when in doubt, be cryptic

To cap off the end of the year and celebrate the end (officially, at least) of our two-year grad programs - I mean, so that I can do research - Neal and I are spending ten days in London and Athens next month. My costs will be subsidized by a generous travel grant from school, and I've been working all day on preliminary research, mostly basic stuff like getting from the airport to downtown, where to stay, do they speak English in Greece, that kinda thing. But I've also come across some eerie details, which is great considering the main objection to pursuing this project (which is, in short, about the Parthenon and it's many fragments and replicas) has been that it's not personal enough. What can I say, I like metaphors. Which is to say, it does have a personal impetus (not unlike the uneasy relationship I've explored in previous work between an "original" experience of something or somebody and it's copy, surrogate, replica, stand-in...) and I have a feeling the experience and the form this project eventually takes will be very personal.

For example, I learned that an owl is the symbol of the Goddess Athena. And on our flight from London to Athens we have a 4+ hour layover in Frankfurt, Germany. The airport used to share a landing strip with Rhein Main Air Base, where my family and I lived between 1987 and 1991. According to Wikipedia (I found it on the internet so it must be true), the base had a peak population at one time of 10,000. Seems they began to downsize a couple of years after we left. Last time I was there was in 1994, I believe, on our way back to Germany, after a couple of years living in England. We were moving back to Germany, but this time to Patch Barracks near Stuttgart. We passed through Rhein Main on our way, where a few of my Dad's old co-workers still lived and worked, but I remember it was like a ghost-town compared to my childhood memories. The buildings were there, even the residential units, where we lived, on the other side of the airport, albeit mostly empty as far as I know. The base officially closed in 2005, and, again according to Wikipedia, Frankfurt Airport plans, eventually, "on leveling the entire base to build a third passenger terminal." I never really imagined I'd go back, and even this layover will only allow me some physical proximity to one of many childhood homes. Nevertheless, I was really upset by reading that, surprisingly so. Leveled.

What the owl and Rhein Main Air Base have to do with one another I'm not ready to blog about (hence the title of this post). I guess you'll have to stay tuned to see how this project unfolds over the next six months or so. It's just weird how I haven't even fully planned my trip and it's already eerily personal.


taking back the night

I started this long post yesterday about the Pussycat Dolls, and ANTM, and modeling, and all sorts of other stuff but I've lost steam since then. Maybe I'll pick it up later. In the meantime, I have some images to share from my night on the CyberWindow.


you seem like a nice girl

Wow, it's been a week since my last post. That can't be right.

Anyway, I've been busy enough but mostly under the weather. Since last Monday night, I guess, I've had a sore throat that turned into a sinus congestion thing that turned into what feels an awful lot like the bronchitis I had many years ago. It probably didn't help when, feeling a little better, I worked out on Thursday and Friday. On Thursday my workout seemed to improve my condition, but on Friday exercise seemed only to create a burning sensation deep in my chest. The feels-like-bronchitis followed shortly after. But Saturday after work I planted myself on the couch and haven't done much of anything since (although all this nose-blowing has got to be good for my abs) so I'm feeling a lot better. And today's Patriot's Day, that funny holiday that all of Massachusetts celebrates mostly to avoid downtown Boston on Marathon Monday. Which means no classes for me!

And some time to catch up and get ready for my last week of classes, my final week of my last, official semester of coursework, with just three weeks and one day until my final review board. Next time we meet I'll be defending my thesis. I have between now and mid-December or so to figure out what that is.

Before I get ahead of myself, though...In the last couple of weeks, I've revisited two past projects, in part for CyberWindow, the Museum School's participation in this year's Boston CyberArts Festival. I created a sort of slideshow out of the prints and photographs that made up the main project I worked on last semester that will be projected onto the window of the school's library. There are thirteen other artists participating, one artist per night, between this Friday, April 20th and Saturday, May 5th (Sundays excluded). My night will be next Tuesday, April 24th. To see it in person, go to 230 The Fenway and stand outside the building (weather on Tuesday is looking a lot better than the last couple of days have been), maybe across the street, as far back as the entrance to the Gardner Museum. And/or check out the website (in progress), or watch the Quicktime movie on my website. Watching a little box on your computer is a lot different than seeing these images projected onto translucent paper in a window, at night, but you get the idea.


As for The Lost Object Project, submissions were pretty steady into March, but I have not a single new story to share for the month of April. Jess linked to the project, which was so nice of her and I got a couple of really heart-breaking stories from that. I'm still mulling over ways to publicize the project and collect more stories. Some have suggested I take a more active role, interviewing people in some way (either in person, like at cafés, or online perhaps). Others have suggested I get serious about mounting some real-world configuration of the project in some sort of show format, as a way to showcase what I've got so far and as an opportunity to collect more stories. I rather like the latter idea but finding a space is a lot trickier than putting up a website. At any rate, thanks in part to the area at school that I TA in, I'm having a postcard printed that will serve as a sort of business card for the project, when I'm out and about, shamelessly promoting myself and all my endeavors.

Finally, I'd been wanting to do something more with this ongoing list of quotes I've been collecting from all those "chick flicks" I've been watching since last summer (well, since much longer than that, but since around that time in a more directed, organized way). I made a half-hearted attempt last semester, printing them on vellum and plopping them on some screenprints I'd made the previous semester. That kind of worked, but I was more drawn to the text than to the image or the relationship between the two, which was cryptic at best. So I decided to make some stationery - a set of folded notes with a different quote on the front of each note, printed in magenta, with a matching, translucent envelope. The project was inspired by a class assignment, where we're supposed to create printed material of some sort that folds out to reveal content (like a book or a box, for example). I have this slightly more complicated map-like project that I originally came up with for the assignment, but my collaborator is "busy" finishing his thesis, so I came up with this instead, something I could finish on my own before the final critique on Wednesday this week. They're notes you might send to your best friend after an argument, to your mother, or your sister. Anyway, that was the tell, here's the show, beginning with the entire set:

folded notes
Followed by a close-up:

stationery detail
A look at the back:

back of folded note
And the translucent envelope:

hand-made envelopes
Plus, just for fun, a view of Xander, sleeping peacefully nearby:

peace & quiet
I got almost everything I needed to make these - envelope templates, paper for the envelopes, rubber stamp, ink pad, and ribbon - at Paper Source. The white paper I had leftover from a previous project. I designed the notes (little design that there is) in InDesign, using Mrs. Eaves on the front (including a few ligatures) and Baskerville on the back. As you may already know, Mrs. Eaves, designed by Emigré in 1996, was the name of Mr. Baskerville's mistress. Don't you just love typography gossip? Here's a closeup of the font on one of the notes.

Mrs. Eaves
See the beautiful ligatures between the two e's in "seem" and between the g and the i in "girl." Just lovely.


making the rounds

This has been circulating so you may have already come across it, but if not, you really must check out Miranda July's latest, a website she created to showcase her new book, coming out next month. The website is a sort of narrative created by using a dry erase pen first on the top of her fridge, then on her stovetop. Genius!


'cause everyone's your friend

I'm still recovering from my day-trip to New York yesterday. Slowly filtering through all the visual information I took in, catching up on sleep, and stretching out achy joints and sore muscles. And blogging about it, while it's all still fresh in my mind.

I didn't realize until I was on the bus that it's been just over a year since my last trip to NY. A year is just about enough time to forget how insane it is to take a four hour bus ride to and from New York in one day. Add to that three or four museums, four or five subway trips and lots and lots of walking. It's pretty exhausting, and last time I made the trip I stayed in NY for two nights, spacing out the travel quite nicely. It's worth it, though. New York is still a pretty magical place for me, despite a general preference for the west coast that just won't seem to go away.

Anyway, the day began a little after 5 a.m., getting myself ready and to South Station (thanks, Neal!) by about a quarter after six, with enough time to grab breakfast and some hazelnut coffee at Au Bon Pain. I took the 7 a.m. bus; I tried Lucky Star this time over Fung Wah. I brought a book with me, a book I'm about halfway through; the last time I read it was the last time I traveled. I was so excited to have eight hours on a bus to read and brought nothing else except my MP3 player (that's like an iPod, for you younger folks), thinking for sure I'd finish it. I started reading as soon as the bus departed, but after about one section (not even a chapter!), I switched to music and dozing on and off and never switched back. But, as Rachel, another student in our small group pointed out, when else do you have four hours to do nothing except stare out a window and listen to music?

We got into NY around 11, and since we didn't have to meet the group until 11:30, Rachel and I went for a quick walk up Chrystie and east on Grand to the Doughnut Plant for some chai tea and a Valrhona chocolate raised. Yum. Our first destination after that was MoMA, primarily for the Comic Abstraction show, but since it's pretty small, we had time to check out a few other floors, notably the contemporary exhibit, Out of Time, and typography geeks that we are, an exhibit organized around the 50th anniversary of Helvetica.

It was pretty thrilling to see, and to see how many people were crammed into this particular corner of the design and architecture gallery.

There was a fair amount of information and examples in a relatively small space, which actually worked pretty well, considering how clean and simple Helvetica is and how ubiquitous and familiar. We're not used to seeing numerous examples like that on one wall.

Also in that gallery was an entire wall of Emigré publications (also a font foundry). I thought I would be the only one excited about all this typography stuff and text and image art, but the whole group seemed pretty into it. And there's a lot of text and image stuff on view right now, everwhere we went.

There were equally exciting moments in the Out of Time exhibit, including finally seeing Pipilotti Rist's film Ever Is Over All. I'd seen stills when it showed at SFMoMA and those stills (of a woman in an icey blue dress and bright red shoes) inspired the color scheme I came up with for my wedding. Also pretty great was Christiam Marclay's Graffiti Composition, from 2002, a portfolio of 150 digital photographs he took of blank music sheets he pasted up around Berlin and then went back and photographed the graffiti they collected. Not to mention finally seeing an actual video piece by Kota Ezawa, our fourth and final visiting artists in the 4 Painters Seminar series, speaking at the Museum School this week.

From MoMA we headed uptown to the Whitney, where we started at the top and worked our way down through (again, noting my favorites here) Taryn Simon's photographs, An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar, Lorna Simpson, and Gordon Matta-Clark. I've seen so much of Simpson's work in documentation, but never in person. I particularly like the multiple mouths humming film installation and the screenprints on felt. Nice use of materials. Same for Matta-Clark, in that I've seen tons of documentation but never "the real thing," as they say. My eyes were starting to glaze over by that point (perhaps contrary to common belief, artists usually seem to have the shortest attention spans when it comes to looking at other art...and, uh, in general), but overall I thought it was pretty good stuff. I really liked reading Matta-Clark's statements about the early structures he cut into and apart, about how the initial act of violence eventually lends itself to a sense of order (the grid, of course) and beauty (light entering into spaces it wouldn't normally be able to, etc.).

From the Whitney we spent almost an hour getting to Chelsea, which involved quite possibly the most uncomfortable subway situation I've ever been in. Not uncomfortable in a life-threatening or crazy-person way, but of the serious violation of my personal space variety. The train (the 4 or the 6 I think) was already pretty packed and this mountain of a man gets on at the last second (I was standing next to the door, against the metal bars). I tried to move forward a bit, which gave him enough room to slide his arm behind me to grab hold of the bar. Okay, fair enough, but then he puts his other hand on a bar in front of me, essentially embracing me for two or three stops. Dude, you're totally invading my bubble!

Anyway, in Chelsea we only had time for a quick tour of Printed Matter. I think it's hilarious that they moved into a new space fairly recently (since the last time I'd been there at least) that's equally as cramped as the old space. I was standing at the counter perusing Allison Smith's book about The Muster (which I later bought) when this woman with a fluffy little dog in her messenger bag huffed and puffed at me for not sensing that she needed to get by. Ah, New York.


this is not a democracy (so get over yourself)

They were talking about the whole American Idol scandal on NPR today, which reminded me that I should really blog about how I feel about that whole thing. Initially, my feeling was, great, maybe if this guy (or whoever ends up being the worst, as Howard Stern and votefortheworst.com are encouraging America to vote) wins and it's a huge scandal, the producers of the show will nix the whole voting procedure entirely. As much as I appreciate, intellectually of course, popular culture at its most popular, in practice it doesn't usually work too well. Don't leave it up to America.

Which is precisely the second wave of emotion I felt driving home today, hearing NPR's coverage of the situation. Who, among the people who are so upset by this "vote for the worst" campaign, really believes America votes for the most talented singer to begin with? Granted, talent is always going to be a subjective thing, even among a panel of "experts," but America is voting for a whole lot more than vocal chops, if even that. That's why the show's called American Idol and not, like, America's Next Top Vocalist. Just like it's not necessarily the best technical dancer who wins So You Think You Can Dance. That show, which, I think, is a bit more honest in its voting expectations, crowns America's Favorite Dancer. Favorite can mean a lot of things, not just skill, technique, or talent even.

And aren't Randy, Paula, and Simon ultimately responsible for the batch of finalists, at which point America is invited to chime in? Out of hundreds of thousands of auditions, can't they come up with a talent-proof group of, what is it, 32 finalists?

Moving backwards along the controversial continuum of reality television, as I've mentioned here before, I took to watching the televised search for the new Pussycat Doll. I stand by what I pointed out at that time, which is that the only reason I'm watching is because it's taken the place of Veronica Mars for nine or so weeks. What am I supposed to do, read or something?

The show has proved fairly entertaining, though, I must say. As usual with reality shows of the contest format, I'm not convinced they couldn't have found a more solid bunch of finalists (which proves my point...this medium has little to do with actual talent). I'm sure there were better singers and dancers out there who, perhaps, didn't score quite as high on the hotness factor. And initially I thought someone like Chelsea, who can sing and who seems cute/hot enough, can always improve her dancing skills. After which it immediately dawned on me that producers and engineers can make the worst vocalist (who's maybe a better/hotter dancer/performer) sound pretty good. But mostly, the best thing about the show is its simple and straight-forward list of qualities that they're looking for in the next Pussycat Doll, a sort of lesson to be learned from each episode. So far we've learned the importance of:

1.) Confidence
2.) Persona
3.) Creativity
4.) Sexiness

It was really hard to tell from the teaser what next episode's lesson will be.

As for ANTM, as much as I look forward to watching the show each week, I think my lack of blogging about it says a little something about how, perhaps, my overall enthusiasm for the show has really dwindled these last two cycles. The girls who bug me continue to be among the judges' favorites, but I'm not as fired up about it as I was initially. The whole plus-size model non-debate (because it's not happening on the show) really irks me. Let's just say that I'm not exactly 5'10" and 105 pounds, so on the one hand, I support the show encouraging diversity in the modeling business, but on the other hand, I've never been exactly blown away by the plus-size models they've had on the show. Just like I'm not necessarily going to vote a woman into the presidency just because she's a woman. You still have to be able to model, regardless of your waistline. So it kind of annoys me that just about everything I read about the show (even Entertainment Weekly had a little snippet a few weeks ago...something like "two plus size models - yay!") touts the fact that there were two plus size models in the top 13. I'm just not convinced that that's so amazing or groundbreaking in and of itself.

But the thing that really annoys me (do you sense a theme in this post?) happened on last night's episode. Okay, so Renée can be a bit of a handful at times, but, to quote Cher in Clueless, "that was way harsh." She put herself out there in her "revelation," albeit in a slightly defensive manner, initially, claiming she was misunderstood (aren't we all, though), but to put her on the spot like that and invite each girl to describe how they were personally hurt or offended by her and then not let Renée really speak to that (what more could she do in that situation than meekly apologize) was totally unfair. I think it would have been better to put each girl in that position, because none of them are exactly innocent.