By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
By Dennis Romero
The girls at the check-in table in front of the Standard Hotel Downtown fasten neon-pink wristbands on our arms and instruct us to retreat to the hotel lobby for drinks, deejaying and free wi-fi access once we’re finished viewing the art. They’re expecting more than a thousand people for the opening of SENT, America’s first phonecam art show, and need to keep the traffic flowing. We ride the elevator up to the fourth floor and walk down a long corridor of guest rooms, each with a HELLO MY NAME IS placard followed by the room number, before entering the Brunette Meeting Room.
It’s a small, stark, air-conditioned space with a tan carpet and white walls, save for a lone tan wall and modish wallpaper in the anteroom. Four iMac monitors positioned along the longest wall display loops of more than 500 photographs (and counting) submitted by camera-phone users from around the world. Only slightly larger than their actual size, the photos range from impulsive to mundane to utilitarian: a woman’s downward gaze at her breasts in a bra, the metallic buttons on a pay phone, a vehicle-registration sticker on a license plate.
An adjoining wall features similar photographs taken by celebrities, artists and technophiles, including Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban (a flat-screen TV airing a b-ball game), Weird Al Yankovic (a mirror image of his face) and ’80s counterculture photographer Glen E. Friedman (a clock with a sign below it reading, “Beware Pickpockets and Loose Women”). Viewers stand behind a black velvet rope, necks craned, eyes squinting, while electronic music coats the futuristic ambiance.
Xeni Jardin (pronounced SHEH-nee zhar-DAN), a platinum-blond technology-culture journalist for Wired magazine and NPR, came up with the idea for a phonecam art exhibition while in Barcelona last year for a bloggers’ conference. Experimenting with camera phones and inspired by Spain’s “beautiful collision” of wireless culture and Old World fine art and architecture, she began instant-messaging sixspace gallery owners Sean Bonner and wife Caryn Coleman about the new technology. Their ensuing virtual discussion led to a collective desire to convey the cultural change brought about by the evolution of cameras, and explore how phonecams and, by extension, digital cameras redefine not only the way we document the world around us but what it means to be a photographer — sort of like the way the introduction of digital music redefines what it means to be a musician.
Bonner says that the exhibition, which continues through Saturday and can be viewed at sentonline.com, was rushed into the Standard for two reasons: sixspace is booked for the next two years, and technological advancements such as mega-pixel phonecams, which yield essentially the same image quality as digital cameras, would undermine the show’s raw, extemporaneous aesthetic. “Camera phones bring it back to the basics,” adds erotic photographer and SENT participant Steve Diet Goedde. “Light, composition and content.”
Wil Wheaton is perhaps the most recognizable “name” in attendance; like the others, he received a V600 camera phone and free service for a month from exhibition sponsor Motorola. Since starring as Gordie Lachance in Stand by Me (remember the campfire story he told about the pie-eating contest that turned into a puke fest?), Wheaton rode the rails as a hobo, before becoming a writer and performer with ACME Comedy Theater. “Nowadays,” he admits, “I’m probably best known for my Web site, wilwheaton.net.” What Wheaton thinks is coolest about camera phones is just being able to photograph somebody doing something completely weird and random. Like eating pies.
There were more surf stars than movie stars at last Tuesday’s Hollywood premiere of Stacy Peralta’s Riding Giants. Which may be why the paparazzi lineup was low intensity until John Cusack showed up. That inspired a flurry of “This way, John! One more, John! Over here, John!” But as Cusack smoothed his way through the gauntlet, he went straight for one of the real stars of the night, the impossibly healthy and handsome Laird Hamilton, featured prominently in the film, and his impossibly lovely and tall wife, Gabby Reece, who was balancing their genetically blessed baby girl. During the course of the night, I heard two girls cooing over Hamilton: “If they ever make Barbie: The Movie, Laird would make a great Ken,” said one, and her friend responded: “Or G.I. Joe.”
Peralta, Hamilton and fellow watermen Sam George, Darrick Doerner, Jeff Clark and Greg Noll have spent the last month zinging all around the shady turf attending premieres for Riding Giantsand doing endless press in Chicago, New York, Honolulu . . . by L.A. they were pros.
“We’ve produced enough bullshit to flood the Queen Mary,” Noll said.
But when Hollywood and the surfing world mix, confusion and chaos reign. Inside the Egyptian Theater, I had a reserved ticket and walked the aisles, passing surfer-writer-director-gazillionaire Chris Carter, until I saw two empty seats that had little paper signs reading, “Reserved for Flea and Guest.”
I thought, “Flea isn’t here. If he were here he would have gone out of his way to insult me.” I was thinking, of course, of the world-famous Darryl “Flea” Virostko, one of California’s best big-wave surfers and a multiple-time Maverick’s champ. I happily sat down in his seat in the best part of the theater. Then, a nervous usher confronted me.