Closing Soon, (part 2 opens next week):

Please Come to the Show, Part I (1960–1980)
 Organized by David Senior

MoMA, Education Building, 4 West 54th St., NYC
free (if you go in through the 4 W. 54th St. entrance)

preview part two on Tumblr: pleasecometotheshow.tumblr.com

This two-part exhibition gathers a sample of innovative printed invitations, small posters, and flyers from the early 1960s to the present. The selection traces ways in which artists, designers, and galleries have used invitation cards and other printed announcements as a part of the staging of conceptual works, installations, performances, and other time-based events and screenings. This diverse grouping of ephemera explores the various, surprising ways that we have been invited to experience art.

Dalibor Martinis. Osoba na slici: nije/može biti/je = Person in photo: is not/could be/is Dalibor Martinis. Zagreb: Podroom, 1976.

In each spread of this artist’s book, Martinis paired a photograph of himself (at left) with a blurred photograph (at right). In the space given, he manually traces part of his profile to deduce whether or not the photographs are a match.

The exhibition “Scenes from Zagreb: Artists’ Publications of the New Art Practice,” organized by David Senior, is on display at MoMA Library through February 17, 2012. 


Opens Tomorrow, Feb 20:

Millennium Magazines

Organized by Rachael Morrison and David Senior

MoMA, 11 W53rd St., NYC
(Mezzanine Cullman Education and Research Building)

This survey of experimental art and design magazines published since 2000 explores the various ways in which contemporary artists and designers utilize the magazine format as an experimental space for the presentation of artworks and text. Throughout the 20th century, international avant-garde activities in the visual arts and design were often codified first in the informal context of a magazine or journal. This exhibition, drawn from the holdings of the MoMA Library, follows the practice into the 21st century. The works on view represent a broad array of international titles within this genre, from community-building newspapers to image-only photography magazines to conceptual design projects. The contents illustrate a diverse range of image-making, editing, design, printing, and distribution practices. There are obvious connections to the past lineage of artists’ magazines and little architecture and design magazines of the 20th century, as well as a clear sense of the application of new techniques of image-editing and printing methods. Assembled together, these contemporary magazines provide a first-hand view into these practices and represents the MoMA Library’s sustained effort to document and collect this medium. -thru May 14

MoMA has produced a perfectly-scaled interactive feature for Please Come to the Show: Invitations and Event Fliers from the MoMA Library, an exhibition organized by David Senior, Bibliographer, MoMA Library and on view in the Mezzanine of the The Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Education and Research Building from 8 May—15 July.

I’ve kept a very tightly-curated personal archive of exhibition fliers and announcements for about fifteen years now, so I’m naturally very interested in the concept and display methodology of this show and others like it.

“This font was inspired by Monica Lewinsky” —Paul Chan, “Wht is a book?”, the New Museum, 10 December, 2011

Blogging About Books on Christmas Eve (or, Catching Up on the Backlog While Home for the Holidaze)

+ Paul Chan’s new essay, A Lawless Proposition was published on e-flux following two recent talks at the New Museum, “Wht is Lawlessness?” and “Wht is a Book?”. While I missed the former, I was able to catch the latter, a relaxed, self-effacing account of Chan’s experiences as a newbie publisher that felt less like a lecture than a public conversation with lots of “chiming in” from the audience. Gratifying.

+ The Guggenheim is indeed the first museum to release a digital exhibition catalogue for Maurizio Cattelan: All (along with a slew of titles from its back catalogue). Am I experiencing a moment of good-natured professional jealousy? Why yes, in fact, I am. Related: Do recall the 54th La Biennale di Venezia iPad catalogue (2010) and Badlands Unlimited/Creative Time’s Waiting for Godot in New Orleans: a Field Guide (2011). Also, the Getty Foundation’s OSCI Project.

+ Take This Book is a Kickstarter-fundedseven more days to go—history-in-the-making of the People’s Library at Occupy Wall Street, written by LadyJourno Melissa Gira Grant. A first excerpt from the project was recently published on Rhizome. Back that book up!

+ Bookish Things to See ASAP: At MoMA, Scenes from Zagreb: Artists’ Publications of the New Art Practice, organized by library Bibliographer David Senior (on view through February). Especially looking forward to the publications of Dimitrije Bašičević Mangalos, whose manifestos were some of my favorite works in the 2004-5 Carnegie International at the Carnegie Museum of Art, in Pittsburgh. (I was the curatorial assistant—the Wrangler of the Checklist never forgets!) The curator of that exhibition, now-MoMA curator Laura Hoptman, wrote a book that I suspect would make an apt companion to Senior’s presentation, Primary Documents: A Sourcebook for Eastern and Central European Art since the 1950s. It was published by MoMA in 2002, just as we began working on the International, and functioned as an English-language introduction to Eastern European practices of the late 20th century. Related: Projects by Grupa O.K. (a.k.a. Julian Myers and Joanna Szupinska)

Scientists find that compounds in marijuana can remove plaque from Alzheimer's proteins

Scientists from the Salk Institute have found some preliminary evidence that suggests tetraydrocannabinol (THC) and other cannabinoids found in marijuana show signs of promoting the removal of amyloid beta—the toxic protein also known as the “plaque” associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

“Although other studies have offered evidence that cannabinoids might be neuroprotective against the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, we believe our study is the first to demonstrate that cannabinoids affect both inflammation and amyloid beta accumulation in nerve cells,” says Salk Professor David Schubert, the senior author of the paper.


It has long been known that amyloid beta accumulates within the nerve cells of the aging brain well before the appearance of Alzheimer’s disease symptoms and plaques. Amyloid beta is a major component of the plaque deposits that are a hallmark of the disease. But the precise role of amyloid beta and the plaques it forms in the disease process remains unclear.

The researchers studied cells altered to produce high levels of amyloid beta and were able to expose those cells to THC, which in turn showed positive signs of reducing the amyloid protein levels as well as eliminating the inflammation associated with high levels of the protein present.

“Inflammation within the brain is a major component of the damage associated with Alzheimer’s disease, but it has always been assumed that this response was coming from immune-like cells in the brain, not the nerve cells themselves,” says Antonio Currais, a postdoctoral researcher in Schubert’s laboratory and first author of the paper. “When we were able to identify the molecular basis of the inflammatory response to amyloid beta, it became clear that THC-like compounds that the nerve cells make themselves may be involved in protecting the cells from dying.”

While these are preliminary, results are promising and highlight the need for science to be allowed to further research marijuana and marijuana’s properties in the hopes of furthering science. [h/t]

Old Eyes on the Sky: Touring Harvard's Shuttered Oak Ridge Observatory

Harvard University’s Oak Ridge Observatory, also known as the George R. Agassiz Station, hosts the largest U.S. optical telescope east of Texas.

Unfortunately, the observatory shut down in 2005. But in its somewhat mummified state, it remains a beautiful monument to the exploration of the cosmos. Harvard senior astronomer David Latham and the last person to serve as director of the observatory, the now-retired Robert Stefanik, agreed to meet me one morning in April for a tour of the observatory, which sits about 30 miles (48 kilometers) west of Harvard, outside of Boston, in a rural area that made it a bit challenging to find.

The observatory is built on a giant ridge, the highest point around. Millions of years ago, a sheet of ice moved down from the north and stopped, creating the ridge. Behind the ridge, water filled in the lakes. Surrounding this spot are flat fields, the nation’s wheat-producing breadbasket in colonial times. Then the country expanded, and farmers moved west to the treeless, rockless plains. [10 Biggest Telescopes on Earth: How They Measure Up]

As I pulled into the drive, snow drifted softly onto stone walls that snaked across the landscape. I had missed the small road on the first pass and had to turn around to find it again. The observatory hid behind a massive clump of trees.

I drove around the back of the building, admiring the silver dome. Several small wooden buildings dotted the grounds. I made sure to put on my borrowed ski jacket to ward off the unexpected chill in the April air before joining Stefanik, who was standing next to his car chatting on the phone. After hanging up, he explained that we might have a problem; the observatory custodian was supposed to open the building for us, but some sort of mix-up kept him from coming. Latham strode out of a nearby cluster of trees a few minutes later, wrapped in a down coat and gloves. He lives next to the observatory, and, thankfully, had a master key on him.

There was still a potential hitch, however. Latham wasn’t sure he remembered how to turn off the alarm, and a recent spate of break-ins meant we could soon have company.

“The police are likely to come,” Latham warned.

The university opted to shut down the telescope over a decade ago and instead partner with other institutions to gain access to even larger instruments, such as the Giant Magellan Telescope in Chile. While Oak Ridge is rarely staffed, Harvard continues to run an Optical SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) program from the observatory. On observing evenings, the roof automatically slides back from the building with the telescope inside and the instrument peers up at the sky — activities all commanded from afar.

The master key opened the observatory, and we all cringed a bit, waiting for the alarm. Silence. Stefanik hit the light switch, but nothing happened. The power was off, so we ended up safe from the cops after all.

The 61-inch (155 centimeters) telescope stood in the center of the building, dwarfing the work area around it. Light streamed in from a few windows off to the side, and more poured through the door that Stefanik struggled to prop open. The giant instrument towered above us, a monument to years past. Tables ran along the edge of the room, cluttered with papers and supplies that hinted at work in progress. A thick layer of dust and scattered cobwebs suggested otherwise.

We headed to the nearby office to turn on the power, hoping to see more than glimpses of the facility. My guides opened the door — still no alarms — and we walked through a narrow antechamber to another room.

The interior office had more windows than the observatory itself. Bookshelves lined the walls, and while Latham and Stefanik searched for a flashlight, I browsed the titles: astronomy texts, all of them. More papers were strewn across the flat surfaces, and a faded photograph of the observatory taken from above lay among them. “We came, we saw, we contacted!” read a caption. [13 Ways to Hunt Intelligent Aliens]

Stefanik gave up on the hunt for a light and decided to use his phone. He descended down a set of dark stairs around the corner, while Latham lamented the fate of small observatories. With the push toward bigger instruments, university observatories are being shut down. He estimated that, for Oak Ridge at least, this means that more money is spent on paying for a caretaker than was spent for the annual maintenance. But Harvard has other telescopes that can do work similar to what was being done at Oak Ridge so there was no need for the small observatory nearly an hour out of Boston.

Suddenly Latham sat up, speculating out loud that the power could have been turned off for a good reason. The two discussed the possibility of tripping the breaker and the potential of electrical shock. Though I would have loved to see the illuminated interior of the dome, I assured them it wasn’t necessary. A later walk of the exterior revealed a precariously tipped power-line pole that likely prompted the shutoff.

Latham leaned against a table by the window, while Stefanik settled into a rolling chair next to him. I hopped up to sit on the countertop corner that was free of paper. From there, I could face the two.

In 1989, the two men were part of a team that observed an object called HD 114762b from the Oak Ridge Observatory. Their paper describing the discovery hinted that the object could be a planet orbiting another star (at the time, scientists had never observed a planet outside Earth’s solar system). But in the 1980s, a flurry of objects initially announced as planets were later reclassified as brown dwarfs. These “failed stars” are larger than planets, but too small to start fusion reactions in their interiors.

So the team decided to be conservative and call HD 114762b a brown dwarf. While some objects were announced as brown dwarfs before the HD 114762b discovery, these previous finds were all eventually shown to be low-mass stars or other objects, making HD 114762b the first brown dwarf stand up to scrutiny.

Originally expecting a working observatory, I intended to ask Latham and Stefanik how the site had changed since 1989. Cobwebs revealed that few folks had visited the observatory in the last decade, and the telescope didn’t shine with the promise to reveal the night sky. Many observatories, even small ones, have some electronics to help target the instrument, but the massive Oak Ridge telescope was unadorned. Instead, I asked how Harvard was studying the sky without using this station, and the scientists described instruments the university operates remotely, in Arizona, Peru, and elsewhere. We chatted briefly about their current research and how exoplanet-hunting had changed over the past 25 years. [7 Ways to Discover Alien Planets]

When we finished chatting, we walked back to the dome, where I took several pictures using my flash. Then, Latham locked up and strode off before I could shake his hand, headed home for dinner.

I asked Stefanik if it would be a problem if I hung around a bit longer and photographed the exterior. He said it should be fine as long as I identified myself if the police showed up. That idea must have given him second thoughts, because he wound up walking around with me. He pointed out the SETI building, which continues taking measurements today. Researchers don’t need to drive up to the observatory; doors on the side slide open and the top slides backward when it’s time to study the heavens.

Off to the side sat another building and a small dome. Antique telescopes stored in the first building once printed images of the cosmos on glass plates rather than film. I confirmed that the plates made here weren’t the famous ones appearing in astronomy histories, pored over by the women originally called ‘computers’ that helped make several important astronomical discoveries.

The second building held another set of instruments. Between the two buildings sat an exposed concrete platform. The unusual viewing angle made me think perhaps the platform held a collection of unusual telescopes. I carefully climbed the rickety metal stairs, while Stefanik stood on the ground and warned me to watch for ice. Once I saw the objects up close, I realized they were only telescope mounts, similar to those I used in my college astronomy lab. That explained the strange look Stefanik gave me when I said I wanted to risk my neck to see them.

Farther into the woods, Stefanik pointed out a station where the U.S. Geological Survey takes seismology measurements. Another building housed a long-unused darkroom separated from the main building. Putting the darkroom in a separate building must keep people from accidentally walking in on you while you’re exposing film, I mused. I didn’t envy them the walk in winter, however.

Yet another building once housed a Clark Telescope, named for the company Alan Clark & Sons, which made incredibly precise lenses. Stefanik related how Clark instruments once contained precise clocks that kept the telescopes turning with the Earth. Today, the job is done with motors. Clark Telescopes were highly prized, he said.

As we walked back toward the towering dome, Stefanik described his job as director. When I asked what that entailed, he said, “At a small observatory like this, everything.”

One such job included removing the snow, which piled up on the flat roof in Massachusetts winters. Apparently there were disagreements with management on how to clean things safely. Although custodians were assigned to remove the snow using harnesses designed to keep them safe, Stefanik did the work himself, frequently neglecting the safety equipment as he clambered about on the snow-covered roof. The harnesses, he said, were “more trouble than they were worth.”

The ladder ascending the building’s exterior sat on the side of the building next to the road. Stefanik said he often climbed it on frigid winter nights to grease the wheels that moved the dome. When they froze in place, the top of the observatory was stuck open. Waiting for the next day would leave sensitive equipment exposed, so it wasn’t an option, but I can’t imagine climbing the 30 feet (9 meters) on a windy winter night.

On the way down the drive as I was leaving, I stopped and looked back at the small observatory left alone. I climbed out and photographed the rock at the entrance that commemorates the lifelong interest in the observatory maintained by a past president of the board of overseers, George Agassiz. I glanced back at the historic observatory, which contributed to the understanding of the universe for about 70 years, and then I drove away, leaving it behind in the deserted field.

Follow Nola Taylor Redd on Twitter @NolaTReddor Google+. Follow us at @Spacedotcom, Facebookor Google+. Originally published on Space.com

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