By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
By Jeff Balke
Art: As an artist living in New Orleans, I still see FEMA trailers and am sensitive to their ability to so easily evoke disaster and disappointment. I believe Paul Villinski's trailer is a very subtle, and yet complex, response to the situation. He has taken his time and empathized with what it means to recover while folding hope back into such a concrete disaster and political failure.
As an art critic with your one interviewee, you have made elitist, narcissistic, misplaced comments in reviewing a piece as emotionally loaded, uplifting and innovative as this.
Just because Villinski wasn't here to experience Katrina, doesn't mean that his interpretation gets discarded. Living here all of my life, I am too aware that this city functions much better with transplants and visitors. Villinski may not live in New Orleans, but his trailer is just another welcome visual thought, which I call art.
Sidonie from New Orleans
One-sided: I have just finished reading your article for the third time, and I feel that there needs to be some commentary to balance the one-sided view you have offered with regard to Paul Villinski's "Emergency Response Studio." First, let me clarify that Villinski did not swoop into New Orleans, uninvited, and begin to try and "tell" us New Orleanians how to deal with "our" crisis. I met Paul in New York two years prior to Katrina, and after "our" disaster, I invited him to come to New Orleans in August 2006 to stay with me and source his materials, as he does in New York, from his immediate surroundings — which in NOLA meant the detritus of a Katrina-wrecked landscape (one year after, it was still everywhere).
His sensitivity to "our" crisis was evident in the works that were created out of the materials he found across NOLA, from the Lower Ninth to Lakeview and St. Bernard (see his 2006 Airlift exhibition). New Orleanians responded positively to the show. This is where "ERS" was born — in his wanting to stay in New Orleans and make work to respond to the crisis, he needed a studio to work out of...thus, the idea.
Villinski created "ERS" as a prototype that could be deployed to respond to natural disasters across the country. Without a mobile studio, how can an artist, in the Lower Ninth Ward or anywhere, respond to the environment and the situation? Why don't you start there? The conceptual nature of this work is the point. Asking whether it is art or not is to be very shortsighted and narrow-minded.
If you had lived through Katrina, when every damn inch of green space was taken over by FEMA trailers, you would understand more fully that this work symbolizes hope for a new and better way of thinking about post-disaster living/creating. And when you interview only one person, Ashley Lu, about how she "imagines the local response," I say, why don't you do your journalistic job and interview those in NOLA, where the concept originated?
Comment by jonathan ferrara from
Thank goodness you wrote this article! After viewing this exhibition at Rice University Gallery, I began asking the same questions about the value of this project. I wondered about Villinski's motivations, and why he insisted on calling this project "art." I also came to the conclusion that this project is completely self-serving, narcissistic and exploitative.
I do have to give Villinski credit for his business acumen. To fly in from New York a year after the event and understand how to pocket a huge commission from a disaster he has no actual connection to is pretty clever. Not an original idea (see Wikipedia article entitled "Carpetbagger"), but clever nonetheless.
For anyone to suggest that this project has had or could have had value to anyone in the lower Ninth Ward after Katrina seems utterly ludicrous. If you actually believe that, I strongly suggest you stop talking to anyone involved in the buying, selling or creation of art, and begin interacting with the people in the Ninth Ward you purport to know so much about.
Comment by J. Jenkins from Beaumont
It's the Worst
Online readers respond to "The Scientifically Engineered Worst Song in the World," by Craig Hlavaty, Rocks Off blog, February 13:
Not cool: Why in the world are you knocking Clay Aiken? Have you heard his music? I didn't think so! Clay is not only a great singer, he's also a consummate entertainer and a wonderful humanitarian. Plus, it's no longer cool to diss Clay Aiken!
Terribad Clay: I couldn't listen for more than two and a half minutes. The operatic cowboy style was fire, though. In my personal opinion, Clay Aiken is terribad. (And I'm not a homophobe. I have a gay friend named Ron.)
I actually like this: Is there a download link on the site? One of my friends described this perfectly. "It's like if Revolution 9 was covered by TMBG and the London Symphony Orchestra." Ten minutes in, and I love it, and I'm not being sarcastic.
The Houston Press regrets the error.