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    Reykjavik in Black and White


    How to Build a Bookshelf out of Books

    1.   Gather your collection of read and unread cheap or free paperback books (the thinner the better) that you are willing to desecrate by drilling holes into them.

    2.   Greatly underestimate the time it will take to build the bookshelf.

    3.   Start drilling uniform holes through the center of the books. Insert a dowel rod through them. Lined-up compactly, these books will serve as your shelves.

    4.   (Optional) Drop the project altogether and go hiking on the foggiest peak you can find, possibly getting lost and wishing you were back home working on the bookshelf.

    5.   Drill holes through the wood panels that will serve as the sides of your shelf, and then insert the dowel rod through them. (I do not recommend using basal wood, which I used, because it’s very flimsy and does not provide strong support for a bookshelf larger than three shelves.)

    6.   Glue the shelves to the panels.

    7.   Glue more books the sides of the wood panels, so as to conceal the wood.

    Displaying photo.JPG

    8.   Stand the shelf up and pray it won’t collapse. Put books on it and don’t ever touch it again.

    9.   Weigh the effort you put into the bookshelf versus the outcome. It may be a bookshelf comprised of more books than it holds. Hopefully you feel that you broke even overall.

    10.   (Optional) Go kayaking down Big River while on call for work, inadvertently find yourself in the sea, and incur salt water damage to your phone, thereby wishing you had transferred your bookshelf photos earlier. Follow these steps to repair your phone.


    The Fantastic Art of Alexis Rockman

    Here are some beautiful and borderline-surreal paintings by Brooklyn-based artist Alexis Rockman, who is one of the most skilled painters alive.  Some of these canvases are enormous (a few measure 8x24 ft.), and took up entire walls of the American Art Museum in Washington D.C when they were featured there in 2010.  It’s like Dali shifted his artistic focus to biology and the natural sciences.  So far, there’s only been one large public exhibition of Rockman’s work.  [Separately, if you’re looking for a good excuse for a road trip, Peter Blume (1906 – 1992) is another great American artist, and a collection of his work will be exhibited in Philly from 11/14/2014 – 4/5/2015.  Maybe I’ll see you there…]  You may want to right-click to view the full image.


    Earth Island Journal - Chris Jordan, Running the Numbers. Also, Edward Burtynsky - Manufactured Landscapes

    The Spring 2011 edition of Earth Island Journal features the artwork of Chris Jordan.  Here's a description of his project, Running the Numbers II: Portraits of Global Mass Culture, in his own words:

    This new series looks at mass phenomena that occur on a global scale. Similarly to the first Running the Numbers series, each image portrays a specific quantity of something: the number of tuna fished from the world's oceans every fifteen minutes, for example. But this time the statistics are global in scale, rather than specifically American.

    Finding meaning in global mass phenomena can be difficult because the phenomena themselves are invisible, spread across the earth in millions of separate places. There is no Mount Everest of waste that we can make a pilgrimage to and behold the sobering aggregate of our discarded stuff, seeing and feeling it viscerally with our senses.

    Instead, we are stuck with trying to comprehend the gravity of these phenomena through the anaesthetizing and emotionally barren language of statistics. Sociologists tell us that the human mind cannot meaningfully grasp numbers higher than a few thousand; yet every day we read of mass phenomena characterized by numbers in the millions, billions, even trillions.

    Compounding this challenge is our sense of insignificance as individuals in a world of 6.7 billion people. And if we fully open ourselves to the horrors of our times, we also risk becoming overwhelmed, panicked, or emotionally paralyzed.

    I believe it is worth connecting with these issues and allowing them to matter to us personally, despite the complex mixtures of anger, fear, grief, and rage that this process can entail. Perhaps these uncomfortable feelings can become part of what connects us, serving as fuel for courageous individual and collective action as citizens of a new kind of global community. This hope continues to motivate my work.

                                                                                                                       ~cj, Seattle, February 2009

    What follows are three scanned pages from the Earth Island Journal piece on Jordan's series, as well as a few pieces pulled from his website. 


    The photographs of Edward Burtynsky also portray mass-scale industrialism through the medium of art.  Manufactured Landscapes is a documentary about Burtynsky's subject matter and photographic methods.  Here's the trailer:

    Here he is at TED:


    Arts in the Street - The Museum of Contemporary Art - Los Angeles 

    This summer I made the mistake of being in Los Angeles.  I killed some time by visiting the Art in the Streets exhibition ($10 admission; runs until 8/8/11) at the Museum of Contemporary Art’s extension building, the Geffen Contemporary, which is in Japantown.  What follows is a critique of the exhibit and street art from someone whose knowledge and experience of the subject is very limited (to once spray painting the walls of my high school). 


    Paying to see street art displayed inside of a renowned museum evokes irony.  Street art, almost by definition, is most always displayed in public places (though sometimes on private property), and those that see it must rarely pay to do so (though sometimes they must pay to have it removed).  Also, a piece displayed in a museum often conveys obsoleteness, which is not the case with street art.  Regardless, the MOCA has done civilization a favor by offering people the option of paying to see impressive works of street art displayed in a museum. 


    Here are a few of the pieces on display:




    Some in the street artist community are upset with current artists (such as Banksy) partaking in the MOCA exhibit, and are frustrated with the MOCA for displaying the works of bygone graffiti artists whom may have objected to their work being displayed in the MOCA galleries (Basquit ((who died from a heroin overdose; that’s my boy)), for instance, may have objected to his display). 


    After analyzing the reasoning of street artists opposed to the MOCA exhibit, I began to sympathize with their opposition.  It seems that graffiti and street art, inherently and/or by cultural evolution, is anti-establishment and represents a form of resistance against the state and the forces that run it.   The MOCA, with its yuppie donors pouring in funds from the valley, is certainly an establishment entity (if street artists were to place street art on the MOCA exterior, they’d be arrested if caught by the police).  So how are you gonna put street art inside of a museum and still call it street art?  You can’t because it isn’t.  You have to pay $10 to see erstwhile street art indoors.  But it’s worth it.   


    Despite confinement, it’s still art to be appreciated, and the Art in the Streets exhibition offers significant benefits to the community.  It’s impressive enough to inspire some people to start doing street art. (Stay away from the mom and pop stores.)  And perhaps next time the soccer mom with the big tits will sympathize with the arrested street artist. (Beware the cougar.)  Like the quality of this article, some things are both good and bad (such as Oprah narrating Life).  In conclusion, the real street artists aren’t mulling around bemoaning the politics of the MOCA, they’re out making street art.  Enjoy the rush and evade the police my friends. (And stay away from the mom and pop stores.)