Blogs Field Guide Paul Schmelzer

Nine-year editor of Walker magazine (1998-2007), Paul returned to the Walker as web editor in September 2011. A freelance writer and blogger, he writes on art, media, and activism for publications including Adbusters, Artforum.com, Ode, Utne, Cabinet, Raw Vision and at his personal site, 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). @iteeth

Talking Food at the Birchwood: Tracy Singleton Joins Fritz Haeg and Michael Pollan

When artist Fritz Haeg interviewed journalist Michael Pollan in Minneapolis this spring, the setting was key. The pair met up at the Birchwood Cafe, a foodie destination since 1995 and long a community hub for discussion and activism around sustainability. As their conversation neared its end, Birchwood owner Tracy Singleton — who’s also doing the […]

Lily Singleton, Tracy Singleton, and Michael Pollan at the Birchwood Café

Lily Singleton, Tracy Singleton, and Michael Pollan at the Birchwood Café

When artist Fritz Haeg interviewed journalist Michael Pollan in Minneapolis this spring, the setting was key. The pair met up at the Birchwood Cafe, a foodie destination since 1995 and long a community hub for discussion and activism around sustainability. As their conversation neared its end, Birchwood owner Tracy Singleton — who’s also doing the catering for the August 8, 2013, opening of Fritz Haeg’s Walker exhibition — joined in, and the trio discussed genetically modified organisms, the influence of another restauranteur, Berkeley’s Alice Waters, and the meals Pollan’s own mother made as he was growing up. Here’s an unpublished excerpt from the discussion that didn’t make our official interview between Haeg and Pollan:

Michael Pollan: I find it very empowering to learn that, “OK, here’s a bunch of people just making decisions about what to eat for dinner. We’re building a new food economy.” We all feel so helpless in the face of these huge problems, but we’re not, actually. If we organize our lives in the right way, we can have a tremendous impact. One of the things that draws people to this food issue is that they are seeing it happen in front of their eyes.

Tracy Singleton: When I try to talk to people about food and where it comes from, I don’t want to scare people or leave them feeling like they can’t go out to eat again.

Pollan: It’s definitely not all or nothing. I have to be really careful of that because people do feel like, “If I can’t go all the way, I am not going to go anywhere.” That’s why I said that last night [at Pollan’s talk at Beth El Synagogue] that if you can just cook one more meal at home, that makes a difference. If you can spend $10 on local food every week, that makes a difference. We’re in this all-or-nothing culture, and I think that’s used to make people stop doing anything. “It’s not realistic for me to cut down my carbon footprint, so fuck it.” But to me, half a loaf is still half a loaf. It’s not trivial.

Singleton: I am noticing that a lot with the GMO [genetically modified organism] labeling issue. Once people become aware of GMOs, they’re like, “Well, I’m not going to eat those.” I say, “Good luck trying to avoid them!” As long as we’ve been in existence we’ve been trying to source our food under certain principles. But it can be hard to totally avoid them. With the non-GMO foods, people have this expectation: they think that because I’m talking about the issue they therefore think I’m a totally GMO-free restaurant. As much as I try to be–

Pollan:  —It’s is very hard to do. But not only that, a lot of people now think if they’ve made that choice, they have taken care of the whole issue.

Singleton: No. That’s not good enough either.

Pollan: In fact, people selling organic food are struggling with this because now the consumer feels that if they get the no-GMO label, they’ve done their bit. But in fact, they’ve only taken agriculture back to 1996, where it was not so great. People are not buying organic now and buying non-GMOs, which is really bad, because they are not connecting the dots. I was talking to someone who is selling some organic grain product or something, and she said, “Yeah, the consumer just feels like our stuff costs more and non-GMO costs a little bit more and they are figuring I have done my bit if I get that,” which is really a shame because it’s hurting organic producers.

Singleton: So if they are choosing a non-GMO item then it’s not an organic item?

Pollan: It’s not organic. It just means it’s made with conventional agricultural without GMOs, which is OK, but you’re not really doing much for the environment.

Singleton: How did you two first meet?

Fritz Haeg: Around six years ago, when I was writing and editing the first edition of the Edible Estates book, I emailed to Michael to inquire if he might let us reprint “Why Mow?” from his book Second Nature. We have corresponded a bit ever since, and last year Alice Waters invited me to come join her presentation to the Edible Education class that Micheal teaches at Berkeley. It’s an amazing, amazing class.

Pollan: Yeah. Fritz came to my class last year and gave an amazing lecture. He and Alice Waters each. It was a powerful class.

Singleton: Dynamic duo right there?

Haeg: After class we went to Chez Panisse. I was with Michael and Alice, and thinking, “OK, this is cool” — pinching myself a bit.

Pollan: It was fun. We’ve had so many great people come through this class and the students of class have become so inspired. They’re all online — Edible Education at Berkeley. Watch his class.

Haeg: Sitting here at Birchwood, Michael, I have one last question: What was your table like growing up?

Pollan: My mom was a really good cook, and she was a stay-at-home mom until I was 14 or 15, then she got a job. She had four kids, and we had family dinner four to five nights a week. But she was kind of a progressive 1960s woman, so she watched Julia Child and learned and she would try. She would make beef bourguignon or coq au vin for us. Just the kids. My dad was never home for dinner because he worked really late.

Haeg: That’s amazing.

Pollan: We were kind of lucky that way, but then we had our basics. There was a rotation. Monday night, it was usually beef. Tuesday, it was pasta. Wednesday, it would be exotic, like stir fry or pepper steak with canned pineapples. She had her rotation, and I loved her food. It was really good. Then we would get to have TV dinners on the weekend when they went out. They would go out on Saturday night.

First Crayons

Acclaimed food and wine critic Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl muses on the perils and pleasures of trying to raise a creative kid for the mnartists.org e-journal access+ENGAGE. When my son was fifteen months old, I bought him his first box of crayons. I was leaving the Galleria after a business lunch, and I bought them with […]

Acclaimed food and wine critic Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl muses on the perils and pleasures of trying to raise a creative kid for the mnartists.org e-journal access+ENGAGE.

3b84ff07e8650338416a0ca3c74da89c.jpgWhen my son was fifteen months old, I bought him his first box of crayons. I was leaving the Galleria after a business lunch, and I bought them with the typically bizarre mixture of best intentions and overwhelming guilt that seems to come with being a parent.

On the one hand: What was I doing at the Galleria when I could be at home with the baby?

On the other hand: I had read on the Internet that some other mother of a fifteen-month-old was already archiving her child’s drawings. Why wasn’t I archiving my kid’s drawings? How could it be that my darling didn’t even have any drawings to archive? Bad mother!

On the third hand: Didn’t I want to be modeling good, strong, working-woman behavior for my little boy? And if I didn’t, what was the alternative? Modeling living-under-a-bridge behavior?

On the hundredth hand: Does buying crayons for a fifteen-month-old put undue pressure on a kid, like buying an SAT prep book for an eight-year-old? Once I was in the store and surveyed the options, I had new doubts: maybe fifteen-month-olds should work, not in crayons, but with collage! Perhaps the two of us should be exploring Jean Arp‘s ideas of automatic composition and the organic beauty of chance? Don’t Arp’s collages kind of look like they were done by toddlers anyway? Or, wait: Is it wrong to buy scissors for a fifteen-month-old?

Bloody hell.

It was out of just those thousand-arms of doubt and hope that Creative Kidstuff netted eight bucks for soy-crayons and paper. I would say the hardest thing about raising creative kids is that you don’t do it in a vacuum: the world intrudes.

Read the rest at mnartists.org.

Pictured: Collage with Squares Arranged According to the Laws of Chance by Jean (Hans) Arp. 1916-17. Torn-and-pasted paper on blue-gray paper © 2007 Artists Rights Society, New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn. Image appears courtesy MoMA online collection.

Kid Kritics: An interview with the Zolls

Community Programs manager Megan Leafblad conducted the following interview, a version of which appears in the July/August issue of WALKER magazine. A karaoke hut on a frozen lake is not necessarily the first thing that comes to mind when you are looking to interview a family about the Walker. But as luck would have it, […]

Community Programs manager Megan Leafblad conducted the following interview, a version of which appears in the July/August issue of WALKER magazine.

366384762_705ab266e4.jpgA karaoke hut on a frozen lake is not necessarily the first thing that comes to mind when you are looking to interview a family about the Walker. But as luck would have it, this is where I first met the Zoll family. This past winter a group of friends and I participated in the Art Shanty Projects, in which artists build structures inspired by the tradition of ice fishing during Minnesota winters. On one of my many trips to sing karaoke at the Norae Shanty, I was blown away by a father/son duo who sang “Fulsom Prison” by Johnny Cash. Sitting out in the cold listening to Cash come back to life I thought to myself: This family rocks, I want to know them. At the time I was absorbed by having to follow their performance up with my own rendition of “Ice, Ice Baby.” Luckily for me I ran into the Zoll family in the Walker galleries at a recent Free First Saturday and was able to have a more in-depth conversation with Forrest (age 10) and Ingrid (age 7) about art and growing up with a dad who lulls you to sleep with Johnny Cash tunes.

Megan Leafblad: If you could only use one word to describe Raushchenberg’s Trophy II (for Teeny and Marcel Duchamp) what word would you pick?

Forrest Zoll: Creative!

Ingrid Zoll: Funny.

ML: Why did you pick that word?

FZ: It is really creative that he put in objects.

IZ: I think it is funny because I don’t know why people would put things like glasses and spoons and clothes in art, and it seems very strange to me.

ML: What is the funniest piece you have seen on view at the Walker?

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FZ: The Dolphin [Oracle II]. It says funny stuff and I’ve talked to it before.

IZ: I can’t decide between the everyday object and the Dolphin. It’s so hard to choose.

ML: What is your favorite experience coming to the Walker?

FZ: I like walking through the sculpture garden when the weather is warm.

IZ: I like seeing the cherry.

ML: What is your favorite piece of artwork in the collection?

FZ: Well, right now I just found the Flags one. It’s pretty cool, and I think that might be my favorite.

IZ: My favorite piece so far today is the Dolphin.

ML: What did you and the Dolphin talk about?

IZ: I asked if we were friends, and then she said, “ Are we friends? Am I a friend?” Then I let someone else talk and that person said, “ Yes, you are.”

ML: Do you make art?

FZ: Yeah, I make art. Right now I am doing a video project on this street artist called 27, who does a lot of street art. And I’ve interviewed a person who owns a warehouse that got graffitied.

ML: How did you find out about this artist?

FZ: Well, I first saw one of his artworks and I loved it. So I searched online and found out more about him. His street art is around town, and one I liked said 27 on it, and I found some more of his art that said 27 on it. He has some stuff in an art store that I like; it’s called Robot Love. He has a poster there and he doesn’t let anybody know his name, not even the people in the store. So, I wrote a letter to him and asked if they could send it for me and it said, “ Can I interview you? I think you are one of my favorite street artists.”

ML: What do you think makes art good art or bad art? Why were you attracted to 27’s work?

FZ: Most other graffiti artists tag their names, and he made pictures. I had an idea of how I wanted to draw, and he was basically doing that. I think anything can be good art, if you really look at it.

Hip-Hop’s Howard Zinn: An interview with Jeff Chang

Dubbed “hip-hop’s Howard Zinn” by Salon.com, Jeff Chang is a cultural historian best known for chronicling the first rumblings of what in 1968 was yet to become hip-hop in the book Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation. His followup, Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop, looks at how this […]

7585600.jpgDubbed “hip-hop’s Howard Zinn” by Salon.com, Jeff Chang is a cultural historian best known for chronicling the first rumblings of what in 1968 was yet to become hip-hop in the book Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation. His followup, Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop, looks at how this culture influenced artforms beyond the big four of graffiti, DJ-ing, b-boying/b-girling, and MC-ing, from poetry and dance to fiction, visual arts, and design.

A co-founder of SoleSides, the record label (now Quannum Projects) that launched the careers of DJ Shadow, Blackalicious, and others), Chang is heading to the Twin Cities for a free panel discussion on “hip-hop aesthetics” Thursday night, June 14. He’ll be joined by graphic artist/designer Cey Adams, Roger Cummings of Juxtaposition Arts, and filmmaker Rachel Ramist. But before packing his bags, he took time for an email volley on topics big and small, from hip-hop’s social potential to the Walker performing arts project his book inspired to his son’s Halloween costume.

In Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop, you wrote about the cultural, econonic, and political conditions in the Bronx in the late 60s that gave rise to hip-hop culture (you called it the “politics of abandonment”). Here in Minneapolis, like elsewhere, we’re seeing record-breaking home foreclosures, inner-city school closings, and a spike in violent crime in our urban neighborhoods. How is today like that seminal period in the Bronx? Is there a creative counterpoint to all this bad news?

Well, I would never want to suggest that we need to have social upheaval in order to create beautiful art. In fact, often societal turmoil does not lend itself to progressive work, but to xenophobic, constricted cultural production. What I can say is that it’s deeply human of us to want to make beauty and truth in the face of despair. Hip-hop, in its most vital forms, lives close to these stories, and can tell them more truthfully than most of what we are confronted with in this ether of globalized, corporatized images and narratives.

In an an interview about Total Chaos, you said, “Name your genre, and I can probably tell you how hip-hop has changed it.” Ok: Crocheting. Kidding. But what about, say, mainstream media? Or country music? Is there a far-flung genre you can name that I’d be surprised has changed because of hip hop?

Mainstream media–er, Don Imus? OK, very bad example. Country music–Big & Rich?! How about modern dance? I’m still surprised at how choreographers like Rennie Harris have transformed the ways in which elite dance critics now discuss Black social dance.

You’ve been praised for highlighting the non-celebrities of hip-hop, local organizers who are pushing for small-scale change in their own neighborhoods. Can you name one in the Twin Cities?

How can I stop at just one? I think the work of folks at Intermedia Arts and Juxtaposition Arts is amazing–they actually are creating global models. And although I haven’t been to the B-Girl-Be events, believe me I’m feeling the repercussions of their work everywhere I go on tour and the topic of gender and hip-hop cultural production comes up. I think the B-Girl-Be folks are creating a wave of inspiration all around the world, not just among girls and women, who finally get to be centered in the discussions and the cultural production, but among boys and men who now have a space to really express more of themselves.

What do you do when you’re not engrossed in all things hip-hop?

I love the Oakland A’s. I respect the Minnesota Twins. I very much enjoy seeing the Yankees and the Red Sox lose to the Twins or the A’s.

What was your favorite Halloween costume as a kid?

I wasn’t very good at dressing up, although if I did now I might dig a pirate costume. Last year both my sons dressed up as Frank Thomas.

What contemporary artists do you currently follow? What about non-rock/hip hop music?

I really dig Mark Bradford’s work. Just got to see a show with him, Robin Rhode, and William Cordova at the Nasher and it was great. Musically, I’m omnivorous, so I’m always munching on other stuff as much as I am hip-hop or rock. Right now, I’m digging lots of dubstep, the new Spanish Harlem Orchestra and Chuck Brown albums, a new reggae album by Natural Black, and this old school house track by Joe Smooth called Promised Land.

What’s on your bedside table right now?

Theme, Dwell, ColorLines, and the New York Times Magazines, Brian Coleman’s ridiculously great Check The Technique, Tezuka’s Buddha series, Morrie Turner’s Wee Pals paperbacks (Kid Power! and Rainbow Power!)

Next April, we’re bringing Marc Bamuthi Joseph‘s The Breaks to the Walker. It’s inspired, in part, by your work. What’s your involvement been and how does it feel to have your social history and cultural theory brought to life by dancers and artists?

Bamuthi and I are good friends, which to me is a major bonus, because I think he is one of the most exciting people working in theatre right now. In fact, I have told him this, a lot of what Bamuthi does with the word in his pieces–the density and depth, the multiple levels of references, the sheer joy of saying and hearing it all tumble out–gave me the courage to cut loose on my writing in Can’t Stop Won’t Stop. It’s a loop of inspiration! While we have had lots of conversations about the piece, and I’ve seen portions of it so far, I really can’t claim to have any hand in his brilliance. The Breaks is going to amaze people.

And: can you dance?

Yes, but as my wife and kids often remind me, not well! Stick to the writing, they say, so I will!

Photo by Rachel Perry for Red Bull Music Academy

Dara Moskowitz: Light From Below

Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl is known in the Twin Cities and beyond for her culinary writing in the alternative weekly City Pages (for which she’s picked up multiple James Beard prizes). But at home, she’s mom to 17-month-old Asa, who, she writes in an email, “is a big art lover. He’s at the MIA right now […]

Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl is known in the Twin Cities and beyond for her culinary writing in the alternative weekly City Pages (for which she’s picked up multiple James Beard prizes). But at home, she’s mom to 17-month-old Asa, who, she writes in an email, “is a big art lover. He’s at the MIA right now with the nanny. Let me know if you want his thoughts on Rembrandt.” Grumdahl wrote a reflection on Sarah Sze’s installation Grow or Die in the Cowles Conservatory, a series of three subterranean chambers crafted from Q-tips, transistors, wires, beakers, and other tiny objects. She’s agreed to share her essay, which first appeared on the blog Open for Design, here.

Someone pointed out to me that the Bean’s new language explosion of what I consider to be very odd words – pinecone, keyhole, grate – is not so odd at all. All those things can be found at his level, which is, roughly, the bottom two feet of the world. And so it was that we spent yesterday exploring Sarah Sze’s “ Grow or Die,” a 2002 installation in the Conservatory of the Walker Art Center’s Sculpture Garden.

The installation is underground, three separate installations made of Styrofoam, nets, thread, glass beakers, lights, fans, and countless tiny, tiny, tiny things. They look like teeming miniature cities, or teeming coral reefs, or teeming medical storage facilities sprung to life. They’re clinical, eerie, and magical.

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So, Asa laid down on his belly beside each Sarah Sze sculpture, and pointed at this flower, that net, this test tube, saying “ See? See?”

We go back and forth like this: “ I see a flower, what do you see?” I ask, pointing at something. Then he points at something he wants the name of, and prompts me with “ See?” We saw thread, spools, wires, lights, gauze, test tubes, flowers, all sorts of things. Finally I ran out of words, and settled on pretty’. “ Pretty, pretty” the baby would say, stabbing at the covering glass with his little forefinger.

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We probably spent a full hour in reverie over Sze’s haunting installations. It made me think: The imagery directed at babies is so relentlessly saturated with teddy bears, farm animals, the alphabet, and such that you kind of assume that that’s the content they’re capable of understanding. However, I have direct evidence now that babies are entirely capable of enjoying abstract, contemporary, sophisticated, non-figurative work – if it’s presented on their level.

Hot Art IV: Prepare to “oogle.”

As WACTAC and the Teen Programs staff are busy installing the fourth edition of Hot Art Injection, a teen-curated showcase of teen art from the Twin Cities, I’ll post on their progress in preparing for Saturday night’s opening. (It’s been a grueling several-month process–selecting art, working on exhibition marketing, hanging the show–so please stop by […]

As WACTAC and the Teen Programs staff are busy installing the fourth edition of Hot Art Injection, a teen-curated showcase of teen art from the Twin Cities, I’ll post on their progress in preparing for Saturday night’s opening. (It’s been a grueling several-month process–selecting art, working on exhibition marketing, hanging the show–so please stop by the Soap Factory Saturday, July 1, between 7 to 10 and see what they’ve been up to.)

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Hot Art Injection IV: Full Throttle

Mickey Bloom, WACTAC ’06

We last left our heroes picking art for the great Hot Art Injection, and now they are left with the ultimate challenge: finishing the show by Saturday. Can it be done? Will our heroes prevail? Will Witt stop distracting our work by repeatedly showing us his “wiggle dance”? With my mutant-driven telepathic powers, I foresee that the answer to all of these questions is a resonating, invasive, yet strangely beautiful “yes.” Our success will be ensured by our work of the past week, which has included cleaning the oh-so-dirty (no, not dirrrrrty, just dirty–sicko) soap factory, placing art, making a lot of phone calls, wiring art with the intent to hang, sanding stuff, spackling stuff, painting stuff, grilling wholeheartedly, and wiggle-dancing towards the land of milk and honey. Anyway, yall best be coming to the show on Saturday which will contain much art and live performances to–how do you say?–oogle at. So tune in next time kiddies for the further adventures of the WACTAC, and remember, as my dad always says to me to instill confidence, keep putting the “f” in art! Huzzah!

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Dateline: The Soap Factory

Nick Lalla, WACTAC alum and Teen Programs intern

“It’s not spaced right, but I like it.” It’s good to hear from teen curators, and I just did. The last thing I heard a non-teen curator say was “It’s just like Sophie’s Choice,” which was a little harder to swallow. From what I can see at the Hot Art Injection installation here at the Soap Factory, the attitude expressed by the teens is, comparatively, appropriate and is bleeding into the way the final show is going to look and feel. Things look painting-heavy; a little bit grab bag, but I can’t deny that there are good eyes working the door. Everything I’ve seen was worth the first look and a second. It’s all another fine example of how teens know how to hold the world’s attention better than anyone these days. As a former WACTACer and Hot Art curator myself, I thought I could offer some advice, but these kids are running circles around me, now and as I remember myself then. Since they’re all too busy to listen to me anyway, I’ll give advice here and they can do what they want with it: “Go with your guts, teens, before you go to college and they get all fat with beer and Holocaust sublimations.”

Rirkrit, Bruce and SP

As Chuck Olsen‘s interview with Bruce Sterling from last week goes online at the NYC vlog Rocketboom and our webcast of Sterling’s discussion with Rirkrit Tiravanija hits the Walker Channel, I’ve got a good excuse to sing the praises of Education’s Sarah Peters (or “sp” as her blog name goes), whose introduction last Thursday night […]

As Chuck Olsen‘s interview with Bruce Sterling from last week goes online at the NYC vlog Rocketboom and our webcast of Sterling’s discussion with Rirkrit Tiravanija hits the Walker Channel, I’ve got a good excuse to sing the praises of Education’s Sarah Peters (or “sp” as her blog name goes), whose introduction last Thursday night was superb. How she tied together a semi-itinerant Thai “relational aesthetics” artist and a cyberpunk author whose current obsession is the “internet of things” is…Things.

Tonight we are here to watch two people sit on a stage and talk about stuff. It’s a bit old-fashioned, when you think about it, since we have blogs and vlogs and videoconferencing and MySpace for social interaction and learning these days. Why haul down here and pay for parking when you can watch a lecture like this on the web (as some people are doing tonight)? I get paid to be here, so you all out there are the ones who can actually answer this question, but I think it has something to do with the necessity of human interaction. Which has everything to do with the work of Rirkrit Tiravanija.

Rirkrit, as we all have the permission to call him, is an artist who works with environments rather than objects. He is said to have “transformed the notion of contemporary art by taking his environments out of the museum to the ends of the earth, literally.” In the early 90s he made a name for himself by creating installations during which he cooked curries for gallery visitors and staff. He has created low-power pirate radio stations in museums, a pirate television station in Italy, and built a replication of his entire New York City apartment in a gallery that was open 24 hours a day for visitors to use in whatever way they pleased. His ongoing, long-term project called The Land is a site located 20 minutes outside of Chiang Mai, Thailand that was envisioned as an open space without the concept of ownership. Activities on The Land consist of growing and harvesting rice, gardening, yoga, and performance workshops. This site was not intended to be labeled “ art,” yet with the development of so called “ relational aesthetics” and The Land’s various artist-initiated projects that blend environmental sustainability with architecture and video, the art-world has tuned-in to the endeavor. This is not to say that the art market has figured out it, as collectors are happy to purchase the soiled cooking utensils of Rirkrit’s food-based installations. But who could blame them, really. If you can’t purchase a moment, you’d do best to settle for a dirty frying pan.

Bruce Sterling, on the other hand, likes to talk about objects. His recent book published by MIT press called Shaping Things outlines his thoughts on the future of environmentally sustainable, track-able, user-alterable objects. He calls them “ spimes,” and insists that they are coming and we will need them to live. This book is the product of a year her spent as the Visionary in Residence at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. Sterling is foremost a science fiction writer, a genre where his interests in technology, culture and environmentalism merge in fictional futures where massive global-warming induced tornadoes threaten the Midwest, cyber-security experts join the U.S. government to fight against terrorism, and people live in a post-television world.

Back in the present, he is the founder of the Viridian Design movement which strives to popularize ecologically sustainable design. An obsessive blogger, Sterling lives online, blogging his way between speaking engagements in Switzerland, Belgrade, and Texas, giving us web readers the impression that he is simultaneously everywhere and nowhere.

There are numerous connections between the ideas and practice of tonight’s accomplished guests, yet their thinking presents us with a interesting conundrum: Sterling claims that the future of spimes and the “ Internet of Things” will fundamentally change our relationship to objects, while Rirkrit’s environment’s ask us to change our relationship to other humans. In what direction are we really headed, and what sort of interaction do we really need? Let’s let the visionaries figure it out. Please welcome Bruce Sterling and Rirkrit Tiravanija.

Photo: Tiravanija and Sterling in the exhibition OPEN-ENDED (the art of engagement).

Billboards and the “Beautiful City”

Yesterday morning Calvin Klein launched a new “live billboard” in Times Square: around the clock, 40 gaunt models simulate partying (sans sex and booze) inside what’s supposed to be a bottle of CK One. I suppose it’s the next step in the billboardification of the world: we’ve got ad-tattooed foreheads, nuns selling ad space <a […]

Yesterday morning Calvin Klein launched a new “live billboard” in Times Square: around the clock, 40 gaunt models simulate partying (sans sex and booze) inside what’s supposed to be a bottle of CK One. I suppose it’s the next step in the billboardification of the world: we’ve got ad-tattooed foreheads, nuns selling ad space <a href=”on coats that are given to homeless people, even Disney’s less-than-altruistic act of outfitting LA’s street people with Incredibles gear. As advertising’s scales tip even further into the crass, garish, and eye-assaulting, here’s a nice idea for a counter-balance:

In Canada, Them.ca proposes a Beautiful City Billboard Fee, a modest annual tax of $6 per square foot of ad space assessed to billboard companies, with revenues going toward the creation of ad-free public art. In Toronto alone, revenue from the city’s approximately 5,000 billboards could raise $6,000,000 for public art in a single year.

[Photo via Myszka.]

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