It's not as terrible as the headline sounds, trust me. Instead, it's something far more hilarious.
Recent visitors to New York and Staten Island have been privy to one of the best-kept nonexistent secret tragedies to befall the United States: The Staten Island Ferry Octopus Attack. No, you didn't miss a news headline - it's all an elaborate stunt by artist Joe Reginella to dupe tourists into searching for a nonexistent museum.
Dubbed "Staten Island Ferry Disaster Memorial Museum", the museum was promoted in some fake brochures passed out around the New York area. Some of the more gullible tourists felt the need to excoriate the United States for concealing such a tragic accident, although it's likely that they'll simply pretend they were in on the joke.
A beautiful statue was erected on the Staten Island Ferry Docks for a brief time, commemorating the "disaster", and we can only hope that it will be retained somewhere as an ongoing exhibit, even if it's necessary to inform visitors that it never really happened.
Reginella describes the entire project as "part practical joke, part multimedia art project, part social experiment."
Here's the elaborate description of the event from the website:
"It was close to 4am on the quiet morning of November 22, 1963 when the Steam Ferry Cornelius G. Kolff vanished without a trace. On its way with nearly 400 hundred people, mostly on their way to work, the disappearance of the Cornelius G. Kolff remains both one of New York’s most horrific maritime tragedies and perhaps its most intriguing mystery. Eye witness accounts describe “large tentacles” which “pulled” the ferry beneath the surface only a short distance from its destination at Whitehall Terminal in Lower Manhattan. Nobody on board survived and only small pieces of wreckage have been found…strangely with large “suction cup-shaped” marks on them. The only logical conclusion scientists and officials could point to was that the boat had been attacked by a massive octopus, roughly half the size of the ship. Adding to the tragedy, is that this disaster went almost completely unnoticed by the public as later that day another, more “newsworthy” tragedy would befall the nation when beloved President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated. The Staten Island Ferry Disaster Museum hopes to correct this oversight by preserving the memory of those lost in this tragedy and educating the public about the truth behind the only known giant octopus-ferry attack in the tri-state area."
All is not quite right in the halls of the Museion modern art gallery in Bolzano, Italy. Only the artist behind the piece in question will know exactly for sure, but perhaps even that might not save the installation, because it was accidentally gathered up by cleaning staff and meticulously and carefully cleaned away. When you stop and hear the story, however, it begins to take on a surreal, ironic hilarity all of its own that might actually make it a better piece than it was originally - if the Milanese artist duo Goldschmied & Chiari can capitalize on the opportunity instead of being caught up in anger.
There had been an opening the previous night, and as most of you who've been to your fair share of gallery openings will know (and the smaller share of those that got a bit out of control, of course, the floor of a gallery can look something like a cleaner's nightmare. That's surely what the staff must have thought when they arrived the morning after the opening, only to be greeted by a room literally covered with bottles, cigarette butts, clothes, shoes, and other detritus that you might expect to find after a particularly wild party. The cleaners set about restoring the gallery to it's properly cleaned state, only to realize after they were finished that the refuse they had spent so long cleaning was actually the star of the gallery opening the night before.
Entitled 'We were going to dance tonight', the exhibit was supposed to be a political sendup of the over-the-top parties that were apparently classic pastimes of previous generations of Italian political elites. It should be no surprise, then, that the average person was left to clean up the mess - even if they were the only ones who wanted to bother to do so.
As hilarious as it may sound to those who are somewhat skeptical of the value of modern conceptual art, this is not the first time this has happened. We recently wrote about hotel cleaning staff who accidentally cleaned away a piece of artwork intended for an upcoming auction, although police still haven't determined if that was just a clever smokescreen for a theft. Numerous other accounts have amused and delighted readers for years, but perhaps we in the art world should actually be taking it as a criticism of just how far our conceptual reaches have gone.
The world just can't get enough Banksy. From fighting over the rights to spraypaint scrawls on walls to outright thefts of public property to million dollar auction prices, Banksy is one of the most well-known disruptive influences in the current art world (whether this is a blessing or a curse depends on which part of the gamut you're in). The satirical lampooning of popular culture and media icons continues in his latest project, a massively scaled installation titled Dismaland Bemusement Park.
Set up in the English coastal town Weston-super-Mare in the south-east part of the country, the grey skies most often seen above the park seem perfectly suited to a grim, bleak mockery of Disneyland, the famous American theme park that refers to itself as 'The Happiest Place on Earth'. The entire place is a monument to the destruction of ersatz happiness: the castle centerpiece of the real Disneyland has been reconstructed and burned down, and the entire place is strewn with the gritty underside of the world - that which we pretend to ignore yet obsess over compulsively, and that which is just downright alarming. Cinderella's coach has crashed into a building and is surrounded by paparazzi, while children are offered advance payroll loans on their allowance.
There's more to the installation than just sending up Disney, however, as there are several galleries contained within the installation itself. Showcasing works from Jenny Holzer, Damien Hirst, and a number of other artists whose pieces were felt to support the underlying premise of the "park", over 50 in total from around the world. Banksy also has several new pieces on display, the most poignant of which is presented as a game, where visitors pilot boats filled with migrants through corpse-riddled waters. Definitely much grimmer than the real deal, it nevertheless sparks much more thought, debate, and dialog. Even the gift shop is more novel, where it's supposedly even possible to pick up a kit designed to hack bus stop billboard displays - no word on the price, however
Tickets to Dismaland are limited to 4000 per day, and cost under $5, meaning that they're likely to be sold out each and every day. It opened on August 22, but it will only be open until September 27, so be sure to get in there while you have the chance. It might not be the happiest place on earth, but it sure is the most interesting for the moment!
All too much of the world's beautiful artwork is hidden behind a gallery door. While some of these masterpieces must be shielded from the elements, in our reverence we often ignore the works that appear right in front of us in daily life: public art. Breaking down the barrier walls to the inner sanctum of aestheticism, the public art installation is art at its best - art that reaches as many people as possible. To celebrate that role, we're going to be starting a new series dedicated to examining the world's most beautiful and influential public art pieces, both permanent and ephemeral.
In a world where Photoshop can easily alter what appears to be incontrovertible evidence, Charles Petillon has a bit of a problem. His installations are so grandiose that he must constantly work to convince his audience that his photographs are not altered digitally in any way (aside, presumably, from the exposure adjustments that almost every good photographer applies). His typical style, at the moment, involves typically mundane settings transformed into eerie spectacles - using only balloons.
“I want to change people’s point of view, their perspective of a place they see every day and never really look at. A swimming pool, a field: if I suddenly put something strange in it like these balloons you will see it differently. I don’t want my works to be seen just as decoration, there is always something they are trying to draw out or question.”
To that end, his next project involves the world-famous Covent Garden, which he'll be filling with over 100,000 glowing white balloons. Titled Heartbeat, the balloons will pulse semi-regularly with flashes of light that propagate through the entire mass like waves, creating an impressive effect. This is also a first for Petillon, who typically photographs his installations and exhibits the photos, without making the installations themselves available to the public view.
Petillon was a bit nervous about the project from the beginning, saying, “I have never done anything on this scale so it has been quite daunting. Because it is such a historic place, we had to be very careful – I wouldn’t want to be the French man who made Covent Garden fall down.”
Hopefully, he will succeed in his goal of having visitors see the old building in a completely new light. The exhibit runs from August 27 to September 27, so be sure to pop by for a visit if you're in the neighbourhood!
While not exactly the most prolific artist on the planet, Christo has finally returned from a 10 year hiatus to realize his latest masterpiece. Admittedly, his projects tend to be of a scale so grand and dramatic that he can hardly be expected to produce them as rapidly as someone working in more conventional areas, but a 10 year gap between projects is quite a long silence for the artist who once said, 'The work of art is a scream of freedom.' Unfortunately for him (and by extension, unfortunately for all of us), his wife and long-time collaborator, Jeanne-Claude, passed away during the preceding 10 years due to complications from a brain aneurysm, which no doubt contributed to his withdrawal from the art world.
However, Christo will scream again this year in Italy, as he plans to create a massive, temporary installation on Lake Iseo, following his signature style of ephemeral projects that bewitch the imagination. The project, dubbed 'The Floating Piers', will be a 3 kilometer pier that connects three of the lake's islands, all while wrapped in 70,000 square meters of silken yellow fabric. Like all of his projects, it's a huge undertaking to complete the installation, and it will only exist for a very short 16 days in the month of June 2016.
Christo's last piece, produced with his wife before her death, was an installation titled 'The Gates' in New York's Central Park, which consisted of - you guessed it - a staggering 7,503 'gates' of saffron yellow fabric that were interspersed along the various walking paths of the park. It cost an unbelievable $21 million USD to create, and took nearly 30 years to complete from conception to installation, but it was hailed by many critics as a triumphant success. The New York Times, that most prickly of art critics, called it "a work of pure joy, a vast populist spectacle of good will and simple eloquence, the first great public art event of the 21st century."
Hopefully, The Floating Piers will be hailed as an equal success, as it's to deny the fact that the world can always use a bit more good will and simple eloquence - both the art world and the rest of the world included. If you're in Italy during the magical two weeks that it exists, be sure to take the time to visit it.
Typically, when you hear the phrase 'street art', spraypainted images come to mind if you're feeling charitable, and graffiti and vandalism comes to mind if you're not. While that's certainly one of the most common and popular uses of the phrase, it's not the only possible application. Installations are often inserted into the built environment in ways that are intended to astound and amuse, as ways to bring a little bit more joy and consideration into the world around us. This is exactly the goal of an innovative street art project by artist Paige Smith, who also uses the name 'a common name' in her work, who has spent the last several years filling the potholes and gaps in cities around the world with her installations.
Shaped after the crystalline formations found in some rocks known as geodes, these tiny sculptures integrate with the cracks in walls and foundations, the potholes in streets and alleys, and just about anywhere else there is room for one of them. Created from a variety of media including paper, spray paint and polished resin, the pieces have most recently popped up around Los Angeles, but can be found by the dedicated observer in many cities around the world, from Madrid to Philadelphia to Bali to Istanbul. For the full list of cities and locations, check out the page on her website that is dedicated to the project here.
About the project, she says, "I draw inspiration from quiet, modest, tucked away spaces: the cracks in between bricks, the grating of a drain, the inside of a pipe and interior of a derelict phone booth. ‘Urban Geodes’ are created either out of hand cut and folded paper or individually cast resin and configured seamlessly to fit into spaces that inspire me. These installations are like hidden gems sprinkled across the world that invite us to actually look, to be playful and discover and to participate in a glorious and global treasure hunt."
Interestingly enough, she's staged the project as a collaborative effort, opening up the project to other artists in cities that she hasn't had the chance (or, presumably, the inclination) to go and visit herself. If you're interested in participating in the project, you can contact her via her website in order to get more information about how to join in her "beta", and share photos and GPS coordinates of your contribution.
Most artists have worked using living subjects at some point in their artistic careers, and there's naturally nothing wrong with that - people tend to make excellent subjects. But what happens when the piece is no longer a sketch, painting or sculpture? What happens if the piece is actually an ongoing performance/installation piece that has two people living inside it? Most of us will still not take issue with it, as they are presumably there by choice. What happens if the two subjects in the piece are homeless, and were hired by the artist to live in the piece? Suddenly, firm moral ground begins to feel a bit shaky, but it's up for debate if the ice is too thin to hold our weight.
The piece, entitled "The Alien Within: A Living Laboratory of Western Society," certainly has a ring of charged politicism, but that's nothing really all that new in the art world. The artist, Anders Carlsson, saw the two homeless participants begging on a street corner, and offered them some money to work together with him on a project to raise awareness about class inequalities and the struggles of poverty. They are paid an hourly wage that amounts to roughly $600 over the course of the project.
"People want to escape the discomfort, not knowing how to relate to someone so unequal," he said in a radio interview. "In a way, there's no escape." Not everyone is particularly pleased about the project, though, and a number of activists have decided to protest outside the Malmö Konsthall, where the project is located. "I had very high expectations," protestor Ioana Cojocariu said, "but when I entered the room, it felt like an ethnological exhibition, where black bodies had been replaced by poor bodies…I think artists are well-intentioned but there have been errors."
Curiously enough, there don't seem to be many interviews with the two people themselves, Luca Lacatus and Marcella Cheresi. That somehow seems to make the media reports about the project more exploitative than the project itself, but Lacatus did have this to say when eventually interviewed by a local Swedish paper, "We've already got used to being looked at. It is better to be here than out on the street. Here it is warm and dry anyway." While, on the surface, it doesn't seem like a profound indictment of the denial of poverty, perhaps it is anyways. But don't they have a right to decide if they're being exploited?
We sure do seem to get the strange ones, don't we? Just after we posted our recent Artist Spotlight on Cai Guo-Qiang, a piece caught our eye from the very same artist, although with a slightly more argumentative tone than our own. The famous Chinese artist has recently debuted an installation piece at the Aspen Art Museum in Colorado, and it's not the ire of the Chinese government he's aroused this time, but rather that of some American animal rights activists. The installation piece, has some rather unexpected components: namely, three tortoises. Three tortoises with Apple iPads attached to their backs. Yes, you read that correctly.
The piece is entitled 'Moving Ghost Town', and the tortoises wander around with the iPads in tow throughout the rooftop sculpture garden, a feature of the museum which has been added as part of a $45 million dollar building that has recently opened, designed by celebrated Japanese architect Shigeru Ban. The tortoises are African Sulcata tortoises, and they appear to be in perfect health, despite the protestations of the animal rights activists who want the trio of tortoises to be trucked towards a shelter. However, it has transpired that the three were rescued (though from what is not mentioned) from an Arizona breeder, meaning all are captive-bred and not wild caught specimens. The tortoises are regularly checked by an accomplished veterinarian on a regular basis, and the local Turtle Conservancy has apparently been consulted as well.
And so what, do you ask, are the iPads showing, exactly? They're showing footage of three ghost towns - film that was shot by the tortoises themselves. Or, rather, shot by cameras mounted on them as they wandered through the empty streets and decaying buildings under the watchful eye of Cai Guo-Qiang. Presumably, the cameras were mounted using the same non-toxic silicone adhesive that is used to hold the current iPads in place, as it leaves no residue and causes no damage to the shells once removed. The animals appear to be in perfect health, as the negligible amount of weight to carry doesn't inconvenience them in the slightest.
Regardless, it's interesting to see how this will play out. Art and activism often go hand in hand so regularly, it will be curious to see what happens when they come to blows. A petition from concerned activists has gathered over 1000 signatures at the time of writing, but the Aspen Art Museum seems unmoved, and simply appreciates the extra publicity!
Film is undeniably one of the great art forms of the modern world. Whether you're looking at an intricate Scorsese drama or a visual feast like Samsara, films have the power to move us, to change the way we look at the world - and that's one of the best quick working definitions for art. However film is unlike most other art in that it often depends on actors to create its emotional power. The human brain seems hardwired for appreciation of celebrity, and when this starts to merge with a desire to create art, things can sometimes get pretty weird.
Case in point: actor Shia LeBeouf, most recently star of the Transformers film series among others, has had some troubles of late. Being accused (apparently accurately) of plagiarising the work of artist Daniel Clowes in a short film HowardCantor.com which debuted, astonishingly enough, at the May 2012 Cannes Film Festival, LaBeouf has repeatedly tried to apologize to the artist whose work he took nearly verbatim. After claiming simply to have been 'lost in the creative process', he decided to take a decidedly different tack to the apology.
Well, that's not quite true - first he decided to try skywriting an apology, despite the fact that Clowes wasn't anywhere near the locations it would be visible. He then moved on to a bizarre installation/performance art piece, entitled #IAMSORRY (the use of hashtags appears to be a reference to the fact that many of the revelations about this story appeared on Twitter). The exhibit is a arguably an art stunt more than an actual installation piece, although these lines are often hard to distinguish and frequently depend on the mood of the reviewer. Despite a collaboration with artists Luke Turner and Nastja Säde Rönkkö, critical reception of the work - what little there was of it - seems to have been generally negative.
The exhibit consists of Shia LeBeouf sitting in an empty room with a paper bag over his head. But naturally, he's not there all the time, despite having posted hours of 11AM to 6PM Tuesday through Sunday. After lining up outside often for hours at a time (without any guarantee of being admitted at all), visitors/participants are checked over by security with a metal-detector and passed one at a time into an antechamber filled with icons related to LeBeouf's previous work. Note that's not 'one by one', but rather one at a time - only one visitor is ever in the room with him at once. The length of time spent in the room is dependent on the wills and interest of both parties, not any particular set of rules.
Does this make for a decent art installation? Does it make for art at all? It's hard to say. Does it make a good apology for plagiarism? Arguably it just makes things worse, as many have pointed out similarities between #IAMSORRY and a performance piece by artist Marina Abramovic that employed a nearly identical premise - just without the hashtags.