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March 19, 2012 | by

Detail from the Von exhibition poster.

It’s not immediately clear that there’s an art show happening at Von. The Bleecker Street wine bar always has art up, often the work of Charles von Herrlich, the bar’s owner. If anything, the pieces now hanging seem more eclectic, less unified, than usual. There are photo collages, street art, and a shattered mirror pressed into a rounded ceramic cone. There are no titles or names. The most obvious clue that there’s a show on is a handwritten sign saying that it continues downstairs.

“The guiding logic was that I know everyone in the show personally,” explains Emil Memon, the genial Slovenian expat who curated the show. On the Sunday night before the show—or the Monday morning, he corrects himself—he was “swept up in the big craziness of the Armory and wanted to do something more independent, more democratic.” He immediately e-mailed, texted, and called dozens of artists asking for pieces—and Charles, asking whether he could use the bar. He put the exhibition together in four days. “It wouldn’t have been possible even two years ago, without the smartphone and Facebook.”

Emil talks a lot about how technology helped him get the show together, but as he talks it becomes clear that he built his social network the old way: by hanging out in galleries and East Village bars and by being very enthusiastic about everything everyone is doing. When I ask people how they know Emil, most say “from around” with a look that says, How could you not.

An example of what around can mean. Andrew Strasser, who has an ominously lit video downstairs of himself getting hosed with Diet Coke, met Emil late one night at Vaselka while they were waiting for their checks. Later he brought Emil along as muscle in a job interview with Santos Party House. “I thought it’d help to make them wonder who this weird old guy standing there was.” Andrew says that he found out he was in the show when he saw his name on the flyer.Read More »

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Playing the Field

August 11, 2011 | by

Kacie Kinzer, Tweenbot, 2009, cardboard, paper, ink, batteries, motor, and wheels, 36 x 8 1/2 x 14 in. Photo © Scott Rudd

On a recent balmy night, in the courtyard of the Museum of Modern Art, I watch a dozen adults hop excitedly between platters of white, gray, and black arrayed in a circle. They move at a waltzlike pace, stepping, stopping, pointing. This strange spectacle isn’t an art project, exactly, but a game: part of a one-night arcade organized by the magazine Kill Screen for MoMA’s exhibition of interactive objects, “Talk to Me.”

The game is called Starry Heaven, after Kant’s epigram that the two things that fill him with wonder and awe are “the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me.” The rules of Starry Heaven, however, are decidedly unfriendly to anyone following the moral law within him. As players move from disc to disc toward the center of the circle, they must conspire with each other to point at another player on an adjacent disk, banishing him. “It requires them to collaborate with their fellow players—and to stab them in the back,” says Eric Zimmerman, who designed the game with Nathalie Pozzi, an architect. “It tells a perverse moral fable.”

Another game, in the museum’s lobby, takes a more laissez-faire approach to pitting players against each other. It has only one rule—to follow the instructions that appear on a screen—but the game’s title, BUTTON, for Brutally Unfair Tactics Totally OK Now, encourages players to break it. As I walk toward the five-foot-wide screen, it tells the four men standing in front of it that the first one to hit his button ten times will lose. They run, dive, grabbing their bucket-size rubber buttons from the floor—and then they stop, seemingly at a loss. Cautiously they press their own buttons, watching each other: a suicide pact. Then, one of them grabs his neighbor’s button and starts bashing it furiously. People in line cheer as the screen shows his competitor’s animal avatars blasted by lightening bolts. He walks away with his arms raised in triumph. Read More »

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