Artists consumer reports

Consumer Reports: Guthrie Lonergan

Guthrie Lonergan.

Guthrie Lonergan.

Guthrie Lonergan is an elusive and influential internet artist whom Cory Arcangel once called “our Bruce Nauman.” Along with a corresponding essay by Ed Halter, an image from his 2005 series “Lonely Los Angeles” was chosen as the cover of the November 2014 issue of Artforum. Additionally, Lonergan was included in the 2009 New Museum Triennial and has had work in the 2009 Venice Biennale, MOCA Geffen, Los Angeles, and 319 Scholes, New York. Recently, he transcribed the HBO GO intro riff for guitar.

In one Monday-thru-Friday, the Los Angeles artist makes a trip to Guitar Center, conceptualizes a series of Spotify playlists based on the tastes of aging baby boomers, and works multiple web design gigs for everyone from pressed juice companies to professional mommy bloggers. In other words: just another week in the life of @gup. —John Chiaverina

Monday, February 2

10:00 a.m.

Replied to a professional Mommy Blogger about how to add watermarks to images on her website.

Charmed by an illustrated blood data visualization showing the current stock levels for each blood type on Scotland’s blood banks’ website.

Adjusted a header image on an architect’s website to be taller.

Reading about yesterday’s Super Bowl halftime show made me curious about previous halftime show lineups. 2000’s sounds very robust: “Tina Turner, Phil Collins, Christina Aguilera, Enrique Iglesias, Toni Braxton, 80-person choir, Edward James Olmos (narrator).”

11:30 a.m.

Reading a thread about Microsoft killing their clip art (e.g. for Word, PowerPoint) late last year and replacing it with Bing Images Search. Users are suggesting other alternatives. I am reminded that I saw a Bing Maps Streetside van driving and documenting my neighborhood twice last week (Streetside being Bing’s answer to Google Street View).

12:30 p.m.

Ate a #2 with no onions in the Glendale In-N-Out parking lot. Customer in front of me parked at the drive-thru window then got out and loaded 5+ In-N-Out bags into the bed of his gigantic truck. I was listening to 93.1 Jack FM, a local radio station which “plays what it wants” and has no DJs.

2:00 p.m.

Back home. Lit my “art candle” which transforms my home office into a home studio.

Starting up Part V of Hardcore History’s World War I podcast, Blueprint for Armageddon, as audio backdrop. Artillery is getting more sophisticated a few years into the war.

Searching the web for office pranks. I like the more subtle, casual ones and ones that require less planning.

prank

Formerly I used Google’s Picasa “Web Albums” service to search for user images because it was easier to find clumps of photos from the same time & place, but ever since Google Plus ate Picasa, its search function hasn’t worked very well. I’m trying to get into Flickr and Instagram but they definitely have a different vibe and users tend to upload isolated images rather than clumps.

3:00 p.m.

My computer shut off abruptly while surfing, probably due to overheating. I note that it’s Groundhog Day and 80 degrees out.

3:30 p.m.

WWI podcast continues. Soldiers are tunneling under the battlefield, and occasionally opposing armies’ tunnels are running into each other, leading to underground gun battles in the dark. Mostly I’m inspired by how passionate the amateur historian narrator is about history.

Still trying to decode the vernacular of office pranks. Office pranks seem to be overwhelmingly event-based—e.g. for birthdays, promotions—and often come after the worker has been away from the office for a while—e.g. honeymoons, vacations. But occasionally I am running into truly random pranks unrelated to specific events, which are often a part of ongoing back-and-forth prank wars. Wrapping chairs and desks in wrapping paper or tin foil has become more popular than last time I was researching, when it seemed that filling cubicles with objects like balloons or beach balls was clearly the prank of choice.

prank2

4:00 p.m.

Blew out my “art candle.”

Fixing an image size issue on a healthy-living blog run by a pressed juice company.

4:30 p.m.

Googled the word “weather” to see if it was cool enough outside to go for a walk.

In the park, a man was strumming an open E-chord on an acoustic guitar for a few minutes then started tuning it.

5:30 p.m.

I’m watching YouTube videos using a website tool that Zach Shipko and I made. (Basically it’s like watching TV.) An ASMR video pops up first. A woman’s hands, with pink fingernails, a pearl bracelet on one wrist and a tribal tattoo on the other, are raking a zen garden while she whispers. A guitar instruction video. A middle-aged man with an Irish accent and an acoustic guitar is walking us through playing Tracy Chapman’s “Talkin’ Bout’ a Revolution.”

7:30 p.m.

I’m reminded that I’d wanted to research “Unplugged” music and the phenomenon of typically more plugged (electric) musicians performing unplugged (acoustic). I’m watching bits of MTV Unplugged concerts back to back. Live, acoustic music sounds jarring in 2015, and the stage decorations have a bewilderingly theatrical coffee shop bohemian vibe. Some performers wear turtlenecks. What is this luddite ritual?

Almost everyone in MTV Unplugged‘s 26-year history (Wikipedia lists 168 concerts) sits while performing, usually on stools. The Cure are sitting directly on the floor in such uncomfortable-looking positions that I can’t imagine their legs not falling asleep and going numb during the hour plus they have guitars on their laps. I begin to realize that rap & hip-hop performers don’t sit down during their Unplugged performances and I try to imagine the behind-the-scenes discussions that lead to this decision. I notice Maxwell is standing in front of a beautiful black leather sofa, with a decent-sized orchestra and choir behind the sofa, but I can’t tell if he ever sits on it.

I start a spreadsheet of which acts are sitting, standing, or reclining on MTV Unplugged.

Tuesday, February 3

10:00 a.m.

Looking into a Facebook open graph issue on a professional Mommy Blogger’s website.

Firing up my Karaoke playlist on Spotify (songs I sing or want to sing at Karaoke)—”Guitar Man” by Bread comes on.

Reading Twitter. @dotkalm and @paulslocum are breaking some big RadioShack news.

I quickly check my usual link feeds—Hacker News, my Pinboard network (pinboard.in is a bookmarking service), a couple of subreddits which are very hit or miss (… and 99.9% miss :/ …) /r/InternetIsBeautiful and /r/DeepIntoYouTube.

11:00 a.m.

Driving to the westside of LA, I try to listen to a podcast via phone-to-bluetooth-speaker-clipped-on-sun-visor but the file is corrupted (?) so I surf the radio looking for a good Two For Tuesday—I love this weekly radio tradition!

11:30 a.m.

Early cheeseburger at The Apple Pan. Wishing I had a newspaper.

12:30 p.m.

Wandered around Guitar Center for a few minutes. Noticed a new sign on the glass door to the wood-paneled acoustic guitar dungeon urging visitors to close the door after them to keep the room properly humidified. Mental note to Google humidified guitar rooms. Moderately talented dudes in two separate glass-doored sub-dungeons were jamming solo—they were just slightly out of tune with each other, which I think prompted the Guitar Center clerk in the main acoustic dungeon to turn up some Pink Floyd to drown them out.

1:00 p.m.

Century City. Ended up in a vast corporate plaza parking garage maze trying to get to an ATM. A man had me open my trunk to inspect it before entering. In the lobby I noticed a sculpture by the father of a local comedian.

2:00 p.m.

Another parking garage. Accidentally valeted. Best reading material in doctor’s waiting room was Scientific American. I found the letters section to be very passionate.

3:00 p.m.

A different podcast worked on the way home. Duncan Trussell. Podcasters doing in-pod product endorsements might be the most effective form of Internet advertisement I’ve experienced.

4:30 p.m.

Home. Played loud music—”Right Down The Line” by Gerry Rafferty, which I recently discovered through Micaela Durand’s incredible Spotify playlist, sensitive dad. Next is “Please Don’t Make Me Cry” by UB40, then “Thank You” by Dido, etc.

5:00 p.m.

Googling guitar humidifiers. Freaking out about humidified guitar cabinets like the Guitar Habitat[™] and humidifiers that are stored inside of the guitar’s sound hole.

5:30 p.m.

Noodled blues riffs on an unplugged electric guitar while I waited for water to boil.

6:00 p.m.

Googling in-store supermarket bars.

8:30 p.m.

Bowling.

Told Al how Spotify constantly says “Al listens to this” when I’m surfing around different bands and albums.

Wednesday, February 4

10:00 a.m.

Fixing an Instagram widget issue on a professional Mommy Blogger’s website.

11:00 a.m.

Reading Twitter. I’m avoiding social media right now. I have extensions installed in Chrome, Firefox, and Safari which block all social media sites, and I’ve deleted all social media apps from my phone and deactivated my Facebook account. I’m limited to 5 minutes a day in Chrome. I’m not entirely sure why I’m doing this to myself, but I do like what people post to Twitter and Vine so I cheat sometimes.

2:00 p.m.

Replying to emails. Mom sent me an email about watching a cooking reality show that we almost accidentally walked onto the set of. Anthony emailed me the most recent in a monthly series of sound collages he makes, a 15-minute mp3 file.

Listening to my in-progress Perfect Boomer CD Collection pt. 1 (1985-1995) playlist on random. Sting’s “If I Ever Lose My Faith In You”; Bonnie Raitt’s “Nick of Time”; Paul Simon’s “Graceland.” This is where I’m at musically right now.

3:00 p.m.

Re-watching Cats Morph Into Croissants, a YouTube video.

3:30 p.m.

Re-watching Maxwell’s MTV Unplugged performance on YouTube.

4:30 p.m.

Thinking about DRM.

5:00 p.m.

Lit my art candle.

While looking through old Grammy nominees for inspiration for Perfect Boomer CD Collection pt. 2 (1995-2005), I discover setlist.fm, a wiki database of setlists for concerts. I love setlists, and I appreciate music fans and their propensity for data sharing—especially those dedicated and completist enough to contribute one-song Grammy Awards ceremony setlists to this wiki. I peruse the site’s API documentation.

setlist

6:00 p.m.

The very handmade-looking RockOnTheNet.com has the best Grammys data presentation (Wikipedia doesn’t even show nominees!) I’m looking for a certain type of “critically acclaimed” artist who isn’t “alternative.” My vision for the Perfect Boomer CD Collection playlists is popular music made for adults by adults, with mature lyrics and a middlebrow veneer—a once-thriving genre which seems to have petered out in the internet age.

7:00 p.m.

Blew out my art candle.

7:30 p.m.

Over tacos, Zach R. told me about a video of an absurd amount of Guitar Center customers noodling cacophonously on guitars in the newly opened Guitar Center in Times Square, home to some of the highest retail rents on Earth.

10:00 p.m.

Re-watched some of David Attenborough’s The Life of Birds on Netflix.

Thursday, February 5

10:00 a.m.

Trying to get a handle on late-career Joni Mitchell. Realizing I’m a sucker for the weirdness of fretless bass and ’90s middlebrow rock production.

The Bloomberg 404 not found error page is making waves this week. Not particularly exciting in itself, but I’m curious about whose idea this goofy animation was and how it came to be there.

12:00 p.m.

Exporting invoices while listening to more late-career Joni Mitchell.

1:00 p.m.

Accidentally turned on an FM radio on my desk, turned it off.

1:30 p.m.

Launching a new subdomain on a cupcake merchant’s website while listening to my contemporary Bro-Country playlist.

2:30 p.m.

Brianna emailed me a news story about Eric Clapton’s successful art auction house sales.

3:00 p.m.

Listening to my Late Romantics & Late Grateful Dead Spotify playlist while I clean my apartment. This is a playlist of late Romantic composers (mostly Rachmaninoff & Sibelius) juxtaposed with late Grateful Dead live recordings (from the years leading up to Jerry Garcia’s death). Everything is played with great emotion but very “adagio.”

3:30 p.m.

Zach S. texts me and tells me he is by the bar inside the Ralph’s supermarket.

4:00 p.m.

Looking around online at Swiffer Wet Jet prices.

5:00 p.m.

Sending a digital CVS coupon to my CVS rewards card. (I receive CVS coupons via email.) Realizing how much I enjoy the coupon process, my mind races through scenes from TLC’s Extreme Couponing.

6:00 p.m.

My sister sent a nuclear family group text from Las Vegas. I use a bluetooth external keyboard to type on my phone when I’m at home because I don’t feel like myself when I’m typing slowly with just my thumbs on a tiny virtual keyboard.

8:00 p.m.

Watching Kevin Hart standup on Netflix.

8:30 p.m.

Lit my art candle.

I’m getting deep into Richard Stallman’s personal website. Stallman is thought of as the father of the free software movement, and is a fanatical supporter of free software, digital privacy, and anti-DRM (digital rights management). I’m interested in Stallman as an icon of a certain type of overboard geek integrity which has slowly gone out of fashion and been forgotten. At the top of his website are links to his own bullet-point essays about why you should boycott Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Skype, Google, Uber, Ebooks, Amtrak, Eventbrite, Airbnb, and Netflix. Part of me wants to believe. But even when I don’t (and I usually don’t), I’m glad that someone is paying close attention to these topics and their technical minutia, because most of us are not. I also really appreciate the humble design of his hand-coded website.

A couple weeks back, Zach S. had pointed me to a part of Stallman’s site where he describes his process for viewing websites on his computer. Stallman sends an email with the URL of the site he wishes to view to an externally hosted program which fetches the website and then emails the raw files for the site back to him. He then downloads the raw website files and initially looks at them using Lynx, an ancient text-only browser, with his internet connection disabled. This is a very labour-intensive way to surf the web! “One consequence of this method is that most of the [surveillance] methods used on the Internet can’t see me,” he writes.

9:00 p.m.

Quote from same page: “A friend once asked me to watch a video with her that she was going to display on her computer using Netflix. I declined, saying that Netflix was such an affront to freedom that I could not be party to its use under any circumstances whatsoever.” So badass!

Amazed (/impressed) that Stallman and other free software fanatics will not visit websites which simply include non-free JavaScript code (such as Facebook “Like” buttons or analytics tracking code, which are ubiquitous).

stallman

10:30 p.m.

Blew out my art candle.

Friday, February 6

11:00 a.m.

Thinking about fixing my desk. My ergonomic situation hit rock bottom when the keyboard tray fell off last week. Last time this happened I made a standing desk using shoeboxes.

1:00 p.m.

Watching an episode of PBS’s Craft In America about metalsmiths. I had forgotten what anvils were for.

3:00 p.m.

Ate a slice of cake, then put on the newest episode of Jack Kornfield’s Heart Wisdom podcast while I took a nap.

5:30 p.m.

Researching humidified guitar cabinets while listening to late career Emmylou Harris. I learn it’s a good idea to have multiple humidity meters. I find a nice Pinterest collection of guitar cabinets and read blog posts about building my own.

displaycabs

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