As I was walking into work this morning, I realized that living in the far north of the continental US has its benefits. While I may complain that the city is often unpopulated and boring at times, it is almost always a great place to turn to for a healthy dose of surrealism. For example, my early morning schedule (arriving to work at 6:00 AM) means that I encounter downtown Minneapolis under a heavy drape of darkness. This in itself is not strange… but there is this odd liveliness to the downtown, which continues despite the pitch black sky outside. It is roughly the same vibe as living inside of a space station, moon base, or other outpost like environment.
Everyone has photographic fetishes. And, I have a thing for airports. Maybe it is the intersection of private desire to travel with very public, non-descript, and functional architecture. Or maybe I just like photographing in places where I know my film may be confiscated.
On a recent trip to New York I had the distinct pleasure of flying out of the old, Lindbergh terminal at Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport. It is exceptionally unfortunate what time has done to this ultra-modern, mid-century diamond in the rough. It has been added to seemingly endlessly to the point that one cannot see the front facade through all the parking garages and overpasses. Inside the airport, depressing gates and shopping mall corridors make it seem like a bad 1980s theme park. (Remember the movie Planes, Trains, and Automobiles – like that)
I’m still inspired by the book I am reading: What Do Pictures Want?… I have been prowling through my flat files and archives of images for the last three days… rediscovering a universe of pictorial bliss. Enjoy.
As usual, I am going to ramble along as I work out a few ideas that have been lingering in that cobwebby part of my brain I rarely use. I am referring to the creative/artistic part of me that has been languishing recently as I focus my life on more practical tasks like paying bills, working, and looking like a normal human being.
For the first time in about a year I can honestly say I have a project I am working on. During this summer, I became obsessed with the acquisition of “placeless photographs.” By this I mean photographs of locations that are artificial by construction (such as my collection of Knoll office furniture images from the 1960s) or by incident (such as the 1970s Swedish mountain valley wall mural I purchased at a garage sale).
The latter image and concept has my attention on this very rainy, dismal morning. I would be grateful to be anywhere else right now – even if that meant going to the highly artificial mountain valley in that overly dot-patterned image rolled up in a tube next to my sofa. Despite being highly cliche pieces of kitsch, the paste-up wall mural resonates with personal and cultural history. I remember being in 7th grade, acne-covered, pubescent, and awkward… my only escape during the prison of middle school was memorizing the geographic features on the enormous world map hastily pasted the the classroom walls. On the flip side, my friend Maryann’s grandparents had a forest scene adhered to their dining room walls. I can still remember the contrast of looking out into their bleak, yellow-grass back yard one winter and then being struck by how etherial and strange the half-tone patterned image of idyllic nature on their wall looked.
Everywhere and Nowhere…
What, really, is the purpose of these images? Are they actually meant to transport us out of our daily environments to someplace better, someplace idealized, someplace unattainable in reality? Or are they merely decoration gone awry? What if the decontextualization of place that is inherent in these types of images is furthered, heightened, and manipulated?
This morning has been a particularly productive one for me. I went to bed with Curtis at 8:30 AM and proceeded to sleep soundly for the first time in about a month. If there is one undercurrent to this blog, or my life in general, it is that I love to be unconscious… by whatever means necessary. Anyway, I’m finally to work, doing my little office-cockroach tasks and gazing out at the snow.
The white blanket that is dropping over the city at the moment makes me believe I could be anywhere at the moment. And, why not take a second to think about being in a utopia of sorts. Back in 2003, I had the chance to see the “Utopia Station” exhibition at the Venice Biennale – a great exhibition of posters and designs relating to one of my favorite subjects.
I was walking by the Chambers Hotel a couple of days ago and noticed that the hotel restaurant is now a D’Amico and Sons. This is nothing spectacular in itself, but what is interesting is the way signage has been changed on the building. The previous restaurant was the celebrated/lauded (depending on how you looked at it) Kitchen by Jean-Georges. And the signs for this eatery were dimensional cast metal and attached to the hotel’s chic, Richard Serra, core-ten steel facade. Now, the funny thing is that the facade has changed so dramatically over the course of the last few years that “KITCHEN by JEAN GEORGES” is now etched in the surface of the rusty-colored steel.
In essence, the building is permanently branded with this moniker.
This got me thinking, as always, about all the little ways our lives are being “branded.” The biggest annoyance to date is the branding of the Walker Art Center. (Or, really any cultural institution in the Twin Cities) So, I would like to make a modest project proposal. It goes a bit like this:
In the current climate of corporate sponsorship of the arts, it is impossible to enter a gallery space, museum, or other art institution without being openly reminded of the corporations whose funds have made that particular space possible. Once the realm of private commissions and later the target of public spending through education and social programs, art has now become the a byproduct of corporate culture. It is impossible to be an avid viewer of art and not draw the conclusions that the purchasing of culture by wealthy corporations is in fact changing, editing, sanctioning, and altering our shared culture.
For the project I am proposing, I will strip the Walker of all of the demarcations of corporate sponsorship for the duration of 1 month. During this time, the Best Buy Galleries and Cargill Lounge will be renamed and freed of their associations with corporate ownership of culture. For example, the Cargill Lounge will be renamed Lounge. Imagine meeting at the Walker on Thursday Free Nights… minus the Target corporation.
Art is one facet of culture. Culture is never static. Static entities cannot be tied to the agendas of monolithic corporations.
I am a simple person and I hope my each of my little posts from the edge of simplicity reflect this.
My experiences of the city are taken in mostly while walking to and from work each morning and afternoon. At 5:30 AM, the city of Minneapolis is absolutely silent. Only crazy people like me who work nonsensical hours are out and about, plugging our way through a city that looks like it has survived a zombie attack. Because I do this meditation twice daily, minute details of the cityscape creep into my consciousness. If the world around me is too hectic, or if I have just finished up a long day at the office, I can walk home… look at my feet and just… come into focus.
This week however, I have been introduced to an obnoxious intrusion into my bit of mental space. Apparently, Boost! Mobile has started to use the sidewalks of my neighborhood as advertising spaces. Large black squares with orange type and images of cell phones have been stuck to the sidewalks.
Is it possible that the only bit of reprieve from advertisements has been sold off? Is this legal? I am curious if the city has actually sold rights for the space of the sidewalk… and if Boost is just one of many advertisers that will be claiming the very ground I walk on as space to sell me something.
While garage sale shopping this weekend I came across this wonderful gem of a book from the 1980s. Apparently someone had the brilliant idea of making Nancy Reagan a role-model for youngsters through the novel paper cut-out format. I can only imagine the conservative Republican mother buying this for her hopefully conservative daughter… never realizing it would end up in the kitsch-loving hands of a gay male, atheist, and socialist named Andrew. Continue reading →
It has been a magical day, I won’t lie about it. However, here is a lesson everyone should learn: DO NOT eat protein salad from Kowalski’s deli before going to bed. You will sleep for about 2 hours and then… POOF! Awake! Here I am at 2:00 AM sitting around writing blog posts and reflecting on my day.
I managed to score some pretty amazing items today from a garage sale in North MPLS. My most prized find: an unused 70’s Swedish mountain-scape mural. You know… those paste-on wall paper things that had terrible color balance… chances are one of your grandparents had one in their dining room. Or, if you were lucky like I was, your 8th grad science teacher had one in the lab. I think ours was of the surface of the moon.
Speaking of the surface of the moon, the milky light that settled over Minneapolis today was like being on another planet. I wandered around town with Curtis today. Whittier has finally started to hit it’s tipping point with object saturation… all of the things that are going to be covered by the first snowfall are being pushed to the streets in anticipation. Treasures waiting to be made treasures.