August 2007 Archives

Antoine-Jean Gros "Battle of Abukir" 1806
but it never, ever looks like this

"Petraeus says Iraq 'surge' working" (headline of lead Reuters story on Yahoo!)

Do they think we have a hundred years to work on it? Do they think we're actually going to be able to stay? Do they actually expect we can establish any order whatsoever? Is our order their order? Under what mandate are we going to continue to occupy and terrorize another people? Have they any idea how these things always turn out? Do they know this is a grotesque imperialism, regardless of what they choose to call it this time around? Can we, and can the rest of the world, afford the luxury of our deceit, our mistakes, our illusions?

Don't they realize we know their speeches by heart?

Leopold's Congo (1885-1908)

French Indo-China (1887-1954)

Portuguese Angola (1486-1975)

Italian East Africa (1936-1942)

British South Africa (1795-1961)

American Phillipines (1899-1946)

Soviet Afghanistan (1979-1988)

Chinese Tibet (1950-?)

Japanese Nanjing (1937-1945)

Japanese Manchukuo (1932–1945)

German eastern Reich (1938-1945)

French North Africa (1830-1962)

Ottoman southeastern Europe (1453-1919)

British Ireland (1171-1921-?)

Spanish Netherlands (1579-1713)

Russian empire (1654-1991-?)

United States empire (?-1898-?)

[image from allthingsbeautiful]


A piece of amber 15 to 20 million years old, found in the Dominican Republic, contains a perfectly-preserved bee within it. The news seems to be all about the fossilized orchid pollen on the insect's back, and how it demonstrates that orchids were around during the age of the dinosour, but for me the wonder begins with the integrity and beauty of the carcass of this incredibly ancient worker bee; it would look as good had it been alive until a few minutes ago. It's also interesting to think about how much better this gal is doing than any of those Pharohs who were buried, what, a couple seconds ago?

For the science geeks, the biologists tell us that although the pollen and its carrier are only 15 to 20 million years old, they were able to use their examination of the pollen and a molecular-clock analysis to estimate the age of the orchid family, which they date to about 80 million years ago, some 15 million years before the extinction of the dinosaurs. Okay, that's pretty cool too.

No wiggle room for the creationists there.

CORRECTION: I've been reminded [see comment] that worker bees are in fact female; I have accordingly corrected a noun used in the text above. My apologies and my respects to a very long line of exquisite creatures.

[image of Santiago Ramirez from Reuters via the Globe and Mail]

we have a history

Except to most of the poor citizen infantry of every description and every station which it has been enlisting for six years, the so-called "war on terror" has always been fundamentally about controlling the powerless - and sustaining the power of the powerful.

By 2001, after almost a century of the political and social distortions and perversions committed in the name of fighting what ordinary folk were told was their enemy both outside the country and in their midst, the dreaded "Red Terror" had melted away. The lies which had succeeded in destroying the American Left had to be remodeled. A new devil had to be invented. And surprise! The Arab/Muslim world, the new monolithic (conceptualized) enemy, showed up on our doorsteps just in time.

Fifty years ago Senator Joseph McCarthy had shown us exactly how to go about fighting our imaginary devils. Some New Yorkers seem to have taken their cues directly from the American witchhunt which managed to silence or send into exile, among so many others, Charlie Chaplin, W.E.B. DuBois, Clifford Odets, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Paul Robeson, Bertholt Brecht, Hans Eisler and Pete Seeger.

You'd think that after 230 years what is now the strongest and richest nation in the world might finally be able to stand up for its professed principles and stop crippling itself in regular paroxysms of fear about real or imagined enemies allegedly capable of undoing us all.

I've wanted to write something on this story since it first broke, but what I knew about its complexity discouraged me from trying to do so in any compact form. Maybe the controversy about a school's conception and the form it was to assume had to be separated from what happened afterward.

Today the NYTimes carries a column on the Education page by Samuel C. Freedman, Columbia professor of journalism, which manages to assemble the basic facts and calmly describe the enormously-important issues involved. It's an appalling story of a distinguished teacher and social activist being defamed and peremptorily removed from a public post because of a racist, cultist and nativist stupidity and hysteria driven by media and political operatives and bosses representing the most shameful political opportunism, or deliberate calculation.

And remember this is in the multicultural, polyglot, ethnic cornucopia of New York City. From Freedman's piece in the Times:

“I hope it burns to the ground just like the towers did with all the students inside including school officials as well,” wrote an unidentified blogger on the Web site Modern Tribalist, a hub of anti-immigrant sentiment. A contributor identified as Dave responded, “Now Muslims will be able to learn how to become terrorists without leaving New York City.”

Not to be outdone, the conservative Web site Political Dishonesty carried this commentary on Feb. 14:

“Just think, instead of jocks, cheerleaders and nerds, there’s going to be the Taliban hanging out on the history hall, Al Qaeda hanging out by the gym, and Palestinians hanging out in the science labs. Hamas and Hezbollah studies will be the prerequisite classes for an Iranian physics. Maybe in gym they’ll learn how to wire their bomb vests and they’ll convert the football field to a terrorist training camp.”

Thus commenced the smear campaign against the Khalil Gibran International Academy and, specifically, Debbie Almontaser. For the next six months, from blogs to talk shows to cable networks to the right-wing press, the hysteria and hatred never ceased. Regrettably, it worked.

Ms. Almontaser resigned as principal earlier this month.

The school is designed to be entirely secular. It is named for a Lebanese-born Christian poet and visual artist who lived in New York. Eventually it is to include the sixth through twelfth grades, offering classes such as math and science in both Arabic and English. The academy will be one of more than 60 existing dual-language city schools teaching in languages such as Russian, Spanish and Chinese. The new principal unfortunately does not speak Arabic, but the fact that she is a Jew rather than an Arab might not have been a problem for the school's cosmopolitan namesake.

For a richer perspective read this excellent narrative from Steve Quester, a New York educator, activist and friend of mine, who is familiar with Almontaser's work.

There's also an excellent piece, "Jewish Shootout Over Arab School", in The Jewish Week, from which I have excerpted a section describing Almontaser's place in the larger community and the dismay of one wise and compassionate Jew concerned about what the incident will mean to his own community as well as that of New York City and even the nation as a whole:

Almontaser, a public school teacher and administrator, was born in Yemen but immigrated here when she was three. Since 9/11, the slight woman in a hijab had emerged as a prominent advocate in the Muslim community for reaching out and working with other faiths. After the attacks her son, an Army Reserve officer, served as a rescue worker at Ground Zero.

Among other things, Almontaser had invited hundreds of Jews and Christians to her own home in the wake of the terrorist attack to help defang fear and anger towards Muslims. She had joined social action groups, such as We Are All Brooklyn, an inter-ethnic initiative supported by JCRC [the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater New York], to combat hate crimes in the dense, mixed neighborhoods of that borough. She had trained with ADL’s anti-bias program, A World of Difference, to become a better facilitator for diversity training and inter-group dynamics in the public schools.

Rabbi [Michael] Paley, a scholar-in-residence with UJA-Federation, warned that the prominent role played by a faction within the Jewish community in the attack on her would “come back and bite us. This begins to destroy the America that's been so good to us.” Rabbi Paley, who has met Almontaser during interfaith activities, emphasized that in his remarks on this issue he was speaking only for himself and not his organization.

“The most important thing to know about the Muslim community here is that it replicates the Jewish community from many years ago,” he said. “These are people trying to become Americans as hard as they can, and also trying hard not to lose their identity, just as groups before them did.

“The idea that unless they pass an acid test — that Muslims are terrorists until proven innocent — will mean that none will pass. We are ultimately blocking them from becoming American,” he warned. The result, he said, would be an Arab immigrant community more isolated and less assimilated, “like the Arabs in France.” [my italics]

The message to the Arab-American community as a result of this debacle was, “You’re a fool to think they’ll accept you,” he said.

[image of James Pinckney Alley from Assumption College]


As the chief says, "we're still working on a few features and tweaking the design", but the new ArtCal site is now live. By next week at this time, with the opening of New York's vigorous fall gallery season, the nearly three-year-old site will be displaying more shows than ever before, but sorting them out will be easier than ever before. Some additional features have been added, and there will be more to come.

Go see for yourself.

The clean design is by Michael Mandiberg.

ruins of public toilet in ancient port of Ostia

Okay, even if no one has asked, does anyone want to know my take on the Senator Craig homosex arrest story? Well, it was actually my second thought, the less-than-honorable gentleman being a Republican, but it became paramount a few seconds after I began to read the arresting officer's account of the incident in Roll Call, the capitol Hill newspaper.

I think it's called "entrapment" when it happens to the people we think of as the good guys.

Isn't anyone else out there concerned about the fact that police officers in Minneapolis are being paid to sit inside airport bathroom stalls to trap guys interested in getting off?

[image from darkcreek]

Lovett/Codagnone All Work No Play 2007 vinyl lettering and mirror [installation view with detail reflection of two bloggers]

Barry and I were both very happy to be able to get to a Participant show this summer, since the gallery had to abandon its previous home on Rivington Street earlier this year. "Office Party" was the title of the gallery's very cool installation in its temporary quarters at Rental [check the link for press on the gallery itself and the press release for "Office Party"]. The show closed August 19, but we're hoping to hear soon about the new permanent address of this vital Downtown non-profit space.

The artists represented this summer, all addressing the idea of work or workplace, were Eric Heist, Lovett/Codagnone. DIana Punter, and Børre Sæthre. In the project room there were additional pieces on the theme by Stephen Andrews, Matthew Antezzo, Michel Auder, Lutz Bacher, Robert Boyd, Kathe Burkhart, Robin Graubard, Michael Lazarus, Virgil Marti, Laura Parnes, Luther Price, Adam Putnam, and Shellburne Thurber.

The gallery concept represented by Rental, now in both Los Angeles and New York, is an interesting and one welcome on both coasts. It helps to answer a genuine need for broadcasting the work of emerging artists in new milieaux, one which is almost never addressed otherwise.

This is Roberta Smith writing in the NYTimes May 25:

Rental, the latest addition to the expanding Lower East Side gallery scene, is the first one to have the light and views -- if not the interior design -- of a Chelsea space, thanks to its location on the sixth floor of a corner building with big windows. But that is not its distinguishing characteristic: true to its name, and like its predecessor in Los Angeles, Rental is for rent to selected out-of-town dealers. The first Rental was founded in 2005 by Daniel Hug and Joel Mesler; the New York version has been set up by Mr. Mesler.

This could unsettle the gallery scene's home-away balance of power in interesting ways. Dealers who give artists their first shows elsewhere will not necessarily have to hand them over to New York galleries to obtain exposure here. They can do the work, walk the walk and talk the spiel themselves.

untitled (convertible hair) 2007

These very healthy-looking sunflowers seemed to be enjoying the breeze while standing inside their tiny triangle of a park on Horatio Street this afternoon.

our shame and ignominy abstracted as a color which has become familiar to the entire world

This post is part of a series begun on May 21, 2007, which will continue until the U.S. concentration camps at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere around the world have been razed.

And from Iraq, a related story:

WASHINGTON, Aug. 24 — The number of detainees held by the American-led military forces in Iraq has swelled by 50 percent under the troop increase ordered by President Bush, with the inmate population growing to 24,500 today from 16,000 in February, according to American military officers in Iraq.

. . . .

“Interestingly, we’ve found that the vast majority are not inspired by jihad or hate for the coalition or Iraqi government — the vast majority are inspired by money,” said Capt. John Fleming of the Navy, a spokesman for the multinational forces’ detainee operations. The men are paid by insurgent leaders. “The primary motivator is economic — they’re angry men because they don’t have jobs,” he said. “The detainee population is overwhelmingly illiterate and unemployed. Extremists have been very successful at spreading their ideology to economically strapped Iraqis with little to no formal education."

Spreading the blessings of the American corrections system to needy people everywhere.


[fabric color swatch, otherwise unrelated to Guantanamo, from froggtoggs; second image by Benjamin Lowy via the NYTimes]




Some of our friends seem quite happy with the kind of weather that makes me pretty miserable. I snapped these happy guys on 10th Avenue in front of the Red Cat late Wednesday afternoon. It had rained lightly all day, and although it wasn't as warm as it is today, the humidity must have hovered around 100% when I passed them at six o'clock.

For the floriculturally challenged, the common names for these blossoms are, from the top, Impatiens, Hibiscus and Morning Glory.

Scot Kaplan Artist's Park 2007 mixed media, dimensions potentially variable [installation view]


We can never have too much park - or too many artists - and an "artist's park" sounds like a good thing to me, even if it's smaller than a nightstand. I came upon this piece by Scot Kaplan on the south side of West 24 Street while bouncing from one gallery to the next two days ago. Maybe it's also some kind of homage to the Beuys basalt pieces two blocks south on 22 Street. The sod looks like it just got there, but I did spot a small piece of cellophane and one bird feather lying on the grass.

The galleryese verbiage in the caption below the photo is mostly my invention.

I really hope this thing's a permanent installation.

Mike Kelly Carpet 7 2003 acrylic on carpet, mounted on wood panel 46.25" x 64.25"

Paul Lee Untitled 2007 cotton towel and ink 46" x 41" [installation view]

Jim Lambie Y-Footo 2002 mattress and silver vinyl tape 72" x 38" x 5" [installation view]

Bortolami's main space is devoted to "Substance & Surface", a group installation of work by a [baker's] dozen artists working here with monochromatic (and overwhelmingly colorless) non-traditional materials. The artists are Ghada Amer, John Armleder, Bozidar Brazda, Piero Golia, Thilo Heinzmann, Gregor Hildebrandt, Mike Kelley, Jim Lambie, Paul Lee, Glenn Ligon, Lovett/Codagnone, Daniel Joseph Martinez, Donald Sultan and Eric Wesley.

It's a beautiful show, beautifully installed. For this profane acolyte the experience may have ben a bit like what some people feel inside an austere house of worship.

Slava Mogutin Joey San Francisco, 1999 archival C-print mounted on aluminum 30" x 20"

Slava Mogutin Yellow Billboard Moscow, 2004 archival C-print mounted on aluminum 30" x 20"

There's nothing about this installation on the gallery's site, so I'm not sure about its status or (perhaps more importantly for visitors) its dates. I'm referring to an intense show of some work by Slava Mogutin and Justin Beal which I saw in the small room at Bortolami almost two weeks ago. Since I'm unable to call to the gallery office at this time of night, I'm going to assume it will remain up until August 31, when the show in the larger space closes.*

These ten photographs by Mogutin, sweetly-badass Russian poet and American visual artist, were made over a period of the last seven or eight years. I've seen some of them before, but I enjoyed the intelligence, the humor, the sophistication, the intimacy, the eroticism and the beauty in all the work on those walls as much or more than I have ever enjoyed his art before - which is to say, a lot.

Unfortunately I missed capturing an image of either of Beal's elegant floor sculptures, but I'm looking forward to seeing more of this artist's work. The furniture-size pieces at Bortolomi are composed, as they often are, in a mostly-monochromatic construction with at least one transparent element and any number of other re-configured common objects.

UPDATE: The gallery has now told me that "back room" will be open until August 28.


It seems that the tangled story at which I could only hint in my Tuesday post, "Ayn Rand linked to Deutsche Bank skyscraper tragedy?", has caused some serious bustle around the city desk at the NYTimes.

The lead story on the front page reports that the firm whose creators picked the Ayn Rand hero John Galt for its corporate name was a paper corporation with no employees. It had been assembled to insulate or hide its "integrity"-challenged owners and officers from the view of its clients, the people and officers of the New York community. This is the company which was given the lucrative contract to perform one of the most hazardous and certainly one of the most visible jobs in the city if not in the entire country.

Two firefighters died fighting a fire inside the building last Saturday, probably as the result of criminal negligence.

Meanwhile, inside the same section of the paper we learn in another story that the New York Fire Department hadn't inspected the Deutsche Bank building's standpipe or sprinkler system since 1996, in spite of the fact that twice-monthly inspections were mandatory for buildings under demolition. It seems the department was also aware that the sprinkler system was not working. Some have argued that the FDNY was unwilling or unequipped to enter a building permeated with the toxins that had necessitated its condemnation, but since demolition began firefighters had been in the building on at least two occasions for reasons unrelated to the standpipe or the sprinkler system.

[image of the two firefighters from NYFD via Gothamist]

Joy Garnett Storm 2006 oil on canvas 60" x 78"

Joy Garnett Road 2007 oil on canvas 30" x 35"

Regular readers of this blog already know how much Barry and I think of the prolific and innovative painter Joy Garnett, who continues to re-invent and re-ignite the found contemporary pictorial world. Garnett has two oil paintings in "Greener Pastures, Permanent Midnight", a beautiful small group show at Moti Hasson which continues until September 1. They're both terrific, but the smaller and darker work, "Road", is equally as dazzling as the larger and more fiery, "Storm".

The other artists in this spare installation, curated by Ingrid Chu, are Dike Blair, Franklin Evans, Emilie Halpern, and Katie Holten. Each of them would warrant a good look for their individual merits, but I only have images of two more pieces here.

Franklin Evans FF originsoflove02 2006 ink and watercolor on paper 20" x 13" [installation view]

Emilie Halpern Lightning #4 2006 thermoplastic, aluminum wire and mirrored acrylic 75" x 113" x 40" [large detail of installation]


Spc. Sam Ross

21 years old, 82nd Airborne, was wounded May 18, 2003 in Baghdad when a bomb blew up during a munitions disposal operation, leaving him blinded and an amputee. After many, surgeries, Ross was sent home to western Pennsylvania where he lives alone in a trailer, in one of the poorest counties in the state.

Photographed October 19, 2003 in the woods near his trailer in Dunbar Township, Pennsylvania.

"I lost my leg just below the knee. Lost my eyesight. I have shrapnel in pretty much every part of my body. Got my finger blown off. It don't work right. I had a hole blown through my right leg. You know, not really anything major. I get headaches. And my left ear, it don't work either."

"I don't have any regrets. It was the best experience of my life."


Cpl. Tyson Johnson III

22 years old, 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, was wounded September 20, 2003 in a mortar attack on the Abu Ghraib prison. He suffered massive internal injuries and is 100 percent disabled.

Photographed May 6, 2004 at his home in Prichard, Alabama.

"Most of my friends they were losing it out there. They would do anything to get out of there, do anything. I had one of my guys, he used to tell me, 'My wife just had my son. I can't wait to get home and see him.' And you know, he died out there. He sure did and I have to think about that everyday."

"I got a bonus in the National Guards for joining the Army. Now I've got to pay the bonus back and it's $2999. The Guard wants it back. It's on my credit that I owe them that. I'm burning on the inside. I'm burning."

There is nothing like this "summer show" anywhere in the city, if not the entire country.

Jen Bekman's current exhibition, "Purple Hearts" neither seeks nor requires an introduction. You may already have seen the book, but walk into the gallery's very neat pocket space on Spring Street on the Lower East Side before this deceptively-quiet installation closes on August 30. You will leave speechless, if not gasping for breath, while trying to understand how we got to this, and where do we go from here?

Nina Berman began this powerful body of work several years ago . Unfortunately her young portrait subjects had beaten her to it.

The gallery has scheduled a book-signing, reception and talk with the artist on Wednesday, August 29 from 6 to 8pm. Because of the gallery's small size, those who are interested in attending, or in reserving a book, are asked to rsvp [[email protected]]

[images from Jen Bekman]

skyscrapers have very complex lives

I've just read that the name of the sub-contracting company in charge of the demolition at the Deutsche Bank building is the John Galt Corporation. Who is John Galt? I immediately recognized the intriguing literary/political reference within the firm's name, and, regardless of what we eventually learn about the ultimate responsibility for the death of two firemen this week, the connection is likely to continue the fictional character's complex association with corporate greed and laissez-faire capitalism .

ADDENDA: I've turned up these few bits on the John Galt Corporation by searching Google and its cached links:

The firm is located at 3900 Webster Avenue in The Bronx [718-654-5300]; its principals are former executives of the Safeway Environmental Corp., a firm with its own history of problems; Galt's work at the Deutsche Bank site was already causing injury and incurring fines before this week; and finally, World Trade Center-area neighbors had expressed serious concerns about the firm's qualifications since early last year.

[image from wikipedia]

Billy Sullivan Christian 3 2004 pastel on paper 45" x 78" [large detail of installation]

A.L. Steiner Swift Path to Glory (James Dean auditions) 2003, 25 4" x 6" prints [detail of installation]

Sakura Maku Akira [no date] oil on canvas in 2 parts 39.5" x 30" (installed) [installation view]

David Humphrey Wrestlers 1997 oil on canvas 72" x 60" [installation view]

Sean Mellyn Pruning 2006 ink on paper 21" x 25.5" [large detail of installation]

Keith Boadwee Breakfast in America 2007 digital inkjet print 30" x 40" [large detail of installation]

Robert Marshall Silly Rabbit #3 1993 oil on paper on masonite 20" x 16" [installation view]


With "NeoIntegrity", curated by gallery artist Keith Mayerson, Derek Eller must come close to setting a record for the number of people represented in a single group show. In this case the salon-hung catalog comes in at just under 200, but the works really do share a connection, an adherence to "The NeoIntegrity Manifesto", as expressed in a remarkably percipient checklist which accompanies the exhibition:

1. Art should be reflective of the artist who made it, and the culture in which it is produced.

2. Art is aesthetic, and whether ugly, beautiful, or sublime, it should be interesting to look at and/or think about.

3. Art is not necessarily commodity, and commodity is not the reason to produce or appreciate art.

4. Art is about ideas, the progression of ideas, the agency of the artist to have ideas, the communication by the artist to the world of their ideas because agency and ideas are important and what art is.

5. Art communicates via its own internal language, and by the language the viewer brings to a work of art. But this language is not entirely textually based, and being an aesthetic object (or image[s], idea[s], comic, or happening[s]), the work communicates in such a way to be transcendent beyond language, and traditional constructs of textually based ideology. Therefore the work of art remains a deep communication between artist and viewer, and withholds the possibility of the sublime.

6. Art is rather than tells, it is about itself; it shows itself to be about what it is rather than being an illustration of what it isn't.

7. Art is important because it reminds us that we are human, and ultimately, that is its function.

8. Art can be, and should be sublime, in that it is able to produce images directly from the mind and imagination of the artist, producing tangible realities from the fertile imaginings of the conscious and unconscious of the artist, triggering responses from the same in the viewer via form and light and color, that transcends language and received ways of looking at things, that, while ideological, comes closest to directly communicating from one animal to another in the most broad, base, but considered aesthetic language possible.

9. Art should be alive, have a life of its own, transgress intended meaning or hand or wit of the artist in that it arranges, via form, light, color, and space, other worlds that are optical and transmit cognitive reactions in the mind of the viewer that cause an ineffable schism between belief and reality that cause the work as to appear to be breathing life.

10. Art can indeed be windows onto other worlds, windows into the soul, able to capture dream space/time unlike any other medium because they are produced by the mind, gesture, hand and intellect of the artist, who consciously or unconsciously cannot hope to ultimately control the meaning, interpretation, or event described by the hand and mind of the unconscious.

11. Art should be experienced: a good work of art cannot be successfully reproduced or explained, indeed, that is ultimately the only reason art is important in the age of corporate commodity culture: it has an aura that cannot be contained-it is a result of a peculiar man-made alchemy that comes closest to recreating the soul.

I've shown at the top a few of the striking images among so many, many others in this show, and I've taken the liberty of including with them some of the more outrageous of the lot - because I can, but also because outrageousness seems, properly, to set a good part of the tone for the whole exhibition.

The installation continues on West 27th Street through this Friday.

view through our open French doors on a cool, cloudy August afternoon

untitled (fuzz) 2007

Now it's just a website frippery, but this happy mix lining our courtyard-garden path makes me smile every time I walk through it.


Its neighbor's roses and its own arbor gate standing at the edge of the sidewalk are homey touches for this unreconstructed wooden Federal house on Green Street in Greenpoint. The house is built in exactly the same form as the typical urban row house but in fact, apart from late excrescences on either side, it's actually free-standing. It's probably a relic from the second quarter of the nineteenth century.


The almost-hidden eyebrow windows, the heavy flat moldings around the door and windows and the elegant porch columns express the period of this small Greek Revival house on Huron Street, one block south of the house shown above. I wonder however about the absence of a pediment, and the fluting on those Tuscan columns is a rather peculiar touch for the era. The house may in fact be older than its 1830's or 1840's fancy dress; I don't know how to explain the fluting.

Both of these survivors are located only a short distance from the original eastern shoreline of the East River, with Midtown Manhattan on the other side. In the nineteenth century this waterfront was an important site for shipbuilding and its related trades.


Guantanamo. Again.

But this time I'm encouraged by the appearance of a new site devoted specifically to the subject. Amnesty International has just gone public with a new site,, dedicated to solely shutting down permanently the most notorious of the U.S. concentration camps.


I had purchased the domain they're using sometime last year with the intention of devoting it to a totally different form of protest, one which would not have addressed such fundamental issues of humanity. When Barry and I were approached by Amnesty's people I was happy to see it depart for higher purpose.

Bon voyage!

[all images from Amnesty]


Bloggy explains why he and so many of us have abandoned American electoral politics. My own take on it: A people which liked to describe its system as "democratic" has finally been occupied by what our last real "republican" President called "the military-industrial complex".

After a graceful segue into the subject of war crimes and collective guilt, Bloggy reminds us why these things matter as much today as they did in 1945.

[Tom Tomorrow image from Salon]


Keeping America out of the red (commie/pinko/welfare-state red) may bury us all.

I'm not much of a statistics guy, and I don't often trumpet NYTimes editorials, but there's some very simple numbers inside a short item in this morning's paper, and it deserves broader notice than it's likely to get.

Okay, the lead editorial with the sardonic headline, "Amateur Hour on Iran", is also worth a look, but here's an excerpt from the one I first spotted, "The Less-Than-Generous State":

The United States has long had one of the most meager tax takes in the industrial world. America’s social spending — on programs ranging from Medicare and Social Security to food stamps — is almost the stingiest among industrial nations. Among the 30 industrialized countries grouped in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, only four — Turkey, Mexico, South Korea and Ireland — spend less on social programs as a share of their economy.

Long a moral outrage, this tightfisted approach to public needs is becoming an economic handicap. Shortchanging public health impairs America’s competitiveness. If the United States is to reap the rewards of globalization, the government must provide a much more robust safety net — to ensure public support for an open economy and protect vulnerable workers.

Note that the four nations whose public systems are listed as even more selfish than our own are all known for the strength of their family structures - no adequate substitute for a less exclusive approach to conscience, and also not an attribute which individualistic Americans are known for sharing these days.

Hmmm. The richest country on earth, but with diddly-squat for the needy, ditto for the infrastructure, for the arts, for public health, for low-income housing, for public parks, for public transportation, for the elderly, for child care, for adequate public education or any number of the other functions which define a modern civil society; into whose pockets has our great wealth been flowing?

UPDATE: At the time I did this post I was unable to locate a complete image of Breugel's "Avarita", and I had to be content with the detail seen at the top. Today I found what I had been looking for, serendipitously. Tom Schreiber was visiting us and he had brought along a copy of Dover Publication's "Graphic Worlds of Peter Bruegel the Elder", and there it was. And here it is:

Pieter van der Heyden [after a drawing by Pieter Bruegel the Elder] Avaritia (Greed) 1558 engraving 9" x 11.5"

[1556 image ("Stinginess") by Pieter Bruegel the Elder from, and in an attribution by, cartage; second, full image from Metropolitan Museum]

Daniel Hesidence Untitled (1 7 7 9 /pedestrians) oil on canvas 96" x 84"

Alex Kwartler Untitled (Still Life) 2007 oil on canvas 24" x 21"

Carrie Moyer Dark Tonic 2007 acrylic, glitter on canvas 40" x 28"

John Connelly Presents some "late Liberties" this summer, a show of recent abstractions organized by artist and curator Augusto Arbizo in collaboration with Connelly himself. It's worth a trip, but this gallery always is. Again, only two days left. I don't have time to do more than put up a few images here, but I thought, better a picture or two than a late report with some words.

CORRECTION [of earlier correction]: the gallery will not be open this Saturday after all

Michael Wilkinson Wall 2005 acrylic on mirror, frame 59.25" x 49.25" [installation view, with Alice Könitz's "Double Take" and Nathan Hylden's "6.22.07" in the reflection]

Alice Könitz Banana-Peel-Rug 2007 acrylic felt 81" x 56" [installation view]

I was already a fan of the work of Richard Aldrich and Alice Könitz, but based on what I saw last Friday I'm now just as enthusiastic about Los Angeles-based Nathan Hylden and Glaswegian Michael WIlkinson, the other two artists in the elegant current installation at Wallspace, "Laying Bricks". Writer and critic Michael Ned Holte is the curator.

The show is a beauty, but it will be there for just two more days.

untitled (blue cap) 2007



Barry and I walked over to Elizabeth Dee this afternoon to catch part of an all-day performance by Felicia Ballos and Flora Weigman. It was today's segment of "Carte Blanche", the gallery's August-long program of video and performance art curated variously by gallery artists, the gallery director, guest artists, or guest curators.

The images shown above are of a section of Weigman's improvisational dance solo. Her movement totally energized the bare exhibition space while it was in the process of being returned to clean, white-box gallery mode (hands-on-paint-roller gallery director Jennie Moore can be seen in the wings). Accompanying her performance was the raw machine-music of Wolf Eyes, their CD "Burned Mind", from Sub Pop.

Ballos told me later that she had been turned onto Wolf Eyes by Steven Parrino.

For another image, including a link to a slide show with dozens more, see Bloggy.

Tomorrow's program includes a talk by Drew Heitzler, artist, curator and Champion Fine Art co-founder, now the co-owner of the Culver City bar, Mandrake. Heitzler's performance is titled “I’m Not an Alcoholic,” and in it he is expected to address the history of artist-run bars. The fun, including "beer with friends", starts at 6:30.

she's busy (Quinn sharing with the Police Chief and the Mayor)

Over the past several months I've written repeatedly about my frustration and disgust with Chistine Quinn's attack on our First Amendment rights in her role as City Council Speaker.

She remains completely tone-deaf on the issue, positioning herself somewhere within the cold heart of the NYPD/Republican establishment.

But I'm not a single-issue agitator, and if Tip O'Neil was right when he said "all politics is local", Quinn's office should be very worried.

During this same period and starting well before, as one of her local district's constituents I have been trying to get her office's attention on the kind of ordinary small-scale problem neighborhood representatives handle all the time - and resolve.

In response to my inquiry about the construction of an invasive animated commercial advertising sign on a public sidewalk next to our home I was eventually told by Quinn's office that the City authorities had determined that the offending business had no permit for it and could not have been granted a permit had they applied for one because it threatened public safety. The installation would have to be removed within 30 days.

That was March 2, over five months ago, and it's now eight months since I first made inquiries.

I have been following up with my Council Member's office ever since to see why nothing has been done. Each time I've had to call, and I've been told the assistant forgot about it once again but would look into it right away. That has been repeated perhaps eight times.

On July 9 I learned directly from the Department of Buildings that the violation associated with the complaint number I had been given in December had somehow mysteriously disappeared months before. When I asked Quinn's office if they could get some explanation I was told the person to whom I had been talking over all these months was in a meeting but would call me later that day. On the day after someone else called and said that my file was second from the very top of the first assistant's priorities and I would hear back from her that very day.

I've not been called, and of course the offending installation (a spot-lighted giant revolving cupcake on top of a sidewalk canopy built too close to a hydrant) hasn't been removed.

For all his transgressions, and they were many, at least New Yorkers can remember Al D'Amato as someone who could get a pothole filled - "Senator Pothole". What are we going to call Christine Quinn?

[image by Julia Gaines from Newsday]


I used to think, "Gaudi", eccentric, interesting, even beautiful, but a dead end.

But then, was/is El Greco a dead end?

I actually knew virtually nothing about Gaudi when I first visited Barcelona 45 years ago and found myself straddling my bike outside the construction fence below the unfinished towers of the Sagrada Familia. Everything was locked-up tight (there seemed to be nothing more than what I was looking at, in any event) and I already understood that this project's fate was uncertain at best. I had been told by other travelers my age whom I had met along my route that summer in Europe that if I was going to go to gloomy (yeah, after all this was only 1961) Barcelona this architectural monument to Catalan modernisme or European expressionism was absolutely not to be missed.

I have to remind myself as I write this that before arriving in Europe that May I was still totally infatuated with the purity and minimalism of the International Style. As far as I had been concerned no architecture or design that had preceded it was of any interest except as history, and real history had ended about the time Victoria ascended the British throne in 1837.

I do remember that, a couple of decades after the end of the Spanish Civil War, Gaudi's dark pile on the outskirts of Barcelona looked very weird, but even then, before the real start of the Sixties, I was thinking weird was a compliment. This scruffy facade without a building clearly bore some resemblance to Gothic cathedral models, but the multiple, siamesed towers looked like a monstrous mutation, and their rough, jagged, natural details and screwy hollowness suggested a severely-neglected maintenance program. They were pretty scary. There was no tourist brochure. I really didn't get it, but it felt important.

This spring I went back. The construction project had been re-started years ago and now there's a realistic expectation that the building will actually be completed in 20 (or maybe 80) more.

I was able to get inside this time (this time there was an inside). I had done some homework since 1961, but even had I been a really lazy student I couldn't have been less excited about it on my second visit than I was. I'm going to leave any description up to the images I've posted here, but I will say that I have never seen anything like it and don't expect I or anyone else ever will. Hmmm, wait. Santiago Calatrava's name suddenly came into my head as I typed that. I'm not an unequivocal fan of his art, but even if there may be a link between his work and that of the Catalonian master (and no dead end after all?) it's unlikely Calatrava will ever have a commission which would match his skills as well as the Barcelona basilica did Gaudi's.

But there is still that other thing, what I now have to describe as the darker side of Gaudi. I'm only going on the basis of information easily available to anyone, but I realize my emphasis may present a picture of the man not familiar to most. I'm writing about the less admirable parts of Gaudi's story as someone who admits he is able to love and appreciate Richard Wagner's operas as among the very greatest accomplishments in Western music even while he is completely familiar with and fully disgusted by much of the composer's personal and professional life. Gaudi was a great artist, but he was also a fundamentalist, right-wing Christian who would almost certainly have supported Franco during the civil war which began ten years after his death.

The architect had taken over construction responsibilities for the shrine/basilica in 1883, when he was 31. The project, whose ominous formal name is "Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família" [Expiatory Church of the Holy Family], had been proposed years before by the Asociación Espiritual de Devotos de San José [Spiritual Association of Devotees of St. Joseph], a reactionary devotional Catholic movement whose objective was to fight the modern industrial liberal world and its accompanying social changes and to bring about the triumph of the Catholic Church in Spain and elsewhere. The architect appears to have been very comfortable with that mission.

Gaudi also appears to have been an elitist, at least in so far as his professional practice was concerned. Elsewhere in Europe early in the last century architects were routinely inspired to design projects for the benefit of the public, even if their bills were being covered by private commissions. Gaudi built only mansions, private parks, and the high-end luxury condos of his day. His patrons were wealthy private citizens. This architect didn't do affordable housing or public accommodations of any kind.

In the early years of the 20th century his contemporaries on the Left, including many artists, Spanish or otherwise, seem to have loathed the aging genius, even beyond his death in 1926. Years before that he had turned more and more inward and religious, abandoning all secular projects and devoting himself exclusively to work on the Sagrada Familia.

Even unfinished that edifice, which was conceived in the 19th century, is magnificent in every way. But it remains Catholic, perhaps even Catholic with a vengeance, in the midst of the population of this very unobservant nation and at the threshold of the 21st century. As we were leaving the sanctuary at the end of the afternoon this spring, from the side in the corner I heard the sound of a general rosary devotion. That day it was protected from visitors like us by high temporary walls. After experiencing the larger, glorious, purely aesthetic wonders of this place for an hour or more it was strangely disconcerting. Were they dreaming about reversing the last two hundred years?

My own wish would be to see this extraordinary building become a living monument to the survival of the creative human spirit. It should be possible for all people to approach and cherish it equally, sharing it generously, without a parochial consciousness. A transcendent place for music or poetry, surely. Best to hold the Hail Marys.

These thumbnails are all images of the Sagrada Familia:
















This post is part of a series begun on May 21, 2007, which will continue until the U.S. concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay has been razed.

[image, otherwise unattributed, via salvationinc]

untitled (lace) 2007

untitled (top) 2007

citing David Gibson

Bruce High Quality Foundation Bachelors of Avignon*

Bruce High Quality Foundation Joseph Beuys, from the "Sculpture Tackle" series

In spite of some serious temptations which might have gotten ourselves to Bushwick weeks ago Barry and I didn't get to the Bruce High Quality Foundation installation in the group's large storefront on Broadway until this past Monday. Energetic and creative young artists doing funny things, bouncing off every manner of cultural icon or shibboleth along the way. What's not to love? The words "irreverent" and "political" should be in there somewhere. I'm on it. Only sorry that it took me so long.

On the homepage of the three-year-old collaborative's website there's a motto which reads: "Professional Challenges. Amateur Solutions". And for a description of mission there's this: "The Bruce High Quality Foundation was created to foster an alternative to everything"

An incomplete list of their projects, past, present or continuing, but arranged in no particular order, may explain a little more. You might have already come across one or more of these but not not been able to make out the infectious pattern:

  • local waters smallcraft pursuit of Robert Smithson's Floating Island by one of the Cristo's saffron "Gates"
  • a film centered on the Art Basel Miami trade show, conjuring both Marx and Jean-Luc Godard
  • a commemoration of 100 years of Picasso's "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" with artists' living sculpture [image above was not manipulated]
  • a series of "sculpture tackle" performances around the city complete with target-specific costumes
  • a WTC ground zero hero fast food concession cart intervention offering customers a "Manwich"
  • an audition for Jeffrey Deitch's Artstar reality television show by Bruce High Quality himself
  • a construction of a full-size soapbox derby car for a run down the Guggenheim's spiral ramp
  • a bike fountain for Brooklyn Museum's Feminist wing with its own gold wing, broken wheel, faucet seat and wire laundry basket
  • a steaming midsummer hot-chocolate break by bundled-up skiers and snowboarders at the Roosevelt Island gondola terminal
  • a living sculpture riff on Géricault's "The Wreck of the Medusa" below the Williamsburg Bridge

Still, you probably have to have been to the studio or been witness to at least one of the projects, or else done some traipsing through the links or their own site, YouTube or elsewhere to fill out the picture enough to penetrate the enigma of BHQF. I was the perfect fan candidate, and it took a while even for me to get it (I'm not sure what I would have been able to make of Picasso's first leaps into cubism without being able to go to the internet back in 1907).

The exhibition is titled "RENT STRIKE! & Other Activist Jingles from the Crypt of Bruce High Quality" and I'm told it can still be visited by appointment through the end of this week. Email the studio at [email protected], but if you end up missing this show, I'm sure there will be plenty of excitement going forward; it doesn't look like they're going to disappear.

I was interested in knowing something about the people within the group, including their rough numbers, and I did suspect they would be rough, so I asked a member to tell me more. I learned that just now most are guys, and I was told that five of them currently share the Brooklyn studio. "Bruce" then continued:

But we are always trying to cast a wider net, and steer clear of core membership. Our thinking about the Bruce High Quality Foundation has revolved more around growing it up and getting it to a level where it totally dwarfs our individual efforts than the Beatles model. We would like there to be offices all over the world, outposts for the Bruce High Quality Foundation, and maybe people to take over the operations for us when we all die. I would say the Bruce High Quality Foundation numbers between 5 and 5000. It should be more like a movement than a rock band.

the original, whose birthday is celebrated this year, belongs to MoMA:


The images at the top of this post, of photographs framed and on the walls in the current installation, are JPEGS furnished by Bruce High Quality. I was able to capture a few shots of my own while we were there on Monday, and I'm arranging them here as large thumbnails:

sculpture tackle suit installation detail

large detail of Beuys sculpture tackle video still

Guggenheim soapbox car installation

large detail of summer winter-sports lift station video still

installation view of Feminist wing winged fountain sculpture

[first two images from brucehighquality; the thumbnail image of Picasso's painting from fernando lobo]



Exceedingly luscious. These two images were part of Lisa Smith's installation in the photography gallery at last Thursday's School of Visual Arts Open Studios event.


I think the heat inside the SVA Open Studios event was wearing down my stamina by the time I came across Hagar Sadan's art on Thursday. I captured only this one image, but I remember liking the rest of the work a lot. Much of it had been assembled from recycled plastic bags. This particular piece didn't really resemble anything else in her two spaces, but certainly represented the artist's creative energy and perhaps an inability to take an ordinary break like other, ordinary people. The images here have been drawn on plastic, tracing simple items which were lying on a workbench in her studio.




Kenneth Walker did these beautiful drawings on mylar, seen at the SVA Open Studios last Thursday. They had a three-dimensional, sculptural quality but suggested weightlessness at the same time.




The beautiful work of Steve Page seen at the SVA Open Studios reception is an example of why these visits to student exhibitions can be so exciting for enthusiasts, even those who are able to regularly make the rounds of the less well-known galleries.

In addition, while we were in Page's space, thanks to the familiarity of the school's "Summer Residence Faculty" professor-cum-godfather David Gibson with the artist's work, we were able to see the progression from those pieces which marked the beginning of this summer residency. Very different from the pieces seen above, they were rawly-dramatic on their own terms.





Luis Tovar's drawings at the School of Visual Arts Open Studios event were mostly almost-abstract renderings of negative space, specifically the spaces of his own studio and those of the other artists in the school's loft building on 21st Street. These works on paper were expressive, charged, and gorgeous, whether "tiled" over an entire wall, pinned individually on another, arrayed on a light box or resting playfully on a cloth suspended from the ceiling.

Joshua Allen Harris, detail of the work on the left in the thumbnail below

[full view of two drawings]

Joshua Allen Harris, studio wall detail

My camera was angry with me for making it take pictures in the near-darkness at the SVA Open Studios on Thursday night. My apologies to Mr. Nikon and to my visitors for these bluish shots, but I thought the work was too interesting to let them lie fallow in my computer. The shapes and colors on these graceful works on paper by Joshua Allen Harris were made by laboriously rubbing the ink off of portions of images found on fresh newspapers (collected at dawn or even earlier, I was told, before their ink dries completely). The artist may also have incorporated some collage elements, but I don't think there is any conventional drawing on any of these pieces.

The work is exquisite, and unlike anything I've ever seen, but it evokes for me images in a large personal history of other charms and beauties.

Gabriel Shuldiner An Unavoidable Destiny 2007 modified acrylic polymer, pigment, latex house paint, alkyd resin, gesso and casein resin, overall dimensions variable, approx. 48" x 96" x 1" [installation view]

Gabriel Shuldiner Site And Context (Part I) 2007 modified acrylic polymer, pigment, enamel house paint, gesso, Enamelac, rust, dirt and alkyd resin on canvas on mounted wood panels, overall dimensions variable, approx. 40" x 30" x 6" [installation view]


Gabriel Shuldiner Until Repetition Becomes Endurance 2007 modified acrylic polymer, pigment, gesso, reus and alkyd resin on canvas on mounted wood, overall dimensions variable, approximately 19.5" x 19.5" x 3" [installation view]

Barry and I stopped by the open studios and exhibition of the Summer Art Residency of the School of Visual Arts on Thursday evening. This particular edition was an especially exciting one, judging at least partly from the fact that although it was a warm and humid evening (even warmer and more humid inside the building on 21st Street) we ended staying much longer than we expected.

As we had met Gabriel Shuldiner before and had seen some of his earlier work, we were not coming upon it totally blind. Shuldiner is very attracted to what he describes as the "power, authority and brillance" in the color black, even if he usually manages to introduce glimpses of some of its components in his lusty paint-sculptures. He writes about his art:

My work is about process: both highly intuitive and mathematically considered. . . . .

I experiment with many different materials, and am fascinated by the contrast and dialogue between them. Unconventional implements, homemade tools and modified paints help to make each mark, gash, scratch and chip as intentional and vital as my brushstroke.

My paintings evolve over time and eventually function as compositional objects; their relationship to the wall, to their environment and to the viewer's position becomes an important and vital compositional element, as does the light it absorbs, reflects and scatters off the varied black pigments, creating further shades of grays and whites.

For more images and words, see Barry.

Most of the other artists were new to us and about them I have virtually no information other than names and images captured that night. I will be uploading mostly-undocumented photos of work by several of them later today or tomorrow.

crowd before an animated Norm Siegel at July 27 First Amendment rally

The Mayor's office has backed off from its outrageous set of proposed rules for people using photography anywhere in New York City. It's a great victory for a free people alert to the threat of arbitrary government and willing to oppose it, but I'd advise against relaxing any guards.

They'll be back. City officials said they would redraft the rules

In the end any proposed regulation absolutely must be held to a standard that freely permits photography anywhere in the city so long as people are not interfering with anyone else. Beka Economopoulos, the co-founder of Picture New York said it best:

I already have a permit for my camera; it's called the First Amendment
Corporations and governmental units of every size have their own surveillance cameras trained on me willy-nilly virtually everywhere I go in this city and at all times of the day and night. I don't recall their ever applying to me for a permit. I should not have to consult their directives or ask their permission to flip a shutter when I wish to do so myself.

under arrest

securing the acorn

This story had legs from the start, sea legs. Barry and I were watching it on line as it grew all day yesterday, and apparently it's still going.

I would say that this late and abbreviated post were redundant except that I want to broadcast the respect for Duke Riley that we both share, and also to refer to our early immersion in the larger story of his remarkable art, including a wide-eyed visit to the first solo show at Magnan Projects in January last year. Then there was also the excitement of being able to share my own personal connection to and love for Rhode Island, the School of Design, Newport, and the little bicycle shop down my block on the corner of Brook Street, all sites associated with the still-unfolding story of the "Acorn" submersible project.

Don't miss the slide show or the video on the NYTimes site.

My favorite take on the reaction of our guardians of public safety to the artist's marine intervention? Libby and Roberta:

The Coast Guard and police didn't think Riley's floating bobber was so amusing and the boat was confiscated and he and his accomplices were charged with "marine mischief." Talk about hammering a fly! Nobody seems to have a sense of humor or whimsy anymore, especially when it comes to imaginative art outside the normal channels. Now that's a crime.

[images by Damon Winter from NYTimes slide show]

Martin Mullin Hydra 2006-2007 mixed media collage 11.75" x 9" [installation view]

Tony Berlant 24 Hours 2000 11.5" x20"

Robert Warner Untitled 2007 flint glass and collage on book board 10.25" x 8.25" [installation view]


Fritz Bultman Waves and Others 1978 painted paper collage 16" x 20" [installation view]

Pavel Zoubok's current group show, "collage + abstraction", can described pretty much by its title alone. The works shown were created by 55 artists over most of the last 100 years. The oldest piece is Kurt Schwitters's tiny, 1921 "Lady in Red".

It's a rich collection, and in a visit to the gallery earlier this week I found the small and large beauties of these dozens of works arranged as they are in a handsome, rhythmic, salon-ish installation almost overwhelming. And it's all very elegant.

That last adjective however provokes me to ask mischievously whether something might be missing. There's nothing obviously outrageous going on here. Maybe that's only an over-stimulated today talking, looking for novelty, and in the interest of disclosure I should say right now that I like outrageous (note: Pavel Zoubok has often fed my appetite generously).

I definitely won't fault the gallerist/curator's aesthetic choices for this show, but in spite of my love for both abstraction and collage I think I regret the almost total absence of representational imagery in these works. Also, even if I can accept the restriction defined by the exhibition's title definition, and although some of the works employ stuff outside the collagist's conventional range of paper materials, maybe the components and, yes, the shapes of the collages selected could have been a bit less predictable. Stefan Saffer's "Fortress" and Robert Motherwell's "Celtic Air" are two of the very few pieces which do not subscribe to a presentation involving four right-angle corners, and Saffer's folded paper structure actually breathes totally free, managing to resist confinement in a frame of any kind, only barely able to rein in its third dimension.

But all this is small change when looking at the work itself. I went back to the gallery today, along with Barry and an artist friend. All three of us had a really hard time leaving.


Cato the Elder didn't have a blog, but he was still able to repeatedly harangue his fellow citizens at every opportunity, even at cocktail parties, with the slogan, CARTHAGO DELENDA EST! [Carthage must be destroyed!] He continued at it for years. Cato meant that Rome would never be safe while Carthage stood.

I do have a blog. The headline of this entry, a modification of Cato's ancient mantra, means that modern Rome, our own threatened republic, will never be safe while Guantanamo is allowed to stand. Whether in Rome really had to destroy Carthage may be at least arguable; the imperative for the eradication of Guantanamo is not.

[this post is part of a series of reminders begun on May 21, 2007, which will continue until the concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay is razed]

[image, otherwise unattributed, via salvationinc]

Jeremy Blake Reading Ossie Clark 2003 video [still taken from November, 2003 installation]

Jeremy Blake is no longer no longer missing, but he is still very much missed. The picture above looks very different to me after the news of the last two weeks; it now suggests a brilliant, burning star.

I posted this short piece three and a half years ago, with another capture from "Ossie Clark".

[there are sensitive photos of Jeremy, and Jeremy with Theresa Duncan, on the Wikipedia entry]

This page is an archive of entries from August 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

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