedia: We aren’t democratic. Our readers edit the entries, but we’re actually quite snobby. The core community appreciates when someone is knowledgeable, and thinks some people are idiots and shouldn’t be writing.

Prized possession: The SureFire M6, a super-powerful flashlight. I wanted a brighter flashlight and discovered a subcommunity of flashlight people online, and found that this is the ultimate. It is aesthetically pleasing because it is carved out of aluminum and is very small. It costs 400 bucks.

Superstition: I tend to eat things in fours. I’ll eat four nuts, four grapes, four chips at a time. I don’t know why. It’s not really a superstition. I don’t think anything bad will happen if I don’t, but three potato chips doesn’t seem right.

Morning routine: I have no regular schedule. I get up whenever I can. I open my computer and check my mail. People start instant-messaging me, and I chat with them.

Personal hero: Mitchell Kapor. He’s the inventor of Lotus 1-2-3. Back in the day, it was the spreadsheet application. Today he does amazing philanthropic work.

His computer: It’s a MacBook, and I put stickers on it from all the conferences I attend and things I support. In Japan, for example, the Firefox web browser has this cute mascot. It’s a fox with a flaming tail, and I have those stickers.

Favorite movie: “The Matrix.”

Favorite TV show: “Lost.”

Favorite musician: The Gourds, a band from Austin, Tex., that does an alternative-country cover of a Snoop Dogg song.

Latest gadget: I’m really spiffed about the Sidekick. It’s a mobile device that is a cell phone with a flip-open screen, a keyboard and has great instant-messaging. I can use it anywhere in the world, except Japan.

Always with him: I have my Tumi backpack. Tumi makes really expensive stuff, but it’s super-durable, made for the heavy traveler. I carry my computer in the backpack everywhere I go.

Topic he won’t bring up at parties: I have zero interest in sports of any kind — professional, college or international. If that topic comes up, I nod and try to look polite.

Guilty pleasure: Playing Scrabble on Facebook. I do that when I am supposed to be working.

Home decorating: Well, we have some artwork, but not collectible stuff. It is just, sort of, like a big picture of tomatoes.

Location: Florida was cheaper than California.

Favorite item of clothing: I have a black velvet sport coat that I wear quite often. It is soft, spiffy and it looks cool.

Personal philosophy: I was very interested in Objectivism in college. Objectivism is a philosophy developed in the writings of Ayn Rand. It values reason, purpose and self-esteem. Mostly, I try to take a rational approach to life.

Traveling ritual: I spend 250 days a year around the world, so I’m a little beyond ritual at this point. Wikipedia is a global phenomenon. There’s a lot of interest in it, and I’m always promoting it, especially in the developing world.

What he misses about America when abroad: In the U.S. I don’t drink Coca-Cola. Outside the U.S. I’ll sometimes have a Coke, as a reminder of home.

Favorite place to visit: India. It still feels really exotic. If I go to Hong Kong or Tokyo, they are different in a sense, but still very organized, like an American city. India has so much activity and crazy stuff going on wherever you look, it always blows my mind.

Clothing item a traveling man needs: Anything black. Then you can spill wine on yourself, and it doesn’t show.

Next big purchase: I think I’m going to get one of those Mini Cooper cars. I do a lot of work in San Francisco, and I have an apartment there with a very narrow garage. It would be easier with a small car.

Obsession: Currently, it’s It is meant to take on Google by creating a search engine where all the editorial decisions are made by the general public and all the software is open.

Least favorite online behavior: There’s plenty of rude stuff online. People say things online that they would be ashamed to say face to face. If people could treat others as though they were speaking face to face, that would be huge.

Place he spends most time: I work in bed a lot. It is a comfy bed. I have one of those Tempur-Pedic mattresses; it is space-age foamy and good for my back.

Best Wikipedia mementos: I have a couple of hats that were given to me by Wikipedians. This summer a guy from Tajikistan gave me a traditional Tajik hat. The other one is a traditional hat from Serbia. It is a little round, funny thing.

Collections: I collect books, and not only that, I do something unbelievably geeky with them, which is, I put little labels on the spines with Library of Congress numbers, and keep all the books in Library of Congress order. Oddly, I have never computerized the collection.

What’s always in the refrigerator: Spicy V8 juice.

Fitness routine: Sadly, none.

Favorite non-Wiki Web-site: An invitation-only travel site called You put in your travel schedule and link to your friends. It allows you to see where everyone is. I love it.

Evening routine: See my 6-year-old daughter, Kira, off to bed. Then I sort of get in bed and read, then off to sleep. I’m asleep by 10 p.m.

Favorite restaurant: I am something of a foodie, and I try to eat in great restaurants wherever I can. I loved the Fat Duck, just outside London. It’s an innovative and creative restaurant, and the meal I had there was amazing.

Favorite kitchen gadget: My coffee-maker. It is a Krups, and I find it beautiful.

Web-site he won’t visit: I’d visit almost anything just to see what is going on.

Fantasy career: To paraphrase the movie “This is Spinal Tap:” “I think I can work in a chapeau shop, selling hats.”


Marshall McLuhan wrote in 1964: “Today we have extended our central nervous system itself in a global embrace, abolishing both space and time as far as our planet is concerned.” Buckminster Fuller proposed the idea of a Comprehensive Designer, a creator who would embody “an emerging synthesis of artist, inventor, mechanic, objective economist and evolutionary strategist.”

In the 90’s, Mr. Turner says, the writers and editors of Wired believed “they would tear down hierarchies, undermine the sorts of corporations and governments that had spawned them” and replace them with a “peer-to-peer, collaborative society, interlinked by invisible currents of energy and information.” Cyberculture was to be the fulfillment of counterculture.

Ultimately, of course, such fulfillment was not to be had.

There were also limitations of vision and imagination. For a long time, cyberspace advocates were reluctant to take the problem of mischievous hacking seriously and could look askance at the very notion of copyright in the cyberworld. There was even a strain of countercultural romance in the ways in which the corporate monopolist Microsoft became widely portrayed as an Evil Empire threatening the libertarian Internet. (This is also one reason that Google, which has turned out to be Microsoft’s most potent competitor, made its motto “Don’t be evil.”)

Moreover, so messianic were expectations, that many failed to see that cyberspace was not really a different realm from the hard-wired world of ordinary experience, but would become an extension of it: a place where banking, shopping, conversation and business transactions could take place, where the bourgeois world and an imagined frontier would again have to work out their uneasy relations, and would again face an uncertain future.


Wisdom — the chastened acceptance of limitation, the resolve to keep going anyway.


Op-Ed Contributor
Jump the Shark

Published: November 24, 2007

WHILE there are, admittedly, figures more deserving of sympathy than unemployed pool players, the demise of the hustler is an occasion to be mourned. As recently as 10 years ago, it was possible for a pool player to earn a living hustling, provided he was armed with the requisite chops and disposition. Plenty of “roadmen” made plenty of money with scores at Chelsea Billiards in Manhattan or Mikey’s 24/7 in Oklahoma City or the Sports Palace in Columbia, S.C. Odds were good that there was at least one unsuspecting local in the joint with an inflated impression of his talent for pocketing balls, and thus a willingness to throw down “big timber” against the out-of-towner.
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Owen Smith

Today, pool hustlers have joined American heavyweight boxing champs, complete-game pitchers, hockey goons and drug-free cyclists as relics in sports. Endearing bit players in the cast of American culture, hustlers have been written out of future episodes. “It used to be that you had to turn down action; then you had to look hard for action; and now there’s no action,” Bucky Bell, a Cincinnati-based pool wizard, lamented to me. “A lot of guys who play real good pool are having to look for real jobs.”

The pool hustler wasn’t murdered by any single suspect, but the last man holding the knife was Kevin Trudeau, the bestselling author of the “Natural Cures” series who once served a prison term for felony larceny. Mr. Trudeau out-hustled the hustlers — and killed off a national archetype in the process.

But even before Mr. Trudeau, hustling was on its deathbed. The Internet didn’t help. Time was, a player would score big in, say, Cheyenne, Wyo., and by the time word got out over the pool transom, the hustler was already in Lexington, Ky., or Laredo, Tex. But then came the popular online forum Suddenly a player would score big and his exploits would be publicized by sunrise.

The poker boom hurt too, siphoning the species who once hustled pool — young, competitive, predominantly white men with an incurable gambling jones — with guaranteed round-the-clock action and a reduced threat of getting jacked in the parking lot. Even $3-a-gallon gas prices exacted a price: why drive to Olathe, Kan., for a chance at winning $500 when it might cost $250 just to get there?

Then came the International Pool Tour, Mr. Trudeau’s final squirt of embalming fluid. When he founded the professional pool tour in 2005, Mr. Trudeau vowed to turn eight-ball into a viable, big-league sport. Winners would take home $500,000 prizes; first-round losers were guaranteed $5,000.

For pool players, accustomed to driving miles out of their way just to avoid paying bridge tolls, this was akin to raising the minimum wage by a factor of 10. Hustlers who had been traveling incognito for years came out of the woodwork to try to qualify for the tour. Joining meant that their cover would be blown, but the money was too good to pass up.

The first three events were smashing successes. But in keeping with the circadian rhythms of pool, the boom times didn’t last. Last year, after a tournament in Reno, Nev., players were informed of an inconvenient detail: the tour couldn’t pay the prize money. Mr. Trudeau, once accessible and upbeat, was nowhere to be found.

The tour eventually notified players that the debts would be paid in small, periodic installments. But to date the players have yet to be paid all of the money they are owed. There hasn’t been another International Pool Tour event since.

Some players were so demoralized by Mr. Trudeau’s hustle that they quit the sport entirely. And the rest had become known quantities to avid amateur players. Unmasked by television and the Internet, these once-stealthy hustlers could no longer lure anyone into believing they were just passing through town, innocently looking to relax at the local poolroom.

The death of hustling marks the end of a uniquely American pursuit. What’s a more vivid extension of the frontier mentality than a man, carrying only a wooden stick, slinking into town and making a buck? What’s a better example of self-sufficiency than caroming around the country and using superior skill, craft and wit to fleece the other guy? Who embodies Melville’s “Confidence Man” better than the suave and mysterious pool hustler?

Pool hustlers are outlaws, but they are — or were — the kind of outlaws we root for, “honorable swindlers” who usually dripped with charisma and eccentricity. “You don’t make much money but you do get paid in stories,” Kid Delicious, the New Jersey hustler, told me. “And you don’t got to worry about the taxman getting his hand on them.”

And hustling doesn’t merely involve the players at the table. There was a rogue’s gallery of “stakehorses” (financial backers), “sweaters on the rail” (side bettors) and “nits” (kibitzers). As the gambling spigot has been turned off, the local poolroom — once a civic institution — has almost vanished. The extinction of the pool hustler has bleached some color from the cultural landscape and dotted small-town America with yet another economic casualty.

Look hard and there’s still action out there. Earlier this year, two players won a high-stakes six-player “ring game” in Mobile, Ala. In September in Sioux Falls, S.D., a hearing-impaired player, Shane Van Boening, beat Corey Deuel, a veteran shark from Ohio, in a $10,000 winner-take-all race to 100 games. The annual Derby City Classic in Louisville, Ky., still features late-night games with stakes that can exceed six figures.

“But that’s just gambling,” Mr. Bell says wistfully. “Real hustling — driving to a pool room in another state, walking in, setting the trap, busting the local guy and then heading to a new town — is different. That’s what ain’t there any more.”

L. Jon Wertheim, a senior writer at Sports Illustrated, is the author of “Running the Table: The Legend of Kid Delicious, the Last American Pool Hustler.”

Lexar Jump Drive

Air on a Game Boy

Published: April 24, 2005

.Arts & Leisure (April 24, 2005)


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Beck, pop music's foremost scavenger, has dug his way through marginalized genres like lounge music, disco and bossa nova, among others. But on "GameBoy Variations," a four-song Internet-only collection released shortly before his new album, "Guero," Beck unveiled his latest, and weirdest, discovery: chip music, a new electronic genre that prefers obsolete video-game gear to the latest technology. "GameBoy Variations," which was the best-selling album on iTunes in its first week, is Beck's salute to musicians who are retooling vintage Nintendos, Ataris and Game Boys into makeshift synthesizers, squeezing unlikely, boisterous pop from primitive bleeps and blips.

"There's something about the sound that feels really pure," said Jeremiah Johnson of Manhattan, a 24-year-old Game Boy fiddler nicknamed Nullsleep. Then there's the built-in nostalgia of music that began life as "Super Mario Bros." and "Donkey Kong" sound effects. Still, artists like Josh Davis, the 31-year-old chip music luminary from Queens whose stage name is Bit Shifter, insist that their songs inspire more than fond reminiscence. "I've seen crowds dancing and flailing around," said Mr. Davis, shown here during a performance at the Asia Society. He added that not all chip music is upbeat: "It would be hard to write a tear-jerker on a Game Boy, but there are artists making sad, poignant music." The members of 8-Bit, the Los Angeles group that performs two of the songs on "Gameboy Variations" - remixes of "Guero" tunes, with Beck's vocals - have a more prankish take. They rap, dress in radioactive containment suits and play robots whose passion for exotic dancers is exceeded only by their passion for alcohol.

For his part, Beck sees chip music as a new strain of folk. "Sometimes electronic music can get a little slick, a little overdone," he said. "These are sounds at their most crude and primal." Most artists working in the genre cherish a do-it-yourself aesthetic, have little or no musical training and say the programs they use are easy to learn, albeit hard to master. And the instruments are welcomingly cheap. When Game Boy was new in 1989, it retailed for $89. Today, you can buy one on eBay for $4.75.

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. MUSIC: SPINS; Beck Is Back And Feeling Very Blue (September 22, 2002) $
. ROCK REVIEW; Two Faces Of a Star (August 17, 2002)
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ROCK REVIEW; Two Faces Of a Star

Published: August 17, 2002

On Wednesday night, Beck walked onto the stage of Alice Tully Hall, looked around at all the acoustic guitars and smirked. ''I've got my folk-singer equipment,'' he said. ''We read the manual and got all the things you need to get.''

Beck's career has been one long battle between smarm and sincerity. On ''Odelay,'' his brilliant collaboration with the Dust Brothers, the two tendencies fought to a draw, but more recently they've been trading victories. ''Midnite Vultures'' (DGC/Interscope), his last album, included a number of unfunny rhythm and blues parodies with titles like ''Sexx Laws.'' His new album, ''Sea Change'' (Geffen), is due next month, and it finds Beck atoning for his sarcasm: the 12 ruminative songs are unfunny on purpose.

During Wednesday's concert, he performed solo for much of the night, accompanying himself on acoustic guitar or piano; occasionally he was joined by the guitarist Smokey Hormel, who added unobtrusive accompaniment. One of the first songs was ''Guess I'm Doing Fine,'' a lovely tale of heartbreak that deftly uses country clichés: ''It's only lies that I'm living, It's only tears that I'm crying/It's only you that I'm losing, I guess I'm doing fine.''

Other times, Beck succeeded by making unusual choices. When he sang ''Nobody's Fault but My Own,'' he turned the chorus into an odd, droning riff; it almost sounded like a call to prayer. And Mr. Hormel contributed a lugubrious slide guitar to a fine, slow-motion version of ''No Expectations,'' by the Rolling Stones.

But Beck often had difficulty reconciling the sublime with the ridiculous. He announced that he was going to play a song by Skip James -- ''one of my favorite blues musicians'' -- then did an inept version of ''Cypress Grove Blues.'' ''I really don't like that song,'' he said when the audience demanded he play ''Debra,'' but he played it anyway, half-heartedly singing the inane lyrics about a man telling a woman how much he desires her -- and her sister, too.

Once in a while, Beck found a way to switch from one mode to the other without breaking stride. ''Tropicalia'' started off with a smooth Brazilian guitar riff; then Beck sat down at a keyboard and started improvising.

''I'm on a night flight to Rio,'' he sang, before adding an unexpected detail: ''Me and Axl Rose in the business section.'' He mocked Mr. Rose, the hard-rock singer, while paying tribute to his favorite Brazilian songwriters. This was Beck at his best: smarmy and sincere and, best of all, funny.


VertexList gallery, selected press 2003 —2006

Art Fag City / Paddy Johnson

Cory Arcangel's Latest Exhibition At Team Gallery (fragment)

Two weeks ago at Vertexlist, the artist performed pieces from his record The Bruce Springsteen 'Born To Run' Glockenspiel Addendum (also part of his show), and while, I can’t claim to understand why the record needed to be a remix album (the artist composed five Glockenspiel pieces for the Bruce Springsteen album Born to Run, in addition to the three Springsteen had already written, matched them to the time count of the music, and removed the original music,) his performance demonstrated his usual brilliance. There was a charming awkwardness to his playing, which made the piece at once humble, moving, and strangely funny. In fact, it was so enjoyable, that the thought occurred to me that while subtractions, modifications, addenda, and other recent contributions to participatory culture, isn’t the best thing the artist has ever done, if he had thrown a performance into his show, nobody would have ever known the difference.

Post on Slocum and Arcangel
Tom Moody Blog

Cory Arcangel plays some glockenspiel parts he added to Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run, at vertexList last night. (You might not know that record already, in fact, has glockenspiel on it, buried down in the mix with some other gratuitous orchestral bits.) Arcangel played over the album, karaoke-style, pinging poignantly in this Dada-meets-the-hits-of-the-'70s-meets-mallet-instrument-fan-fiction moment. Bottom, Paul Slocum, rocking the audience with his '80s home computer ensemble--note piano keys positioned over a seriously fat QWERTY keyboard. Unlike others in the plinky, fun, 8 BIT school, Slocum makes dark, dense, dreamlike music--a la the Velvet Underground, only with chipdrones instead of guitars and a rhythm box instead of Mo Tucker. Pedal effects to boost the volume and filter sweeps to bend the notes create an engulfing wall of sound. You can hear tunes within tunes inside all the distortion. The occasion was the opening of his solo show at the gallery, and he was playing without his usual Tree Wave partner Lauren Gray. Her vocals were missed but the performance (and his show) were excellent.


by Shane McAdams


VertexList September 9–October 8, 2006

The gripe many skeptics have with computer-based art is that the medium often takes precedence over the message. VertexList, a gallery in Williamsburg devoted to new media art, is wary of this pitfall, and aims to harness the expressive power of technology without drawing excessive attention to the method of delivery. Its current show, featuring three interactive data-feedback experiments by C.J. Yeh, addresses the computer’s ability map input as a metaphor for the Modernist thought process.

Yeh’s exhibition, titled EQUALS, features several paintings depicting the HTML code for digital images of various 20th century masterpieces. Its spine, however, is three interactive computer kiosks. The first, entitled “myBirthday = myPhilipGlass” requires participants to enter their name and birthday, at which point an algorithm designed by Yeh transcribes the information into a musical score. This is played by the computer as dispassionately as if by Glass himself.

More sophisticated and inventive is “myData = myMondrian.” Its interface is a replicated sign-up form for a “My Space” page, requesting a variety of personal information ranging from name and height to more sensitive information such as income and plans for producing a family. Not having entered information on a personal site myself, the form felt invasive and underscored the emotional relativity of the experience (I imagine it feels less intrusive to enter this type of data when the wind of possibly meeting your soulmate is at your back.) Rather than fishing for friends, the result upon hitting “enter” is a quick cyber-mastication of one’s personal stats and their subsequent regurgitation in the form of a Mondrian-esque composition. Somewhat unfaithful to the primary color palette of the modern master, most of the examples pinned to the wall have a color scheme relating to the eye, skin and hair color of the individual entries. Mine looked more autumn-collection Banana Republic than vintage Piet Mondrian.

The most interesting variable in the “myMondrian” experiment is the orientation of the virtual paintings: either a diamond or a square. From a random sampling of examples gleaned from the opening reception, a precious few diamond-shaped personal Mondrians were generated. I was informed that the diamonds were the output of profiles that ranked in the top 15 percent of participating members. As it happens, and to no surprise, the rare diamond-shape has a lot to do with income and weight in males, and age and weight in females; my personal Mondrian was a square.

The most prominent of the three kiosks rounding out the exhibition is “myTune = myPollock.” Centered in the small gallery is a computer keyboard facing a projection screen. The keyboard has been converted into an electric piano by the artist, on which visitors are encouraged to play music. Each note corresponds to a simulated Jackson Pollock paint drip. To add variability to the composition, individuals can change their paint color as well as the weave of the raw canvas. Additionally, a looping positioning bar runs across the canvas in order to induce randomness into the dispersions of simulated Duco paint.

The on-screen “drips” look more like circular splashes made from a paint-soaked tennis ball than the skeins and drips in Jackson Pollock’s “Lavender Mist.” Despite the formal infidelity, this project has more to say about the computer’s relationship to the artistic process than either of the other two. There is an unavoidable disruption in control when a participant is unable to identify a key-stroke while keeping an eye on the screen. With this breach in continuity between the conscious and the subconscious, Yeh serves up a clever metaphor for Pollock’s rhetorical irresolution between the side of him that gave the “no chaos, damn it” retort to Time magazine and his claim of attaining “pure automatism.”

The playfulness and easy appeal of this exhibition may end up marginalizing it as science-museum entertainment, and its modernist commentary might be lost on some visitors. But, then again isn’t this a problem with any historically-based inquiry, regardless of its popular appeal? The difference is, when people don’t get Mark Tansey, they keep it to themselves; at this exhibition they’ll enjoy the interactivity even if the metaphor eludes them. If an art exhibition has the moxie to stir up some serious historical discussion while offering free entertainment, what harm can it do?


by Ben Davis, Jan 24 2006

"Superlowrez" at vertexList

A second, quirkier approach to the art/technology divide is currently in evidence at Williamsburg’s small, experimental vertexList gallery, with "Superlowrez," Dec. 17-Mar. 12, 2006, curated by Marcin Ramocki. This strange show was conceived in collaboration with the Philadelphia-based group Bit Editions (also to be found online at, which "publishes fine art made from electronics." It marks Bit Editions’ first full-scale collaboration with a gallery.

For the show, vertexList brought aboard eight artists, among them the stalwarts of the Brooklyn art scene: Joe Amrhein, Brian Conley, Matt Freedman, Kristin Lucas, Jillian Mcdonald, Joe McKay, Akiko Sakaizumi and Jude Tallichet. All of them agreed to work with the same gadget for the project, a custom-built box of 12 x 14 electronic light-up "pixels." Since this dimension is calculated to be just under the pixel-content of the normal computer cursor, the format is extremely constraining (additionally, each box has a chip that can hold just 1,984 "frames" of information.

Predictably enough, the results are eccentric. As he has done in the past with artworks in other media, Joe Amrhein reflects back the language of art criticism, creating a display that mindlessly scrolls sentence fragments with buzzwords like "idiosyncratic," "seductive" and "over-caffeinated." Joe McCay’s box shows a blocky hand playing a continuously iterating game of "paper-scissors-rock," creating a not-very-intelligent artificial intelligence to set your mind against. Brian Conley has programmed into the box the morphology of a continuing stream of animal brains, the crude grid of the screen turning it into an amorphous, undulating wave. And Akiko Sakaizumi creates a queasy, video game-inspired narrative, highlighted by a flying chicken body being shot at and impregnated by a phallic cannon, and giving birth to its own head.

The best work is Jude Tallichet’s EMPR. Tallichet has taken Andy Warhol’s 1964 film, Empire -- a single static shot of the Empire State Building as the light and atmosphere change around it -- and recreated it in the Bit Editions box. Compressed into the limited time-frame of the device, the passage of time in Warhol’s famous endurance piece is signified by jerky shifts in the lit pixels, as the building starts out a shining box against a dark background, then reverses as day becomes night. The idea of the piece -- to use the filter of the primitive graphics to render the immense, symbolic building toy-like and small -- takes the enforced technological limitation and sublates it, to good effect.

If the approach of "Breaking and Entering" is Cartesian, vertexList’s is more like a modest demonstration of Hegel’s dialectical logic, in which opposites collide into each other to form a higher synthesis. Technology and art are still antagonistic -- the whole significance of picking the antique device is as a challenge to the various creators. But the idea is not for artistic ideas to suck the medium dry, but to use the energy of the clash to pull out some sort of exciting new creation. The resulting show is something of a novelty -- but all the more interesting for being so.

Art Rocker (UK)

Report from NYC, Dec 2005 (fragment)

Smile Project ( is an exhibit of emotive robots, electronic inventions and video games by artist, Jason Van Anden. We headed to the opening at VertexList gallery in Williamsburg in a torrential rainstorm. Really great, inspiring pieces, especially Neil and Iona the robots that are programmed to communicate with each other on their own…I think they’re going to take over NYC soon!


Aron Namenwirth and Jason Van Anden at VertexList

Ben LaRocco, Dec 2005

"Mixed Feelings" is a curious name for Jason Van Anden’s sculpture. His two robotic figures at VertexList are unequivocal: they laugh incessantly. Circuit boards displayed on the gallery walls show the circumscribed paths of their internal activity while small motion detectors mounted under their chins help them interact with their surroundings. Their computer-monitor heads bob around on stick necks while their waists rotate giving them a complete, if unstable, survey of the room. Their skin is papier-mâché rubbed with graphite. Both have prominent gluteal clefts and sagging breasts designating them as female. They are, in utterance and appearance, quite hideous.

Aron Namenwirth’s colorful paintings provide the two grotesqueries with something to look at. The fact that a painter would let his work be seen in such a disruptive environment is telling. Establishing a contemplative atmosphere is not his primary concern. Instead, Namenwirth shares Van Anden’s interest in social critique. He’s entitled his painting show "Nonlinear Collateral Damage." Titles include "green is for greed," "walmart the cancer within" and "the end of democracy."

Namenwirth has been working with the grid for some time, but this most recent offering seems stricter in its application. In earlier work, a secondary geometry sometimes detaches itself from the primary grid to float to the foreground. There are no such lapses at VertexList and the sense of a coded image, always present in Namenwirth’s work, is all the more conspicuous. It furnishes both an impetus for the paintings and their link to Van Anden’s sculpture.

Abstraction is a façade to Namenwirth, and the grid is a means by which power obscures its Machiavellian movement. Like the TV censor with his black strip or the government agent with his shredder, Namenwirth understands abstraction as the form truth takes when twisted from its comprehensible, information-bearing nature. Abstraction is not a transcendental end, but a technical means by which truth is deformed. Representation becomes the goal in which the integral image is reconstructed and the truth made accessible once more.

Van Anden’s work suggests that identity, rather than information, is obscured by technology. His sculptures are proxies for people. They are the size of people, they are more like people, and they express themselves like people. They do these things only partially and with an awkwardness that characterizes (for the time being) a machine’s imitation of man. Van Anden toys with mimesis to hint that in contemporary society humans are not just like machines, but are machines. Art’s symbolic power allows for this perceptual reversal. The robots’ behavior suggests that our own expressive poses amount to little more than simulacra of emotions circumscribed to such a degree that they become comic.

Random magazine (Italy)

Code Residue

Valentina Tanni, June 2005

Ha inaugurato pochi giorni fa a New York la mostra Code Residue, aperta fino al 3 luglio prossimo presso lo spazio Vertex List. L'esposizione, come annuncia il titolo, è dedicata al codice, inteso non solo come linguaggio di programmazione, ma come paradigma di un'intera società...

Con la rivoluzione digitale, la mappatura del genoma e l'infittirsi della ragnatela informativa globale, il codice si è fatto sempre più invasivo e onnipresente. Trasformandosi nello strumento principale attraverso cui la società occidentale struttura e trasmette i propri contenuti, racchiusi sotto il generico termine "informazione". Ma il codice ha una natura logico-matematica, mentale ed effimera. Forse proprio per questo molti artisti sentono la necessità di tematizzarlo e materializzarlo in sculture, quadri e installazioni. Gli artisti presenti in mostra, selezionati da Marcin Ramocki, sono: Joe Amrhein, Mira Friedlander, Tan Lin, Joe Mckay e Carlo Zanni.

Tom Moody Blog (

Matt Freedman - Twin Towers at vertexList

Tom Moody, April, 2005

Here in New York the fall of the twin towers etched a pretty deep scar in the civic consciousness. Everyone was affected by it in some way, and people still have a hard time talking about it. Unlike the millions around the U.S. who goggled at the event over and over on TV, in this city it was a lived thing. Ironically it was those TV-gogglers, with no direct experience of the tragedy, who bayed most loudly for war. People here just wanted Bush to stop stirring the pot. (Not everyone, but hundreds of thousands turned out for demonstration after demonstration.) Below, images of New York artist Matt Freedman's work at vertexList, from a two person show with Jude Tallichet. Shades of Richard Dreyfuss and the Devil's Tower in Close Encounters of the Third Kind: the damn things get to you.


I'd say Freedman's that rarity in the art world who can handle more than one emotional pitch in the same work, whereas the general drift is toward art with a clear meaning and vibe that can be reduced to a curatorial wall label. (My own "label" of his piece aims for political content that couldn't be expressed in an institutional setting but otherwise also grossly oversimplifies.)

Sampling Brooklyn, Keeper Of Eclectic Flames (fragment)

By HOLLAND COTTER, January 23, 2004

Elsewhere, the artist-run Vertexlist has opened with a solo show by the new-media artist Joe McKay. A kind of electronic fun-fair, it includes a wide-screen voice-activated video Ping-Pong game and a motorized version of a paleo-Macintosh screen icon, sure to have geek appeal. Of most interest, though, is an online database of clips produced by digital camera users who accidentally used movie mode when they meant to take still pictures of family and friends. The results have the unflattering awkwardness of old-time candid snapshots and are just as funny and touching.

Conversation between Carol Schwarzman and Marcin Ramocki (fragment), Nov 2003

CS: So, tell me what's going on here with your space.

MR: Well, we are in the construction phase right now, but we are getting ready for our opening on November 15th. And I thought that vertexlist, which is a big pile of numbers underlying the language for making images out of curves as opposed to pixels, is a nice metaphor, it's sort of a metaphor of a code that holds the image together. I think that this is the new tendency in the art world - to have the code and to have the physical representation of the code on the same level; they coexist. That's what I'm looking for. And that also ties in to many social issues. If you check out the website for the gallery, it says that vertexList looks for work that comments on post-capitalist codes.

The first show will be paintings and video work. And the paintings are by a Taiwanese artist, who is based in Williamsburg, CJ Yeh, and he wrote HTML code for Mondrian's paintings. And then he took the same size canvas, and hand-painted the HTML text onto the canvases. So there will be seven paintings that are complex simulations of Mondrian's work. When I saw them, I knew that this was very interesting work and it needs to be shown. Accompanying the paintings will be a computer set-up with a CD-Rom which shows how the code is created, so you'll be able to click on the painting and you will see the code running, and as the code is running you'll see the painting being drawn.

The video artist is Ted Szczepanski. He works with infomercials. He takes old infomercials from the 80s and 90s and chops them into little pieces. And then he sabotages them until they become a kind of techno music that subverts the original intent. They are very rhythmical - you can almost dance to them. I think we will be showing three pieces, one of which is Table Topsy-Turvy, which is based on a morning etiquette show.

CS: Sounds great.

MR: Yes, let's hope that this all can happen.

CS: Oh, I wanted to ask you to talk a little bit about the word rhizome, and how it's an important term for artists working on the computer.

MR: Well, sure, the idea of the rhizome comes from Gilles Deleuze. Rhizome basically means the stem of the plant that grows by traveling underground - like grass, and the idea of creating those connections, like spreading out and being able to connect in a non-linear way through modules and units. And the idea of a culture that's not linear and straightforward, but more web-like and enveloping and perhaps less, masculine, less hierarchical, less paternalistic. It's a structure of un-structure. So, I guess that it's a very important term for people who work on the Internet. They are able to spread information in a way that hasn't happened before.

CS: Or maybe it's happened before, but it just hasn't been written down in linear history books?

MR: It happened before, but not with the speed with which it's happening now. If you want to get information out over the Internet, you can do it fast - in two hours - if you really know how to do it.

CS: So how do you maintain such a laid-back personality in the face of all this information?

MR: . . . Me? (Laughs) I'm not laid-back - I'm very stressed.


* ciamka
* Lee Arnold
* me and billy bob
* a
* vertexlist
* joejoejoe
* eteam
* cj_yeh
* meandbilly
* 50percentopacity
* flint

Previous Posts

* movingimage: animated GIFs by Ernesto Restrepo
* digital: space: object
* HALLOWE'EN PARTY at Moti Hasson
* Forgotten Sculptors @ Sculpture Center
* Natalie Moore and Marcin Ramocki at artMovingProje...
* Kristin Lucas At Postmasters Gallery
* Sean Higgins in Art in America
* Selling the Sound of My Voice - opening
* Brice Brown and Alan Shockley: opening Friday, Oct...
* Will Rogan at Jack Hanley in San Francisco

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Published: November 22, 2007

IT is Thanksgiving Day, the one day of the year when you’re expected to be grateful.

But according to an army of psychologists, writers and talk show hosts like Oprah, giving thanks only today is a lost opportunity. You should be grateful all the time, they say, and one of the best ways is in writing — by keeping a “gratitude journal.”

Television programs, books, radio shows and Web sites point to research that shows that keeping a list of things you’re thankful for can make you happier.

Could this mild exercise, jotting down a few grateful thoughts, really be the key to contentment? It seems a little too easy, like those infomercials that promise a stomach to die for with just five minutes a day on the Abdomenizer or a full head of hair by spraying a can of gunk on your bald spot.

I found it hard to believe, so I decided to see for myself. I started a gratitude journal.

Now, mind you, in the words of a colleague, I am not one of the grumpier people around. I like to think that my innate level of happiness — my “set point,” as psychologists call it, which I can go a bit above or below, depending on circumstances — is fairly high. But according to proponents of what is known as positive psychology, by keeping a journal I should become happier still.

Robert Emmons, a psychologist at the University of California, Davis, and a leading expert in positive psychology, whetted my appetite for what could come.

“There are really tangible, concrete benefits to being grateful,” said Dr. Emmons, the author of “Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier” (Houghton Mifflin).

Health improves, relationships get better, people are more active and enthusiastic. There are benefits for others, too, as happier people are more creative, productive and easier to be around.

Dr. Emmons said that even people who are lonely and isolated can become less so. “If you can combat those feelings by the simple practice of keeping a gratitude journal, that’s a pretty significant finding,” he said.

(For the record, not only am I not all that grumpy, I am also not particularly lonely and isolated. In case you were wondering.)

But early on in my writing exercises I learned one thing: Keeping a journal may be simple, as Dr. Emmons says, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

For instance, there is the sheer discipline of writing. At first, I merely scribbled random, not particularly insightful thoughts.

“The key is not just to write it down, but to write it down mindfully — to focus, to imagine, to re-experience,” said Tal Ben-Shahar, a lecturer in psychology at Harvard and the author of the recent book “Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment” (McGraw-Hill). That way, he added, we become aware of good things that have happened to us. “If we’re not aware of the good things in our lives, then as far as we’re concerned they don’t exist.”

For me, though, there was the question of what good things I should be aware of. I started with sweeping platitudes about being thankful for having a roof over my head, and for having wonderful friends and family, but I found it all too broad and open-ended and ultimately unsatisfying. It turns out I’m not alone in those kinds of feelings.

“I was sort of annoyed by my gratitude journal,” said Gretchen Rubin, who chronicled the year she spent trying to become happier in a book, “The Happiness Project,” to be published in 2009, and a blog (

While she acknowledged that journals work for many people — “it’s probably one of the top five things for increasing happiness,” she said — it was a trial for her.

“It’s so limitless,” she said. “ ‘I’m grateful for air conditioning. I’m grateful for living in a democratic society.’ I didn’t find it particularly happiness-inducing.”

Ms. Rubin found other ways to express her gratitude. A lawyer turned writer, she found that just opening her laptop every day made her feel grateful for her new career.

Sonja Lyubomirsky, a psychologist at the University of California, Riverside, whose book, “The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want” (Penguin Press), comes out next month, said that for some people gratitude journals are a chore. The key, she said, was not to feel compelled to write all the time. In her research, she found that people who wrote journals once a week were happier, but those who wrote three times a week were not.

Other people find it corny. “Gratitude is not for everyone,” she said. “If you don’t feel sincere and authentic while you’re doing it, it’s not going to work for you.”

Dr. Lyubomirsky admits to some feelings like that herself. One alternative, she said, would be to spend 15 minutes once a week writing a letter of gratitude to someone you know. That might end up being more sincere.

Whatever the method, studies show that you need to keep a journal for a couple of months, at least, to notice an effect. And like working out on the Abdomenizer, you’ve got to keep it up, otherwise the tendency is to fall back to your set point of happiness.

The jury is out on whether I’m happier. I stuck with my journal, but after combating feelings of open-endedness and corniness, I settled for much more specific feelings of gratitude. Being thankful for a tiny act, I found, was far more satisfying because it felt more immediate and genuine. So I was grateful for the free parking space I found at the train station, for the fruit vendor who finally had some ripe bananas and, the ultimate act of kindness, for what I’ll call the Creamed Onions Episode.

We had invited our neighbor Lisa and her family over for Thanksgiving. In an e-mail message, I had gone over some menu items, and mentioned my favorite side dish. “Ah, creamed onions,” Lisa replied. “Wonderful.”

Over 30 years of cooking Thanksgiving meals, my creamed onions — my mother’s creamed onions, really, since I’d gotten the recipe from her — were met mostly with silence. It has been pointed out to me that some of this response was no doubt because the recipe consists solely of boiled onions and large gobs of cream cheese. But whatever, I was grateful for Lisa’s enthusiasm.

Flushed with this sense of gratitude, I began to wonder what good it did. I had asked Dr. Emmons and others about the potential for narcissism. Can’t being thankful just become an exercise in self-absorption?

“That is a perception that people have,” Dr. Emmons said. But it’s a misperception.

“Sure, there’s obviously some benefits to one’s self,” he added. But being happy “expands the self rather than shrinks it.”

Part of being happy involves engaging in meaningful pursuits, he said. “And many of those are found outside the self. Happy people have commitments to causes outside the self.”

So here, in an effort to be more expansive, I share my mother’s creamed onion recipe with the world:

Peel up a bag or two of yellow onions (not the pearl variety, just regular yellow ones, preferably on the smaller side). Boil them in a pot of water for 20 minutes or so. Drain. Throw in a block or two of cream cheese. Stir as the cream cheese melts. Serve.

Couldn’t be more simple. Like a gratitude journal.


News about Diane Arbus, including commentary and archival articles published in The New York Times.
Highlights From the Archives
Genuine Wonders From the Flea Circus: Photos by Arbus

A recently discovered cache of Diane Arbus prints sheds light on later Arbus works.
November 22, 2007ArtsNews

FILM REVIEW; A Visual Chronicler of Humanity's Underbelly, Draped in a Pelt of Perversity

“Fur” is a folly, though not a dishonorable one.
November 10, 2006
HOLIDAY MOVIES; From Spanking a Secretary to Exposing a Photographer

Erin Cressida Wilson’s latest film, "Fur," is about Diane Arbus, but it’s a most unorthodox portrait.
November 5, 2006
ART REVIEW; On Sontag: Essayist As Metaphor And Muse
ART REVIEW; On Sontag: Essayist As Metaphor And Muse

The Met opens a small, grave, beautiful photography show that evokes the spirit of a seminal critique of photography.
August 18, 2006

* Slide Show: Sontag as Metaphor and Muse

ART AND ARCHITECTURE: THE NEW YORK SCENE; Visions From Nigeria and India And a Van Searching for Utopia

In a year dominated by the politics of hype in the art world, there were a few non-industry models to consider.
December 25, 2005
ART REVIEW; Arbus's Full Frontal Oddity

Benjamin Genocchio reviews touring retrospective of photographs by Diane Arbus at Metropolitan Museum of Art; photos
March 27, 2005
ART; A Thousand Words? How About $450,000?

Brand-name photography is now a status object, with prices to match. Just what does that prove?
March 13, 2005
PHOTOGRAPHY REVIEW; The Profound Vision of Diane Arbus: Flaws in Beauty, Beauty in Flaws

The Metropolitan Museum's retrospective proves that her most memorable work was all about heart - a ferocious, audacious heart.
March 11, 2005
Inside Art

"Diane Arbus Revelations," a show that arrives at the Metropolitan Museum on Tuesday, gives visitors a peek beyond the images for which she is so well known.
March 4, 2005
ART; The Photographer's Curator Curates His Own

As director of photography at the Museum of Modern Art, John Szarkowski made America's most famous lensmen. Then he became one.
January 30, 2005
ART IN REVIEW; 'From the Classroom to the World' -- 'Hine, Ulmann, Strand, Arbus and the Ethical Culture Fieldston School'

Grace Glueck reviews works by photographers Lewis W Hine, Doris Ulmann, Paul Strand and Diane Arbus, all of whom had a relationship with the Ethical Culture Fieldston School, at New York Historical Society; photo
May 21, 2004

Diane Arbus's Fragile Prey

The works at the Grey Art Gallery, though likened to a family album, are more like a butterfly collection, with rarefied specimens as targets. (Jan. 8, 2004)
Unveiled (Sept. 14, 2003)

In a landmark museum show and a first glimpse of revealing letters, an image of Diane Arbus as a deeply empathetic artist is coming into focus.

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Genuine Wonders From the Flea Circus: Photos by Arbus

Published: November 22, 2007

“We had our awe and our shame in one gulp,” Diane Arbus wrote of watching the assorted freaks and sideshow performers who populated Hubert’s Dime Museum and Flea Circus, a celebrated basement phantasmagoria on 42nd Street in Manhattan where she began shooting in the late 1950s as she was beginning to hone her stark signature style.
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Courtesy of Steve Turner Contemporary, Los Angeles

DeWise Purdon at Hubert’s, photographed by Diane Arbus.

In a poignant 1966 obituary about the museum, which had mostly closed the previous year, Arbus added, “What if we couldn’t always tell a trick from a miracle?”

Decades later a Philadelphia book dealer and collector of African-Americana named Bob Langmuir found himself agonizing over a similar question.

In 2003 he bought a pile of papers from a collector in Brooklyn who had come across them years earlier at an auction of possessions unclaimed from a storage warehouse in the Bronx.

The dusty, yellowed documents and pictures appear to have belonged to a onetime sideshow performer named Charlie Lucas, a black man who worked as the manager of Hubert’s in its last years. Mr. Langmuir was interested mainly because he saw the artifacts as a kind of underground record of the life of an African-American businessman and entertainer.

But when sorting through the pile, Mr. Langmuir found a note in a dog-eared datebook kept by Lucas that stopped him: “Diane Arbus, 131 ½ Charles St. WA 4 — 4608.” Then, he says, he looked again at some of the heavily flashed photographs of performers like Estelline Pike, a sword swallower, and DeWise Purdon, a man with no hands, and wondered: Could these possibly be early Arbus works? Or am I just dreaming?

In the world of collecting it turned out that Mr. Langmuir had come across a miracle, not a trick. Over the next several months, along a tortuous trail that led him to curators at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art, to Sotheby’s and to the Arbus estate — a journey that was nearly ended by a nervous breakdown and a nasty divorce — Mr. Langmuir discovered that at least 21 photographs from the Lucas papers were rare, authentic Arbus prints.

In April, Phillips de Pury & Company plans to auction them and the other Hubert’s artifacts, making it likely that Mr. Langmuir will collect hundreds of thousands of dollars. He will also be the subject of “Hubert’s Freaks,” a book by Gregory Gibson about the unlikely discovery, about Arbus and about her formative time spent with the denizens of the museum. The book’s release is being sped up by its publisher, Harcourt, to coincide with the auction.

The discovery provides an unexpected new look at Arbus’s earliest days as an artist, not long after she stopped working with her husband, Allan, in fashion photography and began to gravitate toward the unconventional subjects and approaches that would define her best-known work.

The outlandish subjects of her Hubert’s years — giant cowboys, tattooed men, snake dancers and people like William Durks, a performer with a deformed face whom she called “the man from World War Zero” — directly prefigure those of her later works like nudist camp residents, transvestites, aging beauty queens and Eddie Carmel, the “Jewish Giant,” an 8-foot-9-inch man whom she shot with his normal-size parents in 1970 in one of her most famous pictures.

The Arbus prints also open a subterranean window onto the profound oddity of Hubert’s, a largely forgotten piece of New York history that was a kind of high-low meeting place from the 1930s until it crumbled along with Times Square. In its heyday on 42nd Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues, it was a haunt for the louche and the lurid, and also for raconteurs of the offbeat like A. J. Liebling, Tom Wolfe, Bob Dylan, Andy Kaufman and Lenny Bruce, who developed a routine about Albert Alberta, a half-man, half-woman act.

In a 1940 article in The New Yorker about Lady Olga, a renowned bearded woman, Joseph Mitchell recounted how Cole Porter sought her out in her dressing room at Hubert’s to invite her to a party given at the Ritz-Carlton by Monty Woolley. (To complement her 13 ½-inch beard, she wore a rhinestone-studded gown and commented later to Mitchell: “I guess I was a curiosity to them. Some of them sure were a curiosity to me.”)

Steve Turner, an art dealer in Los Angeles who is working with Mr. Langmuir and Phillips to mount an exhibition of the photographs and the other memorabilia at his gallery in February, said that Hubert’s was important not only because of its location in the heart of the mostly respectable theater district but also because of its sheer tenacity. It soldiered on for years even after its minuscule chief attraction, Professor LeRoy Heckler’s trained fleas, moved on when Heckler retired in 1960.

“The fact that it made it into the 1960s, when most of that kind of world had evaporated, is amazing,” Mr. Turner said. He suggested that the photographs were important in the context of Arbus’s career because they showed how she courted and befriended her subjects and often saw them as a kind of accidental family. (She apparently gave the prints to Mr. Lucas, who died in 1991, and may have given some to other performers as gifts in return for their willingness to pose for her.)

In many ways Mr. Langmuir, 57, is a fitting recipient for such an eccentric slice of American history. A rare-books and memorabilia dealer with a deep knowledge of old blues and folk recordings, he spent his youth rambling through Europe and Russia, serving as a merchant mariner and working briefly as a roadie for Muddy Waters. In his youth, Mr. Gibson’s book says, he was also given to wearing velour capes around Philadelphia, a result of a fascination with the Pre-Raphaelites.

Mr. Turner, who has known Mr. Langmuir for many years, describes him as the kind of reclusive dealer who likes to collect things but then usually cannot bear to part with them. “He’s really brilliantly instinctual, but he doesn’t have the constitution for a certain kind of commerce,” he said.

In a brief telephone interview about his discovery, Mr. Langmuir said he had decided to sell the Hubert’s archive only reluctantly. The money is hard to pass up, of course, but he said he also felt that the history of the museum and Arbus’s time there deserved to be better known.

“If it goes back into Bob’s box,” he said, referring to his voluminous collections. “Then the story is me repeating the same old anecdotes to myself.”

“And this is a story that, the more you look into it, just keeps getting stranger and stranger,” he said.


Forging a complex bond between recruit and DI
By Tony Perry
Marine recruits forge strong ties with their drill instructors. The DI-recruit bond evolves slowly, not just from all the yelling, but because the DIs do everything the recruits do, only better.

A recipe for holiday success: Wing it
By Sandy Banks
Rather than an elaborate meal that might have been, the simple repast we had was fabulous.

Master decoder sees Earth's future in a petri dish
By Karen Kaplan
J. Craig Venter thinks genome design will make it possible to create green jet fuel, gasoline -- just about any chemical. It's either that or go back to cave dwelling.


Something old is new again -- and greener
By Ken Bensinger
Carmakers are turning to turbocharging, long viewed skeptically by Americans,
as a relatively cheap, easy way to boost mileage.


Witnessing work on art
By Mike Boehm
At Lux Art Institute in Encinitas, visitors can look over the artist's shoulder.

Witnessing work on art
At Lux Art Institute in Encinitas, visitors can look over the artist's shoulder.
By Mike Boehm, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
November 24, 2007
ENCINITAS, Calif. -- At the Lux Art Institute in Encinitas, demystifying the creative process means turning it into a combination spectator event and audience-participation forum, playing live three days a week.

Invited artists get to settle into Lux's new $6-million, canyon-side retreat, usually for a month or two -- with all expenses paid, plus a stipend -- while creating their next piece. What's unusual is that on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, the veil is pulled back, and the public gets to watch, question and comment while the artist works.

On Nov. 15, as Lux's first two paying visitors looked on, NASCAR was the spectator event that came momentarily to mind. Suddenly and accidentally, the relief-like piece that Chilean postmodernist Tomás Rivas was carving into a large square of drywall shifted on its makeshift easel and fell to the floor with a scrape and a thud.

"Oops," somebody said.

Dionné Carlson hesitated for a moment, then sprang into action. She'd been reading for years about Lux's plans in local papers. Now that the multicolored building of earth-toned concrete, exterior teak paneling and shiny steel finally had opened, surrounded by native gardens and a 60-acre nature preserve, she and her friend, Dolores Keyes, were checking it out. They had anticipated something different, but not this different.

Carlson squatted near the fallen, half-done objet d'art and made ready to give it a hoist. "I'm pretty strong," she said, looking up at Rivas, who calmly and wordlessly waved her off.

The 32-year-old artist with the long, ungovernable brown hair and intense eyes carefully checked his work, lightly strumming petal-like curlicue peelings to make sure they hadn't been marred. Satisfied, he improvised a more secure easel with a couple of plastic chairs. Soon, he was scraping away again. With no barriers between artist and visitors, the two middle-aged women stood back a few feet, looking over his shoulder as he cut craters and tatters into a decorative pattern he'd traced from an image of the scrollwork and leafy adornments on an ancient Greek temple. Crisis resolved, the artist could face his public.

The visitors were curious about his technique in several other works hanging in the room, pieces in which Rivas had smeared frosty-white lard over classical designs. He was pleased to fill them in on the strange practice of making art out of hog's fat.

"Your work is just magic," Carlson said with a smile.

Even with the compliment, some artists might recoil at such an encounter, their minds conjuring images of fishbowls and zoo enclosures. But for Rivas, mishap and all, there was no discomfort.

"I don't believe there's anything that needs to be hidden," he said. "I'm trying to demystify the world, break into all the illusions that surround artists and art."

Reesey Shaw, Lux's director and guiding force since 1998, is confident that the artists she picks will appreciate, or at least tolerate, working in the public eye. She tested the concept from 1994 to 1997 as the first director of the museum at the California Center for the Arts in Escondido, where she occasionally commissioned artists to create as visitors watched and asked questions. Once, she recalled, the artist was taciturn and painted in silence. Even then, "people saw the seriousness of purpose, and it was compelling. And for the artists who are usually stuck in their garage or loft, it was stimulating and humanizing."

With Lux, Shaw has institutionalized that interaction. Artists make themselves at home in a swank, 900-square-foot apartment with a sweeping canyon view, just downstairs from the big, high-ceilinged, single-room studio and gallery where they work. With a selection of their past works curated by Shaw on display around them, they produce at least one more piece from start to finish so the public can see creativity unfold.

"Most of the public never meets an artist," Shaw said in an interview. She thinks opening the process will help doubters see that contemporary art is not "the emperor's new clothes."

Rivas departs after Nov. 29, leaving behind the 10-piece gallery show already on display, plus four additional drywall carvings he plans to create during his residency. There's also "Unobtrusive," a huge drywall installation of an ancient temple, framed by the sky on a hilltop overlooking Lux, where damage from the elements will help communicate Rivas' core themes of endurance and mutability. Landscape painter Astrid Preston will come for two months starting Jan. 31, followed by two-week stays for Julie Heffernan and Daniel Wheeler. For now, a floral pattern Rivas is cutting into the white wall of Shaw's office is the only art from the residencies that Lux intends to own -- at least until it can raise an estimated $10 million to $20 million to expand from 5,000 to 30,000 square feet. That would create room for bigger shows and possibly a permanent collection.

The other challenge is raising about $500,000 annually to pay for the residencies as well as educational programs. Lux, previously based in an office trailer downhill from the new building, has sent art teachers into schools and senior centers since 2000. Each lesson is built around one of 11 artworks-in-a-valise the institute has commissioned.

Public hours are Thursdays and Fridays from 1 to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The cost is $10 for two visits (free for those 21 and younger), a package intended to get people to return and view the finished results after seeing the art being made. Volunteer docents accompany visitors, but there is no prescribed etiquette for where to stand and what to do, ask or say.

"It's no holds barred," Shaw said. "I wouldn't want anyone to muck around with the artwork or touch the tools. Other than that, it's pretty freewheeling." Part of her job, she says, is "dating" prospective resident artists to ensure their temperaments are a match for the institute.

"It takes a certain kind of temperament" for artists to thrive in a fishbowl, said Deborah Obalil, executive director of Alliance of Artists Communities. "But it's definitely gaining traction, because of the idea that art should not exist apart from the public sphere, and a trend among art makers to want to engage more directly with the public."

Lux may be unique in requiring artists to finish new work during their stays, Obalil said. The more than 250 retreats her organization serves typically invite them to create as they wish or simply to think. For that reason, she said, residencies are judged less for their direct output than for the quality of the artists involved and the getaway's reputation for nurturing and recharging its participants.

"They're research-and-development labs of the arts," Obalil said. "Opportunities to explore, and to fail, in a supportive environment."

Lux Art Institute is betting that there is no contradiction between being open to the public and providing a "supportive environment" for creativity.

"If you're not a curator or an artist yourself, you usually don't have this life experience," director Shaw said. "It's compelling and human, and I think people react to it and feel a sense of intimacy and genuineness."


For Film Companies, a State of Flux
A Scenic Los Angeles Enclave, Without Glitter
Thanks to the reopening of the Will Rogers Ranch House and the Getty Villa on the Pacific side, visitors now have more reasons to explore one of the most secluded neighborhoods in Los Angeles.
Got experience?
By Michael Kinsley
You can vote the resume or the life, but the key is what was learned.
No more reading the readers
By Meghan Daum
Thanks to a new electronic device, it may become impossible to judge people by their (book) covers.
Winning the rat race by quitting it
By Ezra Klein
We're working ourselves silly thanks to the desire to have better stuff than everyone else.
Icy Rescue as Seas Claim a Cruise Ship
In a lecture hall, passengers were told that the Antarctic waters were creeping in. Then the power failed and the ship ceased responding.

"All you could think was how relieved these people must have been when they saw these two big ships coming over the horizon."
JON BOWERMASTER, aboard a research vessel that rescued passengers from a sinking ship near Antarctica.
Barely Getting By, Too Proud to Seek Help and Facing a Cold Winter
In order to cope with the big financial gap in prescription drug coverage,
Americans are increasingly turning to low-cost generic medications.
Lost in a Flood of Debt
While the media coverage has focused on the high rollers who created the subprime frenzy, the hapless victims have remained in the shadows, condemned to economic ruin.
Turning Nonworking Gizmos Into Money
For a long time, there was only one destination for your old electronics: the dump. Now people like Brett Mosley, owner of, have given people more options.
In One Fell Swoop, Jay-Z Impresses Critics, Fans, the U.N. and Wall Street

By Mike Nizza

Tags: business, culture, hip hop, music
jayz(Photo: Brian Kersey/Associated Press)

The accolades Jay-Z have recently poured forth from all sectors. His new album was critically acclaimed and sold more than any other last week, which tied him with Elvis at 10 chart-topping albums.

And the acclaim was extended in some unlikely places, such as the dark, rarefied set of the Charlie Rose show. Jay-Z and Mr. Rose traded compliments for the full hour, which culminated in Mr. Rose offering a heartfelt lesson about the meaning of life.

Even the United Nations recognized him for helping to improve water and sanitation across the world with an improbably informal shout-out from Secretary General Ban Ki Moon:

My man Jay-Z has been a wonderful partner to the UN, and a champion of those in need around the world.

Financially, paychecks for his work as chief executive of Def Jam records, a recording artist and builder of a clothing company made him the richest man in hip-hop, according to Forbes.

Last year, he made 34 million in American dollars, but it was his use of stacks of euros in a recent music video that added to jitters credited to Gisele Bundchen and garnered the attention of Wall Street watchers everywhere.

“Jay-Z, the New Alan Greenspan,” the headlines cooed, but another piece of financial advice dispensed during a rap song seemed less likely to win a similar following. In “Laff at Em,” he divulges his portfolio, saying that he has 200 million in cash and 35 million in stock.

While that might seem far less diversified than investors working with similarly-sized pools of capital, he didn’t say whether it was in dollars or euros, a crucial difference in a year that has seen the euro gain 11 percent. In the unlikely case that he dumped all of his cash into euros at the beginning of the year, he would’ve almost quadrupled the gains made on the S & P 500, which is up 3 percent.


Jay-Z has 99 problems, but a solid return on equity ain’t one.

— Posted by e-south
The “music” is garbage. Anyone who wastes their time listening to it, reading or writing about it, or ‘livin’ the life’ is just a dope trying to be cool. It’s hard to believe anyone really considers this stuff music as it mostly stolen from other real musicians. Yo, gonna ride in my Maybach wif all my hos. Get real. Find some real culture and real music.
— Posted by David

Sounds like it’s official.

Elvis has fianlly left the building!!!

— Posted by Carolina Lew


Art in Review; Cory Arcangel; Cory Arcangel and Paper Rad
Published: February 4, 2005

Team Gallery
527 West 26th Street, Chelsea
Through Feb. 12

'Super Mario Movie'
Deitch Projects
76 Grand Street, SoHo
Through Feb. 26

The idea that all things digital and electronic are as easy for artists to use as found images or objects receives exciting corroboration in Cory Arcangel's solo debut at Team Gallery. For the occasion, Mr. Arcangel, an artist, musician and computer wizard whose work was seen in the 2004 Whitney Biennial, created a mélange of found or manipulated music, music video and video games.

At Team, he demonstrates an impressive range of possibilities, as well as surprising affinities with Formalist, Conceptual and Process Art. There are several of the ''handmade hacked Nintendo cartridges,'' to quote from the exhibition checklist, for which he is best known, most notably a stripped-out version of ''Space Invaders.'' It reduces the action to single alien craft, replacing freneticism with quieter contemplation of the image's changing iridescent colors.

Making more of a social point is ''Beach Boys/Geto Boys,'' in which Mr. Arcangel juxtaposes music videos of these bands; its obviousness is redeemed by an inspired blending of their songs. Authorship itself takes a holiday in ''Private Eyez,'' which pairs karaoke music with more bright colors, and ''Message My Brother Justin Left Me on My Cell From the Slayer Concert He Went to Last Week,'' which is exactly that.

''Dooogle'' is a monomaniacal search engine where all the results pertain to the television series ''Doogie Howser, M.D.'' And the video ''Cat Rave'' features a wall-size video projection of Mr. Arcangel's cat zoned out in its own small day-glow environment.

At Deitch, Mr. Arcangel joins forces with the Internet collective Paper Rad to create ''Super Mario Movie,'' a single, ambitious work. In it, the image component of the early ''Super Mario Brothers'' Nintendo game is rerouted to create a narrative about the program's erosion and its effect on one of the perpetually dazed brothers.

An admiration for formalist painting is evident here, too, with extraordinary patterns pulsating in time to music composed by Jacob Ciocci of Paper Rad on a program by Mr. Arcangel. The notion that everything made by humans can be remade -- disassembled, recombined and diverted toward new purposes -- shines forth in these shows. ROBERTA SMITH

Correction: February 23, 2005, Wednesday A brief art review in Weekend on Feb. 4 about Cory Arcangel's exhibition at Team Gallery in Chelsea, which has since closed, misstated the ownership of the cat that appeared in a video, ''Cat Rave.'' While the work was a collaboration between Mr. Arcangel and Frankie Martin, the cat was owned by Mr. Martin.

Art Review |
Published: November 9, 2007

Ars longa, vita brevis? Physics doesn’t really work that way. Everything’s falling to pieces all the time, bodies quickly, sculptures and paintings more slowly but just as surely. We build museums that look like banks or arks, but to no avail. Protect and conserve as we will, art is forever going, going, gone.

PHOTOGRAPHS > Buildings & Landmarks

Climbing Down From The Crown - 1962 Click to view large image.

Photo by Neal Boenzi.

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Coney Island - 1931

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Thousands fill the beach at Coney Island in Brooklyn.

Flatiron at Sunrise, Black and White

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Legging It - 2003

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Stock Market Celebration - 1968

Confetti rains down as a year of trading draws to a close on December 31, 1968, at the New York Stock Exchange.

The Battery, Lower Manhattan, New York, 1945

A peanut vendor on the streets of New York. Photo by Todd Webb (1905 - 2001).

Mr. Perkin's Pierce Arrow, Harlem, New York, 1946

A wonderful juxtaposition of luxury car against brick wall and fire escapes with shadows. Photo by Todd Webb (1905 - 2001).

Manhattan Bridge, From Madison and Pike Streets, New York, 1

A view of the bridge and street scene below. Photo by Todd Webb (1905 - 2001).

MORE ON 'Must Don't Whip 'Um'
Mama Was a Rolling Stone

Published: January 26, 2007

To a certain kind of aesthetic traditionalist there is certainly no more alienating set of words in the artist’s vocabulary than the phrase “mixed-media performance.” Such an individual hears those words and fears, more often than not justifiably, the very worst — indulgence, discord, facile earnestness. The mixed-media performer can be prone to masquerading platitude (war is trying; love, unattainable; materialism, rampant) as position. And in delivering the masquerade in several formats —with instruments, computer monitors, acrobats — the performer is suggesting that a mere barrage of images will compensate for all crimes of intellectual ambition committed.
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The performance artist Cynthia Hopkins in her latest piece, “Must Don’t Whip ’Um,” which made its debut at St. Ann’s Warehouse.
Readers’ Opinions
Forum: Theater

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A scene from "Must Don't Whip 'Um."

Cynthia Hopkins, however, holds herself to a higher standard. Her latest piece, “Must Don’t Whip ’Um,” which made its debut at St. Ann’s Warehouse earlier this week after a staging in Minneapolis, is a triumph of disciplined thinking, narrative fluidity and musical accomplishment.

Ms. Hopkins tells the story of a failed and missing fictitious 1970s rock singer, Cameron Seymour, through the pieced-together reminiscences of her daughter, Mary, who is making a documentary about her in hopes of figuring out exactly who and what she was. The conceit allows for the use of projected images from live cameras and the presentation of hilarious mock documentary footage — witnesses to the era who inform Mary in interviews that her mother wasn’t quite the Janis Joplin genius she had imagined.

Ms. Hopkins nimbly plays both mother and daughter. As Cameron, she sings a series of haunting and sometimes quite funny songs that she composed herself, accompanied by Ms. Hopkins’s band, Gloria Deluxe, which moves in and out of view on the upper level of a stage, a scrim serving to hide and reveal it. Ms. Hopkins’s voice is both so delicate and emotionally forceful — part Natalie Merchant, part Madeline Peyroux — that it leaves you wondering why she has ever bothered to do anything else but deploy it.

But she has done much else, and at the heart of the production’s magic is her soulful exploration of maternal abandonment, the conflicts an artist’s life presents, and the solipsism of spiritual quest. All the rest is wonderful confetti.

“Must Don’t Whip ’Um” continues through Feb. 4 at St. Ann’s Warehouse, 38 Water Street, Dumbo, Brooklyn
Familiar Thoughts on Suicide? Not So Fast

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Published: November 16, 2007

So you were dying to see Tracy Letts’s “August: Osage County” on Broadway, but the stagehands’ strike left you out in the cold? Not to worry. There’s another stirringly melodramatic Chicago import in town that also begins with a mysterious death before exploring the wildly dysfunctional world that gave rise to the tragedy. With an hour running time and an eerie, almost dreamlike style, the show is both more modest and experimental than Mr. Letts’s family drama, but it will leave you just as shaken. Here’s the kicker: A boy in the fourth grade wrote it.
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Heather Clark

Joseph Binder in "The 4th Graders Present an Unnamed Love-Suicide."

Performed by his classmates, whose stiff, unaffected style suggests that they are either well versed in the art of Richard Maxwell or just bad actors, the play, written by a boy named Johnny, takes place in an elementary school with a lineup of stock characters: the bully, the evil popular girl, the goody-goody Asian hall monitor. But if you think this sounds familiar, it’s not.

There is an oddly dark undercurrent to these mundane and innocent stories of mean girls and confusing crushes, one that suggests an imaginative, if troubled, mind at work. And that might be because this play was the last thing Johnny wrote before he killed himself.

The clever conceit of “The 4th Graders Present an Unnamed Love-Suicide” is that Johnny’s friends, who are played by a superb cast of young adults led by a watery-eyed and sensitive Joseph Binder, are honoring his death by putting on his play. It’s the first drama I’ve ever seen that so literally takes the form of a suicide note, and the audience will view it as such, digging for clues and hidden messages to what happened to Johnny. Staged in an almost empty white box by Devin Brain, the elegiac play, which melds the mundane and the fantastical, answers some questions and leaves others hanging.

The playwright, Sean Graney, who is also the founder and artistic director of the well-regarded 10-year-old Hypocrites theater company, writes in a sly, fake-adolescent style (“You don’t want to be my lunchtime buddy guest”) that includes a variety of malapropisms and seeming misstatements. This stylized inarticulacy strikes a few wrong notes, especially when it tweaks clichés ham-handedly. (“These eyes are sore and you are a sight to be for them.”) But by the shattering conclusion of this unusual work, it has achieved its own kind of poetry. Imagine Harold Pinter as a 9-year-old, and you get something of the idea.

“The 4th Graders Present an Unnamed Love-Suicide” continues through Dec. 2 at the 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street, Manhattan; (212) 279-4200.


It’s Not Just a River in Egypt
“Everyone is in denial about something; just try denying it and watch friends make a list,” writes Benedict Carey. If you’re in denial about the wintry weather, rebuff it with a new pair of shades or a waterproof but still cool-looking shoe. If you’re in denial about your paltry wallet, you can always hit tonight’s clothing swap for just $10. The payoff: better stuff, and not having to kid yourself about the price tags.
“Denial Makes the World Go Round,” by Benedict Carey


British football
The real reason why we are useless



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