Thursday, December 03, 2015

Saadiyat Island - The Louvre comes to Abu Dhabi

Oil sheikhs, enormous sums of money, blue-chip art, star architects, labour exploitation, sports marketing, international cultural politics, dubious curatorial and academic claims . . .
Ever since I went to the United Arab Emirates a few years ago I cannot seem to get enough of this ongoing story. It is a baffling place, full of extreme contradictions.

"Saadiyat Island is unquestionably a vanity project – aspiration inflated to monumental proportion" an analysis of the project's ambitions in the Guardian.

Even if the project can seem cloyingly contrived – “saadiyat” is the Arabic word for happiness – there is a tectonic logic to the expansion of museums outside Europe and North America. Despite recent misfortunes in emerging markets and the collapsing price of oil, the west’s monopoly on power and wealth is eroding inexorably. Other institutions, in other places, are bound to reshape the international art world: Hong Kong has already established itself as a key player in the Asian art market, while new museums from Brazil to Russia to Singapore have positioned themselves in a thriving global network of arts institutions, almost all of them devoted to art since 1945.

But why, specifically, have the Louvre and Guggenheim landed in Abu Dhabi? Who are the Guggenheim and Louvre actually for? Who will benefit from Saadiyat Island? Critics of the UAE’s poor treatment of migrant labourers argue that these museums conceal the repressive conditions of their construction. In this view, Saadiyat Island is a shop window for a society that does not exist. Can culture cross borders as easily – and with the same impunity – as capital? Saadiyat Island proposes that global museums are like fibre cables, functional infrastructure that can spread over physical geography heedless of human geography.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Dungeons & Dragons pseudo-simulator and cRPG

Someone finally decided to revive the spirit Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights . . . with co-op and DM modes. Hopefully this time without the, "endlessly configure my router mode."

Thursday, August 20, 2015

RMS Political Notes

Richard Stallman is the most conscientious and tireless person in tech. I just found that he frequently updates a list of outside-the-bubble news items and links to editorials. Totally worth bookmarking. (Link.)

Often when Stallman is brought up, people often express both respect and the criticism that he takes his beliefs too far or too literally. This reminds me somewhat of comments I've heard musicians make about Fugazi. Something like, "It's admirable to demand a $5 door charge, but sometimes you need to play the game."

Anyway here's link to a good software freedom talk that RMS gave. (Link.)

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Theaster Gates & Dorchester Projects

This is the most exciting art project I have heard about coming out of Chicago in a very long time. The context is very different, but the principles are not far off from what the WerkStadt does in Berlin. His gallery is in London, so I discovered him reading a long write up in the Guardian . . . Check out the TED talk as well, he makes a good case in that peculiur TED conference way.

Over the seven years since, Gates has used the same principle – buying and stripping out properties in his neighbourhood, a mile or two south of the university but a different world entirely, remaking some of the scrap as art, selling it, and buying more property to create community spaces and houses for local artists and others. In 2011 he made a series of beautiful textured canvases covered in spectrums or coils of reclaimed fire hoses, called them In the Event of a Race Riot. One set recently sold at Christie’s for £250,000. Always channelling the money back into the “Dorchester Projects”, he is inexorably remodelling his entire neighbourhood which had previously been hollowed out for two or three decades by poverty and crime. Gates now employs and houses 60 “artists and makers”, and his practice is expanding to other cities in the American rust belt – St Louis, Missouri; Akron, Ohio; Gary, Indiana. His ambition is growing too. Two years ago he saved from demolition a bank building, with classical portico and marble interior, the last civic building standing on Stony Island Avenue, the main drag two blocks from his home. The bank was flooded out and long-abandoned. Rahm Emanuel, Chicago’s mayor, and Gates’s most reliable patron, sold it to him for a dollar, on the basis that the artist would raise the money to renovate it. To this end Gates has created bonds from the marble tiles of the bank’s former urinals – readymades, indeed – inscribed, “In art we trust”. He has sold 100 of them for $5,000 each to get the renovation started. In the kind of neat reversal he lives for, he plans to sell more of his urinal bonds to collectors at the forthcoming Basel art fair. “I’m hoping Swiss bankers will bail out my flooded South Side bank in the name of art,” he says, with a broad grin.

The Guardian 


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

It is Yoko Ono's World, We Just Live in it.

Here, at last, she seemed liberated from the hate and punch lines that had plagued her entire public life. Look not at John Lennon; look only at Yoko Ono. It felt triumphant, but I also found myself wondering an inconvenient question: Is Ono’s art less subversive when we’re living in a world that loves her?
The MoMA show prompts that question, too: There is something a little dispiriting about an artist who once staged a protest against the museum being warmly welcomed within its ranks. (And it’s easy to be cynical about that embrace, given the institution’s celebrity-chasing — see the Björk debacle.) But whatever its reason, the show arrives at a moment that is, for once, in step with Ono’s vision. Her meditative instruction pieces feel perfectly aligned with our mania for so-called mindfulness. Her work is being lauded by people correcting a history of female erasure — looking anew at the Doris Days instead of the Rock Hudsons. Many of Grapefruit’s pieces have a sub-140-character brevity. They feel, now, like the 1960s version of a tweet.

Vulture . . . (Link.)

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Dynamics of Design Teams

This is a talk from this year's Python conference about things that make engineering teams dysfunctional, and how that hurts diversity within them. The points are applicable to any collaborative design environment. (Link.)

Also, employee #42 of Gensler was on this week's EntreArchitect podcast. He talked about the importance of giving the individuals on design teams autonomy and responsibility. (Link.)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015


While you were sleeping Mr. Chad turned himself into one heck of an exhibition designer. He even puts on a jumpsuit and gets messy on site, like a 21st century urban aesthetic paratrooper.


Wednesday, April 08, 2015

The Tyranny of Art-Architecture

Dear Museums: Stop Making Nonsense
When museums chase blockbusters, viewers lose out, because the artists who can deliver at the scale of architecture are few in number, especially as the scale grows.

Following the links in the article to a feedback loop of various outraged art critics (about the Björk exhibition for example) is a good time. It would appear that Mr. Biesenbach chasing celebrities is not approved of, although I suspect his success in this area is a big part of why he got his posts at the MOMA & PS1 in the first place.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Honest Elder Scrolls

Since we are back to computer games a bit, I am posting this as a footnote to the short discussion last year about epic fantasy RPG's. These guys make rather humorous videos about movies and games and I can recommend watching a few for a chuckle, especially if you have experience with the media they are making fun of.

For Mr. Bob: