Birdspot. On the road. Drawing birds.

Rant of the day:

Though I am generally a fan of Olafur Eliasson’s work, this is why I am always suspicious of large-scale installations “about” the environment, our perceptions of or impacts upon, whatever: (with links to larger article)

As a matter of fact, I will go so far as to say I have no need for installations that needlessly use large amounts of packing tape, plywood, acrylic resins, or other toxic materials in the name of environmental awareness. I don’t care how cool it looks, or if one could argue that in a world of waste, artistic residue is a very minor factor. Live what you preach, baby.

I knew from the moment I saw the NY waterfall constructions that there was no way environmental impact had been accounted for. Jesus, people, wake up. Not to mention, ala emperor’s new clothes, that given the “grand” scale of these works, they were a terrific disappointment.

12 Responses to “aug 28”

  1. Catherine:
    I have always been uncomfortable with large scale “environmental art”, earthworks et for several reasons. For one, grossly disturbing any large area is disturbing wildlife. Granted, typically small amounts of wildlife, but wildlife none the less. Giant piles of dirt, artificially formed craters, works involving rivers, is in at least a small part, interfering with the local ecosystem. The argument I get is that so much else we do has such a greater effect, what do these works matter? My answer, and it’s a feeble one I admit, is that we don’t need to add to whatever other disturbance we do every day. Even some works by Andy Goldsworthy, WHOM I LOVE, give me pause. Anything is which large numbers of rocks in a stream are moved or removed or piled, those works are disturbing a very fragile stream ecosystem filled with stuff like lungless salamanders, caddis fly nymphs and stream loving fish which are sensitive to small changes in temperature, light, flow et. But then again, I am the kind of geek, that every time I turn over a rock or log to look for snakes et, I RETURN that rock or log to exactly where I put it. I also frankly find the making of such large scale works the epitome of hubris and egoism. The whole physical world is NOT just fodder for your artsy ideas. I am not a huge fan of Christo, other people live there as well as other creatures. Any yahoo can make a big work that impresses. An elephant in your living room is also impressive. And though a fascinating animal, it is not necessarily a great work of art. Make a small work that is engaging and I am instantly interested because that is hard to do. Making it big is a cheap concept. Though I do like Oldenburg et. All this said, I have made a point to interview Erin Hogan in a few weeks about her new book: SPIRAL JETTA: A ROAD TRIP THROUGH THE LAND ART OF THE AMERICAN WEST. I am hoping to hear something that will expand my thoughts on these pieces.
    BTW: As to the reports of people getting their car slimed by this idiotic work: well turn that ire into some concern for the water quality of that river. OF COURSE: Stop the artwork ASAP, But THEN clean up the %&%#$& river.

  2. Spiral Jetta? Spiral Jetty?

    I hereby advocate for the humbler arts. So sick of hubris.

  3. Not the piece, the BOOK is called “Spiral Jetta” for the car she drove around to the various locations.

  4. gotcha – wasn’t sure if the title was a typo, though it seemed a little too appropriate to be one.

  5. Cathy, you’ve utterly failed to stir up controversy. ;) I agree with both of you. I’m a fan of Goldsworthy, too (there’s also a Canadian guy who works mostly with inukshuk-like stone piles whose name I can’t think of), but these things are problematic.

    The idiot I’m-sure-things-will-turn-out-all-right impulse of the creators interests me. A stupid optimism, stupid confidence of what the professor mentioned previously called the “all-knowing scientificist subject” who (despite the fact that these things have been going wrong for hundreds of years) introduces yet another Animal X into Environment Y to control the population of Animal Z, and things go haywire.

    P.S. SPIRAL JETTA is the stupidest pun-title I’ve ever heard.

    P.P.S. Cathy and Mark, do you plan these topics beforehand? Mark is always within a fortnight of having just talked to or talking to a person who is relevant and perfect. I’m in awe.

    P.P.P.S. The second-best overheard conversation of my life. Guy at the next table says, “I’m making a documentary on gay Inuit film-makers living in Montreal.” Even Mark would have a hard time with that one!

  6. Re: creative impulse/problem-solving thinking: have you guys seen some of the projects that are being thrown around to fight global warming? I’ll try to find a link.

    It seems a little crazy to tackle something like that with more of the same behavior that caused it in the first place… but then if it works, it’s absolutely brilliant.

    Mark and I never plan ahead unless we are going to wear matching outfits.

  7. “I’m making a documentary on gay Inuit film-makers living in Montreal.” – sub-sub-sub-cultures are the new sub-cultures.

  8. Just plain “culture” is the new “sub-culture”.
    Mark, just back from the Cape where I ticked (and I REALLY do not do that often anymore) the Broad-billed Hummer, which appeared in front of c. 20 birders for all of 3seconds. It used to come all day and not mind people at all, UNTIL it got banded and now it gives people a wide berth. A spectacular male.

    “None. I don’t read novels. I prefer good literary criticism. That way you get both the novelists’ ideas as well as the critics’ thinking. With fiction I can never forget that none of it really happened, that it’s all just made up by the author.” Tom Townsend


  9. ART YA CAN DANCE TO, AND NOT DROWN IN (unlike that river piece):
    Q: in the ’80s, a number of music vids for groups were directed by noteworthy (at the time) visual artists. The band New Order in particular was famous for farming out thier music vids to all sorts of au courant artsy types. Now without resorting to Google or similar virtual cheat sheets and relying only on visuals from this vid, who directed the following. It’s actually obvious if you know ’80s art:

    Mark, off to the nighthawks!

  10. I think the waterfall “controversy” is silly: If the East River water is polluted and naturally salty such that its spray is killing local trees, why not just build a big aqueduct to the Adirondacks and pipe in good, clear fresh water. That way we can expand the number of waterfalls, rather than shutting them down. That’s what we do everywhere else. [I should insert some sort of an emoticon here]

    Catherine: I didn’t realize that the gay Inuit stone carvers had switched to film making. Has this made my carvings valuable, or collapsed the market?

  11. Gay Inuits: SEE:
    “I think over again my small adventures, my fears, These small ones that seemed so big. For all the vital things I had to get and to reach. And yet there is only one great thing, The only thing. To live to see the great day that dawns And the light that fills the world.

    – Inuit Song
    Mark: Walrus: cool; Narwhals: cooler.

  12. Typing in extreme haste so this doesn’t lose its timeliness…



    Went clamming near Galilee just after rain. Made pasta with the wonderful cherrystones, but got bitten terribly (by what, sand fleas?) on the knees and upper arms.

    At night, dreams of espionage and escape. Secret passageway behind a wall of water in a friend’s shower. Pursued, and some unlucky spy in front of me is shot by something I thought up long ago, inspired by Rob Walker: a holo-gun. Presumably useful against people who appear three-dimensional but aren’t — they’re tough to hit otherwise.


    Checking the basement before bed as I do every once in a while. Flip on the light and there’s clawing noises outside. Can’t see anything through the dirty plastic covering the basement window, and then the long black and white tail goes by. Skunk.

    Dreamed of a newspaper story about five suicides inspiring a sixth. The headline made it seem like some sort of Heaven’s Gate transcendence scenario, equally a failure: ASTRAL PLAN COLLAPSED. Dream fades with some sort of melancholy guitar, as if I’m hearing strains of some latter-day McLean who wrote a sad I-heard-the-news-today about the whole thing. The double assonance and those wavering notes — I’m stunned. That something so half-formed can be impossible to gainsay. I’m in awe, as always, of dreams.

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