Unreal Nature

January 31, 2018

For Those Who Are Awakening to Their Own Authority

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:48 am

… I need suggest the difference between photographers who are making pictures and photographers who are using pictures.

This is from the essay ‘Self-Portraits in Photography’ by Ingrid Sischy (1980) found in Reading Into Photography: Selected Essays, 1959-1980 edited by Thomas F. Barrow, Shelley Armitage and William E. Tydeman (1982):

… I am convinced of the symbiotic relationship between portraiture and self-portraiture [in photography].

… Chauncey Hare made a portrait of Interior America, pictures of neglected hearths, the hearts of seldom noticed communities, those shadowed by mines, mills, and refineries. Interior America is dedicated “For those who are awakening to their own authority.”

… some women artists say that they trust their own views of themselves as subjects/objects much more than the way they have previously been photographed by men. To change that picture they have to make new pictures.

… a question that Lucas Samaras asks himself in his auto-interview in the Samaras Album is “Is it significant that you took the Polaroids yourself? His answer: “I suppose so, I was my own Peeping Tome. Because of the absence of people I could do anything, and if it wasn’t good I could destroy it without damaging myself in the presence of others. In that sense I was my own clay. I formulated myself, I mated with myself, and I gave birth to myself. And my real self was the product — the Polaroids.” Once again I need suggest the difference between photographers who are making pictures and photographers who are using pictures.

My most recent previous post from this book is here.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

January 30, 2018

People Living Between Earth and Sky

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:40 am

Overlay is about what we have forgotten about art.

This is from the Introduction to Overlay: Contemporary Art and the Art of Prehistory by Lucy R. Lippard (1983):

… My subject is not prehistoric images in contemporary art, but prehistoric images and contemporary art. What I’ve learned from mythology, archeology, and other disciplines is the overlay’s invisible bottom layer. My internal method is that of collage — the juxtaposition of two unlike realities combined to form an unexpected new reality. I have tried to weave together the ideas and images of very different cultures by making one a metaphor for the other, and vice versa.

… As a contemporary art critic, speculation is my element. I am a surrogate for the audience, a receptacle for all the collective speculations deriving from diverse backgrounds, associations, and psychologies. Like everybody else when confronted with an unfamiliar experience, I ask myself, “What do you suppose it means?” Such ruminations combined with the few available facts are the only source of ‘accuracy’ in a shifting field. There is no such thing as ‘objective’ art criticism, only degrees of longing for objectivity.

… Trekking across the vast, undulating, deceptively featureless landscape of the English moors — depending as much on intuition as on map and compass — sighting a distant silhouette against the sky (sheep? the promised stone circle?), or coming suddenly upon a single standing stone, I was glad there were no markers, no car parks, no brochures, glad to maintain a sense of discovery. The unpeopled megalithic sites and earth monuments, like more recently abandoned ruins, bring us back to art in an unselfconscious context. Freedom from my own daily space opened up new views of history.

… Art itself might be partially defined as an expression of that moment of tension when human intervention in, or collaboration with, nature is recognized. It is sufficiently compelling not to be passed by as part of ‘amorphous nature.’ One stops and asks oneself: Who made this? When? Why? What does it have to do with me?

Overlay is about what we have forgotten about art. It is an attempt to recall the function of art by looking back to times and places where art was inseparable from life.

… The social element of response, of exchange, is crucial even to the most formalized objects or performances. Without it, culture remains simply one more manipulable commodity in a market society where even ideas and the deepest expressions of human emotion are absorbed and controlled. I resist the notion that in modern times the task of image and symbol making should be relegated to one more frill on the ‘quality of life.’

… Unlike a towering skyscraper, a towering standing stone in the landscape seems not so much to dominate its surroundings as to coexist sensuously with them. It confirms the human need to touch, to hold and to make, in relationship to natural forces and phenomena. Even if we as individuals are cut off from any communal belief system or any collective work system, something seems to flow back to us through these places — which we see perhaps as symbols of lost symbols, apprehended but not specifically comprehended in our own socioreligious context.

I’d like this book to suggest the restoration of symbolic possibility in contemporary art. Artists may be aware of this subterranean layer, but the art public (as opposed to the lay public) has been conditioned to ignore it by the dominant art-for-art’s-sake ethos. Symbols are syntheses of changing multiple realities — higher forms than the simple commodity because they are both the vehicles of several levels of reality and of several levels of communal need. Perhaps what the prehistoric stone monuments still communicate is simply people’s need to communicate and the need for a symbolic intermediary that has always allowed the desires of makers and receivers to merge or intersect.

… Nature is considered relaxing. We don’t have to think about it or ‘appreciate’ it; we can just enjoy it. Banal statements about sunsets and lovely views are acceptable, whereas ‘Art’ seems to demand more and give less. It is puzzling, weighted with history and class pretensions. It is ‘man-made,’ and human-made objects must be approached warily, while natural things, though they too can be destructive, are mor simply embraced. Our attitudes toward nature are in turn a major component in the romanticization of ancient sites and artifacts. We tend to confuse our own romanticism about nature with the original purposes of the stones, mounds, and ruins.

Speculation about the close relationship between nature and culture in prehistory is not starry-eyed idealization, nor is it ahistorical fantasizing about a Golden Age. People living between earth and sky, with few human-made distractions, had to be far closer to natural forces and phenomena than people living on our crowded planet now. They were undoubtedly aware of the environment in ways lost to us.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

January 29, 2018

Art Is a Slot in the Leisure Industry

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:51 am

… They know that art is a slot in the leisure industry, with avant-garde art as a submarket catering to a clientèle with a nostalgic taste for avant-garde mayonnaise.

Final post from Kant after Duchamp by Thierry de Duve (1996):

… when I sense that a critical function is active in the work of art I am beholding, it prompts me to activate in myself a similar critical function. The prompting itself (the incitement and the excitement — Kant’s paraphrase for it would be “the quickening of imagination and understanding in their free play”) is reflexive and does not guarantee the artistic quality of the work. Art’s critical function provides no criterion. All it does is present “something that prompts the imagination to spread over a multitude of kindred presentations that arouse more thought than can be expressed in a concept determined by words.”

[ … ]

… Art can be made out of every possible human feeling, and every possible feeling can enter the love of art, including disgust, ridiculousness, and the particularly socially relevant feeling of dissent that in the first chapter I called the sentiment of dis-sentiment — the opposite of common sentiment. Among the feelings that sustained both the making and the appreciating of avant-garde art, anger was on top of the list. It is in anger that I want to finish this book. Against Duchamp, first.

[line break added] Who is this aloof prodigy who manages to trap the viewers into making his pictures, sacralizing his objects-dard, and overrating his silence? Who is this cool disciple of Pyrrho who fosters beauty of indifference, this grinning ironist incapable of enthusiasm and commitment? … Who is this dandy who plays chess sovereignly but eschews every concrete historical battle fought by the foot soldiers of the avant-garde? Who is this salon revolutionary, who is he?

… The discourse of the last partisans of the avant-garde is in danger of helping not Hans Haacke but rather the young wolves of radical opportunism for whom Duchamp’s apolitical aloofness and status as a super-avant-gardist are the best alibi for their career moves. They have read all of Baudrillard and digested Jeff Koons, and they serve him wrapped in political correctness at the Whitney Biennial.

My anger is not directed at them as much as at the art schools that have produced them. That is where they have been fed on a critical discourse that stopped midway in its deconstruction of modernism and forgot to reconnect the utopias of modernity, along with their failure, to their historical roots. A well-intentioned discourse, most of the time, but academic, and whose perverse effect is to backfire. Teaching “critical theory” — and not much else — to art students today is like teaching Barthes’s Mythology to advertising students. … They know that art is a slot in the leisure industry, with avant-garde art as a submarket catering to a clientèle with a nostalgic taste for avant-garde mayonnaise.

… It may very well be that artistic activity is now definitively severed from an emancipation project — hence the despair of the last partisans of the avant-garde. But there is no need for despair if you replace dream with Idea and project with maxim. And if you say: the pact that binds together the artists and their public ought to extend to include anyone and everyone.

… There is no need for despair if you hold on to art’s critical function, which is to watch over the requirement of universality, which, in today’s thoroughly institutionalized artworld, ought to remind its members that whatever it produces, shows, appreciates, sells, and consumes, does have meaning beyond being mere luxury goods only insofar as it negates this artworld’s actual boundaries. And if you understand Duchamp’s readymade — this anything whatever that could have been made by anyone — to be the symbolic embodiment of art’s address to everyone.

[line break added] And if you interpret the historical fact — revealed by the readymade — that all specific artistic conventions have been dissolved, as testifying to the political imperative of modernity, which, as far as I can see, our postmodernity has not made obsolete: to dissolve every social pact that would rest on bases other than transcendental Ideas — be those bases sexual, religious, racial, tribal, or national. Better not trust sensus communis; it rarely extends the limits of the ethnic group. Ideas are safer.

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

January 28, 2018

Both Outside It and Within It

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:49 am

… they penetrate into the interior of the other’s speech, carrying into it their own accents and their own expressions …

Continuing through the essay ‘Discourse in the Novel’ found in The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays by M.M. Bakhtin edited by Michael Holquist (1981):

… Language in its historical life, in its heteroglot development, is full of such potential dialects: they intersect one another in a multitude of ways, some fail to develop, some die off, but others blossom into authentic languages. We repeat: language is something that is historically real, a process of heteroglot development, a process teeming with future and former languages, with prim but moribund aristocrat-languages, with parvenu-languages and with countless pretenders to the status of language — which are all more or less successful, depending on their degree of social scope and on the ideological area in which they are employed.

… In the novel formal markers of languages, manners and styles are symbols for sets of social beliefs. External linguistic features are frequently used as peripheral means to mark socio-linguistic differences, sometimes even in the form of direct authorial commentaries on the characters’ language. In Fathers and Sons, for example, Turgenev sometimes goes out of his way to emphasize his characters’ peculiarities in word usage or pronunciation (which can be, by the way, extremely characteristic from a sociohistorical point of view).

… The context surrounding represented speech plays a major role in creating the image of a language. The framing context, like the sculptor’s chisel, hews out the rough outlines of someone else’s speech, and carves the image of a language out of the raw empirical data of speech life; it concentrates and fuses the internal impulse of the represented langauge with the exterior objects it names. The words of the author that represent and frame another’s speech create a perspective for it; they separate light from shadow, create the situation and conditions necessary for it to sound; finally, they penetrate into the interior of the other’s speech, carrying into it their own accents and their own expressions, creating for it a dialogizing background.

Thanks to the ability of a language to represent another language while still retaining the capacity to sound simultaneously both outside it and within it, to talk about it and at the same time to talk in and with it — and thanks to the ability of the language being represented simultaneously to serve as an object of representation while continuing to be able to speak to itself —thanks to all this, the creation of specific novelistic images of languages becomes possible. Therefore, the framing authorial context can least of all treat the language it is representing as a thing, a mute and unresponsive speech object, something that remains outside the authorial context as might any other object of speech.

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

January 27, 2018

Knowledge of the Day

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:46 am

… What would we say of this distinct, complete and solid world, if this world only appeared very occasionally, to cross, to dazzle, and to crush the unstable, incoherent world of the solitary soul?

This is from ‘On Painting’ found in Selected Writings of Paul Valéry (1950; 1964):

… We only immediately see hopes or regrets, properties and potential values, promises of harvests, signs of maturity or mineral deposits; we only see the future or the past, but no trace of the actual moment.

[ … ]

… Why do we want the essence, the supposed essence of ourselves, the semblance of essence that we find in ourselves, by accident or by indefinite waiting, to be more important to observe — if we really believe it to be so in pursuing it — than the appearance of this world. Is what we perceive when we are so alone and so uncertain, with so much difficulty, and as though by chance or by fraud, necessarily more worth while knowing, higher in degree, or nearer to our deepest secret than what we can see distinctly?

[line break added] Is not this abyss where venture the most credulous and the most inconstant of our senses, on the contrary, the place and the product of our most vain, most senseless and most clumsy impressions, those which are confused and the farthest removed from the precision and coordination found in others whose masterpiece we call the Exterior World?

[line break added] We despise this perceptible world for overwhelming us with its perfections. It is the domain of coincidence, of distinctions, of references and recoveries, where the whole range of our senses and the multitude of our enduring elements are brought together and unified. Let us make a very easy supposition, in order to understand this better.

[line break added] Let us imagine that the sight of things that surround us is not familiar, that it is only allowed us as an exception, and that we only obtain by a miracle, knowledge of the day, of human beings, of the heavens, of the sun, and of faces. What would we say about these revelations, and in what terms would we speak of this infinity of wonderfully adjusted data? What would we say of this distinct, complete and solid world, if this world only appeared very occasionally, to cross, to dazzle, and to crush the unstable, incoherent world of the solitary soul?

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

January 26, 2018

Moving Out Away from Intentions

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:27 am

… This music is not the expression of the momentary state of mind of the performers while playing. Rather the momentary state of mind of the performers while playing is largely determined by the ongoing composed slowly changing music.

This is from ‘Music as a Gradual Process’ (1968) found in Writings on Music 1965-2000 by Steve Reich (2002):

I do not mean the process of composition but rather pieces of music that are literally processes.

… To facilitate closely detailed listening a musical process should happen extremely gradually.

… Listening to an extremely gradual musical process opens my ears to it, but it always extends farther than I can hear, and that makes it interesting to listen to that musical process again. That area of every gradual (completely controlled) musical process, where one hears the details of the sound moving out away from intentions, occurring for their own acoustic reasons, is it.

… The distinctive thing about musical processes is tha they determine all the note-to-note details and the overall form simultaneously. One can’t improvise in a musical process — the concepts are mutually exclusive.

This is from ‘Steve Reich and Musicians’ (1978):

… There’s a certain idea that’s been in the air, particularly since the 1960s, and it’s been used by choreographers as well as composers and I think it is an extremely misleading idea. It is that the only pleasure a performer (be it musician or dancer) could get was to improvise, or in some way be free to express his or her momentary state of mind. If anybody gave them a fixed musical score or specific instructions to work with, this was equated with political control and it meant that the performer was going to be unhappy about it.

[line break added] John Cage has said that a composer is somebody who tells other people what to do, and that it is not a good social situation to do that. But if you know and work with musicians you will see that what gives them joy is playing music they love, or at least find musically interesting, and whether that music is improvised or completely worked out is really not the main issue. The main issue is what’s happening musically; is this beautiful, is this sending chills up and down my spine or isn’t it?

Next is from ‘Music and Performance’ (1969-74; 1993):

… One hardly needs to seek out personality as it can never be avoided.

… A performance for us is a situation where all the musicians, including myself, attempt to set aside our individual thoughts and feelings of the moment and try to focus our minds and bodies clearly on the realization of one continuous musical process.

This music is not the expression of the momentary state of mind of the performers while playing. Rather the momentary state of mind of the performers while playing is largely determined by the ongoing composed slowly changing music.

By voluntarily giving up the freedom to do whatever momentarily comes to mind, we are, as a result, free of all that momentarily comes to mind.

… The pleasure I get from playing is not the pleasure of expressing myself, but of subjugating myself to the music and experiencing the ecstasy that comes from being a part of it.

My previous post from Reich’s book is here.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

January 25, 2018

Either Art Is Philosophical Investigation or It Is Nothing

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:03 am

… Did he see what was beyond the “logical conclusion”?

This is from ‘A Conversation with James Meyer‘ (1993) found in Solar System & Rest Rooms: Writings and Interviews, 1965-2007 by Mel Bochner (2008):

[ … ]

Mel Bochner: … when you reach the point where you question that whole apparatus of thought you realize that doubt is inevitable in art or, for that matter, in anything one does. The elimination of doubt by method leads to a philosophically untenable position: solipsism. Either art is the site of a philosophical investigation which is relevant to human experience or it is nothing.

James Meyer: But art is not philosophy; you’re not a philosopher.

MB: No, I’m not operating as a philosopher. Philosophy as philosophy is thought divorced from experience.

JM: Divorced because it’s only operating in the space of langauge?

MB: Yes, and with all that that entails: grammar, syntax, vocabulary, tense and linearity. In other words, the messiness of real thought is cleaned up to make discourse possible. For me, painting, because it is in and of the material world offers an access to the processes of the mind, to the messiness that philosophy can’t cope with.

This next is from ‘Mondrian: “Always Farther” ‘ (1995):

… In her article “Mondrian: A Memoir of his New York Period,” Charmion von Wiegand tells this story of a 1942 visit to Mondrian’s studio:

One afternoon when I called on Mondrian, he came to the door in a mood of suppressed excitement and, pattering back to the bedroom, returned immediately holding out a small sheet of paper. “Last night I dreamed a new composition,” he said. I saw a drawing traced freely in pencil, not so much a sketch as a fragile notation of his idea. That idea grew during the long winter months of 1942. In their initial states, both Boogie-Woogie pictures were conceived in lines of primary color. … Mondrian alternated in working on the two pictures, and at one period Victory Boogie-Woogie was declared complete. At that time, it was a composition of unbroken primary colors.

[line break added] The next time I saw the picture, it had been destroyed and was in process towards “a new solution.” The white plane bore the marks of struggle; the long colored lines were broken up into small rectangles, cut by various large planes, and tiny pieces of tape were superimposed everywhere on the surface. This was to happen again and again, so that under Victory Boogie-Woogie lie buried six or seven different solutions, each of which might have been a complete picture.

Weeks later I found him painting on Broadway Boogie, and he was just putting a yellow rectangle in the center of a red plane. “But that doesn’t go with your theory,” I exclaimed.

“Does it work?” he asked, and standing back to look, he said, Yes, it works.” After an interval of painting he continued, “You should know that all my paintings were done first and the theory derived from them. So now perhaps we will have to change the theory.”

Around February 1943 Fritz Glarner photographed Mondrian putting the “final touches” on Victory Boogie Woogie. But in October 1943 he was still struggling to complete it. He had no other paintings in progress. On 10 January 1944, Sidney Janis visited the studio and reported that Mondrian’s only remaining doubt concerned whether the lower left “need(ed) more work.” By the 17th of January, Mondrian was able to tell von Wiegand that Victory Boogie Woogie, now virtually clear of tape, was “all right except the very top.”

[line break added] And when Harry Holtzman saw it on the 20th or 21st with what was supposedly its final taping Mondrian told him, “Now I have only to paint it.” According to Jose Luis Sert, who dropped by to see him on the 23rd, Mondrian was sick but still working on the painting in his pajamas. No one visited for the next two days. Mondrian had no telephone. On the 26th, Glarner discovered Mondrian in bed, seriously ill.

[line break added] After Mondrian was taken to the hospital, von Wiegand returned to the apartment, where she was struck by the “radical change” in the painting, which she remembered as having had hardly any tape on its surface only ten days before. It was “now covered once again with small tapes and looked as though he’d been working on it in a fever and with great intensity.” He had “broken away from all those straight lines and opened the entire surface again.” Mondrian died on 1 February 1944.

In the two days between Sert’s visit and Glarner’s discovery of the sick Mondrian, the artist had completely ripped apart and reconstructed Victory Boogie Woogie along radically new lines that contradicted even his latest theories Yet only three days before, and after a year’s work, he had considered the painting finished. What had happened? Is it possible that, in his fevered last days he had had another “dream”? Did he see what was beyond the “logical conclusion”? … Could he have gone further? … Has anyone?

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

January 24, 2018

We May Not Need Either History or Theory

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:59 am

… We do need them in order to maintain our freedom, to avoid being manipulated by a system or a time or an individual.

This is from the essay ‘Notes Toward an Integrated History of Picturemaking’ by Carl Chiarenza (1979) found in Reading Into Photography: Selected Essays, 1959-1980 edited by Thomas F. Barrow, Shelley Armitage and William E. Tydeman (1982):

… one of the things we want to know from a history of photography as part of the history of picturemaking is how people have used pictures to shape the past and the present. For that might help us to guard against how pictures will be used to shape our future. How we perceive past and present is directly related to how we perceive and respond to pictures.

… Picturemkaing is proof that there are many worlds, many realities. Picturemaking has made them.

… Is the reality of Photorealism the reality of photography, or of some absolute world, or of some combination of past and present?

Hasn’t our reality itself become abstract and propositional? Can we agree on any one convention for its representation? It should be fair to say that today there is widespread confusion not simply over reality in art but over reality itself, and that that confusion began at about the same time photography appeared … The revolution against traditional conventions for visual representation parallel, if they do not precede, the revolutions in other fields investigating reality [such as psychoanalysis and physics].

There always has to be some motive for rebelling against stereotyped ways of seeing (and making). That motive, or part of it, may be a growing discomfort with, displeasure with, or disbelief in, a reality (personal or general), or in a currently accepted convention of representing that reality. It may come about as the result of becoming conscious of the fact of conventions or mental sets — becoming conscious of one’s own blinders.

[line break added] Then the motive may result from the question: what might we gain if we could remove conventional blinders — or more accurately, since they cannot be easily removed, how will we see differently if we try to be more conscious of the restrictions imposed on our perception by the conventions? For the viewer the result might be a lessened possibility of being easily manipulated by images — he/she would check the tendency to “fall through” the frame. But there is more to be had than this, there must be, since one can only stand that kind of ironic reserve and suspicion for so long.

The question becomes: what new things will we see, how will we respond differently, and what can we learn about the past or the present or the future by remembering that pictures are only pictures made by people and are largely based on learned and inherited conventions? And that the pictures are defined, delimited by other people, their use, and their contexts?

… We may not need either history or theory to be able to enjoy pictures in an aesthetic sense. We do need them in order to maintain our freedom, to avoid being manipulated by a system or a time or an individual. We need them in order to understand how pictures have contributed to the making of past and present worlds, how they have modified or directed our perception of our worlds and therefore of ourselves — indeed, how they have made the visual worlds what they have been and are.

My most recent previous post from this book is here.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

January 23, 2018

Following the Process

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:06 am

… it is not a question of memorializing a favorite state, catching the work’s best profile, but of following the process.

This is from the essay ‘Artists and Photographs’ (1970) found in Topics in American Art Since 1945 by Lawrence Alloway (1975):

… The documentary photograph is grounds for believing that something happened.

Photographs used as coordinates, or as echoes, soundings that enable us to deduce distant or past events and objects, are not the same as works of art in their operation. Max Bense has divided art and photography like this: “the aesthetic process of painting is directed towards creation: the aesthetic process of photography has to do with transmission.” “Painting reveals itself more strongly as a ‘source’ art, and photography more strongly as a ‘channel’ art.”

… Only by photography can the temporal route of a work of art be recorded in terms homologous to the original events. It should be stressed that it is not a question of memorializing a favorite state, catching the work’s best profile, but of following the process.

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

January 22, 2018

Conditions of Operation

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:52 am

… its meaning, its ambition, its quality — depend[s] on the most explicit recognition of its actual conditions of operation.

Continuing through Kant after Duchamp by Thierry de Duve (1996):

… The role of the author of a readymade was to trip over the object of a choice that chose him. The role of the spectator is to determine the weight of the work on the aesthetic scale.

[ … ]

… If Manet inaugurates modernism by the fact that he paints for the museum, then Duchamp ends it because he understands that the real museum comes second in relation to the museum-without-walls, for which it is nothing any longer but the referent, the way the gold lying in the vaults of central banks is nothing but the symbolic guarantee for the money in circulation. The artistic patrimony of the world has nothing in common but the statement, “this is a work of art.” It is shown in museums of objects, which is where one can see it with one’s own eyes and take pleasure in it.

[line break added] But it is only in the museum of images that the patrimony is a patrimony, that it is worldwide and that it circulates in the “sequence [or reproductions] — which brings a style to life, much as an accelerated film makes a plant live before our eyes,” as Malraux said. And Malraux, again: “For all alike — miniatures, frescoes, stained glass, tapestries, Scythian plaques, pictures, Greek vase paintings, ‘details’ and even statuary — have become ‘colorplates.’ In the process they have lost their properties as objects; but, by the same token they have gained something: the utmost significance as to style that they can possibly acquire.”

[line break added] It is only in reproduction that Scythian plaques and Greek vase paintings, that a Rembrandt and an African fetish assemble without resembling each other; elsewhere the fetish returns to is sacred function or its ethnological meaning, and Rembrandt becomes once again a Dutch seventeenth-century painter, the one who made the author an introspective psychologist rather than a technician of paint-application …

We still have to wonder whether an elsewhere besides the museum-without-walls still exists; if Malraux hasn’t written the first and last of the great aesthetic tracts on style founded on the precedence of the reproduction over the original; if the history of art, become fiction about itself through Malraux, isn’t in the process of becoming, as it is more and more widely perceived, a simulacrum of itself; and if the antidote for the museum-without-walls that Georges Duthuit had called, in a violent attack on Malraux, The Off-the-Wall Museum (Le musée inimaginable), hasn’t become, indeed, unimaginable.

[line break added] It has if, as for Duthuit, what one means by “art” must recede back beyond modernism, and if one dreamt that the work as objects, opus, visual phenomenon, and institutionalized value should seek refuge in “the neutral warehouse of the heteroclite,” as way back then, before the museum, in the Wunderkammer. It hasn’t at all if, as with Duchamp, one makes the practice of art — its meaning, its ambition, its quality — depend on the most explicit recognition of its actual conditions of operation.

… But understood this way, the name “art” is only a status, and has nothing honorific about it. And that of “artist” will only sanction the success of an opportunistic strategy with nothing honorable about it. … Every object that is a candidate for art status — and God knows there have been enough of them on the heels of Duchamp — should be submitted to the test of the Reciprocal Readymade = Use a Rembrandt as an ironing board.

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

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