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  Foundations, Fountains, Filters, and $ome $eriou$ Mone¥
 
 
 

 
 
W E E K  T H I R T Y - N I N E +
W E E K  F O R T Y
 
   

24 September 1997
Foundations, Fountains, Filters, and $ome $eriou$ Mone¥
OK, £et'$ get thi$ out of the wa¥ right now: I did it for the mone¥.

In Augu$t 1996 I read that $ome Eng£i$h organization ca££ed Artec wa$ "ca££ing for arti$t$' propo$a£$ for internet project$ that exp£ore theme of the digita£ or imaginar¥ cit¥." I did what an¥ prudent arti$t wou£d do: I found out who wou£d be making the deci$ion$, then $ubmitted three propo$a£$ under three different name$ for project$ $imi£ar to one$ the¥'d $pon$ored in the pa$t. And I of cour$e paid a mode$t bribe to the right per$on-it'$ on£¥ prudent.

I got a commi$$ion, a$ did $evera£ other arti$t$.

Mone¥ $eem$ to be the centra£ inte££ectua£ and ae$thetic theme to thi$ endeavor. To paraphra$e one of the organizer$, "we're $pending $ome $eriou$ mone¥ on thi$ to get Internet art taken $eriou$£¥."

(¥e$, I'm $eriou$).

Here'$ the premi$e a$ I under$tand it. O$ten$ib£¥, there are a number of "important" peop£e in the art wor£d who don't take the Internet $eriou$£¥ a$ an art medium, peop£e who wou£d change their mind$ if $eriou$ arti$t$ were paid $eriou$ mone¥ to produce $eriou$ art.

I doubt it. Arguing with $tupid peop£e remind$ me of the a££eged Chine$e proverb about wre$t£ing with a pig: don't do it; ¥ou get dirt¥ and the pig enjo¥$ it. And an¥wa¥, what can one po$$ib£¥ $a¥ to $omeone who doubt$ new techno£ogie$ can be u$ed for art? Un£e$$ m¥ ca£endar'$ broken, it'$ been a centur¥ and a ha£f $ince the invention of photograph¥, eight¥ ¥ear$ $ince Marcel Duchamp's readymades, and $ixt¥ ¥ear$ $ince Walter Benjamin's The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.

Who know$, perhap$ peop£e who are $ti££ coming to term$ with the nineteenth centur¥ ma¥ take thi$ work and it$ four-figure price tag more $eriou$£¥ than m¥ other work. It'$ £ike Jean Cocteau $aid, "Stupidit¥ is a£wa¥s amazing, no matter how used to it ¥ou become."

Are ¥ou taking thi$ more $eriou$£¥ becau$e ¥ou know I wa$ paid three thou$and pound$ $ter£ing ... about five thou$and U.$. do££ar$ at the current exchange rate? Wou£d ¥ou take it more $eriou$£¥ if ¥ou knew the budget for the entire project wa$ over thirt¥ thou$and pound$?

I'm $ti££ doubtfu£ about the entire premi$e. I think art wor£d reactionarie$ wou£d be more impre$$ed b¥ Internet piece$ $igned b¥ famou$ actor$ or mu$ician$.

Ah, the amazing wor£d of art: it'$ a££ rock and rô£e!

Disclaimer

Foundations, Fountains, Filters and $ome $eriou$ Mone¥ was commissioned as part of "Inhabiting Metropolis." Thus I am formally associated with the overall project, a conjugal union with which I am somewhat uncomfortable.

Here's how the advance publicity describes the commissions (and thus my piece) ...

    Inhabiting Metropolis is a series of Channel commissions that explore the metaphoric space of the Internet.

    For Inhabiting Metropolis, nine artists have been invited to create Internet projects which look at aspects of the digital city, and the representation of the Internet as a space which people move through, inhabit, structure and colonise.

    Inhabiting Metropolis is a construction of public and private spaces on the Internet, spaces of shared fictions and collective activity. The artists are the constructors, the facilitators or the navigators.

I'm not exploring the metaphoric space of the Internet, I don't look at the Internet as a space which people move through, inhabit, structure and colonize, and I certainly don't want to be described as a constructor, a facilitator or a navigator. I'm just an artist and I just make art. I would never approve the use of such inappropriate language in conjunction with my work, but by taking the commission money I guess I have, haven't I?

I wouldn't be writing this disclaimer had the collection of works had a more accurate title, say, Nine Commissioned Pieces by Nine Artists. After all, about all these pieces have in common is the funding source and a tangential reference to a city or cities.

Although there were a number of cultural, linguistic, and aesthetic problems dealing with the Brits, we did have a common point of reference: none of us had much of an idea of what the project was about except the money. (That's why I included $ome $eriou$ Mone¥: it does seem to be the intellectual and aesthetic foundation of this endeavor.)

One of the organizers described the lack of coördination as a laissez-faire approach appropriate to working with new media. That's fine, except when inaccurate associations are made between the pieces after the fact. For example, my piece does not "look at aspects of the digital city," although it might have done so had such an approach been suggested or encouraged.

There are no links here to other sites; the organizers made no attempt to integrate my piece with any others ostensibly part of the same project. It seems rather curious to commission several hypermedia works then discourage links between different artists' pieces, but then again it's not my project.

I'm happy with my contribution to Nine Commissioned Pieces by Nine Artists [The Project Formerly Known As Inhabiting Metropolis]. (It says right here on my artistic license that such semantic exercises are within my remit.) There's nothing wrong with "just" giving artists money and seeing what they come up with; it's a gamble that sometimes pays off. It's a simple premise that doesn't need to be tarted up or justified with implausible and unconvincing justifications before or after the work's created.

In closing, I should add that I quite like all of the organizers; they're nice people and good company. When it comes to art, though, we can--and did--agree to differ. The disagreements weren't acrimonious, nothing that couldn't be papered over with a little disclaimer. Like this.

25 September 1997
Martini Variations
A friend told me he's become fascinated with making martinis. "I know it's trendy," he apologized, "but I just can't help myself." He explained he was enamored of the subtleties in various formula. He claimed that one special combination of the various components resulted in a drink that tasted like water. I've never had such a martini; I look forward to experimenting.

The martini formula that's always served me well over the years is Luis Buñuel's, as described in his autobiography My Last Sigh:

To provoke, or sustain, reverie in a bar, you have to drink English gin, especially in the form of a dry martini. To be frank, given the primordial role played in my life by the dry martini, I think I really out to give it at least a page. Like all cocktail, the martini, composed essentially of gin and a few drops of Noilly Prat, seems to have been an American invention. Connoisseurs who like their martinis very dry suggesting a ray of sunlight shine through a bottle of Noilly Prat before it hits the bottle of gin. At a certain period in America it was said that the making of a dry martini should resemble the Immaculate Conception, for, as Saint Thomas Aquinas once noted, the generative power of the Holy Ghost pierced the Virgin's hymen "like a ray of sunlight through a window--leaving it unbroken."

Another crucial recommendation is that the ice be so cold and hard that it won't melt, since there's nothing worse than a watery martini. For those who are still with me, let me give you my personal recipe, the fruit of long experimentation and guaranteed to produce perfect results. The day before your guests arrive, put all the ingredients -- glasses, gin, and shaker -- in the refrigerator. Use a thermometer to make sure the ice is about twenty degrees below zero (centigrade). Don't take anything out until your friends arrive; then pour a few drops of Noilly Prat and a half demitasse spoon of Angostura bitters over the ice. Shake it, then pour it out, keeping only the ice, which retains a faint taste of both. Then pour straight gin over the ice, shake it again, and serve.

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26 September 1997
The Coolest People Are From Mars
I met a man at a party who bragged he had back stage passes to an upcoming rock concert by one of the more long-lived of the corporate rock groups. Boring. The whole idea of a rock concert in a stadium seems absurd in 1997, especially to anyone who's seen the movie This is Spinal Tap. Rock and rôle!

It would be stretching things a bit to call technology the new rock and roll, but I'm not sure if it's stretching things by very much. My friends the Wahlbergs had the equivalent of a NASA backstage pass at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to see the first images from the Mars Pathfinder explorer thingie. Even the vice president of the United States was there, although though that's not saying much. Since the vice president's wife has made a name for herself as one of the country's most reviled censors of contemporary music, the secret service agents won't let him go near a stadium concert.

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27 September 1997
Heavy Shitter Kitty Litter
Most people have a closet scheme for getting rich; Willy certainly does. Actually, it's a bathroom scheme: Willy's experimenting with different formulae for kitty litter--the material for a cat's "litter" box. (As a linguistic aside, it never occurred to me until now how curious it is that a cat's urine and excrement are referred to as "litter.")

Willy's premise is that everyone is certain that their cats piss and shit more than other cats. Thus he intends to market his new product as Heavy Shitter Kitty Litter. I think he's got a winner on his hands, so to speak.

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28 September 1997
An Important Lesson Lost
I found a small board on the shore of Tomales Bay. I put a penny on it and pushed it back into the bay. Ten minutes later I overheard a group of children discussing strategies for obtaining the worthless coin, which by now was about five meters offshore.

I think there's an important lesson there, but I'm not sure what it is.

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29 September 1997
Nice Work, Roy
Roy Lichtenstein died today. He said he was "anti-movement and -light, anti-mystery, anti-paint-quality, anti-Zen, and anti- all those brilliant ideas of preceding movements which everyone understands so thoroughly." But then he also said "I wouldn't believe anything I tell you."

Nice work, Roy!

30 September 1997
A Just Marriage
I met a couple at a restaurant who were recently married. It wasn't hard to spot; they had "JUST MARRIED" written all over their car. Appearances can be and were deceiving; after talking with them I discovered they'd been married for over a decade. Recently, however, they'd decided to renew their marriage vows after each of them had been involved in some sort of "extramarital hanky-panky." (That was their phrase, not mine.)

Their counselor told them to reaffirm their commitment to "a just marriage" by driving around town with the previously mentioned "JUST MARRIED" proclamations. Their marital mentor sounded like an opportunistic scoundrel, but since the just married couple seemed reasonably happy, who's to say?

1 October 1997
Plastic Sheets and Nothing to Do
I stayed at an inexpensive motel last night. Actually, that's not quite right: I stayed at a really cheap motel last night. When I got into bed, I discovered that there was a plastic sheet underneath the bed cover. Having never slept on a plastic-covered mattress since I was an infant, I thought this was an excellent opportunity to conduct new nocturnal experiments.

I fell asleep dreaming about the possibilities.

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2 October 1997
Milking Babe in Error
I normally avoid debating the complex ethics surrounding photographic manipulation (digital and otherwise). Like almost every other aspect of my life, I mix fact and fiction to whatever ratio seems right for the occasion.

After I photographed the huge model of Paul Bunyan and his blue ox Babe, I didn't have to exaggerate the size of the figures: they really were that big. I did, however, remove the boy who was milking babe until he realized that Babe's udder was actually Babe's testicle sack. The boy's parents captured his mistake with their video camera; the documentation will no doubt make good blackmail material when he's a teenager. I don't want to embarrass him more than his parents undoubtedly will, so I vanished him.

With the kid gone, though, there's no scale to the photograph to show how tall the figures are. You'll have to make my word for it.

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3 October 1997
Reverse Confusion
I received an interesting piece of electronic correspondence from "pcf," who wrote:

    Dear Mr. Rinehart,

    Thank you for your interesting web site. However, I need some technical advice. Here in Sydney, when I log on to your site, everything appears upside down. I assume this is part of the same phenomenon that cause water to travel down the drain and areas of meteorological pressure to spin in the opposite direction than in the Northern hemisphere. Using my laptop makes the adjustments necessary to solve this problem easier than using the desktop, but then the question, of course, is what about the small monitor problem that results from the laptop.

    Please don't think me too forward or too naive for asking the artist how to view his art.

    Thank you.

    pcf

I found pcf's queries troubling, for they revealed an unpleasant truth: I don't know what I'm doing. This Internet publishing nonsense demands a lot more technical knowledge than I have, and the gap between what I know and what I should know grows wider by the hour.

My background in photography led me to overlook the problems pcf experienced: as a photographer I'm used to looking at images upside down in my view cameras and reversed left to right in my Rolleiflex. (Actually, I have more than one Rolleiflex but couldn't figure out how to spell the plural.)

I suppose I need some sort of "intelligent" image-inverting software that will serve up different images for different parts of the globe. I have no idea whether that's possible, but I'm almost certain it's too complicated for me.

And who knows? Maybe my technical friends who help me in my electronic publishing endeavors have already installed such software, which negates the effects of the similar program pcf may be using. Hell, the Australian government may also have image flipping software installed, making this problem almost impossible to solve.

What can I tell pcf? I fear anything I say will only add support to the widely-held belief that artists rarely excel at customer service.

4 October 1997
The Secret of Hot Tubs
I visited an old friend who invited me to join her in her hot tub. She was surprised to hear that I hadn't been in a hot tub in years; she mistakenly assumed that many of my friends had them. (Although I don't know whether there's any correlation between fun and money, almost all of my friends have more of the former than they have of the latter.)

Fortunately, I remembered the secret of hot tubs from years ago: peripheral vision. We had a long lovely talk.

5 October 1997
Memory Holes
Maia reminded me of an anecdote I told her years ago: one of my early photography instructors made me print every negative I exposed. How confusing: not only had I never heard of such an approach, it certainly never happened to me. Or maybe it did.

When discussing events from a decade or two ago with old friends, I'm continually amazed that one of us has remembered what the other has forgotten and vice versa. In some extreme cases, my friends and I don't share even a single memory about an old adventure.

Now I wonder if I ever really had to print every frame from each roll of film I exposed? Perhaps. Doing such pointless drudgery sounds horrible; perhaps I've intentionally--but subconsciously--forgotten the experience. Such selective memory doesn't bother me; it's one of the reasons I've had such an enjoyable life.

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6 October 1997
Utterly Fascinated by the Space Needle
A plaque at Seattle's Space Needle notes that John Wayne and his family were very intrigued by their visit to the futuristic (for 1962, at least) structure. Prince Phillip, however, was "utterly fascinated." What did Prince Phillip see that John Wayne didn't?

Wow! And I thought I had a low entertainment threshold!

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7 October 1997
An Enjoyable Reunion
I visited my old horn teacher from Interlochen; it was the first time I'd seen him since I wisely abandoned my musical studies in favor of more creative pursuits. I was surprised to see he had one of my first photographs in his studio wall; I made it about the time I jettisoned the horn. Even now it's not a bad photograph; at least it's certainly more memorable than any of my horn playing ever was.

We had an enjoyable reunion. After quite a lot of wine, we congratulated each other on our successes. And, after a bit more wine, we both even believed it.

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©1997 David Glenn Rinehart