Archive for March, 2009

Photographic: 06-09

March 31, 2009


To request the above photograph:

Send an email (subject: Photographic: 06-09) to horses [at] with your name and address.

If you are the first person to respond after the posting, you will receive the photograph in the mail.

* This photograph is no longer available.


Tehching Hsieh

March 31, 2009

19146Tehching Hsieh, One Year Performance 1978–1979 (Cage Piece)

I remember attending a few of the Marina Abromovic performances at the Guggenheim museum a few years ago and being floored by the kind of commitment she was making to her art. Of course the actual performances were completely intense and impressive, but I was most taken by the dedication and perseverance it took to complete the tasks she set for herself.

MoMA recently launched Performance 1: Tehching Hsieh, the inaugural installation in an ongoing series that will explore the history of performance art.

Beginning to make his performance work in the late 70’s at around the same time as Abramović, Tehching Hsieh stretched the limits of time and performance based work.

Having never heard of Hsieh before, I walked out of the exhibition completely stunned. I can’t ever remember seeing something so basic and simple in it’s conception and yet beyond profound in it’s execution, duration and bravery.

From 1978 to 1986, Hsieh committed himself to performing a series of five One Year Performances, each one more grueling than the next. For the first in the series, Cage Piece executed in 1978-79, the artist spent a year locked up in a cage like prison cell that was built into his artist studio located in Tribeca. During that time he did absolutely nothing: no reading, writing, or talking was allowed and there was no television or radio. The cell was furnished with a bed, a blanket, a sink and a pail (for refuse).

On 18 individual days throughout the year, his studio was opened to the public and people could visit to view the performance in progress. For the rest of the year he sat there alone with himself and with his thoughts.

A friend was contracted to deliver food and remove his waste each day. That same friend also took Hsieh’s portrait and documented how his appearance slowly changed over time since Hsieh shaved his head at the beginning of the project. The entire performance was supervised and certified by Hseih’s lawyer who locked and unlocked the cage at the beginning and at the end.

In the exhibition gallery, the black and white portraits of Hsieh are hung in an endless continuous line (minus 10 or so that were damaged in the chemical development process). In a darkly lit room to the side, the actual cage has been installed. The cage carries with it a heavy air and an immediate sense of claustrophobia. I can’t imagine being locked up in there for even a day let alone an entire year.

The other performances in the series of One Year Performances are as follows:

1980–1981, Time Clock Piece: Hsieh punched a time clock every hour on the hour for one year. A photograph was taken at each punch of the time clock and together it made up a 6 minute movie.

1981–1982, Outdoor Piece: Hsieh spent one year outside. He did not enter any buildings, shelters, cars, trains, airplanes, boats, or tents. He slept around New York City in nothing more than a sleeping bag.

1983–1984, Rope Piece, collaboration with Linda Montano: Hseih spent the year tied to another artist (Montano) by an 8 foot long rope. They had to be in the same room at all times and were not allowed to touch each other.

1985–1986, No Art Piece: For the final performance in the series, Hsieh made no art, and avoided doing anything related to art. He reading nothing, saw nothing and did not enter any museums or galleries.

Beginning in 1986, Hsieh embarked on what would be his final performance piece, Thirteen Year Plan, which was completed in 1999.

In an interview in The Brooklyn Rail, Hsieh discussed the duration of his works:

“Because one year is the largest single unit of how we count time. It takes the earth a year to move around the sun. Three years, four years is something else. It is about being human, how we explain time, how we measure our existence. A century is another mark, which is how the last piece was created.”

I have no idea what Hsieh is doing with himself these days, but through the confounding prism of his work our everyday experience of time and the immense weight of everyday life has been completely and dramatically changed.

Performance 1: Tehching Hsieh is on view through May 18, 2009.

Helen Levitt, 1913 – 2009

March 30, 2009

Helen Levitt by Helen LevittHelen Levitt, New York, 1980

Helen Levitt, one of the giant poets of New York City street life, passed away in her sleep on Sunday at the age of 95.

levittHelen Levitt, New York, 1939

helenlevittHelen Levitt, New York, 1963


Pixels For Sale

March 29, 2009


“In homage to The Million Dollar Homepage, one of the web’s great memes, Rhizome presents The Rhizome 50,000 Dollar Webpage. Equal parts fundraiser, art collaboration, billboard, classified ad and community builder, the initiative aims to raise 50,000 dollars for Rhizome by selling 1,000,000 pixels of webspace at 5 cents a piece (cheap!).”

Read more about the project and then buy yourself some pixels to show support.


Day of the Fight

March 29, 2009

dotf06still from Stanley Kubrick’s Day of the Fight, 1951

Watch Stanley Kubrick’s Day of the Flight.

Made in 1951 when Kubrick was 23, the short documentary was one of his first attempts at filmmaking. Kubrick based the film on a pictorial he had already shot for Look Magazine, titled “Prizefighter,” which profiled middleweight boxer Walter Cartier.

Using dramatic, somewhat mysterious music as well as a typical 50’s deadpan style narrator, it’s obvious that Kubrick already had a strong narrative drive from the very beginning. He obviously knew what he was doing without really knowing it.

More background about the film can be found at TCM.


Katy Grannan at FIT

March 27, 2009

gail_dale_katygrannanKaty Grannan, Gail and Dale, Point Lobos, 2006

Expecting a full house at Katy Grannan’s photography presentation over at FIT yesterday afternoon, I arrived early but realized that I didn’t need to since it seems that FIT is barely promoting these talks outside of school. It’s a real shame, as other students from schools across the city should know that these events are going on. As far as I know there is only one more talk left this semester and that’s Lorna Simpson on April 28, 2009 (check the side bar for more info).

If you missed your chance to see and hear Grannan speak, you’re in luck because she’ll be talking again at Aperture this coming Monday (check the side bar again). Grannan is a Westerner now but is probably in New York to celebrate the MoMA opening of Into the Sunset: Photography’s Image of the American West.

Grannan started her presentation with a quote from Roland Barthes relating to ”the pressure of the unspeakable which wants to be spoken” and discussed “the paradox that makes photography endlessly fascinating and even necessary.”

She talked about life as a performance and related it to something she called the Schroedinger (that’s how I spelled what I heard her say) Principle (maybe she meant the Schrödinger Equation, I’m really not sure). She then showed a clip from the classic Maysles Brothers film, Grey Gardens made in 1975.

At first I was confused by the Grey Gardens clip but with the projected image of Little Edie dancing and singing for the camera, I began to understand the point Grannan was making. Here we are observing “real life” but it’s real only in that it actually happened and was recorded for the camera. It’s also performed or imagined in that it was happening because of the camera.

Grannan explained that for her the photographs she makes are very much representative of that in between state, “a hybrid between something real and imagined.”

Along those lines, she also showed a clip from Werner Herzog’s 2005 documentary, Grizzly Man. Again, another character or real person who lives in that hybrid state.

Grannan talked about her portraiture as not being a photographic document. Instead she emphasized the improvisatory and collaborative nature of her work and the way things transpire in an unscripted way. She also mentioned the idea of the photographs being memorials to the people depicted, and the photographs themselves taking on a life of their own outside the person portrayed.

People tend to either love or hate Katy Grannan and I’m not sure why, the work is great and has continually developed in an interesting, exciting and organic way. Hearing her talk about each body of work and how one lead to the other was very enlightening.

Towards the end of her talk, Grannan presented some of her latest photographs which consisted of glaringly sun-lit portraits of people she encountered on the streets of Los Angeles. Essentially walking around and looking for subjects who are willing to be photographed right then and there, she described the new work as her version of the street photograph. Since most people in Los Angeles don’t really walk around, Grannan has focused on the people who do, some of whom are most probably industry casualties as well as dreamers who haven’t made it yet.

new_grannanNew work by Katy Grannan shown at her FIT presentation

The images were all vertical, more tightly composed than her past work and most importantly, almost completely devoid of any background environmental context. All the portraits are shot against the white stucco walls she finds around the city. I like the direction it’s going, they were beautifully caught quiet moments, intensely lit and somehow peculiar. With all that harsh bright drenching light I wouldn’t expect the pictures to be so mysterious.

On a technical side note, Grannan has put the 4×5 camera down for a rest while she shoots with a Hasselblad and digital camera back. Seems like everyone’s doing that these days.

One last thing, if you haven’t seen Grannan’s large format book, The Westerners, published last year by The Fraenkel Gallery, it is definitely worth seeking out. At $25 it’s a steal.

Hunger – Steve McQueen

March 26, 2009

hungerstill from Steve McQueen’s Hunger, 2008

If you are planning to see Steve McQueen’s Hunger while it’s screening at the IFC Center in New York, do yourself and everyone around you a favor, leave the popcorn outside the theater.

Visual artist Steve McQueen’s first film is as intense as it is impressive. Excruciating to watch and yet completely mesmerizing and meditative, the film is an unwavering look at the last weeks in the life of IRA fighter Bobby Sands as he dies from a hunger strike while being imprisoned in the Maze.

This is one hell of a film and an absolute must see if you can get passed the grotesque nature of the shit and piss all over the walls and floor of the prison. That’s really only the beginning as the film intensely explores what it was like to live (and die) in the Maze.

One of the great things about this complex film is it’s shifting perspective. The film begins from the perspective of a prison guard getting ready for work with his morning routine. The focus then shifts to a new inmate being introduced to the Maze and it’s inner workings for the first time. Only after about 45 minutes into the film do we actually meet Bobby Sands, incredibly played by Michael Fassbender.

Although most of the film is given over to the violent and disgusting routines of daily prison life, the absolute highlight comes with a 17 1/2 minute conversation between Sands and a priest (Liam Cunningham). Shot in one long intense take, the two argue back and forth over whether Sands should commit himself to the hunger strike which will inevitably lead to his death.

Speaking to the audience after the screening last weekend, McQueen referenced Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe in their infamous Wimbledon final match, saying that both of them wanted the same thing but they wanted it differently.

Building on the power of his past artistic projects, Hunger has definitely brought McQueen to a new place where he will have to balance the worlds of fine art and narrative filmmaking. It’s obvious that he is more than capable and I look forward to seeing what he does next.

Photographic: 05-09

March 25, 2009


To request the above photograph:

Send an email (Subject: Photographic: 05-09) to horses [at] with your name and address.

If you are the first person to respond after the posting, you will receive the photograph in the mail.

* This photograph is no longer available.

Paul Graham Wins Deutsche Börse Prize 2009

March 25, 2009

cherries_grahamPaul Graham, New Orleans (Cherries), from A Shimmer of Possibility

“About time a British photographer won.”

Paul Graham speaking at tonight’s award ceremony in London.


Wake Up

March 25, 2009

Watch it in HD.