Tenants of a Vanishing World


NY Times Published: March 4, 2009

ON the 11th floor of Building D of the Apthorp, the grand 1908 apartment complex that takes up a block between Broadway and West End Avenue in the upper 70s, two of the three apartments sit empty behind unlocked doors. Apartment 11K, a 3,300-square-foot four-bedroom with black and green marble fireplaces and several crystal chandeliers, is freshly painted in a shade of white that makes it seem even bigger, reflecting the light that pours in through oversize windows. Across the landing, 11M, a 2,300-square-foot two-bedroom, is less picture-ready and more ghostly, its window sills, ornate moldings and Doric columns veiled in a light coating of dust, its butcher-block counters covered in scratches left by long-gone tenants.

Both apartments, which have been empty for more than a year, have 10 ½-foot ceilings and layouts that seem to go on forever. Until recently, Mercury Khalsa, a 6-year-old resident of the building, used them — along with other vacant apartments on other floors — as private playgrounds, riding his Razor scooter down hallways and across vast living room floors. He stopped only after “he got spooked,” said his father, Coke Wisdom O’Neal, when “somebody made it clear to him that the building’s new owners wouldn’t be happy with him being in there.”

Mercury now confines his riding to the apartment in the middle, 11L, where he lives with his father, his mother — an ex-girlfriend of Mr. O’Neal’s — and his paternal grandparents. It is a medium-size unit by Apthorp standards: about 3,000 square feet, according to a condo sales prospectus distributed to tenants by those same new owners in 2007, in which the apartment was offered at $7.85 million. It is also, these days, a lone outpost of a nearly lost world, home to the kind of sprawling, slightly messy, bohemian family life that middle-class renters could once make for themselves on the Upper West Side.

For the last several years, the O’Neals, who have owned and operated a number of celebrated New York restaurants, have watched as one neighbor after another left the village-like enclave of the Apthorp, giving up their rent-regulated units for large buyouts (some reported to be around $1 million) or abandoning ostensibly market-rate apartments because of huge rent increases (one neighbor left after what was said to be an increase from $20,000 to $28,000 a month). Now the O’Neal family, which pays just $2,850 a month, finds itself surrounded by about 60 vacant apartments, more than a third of the 163 units in the building, since a plan to sell them as condos has stalled and the Apthorp’s owners, facing the possibility of foreclosure, have battled over control of the project.

The building, once a hub of constant activity with would-be renters ready to move in at a moment’s notice, has gotten a lot quieter lately. But having made it through the 15-year real estate boom with their tenancy intact, the O’Neals, who have been careful to keep their household income below the $175,000 maximum allowed for stabilized tenants with rents above $2,000, don’t seem too concerned about any possible fallout from the bust.

“We’re protected by the rent laws,” said Christine O’Neal, Coke’s mother. “I’m 70 years old. It’s not something I think about. I’ve been living here for years and I just want to detach myself from worrying about material things.”

Ms. O’Neal and her husband, Michael, first came to the building, a Renaissance Revival landmark modeled on the Pitti Palace in Florence, Italy, in 1971. The couple, who met at Mr. O’Neal’s first restaurant, the Ginger Man, and married four months later, on St. Patrick’s Day of 1967, had been squeezed into a two-bedroom on West 69th Street, Ms. O’Neal said, with their year-old daughter, Georgia, and Coke, who had just been born. Ms. O’Neal was not thrilled with the $675 rent at the Apthorp (when she had moved to New York from Michigan in 1956, she said, “apartments were $80”), but she was immediately taken with architectural details like the intricate Venetian plasterwork and bronze light fixtures, with the extraordinary views to the north and east, and with the apartment’s ample size.

The children each had a bedroom, and in addition to the master bedroom, eat-in kitchen, formal dining room and living room, there was a “double maids’ quarters” — two extra bedrooms, in modern parlance — that allowed the couple to have live-in au pairs.

Growing up in such a large home gave the children a skewed perspective, said Coke O’Neal, who didn’t realize until high school that many New York apartment dwellers had significantly less space. “When I first went to a studio or one-bedroom apartment, I couldn’t believe people lived like this,” he said. “It was an awakening. I was like, ‘You mean you don’t have eight rooms?’ ”

THE apartment was so big, in fact, that the O’Neals soon began inviting a rotating assortment of friends, friends of friends, and near strangers to stay, or sometimes live, with the family, often asking only that they walk the dogs in return.

The couple feels comfortable around all types of people, said Patricia Whitman, a retired program director for the Museum of Modern Art who has been friends with Ms. O’Neal since the 1960s. More than that, she said, they have a soft spot for misfits.

“They take in strays,” Ms. Whitman said. “When I say that, I mean that — dogs, cats, people. It’s just they’re totally open.”

Georgia O’Neal, now an organic farmer in Loudoun County, Va., recalled coming home after college to find a handsome, guitar-playing friend of Coke’s camped out on the living room floor. She wound up dating him for two years. “People would ask me, ‘Where did you meet your boyfriend?’ ” she said. “And I was like, ‘I met him sleeping on the floor of my parents’ living room.’ ”

There were also, at one time or another, a rabbi’s daughter who hoped to meet a husband on the Upper West Side; a poet recently out of New York University (“I had no idea he was a drunk,” Christine O’Neal said); a public school teacher who went on to work at Lehman Brothers; a fashion designer with her husband and infant daughter; a pop music promoter from Ohio (referred by the baby-sitter); and a 16-year-old girl from New Orleans who supported her mother by working as a model, and whom Coke met at a nightclub when he was 17.

“It was great,” said the model, Sunrise Ruffalo, now a mother of three and the wife of the actor Mark Ruffalo. “They paid little rent, so they could have us living there for no money and be pursuing whatever our dreams happened to be.”

Ms. Ruffalo began a lifelong friendship with the family when she and a group of other teenagers came home with Coke from the club Mars one night in 1989.

“I just remember walking in and seeing this beautiful place,” she said, speaking by phone from her home in Los Angeles. “I was from the wrong side of the tracks in New Orleans, and I was always outside those homes, never on the inside. It was really the first time I was welcomed into a beautiful environment.”

As the night wore on, she recalled, “we were sitting around in our underwear and T-shirts, and we found his mom’s fur coats, turned them inside out and wore them up to the roof of the Apthorp to watch the sun come up.”

Ms. Ruffalo, who lived at the apartment for two years, said her time there taught her lessons about dealing with conflict and “how to negotiate human relationships,” particularly from the elder O’Neals, that have stayed with her since. “I learned you could work it out and still be a family,” she said.

“The door was always open for me, and there was always a sense of warmth,” she added. “After a while I became better friends with Christine than with Coke.”

Twenty years later, the current living arrangements at the apartment also call for a certain amount of negotiation. Although both in their 70s, Michael and Christine O’Neal are still very busy, he running three restaurants, including O’Neals’ and the West 79th Street Boat Basin Café, she working as a real estate agent for Halstead Property, as she has for 23 years. Sharing their home with the three young people who now live there can be demanding.

Despite having lived on his own since he was 18, Coke, now 37, moved home three years ago. While he and Sunny Khalsa, Mercury’s mother, had broken up four years before, he was spending 10 days a month at her place in New Mexico to be with their son. A fine art photographer who builds 22-foot-high wood boxes and shoots people standing inside them, he wanted to be in New York for professional reasons, and moving back to the Apthorp was a way to make traveling back and forth affordable. (He keeps an office in the old double maids’ quarters, where he is preparing for a show at Mixed Greens, his gallery in Chelsea.)

Mercury joined his father at the apartment a year later, and, nine months after that, Mr. and Ms. O’Neal invited Ms. Khalsa to move in.

“Sunny is not the first ex-girlfriend of Coke’s who has lived with us,” Ms. O’Neal said.

Sunny Khalsa, a blond, New Mexico-born model who says she was raised as a Sikh in India and is now planning a documentary about the beauty industry with one of the directors of “American Cannibal,” shrugs off the unusual nature of the setup. “I don’t really think about it,” she said, explaining that it provides Mercury with “a very secure family situation.”

Still, she said, the first few months after her arrival last year were somewhat strained. “They’re the grandparents and their idea is to spoil the child,” Ms. Khalsa said. At times, she added, it was hard to insist on “no TV, no ice cream before breakfast.”

Ms. O’Neal suspects a different source of tension. “I think she’s quite resentful that Coke brings girlfriends home,” she said. “What he needs to do, in my opinion, is get a studio and sometimes have girls over there.”

THE apartment’s furnishings are as eclectic as its changing cast of residents. They include several end tables recovered from the Apthorp’s garbage, a Lalique chandelier said to have belonged to John Barrymore Jr., a crystal serving bowl filled with dog biscuits, a pair of watercolors depicting bunny rabbits dressed as World War I soldiers from the United States, and a distinguished-looking but faded salmon-colored wingchair. (“I think that may have been the chair my grandmother died in,” Coke said.)

Artifacts from the family’s various restaurants are scattered throughout. A grand piano in the corner of the dining room came from O’Neals’ 43d Street, a restaurant and cabaret that the senior Mr. O’Neal ran with his late brother and longtime partner, Patrick, in the 1980s. (“I always thought the Times Square renaissance would happen, but I was 15 years early,” Mr. O’Neal said.) The dining room chandelier came to the family through O’Neal Brothers, a bar the two men owned in the 1970s on Columbus Avenue. “It was pay for a bar tab,” Mr. O’Neal said. Several months ago, it fell onto the dining room table, and the broken pieces now sit on the piano.

The social world of the restaurants, too, has spilled into the apartment over the years. The Ginger Man and O’Neals’ Baloon, both close to Lincoln Center, attracted a wide circle of artists and performers, as did Patrick O’Neal himself, a film and television actor. “You looked around and there was Leonard Bernstein and George Balanchine and Andy Warhol,” Cynthia O’Neal, Patrick’s widow and a third partner in the business, remembered of a typical night at the Ginger Man. John Guare, the playwright and a restaurant regular, came home with Michael O’Neal on several occasions and regaled the children with stories, and Christine remembers watching Coke, then 5, being tossed back and forth through the air by the dancer Rudolf Nureyev and his lover, Erik Bruhn.

Even now, the O’Neals, who will celebrate their 42nd wedding anniversary this month, open their home to a constant stream of visitors. Asked why, Ms. O’Neal says it is only natural. “I thought it was a blessing from the Lord or whoever that I was given so much space, and that I should share it.”

March 4th, 2009
florian morlat



Ben Kaufman, Berlin

March 3rd, 2009
a Hunt for Worlds Like Ours


PEERING DEEPLY The primary mirror of the Kepler telescope. The craft’s mission, set to begin Friday, is to discover Earth-like planets in Earth-like places.

NY Times Published: March 2, 2009

Someday it might be said that this was the beginning of the end of cosmic loneliness.

Presently perched on a Delta 2 rocket at Cape Canaveral is a one-ton spacecraft called Kepler. If all goes well, the rocket will lift off about 10:50 Friday evening on a journey that will eventually propel Kepler into orbit around the Sun. There the spacecraft’s mission will be to discover Earth-like planets in Earth-like places — that is to say, in the not-too-cold, not-too-hot, Goldilocks zones around stars where liquid water can exist.

The job, in short, is to find places where life as we know it is possible.

“It’s not E.T., but it’s E.T.’s home,” said William Borucki, an astronomer at NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field in California, who is the lead scientist on the project. Kepler, named after the German astronomer who in 1609 published laws of planetary motion that now bear his name, will look for tiny variations in starlight caused by planets passing in front of their stars. Dr. Borucki and his colleagues say that Kepler could find dozens of such planets — if they exist. The point is not to find any particular planet — hold off on the covered-wagon spaceships — but to find out just how rare planets like Earth are in the cosmos.

Jon Morse, director for astrophysics at NASA headquarters, calls Kepler the first planetary census taker.

Kepler’s strategy is, in effect, to search for the shadows of planets. The core of the spacecraft, which carries a 55-inch-diameter telescope, is a 95-million-pixel digital camera. For three and a half years, the telescope will stare at the same patch of sky about 10 degrees, or 20 full moons, wide, in the constellations Cygnus and Lyra. It will read out the brightnesses of 100,000 stars every half-hour, looking for the telltale blips when a planet crosses in front of its star, a phenomenon known as a transit.

To detect something as small as the Earth, the measurements need to be done with a precision available only in space, away from the atmospheric turbulence that makes stars twinkle, and far from Earth so that our home world does not intrude on the view of shadow worlds in that patch of sky. It will take three or more years — until the end of Barack Obama’s current term in office — before astronomers know whether Kepler has found any distant Earths.

If Kepler finds the planets, Dr. Borucki explained, life could be common in the universe. The results will point the way for future missions aimed at getting pictures of what Carl Sagan, the late Cornell astronomer and science popularizer, called “pale blue dots” out in the universe, and the search for life and perhaps intelligence.

But the results will be profound either way. If Kepler doesn’t come through, that means Earth is really rare and we might be the only extant life in the universe and our loneliness is just beginning. “It would mean there might not be ‘Star Trek,’ ” Dr. Borucki said during a recent news conference.

The need, indeed even the possibility, of a planetary census is a recent development in cosmic history. It was only in 1995 that the first planet was detected orbiting another Sun-like star, by Michel Mayor and his colleagues at Geneva Observatory. In the years since then there has been a torrent of discoveries, 340 and counting, that has bewildered astronomers and captured the popular imagination.

“What exists is an incredibly random, chaotic, wild range of planets,” said Debra Fischer of San Francisco State University, also a veteran planet hunter who is not a member of the Kepler team. So far none of them qualify as prime real estate for life, and few of them reside in systems that resemble our own solar system. Many of the first planets discovered were so-called hot Jupiters, gas giants zipping around their stars in a few days in tight, blisteringly hot orbits.

Most of the planets have been found by what is called the wobble method, in which the presence of a planet is deduced by observing the to-and-fro gravitational tug it gives its star as it orbits. The closer a planet is to its star, the bigger the tug and the easier it is to detect.

The smallest exoplanet discovered is about three times as massive as the Earth. It is known as MOA-2007-BLG-192-L b, but astronomers don’t know yet whether its home star is real star or a failed star called a brown dwarf.

Last summer Dr. Mayor announced that his team had found three so-called warm super-Earths — roughly four, seven and nine times the mass of the Earth — orbiting within frying distance of a star known as HD 40307 in the constellation Pictor. Indeed, Dr. Mayor proclaimed that according to their data, about a third of all Sun-like stars host such super-Earths or super-Neptunes in tight orbits.

But all this is prelude. Astronomers agree that these planets are oddballs according to any reasonable theory of planet formation. But as Alan Boss of the Carnegie Institution of Washington pointed out, they are easy to detect by the wobble method. The fact that they are there suggests that there are many more modest-size planets to be found in larger, more habitable orbits.

The Kepler mission is a tribute to the perseverance of Dr. Borucki, who began proposing it to NASA in the 1980s, before any exoplanets had been discovered, and kept campaigning for it. “He had the true faith,” Dr. Boss said.

Many technical hurdles had be overcome before Kepler became practical. In particular it required very accurate and sensitive digital detectors, said James Fanson, of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Kepler’s project manager. As seen from outside the solar system, the Earth blocks only about 0.008 percent of the Sun’s light when it passes in front, or “transits.” Kepler has been built to detect changes in brightness as small as 0.002 percent, equivalent to a flea crawling across a car headlight.

By measuring the diminution of a star’s light during an exoplanet transit, astronomers in principle will be able to determine the size of the exoplanet. From the intervals between eclipses, astronomers will be able to determine its orbit.. By combining this with other data, from, say, wobble measurements, they will be able to zero in on important properties like mass and density.

However, natural variations in the star’s output, caused by something like starspots, could interfere with the data and obscure the signals from small planets. That is a problem, Dr. Fanson said, with the Corot satellite, which was launched by the European Space Agency at the end of 2006 and also carries a telescope and camera to look for small changes in starlight. To weed out the noisy stars, Kepler will keep track of 170,000 stars for the first year and then narrow its attention to a mere 100,000.

Corot, which stands for convection, rotation and planetary transits, is smaller than Kepler and is designed to investigate the structure of stars by detecting vibrations and tremors within them that cause them to periodically brighten and fade. Corot, which Dr. Borucki called “a complementary mission,” also looks at a given patch of stars for only a few months and so would miss the successive transits of an Earth-like planet, which, to be habitable, would have to take about a year to orbit a Sun-like star.

Not all 100,000 stars in the field of Kepler’s view would have their planetary systems oriented to provide eclipses from our particular point of view, of course. Dr. Borucki and his colleagues estimate that for an Earth-like star in its habitable zone, the stars would align to produce a blot out in half of 1 percent of cases, yielding a few dozen to a few hundred new Earths out there. For planets that are closer in, however, the odds rise to about 10 percent, so there are ample reasons to expect a bumper crop of new planets.

Dr. Borucki said the astronomers had set the goal of observing at least three such transits, to confirm the period and rule out interference from starspots, and then obtaining backup observations from other telescopes — of wobble measurements, say — before announcing they have found a planet.

“When we make a discovery we want it to be bulletproof,” Dr. Borucki said.

That means that the first planets to be discovered and announced will be the biggest planets with the shortest orbits, the so-called hot Jupiters. Four stars with such planets are in the search area and thus will be an early test of Kepler’s acuity.

“In the first six months, hot Jupiters are going to roll off the Kepler assembly line,” Dr. Fischer said, adding, “These are bizarre planets, we don’t understand how they form.”

The hardest and most exciting part of the mission, detecting bona fide Earths, will also take the longest. Such a planet should take about a year to circle a Sun-like star, producing only one blip a year in its starlight. So it would take more than three years to produce the requisite three blips and subsequent confirmation by ground-based telescopes before the epochal discovery is announced.

Dr. Borucki said, “We’re not going to be able to tell you very quickly.”

But they will eventually tell us.

Dr. Boss, a high-ranking member of the Kepler science team, said: “It really is going to count many Earths. About four years from now we will have a really good estimate of how many Earths there are.”

If the history of exoplanet astronomy is any guide, there are likely to be surprises that geologists had not imagined — water worlds, for example. And then, if all keeps going well, it will be time to confront the next series of questions: whether anywhere else in this galaxy the dust that once spewed from stars has come alive and conscious.

“In my 25 years of working with NASA this is the most exciting mission I’ve worked on, said Dr. Fanson, who will step down as project manager after the launching. “We are going to be able to answer for the first time a question that has been pondered since the time of the ancient Greeks. Are there other worlds like ours? The question has come down to us from 100 generations. We get to answer it. I find that tremendously exciting.”

When a reporter departed from journalistic objectivity to venture a hope that other Earths are out there, Dr. Fanson happily joined in. “I hope the answer is yes,” he said. “I hope the universe is teeming with planets like Earth.”

March 3rd, 2009
Tehching Hsieh


Left: Tehching Hsieh, One Year Performance 1980–1981. Performance view, 1980. Tehching Hsieh. Photo: Michael Shen. Right: Tehching Hsieh, One Year Performance 1978–1979. Performance view. Photo: Cheng Wei Kuong.


Taiwanese-American artist Tehching Hsieh is well known for his durational performances. An installation of his first One Year Performance 1978–1979, commonly known as “Cage Piece,” debuted at the Museum of Modern Art in New York on January 21, inaugurating MoMA’s new “Performance” series. His second One Year Performance 1980–1981, or “Time Clock Piece,” will be included in the Guggenheim Museum exhibition “The Third Mind,” opening on January 30. A comprehensive monograph of his oeuvre, Out of Now, is slated to be published by MIT Press and Live Art Development Agency in March.

IT’S COINCIDENTAL THAT “Cage Piece” and “Time Clock Piece” will be exhibited in January in New York, along with the publication of the book. “Cage Piece” is, for me, my most important work. Reinstalling the cage brought back memories of the year that I lived inside the cage and also memories of the following years, in which I struggled to return to normal life. The installation of the original cage at the museum is somewhat hidden: There will be a separate room built inside the gallery space that contains the cage, and the audience will see documents of this piece before they approach the room. The cage is the same size as the original and includes the same source of light––a one-hundred-watt bulb.

“Time Clock Piece” has never been shown in its complete form, with all the original documents, which include still and moving images, a 16-mm film camera, and a 16-mm projector to run the film loop. For me, these documents are important, but they are secondary, because they offer only traces. There are elements that are invisible and can only be approached through the viewer’s own experience and imagination. As an artist, after having finished my work, I am separated from the artwork; as a witness, I can provide original thoughts that will help the artworks to be better understood.

The book, two years in the making, is authored with Adrian Heathfield. Before we started working on the book, I had spent a lot of time digitizing my extensive archives. I’ve always had an uneasy relationship with language. I’m accustomed to asking questions and answering them in my mind without using any verbal or written tactics, so I found it hard to transform my thoughts into language. Adrian is a good listener and a keen thinker, and he was cautious to not categorize my work in any way that was not true to my original concepts. There have also been other important artists and writers who have responded to my artworks in deep and beautiful ways.

— As told to Arthur Ou

March 2nd, 2009
A Caged Man Breaks Out at Last


Ny Times Published: February 25, 2009

IN 1974 Tehching Hsieh, a young Taiwanese performance artist working as a seaman, walked down the gangplank of an oil tanker docked in the Delaware River and slipped into the United States. His destination: Manhattan, center of the art world.

Once there, though, Mr. Hsieh found himself ensnared in the benumbing life of an illegal immigrant. With the downtown art scene vibrating around him, he eked out a living at Chinese restaurants and construction jobs, feeling alien, alienated and creatively barren until it came to him: He could turn his isolation into art. Inside an unfinished loft, he could build himself a beautiful cage, shave his head, stencil his name onto a uniform and lock himself away for a year.

Thirty years later Mr. Hsieh’s “Cage Piece” is on display at the Museum of Modern Art as the inaugural installation in a series on performance art. But formal recognition of Mr. Hsieh (pronounced shay), who is now a 58-year-old American citizen with spiky salt-and-pepper hair, has been a long time coming.

For decades he was almost an urban legend, his harrowing performances — the year he punched a time clock hourly, the year he lived on the streets, the year he spent tethered by a rope to a female artist — kept alive by talk.

The talk was cultish, flecked with reverence for the conceptual purity and physical extremity of Mr. Hsieh’s performances in the late 1970s and early 1980s. But he himself seemed to have vanished. “Tehching was a bit like a myth,” said Klaus Biesenbach, chief curator of MoMA’s department of media.

All along, however, Mr. Hsieh was invisible in plain sight, meticulously archiving his artistic portfolio as he went about the business of “dealing with life,” as he put it. For 14 years, until he received amnesty in 1988, his immigration status, or lack of status, had informed his art, but it also made him an outsider, enduringly. His work was rarely collected, displayed or studied, and he eventually quit making art entirely.

“My work is kind of unknown, and I am not an artist anymore,” he said in his thickly accented English, which is fluent but limited, often making him sound terse.

Sipping green tea in his minimally furnished loft above a 99-Cent Plus shop in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, Mr. Hsieh pushed across his kitchen table a history of performance art that mentions him only in a sentence. “I don’t want to say it was race,” he said, noting that he has long been reticent to promote his work.

But Alexandra Munroe, senior curator of Asian art at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, had no such compunctions, given what she described as a historical disregard for nonwhite artists in the avant-garde. “Why was Tehching left out?” she said. “Because he was Chinese.”

This winter, owing to renewed interest in performance art, new passion for contemporary Chinese art and the coinciding interests of several curators, Mr. Hsieh’s moment of recognition has arrived from many directions at once.

The one-man show at MoMA runs through May 18. The Guggenheim is featuring his time-clock piece in “The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia, 1860-1989” through April 19. M.I.T. Press is about to release “Out of Now,” a large-format book devoted to his “lifeworks.” And United States Artists, an advocacy organization, has awarded Mr. Hsieh $50,000, his first grant.

He is gratified by the exhibitions. But he judges the book, which is 384 pages and weighs almost six pounds, to be the definitive ode to his artistic career.

“Because of this book I can die tomorrow,” said Mr. Hsieh, who collaborated on “Out of Now” with Adrian Heathfield, a writer and curator in London.

Such utterances can startle. (“Life is a life sentence” is another.) But Mr. Hsieh’s matter-of-fact delivery makes them seem less bleak than unblinking — an existentialist’s workaday credo.

“He is deeply philosophical,” Ms. Munroe said.

The roots of Mr. Hsieh’s lifelong questioning lie in southern Taiwan, where his little-known artistic odyssey began. There he grew up one of 15 children of an authoritarian father with five wives. But he was doted on by his mother.

“We were not really a poor family,” he said during a long interview, at the end of which he was joined by his radiantly serene wife, Qinqin Li, an elementary school art teacher who emigrated from Beijing after meeting Mr. Hsieh there in 2001. Ms. Li is, Mr. Hsieh noted, 24 years his junior and his third wife.

In Taiwan Mr. Hsieh’s father, who ran a small trucking company, did not consider art a practical profession. Nonetheless Mr. Hsieh studied with a private painting teacher throughout his childhood, until in 1967 he dropped out of high school to devote himself to art. Taiwan in that era was relatively cosmopolitan. Mr. Hsieh wore his hair long, listened to rock ’n’ roll and read Nietzsche, Kafka and Dostoyevsky.

Next, three years of compulsory military service exposed Mr. Hsieh to the kind of rigor and regimentation that later governed his performance pieces.

When he left the army, he had his first solo show, but he had already become more interested in the act of painting than in the product. One of his final paintings, “Paint — Red Repetitions,” was executed in four minutes when he swirled a circle of red on each page of a sketchbook. “I became empty,” he said. “I just moved my hand.”

After that Mr. Hsieh sought new ways to express himself, ultimately buying a Super 8 camera and training it on his new medium: himself.

Though he had not yet learned of Yves Klein or seen “Leap Into the Void,” the 1960 photomontage that purported to show that French artist swan-diving off a rooftop, he tried a version of it for real in 1973. He recorded himself jumping from a second-story window to the sidewalk — and breaking both his ankles.

Mr. Biesenbach said he believed “Jump Piece” to be brilliant, an early indicator of Mr. Hsieh’s willingness to give his life to art. But Mr. Hsieh now considers it immature, an unfortunate harbinger of future self-destructive pieces, like “Half-Ton,” in which he let himself be crushed beneath Sheetrock, or “Throw Up,” in which he ate fried rice until he vomited.

While he was recovering from his jump, Mr. Hsieh set his sights on leaving Taiwan, deciding to train as a merchant mariner so that he could emigrate by ship. In 1974 he boarded the oil tanker that gradually made its way to the United States. Mr. Hsieh jumped ship near Philadelphia. He hailed a taxi and paid the driver $150 to take him to New York City.

During his first long winter in New York the elation faded. Mr. Hsieh shared a compatriot’s unheated apartment and fell into the menial work that would sap his creative energy for four years, until he conceived of “Cage Piece.” Back in Taiwan Mr. Hsieh’s mother, who was baffled by his art, helped support that project with $10,000 and one condition: “Don’t be a criminal.”

In the fall of 1978 Mr. Hsieh, then 28, constructed his cell-like cage of pine dowels inside a loft in TriBeCa. He furnished it with a cot, a sink and a bucket. Before he shut himself inside, he issued a terse manifesto, typed on white paper: “I shall NOT converse, read, write, listen to the radio or watch television until I unseal myself on September 29, 1979.”

Mr. Hsieh’s loft mate, Cheng Wei Kuong, who had studied with the same painting teacher in Taiwan, brought his food and removed his waste. After weeks of beef and broccoli, Mr. Hsieh said, he wordlessly threw one meal to the floor when it was delivered; later he felt bad about that.

Each day Mr. Hsieh scratched a line in the wall with his fingernail, which made 365 hatch marks at the end. Each day, with his hair infinitesimally longer, he stood on his traced footprints to be photographed.

Every three weeks he allowed spectators, but he did not acknowledge them. He was too busy thinking — about his past, his art, the passing of time and the boundaries of space. He was thinking about how his physical confinement liberated his mind.

“That piece was an ode to freedom,” Mr. Biesenbach said. “He’s an incredibly thoughtful translator of concepts. He made the idea of meditation and contemplation very tangible for me. And, really, consider that he did this in New York City, the fastest place in the world.”

After Mr. Hsieh emerged, people seemed “like wolves,” he said. At first he retreated to the cage to feel safe. Eventually he packed the cage and accompanying artifacts in a crate, revealing early confidence that his work was worth preserving.

Mr. Hsieh then embarked on a second grueling performance, the punching of the time clock. He again issued a statement, shaved his head, donned a uniform and toyed with what Ms. Munroe called an “iconic modern form,” the worker as automaton, “straight out of Marxism 101.”

During that year Mr. Hsieh essentially denied himself sleep, given the self-imposed requirement to punch the clock hourly. To do so he needed multiple alarm clocks attached to amplifiers to penetrate his befogged brain. Mr. Hsieh put himself, Ms. Munroe said, in “a mindful state of delirium that forced confrontation with time itself”; he also generated a “physical model of time passing” with 8,760 timecards.

That year Mr. Hsieh felt like Sisyphus, he said, engaged in a futile task that nonetheless gave his life purpose and structure. To this day, he said, “wasting time is my concept of life,” clarifying: “Living is nothing but consuming time until you die.”

In the third test of his own endurance Mr. Hsieh moved out of his loft to spend a year on the streets. Vowing never to enter a “building, subway, train, car, airplane, ship, cave, tent,” he took on an extreme form of homelessness, believing: “You have to make the art stronger than life so people can feel it. Like Franz Kafka says, you have to take an ax” to the frozen sea in “people’s hearts.”

That year it was the East River that froze. Mr. Hsieh, wandering with his backpack, treated Chinatown as his kitchen and the Hudson River as his bathroom; he slept in drained swimming pools, on cardboard mats and in garbage cans.

Using a tripod Mr. Hsieh documented his homelessness in striking photographs, the only original documentation that he ever sold. Because he was performing in public, he attracted more attention that year than previously. Word traveled backed to Taiwan, upsetting his family, he said, because “some people say I should go to mental hospital.”

Linda Montano, a feminist performance artist drawn to what she called the “soulful” posters advertising his outdoor performance, sought him out just when Mr. Hsieh was looking for an attachment, literally. Having explored constraints of time and space he wanted to examine human bonds. He proposed, and Ms. Montano accepted, that they connect themselves at the waist with an eight-foot rope for a year. The artists slept in twin beds — touching was not permitted — and tried to go about their separate lives attached, which involved a constant tug of war. They often did not get along.

“I was more like a cobra, without feeling,” he said. “She was more emotional.”

In his year with Ms. Montano, which began July 4, 1983, Mr. Hsieh was exposed to the art world as never before because she was a part of it. His next one-year project was to avoid that world completely, to “go in life” without seeing, making or talking about art. And his sixth and final piece, his most inscrutable, was a “13-years plan” to make art but not show it publicly.

During this time he tried to exile himself more deeply inside America by “disappearing” to Alaska, but he made it only as far as Seattle, where, working low-wage jobs, he felt as if he were fresh off the boat once again. Giving up after six months, he moved back to New York, got his green card, worked in construction and sold 96 of his early paintings to a Taiwanese collector for $500,000. He used much of the money to buy an abandoned building in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, converting it into an artists’ residence, which he managed.

At the end of the 13 years, on in his 49th birthday, which happened to fall precisely at the turn of the millennium, he issued a statement in collage form, using cut-out letters, that said: “I kept myself alive. I passed the Dec. 31, 1999.”

Afterward he sold his Williamsburg building, bought and renovated the loft in Clinton Hill, traveled with more frequency to China, married Ms. Li and eventually worked with the curators interested in shaping his legacy. But, having lived in such a “persistent exile” from art that he could not return to it, as he said in his book, he declared his life as an artist over and left others to grapple with what that meant.

Ms. Munroe made an attempt: “Maybe he was a man choosing art as a tool to demonstrate a certain philosophical set of conditions, and it served his purpose, so he doesn’t need it anymore. I think he’s bigger than art on some level. I think — I’ll be really extreme here — that he killed art so he could transcend it.”

Perhaps. Or, perhaps, Mr. Hsieh said, with a wisp of a — sad? — smile: “I am not so creative. I don’t have many good ideas.”

March 2nd, 2009
Stan Allen at Sci-Arc 3/4/09




Chosen Children Village Chapel, 2008
Tagaytay, Philippines

Stan Allen, AIA, is a registered architect, principal of Stan Allen Architect and Dean of the School of Architecture at Princeton University. From 1989 – 2002, he taught at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, where he was also the Director of the Advanced Design Program. He was educated at Brown University (BA, 1978), The Cooper Union (B.Arch, 1981), and Princeton University (M.Arch, 1988).

After working for Richard Meier and Partners in New York and Rafael Moneo in Spain, he established his own practice in 1990. His built work to date includes galleries, gardens, workspaces and a number of innovative single-family houses. Current and recent projects include a 45,000 square-meter Contemporary Music Center in Taichung, Taiwan, buildings for the Botanical Garden of the University of Puerto Rico in San Juan, and at Paju Book City, an “urban wetland” outside of Seoul Korea. A prototype weekend house in Sagaponac, New York is under construction. Parallel to this realized work, he has addressed questions of urbanism, infrastructure and public space through competition work and design research.

His architectural projects have been published in Points and Lines: Diagrams and Projects for the City (Princeton, 1999) and his theoretical essays in Practice: Architecture, Technique and Representation, (G+B Arts, 2000).

Responding to the challenges of contemporary urban life and new technologies in creative ways, SAA has developed an extensive catalogue of architectural and urbanistic strategies, in particular looking at field theory, landscape architecture and ecology as models to revitalize the practices of architecture and urban design. This experimental work is in turn complemented by a series of smaller scale, realized projects that exhibit precision of detailing, formal restraint and spatial invention. In addition to design awards and competition prizes, he has been awarded Fellowships in Architecture from the New York Foundation for the Arts (1986 and 1990), The New York State Council on the Arts (1992), a Design Arts Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (1991), and a Graham Foundation Grant (1993). In 1988 he was winner of the Young Architects Competition at the Architectural League of New York. In 1994 he was selected for the “Emerging Voices” series, and in 1995 for “40 Under 40.” In 2002 he was recognized with the President’s Citation for exceptional contributions to the Architecture Profession from the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art.

03.04.09 | Wednesday | W. M. Keck Lecture Hall l 7pm

Stan Allen Architect

March 1st, 2009
Kraftwerk – Tanzmusik (1973)

thanks steve

March 1st, 2009
Beach Clown Archives Vol. 1

via ready4thehouse

March 1st, 2009
Christopher Wool



29 January – 14 March 2009
Wool’s work has followed a trajectory that is at once historically reflexive, very much of its own moment, and keenly self-critical. Wool’s work has drawn from a variety of experiences both inside and outside art, within a framework that is concerned with the history, conventions and problematics of making a painting in the 1980s and 90s – his work embodies and encourages its own contradictions. As Bruce W. Ferguson has written, “Wool accepts that he is and that his paintings are, at any moment, within what Richard Prince calls ‘wild history’, subject to the intertextual meeting of various discourses.”

Besides the affinity that Ferguson describes with Prince, Wool has also shared his interest in aspects of mass culture (film, television, music) with other close colleagues of his generation, including Robert Gober, Cady Noland, Philip Taaffe, Albert Qehlen, Martin Kippenberger, Mike Kelley, and Stephen Prina. Wool was particularly affected by the attitude of the painters of his generation in Germany – especially Oehlen and Kippenberger – whose work, as Friedrich Petzel has written, “hailed the productivity of failure, claiming that the discrediting of painting’s effective capacity has opened yet another discursive field.”

Wool’s early development as an artist reflects this multitude of influences. In 1972, at the age of sixteen, Wool graduated from high school and began two years of study, during which he had the opportunity to work with Richard Poussette-Dart and Jack Tworkov. At the time he ended his formal studies in 1975, at the age of nineteen, he was making allover abstract paintings of accumulated mark-making. In 1976, he moved into a Chinatown studio that remains his residence today.

Living and working in New York since the early 1970s, Wool saw a number of exhibitions that greatly impressed him – Joel Shapiro’s tiny cast iron sculpture of a chair in his 1974 exhibition at the Paula Cooper Gallery, Brice Marden’s four “Figure” paintings in 1974 at Bykert Gallery, and Malcolm Morley’s 1976 exhibition at the Clocktower. Of particular importance to Wool were the process works associated with Post-minimalism, especially the thrown lead works of Richard Serra. These sculptures of splashed lead are central to Wool’s ideas of process and covering-up in relation to painting, and specifically to picture making.

Wool was also exposed early on to the work of European artists including Richard Hamilton, Yves Klein, Arnulf Rainer, and, most importantly, the Swiss-German artist Dieter Roth, whose long-standing friendship with Wool’s father later resulted in a comprehensive collection of Roth’s production: books, drawings, paintings, graphics, sculptures, installations, and changing works-in-progress occupying his parents’ apartment in Chicago.

Music was also very important to Wool – his great interest in the Art Ensemble of Chicago led him to Ornette Coleman’s performance space in Soho, and he encountered the downtown punk music and club scene of the late 1970s, which also crossed over into film, specifically the films of artists, musicians, and filmmakers – James Nares, Eric Mitchell, John Lurie, Becky Johnston, Vivian Dick, and Michael McClard among them – known as the New Cinema. Beginning in 1978, Wool stopped painting for two years in order to follow his interest in film, including a brief, unsuccessful period of study at New York University. Wool started painting again in 1981, and at the same time he became a studio assistant for Joel Shapiro, a position that he continued to hold part-time for the next four years.

In the early 1980s, Wool’s paintings featured semi-figurative imagery that often played with figures of speech, evident in such titles as The Bigger the Lie the Longer the Nose or Monkey Chase (the dog in me). Wool was working with a limited palette (red, white, and black) with a loose, drippy, wide brushstroke, often over-painting into wet paint, thus emphasizing the process. At this time, Wool was finding it increasingly difficult to identify meaningful imagery. Ultimately, it was the process of painting and the physical properties of paint that became most important to him. As he later reflected: “I became more interested in ‘how to paint it’ than ‘what to paint.’”

In the “silver” paintings of 1984-85 and the “drip” paintings of 1985-86, Wool was trying to make traditional paintings that did not look like traditional paintings – in effect trying to push what might be seen as a painting in order to create a confusion between the act and the image: “Is it a painting or a process?” With these and his subsequent allover works, he sought to define his work by the elimination of everything that seemed unnecessary, thus rejecting color, hierarchical composition, and internal form. Wool’s work is as much defined by its exclusions as its inclusions, as he has stated: “You take color out, you take gesture out – and then later you can put them in. But it’s easier to define things by what they’re not than by what they are.”

The images of the “silver” and “drip” paintings were the product of an allover composition of enamel and aluminum paint poured and dripped onto surfaces of steel backed by wood. In these works, Wool was able to control the application of paint to such a degree that individual dots of paint retain their individual integrity while chemical interactions between the materials produce a secondary process of shadow or halo-like rings that echo them. As Jeff Perrone has described the results, “Wool produced a detailed, all-over field suggesting a chemical peel, a deep etching, some microscopic pitting that could also be read as cosmic, astronomical.”

The drip paintings of Jackson Pollock are an obvious influence on Wool’s process at this time. As John CaIdwell wrote:

Standing before such paintings for the first time is a curious experience. One thinks naturally of Pollock because of the way the paint is dripped onto the metal support, but to remember Pollock is necessarily to experience a sense of loss. Instead of his looping whorls of paint, seemingly uncontrolled, but in fact highly disciplined, one faces in Wool’s work only the arbitrary order of carefully achieved randomness. Undeniably the work is beautiful; for many observers it resembles stars in a night sky. Yet, especially because of the inevitable recall of Pollock’s work, there is no secure sense of what Wool’s paintings mean. They are uniform, deliberate, absolute, and masterful, but entirely resistant to ones natural search for meaning, which they seem to deny.”

In an untitled drip painting from 1986, Wool reduced his palette further, removing silver and white as the alternative to black and covering the surface with only black on black drips. The result was a shiny, mottled surface that gave the work a mirror-like quality as it reflected the contingencies of light and the changing position of the spectator. Wool’s interest in opening the paintings to a wide range of associations was further expanded in this pivotal work, not only by adding to his ongoing investigation of the relationship between process and painted imagery, but also by raising the possibility of a painting that would invite an active, physical engagement with the viewer.

However important the process of dripping paint was to Wool at this time, it was ultimately Pollock’s allover strategy of picture making that was most influential in these and the subsequent body of paintings (begun in 1986) that were produced with rubber rollers commonly used to apply a decorative “wallpaper” patterns to walls. These works mark a distinct break with the earlier drip paintings through their employment of recognizable, banal imagery – flowers, vines, clover, dots – that open the works to associative meanings derived from the particular patterns of the image. Wool selected images that he found the most “naturalistic” and least kitschy, and those that when rolled out made continuous patterns without beginning or end. Using the roller as a tool for both painting and printmaking, these works continue to operate, like the drip paintings, as allover patterns, albeit with a clear figure / ground relationship between the uninflected, chalky white surface of the alkyd on steel ground and the shiny blank enamel paint applied to it. Although he will occasionally substitute dark blue or red for black, or add yellow or pink, Wool’s “palette” remains almost exclusively black and white.

The repetitive patterns of these works are articulated by layering, skips in register, drips and scumbles, what Gary Indiana called “glitches.” The imperfections imbue these works with fragility, as the seemingly empty decorative patterns ate rendered imperfect, and thus vulnerable. As Caldwell observed: “In many works the image is so faint at times that it almost fades away entirely. In fact, the eye does move across the paintings’ surface repeatedly because in ordinary life, outside of painting, variation implies change or development, and the viewer actually tries to read the imperfections of the process for meaning.” Likening Wool’s use of rollers to Andy Warhol’s silk screened paintings of the 1960s, he continued,

In Warhol’s best works, the dead movie star or the electric chair seems to change, and the viewer experiences this with both relief and heightened interest, only to discover that the image is the same and that there is no escaping the harsh reality, or unreality, of the single image itself. Wool is more reticent, cooler even than Warhol. Since the repeated pattern has no inherent meaning and no strong association, we tend to view its variation largely in terms of abstraction, expecting to find in the changes of the pattern some of the meaning we associate with traditional abstract painting.

The last group of roller paintings of this initial period were those using a dot pattern, a more neutral visual presence that refers to the Benday dot and the basic patterns of printing.

In 1987, while Wool continued to make paintings with the roller images, he also began to use words as the imagery in his work. His interest in working with words was first manifested in concrete poems, as well as in titles for abstract paintings. Having seen a brand new, white truck with the words “SEX LUV” hand-painted on the side, he started to work with compositions derived from stenciled words, the first a small drawing alternating the words “sex” and “luv” in a stacked composition. The first painting was a play on the words “trojan horse”, dropping the “a” in trojan and the “e” in horse. These first so-called “word” paintings focused on words or expressions with multiple meanings, particularly as they are broken up in composition, repeated, or modified or abbreviated through the deletion of letters: “helter helter”, and longer texts drawn from expressions originating in popular culture, such as Muhammad Ali’s proclamation “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” His 1988 painting Apocalypse Now draws from Francis Ford Coppola’s film adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, and the text comes from the chilling letter from Captain Colby: “sell the house, sell the car, sell the kids.” This work was included in a collaborative installation with Robert Gober at 303 Gallery in New York in 1988, which also included a wall sculpture consisting of three plaster urinals (by Gober), a full length mirror, a collaborative work by Wool and Gober consisting of a small black-and-white photograph of a sleeveless dress, made from cloth printed with the vine roller pattern Wool had used in his paintings; hanging on a tree, and a work of fiction by Gary Indiana in the accompanying publication.

The origins or initial contexts of the texts that Wool used were less important than the possibility of opening them up through composition and their conversion into paintings. Wool extended his interest in layering imagery in the roller paintings to layering meaning in the word paintings through the selection of words or texts that are both common and open-ended. In a group of four-letter word paintings Wool portrays such words as “fear”, “amok”, “awol”, and “riot’, by stacking the letters two over two. In the case of the word “amok’, when stacked it reads an incongruous “am ok’, whereas in “trbl” and “drnk’, Wool has deleted vowels, thus opening up multiple readings.

In 1989-90, Wool made a series of paintings of nine-letter words that describe character traits, types, or roles, such as hypocrite, terrorist, comedian, spokesman, insomniac, paranoiac, adversary, prankster, chameleon, assassin, persuader, and pessimist. Stacking the letters in three rows of three, the words are “read” as an allover composition as well as meaningful text. These “Black Book” paintings – from the title of a 1990 artist’s book by Wool that reproduces all of the words he had assembled as potential subjects – together resonate as a cast of characters; or as the multiple facets of one.

Wool’s work with text recalls that of such artists as diverse as Bruce Nauman, Vito Acconci, or Jean-Michel Basquiat, all of whom influenced his use of text as image and as vehicle of address. Anticipated in the mirror-like engagement of the viewer in the untitled black-on-black drip painting from 1986, Wool’s text paintings speak out in loaded expressions of direct address and slang. Stumbling and misarticulated in their composition, they are often decipherable only by reading the text out loud.

This is the case in several untitled works of the early nineties that incorporate longer texts, including a series of works that work with different renditions of such expressions as “run dog run”, “cats in the bag”, and “fuck’em if they can’t take a joke.” In a 1988 collaboration with Richard Prince, Wool made two paintings using jokes supplied by Prince: “I didn’t have a penny to my name so I changed my name” and “I went to see a psychiatrist. He said tell me everything. I did, and now he’s doing my act.” In 1990-91, Wool made four untitled paintings using, without punctuation, a passage quoted in Raoul Vaneigem’s The Revolution of Everyday Life, a key Situationist text of 1967: “The show is over the audience get up to leave their seats time to collect their coats and go home they turn around no more coats and no more home.”

In each of the paintings, Wool’s stenciled text is composed and painted in a different manner, varying in the composition of the letters and/or words across the surface, as well as in the physical rendering of the stenciled letters and the incorporation, or not, of irregularities, broken edges of the letters, and drips in the paint. For example, one version presents the text in an allover pattern of letters that do not break at words, instead filling the surface from edge to edge until the letters run out halfway across the bottom line. The letters themselves are re-outlined in white paint, which drips into the text. This text was also used in a billboard project and in a 1993 collaboration with Felix Gonzalez-Torres consisting of a stack of sheets of paper printed with the text.

In 1988 Wool added another technique of image/paint application, that of the rubber stamp. Like the rollers, the rubber stamp joined together painting and process. With it Wool was able to broaden his imagery beyond the “off-the-shelf” catalogue of the rollers. These new images included bouquets of flowers, wrought-iron gate patterns, running men, and birds. The “gate” imagery was particularly effective as a continuation of Wool’s involvement in allover pattern. He could construct a pattern with the repetition of the stamped image, in effect “interlocking” the individual stamped images like the links in a gate, as well as altering the integrity of the image through layering, overprinting, and register variation. Working with these rubber stamp images, chosen for the ability to convey a wide range of associations as compositions, Wool continued to consider the associative possibilities of decorative imagery. He also began to engage with the idea of a “generic” painting, an idea that was addressed by a number of artists in the 1980s, notably in the broad stripe paintings of Sherrie Levine.

In 1991-92, Wool concluded the rubber stamp paintings with a series of works using large blowups of the vine leaf roller pattern. These works were shown at Documenta IX in 1992, in a collaborative installation with Robert Gober, on walls covered with a fall forest wallpaper designed by Gober. Wool then began to work with silk screened imagery, which he continues to use to the present. Silkscreen opened up new possibilities of scale and process. Wool’s work of the 1990s began to shift through image construction towards erasure or destruction as a method of image production.

The first silkscreen paintings of 1993 used large blowups of flower images taken from the earlier wallpaper rollers, clip art, wallpaper and textile designs. Wool’s first silkscreen paintings layered black images upon black images in dense compositions with varying degrees of overprinting, clogging, slipping, and obviously dirty screens, all associated with mistakes in the silkscreen process. The banality that one associates with Andy Warhol’s silk screened flowers is overwhelmed by the grittiness of Wool’s intense and seemingly out-of-control compositions. The first silkscreen works continue the additive process by laying black flower images on top of each other. Wool later introduced white into the works, painting our certain areas, and then silk screening the black images again, wherein the process that produces the works becomes both additive and reductive. In these and such works as I Can’t Stand Myself When You Touch Me (1994) or Knee Deep (1995), in the process of “painting out” much of the image area with pink or blue-black paint, respectively, Wool is engaged in “a process of covering that became a picture.” These works mark a shift from the allover or systematic approach to composition of the earlier roller and text paintings to more hierarchical compositions. The image area becomes more centralized and the structure more detached from the edges of the frame. The picture plane often seems to be divided horizontally, suggesting consecutive frames from a film.

In 1995, working on large sheets of paper and later on aluminum panels, Wool made works using a spray gun to apply black paint like a drawing. The initial works are simply a single sprayed tangled line on the surface, with the highly liquefied paint dripping down from the initial sprayed mark. Later the spray is used in conjunction with the silkscreen and painting-out techniques. In Maggie’s Brain (1995), a silk screen surface is over painted with white, then silk screened again, and topped with an explosive floral-like spray form in the center of the surface.

In the recent works of 1997, over painting with white becomes very specifically about erasure – erasure as a process of producing and articulating an image. The silkscreen patterns of these works are drawn from blow-ups of the earlier roller patterns, and the white paint that covers aspects of them reinforces the “negative space” of the picture plane as it echoes the original ground of the surface. In his most recent works, Wool has applied a black, spray painted, rectangular “frame” to the surface. Streaming with drips, these “frames” hover over the surface, reinforcing it while at the same time alluding to the convention of the painting as a “window.” Like a disembodied picture of a picture, they frame a painting within a painting.

In addition to his paintings, Wool has worked on paper consistently throughout his career, making both studies for paintings and discrete works specifically conceived for the medium. He has used both painted surfaces and unpainted rice paper for works using rollers, stamps, stencils, silk screens and sprays. These works enrich his oeuvre especially through the incorporation of the materiality of the surface of the paper and the degree of the absorption of the paint.

Wool has also worked in photography, and, since the time that he began to make the word paintings, he has produced a voluminous body of installation shots of his work in his studio, as well as in exhibitions and collections. A sequence of these images has been assembled by the artist for this publication. These casual images form striking parallels to the paintings and works on paper, both in terms of process and as picture. The blurred focus, grainy high contrast, and askew camera angles echo the skips, clogs, and slips of the wallpaper rollers, the distressed images of the silk screens, and the stunning provocations of the text paintings – AMOK, TRBL, PRANKSTER, FUCKEM IF THEY CAN’T TAKE A JOKE. Like the different bodies of paintings, they work with multiple variations; a single painting may be represented in half a dozen images. They incorporate the incidents of reflection and glare that obscure and compromise the subject with white light, nor unlike the over painting that obscures a printed image. As photographs, they function both as documents and as pictures. In one sequence they are in fact the documentation Wool made of the devastating damage to his studio and artwork (for an insurance claim) in the chaotic aftermath of a 1996 fire in his building. These eerie, crime scene-like images were reproduced by Wool in a booklet, Incident on 9th Street, and were published as an edition of photographs. As documentation, reproductions, or as works of art, these photographs, like his paintings, reflect Wool’s ongoing interest in multiple readings.

His work incorporates a steadfast criticality and welcomes contradictions. As one untitled painting states, “You Make Me.” Its speech is boldly directed to the spectator, and yet it remains surprisingly open to interpretation: you make me… you complete me. Through process, technique, scale, composition, and imagery, Wool’s work accentuates the tensions and contradictions between the act of painting, the construction of a picture, its physical attributes, the visual experience of looking at it, and the possibilities of playing with and pushing open the thresholds of its meanings. They are defined by what they’re not – and by what they hold back.

Ann Goldstein, “What They’re Not: The Paintings of Christopher Wool”, in Christopher Wool, exh. cat. (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1998): 255-264 (excerpt)

Galerie Micheline Szwajcer, Antwerp

Museum Ludwig, Cologne

March 1st, 2009
A dash of color

Picture 151.jpg

Vibrant colors return to the sidewalks.

Multimedia from NYTimes.com:
On The Street with Bill Cunningham

On the Street | A Dash of Color

February 28th, 2009
Bad Bank


Image above by Philip-Lorca diCorcia

The collapse of the banking system explained, in just 59 minutes. Our crack economics team, the guys who explained the mortgage crisis, Alex Blumberg and NPR’s Adam Davidson are back to help all of us understand the news. For instance, when we talk about an insolvent bank what does it actually mean, and why are we giving hundreds of billions of dollars to rich bankers who screwed up their own businesses. Also, two guys go to New Jersey to look at a toxic asset.

This American Life

February 28th, 2009
Yellow Is the New Green


NY Times Published: February 27, 2009

Woolley, England

IN the far reaches of Shaanxi Province in northern China, in an apple-producing village named Ganquanfang, I recently visited a house belonging to two cheery primary-school teachers, Zhang Min Shu and his wife, Wu Zhaoxian. Their house wasn’t exceptional — a spacious yard, several rooms — except for the bathroom. There, up a few steps on a tiled platform, sat a toilet unlike any I’d seen. Its pan was divided in two: solid waste went in the back, and the front compartment collected urine. The liquids and solids can, after a decent period of storage and composting, be applied to the fields as pathogen-free, expense-free fertilizer.

From being unsure of wanting a toilet near the house in the first place — which is why the bathroom is at the far end of their courtyard — the couple had become so delighted with it that they regretted not putting it next to the kitchen after all.

What does this have to do with you? Mr. Zhang and Ms. Wu’s weird toilet — known as a “urine diversion,” or NoMix (after a Swedish brand), toilet — may have things to teach us all.

In the industrialized world, most of us (except those who have septic tanks) rely on wastewater-treatment plants to remove our excrement from the drinking-water supply, in great volumes. (Toilets can use up to 30 percent of a household’s water supply.) This paradigm is rarely questioned, and I understand why: flush toilets, sewers and wastewater-treatment plants do a fine job of separating us from our potentially toxic waste, and eliminating cholera and other waterborne diseases. Without them, cities wouldn’t work.

But the paradigm is flawed. For a start, cleaning sewage guzzles energy. Sewage treatment in Britain uses a quarter of the energy generated by the country’s largest coal-fired power station.

Then there is the nutrient problem: Human excrement is rich in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, which is why it has been a good fertilizer for millenniums and until surprisingly recently. (A 19th-century “sewage farm” in Pasadena, Calif., was renowned for its tasty walnuts.) But when sewage is dumped in the seas in great quantity, these nutrients can unbalance and sometimes suffocate life, contributing to dead zones (405 worldwide and counting, according to a recent study). Sewage, according to the United Nations Environment Program, is the biggest marine pollutant there is. Wastewater-treatment plants work to extract the nutrients before discharging sewage into water courses, but they can’t remove them all.

And there’s also the urine problem. Urine, like any liquid, is a headache for wastewater managers, because most sewer systems take water from street drains along with the toilet, shower and kitchen kind. Population growth is already taxing sewers. (London’s great network was built in the late 19th century with 25 percent extra capacity, but a system designed for three million people must now serve more than twice as many.) When a rainstorm suddenly sends millions of gallons of water into an already overloaded system, the extra must be stored or — if storage is lacking — discharged, untreated, into the nearest river or harbor. Each week, New York City sends about 800 Olympic-size swimming pools’ worth of sewage-polluted water into nearby waters because there’s nowhere else for it to go.

This probably won’t kill us, but it’s not ideal. Environmental scientists in California have calculated that sewage discharged near 28 Southern California beaches has contributed to up to 1.5 million excess gastrointestinal illnesses, costing as much as $51 million in health care. We can do better.

Urine might be one way forward. Before engineers scoff into their breakfast, consider that since at least 135,000 urine-diversion toilets are in use in Sweden and that a Swiss aquatic institute did a six-year study of urine separation that found in its favor. In Sweden, some of the collected urine — which contains 80 percent of the nutrients in excrement — is given to farmers, with little objection. “If they can use urine and it’s cheap, they’ll use it,” said Petter Jenssen, a professor at the Agricultural University of Norway.

The price of phosphorus fertilizers rose 50 percent in the past year in some parts of the world, as phosphate reserves, the largest of which are in Morocco and China, dwindle. (The gloomiest predictions suggest they’ll be gone in 100 years.) Although half of sewage sludge in the United States is already turned into cheap fertilizer known as “biosolids,” urine contains hardly any of the pathogens or heavy metals that critics of biosolids claim remain in mixed sewage, despite treatment.

The rest of Sweden’s collected urine goes to municipal wastewater plants, but in much smaller volume so it’s easier to deal with. Research by Jac Wilsenach, now a civil engineer in South Africa, found that removing even half of the nutrient-rich urine enables the bacteria in the aeration tanks to munch all the nitrogen and phosphate matter in solid waste in a single day rather than the usual 30. Urine diversion also makes for richer sludge and produces more methane, which can be turned into gas or electricity, Mr. Wilsenach said. In short, separating urine turns a guzzler of energy into a net producer.

Putting urine to use is not new. A friend’s grandmother remembers the man coming round for the buckets 60 years ago in Yorkshire, which were then sold to the tanning industry. The flush toilet ended that, and no one — my friend’s nan included — wants outside privies again. “Any innovation in the toilet that increases owner responsibility is probably seen as downwardly mobile,” said Carol Steinfeld, of New Bedford, Mass., who imports NoMix toilets into the United States.

Then there’s the sitting problem: in most urine-diversion toilets, a man must empty his bladder sitting down. This wouldn’t be a problem in some countries — Germany recently introduced a toilet-seat alarm that admonishes standers to sit — but it has been in others. Professor Jenssen was flummoxed by one participant at a training workshop in Cuba who said firmly, “If a man sits, he is homosexual.”

For now, “ecological sanitation” — or more sustainable sewage disposal — thrives mostly in fast-industrializing countries like China and India, which have money to invest in alternatives but few sewers. A subculture of composting toilets exists in the United States, but only a few hundred urine-diversion toilets have been imported, Ms. Steinfeld said.

Necessity — whether occasioned by fertilizer prices, carbon footprints or crippling capital investments — could bring change. At a recent wastewater conference, I watched in astonishment as dour engineers rushed to question a speaker who had been talking about stabilization ponds, which clean sewage using water, flow control, bacteria and light. Normally, such things would be cast into the box of hippie-ish ecological sanitation. But to managers struggling with energy quotas and budget limitations, more sustainable, less energy-intensive sanitation may be starting to make sense.

As Mr. Zhang told me with a smile: “For me, whatever the toilet is, I use it. For example, here we eat wheat. When we go to the south of China, we eat rice. Otherwise we starve.”

It’s been more than 100 years since Teddy Roosevelt wondered aloud whether “civilized people ought to know how to dispose of the sewage in some other way than putting it into the drinking water.” The Zhang family toilet is not the perfect answer to Roosevelt, as it still uses some water, though 80 percent less than a regular flush toilet uses. But at least it’s the result of someone asking the right questions.

Rose George is the author of “The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters.”

February 27th, 2009
Martin Kippenberger at MOMA


“The Happy End of Franz Kafka’s ‘Amerika,’ ” a 1994 Kippenberger installation in the MoMA atrium.

NY Times Published: February 26, 2009

The career of the German artist Martin Kippenberger, who died in 1997 at 44, was a brief, bold, foot-to-the-floor episode of driving under the influence. What was he high on? Alcohol, ambition, disobedience, motion, compulsive sociability, history and art in its many forms.

Art in its many forms was what he made — specifically paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs, prints, posters, books — all in madly prolific quantities. In every sense he took up a lot of space. And he continues to do so at the Museum of Modern Art, where his first — and excellent — American retrospective, “Martin Kippenberger: The Problem Perspective,” is spilling out of top-floor galleries and down into the atrium.

Kippenberger was born in 1953 in Dortmund. His father was a businessman; his mother, who died in a car accident in 1976, a doctor. He dropped out of school in his early teens, hit the road and never stopped. He lived in communes, did drugs, did therapy, studied window display, attended then quit art school.

He wanted to be an actor. (He said he looked like “Helmut Berger on a good day.”) Only after failing to break into films did he focus on art. And as an artist he was a performer, an entertainer, a provoker, as he was in life. At punk bars and biennials he was the juiced-up guy who made scintillating speeches, picked stupid fights and periodically dropped his pants. He was the same person in his art.

He produced many self-portraits, and several are in the MoMA show, which has been organized by Ann Goldstein of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and Ann Temkin, MoMA’s chief curator of painting and sculpture.

In a 1981 photorealist painting he’s a matinee idol lounging on a discarded sofa beside a Manhattan street. (The picture is actually a self-portrait once removed: he hired an artist to paint it.) We see him a few years later in a photograph as a kind of sissy frontier scout wearing a fuzzy sweater and riding a too-small horse in what looks like the American Southwest.

With a series of 1988 paintings comes a change: no more young and svelte. Instead he’s a paunchy, pugnacious middle-aged Picasso in boxer shorts. And from this point on the line between self-depiction and self-debasement blurs. It’s hard to know what to make of a sculptural portrait of the artist as a crucified cartoon frog, a tiny beer stein dangling from his hand. (Pope Benedict XVI called a version of the piece in an Italian collection blasphemous.)

The artist as Spider-Man trying to bust out of his studio would seem more upbeat — if the superhero weren’t a skeletal, see-through being with a mask for a face. Finally, in 1996, Kippenberger drew himself posed as the doomed figures in Géricault’s painting “Raft of the Medusa.” Many artists have done old-man self-portraits. Kippenberger was doing dead-man self-portraits.

And, characteristically, he was doing them with a rash verve that marked his whole career. Right from the start he understood that as an artist he was appearing on the scene at the end of a drama rather than at the beginning. By the time he arrived, the defining impulses of late-20th-century art — Pop, Minimalism, Conceptualism, Neo-Expressionism — were old. So were the political ideologies like Socialism and Communism, and the utopianism of the 1960s, which, for better and worse, had shaped the world he knew.

Seemingly all that remained were leftover styles and ideas; bit parts and walk-ons. Kippenberger didn’t buy this. He knew that there are no small parts, only timid actors, and that with the right spices scraps make a great meal. In other words, he knew he had to take what was there, including the diminished role of the artist, and make something different, and large, and loud from it, and he did.

He turned his work into a late-modernist clearinghouse in which familiar styles, careers and ideas could be re-evaluated, pulled apart, rejected or recombined. He made his painting a database of art and ideas that he loved and despised: Socialist Realism, Picasso, Picabia, Nazi propaganda, punk, Pop, Joseph Beuys, Sigmar Polke and consumer culture, as well as concepts like progress, originality, consistency, success and failure.

He customized Neo-Expressionism, hot in Germany in the 1980s, into a klutzy, jokey style, all flat-footed brushwork and snide asides. He made figure painting, popular for its accessibility, hard to read. Was the image of the smiling fräulein in his “Likeable Communist Woman” a sendup or a nostalgic sigh?

He hammered away at abstraction. He gave an ostensibly nonpolitical geometric composition of black, red and yellow bars a bomb of a title: “With the Best Will in the World I Can’t See a Swastika.” He questioned the notion of abstraction as a transcendent medium by offering an all-white painting that sprouted a pair of latex feet.

He suggested that painting as a form, while useful, was overrated. To test the response he bought a small gray 1972 monochrome painting by Gerhard Richter, fitted it with metal legs and turned it into a coffee table, which became by default a sculpture and original Kippenberger. The response was strong.

He went further in an exploratory direction with sculpture, his breakthrough coming in 1987 with the debut of the “Peter” sculptures, “peter” being his term for objects that fit no known descriptive category.

The two dozen such sculptures clustered in the show are made from pieces of found furniture or industrial hardware to which additions or tweaks have been made. Shipping pallets become playpens (his mother died when pallets slid off a truck and hit her car), a steel loading cart is equipped with briefcases; a designer chair is elevated on a pedestal; a set of shelves on wheels hold bananas preserved in resin. It’s fun to scan them for references to artists like Richard Artschwager and Reinhard Mucha, or to think of them as a reproach to Donald Judd’s self-importantly pristine carpentry. And it’s nice to know that many “peters” were actually made by a longtime Kippenberger assistant, Michael Krebber, who now has a substantial career of his own.

Most important, though, is to see how a complex, theatrical, and new-feeling art can be made from ideas and materials already there. The grand demonstration of this phenomenon is the installation called “The Happy End of Franz Kafka’s ‘Amerika,’ ” which fills the MoMA atrium.

Kafka’s novel was unfinished when he died, the narrative breaking off after its protagonist has arrived in the United States from Germany and has been taken for an interview at what purports to be a job agency for immigrants. In Kippenberger’s directorial hands the agency becomes a combination office, casino and sports arena, with dozens of sculpturally reconfigured tables and chairs on a sheet of green cloth the size of a basketball court.

It’s an exhilarating spectacle, as tough and daft as Kakfa’s book. (Don’t miss the overhead view from the sixth floor.) Like much of Kippenberger’s art it looks at first haphazard and slapdash, but isn’t. Every element has been carefully shaped and placed.

To see how fanatically detail minded Kippenberger could be, you need only look at drawings he did on hotel stationery picked up on his ceaseless trips and relocations. Some sheets hold diagrammatic plans for projects, others highly polished images in watercolor and ink: self-portraits, sexual fantasies, landscapes, cartoon vignettes. They could be by a dozen hands and brains, and that was just the look Kippenberger wanted: multitasking, data gathering, beyond the bogus authority of genre, taste and style.

Drawings for “The Raft of the Medusa” were among the last things he did. In a photograph of him posing as one of Géricault’s figures, he flings arms beseechingly, operatically open, as if to hit a high note, or catch a tossed bouquet. This is Martin the actor, the unembarrassable clown.

Physically, though, he looks awful; bloated and haggard, a big sick baby, a wreck. He had been self-destructing for years, but rather than pull back he kept stepping on the gas. Soon after the photo was taken he died of liver cancer, or cirrhosis, depending on who you read.

If messy and raucous aren’t your thing, and tidy objects are, Kippenberger is not for you. Sometimes when I come up against his drunk-and-disorderly divahood I think he’s not for me. But he is, absolutely, or the idea of him is, meaning the model he sets for what an artist can be and do. His multitudinous recyclings, insubordinate temperament and generosity seem unexpectedly right for a non-party-time time. With the MoMA respective a new generation of artists will get to know him. I can imagine more than a few hitching themselves to his manic star.

“Martin Kippenberger: The Problem Perspective” opens on Sunday and runs through May 11 at the Museum of Modern Art, (212) 708-9400, moma.org.

February 27th, 2009
Enzo Mari opens March 12

Picture 119.jpg

From the Metamobile series
28 1/2 x 78 3/4 x 32 1/8 in.

March 12- April 30, 2009
Italian Cultural Institute, San Francisco

Leading Italian industrial designer Enzo Mari is the subject of a retrospective exhibition of some of the furniture, lighting, utensils, games and graphics that have established him as a significant voice over half a century of thoughtful design and manufacturing.

Presented by the Italian Cultural Institute in San Francisco from March 12-April 30, the Enzo Mari exhibition is a small and impressive collection of designs that span Mr. Mari’s career. The exhibition at the Istituto comprises products from 13 different Italian and Japanese manufacturers (Alessi, Artemide, Corraini Arte Contemporanea ed edizioni, Danese, Driade, Hida Sangyo Co., Kartell, Magis, Muji, Poltrona Frau, Robots, Zani e Zani, Zanotta), that range from seating and shelving, to kitchen utensils, office accessories, children’s games and graphics.

The Enzo Mari exhibition is accompanied by a 64 page bilingual (English, Italian) exhibition catalogue with a preface by Hitoshi Abe, chair, UCLA Department of Architecture and Urban Design, an introduction by Francesca Valente, Director of the Istituto Italiano di Cultura of Los Angeles and a tribute by Massimo Vignelli.

Mr. Mari will be present at the opening.

Italian Cultural Institute in San Francisco

February 26th, 2009
Climate of Change

NY Times Published: February 27, 2009

Elections have consequences. President Obama’s new budget represents a huge break, not just with the policies of the past eight years, but with policy trends over the past 30 years. If he can get anything like the plan he announced on Thursday through Congress, he will set America on a fundamentally new course.

The budget will, among other things, come as a huge relief to Democrats who were starting to feel a bit of postpartisan depression. The stimulus bill that Congress passed may have been too weak and too focused on tax cuts. The administration’s refusal to get tough on the banks may be deeply disappointing. But fears that Mr. Obama would sacrifice progressive priorities in his budget plans, and satisfy himself with fiddling around the edges of the tax system, have now been banished.

For this budget allocates $634 billion over the next decade for health reform. That’s not enough to pay for universal coverage, but it’s an impressive start. And Mr. Obama plans to pay for health reform, not just with higher taxes on the affluent, but by putting a halt to the creeping privatization of Medicare, eliminating overpayments to insurance companies.

On another front, it’s also heartening to see that the budget projects $645 billion in revenues from the sale of emission allowances. After years of denial and delay by its predecessor, the Obama administration is signaling that it’s ready to take on climate change.

And these new priorities are laid out in a document whose clarity and plausibility seem almost incredible to those of us who grew accustomed to reading Bush-era budgets, which insulted our intelligence on every page. This is budgeting we can believe in.

Many will ask whether Mr. Obama can actually pull off the deficit reduction he promises. Can he actually reduce the red ink from $1.75 trillion this year to less than a third as much in 2013? Yes, he can.

Right now the deficit is huge thanks to temporary factors (at least we hope they’re temporary): a severe economic slump is depressing revenues and large sums have to be allocated both to fiscal stimulus and to financial rescues.

But if and when the crisis passes, the budget picture should improve dramatically. Bear in mind that from 2005 to 2007, that is, in the three years before the crisis, the federal deficit averaged only $243 billion a year. Now, during those years, revenues were inflated, to some degree, by the housing bubble. But it’s also true that we were spending more than $100 billion a year in Iraq.

So if Mr. Obama gets us out of Iraq (without bogging us down in an equally expensive Afghan quagmire) and manages to engineer a solid economic recovery — two big ifs, to be sure — getting the deficit down to around $500 billion by 2013 shouldn’t be at all difficult.

But won’t the deficit be swollen by interest on the debt run-up over the next few years? Not as much as you might think. Interest rates on long-term government debt are less than 4 percent, so even a trillion dollars of additional debt adds less than $40 billion a year to future deficits. And those interest costs are fully reflected in the budget documents.

So we have good priorities and plausible projections. What’s not to like about this budget? Basically, the long run outlook remains worrying.

According to the Obama administration’s budget projections, the ratio of federal debt to G.D.P., a widely used measure of the government’s financial position, will soar over the next few years, then more or less stabilize. But this stability will be achieved at a debt-to-G.D.P. ratio of around 60 percent. That wouldn’t be an extremely high debt level by international standards, but it would be the deepest in debt America has been since the years immediately following World War II. And it would leave us with considerably reduced room for maneuver if another crisis comes along.

Furthermore, the Obama budget only tells us about the next 10 years. That’s an improvement on Bush-era budgets, which looked only 5 years ahead. But America’s really big fiscal problems lurk over that budget horizon: sooner or later we’re going to have to come to grips with the forces driving up long-run spending — above all, the ever-rising cost of health care.

And even if fundamental health care reform brings costs under control, I at least find it hard to see how the federal government can meet its long-term obligations without some tax increases on the middle class. Whatever politicians may say now, there’s probably a value-added tax in our future.

But I don’t blame Mr. Obama for leaving some big questions unanswered in this budget. There’s only so much long-run thinking the political system can handle in the midst of a severe crisis; he has probably taken on all he can, for now. And this budget looks very, very good.

February 26th, 2009
The Beauty in Brutalism, Restored and Updated


The Paul Rudolph building at Yale, above, has been saved from destruction in New Haven, Conn.

February 25, 2009
The Wall Street Journal

For a maverick movement begun by little old ladies in tennis shoes fighting bulldozers in the urban renewal demolition wars of the 1960s, historic preservation has achieved some astounding successes, from the passage of landmarks preservation laws and the establishment of the National Trust for Historic Preservation to the recognition, restoration and reuse of an impressive part of this country’s architectural heritage. Guidelines have been established for a wide range of buildings, from the monumental to the vernacular — repair first, restore second, rebuild last; make clear what is new or added, and honor the original materials and construction.

But when the vernacular expanded to the popular and kitsch joined high art in the pantheon of taste, nothing, potentially, was unworthy of serious consideration and a good argument could be made for almost any building that had survived. The new cultural ideals were inclusive and pluralistic. Objective scholarship was sidelined for subjective, emotional associations fueled by partisan passions. Familiar standards simply fell apart, and so did the comfortable operating consensus of the preservation movement.

It was at this moment of disequilibrium that modernist architecture came under attack, its aging landmarks threatened with destruction. These buildings broke with every convention of design and construction, but beyond disagreements about criteria, there were the failed experimental technologies of a now historic avant-garde. Preservationists were faced with a whole new set of problems.

Yale University has a singular collection of iconic modernist monuments, all in need of serious repair. Demolition was never an option for buildings by Louis Kahn, Eero Saarinen, Gordon Bunshaft, Philip Johnson and Paul Rudolph, and an ambitious restoration program began with the exemplary renewal of Kahn’s University Art Gallery two years ago. Work was recently completed on Paul Rudolph’s Art and Architecture Building, one of the most famously controversial landmarks of the 20th century.

The Rudolph building, designed and constructed from 1958 to 1963, shares a vertiginous history with another important mid-20th-century landmark, Boston’s City Hall, a competition-winning design by Kallmann, McKinnell & Knowles also built in the 1960s. Initially celebrated and subsequently reviled, both buildings are in the same Brutalist style. The name Brutalism — from the French béton brut, the raw concrete used by Le Corbusier and favored by modernists — is more commonly used today as a term of opprobrium by a public that profoundly dislikes the style’s rough textures and powerful forms.

Boston detests its City Hall. Attacks on the beleaguered building include calls for its demolition by a mayor determined to get rid of it and a public persistently unconverted to modernism and particularly hostile to the Brutalist aesthetic. (Déjà vu, anyone? Its predecessor, Boston’s Victorian City Hall, was similarly detested and eventually saved and successfully recycled. Tastes change as surely as the seasons, only it takes a little longer.) The current City Hall is being systematically and willfully destroyed by abusive neglect, aggravated malfunction, and spreading bureaucratic blight.

In conspicuous contrast, Yale’s building has been sympathetically and beautifully restored and updated for use by the architecture school. Rededicated on Nov. 8, 2008, 45 years to the day of its grand opening, it has been renamed Paul Rudolph Hall in honor of its architect (1918-1997), whose reputation has also suffered wild swings. The trip from Boston to New Haven might as well be measured in light years as in miles; Boston remains obdurately clueless.

Rudolph’s building was never trouble free. Too small from the start, it was a terrible fit for the painting and sculpture departments crammed into it. There were no climate controls. Unsympathetic remodeling sabotaged the architect’s vision. According to Robert A.M. Stern, the dean of the architecture school, who initiated and championed the restoration, the building was in such a terminal state of dysfunction and disrepair that only the high cost and extreme difficulty of demolishing solid concrete saved it.

The most controversial part of the project has been a new addition housing the Jeffrey Loria Center for the History of Art and the Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library. Both the restoration and the addition are the work of Charles Gwathmey, of Gwathmey Siegel & Associates, and while the restoration has received critical praise, the addition has been judged harshly. The Gwathmey design is intentionally restrained and recessive. But next to Rudolph’s brilliant, virtuoso performance, its more conventional modernism has a disappointingly generic blandness. That is both inevitable and irrelevant. It doesn’t compete, nor is it meant to, because nothing can. There is just no contest with that powerful, one-off masterpiece. And there’s no point in adding up the score.

The first rule in such a charged architectural situation, as in medicine, is do no harm; the addition honors that directive and does what it is supposed to do very well. The new construction provides superior research and teaching facilities with daylit offices on single loaded corridors with views. It skillfully incorporates the upgraded services that could not be threaded through the old solid concrete walls. A shared entrance and circulation core afford a transition that works smoothly, although the change subverts the strong focus and balance of the original entrance and plan. Rudolph’s building is pure, theatrical drama. Mr. Gwathmey’s is cool, neutral efficiency.

Many of the preservation problems were due to Rudolph’s “modernism.” Boldly unconventional in concept, plan, materials and execution, the building’s untested and experimental components had not only disintegrated beyond repair, but were inferior to subsequent advances in basic building technology. It made no sense, nor was it possible, to seek matching replacements. The structure was essentially stripped to its frame and rebuilt.

Because this degree of reconstruction skews our ideas about authenticity, it undermines a defining principle of preservation. For traditional restoration, old quarries can be reopened and old techniques revived to stay true to history. It is the retention or reuse of the original fabric that separates the genuine artifact from the Disney replica. For modernist buildings, the challenge and the process are disturbingly different. Replacement and reconstruction are increasingly necessary for obsolete materials and technologies. This requires unprecedented judgment calls, tailored to each individual structure.

As an example, the only way that New York’s landmark Lever House could be saved was to completely remove its deteriorated curtain wall. Repairs were no longer possible, and the technology of glass, metal framing, and sealant had advanced beyond anything available in the 1950s; this required some compromises with the replacement parts to maintain the original appearance. Since curtain-wall construction is a defining characteristic of modernism, there is a paradox here: Take away the façade and you’ve lost the building, but once the façade has failed, the only way to keep the building’s signal contribution and ensure its continued viability is to replicate and update the original skin — a classic Catch-22. To treat it as an object of nostalgia achieves only a temporary stay of execution.

Yale’s carefully stated goal was to “restore the building to its original intention,” an acknowledgement of the dilemma and the impossibility of a faithful return to the 1960s. By now the original intention was hard to discern. The process was described as “a mix of literal restoration, interpretive renovation, and sensitive intervention.” There were (or had been) 37 levels on 10 floors, focused on two spectacular central spaces that were partitioned, cut up, filled in, and otherwise mutilated over the years. Students expressed their hostility with jerry-built interventions, and in 1969 a studio fire of mysterious origin finished the job. It was the building everyone loved to hate.

The stepped levels, low walls and connecting bridges of the open plan were in violation of today’s Americans With Disabilities Act and current building regulations; everything had to be brought up to code, from accessibility to performance standards. The glowing orange carpet that once blanketed the floors in vibrant contrast to the rough gray concrete has been reproduced from a surviving two-inch square. The dramatic central space has been reopened, and a copy of the giant statue of Minerva presides again over the soaring heart of the building. The rescued and revived structure is now described in Yale’s official releases as “a masterpiece of space, light, and mass.”

Nothing is the same when you reach the 21st century. Suddenly a 20th-century heritage is in crisis and in desperate need of a revised, realistic agenda to keep its landmarks useful and alive.

found on archinect

February 26th, 2009
Clemens the Violin Maker

found on and-a-half

I was riding my bike around in Copenhagen, taking pictures of shop windows, when a man came out of a really beautiful violin workshop and asked if I was English, because I looked very english. I asked if I could keep taking pictures, and he invited me inside to see his set up, his gun, and to tell me how he hates artists and has been sad for a very long time.






one of my favorite blog posts
and a half

February 26th, 2009
Lecia Dole-Recio


closes February 28 at Richard Telles

February 25th, 2009
For a New Generation, Kimchi Goes With Tacos


A Kogi barbecue truck in Venice Beach, Calif.

NY Times Published: February 24, 2009

AS the sun begins to sink behind the Santa Monica Mountains and the northbound traffic thickens on the 405 freeway, the hungry refresh their browsers.

After obsessively checking the Twitter postings of the Korean taco maker to see where the truck will park next, they begin lining up — throngs of college students, club habitués, couples on dates and guys having conversations about spec scripts.

And they wait, sometimes well beyond an hour, all for the pleasure of spicy bites of pork, chicken or tofu soaked in red chili flake vinaigrette, short ribs doused in sesame-chili salsa roja or perhaps a blood sausage sautéed with kimchi, all of it wrapped in a soft taco shell.

The food at Kogi Korean BBQ-To-Go, the taco vendor that has overtaken Los Angeles, does not fit into any known culinary category. One man overheard on his cellphone as he waited in line on a recent night said it best: “It’s like this Korean Mexican fusion thing of crazy deliciousness.”

The truck is a clear cult hit in Los Angeles, drawing more buzz than any new restaurant. A sister vehicle and a taco stand within a Culver City bar were recently added to quell the crowds, which Kogi’s owner put at about 400 customers a night.

Kogi, the brainchild of two chefs, has entered the city’s gastro-universe at just the right moment. Its tacos and burritos are recession-friendly at $2 a pop. The truck capitalizes on emerging technology by sending out Twitter alerts so fans know where to find it at any given time.

Yet Kogi’s popularity and the sophistication of its street food also demonstrate the emerging firepower of this city’s Korean food purveyors.

In the last few years, second-generation Korean Angelenos and more recent immigrants have played their own variations on their traditional cuisine and taken it far beyond the boundaries of Korean-dominated neighborhoods. These chefs and entrepreneurs are fueled in large part by tech-boom money here and in South Korea, culinary-school educations and in some cases, their parents’ shifting perspectives about the profession of cooking. In the last year, new Korean restaurants have popped up on the powerhouse restaurant strips of Washington Boulevard in Culver City and Beverly Boulevard in West Hollywood. In an area of West Los Angeles dominated by Japanese restaurants, bibimbop has joined the fray.

“We thought Korean food was under-represented here, and we were right,” said Robert Benson, the executive chef of Gyenari in Culver City, who has two Korean partners. “There is a certain mysticism to Korean food, and we have tried to make it more accessible.”

Korean food has blipped on the radar of culinary trend watchers before, but it never seems to gain momentum. In part, Mr. Benson said: “It is because there is a misconception about Korean food. Japanese food is high protein, low in fat and is this very clean cuisine, where Korean food has reputation as being not healthy. So it has not taken off like it should, but I think it is going to. I can feel the groundswell. David Chang in New York” — the Korean-American chef whose inventions include oysters on the half shell with kimchi consommé — “has helped that, too. I don’t think it will be long before we see a P. F. Chang’s-type chain of Korean food.”

At the same time, an increasing number of Korean chefs and restaurateurs here have aligned themselves with other nations’ cuisines, to great acclaim.

One of the city’s hottest hamburger spots, Father’s Office, is owned by Sang Yoon, 39, who immigrated to Los Angeles from Korea when he was a year old. He cooked at Michael’s in Santa Monica before taking over an old bar nearby, now packed with people willing enough to wait in line for an Office Burger, served with Mr. Yoon’s choice of accompaniments (caramelized onions, blue cheese, Gruyère, arugula), not theirs. A second Father’s Office recently opened in Los Angeles.

Scoops, an artisanal ice cream store in East Hollywood that whips up strawberry balsamic vinegar and brown bread treats, is run by Tai Kim, who came with his family to California from Korea as a teenager. Korean-Americans have made their mark in the frozen-yogurt trade, too. Pinkberry? Red Mango? Check, check.

“The first generation of Korean immigrants here mainly catered toward a Korean clientele, or made grocery markets catering to a minority clientele,” said Edward Chang, a professor of ethnic studies at the University of California, Riverside. “But more recent immigrants have ethnic and capital resources that enable them to branch out in the mainstream economy.”

Thus, “Korean-Americans have gained visibility since the unrest of 1992,” when riots targeted Korean-owned businesses, he said, “and over the last 10 to 15 years, they became much more visible. In terms of economic and political spheres, they are forces to be reckoned with.”

At the California School of Culinary Arts over the last two years, Korean students have been one of the fastest-growing immigrant groups, said Mario Novo, a spokesman for the school.

“One of our brand new students told me how excited he was to go to the school because in his culture the men do not cook and his mother was fighting against him,” Mr. Novo said. “Until they saw how serious he was. Now his mother is coming around.”

The Korean taco truck may be the ultimate outgrowth of the evolving Korean-American culture and inventiveness, inspired in part, like so many entrepreneurial adventures, by a bit of desperation.

This past September, the chef Roy Choi, 38, who began his career at Le Bernardin in New York and worked as the chef in several Los Angeles restaurants, including RockSugar, found himself out of a job and running out of cash. He had coffee with Mark Manguera, a former co-worker, who suggested that they operate a taco cart with a Korean twist.

At home that night, Mr. Choi said, the idea, which had sounded half crazy in the morning, began to make some sense. “I have always been searching for a way of trying to express myself,” he said. A business model with seven partners was quickly formed. The marketing plan included putting someone in charge of social networking, through which Kogi got its initial publicity when the truck first rolled out, two months after the fateful coffee date.

Then there is Mr. Choi, who called himself “the angry chef.” He works every night with about five employees who squeeze into the tiny, pristine space, clowns-in-a-car style, grilling meats and whipping up sauces for the crowds who wait, sometimes as long as two hours, for their tacos.

The idea, Mr. Choi said, was to bring his ethnic background together with the sensibility and geography of Los Angeles, where Koreatown abuts Latino-dominated neighborhoods in midcity and where food cultures have long merged. Former Mexican restaurants, now Korean, serve burritos, and Mexican workers populate the kitchens of Korean restaurants.

“We tried to marry two cultures,” Mr. Choi said, “with this crazy idea of putting Korean barbecue meat inside a tortilla. We have never tried to make it any more pretentious or different from that, and we wanted to be very simple but delicious.” To that end, Mr. Choi said, he buys from the meat purveyors used by some of the city’s high-end restaurants and scours the farmers’ markets for the best vegetables.

The whole operation is part culinary event — the delicious tang of pickled cabbage, the melt-on-the tongue caramel of seared meats, the bite of red chili flakes and jalapeños — and part party. Mr. Choi likes to park his truck at the U.C.L.A. campus and outside bars and clubs around town, to take advantage of the street theater.

This week, his team began leasing space in the Alibi Room, a lounge in Culver City, serving up kimchi sesame quesadillas ($7) and hot dogs with kimchi sauerkraut and Korean ketchup.

“It has evolved into a socio-cultural thing for me,” he said. “It is my vision of L.A. in one bite.”

February 25th, 2009
On the Road, for Reasons Practical and Spiritual


NY Times Published: February 24, 2009

The day after his first American concert in more than 15 years, Leonard Cohen sat in a Manhattan hotel suite warily submitting to an interviewer’s questions, including one about the music in his laptop’s iTunes. In response, he played a klezmer-style Hebrew hymn, then followed it by singing along with one of George Jones’s weepy country morality tales.

“I’ve had choices since the day that I was born,/There were voices that told me right from wrong,” Mr. Cohen crooned in his stern baritone. “If I had listened, no, I wouldn’t be here today,/Living and dying with the choices I’ve made.”

Religious devotion weighs heavily in both music and life for Mr. Cohen, and it takes many forms. After a five-year stint in a Zen Buddhist monastery and various legal distractions, he is back on the road: an undertaking that seems to combine his quest for spiritual fulfillment with an effort to regain his financial footing, lost when his former business manager made off with his money while Mr. Cohen was living as a monk on a mountaintop above Los Angeles.

“It was a long, ongoing problem of a disastrous and relentless indifference to my financial situation,” Mr. Cohen said on Friday of the resulting legal proceedings, which awarded him $9.5 million — money he has yet to collect. “I didn’t even know where the bank was.”

So on April 2, for reasons both practical and aesthetic, Mr. Cohen will embark on a two-month North American tour, including a performance at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival on April 17 and an appearance at Radio City Music Hall on May 16. In addition, Columbia Records on March 31 will release a live CD/DVD of a show he did in London last year, and songs from the concert he played last Thursday at the Beacon Theater will begin streaming online on Thursday on the National Public Radio Web site (npr.org/music or nprmusic.org).

Mr. Cohen’s world tour, which actually began in May 2008 in his native Canada, is scheduled to continue through the end of this year, a feat of endurance for a man his age. At 74, Mr. Cohen is nine years Mick Jagger’s senior and two years older than John McCain. But he is remarkably limber, skipping on and off the stage during his three-hour show and repeatedly dropping to his knees to sing.

Roscoe Beck, Mr. Cohen’s musical director, says that even on the longest flights Mr. Cohen sits cross-legged and straight-backed in his seat, in a monk’s posture. Asked whether he also does yoga to build strength and agility for his stage shows, Mr. Cohen, his demeanor courtly but reserved, smiled and replied, “That is my yoga.”

In fact, Mr. Cohen appears to see performance and prayer as aspects of the same larger divine enterprise. That may not be surprising, coming from an artist whose best-known songs mingle sacred concerns with the secular and the sexual and sound like “collaborations between Jacques Brel and Thomas Merton,” as the novelist Pico Iyer put it.

“There’s a similarity in the quality of the daily life” on the road and in the monastery, Mr. Cohen said. “There’s just a sense of purpose” in which “a lot of extraneous material is naturally and necessarily discarded,” and what is left is a “rigorous and severe” routine in which “the capacity to focus becomes much easier.”

Mr. Cohen said he stopped touring in 1993 partly because he was drinking “too much red wine” between shows. But even with his money problems, he had to be persuaded to go out on the road again, said Rob Hallett, the promoter of the tour, in which Mr. Cohen performs with a nine-piece band.

“For three years, every time I’d go to Los Angeles, I’d try to convince him to do it,” Mr. Hallett said. “But he didn’t think anyone cared.”

After 99 concerts in places as far-flung as Bucharest and Auckland, Mr. Cohen now knows that is not true. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008, but unlike many other pop music figures who emerged in the 1960s he never overexposed himself, and he has maintained an air of mystery around his person and his songs.

“In the years he was away, the work was still there to be found, and people caught up with him,” said Hal Willner, the music producer responsible for “Came So Far for Beauty,” a Cohen concert tribute that toured the world in 2004 and 2005. “The records always kept surfacing, being talked about as influences on the young kids coming up, like Kurt Cobain and Jeff Buckley, and those who listened found themselves being drawn into the songs, in a Venus’ flytrap sort of way.”

Thanks to that new generation of artists and listeners, more recent songs like “Hallelujah” have now become as widely known as “Suzanne” and other compositions from Mr. Cohen’s early years. “Hallelujah” has been recorded almost 200 times, with two different versions reaching the Top 10 in Britain late in 2008, and was even sung by a contestant on “American Idol” last year, which gave it another boost.

Because so many of Mr. Cohen’s songs have been recorded by others, many of his new admirers associate his work mainly with the artists who have popularized them, like Rufus Wainwright and Mr. Buckley. But Mr. Cohen dismissed the idea of reclaiming possession of his songs as one of the motives for going back on tour.

“My sense of ownership with these things is very weak,” he responded. “It’s not the result of spiritual discipline; it’s always been that way. My sense of proprietorship has been so weak that actually I didn’t pay attention and I lost the copyrights on a lot of the songs.”

About the meaning of those songs, Mr. Cohen is diffident and elusive. Many are, he acknowledges, “muffled prayers,” but beyond that he is not eager to reveal much.

“It’s difficult to do the commentary on the prayer,” he said. “I’m not a Talmudist, I’m more the little Jew who wrote the Bible,” a reference to a line in “The Future,” a song he released in 1992. “I feel it doesn’t serve the enterprise to really examine it from outside the moment.”

Mr. Cohen said he hoped to make a new record when the tour ends, and offered to play one of his newer compositions. Tentatively called “Amen,” it features a Farfisa-style keyboard, a trumpetlike solo played by Mr. Cohen on his synthesizer and lyrics like this: “Tell me again when the filth of the butcher is washed in the blood of the lamb.”

Jennifer Warnes, the singer whose 1986 recording of “Famous Blue Raincoat” helped revive interest in Mr. Cohen at a time when he was out of critical favor, said: “He has investigated a lot of deities and read all the sacred books, trying to understand in some way who wrote them as much as the subject matter itself. It’s for his own healing that he reaches for those places. If he has one great love, it is his search for God.”

Mr. Cohen is an observant Jew who keeps the Sabbath even while on tour and performed for Israeli troops during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. So how does he square that faith with his continued practice of Zen?

“Allen Ginsberg asked me the same question many years ago,” he said. “Well, for one thing, in the tradition of Zen that I’ve practiced, there is no prayerful worship and there is no affirmation of a deity. So theologically there is no challenge to any Jewish belief.”

Zen has also helped him to learn to “stop whining,” Mr. Cohen said, and to worry less about the choices he has made. “All these things have their own destiny; one has one’s own destiny. The older I get, the surer I am that I’m not running the show.”

February 25th, 2009
Sea of Shoes


Excellent blog, Sea of Shoes.
Could this be Anna Wintour’s 16 year old replacement?

Sea of Shoes / They don’t call them lovers in highschool, leeland

Sea of Shoes

Thanks Rodney.

February 24th, 2009
Sharevari ( The Scene ) 1982

found on Sea of Shoes / They don’t call them lovers in highschool, leeland

February 24th, 2009
Shelf Life


Ny Times Published: February 23, 2009

I felt so fortunate to attend a special presentation the other night: William Stout, owner of the eponymous architecture and design bookstore in San Francisco, had been invited to talk about his favorite books at Linden Street, a casual salon of sorts that aims to foster the design community in the city.

Stores like Stout’s (not to mention people like Stout!) are a rare breed these days: there are two floors bursting with over 200,000 books on everything from the sustainable houses of Australian architect Glenn Murcutt to Czech graphic designer Vitezslav Nezval’s “Alphabet” from 1926 to the last sketchbook of Jackson Pollock to William Wegman’s whimsical “Dogs on Rocks.” Some books are shelved in an orderly fashion, others are piled high, begging for the serendipity of accidental discovery.

Stout began with his favorite quote from Balzac: “I seldom go out but when I feel myself flagging I go and cheer myself up in Pere Lachaise … while seeking out the dead I see nothing but the living.”

It was evident that, surrounded by these volumes — some slim, some massive, some lush with color photography, some filled with impenetrable academic jargon — Stout felt inspired, in love, in awe, much as Balzac did wandering past the tombstones in that Parisian graveyard.

Stout often chose his favorites based not just on subject matter or author but because of his relationship to its author or subject, or the way the book was acquired, or the paper used in printing it. He showed a new book on architect Eero Saarinen, featuring behind-the-scenes images of the work that went into creations like the T.W.A. terminal at Kennedy International Airport. Below is the most recent title that William Stout Publishers, which publishes architectural monographs and other titles, has produced.

He spoke about one of his current projects, a book on a man with whom he shares both a name and obsession: William Bushnell Stout, the little-known visionary inventor of fantastic flying machines (and trains, and automobiles, and homes, few of which ever found their way into production but all of which are fascinating). I discovered the ingenious collapsible house designed by W.B. Stout while researching the history of prefabricated housing; I was thrilled to learn that our William Stout had an archive of the other Stout’s work.

Stout is a collector in the best sense of the word. Though he joked that he began acquiring books when he realized he’d never have a 401k, it is probably more accurate to say that Stout is in complete thrall of the smell of ink, the feel of paper, the intellectual and physical heft of the literary object, the near-indiscernible sound of the turning of pages.

An international, multi-generational architecture and design community has for decades put its trust and faith in Stout. He spoke of the widows of great architects making surreptitious visits to his store, and then later announcing themselves and donating valuable archives. Discoverers of caches of lost photographs or portfolios of drawings deliver them to Stout, eager for him and his team (because Stout also produces and publishes books) to transform them into a lasting document.

There was a sort of metaphorical turning of pages here because all that Stout champions and adores seems very much on the wane. As someone who has written and collaborated on the making of several books, I am all too aware that the aspects Stout discussed as if talking about a favorite child — obscure topics, exquisite papers, artisanal printing and binding, architectural drawings rendered painstakingly by hand (not computer), hand-to-hand book-selling — are disappearing from bookmaking. The experience of immersion and discovery that his store allows (one reviewer has written, “if you come here with an architect, abandon all other plans for the day”) is all but vanishing.

I love the tangents an afternoon spent searching the Internet can generate: a search for this leads to a blog on that which might lead to a book I’d not heard of or a film I want to see. But I realize as well that it’s contributing to a sort of collective ADD that makes ambling through aisles of a place like Stout Books feel that much more special, requiring an altogether different commitment of time, care and attention.

Like a photo album, diary or record collection, these books constitute a sort of life history. Single volumes or groups of volumes allow me to recall various periods of my life, from the illustrated copy of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” given to me by my parents when I was in kindergarten, to the likely never-to-be-opened again critical theory texts I’ve saved from grad school by Foucault, Bordieu, Kristeva, et al, to the shelf of vintage trailer volumes acquired while my husband and I were researching our book on Airstreams, to treasured monographs on Bloomsbury, Frank Lloyd Wright and Japanese prints inherited from my art-appraiser mom, many with postcards from her travels tucked inside their jackets. Even “Fluid Electrolyte and Acid Base Disorders,” a medical text written by my father, and dedicated to me and my sister.

There’s a motley yet treasured assortment of old and new, passed down, purchased or borrowed, all reflecting changing tastes, obsessions, influences and stages of life (such as the ever-growing stacks of childrens’ books that now compete for shelf space).

Scanning the bookshelves of others is a favorite pastime, and sitting here canvassing my own makes me fully understand why Stout recently left his San Francisco house to move into a warehouse: he wanted to be surrounded by not just some but all of his books, to feel among the living. As one who has lugged an ever-increasing number of boxes of books from apartment to apartment, city to city, unable to part with nary a one, I feel the same way.

Stout’s presentation was so inspiring yet so bittersweet because his vocation seems entirely of an era that is passing us by. For centuries we’ve looked to libraries as historic evidence of cultured civilizations: will electronic texts fill that bill for future generations? While I’ll admit that I’m intrigued by the Kindle, it will never replace the rows and stacks of books that crowd my house. And when I first settle into my comfy chair ready to read with that new device, I’ll probably feel as if I had a phantom limb — I’ll mourn the absence of my fingers slowly turning the pages.

William Stout Books

February 24th, 2009
richard aldrich


closes February 28 at Bortolami

February 24th, 2009
david borden tribute to ruth st. denis and ted shawn.01

thanks to Danielle

February 23rd, 2009
kittens inspired by kittens

thanks to KM Breslin ( originator of the term “beach clown” )

February 23rd, 2009
On the Waterboard

How does it feel to be “aggressively interrogated”?
Christopher Hitchens found out for himself, submitting to a brutal waterboarding session in an effort to understand the human cost of America’s use of harsh tactics at Guantánamo and elsewhere.

Vanity Fair

February 23rd, 2009
Very little house on the prairie


Feb 19th 2009
The Economist

SEVERAL years ago Brad Kittel was living in the small town of Gonzales, Texas, running an architectural-antiques shop and feeling restless. He had the largest collection of antique door hardware in the country, and a warehouse full of salvaged material. But it was not shifting. So in 2006 he started Tiny Texas Houses, a building operation based in the appropriately tiny town of Luling, as a way of showing off his wares.

One of Mr Kittel’s current projects is a custom-built Victorian-style farmhouse with a green exterior. Most of the house is to be made of salvaged materials. It will have a full kitchen and bathroom, a loft big enough to sleep in, and a roomy living area with a vaulted ceiling. At 350 square feet (33 square metres), this is a fairly capacious model. Some of his tiny houses are half that size.

The idea is to offer a greener and cheaper alternative to the dread McMansion. And Mr Kittel is not alone. The Small House Movement has been around for years, encouraging people to think about how much house they really need. But lately it has attracted more attention. “It seems like a perfect convergence of a bad housing market meeting a bad economy and more awareness about global warming,” claims Jay Shafer, an enthusiastic advocate. His Tumbleweed Tiny House company sells small ready-made houses as well as plans for slightly larger ones. Its teensiest model, the XS-House, measures 65 square feet; ready-made, it costs $37,000. For several years, the company survived on a sale here and there. Lately, says Mr Shafer, interest has risen.

In one sense tiny houses are not a novel idea. Plenty of people live in small spaces because they cannot afford larger ones. And affluent Manhattanites could get lost in a 500-square-foot apartment. But the average American home is pretty big. In 1980, according to the National Association of Home Builders, the median single-family home sold was 1,570 square feet. By 2005 that had expanded to 2,235 square feet.

The indications now, though, are that the trend is to scale back. According to the Census Bureau, the median size of home starts dropped to 2,114 square feet in the fourth quarter of 2008, down more than 100 square feet from the first quarter of the year. And 100 square feet is a significant slice of space. Mr Shafer’s whole house is about that size.

Tiny Texas Houses

The Economist

February 22nd, 2009
Cluster & Brian Eno

The most important and consistently underrated space-rock unit of the ’70s, Cluster (originally Kluster) was formed by Dieter Moebius, Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Conrad Schnitzler as an improv group that used everything from synthesizers to alarm clocks and kitchen utensils in their performaces. Continuing on as a duo, Moebius and Roedelius eventually recorded many landmark LPs — separately, as a duo, and with all manner of guest artists from Brian Eno to Conny Plank to Neu!’s Michael Rother — in the field of German space music often termed kosmische. Cluster also continued to explore ambient music into the ’90s, long after their contemporaries had drifted into tamer new age music or ceased recording altogether. Cluster
originally came out of a Berlin art/music collective named the Zodiak Free Arts Lab, formed by Conrad Schnitzler (one of the leaders of the city’s avant-underground), and also including Hans-Joachim Roedelius plus future members of Tangerine Dream, Ash Ra Tempel and Guru Guru. After Schnitzler and Roedelius met an art student named Dieter Moebius, the threesome formed Kluster in 1970.
Musicians: Dieter Moebius, Hans Joachim Roedelius and Brian Eno, with Holger Czukay.

Thanks for the Konder Krautrock mix Matt

February 21st, 2009
Cave for sale


view ebay listing

found on greg.org

February 21st, 2009
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