Monthly Archives: May 2013

ENG (Electronic News Gathering)

In 2001 I made a video using still images of security cameras that I photographed while working at my job on a truck. I made the video by hooking my camera up to a TV and changing the image every 10 seconds while video taping it. I looped it for 2 hours. It was really boring and I only showed it twice, once the window of a gallery and again as an installation many years later. It was made sometime after 9/11 when nobody was allowed to videotape anything security related anymore and they had just passed the USA Act and the USA Patriot Act here in the USA. Here’s what I wrote about it for the old Associated Artists for Propaganda Research website:

Under the guises of safety and security the public unknowingly gives consent to a privately controlled government aimed at infiltrating and uncovering the dissident critics of the ruling class. Now, with the USA Act and the USA Patriot Act, new and unprecedented attacks are being waged against the population by slowly eroding civil liberties with new methods of surveillance.

 In the video ENG, this otherwise linear system of control has been reordered by placing the tools of surveillance under a new and scrutinizing public eye. This new system of surveillance reassesses the role of the public in the wake of increasingly aggressive private and governmental regulations by challenging the traditional role of public passivity. ENG simulates a situation where control over surveillance is turned over to the public in order to accurately pursue the motivation behind private and government policies.

 ENG (electronic news gathering) consists of eight digitally photographed surveillance cameras, scanned every 10 seconds for a period of two hours. 

 Here’s a composition that I put together of the 8 images and an installation shot. The installation is actually a composite that I made because the image on the TV was actually just static at the time the shot was taken.

AAPR and Brian Higbee ENG GroupAAPR and Brian Higbee ENG_Installation_View

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A Theory of Progress (An Accurate Model for a Cohesive Distributive Communication System)

Today I finally installed A Theory of Progress (An Accurate Model for a Cohesive Distributive Communication System) out on the street. It took about an hour to install. I was a little worried that someone was going to see me or harass me; I’m not sure if this qualifies as graffiti or not. No one seemed to mind since it is in an industrial park;one person even yelled from across the street that it looked good. If I had the time I would probably add more pieces to it and distribute the colors a little more evenly. It has a lot less pieces than the small scale model that I built for it. I may still do that.

Here’s a photo of it installed out on Stewart Ave. between Flushing and Johnson in Brooklyn.

A Theory of Progress (An Accurate Model for a Cohesive Distributive Communication System)

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Associated Artists for Propaganda Research Archive and Approved Stamps

In 2001 I made a couple of stamps that I wanted to use for the vast collection of paper work that I had acquired for the Associated Artists for Propaganda Research. This included a lot of drawings, maps and other paraphernalia that I had been collecting over the years. I thought about creating an AAPR archive and creating a stamp that would “make official” anything that I wanted to include in the archive; I also thought that it would be funny to also create an “approved” stamp for the objects that I agreed with. I enjoyed the idea of creating the stamps since it related to my days as a printmaker, had slightly honest intentions and was a little tongue-in-cheek all at the same time. I used these stamps on only a handful of artworks, mostly drawings and plans from my previous two AAPR installations, before retiring them. I also thought that they would be great aesthetically in a “retrospective” as ephemeral objects from a previous time. Who uses stamps anymore?

I forget that so much of what I did back then was not classified as art. This is what was so appealing about it. How could stamps from Kinkos be art? I didn’t care and I still don’t. It was fun.

Here is a photo that I took in 2011 when I was updating the AAPR website and thought that the idea was a welcome addition to my archive of imagery.

Associated Artists for Propaganda Research and Brian Higbee AAPR Stamps

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Associated Artists for Propaganda Research The Future is Now” T-Shirt

When I was in school I was a teachers assistant in the printmaking department. I loved printmaking and went to school for it but eventually broadened my interests to painting, sculpture, installation work and everything else. I mostly made etchings but I also tried my hand at silkscreening, particularly the making of T-shirts with a friend of mine. One of the shirts that I made used a drawing that I had made of 2 men wearing welding masks while looking up at the sun that says, “The Future is Now!”I only printed 3 T-shirts at the time but in 2012 I used the same screen to make a bunch more T-shirts. I like the idea of creating an AAPR shop to sell propaganda items but I like giving things away even better. Here are some photos from 2012 of the re-made T-shirts.

Associated Artists for Propaganda Research and Brian Higbee The Future Is Now T-Shirt Detail Associated Artists for Propaganda Research and Brian Higbee The Future Is Now T-Shirt



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Associated Artists for Propaganda Research: Select Drawings from a History of Space and Communication (1926- )

In 2001 around the same time that I was working on the models I started a new series of pen drawings called Select Drawings from a History of Space and Communication (1926-  ). This is what I wrote about it on the website:

The basis of the project was to chronicle the development of the space race and to track the conglomeration and control of future mass medias.

The first series were of communication satellites but in 2002 I started the same series again but with pencil this time. I had a bunch of space exploration books to use as references and spent a lot of time researching what kind of imagery I wanted to re=represent; I picked images that appealed to my imagination and that I thought would be interesting to copy. These included images from important historical events, prototype spacesuits and even an image from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Like the models, I wasn’t interested in making great drawings or manipulating them to make them more creative or artistic but rather wanted to make drawings that were obvious copies from old photographs. I approached the copying of images as a legitimate type of creativity. To me it is an honest approach to making art that removes the creativity from the “act of making” and places it within the “idea” of art, the ability for the artist to be creative through the very act of selection and the attempts at creativity. Art doesn’t need to be about the ability to draw or the creativity of the artists hand but can rather be about the idea of the act, the re-contextualizing of the imagery for artistic purposes. I knew that copying photographs was as an artistic taboo, an amateur activity that would be difficult to pull off as respectable art but I saw this approach as one of many approaches to creativity that I wanted to explore in my art. I thought that by putting it under the Associated Artists for propaganda Research and giving it an impressive project title that people would look past the simplicity of the drawings and not just see them as poorly copied art objects but rather for the ideas that they represent and their relationship to a larger context. Here’s a quote from Douglas Crimp’s book On the Museum’s Ruins  about reproduction in contemporary art:  

through reproductive technology, postmodernist art dispenses with the aura. The fiction of the creating subject gives way to the frank confiscation, quotation, excerptation, accumulation, and repetition of already existing images. Notions of originality, authenticity, and presence, essential to the ordered discourse of the museum, are undermined.

I imagined the drawings as part of a larger installation that would include small scale models like Saturn V;I probably would have included some painting and large drawings as well. I wanted to frame them and create an installation that looked like a science exhibition that used a broad mixture of objects and paraphernalia.

I used these drawings for many proposals but they landed flat in the end. I think it was hard to imagine the final project and the drawings were lame to begin with. Overall, I think the idea was good and that the final installation could have been impressive but using these drawings as a representation of any kind of artistic creativity was probably a bad idea. The project ended up being used under other project names like Future Living Projects and The Lost Estate of Ed “Johnson” Shepard. For the most part The Lost Estate of Ed “Johnson” Shepard took over most of my “lameness” as creative art ideas that I wanted to do since that project became mostly about someone who made “bad” art. It wasn’t long after this that I started using more “impressive” model based landscape proposals to better represent the AAPR. A couple other projects came out of this one though including Sursum Corda (“Lift Up Your Hearts”) which is a large pixel drawing of the surface of the moon and a satellite dish and The Tower which is a large painting of a communication tower.

Below  are some of the early ink drawings and a composite of some of the 2002 pencil drawings.

Mariner E Relay-23 Syncom 11-22 Drawings in a grid

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Apollo 11, Saturn V, Air Force One and Silver and Gold (1 and 2) Small Scale Models

One of the things that became consistent with the Associated Artists for Propaganda Research was the building of models which I found provided for an interesting discourse on the representation of reality. At the time I wanted to explore the possibilities of model making as a form of art. I was not particularly interested in creating my own models but rather using pre-existing plastic model kits and giving them new meaning through re-contextualization; I wanted to elevate model making to a higher form of art, not by creating something new or well crafted but through the very act of placing it within a larger aesthetic framework under the auspices of the AAPR. These “models” were never really successful as individual art pieces, since there wasn’t much about them that was really art except for how they were used. This is something that I’ve continued with over the years which is an exploration of art practices that have no artistically redeeming qualities. These types of projects are difficult to propagate as actual art objects since I usually don’t manipulate them in any kind of significant way instead choosing to paint them in a single color or not paint them at all. Ideally, I want the models to function within larger projects but often times the project would be dropped or the project would remain unfinished and so the larger context would be lost; the models would become relics of truncated ideas.

Here’s something about small scale models written by John Miller about Dan Graham‘s Alteration to a Suburban House in Now Even the Pigs’re Groovin:

“Instead of experiencing a full-scale work firsthand, the viewer must project into a miniature scene. This defers literal interactivity. It invites fantasy play instead of the kind of apperceptive encounter that is nominally lived experience. The model itself is a stand-in”

The first model below is of the Apollo 11 and was part of a project called The Lunar Project. I built it and painted it realistically from a very old modeling kit. I built a base for it using plaster of paris and creating crater holes in it to make it look like the surface of the moon. I painted it dull gray when I was done. At the time, since I was spending a lot of time reading about propaganda and government manipulation, I also became interested in conspiracy theories, including the theory that the moon landing was faked. I wanted to make my own fake moon landing and photograph it. I also wanted to make a large blurry painting of the surface of the moon. I used this same image, which I never painted, as the basis for the right panel in Sursum Corda (“Lift Up Your Hearts”) Panels 1 and 2. I built the model and photographed it a couple of times but never pursued the idea any farther really;it was however the start of my fascination with making artwork about space travel. I later worked on a series called A History of Space and Communication that used a lot of drawings.

The second model is of the Saturn V rocket. I decided to leave it white and photographed it on a pedestal with a light in it. I  used the same pedestal with the light for the Air Force One Small Scale Model. I again left the model white which I thought made it seem spooky. I exhibited it once with the light pedestal at Here Art with The Shadow but when I went to de-install my work I found that the model had been damaged somehow.

The last 2 models are of a US Military Humvee that I spray painted silver and a private Learjet that I spray painted gold and together are called Silver and Gold (Part 1 and 2). I have never exhibited them and I only took photographs of them recently after building a small platform for them.

lunarphotoRocketAF1originalphotoSilver and Gold (Part 2)Silver and Gold (Part 1)

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Associated Artists for Propaganda Research Website

After graduating from school I was left to fend for myself to try and get exhibitions. This is no easy task and a couple of factors led to my failure during these early years. One was that the only real images that I had of new work were of my previous installations which are difficult to comprehend, not very good photographs, and are useless in an art world driven by group shows and object based art; it’s very hard to convince people to give you a show where you are given the opportunity to build a full-fledged installation when nobody knows who you are. My interest in creating context based work also led me into making what I considered to be “un-impressive” art. This meant the continuation of the making of models as a form of art, the creation of quickly made drawings, various forms of propaganda material and a lot of digital based art.

One of the earliest things that I thought would help me to better contextualize the Associated Artists for Propaganda Research was the internet, which was still an Information Superhighway back then and still developing as a platform for critical discussion. I had already been aware of such groups as rtmarkThe Yes Men and Critical Art Ensemble which used digital media as a new accessible from of distribution for social, political, economic and artistic critique. In 2001 I applied and received a grant from The Puffin Foundation to fund the creation of a website for the AAPR. (The Puffin Foundation also gave me a grant in 2005 for Epicenter City.) I quickly learned how to build websites and went through some experimental stages before settling on a format that I was happy with. I spent about a year working on it and made a lot of digital-only work to help fill in the categories.

The navigation was the most difficult thing to try and create since it involves needing to plan out ahead of time how the information is going to be accessed. I used some symbols that I found in an old modeling kit and used them to designate the different area that I wanted to explore; I used these on the homepage and again in the top left hand of each page that each symbol pertained to. On the homepage I also came up with a corporate logo for the AAPR. This was a a simple white box with an image of a corporate building in it and the name Associated Artists for Propaganda Research. (The corporate building is actually an image of a hospital from the side of a soap opera puzzle.) All of these images were scanned in and digitally cleaned up so that they could be used.

The information page introduces the AAPR and then has rollover images that give explanations of each category that is on the website and links to them. On this page I have timelines running: these were an early way of making simple animations by flipping through images to create the illusion of movement. When the user scrolled over an image it would start the animation and it would start scrolling through images. The top left scrolls through a series of black and white doubled “passport” photos with the eyes blacked out. These were presumably the members of the AAPR; four of them were anonymous photos and one was of me. The top right has an animation of a spinning communication disc from the top of a Lego police vehicle. This linked to the resources section which had separate categories and links for books, magazines, websites, organizations, favorites and contact information. The second row were links and explanations for the galleries section and the projects and subsidies page. The galleries page had sections separated by colors had a gallery for stickers and a gallery for posters, all with explanations. The Projects and Subsidies section featured small scale models as well as diagrams for the model parts as well as historical information for the project that the models were based on. The third row has a link on the left to a resume and a scrolling square on the right of corporate logos; when you scroll over the square it gives a statement about mass media conglomerates and when you click it it names a corporate giant and lists what they own while it scrolls through their corporate logos. The bottom left square is for Strategy is for Street Fighting (Coming Soon!) and the right side is for the Future Living Projects (a subsidiary of AAPR Project and also Coming Soon!) I haven’t made Strategy is for Street Fighting yet but have successfully been working on Future Living Projects.

I used this website for about 5 years before I decided to change it. One of the things that I failed to do was keep the original domain name at; I let it lapse and couldn’t get the name back. At this point pretty much all domain names that use a simple combination of letters are taken in the hopes that someone will want it for a lot of money. Oh well.

Here are some screen shots of the first website.

HomepageInformation PageProjects and SubsidiesTINAGalleriesResource Guide

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Associated Artists for Propaganda Research presents: Corporate Utopia/Corporate Control

So after testing out the potential for the Associated Artists for Propaganda Research in Corporate Identity: The Public Relations Industry and Other Post-Capitalist Concerns , I decided to continue with my plans to further explore the AAPR for my MFA thesis show. I had been doing a lot of reading on post-modern philosophy and had based my thesis paper on an experimental application of some of these theories;this includes an interest in meaning/surface context shifting and the instability of information systems as concrete knowns. I thought about the appropriation of these theories for my own work and imagined the possibilities of re-working these instabilities into an even more complex system for my own artistic purposes. I envisioned the AAPR utilizing a complex combination of language aesthetics, an open and limitless mixture of techniques and forms that could be interchangeable and malleable. I also wanted to undermine art and the elitism that produced a hierarchical structure for what was and what wasn’t important in the discussion of art theory and felt that I was utilizing the AAPR to break free of arts’ capitalist tendencies which strive for the development and promotion of sellable products for personal gain. I  hoped to ultimately develop a new aesthetic based purely on a complexity of ideas and not on a well-defined recognizable and personal style.

Aesthetically, I wanted to treat the AAPR as an organization that could mimic the structuring utilized by corporations as well as using the aesthetics of punk and social sub cultures within a formal art context. I didn’t want any rules other than the rules that would dictate a contextual conclusion in and of itself both formally and conceptually according to what I wanted the AAPR to represent. I hoped for the collapse of high and low art into a single entity where their meanings were constantly in flux and shifted depending on the context of their use. What I really wanted was total freedom to have an excuse to make anything art.

One of my main interests had to do with duality and the power of combining opposites to create new meaning. One of the earliest sketches for the project shows a separation between what is “ideal” and what is “idea” so I decided that my exhibition would consist of 2 separate rooms, one which would be a “display” room and one that would be a “back” room, each a representation of one of these ideas. One of the earliest problems that I came across in the museum was a small wall that the museum director claimed couldn’t be moved. (I later found out that it was moveable and the same gallery director who lied to me years later was caught stealing from the museum and sent to jail for a year.) Instead of complaining further about it I designed my 2 rooms so that they would enclose the “unmovable” wall, making it invisible to the viewer but rendering it usable for me. I built one enclosed room on one side of the “unmovable” wall out of metal studs and sheet rock and put in a low ceiling to make it feel smaller and more intimate. In this room I built shelves and a cheap table for all of the things that I planned on putting in there. I brought in a ton of stuff from my studio including lots of books, sketches, photographs, VHS tapes and other materials that helped make it feel like a working studio. I also had a monitor in there which showed a live black and white image of what was happening in the front room.

On the other side of the “unmovable” wall I built another wall which together made the “display” room. I used the same white desk from the Corporate Identity show and took off the INFORMATION signage that I painted on it. I made 4 display cases out of wood to hang on the walls, painted them white and had glass tops made for them. In these I placed a series of various unmade parts from a plastic model kit of the “Big Foot” monster truck. I spray painted these flat black and laid them out symmetrically so that they looked like display cases that one sees in exhibitions of butterflies or insects. I had a fully made “Big Foot”model that I also spray painted flat black in the back room on the working table. I called the finished Big Foot model “The Big One” after a Michael Moore movie which was about the U.S. and it’s assumed proclivity towards world domination; I thought of the “Big Foot” monster truck as a metaphor for the over-scaled macho power of U.S. policy and used the unbuilt model parts in the “showroom” as a loose symbol of propaganda and the way information is purposefully obfuscated  to benefit the powerful and the rich. On the back wall I painted a large dull landscape that I thought would, once again, subjugate painting to a lower form of expression.

Here are some images from the show. The last image was the postcard for the show and is a blurred image of a sheep. At the time the first cloned sheep Dolly was in the news and I thought of it as both a symbol of the potential of human science in its most horrific and promising forms, and as an image of society’s willingness to be brainwashed into believing the propaganda of the corporate mass media.


corporateutopiacorporateutopia6 corporateutopia2 corporateutopia5truckUntitled-69

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The Associated Artists for Propaganda Research Presents Corporate Identity: The Public Relations Industry and Other Post-Capitalist Concerns

After I designed the Disaster Factor poster, which featured the first use of the title Associated Artists for Propaganda Research, I decided that I wanted to use the gallery at school to show a completely new direction in how I was thinking about art. This included a break from painting, which I had been doing for the past 2 and a half years, exhibiting under a group title, and using a variety of materials to create a new context for both artistic and political/economic critique. I also wanted to create a “total” installation where every part of the gallery was thought about carefully and each element existed in relation to another under one common context.

The idea for the exhibition had to do with the design and construction of a large corporate headquarters in Rose Valley, Pennsylvania for, presumably, the AAPR. I initially started with a few loose ideas which included the building of a small non-descript model of a black corporate building in a wooded landscape with a pedestal, an information desk, a series of geographical engineering plans, a painting on a wall and a video. Something that quickly took shape was the establishment of the black square as a central theme both physically and graphically. I borrowed the black square from minimalism and used it as a tool for a type of cold corporate aesthetic that felt oppressive and empty; I had previously used the black square in paintings to represent a sort of existential unknown, an abstraction that could never be fully known and I was interested in seeing transformed into something new.

A quick explanation of the show. I made the pedestal out of sheetrock which was a huge mistake since it broke apart easily. I made the landscape with railroading grass and trees and I still make my landscapes this way. I made the corporate building out of thin wood that I sanded and sanded and spray painted black. I made the plexi-glass top myself which is something I would never do again. I have a sketch showing that I originally wanted to etch the “AAPR” into the plexi-glass on the sides. I got my hands on an old school desk that I painted white and put INFORMATION across the front of it; I put a series of 3 different business cards on it that had no information on them except Associated Artists for Propaganda Research and 1 of 3 titles in quotes: “specializing in dissident archeology”, “an archetype for future generations” or “specializing in subversive interaction”. I painted ASSOCIATED ARTISTS FOR PROPAGANDA RESEARCH in black letters on the wall behind the desk to make it clear who’s show it was. My roommate was an engineer for landscapers so he gave me the maps that I needed to show where the building was going to take place so I put a series of these on the wall; I also like the idea of using found objects as art (not a new idea but still). I painted a large black square at the farthest wall facing the information desk. I thought of the black square on the wall as a way of degrading the tradition of painting and making it less important and dull.

The last thing I made was a looping 6 hour VHS tape of a field behind my friends house. The summer before I had my exhibition the gallery was renovated beautifully by the Arts Administration which was, I later found out, mainly run by the museum director and the large theater department. They decided to build a large black kiosk that filled the very first window of the gallery which had a digital display and a TV monitor that mainly advertised the theater and other building wide events. It was hideous and an eyesore. As gallery manager, and as part of the Arts Student League, I protested, established a petition, contacted the school paper and we were finally told to stop or we’d loose the gallery. This was a disappointment to me and I learned a little bit about university politics. Come 6 months later and I decided that I was going to use the TV in the kiosk and instead of advertising anything I was going to play something as boring as could be. I thought it was successful as a very passive form of protest. One of the funnier things that I did was to paint a banner for the outside of the gallery that mimicked the fraternity and sorority banners that were hung up. I also used this same graphic for xeroxed stickers that people could take away from the exhibition.

In the end the show looked a little like an architects exhibition which I liked since I was trying to create a new context for art, one that had less to do with art as a singular object and more as art as context and relativity. I wanted to destroy art as I had previously known it which was as a  fetishized commodity of spiritual and aesthetic idealization. For me this was a way of disrupting the egotism of art and of trying to enter into both an economical and political dialogue with art. At the time I felt like, since I had been making a certain kind of painting, that I wanted to shake up the expectations of my peers and to free myself up to explore new ways of thinking about art making. I also thought of this show as a testing ground for my thesis show which was also going to involve the Associated Artists for Propaganda Research.

Here are some bad photos of the show. The second image from the bottom was the postcard for the show.

aninvestigation2 aninvestigation3 aninvestigation5 AAPRs First Projectaninvestigation6AAPR Business Cards 1-3Associated Artists for Propaganda Research and Brian Higbee 1 Associated Artists for Propaganda Research and Brian Higbee 2 poster

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A Theory of Progress (An Accurate Model for a Cohesive Distributive Communication System) in Progress

Today I went and got some more paint for A Theory of Progress (An Accurate Model for a Cohesive Distributive Communication System). I finished with the blue, red and yellow last week and today I bought green and orange. I unfortunately had to get the orange in a spray can since they didn’t sell it already made in a small size can of latex or enamel. I bought some various sizes of 1″x3″ pine to use as well. I also scouted for the telephone pole that I want to use outside. I’ve narrowed it down to 3. Here is a photo in the studio of the green and orange strips of wood after I painted them. I’m hoping to install it sometime this weekend.


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