Social Networks Protest Rose Art Museum Closing

Brandeis threatens to close the Rose Museum and online social networking groups form in protest.

Photo by Erik Jacobs via The New York Times
On Monday Brandeis University decided to pay off debts they say are caused by the recession by closing the Rose Museum, and selling its collection. Many call it one of the most important collections of postwar art in New England.

The art community was shocked. In just a few days a Facebook group called “Save the Rose Art Museum” had 4,671 members and it urged them to do a sit in protest at the museum today and a performance on Friday.

Another social networking site, PAM: Perpetual Art Machine is launching a “not for sale” protest in which it urges all its members to start sending artwork addressed to the office of Jehudah Reinharz, President of Brandeis.

The art will include NOT FOR SALE on the front or back of the piece.

Photo by Boston Photographer Erik Jacobs

So Many Dreams So Little Space! Russian Dreams in Miami

Alexandra Lerman’s brief account of the Russian Dreams exhibition at the Baas Museum during the week of Miami Art Basel.

"Democracy" Andrei Molodkin

While a highlight of December’s Miami Art Basil, Russian Dreams also suffered from trying to do too much with too little. Curated by Olga Sviblova, the show brought 23 Russian artists to the relatively small space Baas Museum devoted to Russians and their ambitious dreams.

The problem wasn’t the quality of the work but rather the quantity. Sviblova did a fantastic job bringing contemporary Russian artists to a North American audience that still knows too little about them. By bringing so many, however, some works became lost in the space provided for them.

Despite this, Russian Dreams became the talk of the town and a must see on the list of the many satellite shows surrounding Miami’s main fair.

As a non-commercial exhibition, it also differed from the general nature of Miami Art Basel with global collection of galleries, dealers and buyers milling through the main convention center.

True to the title, the show encapsulated an overall ambiance of the enigmatic Russian soul with its own dreams, reasoning and a peculiar dark sense of humor that forever captures Western imagination.

"Settlement" by Alexander Brodsky
Settlement by  Alexander Brodsky

There was Alexander Brodsky’s Settlement — a painfully poetic and lyrical landscape of a bedroom community inside a music box on wheels.

Alexander Ponamarev brought a machine for making halos. Generator of Nimbuses huffed and puffed perfect smoke rings that slowly raised to the ceiling and disappeared.

Smoke Rings of the Generator of Nimbuses

Disturbing photographs of unidentified corpses from a Moscow morgue dressed in designer outfits, presented by AES+F, appeared to be levitating in the air. These images reflected the many Russian dreams turned nightmares. Right next to them whimsical triangles, squares, and rectangles — animations by Alexei Buldakov — imitated intercourse as part of his work Sex Lissitzky forcing a relationship between death and life.

"Defile" by AES + F installation view
"Defile" by AES + F

Despite its successes, one left the show wondering whether the goal of introducing about two dozens artists to the international art market interfered with the curatorial integrity of the exhibition.

Yuri Avvakumov’s exhibition design unintentionally mimicked Art Basel’s commercialism by dividing the exhibition space into trade booths of an art fair. As the result, it disjointed the dialog of the works and felt crowded. Some works, like Avvacumov’s Black Bone Mausoleum, Andrei Molodkin’s Democracy and Alexander Ponomarev’s Generator of Nimbuses got the first class treatment, while others, like the equally worthy Olga Chernisheva’s Dream Street and Yuri Albert’s IT’D BE GREAT …, were placed in the economy class.

Yuri Avvakumov's masoleum

A mindfully crafted dialogue between works of some of the best artists of Russia today Russian Dreams would have done well in a more spacious gallery or with less works in the given space.

Haim Sokol "Foundation Pit"

Leonid Sokov: Solzhenitsyn Made of Salt, Stalin Made of Steel.

Fragments: SMAC visits a studio of a Russian artist Leonid Sokov, who recites poems by early Soviet absurdists and talks about his works.

Yesterday I went to Leonid Sokov’s‘s studio along with Brian Droitcour. Sokov talked about Daniil Kharms, the utopian ideas of communism, Letatlin, art market, language, animals, how to work with gold as material for sculpture and Kandinsky prize.

Leonid Sokov

In the video below Sokov describes (in Russian) one of his pieces – 4 portraits of prominent Russian figures: Khlebnikov from bread (khleb), Solzhenitsyn from salt (sol’), Gorky from mustard (gorchiza) and Stalin from steel (stal’).

Leonid informed us that it was the bithday of early Soviet-era surrealist and absurdist poet Daniil Kharms’ and recited a Khams poem (in Russian):

Sokov cloud:

Sokov Cloud

He said that Sothebys would never sell his paintings with Russian texts all over them. Things that sell are “objects one can put on the table”:

Stalin Bear by Leonid Sokov
by Leonid Sokov

Communist Guide to New York City

Communist Guide to New York City

Last night SMAC visited a book launch of “Communist Guide to New York City” by Yevgeniy Fiks at Common Room.

The guide is a collection of 76 photographs of buildings, public places, and sites in New York City, that are connected to the history of the Communist Party USA, including photos of buildings which housed at different times the headquarters of the CPUSA, residences of important American Communists, sites where Communist-organized strikes and demonstrations took places, and court houses where American Communist leaders were tried.
The attached map locates the buildings and sites within New York City.

With essays by Olga Kopenkina, Kim Förster, and Yevgeniy Fiks.

For the complete set of pictures click here>

Olga Kopenkina, Yevgeniy Fiks
222 West 23rd Street

Swimming Cities of Switchback Sea

7 hand-made boats created by artist Swoon and her collaborators arrive at Deitch Projects in Long Island City after a 3 week journey on the Hudson river.

“I just wanted to bring something absurdly joyful” – Swoon about the Swimming Cities

At SMAC we have a sweet spot for Swoon’s fantastic projects. We spoke to her in the summer about an installation at a HoneySpace and most recently about the project at the Deitch Projects.

Seven handmade boats glided into the waters of the East River, as part of Swimming Cities of Switchback Sea. The show, produced by New-York artist Swoon, debuted this fall at Deitch Studios in Long Island City.

“We had seven, but one died so we had to leave it,” Swoon shouted to the crowd celebrating the September opening of Swimming Cities of Switchback Sea. As a marching band played and the sun went down over Manhattan, a steamer and five other old-fashioned boats were being docked following a three-week journey down the Hudson River and around the tip of Manhattan. Wearing a girly white ruffled dress, smiling Swoon greeted the crowd and showered them with sunflowers.

“It was one of the most amazing moments in my life,” Swoon told SMAC. “Everyone seemed to be kind of ecstatic. It was really magical. I would say in my wildest imagining it would be like that.”
Swoon, a 30-year-old Brooklyn-based artist, has become famous for her elaborate paper cutouts that she affixes to the walls of buildings throughout the city: life-size fantastical portraits of children, mermaids, bicyclists, couples, pigeons and friends. Nonconformist independent of the rules of the game of the art world, for ten years she has been taking her bucket and brush onto the streets in order to glue the cut outs and prints to the walls of Brooklyn, lower Manhattan and Queens.

In 2004 the art dealer and critic Jeffrey Deitch noticed her work on the streets of New York and thought it was completely fresh. It took him about 8 months to connect with Swoon through a mutual friend.

“I went out to her home in Brooklyn, an amazing place, where there was an extraordinary amount of activity stuffed into two small rooms of a little house,” Deitch said.

Deitch’s interest became a turning point in Swoon’s life, helping her to bring the work to a new level, grow her audience and quit a day job as a waitress. Since the first Deitch show her work has been seen at Deitch Projects, Brooklyn Museum, MoMA, various art centers and galleries throughout Europe.
Swoon, however did not abandon her art hooliganism and still works on the street. Deitch gallery is supportive of it: “We were very sensitive to how she works, and what we tried to do in the gallery is to continue what she is doing: give her a context of extension of what she is doing on the street,” Deitch said. “We don’t ask her to clean it up and make gallery art, make paintings on canvas.”

Swimming Cities of Switchback Sea is a floating art performance, a project that took the efforts of seventy-five collaborators and a year to produce.

The boats, or floating sculptures, were assembled and shipped to Troy, New York, stopping by various towns along the river for impromptu performances.

In 2006, Swoon participated in a similar project with a group of her friends when they sailed the assembled rafts down the Mississippi River. This time, the boats are just a part of Swoon’s show, which also has an enormous exhibit at the Deitch Studios. A twenty-five foot high paper sculpture of two sisters embracing occupies the center of the gallery space.

The sculpture of two girls came out of Swoon’s dream when she worked on the Miss Rockaway Armada project on the Mississippi River. Some of the floats were having problems and a giant woman in huge skirts came to her in a dream saying: “You can just dock your boats in here, I’ll keep them safe.” Swoon imagines that if the East River were to rise, her boats could float into the shelter of the gallery space guarded by the sisters.

The image of a woman transformed into two embracing sisters. It became central to the installation as well as the narrative for the performances created by the playwright Lisa D’Amour.

12,000 sq feet Deitch gallery in Long Island City is covered by Swoon’s work. Some of it is familiar from NY streets and some of it is completely new. Boats, docked outside, are connected by ropes to the Sisters stature. Every single piece of the exhibit is unique and different, and at the same time being part of the romantic narrative from Swoon’s world.

Swoon has always been environmentally conscious. Even the engines for two of the boats are recycled motors of an old Mercedes and a Volkswagen Rabbit.
“For this show just about everything you see comes from somewhere else. Nothing was bought new,” said Zev Deans, a project manager for the show at Deitch Studios. “Some of the furniture was found along the river when the boats were coming down. There is an ecological lumber supplier they got a lot of their wood from.”

All the boats are properly registered, and captains are licensed, although some of the boats got their license plates a little later. Prior to the opening day, police came to the docks, creating hustle, Deans said.

“But everything came together at the last minute,” he said, “And came together beautifully.”

Swoon is planning to continue with her water-inspired projects and boats. One of the projects is to build a floating city in Venice, another is to create power-generative playgrounds.

“I feel like New York has this way about being sort of stoic about so many things,” said Swoon. She finds that New York is so much about commerce and intellect, and is “so much buttoned up” that she felt like doing something to shake it up a bit.

Article by Katya Soldak, Producer at

The show is open until October 19, 2008
Deitch Studios in Long Island City
4-40 44th Drive, LIC, New York

For more info and images:

Special thanks to Tod Seelie for amazing images of the boats.

Arial, Meet Futura… and Leave the Artsy Farts Behind

Fonts gather in conference to decide whether Zapf Dingbats is worthy of membership.


If Helvetica was a documentary for the high-brow set, College Humor’s Font Conference is humor um… for the highbrow set?

Fonts gather to decide whether Zapf Dingbats is worthy of membership.

From the archives we bring you College Humor founder Josh Abramson interviewed by Fortune’s David Kirkpatrick to discuss online media, viral video, and how and where traditional media companies are striking out trying to get clever in their attempts to lure in the likes of you and I.

GreenPix: China’s Next Great Wall

Using thousands of solar photovoltaic capture cells to power the work of digital artists, the GreenPix Zero Energy media wall is the largest solar powered LED display in the world.


When you show an unusual project to a developer in New York, they ask: “Have you done this before?” The client in China asked me: “Are you sure it has never been done before?” — Simone Giostra

With a world watching, China flexed its architectural prowess at the Olympics, and recreated Beijing’s skyline. Overshadowed by The Birds Nest and The Watercube, one of the skyline’s exciting new additions is the GreenPix Zero Energy media wall, the largest solar powered LED display in the world.

The 20,000 square feet wall covers the façade of Xicui entertainment center near the “Bird’s Nest”, the central stadium that hosted both the opening and closing ceremonies, and is visible from 3,300 feet. GreenPix is not just one of the great architecture objects that modern Beijing is famous for, but it also applies sustainable technology as it showcases digital media art.

Simone Giostra, whose company Simone Giostra + Partners — along with design and engineering firm Arup — developed the wall, thinks of it as a flower, absorbing solar energy during the day and releasing it at night. The wall has a self-sustaining energy life cycle that no other wall in the world has.

GreenPix uses thousands of solar photovoltaic capture cells on the glass panels covering computer-controlled LEDs in order to power colorful light shows at night.

“We like to work with digital artists,” Giostra said. “They have an understanding of the ultimate goal. It’s not only programming.”

Digital artists participate in developing content for the wall — ranging from video games to micro photography.

Another interesting detail about the wall is its interactivity, which makes it controversial.

Giostra + Partners is negotiating with the government to get the approval for interactive, user-generated content. However, right now the Chinese government approves all content and “they make sure someone is next to the computer,” Giostra said.

“If you think of the context and the time — China, 2008 — this [interactivity] becomes a huge issue.”

GreenPix is a visual reminder of Chinese attempts to make long-term environmental improvements for Beijing.

“You should accept that environmentally friendly system is vulnerable to the context,” Giostra said. “If there is a day with clouded sky or polluted sky, the system would be effected by it, so the screen will be probably lower in intensity or last shorter than expected.”

According to the Greenpeace Olympics Assessment report, issued on August 7th, Beijing did better than Athens in 2004 in greening the Olympic Games. China introduced state-of-the-art energy saving technology in the Olympics venues, released new vehicle emissions standards, and added four new rail lines to the city.

While there are several missed opportunities on how China could improve its environment — failure to use the Games as an opportunity to move towards a zero-waste policy, lack of water-saving technologies, slow improvement of air-quality, and being secretive about their environmental data — Beijing made an effort in trying to shift to more environmentally smart solutions.

Article by Katya Soldak, Producer at ScribeMedia.


Five Prefab Houses at MoMA

SMAC visits the much talked about exhibition at MoMA, Home Delivery. Fabricating the Modern Dwelling. The curator Barry Bergdoll walks us through the 5 houses built especially for the show at an empty lot near the museum.

SMAC visits the latest show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York called Home Delivery. The exhibit addresses one of the hot topics in architecture since 1833 – prefabricated housing.

The idea of making houses in factories speaks to such central issues as sustainability, low cost and speed of production and provides fertile ground for architectural experimentation, utopian thinking and futuristic designs. Barry Bergdoll, MoMA’s chief curator of Architecture & Design, gives SMAC a tour of the five houses erected for the show. These range from a second home on a beach to a digitally fabricated design that would replace the lost homes in New Orleans.

During the tour we spoke with the architects Stephen Kieran and James Timberlake of the Cellophane House, Jeremy Edmiston and Douglas Gauthier of Burst* 008, and Oskar Leo Kaufmann of System3 about the specifics of their design.

The show Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling runs at the MoMA until Otober 26th, 2008.

About this Video

We filmed this interview using the Panasonic AG-HSC1 high definition camera.

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on GREENPIX Zero Energy Media Wall in Beijing

Louise Bourgeois: Pandora’s Box

Louise Bourgeois’ career spans a century and is beyond the confines of modern or even contemporary art. It is beyond any art styles or art movements. Her work simultaneously absorbs and repels all labels art critics so eagerly apply to artists.


Louise Bourgeois’ career spans a century and is beyond the confines of modern or even contemporary art. It is beyond any art styles or art movements. Her work simultaneously absorbs and repels all labels art critics so eagerly apply to artists.

Bourgeois at the Guggenheim

This summer, New York’s Guggenheim Museum is honoring 96 year old sculptor with a retrospective lasting until September 28, 2008.

More information about it can be found at the Guggenheim Web site.

I saw the previous version of this show at the Pompidou in Paris this past March. Somehow that show seemed more intimate and appropriate to Bourgeois’ work and its private nature.

While shooting, I remembered that my friend — and art critic — Olesya Turkina wrote a book about Bourgeois in the occasion of her exhibition at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg. Olesya has kindly let us reprint part of it here:

Louise Bourgeois: Pandora’s Box

Louise Bourgeois, who was born in Paris in 1911 worked more than half a century in New York. In fact her creative work reflects the century, with its revolutions and world wars, Utopian hopes and crippling disillusionments. Never one to blindly follow fashion in art, she has been compared with such masters of the 20th century as Constantin Brancusi and Vladimir Tatlin, Hans Arp and Alberto Giacometti, and even Joseph Beuys and Bruce Nauman. Her work is abstract and figurative, realistic and phantasmagorical, and is made from all manner of material such as wood, marble, bronze, plaster, latex and fabric. Probing themes of universal import, it is also highly autobiographical. In fact the personal and traumatic is Bourgeois’ most vital material.

Throughout the 20th century one might say Louise Bourgeois has created an idiosyncratic symbolic dictionary in which certain personal experiences and fantasies are concretized into expressive images. In the words of the artist, “Symbols are only empty bottles. They function only through what you put in them — personal symbols mean personal alphabet, our uniqueness is all we have.”

For example, her use of the spider is not a sign of arachnophobia (terror of spiders), but a sign of the enveloping and diligent mother. In much the same manner, sewing needles are not represented as aggressive instruments but symbols of magic to signify the restoration of losses. And home is depicted not as a refuge, but as an enclosure where one is in danger of losing oneself.

These objects thus recover magical properties connected to personal experiences well known since childhood. Childhood, in the artist’s words, “has never lost its magic, it has never lost its mystery, and it has never lost its drama”.

In fact, Louise Bourgeois describes herself as a woman without secrets. For her, sculpture is an instrument of exorcism, a place to work through traumatic childhood experiences.

In 1982 the artist formulated this principle in her artist’s project for Artforum called “Child Abuse” where she says, “Everyday you have to abandon your past or accept it and then if you cannot accept it you become a sculptor.”

In this project, she disclosed the secret of her life — a tale that reads like a melodramatic novel. Louise Bourgeois grew up triangulated between an adoring but ill mother and an authoritarian father whose mistress of ten years was also Louise’s governess. The complex relationship with her father, in which the duality of love and hate were manifested, resulted in a lifelong ambivalence to authority.

Within this context it is no coincidence that her creative work is metaphorically compared to the space of memory. It can be said that Bourgeois’ drawings, prints, and sculptures constitute a unique theatre of memory. Each work is related to one or another important event in her life on the principle of free association. Memories therefore play a leading, not auxiliary, role.

The full article can be downloaded here.

Olesya Turkina is a critic and curator (her projects include Russian Pavilion at the 48th Venice Biennial (1999) and Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Contemporary Art in the Russian museum, St. Petersburg. She is contributor to Flash Art International, Kabinet journal (St.Petersburg) and Moscow Art Magazine. She is Editor of on-line journal on Contemporary Russian Art and Member of the Russian Space Federation. During several years she is working on the series of films “The Chain of Flowers” with The Museum of Jurassic Technology (Los Angeles).