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Op-Art Intrigue

November 26, 2008

In the mid-1970s Victor Vasarely designed and paid for the construction of what he christened the Centre Architectonique d’Aix-en-Provence. The structure was intended to act as a permanent exhibition space for Vasarely’s work, but also as a populist community center for artists and designers, a focal point for an as-yet-unrealized artists’ colony. Today the building is largely disused and in disrepair. What’s worse, the majority of the artist’s archive, which was housed in the Centre and a second museum he established in Gordes, has been pilfered by Vasarely’s relatives and sold off. His grandson, Pierre Vasarely, is out to right such wrongs and has been involved in a court battle with his step-mother Michèle Taburno for years. Taburno is generally credited with masterminding the dilution of Vasarely’s archive and has made herself quite wealthy in the process. The whole sordid story was covered by Artinfo.

Monument marking the entry to the Vasarely Foundation

Vasarely Foundation, Aix-en-Provence

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Books | Total Destruction of a Planet!

November 24, 2008

I had no idea that former Paris Review editor and sports journalist, George Plimpton, was the spokesperson for Intellivision back in the early 80s. I can’t help but read some irony into his endorsement of Intellivision’s “most exciting visual effect”…

Anyway, Random House published an oral biography of Plimpton last month that was recently featured in the NY Times Book Review. It seems the editors of the book gathered 200 of Plimpton’s friends, acquaintances and associates to recount stories and impressions of George.

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Re: Relational Design

November 18, 2008

Andrew Blauvelt recently posted a very thoughtful essay on the subject of relational design (some visual references and a more concise statement of his position are available at the Walker Art Center blog). Blauvelt frames his argument like so:

Some of the most interesting work today is not reducible to the same polemic of form and counter-form, action and reaction, which has become the predictable basis for most on-going debates for decades. Instead, we are in the midst of a much larger paradigm shift across all design disciplines, one that is uneven in its development, but is potentially more transformative than previous isms, or micro-historic trends, would indicate. More specifically, I believe we are in the third major phase of modern design history: an era of relationally-based, contextually-specific design.

This claim along with the titular component of the piece call to mind Nicolas Bourriaud’s Relational Aesthetics, a text which appears to present a similar thesis with respect to contemporary art since the mid 1990s. But upon closer inspection, I think the two are quite different. Bourriaud suggests that what’s novel about some recent art is the way that a “work” has come to encompass less a specific object than a duration of experience, a being-there among others. The exemplar of his position is Rirkrit Tiravanija, who is known for cooking and giving away Thai food, water or pudding at his openings. The “work” includes not simply the performance of the cooking, but the relationships developed among those who attend these performances.

Rirkrit Tiravanija, Untitled, 1992/2007

Blauvelt’s use of the term “relational” seems less specific to me. Judging by his examples, he’s not talking strictly about inter-human relationships, but also about what might be called reactive technologies. Things like a typeface that alters in appearance depending on changes in the air temperature of a given site, or Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s Blur Building, which incorporates programmed jets that shroud the building in mist. These sorts of programmed reactions to variable conditions are certainly interesting, but I’m not sure that they constitute the sort of radical break with the past that Blauvelt’s “third phase” would suggest. It seems to me that these are decidedly familiar gestures that employ a strict set of conditions/constraints to execute a program, much in the way that Sol LeWitt established his working practice.

Diller, Scofidio + Renfro’s Blur Building, 2002

I think Blauvelt is definitely onto something in regard to his acknowledgment of a tendency in recent years to see design as a facilitator of social relationships, but I’m a bit skeptical of the sort of periodizing logic that he’s couched his statements in. Design encompasses formal features and symbolic meanings and pragmatic solutions. These aren’t discreet objectives, but overlapping concerns. Form, meaning, and use are all keystones of the design process and will continue to be across any foreseeable trajectory of relational design.

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Here is Always Somewhere Else

I’ve been waiting for this for a while – Rene Daalder’s documentary concerning the disappearance at sea of Bas Jan Ader, one of the most incisive performance artists of the 1970s. His career was short and his output limited, but his influence on recent art practice has been huge.

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Urban Studies | Time out of place

November 16, 2008

Insightful review of Michael Winterbottom’s 2003 film Code 46 at bldgblog. Seems that the film develops its urban backdrop via visual bricolage, amalgamating the landmarks of developing megacities into an uncannily familiar no-place. Regarding this technique, Geoff Manaugh asks, “But what does it mean that Asian cities – cinematically depicted as a kind of monolithic urban Other – are, for the time being, so visually unfamiliar to Western audiences that they can be edited into a seamless Global Metropolis, a vast agglomeration of spatial alterity that we can cut-and-paste together on film?” What, indeed. Manaugh will sit down with Winterbottom next week at the Barbican to tease out some answers.

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Black Panthers?

November 14, 2008

Aoyama cemetery, Tokyo.

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Art | Osage HK

Kwun Tong is an industrial neighborhood on the Kowloon side of Victoria Harbor — a long way from the galleries clustered near Hong Kong’s Hollywood Road. I have a feeling that this choice of location was intended to put both physical and symbolic distance between Osage Gallery and the oft-underwhelming work on display across the water. The space can be a bit difficult to locate, but if you stand around near the loading dock on the ground floor looking uncertain, you’ll be pointed to the freight elevator and taken up to the fifth floor. Currently on display is the photographic work of Jiang Zhi and a group show titled Site:Seeing.

View from the street.

Jiang Zhi

Jiang Zhi

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Helmut Lang Archive

November 7, 2008

032c will present the “first-ever exhibition of Helmut Lang’s digitized fashion archive. Of the 10,000 items of Lang’s design that have been photographed and archived over the past four years, 3,000 were selected to be included in a video documenting his work in fashion, spanning a period of nearly two decades – and, simultaneously, embodying his creative role at the crossroads of fashion and art.”

Interesting fact: Helmut Lang currently lives in Long Island.

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Kalin Lindena

Kalin Lindena once invited artists to graffiti a gallery wall in Cologne, then spent the next few days painting over their work to create a massive collage. A former graffiti artist herself (she “studied” for almost 10 years), Lindena is familiar with layering color over existing textures and structures. Her latest exhibition is at Galerie Parisa Kind in Frankfurt.

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Face Control

November 5, 2008

Daito Manabe makes innovative use of sounds, software and circuitry. Par exemple:

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