Life Squared

October 22, 2007

Dante Hotel

After reading this interview between archaeologist Michael Shanks and visual artist Lynn Hershman Leeson in Seed Magazine (read it!), I got all excited and worked up about their Life to the Second Power (or Life Squared) project. This project brings Hershman Leeson’s archive at Stanford into the virtual community of Second Life, where the pieces can be viewed, experienced, and recombined by visitors.

A keystone piece of the project is a re-envisioning of Hershman Leeson’s Dante Hotel work from the 1970s (pictured above), where she created a “life” with what she placed in a room in a run-down hotel in North Beach. Patrons could get a key from the front desk, go up to the room, look around, and stay as long as they wanted. This work in particular seems to translate well to the Second Life arena.

Check out the Seed interview for an illuminating look at how an archaeologist and an artist look at archives. I can’t say I agree with everything the two of them say, but it certainly gets my archival blood flowing.

[Photo from a Flickr set on the Dante Hotel project, here.]


Summer Roadtrip Brainstorm Part Deux

August 2, 2007

Books are pretty much the ultimate insulator, but in the heat of summer their coziness can be down right oppressive. (This may be one of the reasons why places like the University of Texas change their undergraduate libraries into things called “academic centers.”)


Consider cooling off this August by paying a visit to Roni Horn’s VATNASAFN/LIBRARY OF WATER in Stykkisholmur, Iceland. Her work, installed in an former library building, features translucent columns filled with melted H20 from Iceland’s receding glaciers. Most of the text in Horn’s library is actually a “field” of English and Icelandic adjectives inscribed into the floor. So no worries about sweat droplets warping your summer reading!

But if your desperate for paragraphs, try Weather Reports You, Horn’s related project.

What’s WACK? No index.

July 17, 2007

Ever since the WACK! catalogue hit the shelves of my museum’s gift shop a few months ago I have been pretty obsessed. So thick it is with information about feminist art! And so lovely to look at! The different sections of the book are printed on different types of paper, so you get that nice stripy effect when you look at it from the side**. The book jacket features Martha Rosler’s Body Beautiful…, 1966–72, and there has been a bit of a hubbub over all those naked ladies (totally busted staring at it by coworker). But the thing about the catalogue that gets me in a huff is this: NO INDEX!.

Maybe the editors felt that the organizational structure of the catalogue was sufficient. Maybe critical essays are too much of a pain to index. Maybe they ran out of money and/or time. Now, I did not see the exhibition at LA MoCA and it isn’t scheduled to dock on the east coast until this Fall, but from what I’ve read the exhibition is purposely dense and loosely organized, freeing the visitor from the didactic chains of, say, wall text or chronology. Maybe the indexlessness of the WACK! catalogue is supposed to mimic this experience–which is said to mimic the experience of the feminist art movement itself–forcing its readers to re-experience what Carol Armstrong in May’s Artforum depicts as “the thrilling (and exasperating) chaos of the moment, the all-over-the-place-free-for-all that was those two decades,” liberated from “lame categories.”


I could talk forever about whether or not categories are lame, but there is a general expectation that any volume hovering around 500 pages should have an index. It’d be nice if, for example, while reading Howardena Pindell’s bio on page 281, I could flip to the index, learn that she’s in an essay on page 429, and see shiny reproductions of her works on page 167. I propose that, in the spirit of the movement, we organize a collective indexing effort. Contributions welcome. I’m serious.

**color reproductions of the art (white glossy); brief bios of the artists (beige matte, purple text!); critical essays (off white matte, black text and purple footnotes!, color reproductions); a chronology of all-women group shows and WACK! checklist (beige matte, purple text!)


the medium is the massage

May 3, 2007

In the category of sooner or later:

Dan Savage tackles the ethics of transgender Second Life sex.

In a thread that starts off with “Myspace is the private press of the 21st century”, record nerds talk about digital preservation, and myspace as arbiter/destroyer of the future of outsider music.

ARLIS Dispatch–Day 1

April 28, 2007

The pre-conference excitement officially began when I saw the movie Beauty Shop a couple of weeks ago. The movie stars Queen Latifah and many other big names. Not only was I inspired to adopt a revised moral code based on kindness and loyalty, but the film also got me really excited about going to Atlanta.

The goal for day one was Settle In. This involved going to a session, Art Libraries: New and Improved, which showcased various art library renovations and building projects. Laura Schwatz, Head Librarian from UT Austin’s Fine Arts Library spoke about the organizing and implementation of the recent renovations there. Evidently they’ve revamped the main reading area of the library and it looks pretty great. I haven’t seen the space post-renovation, but it looked like they got rid of the orange tubular metal chairs that I found so charming as a student at UT. Maybe someone can comment about this…


Also presenting was Carol Terry, Director of Library Services at RISD. They’ve got a super-designed multi-purpose space in an old bank building, which not only houses the library but serves as student housing as well. The library seems to have a lot of the quirks you’d expect from a fancy design school (stadium seating in the reading room, a giant light box above the slide cabinets, etc.) without seeming too over-conceptualized ala Seattle Public.

After the session, my roommate and I headed to the exhibitions hall to grab the obligatory Worldwide Books tote. This year they’ve moved away from the traditional canvas to a neon green vinyl-ish number. Very controversial.

The Settle In heavily involved familiarizing myself with the various hotel amenities at the Sheraton Colony Square Midtown Atlanta. There is a pool on the fifth floor, but the sun in Atlanta moves fast, and if one goes any time after 2pm one quickly finds oneself in the shade of the actual hotel building. A serious design flaw. My roommate pointed out that are five pillows on each bed, four standard and one accent. ARLIS fed us lunch, clearly catered by the Sheraton, and my roommate raved that the cookie was the best she had ever had.

Loving/Hating Library Art/Nostalgia

March 14, 2007

I was browsing through and came across the Public Library of American Public Library Deaccession. And then I saw the website for the Proteus Gowanus gallery and reading room. And then this Reanimation Library. It’s always good to be on the lookout for when library stuff intersects with art or popular culture. Partially for nice “your-job-is-cool” affirmations and partially to police co-opters and poseurs out of a sense critical ownership of the profession.

Projects like these get me really excited and I think they are totally endearing. But as much as I like to envision myself as a character in some French new wave film, most days I feel more like that shoe store lady in the ZZ Top video for Legs (pre-makeover). Things like the Reanimation Library and this Proteus Gowanus thing seem to intentionally divorce themselves from the realities of library work. Through the romantic haze, one forgets that your average branch library is really not very cute, but rather gross.

Reanimation also invokes Ranganathan, which in the context of its mission, is appropriate. But something about the Ranganathan pin , especially when paired with the self-described “mysterious” logo pin, wants me to pull out the Edward Said. (But I am loving the hot dog.) The more I think of it, this Victorian conjuring and the focus on library as theme further fills me with a sense of dread over the death of the profession. The focus on deaccessioning, weeding, and recontextualizing allow the actual library space to be effectively, deconstructed, and suggest that a classic library experience is better attained by a visit to a museum, gallery, or arty website.