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.

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.

Drunken Hipsters and the Public Good

VisitDenver reports that the Reverb blog reports that Rolling Stone reports that Denver’s own Beta Night Club is the best dance club in the country.  Our Agents have observed that walking around in LoDo on a Friday night, or South Broadway, for that matter, you know as well we do that kickin’ bass and alcohol can do more for activating a city block then anything.  Anything.

 

But, when the patrons of these night clubs stumble out onto those streets, does anyone else want to be there?

 

No.

 

But, they are there.  Walking around, spending money, puking and tweeting.  (Not easy to do simultaneously.)  So, they can be an important component to a 24 hour activation strategy, filling in the gap when all their friends who married early and are back home in the suburbs putting the kids to bed are already watching Charlie Rose and scoffing at the disgusting video to be found on their Twitter feed.

Fevers

Several Agents of the Poorly Kept Secret Society have been, for several years now, tracking a curious tag around the Denver Metropolitan Area:

http://www.flickr.com/groups/denvergraff/pool/page4/?view=lg

http://www.flickr.com/photos/92124688@N03/8490682371/

The expertly formed tag was most compelling in concept: Fevers kept true to the name.  The tag popped up in many media, in many places: marker on electrical boxes, aerosol on retaining walls, bridges, road signs, billboards, on and on and on.  The tag itself was a fever, infecting the city.  The pace was frenetic, with a new manifestations of the Fevers disease popping up overnight.  Like the landscape itself was in the throws of the fever.  Or, perhaps, the tag itself was a symptom of some strange new social disease, a disease which compelled the poor patient to endlessly deface property all night: Turrets with spray cans.  It was disturbing and compelling.  Agents eagerly, yet with trepidation, sought out the next boil, the next rash, the next unusual locale for the obsessive Fevers tag to manifest.

And then… nothing.  Agents report that, though a few of Fevers tags remain, there have been no new cases to report in months.  The Poorly Kept Secret Society asks “what has happened to Fevers”?

Perhaps Fevers recovered, no longer compelled to scribble on lampposts and abandoned cars.  Perhaps Fevers has been arrested: sentenced to probation and community service.  Sobered by the experience, perhaps Fevers has given up the lifestyle.  Perhaps Fevers only tagged to keep the mind occupied through the Great Recession and now, gainfully employed in a cushy recovery job (I imagine building solar panels on a hefty government contract…) perhaps Fevers has no time, no energy to devote to the sickness.  Perhaps Fevers escaped the compulsive allure of Denver’s streets, and now fights the urge to infect some other town.

Whatever the reason, the fever has broken.

Some Agents of the Poorly Kept Secret Society are saddened.  Some hope for a relapse.

Note to Agents: Chamber of Camaraderie

A community forms a Chamber of Commerce to represent the interests of business.  That is to say the “profits of business owners”.  They may have other stated goals such as community vitality and employment, but those are of course means to increasing profits.

We at the Poorly Kept Secret Society have no qualms about business, or indeed Chambers of Commerce.  (Well, no complaints about the concept of a Chamber if Commerce, at least. Their actions can sometimes be dubious…)

However, there are other aspirations for a city.  Other than the profits of business owners, I mean.  And, there are organizations, for- and non-profit, for whom the primary focus is the well-being of the city.  Where is their lobbyist?  Who is out there wooing new artists… or charities… or activists… to a city?  Where is their Chamber?

For discussion:  What does that organization look like?   What cities have experimented with that?   What if there was a Chamber of Camaraderie?

Agents may respond to this discussion topic in the usual manner:  leave a coded note pinned to the back of the scarf or fedora of a bleary-eyed hipster waiting in the ridiculously long line to get a breakfast table that is forming outside Jelly restaurant, 13th and Pearl in Denver.

Lynne Bruning

Here’s a stellar interview by Body Pixel with Denver’s digital dressed-up darling, Lynne Bruning.  (Special points awarded for alliteration.)

Interview with Lynne Bruning: Doing Groovalicious eTextiles!

Lynne Bruning is an award winning wearable artist, eTextile innovator and, as she likes to title herself, ‘a textile enchantress, lover of black sand beaches, tangerine bikinis and fast connections.’

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Synaptic by Lynne Bruning, photo: Carl Snider

She holds an Bachelor of Arts in neurophysiology and Masters in architecture. Her artworks have been published in numerous fashion magazines, web zines and all over the blogosphere. She lives and works in Denver, Colorado.

Lynne is pretty active member and proponent of DIY scene in eTextiles and wearable tech fields. I’ve met her via Twitter a few months ago and since then I’ve been planning to bring her here for the interview…

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Black Pirate TuTu by Lynne Bruning, photo by Carl Snider

When I saw that you hold BA in neuropsychology, somehow I wasn’t surprised that you are dealing now with eTextile, playing with Arduino, wires and electricity…

LB: Every girl’s dream is for a fast neural connection.  :)

You also hold an MA in architecture… how did you jump in these shoes and what fascinates you in architecture?

LB: This was a jump in scale, not function. My time in neurophysiology was working with electron microscopes focused on a cellular level research.  While architecture was about using cranes and concrete to design the built environment for those conglomerations of cells to inhabit.

Realistically, a human body and a building have all the same elements – circulation, respiration, temperature regulation, waste removal, skin, fenestrations, energy production ect.  Same functions. Different materials and scale.  Simple, yes?

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Harlequin Coat by Lynne Bruning, photo: Carl Snider

Indeed, I love to be surrounded by beautiful well designed architecture.  Just to inhabit this type of space can elevate your spirits, dictate how people will behave or place you in majestic awe.  I recommend you seek out exceptional architecture every day and soak up the vibes of honesty, integrity, form, function and beauty. It will make you a happier person.

Does it mean that you see your textile design and fashion as a sort of sculpture?

LB: I see my creations as a symbiotic combustion of fashion, art, sculpture and science and the wearer adds dimension by breathing life into the textile product.

When did your interests in textile art start?

LB: I come from a family of sewers, quilters and knitters so I have always been surrounded unique textiles. I have slept under my great-grandmothers wedding ring quilt and worn prom dresses designed and sewn by my mother. As young children we were taught to seek unique independent shops to find speciality fabrics, buttons and yarns.  Yet, I think it all began when my mother brought me home from the hospital swaddled in a pink mohair blanket her father had found in Peruvian Andes.

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Candy. C by Lynne Bruning, photo: Carl Snider

What inspired you to get into fashion design?

LB: I don’t consider myself a fashion designer.  Yes, I make garments that people wear, yet you can just as well hang them within a frame and they function as pieces of art. Fashion is simply a byproduct of my artistic and scientific process.

My creations are actresses in a performance art piece on the stage of the Theater of Life. Sometime the cloth is animated by motion. Sometimes by light.  All are at their best when being worn on life’s main stage.

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DayGlo Weave by Lynne Bruning, photo: Carl Snider

When exactly did you first get into eTextiles industry and how did it come about?

LB: In 2006 I ordered stainless steel thread from Texture Trading Company. Once I had it, then I wondered what to do with it. Fortunately, the LilyPad Ardunio was soon released.

How would you describe your own work and aesthetics?

LB: I call it: exploratory innovations in textiles, garment construction and eTextiles.  Others simply refer to it as groovalicious.

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Making the LED wiring harness for Mrs. Mary Atkins Holl

I’ve noticed that you like to play with prints and motifs on your garments… you’re not running away from colours and playfulness…

LB: I do love an infusion of intensely vibrant colours.  It’s like walking thru a tropical garden while the rising sun warms the skin and awakens your vibrantly illuminated world.

Can you tell us more about your artwork Haptic Coat for the Blind entitled Bats Have Feelings Too!

LB: Here is a little story for you that explains why I made Bats Have Feelings Too!  as a creative commons project.

When I was five, my Grandfather piled my brother, our 15 year old gardener Joseph, copper pipes, butane torches, plumbing supplies, a couple of goats and me into our ancient Ford Fairlane.   We drove deep into the Jamaican Blue Mountains to Joseph’s hamlet where there was only one water spigot for a community of hundred people.

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Bats Have Feelings Too! by Lynne Bruning, photo: Carl Snider

That day, I watched and learned as Grandfather taught Joseph, and eventually an entire village, how to install copper plumbing.  Demonstrating as he ran the line from that spigot to Joseph’s one room concrete block tin roofed home.  This event was the beginning of many do-it-yourself lessons and is the grounding source of my ideal for democratization of technology.

That day Grandfather changed many lives by sharing the knowledge of how to use technology and a few simple tools to improve your world.  With Bats I hope I have shared a building block, a jumping off point,  for the global development and use of a ‘wearable cane’.  It is a project that can be made anywhere in the world.  It can be tailored to that specific persons aesthetics and mobility needs. Most of all it shares Grandfather’s belief that anyone can solve a challenge thru technology, ingenuity and determination.

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Synaptic by Lynne Bruning, photo: Carl Snider

What has inspired you to create Synaptic coat?

LB: Synaptic was derived from looking thru too many scientific journals at day glo images of celular structure.  While her fluttery edges and triple layer structure remind me of sea slugs lightly skimming across the sand.

Could you describe a process of designing your interactive garments… More precisely, is your design process different when you design interactive fashion compared to when you design clothes?

LB: Interactive garments require more advance planing due to circuitry design and integration so I begin with that focus in mind.  While my art  develops from a fiber – it’s drape, texture, luminosity, transparency etc.  Even when I create or weave my fabrics I frequently don’t have the final product in mind. I let the fiber dictate the direction of the final creation.

What techniques and equipment do you use in your work?

LB: I have 2 looms, 5 sewing machines, knitting needles, irons, and a hot glue gun that I should use more often.

My techniques are rooted in a simple childhood lesson – that if I can dream it, I can make it.  That is, as long as I work really really really hard and ask for help when needed. Compromises in a fiber or method may be require as I problem solve my design. Yet, these alterations generally lead me to a final product that is even better than I dreamed of. Yet, ultimately, I rely on the gift of dreams, experimentation and perseverance.

What fibers and textiles do you use and why?

LB: I prefer natural fibers for their ecological responsibility, yet I have been known to weave with atypical elements such as surveyor’s string, grass, plastic bags because you never really know what will evolve from these experiments.  I also save and use all of my fabric scraps as with the patchwork series and then those scraps are used for the string series.

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Li-po powersupply for the UV LEDs sewn to final lobster bustle
working processes on Mrs. Mary Atkins Holl

You are a truly active member of the international DIY scene… You have shared your experiences not only through workshops and classes but via web based projects such as Instructables and Makezine… What is your opinion on development of DIY scene in wearable technology context?

LB: eTextiles are an innovative global exploration where many of the cutting edge developers believe and support the principals of open sources and creative commons. By sharing our experiences over the internet we have been able to quickly advance our collective progress. I hope that sharing information and fostering DIY projects will continue as the field matures.

How do you see the future of wearable electronic technology?

LB: Vast. Exciting. Profound. Groovalicious.

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Bright Paches by Lynne Bruning, photo by Carl Snider

Who are your favourite artists? And why?

LB: Leonardo da Vinci for his amazing unending creativity and innovation.

David Hockney: understanding and documentation of multiple perspectives in one piece of art. Documentary A Bigger Picture comes out this summer “John Tusa Interviews David Hockney (2004)”.

Louise Bourgeois: depiction of the psychosocial within her inhabitable spaces – The Spider, The Mistress and The Tangerine.

David Lynch: he’s so rad!

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Mrs. Mary Atkins Holl by Lynne Bruning, photo: Carl Snider

You have worked for Burning Man Festival? What’s the atmosphere and the whole vibe there like?

For me the vibe on playa is about finding and understanding your super special talent.  We all have something we excel at.  Its your most natural talent.  Once you understand it, then you give it away to the community.  Frequently and freely.

When everyone comes together and offers their super special talent to the collective group – anything and everything is possible.  Be it large scale art as with Big Rig Jig or Serpent Mother.  Or individual playafashion or to actually building the city for 50,000 citizens.

Each one of us has something to offer that makes our collective time together all the more precious, real and vibrant. What will you be bringing to the playa this year?

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Working processes on Mrs. Mary Atkins Holl, photo by Lynne Bruning

What advice do you have for a person who wants to mess around with textiles, wirez and electricity?

LB: Just do it! Its  a 3V battery, it’s not like you can hurt yourself. Then, go look at Instructables website for more information.

What are your future plans?

LB: I will be at Maker Faire in San Mateo 22-23 May. Please come say hello!

Lynne, thanks a lot!

Let’s all learn from Lynne!

Secret Assignment Complete

Agents of the Poorly Kept Secret Society, working under cover, just completed the installation of artwork by Sam Flores, Dave Choe, and Highraff at the Cherry Creek Arts Festival in Denver. This clandestine graffiti installation brings three murals originally created at 2012’s Terminal Kings event back out on the streets.

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Go see it.

Tell no one.

“David Choe” and “Denver, Colorado” Share the Same Initials

David Choe can’t seem to get enough of D Town.  He passed through last week while filming his latest installment of “Thumbs Up”.  Remarkably, not a single Denver resident lost a limb, or karma-points, during the course of his stay.

Some may recall the Terminal Kings event held in early 2012 in which Choe joined street artists Highraff and Sam Flores for some good natured and propellant-powered live painting.  Agents of the Poorly Kept Secret Society, then a better kept secret, were on hand.  During that event, Choe decided to donate a mural to the City and County of Denver (with the help of his cohorts DVS-1 and Joe To).  Those outstanding, towering paintings have lived at 13th and Champa for the past 18 months.  Lo and behold, upon Choe’s latest arrival in Denver he decided to improve his mural. 

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There are Agents in the Poorly Kept Secret Society who continue to be dubious of Mr. Choe’s work.  He is an accomplished technician, no doubt.  If you gave a can of aerosol to both Choe and an automatic David-Choe-Aersol-Contest-Winning Machine (I believe this is under development by NASA), David Choe wins, hands down.  He is also graced with a marvelously ludicrous imagination.  But, he is also in that cadre of artists who have come to represent much more than the sum of their craft.  Along with the other superstars of the art market, Choe is a symbol of that unattainable corner of the aesthetics.  His work is for the wealthy.  He, himself, is a multi-millioinaire.  He gets lumped with Hirst and Koons and the rest of the superstars.  Snore.  He is also crass.  Or, at least the character of himself that we see on Thumbs Up is.  Exclusive and glib; these two traits conspire to make his art feel a bit unapproachable.

In real life, Choe is very friendly.  The Agents of the Poorly Kept Secret Society who have spent time with David Choe have reported that he is a warm conversationalist.  He also commits fully and completely to his art, no pretense.  And, the simple, streetwise nature of his aesthetic and the honesty of his narrative are engaging.  He seems to resolve any discomfort we may feel with his lifestyle by simply making amazing, beautiful, and engaging works of art.  They are indeed for everyone.

And, never is that more obvious than in the fact that he has once again given a gift to Denver.  If you have not been by the Denver Performing Arts Complex in a while, make the trip.  13th and Champa.  Go in disguise, if possible.

(Photograph courtesy of Jacquelyn Connolly, Co-conspirator to the Poorly Kept Secret Society.)