Saturday, December 29, 2012

Bobby Pins (oversized)

Oversized bobby pins, first edition (in progress).

"When the real is no longer what it used to be, nostalgia assumes its full meaning. There is a proliferation of myths of origin and signs of reality; of second-hand truth, objectivity and authenticity. There is an escalation of the true, of the lived experience; a resurrection of the figurative where the object and substance have disappeared. And there is a panic-stricken production of the real and the referential, above and parallel to the panic of material production. This is how simulation appears in the phase that concerns us: a strategy of the real, neo-real and hyperreal, whose universal double is a strategy of deterrence.

These would be the successive phases of the image:
  1. It is the reflection of a basic reality.
  2. It masks and perverts a basic reality.
  3. It masks the absence of a basic reality.
  4. It bears no relation to any reality whatever: it is its own pure simulacrum.

There is no real, there is no imaginary except at a certain distance. What happens when 
this distance, including that between the real and the imaginary, tends to abolish itself, to 
be reabsorbed on behalf of the model? Well, from one order of simulacra to another, the 
tendency is certainly toward the reabsorption of this distance, of this gap that leaves room 
for an ideal or critical projection."  -Jean Baudrillard

Hyperreal and Imaginary
"Disneyland is a perfect model of all the entangled orders of simulation. To begin with it is a play of illusions and phantasms: pirates, the frontier, future world, etc. This imaginary world is supposed to be what makes the operation successful. But, what draws the crowds is undoubtedly much more the social microcosm, the miniaturized and religious revelling in real America, in its delights and drawbacks. You park outside, queue up inside, and are totally abandoned at the exit. In this imaginary world the only phantasmagoria is in the inherent warmth and affection of the crowd, and in that aufficiently excessive number of gadgets used there to specifically maintain the multitudinous affect. The contrast with the absolute solitude of the parking lot — a veritable concentration camp — is total. Or rather: inside, a whole range of gadgets magnetize the crowd into direct flows; outside, solitude is directed onto a single gadget: the automobile. By an extraordinary coincidence (one that undoubtedly belongs to the peculiar enchantment of this universe), this deep-frozen infantile world happens to have been conceived and realized by a man who is himself now cryogenized; Walt Disney, who awaits his resurrection at minus 180 degrees centigrade.
The objective profile of the United States, then, may be traced throughout Disneyland, even down to the morphology of individuals and the crowd. All its values are exalted here, in miniature and comic-strip form. Embalmed and pactfied. Whence the possibility of an ideological analysis of Disneyland (L. Marin does it well in Utopies, jeux d'espaces): digest of the American way of life, panegyric to American values, idealized transposition of a contradictory reality. To be sure. But this conceals something else, and that "ideological" blanket exactly serves to cover over a third-order simulation: Disneyland is there to conceal the fact that it is the "real" country, all of "real" America, which is Disneyland (just as prisons are there to conceal the fact that it is the social in its entirety, in its banal omnipresence, which is carceral). Disneyland is presented as imaginary in order to make us believe that the rest is real, when in fact all of Los Angeles and the America surrounding it are no longer real, but of the order of the hyperreal and of simulation. It is no longer a question of a false representation of reality (ideology), but of concealing the fact that the real is no longer real, and thus of saving the reality principle.
The Disneyland imaginary is neither true nor false: it is a deterrence machine set up in order to rejuvenate in reverse the fiction of the real. Whence the debility, the infantile degeneration of this imaginary. It ~s meant to be an infantile world, in order to make us believe that the adults are elsewhere, in the "real" world, and to conceal the fact that real childishness is everywhere, particularly among those adults who go there to act the child in order to foster illusions of their real childishness.
Moreover, Disneyland is not the only one. Enchanted Village, Magic Mountain, Marine World: Los Angeles is encircled by these "imaginary stations" which feed reality, reality-energy, to a town whose mystery is precisely that it is nothing more than a network of endless, unreal circulation: a town of fabulous proportions, but without space or dimensions. As much as electrical and nuclear power stations, as much as film studios, this town, which is nothing more than an immense script and a perpetual motion picture, needs this old imaginary made up of childhood signals and faked phantasms for its sympathetic nervous system."
-Jean Baudrillard.  Simulacra and Simulations, Jean Baudrillard, Selected Writings, Ed Mark Poster. Stanford University Press, 1998, Pages 166-184.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Bobby Pins (found)

I see them everywhere.  I saw them in Dubai.  France.  Philadelphia.  
Now I see them in Cincinnati. 

They fall on the ground and become a part of the lost items, forgotten until I spot them and wonder if anyone ever thinks about who designed, manufactured, packed, shipped, stocked, purchased, wore and dropped them.

*If you see one, send me the picture and location please.

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Bob Holder

Harry Natkiel was an American inventor at the early part of the 20th century.  The father of my paternal grandmother, I have spent my life believing 'my great-grandfather invented the bumps in the bobby pin.'  Last winter I stumbled upon these drawings from official patents, issued through the US Patent office.   I never had the opportunity to meet my great-grandfather Natkiel, but I am impressed at his life-long commitment to experimentation and attention to detail.  Today he would be considered an industrial designer, and these changes to hair pins would take moments, not months to complete.  

According to my grandmother (one of his three daughters), he was always adjusting hair pins to satisfy my great-grandmother, who had thin hair, and found it difficult to find a hair clip to stay in her hair.  

These are the patents I have found so far.  

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Triceracopter: Hope for the Obsolescence of War (an essay)

This incredible work of art lives in the main library on the University of Cincinnati's campus.  A work by the late artist and faculty member of my program, Patricia A Renick, this thought provoking essay is something I stumbled upon in the professor blog  

The following essay provides background that we hope contributes to the conversation begun in a post from last week—”Triceracopter: Wrong Symbol, Wrong Place.” And if you find yourself near Langsam Library on Clifton Campus, we invite you to visit the CET&L in 480 Langsam. You’ll have to squeeze by the Triceracopter to get to us, though.
Triceracopter Triceracopter: Hope for the Obsolescence of War (an essay)

Triceracopter: Hope for the Obsolescence of War 
by Laura H. Chapman, December 2010
War is a dichotomy. It seduces our dream self through heroic fantasy while threatening our physical self with extinction.” Patricia A. Renick
Patricia A. Renick’s Triceracopter: The Hope for the Obsolescence of War (1977) combines the form of a triceratops dinosaur with an Army OH6A Cayuse combat helicopter that was flown in Vietnam. Triceracopter alludes to actual and possible mutations in killing machines that may result from sophisticated technology.
The sculpture began as a Bicentennial project, but with no certain venue for exhibition and without the benefit of a commission.  The artist said she “did not see the work as a celebration but as a cautionary tale, a hope for the end of war.
Although the forms of a triceratops and a helicopter are unlikely candidates for a single sculpture, the artist has combined them to invite wonder and nudge reflective thinking. The work is immediately recognizable as a formidable bio-mechanical presence, part animal and part machine, momentarily at rest but menacing. In contrast to the stylized curves of the animal are the unmodified parts of the helicopter.
Here we can imagine the enormous destructive power of the long pointed horns. These long shafts could stab and fling. The lower tusk could lift and batter, and plow and pound. The massive rill flares outward, guards the deep-set eyes, and protects the most vulnerable organs. In addition to this fortress-like head, a powerful destructive force is latent in the muscular legs and the several tons of body weight available for a charge. One of the last dinosaurs to become extinct, triceratops had highly developed systems of defense.
Humans do battle by different means. We invent instruments for self-defense. We also engage in battle to defend ideas, not just to save our hides. The OH6A Cayuse helicopter in this sculpture was first used in the Vietnam War. It was small, agile, and known as the versatile low flying “Little Bird.” Fitted with an intense light and flying at night over treetops, it was often deployed as bait for locating the enemy, especially at night. These flights drew enemy fire making a visible target for attack by larger helicopters or jet fighters.
Unlike instinctive killing in the natural world, human warfare is governed by a conscious plan. The Vietnam war—its necessity, its strategies, its modes of combat, its cost in lives—caused a secondary political and ideological battle to rage at home. In Triceracopter, the artist expresses the hope for a time when warfare becomes extinct, obsolete.
Renick spent about three years gathering the materials and completing the work under the umbrella of working on a Bicentennial project. With extraordinary help from the US Army, she secured a badly damaged Vietnam-era helicopter fuselage, reconstructing most of it in fiberglass. Other helicopter parts were found and contributed by US Army National Guard units in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut.
In addition, the artist solicited and received contributions from major corporations such as Ashland Chemical Company (fiberglass), PPG Industries (paint), Ford Motor Company (automotive modelers clay), and local donors such as Reece-Campbell (wood for the base), Formica (covering for base). She created the work in a 5th floor loft at 12th and Central Parkway donated rent-free by Dr. Raymond Fine. She was allowed to work with the professional fabricators  at the facilities of R. L. Industries (Fairfield, Ohio).
Renick was physically involved in every stage of the three-year project except for the operation of the fiberglass gun and painting of the work. Those who assisted in the labor recognized that no person could manage the job alone. Many who worked at the intersection of military and industrial ventures offered technical advice or performed operations that required special equipment. Their contributions remain as a testament to the inspirational power of the concept, the underlying metaphors, and the artist’s personal commitment to the project.
Among many volunteers who helped on the project, combat veterans were the most passionate. They grasped the artist’s message. “War is seductive as well as threatening,” she said, “It is seductive because it says I will make a hero out of you…but it really kills. I want people to see that ambiguity. From the front, its an animal, but then you see the rivets and the markings and then you see the helicopter.” Renick said that the eyes and sculptural forms in the head were inspired in part by “the helmet and face of a Samurai warrior. They were very much into psychological warfare. If they couldn’t kill you they would scare the hell out of you.”
There are several postscripts to the story of Triceracopter. First, the artist’s hope for the obsolescence of war is unrealized. In fact, variants of the OH6A helicopter are being used in Iraq and Afghanistan, and in about the about the same way as Vietnam. In addition, they are often deployed for quick insertion/extraction missions by Special Operation forces.
Second, there is growing evidence that birds, the prototype for all of our flying machines, evolved from dinosaurs. In February 2009, PBS featured the program,The Four Winged Dinosaur, in which the world’s leading scientists discussed their research on the evolution of birds from dinosaurs, with recently discovered fossils in China providing the evidence for this lineage. Those claims about lineage are not entirely new. In 1986, J. A. Gauthier examined 100 characteristics of birds and dinosaurs. He concluded that birds belonged to the clade of coelurosaurian dinosaurs. [Gauthier, J.A., 1986. Saurischian monophyly and the origin of birds, in The Origin of Birds and the Evolution of Flight, California Academy of Sciences Memoir No. 8].
Third, Triceracopter was last exhibited at the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, early in 1977. This one-person show included Self-Portrait: She Became What She Beheld. This sculpture is a body cast of the artist sitting on a chair, dressed in work clothing, and holding a small concept model for the larger work. Instead of the expected life-size human head, the artist has portrays herself with the head of her progeny, Triceracopter. The self-portrait was placed a short distance from the larger work and facing it, as if musing about its birth and destiny but also “becoming” what she is beholding–artist as dinosaur.
When asked about the fate of these two works, Renick expressed concern about their ultimate destinations. She hoped they would find a home in an academic institution, or be buried deep in a cave where they might later be discovered. It is fitting that Triceracopter and Self-Portrait have a home at the University of Cincinnati, where students can be engaged with them at many levels, making their own connections among the arts, sciences, humanities, technology, and life in the 21st century.
Supplementary Information.
Patricia A Renick, was born in Lakeland Florida in 1932. She retired from the University of Cincinnati in 2000 as Professor Emerita in Fine Arts, College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning. She died May 7, 2007.
Triceracopter is engineered in sections. The overall length is 30 feet. It is 11 feet high, without the platform. (Coincidently, a mature triceratops and this helicopter both measure 30 feet). The overall width of the body is 8 feet, not counting the rotor blades, each about 10 feet long.
Asked why she created Triceracopter, with no commission or promise of a show, Patricia said: “I was determined not to be among those rocking chair people on the front porch of the future saddened by what might have been. So I made a Triceracopter. It is as simple and as complex as that.” She also wanted “to prove to herself” she could complete more than one large-scale work with a timely metaphor. (In 1974, at the peak of the first major gasoline shortage, Patricia had created a large work combining the forms of a stegosaurus dinosaur and actual Volkswagen Beetle. Called Stegowagenvolkssaurus, this sculpture is now on extended loan to the W. Frank Steely Library at Northern Kentucky University). A 2003 interview with the artist can be accessed at…/renick/renick.shtml
Triceracopter is a donation to the university from Laura H. Chapman.
[The previous narrative was a heavily edited and updated version of the original catalog essay, copyright 1977, Contemporary Arts Center  ISBN 0-917562-06-2 ]

Monday, October 15, 2012

Cincinnati on Film: Disposable Series

In this new exploration of the urban environment, located in Cincinnati, Ohio, I have begun a series of photographs taken on 35mm film.  Since landing in this historic city, the quiet softness of the city and suburban culture has reminded me of the softness of film photography.  Things look like old photographs or artist renderings of a city.  Hand painted signs are easy to spot, and many buildings have painted plywood taking the place of missing doors and windows.  With this first series I'm using 400 speed film, and shooting from the hip, without using a viewfinder at all.