Blogs The Gradient Paul Schmelzer

Paul Schmelzer is the editor of walkerart.org and the Walker blogs. He was lead organizer of the Walker's 2015 conference Superscript: Arts Journalism and Criticism in a Digital Age. As a freelance writer, he's focused on art, media, and activism for publications including Adbusters, Artforum.com, Huffington Post, Hyperallergic, Raw Vision, re:form, Utne Reader, and at his personal blog, Eyeteeth. Award-winning former editor of the Minnesota Independent, his interviews with architect Cameron Sinclair, artist Rirkrit Tiravanija and activist Winona La Duke appear in the book Land, Art: A Cultural Ecology Handbook (Royal Society of Arts). Twitter: @iteeth

Counter Currents: Luke Fischbeck (of Lucky Dragons) on Videofreex

Presented in conjunction with the exhibition Hippie Modernism, the series Counter Currents invites a range of individuals and collectives—from writer Geoff Manaugh and artist Tomás Saraceno to Experimental Jetset and Josh MacPhee—to share how countercultural artists and designers of the 1960s and ’70s have influenced their work and thinking today. Here Luke Fischbeck of Lucky Dragons—which performs […]

Counter Currents_Videofreex

Presented in conjunction with the exhibition Hippie Modernism, the series Counter Currents invites a range of individuals and collectives—from writer Geoff Manaugh and artist Tomás Saraceno to Experimental Jetset and Josh MacPhee—to share how countercultural artists and designers of the 1960s and ’70s have influenced their work and thinking today. Here Luke Fischbeck of Lucky Dragons—which performs at the Walker May 13 as part of Devendra Banhart’s two night mini-festival—considers the influence of the collective Videofreex. Hippie Modernism opens at the Cranbrook Museum of Art on June 18.

Videofreex
Videofreex (l. to r.) David Cort, Bart Friedman, and Parry Teasdale (holding Sarah Teasdale) introduce Lanesville, NY resident Scottie Benjamin to Sony Portapak technology at Maple Tree Farm, 1973

Videofreex (1969–1978) was a close-knit, intensely collaborative group of artists united by the common goal of displaying a perspective they saw as missing from available media. They carried portable video equipment while participating in protest marches and acts of civil disobedience. They recorded the inside of a Washington, DC jail. At Woodstock, they turned their cameras away from the stage to show the health workers and the clean-up crew. They were the ideal audience: every museum or gallery show related to video as an art form was dutifully and meticulously recorded. They interviewed members of the Hell’s Angels, the Weathermen, and the Black Panther Party, crawling on the floor with a handheld camera to get multiple angles of Fred Hampton speaking to a small group weeks before he was murdered. They captured intimate moments of play and experimentation—birthday parties, lovemaking, and leisure time, laughing at an image of their composited faces, aiming a laser at the camera lens just to see what would happen.

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Videofreex Still from Lanesville TV Show (Re-re-edit 2013) 1974–1975/2013

Presented at weekly screenings in their communal SoHo loft, and later by means of a pirate television station in the rural community of Lanesville, New York, the tapes (some 1,500 of them) were viewed by the participants in the context of their making. What was this remarkable archive made to do? To redirect viewers to a new way of looking? To evaluate and refine a way of being in the world, as players reviewing practice tapes before a performance? Does every archive hope to contain some recipe for re-creating the reality that it was drawn from?1

Firmly in the context of “democratized” or “participatory” media movements of the time, Videofreex placed a premium on access to tools and techniques in their do-it-yourself publication Spaghetti City Video Manual (1973) and in their contribution to the compendium Guerrilla Television (1971). Unlike other projects that explicitly aimed to make production technology available to a wide and disparate public,2 Videofreex’s inward-focused archival impetus is what survives most intensely—the conviction that what they were seeing, and the way they were seeing it, should be preserved. The flatness of history, broken into freaky perspective, by “investing computer time and human energy in storing data about video people and video tapes in an information bank… aaah, spaceship earth, what’s in store for you!”3

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Videofreex Still from Lanesville TV Show (Re-re-edit 2013) 1974–1975/2013

In my own work as part of the collaborative broadcast project KCHUNG (2011– ), I have felt just how productive this balance can be: an affective impulse to open up the means of production, an active impulse to crystallize a collective point of view. The result, an archive of every single KCHUNG broadcast—more than 9,000 recordings that continue to accumulate—can be browsed, sorted, or searched, but can’t be comprehensively interpreted. It just sprawls, and in this sprawl, we come closest to representing the way we see.

KCHUNG TV (2014). Live weekly television broadcasts produced by members of KCHUNG’s contributing community in the lobby of the Hammer Museum. Image Courtesy of the Hammer Museum.

KCHUNG TV (2014). Live weekly television broadcasts produced by members of KCHUNG’s contributing community in the lobby
of the Hammer Museum. Image Courtesy of the Hammer Museum.

Notes

1 As with Erkki Kurenniemi’s project to continuously and obsessively document what he sees as an unstructured archive, does this collection of recordings contain some anticipation of an imminent age in which the viewer’s perspective can be reconstituted (as artificial intelligence)?

2 Compare with projects that sought out structured collaborations with under-served or excluded communities, such
as Experiments in Art and Technology’s Anand Project (1969), which promoted locally-produced educational programming for Indian television.

2 Feedback: Videofreex in “Radical Software,” Volume I, Number 5, Realistic Hope Foundation (Spring 1972)

Luke Fischbeck is a Los Angeles–based artist, composer, and organizer who designs and tests structures for collaboration. He is a founding member of the group Lucky Dragons (with Sarah Rara, 2000– ) and the collectively-organized broadcast project KCHUNG Radio (2011– ).

Counter Currents: Tomás Saraceno on Buckminster Fuller

Presented in conjunction with the exhibition Hippie Modernism, the ongoing series Counter Currents invites a range of individuals and collectives—from writer Geoff Manaugh and artist Dread Scott to Experimental Jetset and Lucky Dragons—to share how countercultural artists and designers of the 1960s and ’70s have influenced their work and thinking today. Here artist Tomás Saraceno links the work […]

Counter Currents_6
Presented in conjunction with the exhibition
Hippie Modernism, the ongoing series Counter Currents invites a range of individuals and collectives—from writer Geoff Manaugh and artist Dread Scott to Experimental Jetset and Lucky Dragons—to share how countercultural artists and designers of the 1960s and ’70s have influenced their work and thinking today. Here artist Tomás Saraceno links the work of R. Buckminster Fuller with Aerocene, his “series of air-fueled sculptures that will achieve the longest, emission-free journey around the world: becoming buoyant only by the heat of the Sun and infrared radiation from the surface of Earth.”

This is a memory of a story about the construction of a telescope. The first day we built a telescope of small dimensions, we looked through it and could not see anything. Then we built a bigger telescope, four times as big. We looked again and… nothing. So we built an even bigger telescope and we kept going… The telescope got bigger and bigger. Still… nothing. There is a moment when the telescope gets so big that others can see our telescope first, rather than, through it, us seeing them.

US Pavilion for Expo 67, designed by R. Buckminster Fuller and Shoi Sdao, erupts in flames. Montreal, May 20, 1976

US Pavilion for Expo 67, designed by R. Buckminster Fuller and Shoji Sadao, erupts in flames. Montreal, May 20, 1976.

“Welcome aboard Spaceship Earth!” R. Buckminster Fuller said while looking up to the sky and downward to the ground. He noted, “We are all pilots.” Astronaut Don Pettit, aboard of the International Space Station, could have easily replied to him, “From my orbital perspective, I am sitting still and Earth is moving. I sit above the grandest of all globes spinning below my feet, and watch the world speed by at an amazing eight kilometers per second. The globe is equally divided into day and night by the shadow line, but being 400 kilometers up, we travel a significant distance over the nighttime earth while the station remains in full sunlight. During those times, as viewed from Earth, we are brightly lit against a dark sky. This is a special period that makes it possible for people on the ground to observe space station pass overhead as a large, bright, moving point of light… Ironically, when earthlings can see us, we cannot see them. The glare from the full sun effectively turns our windows into mirrors that return our own ghostly reflection.”

Telescopes turn into microscopes, and all universe fits into it. From where I stand, I found the Universe in a spider web, its harmonic rhythms in the cosmic vibration of a silky string; I found my dreams of flying cities in used plastic bags. The options are infinite. Today I feel the urgency to sense the atmosphere, and I want you to feel it too, because, in the end, we are all already on-board.

Buckminster_spread_web

Fifty years ago, Fuller’s Spaceship Earth was a clever and sensitive metaphor. Today, this metaphor is a reality, concrete as the particles floating in the universe: the Earth is a Spaceship, with an endless journey and limited resources. And the geological Era we live in, the Anthropocene (critically renamed Capitalocene by Jason W. Moore), by privileging the endless accumulation of capital over all other biological, geological and meteorological forms of life—demands us to re-invent our resources. This is where Bucky Fuller would have comforted us with his ability to change perspective: “There’s no energy crisis; there’s a crisis of ignorance.” To which Marshall McLuhan could have added, “There are no passengers on spaceship earth. We are all crew.” This is “the paradoxical message that Aerocene bears: up from the sky it calls the necessity to be on earth, well-grounded.”1

When I look up, I see an Open Source Space Agency; I see Aerocene­—the opportunity to “de- and re-engineer the hydrocarbon and intellectual property infrastructures that envelop our world,”2 and to reinvent existing methods of flying in ways that do not harm the Earth. It is a new epoch without fossil fuels, engines, helium, or batteries… I want all of us to learn how to fly a 3000 m3 lighter-than-air vehicles that use only solar thermodynamics to become buoyant. We do not need to be all astronauts to explore the overview effect, because we are all pilots. By “all,” I mean it: to change the planet we can only Do-It-Together.

Tomás Saraceno, Aerocene 10.4 & 15.3 During UN COP21 Climate Summit, installation view at Grand Palais, Paris, 2015, www.aerocene.com Courtesy the artist; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York; Andersen's Contemporary, Copenhagen; Pinksummer contemporary art, Genoa; Esther Schipper, Berlin. © Tomás Saraceno, 2015

Tomás Saraceno, Aerocene 10.4 & 15.3, installed at Grand Palais, Paris, 2015, during the UN COP21 Climate Summit. Courtesy the artist; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York; Andersen’s Contemporary, Copenhagen; Pinksummer contemporary art, Genoa; Esther Schipper, Berlin. © Tomás Saraceno, 2015

Notes

1. Michelon, Olivier. “I bind the Sun’s Throne with a burning zone” in Tomás Saraceno (Ed.) Aerocene. Berlin: 2015.

2. Shapiro, Nicholas. “Alter-Engineered Worlds” in Tomás Saraceno (Ed.) Aerocene. Berlin: 2015.

Tomás Saraceno was born in Argentina in 1973 and is based in Berlin. His oeuvre could be seen as an ongoing research, influenced by the world of art, architecture, natural science, and engineering; his floating sculptures and interactive installations propose and explore new, mindful ways of inhabiting and perceiving the environment. He attended the International Space Studies Program in 2009 at NASA Ames in Silicon Valley, California. The same year, Saraceno presented a major installation at the 53rd Venice Biennale and was later on awarded the prestigious Calder Prize. Saraceno’s work has been shown internationally, in solo and group exhibitions such as Aerocene at Solutions COP21, Grand Palais, Paris, Arachnid Orchestra.Jam Sessions at NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore, Le Bordes du Monde, at Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2015), In orbit at Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen K21 in Düsseldorf (2013–16) On Space Time Foam at Hangar Bicocca in Milan (2012–13), and Tomás Saraceno: Lighter than Air at the Walker Art Center (2009), among others. Since 2012, he is Visiting Artist at MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology (CAST). His work has also been exhibited in public museums like Museum for Contemporary Art Villa Croce, in Genoa (2014), The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (2012), and Hamburger Bahnhof, in Berlin (2011–12). Saraceno lives and works in and beyond the planet Earth.

Counter Currents: Fritz Haeg on the Cockettes

Presented in conjunction with the exhibition Hippie Modernism, the ongoing series Counter Currents invites a range of individuals and collectives—from artist-archivist Josh MacPhee and artist Dread Scott to Are.na and Experimental Jetset—to share how countercultural artists and designers of the 1960s and ’70s have influenced their work and thinking today. Here Fritz Haeg discusses the […]

Counter Currents_6Presented in conjunction with the exhibition Hippie Modernism, the ongoing series Counter Currents invites a range of individuals and collectives—from artist-archivist Josh MacPhee and artist Dread Scott to Are.na and Experimental Jetset—to share how countercultural artists and designers of the 1960s and ’70s have influenced their work and thinking today. Here Fritz Haeg discusses the Cockettes.

When the anarchic gender-queer theater troupe left the warm circle of their Haight-Ashbury commune for a much-anticipated East Coast debut performance at the Anderson Theater nearly 45 years ago, everyone was there: Liza, Candy, Holly, Andy, John, Yoko, Gore, Truman, etc. But something fundamental was lost in translation from their West Coast hippie amateur anti-money free-for-all community across the continental chasm to Manhattan’s professional circles of downtown cool, and many of New York City’s coolest walked out before the show was even over.

 

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Fayette Hauser   The Cockettes in a Field of Lavender   1971   Photo courtesy the artist

 

To them the Cockettes were unprofessional, unrehearsed, and unskilled, qualities that endeared them to their regular hometown audience at San Francisco’s Palace Theatre. What happens when culture is formed, nourished, and developed so thoroughly in one place, for one particular community, at a certain moment, that it may not be fully appreciated or understood once it leaves? What is lost when work is made to travel, for any place, any one, any time? Today’s global art world can give us many things, but it also takes away some of the most precious and intimate moments of making and experiencing art.

 

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Bud Lee   Lendon   c. 1971   Courtesy Sergio Waksman

 

I have occasionally experienced chasms of misunderstanding when my own work has traveled from the eastside Los Angeles community that nurtured it to institutions that commission it for the crowds. It can feel like a failure to connect, but sometimes I think of the Cockettes and want to dig in and resist—perhaps to stubbornly create work that is not quite cool enough, and slightly indigestible to the global industrial art complex.

 

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Fritz Haeg (at right) creating Domestic Integrities A05, a 30-foot handmade rug, with volunteers at the Walker in 2013   Photo: Gene Pittman

 

Fritz Haeg is an artist based in California. With the 2013 Walker Art Center residency, exhibition, and public projects Fritz Haeg: At Home in the City the Minnesota-born artist came back to his roots to conclude a decade of of serial projects including Edible Estates and Domestic Integrities. In 2014 he began new chapter of life and work on California’s Mendocino Coast with the purchase of the historic 1970’s commune Salmon Creek Farm, being revived as a long-term commune/farm/homestead/art project.

Counter Currents: Dread Scott on Emory Douglas

Presented in conjunction with the exhibition Hippie Modernism, the ongoing series Counter Currents invites a range of individuals and collectives—from writer Geoff Manaugh and artist-archivist Josh MacPhee to Are.na and Experimental Jetset—to share how countercultural artists and designers of the 1960s and ’70s have influenced their work and thinking today. Here, artist Dread Scott discusses […]

Counter Currents2Presented in conjunction with the exhibition Hippie Modernism, the ongoing series Counter Currents invites a range of individuals and collectives—from writer Geoff Manaugh and artist-archivist Josh MacPhee to Are.na and Experimental Jetset—to share how countercultural artists and designers of the 1960s and ’70s have influenced their work and thinking today. Here, artist Dread Scott discusses the influence of Black Panthers artist Emory Douglas.

In 1966, the world was much the horror that humanity faces today. Black people were catching hell in America, and Huey Newton and Bobby Seal formed the Black Panther Party to end this. The BPP was revolutionary and there was nothing like them in America at the time. They had their black leather jackets and looked badass. They were armed and defended the people against police violence and brutality. And they were attempting to apply Mao’s “little red book” to making revolution in America and putting revolution in the air in a big way. They were truly radical. Soon after the Panthers formed Emory Douglas became their Minister of Culture and was designing their newspaper, The Black Panther, including many of its covers.

 

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Emory Douglas   We Are from 25 to 30 Million Strong… / Warning to America   June 27, 1970
Courtesy the artist; ©2015 Emory Douglas/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

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Counter Currents: Josh MacPhee on the Diggers

  Presented in conjunction with the exhibition Hippie Modernism, the ongoing series Counter Currents invites a range of individuals and collectives—from writer Geoff Manaugh and artist Dread Scott to Are.na and Experimental Jetset—to share how countercultural artists and designers of the 1960s and ’70s have influenced their work and thinking today. Here designer, artist, and archivist […]

Counter Currents_3updated

 

Presented in conjunction with the exhibition Hippie Modernism, the ongoing series Counter Currents invites a range of individuals and collectives—from writer Geoff Manaugh and artist Dread Scott to Are.na and Experimental Jetset—to share how countercultural artists and designers of the 1960s and ’70s have influenced their work and thinking today. Here designer, artist, and archivist Josh MacPhee links the ethos of the San Francisco Diggers with his own experiences in DIY publishing and punk activism decades later.

In my early 1990s East Coast punk and anarchist scenes, the Diggers were a myth—a composite of militant urban legends, their exploits mixed up with the actions of the Yippies, Black Mask, Up Against the Wall Motherfucker, the Provos, the Black Panthers, King Mob, the Metropolitan Indians. There was a generation gap of radicals in the late ’80s and ’90s; I had no anarchist mentors, no direct line to this troublemaking history we attempted to piece together from a trail of crumbs left in old political pamphlets, fanzines, and proto-Situationist literature.

The Diggers   Funeral notice for Death of Hippie   1967

The idea that these mythic countercultural heroes would fall under the hippie umbrella wasn’t really on the radar. I hated hippies—those affected, lazy peaceniks who fell back on their class privilege to avoid having to engage in what we perceived of as an intense social war: the status quo vs. everything worth living for. We exchanged bell-bottoms and tie-dye T-shirts for double-bibbed Carhart work pants and gas station attendant jackets. We cloaked ourselves in a form of emo-militancy. An ideal of softness, support, and loving within our scene, but all barbs and taunts projected to the outside world. (more…)

Listen: Muriel Cooper on “Art and Technology in the Information Age” (1987)

A designer and educator, Muriel Cooper (1925–1994) is best known for the modernist sensibility she brought to designs for MIT Press’ publications and, later, for her pioneering work at MIT’s Visible Language Workshop, where she expanded thinking on design and typography in the digital realm. The subject of the exhibition Messages and Means: Muriel Cooper […]

A designer and educator, Muriel Cooper (1925–1994) is best known for the modernist sensibility she brought to designs for MIT Press’ publications and, later, for her pioneering work at MIT’s Visible Language Workshop, where she expanded thinking on design and typography in the digital realm. The subject of the exhibition Messages and Means: Muriel Cooper at MIT, on view now at Columbia University, Cooper visited Minneapolis in 1987 to speak on “Art and Technology in the Information Age” during the Walker’s Insights Design Lecture Series. Click on the image below to listen to this previously unpublished audio, just digitized by the Walker Archives:

 

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For more, read Dante Carlos’ interview with Messages and Means co-curators David Reinfurt and Robert Wiesenberger.

2013: The Year According to Badlands Unlimited (Paul Chan, Ian Cheng, Micaela Durand)

To commemorate the year that was, we invited artists, designers, and thinkers across disciplines — from “conceptual entrepreneur” Martine Syms and spoken word artist Dessa to design firm Experimental Jetset and musician Greg Tate — to share their most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects of 2013. See the entire series 2013: The Year According to   […]

Man reading Badlands latest enhanced ebook "Think like Clouds" by Hans Ulrich Obrist. (224 pg, 2013), photo by Rachel Rose.

Man reading Badlands’ latest enhanced ebook Think Like Clouds by Hans Ulrich Obrist (224 pg, 2013). Photo: Rachel Rose

To commemorate the year that was, we invited artists, designers, and thinkers across disciplines — from “conceptual entrepreneur” Martine Syms and spoken word artist Dessa to design firm Experimental Jetset and musician Greg Tate — to share their most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects of 2013. See the entire series 2013: The Year According to                                 . 

Individually, Paul Chan, Ian Cheng, and Micaela Durand have got to be among today’s hardest-working artists: Chan, recently shortlisted for the 2014 Hugo Boss Prize, will show his work at a survey at Schaulager in Basel, starting in April 2014. Badlands will co-publish two books by Chan with Schaulager to for the occasion: New New Testament and Paul Chan: Selected Writings 2000-2014Between writing gigs — like his contribution to Frieze‘s “Future Fictions” series on new forms of narrative — Cheng exhibits internationally, including a just-closed show at Standard (Oslo) and an upcoming show at Triennale di Milano. Durand makes online art and commentary through the collective BFFA3AE (which includes Daniel Chew and Matthew Gaffney); the group will be featured in a forthcoming show at MoMA PS1.

Collectively, the trio is known as Badlands Unlimited, an experimental venture that’s equal parts print publishing house, ebook developer, gif factory, and digital curator. Recent projects have ranged from a bodice-ripper romance novel inspired by Rep. Michele Bachmann to the enhanced ebook Marcel Duchamp: The Afternoon Interviews  by Calvin Tomkins, a compendium of Saddam Hussein’s democracy speeches from the 1970s to a volume of jottings, notes, and mind maps created by curator Hans Ulrich Obrist.

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RIP: Chris Marker

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Chris Marker is dead. Long live Chris Marker!

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Rolling Jubilee

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Occupy debt buys debt to free ppl from billz.

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Space tweets

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Astronauts on Twitter, literally tweeting from space. Pick up where Gravity left off.

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RIP: Mike Kelley

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Mike Kelley is dead. Long live Mike Kelley.

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Hunger Games: Catching Fire

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The revolution lives on!

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Drunk cop in GTA V

Artificial intelligent existential crisis in Grand Theft Auto V.

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OR Books

Screen shot 2014-01-08 at 10.35.14 AMIn 2013, OR Books published some of the best books on paper and screen.

 

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Uline box resizer

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The best new Badlands office equipment of 2013.

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House of Versace 

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Lifetime’s series, starring Gina Gershon as Donatella. Genre: True story.

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The Highest Poverty 

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Giorgio Agamben’s latest. How to live in 2014.

Over-Booked: Paul Chan on Badlands Unlimited

The quintessential polymath, Paul Chan is an internationally known artist, experimental publisher, GIF designer, and speaker (he’s keynoting the 2012 New York Art Book Fair on September 29). At the end of my recent conversation with him on the new book On Democracy by Saddam Hussein—a provocative look at the late dictator’s 1970s democracy speeches—I […]

The quintessential polymath, Paul Chan is an internationally known artist, experimental publisher, GIF designer, and speaker (he’s keynoting the 2012 New York Art Book Fair on September 29). At the end of my recent conversation with him on the new book On Democracy by Saddam Hussein—a provocative look at the late dictator’s 1970s democracy speeches—I asked him about his publishing company, Badlands Unlimited, the stone book he’s debuting at the art book fair, and his love of animated GIFs, among other topics.

Badlands Unlimited makes “books in an expanded field”—everything from print publications to eBooks, an exhibition curated for the iPad to a font that turns text into Marquis de Sade–style purple prose. It’s not a typical publisher, which begs the question: Do you feel that in your career the lines between publishing and art have blurred, or don’t those distinctions matter to you anymore?

The short answer is no. I started Badlands because I stopped making work. For me there’s definitely a boundary. Long story short, I essentially stopped making art work and stopped showing my own work in 2008. I didn’t just watch TV. I did other things. I turned down opportunities to show work, and I didn’t make new work. It wasn’t until 2010 where I realized I needed a day job, so I gave myself a day job of starting a press. I wanted to start a press for a long time. I didn’t have the money to spend $5,000, $10,000 on an edition of 3,000 books that no one was going to buy that’d end up sitting in a warehouse somewhere.

But with the advent of eBooks, I realized that maybe I can still have a press and not spend all that money printing paper books. But make eBooks and sell them on the distribution networks that were growing at the time and continue to grow, like Apple iBooks or Amazon for the Kindle. So that’s how Badlands started — because I wanted to start a press on the cheap. It didn’t turn out to be the case. We’re publishing paper books and eBooks now. I’m wasting time and losing more money as a result.

You’re making print books and eBooks; you curated the virtual art show How to Download a Boyfriend; you’re making fonts and videos and GIFs. How do you get all the work done? Do you have a Damien Hirst-style studio filled with assistants?

[laughs] We don’t have a Damien Hirst-style production. For Badlands I work with two other artists, Ian Cheng, who’s a young artist and my co-director of publishing, and Micaela Durand, who’s my media assistant. We three work on Badlands Mondays and Tuesdays. Those are the publishing days. That means everything from programming the eBooks to making animated GIFs for all the social media stuff, which is legion at this point, to talking to authors to writing contracts to getting permissions to reprint things. All those other things like book trailers or eBooks or group shows came organically as an expression of us coming together Mondays and Tuesdays and imagining what else we could do.

I have no background in publishing, so I don’t have any semblance of what I’m supposed to do. And because of that I feel like we can pretty much do anything. I think that’s why I feel I can publish the essays of Saddam Hussein. Or at the New York Art Book Fair we’ll be premiering a stone book, a short story that’s been carved in stone.

It’s an edition of one with an ISBN number on it. Our motto is “books in an expanded field,” and one day we were sitting around at lunch thinking, “What else would that be?” We’re already making experimental eBooks. We’re making paper books. What other forms can we publish on? We realized if we’re really going to be in an expanded field we should publish the way God published on the Ten Commandments or whoever wrote Gilgamesh on the tablet. We should publish on stone. So this fall we’re going to publish on stone. We’re also going to make it into an eBook, too.

But I don’t know how Amazon or Apple feels about a book with only two pages. We’ll see what we can do.

Will you engrave a download code on the back of a stone?

I might have to. I didn’t plan on it, but we can put a sticker on it with a promo code. There are only two pages. One page is on one side of the tablet and has the title, the author name, and the copyright page information, ISBN number, and Badlands Unlimited contact information. On the other side of the slab is the short story. If it works out, we’ll publish more on stone, too.

What’s the story?

It’s a story called “Holiday” that I adapted from another short story that I wrote years ago. That’s the nice thing about publishing my own stuff: I own the copyright, so I don’t have to deal with lawyers for anyone else or literary agents. In many ways the press started because I wanted to publish my stuff. But that was because I wanted to experiment with publishing forms and also because it’s easier to get the rights. Then after we realized that it could work, we started publishing other people like Yvonne Rainer, for instance, or the How to Download a Boyfriend book. Hopefully, we’ll just keep expanding.

Let’s talk animated GIFs. I love the Web 1.0 feeling the Badlands site and the National Philistine, your personal site, have. It reminds me of the early web art stuff that the Walker has in its Gallery 9 net.art collection. Tell me about that aesthetic.

That’s a good question. The aesthetic is basically what I’m able to do on Dreamweaver 2. I’m not a programmer of any kind. The whole reason I started making fonts is because I wanted to make interactive work in 2000, but I couldn’t program to save my own life to make interactive websites or things that would blink or travel across the web page. I made fonts because I couldn’t do what other new media artists were doing. In many ways the website is just another symptom of that. I don’t know programming at all. I just know HTML and animated GIFs and all the stuff that I learned in my past. I want to do it on my own. I like doing it. It works and it doesn’t. It’s good enough. The aesthetic is essentially what I’m able to do.

You’re actually the guy that’s sitting down at the computer and coding in HTML to make animated GIFs?

Well, coding seems like a very diplomatic term! I basically try to drag and drop whatever things I can put in the workspace of Dreamweaver and hope that it comes out OK. It’s not really even coding. I don’t even know what to call it, really. It’s just praying that whatever small bits and icons I throw in the HTML document will work. It’s depressing. I should learn much more. In fact, I just bought a book on Amazon about coding which I’ll never read, but maybe if I sleep on top of it I will absorb the information through osmosis.

[laughs] I’m sure that will work.

But one thing, we just didn’t want to do one of those Tumblr sites or a WordPress blog. Why is that? Because Ian, Micaela, and I talked about it. We felt like those are cool and those are great, but we felt like we wanted something else. Maybe here’s one way to play it: We wanted something that doesn’t work, but just for us. That’s how we put it. That feels right to me.

Last question. Since we’re doing a big series in anticipation of the New York Art Book Fair (and Over-Booked, our event with Printed Matter that precedes it), I’m wondering if you can give us a preview of your keynote there by answering one of the questions that is in the book fair’s description of your speech. It says:

“Is publishing a form of addiction? What is a book? How is reading a book different than looking at art? Does light change the nature of what appears on paper and screen? How come I was served with a warrant for outstanding taxes? Why does running Badlands waste so much time and lose so much money and what does this have to do with pleasure?”

Any one of those questions that you might want to answer as a teaser for your keynote speech?

Sure. I call being a publisher my Halloween costume. It really does feel like that. But what I’ve learned in my Halloween costume is that a book is many things. Publishing, strangely enough, connects to my moving image works like the light series where the projections are on the floor [one example, 6th Light (2007), was most recently on view in the Walker exhibition Event Horizon]. Because in those video projections, one of the things I’m trying to do is to create a space where one can have a particular kind of attention and focus at work. I think we live in a time when we feel perpetually distracted. I certainly feel that way.

Making work for me means, among other things, giving myself an excuse to make a space where I can pay a particular kind of focused attention that connects with a certain kind of pleasure. What I realize in publishing is that books function more or less the same way.

There are many forms of information published on many media. Web pages, Twitter, your smartphone, book, newspaper, magazine. But a book, historically, is that thing that we have to spend the most time with to get the most pleasure out of it. To me, a book is a space where a particular focus and attention can happen so that a certain pleasure can come about.

It was strange and surprising to realize that as I was making books, because even though we publish on eBooks, where it exists on an iPad or an Amazon Kindle, these are essentially devices that can do other things. Like the iPad, you can check your email. You can look at web pages, play games, and whatnot.

I like to think once you enter into a book, even an eBook, your mind and maybe even your body, if the book is done right, is attenuated so that you pay a particular kind of focus that one ought to have when one is reading a book, whether you read it or are experiencing it.

This particular, unique experience provides a certain pleasure unlike anything else, and I find that interesting and worth pursuing more. In a weird way, a book isn’t a book to me, but it’s that kind of space.

Introducing The Gradient and the New Walker Blogs

It’s been seven years since we launched the Walker Blogs and with the release of our new website back in December we thought it was finally time for a refresh. You’ll notice that the design has changed to align with our new website and we’ve used the redesign process as an opportunity to rebrand each […]

It’s been seven years since we launched the Walker Blogs and with the release of our new website back in December we thought it was finally time for a refresh. You’ll notice that the design has changed to align with our new website and we’ve used the redesign process as an opportunity to rebrand each of our core blogs. It was an interesting exercise and allowed us to assess the state of our collective blogging efforts—how each of our (now) nine blogs serves a different audience, how they all have different use characteristics by their audiences, and how they could all be focused into tighter streams of content. The blogs definitely represent the long tail side of our publishing efforts—lots of small bits of specialized content for micro-niche audiences—so maintaining a strong emphasis on the personalities behind the Walker and their specific interests was key. And the rebranding process illustrated for us that when you present people with tangible criteria to change, such as a new name, tighter description, graphic—an understandable format to inhabit—it helps them better speculate on what their blog can be.

We decided on a system of flag graphics to represent the various blogs, since each blog is really a representation of a different group of people at the Walker (in most cases the individual programming departments). It’s a tricky balance to strike between striving for traditional, recognizable flag forms and having a graphic that cleverly plays off the title, but we’re glad to have a consistent vocabulary to build on in the future, especially since the blogs now match our comparatively monochromatic main site. I’m particularly fond of the Green Room’s flag.

Beyond the simple graphic forms, this is the first truly responsively designed Walker site—resize your browser window to see things reflow to fit a variety of screen sizes. Content and interface elements of lesser importance become hidden behind links at certain screen sizes. The main content area, on the other hand, stretches to fill a large width when called for. It leads to some pretty long line lengths, but gives our older, image-heavy content the space it needs to fit. We’ll be soon applying this technique to the redesigned Walker Collections, which features a strong publishing component. With the easy adaptations to tablets and mobile devices, it’s a good fit for our eventual goal of efficient multi-channel communications.

Other, smaller items of note include the addition of a grid/list view toggle in the top left to make skimming easier, smarter ordering of categories and authors (by popularity and date of last post, respectively), and a little flag animation when you roll over the left-side blog names (in full-width view).

In the Design department, we’re excited to further explore the gradient between design and art and we’ve got a ton of new posts lined up. We’re looking forward to sharing more of the work we make, what it means to work in-house for an institution like the Walker, and innovations in the field at large that we look towards. Check the far left column for a list of all the great Walker blogs and feel free to drop by the Walker Design department page.

And just for kicks, here are some rejected flag sketches:

GD:NIP: Introducing the Walker Art Center’s black-metal logo

In the week since logo designer Christophe Szpajdel arrived for last Friday’s opening of the exhibition Graphic Design: Now In Production, the Belgium-born, UK-based artist has completed nearly 50 new logos. Among marks for bands like Jucifer, Human Remains and Powerlord was a hand-drawn black-metal logo for the Walker. Szpajdel, who presented the piece to […]

In the week since logo designer Christophe Szpajdel arrived for last Friday’s opening of the exhibition Graphic Design: Now In Production, the Belgium-born, UK-based artist has completed nearly 50 new logos. Among marks for bands like Jucifer, Human Remains and Powerlord was a hand-drawn black-metal logo for the Walker. Szpajdel, who presented the piece to the Walker as a gift, said he wanted a balanced, yet not entirely symmetrical, piece that references the water and plant life in the nearby Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and Loring Park. He intended a water-like “flow” with the letterforms, he said, and one inspiration — specifically, the spike of the W — directly references an aloe vera plant.

Check back in coming days for a video interview with Szpajdel about the development of and ideas behind the piece.

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