Mission Complete: Botstories Boulder by Gary Hirsch

Artists are now exploring social media as a platform for experience.  Not just as marketing tools, though that should not be underestimated.  Rather the tantalizing experiments with social media as a component of, or the canvas for, expression is a source of fascination for the agents of the Poorly Kept Secret Society.  Well, some of them at least.  Admittedly there are more than a few agents who are confounded by the whole thing and believe that what Facebook needs more than all else is a  well placed toss of a large wrench…

As these artists continue to experiment we see a depth and complexity to the investigations that can be exciting.  Or, sometimes, ridiculous.  One lesson that is worth exploring was ably demonstrated by artist Gary Hirsch in his recent mural project for the City of Boulder.



hirsch (2)


hirsch (1)


Gary’s simple idea is, as you might imagine, the front for a serious and complex game.  I won’t go into it here, as time will not allow.  (Sorry, I am writing this post while on a stakeout, hidden in a mailbox…)  But, please read more on his site: www.botjoy.com.

What is compelling for the agents who assisted Mr. Hirsch in his project was the delight people take in his clever, perhaps devious, social media campaign.  What makes for a viral hashtag, or blog post, or tweet, is mysterious.  But Mr. Hirsch saw something.  Please conduct further research at #botstories and #botjoy.

What should we learn from his success?  That a simple message, a simple question, is accessible and therefore useful to the folks in social media land?  That opening up the exploration to the personal voice captivates?  That irony is attractive?  Or, as I hope, that people yearn for the connection to beauty in all they do, even when what they do is 140 characters in length?

We shall follow #botstories as the internet community of quizzical robot enthusiasts grows.

And, congratulations to Gary on a wonderful project!!  And, congratulations Boulder on your new artwork!!  Stop by 13th and Arapaho to see it for your own self.


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.




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.

The Duck is Down!! I repeat, Duck Down!!

This just in from the Herald Sun in Melbourne:

Duck down for count before NYE party in Taiwan


Duck down … A giant inflatable duck in Taiwan has exploded just before New Years celebrations. It is not the first time the art installation has deflated. Last month it was the victim of a 6.3-magnitude earthquake and in May the duck also exploded in Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour (pictured). Source: AFP

A GIANT yellow duck on display in a northern Taiwan port exploded just hours before it was expected to attract a big crowd to count down the new year.

The 18-metre-tall duck on show at Keelung burst around noon on Tuesday and deflated into a floating yellow disc, only 11 days after it went on display.

It was the second time that a giant inflatable duck – a bath toy replica created by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman – had burst while on show in Taiwan.

“We want to apologise to the fans of the yellow rubber duck … the weather is fine today and we haven’t found the cause of the problem. We will carefully examine the duck to determine the cause,” organiser Huang Jing-tai told reporters.

Organisers had planned to stay open past midnight on Tuesday in anticipation of a large new year crowd.

The Central News Agency cited an eyewitness as saying the rubber bird might have fallen victim to eagles which scratched it with their claws.

Three Taiwanese cities exhibited their versions of the yellow duck in 2013. But all were forced temporarily to suspend the exhibit due to bad weather or damage.

Taiwan rubber duck

Local residents gather to see Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman’s yellow rubber duck (C) at a harbour in the southern city of Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

Last month the duck on display in the northern county of Taoyuan became a high-profile victim of a 6.3-magnitude earthquake, which triggered a power outage that caused it to deflate when an air pump stopped working.

Powerful winds caused the duck’s rear end to burst while it was being re-inflated. Organisers in Taoyuan had to borrow another duck commissioned by the Kaohsiung city government to continue the show.

The duck at Kaohsiung, which attracted four million visitors during a one-month display, was temporarily deflated and lifted ashore as a safety precaution when Typhoon Usagi pounded the island in September.

Since 2007 the original duck designed by Hofman – which is 16.5 metres tall – has travelled to 13 cities in nine countries, including Brazil, Australia and Hong Kong, on its journey around the world.




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.

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.

Fourth Plinth Just Gives and Gives

Fourteen years after the fine folks at the Greater London Authority were bold enough to allow contemporary artists to create work for the empty pedestal in Trafalgar Square, the project is still hitting home runs.  We’ve seen artists install…

a giant rocking horse…

Powerless Structures Fig. 101

(Powerless Structures Fig. 101 by Elmgreen and Dragset)

a ship in a bottle…

Ship in a bottle

(Ship in a Bottle by Yinka Shonibare)

a big blue cock (oh, just grow up)…

Hahn / Cock by Katharina Fritsch

(Hahn/Cock by Katharina Fritsch)

and, my favorite, a forum for people – anyone – to perform how ever they see fit…

(One and Another by Antony Gormley)

Fourteen years of show-stoppers.  Crazy, messed-up shit that makes people squirm, and laugh, and flock to Trafalgar.   What accounts for the continuing success of this project?  Here’s what we know:

Adventurous artists for a start.  Which is another way of saying adventurous sponsors. You can always find great artists, but try to find someone willing to take risks with their money!  I think it is the Royal Arts Society that is backing Fourth Plinth.  We at the Poorly Kept Secret Society commend them for letting the artists do what they do.  But that’s not all that risky, to be frank.  If your shelling out lots’ of pounds for an artist, you are going to want to get your money’s worth.  The way to get your money’s worth from an artist is to trust them, even just a little.

On a related note, the focus on temporary is key.  We at the Poorly Kept Secret Society believe that the best public art these days is temporary work.  It loosens the anuses the understandably nervous administrators and commissions who supervise the process.  Wonderful things can happen when you don’t have to worry about the word “forever” in the contract.

Okay, so we must admit that it is London.  There are already tons of people there, locals and tourists, who dig this stuff.  They are museum-goers and art-lovers.  They invented -going and -loving, for Pete’s sake!  Let us not pretend that Fourth Plinth will work the same on that empty fourth plinth in Kiowa or Alamosa.

But, perhaps most important to the success of Fourth Plinth is the fact that it so very simple of a concept.  They just put some art where there was nothing.  And, they trusted to that simplicity.  Below is a transcript of the meeting of the Greater London Authority on the day they deliberated on the Fourth Plinth project:

“I say, Reginald, do you see that plinth over there?”

“What plinth?  Are you referring to that fourth one, per chance?”


“The empty one?”

“Spot on.”

“Yes, Wilberforce, I see it.”

“What should we do with that empty fourth plinth, Reginald?”

“I’m afraid I’m at a loss, old bean.  What do you think?”

“Well I certainly do not know what to do with that empty fourth plinth.  We need to find someone creative to come up with a whopping great something to put on that empty fourth plinth.”

“I say!  Wilberforce!”

“You have an idea, Reginald?”

“I do indeed!  Do you know whom is creative?”

“Why no.  Whom is creative, Reginald?”

“Artists are creative, Wilberforce!  Artists!  Let us ask a few artists to put something on that empty fourth plinth.”

“That’s a corker of an idea, Reginald!  Let’s go down in the lift to share a pint before toddling off home to the trouble-and-strife.”


(Transcription may not be accurate.)

As I said, we can’t replicate London.  And, we can’t expect to learn about the success of Trafalgar Square as a public space simply by examining the success of Fourth Plinth.  However, that project is a fantastic measure to isolate.  Learning how they manage to build on their own remarkable success, year after year, is valuable.  Fourth Plinth is a model program for anyone thinking about a new public art project.