Goodbye Anna Valentina Murch

It is with great sadness that the Agents of the Poorly Kept Secret Society bid a final farewell to Anna Valentina Murch.  Our organization had the pleasure of working with her briefly in the recent past, and we can confirm that she was a delightful person and an insightful artist.

 

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The pleasure was all ours, Anna.  Thank you.

 

Anna Valentina Murch – teacher created oases of art – SFGate.

New Assignment: Bot Joy

Agents of the Poorly Kept Secret Society have been approached by [name redacted] to assist in the covert deployment of Bot Joy onto the unsuspecting residents of a peaceful Colorado community.

 

Through Bot Joy, artist Gary Hirsch has invaded communities like London, Austin, and his own Portland, OR with the charming army of tiny robots painted on Dominoes.  Read more: http://www.botjoy.com/

 

Agents of the Poorly Kept Secret Society are fascinated with this nexus of social media, urban life, and the chance encounter with art.  It’s also worth discussing Hirsch and his artist-ilk: those that produce images motivated by the nothing more than spreading of joy.  Much needed, these days.  But, not always so easily accepted in the closed loop of art patronage, surprisingly.  Friends With You is a team that comes to mind, and one that has had some association with The Society in the past.  I wonder what you all in internet land think of these types of artists?

 

Anyhow, our agents will update this website with details on this mission at the end of May.  Stay tuned.

Agents Infiltrate the Charles Landry Lecture in Denver

First, Charlie (that’s what I call him…) is the bee’s knees.

Second, he was in Denver for the launch of Imagine 20:20, the city’s new cultural plan.  More here: http://artsandvenuesdenver.com/events-programs/imagine-2020-creating-a-future-for-denvers-culture/

Third, I’m not going to go through all the inspiring and thought-provoking perspectives this man has on urban life, culture, and the reason most of us get up in the morning.  Read his books if you want the details.  Just know that Agents who were on the scene were blown away by a single statement that seemed to convey the spirit of his approach:

“I’ve stopped answering the question ‘what is the value of investing in culture’.  That is a dead end.  I now ask the question ‘what is the cost of not investing in culture’.”

 

Dig it.

List of Things That Are Not Going Away

The following is a list of things that are not going to go away, no matter how hard you clap:

 

  1. Hippies.  Dreadlocks, tie die, sandals; how is it that this, among all the cultural fashions that ebb and flow, this is the timeless aesthetic that people can continue to which old and young alike can commit?
  2. That cricket that keeps you up at night.  It will outlive anything global warming can throw at it.
  3. The internet.

 

Digital technology has opened up so many fascinating landscapes for artists to play with.  The one big hangup was always the wires.  You had to be plugged in to enjoy the art.  But, the web is just now going wireless; no longer so web-like.  As the wires that once held artists to the wall, and kept our lazy butts in our seats, are cut, what frontiers are open to the geniuses of this next great medium of art history?  And, more importantly for our purposes, how can artists motivate people to get up, get out, and get talking?

 

Here’s a few of the artists and organizations that we at the Poorly Kept Secret Society think are poised to exploit the wireless future.  Some of them have not quite yet ventured outside their parents basements and delivered us our wireless future, but these are some of the minds who will do exactly that.

 

Dina Kelberman, who curates marvels from the milieu of the www.  Her presentation still very much works in the realm of screens, mice, and cables.  But her mindset is miraculous, bridging the most intriguing corners of the internet.

http://www.dinakelberman.com/index.html

 

Mary Miss.  Her little ditty for the Indianapolis Museum of Art seamlessly weaves a smartphone app with a walk down the river.  An elegant cross between public and virtual spaces.

http://www.marymiss.com/index_.html

 

Mark Amerika.  His Museum of Glitch Aesthetics project asks you to rethink the visual implications of contemporary technological fails.  He frames up the digital version of reverb, and it turns out so pretty!  What he could do to your iPhone…

http://markamerika.com/

 

Denver Digirati.  Plus Gallery serves up video and animation for the town square.

http://www.denverdigerati.com/

 

Ben Rubin.  Working in reverse, his public artworks are re-imagined human interface on an urban scale.  King of the new breed of data mining artists; look out for this guy.

http://earstudio.com/ben-rubin/

 

Halsey Burgund.  Fucking up your mobile device, directly.

http://halseyburgund.com/work/mg/

 

 

About Places: Jenny Odell

Artist Jenny Odell offers a unique marriage of art and place.  The Agents of the Poorly Kept Secret Society generally deal with art in the public realm.  However, artists like Odell create works about the public realm.  What is there to learn from this?  How does the artists perspective on place serve a more academic function?  Here’s an interview with Odell that appeared recently in The Atlantic:

 

137 World Landmarks in One Picture, and Other Crazy Google Maps Art

by JOHN METCALFE, JUL 09, 2013

Call Jenny Odell a collector of spaces. Some are public, like all the basketball courts in Manhattan; others are most decidedly not, like smoke-puffing nuclear cooling towers. She doesn’t discriminate – she just wants to get her hands on as many as possible, so she can lay them out into maddening arrangements akin to a nutty entomologist’s butterfly collection.

Odell, who’s 27 and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, creates her works on a computer (sometimes at a Mission coffee shop) by pulling similar structures from Google Maps and spreading them into complex arrays that measure as large as 3 by 5 feet. “The main thing that I want people to take away from them is a new way of looking at their surroundings, specifically the ones so banal we risk ignoring them,” she says. “Being humans, it’s easy to forget how uniquely human we have made our environments.”

The artist began her odd quest to categorize the planet’s components on a whim in 2009, when she decided to find out just how many parking lots there were in her native San Jose. And she’s still making her meta-maps today, working on a series that deals with the massive machinery behind shipping and container transport. (She also manages the fun Tumblr, “The Satellite Tourist.”)

Seeing as how Odell will be showing new work beginning July 11 at SOMArt’s Electronic Pacific show – a promising-looking exploration of Pacific Rim culture staged in a bunch of shipping containers in San Francisco – I asked the artist to explain a little more about her obsession with ultimate order from above. Here’s what she had to say, with examples from her “Satellite Series”:

“137 Landmarks” (the key is here)

How’d you get the idea for these things?

I had just moved to San Francisco from Berkeley and since I relied a lot on maps at first (I didn’t, and still don’t, have a smartphone), I was thinking a lot about maps and how they can be seen as selective abbreviations of space. Different maps choose different things to show and other things to omit. In other words, I was already considering maps as collections of a certain type of information, an extraction from something infinite (space).

The first collection I made was of 144 empty parking lots; I grew up in San Jose always vaguely feeling like I was surrounded by empty parking lots but wanted to see what they would look like collected all together. I was expecting the result to be as depressing as the actual parking lots, but instead what was revealed was, somewhat humorously, the “personalities” of the parking lots – the careful or not-so-careful landscaping, the angles and density of lines, the blobby shapes (never the same), the tire-marks of people doing donuts, etc. Something I had meant to show similarities actually ended up showing their differences and idiosyncrasies. And I never took parking lots for granted again, which can be said for most of the things I’ve made collections of.


120 Stadiums

Is constructing these intricate pieces a terrible chore?

It can be painful in the sense that it’s very time consuming and labor intensive. But it’s definitely also satisfying to build something that slowly and see it come together over time. The concreteness of this work, both in process and outcome, is sort of like my stand against the quickness, distraction and immateriality of our usual experience of imagery on the internet.

The amount of time I spend with the imagery changes my relationship to it (and, I hope, the viewer’s), forcing a level of contemplation that might not occur naturally. And yes, it is satisfying to wrest some kind of order from the infinitude of satellite imagery, even if that order is completely subjective and personal, like a child organizing his or her favorite things according to imagined systems.

Every Outdoor Basketball Court in Manhattan

Is there meant to be any commentary on humanity’s sometimes ugly effect on the landscape?

Of course there is an environmentalist bent in pieces like the collections of landfills and waste ponds, but on a much broader note, what I’m trying to illuminate is the utter humanness and strangeness of the marks we’ve left on the earth. Only humans would build boxes of chlorinated water in the ground to occasionally splash around in, or engineer something as complicated as a water slide for the sole purpose of entertainment. Imagery taken from the inhuman perspective of a satellite provides us enough distance to appreciate the time and species-bound specificity of our surroundings, and to see ourselves reflected in them.

964 Round Parts of Wastewater Treatment Plants

Recently, I have been making collections of largely infrastructural elements like wastewater-treatment plants and power plants (and, for the SOMArts show, structures related to container transport) to highlight, on top of the specificity of these structures, the sheer effort it takes for us to continue existing on this planet. It can seem, from within the everyday perspective, that civilization is somehow magically running itself. Depending on who we are and where we live, our experiences of these things can often be removed and abstract – like how I know when I throw something away it goes to a landfill, but I have never seen that landfill.

At some point, a large portion of reality seems to have dematerialized. So by cutting out and collecting things like landfills, transmission towers, dams and container ships, I’m trying to highlight in a concrete sense the material mechanisms we have built and that we remain completely dependent on for our current existence. Having spent a lot of time with this imagery, I can say it’s quite a humbling realization.


206 Circular Farms


Shipping Containers, from a new series


195 Yachts, Barges, Cargo Lines, Tankers and Other Ships


97 Nuclear Cooling Towers 

Images used with permission of Jenny Odell

 

Update on Dalek’s Boulder Mural, from StreetArtNews.net

This dispatch was received on Sunday from StreetArtNews.net

Dalek New Mural In Boulder, USA

Brooklyn-based artist, Dalek just finished working on this new mural in Boulder, USA where he was helped by the local community and specifically kids.
If you are in the area, you’ll be able to find it on the Victors & Spoils’ building on East Pearl Street.
Look below for more angles of this piece and then check back with us soon for more updates from USA.
We at the Poorly Kept Secret Society can attest to the delight and wonder that comes from pulling masking tape.  The big reveal!!  These young men are forever changed for the better thanks to the good Mr. Dalek.

Biennial Fail from The L Magazine

Biennial Fail | Art Fag City | The L Magazine – New York Citys Local Event and Arts & Culture Guide.

Below is a short and smart critique of the Denver Biennial of the Americas from Paddy Johnson writing for L Magazine.

Biennial Fail

by 

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What does a biennial look like when it’s run by a group of businessmen and politicians? If Denver’s Biennial of the Americas (July 16-September 2) is any indication, like some awful, biennial-length franken-conference in the service of multinational corporations. Art, when it was given a place at all, was used primarily as a branding tool for the event; it’s not surprising then that it has little to offer art lovers or businesspeople. Even the Biennial’s expressed aims—idea exchange, and looking to booming economies in the north and south—weren’t achieved.

In the inaugural discussion forum “Unleashing Human Potential,” the only time anyone looked to the north was when Google’s Eric Schmidt observed that some snow was melting up in Canada, and that might reveal new sources of revenue. He later proclaimed that poverty would be eliminated thanks to mobile devices, and he cited The Huffington Post as a publishing model that might one day help writers get paid. (The Huffington Post does not pay most of its writers!)

Needless to say, I left that panel praying that the exchange of ideas would stop, and the Biennial did its best to make sure that it would. Whereas most such exhibitions would host contemporary art that could spark exchange, this one blew its resources on high-profile panelists like the Daily Beast’s Tina Brown and the Huffington Post’s Arianna Huffington. Art was so clearly an afterthought that half the audience had already left “Unleashing Human Potential” before we were told we should sit back down because the organizers had forgotten to announce the cultural programming.

That was a missed opportunity. Denver’s art community, while not yet mature, is growing and ready for the kinds of challenges a national event can bring. The Biennial commissioned only four architectural pieces, two small art shows, and a smattering of billboards across the city. For context, Prospect One, the widely lauded 2008 biennale in New Orleans, showcased the work of 81 artists in 24 venues across the city while offering an array of cultural and educational programs to the local community. Though underfunded, the art program has its moments. The citywide billboard project curated by Paul Andersen, Carsen Chan, Gaspar Libedinksy, and Cortney Stell is probably the most successful, as it requires people to tour Denver in packs. You get to know the city, which is enjoyable. I spent the better part of a day looking for all 31 of these commissions, each by artists well-known (Michael Snow, Julieta Aranda) and emerging (Amalia Ulman).

Daniel Jackson’s “Respect the Moustache” was among the strongest, a colorful digital collage of the city’s horse statues now with Photoshopped unicorn horns and hovering over a long strip of car shops, motels and fast-food restaurants. It’s a simple subversion of an overtly masculine symbol, and I liked that even visitors could easily recognize the altered statues. It will have meaning for everyone.

That’s likely not the case for Corina Copp’s, whose text looks like it’s half written in HTML and reads like sexualized broken poetry. “I want to be alone.>> <>Please no dogs. Please no dogs. <>” Text like this is hard to read, let alone read on a billboard, which is designed to be glanced at quickly.

Far more annoying though is the small text on the side of the poster that advertises the Biennial of the Americas. Normally, I wouldn’t take much issue with this—I’ve never bought the idea that art on billboards subverts advertising, because it’s such good advertising for itself—but in the context of the Biennial of the Americas, the ad rubbed me the wrong way. Organizations invested in the arts don’t slap advertising all over their art, because most artists don’t want their message co-opted for a brand. For all their so-called interest in “idea exchange,” somehow the Biennale of the Americas failed to talk to the artists and curators long enough to learn that.
Photo c/o Biennial of the Americas

First, we at the Poorly Kept Secret Society give props to Art Fag City.  Check them out: http://artfcity.com/.
Second, this opinion is not, as some might think, a cynical view.  It seems to jibe with a common sentiment around Denver.  A counterpoint, also smart, can be found in an article by Ray Rinaldi over at the Denver Post: http://www.denverpost.com/entertainment/ci_23725005/biennial-americas-highs-and-lows-city-wide-smash.
There are some lessons to learn.  But, this whole Biennial thing is still new for Denver.  Perhaps we will learn those lessons and grow into the sophistication and reach that this event aspires to.

Christie’s Will Appraise Detroit Institute of Arts Collection, Art in America

Christie’s Will Appraise Detroit Institute of Arts Collection – News – News & Opinion – Art in America.

The Agents of the Poorly Kept Secret Society are following this story closely.  This is not the first time that the art collection of a municipal government, held in trust by a museum, has been examined as an asset.  In Our Fair City the nascent Clyfford Still Museum sold several of its holdings, technically the property of the City and County of Denver, for a whopping $114 million.  However, they used that bit of change to set up a foundation to sustain the museum itself.  Detroit’s Emergency Manager, Kevin Orr, seems poised to liquidate at least part of the world class collection to pay off debt.  We should not be surprised that a former bankruptcy lawyer has come up with a strategy to fill the massive gaps in the city budget by gutting everything and selling it off.

And, we find it curious that the Federal Government is willing to bail out banks and automotive manufacturers, but is silently watches one of the nation’s biggest cities spiral out of control.  Never-mind: our Agents do not have the expertise to properly critique politics or economic strategy.

The interesting chatter at Headquarters is about the sale of the art.  We will be inundated over the next few weeks with articles and commentary as this plays out.  We will hear how the sale of these assets is necessary to make sure Detroit survives.  How this is a short-sighted move that will be regretted a generation from now.  It certainly sets a troubling precedent for those of us that participate in the public expression of culture.  Municipal governments do not collect art so that it may be an asset for future liquidity.  We don’t think about tearing up copper pipes from our fresh water system to fill budget gaps for the same reason: that’s not what it is there for.  The art and the copper pipes are there to make a city worth living in.  One of the issues in Detroit is that people and companies are not clamoring to move there.  The crass auction of one of the country’s great cultural destinations doesn’t paint a rosy picture to lure business back to the city.

Our Agents have also been chatting (in hushed voices among the inky shadows of alleyways) about the curious fact that these artworks, and those at the Clyfford Still Museum, are tempting to sell because of the bat-shit crazy private art market, one of the few corners of capitalism that seems to have ignored the Great Recession.  Should Detroit sell the artwork there is a portion, no doubt, that will end up in museums.  But, most likely the bulk will go to private hands; the pockets are deeper among super-wealthy art collectors.  So, much of this art may be lost to the public.  There is so much money in selling art… the temptation can be overwhelming.

We will be watching the unsettling, but fascinating events at the Detroit Institute of Art closely.  From across the street, through the peepholes cut strategically in a newspaper.