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Archive for the ‘Popular Culture’ Category

Fall of the Rebel Angels (detail)I just finished Michael Frayn’s Headlong, a novel given to me by a friend. She and I saw “Top Girls” on Broadway last year, and we were both intrigued by Dulle Griet, one of the characters in the play, and the namesake of one of Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s more bizarre paintings.

Headlong is an art history “who done it”; in this case the mystery is whether or not a supposed sixth painting in Bruegel’s series of seasonal paintings (of which only five are extant), might be languishing unrecognized in the country estate of an unsuspecting, down-at-the-heels landowner who’s looking to cash in on items he’s stolen from his dying mother. A college professor who’s just arrived with his scholarly wife and their baby to spend “a month in the country” thinks he recognizes the painting as the missing Bruegel, but keeps the thought to himself so as not to tip off the landowner. Instead, he plots to spirit the painting away and into the hands of a grateful art world, who will presumably heap laurels upon him. But first he must prove to his wife that the painting is indeed what he believes it to be. (more…)

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Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century"  by Donna HarawayIf I were writing a blog about Brad Pitt or David Archuleta (America’s former Really Cute American Idol), instead of a blog about political and intellectual territories re-envisioned through art practice, I would never mention Barack Obama. The sexiest man alive (meaning Pitt rather than Obama, though a strong case could be made for Obama rather than Pitt), might share with us the fastest way to lose ten pounds so I can outrun the tax collector in 2009, though President-Elect Barack Hussein Obama (Say it loud! Say it proud!) promises a refund and a tax cut since the economy’s wheels have come off, and who has money to pay taxes anyway? Certainly not me.

After referring to the news of a remarkable honeyed bandage curing one man’s rotting limb, I might launch into expletives about Bernie Madoff ponziing his way through a million-trillion-gazillion dollars while eating caviar and having his nails done. If my blog were not about art practices as they are affected by the constant re-drawing of geopolitical, socio-political and socio-economic states, I might report on the increasing number of cyborgs in our midst. They walk among us, blatantly, with their machine parts indistinguishable from their meat parts: pacemakers coupled to hearts, dental implants screwed and glued into jaws, injected “smart tags” barely visible under real or synthetic skin over a computerized titanium leg provided by the US government for your service in Iraq. (more…)

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Photograph by Shasti O'Leary SudantNot since Marie Antoinette uttered, “Let them eat cake!” (not!) have cake and politics been so closely related. Zilly Rosen, a cake maker and artist living in Buffalo, New York created a 1,240-pixel, er, cupcake portrait of Barack Obama to express her excitement and gratitude for the presidential election process. Interviewed by Cupcakes Take the Cake bloggers, Zilly explained the source of her genius idea:

“I knew I wanted to do something to be part of this moment in history. I wanted to send up my creative energy to the “ether” in the days preceding the election. I’m a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Buffalo, and they always have a bake sale on Election Day for the people voting at their polls. I first thought about making this installation for their bake sale, but then realized I couldn’t have an image of Barack within 100 feet of the polling place!” (more…)

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Photo by Robin Locke Monda

Pat Buchanan’s recurring role on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” has got to be some kind of border violation. And I mean that in the best possible way! It’s great to watch Buchanan trying to apply nuance to his irrational, nativist positions in the face of thinking, intelligent people from both the left and the right. The “Morning Joe” show is proof that, (1) not all Republicans are nut jobs, and (2) not all Democrats shoot themselves in the foot.

MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” models Democrats and Republicans communicating with intelligence, humor and a willingness to listen. Think what could be accomplished in a truly cooperative congressional environment! We could disarm the big mouths of the radical right while repairing America’s foundation and its vision for the future. (more…)

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© David Levinthal / The New York Times

© David Levinthal / The New York Times

I’ve written about artist-photographer David Levinthal on this blog before. Now I’ve discovered he does photo illustrations, too. Regular New York Times readers may have seen his soft-focus photos in the August issues of the Times Sunday Magazine, illustrating “Mrs. Corbett’s Request”, a serialized story by Colin Harrison. Levinthal captures the weary, down-at-the-heel atmosphere of Harrison’s tale perfectly.

Just last week I noticed another Levinthal photo in the October 26, 2008 Travel Section (page 1, top of the fold) accompanying an article on winter vacations. The scene of brightly colored skiers in a clichéd winter landscape feels like a snow globe diorama. (more…)

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"Ghost Station" Ed Roos

October 17, 2008—The Train Is Coming. And With It More Ads, a New York Times article, reports that the MTA plans to sell every NYC subway surface to the highest bidder. They need the money. Advertising — lots of it — is going to appear on every below-ground surface New Yorkers pass, from the round pillars on the subway platforms to the entire interior surface of subway cars. Ad agencies are considering ways to reach even the hardest-to-reach spots with the use of projectors. No surface will go unsold — not even the tunnel surfaces between stations. Advertisers plan to line them with printed ad images that will merge into a movie reel effect as your train zooms along.

Which begs the question: Isn’t advertising on such a massive scale a form of graffiti? Isn’t it a greater transgression than any spray-painted tag? The MTA is making a huge amount of money at the expense of the commuters. Say what you want about graffiti by private citizens, at least it’s varied, surprising — and original! Think of all the influences graffiti has had on art practice and typography. And think of all the influences graphic design has had on graffiti! (more…)

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Photo by Marius Slaustas, cringel.com

Photo by Marius Slaustas, cringel.com

Do not underestimate the power of a single voice to make or break an election. The power is not in the words themselves; it is in the sonic experience.

Everyone has seen—and heard—mainstream media news reduced to pellets of information called “sound bites.” We rabbity news consumers meekly nibble on these empty-calorie hors d’œuvres because we are starving for the taste of real information. Performance artist David Letterman has famously turned the tables by subjecting past presidents, as well as our current one, to the sound bite test. FDR and Kennedy pass with flying colors; Bush ’43 mumbles and stumbles to failure. Sound bites back.

The current presidential campaign is delivered in sound bites. The ads, catch phrases, pundits and talking heads get more air time than the candidates themselves (except for the occasional TV drive-by, when the news camera swoops in on a candidate’s real-time delivery of a speech, then cuts away to more important matters before he has finished speaking.) Sound bites are the news media equivalent of Chicken McNuggets—looks good; tastes lousy; fills us up but leaves us hungry. (more…)

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