The packager addresses the most fundamental challenge in digital preservation: all digital files are encoded. They require special tools in order to be understood as anything more than a pile of bits and bytes. Just as a VHS tape is useless without a VCR, a digital video file is useless without some kind of software that understands how to interpret and play it, or tell you something about its contents. At least with a VHS tape you can hold it in your hand and say, "Hey, this looks like a VHS tape and it probably has an analog video signal recorded on it." But there is essentially nothing about a QuickTime .MOV file that says, "Hello, I am a video file! You should use this sort of software to view me." We rely on specially designed software-be it an operating system or something more specialized-to tell us these things. The problem is that these tools may not always be around, or may not always understand all formats the way they do today. This means that even if we manage to keep a perfect copy of a video file for 100 years, no one may be able to understand that it's a video file, let alone what to do with it. To avoid this scenario, the "packager" -- free, open-source software called Archivematica -- analyzes all digital collections materials as they arrive, and records the results in an obsolescence-proof text format that is packaged and stored with the materials themselves. We call this an "archival information package."
The American Museum of Natural History, a sprawling hodgepodge of a complex occupying nearly four city blocks, is planning another major transformation, this time along Columbus Avenue: a $325 million, six-story addition designed to foster the institution's expanding role as a center for scientific research and education.
The new Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education and Innovation would stand on a back stretch of the museum grounds near West 79th Street that is now open space.
The addition, to be completed as early as 2019 -- the museum's 150th anniversary -- would be the most significant change to the museum's historic campus since the Art Deco Hayden Planetarium building became the glass-enclosed Rose Center for Earth and Space 14 years ago.
Shelf Life is a new video series from the American Museum of Natural History that will deep-dive into the archives of the museum and feature some of its 33 million artifacts and specimens.
From centuries-old specimens to entirely new types of specialized collections like frozen tissues and genomic data, the Museum's scientific collections (with more than 33,430,000 specimens and artifacts) form an irreplaceable record of life on Earth, the span of geologic time, and knowledge about our vast universe.
In making the announcement, Mr. Campbell said: "Through this new, open-access policy, we join a growing number of museums that provide free access to images of art in the public domain. I am delighted that digital technology can open the doors to this trove of images from our encyclopedic collection."
The Metropolitan Museum's initiative-called Open Access for Scholarly Content (OASC)-provides access to images of art in its collection that the Museum believes to be in the public domain and free of other known restrictions; these images are now available for scholarly use in any media.
For someone who went to art school being able to do this is a revelation. I used to go to the museum with my sketchpad and copy the old masters. I'd get as close as I could to understand the brush strokes, colors, lines. The guards knew who to watch out for and would bark suddenly when we stuck our faces over the imaginary line.
As class assignments we were required to copy hundreds -- literally hundreds -- of the masters drawings and paintings. for those we mostly worked from images in books -- a picture the size of a wallet photo.
Which is one of the many reasons this new met resource is fucking phenomenal.
You can get so, so close -- far closer than one could in real life.
The debates this spring will center upon the 3-D printed gun, The Liberator; Sputniko!'s Menstruation Machine; and Temple Grandin's serpentine ramp. Debate motions will be delivered by speakers who are directly engaged in issues germane to these contemporary designs -- the Liberator's designer Cody Wilson; Chris Bobel, author of New Blood: Third-Wave Feminism and the Politics of Menstruation, and distinguished professor of law Gary Francione, to name a few. We want them -- and you -- to explore the the limits of gun laws and rights, the democracy of open-source design, the (im)possibility of humane slaughter, and design that supports transgender empathy.
At our request for an interview, Lubell issued the following statement. "The International Center of Photography has been and continues to be at the center, both nationally and internationally, of the conversation regarding photography and the explosive growth of visual communications. In advancing this conversation, ICP has decided to move its current museum to a new space. This decision reflects the evolution of photography and our role in setting the agenda for visual communications for the 21st century. ICP will announce our future sites this spring. The school will remain at 1114 Avenue of the Americas in Midtown Manhattan."
In March, the New York Historical Society is mounting an exhibition of photographer Bill Cunningham's project, Façades.
Scouring the city's thrift stores, auction houses, and street fairs for vintage clothing, and scouting sites on his bicycle, Cunningham generated a photographic essay entitled Façades, which paired models -- in particular his muse, fellow photographer Editta Sherman -- in period costumes with historic settings.
Museum Hack is offering non-traditional tours of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.
Join this "Museum Hack" tour to turn one of New York's most spectacular cultural institutions into a totally unique experience. We will show you the very best and most intriguing that the Metropolitan Museum of Art has on display.
This is not a boring art history lecture. What we offer is a fun, group-oriented VIP tour experience. You will be entertained... and learn a bit along the way. We strive to offer a brand new view of the Met, one that you wouldn't get by simply visiting the museum on your own.
Great idea. Museum Hack grew out of a smaller effort to Hack the Met.
In the current season, there's a collection of toothpaste tubes from around the world. There's a collection of mutilated U.S. currencies, money that's counterfeit or real money that's been scrawled on. There's a collection from Alvin Goldstein, who was the founder and editor of Screw magazine, who shared with us personal belongings that have stayed with him throughout the narrative of his life. There's a collection of Disney-themed children's bulletproof backpacks. They're things that touch upon something that's happening in society, things that comment on where we're at and how we're thinking and what we're doing.
Thinking about the specifics of this museum, the sets would either be actual sets from the movie (if they still existed), or meticulously recreated sets. The recreated sets would have to be very exacting, and basically made to look indistinguishable from the real thing. I realize that even if you had an actual set, many of them are missing things, like ceilings or fourth walls. Those pieces would all be recreated to match the rest of the set and create an entire room. The key would be every room you enter would be a complete 360 degree environment, and you would feel as if you actually were in the movie.
I imagine a person walking from set to set, at one moment in a 40s noir movie, and the next in an 80s comedy. It would be a surreal place to visit, as you would enter into these various worlds you've spent your entire life watching. Each room's set would be lighted to match exactly how it looked on film, and there would be ambient sound playing in the background matched to the reality of the place. So a set of a New York City apartment would have genuine street sounds, while a set of a space ship might have the hum of the ship's engine. All the sounds will be taken directly from the movie if at all possible.
Some of Edwards' proposed sets include the 7 1/2 floor office from Being John Malkovich, Ferris' bedroom from Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and Vito Corleone's office from The Godfather.
In the new exhibition Our Global Kitchen: Food, Nature, Culture, the American Museum of Natural History explores the complex and intricate food system that brings what we eat from farm to fork. In sections devoted to growing, transporting, cooking, eating, tasting, and celebrating, the exhibition illuminates the myriad ways that food is produced and moved throughout the world. With opportunities to taste seasonal treats in the working kitchen, cook a virtual meal, see rare artifacts from the Museum's collection, and peek into the dining rooms of famous figures throughout history, visitors will examine the intersection of food, nature, culture, health, and history -- and consider some of the most challenging issues of our time.
The exhibition is on from November 17, 2012 to August 11, 2013.
We are very proud to announce that MoMA has acquired a selection of 14 video games, the seedbed for an initial wish list of about 40 to be acquired in the near future, as well as for a new category of artworks in MoMA's collection that we hope will grow in the future. This initial group, which we will install for your delight in the Museum's Philip Johnson Galleries in March 2013, features...
The games include Tetris, Passage, The Sims, and Katamari Damacy. No Nintendo games on that list, probably due to ongoing negotiations with Nintendo.
Of the four versions of The Scream made by Munch between 1893 and 1910, this pastel-on-board from 1895 is the only one remaining in private hands. The three other versions are in the collections of museums in Norway. The Scream is being lent by a private collector, and will be on view at MoMA through April 29, 2013.
I can't find any other information about this online or anywhere else, but tucked away in a fall arts preview in today's NY Times is the juicy news that MoMA has picked a date for their screening of Christian Marclay's 24-hour movie, The Clock. The show will open on Dec 21 and run through Jan 21. It sounds like the screening will happen in the contemporary galleries and won't show continuously except on weekends and New Year's Eve. Which is lame. Just keep the damn thing running the whole month...get Bloomberg to write a check or something.
Anyway, probably best to check this out on the early side during the holiday season because it'll turn into a shitshow later on.
MoMA Unadulterated is an unofficial audio tour of some of the works on the museums fourth floor, narrated by kids aged 3-10.
Each piece of art is analyzed by experts aged 3-10, as they share their unique, unfiltered perspective on such things as composition, the art's deeper meaning, and why some stuff's so weird looking. This is Modern Art without the pretentiousness, the pomposity, or any other big "p" words.
A lot of these sound like my internal monologue when looking at art. What's the difference between childish and childlike again?
Cory Arcangel: Pro Tools, an exhibition of new work, revolves around the concept of "product demonstrations." All of the works featured in the exhibition -- ranging from video games, single channel video, kinetic sculpture, and prints, to pen plotter drawings -- have been created by means of technological tools with an emphasis on the mixing and matching of both professional and amateur technologies, as well as the vernaculars these technologies encourage within culture at large.
The MoMA retrospective will be thematic. There will be rooms devoted to Ms. Sherman's explorations of subjects like the grotesque, with images of mutilated bodies and abject landscapes, as well as a room with a dozen centerfolds, a takeoff of men's magazines, in which she depicts herself in guises ranging from a sultry seductress to a vulnerable victim. There will also be a room that shows her work critiquing the fashion industry and stereotypical depictions of women.
As you might have heard, MoMA recently acquired 23 typefaces for its Architecture and Design collection. I was curious about how such an acquisition works, so I sent a quick email to Jonathan Hoefler, one of the principals at Hoefler & Frere-Jones, a New York City type foundry that contributed four typefaces to the MoMA.
Kottke: Three of the four H&FJ typefaces acquired by MoMA are available for purchase on your web site. Did they just put in their credit card info and voila? Or was there a little more to it?
Hoefler: MoMA's adopting the fonts for their collection was much more complex than buying a copy online (and not only because Retina, one of our four, isn't available online.) I should start by stating that you can never actually "buy fonts" online: what one can buy are licenses, and the End-User License that surrounds a typeface does not extend the kinds of rights that are necessary to enshrine a typeface in a museum's permanent collection. The good news is that H&FJ has become as good at crafting licenses as we have at creating typefaces, an unavoidable reality in a world where fonts can be deployed in unimaginable ways. This was a fun project for our legal department.
It was actually a fascinating conversation with MoMA, as we each worked to imagine how this bequest could be useful to the museum for eternity. What might it mean when the last computer capable of recognizing OpenType is gone? What will it mean when computers as we know them are gone? How does one establish the insurance value of a typeface: not its price, but the cost of maintaining it in working order? Digital artworks are prone to different kinds of damage than physical ones, but obsolescence is no less damaging to a typeface than earthquakes and floods to a painting. On the business side there are presumably insurance underwriters who can bring complex actuarial tables to bear on the issue, but I think it's an even more provocative issue for conservators. 472 years after its completion, the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel underwent a restoration that scholars still find controversial. What might it mean for someone to freshen up our typefaces in AD 2483?
Just as Abramovic's piece concerned duration, the photographs give the viewer a chance to experience the performance from Abramovic's perspective. They reveal both dramatic and mundane moments, and speak to the humanity of such interactions, just as the performance itself did. The resultant photographs are mesmerizing and intense, putting a face to the world of art lovers while capturing what they shared during their contact with the artist.
The room is filled with millions of handcrafted ceramic sunflower seeds:
Each seed has been individually sculpted and painted by specialists working in small-scale workshops in the Chinese city of Jingdezhen. Far from being industrially produced, they are the effort of hundreds of skilled hands. Poured into the interior of the Turbine Hall's vast industrial space, the 100 million seeds form a seemingly infinite landscape.
Porcelain is almost synonymous with China and, to make this work, Ai Weiwei has manipulated traditional methods of crafting what has historically been one of China's most prized exports. Sunflower Seeds invites us to look more closely at the 'Made in China' phenomenon and the geo-politics of cultural and economic exchange today.
For the first couple of days, people could walk around on the tiny sculptures (as you can see on Flickr), but health concerns prompted the museum to put a stop to that. Still pretty cool, but this remains my favorite Turbine Hall exhibition. (via hilobrow)
The only reason I ever go to MoMA anymore is so that my son can see the helicopter and whatever motor vehicles are on display in the design collection, but if I get a chance to sneak away soon, I'm definitely making use of the MoMA's new iPhone app: tours, a catalog of thousands of works, events calendar, etc.
Maybe it's just an image that pops while I'm connected with Marina. Let's say it's an image of someone I love deeply, and then this creates the emotion, the tears just come out. Most of the time it's tears of joy. You're just being and thinking about somebody or something that's important in your life. And then just acknowledging this person or situation and moving on into being present because yeah, the tears come, but I don't want to cry for the entire sitting. I want to move on and continue to be with Marina, to be present.
Abramović is seated in [the atrium] for the duration of the exhibition, performing her new work The Artist Is Present for seven hours, five days a week, and ten hours on Fridays. Visitors are invited to sit silently with the artist for a duration of their choosing.
The photographs are mesmerizing...face after face of intense concentration. A few of the participants even appear to be crying (this person and this one too) and several show up multiple times (the fellow pictured above sat across from Abramović at least half-a-dozen times). The photos are annotated with the duration of each seating. Most stay only a few minutes but this woman sat there for six and a half hours. This woman sat almost as long as was also dressed as the artist. (It would be neat to see graphs of the durations, both per day and as a distribution.)
When she looked up again, sitting opposite her was none other than Ulay. A rapturous silence descended on the atrium. Abramović immediately dissolved into tears, and for the first few seconds had trouble meeting Ulay's calm gaze. She turned from superhero to little girl -- smiling meekly; painfully vulnerable. When they did finally lock eyes, tears streaked down Abramović's cheeks; after a few minutes, she violated the conditions of her own performance and reached across the table to take his hands. It was a moving reconciliation scene -- as Abramović, of course, was well aware.
Here's a description of one of the projects they did together in the 70s:
To create this "Death self," the two performers devised a piece in which they connected their mouths and took in each other's exhaled breaths until they had used up all of the available oxygen. Seventeen minutes after the beginning of the performance they both fell to the floor unconscious, their lungs having filled with carbon dioxide. This personal piece explored the idea of an individual's ability to absorb the life of another person, exchanging and destroying it.
Wescott also sat across from the artist:
I was immediately stunned. Not by the strength of her gaze, but the weakness of it. She offered a Mona Lisa half-smile and started to cry, but somehow this served to strengthen my gaze; I had to be the mountain.
When I finally sat down before Abramovic, the bright lights blocked out the crowd, the hall's boisterous chatter seemed to recede into the background, and time became elastic. (I have no idea how long I was there.)
At certain times I thought that we were really in sync. Other times I didn't. Other times I was totally hallucinating. She looked like a childhood friend I once had. Then she looked like a baby. [...] I thought time was flying by. Then time stopped. I lost track of everything. No hunger. No itching. No pain. I couldn't feel my hands.
I believe Michelangelo painted it in 1506, two years before he started on the Sistine ceiling. It was already in my brain in 1971, the year after it was bought. When the Metropolitan showed it in 1971, I wrote for an exhibition called 'Masterpieces of Fifty Centuries' that the second panel recalled the figures in the Sistine Chapel. As years went by, it firmed up. I had long believed it to be by Michelangelo, but exactly when I don't know. There wasn't a moment when I suddenly said, 'This is absolutely by Michelangelo.' It was a gradual recognition.
One the clues Fahy used to make his determination involves the rocks in the painting; they resemble the quarry at which Michelangelo spent several months in 1497. The painting can be viewed larger on the Met's website.
I got a look at the Henri Cartier-Bresson exhibit at MoMA the other day and loved it. Seeing his work, especially his earlier on-the-street stuff, makes me want to drop everything and go be a photographer. If you're into photography at all, this show is pretty much a must-see.
The acquisition of @ takes one more step. It relies on the assumption that physical possession of an object as a requirement for an acquisition is no longer necessary, and therefore it sets curators free to tag the world and acknowledge things that "cannot be had" -- because they are too big (buildings, Boeing 747's, satellites), or because they are in the air and belong to everybody and to no one, like the @ -- as art objects befitting MoMA's collection. The same criteria of quality, relevance, and overall excellence shared by all objects in MoMA's collection also apply to these entities.
Atlas Obscura is organizing a worldwide event on March 20th called Obscura Day, "a day of expeditions, back-room tours, and hidden treasures in your own hometown". Events include tours of a pneumatic tube system in Palo Alto, an underground salt museum in Kansas, a Icelandic museum of phalluses, a Cuban perfume museum, and a hikaru dorodango demonstration in Albuquerque.
For more than twenty-five years, he was the keenest observer of the global theater of human affairs -- and one of the great portraitists of the twentieth century. MoMA's retrospective, the first in the United States in three decades, surveys Cartier-Bresson's entire career, with a presentation of about three hundred photographs, mostly arranged thematically and supplemented with periodicals and books.
After MoMA, the exhibition will visit Chicago, SF, and Atlanta. Quite excited for this one.
A collection of quirky toilet signage. And for what to read after you've latched that door, there are several sites dedicated to writing found on the walls of bathroom stalls. (Warning: most of it does contain language that falls soundly in the "potty mouth" category.)
Please Do Not Throw Toothpicks in The Urinals The Crabs can Pole Vault.
The Louvre has Venus. What do you have instead? If you can answer that question confidently and concisely without a lot of stimulating-the-following-target-audiences mission statement hooey -- and your answer isn't on SecondLife, then you may be one the few museums that doesn't suck.
You're a museum, right? You're not an outreach summercamp. You're not an Imax theatre lobby. You're not a social networking iPhone app. Be a museum. And try harder not to suck at it.
The Printed Picture is an exhibition of physical specimens made using all the different ways that type and image can be printed on paper, metal, glass, etc, with a special emphasis on dozens of photography techniques, from albumen prints to dagguereotypes to color photography. On view at MoMA until June 1.
Revolving Hotel Room is an art installation comprising three outfitted, superimposed turning glass discs mounted onto a fourth disc that all turn harmoniously at a very slow speed. During the day the hotel room will be on view as part of the Guggenheim's theanyspacewhatever exhibition, which runs from October 24, 2008-January 7, 2009. At night, the art installation becomes an operative hotel room outfitted with luxury amenities.
During the first decades of the 20th century, the AMNH posed its T. rex bones in an upright position, propped on its tail. Skeletons were broken, some bent and others removed altogether so that it looked like the "marauding predator" people thought they were. And also so that it didn't look too diminutive in the large exhibition hall. Natural history as a function of architecture: it had to reach high up to the ceiling, fill up all that space, loom large over the crowds.
The museum sits on a twenty-acre reclaimed industrial site directly across the Menomonee River from downtown Milwaukee and has been conceived as an urban factory ready-made for spontaneous motorcycle rallies. The three-building campus includes space for permanent and temporary exhibitions, the company's archives, a restaurant and cafe, and a retail shop, as well as a generous amount of event and waterfront recreational space. The museum's indoor and outdoor components were inspired by the spirit of Harley rallies in towns like Sturgis and Laconia, where thousands of riders congregate every year.
2. The rest of Eliasson's show on the third floor. His art seems so conceptually and constructurally simple yet, I dunno, I just wanted to hang out in the gallery all day, like I was required to remain part of the experience. Left me wishing I'd made it to London to see The Weather Project.
The six paintings are composed in his characteristic swiping, blurred style of over-painted and obliterated layers, fine-tuned nuances of grey and white worked through with coruscating colours -- carmine, emerald, turquoise, cadmium yellow, fiery orange -- dragged across the canvas, smeared, wiped, leaving fragments of beauty on cool but sensuous surfaces. They suggest rain and mist, instability and displacement, absence and endings, classical rigour and postmodern ruin. They echo the northern European palette of earnest darkness and piercing brightness that goes back to Grunewald and Caspar David Friedrich, but Richter is also a minimalist, a denier of meaning, ideals, personal signatures. He has named the works in honour of composer John Cage, in reference to his Lecture on Nothing -- "I have nothing to say and I'm saying it."
Three other things I found interesting there:
1) Miroslaw Balka's 480x10x10, a sculpture consisting of used bars of soap held together by a stainless steel rope hanging from the ceiling. It's not often that contemporary art smells Zestfully Clean.
Paola Antonelli, a senior curator at the museum, had to kill the coat. "It was growing too much," she said in an interview from a conference in Belgrade. The cells were multiplying so fast that the incubator was beginning to clog. Also, a sleeve was falling off. So after checking with the coat's creators, a group known as SymbioticA, at the School of Anatomy & Human Biology at the University of Western Australia in Perth, she had the nutrients to the cells stopped.
Now I find out there was already an entire Moon Museum, with drawings by six leading contemporary artists of the day: Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, David Novros, Forrest "Frosty" Myers, Claes Oldenburg, and John Chamberlain. The Moon Museum was supposedly installed on the moon in 1969 as part of the Apollo 12 mission.
I say supposedly, because NASA has no official record of it; according to Frosty Myers, the artist who initiated the project, the Moon Museum was secretly installed on a hatch on a leg of the Intrepid landing module with the help of an unnamed engineer at the Grumman Corporation after attempts to move the project forward through NASA's official channels were unsuccessful.
In the past few decades, individuals have experienced dramatic changes in some of the most established dimensions of human life: time, space, matter, and individuality. Working across several time zones, traveling with relative ease between satellite maps and nanoscale images, gleefully drowning in information, acting fast in order to preserve some slow downtime, people cope daily with dozens of changes in scale. Minds adapt and acquire enough elasticity to be able to synthesize such abundance. One of design's most fundamental tasks is to stand between revolutions and life, and to help people deal with change.
I was surprised at how many of the show's ideas and objects I'd seen or even featured on kottke.org already. But getting there first isn't the point. The show was super-crowded and I didn't have a lot of time to look around, but here are a couple of things that caught my eye.
Using eight of my favourite films from eight of my most admired directors including Sidney Lumet, Francis Ford Coppola and John Boorman, each film is processed through a Java program written with the processing environment. This small piece of software samples a movie every second and generates an 8 x 6 pixel image of the frame at that moment in time. It does this for the entire film, with each row representing one minute of film time.
Unlike the belongings of artists who fade gradually from view, which are sometimes scattered, pilfered or lost, Arbus's effects were in some ways frozen in time when she committed suicide at 48. Quickly her life began to acquire a cult status paralleling that of her photography.
In the past few weeks, I've seen several people mention the 50 Years of Helvetica exhibit at the MoMA along with some variation of "Woo! I might need to take a trip to New York to go see this!" You should know that this exhibit takes up just a small corner of the Architecture and Design Gallery on the 3rd floor...it's essentially a case and a handful of posters and other specimens. If you're in the museum already, definitely check it out, but you'll be disappointed if you make a special expensive trip just to see the Helvetica stuff.
Coming at a time of unprecedented growth and redevelopment in the city, this exhibit aims to encourage New Yorkers to observe the city closely and to empower them, with a combination of tools and resources, to take an active role in advocating for a more livable city.
The exhibit runs from Sept 25 through Jan 5, 2008.
Update:A review of the exhibition in the NY Times (slideshow). Among the artifacts at the show is a letter sent by Robert Moses to Jacobs' publisher: "I am returning the book you sent me. Aside from the fact that it is intemperate and inaccurate, it is also libelous."
The Cooper Hewitt Design Museum has announced plans for expansion. I was up there this weekend checking out the Design Triennial and found the exhibition a bit small; a similar show at the expansive MoMA might have run to twice the size and would have included larger items. I hope they don't do too much to the building though...in many rooms, the building is just as much of an attraction as the items on display.
Map of the cracks in the Guggenheim's facade. "Since the Guggenheim Museum opened in 1959, Frank Lloyd Wright's massive spiral facade has been showing signs of cracking, mainly from seasonal temperature fluctuations that cause the concrete walls, built without expansion joints, to contract and expand."
Exhibit on Helvetica (the font, not the film) opens tomorow at the MoMA and will be available for a good long time (until March 31, 2008). "Widely considered the official typeface of the twentieth century, Helvetica communicates with simple, well-proportioned letterforms that convey an aesthetic clarity that is at once universal, neutral, and undeniably modern."
A comparison: London's Tate Modern versus the MoMA. The MoMA is a stuffy, inaccesible place, while the "Tate Modern is an enormously user-friendly place, physically comfortable and hospitable, with inexpensive places to eat and frequent opportunities to sit."
"From September 27th - October 21 the Museum of American Illustration at the Society of Illustrators will host '30 Years of Fantagraphics,' a retrospective art exhibition of over 100 pieces of original art published by the Seattle underground giant." Artists in the exhibition include Chris Ware, Daniel Clowes, and Robert Crumb.
In 1965, the Washburn A mill, the last operating flour mill in Minneapolis, became also the last flour mill to close its doors, having been preceded by an entire industry that, at one time, produced more flour than any other place in the U.S. The closure came when the mill's operating company, General Mills, moved its headquarters to Golden Valley, where real estate was plentiful and inexpensive. The area around St. Anthony Falls, the geological feature responsible for the beginnings of industry in the area, had long since fallen into general disrepair and it wasn't long before the Washburn A was deserted and inhabited by the homeless.
The area started to show signs of life again in the 70s and 80s after being added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. Old mill buildings were converted for non-industrial business and residential use as people began to recognize the unique character and history of the area around the falls. In 1991, the Washburn A building burned and part of its structure collapsed, but firefighters saved the rest of the historic building from destruction. The remnants of the building and the adjacent grain elevators remained empty for years afterwards, save for the occasional graffiti artist and urban spelunker.
I knew very little of this when I moved to the Twin Cities in 1996 and not much more when I left Minneapolis for San Francisco in 2000. Almost every weekday for two years I drove or pedaled past the shell of the Washburn A mill on the way to and from work on Washington Avenue in the warehouse district, where we manufactured web pages to fill a growing online space. Topped by the Gold Medal Flour sign, the mill became my favorite building in the Twin Cities, leading me to include it in The Minneapolis Sign Project I did for 0sil8 shortly before I left for the West Coast.
It seemed the perfect symbol of a time and industry long past, broken down but not entirely wiped away. I returned to visit Minneapolis occasionally and would drive past the Falls, wondering what would happen to my building, hoping against hope that they wouldn't eventually tear it down. With the structure in such bad shape, demolition seemed to be the only option.
Last week, Meg and I spent a day in Minneapolis on our way to visit my parents in Wisconsin, my first stay in Mpls since mid-2002. Meg wanted to investigate running trails and I wanted to sneak a peek at the Gold Medal Flour Building (as I had taken to calling it), so we walked the three blocks to the river from our hotel, housed in the former Milwaukee Depot. The Gold Medal Flour sign was visible from several blocks away, so I knew they hadn't torn down the grain elevators, but it wasn't until I saw the shell of the Washburn A building peeking out around one of the other mill buildings that I knew it had been spared as well. As more of the building came into view, I saw a glass elevator rising from the ruins, backed by a glass facade.
Now practically running along the river in excitement and bewilderment, dragging poor Meg along with me in a preview of her jog the next morning, I saw a wooden boardwalk in front of the building and headed for what looked like the entrance. The burned out windows and broken glass remained; except for the elevator and the 8-story glass building sticking out the top, it looked much the same as it had after burning in 1991. I scrambled through the entrance and, lo, the Mill City Museum.
And what a museum. It was just closing when we got there, but we returned the next morning for a full tour of the museum and the Mill Ruins Park. The highlight of the museum is an elevator tour of the mill as it was back in the early 20th century. They load 30 people at a time into a giant freight elevator, which takes the group up to the 8th floor of the museum, stopping at floors along the way to view and hear scenes from the mills workings, narrated by former mill workers. After the elevator tour, you're directed to an outdoor deck on the 9th floor, where you can view the shell of the mill building, St. Anthony Falls, the Stone Arch Bridge, the Gold Medal Flour sign, and the rest of the historic area.
A creative adaptive reuse of an extant shell of a mill building, with contrasting insertion of contemporary materials, weaving the old and the new into a seamless whole...A complex and intriguing social and regional story that reveals itself as the visitor progresses through the spaces. It is museum as a verb...A gutsy, crystalline, glowing courtyard for a reemerging waterfront district that attracts young and old and has stimulated adjacent development.
I still can't quite believe they turned my favorite Minneapolis building (of all buildings) into a museum....and that it was done so well. More than anything, I'm happy and relieved that the Gold Medal Flour Building will always be there when I go back to visit. If you're ever in Minneapolis, do yourself a favor and check it out.
Burtynsky calls his images "a second look at the scale of what we call progress," and hopes that at minimum, the images acquaint viewers with the ramifications -- he avoids the word price -- of our lifestyle. But what if viewers just see, you know, some dudes and a ship?
"Another photographer might focus on the loss of life or pollution," acknowledges Kennel of the National Gallery. "He uses beauty as a way to draw attention to something. It's a very particular strategy."
The Brooklyn Museum of Art is displaying an exhibition of Burtynsky's photos until January 15. Well worth the effort to try and check it out. The scale of modernity, particularly in his recent photos of China, is astounding. In Three Gorges Dam Project, Dam #4, this huge dam seems to stretch on forever and you don't know whether to goggle in wonder or shrink in horror from looking at it.
MoMA just opened their show about Pixar last week and on Friday, we went to a presentation by John Lasseter, head creative guy at the company. Interesting talk, although I'd heard some of it in various places before, most notably in this interview with him on WNYC. Two quick highlights:
Lasseter showed colorscripts from Pixar's films (which can be viewed in the exhibition). A colorscript is a storyboarding technique that Pixar developed to "visually describe the emotional content of an entire story through color and lighting". They are compact enough that the entire story fits on a single sheet and if you're familar enough with the films, you can follow along with the story pretty well. But mostly it's just for illustrating the mood of the film. Very cool technique (that could certainly be adopted for web design and branding projects).
Near the end of the talk he showed a 2-3 minute clip of Cars, prefacing it with an announcement that it had never before been shown outside of Pixar. Some of the CGI wasn't completely finished, but it was certainly enough to get the gist. When the first preview trailer for Cars was released, I was skeptical; it just didn't look like it was going to be that good. Based on the clip Lasseter showed and some of his other comments, I'm happy to report that I was wrong to be so skeptical and am very much looking forward to its release in 2006.
At 15 minutes long, the Q&A session at the end of his talk was too short. The MoMA audience is sufficiently interesting and Lasseter was so quick on his feet and willing to share his views that 30 to 40 minutes of Q&A would have been great.
 For you Pixar completists and AICN folks out there, the clip showed Lightning McQueen leaving a race track on the back of a flat-bed truck, bound for a big race in California. As the truck drives across the US, you see the criss-crossing expressways of the city stretch out into the long straight freeways of the American west, the roads literally cutting into the beautiful scenery. A cover of Tom Cochran's Life is a Highway plays as the truck drives. The world of the movie features only cars, no humans...the cars are driving themselves.
A quick note about the Van Gogh show at the Met that's closing at the end of the month: if you're in NYC, go see it. Admittedly, I'm a fan of Van Gogh, but I thought this was one of the best museum exhibitions I've ever seen. The exhibition features drawings (as well as a few paintings) from his short 10-year career as an artist, and you can really see how much he progressed during that time and how much his drawings and paintings were related. I can't wait to go back over to the MoMA and look at Starry Night and The Postman and view them not as paintings, but more as drawings done with paint.
At the risk (ha!) of missing it, I waited until this late in the game to check out Safe: Design Takes On Risk at the MoMA. Great show. Two of my favorite items:
Safe Bedside Table by James McAdam. If the need should arise in the middle of the night, the top of the table separates from the leg and can be worn on the arm as a shield while you use the leg to beat the crap out of a surprised burglar.
Suited for Subversion by Ralph Borland. Don this highly visable suit before heading out for a day of protesting. It's padded to protect against police brutality, an optional wireless camera acts as a witness to the day's events, and a speaker amplifies the wearer's heatbeat, letting those around him know that's he's scared, anxious, exhilarated, or simply human.
The Burtynsky exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum of Artsounds good. I hope to get over there before it closes on January 15. Here's his site with lots of photographs. "He often will shoot an image on three or four different brands of film, then print each image on three or four different brands of paper...then chooses the combination that produces the richest and most vivid look."
Coming soon to the MoMa: Safe: Design Takes on Risk "presents more than 300 contemporary products and prototypes designed to protect body and mind from dangerous or stressful circumstances, respond to emergencies, ensure clarity of information, and provide a sense of comfort and security".
The Chanel exhibition at the Met showcases the fashion designs of Coco Chanel as well as the more recent fashions of Karl Lagerfeld's design. The exhibition attempts to draw parallels between the older Chanel fashions and Lagerfeld's newer work (words like "interpretation" and "reinvention" sprinkled the exhibition walls), but I had a hard time seeing Coco's influence in much of his work. Seems more like Lagerfeld is out on his own, which is in keeping with his thoughts in this 2001 interview with Paper magazine. Initially he says he hates "nothing more than people who only look in one direction, which means only in their direction" but then that he finds it hard to collaborate with others (except with himself). Then:
When I do my own things, I'm not really too interested in other people telling me what to do.
Lagerfeld is a fascinating figure and may have captured the cultural zeitgeist of the 80s and 90s in Chanel's fashions, but I don't know if I buy any of this reinvention business. If you'd like the check out the exhibit for yourself, you'd better hurry...it's only on for a few more days.
They wonder whether the digits contain a hidden rule, an as yet unseen architecture, close to the mind of God. A subtle and fantastic order may appear in the digits of pi way out there somewhere; no one knows. No one has ever proved, for example, that pi does not turn into nothing but nines and zeros, spattered to infinity in some peculiar arrangement. If we were to explore the digits of pi far enough, they might resolve into a breathtaking numerical pattern, as knotty as "The Book of Kells," and it might mean something. It might be a small but interesting message from God, hidden in the crypt of the circle, awaiting notice by a mathematician.
The Chudnovsky article also reminds me of Contact by Carl Sagan in which pi is prominently featured as well.
According to Wolfram Research's Mathworld, the current world record for the calculation of digits in pi is 1241100000000 digits, held by Japanese computer scientists Kanada, Ushio and Kuroda. Kanada is named in the article as the Chudnovskys main competitor at the time.
(Oh, and as for patterns hidden in pi, we've already found one. It's called the circle. Just because humans discovered circles first and pi later shouldn't mean that the latter is derived from the former.)
Among the featured designs at the National Design Triennial was the Demeter Fragrance Library. The company, run by Christophers Brosius and Gable, puts out perfumes, lotions, soaps, candles, and body gels with scents like Creme Brulee, Wet Garden, Funeral Home, Dirt, and Sugar Cookie. According to this article in Happi, the New Zealand fragrance was developed for the Lord of the Rings movie and Demeter's odd scents might have other uses:
Tomato, for example, was found to be an odor absorber. Some of the edible fragrances are said to help curb cravings. And though the company has yet to perform psychological tests, researchers said the Dirt fragrance made Alzheimer patients more lucid.
Perhaps I should tag along with Meg the next time she goes to Sephora. (Never thought I'd find myself saying that...)
With the cold weather officially here in NYC, there's few better ways to spend a weekend afternoon than to sample one of the city's many museums. Yesterday, Meg and I went to see the Design Triennial (catalog) at the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum. The curators did a nice job in highlighting good, solid, creative work, avoiding the temptation to include pieces that might have been highly creative but have yet to prove themselves useful in the world (this was a design *review* after all).
The Triennial runs until January 25, 2004; I recommend checking it out should you find yourself in NYC between now and then.
When I was in Washington D.C. a few years ago, I was all jazzed up to visit the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum, part of the Smithsonian Institution. Imagine my disappointment when I learned the Cooper Hewitt was in NYC, not in DC.
I finally got the chance to check it out today, and I was again disappointed. They didn't have their permanent collection on display, only an exhibit on global hotels which wasn't all that impressive. Maybe I missed something....