Hopis Try to Stop Paris Sale of Artifacts

“The Hopis, who number about 18,000 in northeast Arizona, believe the objects in the Paris sale, which they call Katsinam, or ‘friends,’ are imbued with divine spirits.”
Credit: Antoine Mercier/Dan Graphiste

NY Times Published: April 3, 2013

In a rare case of a cultural heritage claim arising from the sale of American artifacts abroad, the Hopi Indians of Arizona have asked federal officials to help stop a high-price auction of 70 sacred masks in Paris next week.

The tribe is receiving advice from the State and Interior Departments, but each agency says its ability to intervene is limited.

In many ways, the Hopi case illustrates a paradox in the way artifacts are repatriated around the world.

While foreign nations routinely rely on international accords to secure American help in retrieving antiquities from the United States, Washington has no reciprocal agreements governing American artifacts abroad. And the United States laws that provide some protection against the illicit sale of Indian artifacts in this country have no weight in foreign lands. So tribes reaching overseas to recover objects that they view as culturally important are left to do battle on their own.

“Right now there just aren’t any prohibitions against this kind of large foreign sale,” said Jack F. Trope, executive director of the Association on American Indian Affairs, which is seeking new laws and treaties that would give the United States more force to intervene. “The leverage for international repatriation just isn’t there.”

The Hopis, who number about 18,000 in northeast Arizona, regard the objects in the Paris sale, which they call Katsinam, or “friends,” as imbued with divine spirits. They object to calling them “masks” and say that outsiders who photograph, collect or sell them are committing sacrilege. The brightly colored visages and headdresses, often adorned with horsehair, sheepskin, feathers and maize, are thought to embody the spirits of warriors, animals, messengers, fire, rain and clouds, among other things. They are used today, as in the past, in many Hopi rites, like coming-of-age ceremonies and harvest rituals.

The Néret-Minet auction house in Paris says that its sale, on April 12, will be one of the largest auctions of Hopi artifacts ever, and it estimates that it will bring in $1 million. Many of the objects are more than 100 years old and carry estimates of $10,000 to $35,000. The auction house says that among the spirits represented are the Crow Mother, the Little Fire God and the Mud Head Clown.

“Sacred items like this should not have a commercial value,” said Leigh J. Kuwanwisiwma, director of the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office in Kykotsmovi, Ariz. “The bottom line is we believe they were taken illegally.”

The auction house says that a collector who has not been identified legally bought the items in the United States at sales and auctions over 30 years, beginning in the 1930s, and that the coming auction complies with French law.

“This sale is not just a business transaction but a homage to the Hopi Indians,” said Gilles Néret-Minet, the director of the house.

Historians say many Hopi artifacts were taken long ago by people who found them unattended in shrines and on altars along the mesas of the Southwest. Others were confiscated by missionaries who came to convert the tribe in the late 19th century. Some were sold by tribe members. But even those sales were not legitimate, Hopi leaders say, because they may have been made under duress, and because the tribe holds that an individual cannot hold title to its religious artifacts — they are owned communally.

The market for American Indian artifacts, both here and abroad, is robust, experts say, and auctions of Indian items in the United States typically proceed unimpeded by American law and unchallenged by most tribes. There are some protections, though, under United States theft statutes, experts say, as well as restrictions on the sale of pieces by museums and federal agencies.

The Hopis and their supporters say the Paris sale is especially objectionable because of its size and the religious significance of the items involved. They say it also illustrates a striking disparity between what the government is empowered to do to help a foreign country recover an object from the United States and its inability to do much to retrieve an American artifact for sale overseas.

When a nation like Italy or Cambodia claims ownership of an object in the United States, it typically invokes international accords that require American officials to take up the cases. The Justice Department, for example, recently sent two lawyers to Cambodia as part of an effort to help that country seize an ancient statue that Sotheby’s planned to auction in New York.

The United States does not have similar accords that it could cite in support of the Hopi claim on the Paris auction items. Several experts and activists said the United States had never viewed its own cultural patrimony as a priority because the country is relatively young, has long embraced the concept of free trade and has not historically focused on the cultural heritage issues of American Indians.

But American officials have demonstrated their concern over the Paris sale by providing the Hopis with legal guidance and diplomatic advice, officials said.

Emily Palus, the deputy division chief for tribal consultation with the Bureau of Land Management, a division of the Interior Department, recently wrote an e-mail to colleagues suggesting that they raise concerns about the growing “international trade in Native American cultural property, and the continued damage and impact it has on traditional cultural practices.”

In recent years Indian tribes have stepped up their efforts to recover cultural artifacts. The Hopis are considered among the most painstaking in that pursuit, and the tribe has recovered dozens of artifacts from American museums and sought to block auctions in the United States. It has never tried to halt an overseas sale before.

In the case of museums, tribes rely on a 1990 law, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, which governs the sale and handling of Indian cultural objects by American museums. Those institutions are barred from selling such items and must inventory their collections; they then must reach out to tribes or direct descendants to allow them to reclaim objects they view as important.

The process can be costly and take years, however, and unless pressed, some museums simply hold on to their collections.

In the French case, the Hopis sent a letter of objection last month to the Néret-Minet auction house. In it Mr. Kuwanwisiwma cited cultural heritage clauses in the tribe’s 1936 Constitution that say the items for sale are “held under religious custody by the Hopi people.”

Neither Mr. Kuwanwisiwma nor a lawyer for the Hopis, James E. Scarboro of Arnold & Porter in Denver, has received a reply, they said.

Kate Fitz Gibbon, an art law expert in Santa Fe, N.M., who specializes in tribal issues, said the Hopis could consider a claim that the items are stolen property. But doing so, she said, would require time, money and legal support that are often out of reach.

“The Paris auction of Hopi masks is a complex legal situation involving the interplay of international and domestic French law,” she said, adding that the Hopis might have to resort to publicity and “moral suasion.”

Mr. Néret-Minet said he was surprised by the Hopi reaction because similar auctions had not drawn attention, including one in Paris in December in which 23 Hopi items were purchased, eight of them by a local museum, the Musée du Quai Branly.

“Even if it chagrins them, for the tribe this is not a negative,” he said. “I think the Hopis should be happy that so many people want to understand and analyze their civilization.”

In response, Mr. Kuwanwisiwma said, “The Hopi Tribe is just disgusted with the continued offensive marketing of Hopi culture.”

Thanks to Lesley Vance

April 4th, 2013
Why Do G.M.O.’s Need Protection?

NY Times Published: April 2, 2013

Genetic engineering in agriculture has disappointed many people who once had hopes for it. Excluding, of course, those who’ve made money from it, appropriately represented in the public’s mind by Monsanto. That corporation, or at least its friends, recently managed to have an outrageous rider slipped into the 587-page funding bill Congress sent to President Obama.[1]

The rider essentially prohibits the Department of Agriculture from stopping production of any genetically engineered crop once it’s in the ground, even if there is evidence that it is harmful.

That’s a pre-emptive Congressional override of the judicial system, since it is the courts that are most likely to ask the U.S.D.A. to halt planting or harvest of a particular crop. President Obama signed the bill last week (he kind of had to, to prevent a government shutdown) without mentioning the offensive rider [2] (he might have), despite the gathering of more than 250,000 signatures protesting the rider by the organization Food Democracy Now!

The override is unnecessary as well as disgraceful, because the U.S.D.A. is already overly supportive of genetically engineered crops. When a court tried to stop the planting of genetically engineered beets a couple of years ago pending adequate study, the U.S.D.A. allowed it. And the secretary of agriculture, Tom Vilsack – who, in fairness, does not seem happy about the rider but was powerless to stop it – was quoted in this (excellent) Politico piece as saying, “With the seed genetics today that we’re seeing, miracles are occurring every single growing season.”

True enough. But “seed genetics” refers not only to genetically engineered seeds but to seeds whose genetics have been altered by conventional means, like classical breeding. In fact, as I said up top, genetic engineering, or, more properly, transgenic engineering – in which a gene, usually from another species of plant, bacterium or animal, is inserted into a plant in the hope of positively changing its nature – has been disappointing.

In the nearly 20 years of applied use of G.E. in agriculture there have been two notable “successes,” along with a few less notable ones.[3] These are crops resistant to Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide (Monsanto develops both the seeds and the herbicide to which they’re resistant) and crops that contain their own insecticide. The first have already failed, as so-called superweeds have developed resistance to Roundup, and the second are showing signs of failing, as insects are able to develop resistance to the inserted Bt toxin — originally a bacterial toxin — faster than new crop variations can be generated.

Nothing else in the world of agricultural genetic engineering even comes close to the “success” of these two not-entirely-successful creations. Furthermore, at least in these cases, their pattern of success (and high profits) followed by failure was inevitable.

Don’t take my word for it. Let me summarize extensive conversations I’ve recently had with Doug Gurian-Sherman, a senior scientist and plant pathologist at the Union of Concerned Scientists: Roundup Ready seeds allowed farmers to spend less time and energy controlling weeds. But the temporary nature of the gains was predictable: “There was no better way to create weeds tolerant to glyphosate (Roundup) than to spray all of them intensively for a few years,” Gurian-Sherman told me. “And that’s what was done.”

The result is that the biggest crisis in monocrop agriculture – something like 90 percent of all soybeans and 70 percent of corn is grown using Roundup Ready seed – lies in glyphosate’s inability to any longer provide total or even predictable control, because around a dozen weed species have developed resistance to it. “Any ecologist would have predicted this, and many did,” Gurian-Sherman said.

In the case of seeds containing the Bt toxin, insect resistance took longer to develop because breeders, knowing that insects evolve faster than new crop species can normally be generated, have deployed several variations of the Bt toxin in an effort to reduce the “selection pressure.” But, says Gurian-Sherman, “We’re starting to see that resistance now.”

Aside from the shame of Congress, there is another important issue here. Many steps could be taken right now to improve yields while diminishing the need for herbicides and pesticides, including sophisticated rotational systems, targeted applications of chemicals and other methods tested and demonstrated in the U.S.D.A./Iowa State University Marsden Farm study (about which I wrote last year). Acknowledging that — and recognizing that, at least for now, classical breeding methods remain superior to genetic engineering for whole crop improvement — is not the same thing as making inflated claims about the hazards of genetic engineering to human health, as some opponents of genetic engineering have taken to doing.

There is far from any scientific consensus on this, because there’s currently little or no reliable evidence that food manufactured with ingredients from genetically engineered plants is directly harmful to humans[4]. That’s not the same thing as saying that the potential isn’t there for novel proteins and other chemicals to generate unexpected problems, which is why we need strict, effective testing and regulatory systems.

It’s also why the pre-emptive “biotech rider” is such an insult: Congress is (again) protecting corporations from the public interest. This is all the more reason that food derived from genetically modified organisms should be so labeled, especially since the vast majority of Americans want them to be.

Still, we should abhor the use of genetically engineered seeds without adequate testing, and protest against hijacking the Constitution to guarantee the “right” to unregulated use of genetically engineered seeds. It’s smart to prudently explore the possible benefits and uses of genetically engineered materials in agriculture, and to deploy them if and when they’re proven to be a) safe (otherwise, no) and b) beneficial to society at large (otherwise, why bother?). I don’t believe that any G.E. materials have so far been proven to be either of these things, and therefore we should proceed cautiously.

We should also note that far less expensive – sometimes 100 times less expensive – conventional breeding techniques have outstripped genetic engineering techniques over the last 20 years, during which G.E. techniques have gotten far more publicity. (Conventionally bred drought resistance has raised yields around 30 percent in the last 30 years; Monsanto’s drought-resistant corn, says Gurian-Sherman, promises at most a 6 percent increase, and that only in moderate drought.) We’re using more pesticides than ever (something like 400 million pounds in the last 15 years), and net yields from applied genetic engineering in the United States are only a bit higher (and then only in monocrop systems) than net yields from seeds developed using more conventional techniques.

All of this explains why producers of genetically engineered seeds feel they need protection. (One can only hope that this is temporary, since the rider expires at the end of this fiscal year; though it’s hard to see it going away without a whole lot of noise.) Their technology is not that great (did Polaroid, or Xerox, or Microsoft need protection?) and their research costs are high. They need another home run like Roundup Ready crops – serious drought tolerance would be an example — yet there isn’t one in sight.

Genetic engineering has its problems. Like nuclear power, it may someday become safe and productive or – again like nuclear power – it may become completely unnecessary. Our job as citizens is to support the production of energy and food by the most sustainable and least damaging methods scientists can devise. If that’s genetic engineering, fine. But to date it hasn’t been; in fact, the technology has been little more than an income-generator for a few corporations desperate to see those profits continue regardless of the cost to the rest of us, or to the environment.

1. Incredibly, it was done anonymously. No member of Congress has taken responsibility.

2. Nor did he mention another horrendous House-inserted provision that gives increased market power to our three largest meatpacking corporations at the expense of small farmers and ranchers, and hogties U.S.D.A. attempts to put the brakes on the worst abuses of big meatpackers.

3. This from a technology that its advocates promised would be revolutionary, a technology that some believe is our only hope of increasing yields quickly enough to “feed humanity” later this century. (Not that we need to increase yields to feed humanity, and not that we’re feeding “humanity” now. But that’s another story.)

4. On the other hand, there has been no monitoring of humans for harm, so the very often heard claim by many G.E. advocates that the technology has harmed no one is, says Gurian-Sherman, “flat out wrong scientifically.”

April 3rd, 2013
AL Que Quiere

Jean Royère, 1947


Thanks to RS

April 2nd, 2013
A Confederacy of Heretics: The Architecture Gallery, Venice, 1979

Seven of the architects who participated in The Architecture Galley, from left Fredrick Fisher, Robert Mangurian, Eric Owen Moss, Coy Howard, Thom Mayne, Frank Gehry. Photograph by Ave Pildas

Through June 15, 2013

The first exhibition to open in the Getty-initiated Pacific Standard Time Presents : Modern Architecture in L.A. series, A Confederacy of Heretics examines the pivotal role played by the temporary gallery held in the home of architect Thom Mayne for several weeks in 1979.

Los Angeles’ first gallery exclusively dedicated to architecture, the Architecture Gallery staged ten weekly exhibitions on both young and established Los Angeles practitioners, featuring the work of Eugene Kupper, Roland Coate Jr., Frederick Fisher, Frank Dimster, Frank Gehry, Peter de Bretteville, Morphosis (Thom Mayne and Michael Rotondi), Studio Works (Craig Hodgetts and Robert Mangurian), and Eric Owen Moss. Opened with a lecture by another young architect, Coy Howard, public presentations by architects to accompany their exhibitions were hosted at SCI-Arc, then located on Berkeley Street in Santa Monica.

An immersive showcase of spectacular models, drawings and media will be mounted in two spaces located on the SCI-Arc campus, the main gallery and the Kappe Library Gallery. The exhibition will present a collection of models, drawings, and other materials shown during the original 1979 exhibitions, including drawings and models of Eric Owen Moss’ Morganstern Warehouse, Pinball House and Pasadena Condominiums; multimedia studies of Frederick Fisher’s Caplan House and Observatory; large-scale models and drawings of Studio Works’ South Side Settlement House and Nicollet Island project; Prismacolor renderings of Roland Coate’s Cabo Bello project; drawings of Eugene Kupper’s UCLA Extension Building; and additional projects representing each of the participating practices. These objects were executed across a wide spectrum of formats and media, and many of them have not been exhibited since 1979.

Boasting photographic documentation, video recordings, and important commentary from the period by Los Angeles Times critic John Dreyfuss, this exhibition aims neither to canonize the participating architects nor to consecrate their unorthodox activities. Rather, these rarely seen artifacts will provide a unique lens through which to re-examine some of Los Angeles’ most well known architects at a pivotal moment in the development of late 20th century architecture.


Thanks to Linda Taalman

April 1st, 2013
michael frimkess

“Untitled”, Ceramic and Glaze, 1960
20 x 5 x 5.5″, 18 x 5 x 5.5″ (Pair)

“Kook Pots”
Through April 30, 2013

These pots were made in 1960, before Michael met his wife Magdalena while working with Peter Voulkos.
According to Michael, the pots with the squared off bases were largely influenced by Voulkos’s studio mate John Mason.

Shop Exhibit

March 30th, 2013
In Brazil, Streets of Dancing Cars and Swagger

Mauricio Lima for The New York Times
Sergio Hideo Yoshinaga, right, owns a garage in São Paulo where he transforms cars into lowriders.

NY Times Published: March 30, 2013

SÃO PAULO, Brazil — José Américo Crippa’s 1974 Chevrolet Monte Carlo boasts just about every feature that a lowrider should have, including dazzling chrome wheels, a sliding ragtop roof, a candy-apple red paint job and hydraulic pumps that enable the vehicle to bounce several feet in the air at the press of a button.

Lowriders have flourished in traffic-choked São Paulo.
“I’m pimping it,” said Mr. Crippa, 41.

With a knowing smile, Mr. Crippa, a businessman who owns a carwash and a hamburger restaurant, jokingly acknowledged that his pimping extended only to the restoration and customization of vintage automobiles. He peppers his Portuguese with his own interpretation of the street slang of the Mexican-American subculture rooted in East Los Angeles.

And he tries to look the part, too, down to barrio-chic details like his footwear, a pair of Nike Cortez track shoes, and the 8-ball tattoo on his forearm.

The spread of this seemingly distant subculture, with Brazilian followers calling themselves “cholos” and cruising around in their low-and-slow automobiles, is raising eyebrows here in South America’s largest city. Some who cannot afford to buy vintage cars and customize them into lowriders simply roam São Paulo’s labyrinthine streets at the helm of bicycles accessorized with high-rise handlebars and banana seats.

Even when they just strut around in oversize khaki shorts and white muscle shirts, they speak to something larger: the global fluidity of conceptions of ethnicity, identity and style, propelling a street culture once so closely tied to the borderlands of the United States and Mexico well beyond its birthplace.

Japanese musicians, for instance, are rapping in astonishingly precise Spanglish. Lowrider Volvos can be glimpsed on England’s country roads. Rap pioneers like Spanky Loco have cult followings in places like Barcelona, the Catalan capital in northeast Spain. In New Zealand, Maori youths on lowrider bicycles are recording music videos featuring a posse of men in flannel shirts and smiling women washing down vintage American cars.

“It’s kind of ironic because if some of these imitators are dropped into parts of L.A., the cops could arrest them or the gangs could roll up on them,” said Denise Sandoval, a professor of Chicano studies at the Northridge campus of California State University. “But the digital culture we’re in facilitates this fascination with L.A.’s urban culture, and it’s gaining momentum.”

Dr. Sandoval, who studies the spread of the subculture around the world, said she was amazed when a friend, Estevan Oriol, a photographer who documents California’s street cultures, returned from a trip to São Paulo with photographs of lowriders in seemingly pristine condition, along with their proud owners.

In some ways, São Paulo might seem to be a good place for a hard-edge lowrider scene to flourish. Parts of the traffic-choked megacity, with a metropolitan population of about 20 million, make the sprawl of Los Angeles seem somewhat quaint in comparison. Graffiti murals decorate elevated highways and asphalted river canals.

Still, the adoption of the lifestyle in São Paulo, which already encompasses hundreds of people involved in car clubs, bicycle shops and homegrown fashion labels, reflects immigration patterns and issues of ethnic identity that stand in sharp contrast to those in the United States.

The word “cholo” itself has a contentious history. In the Spanish colonial era, it was a derogatory term for some indigenous people, and by the 19th century it was used in the United States to demean Mexican laborers and some mixed-raced people, according to the Oxford Encyclopedia of Latinos and Latinas in the United States.

By the 20th century, the term “cholo” shifted to refer to people associated with a gang, or to those who simply copied their aesthetics and style, implying “a refusal to assimilate” into the dominant mainstream culture, the encyclopedia explains. Today, the term is deplored by some and embraced by others.

In Brazil, however, lowriders and the aesthetics of Mexican-American street culture took a different route, one that sometimes passed through another country first. “I saw my first lowriders in Japan, and I was immediately fascinated by their allure,” said Sergio Hideo Yoshinaga, 43, the owner of a garage in São Paulo where motorists pay hefty amounts, sometimes reaching more than $100,000, to have their cars transformed into curb-crawling masterpieces.

Mr. Yoshinaga is one of thousands of Brazilians, most of whom are descended from Japanese immigrants, who moved to Japan in the 1990s in search of relatively well-paying factory jobs. He stayed only about a year. That was long enough, Mr. Yoshinaga said, to be immersed in a scene big enough to support an array of car clubs and a Japanese edition of Lowrider Magazine.

“I was a pioneer when I returned to São Paulo,” Mr. Yoshinaga said. “Now there are these third-rate imitators here, saying they’re cholo-this and cholo-that,” he said. “Some think they can buy into the culture with their money.” He dismissed such aspirants as mere posers.

The perception of authenticity here does come at a price, explaining, perhaps, why many in the scene come from solid middle-class backgrounds. A pair of Dickies work pants, an essential part of the wardrobe, costs about $20 in the United States but can go for well over $50 in Brazil. Add in the prices of imported shoes, hairnets and flannel shirts and the expenses go even higher.

Buying a car made in Brazil, even if it is used, is often at least twice as expensive as in the United States, largely because of taxes. Then there are the additional prohibitive duties on imported cars, like the 1970s Oldsmobile Cutlasses or Buick Regals that are coveted by lowrider clubs not only in Brazil but also around the world. And gasoline is considerably more expensive in Brazil than in the United States, averaging more than $5 a gallon, largely because of heavy taxes.

Even so, São Paulo’s lowrider devotees find a way, relating tales of traveling to the United States on buying missions to bring back hydraulic-pump systems, tire rims and cans of candy-tone automotive paint in their luggage, all the while praying that customs agents will not discover their precious cargo.

“I was incredibly impressed by how resourceful they are,” said Phuong-Cac Nguyen, a journalist from Los Angeles who is making a documentary about the subculture in Brazil. “These guys face obstacles at every turn, but that’s where their jeitinho comes into play,” she said, employing a beloved word used in Brazil to describe the circumvention of rules to get things done.

Some in São Paulo’s circles take their dedication to a new level. Antonio Carlos Batista Filho, 47, a blue-eyed clothing designer whose nickname is Alemão, or German, has been immersed in the subculture since the early 1990s, after watching American movies about California gang life.

Mr. Batista Filho said he had now amassed a collection of posters, paintings, movies and clothing that he hopes will form the basis of São Paulo’s first museum of what he called “cholo culture.” He is encouraged, he explained, by the entrance into the scene here of young Spanish-speaking immigrants from neighboring countries.

São Paulo’s newest self-described “cholos” largely come from Bolivia, a poorer neighbor that has become one of Brazil’s largest sources of immigrants. In a development somewhat reminiscent of the migration of Mexicans to the United States over the last century, thousands of Bolivians have recently put down stakes in São Paulo in search of work.

Some of them find in the city’s scene an avenue of self-expression. Tomás Cahuana Huanca, 27, a Bolivian who works in the city’s garment industry, rides his lowrider bicycle, which he designed himself, around São Paulo’s old center. He said that some “cholos” here were involved in gangs, but not many.

“That’s more in Mexico and some in the United States,” Mr. Huanca said. “The culture here is really about the bikes, the cars, the style.”

Jill Langlois contributed reporting from São Paulo, and Liam Stack from New York.

March 30th, 2013
Jerry Saltz on ’93 in Art

By Jerry Saltz
New York Magazine Published Feb 3, 2013

Twenty years ago, at the 1993 Whitney Biennial, fault lines opened up and the ground shifted. What was quickly labeled the “politically correct” or “multicultural” Biennial contained little painting, which had dominated the past few installments of the show. This time, the exhibition was full of installations (Charles Ray’s full-size replica of a bright-red toy fire engine; Coco Fusco in a cage in the courtyard, costumed as a Native American), site-specific sculpture, and video (Matthew Barney as a genital-less satyr). It was mostly art by unknowns, too: Setting aside the video-and-film program, about 30 of the 43 artists were in the museum for the first time. More than 40 percent of the participants were women, quite a few were nonwhite, and a generous amount of the work was about being openly gay. One of the exhibition’s admission buttons, designed by artist Daniel J. Martinez, read I CAN’T IMAGINE EVER WANTING TO BE WHITE.

People went batshit. Contempt was everywhere. Robert Hughes saw strains of Stalinism. Peter Plagens wrote that it had the “aroma of cultural reparations.” Referring to the Biennial’s one African-American curator, Hilton Kramer hissed, “There is a certain awful logic in having Ms. [Thelma] Golden on the curatorial team.” New York Times chief critic Michael Kimmelman wrote “I hate the show,” saying it made him feel “battered by condescension” and that it treated art “as if pleasure were a sin.” Oh, my. Joining the pleasure police was Peter Schjeldahl, whose Village Voice review was titled “Art + Politics = Biennial. Missing: The Pleasure Principle.” One notable exception was Roberta Smith, in the Times, who called it “a watershed.” She and I had been married eight months earlier.

And me? I wasn’t writing a regular column then—I was still making my living as a long-distance truck driver, writing on the side—and I didn’t review the Biennial. But I did, in a short Art & Auction story, say something like “The fact that everyone hates this show made me like it and know that it’s important.”

In retrospect, it’s amazing to see how hung up everyone was. These artists were against not beauty but complacency; they were for pleasure through meaning, personal meaning. They saw that the stakes had risen by 1993, and they were rising to meet them the best they could. Of the show’s 82 artists, about half still have significant careers. That’s an exceptionally high percentage, especially considering how many were unfamiliar figures before then. A few 1993ers—Janine Antoni, Pepon Osorio, and Fred Wilson—are now MacArthur winners. Robert Gober, Bill Viola, and Wilson have each represented the United States in the Venice Biennale. It’s fair to call the 1993 Biennial the moment in which today’s art world was born.

So what happened?

Generalizations are always faulty, but two stories dominated the eighties art scene. First, painting returned. Big paintings, about painting’s history, by men who wanted to enter art history. My wife called these guys “the barrel-chested painters” after seeing a book jacket picturing Julian Schnabel, Markus Lüpertz, and Jörg Immendorff with shirts off and pecs out. The second story was “Pictures Art”—a vogue for images, sometimes painting but usually photography, made mainly by women, much of it skeptically critiquing art history or commodity culture. It was probing and cerebral, but Pictures Art, too, talked primarily to insiders. It was more about the canon than about the larger world.

The art that emerged in the early nineties could not have been more different. It came from all over the globe, and it wasn’t as painting-centric or flashy. It was being formulated in small groups fed up with overcommercialization. Many of these artists were influenced by conceptualism, feminism, theory, and Pictures Art, but they turned away from making work about art, commodities, or pop culture. Initially their work got more intimate, eccentric, obdurate, pressing, and personal. Reviewing the show, Kimmelman described “one sensationalistic image after another of wounded bodies, heaving buttocks, plastic vomit, and genitalia.” That collective vomiting was a massive blast of new energy.

The artists who emerged in the generation that began here made work that was weirder, less hangable, and derived more from idiosyncratic impulses. Nan Goldin unveiled pictures of the people, dying and dead, whom we’d met in her previous decade of work. In 1993, Charles Ray showed one of the best sculptures of that decade or the next, Family Romance, an uncanny rendition of a family of four standing stark naked, all about chest height and the same size. It still shoots Freudian sparks. In these years (though not at the Biennial), Hanna Wilke showed her tremendous last-act images of herself dying of lymphoma: She was a gorgeous gorgon angel of death. Paul ­McCarthy, almost forgotten by 1993, exhibited a large animated mannequin of a man having sex with a goat; it was the first of many greater, grosser installations. Artists were capturing the ways that identity and the body, be they political, sexual, physical, psychological, or doomed, would become central themes of the decade. Central themes because they were necessary themes. Identity politics (or “political correctness,” if you didn’t like it) was becoming a dominant piece of the national conversation, as it still is twenty years later. The country was becoming more diverse—a place that could elect Barack Obama as its president—and some embraced that new reality in order to move forward; others reacted against it. The Biennial was on the side of the future, and still is.

Thanks to Lecia Dole

March 30th, 2013
Every Lane is a Bike Lane

Metro is launching a new campaign to increase bicycle traffic safety in Los Angeles County. The campaign will include signs on buses, billboards and radio spots with the message “Every Lane is a Bike Lane”

LA Metro

March 30th, 2013
Balance Restored, Shard by Shard

Ryan Collerd for The New York Times
The bowl, part of a Greek vessel dating from 750 B.C., and its unusual horses, lie awaiting restoration.

NY Times Published: March 27, 2013

PHILADELPHIA — The art collector Albert C. Barnes had no compunction about letting people know precisely how much he wanted things his way. In a 1939 letter to the auto scion Walter P. Chrysler Jr. he gleefully torpedoed a request — as he did frequently, especially from the rich and powerful — to visit his personal foundation near Philadelphia, where he housed his world-class works.

“During his present strenuous efforts to break the world’s record for goldfish swallowing,” Dr. Barnes could not possibly be bothered with such a request, he replied, writing in the voice of a fictitious secretary.

So just imagine how supremely unhappy Barnes would have been for decades about the state of a small gallery on the second floor of his foundation, whose collection was transplanted intact last year from the suburb of Merion to a sleek new home downtown.

Like many of the institution’s galleries, which feature not only a profusion of paintings but also enigmatic ensembles of sculptures and artifacts that became Barnes’s signature — a Gesamtkunstwerk, or room-as-art aesthetic — this gallery united a handful of lovely Matisses and Klees with rather odd roommates, like works by unknown folk artists depicting birds. And Barnes crowned the whole conglomeration with a glass cabinet in the middle of the room displaying one of the best Greek vessels he ever bought, an Attic pyxis, or lidded round box, from 750 B.C., topped with four expressive horses with oddly birdlike heads.

But shortly after Barnes’s death in 1951, while employees were documenting and photographing the collection, the earthenware pyxis shattered, either as a result of an accident or because it had become too fragile to handle. And the vessel, along with the case and all the other objects in it, including decorative American glassware and a French ceramic bowl, were taken off view, seemingly for good.

Now, more than half a century later, they are about to re-emerge from historical oblivion to bring the gallery, still called Room 17, back to its eccentric Barnesian counterpoise. The pyxis was rediscovered many years ago in pieces in a cardboard box, protected only by some wadded 1950s newspapers, after Barton Church, an artist and longtime Barnes Foundation teacher who died last month at 86, asked curators and conservators what had happened to it. (Mr. Church’s sole painting in the Barnes collection, the last one acquired by Barnes before his death, hangs in the same room where the pyxis once sat.)

The vessel was transferred to a more secure archival container. But in part because the conservation facilities in the foundation’s original home were so small and underequipped, the vessel remained a perpetual wish-list project. Now, in the new museum, a large, windowed conservation lab has become the locus of the first comprehensive efforts by the Barnes to take a hard look at its 2,500-object collection and assess what needs cleaning, stabilizing, conserving or even full-fledged restoration.

On a recent morning the foundation’s sole Claude Lorrain landscape, from 1644-45, was out of its frame and up on an easel, undergoing the first steps of a cleaning and varnish removal by Barbara Buckley, the Barnes’s chief conservator, to reverse the pronounced yellowing of the sky and darkening of the painting’s ground that has worsened over centuries.

In a room nearby the pyxis, the lab’s most ambitious project to date, was far along toward the kind of wholeness it had more than 2,500 years ago, when it might have been used to store cosmetics or jewelry and probably followed its owner to the grave. Margaret A. Little, senior conservator of objects, has been studying and working on the piece for more than a month now, removing weak adhesives and pieces of filler material used by earlier restorers, probably including one in the early 20th century, when the vessel made its way into the hands of a Parisian antiquities dealer.

“We have at least 75 percent of the original material of the vessel, which is really incredible,” Ms. Little said, sitting at a table with the lid of the pyxis fitted back together like a puzzle, its gaps filled with bright white dental plaster that will later be painted. Nearby lay the pieces for the next and one of the trickiest parts of the job — reattaching the four horses that adorn the lid, a figural motif thought perhaps to denote the wealth of the vessel’s owner.

“If you look closely, you can see small fingerprints on the horses” left by the hands of the sculptor before the pyxis was fired, Ms. Little said. She added, referring to the horses: “The way they’re formed, they’re really kind of goofy. I love looking at them.”

The story of the pyxis’s re-emergence is one the Barnes is eager to tell to demonstrate the benefits of the foundation’s move to downtown Philadelphia, which happened only after a bitter legal battle allowed the circumvention of a rigid charter and bylaws written by Barnes to ensure that no artwork would be lent, sold or even moved from the walls of the galleries he built.

The relocation, which recreates and preserves the arrangements of artworks as Barnes left them at his death, has largely been a critical success. But it remains a deeply divisive topic in Philadelphia and in the art world, as does the way the institution will treat the legacy of Barnes, who viewed his foundation less as a museum than as a school. (A group opposed to the move, Friends of the Barnes Foundation, issued a news release last week criticizing the foundation for ending a temporary exhibition that focused on Barnes’s life and complaining that the history of the Barnes will not be apparent enough to visitors.)

Judith F. Dolkart, the Barnes’s chief curator, said the return of the sculptural elements to Gallery 17 — expected to happen by summer — would not only bring the small gallery back to its intended state but would also re-establish a kind of balance on the foundation’s second floor, where Room 17 and others displaying Greek and Egyptian antiquities are echoed on the other side by galleries pairing Picassos and Modiglianis with African sculpture.

“I think this was part of Barnes’s overall idea of bracketing his modern works with things that he knew modernist artists were looking to for inspiration,” Ms. Dolkart said, adding that even after years of studying and looking at the foundation’s rooms she could not quite picture the pyxis back among them.

“No one here now has ever seen it in this space, and I think it might take a while for it to settle back in,” she said, standing where it would soon be. “I can’t wait to see what it’s going to announce.”

March 29th, 2013
Mystery Malady Kills More Bees, Heightening Worry on Farms

Jim Wilson/The New York Times
A Disastrous Year for Bees: For America’s beekeepers, who have struggled for nearly a decade with a mysterious malady called colony collapse disorder that kills honeybees en masse, this past year was particularly bad.

NY Times Published: March 28, 2013

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — A mysterious malady that has been killing honeybees en masse for several years appears to have expanded drastically in the last year, commercial beekeepers say, wiping out 40 percent or even 50 percent of the hives needed to pollinate many of the nation’s fruits and vegetables.

A conclusive explanation so far has escaped scientists studying the ailment, colony collapse disorder, since it first surfaced around 2005. But beekeepers and some researchers say there is growing evidence that a powerful new class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids, incorporated into the plants themselves, could be an important factor.

The pesticide industry disputes that. But its representatives also say they are open to further studies to clarify what, if anything, is happening.

“They looked so healthy last spring,” said Bill Dahle, 50, who owns Big Sky Honey in Fairview, Mont. “We were so proud of them. Then, about the first of September, they started to fall on their face, to die like crazy. We’ve been doing this 30 years, and we’ve never experienced this kind of loss before.”

In a show of concern, the Environmental Protection Agency recently sent its acting assistant administrator for chemical safety and two top chemical experts here, to the San Joaquin Valley of California, for discussions.

In the valley, where 1.6 million hives of bees just finished pollinating an endless expanse of almond groves, commercial beekeepers who only recently were losing a third of their bees to the disorder say the past year has brought far greater losses.

The federal Agriculture Department is to issue its own assessment in May. But in an interview, the research leader at its Beltsville, Md., bee research laboratory, Jeff Pettis, said he was confident that the death rate would be “much higher than it’s ever been.”

Following a now-familiar pattern, bee deaths rose swiftly last autumn and dwindled as operators moved colonies to faraway farms for the pollination season. Beekeepers say the latest string of deaths has dealt them a heavy blow.

Bret Adee, who is an owner, with his father and brother, of Adee Honey Farms of South Dakota, the nation’s largest beekeeper, described mounting losses.

“We lost 42 percent over the winter. But by the time we came around to pollinate almonds, it was a 55 percent loss,” he said in an interview here this week.

“They looked beautiful in October,” Mr. Adee said, “and in December, they started falling apart, when it got cold.”

Mr. Dahle said he had planned to bring 13,000 beehives from Montana — 31 tractor-trailers full — to work the California almond groves. But by the start of pollination last month, only 3,000 healthy hives remained.

Annual bee losses of 5 percent to 10 percent once were the norm for beekeepers. But after colony collapse disorder surfaced around 2005, the losses approached one-third of all bees, despite beekeepers’ best efforts to ensure their health.

Nor is the impact limited to beekeepers. The Agriculture Department says a quarter of the American diet, from apples to cherries to watermelons to onions, depends on pollination by honeybees. Fewer bees means smaller harvests and higher food prices.

Almonds are a bellwether. Eighty percent of the nation’s almonds grow here, and 80 percent of those are exported, a multibillion-dollar crop crucial to California agriculture. Pollinating up to 800,000 acres, with at least two hives per acre, takes as many as two-thirds of all commercial hives.

This past winter’s die-off sent growers scrambling for enough hives to guarantee a harvest. Chris Moore, a beekeeper in Kountze, Tex., said he had planned to skip the groves after sickness killed 40 percent of his bees and left survivors weakened.

“But California was short, and I got a call in the middle of February that they were desperate for just about anything,” he said. So he sent two truckloads of hives that he normally would not have put to work.

Bee shortages pushed the cost to farmers of renting bees to $200 per hive at times, 20 percent above normal. That, too, may translate into higher prices for food.

Precisely why last year’s deaths were so great is unclear. Some blame drought in the Midwest, though Mr. Dahle lost nearly 80 percent of his bees despite excellent summer conditions. Others cite bee mites that have become increasingly resistant to pesticides. Still others blame viruses.

But many beekeepers suspect the biggest culprit is the growing soup of pesticides, fungicides and herbicides that are used to control pests.

While each substance has been certified, there has been less study of their combined effects. Nor, many critics say, have scientists sufficiently studied the impact of neonicotinoids, the nicotine-derived pesticide that European regulators implicate in bee deaths.

The explosive growth of neonicotinoids since 2005 has roughly tracked rising bee deaths.

Neonics, as farmers call them, are applied in smaller doses than older pesticides. They are systemic pesticides, often embedded in seeds so that the plant itself carries the chemical that kills insects that feed on it.

Older pesticides could kill bees and other beneficial insects. But while they quickly degraded — often in a matter of days — neonicotinoids persist for weeks and even months. Beekeepers worry that bees carry a summer’s worth of contaminated pollen to hives, where ensuing generations dine on a steady dose of pesticide that, eaten once or twice, might not be dangerous.

“Soybean fields or canola fields or sunflower fields, they all have this systemic insecticide,” Mr. Adee said. “If you have one shot of whiskey on Thanksgiving and one on the Fourth of July, it’s not going to make any difference. But if you have whiskey every night, 365 days a year, your liver’s gone. It’s the same thing.”

Research to date on neonicotinoids “supports the notion that the products are safe and are not contributing in any measurable way to pollinator health concerns,” the president of CropLife America, Jay Vroom, said Wednesday. The group represents more than 90 pesticide producers.

He said the group nevertheless supported further research. “We stand with science and will let science take the regulation of our products in whatever direction science will guide it,” Mr. Vroom said.

A coalition of beekeepers and environmental and consumer groups sued the E.P.A. last week, saying it exceeded its authority by conditionally approving some neonicotinoids. The agency has begun an accelerated review of their impact on bees and other wildlife.

The European Union has proposed to ban their use on crops frequented by bees. Some researchers have concluded that neonicotinoids caused extensive die-offs in Germany and France.

Neonicotinoids are hardly the beekeepers’ only concern. Herbicide use has grown as farmers have adopted crop varieties, from corn to sunflowers, that are genetically modified to survive spraying with weedkillers. Experts say some fungicides have been laced with regulators that keep insects from maturing, a problem some beekeepers have reported.

Eric Mussen, an apiculturist at the University of California, Davis, said analysts had documented about 150 chemical residues in pollen and wax gathered from beehives.

“Where do you start?” Dr. Mussen said. “When you have all these chemicals at a sublethal level, how do they react with each other? What are the consequences?”

Experts say nobody knows. But Mr. Adee, who said he had long scorned environmentalists’ hand-wringing about such issues, said he was starting to wonder whether they had a point.

Of the “environmentalist” label, Mr. Adee said: “I would have been insulted if you had called me that a few years ago. But what you would have called extreme — a light comes on, and you think, ‘These guys really have something. Maybe they were just ahead of the bell curve.’”

March 29th, 2013
Dairy Finds a Way to Let Cows Power Trucks

Mike McCloskey, an owner of Fair Oaks, at a refueling station that dispenses the final product.
Peter Hoffman for The New York Times

NY Times Published: March 27, 2013

FAIR OAKS, Ind. — Here at one of the largest dairy farms in the country, electricity generated using an endless supply of manure runs the equipment to milk around 30,000 cows three times a day.

For years, the farm has used livestock waste to create enough natural gas to power 10 barns, a cheese factory, a cafe, a gift shop and a maze of child-friendly exhibits about the world of dairy, including a 4D movie theater.

All that, and Fair Oaks Farms was still using only about half of the five million pounds of cow manure it vacuumed up from its barn floors on a daily basis. It burned off the excess methane, wasted energy sacrificed to the sky.

But not anymore.

The farm is now turning the extra manure into fuel for its delivery trucks, powering 42 tractor-trailers that make daily runs to raw milk processing plants in Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee. Officials from the federal Department of Energy called the endeavor a “pacesetter” for the dairy industry, and said it was the largest natural gas fleet using agricultural waste to drive this nation’s roads.

“As long as we keep milking cows, we never run out of gas,” said Gary Corbett, chief executive of Fair Oaks, which held a ribbon-cutting event for the project this month and opened two fueling stations to the public.

“We are one user, and we’re taking two million gallons of diesel off the highway each year,” he said. “That’s a big deal.”

The switch comes at a time of nascent growth for vehicles that run on compressed natural gas in the United States, as some industries — particularly those that require long-haul trucking or repetitive routes — have started considering the advantages of cheap natural gas, close to half the price of a gallon of diesel fuel for the same amount of power.

The American Gas Association estimates there are about 1,200 natural gas fueling stations operating across the country, the vast majority of which are supplied by the same pipelines that heat houses.

But the growing market is also drawing interest from livestock farmers, landfill management companies and other industries handling methane-rich material that, if harnessed, could create a nearly endless supply of cleaner, safer, sustainable “biogas,” while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

To be sure, no one is pretending that waste-to-energy projects will become a major part of the larger natural gas vehicle market. But supporters say it could provide additional incentive to make biogas systems, which have lagged behind other sustainable energy solutions, more commercially viable.

“You’re essentially harvesting manure,” said Erin Fitzgerald, a senior vice president at the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, who says that farmers across the country are starting to think about whether the model tried at Fair Oaks will work for them. “It’s not glamorous. It doesn’t really catch your eye like wind and solar.”

Mike McCloskey, a co-owner of Fair Oaks, said he first started looking into renewable energy options for the farm more than a decade ago, when the smell of manure, used as fertilizer on his fields, started drawing complaints from some neighbors.

Today, the farm is running sophisticated $12 million “digester” facilities that process its overabundance of manure, capturing natural gas that runs electric generators or is pumped underground to a fueling station. The leftover byproduct is still spread on the fields as fertilizer.

While Mr. Corbett would not divulge how much money the farm saves by its switch to biogas fuel, he said the gas stations had already brought in new revenue from other trucking fleets.

Dennis Smith, director of the Clean Cities program for the federal Department of Energy, said about 8,000 large-scale dairy and swine farms across the country could potentially support similar biogas recovery projects. When coupled with landfills and wastewater treatment plants, he said, there is potential to someday replace as much as 10 billion gallons of gasoline annually with renewable fuel.

Still, not everyone is convinced that the time is ripe for more manure-powered vehicles, particularly when regular natural gas remains abundant and cheap.

“The market is just not firm yet,” said Michael Boccadoro, a bioenergy consultant from California who is finishing a study of the possibility of neighboring dairies in the San Joaquin Valley sharing a single digester. “It’s all a tiny bit premature.”

That has not stopped AMP Americas, a Chicago company that partnered with Fair Oaks on the fuel project. The company plans to build 15 more natural gas stations this year, with some in Texas and the rest along two major Interstates in the Midwest.

For now, each station will be supplied primarily by traditional pipeline gas, but the company plans to partner with more dairy companies along the way, getting help from Mr. McCloskey and the Fair Oaks story.

“I think the whole country is ready for this,” Mr. McCloskey said. “I think you’re going to look around in five years and be very surprised at what you see.”

Thanks to Jonathan Maghen

March 29th, 2013
idem paris

March 27th, 2013
Lebbeus Woods

Conflict Space 4, 2006; crayon and acrylic on linen

Through June 2, 2013


March 27th, 2013
Mike Kelley

Animal Self and Friend of Animal, 1987

Through April 1, 2013

Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

March 25th, 2013
Your Phone vs. Your Heart

Kristian Hammerstad

NY Times Published: March 23, 2013

CAN you remember the last time you were in a public space in America and didn’t notice that half the people around you were bent over a digital screen, thumbing a connection to somewhere else?

Most of us are well aware of the convenience that instant electronic access provides. Less has been said about the costs. Research that my colleagues and I have just completed, to be published in a forthcoming issue of Psychological Science, suggests that one measurable toll may be on our biological capacity to connect with other people.

Our ingrained habits change us. Neurons that fire together, wire together, neuroscientists like to say, reflecting the increasing evidence that experiences leave imprints on our neural pathways, a phenomenon called neuroplasticity. Any habit molds the very structure of your brain in ways that strengthen your proclivity for that habit.

Plasticity, the propensity to be shaped by experience, isn’t limited to the brain. You already know that when you lead a sedentary life, your muscles atrophy to diminish your physical strength. What you may not know is that your habits of social connection also leave their own physical imprint on you.

How much time do you typically spend with others? And when you do, how connected and attuned to them do you feel? Your answers to these simple questions may well reveal your biological capacity to connect.

My research team and I conducted a longitudinal field experiment on the effects of learning skills for cultivating warmer interpersonal connections in daily life. Half the participants, chosen at random, attended a six-week workshop on an ancient mind-training practice known as metta, or “lovingkindness,” that teaches participants to develop more warmth and tenderness toward themselves and others.

We discovered that the meditators not only felt more upbeat and socially connected; but they also altered a key part of their cardiovascular system called vagal tone. Scientists used to think vagal tone was largely stable, like your height in adulthood. Our data show that this part of you is plastic, too, and altered by your social habits.

To appreciate why this matters, here’s a quick anatomy lesson. Your brain is tied to your heart by your vagus nerve. Subtle variations in your heart rate reveal the strength of this brain-heart connection, and as such, heart-rate variability provides an index of your vagal tone.

By and large, the higher your vagal tone the better. It means your body is better able to regulate the internal systems that keep you healthy, like your cardiovascular, glucose and immune responses.

Beyond these health effects, the behavioral neuroscientist Stephen Porges has shown that vagal tone is central to things like facial expressivity and the ability to tune in to the frequency of the human voice. By increasing people’s vagal tone, we increase their capacity for connection, friendship and empathy.

In short, the more attuned to others you become, the healthier you become, and vice versa. This mutual influence also explains how a lack of positive social contact diminishes people. Your heart’s capacity for friendship also obeys the biological law of “use it or lose it.” If you don’t regularly exercise your ability to connect face to face, you’ll eventually find yourself lacking some of the basic biological capacity to do so.

The human body — and thereby our human potential — is far more plastic or amenable to change than most of us realize. The new field of social genomics, made possible by the sequencing of the human genome, tells us that the ways our and our children’s genes are expressed at the cellular level is plastic, too, responsive to habitual experiences and actions.

Work in social genomics reveals that our personal histories of social connection or loneliness, for instance, alter how our genes are expressed within the cells of our immune system. New parents may need to worry less about genetic testing and more about how their own actions — like texting while breast-feeding or otherwise paying more attention to their phone than their child — leave life-limiting fingerprints on their and their children’s gene expression.

When you share a smile or laugh with someone face to face, a discernible synchrony emerges between you, as your gestures and biochemistries, even your respective neural firings, come to mirror each other. It’s micro-moments like these, in which a wave of good feeling rolls through two brains and bodies at once, that build your capacity to empathize as well as to improve your health.

If you don’t regularly exercise this capacity, it withers. Lucky for us, connecting with others does good and feels good, and opportunities to do so abound.

So the next time you see a friend, or a child, spending too much of their day facing a screen, extend a hand and invite him back to the world of real social encounters. You’ll not only build up his health and empathic skills, but yours as well. Friends don’t let friends lose their capacity for humanity.

Barbara L. Fredrickson is a professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and the author of “Love 2.0: How Our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything We Feel, Think, Do, and Become.”

March 24th, 2013
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