Art The Magazine: An Online Hybrid Arts Magazine


Art-the magazine was an online hybrid arts magazine.
This was their website starting in 2001.
The content below is from the site's 2001-2005 archived pages and gives just a small glimpse of what this site offered its visitors.


Welcome to The placement of fresh material is staggered so that every week, portions of the site are updated. The magazine is international and interactive: you will get both English and American spelling here, and one of our staff writers is not a native speaker of English. We preserve the phrases used, as other cultures express things differently. We are currently preparing our forum pages, so you can also log in and comment - what do you think of what is written here?
Ian Clothier editor 

In this 2001 issue we have:
news - an international look at what's on around the world.

Our insite writer searches the web, guided by a specific context and gives you the results - the current topic is: what is the relationship of art to beauty? Subjects can also be suggested. Beauty in art does not always follow a well marked path Kevan Nitzberg, from the USA, found out.

new art
" this just another repackaging, an art world air freshener spraying a smidgen of innovation to tickle the intellect, which dilutes the ability of art to make a profound experience for viewers? Fresh wind or flatus? That is the question..."
Our new art column explores digital, multimedia & interactive art, and begins with a review of gift of hope, an exhibition of interactive and viewer participant art works by international artists at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo.

letter from london
We look inside the world of curating shows in our letter from London. "So what happens when you open an art exhibition in a large conservative town , in the heart of Middle England, where no art galleries exist? (There are a couple here, but very poor ones). And what happens when one or two of the pieces have already sparked controversy in London and the national newspapers? And what happens when the works in question, involve a world famous princess, buried 6 miles away?"
Curator Robert Wornum is about to find out. Wornum is also in the preliminary stages of establishing a serious art gallery in Northamptonshire.

letter from paris
"In the contemporary art world, artists have moved specifically into sex and porn as a thematic region. Sex and art are certainly well out of the closet in 2001."
When we discussed with artist-writer Matthew Rose the concept of a look at art, Paris, porn and the web, no one realised how big the subject was. So big, we've had to serialise the article... here is part 1.

letter from siberia
In Russia "artists are like wild antelopes in the desert. They do not have abundant food but they may run in every direction. One could say, it is a freedom to starve. But it is a freedom" writes Russian born Vladimir Gavrikov in Siberia, on the large plains between the Ural Mountains and Baikal Lake. Gavrikov looks at the differences between art worlds in Siberia and the West.

The issues section looks at longer term questions. One issue looked at is that of chaos theory and art. We begin with Leonardo - he might not have had the correct answers to all his inquiries, but he certainly had the correct questions. In 1513 he asked a question, one he knew he could not answer. 464 years later, the answer is given in an experiment that is a corner stone of chaos theory. Read about it here.

Has everything been done in painting? There is a huge consensus that the answer is yes. But there is a new way to visualise picture space, according to a paper which will be loaded next week - this week we have the abstract and introduction, used by permission of the organisers of the Ninth International Conference on Thinking, held in January 2001.



CIRCA 2005

insite : : edited by kevan nitzberg

visual literacy: renaissance of the 21st century?

Visual literacy is a relatively new phrase that has entered the lexicon amid a rising wave of multi-media technology. Personal computers and the internet have become standard expectations in business and on the home front as well. Education has added to this explosion in technological consumption, and students are learning how to manipulate digitized images, film and edit digital movies, make presentations, and create sophisticated animations. Also adding to the interest is the huge popularity of video games and online, interactive virtual reality domains.

Through all of this, the learning curve has taken a sharp upward bend. These tools of communication generate needs for new policies and drive the evolution of cultural norms, which in turn shape the reality of both the near and far future. It seems reasonable to consider the implications of this 'latest and greatest' capability.

Near the beginning of my contributing to the articles in this e-zine, I referenced the work of Dr. Jason Ohler, from the University of Alaska Southeast. Dr. Ohler was an early proponent of educating students in multi-media arts. This art, according to Ohler, needs to be viewed as the '4th R' in education if we are to truly concern ourselves with student success in today's world.

Ohler stated that beyond the more traditional arguments that can be made to support the need for a strong arts curriculum (engaging students in education, giving students an outlet for expression, personal and cultural awareness, improve cognitive functions, understanding of our humanity, etc.), the study and mastery of visual art is critical for the development of "design skills, graphic literacy skills, and skills that knit together pictures and words into unified presentations. Once we better understand how video, sound, music and animation communicate ideas effectively, and once the technology that supports these activities becomes more affordable and less specialized, art will become the fundamental literacy for understanding both old and new media." (1) This focus on what literacy entails certainly expands its previously more limited definition of "using printed and written information to function in society, to achieve one's goals, and to develop one's knowledge and potential ". (2)

Additionally, the developing of visual literacy skills also involves a greater understanding and knowledge base of a myriad of components. Art appreciation, art history, art criticism, studio art, technology and a host of other areas serve as a massive and comprehensive base upon which to build a foundation for educating the population and assisting in their becoming visually literate. The inclusion of these domains needs to be an inherent part of the visual literacy process if, in fact, multi-media technology is to become successful as a tool for advancing literacy. The online, "21st Century School" site incorporates Stanford University's 'ArtiFact Curriculum' program that integrates the following tenets as intrinsic in the teaching of visual literacy skills:

" teaching students how to 'read' and interpret images
" the application of visual thinking strategies (VTS), focusing on aesthetic and cognitive growth through interacting with art
" how to better interpret technical information through the development of visual literacy skills
" the need to study the development of art in order to be able to become better critical thinkers
" identification of core competencies necessary to becoming visually literate
" how to better enhance a child's understanding of literature through illustrations (3)

Many in education administration are already embracing the need for art literacy in schools as a powerful tool for helping to provide a comprehensive and timely education for students. In 2001, Dr. Terry Bergeson, State Superintendent of Public Instruction in Washington, wrote, "The Arts communicate and speak to us in ways that teach literacy and enhance our lives. We must continue to find a place for arts programs and partnerships not only for what it teaches students about art, but for what it teaches us all about the world we live in." (4) Russ Chapman, principal of Shady Brook Elementary School in Bedford, Texas, stated, "It never entered my mind that arts education could become a powerful force in boosting academic performance. But that's exactly what's happening today at my school…reading scores, as measured by the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS), have gone up 12.3 percent in the last five years. Writing scores have increased 14 percent, and math scores have shot up a remarkable 61 percent. And, in 1997, each and every one of our 6th grade students demonstrated reading mastery. Beyond the TAAS scores, which so graphically quantify our students' progress, anecdotal and empirical evidence shows how comprehensive arts education is enhancing our students' ability to understand concepts and to express themselves articulately." (5)

With so much positive response to the concept of visual literacy as seen above, it might seem that there are only good ramifications of this technological manifestation of visual art . It might, however, be prudent to consider how in our need to stream-line, quantify, mass produce and communicate viewpoints and ideas, that this particular focus on a technologically-based art education might also prove to be somewhat of a Trojan Horse if allowed to become the sole definition of what the art experience encompasses.

Art that we recognize as masterworks, be they from the past or the present, of necessity represent intuitive leaps by the artist that not only rely on a mastery of the medium, but an essential element of personal interpretation or vision that is embedded in the work. Giorgio De Chirico once said when commenting on art's metaphysical nature, "A work of art must narrate something that does not appear within its outline. The objects and figures represented in it must likewise poetically tell you of something that is far away from them and also of what their shapes materially hide from us." (6)

"The Archeologists", by De Chirico (7)

When the focus reverts to the tools at hand (which might be considered endemic to computer based imagery), the ability to move beyond those tools and arrive at "something that does not appear within its outline" might not only be exceedingly difficult to come by, but also at least as difficult to assess. If that becomes the case, then the creative aspect of art and its ability to draw upon inference will be severely undermined. This is not to say that creativity is an anathema to technology, but might certainly not be the primary focus in the search for a communicable image.

Referring to the hunger for mass production that is also an aspect technology makes feasible, one might also consider Martin Kippenberger's remark, "I don't think there is any doubt that the present commercialization of the art world, at its top end, is a cultural obscenity." Here also is a declaration against the mass media-hype that multi-media might easily be tied to, that removes the uniqueness and quality of what the artist is capable of producing, and criticizes the "strategies of the art market and the larger political system". (8)

"Metro Net", by Martin Kippenberger, 1997

Ultimately the question that begs to be asked is, what is the goal of visual literacy? Certainly there is on the surface the possibility that it could well end up primarily causing the production of better 'sales people' and 'consumers' of images and the products that they represent.

However, it is equally plausible that if allowed to grow and find its own direction without artificially being manipulated, the process might provide access to technologically-based tools for the exploration, creation and discussion of images and concepts, that will foster a greater understanding of culture, our past, our present and, perhaps most importantly, a state of awareness and perception with which to shape a more humane future.

It also needs to be asserted that multi-media and computer-based art is only one medium among many that all have unique characteristics, that may also be considered pertinent to attaining visual literacy. It may well end up being the artist that provides the necessary new interpretation of literacy that allows us to truly 'read between the lines'.

An aside: Or in my case, the art education was great, the theories sound great, but the reality was I needed to make money to have a roof over my head, food in my belly, and art supplies so I could persue my art. So like so many artists before me and most likely after me, I had to find a money paying job. I ended up as did many of my art friends working in the tech industry as web designers, coders, graphic artists or in my case as a Zendesk developer. Zendesk builds software for better customer relationships. Their apps allow businesses to be more reliable, flexible, and scalable. They help improve communication and make sense of massive amounts of data. So I work for a company that develops Zendesk Apps so businesses can add further functionality. I have built apps that are customized to a specific client's need and I have also built what I call my "public" apps that are on the Zendesk Apps Marketplace with over 250 other apps and integrations such as JIRA, TeamViewer, Harvest, Google Hangouts+, or Salesforce. Pretty cool. Some might not find the "art" in the type of work I do, but there is a certain beauty in developing code that is succinct and functional, rather like high level math solutions. Let's face it, there is all sorts of "visual beauty". My girlfriend on the other hand, might disagree. She works for an interior design studio. As she would say, I work with visual design- that's real design in the three dimensional world. She has a point. Just this week she was showing me the site, room service 360, where she had picked out a selection of stunning Italian dining tables for a client who has a home in Maui. I have to admit that I could spend days looking at this e commerce site's pages of contemporary furniture and lighting designs. Perhaps one day I can persue my art and have it support me as well! In the meantime, we were so turned on by the pictures of the client's home on Maui, we decided to visit this exotic island on our next vacation. I did some research on where to stay and we decided on a Kaanapali rental condo unit rather than a hotel room. Kaanapali, located on the western coast of Maui, is known for its 3 mile long beach with opportunities for all sorts of water sports, two world class golf courses, lively night life, and great shopping. Maui didn't disappoint. We even drove by the entrance to the opulent home of the client in an exclusive section of Kapalua, also on the western coast of Maui! I was hoping the client was staying on Maui so we might get a peek in, but no such luck.


letter from moscow : : john held jr.

the worldbackwards: a moscow travel diary

Alexei Kruchenykh - Graphic used as a stamp and large print. A collaboration by Mike Dickau and John Held, Jr. for the "Back to the Russian Futurists" series shown at the Mayakovsky Museum in Moscow.

One of the motivating factors for my going to Moscow was the desire to research the artist books of the pre-revolutionary Russian avant-garde. Interested since the mid-nineties. I was especially drawn to the work and life of Alexei Kruchenykh, whose books from 1913-1916 (The Worldbackwards, Expoldity, Game in Hell, etc.), were the first to use rubber stamps in an artistic context. His major contribution was Zaum, or "transrational" poetry. A Dadaist before Dada, and later a chronicler of the era, Kruchenykh spent his later life as a collector and bibliographer, salvaging the historic contributions of himself and his friends. As a practitioner and historian of Mail Art, I began seeing Kruchenyhk as a role model; wanting to traverse his path in closer proximity. This became a possibility after several years of correspondence with Russian Mail 
Artist Juri Gik, with whom I planned an intensive three weeks of exhibitions and lectures in Moscow during April and May 2003.

Day 1, Monday:

Leave San Francisco at 5:00 pm on Aeroflot Airlines. Stop in Seattle, Washington before preceding eastward to Moscow.

Day 2, Tuesday:

Arrive in Moscow at 6:00 pm. At Passport Control I'm told there is a problem. I was originally planning to arrive on the 16th and my visa lists it as my entry date. I'm told that this can be corrected, but it will take a long time and there will be additional costs. Awake for 24 hours and eager not to disrupt my meeting with Juri Gik, I agree to pay a $150 bribe to enter. This accomplished in a bathroom, I pass through customs and meet Juri, who is waiting for me with a taxi driver. We arrive at his house in Pushkino, a suburb of Moscow, after a one hour drive. He lives in a large apartment building with his wife Ann. Juri shows me the catalog he has prepared for my show at the Mayakovsky Museum. After a dinner of bread, cheese, smoked fish and salad, I go to bed at 9:00 pm.

Day 3, Wednesday:

Wake up at 12 noon. Juri has gone to his work at a bank where he is a compute r programmer. This is his last day before a two week vacation. Ann and I take the train from Pushkino to Moscow at 3:40 pm. We meet Juri at the Mayakovsky Museum, but our appointment with the director has been postponed. Instead we browse the books in the Museum bookstore. I buy several books on the Russian avant-garde, including, "Kruchyonykh Katalogue," an exhibition of books by the artist during his "Caucasian Period," which the Mayakovsky Museum hosted in 2002. Juri had previously sent this book, but I buy additional copies. Ann goes to work at the Russian Science Academy, where she researching a literary encyclopedia. Juri and I walk to the Kremlin and Red Square, and then along the banks of the Moscow River. We take the train back to Pushkino at 7:00 pm. Dinner with Juri and Ann: fish, meat, rice, tomato, cheese, bread. Bed at 10:30 pm.

Day 4, Thursday:

Paste "Back to the Russian Futurists" postage stamps produced by myself and California Mail Artist Mike Dickau, in the Mayakovsky Museum catalog. Take the train to Moscow at noon. Go to the Mayakovsky Museum and meet with the director, who gives us a tour of the Museum. Mayakovsky was a member of the Russian avant-garde, who became the head of the LEF after the Revolution. He committed suicide in one of rooms of the museum, which had previously been his residence. His association with the Russian Futurists makes this a highly appropriate space to show the works I produced with Dickau, both prints  and stampsheets based on the personalities and designs of the pre-revolutionary period. We leave at 3:30 pm and take the Metro to the Central Train Station. Moscow Metro stations are all they are reknowned for. Each one is different; some sporting elegant traces of pre-revolutionary royalty, others outstanding xamples of political propaganda. They are truly underground palaces for the people.  Eat at an Italian restaurant before taking the train back to Pushkino. Juri and I go to Internal Immigration to get my passport stamped. I have entered on a "special visa," which has allowed me to stay in Juri's home. We begin this process, but lack certain forms, plus we have to pay a seventy cent fee at the bank, which we take care of. Back to Juri's house and bed at 7:00 pm.

Day 5, Friday:

Address postcard announcements of the Moscow shows and lectures produced in San Francisco (with the help of Tim Mancusi) for mailing. Eat breakfast: cereal, cheese, coffee, orange. Go to the train station at 11:00 am, where we buy copies of the magazine, "At Rest," which features a story about the Mayakovsky 
exhibition, under the title, "Dada Held." A stampsheet by myself and Dickau is illustrated. This is the main weekly cultural guide to Moscow. Arrive in Moscow at noon. Go to a bookstore near the Mayakovsky Museum and buy a book on Futurist painter Olga Rozanova. Meet the Manager of the Mayakovsky museum and begin framing works for the exhibition. In addition to the prints and stampsheets in the series, "Back to the Russian Futurists," produced by Dickau and myself, we install work in display cases by Ray Johnson (letters), Rocola (rubber stamps), H. R. Fricker (envelopes), M. B. Corbett (rubber stamps), Picasso Gaglione (Stamp Art Gallery rubber stamp boxed sets), Vittore Baroni and Piermario Ciani (AAA Edizioni books). Back to Pushkino by train at 9:00. Dinner of sausage and rice. Bed at 10:00 pm.

Day 6, Saturday:

Wake up at 8:00 am, seemingly over jet lag. Breakfast of coffee, swiss cheese, cereal. Juri goes to Internal Immigration office at 9:00 to stand in line for 10:00 opening. Ann and I walk to the office for the 10:00 opening. Meet Juri and get my visa stamped. After the trouble in getting into the country, I've become a bit anxious about these official visits, but all goes well. Juri goes shopping. Ann works in the garden with others in her apartment complex. Saturday is "subotnik," a communal outdoor cleaning day, a hold-over from Soviet days, and something I've seen previously in Cuba. I stay in a read, "Our Arrival," by Kruchenyhk. Leave at noon by train for Moscow with Juri and Ann for opening of the exhibition, "First International Post-Futurist Exhibition." Arrive at Mayakovsky Museum at 1:00 pm. Juri and I go through the exhibition and explain the works (Juri translating), while Ann videotapes with the digital video camera they have purchased just previous to my visit. Set up table for rubber stamping and applying artistamps to special papers I've brought with me. Two Moscow artistamp artists come for opening and I exchange stampsheets with them. Rubber stamp and Mail Artist Constantine Melenkov arrives and exchanges work. 
He is the hardest working artist I've ever met, constantly rubber stamping and drawing in books, on paper and any other surface (metal, cigarette packages) he can find. I see him often throughout the trip. Also a younger artist presents me with a Mail Art exhibition catalog in the form of a postcard set. About thirty people in all for the opening.

I am introduced by the Manager of the Mayakovsky Museum and presented with flowers (which I later give to Ann Gik). We leave at 3:30 pm to go to the exhibition opening at the Digital Gallery. This was the first private gallery in Russia and this exhibition marks the opening of the gallery in a new modern, three story space. Lots of food and drink. We meet with Alexander Kholopov and his wife Natalya Lamanova, who previously curated the Motherland/Fatherland artistamp exhibition in 2002 with Jas Felter. Natalya has some incredible digital art on canvas, with images taken from previous artistamps. A fantastic meeting with them. Constintin Melenkof is also there. It is a big event. I meet the director and other artist friends of 
Alexander and Natalya. Leave with Juri after an hour at the gallery. We take the Metro (all different stations are decorated in different ways-mosaics, chandeliers, portraits of Lenin) to the Central Train Station. Get some Italian food before catching our train to Pushkino. Back about 8:00 pm. Juri works on editing video. Sleep at 10:00 pm.

Stampsheet and large print. A collaboration by Mike Dickau and John Held, Jr. for the series "Back to the Russian Futurists" shown at the Mayakovsky Museum in Moscow. Click for larger view.

Day 7, Sunday:

Wake up at 8:30 am. Breakfast of sausage, potatoes and tomatoes. Taker a shower. Get things ready for trip to Chekhov Museum for exhibition opening of "Post-Futurism," composed of some eighty postage stamp sheets of mine from 1988 to the present. Also about thirty sheets of rubber stamp impressions. Take train from Pushkino to Moscow at 10:30 am. Change train in Moscow for the town of Chekhov, some 80 miles out of Moscow-which direction I have no idea. A word on Russian trains. Seats face each other with three people sitting on a side. There are two rows of seating separated by a center aisle. The seats are wood. Most often, the trains are crowed-and stuffy. Why no one opens the windows I never figured out.

This was the same on buses. I figure that it was the same as why people in Dallas, Texas, keep their houses and building so cold-in the case of Dallas-a reaction to the heat. In Moscow, a reaction to the cold. Peddlers constantly come on board to sell inexpensive items-toothbrushes, glue sticks, shoe cushions, soup seasoning in packets-and at on one trip-a puppy. Tickets are cheap. The fare from Pushkino to Moscow, which lasted some hour and a quarter, was seventy cents. We arrive in the town of Chekhov at 1:30 pm.

We walk about a quarter of a mile from the train station to the Museum of Letters-essentially of postal history. A former post office, it was funded by the famed playwright Anton Chekhov, who had moved to the town and bemoaned the lack of one on his arrival. I'm surprised to see a full room of some schoolchildren 
ranging in age from 14 to 17. It turns out that they are studying English and my appearance is an opportunity for them to hear real English speech. I'm charmed. After an introduction by the Director, I give a talk on my interest in Russian Futurism, Mail Art and Artist Postage Stamps. Sensing their lack of interest in art, I keep it light and conclude about telling them stories about my life in San Francisco. Lots of questions when I conclude. I do some stamping with rubber stamps from the Russian Futurist series I've brought with me, and then let them stamp. After the children leave, the museum staff, about five women, 
serve refreshments-tea, sweets and fruit. While eating, I'm asked to take a phone call. It seems that there has been a national radio broadcast about the show, and I'm asked to give directions to the museum. I leave it to others to answer. I have a very good translator for the talk to the children-a freelance English teacher, who has retired from the army. He is a very nice man, but takes the opportunity to ask me about the Iraq war, most notably my thoughts on the looting of Baghdad museums. It is the only time I'm asked about the war while I'm in Russia. Before leaving at 5:30 pm, I'm given a short tour of the museum, which used to be a working post office. We arrive back in Pushkino at 8:30. Ann prepares a dinner of small meatballs, bits of lamb, tomatoes and a baked potato. Bed at 10:00 pm.

Day 8, Monday:

Wake up at 10.00 am. Breakfast of sausage and mushrooms, coffee. Shower. Review lecture slides with Juri. Instead of the train, we take a "small bus" to Moscow. This is a van with cramped sitting for about 20 people. We are dropped off at a distant Metro station and proceed by subway into the center of Moscow to the Mayakovsky Museum, where I present a letter to the Manager seeking permission to see Russian Futurist artist books with rubber stampings at a later date. Juri has written a Russian translation. We then go by Metro to the State Humanities and meet the head of the Art History Department, who will host my lecture there.

We take the Metro to a bookstore that we heard specializes in books on the Russian avant-garde. Only a very few books are left because the store is closing. I buy two books, a hard cover book on Olga Rozanova (in Russian but well illustrated) and a general work on Futurism, both Italian and Russian. We take the Metro to another bookstore at 4:40 pm. I find another copy of "Our Arrival" by Kruchenykh (in English) and a series of magazines on Ukrainian Futurism (in Russian). I also find a copy of the magazine, "New Literature Browser," which includes the article on Mail Art by Juri. An added treat is finding an audio tape of Russian Futurist poems, read by the authors themselves, including Kruschenykh and Mayakovsky. Metro to the train station and return to Pushkino at 7:30. Watch some Russian television until bed.

Day 9, Tuesday:

Wake up at 8:00 am. Breakfast of coffee, cookies, swiss cheese. Shower. Get ready for lecture at Science Academy, where Ann Gik works as a researcher and tutor to a South Korean student. From some 100 slides I've brought, I choose those relating to rubber stamps as visual poetry. Take the train to Moscow at 10:00 with Juri and Ann Gik. We sit in the first car and it vibrates all the way to Moscow. I feel like I'm in a Rayonistic/Futurist painting. Arrive at the Science Academy, around ten blocks from the Kremlin and across the street of a gold domed Eastern Orthodox church, at 11:00 pm. Select and set up slides: Futurism, Schwitters, Arman, Fluxus and Mail Art. About twenty people attend in a small room; a mix of faculty and mail artists. Lecture for an hour and a half. Interview after the lecture with one of the Mail Artists for a magazine he and a group of friends are publishing. Alexander and Natalya are there. Also Constintine Melenkov. Walk to Moscow Art Expo with Melenkov and the Giks. The Art Expo is a big gathering of Moscow art galleries. I buy a t-shirt reading "Moscow Art." We stay about an hour and take the Metro to the trains station. Take Ann and Juri to eat at the Italian restaurant I've been favoring. Take the train back at 7:30 pm. Arrive at Pushkino at 8:45 and buy a "pivo" (beer). Asleep by 10.00 pm.

Day 10, Wednesday:

Wake up at 8:30 am. Breakfast of Cheese and coffee. Take a walk with Juri through Pushkino and get a haircut. Go through the local markets and shops for the first time. Get some envelopes at the post office. Lunch of chicken hearts, potatoes, tomatoes and tea. We take a "small bus" to Moscow at 1:00 pm. Cost is twenty rubles, about seventy cents. Dropped off at distant Metro stop and go to Mayakovsky Museum in the center of Moscow (across the street from the old KGB headquarters. Meet Slavia Vinogradov, who had been present at my lecture the day before. He presents me with an envelope and artist postage stamp he created the previous evening in honor of my lecture. Constantine Melenkov also comes to the museum and gives me some artists books for me to rubber stamp. Buy a miniature book for my roommate (a book editor at the University of California Press).

Back at the Mayakovsky, a television crew comes to videotape the exhibition for a future program. Juri and I go upstairs in the offices of the Mayakovsky Museum, where they have pulled some books for me to see, including 1913 artist books by Kruchenykh: "The Worldbackwards," "A Game in Hell" and "Explodity." This is the first time I have seen these books in person after having studied them for the past four years. I am especially moved to see the rubber stamp impressions in the books. It's a highlight of the trip for me. Go to the main post office in Moscow with Juri and mail postcards to a number of Mail Artists and family members. Eat at MacDonalds. Metro to Central Train Station. Back in Pushkino at 8:30 pm. In bed at 10:00.

Day 11, Thursday:

Wake up at 8:30 am. Breakfast of coffee, cereal, cheese. Rubber stamp artist books for Constantin Melenkov. Juri comes back from a trip to the market with newspaper article about the exhibition at the Mayakovsly. The headline is, "To the Village of Grandfather John," an old Russian saying, which I have no idea of the meaning. It is accompanied by a good graphic of a work I stamped out for the reporter. The story ends, "Mail Art has no past, only a present." We take the train to Moscow and there are more offerings -umbrellas, sweets, batteries. Endlessly entertaining. Arrive in Moscow and take the Metro to the Science Academy, where Ann Gik is working. I finally get a chance to go on the Internet and answer some mail and let people know I'm ok. Go to the State University of Humanities at 4:00 pm and set up slides for the lecture. Introduced by the head of the Art Department. My translator is the same woman I had at the 
Science Academy lecture. The focus was on a history of Mail art with slides of Duchamp, Fluxus, Ray Johnson, envelopes, postcards, artistamps, catalogs, and books. It last about an hour and a quarter. Take the Metro to the Central Train Station and buy Italian dinner for Ann and Juri.  Take the train back to Pushkino. More items offered on the train: beer, religious decals for Easter, nuts, soup mix and magazines.  Home at 8:30. Watch some Russian television. Bed at 10:00 pm.

Day 12, Friday:

Wake up at 6:00 am to watch the television program segment filmed at the Mayakovsky several days ago. They said it would be on somewhere between six and nine. It finally comes on at 8:56 am in a cultural segment also featuring the work of photographer David Chappelle. They show me sorting envelopes of Russian Futurist postage stamps canceled by the United States Post Office. The program has been broadcast nationally. Soon after its airing, a neighbor rings the doorbell to say she's seen the program. Go back to sleep until 11:00 am.

Breakfast of cereal, coffee and cheese. Read "Our Arrival" by Kruchenykh. Lunch of chicken hearts and barley. Go out at 1:00 pm with Ann to see shops in Pushkino. Buy t-shirt with hammer and sickle on it, and a Moscow football club scarf. Go through a great farmers market with pig heads. Back at 5:30. Juri has been in Moscow to firm up arrangements for the lecture at the State Contemporary Art Museum. Dinner of tongue, barley, tomatoes, tea and cookies. Talk with Juri about future Mail Art projects, his relations with Dimitry Bulatov, the Kalingrad artist and curator, who was his mentor, and his previous Moscow visit with English mail artist Michael Lumb. Bed at 10:00 pm.

Day 13, Saturday:

Wake up at 8:00 am. Juri shows me a television program he taped at 11:50 pm the previous evening. A program on Independent TV, which was broadcast nationally, it features a culture segment including a new exhibition of Futurist paintings at the Pushkin Museum, my exhibition at the Mayakovsy Museum and the Moscow Art Expo. A nicely edited program, which Juri copies for me on CD-ROM. Breakfast of boiled eggs, cheese and coffee. Take a walk (in a light snow storm) with Juri and Ann to the Mayakovsky Monument in Pushkino. From 1920, he maintained a summer "dacha" in Pushkino, since burned down. But a larger than life statue marks the spot. We climb the pedestal, and perform, "Why We Stamp Our Faces," an action commemorating the Russian Futurists tendency to paint their faces and go out in the streets of Moscow. Juri, Ann and I rubber stamp our faces and then go into the town to confront a bemused public as we shop (bread, caviar and bologna). After going home and showering, I go out with Ann again to shop at the farmers market.  Design rubber stamp ("John Held/Worldbackwards/Moscow 2003") to have made up the next day at a commercial rubber stamp producer. Asleep at 10:00 pm.

Day 14, Sunday:

Wake up at 8:00 am. Write the manifesto, "Why We Rubber Stamp Our Faces." Breakfast of bread, cheese, coffee, chocolate cake. Take a shower. Do an hour video interview with Juri. Take a short walk with Juri and Ann in a light snow storm. Sleep at 9:30 pm.
Sticker and poster design advertising the Mayakovsky Museum show. A collaboration by Mike Dickau and John Held, Jr.

Day 15, Monday:

Wake up at 8:00 pm. Breakfast of coffee, cafe and oranges. Go to rubber stamp company to have "Worldbackwards" stamp produced. Juri receives issue two of "CorresponDances" from Tarturugo in Vigo, Spain, which includes my article on the preservation of mail art magazines. Juri is also printing out all his stampsheets, about 40, for me to perforate in San Francisco, when I return home. Take a "small bus" to Moscow at 11:00 am. Go to Science Academy to answer e-mail. We take the Metro to a bookstore that specializes in books of the pre-revolutionary avant-garde. A note on the door indicates that it is closed for lunch from 2-3, and we are unable to convince the owner to open for us. As there are holidays to follow in the next days, this is my one opportunity to see the store, and I relentlessly knock on the door again, convincing the owner to open for us.

The store becomes the Holy Grail of my journey. The owner is the recognized expert in the field and has an article about hand-painted examples of Futurist books in a current antiques magazine. He was also a consultant on many previous exhibitions on the field. He shows me original copies of The Worldbackwards, Explodity, Game in Hell, etc. In addition he has both prints and postcards issued by the various artists of the period, including Kruchenykh and Rozanova. I buy a Danish exhibition catalog for a large sum because of the excellent reproductions and English text. I would have liked to spend more time, but Juri and I are forced to leave because of our other activities.

Metro to the State Center for Contemporary Art. Arrive at 4:00 pm to set up for lecture. Talk with the translator, an art student, about the lecture. Set up slides. About forty people attend, including the director, Alexander and Natalya, Constatin Melekov, et al. Melankov gives me carved stamps and I give him some from the Futurist series. Lots of questions from the audience. Afterwards we have a drink of vodka with the director in his office, where his bookcases hold works on Fluxus and On Kawara. Metro to train station. Train to Pushkino at 9:00. Home by 10:00. Dinner of potatoes, tomatoes, bologna and bread. Sleep at 11:00 pm. 

Day 16, Tuesday:

Wake up at 8:00 am. Breakfast of coffee and cheese. Train to Moscow at 9:30 with Juri. Metro to meet Alexander and Natalya. Take a small bus to their apartment, which they share with Natalya's parents. give them a complete set of the "Back to the Futurists" stampsheets. In turn they are very generous in not only trading for their own stamps, but for many other Moscow artists that appeared in their "Motherland/Fatherland" artistamp exhibition. Lots of vodka with a nice spread of blue cheese, ham, bread and capers. In the evening we go to the artist studio of Nicholay Krechtchin, a painter and printmaker, who makes incredible engraved artist stamps.  Trade with him for examples of his work. More vodka. Dancing amid his cramped artist studio. Metro to the flat of Alexander's' sister, who passed away in December. More vodka before sleep at 1:30 am.

Day 17, Wednesday:

Wake up at Alexander's sister flat at 10:00 am. Cognac and cookies for my hangover. Hitch a ride to Alexander and Natalyia's flat at noon. Rain. Their friends Olga and Andrew come over for vodka, ham, cheese and capers. Joined by Nicholay Krechtchin. Take a nap. At 6:00 pm we go to the studio of Vasily Shulyhenko, a painter with gallery representation in Chicago (Maya Polsky gallery). Hitch a ride to the Central Train Station, where we meet Juri at 9:30 pm, Train to Pushkino with Juri, arriving at 10:45. Tea with Juri and Ann. Bed at 11:30 pm. I really need the sleep. Moscow artists really know how to party!

Day 18, Thursday:

Wake up at 9:00 am. Coffee. Shower. A beautiful sunny day. Sort artistamp sheets given to me by Alexander and Natalya. Juri gives me the rubber stamp I had ordered, which he had picked up the day before. I'm very pleased with the result, and especially like the very typical Russian design of the stamp itself. Take a "small bus" to Moscow at 1:00 pm. Meet Ann at the Science Academy. Walk to Pushkin Museum just down the street. See great works by Picasso, Matisse, Cezanne and Gaugin, as well as works from Greece, Italy and Egypt. There is also a special section of Russian avant-garde works by Kandinsky, Malevich, Larionov, Gonachara and others. Walk to Arbot Street, a pedestrian avenue with 
souvenir vendors, portrait painters and interesting shops. Metro to Central Train Station. Take train to Pushino. Arrive at 8:30 pm. Eat sausage and drink pivo. Watch a film by Fellini on video. Bed at 10:30 pm.

Day 19, Friday:

Wake up at 9:00 am. Have coffee with Ann. Juri sleeps late. Stamp out some works with the new rubber stamp. Go to the market with Ann. Buy some blue cheese and mushroom salad. Collaborate with Juri on a work for a forthcoming St. Petersburg Mail Art exhibition. Make prints of the television of the program on the Mayakovsky exhibition. Dinner at 6:30 pm-blue cheese, ham, olives, dates and halvah. Watch Russian TV. Juri continues to print out copies of his stampsheets. Bed at 10:30. 

Day 20, Saturday:

Wake up at 8:00 pm. Unpack bag to pick up exhibition items from the 
Mayakovsky Museum. Breakfast of potatoes, cooked ham, tomatoes, yogurt, cheese and tea. 
Take train to Moscow with Juri and Ann at 10:30 pm. Metro to Mayakovsky 
Museum. Take down the exhibition. Ann's sister comes by with her son and daughter. 
Her daughter takes the opportunity to practice her English on me. Go to 
Science Academy for e-mailing, but it is closed for the holidays. Metro to the 
Central Train Station at 2:00 pm. Train to Pushkino. Dinner of potatoes, ham, corn 
and salad. Tea and sweats. Take a nap while Juri and Ann go shopping. Juri 
scans materials by Rocola and Ray Johnson. Watch Russian television. Bed at 10:00 

Day 21, Sunday:

Wake up at 8:30 am. Tea with Ann. Shower. Pack for my departure the following day. Take my first walk in Pushkino without Ann or Juri accompanying me. Buy some flowers of Ann. Watch TV. Nap. Not feeling well, and I'm afraid that I'm catching the cold Juri has had for the past few days. Dinner at 5:00 pm-sausage and rice. Shave the Trotsky goatee, I had grown especially for this trip to Russia. Early to bed.

Day 22, Monday:

Wake up at 6:30 am. Tape video good-bye with Juri and Ann. Juri goes to work. Ann and I take a taxi to the airport at 7:45 am. Arrive at the airport at 9:00 pm. Tea with Ann and then bid her good-bye. Go through declarations. Ticket reservation with Aeroflot. Through passport control with no problem. Wait for noon flight to San Francisco. Buy water, chocolate, sandwich and newspapers. Read newspapers for the first time in three weeks on the flight. Interesting and unexpected article by Thomas Pynchon on the meaning of Orwell's "1984." Arrive in Seattle at 1:00 am local time and go through Customs inspection. Transfer to plane departing for San Francisco. Arrive in San Francisco at 3:30 pm. Home by 5:00 pm. Asleep at 9:00 pm.

John Held Jr. visited Moscow between April 14 and May 5, 2003.


letter from paris : : edited by matthew rose


jerome borel in his studio


jerome borel : : by keith donovan

I sleep one floor below Jerome Borel's studio. Two years ago, he would come in early and make a whooshing noise. In my half-sleep I believed at first the sound to be those plastic brooms you hear in Parisian gutter rivulets. Evenly paced sweeping, steady, for hours and hours.

Every couple of days we'd have coffee upstairs and I could see all that sweeping condensed into the paintings. It made the images hum. They resemble blurry landscape photographs taken from trains, complete with the whiplash power lines you see on the TGV at top speed. Some of the paintings looked like northern Burgundy just out of Paris. I saw gray/blue and green fields and skies with industrial elements flickering in and out from painting to painting, measuring the space between telephone poles.

Jerome Borel En ce Jardin (a) acrylic on canvas 

The gray, black and white urban industrial material filled the frame of the later paintings of this period. They all contain RER underground/elevated strobing and an oil, metal and rust scrawl that reminded me of the Canal de l'Ourcq.

I left Paris for almost a year and on my return in place of the sweeping noise there was a stage-whispering static, a throbbing white noise punctuated by blasts of Sonic Youth. The painter was audibly sandpapering his pictures. Some of them looked like half- renovated walls or half-destroyed frescoes. Softened lines unfurled into a marine life form or silhouetted an advanced sexual fantasy. There were nipple-shaped jellyfish. I saw the torrid palette of Gustave Moreau, the greens and reds. Even the cerulean blue was hot: Odilon Redon at Gare de L'Est, where calcified water has seeped through the dark orange wall tiles for the last 10 years, leaving great white coral-form stains. Pubic-black shapes nestled in stellar globules. 

Speed, symbolism, decay, sex. Together that makes what? Middle age intellectuals romp in the w.c. on the TGV? This is an elegiac carnal symbolism: painting as sex; florid and skanky. The painter's high-speed flickering is still visible but it's been reduced to something seen between the floorboards, one element among others. These couplings or copulations begin to humanize and populate the earlier landscapes.


Jerome Borel En ce Jardin (b) acrylic on canvas

Then all sound stopped coming down the stairs. In the very last works I saw focus on the erotic had been diffused into a wider range of events. The painter's imaginative gaze elevates phenomena more banal than sex into highly important activity. Paint dribbled dramatically sideways as fellow passengers, their bodies juicy puzzles fitted into foam core seats, ate, drank, read and slept their way to more of the same.

Perhaps M. Borel is performing the simple act, on a train, of looking away from the window, or from his fantasies, to observe with sideways glances his fellow travelers. He seems to be travelling very fast towards something ever more familiar. He has caught this movement and the grave dignity it contains with the abandoned precision of a train conductor punching a ticket. We carry on with our business, more excited and more intent on paying attention. It's all going by so quickly.

Jerôme Borel's exhibition of paintings, "En ce Jardin" opened in Tours, France in September 2004 at La Chapelle des Lazaristes. Jerome Bôrel can be contacted at:

Keith Donvan is a Canadian artist living in Paris. He will show textile prints and his Breughel series paintings at Michel Foex Gallery in Geneva in January 2005. His e-mail:

Keith Donovan Detail of Prudence, 2004 painting on tea towel


Letter from london : : robert wornum

mark wallinger at whitechapel

Like all the late 80's/early 90's generation of British artists, Mark Wallinger always denied and decried the dreaded YBA pigeon-hole that was flung in abandon at any artist who got his or her face splashed about the fashion jazz mags. But in Wallinger's case, the denials never felt exasperated, but more amused, safe in the knowledge that journos need the pigeons[1]. Wallinger blends pathos, politics, theory, intelligence, poetry, theology, technique, wit + humour, plus the all important pun with ease and grace. A skilful practitioner examining the connections and similarities between our (British) in-built scaffolding of pomp, ceremony, class religion and ritual. The stuff that binds and divides us all together.

At last years Venice Biennale, Wallinger annoyingly blew everyone out of the canals. I walked around desperately trying to find a pavilion that offered more, concerned that maybe my reaction was due to the fact that I'm English/Irish myself, and had had that affinity thing going on. But no. Nothing. I hobbled away, depressed that there was not much to write home about. Even so, there was a sense of too much at Wallinger's pavilion. Just a little. A kind of retrospective but in too tiny a place. Take each piece individually however, and you get a lot.

The Union Jack hanging high on top of a flagpole but in the colours of the tricolour is a little gem. Antagonistic and peaceful in equal measure, plus the question of what symbolises more? Shapes or Colours? [2] A high level political statement, mixing easily with Hofmann, Itten and Handcock. This wasn't at Whitechapel, and nor was angel, his video piece shot on the bottom of the central escalator at Angel tube he made a few years back. 'In the beginning was the word, and the word was whferhyreher.'

But what was repeated was the magisterial video, threshold to the kingdom. It's odd for digital to obtain emotional depth, but it's here. You know that the music is going to carry you off [3], whatever was on screen, you can hear it when you're in another room, but Wallinger fully, and successfully, pulls off a marriage to image. As poignant and as funny as a work of art can be. Godard remakes Heaven Can Wait with a Pete an' Dud conclusion. Replayed in slow-mo, small groups of businessmen and women, weary travellers and pensioners pass through the portal to the airport passenger lounge, and its pace allows the viewer to construct a wondrous narrative.

From "Threshold to the Kingdom."

The ending is perfect. An Asian man, mid 30's, on his own, wheeling a trolley in front of him, map in hand unsure of where to go, left or right, right or left, up there or back from where I came? Fade. I was moved in Venice, but on seeing it in London only a couple of months or so after the attacks on America, a new dimension is found. But not, surprisingly, an emotional one. It didn't give the piece more import, just changed it a little, added a new narrative angle.

'The fragility of life is aaalllll ab'art Dud'. Down the evolutionary ladder a little, but facing similar complex metaphysical questions are 3 houseflies; one lying dead in the middle of the screen while two others mill about, in Wallinger's video piece, fly (2000). All three are stuck in between the double glazing of a window looking out onto grey grey skies, one is already dead, the other two will surely follow. Flies possess this genius quality in finding their way into seemingly impossible places, but there are flaws to such inquisitive resourcefulness. They can't find the exit door. I was only going to give the video a short look, but Wallinger's wit 'pulled me back in'. And sure enough, I was transfixed.

As a Boeing flew past in the distance, a fly enters from stage right to investigate the dead one. My father?, my daughter?, my lover?, that sod from the other side of town? It wanders away either through sheer grief or nonchalence. Then returns... I've never done it with a dead fly... but a big brute appears from the bottom of the screen and approaches the scene with stealth. Is it a policefly? Is this the fly having the affair with my wife? Or his murderous cohort? There's tension as Brutus approaches... but he passes on up the window.

Wallinger can juggle and find a way to ask the big questions on life through banality as well as the big stage, where more concentrated study is required, such as his statue of Christ parked outside the National Gallery on Trafalgar Square, ecce homo. It created some fuss, but in general was well recieved. A modern, clean shaven Christ, the young son of Man, standing on a plinth 100ft below Admiral Nelson.

'When Railway Lines Meet At Infinity'

I left the video when railway lines meet at infinity (1998) alone to the three others watching it to go back to where I started, the main installation, prometheus. The large front room at the Whitechapel housed another room in the middle. Running round the outside, four video monitors placed on high in each corner, each replaying Wallinger sat in an electric chair monotonously reciting Ariel's song in Shakespeare's 'Tempest.' Inside the internal room, an electric chair, bolted to the middle of the end wall and flipped 180degrees, lies waiting. Infront of this, a metal circle about 9 foot in diameter buzzes noisily away. The infuriating sound only stopped by pulling another smaller ring attatched to a handle away from it [4].

Wish I was chewing some gum at the time, as there was no way of turning it off. I went to the reading room, and read about a fact previously unknown to me [5], that gave prometheus some coherence, or rather a level of meaning I needed. Indeed, it gave me much to think about on my way back home; 'Later on in the 19th Century, Westinghouse and Edison were in competition to electrify the United States. One was a proponent of AC and the other DC. The way they were to measure the success of one or the other, to see who would win the contract, was in the most successful dispatch of the human.' [6]

[1] Which pisses us all off. 
[2] That and the fact that done the other way round, it would look French or something. 
[3] Allegri's 'Miserere'. 
[4] Similar to those contraptions you find at fair grounds, just can't remember for the life of me what they're called. 
[5] Though it did ring a bell. 
[6] Mark Wallinger in coversation with Anthony Spira (attending notes to 'No Man's Land' 2002). [Editor's note] A dog was put to death as a demonstration of the dangers of DC.




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