Friday, May 29, 2009

Words on a Portrait - "Adrian"

Happy to present to you the next guest post for Words on a Portrait, Adrian Linton. Adrian is a great friend of ours and was maybe the 4th or 5th portrait to be completed. We met Adrian over Christmas 2001 when he became engaged to my best-friend, Lisa Harvey. The four of us, pre-kids, would spend many nights together drinking wine and scotch, playing scrabble and arguing over whether or not "latexundies" was a viable scrabble word (the ladies say no and we usually won the argument). Since moving to New York, we've stayed in close contact with the Linton's and usually try to see each other once a year, either meeting upstate at a rented cabin or along the waterways of Puget Sound - it's a nice escape from the dolldrums of city living for both families and something we hope to continue to do with them until we are old - playing Scrabble, arguing over viable words, watching our grandchildren play together…I asked Adrian if he could write something about how he felt being involved in the project and what the project means to him in addition to the story behind the photo. Here is his response:

This is a picture of me at work. At the time of the photo I was in the throws of multiple rounds of layoffs in my company (one every quarter). I remember feeling like a chochke in one of those Claw Toy Grabber machines, just waiting my turn for the pincers to drop around me. The New York Observer described this image as a, “maudlin-looking fellow enveloped in a pair of giant headphones.” Maudlin...Self-pitying? Perhaps at the time, yes, but now (after surviving 5 rounds of layoffs, so far) I am thankful I still have a job and look to the future calmly (Zoloft helps). Excessively sentimental? Maybe years down the road when our economy gets out of the shit box, but for now I think there are a lot of people out there who share what I was feeling.
As for how I got into the project, I have been good friends with Matt since 2001, and always been an avid supporter of his work. When he approached me about a new project involving Facebook profile pictures, I did what any good friend would do, “sure, have at me.” Little did I know what a success this project would become and that my portrait would be viewed with interest outside the context of my Facebook profile. As for this project and what it means to me? I think its success is a celebration of technology and its ability to level the social playing field to access and expression of information. As Matt has once said, "Portraiture was always for the elite, for the rich.” Thanks to a couple of zebibytes of 0’s and 1’s, everyone across the globe can visually express who they are. Matt simply closed the cultural circle by painting those digital expressions in a classical medium. Chochke out.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

“Status Update” Recap

Last Thursday, we ventured up to Haskins Laboratories in New Haven for the opening of “Status Update” and for the “Big Love” panel with Matt, Paddy Johnson, An Xiao, Sharon Butler, and Sharon Kleinman. While I couldn’t hear much of the discussion, (wrangling a loud 10 month old in the midst of 50+ intent listeners does not make for an attentive wife/spectator) I did walk away with some perspective on what I feel is a new direction for artists – albeit a venturesome few at the moment. I’ve tried to think of a couple words that sum up what seems to be happening in the exploration of social media, as both a medium and an avenue for artists, and very simply put it is “social collaboration” – artists using either the attention of, or the activity of, digital social masses to make art.

What makes social collaboration so unique? It absolutely depends on a digital audience or a digital source to make it happen. Could Rachel Perry Welty have completed a 16 hour long performance project in which she update her Facebook status every minute answering the question “what are you doing” without a social mass? Not likely since it was centered on Facebook and performances inherently need an audience – those being the individuals subscribed as her “friends”. And what about An Xiao? Her work is entirely Twitter centric, even if a few postcards exist in the physical realm. Though Matt's portrait project produces physical portraits, they are sourced from a social mass and is somewhat dependent on the openness of it’s participants. It’s likely I need to flush this idea out a little more and when I get some time, I might do just that. The suggestion of a movement with artists as social collaborators may be a bit premature, but I suspect it might be worth a bit more thought.

Your thoughts?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Words on a Portrait - "Bobby"

A while back I thought it would be a good idea to bring the followers of this project and blog a bit more information on the individuals that have been the subject of portraits thus far and a bit of history on the photos that were chosen for remediation.
Thus, as the first installment to "Words on a Portrait", I am please to introduce you to Bobby Grossman, a photographer whose body of work is one of the most important documents of the punk rock, new wave/no wave scene of the seventies and eighties.
Here is what he had to say:

Immediately after graduation from college in 1976 I moved back to New York. I rented an apartment at the Chelsea Hotel for a year or so and then moved down to Union Square. Up the block from me was the bank, my photo lab, Max's Kansas City, Andy Warhol's Factory and my new friend Chris Von Wangenheim.

My college room mate relocated from to Chicago and worked as Chris' assistant up until Chris' untimely death.

Some times on my way about my morning routine I would stop in on Chris and Nick and everyone to say HI and witness their planning for the afternoons photo shoot.

I might have phoned ahead first and brought along morning McDonalds and coffee too.

It was not uncommon for me to sit in a chair in front of the seemless and play "high fash-un model" as I began to wake up.

The routine was that to prepare for a days work a text roll or two was needed to indicate the levels for exposure and test the lights and color saturation or whatever. I'm not too techinquely knowledgeable but a few rolls were shot and then taken to Dugal color labs up the block off Fifth Avenue.

So freshly (or not) rolled outta bed with Greek coffee cup or Egg McMuffin in hand I would proceed to hold up fingers as Chris would begin the test rolls with the strobes flashing away.
Thumbs up or down, one, two (peace sign) etc.- get it...

When the test was complete we would walk the film up the block maybe get more coffee and the NY Post and wait for the results.

So here I am with my VOGUE cover shot. When worlds collide, PUNK rock and high-fash-un. This is 1980 so the rest is history.

I learned a lot from Chris. Like many others he is gone but his test portraits live on (in his memory.)

Fashion- turn to the turn to the right... Gabba gabba hey etc.

Bobby's work is currently on exhibition at the MINA Gallery through July 14th, 2009.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Last day for play

Ok, ok. I am not an artist. My husband is. I have not a artistic bone in my body. However, I do like to write, love it really. And so, when An Xiao started @Platea, I got it. She's a multi-media artist, working with photography and Haiku's (and a little morse code from time to time) but I identify most with her word-play. Not so long ago she started a performance collective primarily based in, and on, social networking platforms. @Platea is "a collective of individuals interested in the power of public art carried out in the digital megacity of social media," as per it's bio. Naturally, when she started @Platea, I thought it would be fun and certainly wanted to be a part of it, that is, when I have the time. Simply put, the @Platea collective are people using twitter and facebook doing interesting things with words.
I like Twitter, but only if I have something interesting to say, or if someone else has something interesting for me to read. It's not that often that I have something interesting to say (evident in that I only post here every other week) queue - Co-Modify, @Platea's second "twerformance".
Essentially, participants were enticed to choose a rather large corporation to be fictionally sponsored by. I chose Microsoft. Don't ask me why, I can't tell you. But it may have something to do with growing up in the Seattle area and having nearly everything in my existence somehow touched on by Microsoft. I also could have chosen Boeing, or Starbucks, or WAMU (it's downfall not withstanding). Microsoft was the first to come to mind and I went with it.
As I started to think about how to structure my "twerformance", I could only think to go to their site and look at their product list. I found, that, astonishingly, it's fairly short. It's not a grocery store for products, but what they do do creates a base line for nearly everything we do online. I thought, well, maybe I should kind of deconstruct the brand, as in, let my posts be almost everything that Microsoft isn't. I think my first post was "If Microsoft were a packaged food for the home office, I would eat it," followed with "Microsoft laundry detergent leaves my clothes feeling soft and cuddly!" Not all have been absurd, some have been relevant to the companies product list, or failures of. Clearly Microsoft is not food, nor laundry detergent. BUT! If I were actually sponsored by Microsoft, I would want it to be an encompassing life brand. I love computers. In fact, I spend way too much time on computers at work and at home. If I were to be sponsored by a company, I would want it to be so much more than computer software. I am a mother, with two kids and so aside from the computer exhaustion, I cook and do laundry and try to take a yoga class once a week.
Brand building, marketing spend - companies trying to gain a larger part of the market share come up with more cockamamie ideas than packaging computer software as a packaged grocery item, or a yoga mat, that is for certain.
Co-Modify's last day is tomorrow and I look forward to the other 40-some participant posts, and the confusion that it brings to my Facebook friends. In the mean time, I must retire to my Microsoft pillow and sleep.