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Leo Borchard (b. March 31, 1899, Moscow - d. August 23, 1945, Berlin)


On this day in 1945 the conductor Leo Borchard was killed by an American sentry in occupied Berlin while the musician was being driven home after conducting a concert of the Berlin Philharmonic. His British driver had misinterpreted the sentry's hand signal to stop.*

Three months earlier the artist had been appointed to replace the somewhat-compromised, and now-exiled Wilhelm Fürtwangler as musical director of the orchestra. At the time of Borchard's death he had conducted 22 hugely-welcome and greatly-acclaimed concerts, wining the affections of the traumatized population of the shattered city.

Born in Moscow to an ethnic German family in 1899, Borchard grew up in St. Petersburg, studying there before moving to Berlin, after the Russian Revolution, in 1920. In the German capital he was enjoying an increasingly important conducting career, which included promoting the music of young composers, when he was declared undesirable by the Nazi regime in 1935, for protecting Jewish musicians and for being "politically unreliable".

He remained in the city, hiding his identity, and gave music lessons in his apartment. He also became a member of the German resistance, and, along with his stunningly-beautiful partner, the author Ruth Andreas-Friedrich, formed the humanitarian resistance group, Onkel Emil ("Onkel Emil" was their warning signal), a secret network which committed sabotage, destroyed Nazi propaganda materials and broadcast their own leaflets - and those of the tragic "White Rose". They expertly created fake medical certificates which would enable the bearer to avoid military service. They rescued war resisters, political enemies of the regime and, above all, Jews, finding hiding places, procuring food, supplying false identity cards, and supporting families which would otherwise be without resources or protection..

I first heard about Borchard years ago while reading the memoirs of various members of the Widerstand, some of whom referred to him, always with love and admiration - for both the man and his art. At the time I could find very little information about either. Although even now very little has turned up, there are a precious few recordings, and at least one video.

I've also learned about the two memoirs** written by Andreas-Friedrich, one about her experience during the war, the other about Berlin in the years immediately following. I expect to read them both.


*
Borchard wasn't the only victim of American security forces in Europe that year: Anton Webern was killed three weeks later in Mittersill, near Salzburg, on September 15th. The composer had gone there from Vienna to be safe, but that night, just before the military curfew, when he stepped outside his house in order to smoke a cigar, he was shot by an American Army soldier, in circumstances which are not really clear to this day..


**
"Berlin Underground, 1938-1945", and "Battleground Berlin: Diaries 1945-1948"


[image from Discogs]

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detail of Stampflehmbauweise (rammed-earth process) wall


Berlin's Kapelle der Versöhnung (chapel of the reconciliation) was built on the exact site of the Versöhnungskirche, which had survived the Anglo-American bombings of Berlin but not the pathology of the GDR. The 1895 church was destroyed in 1985 in order to improve the security of the wall standing adjacent to it. The history is a little complex, making the story of the new chapel, and its construction, even richer than it might be otherwise.

Today the Kapelle is a part of the Berlin Wall Memorial on Bernauer Strasse.

The image at the top shows pieces of various materials (which here or elsewhere include stone, tile glass) which came from the rubble of the original church.

This is a view of the entire chapel, the rammed-earth wall can be detected behind the vertical square-section raw wood slats:

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large detail of the seating in the anatomical theater


It was an immense privilege to visit the newly-restored 1789/90 Tieranatomische Theater in Berlin's Humboldt University today. The building, designed by Carl Gotthard Langhans, using Palladio's Villa Rotonda as a model, was commissioned by King Frederick William II to serve as a research centre to control and combat animal and equine diseases.

Barry and I, along with our friend Daniel, were almost alone today while we explored the outer rooms, the staircases, the vault, and especially the remarkable steeply-tiered auditorium where veterinary students learned their profession.

Horses and other large animals were dissected by their teachers on a large round platform which could neatly be raised above and lowered below the floor in the center by the wooden machinery designed by the architect. The didactic which accompanied a working model in the undercroft explained the rational for the device: The route chosen for introducing and removing the bodies to and from the elegant space was intended to minimize both the smell and the mess.

As history and architecture buffs, our own experience in the former royal veterinary faculty was less critical to world betterment, but possibly more exhilarating. And incidentally, the museum attendants could not have been more gracious.

The university will be using the building, restored between 2005 and 2012, for exhibitions and events. The artist Jodie Carey's site-specific piece, "Shroud", was installed in the auditorium in July. I wish we had seen it.


There are more pictures here.

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David Greenspan, Ugo Chukwu, Rachel Claire, Amir Darvish, Meg MacCary, & Susan Hyon ("Yiddish Theater for today's players and audience" - from the program notes)


Resembling Edith Sitwell's enormous rings, the colorful bosses were attached at the very top of raw wooden sticks tethered to each other at the ends of the outer seating sections inside the Abrons Art Center. The only thing clear was that the audience was not supposed to take those seats.

So what were those gorgeous, jewel-like ornaments all about?

I never found the answer. When the lights went up after Target Margin Theater's presentation of Peretz Hirschbein's "The ( * ) Inn", Barry and I were so affected by what we had just seen on the stage that neither of us thought to investigate. By the time we had engaged some of the production team in conversation moments later I had forgotten to ask for any enlightenment.

Thinking about it now, I may also have decided, unconsciously or not, to just go along with - can I say it? - the company's accustomed, and famously challenging obstruseness. Also, it's not impossible to imagine TMT's founder and the production's director, David Herskovits, merely wanting to keep the audience's experience intimate, by limiting its size.

The play (in English, although with some Yiddish elements), and the production, were both a revelation, but I also left the theater with a lot of questions, all of them, I think, far more interesting than why the paste jewelry?

Some of my questions relate to my passion for history and for Jewish culture, and some of them are more about how that history and culture relates to that of the ammei ha'aretzot.

I grew up in the Midwest, ignorant of Jewish anything.

I also grew up loving "The Goldbergs", first on radio, and then on TV, but I regret that I had little or no idea of the rich context of the drama of which Gertrude Berg was a part until decades later. I moved to New York in the mid-80's, but it was too late for the classic Yiddish theater scene on Second Avenue. Over the years, I sometimes overhear fragments of the little bit of Yiddish that survived the Holocaust, but it always makes me melancholy, and it made me still sadder that, even with a knowledge of German, I couldn't understand more.

Hirschbein's play was written over 100 years ago, but there are big surprises. Both in the original (as I understand from the program notes) and as adapted & directed by Herskovits for performance on the Lower East Side today it's a remarkable document of the almost-forgotten creativity of experimental Yiddish theater. The company's notes describe their collaboration:


The shtetl turns uncanny in Hirschbein's classic of Yiddish life. You might be expecting the farm life, the chicken-plucking and the arranged marriage, but not the S&M lust and the body-snatching wedding guests. The ( * ) Inn was an early touchstone for experimental theater in Yiddish, a sensation in Vilna, in London and in a 1917 New York production. This play is a perfect example of why we at TMT believe Yiddish drama is as innovative and challenging as any in the world. It's Tevye on drugs. Watch out.


"The ( * ) Inn" is a great treat as theater, as an eyeopener, and - almost uniquely - as pre-WWI expressionist drama which can be experienced live today. I can't say I know all of what Hirschbein and Herskovits mean. As with all good theater, I believe, they leave the audience wanting to know more.

And I still don't know what the ornaments strung along the aisle mean; I'll just imagine those jewels as "runway lights" for the gem being mounted on the boards off Grand Street this month, TMT's tribute to Yiddish theater and to "the Yiddish Maeterlinck".


[image is by Erik Carter, for Target Margin Theater]


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The end of our ArtCat Calendar, a project which Barry and I began eight years ago, whose mechanics he has pursued with great skill, generous commitment, and much love, was announced this morning on Twitter, in emails, and in a post which he published on Bloggy.com. I have reprinted that post below.


The first version of ArtCat calendar (then called ArtCal) launched in November 2004. I wrote the first version in one weekend, to make it easier for James and me to keep track of shows we wanted to see, especially once Chelsea reached 300 galleries. For a long time it was a minimal website with locations, shows, and their dates -- not even images. Over time I added images, iCal and RSS feeds, and a weekly newsletter.

Over 16,000 exhibitions at more than 2,000 venues have appeared on ArtCat. We average 200-300 current exhibitions on the site. While forms for galleries to add their exhibits have existed since late 2010, we still view each submission to approve it, for quality control and to prevent duplicates. That is the most time-consuming part of running the site. We also spend a lot of time processing corrections due to galleries submitting new version of press releases, or correcting typos and erroneously-submitted dates.

Advertising revenue, even if one assumes my time is free, does not currently cover the cost of hosting the site plus paying someone to help me with approving submissions and responding to corrections. The calendar does serve as promotion for ArtCat Hosting, but the value of that, versus having more time to improve ArtCat Hosting, is unclear. Most of my hosting clients do not mention the calendar when signing up.

Advertising revenue has averaged $250/month over the last year, primarily due to the support of Storefront Bushwick and Deborah Brown. Other advertisers have included Theodore:Art and Kianga Ellis Projects. Note that all of these are Brooklyn-based. Since I ended the Culture Pundits advertising network, there have been no advertisements from a Chelsea or Lower East Side gallery. During the entire 4 1/2 year run of Culture Pundits, only two commercial galleries in New York advertised with the network.

Charging for listings, for a calendar that wants to maintain quality and promote underknown artists and galleries, is a non-starter. It is apparent to me, after eight years, that there is no financial support for an art calendar of this kind.

I don't have the resources and time to continue to run the calendar by myself in its current form. I am spread too thinly to do a good job of running ArtCat, improving ArtCat Hosting, promoting and publishing IDIOM, documenting our art collection, and actually getting out to see art. Of course, I also have to make a living through my freelance work. My goal is to narrow the focus of my work I do within the art world, and do one or two things very well, rather than provide lesser versions of many things. As the wonderful Michael Mandiberg pointed out here, there are limits to one's time/labor/capital and it's healthy to move one when the time feels right.

I will convert the site to an archive as of January 1, 2013. If someone is interested in the code and data (it is a Ruby on Rails 2.3 application), I'm ready to talk. The ArtCat name and domain will stay with me, as I own the trademark for it, to be used specifically for my art website hosting business.

If you would like to express your gratitude in some way, please consider a tax-deductible donation to IDIOM.


Please think about how, with even a modest amount of support, you might help IDIOM continue to publish and flourish. Thank you.

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Eduardo Leandro leading members of Ensemble Pi in Kristin Nordeval's "Three Character Studies"


On Saturday Ensemble Pi [Ensemble Π] presented "What Must be Said", its 7th annual Concert for Peace at The Cell, a jewelbox non-profit theater space carved out of the bottom floors of a handsome, early-19th-century Chelsea townhouse. I was delighted to be able to record some images from the concert. By the way, I've decided that the hardest part about photographing performances may be the thing about trying hard not to annoy the rest of the audience.

The evening was one of the most extraordinary and profoundly-moving musical performance events I have ever experienced. The concert was conceived and presented with an intelligence and compassion which intensified the independent merits and beauties of the (seven?) works scheduled. The pieces included were by one writer and three composers all of whose work performed that night, as described by The Cell in its press release, "addresses some of the 'silences' enforced or suggested by governments or the media". All of the works were compelling for their historical and contemporary relevance, brilliant in their composition, and interpreted with consummate elegance by an ensemble which has adopted the most generous of missions.

The collective describes itself as "a socially conscious new music group dedicated to performing the music of living and undiscovered composers", but that description doesn't do justice to the sincerity and bravery of what the group, under its artistic director Idith Meshulam, has been doing for eleven years.

One constant in its programming, perhaps unique among both musical groups and performance venues, is its addressing of serious ideas about which there is not universal consensus even among progressives, and, just as important, the discussion of those ideas. Designed at least partly towards that end are the ensemble's regular collaborations with visual artists, writers, actors, and journalists.


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Airi Yoshioka and Idith Meshulam playing Susan Botti's "Fallen City"

On Saturday and Sunday the program began with Susan Botti's "Lament: The Fallen City", for violin and piano, which, the program describes, "reflects upon the fall of Troy as a metaphor for modern cities that have experienced natural or human-made disaster (i.e. Baghdad; New Orleans; Pisco, Peru; or Greensburg, Kansas)". I've never heard some of the kinds of sounds Airi Yoshioka (violin) and Idith Meshulam (piano) were able to produce in this affecting piece, but they were always as eloquent as they were anomalous.


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Kai Moser reading Günter Grass' "What Must be Said"

Günter Grass' controversial poem on Israel, Iran and war, "Was gesagt werden muss" [What Must Be Said], from which the evening took its title, was read in German (with an English translation projection) by Kai Moser. Grass has gotten hell for what he wrote, not least because of his earlier, late-life confession that he had been part of an SS tank division (drafted at 17) near the end of the war.


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Kristin Nordeval singing "Ask Me", from her "Three Character Studies"

The concert began a transformation into intimate musical theater with the performance of "Three Character Studies", excerpts from composer/soprano Kristin Norderval's opera in progress, "The Trials of Patricia Isasa". Both Emily Donato and Daniel Pincus sang beautifully, Donato in the role of the teenage Isasa, and Daniel Pincus as the federal judge convicted for his role in the torture and kidnapping of many Argentinians, including Isasa. Norderval herself was the superb soloist in the the third section (as the adult Patricia, now a media figure), accompanying herself with some sound processing on her laptop near the end.

This beautiful and very moving piece could be staged as a mini opera on its own right now, and I very much look forward to hearing the completed opera, which will boast a powerful libretto by playwright Naomi Wallace.


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a scene from An den kleinen Radioapparat [to the little radio]


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from Und es sind die finstern Zeiten in der fremden Stadt [the times are dark and fearful]


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the concluding, concentration camp scene, Harte Menschheit, unbewegt, lang erfror'nem Fischvolk gleich [people hard and impassive, like fishermen long at sea]


The evening continued with the premiere of "Eisler on the Go", a beautiful, animated puppet show by the New York collaborative, Great Small Works, on the life of Hanns Eisler. The composer's studiedly-accessible music, his personality and his loyalties, his proletarian activism, and his sad fate (beginning long before he was expelled from the U.S. as a communist), has been something of an obsession for me ever since I first came across his music and his story a number of years ago; I'm very happy to find lately that his fans are now becoming legion.

The tiny-theater show animated three of the most familiar of Eisler's many songs, each sung by Nordeval. They were: "Song von Angebot und Nachfrage", "An den kleinen Radioapparat", and "Und es sind die finstern Zeiten in der fremden Stadt" [the links are to three awesome videos, with three very different performers; enjoy].


After the Puppenspiel Meshulam played the first movement of the composer's "Piano Sonata No. 3" and his "Klavierstück Op. 32 no V and VI", gently bringing the chamber back from the darkness, the anger and the funk - brilliantly.


The program was repeated the following night.

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Nancy Spero "Tattoo" 1996 silkscreen


Barry and I love art and the art world, or at least most of the art world. We were recently rudely reminded of the part we don't like.

One month ago we asked for permission to reproduce an image which I had photographed myself, of a work we own, which was created by a great artist we much admire. We wanted to add a photo to the entry in our collection site, and also to include an image of it on a card announcing a show at English Kills Art Gallery. The work is "Tattoo", a 1996 print by Nancy Spero (1926-2009), and it was going to be included in the large group installation inside the Bushwick gallery.

The owner, Chris Harding, had approached us with the idea for the show, and he had selected 46 pieces from among the works mounted inside our apartment. I think his very first choice was the Spero; it was certainly his first choice for the invitation, and we were delighted with his pick. We're very fond of the artist, and we treasure the piece itself.

Once we were told it would be Spero, we set about to get photo permission from the estate. We wrote first to Galerie Lelong, which represents the artist. They asked us to send an image and to explain further the purposes for which it would be used. They would then forward the request to the estate. About two weeks later we were told it had been approved, and that an agreement form would follow, meaning the final paperwork to authorize the copyright, from VAGA (the Spero estate's licensing agent).

Everyone on our end got very excited. It seemed we would make the printing deadline, and the world would now see a little more of Nancy Spero.

Two days later we heard directly from VAGA for the first time, and this time the news was not so good: We had proposed a large detail of the print for the face of the card, believing it would be more easily read and more compelling in the 5 x7 inch format, but they would not approve cropping of any kind. Also, we would have to come up with hundreds of dollars in "copyright license fees" for the right to use it for the invitation and for the right to display it on our collection website; the fee for the latter would have to be paid every 5 years.

Now we are both pretty well known as activists opposed to camera prohibitions as found sometimes in galeries but much more commonly in museums - and also opposed to the current national obsession with prohibiting cameras almost everywhere else - but we generally abide by the photography rules, and never more scrupulously than in uploading images of art onto our on-line collection site. We have entered more than 800 pieces there, and while we'd like to show a proper image of each, that will require not only time, but also the permission of the artist or the estate. In the meantime we will not show anything larger than a thumbnail, since the artist retains the rights to reproduction.

We have never been refused when we have asked for an okay, except for one extraordinary circumstance, and we certainly have never been asked for money.

I wrote back to the gallery and to VAGA, explaining what we do, that we have not and do not intend to ever sell the art we own, and that absolutely no money was going to change hands in the mounting of the show (although I didn't go so far as to describe English Kills as the un-Mary Boone). I got a response saying that the representative for the estate and VAGA had jointly agreed to give us a 20% discount on the fee for the 5-year website JPEG license, but not for the card reproduction. We were told however that we could not publish or print anything until after the estate was persuaded that "Tattoo" was actually a Spero work. The letter added that the process of gathering the information they needed would help authenticate it for our own records and for the forthcoming Catalogue Raisonné*.

I have to say that we have absolutely no quarrel with Galerie Lelong's part in the negotiations; in fact we were pleased by the gallery's courtesy and quick response, especially as it was over a holiday weekend.

After that last letter from VAGA we walked away, and instead went with the wonderful Alejandro Diaz image, "Esta Galeria", which can be seen on the invitation. Also, we have not uploaded a larger-size image of the Spero on the collection site.

Several notes (really just a start):

1) Neither the gallery nor the estate had an image of the work we own, and it seems pretty clear that they didn't know it even existed until I wrote to the gallery.

2) The Estate, or VAGA, was happy to charge us money to show an image I took of a work we ourselves owned, and of which it knew nothing; only when I responded in surprise at being asked to pay did anyone show any interest in the art itself.

3) The non-commercial purposes, of the collection and the show, are quite clear, and were made apparent to the gallery, the artist's estate, and VAGA more than once, yet they wanted to exploit them.

4) Do artists really need a corporation to protect them from people like us? Incidentally, while one look at the VAGA site shows that they control the visibility of hundreds of dead artists, they are actually dwarfed by another property guardian, Artists Rights Society (ARS).

5) We have spoken to a number of younger artists about Nancy Spero, and very few have even heard of her or her work; perhaps we can now understand why.

6) Both Nancy and her partner of a half century, Leon Golub, in their lives and in their art, addressed power relations; it's inconceivable to me that either would want her/his art to be shielded from view.


* The last time we were a part of a Catalogue Raisonné project both we and the estate (of Mark Morrisroe, owned by Fotomuseum Winterthur) bent over backwards to help document an artist's work; there wasn't a hint of image insecurity.


[The image is only a thumbnail, and therefore almost completely useless, because I do not have permission from the artist's estate to publish a larger size; the framed print itself can be seen at English Kills Art Gallery through October 28]

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Installation view of a portion of the collection installed in the apartment, with works by David Reed (center), James Wagner (to the left). Photo by Fette


Chris Harding of English Kills Art Gallery has selected 48 works from our art collection, and will be showing them at his gallery in Bushwick, 9/21-10/28. Please join us at the opening, or come see it one weekend while it's up.


The press release:

English Kills Art Gallery has installed a few dozen works from the Hoggard Wagner Art Collection in an exhibition which opens with a reception this Friday, September 21, 2012 from 7 to 10 pm.

Barry Hoggard and James Wagner, who share an interest in all of the arts, have assembled a large, very personal and extremely diverse collection of visual art begun modestly by Wagner ten years before the two met in 1991.

They began by acquiring a few works to enjoy in their own home, but very soon realized that part of that enjoyment came from supporting artists, galleries and non-profits which they believed should be encouraged. They were concerned, however, that there are limits to the number of people who could see the work they took into their home (and only a fraction of the collection can actually be displayed there). It was largely to make it accessible to as many people as possible, and for information purposes, that they created the Hoggard/Wagner Collection website.

For the same reason, the couple enthusiastically agreed to the suggestion of English Kills that a part of the collection itself be installed in Bushwick for six weeks. The Gallery alone is responsible for the choice of works displayed; the selection was made from among the 300+ pieces visible on the walls and surfaces of their home. There are approximately 600 more in flat files.

Hoggard and Wagner have never sold a single work from the collection and they do not intend to do so. No sale of any kind is involved in the English Kills exhibition.

Artists include*: Nancy Spero, Keith Haring, David Reed, Wolfgang Tillmans, Clement Valla, Eric Doeringer, Sharon Louden, Felix Droese, Jules de Balincourt, Marco Breuer, Tom Fuhs, Bryan Zimmerman, Yasser Aggour, Michael J. Dvorkin, Deborah Mesa-Pelly, Jason Simon, Louise Fishman, Clarina Bezzola, Michael Meads, Mike Asente, Tracey Baran, Teresa Moro, Jaishri Abichandani, Rupert Deese, Alejandro Diaz, David Humphrey, Matt Dojny, Dan Golden, Gregory Botts, Rochelle Feinstein, Robert Wilson, Hiroshi Sunairi, Charles Goldman, Michael Williams, Wijnanda Deroo, Amy Feldman, Janine Gordon, Joe Ovelman, Kim Schifino, Joyce Pensato, Bruce High Quality Foundation, Margaret Lee, Ben Godward, Kiki Smith


*NOT INCLUDED in the list on the press release is the creator of this work, an artist whose name is currently unknown to us. Come see the show and help us to identify her or him. An image of the work is shown below.


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graduating Piggy Artists celebrate the breakthrough which made the Brucennial possible [from left to right: Ian Lassiter, Liz Olanoff, Joe Kay, Maria Dizzia, Matt Nasser]


Last night the earnest, tuneful sounds of the Bruce High Quality Foundation's production of Animal Farm: A Musical further enlivened the halls of an already almost-impossibly-vigorous second edition of the arts collective's Brucennial, first visited upon the unsuspecting city in 2010.

The fable, based only very loosely on Orwell's allegorical novella, describes the redemptive journey of "the graduating Piggy Artists of the class of 2012" (from the BHQF site) after their confrontation with their school's alleged penury; its chicken trustees' incompetence, cowardice, and stinginess, and their move toward charging tuition for the first time after 150 years; its greedy dog financial-advisors, and the dispersal, for a time, of the collective creative energy of the porcine members of the class itself.

While somewhere in BHQF materials there's a reference to the group's own institution of higher arts learning, the Bruce High Quality Foundation University, the real story of the high-spirited lets-put-on-a-show production is that of The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art and the handful(s) of former Cooper students which founded the collective in 2004.

Following the conclusion of the show one of the Bruce's made a very straight appeal to members of the audience, asking them to help ensure that the college on Cooper Square not betray its legacy as a pure meritocracy: It was founded by the self-made industrialist Peter Cooper to give young people the opportunity of the good education he never had, a tuition-free school whose facilities were open to anyone who applied.

We were asked to go to freecooperunion.com for more information, and to spread its words. Those of the Bruce High Quality Foundation University anthem, printed inside Sunday's handsome "Playbill", offer an inspiration:


Every Pig is an artist.
No pig flies alone.
Teaching others is our greatest work.
We can't do it on our own.


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[second image, the program cover, from GalleristNY]

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Mr. Holz inside his hotel room in City-A


Have you ever sat in a theater watching a film and wished it would go on forever? Eve Sussman and the Rufus Corporation have made a film which can do just that. "whiteonwhite:algorithmicnoir" is installed inside a Chelsea gallery, complete with several rows of theater-style seats, for just one more week. While the hours at Cristin Tierney are finite (10 am - 6 pm), the film can theoretically run forever, never repeating itself and never coming to an end.

Ideally it should be installed in a space accessible 24 hours a day, and it should be there permanently. But even in its current arrangement it was one of the most beautiful, spellbinding films I've ever seen, and I was there for less than an hour. As I could never expect to actually move in with it, just knowing that it was essentially "open" at either end of my own experience of it may be enough.

I still want to go back.

It's a gorgeous, ustopian-noir algorithmically-shuffled continuously-evolving work, with a stunning soundtrack equal to the its astonishing images.


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Mr. Holz in Yuri's office


[images are stills, large details, captured from the installation]

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