Monthly Archives: November 2007

Fake Empires


One day, I imagine we’ll need a museum to house all the art imitating or inspired by Empire, Andy Warhol’s 1965 eight-hour stationary-shot film of the Empire State Building. And I imagine that’s a good thing. It’s probably also the easiest work around to imitate (and therefore hardest to do well).

Bootleg Empire

I’m thinking particularly of two recent works. There’s Douglas Gordon’s Bootleg (Empire) from 1998, which begins as a filming of an Empire screening in Berlin but then apparently then takes an intermission at a local bar.


Earlier this year Reena Spaulings and Co. filmed Imperio, a static shot of the Empire-State-Buildingesque Torre Latinoamerica in Mexico City—which saves itself as an idea if viewed through Mexico City’s rise as an international contemporary art center to one day rival New York.

(Loosening our criteria, we could stretch out to find Empire’s presence in far-afield works like Cremaster 3 [epic-length, skyscraper envy, oedipal rage] and the “i am not here and this is not happening” window scene in Grant Gee’s Meeting People is Easy: A Film about Radiohead [stoner fascination with the cityscape].)

So, predictably enough, here’s my idiot proposal:


Model Empire
The R.J. Reynolds Tower in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, is a prototype of the Empire State Building constructed in 1929 by ESB architects Shreve Lamb and Harmon as a one-third scale model to test the viability of their proposed tallest building in the world in New York. It was and is owned and operated by the tobacco company, and held the record of tallest building in North Carolina for close to 40 years.

Considering the strange logic that calls for, or at least accepts, a continued grappling with Warhol’s tenacious relevance, the Reynolds Building could withstand being filmed as a posthumous maquette for the artist’s finished masterpiece. We should totally do this as soon as I can scrape a camera and a car together for the road trip. We could grab some BBQ and maybe make a pit stop at Wrightsville Beach. I’m not sure yet which would be the more rigorous: should Model Empire be 1/3 the length of the original, run time appx. 2:40, to match the Carolina building’s 3:1 scale to the New York one? Or does it need to be three times as long (24 hours) so that at the end we’ve captured the same amount of building? But who would screen that?

The National: Fake Empire mp3


WGA strike now affecting theater

Youtube debate

New York Times: Writers’ Strike Leads to End of Debate Plan

Finding itself in the middle of labor disputes between television writers and CBS, the Democratic National Committee announced yesterday evening that it was canceling the debate among Democratic presidential candidates scheduled for Dec. 10. …

Hollywood’s television and film writers have been on strike since Nov. 5, and most of the Democratic candidates had pledged not to cross picket lines to attend the debate, which had been set to take place at CBS Television City in Los Angeles. That location has been picketed most days since the start of the strike, and no aspiring Democratic presidential candidate would have wanted to be caught on film crossing the line.

And here we thought unions had lost their sway with Democrats.

Mapping the 2008 Whitney Biennial

The list of participating artists in the 2008 Whitney Biennial was released last week. I put the Whitney’s artist info into two Google maps, one charting the artists’ birthplaces and the other their current residences.

Whitney 2008 Biennial artist birthplaces:
Whitney birthplaces

Whitney 2008 Biennial artist places of residence
Whitney residences

Some results:
-The most surprising find, for me, is that according to the maps San Francisco is a net exporter of artists. (5 were born there, and only two work there, and one of them is Robert Bechtle)
-New York won for most artists-in-residence (duh, with 43 artists—teams were split into individual artists when the Whitney supplied their info) and LA came in second (25 artists). Third place was held by Berlin, Germany, with 4. (Take that, Miami.)
-LA beat NY though, for artist birthplace: 8 in LA to NY’s 6.
-I took artists who listed themselves as residents in two cities (or in Eduardo Sarabia’s case, three) at their word, and this was a big factor in the impression the residence map gives of geographical diversity. Of the three artists who list themselves as residents of the great state of Texas, zero live there full time (NYx2 and Miami the rest of the year).

Google maps: Whitney Biennial artist birthplaces
Whitney Biennial artist residences

It Was Ever Thus: Press Bias


“The very process of discourse was misted over, poisoned, with distrust—there was not only ‘the credibility gap’ in Washington, but a wide resentment toward the vehicles of what must be bad news, or false news. In 1964 many thought it shocking that, at the Republican Convention, delegates turned to the press booths and shook their fists in anger after Eisenhower’s criticism of reporters. But by the 1968 convention, cops beat newsmen and broke their cameras. What is more interesting, the demonstrators in the parks were often hostile to the press, suspecting them of being plainclothesmen, or—after their credentials had been established— demanding loyalty to ‘the revolution’ before they would talk. Meanwhile, newsmen who followed Wallace said they felt like patsies, straight men for the candidate’s act, so much did he use them to elicit boos and jeers from his crowds. Spiro Agnew got a similar response when he held up a copy of the New York Times and mocked it. Disturbed by the angry wash of criticism after Chicago, Reuven Frank, head of NBC News, said of the American viewer: ‘The world as reported by television threatens him. It is a short and understandable step for him to conclude that television threatens him.’ There was, back of all these localized complaints, a basic sense of futility in attempts to communicate. What one said would be distorted; what one heard had been confected. We had miles of cables, batteries of cameras, bouquets of microphones under every nose. And we could not talk to each other.”
–Garry Wills, Nixon Agonistes: The Crisis of the Self-Made Man (1970)

American Gangster and No Country for Old Men

Yes, that’s two (2) movies discussed in one post


As if nudged by some current event, these two films both investigate the consequences of whether or not you should keep that sack of money you found. If you do like Gangster’s “honest cop” Richie Roberts and turn it in, big rewards follow. The state might even make you lead prosecutor in their most important drug case, legal experience be damned.

In Gangster word of Richie’s upstanding career move gets around. The anecdote flies ahead of him like Winged Rumor, which is a fancy Vergilian term for Rep or Cred. Everyone he meets, cops to gangsters, asks him the same question about the money. Again and again we watch this, like Ridley Scott was filming his scenes from a first draft. But it’s a deliberate ploy, a building of character through wooden repetition. That repetition, like an Homeric epithet or a mob nickname, bludgeons us into accepting his status on the playing field of mythology. “Wily” Odysseus, “Sammy the Bull” Gravano, “Turned-in-the-Sack-of-Money” Richie Roberts. The clumsiness works here, just like it does in Star Wars, by alerting us that what we are watching is not drama. It is the battling of heroes.

Notice the incredulity of everyone’s “You turned in the money? You’re crazy, I don’t believe you” response. Roberts walks among us, but he is not One of Us. Hence all that awkward lawyer crap: Roberts is no mere cop. He is lawyer-cop. The letter he gets on passing the Bar is his talisman, the structural equivalent of the raised-by-peasants hero learning he was the secret bastard of aristocratic and divine miscegenation. Like the nobility, lawyers are refined, they have professional degrees and own suits. When Richie’s divorce attorney cautions him to fuck her “like a cop, not a lawyer,” what she’s describing, via the old Hollywood canard that blue-collar lovemaking is the more passionate, is the conflict between Olympian and Titan. Also, epic heroes sleep around.

No Country

I won’t drop a spoiler on No Country For Old Men, but I think it’s safe to mention Josh Brolin’s Llewellyn Moss took Option B with regards the briefcase. And for that he was pursued across the landscape by the relentless Furies.

Tommy Lee Jones’s sheriff presence may lull us into watching this movie as a procedural, but it isn’t. It’s Texas gothic, and by that I mean it’s supernatural. There is none of the plot explication of a good cop movie, no discovery of how Anton Chigurh keeps fucking finding Llewellyn. The closest we ever get is an exchange with Woody Harrelson:
“How did you find me?”
“It was easy.”
That might be a paraphrase—the Coens are particular with their dialogue—but I know I’m not leaving information out. These characters can smell guilt. Chigurh’s transponder is tuned to Poe’s tell-tale heart. There’s nowhere to hide in Texas. I didn’t know we were big fans of hard truths about guilt and fate, but this film is tragedy straight out of the House of Atreus. And it got to me.

Here’s me with popcorn waiting for American Gangster to begin. See that Cherry Coke in the armrest? That’s a medium.

American Gangster

Chicken Cabaret

Chicken Cabaret

That feeling of exuberance that comes with having your theory confirmed by new evidence is outmatched only by the joy of gloating about it. It is this fix that drives our brightest young minds into the hard sciences.

Last year I wrote:

A large number of chicken outfits are costumes, or uniforms, in which the chicken portrays exaggerated masculine gender roles. We have chickens dressed as cowboys, chicken college graduates, chickens stripping off their costumes Superman-style to reveal their secret restaurant identities. These chickens are performing a travesty, playing a part in the culinary world akin to what the Village People once played for music.

Chicken Cabaret comes so close to the Platonic ideal of Chicken Drag as to be indistinguishable from it. Ann’s Food Blog warns that the chicken there tastes like dirt: “I am not kidding.” But how can that matter? This is the closest thing to perfection I can ever hope to see in a chicken sign.

34th and 3rd, Manhattan.

Previously: Anthropomorphic Pig v. Anthropomorphic Chicken