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An Artist’s Notebook of Sorts

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30 October 2011

gratuitous image

No. 934 (cartoon)

You’re losing your temper.

No. I know exactly where it is.

31 October 2011

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Looking at the Versos of Photographs: Eleven Pictures From the Collection of the Museum of Modern Art

I got the idea for this project almost a decade ago while I was perusing an exhibition of René Magritte’s paintings at the San Francisco Museum of Modern [sic] Art. I wondered what was on the backs of the paintings, so I wrote a letter to the head of the museum asking if I could photograph the backs, er, versos of the paintings. He sent me a letter saying that was quite impossible given that the rights to the works were owned by many different institutions.

I wrote again to ask if I could photograph the versos of paintings in his collection. No reply.

I wrote one or two more times before giving up. Later, it occurred to me that my piece would work better if I photographed the versos of well-known photographs. I sent a proposal to the San Francisco Museum of Modern [sic] Art’s photography department, and this time I got a reply. To paraphrase the response, everyone there was too busy doing important things with important people to accommodate my request.

And so, I asked Peter Galassi, the head of photography at the real Museum of Modern Art in New York, if I could photograph the photographs in his collection. To paraphrase his response, he said of course, come by any time. He introduced me to his colleague Tasha Lutek, who played a critical role in executing the work.

When Tasha asked me what I wanted to photograph, I told her any photographs that appeared in John Szarkowski’s seminal book, Looking at Photographs: 100 Pictures from the Collection of The Museum of Modern Art. She was relentlessly helpful and asked me what photographs I wanted, but I left the selection to her. The only guidance I gave her was that she shouldn’t work too hard and that she should pick works that were unmatted and easily accessible. As always, chance was my friend, and I was quite pleased for the images she selected for Looking at the Versos of Photographs: Eleven Pictures From the Collection of the Museum of Modern Art.

I never would have guessed that Nadar’s Honoré Daumier has a cartoon permanently attached, or that Dorothea Lange’s telephone number was LANDSCAPE 4-3880, and several other pleasant surprises as well.

I was so busy concentrating on technical concerns that I never even looked at most of the photographs. (Why would I? I’ve been looking at them ever since I was a teenager.) That’s why I’m thankful to my friend Morgan for keeping notes on which images were which, as well for the lake of tasty beer he provided when we returned to his compound.

1 November 2011

Manhattan Marijuana

I was wandering round Manhattan tonight with Luka when he announced he wanted to smoke marijuana. I wasn’t interested, but told him that he should enjoy himself.

“Flame on!” I suggested.

“Are you crazy?” he asked. “You can’t do that on Broadway!”

This came as something of a surprise, since I’ve spent lots of time in San Francisco. I’m pretty sure—but not exactly certain—that marijuana’s legal. Or is that only in California?

I suggested that we repair to my hotel room. He said that was too dangerous; he was once raided by police in a hotel room. His car? Nope, another cop story there. We ended up in a park along the Hudson River, where we walked for some time until Luka found the right spot under a tree sandwiched between towering apartment blocks and the freeway.

He explained that was a strategically advantageous location, one that afforded a clear view of any narcotics agents approaching from the north or the south. He went on to demonstrate his technique of keeping the lit marijuana cigarette behind his back, a pose that would allow him to surreptitiously drop the incriminating evidence if ambushed.

Luka’s smoking session went smoothly. I don’t miss the pharmaceutical benefits of marijuana, but I found the understandable paranoia quite appealing. I haven’t had the fear of being unjustly persecuted since I was a teenager, and smoking marijuana in the park brought back fond memories of my rewardingly misspent youth.

2 November 2011

The Fastest Driver in New York

On the way to the airport today, Lily claimed she was the fastest driver in the five boroughs of New York. Based on empirical evidence, I had no reason to doubt her. I don’t know much about the art of driving, but I noticed one of her obvious techniques: substituting the horn for the brakes.

Whenever she approached a situation that would make a lesser driver slow down, she accelerated while pumping her horn. And not just any horn either. She replaced the anemic horn on her ancient Aston Martin with an amplified recording of a military attack helicopter.

Clever, that.

Her career goal is to work as a getaway driver for an organized crime syndicate, but she fears she’ll never be hired. Such positions are never advertised, and criminals ignore equal opportunity hiring laws, among others.

3 November 2011

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Gratuitous Photo of the Weak: Duckmandu’s Business Card

I was pleased to meet Duckmandu whilst traveling recently; he’s one of my favorite musicians. He offered me his business card, but I declined since his contact information is readily available on the Internet. He nevertheless insisted that I take one, and I’m glad I did.

The card is blank on one side; the other side features five characters: “Cats!”

Cats! Brilliant!

4 November 2011

Corpse Hotels

Elias provided an interesting story about the fallout from the Japanese tsunami. (As a relevant aside, I’m talking about the repercussions of the tragedy, not the literal radioactive fallout from the meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.)

Japanese funeral homes can’t handle the volume of cadavers they need to process for cremation and burial, so the dead are checking into refrigerated corpse hotels while they wait to be shoved into an oven or the ground. The facilities are of course air conditioned, and even offer visitor accommodations. The rooms cost a hundred and fifty dollars a night; that’s a bargain for Tokyo.

I wonder if I could stay in a corpse hotel the next time I’m in Japan? I might even be able to stay for free if I claimed to be a necrophiliac visiting my girlfriend. I shall have to ask Dr. Isogai if that strategy might work; she’s au fait with most Japanese deviations.


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©2011 David Glenn Rinehart

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