Nature Photography by Catherine King. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce in any form.
Nature Photography by Catherine King. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce in any form.
by Jerome du Bois
[After I posted this piece I received emails from Brian Dunbar, a Systems Administrator for LiftPort, and Michael J. Laine, the President of LiftPort. (They have a blog over there. Of course.) Mr. Laine included photos, three of which I've copied here, after the jump, along with their replies. Although I admit that part of my motivation for this post was to contrast limp contemporary art with cutting-edge science, the main impulse was simpler: admiration of genius.]
The best public art presentation in Phoenix in recent memory wasn't public and it wasn't art, but it showed once again how life trumps art, always and easily.
It was created by a company called LiftPort Group, space elevator developers. It was a thin black line composed of carbon and fiberglas cable five centimeters wide, layered to the thickness of six sheets of paper, and in January it rose straight up one mile high in the open Arizona desert. It was held aloft, taut, stable, and perpendicular for six hours by three balloons fastened to the end of the cable. Little robots ran up and down the cable from time to time.
Try to visualize it. You're out hiking, you come over a rise into a wide, bare clearing with some people and equipment scattered about in a loose circle. At the center of their attention: what looks like a thin black laser beam which shoots straight up into the clear blue sky until it disappears from view. A thin black vertical line bisecting the desert, the far hills, the blue Arizona sky. If you squint you can barely see the tiny dots of the three huge white balloons at the end of the line.
A real line, drawn in the air, like a Platonic form or mathematical axiom that stepped into our spacetime for a short time. A marvel. Only myth --an Indian rope trick, a magic beanstalk that will take you to a castle in the sky-- can rival it. A physical thing so stable mechanical equipment runs up and down that black ribbon as if it was a microhighway. I can't think of any public artwork that comes close in elegant, simple strength. You can orangeflap public walks and pinkwrap Florida islands, and make giant steel spiders and giant puppies out of flowers; you can bulldoze Earth into a spiral or dig trenches in the desert, and even try to push a crater around. You can try to intimidate people with looming steel. You can stretch red fiberglas the length of the Tate. You can bling a bridge with neon and draw lightning with steel rods. Locally, Scottsdale has authorized clunky metal cartoons by Dennis Oppenheim, and a $500,000 walk-in kaleidescope by Donald Lipski. Not long ago, at SMoCA, a helium fool from Tucson wasted time and money with balloons.
Next to The Line, which for six hours was the tallest, thinnest artifact / sculpture on Earth, they all seem like a lot of huffin and puffin for nuffin. Bloated, clumsy, cluttered, ego-laden and overlabored.
I myself have been guilty of this kind of grandiosity. Back in 1991 I conceived a piece --never realized-- I called ZigZag Central. Synchronistically perhaps, it would have been made of lines, and would have been seven miles long and many more miles high. The idea had two elements: a vertical three-stack of lasers (red, yellow, blue) mounted on the roof of the Phoenix Art Museum, and a system of stainless-steel mirrors mounted on the roofs of buildings all up Central Avenue, in zig-zag fashion. At night, the laser beams would shoot from the Art Museum's roof, up to the first mirror, and then bounce back and forth off the mirrors all the way up to North Mountain, where they were to be gathered into a stainless-steel cup and directed vertically to the sky.
But that piece was just about itself, and beauty, and the wow factor. And me.
The Line points to the Future, and in fact is one of the threads of the Future. The line is the thinnest shadow cast by the Future, when the cable's descendant will be 60,000 times longer than in January 2006.
The Mile-High Line is for something --many things, actually:
In addition to the LiftPort Space Elevator, the LiftPort HALE system has other near term commercial applications that the company plans to develop and market. These include security, high altitude observation cameras, acting as a relay station for radio, cellular or Internet access during natural disasters, or for real time surveillance over the damaged region.
Life Trumps Art.
From Brian Dunbar:
Thanks for the blog post 'Mile-High Line'. I have no idea if you're
always this lyrical
"The Line points to the Future, and in fact is one of the threads of the
Future. The line is the thinnest shadow cast by the Future, when the
cable's descendant will be 60,000 times longer than in January 2006."
but something in that post touched me. There we are just plugging away, driven by a vague need to _do_ something and you find not just poetry but Art in our endeavor.
It means a great deal.
It means a great deal to me, too.
From Michael J. Laine:
someone on my team pointed out your blog entry. thank you for seeing it the way i do, and for phrasing is so much better than i ever could.
i have taken the liberty to send you a few images, i hope you dont mind. i will send them in the following email, so that you dont think i am sending spam or a virus or anything like that.
thank you for your support of the vision we are trying to create.
its not easy and we appreciate it when people look beyond the engineering. some of us are risking everything we have on this project. its nice to be noticed by people like you.
take care. mjl
Here are a mere three photographs of the 28 Mr. Laine sent me, but they give you the idea of the drama, beauty, and scope of the endeavor.
Thanks to Mr. Dunbar, Mr. Laine, and everybody at LiftPort who are trying to lift us all into a better future.
By the way, soon, in Utah, they're aiming for two miles for HALE.
. . . and dance by the light of the moon.
Paranormal / Fashion Art Photography by Jerome du Bois, February 18, 2006. Styling, clothes and accessories provided by the model, Catherine King. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce in any form.
See also Ladies Choice.
Fashion art photography by Jerome du Bois. Styling, wardrobe and accessories provided by the model, Catherine King. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce in any form.
Here is a larger image.
by Jerome du Bois
Here's the entire board.
by The Tears Of Things
The pestilential phenomenon of newspink continues to proliferate, as you can see from the array above --our last, we swear it!
For those just gettting on board, we started with Enough With The Pink Already. Seventy-seven images of pink women newscasters.
Then came It's Not A Rose-Colored World / And Wearing Pink Won't Make It So, which extended the array to 77 men. It's also the overall title. Here Catherine King explains the background to the piece.
Here we'd like to extend the concept of the installation. Originally we envisioned a 12 by 30-foot wall covered with the grid of glowing panels. Now imagine an L-shaped installation, with the original triptych on the long wall, and a constantly looping, 12-by-15 foot projected slide show of the 308 images on the short wall abutting the piece. Including these images:
Can't you just see it at, say, SMoCA? Copyright by King & du Bois.
Nature Photography by Catherine King, February 10,2006. [Slightly larger than life-size.] All rights reserved. Do not reproduce in any form.
by The Tears Of Things
The little flock has fledged, we think, so we're working up a kind of portrait gallery of the ones we can distinguish, since they allow us to get quite close. Here's an example. This juvenile is about eighteen inches from the camera. It stuck around for quite awhile, eating and looking, eating and looking.
The title comes from Mark Bittner. In his book The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill he writes somewhere, "The look of intelligence is intelligence."
Looks that way to us, too.
It's helpful to remember also that just about any parrot you are lucky enough to see in the United States is an escaped captive, or the free, wild descendant of one, hallelujah. Every time you see that green-blue blur zip by like a little torpedo, or watch them watching you, you are witnessing the triumph of a persistent need for freedom --freedom at any cost-- over the shrink-wrapped trap of human greed and selfishness, and some twisted desire to domesticate wild beauty. The captive parrots, traumatized from being shipped up drugged in a cardboard tube from Peru, scream and scream and pick at themselves and flap and flap and flap until the "owners" set them free.
No cages for birds is best.
[See also "Wild Birds Are Lean."]
Etant Donnés, Marcel Duchamp, 1946-1966. Exterior . . . ? . . . view.
by Jerome du Bois
Artists are the elite of the servant class.
Can one make works which are not works of 'art'?
--Marcel Duchamp, 1912.
I don't know where I'm going, but I know it's on same train as Marcel Duchamp.
I'm writing a short story about Marcel Duchamp, with the tentative title Schlepping The Given. As part of my research, I've had the pleasure of reading and rereading Calvin Tompkins's wise and definitive 1996 biography Duchamp --a lucid and sensible book. Here I want to extract a few quotes by both men to make the point that, in modern and contemporary times, there is something bogus at the core of art, and something phony in the hearts of artists.
Marcel Duchamp saw in 1912 a mélange of egos, money, careers, and overblown or makeshift theories. "Like a basket of crabs," was how he described the scene.
Duchamp consciously chose to step outside of it all and to go his own way. LIke the famous Fountain --which was never displayed at that exhibition-- he absented himself from the sold-out ones before they even knew it, and created a vortex in the wake of his (invisible) departure. He became not only better than an artist, his agile independence guided him around all of society's traps, and he honored his calling and mastered his life. In the meantime, without any conscious intention at all, just by example, he was the eccentric who established a new center in art.
Tompkins, page 13:
It has been argued that Duchamp's influence is almost entirely destructive. By opening the Pandora's box of his absolute iconoclasm and breaking down the barriers between art and life, his adversaries charge, Duchamp loosed the demons that have swept away every standard of esthetic quality and opened the door to unlimited self-indulgence, cynicism, and charlatanism in the visual arts. As with everything else that we tend to say about Duchamp, there is some truth in this. What could be more subversive than the readymades, which undermined every previous definition of art, the artist, and the creative process? To call Duchamp destructive, however, is to miss the point. What he was interested in above all was freedom --complete personal and intellectual and artistic freedom-- and the manner in which he achieved all three was, in the opinion of his close friends, his most impressive and enduring work of art. Heavy-duty art critics who pounce on that claim as a cop-out, a tacit admission of his failure to become a great artist, don't have a clue to the new kind of artist that Duchamp became.
That new kind of artist is rare today, when every graduating MFA wants Larry Gagosian's or Kenny Schacter's cell phone number tucked into their diploma, and each one has their one-trick pony hidden under their gown, and each has the morals of a five-sided comedian. Freedom? Integrity? Sheeit: here's what's left of my soul. Where's my collar? Where do I sign?
1912 was a deep year for twenty-five-year-old Marcel Duchamp. For several months he lived in a rented room in Munich, didn't talk to anybody, and conceived the seeds of the next twenty years of his artistic career. He painted several strong canvases, and glimpsed the first glimmers of The Large Glass. (He put his notes in a green box.)
He knew the Glass would take a long time to realize fully, and that it was too strange for him to expect support from anybody for it, including his fellow artists. (He had already experienced their rejection of his Nude #2 from a recent exhibition.) He could not expect to earn money from his art, and he would not seek out a patron. What to do?
Tompkins, pp. 113-114:
For nearly a year, ever since he had removed his offending Nude from the Indépendants exhibition, Duchamp had been moving away from the concerns of other artists. Now, in order to concentrate his energy on the large-scale work that he had conceived in Munich, he decided to withdraw from all other artistic activities and to look for a job that would supplement the modest allowance he still received from his father. What sort of job? . . .
A library job appealed to him because it meant "taking an intellectual position as opposed to the manual servitude of the artist," but he was not giving up art. As he would later explain, "There are two kinds of artists: the artist who deals with society; and the other artist, the completely freelance artist, who has nothing to do with it --no bonds."
The comparison sounds almost quaint in these grasping and heartless times, when artworks are either filthy or silly contrived gimmicks, when most students won't set foot into art school without a career --and networking-- plan already laid out, and when artists are simply whores haggling over prices and locations (or teachers with comfortable jobs), and when both "communities" are bereft of both talent and imagination. When art is not a calling, not the constant aching undertow of a deep need to help the world by revealing mystic truths.
When Duchamp asked, Can one make works which are not works of 'art'? he was simply stepping outside the confines of the conventional definition of his time, and going beyond the retinal to include the mental. As in Leonardo, where an artwork is una cosa mentale --a thing of the mind.
And the mind is an individual thing.
Picasso and Braque glued bits of paper and wood to their canvases, and impressed a lot of people. Marcel Duchamp's vision extended far beyond both of those men, and at the same time, and nobody knew for years. When they found out, after his second exposure to fame . . .
Tompkins, page 438:
Dazzled by his example, it was all too easy to fall into the seductive fallacy that anything goes. Anything does go in art, as Duchamp had demonstrated with the readymades, but only when art is approached in the way he approached it: not as self-expression or therapy or social protest or any other of the uses to which it is regularly subjected, but as the free activity of a rigorous and adventuring mind.
And that's why most art nowadays is boring or offensive therapy and self-expression and social protest and infantilistic surrealism --no rigorous or adventuring minds out there.
They're bought, and bought early. The bogus core of the art enterprise is money (and the career ladder), not quality or ideas or standards. I don't care if it was ever thus, thus it is. And the artists --the phonies-- love it that way, because they have shrivelled hearts, and eyes out only for angles, and sheaves of grant applications, and fully-charged Blackberries, and plenty of knives behind their backs. Compare this --this pecking party with the exquisite arc of Duchamp's life, guided largely by the man himself, so that most of his entire artistic output has been assembled in one place; and the uncanny achievement of his lifelong preoccupation with the classic problem, the male-female dynamic --"I want to grasp things with the mind the way the penis is grasped by the vagina"-- he revealed only after his death, and after twenty years of secret work: Etant Donnés.
These days, can you imagine any artist passing up the opportunity to reveal such an artwork? Are you kidding? They'd know which VJs to hire for the opening, even.
Instead, here was Duchamp working on Etant Donnés (page 462):
. . . There is a mysterious study that Duchamp did on transparent Plexiglas, in which he drilled small holes to outline the nude figure; probably he used it to line up the skin when he was gluing it to the maquette. Duchamp never asked for help or advice with the technical problems. He worked alone and in secret, following his own stated view that the contemporary artist's only recourse was to be underground.
He was a free man, a free artist, living by nobody's leave, following nobody's agenda but his own. As a young man, he was confronted with a choice: a stifling and predictable dance in an old historical hall, or a walk through its old worn door out into the dark unknown future, where he would be on his own.
It was an easy choice. His confidence, his backbone, and his strong ideas led him, and widened art in their wake. He made this choice more than once in his long life, refusing emotional manipulation, and monetary entrapment, and boring repetition, and the backward step.
By making his freedom --his life-- his free life-- more important than his art --that is, by only making any art strictly on his terms, in his own good time, without sacrificing his serenity and independence-- he honored both his life and his art. I say, because of the way he guided his life away from being a society artist, he will be talked about, and his work studied, long after de Kooning and Pollock and Picasso, and the whole current crew, that's for sure. As long as Leonardo, I say.
And he is an excellent exemplar for the new outsider artist --not the blind or light-struck, making so-called "art" out of soot and spit and "revelation" --no, I mean the artist who has all the tools of the 21st Century at her fingertips, and nobody in her way.