Tag Archives: Aapr

Exhibition with Artcodex at Quartiar in Den Haag: Ghost Modernism and The History of Progress, Violence and the Modern Spectacle

I’m in Den Haag installing a show at an artist run space called Quartair. This is what their website says:

Quartair was founded in 1992 as a non-profit organization by a group of young artists, just after graduation from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in The Hague.

Quartair is located at The Hague Breadfactory, built in 1902, on the Toussaintkade in The Hague. The monumental building is managed by Foundation B141. In the building 12 artists have their studios, and on the ground floor is a gallery space of 200 m2. The building was renovated in 2010.
Quartair is one of the longest running artist-run-spaces in The Hague.

Yesterday I installed The History of Progress, Violence and the Modern Spectacle as part of the show Ghost Modernism. We exhibited an earlier incarnation of the show at Bose Pacia in DUMBO a couple of weeks ago. I revised and shortened the statement about the series for a wall text and this is what I wrote:

A History of Progress, Violence and the Modern Spectacle is a series of paintings that address the advancements of technology during the early phases of the modern era and its relationship, either directly or as a subtext, to the “spectacle” of violence. By pixelating the photographs, the images become both abstract and “representational” depending on the viewers proximity to the work, straddling the line between two forms of existence. The paintings in this way exemplify pure information, a visual digitization of the gap between what we perceive and what is real.

This work is part of a much larger project created in 1999 called the Associated Artists for Propaganda Research, an “organization” of one that uses politics, collectivity and dissent as tools for artistic expression.

 I’m not using the Associated Artists for Propaganda Research in the title because at this point I think that it would just confuse things. I decided to use it in the end though so that it get’s a proper context.

Here’s an installation shot of the painting’s on the wall.

Brian Higbees The History of Progress at Den Haag

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A.A.P.R.’s Ideal Model Homes for Living in the 21st Century

I finished 4 more collages in the series A.A.P.R.’s Ideal Model Homes for Living in the 21st Century in which I collage select paintings from the Associated Artists for Propaganda Research into images of fancy homes. I wrote about it here.

AAPRS Ideal Model Home for Living in the 21st Century (Brighter Future) By Brian Higbee, Future Living Projects and Associated Artists for Propaganda Research AAPRS Ideal Model Home for Living in the 21st Century (The Death of Lee) By Brian Higbee, Future Living Projects and Associated Artists for Propaganda Research AAPRS Ideal Model Home for Living in the 21st Century (The Hindenburg) By Brian Higbee, Future Living Projects and Associated Artists for Propaganda Research AAPRS Ideal Model Home for Living in the 21st Century (Wavy Davy) By Brian Higbee, Future Living Projects and Associated Artists for Propaganda Research

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A.A.P.R.’s Ideal Model Homes for Living in the 21st Century

I ‘m planning on making a series of collages that use the paintings from the Associated Artists for Propaganda Research within photographs from real estate magazines. The series is called A.A.P.R.’s Ideal Model Homes for Living in the 21st Century and will be used by both Future Living Projects and AAPR. I sometimes like to cross reference my projects and for this one I thought that it would be interesting to have Future Living Projects making artwork for the AAPR. SInce the AAPR will most likely never be shown in a fancy home like the ones shown in the real estate magazines, I thought that I could create my own “mock-up” installation showing how they would look. Here is the first one that I made. This one shows Corporate Freedom in the Age of Reason.

AAPRS Ideal Model Home for Living in the 21st Century (Corporate Wars) By Brian Higbee, Future Living Projects and Associated Artists for Propaganda Research

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The Black Box (Downing of Air Force One) and Epicenter City (Detail)

This is a photograph of The Black Box (Downing of Air Force One) that I took a long time ago and forgot about until I found it on the web. The_Black_Box_Detail_Brian_Higbee_Associated_Artists_for_Propaganda_Research The effect was made by accident because of the focus on my camera. The same effect happened in the detail shot of The Wall.  What I like about it is that it blurs the foreground and the background which is a technique that photographers use to make their photographs look like model landscapes. It’s called Diorama  Effect and it’s an easy effect to produce and creates some interesting photographs. I’ve often thought about photographing my model landscapes like this but have always decided not to. The reason I don’t is because then the photograph becomes art as well and the relationship between documentation and art become blurred and complex. I try and photograph my work so that it is as accurate of a representation of the work as possible. Below, just for fun, I used the Diorama Effect on a detail shot of Epicenter City. Epicenter_City Detail_2_Brian_Higbee_Associated_Artists_for_Propaganda_Research

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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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The Black Box (Downing of Air Force One) Version 1

The Black Box (Downing of Air Force One) is the first large scale floor model that I made as the Associated Artists for Propaganda Research. I started by purchasing a model of Air Force One, building it and destroying it by cutting it apart and burning parts of it to blacken them. I used white paint chips and blackened plastic pieces to create debris and studied photos of airplane crashes to try and figure out how it should look after the crash. The problem is that more serious plane crashes usually decimate the aircraft and I needed the aircraft to be slightly intact so I opted to minimize the damage. I decided that it would be best to have the nose intact, the tail intact, and most of the body of the plane intact. I also researched photos of Air Force One so I could apply the decals properly and paint it with right colors. Next I researched the type of sand that was available and chose the finest grained sand that I could find. I worked out some sketches for the platform structure and decided on simply using 2″x4″‘s with half inch rough plywood on top. I went to Pittsburgh and the warehouse space that I was showing in was giant. I had planned on making the platform for the sand only 8’x8′ but because the space was so big I decided to make it 14’x14’ so it wouldn’t get lost in the vastness. I went to the local lumberyard and purchased all of the wood and sand that I would need. The other problem that I ran across was lighting since the space had no lighting available. I decided on 2 large yellow work lights, each with 2 lights on it, to give it enough light. I built it fairly quickly and dumped all of my sand on top of the platform and started spreading it out evenly. I padded it down with the palm of my hand to create a smooth surface and spent time creating dunes to make it look more realistic. I started in the middle so I could place the model airplane in there first and worked my way out. I decided not to finish it with sides since I didn’t want to deal with the hassle of building them and instead left the sides exposed so that the structure can be seen underneath. I didn’t mind the rough finish but wish that I would have made the sides which is something that I’ve used on every floor piece since then. I set up my lights and used extension cords to run the power.

I was pleased with how it turned out my ability to adapt my piece to the space that it was being exhibited in. I find that it’s important to be able to logically respond to circumstances and conditions that arise when exhibiting in unknown spaces. Usually these circumstances become problematic to the proper viewing of the piece and the key is to find an adequate solution that makes sense for it. I should also say that the photographs for this weren’t very good and the detail is actually a reproduction that I made in my studio at a later date.

In 2003 I made another version of this piece for The Rotunda Gallery in Brooklyn which used a wooded landscape and was only 6’x6′. I’ll write about this one in my next post.

Here is what I wrote about version 1:

The Black Box (Downing of Air Force One) is a project that was first exhibited in Pittsburgh during the Pittsburgh International Sculpture Conference in the Spring of 2001. It featured a small scale model of the United States Presidential aircraft, Air Force One, burnt and broken in a large desert landscape. It was built using 20 bags of fine grained play sand spread out and smoothed on top of a large wooden platform. Two large work lights were used to beam a nonstop flood of bright desert light.

It was originally conceived as a way of outwardly criticizing the Persian Gulf War and the continuing sanctions against the people of Iraq throughout the 1990’s. The piece was designed to aggressively respond to the US government which foolishly brutalizes innocent civilians through massive military campaigns without the slightest fear of reproach. The UN council and the laws of the Geneva Convention do not warrant a war which has as its aim the blatant pollution and destruction of over 1 million people in the name of protecting oil interests.

The Black Box (Downing of Air Force One) is a way of conceptually destroying an important symbol of American tyranny, bringing to light a growing dissatisfaction with how we conduct our international affairs. It has become increasingly important for America to recognize itself as a prominent participant in the creation of a broad global community which values the rights of all people and scorns senseless acts of destruction as crimes no matter which side its on or from which side it comes.

The Black Box (Downing of Air Force One) Version 1 by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda ResearchThe Black Box (Downing of Air Force One) Version 1 (Detail) 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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Associated Artists for Propaganda Research Interview October 2004

Here’s an interview that I did with myself back in 2004. I found it in an old notebook. I guess I never finished it. At the time I was still interested in faking the timeline for the AAPR. I think that interviews are a great way to get out ideas without needing to follow a traditional way of writing about your work.

October 2004

An Interview with the Associated Artists for Propaganda Research.

Q: When did the Associated Artists for Propaganda Research first get together?

A: 1984, 1985 I think. We were loose knit in ’84 but things really didn’t congeal until early 1985. That was when our first show was.

Q: Was that Corporate Utopia/Corporate Control?

A: Well, there was actually a show earlier that year which was quite successful at the time. Looking back on it I’m not so sure.

Q: How did the A.A.P.R. come about?

A: Well a few of us in art school were doing a lot of research into specific propaganda techniques utilized against the unknowing public. In an artistic practice this theme tends to become problematic. Our aim was to try and utilize this information in a somewhat cohesive manner, perhaps to try and make sense of it. It grew from there of course, but the beginning came out of a simple sort of pragmatism.

Q: Influences?

A: Well the Situationists and Fluxus of course made a great use of social politics. It seemed very anarchistic. Also Dada at its very roots was really fucking with the pre-established order of how we understand the world. I think Punk did the most though to bring change to the most amount of people. It basically popularized it and made it cool. And the aesthetics were outstanding.

Q: What about post-Punk?

 A: What the hells that? I guess New Wave really followed but it was really just an extension of the Punk aesthetic. Don’t forget that New Wave and the Punks came out of the Mod culture.

Q: What religion do you practice if any?

A: Religion? I’m really more of an atheist/pessimist which requires no practice whatsoever. It’s probably what got me in this predicament to begin with. (laughs) Perhaps I should re-evaluate my position a little bit. I believe in a certain spirituality but no specific dogmas. It annoys me really (organized religion) because it only allows for growth under very specialized rules. It’s like saying I’m a Nietzschean, or a follower of Kafka. What does this mean? Philosophy doesn’t or shouldn’t follow such defined rules. What is religion but philosophy with a bit of spirituality thrown in. They used to go hand in hand. Why should I restrict myself?

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