Tag Archives: 2003

The Corporate Wars: 2135-2312 and Corporate Freedom in the Age of Reason

In 2003 I  made a set of paintings called The Corporate Wars: 2135-2312 that used corporate buildings in them; these were 1 or 2 story buildings that I would often see while driving around out on Long Island when I was in school out there. I started by making a trip back out to Long Island from Brooklyn so I could take some photographs to use as references for the paintings. I wanted to make the paintings minimal without any real outstanding features showing so I decided to take the photographs so that only one corner of the building would show. I also wanted a lot of sky so I aimed my camera high to get as much sky as possible. Back at my studio I picked the best photos and cropped them exactly as I wanted them. I had recently stumbled across the Golden Ratio and wanted to use it to establish the proportions for my paintings; the Golden Ratio is supposed to be the ideal proportion for an aesthetically pleasing form. I chose 36″x58″ and for the first time decided to make my paintings using canvas stretched over home-made panels. I built 4 panels using 1/4″ smooth luan and 1″x4″‘s that I nailed and glued together and left to dry overnight. The next day I sanded any edges that were rough or splintering and wood-filled any edges that had blemishes in them.  After this process was done I stretched and primed the canvases and then painted them with oils.

After I was done I decided to place them into a political context by imagining a future where corporations ruled the world; these paintings would essentially become “portraits” of corporations that were involved in a war of the future. I gave them random numbers to make it seem like there were many more “portraits” in the series than there were. I also used the term Untitled in the title because I really don’t like it when artists don’t title their work so I wanted to use the term in an effective way. I’ve only shown this series once and that was in a group show at PS 122 as the Associated Artists for Propaganda Research.

In 2004 I made another painting of a corporate building that wasn’t part of this series. I made it 48″x78″ (also using the Golden Ratio) and painted it using a flat acrylic latex background. That one is called Corporate Freedom in the Age of Reason. Here is what I wrote about the Corporate Wars series and below that are the 4 paintings and the painting from 2004.

Terror is an extension of violence. At its very nature it is a psychological infliction imposed by a dominating force upon a weaker and more susceptible “victim”. In traditional history these boundaries are seemingly easy to understand by well defined rules of acceptable and unacceptable aggression. However, these rules of aggression become increasingly skewed by a very precise and powerful propaganda system that aims to protect the invested interests of the wealthy elite. These interests are often contradictory to the needs of the population at large but are easily protected through coercion and sometimes force.

             The Corporate Wars: 2135-2312 presents a horrific future in which the corporate elite dominate and control every aspect of civilization. This future of course does not present itself instantaneously but rather very slowly over a very long period of time. First public utilities are privatized and monopolized, forcing the population to pay exorbitant prices just to survive, then the media and communications industry are stripped from the public sectors and conglomerated, paving the way for a massive filtering system for information, then education and medicine are privatized, severing the last ties to any democratically sponsored responsibilities. Finally, military operations become increasingly bloated, forcing massive budget increases to help pioneer capital ventures and to control the restless and largely unhappy masses. It is at this point, when the corporations have established complete control over all domestic interests that the corporate landscape will make its final shift into oblivion, forcing the now dependent population into complete economic annihilation. 

Untitled_Building_6-Brian-Higbee-Associated-Artists-for-Propaganda-Research Untitled_Building_7-Brian-Higbee-Associated-Artists-for-Propaganda-Research Untitled_Building_12-Brian-Higbee-Associated-Artists-for-Propaganda-Research Untitled_Building_23-Brian-Higbee-Associated-Artists-for-Propaganda-ResearchCorporateFreedom-Brian-Higbee-Associated-Artists-for-Propaganda-Research

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The Shadow, The Shadow (Small Scale Model) and F-117 Nighthawk (Small Scale Model)

After showing The Black Box (Downing of Air Force One) Version 2 at Rotunda Gallery I was asked to show it again at the HERE Arts Center for a show called Airport 03. I was reluctant since I had already built it twice so I negotiated with the curator to create a new piece for the show. I decided that I wanted to try my hand at building a different kind of landscape, one that I hadn’t tried before. The idea came to me quickly to create a snowy landscape out of flour and to use a model of an F-117 Nighthawk that I built the year before. In my studio I started by making some initial drawings to determine the size that I wanted to make it. I decided that since the gallery was positioned in a place where people enter and exit a theater that I wanted to elevate it a little more off the floor so that nobody would accidental trip over it or step on it. I settled on two feet tall and seven feet wide. One of the problems that I discovered with The Black Box (Downing of Air Force One) Version 1 was that because the landscape was so large it was hard to see what the object was in the middle so this is why I decided on 7’x7′ in the end. I built the sides out of particle board since it’s cheap but it requires more wood filling and sanding since the corners are brittle and break easily; I try not to use particle board anymore. I built a structure inside out of 2″x3″‘s to help stabilize the corners and to elevate the surface that the flour would eventually be going on. I had to calculate so that in the end, after laying my 3/4″ plywood on top, it would only be about 3″‘s from the top. This gives me enough depth to fill in with the flour. After building my box I built another F-117 and destroyed most of it by breaking it apart and melting most of the pieces; I destroyed almost everything except for the tail which I wanted to preserve so that the viewer would know that it was an airplane wreck. Unlike The Black Box (Downing of Air Force One) I didn’t need this plane to be recognizable so I thought that it would be more realistic to have most of the aircraft destroyed by the impact.

I took everything to the gallery and built the sides and inside structure according to how I built it in my studio; everything was numbered and lettered so that I knew what attached where since I already made my adjustments and needed it to be built exactly the same as it was before. When I was done I decided that I needed to lay plastic over the surface to keep the flour from slipping through the cracks. I bought 100 pounds of flour and dumped it into the box and started tamping it down with the palm of my hand to smooth it out. Before I got too far I put the tail of the F-117 model out there along with the melted and broken plastic pieces that went along with it. For added effect I used scrapings from a charcoal stick to create a finer spray of black debris around the wreckage. I finished tamping down the flour until it covered all of the edges.

After a few days the flour started to get small hairline cracks all over it which I though was a nice look that I hadn’t anticipated; it also would have been impossible to stop. I was pleased with the end result and received positive feedback about the piece. I thought the contrast visually between the white landscape and the black object was a good one and was excited that my idea panned out the way I wanted it to. I should also say that I made a small 11″x22″x22″ version of it out of luan, foam and burnt plastic as well sometime before I started working on the final version. Here is what I wrote about the final installation and below that are some images of the installation, the small scale model and the model of the F-117 Nighthawk.

The Associated Artists for Propaganda Research’s The Shadow addresses one of Carl Jung’s basic archetypal principals of the unconscious mind. The shadow explains that while repressing our uncivilized and dark qualities, we unconsciously project these characteristics outward, seeing in others the undesirable traits that we’d rather not see in ourselves. As a tool of propaganda, these unconscious tendencies are used against the general population to escalate differences and cause unnecessary conflict between the righteous Us and the evil Other.

The Shadow is an 84″x84″ floor model made using 100 pounds of flour padded down to create a smooth and consistent surface. The landscape shows a destroyed black F-117 Nighthawk which was used by the US for stealth operations during the first Gulf War.

The Shadow by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda ResearchThe Shadow (Detail) by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda ResearchThe Shadow Small Scale Model by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda ReseachF-117 Small Scale Model by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda Research

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The Black Box (Downing of Air Force One) Version 2

In 2003 I built a second version of The Black Box (Downing of Air Force One) for the Rotunda Gallery in downtown Brooklyn, NY for a show called Critical Consumption. For this version I wanted to build a large wooded landscape and settled on a 6’x6′ floor piece. I had been making smaller landscape models that fit into pedestals for early Future Living Projects pieces but wanted to make something larger and this was the perfect opportunity. Since I had already made my model of Air Force One for Version 1 I only needed to concentrate on making the landscape. I started by buying many packets of railroading trees and railroading grass used for model railroading. I decided that for transportation and storage purposes that I would split the landscape into two 36″x72″ plywood pieces and use trees to cover the seem. I started with these two 3/4″ thick pieces of rough plywood and glued newspaper onto it to create a paper mâché landscape. I crumpled up pieces and placed newspaper on top to create small hills. I used watered down Elmer’s glue to help seal it all together and create a rigid surface. I did this for both sides and made sure that the contours of the surface matched at the adjoining seam. I painted both sides with dark green paint. I mixed 2 different kinds of railroading grass in a glass grated cheese container. I squeezed glue out on the surface of the green landscape in small sections and spread it out using my fingers. Before it could dry I shook the grass from the glass container onto the glue covered surface, making sure to cover the glue completely. I did this for a few sections and after they dried I would tip the plywood onto some newspaper to collect all of the grass that didn’t get stuck to the surface so I could reuse it. I did this until all of the surface was covered on both pieces. The last part was attaching the green railroading trees that I bought. Before I glued them onto the surface I made sure to rip them down into smaller sizes. I covered most of the surface with these trees but made sure to leave space in the middle for the airplane wreckage.

Next I made my 2″x4″ understructure and placed the landscape on top. I measured the height of the piece as it would sit on the floor and added one inch to get the height of my sides. I needed the landscape to be sunk below the sides so that the edges of the plywood would be hidden. This design is an extension from my previous pieces that I built into pedestals where I had used this same technique. In order to emphasize the aerial view of the wreck, I pushed the landscape to the floor and in effect, created a very shallow pedestal for it. I would use this same technique for Epicenter City and Pure City/ Sigma 6.

I painted these sides white and took everything to the gallery to build. Everything went smoothly during building and I needed to wood fill the seams of the white sides and sand several times to eliminate any imperfections. I also covered up the seam in the middle with extra trees and also used these around the edges. Before the show I made both stickers and pins to give out at the opening. The stickers were of Air Force One in black and white and I had 2 types of pins made, nine that said A.A.P.R. Co-conspirator and one that said Chief of Protocol on it, which I wore. At a third showing of this piece I also made a 11″x17″ take away poster of a drawing that I made on vellum of a plane going down in flames with what look like cross hairs on it. At another exhibition I made an all white version of the Air Force One model which I showed on top of a light box pedestal with a vitrine on top (It was later found to have been destroyed due to an irretrievable missing piece.)

Below are 2 images from the show, the sticker, the pins, the poster and the model.

The Black Box (Downing of Air Force One) Version 2 by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda ResearchThe Black Box (Downing of Air Force One) Version 2 (Detail) by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda ResearchThe Black Box (Downing of Air Force One) Sticker by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda Research

A.A.P.R. Pins by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda ResearchThe Black Box (Downing of Air Force One) Poster by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda ResearchAir Force One Small Scale Model by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda Research

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After Capitalism’s Collapse

I made After Capitalism’s Collapse back in 2003 for a show at ABC No Rio called Disaster. The sculpture is of a rusted I-beam skeleton of a corporate building in a green tree filled landscape. The image comes from an unfinished corporate building that I used to see on the side of the highway in New Jersey on my way to and from NYC. It sat like that for almost 10 years and was just a shell of a corporate structure halted at the very beginning of the building process. For After Capitalism’s Collapse I imagined a model of this same structure but its state of decay is unclear; it can either be on its way to being built or on its way to being destroyed.

I already had the plexiglass top so I had a piece of wood cut for the bottom. Hardware stores sell kits that use a bolt and a piece of metal with threads in it that can be recessed so I drilled holes in the sides and attached the hardware. I made the landscape using railroading grass and green railroading trees. In a hobby store I found strips of plastic I-beams and I painted these using rust colored paint and attached it all with glue. When I was done I screwed it all together and luckily found a pedestal at the gallery that fit the piece exactly.

After the show was over, I left the piece in my van and somebody broke in and stole it. I had this funny image of somebody using it as a coffee table. Why would somebody want to steal it?

After Capitalism's Collapse by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda ResearchAfter Capitalism's Collapse (Detail) by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda Research

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Ten Great Paintings About Ten Great Philosophies and Stars Are the Diamonds of the Poor

I’ve been working on a series of 6 panel drawings/paintings for the past couple of weeks. The panels are all 18″x18″ and are made with black chalkboard paint and white charcoal. Its called Stars are the Diamonds of the Poor, which was taken from W. Somerset Maugham’s Of Human Bondage. The subject matter is the universe, a subject that I’ve dealt with in the past. The first time was for part of a series called Ten Great Paintings About Ten Great Philosophies which is sort of a tongue in cheek approach to art making. The paintings were all meant to be metaphors for different philosophies of life, not in any concrete way, but as loose interpretations based on images that I wanted to paint. The title always seemed a little too pretentious to me and I hesitate to use it, but it was a context that I needed to tie these pieces together. I like the idea of painting something as mundane as a blowfish but then recontextualizing it and giving it meaning outside of its ordinary confines. In order to further elaborate on the absurdity of such a context, I decided to never make all 10 of the paintings, rendering the claims of the title obsolete. An inside joke I guess. I’ve also pulled pieces in and out over the years, giving them different titles and different contextual situations but then returning them to the series later on. I started the series back in 2003 and occasionally add a new painting to the series. Im up to 7 right now. The Hawk and The Tower are relatively large pieces compared to the rest of the work in the series and are 78″x48″. At this time I was using the Golden Mean to determine my canvas sizes and I also think that these pieces were the first ones where I stretched canvas over panels. Below are some of the photos from the series. The titles include The Puffer Fish, The Dictator, The Hawk, The Tower, The Universe, The Chinese Finger Trap and The Rollercoaster.

Ten Great Paintings About Ten Great Philosophies (The Puffer Fish) by Brian HigbeeTen Great Paintings About Ten Great Philosophies (The Hawk) by Brian HigbeeTen Great Paintings About Ten Great Philosophies (The Tower) by Brian HigbeeTen Great Paintings About Ten Great Philosophies (The Chinese Finger Trap) by Brian Higbee

All are oil on canvas except The Tower which was rolled with acrylic latex for the background and drawn with marker and then rolled over again with diluted acrylic latex in order to make it look like fog; The Hawk which has an acrylic latex background; The Universe which was made with glossy black spray paint on a homemade panel with flecks of glossy white enamel for stars; The Rollercoaster which was black tempera on museum board. The Universe panel eventually warped and then I scratched it to the point of being unrepairable. I like the idea of pieces being destroyed as an annotation to the title, especially for The Universe. Later I made a drawing of the universe while on vacation in Cape Cod. I had originally wanted to draw directly from the sky but it is an impossible task. The stars will not stay in focus long enough to make any concrete observations. I decided to make it up and every night I would draw by the light of a kerosine lamp for a couple of hours.

Ten Great Paintings About Ten Great Philosophies (The Universe) Drawing by Brian Higbee

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