The Moment of Conception

Photo credit: Brian P. McDonough

The above photo appears within the End-Note of my paper “Avedon’s Legacy to Media: ‘Paparazzi’ as Tipping Point to Portraits” which receives many views per week on my account that span the globe. My research and papers on the photography of Richard Avedon are often rated as my most popular by’s Analytics which are obtained, compiled and reported to me weekly through search engine keyword matches.

To me, the photos on this blog post communicate my personal definition of art. What is art, if not, the moment of its conception? The moment the muse visits, time stands still, it loses its grip, it becomes the timeLESS, thereby linking art with time, in what the mystics call the “eternal now”. In this awareness, we are shown the neutrality, the brutality, the potential hilarity–and the beauty–of any given moment. Recently two doves reminded me…




I had the pleasure of seeing the opening of HoneyBeeLujah!
at Joe’s Pub, this past Sunday, May 4, 2014.


Reverend Billy & the Church of Stop Shopping, under the direction of Savitri D, have skillfully, successfully and hilariously blurred lines between performance art and activism (which my hubby aptly observed upon the first emailing I received about HoneyBeeLujah!). I’m a colleague of RevBill. We had back-to-back netcast time slots at Pseudo back-in-the-day, and both he and Savitri D very kindly beamed themselves in to my classroom via Skype as guest speakers in a Freshman Media Studies 101 class I taught. I’m also a friend, convert and follower of this particularly unique “ministry”.

“That Damned Convenience!” 

From the Promised Land gospel-inspired opening number The Not Buying it Band delivers. Followed by Shopocalypse, honed over many years of activism (and arrests!) which never disappoints, and as it escalates, the energy in the room gets palpably electric. Then, apparition-like, the signature white suit and hair begin to appear off-stage within the audience–spotlight on—he’s here!

I absolutely loved the moment when, to me, Shopocalypse hinted at the theme music from The Gong Show and the chaotic transition to the Rev. Billy/Singing Welcome began, which I captured and share here:

And that, my friends, is just the beginning…Earthaluia!

I will not review the show further, it has to be experienced first-hand, suffice to ask these rhetorical questions:

HOW on earth do they fit 45 people on the stage at Joe’s Pub without it appearing circus-like?

HOW can this cast make an original song titled Flying–which describes pollination with a sub-text advocating activism to save the honeybee from extinction–sound as sexy as a 60’s samba sung by Astrud Gilberto?!

I’d say it’s a miracle, but that would take away from it.


Hologram Homage: A Post-Catalysts DIY Post


I could not say farewell to CATALYSTS without a
Hologram Homage.

In this case, my dress is not McQueen but rather Hal Rubenstein (with dangling tags!) This course has been so personally catalytic, and I must thank the powers-that-be who afforded me a scholarship to it. When I received word that I was a scholarship recipient last October, I could not wait for Spring 2014 to arrive.

My excitement was fully realized throughout the course and especially upon my receipt of a Digital Badge from MoMA for successful completion of the CATALYSTS/MoMA course, as well as a personal note from Credly.   


Stay tuned as I continue to build on carolynartmedia!  

Viva Vimeo: DIY 6 “Catalysts”

CATALYSTS has provoked me to think differently about my use of Vimeo, and specifically, Vimeo in combination with WordPress. I’ve had my Vimeo account since 2011 and opened it for just 1 single creative project in October of that year because I was required to submit my project online. I liked the look/feel of Vimeo and its privacy controls more than YouTube. I only wanted the review committee for the project to be able to see my work, rather than anyone who might Google me. Truth be told, I hadn’t used my Vimeo account again until CATALYSTS (despite paying a monthly fee for it since then.) I’m now considering “going public” with that project, thanks to my new found use of Vimeo through this course.

Therefore, this week’s DIY project presents a Vimeo opportunity for me and also a nod to my favorite technological device: my Panasonic Take-n-Tape cassette recorder, circa 1974. As much as I like my smartphone, I don’t feel the same way about it as I do this little red wonder. Though the cassette player and tape technology are sadly long gone, this device captured and paved the way to my vocal recording career. I still play it to recall the analogue sound and feel. It was a birthday gift and my closet was my first recording studio, but the beauty part was its portability: hence, its name. To this day, whenever I use a hot-shot field recorder like a Tascam, I’m reminded of the many self-taught recording techniques and experiences I had with it, that I still reference today. I always especially liked the built-in *asterisk* microphone on the upper right of the device.

One might say that the Take-n-Tape is the seed of my recording project with Francis Dunnery that I cited in “The Role of Collaboration” Week 1. Obviously, I couldn’t have a vocal recording career without technology, though I’d still be able to have a voice career without it. But technology, via sound recording, has inspired, developed, fostered, and captured my voice and creative opportunities in ways that reach beyond theatrical performing.

As we’ve looked at a variety of media forms and movements from the past 50 years, many of which I experienced first-hand as I myself approach 50-years-young this year, I celebrate the new creative path Vimeo has opened up for me by posting a music video that features my original audio with paparazzi images. When my audio was pirated in 1997 before my record deal with the Groovalicious label was signed, I buried the project. In this respect, Vimeo + WordPress is a very empowering technology for me.

And so, I give you a taste of, Groove:


When one considers new media, multi-media, contemporary media art and local art museums, The Costume Institute of The Metropolitan Museum of Art does not come to mind immediately. However, while contemplating a local new media art exhibition to critique after surveying the current art scene in my area, it was my recall of a hologram projected within an exhibition I attended there that made my choice clear: Savage Beauty Alexander McQueen May-August 2011. Although I did consider critiquing local exhibitions on the art of video games and one entitled “Dear Diary: Update on All” examining the diary’s evolution from private to public via social media, Savage Beauty lives on both in my mind and online. In my opinion, it still references new media, multi-media, performance art, technology, art + engineering, memory and identity, in astounding and as yet unparalleled ways. The use of screens, projections, TV monitors, soundscape, and the inclusion of its haunting hologram, affected me deeply and lastingly.  

In the words of Klaus Biesenbach, Director, MoMA PS1 & Chief Curator at Large, from Randall Parker’s interview with him on Pipilotti Rist, “art can be beautiful” but “good art…has a disturbing quality, it makes you stop…and examine what is real in your life”. This was my experience in attending Savage Beauty on its closing night. Both the exhibition as a whole and seeing the hologram are experiences I’m still processing on many levels, and that have forced me to confront the reality and perception of art, culture, fashion, narrative, beauty, design, violence, nature, death, curating, genius and media. Here is the hologram:

The exhibition was a “happening” in and of itself. I can vouch for this. As I wound my way serpentine waiting on line both outside and
then through the entire museum, the line was buzzing with anticipatory energy. I myself had a close encounter with Anna Wintour, Chief Editor of Vogue, who smirked at my outfit while she bypassed me in line, startling me as I’ve heard this a compliment of sorts, coming from her. Having stood in line for 3 hours, I finally entered at 11:00pm (The Met kept the museum open for 24 hours, to accommodate as many final visitors as possible.) Finally inside its confines, I became fuzzy on museum policy and took photos to capture what I was immersed in, until I was reprimanded by a guard. The rooms were packed and warm with body heat, the crowding was scary.

I will let curator Andrew Bolton lead you through Savage Beauty:

The curator’s video illustrates how powerful this exhibition was to see in person. I can speak to this power because I became obsessed with the “McQueen Tartan” pant suit upon sight (it appears on the far left of the screen at 3:38 in the Romantic Nationalism room) a rare phenomenon I’ve only felt toward fashion a few times prior. I had the simultaneous, visceral feelings upon viewing it that “I would kill for it and wear it every Christmas for the rest of my life”. The divergence in these radical urges that came up in me from viewing a garment, is a testament to the art of seduction and the “dark arts” magic of McQueen. This exhibition is clearly not pretty dresses on mannequins. This is the work of a master tailor at war within himself, subverting his craft, and fashioning (all pun) art from this internal conflict.

An example of this struggle is the display of Dress No. 13 from McQueen’s 1999 No. 13 Collection. In the finale of this collection’s showing, it was worn by a model/ trained ballerina teetering on a rotating platform while being attacked, i.e. “shot” with paint by two robots, built by Fiat, that took one week to program. The concept was inspired by an installation of the artist Rebecca Horn, and the result, I can assure you, is much more than mere Pollock couture (my phrase). I have to think Billy Kluver & Tinguely would have appreciated the “man vs. machine” engineering concept and de-construction of the formerly pristine dress. Here is the finale:

The darkness and tension of the runway ultimately peaked in real life with McQueen’s suicide by hanging himself in a wardrobe, in February 2010 at the age of 40, on the eve of his mother’s funeral. Even his death was self-orchestrated performance art complete with metaphor, one could say, though too painful and shocking for the industry he worked within and those close to him, to presume this. His untimely death, a year before the Met show mounted but already well within the planning and curatorial process, then became a ghostly presence in the final exhibition, like a modern-day Macbeth.

McQueen remains one of the rare exceptions in fashion with his work being described in art terms. Both a conceptualist and a formalist, narrative was of the utmost importance to him in his collections, putting him on a par with contemporary artists of note, in my opinion.  Also an obsessive blogger, McQueen was ever examining his work and seeking ways to engage the public in his work, as many contemporary and DIY artists do. In 2010, he live-streamed his collection “Plato’s Atlantis” an outlandish array of monumental designs, that left me stunned upon seeing those selected for display at Savage Beauty.

In a tortured irony, with his own surname acting as pun, the House of McQueen posthumously dressed the bride Cate Middleton for the British royal wedding in April 2011, one month before the opening of Savage Beauty, in which McQueen holds the English to account for their Scottish genocide, through his highly controversial 1995 Highland Rape collection, shown within the exhibition. A maddening dichotomy, befitting a queen, indeed.  

The only negative comment I have about the exhibition, is that I believe the hologram should have been projected “life-size” as it had been at the 2006 Widows of Culloden Collection runway show. Here is that moment:

That said, it was extraordinary to view it miniaturized projected in a glass and wooden box. While the hologram can be easily chalked up to a “special effect” bordering on mere entertainment like the hologram of Tupac Shakur that was projected at the Coachella Music Festival in April 2012, I daresay: who among the artists we have studied in Catalysts/MoMa has NOT manipulated media, technology, material, and viewer to serve the narrative, the concept, the vision, the social and political agendas–the art?

For me “art” is the feeling that’s left, the memory of something newly experienced that remains over time.  Such is the case I make for Savage Beauty as a new media exhibition at The Met. #McQueenRules

Researched & Written by Carolyn A. McDonough for Catalysts/MoMA Spring 2014

Referenced and Related Links:

Conversations: McQueen’s Savage Beauty [Curator Andrew Bolton in dialogue talks about McQueen’s creative producers]

Designer as Dramatist and the Tales He Left Behind

Alexander McQueen in All His Dark Glory

Interactivity & the Collective Narrative: “Catalysts”

In 2007, the year I finished my Master’s in Media Studies, I attended sleepwalkers at MoMA and wrote extensively on the interactive element within exhibition design for completion of my degree work. Aitken’s sleepwalkers is a good example of a contemporary experience of media being carried out collectively and also speaks to the collective narrative, as Aitken built into the projections a random re-ordering of the scenes. He thereby established a new collective narrative with each cycle, engaging and involving the viewer in a new way each time, albeit slightly dictatorial to the viewer.

On an unrelated-to-sleepwalkers note, we’re actually addressing thoughts on social media for Week 2 of Catalysts, and I seem to have missed that mark. So, I’m adding this post-script regarding social media and how I use it in my art & work: I’m not on Facebook, but I am on Twitter and I totally see the value of social media 🙂

Twitter: @CarolynMedia