Unreal Nature

February 28, 2018

Its Own Subtle Understanding of Communication

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:53 am

… It is neither pure nor discrete but impure and hybrid.

Continuing through Art and Photography edited by David Campany (2003):

… [Cindy] Sherman is often described as an interesting artist but not an interesting photographer, in the sense that her techniques are knowingly second hand and she doesn’t use them to search for uniqueness. Like many artists of her generation who were drawn to photography there is a reluctance to talk about the medium as such, which is not surprising given the moribund and regressive discourse that had monopolized specialist art photography by the 1970s. Yet this misses the point.

[line break added] As well as having a remarkable understanding of the body and the feminine Sherman has been an extraordinarily versatile image maker right from the start of her career. Her photographic accomplishment is not a secondary issue. It is fundamental to a practice that understands the image as a seductive surface and a site of psychical investment for the viewer. Sherman makes clear how the complex photographic construction of the image and the complex construction of the self are indivisible.

[ … ]

… In recent decades artists have been very interested in reproduction, not so much in its relation to originality per se, but in relation to everyday life. How could artists engage with and comment creatively upon an experience of the world that is increasingly mediated by images? The answer came in the form of allegory.

… Integral to the allegorical arts of reproduction has been the idea of the fragment. Collage and montage, the most immediate uses of fragments, were taken up by the historical avant-garde when the volume of popular imagery helped produce a mass culture against which the artist often stood. It was not always a political or ideological stance, but it was at least artisanal, reworking manually and privately what mass culture produced mechanically and publicly.

[line break added] Dada art of the inter-war years had used photo cut-ups as ‘reality fragments’ to construct a critique from within the imagery of mass culture. An art of the photo-fragment has continued but its imperatives are different now that daily life is itself so often experienced as a shifting collage. Images are consumed en masse and in their half-connection, half-contradiction they produce no coherent picture of the world, and often serve to obscure one.

[line break added] They are experienced quickly, partially, and derive from a vast range of everyday technologies: television, magazines, cinema, billboards, newspapers, the internet, snapshots and so on. Artistic collage and montage thus risk becoming just a mimesis of such incoherence. An important response to this has been a critical poetics of the fragment.

… Borrowing and reworking were diametrically opposed to traditional ideas of singular authorship and signature style. But this underestimates the creativity and originality that allegorical work demands from makers and viewers. It is not a creativity based on myths of private and spontaneous creation but it demands its own skills and intelligences, its own subtle understanding of communication.

[line break added] It has done so for centuries. Allegory has re-emerged as an artistic norm rather than a perversion, widening the possibilities of art in the process. And in photography allegory has found an ideal medium. It is neither pure nor discrete but impure and hybrid. It absorbs and seeps. There is no domain entirely proper to it and so it must always impose itself on other things.

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




February 27, 2018

Strange Illuminations

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:48 am

… Reason, all-powerful reason, stands accused, and stands mute …

This is from ‘Notes on Dada and Surrealism’ (1968) found in Changing: essays in art criticism by Lucy R. Lippard (1971):

… Surrealism, outwardly the most unscientific of movements, was mightily attracted to science. Artists and writers, particularly in the thirties, continually referred to physics, geometry, and of course, psychoanalysis. The Dadas had ridiculed science and carried it to ridiculous extremes …

… The Surrealists, on the other hand, took the absurdity quite seriously, as they took themselves and their own intellectual/anti-intellectual endeavors. Breton saw science as an indicator of the unknown similar to Surrealist art. His “objective chance” was the expression of a hidden order rather than the Dadas’ exposure of a lack of order.

Roger Shattuck has observed that the three favorite Surrealist metaphors (all Breton’s) belong to physics: “interference, the reinforcement and canceling out that results from crossing different wavelengths; the short circuit, the dangerous and dramatic breaching of a current of energy; and communicating vessels, that register barely visible or magnified responses among tenuously connected containers.”

Nadeau summarizes the attraction of Einstein for the Surrealists:

[Einstein’s] scientific language is not always understandable, but strange illuminations gleam here and there like an aurora borealis. “We have made a mistake,” he says in substance, “the real world isn’t what we thought, the best-founded conceptions apply only to our daily round, out there they’re false. False our old conceptions of space, false the time we’ve fabricated.

[line break added] Light is propagated in a straight line, and the mass of bodies is a kind of rubber band.” The epistemologists fall into step, questioning the conditions and limits of knowledge. It seems that knowledge is something else besides action, for which science furnishes recipes that apply to it. The two can no longer be identified: here are the mathematicians with a geometry that dispenses with Euclid and his famous postulate.

[line break added] Reason, all-powerful reason, stands accused, and stands mute: she has nothing to say in her defense. Reality is something besides what we see, hear, touch, smell, taste. There exist unknown forces that control us, but upon which we may hope to act. We have only to find out what they are.

My previous post from Lippard’s book is here.




February 26, 2018

Ladders, Ropes, Nets, Trapezes

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:58 am

… they have always been used as a way to solve problems, but here they were the problem.

This is from the Annette Messager interview (1994) found in Robert Storr: Interviews on Art edited by Francesca Pietropaolo (2017):

[ … ]

Annette Messager: … I like things made with scraps, fragments, things set aside: leftovers, remnants. For exhibitions in particular, I have to consider everything I have done before — in other words the leftovers. More and more, and no doubt because of this confrontation with the past, I find myself working with the leftovers of my leftovers. I take an element from a series Les chiméres (chimeras), a photo from the Mes trophées series, I hang them over nets, I enclose them, re-protect them.

[line break added] There are elements like large cushions with colored pencils stuck in them, mixed with stuffed birds dressed in Barbie-style dolls’ clothes. There are bits of things fixed together, tangled ropes and strings like in circuses where there is a whole system of ladders, ropes, nets, trapezes; everything seems to have been made in little bits, without any kind of technical skill, as if in a kind of regression, or rather an absence of progression.

Robert Storr: Exactly, to put off the question of artists who realize their state …

AM: Of powerlessness.
Compared to the 1960s, when there was a real belief in science, in technological and scientific progress, the contemporary world and Europe are in a really bad way; towns are becoming like the Third World, nature is devastated, society and the family are in crisis, there are diseases, savage wars, terrorism. And I could go on.

From the Guillermo Kuitca interview (2010):

[ … ]

RS: How does it feel to go back to teaching after so many years away from it, since you don’t have to teach to make your living?

Guillermo Kuitca: I like it. I don’t think teaching is a substitute for anything. I just think it’s such a specific thing; if you don’t do it, you simply miss it. It’s not that I don’t have to or I have to. If I like it, I have to do it, because otherwise I’m not going to get that from other sources.

RS: So what do you get?

GK: I don’t know what I give, but what I get is an incredibly rich, panoramic view of what art is and how people tend to approach different problems. Actually, it’s the opposite: similar problems, different approaches. It’s funny how problems tend to repeat themselves and how the patterns of problems don’t seem to be infinite, but the tactics of tackling those problems seem to be incredibly rich. That ultimately became something that I found enriching for me as an artist, as a man, as a teacher. I didn’t become a better artist but a better teacher.

From the Jac Leirner interview (2012):

[ … ]

RS: Where did you first discover turnbuckles? What was the “Eureka!” moment?

Jac Leirner: I used them to hang the airplane napkins. I used them to hang pieces with plastic bags from museums. Turnbuckles are such a wonderful invention to make something very tight and tense.

RS: Taut.

JL: They’re designed so beautifully. The engineering is so …

RS: So simple.

JL: Yes.

RS: So commonsensical, but magical too.

JL: Yes, and some are so beautifully done, like the ones used for boats. And here I had the opportunity of buying many different brands and using all of them together in one piece, of making a piece specially for them. Because they have always been used as a way to solve problems, but here they were the problem.

RS: The stars of the show.

JL: Yes, the stars of the show, exactly. So I’m very happy with this piece.

RS: What about the pieces made with levels, of which there are four.

JL: It’s the same story. I’ve always loved the beauty of levels and their engineering power and I’ve used them in many, many works. They were part of the structure of those works but they were behind the scenes; they were there but they were almost hidden. Just their bubble green parts were at the front. So here, finally, I did pieces specially for them. And here, in this country, I could find a huge variety of levels, made of all kinds of materials, steel, aluminum, wood, plastic from all over the world. And here, again, they became the stars of the show.


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




February 25, 2018

To Move In and Out of Life

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:11 am

… only through art — or, better, aesthetic activity — can lived experience be apprehended in the fullness of both its content-sense and its fundamental eventness.

This is from Mikhail Bakhtin by Alastair Renfrew (2015):

… ‘Life,’ for Bakhtin, is distinct from art and literature in that it is fundamentally not ‘finalizable’ in any sense, whereas ‘aesthetic activity’ implies some kind of provisional finalization.

Bakhtin’s model of the architectonics of the event, then, has profound implications for literature and aesthetics, which will dominate the remainder of Bakhtin’s own life. It has, if anything, even more profound implications for our understanding and perception of ‘life’ itself, which cannot be said to the ‘outside’ of art and literature in any meaningful sense. Art and life emerge as fundamentally, even radically, interdependent. And this interdependence can be approached and understood in two particular ways.

[line break added] First, in terms of the perhaps paradoxical sense in which it is only through aesthetic activity that the self-other relations of the ‘life event’ can be accessed in their interdependent and interpenetrative unity: art, and literature in particular, facilitate a kind of privileged access to the ‘event of being,’ reprocessing it as the ‘consummated [finalized] event of a particular life.’ Bakhtin will later rephrase this important point in his insistence that literature — and the novel in particular — represents a ‘laboratory of creation,’ in which the architectonics of the event can be viewed under conditions of artistic, but not actual, finalization.

In life, we may be located in a position of outsideness in relation to the other with whom we interact — through contemplation, empathy, before the ‘return into oneself’ necessary for the provisional ‘objectification’ of the other. But we are not located outside that process of interaction in its entirety, as the author is in the literary process. In the first case, the self-other relation is ‘lived,’ experienced; this, too, involves a degree of aesthetic activity, but aesthetic activity cannot be the dominant [factor] of lived experience without the loss of its crucial sense of concrete actuality, its once-occurrent uniqueness.

[line break added] In the second case, the literary apprehension of a self-other relation in which the author participates only as author (or in which the reader participates only as reader), aestheticization takes place — without aestheticizing the concrete, actual, lived, once occurrent experience of the protagonists of that self-other relation, the heroes of the literary work.

[line break added] The function of art and literature, Bakhtin comes close to saying, is to move in and out of ‘life,’ finalizing and representing the lived event in its architectonic complexity (a combination of structure and flux); only through art — or, better, aesthetic activity — can lived experience be apprehended in the fullness of both its content-sense and its fundamental eventness.

My previous post from Renfrew’s book is here.




February 24, 2018

Home to Roost

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:13 am

Marie knew perfectly well who and what she was …

This is from the chapter on Jerome Hill found in Film at Wit’s End: Eight Avant-Garde Filmmakers by Stan Brakhage (1989):

… Money has interfered with the acceptance or recognition of artists more often than not. Yet great things result from this social hangup on money in curious ways. For one thing in Jerome’s case, we have his great Film Portrait, a portrait of the world of wealth by an artist who lived in it and grew up in it, and we have no other film like it. In all Jerome’s works we see some total understanding of that world and his life within it.

[line break added] For another, wealth prevented Jerome from entering into that struggle always to be creating the ‘latest thing.’ Jerome went his own way because he had to fight against his family and their pressures, not the ‘trends.’ He gained the strength to be himself very early, and he was never influenced by other art movements unless they were meaningful to him.

From the chapter on Marie Menken:

… She was an enormous woman, easily six feet two inches tall, with broad and solid shoulders, a surprisingly slim waist and stout but shapely legs, like a dancer. Her public wardrobe tended toward tailored suits and blouses with clusters of ruffled frills at the neck, but the night I met her she was dressed as she usually was “at her full ease” — in a flouncy but tattered lounging gown.

Marie and Willard became very close very quickly, and got married in 1937 when the world was struggling out of the Depression.

… Maire got pregnant fairly soon, and it was while she was pregnant that Willard discovered he was a homosexual and started off on what would become a very strenuous gay lifestyle. But Marie could not bring herself to leave him. First, she was Catholic, so divorce, for her, was out of the question. And too as she often said, she “loved him all the same.”

Her greatest heartache was not Willard’s coming out of the closet, it was the still-birth of their child.

Marie and Willard had two large dogs, a white one and a black one. Both were incredibly vicious. People used to wrap newspaper around their legs inside their trousers before they went over to visit at the penthouse, because the dogs would slink among the Victorian furniture, prowling, looking for a leg to gnaw.

… To go to Marie’s and Willard’s apartment was to encounter a test of the extremes of human emotions. Every visit was punctuated by a series of their quarrels which sometimes could get quite brutal.

Willard was always “the artist,” the coddled one. He was most often out of a job — he was always “too sensitive” to hold one down. So it was Marie who worked, bringing home the money. For all of their married life she worked for Time-Life; and every evening, five and sometimes six days a week, Marie trudged up to the Time-Life Building for the night shift, to pick up all the overnight cables from whatever state or country she was handling that night, and held that job for thirty years. She would come home at two or three o’clock in the morning and drink herself into sleep. Gradually the drinking began to encroach into the afternoon until finally she was drunk most of the time when she wasn’t making a film or at her job at Time-Life.

Marie loved making films, but not many people in the film art world of her time thought of her as a serious filmmaker. Marie knew perfectly well who and what she was, but her way of dealing with the inattention was to treat her own works more lightly than they should have been treated; in fact she never showed much interest in her finished works as works of art to be preserved. She never thought of making a print, but ran the original film on crappy old projectors and thereby destroyed some of them over repeated showings.

… [Willard] was always putting her down. … He never took her film work seriously; he never wanted anyone else to, either. But that wasn’t what they fought about — until later, when she became famous and was recognized as an absolute visual poet, and his films were falling out of favor. Then the awful truth came home to roost. After ten or fifteen years of abusing Marie’s films and laughing them off — saying “Oh yes, and Marie also plays around with the camera” — he suddenly found himself influenced by Marie’s camera.

Marie avoided posing at “the artiste” in her lifetime with the result that she could be an artist. Willard had adopted the affectations of “the artiste” to such an extent that he could no longer free himself of his persona and create an art of his own.




February 23, 2018

Frustrated & Bewildered

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:44 am

… Meanwhile, the sun moves very ‘quickly’ …

This is from Under the Gowanus and Razor-Wire Journal: The making of two paintings 5.9.99 – 11.15.99 by Rackstraw Downes (2000). (The abbreviations for some words are as written in the text.):

… Under the [expressway] connector I look around. I see curves everywhere, drastic, tight curves, not my curved horizon, slightly drunk & slightly swollen. I finally am interested. What’s the criterion? That I haven’t put down on paper anything quite like this before. Sometimes when I think this, I put it down and then it looks the same as what I did before, it isn’t new.

[line break added] Here, I don’t know where to stand, just like at Chinati, several vantage points are excellent, so I start with that in mind — last year I saw only one view, and drew that, now there is a sequence — no, not a sequence because there is no ‘in order’ between them, it must be called a group, a cluster, maybe 4 or 6. I make them rapidly, the first one is intoxicating — is it the Karen Davie show that got into my head? — the next few are not so, but still interesting, one has a de Chirico ‘up-ended’ horizontal plane, a ‘Cézanne table-top’ effect — and I feel that I’ve made a start, I broke the ice today. I’m tired, and head for home.

[line break added] But on the way, approaching the Gowanus Canal — this time I see these huge tall chimneys — they always interest me — remember in Italy, Caffè della Torre?, and the gates in front, and the curving El again to its side — I see a little messy plot of land on the other side of the 4 lane road under the El — and I run for it (traffic coming all the time) and I see yet another great motif, this time with another Karen Davie curve, soaring into the air, and the high chimneys and a high billboard, the same white as the sky — it’s quite crisp and quite a startling combo of things; again it seems new.

[line break added] I go home now, tired, aching to sleep, to pee, to ease off, and I do so & feel horribly depressed and the sketches look like scribbles, and I feel ineffectual & disgusted. Dolores says it’s ever like this with you, have you read any books on creativity? and I say NO, but I think, Nor do I intend to — what does Arthur Koestler know? What is ‘creativity’ but a huge generalization, a giant closet into which everyone can be stuffed but where no one belongs.

[ … ]

7.6.99 a.m. Tried to fix the figures in the a.m. low Gowanus pntng. Put more in, took some out, made them more prominent, pushed them away. Round & round in circles. Want to get them deftly, & to reinforce, cooperate with & make more explicit the light & height. One or 2 new ones worked, a man in white shirt towards the back, real simplified down to 3 or 4 strokes, but still he’s noticeably there, & helps with the brilliance of the a.m. sunlight. Under the bridge, where they’re all in shade is what’s tough.

[line break added] Sometimes I feel this is just a lazier, older, staler version of upper B’way street scenes, must hone in on the engineering & the light of the overpass itself. Yesterday in the a.m. made a box and squared up a canvas for an a.m. ‘answer’ to my ozone pntng. The reverse of that composition. But because I’m on the opposite side of the highway, the bridge leaps out of the opposite corner, but I’m looking in the same direction. A nice little teaser. Want to get started on that soon, so I can see if there’s any chance for another multipart pntng.

7.7.99 Back to the ozonerous corner [air pollution was bothering Downes]. For about 2.5 hours wrestled with the underside of the expressway. This is easy stuff — nothing moves but the light, & since there are plenty of drawing issues, light will be established later. Today, for the first time in 2 weeks was clear & bright with a good breeze — sharp air, sharp accents, crisp colors everywhere. Then the shadows moved across the tarmac — or rather, the ocean of light advanced from right to left, & leaving the columns, they cast streamers of shadow — long, thin, parallel blue-purplish lines.

[line break added] And of course the traffic keeps coming and hiding this from me. Cars pile up at my stop light, blocking the view (indeed, the underside of the El is the only thing steadily visible all thru’ the day) and then they Go on Green, & I see the road for a half-minute; then the traffic light deep in the space goes green & a new flock comes heading towards me in a stampede; again, I can see nothing. Meanwhile, the sun moves very ‘quickly’ — it appears to — at this time of day, & I am frustrated & bewildered.

My previous post from Downes’s book is here.




February 22, 2018


Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:08 am

… they threaten to alter our ‘state of real’ and ultimately affect the shape of our world.

These are fragments from ‘The State of the Real’ (1972) found in Robert Irwin: Notes Toward a Conditional Art edited by Matthew Sims (2011, 2017):

… For us to see ‘art’ as a confined pictorial world is a very learned logic. It takes a very elaborate developed logic to see a window when there never was a window; to read a book, to be able to look at all those abstract marks on a page and give them meaning takes this learned logic, and when you learn to function within these terms, they construct your ‘state of real.’

… The key to the mark in art in the historical sense was that the more meaningful the mark was, the more it conveyed. The more purpose you could put in the mark, the more classic it became. Twentieth-century art started out as a highly sophisticated pictorial form, and modern art has been a step-by-step disassociation and the disempowering of that mark. The consequences of that act are a real question, for they threaten to alter our ‘state of real’ and ultimately affect the shape of our world.

Take the mark down to a base point of no power. As a simple mark on a surface it not only has no object or function relationships, it has no philosophic, emotional, or psychological overtones.

What you start with is that the mark is completely empty and meaningless, a difficult thing to do. Let’s assume that we can deal with an absolutely meaningless mark: in what manner can we relate to it?

… The problem was that I was confined to this format which suddenly made no sense to me, that of composing a world within this square canvas, which seemed to me to be very arbitrary. I sensed the world around me opening out, not closed in.

… What I really wanted to do was paint a painting without a ‘mark’ at all, but I had no way of conceiving that at the time, except just to leave the mark out, with a plain canvas.

Now the important questions became “How do you break the edge?” and “How do I paint a painting without marks?”

… ‘Perceiving yourself perceiving’ activates the next step. Since objects are not the limits of seeing and the focus of intellect is questioned, the rules of the game no longer apply, and one begins to re-examine the activities of art …

My previous post from Irwin’s book is here.




February 21, 2018

Empty Repetition of Its Past Glories

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:56 am

… new strategies hint at how artists are struggling to come to grips with the complexities of the city and the possibilities of photography …

Continuing through Art and Photography edited by David Campany (2003):

… The art-photojournalist emerged in the 1920s and 1930s as a figure moving between the editorial page, the photographic book and the gallery. Typified by the calm descriptions of Walker Evans and Henri Cartier-Bresson, this photography took advantage of freelance work to pursue a journalistic poetics of the image. Out of this situation grew ‘street photography,’ perhaps the only genre entirely specific to the medium. It had certainly become that for practitioners, writers and curators by the late 1950s and 1960s.

[line break added] Despite its enduring images and its still firm grip on popular perceptions of what the medium is all about, street photography came to something of an end in parallel with the decline of documentary practice in the early 1970s. While it was being sidelined by television in mass culture, in art it was being shaken by conceptualism’s inquiries into the ideological determinations of documentary and the structures of photographic meaning.

… But the negative consequence of becoming a self-conscious art genre was a lapse into formalism and a move away from social engagement into privatised and obsessively subjective ‘styles of seeing.’ As it waned it fell into empty repetition of its past glories and a tendency towards exoticism, with a sometimes patronising attitude towards its subjects.

… Museums and book publishers presented photojournalism most often in exhibitions and formats that divorced the images entirely from their content, so that they became repetitive objects of formal contemplation or instances of ‘great photography.’ A growing exasperation with the way in which both mass culture and art had contained photographic realism, keeping it apart from the political, led to a much-needed rethinking of documentary.

… with the growth of telecommunications and the decline of urban manufacturing, significant city functions became electronic and thus invisible to the camera. An understanding of the city had to face what the critic Michael Newman called the ‘unrepresentability of technology and the ineffability of the multinational corporation that can no longer be identified either with individuals or, any more, with its monumental glass-box offices.’

… attempts to describe and alter the contemporary urban experience have certainly been a turn away from the classically defined modes of reportage but it has not been an antirealist turn. Rather these new strategies hint at how artists are struggling to come to grips with the complexities of the city and the possibilities of photography, without falling prey to the superficial surfaces of either.

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




February 20, 2018

The Committed Critic’s Only Audience

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:50 am

… he will open doors only for those who want them opened enough to push a little.

This is from ‘Prefatory Notes’ found in Changing: essays in art criticism by Lucy R. Lippard (1971):

Reading over the essays included here I have wondered if any of them need see the light again. In less than five years of writing I have frequently changed my mind — not often about the stature of specific artists, but about the place of their work in the network of ideas and objects that constitutes current art.

… Not very far beneath the surface of these essays is an almost daily frustration and doubt about the role of criticism itself. On the one hand, the core of the matter, the core at which the artist is working, usually evades elucidation; on the other, attempts at elucidation are clearly necessary, providing the art audience, the artist, and the would-be artist with an arena in which to disagree and to clarify the issues. Recently I have seen vital, growing art scenes in other cities, bereft of good criticism and the artists themselves are the first to complain, since they have the most to lose.

[line break added] I can bemoan the rapid pace forced upon a freelance critic who does not want to teach, or write for the mass media. But the serious working critic (as opposed to the serious but less regularly writing curator or scholar) is subjected to the same pressures, insights, and quick changes as the artist, and as the art world in general; the resulting flexibility has a value not merely sociological, and a character not merely sensational or superficial. It can provoke an acute openness, an irregular but penetrating manner of seeing and writing about what is seen.

… I have no critical system, which should be patently obvious from the contents of this book. At times I wish I did, but then I think of the distortions that occur when a critic has a system and must cram all the art he likes into those close quarters. Criticism, like history, is a form of fiction. Moreover, so-called objective criteria always boil down to indefinable subjective prejudices, which are the plagues of writing about the immediate present.

[line break added] When cornered, I describe my own criteria as clarity, directness, honesty, lack of pretense and prettiness, even a kind of awkwardness (for which I have been chastised, since that is supposed to be the worst kind of romantic Americanism). But then, no one will admit that the work he likes is muddy, indirect, dishonest, pretentious, or pretty, so such word lists mean very little.

The following is from the first essay in the book, ‘Change and Criticism: Consistency and Small Minds’ (1967):

… The artist’s published material, out of the horse’s mouth or not, must be rigorously dealt with by the professional writer, who must beware of taking all of an artist’s assertions of purpose or influence at face value. It is, after all, forgivable for an artist not to know or care about his historical debts, but it is unforgivable for a critic not to recognize the exhausted or undeveloped form, the degrees of influence and originality.

… Criticism has little to do with consistency; for consistency has to do with logical systems, whereas criticism is or should be dialectical and thrive on contradiction and change.

Thus the contemporary critic’s real task is not simply a superficial combination of the historian’s and the aesthetician’s. Categorization, placement, attribution, and the stabilization of universal criteria are secondary to constant adjustment, immediate recognition of the change within the art itself.

… One need not like the new. The well-informed, “well-seen” reader need only disagree intelligently. Yet far more common is the armchair amateur who comes to new art and its commentary bowed under preconceptions of unchanging definitions of Art and Beauty. He does not understand, and he will rant about how the cult of the new is being put over on him, forgetting that only the ignorant are easily “put on.”

… The responsibility of even the most casual art observer and reader of criticism to think, to look thoughtfully, is practically unacknowledged. The burden is left on the critic’s shoulders, and if the critic shrugs it off in order to settle down to serious work, he cannot be blamed. If he is to face issues directly and honestly rather than through a simplified veil of explanation to others, he will open doors only for those who want them opened enough to push a little. Difficult art generates ideas and issues difficult to articulate. If criticism really comes to grips with these ideas, it is not likely to be particularly entertaining. A committed, and even professional audience is ultimately the committed critic’s only audience.




February 19, 2018

My Inability to Process Everything That I’m Confronted With

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:58 am

… “Where does it start and where does it stop?”

This is from the Tom Friedman interview (1995) found in Robert Storr: Interviews on Art edited by Francesca Pietropaolo (2017):

[ … ]

Robert Storr: The first things of yours I saw — for example, the identical twin pieces of crumpled paper or the bar of soap with a hair spiral [both 1990] — were simple in appearance compared to some of the more recent works that are in this show. Is there a conscious shift taking place in your approach that explains that impression, or am I mistaken?

Tom Friedman: I’ve been thinking a lot about complexity lately. I know that it is something that has been thought about before, but what interests me is the fact of my inability to process everything that I’m confronted with and the idea of the parts of something being very separate from the idea of the whole. That explains how I got involved in dealing with the dictionary; how individual words fit in and the sheer quantity of them. What unifies what I do is the phenomenon of taking something that is crystal-clear to me, something I seem to know, and finding that the closer I get and the more carefully I inspect it, the less clear it becomes.

[ … ]

TF: … I think about the objects and the way they have evolved in terms of how they reveal themselves to the viewer. My interest is in how things categorize information, and how one deciphers an object. It revolves around the questions that you ask, and how you process all that information and come to some kind of conclusion. The way that I began thinking about the work, then, was as a direct line of questioning that you go through when you are presented with something unfamiliar and think, “Well, what is it? How is it made? Why is it like this?” What’s most specific to me is that process of discovery.

Next is from Storr’s interview with Robert Gober:

[ … ]

Robert Gober: For years my sculptures — the sinks and after that the beds and the cribs — were objects that were waiting for people. They were objects that transformed people as well, from dirty to clean, from waking to sleeping. I remember the moment when I knew I wanted to make a sculpture of a man’s leg. I was sitting on a plane and across the aisle from me was a very handsome businessman whose pants were pulled up [showing part of his leg].

[line break added] I was riveted by that moment because it’s a moment that you’re not supposed to see. Whenever you see that on television, like on a talk show, you imagine that, during the commercials, someone is going to run to the person concerned and tell him, “Pull up your sock!” [both laugh] So I became fixated: how do you make a sculpture about that moment? For me part of the job of making sculpture is about asking myself, “Where does it start and where does it stop?”

[line break added] When I make stuff I grab what’s around me. I had a talented mold maker working for me and he made a mold of my leg. We put a shoe on it, and we figured out how to implant hairs, one by one, developing a needle specifically for that. Recently, I was doing some work on the leg in the studio and my assistant, all of a sudden, started laughing at the absurdity of it.

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




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