Unreal Nature

June 25, 2018

Hand in Hand with Market Forces

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:34 am

… selecting what is included and excluded is one way in which culture is produced.

Continuing through The Culture of Curating and the Curating of Culture(s) by Paul O’Neill (2012):

… As Andrea Fraser suggests, no matter how immaterial, relational, public or prominent its placement is, “art is art when it exists for discourses and practices that recognize it as art, value and evaluate it as art, and consume it as art, whether as object, gesture, representation, or only idea.”

[line break added] That which is announced as art is always already institutionalized by the system within which it functions simply because it exists within the perception of those involved in the field of art. In other words, “the institution of art is not something external to any work but the irreducible condition of its existence as art.” Without its institution interior to art, there is no art.

As a critical component of the institution of art, the act of curating conveys value to art through its presentation and discussion; thus the curator was seen as a vital insider.

… According to Brian O’Doherty, this awareness of the space around the work had already begun in the 1950s and 1960s when the significance of an individual artwork was determined by the place it was assigned among and alongside other works.

… The curator was thus presented as an “arbiter of taste” whose single-handed selection of artists and artworks was seen as “guaranteeing their omnipotence.” As Liam Gillick wrote in 1992, the act of curating functions “to create a set of mediating factors between the artist and others” through which to view artworks. Yet while the curatorial “contextualizing structures” seem to be innovative approaches to showing art, Gillick continues, in reality curatorial decisions go hand in hand with “market forces and the private gallery.”

… Whichever form exhibitions take, they are also the primary site of exchange in the political economy of art, the point at which “signification is constructed, maintained and occasionally, deconstructed,” where one can “establish and administer meanings of art.”

[line break added] While writing that concentrates solely on display practices within exhibitions at the expense of the works of art comprising them, “can be seen as a crisis in art criticism and its languages,” it is also important to consider that the ephemeral nature of the temporary exhibition often means that the ways in which artworks are experienced are overlooked or remain undocumented and underrepresented. As Staniszewski asserts, selecting what is included and excluded is one way in which culture is produced.

My most recent previous post from O’Neill’s book is here.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

June 24, 2018

All It Lacks Is a Germ

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:39 am

… Its potency is a vitality that is still untamed, a pure nature …

This is from The Philosophy of Simondon: Between Technology and Individuation by Pascal Chabot translated by Aliza Krefetz and Graeme Kirkpatrick (2003):

… The relation does not connect A and B once they have already been constituted. It is operative from the start. It is interior to their being. The relation is not an accidental feature that emerges after the fact to give the substance a new determination. On the contrary: no substance can exist or acquire determinate properties without relations to other substances and to a specific milieu. To exist is to be connected.

[ … ]

… Chaos has no logical positivity of its own. It is not individuated. But Simondon plays time against logic. Rather than expressing it in negative terms, he describes chaos as the ‘not yet.’ The empty glass is not yet full. The chaotic milieu is not yet individuated: it is ‘pre-individual.’ It is awaiting individuation; the necessary energetic conditions have already been met; all it lacks is a germ to initiate the process. In Aristotelian terms, the pre-individual would be potency without action — a pure passivity.

[line break added] But Simondon rejects this terminology: Aristotle gives primacy to the act and defines potency in terms of that which the act is lacking. This conception of potency is framed in terms of logical absence (i.e. negation). And yet, the pre-individual is positive. It is a generative and creative potency. Its potency is a vitality that is still untamed, a pure nature, a physis, a natura naturans. The pre-individual is nature seized at its source, nature still untouched by determination, formless and limitless, but already full of a vitality that will be shaped by determination.

My most recent previous post from Chabot’s book is here.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

June 23, 2018

To Be Initiated into Another Sensibility

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:00 am

… Unless something particular to our confrontations with these pictures drives us to imagine in the more complex way …

This is from the essay ‘The Spectator in the Picture’ by Robert Hopkins found in Richard Wollheim on the Art of Painting: Art as Representation and Expression edited by Rob van Gerwen (2001):

… There is a superficial but nagging problem concerning the value of pictures qua representations. It stems from the fact that every picture fundamentally conveys the same sort of content. For every picture represents some object or objects, in a suitably broad sense of the term; the properties those objects enjoy; and states of affairs of which those objects form constituents.

… Why should this make problematic our appreciating pictures for their content?

… the problem begins with the question whether pictures can represent anything other than scenes, anything in addition to the features of the world listed above. For if they cannot, one might wonder why we should bother looking at the pictures rather than devoting our visual attention to scenes themselves, either the very scenes the pictures represent if they are available, or scenes suitably similar to those represented.

… [This issue] can be sidestepped if pictures are indeed free to convey contents other than the mere representation of scenes. Consider the situation if, in particular, they can represent scenes along with reactions to them on the part of some implicit observer of the world depicted. These reactions might be of thought or of feeling. They must concern the scene, but might also involve broader currents of ideas or affective disposition. Were this possible, appeal to what a picture represents could readily explain the interest of the picture over the corresponding scene.

[line break added] When we confront scenes face-to-face, while we may react to them ourselves, we never confront a representation of some possible set of reactions. Thus looking at pictures offers, as looking at the things depicted would not, the chance to explore how someone else might react, to be initiated into another sensibility.

Wollheim thinks that some pictures contain an internal spectator, an implied viewer of the depicted scene, through whose eyes we are to see it. His account of quite what this involves is both detailed and illuminating of the aesthetic interest of the phenomenon. So, if right, it provides part of a solution to the problem of pictorial value outlined above. Only part, because Wollheim thinks that only a subset of aesthetically valuable pictures contain internal spectators.

Hopkins is skeptical of the need for imagining an ‘internal spectator’:

… Suppose I ask you to imagine what it is like to be crushed by an enormous weight. You might, I suppose, do this by imagining the experiences of some other person meeting that fate and then imaginatively identifying with the sufferings that person undergoes. But it would be far more natural simply to imagine yourself being crushed. And, I suggest, this is because, quite generally, where an imaginative project requires us to imagine certain experiences, attitudes or actions, we normally imagine ourselves in those situations, rather than someone else in them with whom we then identify.

[line break added] My claim is not that we cannot do the latter. I am not promoting some form of the thesis that imagining necessarily concerns oneself. I claim only that doing what I have described is the default option, that which, as a matter of psychological fact, we go in for unless we are coaxed into doing otherwise.

Given this, we should expect this default to hold when we engage with pictures, and in particular with those pictures Wollheim discusses. There too what we naturally imagine, if we imagine anything of this sort at all, is simply ourselves confronting the depicted object. As I have argued, imagining in this way allows us to reap the benefits, in terms of a deepened understanding of the picture, which form Wollheim’s central concern.

[line break added] So why think that we reap those benefits by any means other than those we standardly deploy when imagining experiences, attitudes, etc. quite generally? Unless something particular to our confrontations with these pictures drives us to imagine in the more complex way Wollheim has described, we will just do what we normally do.

The above seems to contradict Hopkins’s earlier statement: “… looking at pictures offers … the chance to explore how someone else might react, to be initiated into another sensibility.”

My most recent previous post from this book is here.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

June 22, 2018

These Necessary Words in This Necessary Order

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:38 am

… This is a translation! / Is it?

Continuing through This Little Art by Kate Briggs (2017):

… I’m also very inclined to agree that there’s great value in reading in the original. Perhaps something like the value we recognize and invest in literature. The right words in the right order, as Virginia Woolf puts it so simply in her talk on craftsmanship, delivered over the radio in 1937. These necessary words, in this necessary order.

[line break added] There is literature, arguably, or what we call the literary, when this matters: when we feel like something would be wrong should ever these words or their ordering be changed (if Clarissa Dalloway were to buy gloves and not the flowers herself, for example, as she does in an early draft of the novel). In this sense, literary translation, as a labor of changing words, and changing the orders of words, is always and from the outset wrong: its wrongness is a way of indirectly stressing and restressing the rightness of the original words in their right and original order.

… A translation becomes a translation only when someone (the translator, the publisher, the reader, an institution) declares it to be one; up until that point, writes [Theo] Hermans, the status of her writing is ‘merely another text.’

… [Declaring something to be a translation changes so many things] as in a brilliantly simple and provocative exercise I once observed a student set our translation class. She gave the group an original piece of writing and its translation, but had privately made them swap places. So what we read was an excerpt from a novel originally published in English but presented to us as if it were a translation from the French. Everyone was predictably critical of the English (in other words the original), finding it to be in different ways poorly written, misjudged, mistaken with regards to the rightness of the French (which was actually the translation).

[line break added] Everyone was a bit flushed and affronted, quickly backtracking when the trick of the exercise was revealed. Which suggests that rather than testifying to any identifiable quality of the prose itself, the categories of ‘original’ and ‘translation’ act more like placeholders: ‘original’ and ‘translation’ are the names for the positions we put writing in, and for the histories of writing labor we then assign to them (first-time writing, second-time writing). Positions which can then orientate and determine, in quite striking ways, the way the writing gets read.

[line break added] As in the sequence which closes Anne Carson’s Nay Rather, an essay on translation, where the familiar stops and signs from the London Underground, collected and sequenced, are thereby pronounced a translation of the Greek poet Ibykos’s fragment 286; and, on the facing page, the lines taken and set out from pages 136-7 of Conversations with Kafka by Gustav Janouch are likewise thereby pronounced a translation of that same fragment; and, turning the page again, so too are the words lifted from pages 17-18 of The Owner’s Manual of her new Emerson 1000w microwave oven.

[line break added] Carson calls this — the project of ‘translating a small fragment of ancient Greek lyric poetry over and over again using wrong words’ — not exactly an exercise in translating, nor even an exercise in untranslating, but more like a ‘catastrophizing of translation.’ She also calls it ‘a sort of stammering.’

[ … ]

… This is a translation!

Is it? I feel sure that something would happen — some adjustment to your reading manner would be very likely to occur — if you were to hear me all of a sudden insisting that it is.

My most recent previous post from Briggs’s book is here.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

June 21, 2018

Since the Beginning of Time

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:35 am

… art functions as a kind of freedom. … You can invent any idea …

This is from the title essay by Anne Seymour to Richard Long: Walking in Circles (1991):

… One of his first works, done out-of-doors and dating from 1964, consists of a photograph of a snowball and its track. At the beginning of a long line of objects rolled, thrown or kicked this lumpy, rotating, roundish object was created basically of and by itself and its surroundings. It had a specific cycle explicit in the traces of the journey which caused its existence and in the substance from which it was made.

[line break added] This idea of something made of almost nothing, containing both end and beginning simultaneously, as nearly as possible self-begotten, achieved with such simplicity and ease that it is both magic and mysterious, and in the making of which the artist appears to be simply the privileged transmitter, has been part of art since the beginning of time. Richard Long has found a way of using it to make art which reflects the human predicament in the late twentieth century with equal relevance.

… Every path, like every work of art, has a mysterious sense of purpose about it deriving from the traces of energy of its making and the withdrawn presence of that energy.

From ‘Fragments of a Conversation’ these are Long’s own words:

… the tide was out and there was this beautiful bed of wet, soggy, bubbly seaweed on this stony beach, and I made a cross of stones on the seaweed. My idea for a sculpture was just to make a cross of stones on the seabed as the tide went out. When I woke up the next morning and unzipped the tent and looked out over the bay, the tide had come in and instead of seeing my cross of stones I actually saw the image of my work suspended on the surface of the water because the stones were keeping the seaweed down.

[line break added] So that work was made miraculously a lot better by the tide coming in and covering it. That as a kind of amazing bonus. So it actually became a work about half-tide, because of course, when the tide came up full all the seaweed was completely under the water.


Half-Tide, 1971

[ … ]

… It interests me very much that art functions as a kind of freedom. It’s like an open point of view. You can invent any idea and that’s enough — you can just do it.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

June 20, 2018

Why Does Something Become Something?

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:54 am

… structures of meaning and structures of desire cannot be separated.

Continuing through ‘The Ethics of Not-Knowing: Wolfgang Tillmans’s truth study center‘ by Tom McDonough found in Wolfgang Tillmans: What’s wrong with redistribution? (2016):

… He has said that the questions posed by the tabletops are those that turn upon the interval between ignorance and knowledge: “When do developments become noticeable? When is a process recognizable? Which one achieves critical mass? When does something become something? When do things become visible? What can pictures make visible?”

Julie Ault … has provocatively compared his displays with “a teenager’s room,” its walls papered over with a heterogeneous array of ephemera to form “a constellation of images and things installed floor-to-ceiling, edge-to-edge in order to articulate, claim, and control every inch of space.” She sees this as the Ur-model for the artist’s mature embrace of “active design with constant change and democratic display as guiding principles.” We could call it an affective archive, a gathering of, as Tillmans describes it, “objects of visual and physical attraction, which carry aesthetic and emotional charges.”

… as Jan Verwoert put it, because Tillmans’s work is always “saturated with affect,” structures of meaning and structures of desire cannot be separated.

He speaks of his installations as “a language of personal associations and ‘thought-maps’,” which seems an apt way to portray the truth study centers as well. It effectively captures their non-linear quality, the sense in which the tabletops are “only readable to a certain degree; there is no conclusive interpretation or clear-cut agenda.”

… this not-knowing is neither a simple lack of comprehension nor the knowing pose of a faux-naif who in fact sees things more clearly than his audience; it is, rather, a strategic choice of great importance for his work. Tillmans’s stance — what he describes as an embrace of duality or coexistence, and what we might call working in the space between the desire to understand and its impossibility — is precisely what solicits their response.

My most recent previous post from this book is here.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

June 19, 2018

Instability

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:41 am

… Although a sealed structure, Condensation Cube is entirely dependent upon its ambient surroundings …

This is from the editor’s essay, ‘Where We Begin: Opening the system, c. 1970’ found in Open Systems: Rethinking Art c. 1970 edited by Donna De Salvo (2005):

… At first glance, Hans Haacke’s Condensation Cube 1963-5 may seem deceptively simple. First shown at the Howard Wise Gallery in New York, it is a sealed Perspex box, 30x30x30 centimeters, containing a small amount of water. As light enters, the cube warms and the water within condenses on its interior walls, collecting at the bottom to perpetuate the process.

[line break added] Initially, Haacke was involved with an analysis of physical and biological systems, including living plants and animals, and the physical states of water and wind. Condensation Cube is just one of a series of works the artist produced in the early 1960s combining technological with organic processes to make visible the physical forces of nature.

… Although a sealed structure, Condensation Cube is entirely dependent upon its ambient surroundings: light and temperature directly influence the process of condensation happening within, placing viewer and work in real time and space. As artist and critic Jack Burnham wrote: ‘Traditionally, artworks exist in “mythical time,” that is in an ideal historical timeframe separated from the day-to-day events of the real world.

[line break added] Some systems and conceptual artists, such as Haacke, attempt to integrate their works in the actual events of the “real world,” that is the world of politics, money-making, ecology, industry, and other pursuits.’ The phenomenologically-based practices of Minimalism which required the viewer to navigate the spaces around and within works also placed the viewer in real time and space.

[line break added] They became implicated in an interconnected system of objects in space, engaged in perceptual changes as they moved around the objects. The objects themselves, however, remained materially stable, whereas Haacke now added instability, allowing him to ‘make something which experiences, reacts to its environment, changes, is nonstable.’

My most recent previous post from this book is here.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

June 18, 2018

Creation Is All About Mediators

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:41 am

“… I need my mediators to express myself and they’d never express themselves without me …”

Continuing through The Culture of Curating and the Curating of Culture(s) by Paul O’Neill (2012):

… there were many actors and actions at play in the construction of art and its exhibition value. The sudden visibility of the curatorial hand made differentiation between the author of the work and the independent curator increasingly complicated.

… There were many exhibition moments in which the artwork (that which is made for presentation by an artist), the curatorial structure (the principal organizational framework for which this artwork is made), the techniques of mediation (the methods employed to communicate the work beyond the exhibition form), and the exhibition format (the type of presentation in which these relations are made manifest to a public) collapsed into one another.

… Change in what constituted the “mediator” proposed that the curator was a proactive agent in the communication chain (artist as sender, curator as mediator, viewer as receiver). The curator was primarily responsible for the production of the means (exhibition formats) through which forms of information (artworks, curatorial ideas) were mobilized. As Gilles Deleuze envisaged, creativity is a movement or flow that necessitates a mediator to keep things open and alive as part of an active communication network:

Creation is all about mediators. Without them nothing happens. They can be people — for a philosopher, artists or scientists; for a scientist, philosophers or artists — but things too, even plants or animals. … Whether they are real or imaginary, animate or inanimate, you have to form your mediators. It’s a series. If you’re not in some series, even a completely imaginary one, you’re lost. I need my mediators to express myself and they’d never express themselves without me: you’re always working in a group, even when you seem to be on your own.

[ … ]

… [To one Szeemann-curated exhibition] artists objected to being exhibited in thematic classification without their permission.

… What was at issue in this moment of antagonism was the power to shape the public appearance of art.

The idea of an art exhibition as a “curated” space made it apparent that there was a remit operating beyond the interests of the artists, which occasionally closed down art’s semiautonomous function or opened it up to new alignments. This provided a space of critical contestation that extended beyond a centralized critique of works of art — which, ironically, increasingly concerned themselves with mediation and the language of mediation as already outlined — and began to address the curated exhibition as its own entity, as an object of critique.

My most recent previous post from O’Neill’s book is here.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

June 17, 2018

This Couple Has Arrived

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:45 am

… the technological life consists not of humans directing machines, but of humans learning ‘to exist at the same level as them.’ We must be coupled with multiple machines.

This is from The Philosophy of Simondon: Between Technology and Individuation by Pascal Chabot translated by Aliza Krefetz and Graeme Kirkpatrick (2003):

… ‘Information machines’ are situated at the point where two philosophical traditions intersect. They mediate between a material tradition and a logical tradition. In one tradition, logical reasoning must be expressed verbally; in the other, it must be ‘materialized,’ that is, represented visually and concretely through the use of a supporting mechanism.

… Cybernetics is the meeting point of these two traditions. In computer science, the operation that describes this convergence is called implementation. To implement is to inscribe a logical structure in material form, by programming an electronic circuit.

Simondon distinguishes two ‘layers’ in an object: an internal layer — the technical nucleus (noyau technique), and an external layer. The former is the true zone of technological activity. The combustion chamber of a motor, the engine of an airplane, or the microprocessor of a computer respond only to technological pressures.

[line break added] Hidden from the scrutiny of the uninitiated, they cannot be modified without affecting their performance. They are technological black boxes. The nucleus is covered by an external layer, the superficial form which ‘materializes’ human values and fashions — what Simondon calls ‘psycho-social inferences.’

… He separates the essence from the inessential, the technological constant from social variations. The depth of his analysis is made possible by this bracketing of the inessential. By focusing exclusively on the essence of technology, he discovers its guiding principles.

… This distinction between the essence and the inessential links Simondon to the epic presentation of history [as opposed to the contingent one]. It compels him to distinguish between two evolutions: the evolution of the core of the object and that of its external layer.

… [On the other hand] The contingent presentation of history rejects this distinction. It does not minimize the importance of technology, but it connects technology to the other dimensions. In Aramis, or the love of technology, Latour gives an account of the evolution of a project to build a new metro system in Paris. Engineers, politicians, and financiers all have a hand in the venture. Each of them attempts to impose their interests on the plans for the project. Latour demonstrates that this process of concretization resists the distinction between the technological and the psycho-social.

[line break added] A key figure in his book is the old woman carrying parcels. She haunts the dreams of the engineers, because building a metro also means thinking about her movements as she enters the train car and sits down. The quality of the vehicle’s brake system reflects concern for this old woman, as much as it does the capabilities of French technologies. When the system is considered from a global perspective it becomes apparent that what is essential is not always confined to the interior of the black box.

[ … ]

Simondon sees in cybernetics a way to move beyond the problems posed by previous stages of technological evolution. Information machines no longer replace human beings. They allow for a collaboration, a ‘good’ coupling which realizes the ideal of a ‘technological life.’

The epic of technology moves toward a specific end. Simondon suggests that the technological life consists not of humans directing machines, but of humans learning ‘to exist at the same level as them.’ We must be coupled with multiple machines. Human beings thus become ‘agent(s) and translator(s) of information from one machine to another.’ We are part guardian, part servant. We are, beyond any sense of alienation.

Today, it must be acknowledged that this couple has arrived. The problems which now, perhaps, present themselves are the quality of the matrimonial regime and the education of the resulting offspring.

My most recent previous post from Chabot’s book is here.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

June 16, 2018

Within the Medium

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:54 am

… it engages us, through the seductive qualities of the material itself, in the mundane and yet infinitely strange material nature of things …

This is from the essay ‘Style and Value in the Art of Painting’ by Carolyn Wilde found in Richard Wollheim on the Art of Painting: Art as Representation and Expression edited by Rob van Gerwen (2001):

… The relationship between qualities of the marked surface and qualities of things depicted within it then, is indefinitely variable, and as subject to rhetorical inflexion as is any literary text.

One benefit of emphasizing the activity of painting in this way is that it reduces the temptation to describe painting as a simple process of copying or matching colors and shapes with some independently perceptible element of the world. Differences both in the visual qualities of each medium and in its handling as it is applied to the surface of the work provide different opportunities for exploiting visual and tactile analogies between qualities of the medium and qualities of things represented through its use.

[line break added] The process of painting can be described more actively as a process of constructing equivalencies between things of radically dissimilar nature, of making one thing such as a smeared surface stand for another such as the surface of a pool of the side of a breast.

… To make or see equivalencies between the sensual qualities of paint and the sensible things of the world requires such psychological processes as substitution, compensation and reconstitution.

… Painting is an activity in which complex psychological processes of attentive imagination and pleasure are mobilized within the medium of paint in such a way that the sensuous qualities of the material and of its organization have an essential and dynamic relation to whatever is figured or represented in the work.

… Although many of the reasons why painting is valued as an art worthy of serious attention are tied up with its complex relations with different conceptions of reality, a particular reason is that it engages us, through the seductive qualities of the material itself, in the mundane and yet infinitely strange material nature of things, which is both a source of deep pleasure and an unsettling mystery.

… It is not only a matter of how inventive or inhibited the artist is in the use of the medium, but, more fundamentally, the artist’s relation to the process involves elements which are more generally thought of as aspects of character, such as how submissive, assertive, humble, flamboyant, careless, extravagant, courageous, or fastidious the artist is in working with the medium.

… There are many examples where we read of the artist’s humility before the unfolding work, as though the work were in some way imposing its own authority. This is a different way of putting Wollheim’s more analytical point about the artist being his or her own spectator in the process of making the work. Appropriate responsive attention to the work as it progresses, I want to say, requires its own artistic virtues.

[line break added] A painter who is inattentive or indifferent to the limitations and possibilities of the medium, or adopts an habitual manner of control to achieve predictable effects, will produce a mediocre or hackneyed work. An artist who pushes against the restrictions of the medium may, on the other hand, make something that seems to advance the art and contribute to a new understanding of how we see things.

My most recent previous post from this book is here.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

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