Dive into the archives.
Brother/Genius Lok Jansen did this drawing of me after I begged him. Check out his work here. It’s amazing.
- My Un-Named Essay
As I’ve mentioned a few times, I spent most of 2011 working on a exhibition for the Gwangju Design Biennale together with Ai Weiwei. At the exhibition opening, working with Weiwei was what most people wanted to talk about, so I wrote an essay about the experience for the Biennale’s catalog. It was written in a rush and I’m still not 100% happy with it, but since the biennale is still running, I think it’s important to put it out there….
Where is Ai Weiwei?
The Making of an Un-Named Exhibition
In August 2010, Ai Weiwei asked if I wanted to curate a section of the Gwangju Design Biennale. It was my first time hearing of the project and the place, and my first ever offer to curate. I accepted immediately.
A 30 minute conversation followed wherein Weiwei briefed me on the virtues of the event, including its big budget (“bigger than Venice!”) and open-minded leadership (“they wouldn’t have asked me to be director if they weren’t willing to take risks”). He talked about the host city (“good food”, “Korea’s democracy movement started there”, “many, many love hotels”) and described the biennale site, a complex of four interconnected galleries containing more than 8000 square meters of exhibition space.
As he talked, I started to worry. The scale of the project seemed huge and the expectations were high. The biennale’s theme, a strong, unclear concept derived from the Tao Te Ching and developed by the biennale’s co-director Seung H-Sang, I found difficult to penetrate. “Design Is Design Is Not Design,” Weiwei explained, was an epigram implying limitless creativity. “It is the end and the beginning,” he said. “For the biennale, we need to show design not as just a final product, but as part of a continuous process.” I scribbled the statement down. I wasn’t sure what do with it, but it seemed to me an anchor point, something solid enough to grab on to, extend out from.
I needed more, so I dropped the pretense of collaborating and reverted to my journalist roots, transforming our meeting into a desperate sort of interview. I prodded Weiwei with questions; I offered suggestions and requested clarifications, I repeated and rephrased his responses. He confirmed or corrected me, but he rejected nothing. It was as if his ambition was endless and capable of absorbing everything. By the end of the meeting, I’d written down dozens of commands (“Explore the reasons for similar activities in design”), analogies (“Exhibition like a body – fat, bone, organs, muscle, skin”), conceptual pairings (“Stephen Hawking + Buddhism”), and seemingly unrelated references (“Beat Generation”, “Big Bang”, “Food”, “Kunstkammer”, “French Almanac”, “KKK/Abu Ghraib/Burqa”).
At the center of the page, repeatedly underlined and surrounded by a cartoon cloud was the most important, least defined phrase of them all – Un-Named Design. This was the title of the section that I would curate. It was one of several sections in the show, but the only one that Ai Weiwei would oversee personally. Most of the points he’d made during our discussion were about Un-Named and when it was over he suggested I write a short statement to declare our intentions. That night I pored over my notes and eventually came up with this:
The Un-Named Design component will explore those facets of the human environment that are not conventionally considered design, yet influence everyday life and the perception of it. The works included in this section will derive from areas of creation where originality, signature, and marketability are not the primary source of value, and where the identity of a product is based on its theoretical force and practical use, rather than its material appearance. Examples from this creative territory range from highly purpose-driven virtual designs for social networks to the low-tech, custom manufacturing of low cost artificial limbs. The goal of this theme is to reframe design as a set of strategic solutions to human needs, rather than an ego-driven pursuit of subjective beauty. It will expand the concept of design beyond the material and show that it is not only about providing more or less useful goods, but also about the modification of human perception in a rapidly changing, interconnected world.
Post in full here.
- AI WEIWEI Freedom Mix
Last week on Facebook I asked my friends to dedicate songs to the jailed artist/activist Ai Weiwei. Many responded and the songs they posted expressed a mix of outrage, reassurance, appreciation, anger, and empathy. I promised I’d make a mix out them to keep the word alive. Here it is…
Expensive Jewelry – FREE AI WEIWEI
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*If you have any trouble downloading from the link about try THIS LINK.
Ralph Fortune, Lok Jansen, Marieke Rietbergen, Mietze Beej, Jochem Ruijgrok, Jeroen Koolhaas, Afaina de Jong, Damon Johnson, Bea Galilee, Reineke Otten, An Xiao Mina, Adrian Jevicki, Allister Slingenberg, Joshua Ellison, Farida Sedoc, Samir Bantal, Daniel Perlin, Uniek Mager, Nancy Krahe, James McGetrick, Mavis McGetrick…
Friends and enemies intro – Malcolm X
Truth and rights – Johnny Osbourne
Liberation – Outkast, Ceelo, Erykah Badu, Big Rube
Get up stand up – Bob Marley and the Wailers
54-46 was my number – Toots and the Maytals
San Quentin – Johnny Cash
Freedom – Richie Havens
The revolution will not be televised – Gill Scott Heron
Unknown soldier 1&2 – Fela Kuti
Sonny’s lettah – Linton Kwesi Johnson
None of us are free – Solomon Burke
Doctor’s darling version – Seeed
Korruption – Junior Kelly
Blood money – Pablo Moses
Time has come today – The Chambers Brothers
For the history and latest developments, check freeaiweiwei.org
- FREE AI WEIWEI
On Sunday April 3 my friend and collaborator Ai Weiwei was seized by Beijing police. He has not been seen or heard from since. Weiwei is a brilliant artist, curious thinker, adventurous eater, and courageous defender of freedom of expression. His arrest, which has not been explained or even acknowledgedby the authorities, violates the basic human rights promised him by The Constitutionof the People’s Republic of China. Due to the restricted nature of Chinese media, it is unlikely that many of Weiwei’s fellow citizens will ever hear of his mistreatment. Since his arrest, his name has been stricken from domestic search engines and blogging platforms.
Weiwei is just the most recent and most prominent subject of a Jasmine-infused crackdown on free expression in the which the government has “criminally detained 26 [now 27] individuals, disappeared more than 30, and put more than 200 under soft detention,” according to a report by Chinese Human Rights Defenders.
External pressure is now being applied by foreign ministries and supporters in the cultural world. If your government hasn’t yet spoken up, please contact your local politicians and media and alert them. And please sign the petition currently active on Twitter, a platform near and dear to Weiwei’s heart.
- 7 Things my friend Josh showed me
Just back from US where I had a lot of fun. Many highlights, some of which I will hopefully be somehow documenting on here in the coming days. For now though I want to show some love and gratitude to my dear friend Josh who put me up for several nights and supplied me with a constant supply of awesome media things. In the interest of karma, I’m gonna tell you like he told me:
Louie is the new show by the comedian Louis CK and it is very good. Sort of like a dirtier, less Jewish Seinfeld. In the US you can watch it on Hulu, otherwise you can probably download it legally or otherwise. Here’s a preview:
And as a bonus, here’s a rant from Louis CK that I totally forgot about but was one of my favorite things ever a couple years ago:
So much amazing shit on here it’s crazy. Check it out for yourself. Here’s one classic that I downloaded and then rinsed out at my friend’s wedding to mixed reactions.
Gwen Guthrie – Ain’t Nothin’ Goin’ On But The Rent (Larry Levan Club Mix)
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3. Fact: Dr Dre is currently working on an instrumental album dedicated to outer space.
According to Spinner.com:
Dr Dre has revealed one reason for the delay on long awaited album ‘Detox’ — he’s working on an instrumental album.
In an idea somewhat reminiscent of Holst’s orchestral suite ‘The Planets’ (it even shares the title), each song will be based around the nine planets of the solar system.
Speaking to Vibe magazine (via Gigwise), Dre said, “Oh yeah, that’s in the works. An instrumental album is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. I have the ideas for it. I want to call it ‘The Planets.’
“I don’t even know if I should be saying this, but f— it. It’s just my interpretation of what each planet sounds like. I’m gonna go off on that. Just all instrumental. I’ve been studying the planets and learning the personalities of each planet. I’ve been doing this for about two years now just in my spare time so to speak. I wanna do it in surround-sound. It’ll have to be in surround-sound for Saturn to work.”
4. Kanye Kartoons
The musical comedy team Paul and Storm had a very bright idea to combine Kanye West’s weird/boring-ass Twitter feed with cartoons from the New Yorker. Some of them are great. Example:
5. Kanye A kapella
This I guess has been going around for a few days, but in case you missed it, Kanye performing a song off his new album, a capella, in very clean suit, while standing on a table in the Facebook headquarters. Sounds corny but it’s not.
6. How to make your own pirate vinyl
It’s not simple, but it is doable and not that expensive. Full lowdown here.
7 (but definitely not least). NEW ANDRE!
Andre 3000 – I do
- James Westcott Writes, Marina Abramovic Dies
I just realized today that I never made a post recognizing my homey James and his great new bio of Marina Abramovic. That is maybe because he has been rocking the house so thoroughly lately, receiving love from The New Yorker , The Guardian, and even Bjork herself, who called the book magnificent and “an invaluable document in the hard-to-document world of performance art.” Salute. But also BUY – out now from MIT Press, available at all bookstores that know what’s good for them.
Here’s one really nice piece from the book release media blitz that I want to put up because it features both James and another friend Shumon. It’s from Tank Magazine and it goes like this:
Performance art is not for the fainthearted. James Westcott explains to Shumon Basar how it all started with starving saints and may well end in our age of obsessive re-enactments.
It has often been art’s unique privilege to sanction those eccentric behaviours that would in any other circumstance call for police action or the intervention of a local asylum. Performance art is especially notorious. Its protagonists famously use their bodies and increasingly, the bodies of others to shock, stimulate, sicken and show off bits the rest of us keep behind locked doors. James Westcott is the author of the new biography When Marina Abramovic Dies. It’s a frank appraisal of an artist who has referred to herself as “the grandmother of performance art” and has been called its “empress” by others a status acknowledged by New York’s Museum of Modern Art, which this year awarded her a major retrospective, the first they have given to any performance artist. Abramovic, like her contemporaries Vito Acconci and Carolee Schneemann, pioneered a tradition of performance in the 1960s and 1970s that foregrounded endurance, suffering and personal peril: a reminder that regardless of wealth or poverty, fame or wretched fate, we all begin and end with our bodies. Basar asked Westcott to outline performance peaks in the 20th century and to bring us up to the present moment where, to paraphrase Don DeLillo, the suicide bomber’s deadly performance eclipses the so-called radicality of today’s most shocking artists.
Shumon Basar faces a mirror and begins to walk back and forth along its length mumbling to himself. He stops and takes a seat next to James Westcott.
Shumon Basar: James, can you recall the first performance piece you saw and the effect it had on you?
James Westcott: It was Marina Abramovic’s 2002 performance The House with the Ocean View, for which she lived in a gallery for 12 days without eating or speaking. Her only nourishment came through sustained eye contact with the audience, and I returned to the gallery every day in the hope of repeating the amazing eye contact we’d had on my first visit. It was also like keeping a vigil for the dead or the dying I saw the fluctuations in Marina’s strength as she starved, how her skin changed colour. Like watching a captivity-weary animal in a zoo: the slightest variations in her obsessively repetitive behaviour became disproportionately fascinating.
Was there a religious provenance to these kinds of minutely repetitive gestures?
She was inspired by the Hindu vipassana meditation technique of repeating the most fundamental human physical actions sitting, walking, lying with extreme slowness and a kind of blank concentration. She was both robotic and somehow excruciatingly human.
And this “vigil” was how your interest in the medium began?
I had only discovered the existence of performance art a week earlier, reading about Marina’s 1988 performance The Lovers.
What did it entail?
She started walking at the eastern end of the Great Wall of China, and Ulay, her lover and performance partner since 1976, began walking at the western end, in the Gobi Desert, at the same moment. They simply walked towards each other along the Wall until they met in the middle 90 days later.
They had an infamously fractious and volatile relationship, didn’t they?
When they conceived the performance, in 1981, they thought that they would get married when they met in the middle. But by the time they managed to actually do it, their relationship had disintegrated and their meeting ended up as a kind of divorce ceremony, marking the end of their love and work together.
- Listen up: Romen Rok
My friend Ollie AKA Romen Rok just released his new album. It’s called Absolutely! and you should absolutely get it. Here’s the lead single:
He also has a bunch of cool videos making beats live on the MPC2000XL. Here is one of my favorites, sort of sounds like the Ren & Stimpy theme song if it would’ve been done by the Incredible Bongo Band.
Check him out and BUY HIS ALBUM here.
- Listen up: DJ Haas – Bring the Rain
The newest/latest from my friend Jeroen AKA DJ Haas. I guess being a DJ is sort of like being a writer and for best results you should ‘mix what you know’. Haas is a native of water logged Holland, where it has apparently been raining for the past two weeks. Bring the Rain is his response and it is awesome. Check the tracklist to see what I mean…
DJ Haas – Bring the Rain
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1 – SWV – Rain
2 – Alexander O’Neil – Can you stand the rain
3 – Ashanti – Rain on me
4 – B.I.G. – Somebody’s gotta die
5 – Raekwon – Rainy Dayz
6 – Mary J Blige – Everyday it Rains
7 – Soul 4 Real – Candy Rain
8 – Orange Juice Jones – Walking in the rain
9 – Janis Joplin – I can’t stand the rain
10 – Ann Peebles – I can’t stand the rain
11 – Tina Turner – I can’t stand the rain
12 – Missy Elliot – I can’t stand the rain
13 – U Brown – The big licking stick
14 – Lee Scratch Perry – Rainy night dub
15 – The Dramatics – In the Rain
16 – 21st Century – Remember the rain
17 – Joe Chambers – Mind rain
18 – Freddie Hubbard – Here’s that rainy day
- Domus Interview 09: Mark Wigley
Here’s the latest in the interview series I’ve been doing for the Domus China. (I’ve put up a couple of the others here and here). It’s with Mark Wigley, author, curator, and Dean of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture. The conversation focuses mostly on education and how he approaches things at Columbia.
At present, Mark is battling it out with Jemaine Clement for the title of Greatest Living Kiwi, and I like his chances, because the man knows his way around a soundbite. Here’s a few favorite quotes: “Architects’ gift is to produce a hesitation in the rhythms of everyday life”, “Massive incompetence is a kind of normative lifestyle”, “We have a kind of stupidity… and the mission is reduce the level of stupidity.”
BM: In this interview series we’re trying to get a sense of who the architect is by talking to the people closest to them. The hope that by filling in the area around the subject in great detail we can create something like a silhouette of a profession. I’ve been anxious to speak with you, because education is such an important part of understanding where architects come from.
MW: It’s a very interesting concept, and it immediately begs the question: what is an architect? For me, it’s quite simple: an architect is someone who doesn’t know what a building is. That is to say, someone for whom a building is a set of questions, rather than a set of answers. Almost everybody knows what a building is, but the architect is someone for whom the building is filled with mystery.
What’s interesting then about the school is that you’re training a group of people and what holds them in common is that they don’t know what a building is. So, actually, in a school you can’t simply deliver a set of information about what architecture is and a set of professional procedures for accomplishing that. I like your concept of the silhouette: in a way, what you can do is deliver the silhouette of the big questions, the big doubts. Interestingly, architects are not allowed to share that doubt in public. In fact, architects are called on to do quite the opposite, to produce images of certainty and security, stability, and so on. So that an odd assignment – you take the one group in society who sees objects as full of mystery and you ask them to invest those objects with the symbolism of certainty.
What that means is that there is a big difference between the public and the private in architecture. If you look inside an architect’s head, I think it’s pretty messy and yet the work they do is very clear. If you look inside an architect’s studio, it’s a mess, but when they present to the client it’s very clear. When you look inside an architectural school it’s pretty messy, but then you look at the publications and the website, and everything seems very clear. Publicly, architects are certain, sure, confident, precise; privately they really don’t know what they’re doing, how they’re doing, why, and so on. This is not to say that they’re ignorant. On the contrary, architects have been talking amongst themselves about what a building is for 3000 years in the west, 10,000 years in the non-west and so on.
- Habitus 05: Moscow
The next edition of my friend Josh’s journal Habitus is dropping soon. I’ve written about this wonderful project before (Issue 03: Buenos Aires, Issue 04: New Orleans) and I haven’t received the issue yet, so I’ll keep this post brief. Buy it.
Table of contents and a video interview with one of the issue’s contributors, the photographer Jason Eskenazi after the break.
- United New
My friend Rem just opened the flagship store for his shoe brand United Nude. His work is amazing and the store looks wicked and although I couldn’t make it I heard the opening party was great. Here’s a little something from the press release:
United Nude, a brand founded by architect Rem D Koolhaas and Galahad JD Clark opens a flagship store in Amsterdam on October 22, 2009. Located in the prestigious city center address of Spuistraat 125, United Nude presents their concept, the Wall of Light™. United Nude is distributed in over 300 points of sale worldwide in over 30 territories. Up next for the brand in early 2010, are flagship stores in Shanghai and New York.
But better yet get your ass down to the store and buy some shoes. It’s located at Spuistraat 125A, adjacent to Dam Square in Amsterdam. Open 7 days a week.
- DJ Haas: Women are beautiful
Another amazing mix from my friend DJ Haas. The third in his Stupidtelligent series and maybe his best ever. Hosted by Richard Pryor (in a way).
DJ Haas – Stupidtelligent 3: Women are beautiful
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01 – Angels Instr. – Diddy & Dirty Money
02 – Fat LAdy Sings – Raekwon
03 – La La La – De La Soul
04 – True Love – Apathy feat. Phonte
05 – Fear Instr. – Drake
06 – Fear – Drake
07 – She dont have to see you (to see through you) – Bobby Patterson
08 – Soft Hoop – Metro Area
09 – Scorpio – Dennis Coffey
10 – Boriken Soul (dub mix) – Yonurican
11 – LAtrifying – Dam Funk
12 – Where’s My Money (Caspa remix) – TC
13 – Heartbeat – Nneka
14 – It’s Not Over (Skream remix) – Klaxons
15 – ReUp – Joker
16 – Miracles – Jamie Vexd
17 – Happy Feelings – Maze & Franky Beverly
18 – Seventh Dangerous Match – Scientist
19 – Love Hangover acapella – Diana Ross
20 – 2-D – Skream
21 – Ribbon in the Sky – Lloydie Crucial
22 – Sweet Love – M Beat
23 – The What acapella – Notorious BIG
24 – Run ‘Em Out (Ft. Roots Manuva) – Breakage
25 – Punanny – Admiral Bailey
26 – Go Go Club Riddim Instr.
27 – Bike Back – Blak Ryno
28 – Bill – Gaza Kim
29 – A Nuh Whore – DeMarco
30 – Knock Knock – OG Ron C & Pleasure P
31 – Be Mine – Donaeo
32 – In The Morning – Egypt
33 – I Should Have Cheated – Keyshia Cole
- Brett Domino all over your…
DJs it’s all up to you.
A while ago, I made a big post about nerd music where I tried to break down the various subsets of the category. It’s become an ongoing project and I always try to keep an eye out for new examples, and so I was suitably pumped earlier today when my friend Josh sent me a link to this video…
It’s by 2/3 of the Brett Domino Trio, a group music lovers out of Leeds. I can’t get enough of this clip. Check out more of their stuff on Brett Domino’s youtube channel, including an epic MJ tribute performed on the keytar.
- Read this man!
My homey and former roommate Jason Horowitz just started his new job as staff writer at the Washington Post. Jason is a good friend, a dangerous drinking partner, and real deal journalist. He paid his dues writing for years for the New York Observer, and I’m very happy he now has a bigger platform.
His first Post piece is about the Cheney family’s rapidly enlarging sphere of darkside influence. Here’s the opener:
Good morning, you’ve reached the offices of Cheney, Cheney & Cheney.
Mary Cheney, the daughter of former vice president Dick Cheney and the sister of go-to Obama critic Liz Cheney, is leaving the political consulting firm Navigators Global to start her own consulting company, and multiple sources familiar with her plans say she will not be going it alone.
“She told me she is going to be starting a firm with her dad and sister,” said one friend of Mary’s, with whom she has shared her plans.
Read the rest here.
Keep up with all of Jason’s articles here.
And definitely look through his very impressive back catalog of Observer stories here.
- Editalk with Jen Sigler
I’m in 60-year-old China now, but I’ve got one last bit of business from Holland to attend to.
I mentioned a little while ago that I’m doing an interview series for Domus China. The basic idea is to try get a sense of what architecture is by talking to people who are not architects themselves but who contribute in one way or another to architecture. So far that’s included graphic designers (Michael Rock of 2×4), 3D renderers (Lu Zhenggang of Crystal CG), curators (Barry Bergdoll of MoMA), engineers (Rory McGowan of Arup), etc.
A couple months ago I had the pleasure to talking to Jennifer Sigler, mother, motivator, and next level editor. Jen schooled me when I was a freaked out kid trying to make a book for OMA. She was then and remains the world’s leading expert, having been responsible for OMA’s greatest book S,M,L,XL.
Anyway, here’s the conversation. Long as hell, but very worthwhile to read for all the previously unknown S,M,L,XL back stories among other things…
Brendan McGetrick: The aim of this series is to try to understand the experiences of people who work with architects and find out what they give and receive in the collaboration. I want to begin with the basics. How did you start editing?
Jennifer Sigler: Actually I started making books as a kid… writing, drawing, cutting and pasting words and images and letters from magazines to construct these stories. I was less interested in writing the stories than in assembling them – in arranging these sequences and stapling them together. The act of turning pages has always been important. There’s drama in that—suspense, engagment. It’s physical.