Chatting with the Artist Who Turned Edward Snowden into a Mobile Sculpture
On Friday, October 10, Edward Snowden appeared in New York’s Union Square, though few recognized him at first. You couldn’t blame passersby for missing him—the nine-and-a-half-foot-tall, 200-pound sculpture of the world’s most famous whistle-blower didn’t have any distinguising marks; he was just a giant white man made of concrete hanging out in the park. In a moment too serendipitous to make up, the first person to clearly recognize the model of the controversial NSA document leaker was none other than Glenn Greenwald, who happened to be eating breakfast nearby.
"It was totally random—we didn’t tweet at him or anything," said artist Jim Dessicino, who created the statue and put it in Union Square as part of the Art in Odd Places Festival. I talked to the Delaware-based sculptor and MFA candidate the next day, as he was unloading the sculpture in the Meatpacking District. “I emailed him months ago about the sculpture, and he never got back to me.”
NYC: Richard Kern’s Throwing a Release Party Tonight for ‘Girl Friend Boy Friend’
We’ve spent years doing unforgivable things while looking at Richard Kern’s photos in the privacy of our homes, and tonight the photographer is offering us the chance to take our creepy fanaticism to the next level.
To celebrate the release of his new book and exhibition, Girl Friend Boy Friend (Shizen Books), Kern is throwing a party at Webster Hall’s Balcony Lounge in NYC where he’ll be selling undies, presumably worn by the babes in his pics. We’re not joking—there will be an edition of 100 panties, as well as 300 books at the event. For sale. Tonight. Take a deep breath, friends.
It will be like visiting one of those Japanese vending machines, but at a party filled with cool people, music, etc. The event goes until 4 AM, so you’ll have plenty of time to sneak a pair of those briefs into the bathroom for a big inhale. RSVP here.
Will the Climate Change March Make a Difference to the Elites Who Run the World?
On Sunday, more than 300,000 people came out for the People’s Climate March in Manhattan. Easily the largest environmental rally in history, the spectacle was a diverse and frenetic show of force, and in that sense was a spectacular success. The lingering question that was hanging over the proceedings still remains, however: Is all of that sound and fury going to make a difference to the global elites meeting across town at the United Nations for the latest Very Important Climate Change Summit on Tuesday?
Led by a procession of indigenous peoples, activists got things started just before 11:30 AM. In addition to your typical flower-adorned hippie types, there were black and Hispanic kids from around the country. The summer of police brutality punctuated by the death of Eric Garner in New York and Michael Brown in Missouri was never far from the surface, their names intermittently chanted by the legions of protesters.
The event was essentially a giant party. Elaborate floats coasted slowly down the street surrounded by activists with signs demanding action and marching bands. Inside the crowd was a smattering of radicals convinced that the environmental movement’s leaders are kidding themselves if they think carbon emissions can be reduced—and global warming’s worst effects averted—without dramatically reshaping the global economy.
Ryan McGinley’s Yearbook Shut Down an Entire City Block
A week ago, on a balmy Sunday evening in downtown Manhattan, a photography show shut down an entire city block. It was the New York edition of Ryan McGinley’s Yearbook installation at Team Gallery, where vivid and hedonistic portraits of beautiful youngsters have been wallpapered to every surface in the gallery. I saw a similar exhibition of McGinley’s Yearbookpictures in San Francisco last fall, but this new show takes the installation to an even more elaborate and all-encompassing level, coating every surface of the gallery in glossy, chromatic youth-beauty, so that not an inch of white wall remains. The photos, shot over the last 5 years in McGinley’s Chinatown studio, picture sweethearts of the downtown art scene, and everyone looks like they’re having fun. The air is getting colder, so back-to-school vibes are strong, and this seems like the perfect time to be looking at photos called Yearbook. VICE asked Ryan a few questions to find out more.
VICE: How many photos are in the exhibition?
Ryan McGinley: The show has over 700 photographs stuck on the walls. Most people have two different photos from their studio shoot.
How many years did it take you to shoot all the portraits for Yearbook?
The project has taken 5 years. I’ve shot peoples portraits ever month for it in my Chinatown studio in NYC since 2009.
Where did the idea to totally cover the gallery walls come from?
I’ve always loved how street advertisements in NYC are wheat pasted on top of each other. I talked with a guy late one night who was doing it and he explained the process to me.
Who are the people in the photographs?
Everyone I shoot is part of downtown’s creative community. Painters, Musicians, Dancers, Writers, Sculptors or Photographers. Those are the people that understand what I do and are excited to pose nude for me.
What’s a typical studio shoot like?
I really love to have people lay on the floor and slowly move around, there is something so intimate about being on the ground together. Then we pick up the pace and the model gets to choose three songs they love to jam out to and we dance. Sometimes we break out the mini trampoline and jump around in circles on it. I’ve also got a treadmill that we’ve cut the guardrails off of and people run on that. I love collecting old beat up chairs that get thrown out from the streets of Chinatown. I’ve got a collection of them that models sit on, they’ve got character.
How One of NYC’s Most Storied Cops Became Public Enemy No. 1
In early August, just four days after Michael Brown was gunned down by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, and just under a month after 43-year-old, father of six, Eric Garner, was killed on camera while the NYPD attempted to arrest him, retired Deputy Inspector Corey Pegues appeared on an episode of the popular hip-hop podcast, the Combat Jack Show.
What followed was a fascinating conversation in which Pegues detailed his childhood growing up as one of five kids with an alcoholic father and struggling mother in rough and tumble North Queens. The family’s dire financial straits led Corey to get involved in the street life at age 13. “The ironic thing is I think about Eric Garner getting murdered in Staten Island—for the record, you heard what I said, murdered—is at 13, I [was] selling loosies.”
After a few years as a “hobbyist” drug dealer, Pegues says he graduated from loosies to becoming a full-fledged member of Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff’s notorious Supreme Team.
Pegues operated as a loyal solider in the Supreme Team for years, engaging in various street brawls, gun fights, and robberies. But that all changed in 1988 when Corey’s first son was born. “When my son was born, I was like: ‘What kind of hero am I going to be? I’m either going to be a street legend or somebody positive,” Pegues told Combat Jack. “That was the change in my life. If you’re 25 and you’re selling drugs, you’re either going to be dead or in jail.”
Spike Jonze Made a Surprise ‘Music Video’ for Karen O
On Sunday we made a one-act play for my friend Humberto’s company, Opening Ceremony. The idea was to do a play instead of a regular fashion show during Fashion Week, and, miraculously, we were able to do it at the New York Metropolitan Opera House. (Thank you, Peter Gelb and everyone at the Met!) Also, this week my dear friend Karen is putting out her first solo album of precious, personal love and heartache gems titled Crush Songs. They are songs made so intimately and spontaneously alone in her bedroom a few years ago that they feel more like unguarded whispers from her heart than a traditionally produced album. So on Sunday, during a ten-minute break as we were rehearsing and lighting at the Met, we made a very impromptu “music video” for Karen in the spirit of her album. It just seemed like if you have the Opera House, that song, and Elle Fanning together, you shouldn’t let the opportunity go by. So we made this as a surprise gift for Karen to congratulate her on her album. She is going to see this for the first time as you do. I hope you enjoy.
Why People of Color in NYC Still Don’t Trust the Cops
On July 17, New York City police officers surrounded Eric Garner, an overweight, asthmatic black man, near his home on Staten Island. According to Garner’s neighborhood pal Ramsey Orta, the cops were hassling Garner, a 43-year-old father of six, because they thought he was involved in a street scuffle. The police’s version of the incident is that they approached Garner for selling individual cigarettes—“loosies”—which is illegal because the government doesn’t collect taxes on those sales.
As captured on video by Orta, Garner complained about routine NYPD harassment and was subsequently placed in a choke hold by a plainclothes officer named Daniel Pantaleo. With his head being smashed against the ground and the cops holding him down, Garner cried out, “I can’t breathe!” nine times—you can watch the video on YouTube yourself and count—to no avail. He was pronounced dead at a hospital an hour later, and the video quickly went viral. It bears a horrifying resemblance to the climactic scene of Radio Raheem getting murdered by the NYPD in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing—Lee even created his own mash-up of the two scenes after Garner’s death.
Almost immediately, cries rang out that Garner was a casualty of “broken windows” policing. That’s the theory that says going after minor quality-of-life offenses like graffiti, subway panhandling, and illegal cigarette sales helps discourage serious crimes like rape and murder. It’s the brainchild of criminologist George Kelling, who co-authored a 1982 Atlantic article that remains a sort of manual for modern policing in America. Broken windows was popularized by William Bratton, the NYPD commissioner in the 90s under Mayor Rudy Giuliani who has taken up his old post under the new mayor, Bill de Blasio. The mythology holds that it was the chief factor in the city’s incredible turnaround since the high-crime 70s and 80s—though many criminologists disagree.
Jason Polan Is Trying/Failing to Draw Every Person in New York City
Artist Jason Polan is trying to draw every person in New York City, and he’s failing.
Over six years ago, the idea formed in his head, and when it existed in the laboratory that sits between his ears, the concept was so simple, so clean, so utterly perfect in the way a circle drawn by some theoretical supercomputer is perfect. A) There is New York. B) There are people in New York. So, C) There could exist a total, whole and complete document of Every Person in New York.
But then, just after conception, the idea left his head and entered the world—as any art that ends up actually existing does—and became subject to the brutal elements of this sloppy place where drawing a perfect circle is, it turns out, inherently impossible. Suddenly, “Every Person in New York” was flawed, messy, ugly even.
Jason wouldn’t know if he was drawing residents, tourists or those just passing through. He could go door-to-door with piles of census data, but there’d still be plenty of people who existed off the grid, or people who moved here since the last data collection, or babies being born, or people dying, or some other factor that made New York a subject that just wouldn’t sit still. Any way he approached it, there would be countless tiny gaps in a portrait of the city, holes that would render the thing fatally incomplete. And even if Polan somehow disentangled this logistical puzzle, there was still the most glaring problem of all: He would have to draw something like 14 people an hour for 70 years to include “every person.”