Unreal Nature

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.




June 19, 2018


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.




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.




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.




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.




June 15, 2018

Pause on the Threshold of Believing

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:33 am

… by speaking the one inside or while at the same time speaking the other …

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

… It is because speaking in French, for him, is like speaking without speaking somehow. It is like speaking without responsibility — or in the way we speak in a dream. Do you see?

Yes. French. Addressing her, speaking with her, he prefers French — he chooses French.
But over what?
Over German. It would have to be German of course.

Suddenly, and as if for the first time, this scene makes me aware of the agreement I made. I come up against the belief I suspended:

So this was never in English, then, This was always in German.

[ … ]

… My kids don’t need me to keep reminding them of the dragon-difference. They’ve got it; they get it: this is what books do, Mum. Or, this is what good books do: they make us hear the different voices.

… you know, its bedtime, and it’s no surprise that my kids have not been listening for a while now. They were long ago already somewhere else: scaling the cliff-face above the sea, into the black cave with the bag for the hunt. I’m the one who wants them to pause on the threshold of believing for a moment, and think for a bit longer about how this translation pact works: the translator as necessarily invested in instating her own further fiction, and working to make it hold.

[line break added] Not because it is her all-purpose and always default intention to produce unremarkable English. To write German, or Italian or French prose again as if it had all been originally produced right here, and then to insist that this is all normal and how things should be. But for the prior reason that before we’re in a position to register the strangeness, the stuttering or otherwise of the prose — the ways in which the project of translating Mann or Ferrante or Dragonese might put new pressures on the English language, forcing the discovery of new, or tapping into old and neglected resources.

[line break added] Which is to say: before we’re even in a position to critique or worry over the decisions made by the translator, some provisional agreement has already been made. We have accepted the book in English. We have accepted that the book is now written in what appears to be English. The translator has made this thing that we now have at least minimally in common. And we share it — we are already sharing in it — in the most basic sense that we can at least now hold it and read it and copy out from it.

[line break added] I am a translator, responsible in part for the delayed appearance of Barthes’s lecture notes in English: beginning work on translating the first Collège de France lecture course some thirty or so years after the fact. I am also an invested reader of books in translation, altogether willing to go with what the translator is asking me to accept.

[line break added] And it occurs to me that if I keep returning to this scene in The Magic Mountain, to this extraordinary scene of difference and desire as played out by the offsetting of one historical language against the other, and by speaking the one inside or while at the same time speaking the other, and with all of it happening for me in a third, it is because when reading translations I, too, seem to have trouble making myself pause, and registering for a moment.

… I’m thinking again of the thin, dark silk. Yes, and — what was it? The soft fringes of her hair.
The slightly prominent bone at the back of her neck.
The amazingly white arms.

The mechanism with its hard little needle of lead — were handled by Helen Lowe-Porter [translator of The Magic Mountain].

We receive them twice-written; the second time by her.

My previous post from Briggs’s book is here.




June 14, 2018

The Tide

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:44 am

… the tide will always be in a different state from the point of view of the start of the walk compared to the end of it.

This is from the essay ‘The Intricacy of the Skein, the Complexity of the Web: Richard Long’s Art’ by Paul Moorhouse found in Richard Long: Walking the Line (2002):

For six consecutive nights I walked by compass, from east to west, the line drawn on the map. The time taken was recorded at the end of each walk. Walking in darkness, Long paced out precisely the same route on six nights in succession. Using a compass to determine his direction, he timed himself on each occasion, noting that overall his walking time became shorter as his familiarity with the landscape at night grew and his speed increased.

From the transcription of a talk given by Long during a slide show in Japan, 25 May 1997:

… A lot of my work is leaving traces which share the same place as other traces of animals. As well as my line, if you look closely, you can see the tracks of the animals. I think that the surface of the world anywhere is a record of all its human, animal and geographical history.

From a 2002 conversation with Denise Hooker, this is Long talking:

… I have found many ways to measure myself in relation to the landscape. Most of the longer walks I was measuring by days and nights, or sometimes the solar cycle of twenty-four hours. Then I had the idea that a walk could also be measured by lunar time, and as the moon makes the tides, I could measure a walk by the tide. So I did Tide Walk. An important line in that text work is ‘relative to the walker.’

[line break added] Because the tide is a wave which travels round the coast, the tide times are not synchronized between the English Channel and the Bristol Channel. So that walk was very much about relativity, in that the tide will always be in a different state from the point of view of the start of the walk compared to the end of it. It was like measuring the walk with two different clocks.

My previous post from this book is here.




June 13, 2018

An Aesthetic of Spacing

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:51 am

… the interval between these pictorial materials provides the viewer with a margin of freedom for observing an “overdepicted” world.

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):

… Their first appearance was at Maureen Paley in London in Fall 2005, with a room devoted to this novel format: photographs, a critic remarked at the time, “set out … on wooden tables, displayed under glass next to collections of Alpine stones, thin metal rods, newspaper cuttings.”

… However, the truth study centers might more accurately be thought of as originating, not in the practicality of institutional display, but in the contingency of the studio, in the everyday necessities of Tillmans’s working methods, as he has acknowledged: “In my studio as well as when setting up exhibitions, I use tables to layout and look at pictures before they go on a wall or into a book.

[line break added] The pictures are loosely arranged, unfixed, held in position only by their own weight.” And these tables can capture more than just his images; as in the studio, they accumulate newspaper clippings, printouts from the web, and even the odd, assorted scrap of daily life — “real things,” he has said, “like a lottery ticket, a bus ticket, a vegetable wrapper … ” Out of this “a new text emerges through the combination of intrinsically different pieces of paper.”

… The bureaucratic-sounding title Tillmans gave to the project, truth study center, was intended sardonically: he once described it as “a research center that doesn’t exist and … never will exist.” As he explained it to journalists, this was a documentation of the “creeping dogmatization” of the world, his response to its “ideological confusion.” His aim, then, is not to demonstrate his own grasp of a singular, truthful point of view amidst this concatenation of disparate views, but to expose the folly and human cost of those who are convinced that they alone have access to absolute certainty.

The meaning of these tables, with their assemblies of texts and images, emerges between the discrete components distributed on them. Their politics, we could say, do not reside in the individual clippings or photographs themselves but in the spaces joining and separating them — and this is where the legacy of montage returns to the fore. When we think of montage, we tend to think first of its use by the Dadaists, especially that movement’s representatives in Berlin in the chaotic years immediately following the First World War, who set about “to confront a crazy world with its own image.”

… As [Rosalind Krauss] describes it, the aim of photomontage was to turn photography “away from the surfaces of the real;” motivated by that same hermeneutics of visual suspicion we have seen in Weimar photo-theory, the Dadaists sought to “infiltrate the mere picture of reality with its meaning.” This would be accomplished by depriving the photograph of its most vaunted quality, the appearance of seizing a moment in all its fullness or what Krauss calls “its sense of presence”:

It is the image of simultaneity, of the way that everything within a given space at a given moment is present to everything else; it is a declaration of the seamless integrity of the real. The photograph carries on one continuous surface the trace or imprint of all that vision captures in one glance.

Photomontage disrupts this illusion precisely by interposing the seam, by eliminating the continuous surface of the print, slicing it apart and rebuilding it anew. For Krauss this is above all a semiotic operation, one that recognizes each constituent element as akin to a unit of language — a word, say, which might be placed alongside others to form a different sentence.

… However if these questions of spacing and exteriority are fundamental to the logic of Tillmans’s tables, if they spell out their parentage in montage procedures, we must nevertheless distinguish his aim from that of the Dadaists. The latter mobilized spacing in order to destroy the photographic illusion of simultaneous presence, to make plain that “we are not looking at reality, but at the world infested by interpretation or signification.”

[line break added] For the Dadaists, the surface of the world was deceptive and interventions in its representation were intended to decode reality, to reveal its hidden or repressed meanings. But for Tillmans, as we have seen, truth is to be read directly on those surfaces. Images are no longer to be cut apart, as on a dissecting table, in order to release the real meaning dissimulated beneath their appearances.

[line break added] Rather, in an acknowledgement of what he calls “the simultaneity and availability of all things” within the contemporary spectacle-culture, he has developed an aesthetic of spacing, in which images are set apart in relation to one another and in which the interval between these pictorial materials provides the viewer with a margin of freedom for observing an “overdepicted” world.

My previous post from this book is here.




June 12, 2018

The Poetic of Modern Bureaucracy

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:49 am

… This kind of documentation is not much different from the documentation that a contemporary manager uses to present certain commercial transactions, technological projects and institutional activities to a broader public.

This is from the essay ‘The Mimesis of Thinking’ by Boris Groys found in Open Systems: Rethinking Art c. 1970 edited by Donna De Salvo (2005):

… Until the 1960s the romantic image of the artist remained fundamentally intact. The ‘true’ artist was understood to be a lonely creative individual following not the external rules and conventions of society but exclusively his or her ‘inner necessity,’ as Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) famously put it. The role of the artist was to act outside modern bureaucracies, outside the huge socio-economic machines of modern industrial production.

[line break added] The creative artistic act served as a paramount example of a non-alienated, liberated work. Of course, the artist, in a very acute way, experienced dependency on the capitalist art market, on the prevailing public taste, on the explicit or implicit censorship in the name of generally accepted norms and values. But the duty of the artist was seen precisely in the struggle for liberation from these external norms, values and dependencies.

[line break added] This struggle was regarded as possible and even necessary because the artistic creative act itself was understood as being uniquely autonomous, internally free. Art had to manifest this inner freedom openly to be recognized as ‘true’ art. But it is precisely this inner autonomy and freedom of the creative act that was questioned by the art practices of the 1960s and 1970s.

… The integration of an individual creative act into a communicative system was interpreted by some theoreticians as a sign of the death of autonomous artistic subjectivity. But this subjectivity successfully survived its death by making the system itself the object of its inner, intimate experience.

… Overall, the art of the 1960s shifted its focus from the individual creative act to a description, investigation and development of communication systems and visual codes. Accordingly, the art world as a whole began to be perceived as an ‘art system.’ The metaphysical loneliness of the romantic artist was substituted by strategies of participation and collaboration.

[line break added] The artist became a part of the art system, of the art bureaucracy. The artist’s main occupation became not to create but to criticize. The paradoxical figure of a ‘critical artist’ that emerged in the 1960s announced an end to a long period of confrontation between the individual artist-creator and the art critic serving the ‘system,’ a conflict that contributed substantially to the dynamic of romantic and modernist art.

[ … ]

… One can say that the creation of a documentary installation is, ‘objectively speaking,’ the true goal of any happening, performance or intervention art — even if the artists working in these fields mostly tend to reflect on their own art in different terms. This kind of documentation is not much different from the documentation that a contemporary manager uses to present certain commercial transactions, technological projects and institutional activities to a broader public. Installations using art documentation explicitly manifest the poetic of modern bureaucracy that increasingly shapes our everyday experience. The technique of art production functions here in the same way as the operational modes of modern bureaucratic systems.

My previous post from this book is here.




June 11, 2018

That Which Is Mediated

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:52 am

… It punctures the myth of art as being separate from life and all its messiness.

This is from The Culture of Curating and the Curating of Culture(s) by Paul O’Neill (2012):

… Since the 1920s, there has been a gradual change from the role of the curator-as-carer, working with collections out of sight of the public, to a more central position on a much broader stage. By the late 1960s, despite their many differences in form and content, a number of exhibitions had developed a symbiotic relationship between the exhibition space and conceptually led artistic production. Here the exhibition, the artworks, and the curatorial framework were essential, interdependent elements in a process of realization that culminated in a final public exhibition.

[line break added] As a response to these changes, a form of curatorial criticism emerged that began to focus on individual curators-as-authors of their exhibition-texts. Ever since the 1960s, there has been a growing understanding and acceptance of curators as having a more proactive, creative and political part to play in the production, mediation, and dissemination of art itself.

… Many artists of this period began to employ the exhibition as the vehicle through which to conduct a self-critical examination of art’s separateness, by challenging the prestige and social status of art afforded by bourgeois culture.

… critique of the institution of art began to call into question the curatorial act and the ways in which it was affecting the boundaries of art’s production, responsibility for its authorship, and its mediation.

By 1969, the convergence of artistic and curatorial praxis was causing confusion as to what actually constituted the authorial medium of the respective producers. A landmark exhibition in this regard was Lucy Lippard’s “557, 087,” for which, in many cases, Lippard herself installed or made work based on the instructions of absent artists. In a review of the exhibition, Peter Plagens suggested that Lippard’s curatorial hand in the exhibited work resulted in a “total style to the show, a style so pervasive as to suggest that Lucy Lippard is in fact the artist and that her medium is other artists.”

[line break added] Lippard later replied, “Of course a critic’s medium is always artists; critics are the original appropriators.” Her response took on another self-reflexive dimension, when the scale and breadth of the exhibition was extended during its second incarnation in Vancouver in 1970, now under the title “955, 000.” In the combined catalog for the Seattle and Vancouver venues — which consisted of randomly arranged 4-by-6-inch index cards filled out primarily by the artists in the show — Lippard not only described the contents of the catalog for the reader, she also highlighted the flawed nature of the received wisdom of curated exhibitions as some sort of holistic entity.

[line break added] She stated that “due to weather, technical problems and less definable snafus, Michael Heizer’s piece was not executed in Seattle; Sol LeWitt’s and Jan Dibbet’s were not completed; Carl Andre’s and Barry Flanagan’s instructions were misunderstood and the pieces were not executed wholly in accord with the artists’ wishes. Richard Serra’s work did not arrive in time.” While this perhaps demonstrates a wry riposte to Plagens, it also provides an early example of the awareness of the limits of the curatorial role in which absences, mistakes, and misunderstanding are commented on rather than ignored or concealed.

[line break added] Here, self-consciousness is shown in relation to the fallibility of the conception of the exhibition as a complete work. Lippard’s comments also reveal the structures hidden behind the making of art, which are often left out of the story. The narrative of perfection and neutrality is here destabilized, bringing the machinations involved in the production and exhibition of art to the fore. It punctures the myth of art as being separate from life and all its messiness.

… Art as material practice became inseparable from art as a discursive practice. As much as art could be made present in the world, through language and the articulation of ideas, these ideas could be the primary medium, as well as the outcome, of artistic production. And, if art could be an idea, then those involved in producing and employing ideas as their medium could also be said to be the producers of art, whether they called themselves curators, critics, or artists. Just as ideas require mediation (of some means or another), so the mediation of art and the conception of art as that which is mediated become conflated.

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




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