Unreal Nature

July 31, 2019

Out of Those Ashes

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:20 am

… There was no art world there.

This is from the interiew with Lucy Lippard found in What It Means to Write About Art: Interviews with Art Critics by Jarrett Earnest (2018):

[ … ]

Jarrett Earnest: One of the things you’ve done a better job of than most people in being straightforward about how your personal and romantic relationships relate to your work, as though it’s just factual and not a big deal — which to me is the most intellectually honest position anyone could take.

Lucy Lippard: There was a time I thought about making an art piece: a stack of transparent sheets mapping affairs and friendships and other relationships between everyone in the art world, all laid on top of each other, overlapping, so to speak. [Laughter]

[ … ]

LL: [in Lippard’s later writing, such as Overlay and Lure of the Local] … I was always trying to get out of the art world — escape this and escape that. I still give a lecture on conceptualism, feminism, and political activism, called “Escape Attempts.” But I never really escaped except when I was backpacking, camping out, or wandering around the countryside and finding megaliths or petroglyphs. There was no art world there.

JE: What does that tell you about what art is?

LL: I love saying that we need to expand the definition of art, and certainly social practice and a lot of eco art has expanded it. If an artist does it, then it’s art — that always made sense to me. But when someone says to me, Your criticism is art, I say, No. Anything a critic writes or a writer writes is writing. Because that’s what I am. I’m not trying to be an artist. Art does keep expanding. I often quote Rick Bass, who said something like, The activist is the artist’s ashes. And I say, Out of those ashes rises a new definition of art. I love the idea that art is all over the place. I originally wanted to call The Lure of the Local “All Over the Place,” and my publisher said, It’s a little too close to the truth. [Laughter.]

[ … ]

LL: I’ve always liked what feels like the impossibility of writing about images, and I always welcome the chance to mess around with form in ways that try to address that.

My previous post from Earnest’s book is here.




July 30, 2019

The Distance of the Audience from the Stage

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:26 am

… The question is only how far the displacement of production by the receptive aspect is taken into account from the outset.

Continuing through The Sociology of Art by Arnold Hauser, translated by Kenneth J. Northcott (1982):

… Artistic creativity is not a fruit ready to be plucked; in order to enjoy it we have to continue a process which the artist himself did not complete. The adequate comprehension of an important work thus not only demands maturity, concentration, sensibility, a feeling for quality, and critical ability, but also presupposes an ability to complete and not merely reconstruct the artistic achievement. It is man in his universal, demanding reality of life who receives the products of art with the utmost harnessing of his powers.

[line break added] The acquisition of works which often fall effortlessly into the lap of the artist as a gift from the gods costs us a hard struggle. Essentially one is born an artist, but for the most part educated to be a connoisseur. It is not the road from nature to art, but that from artist to connoisseur which is the longer and more winding. Both are not only individually but also socially conditioned. But the education of an artist consists in the development of a talent the predisposition to which is generally already present; the aesthetic education of a connoisseur on the other hand consists frequently in a more elementary and incomparably more multifaceted operation.

… It is incredible to what extent the simplest communications and chance remarks change when they go from mouth to mouth and from one person to another. The more complex the thought which is transferred and the more personal the message, the more incisive the change can be which it undergoes in sense and in form in the course of the process. The experience of art as the change of the production into the reception of artistic expression can be regarded fundamentally as such a distortion and falsification of the original vision.

[line break added] The question is only how far the displacement of production by the receptive aspect is taken into account from the outset. Does not every artist have to come to terms with the necessity for a more or less severe exaggeration and coarsening of that vision, just as the actor has to reckon with the distance of the audience from the stage?

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




July 29, 2019

No Need

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:00 am

… We remove a cellophane wrapping and there it is …

This is from ‘Tactile Sensibility’ by Anni Albers (1965):

… we certainly have grown increasingly insensitive in our perception by touch, the tactile sense.

No wonder a faculty that is so largely unemployed in our daily plodding and bustling is degenerating. Our materials come to us already ground and chipped and crushed and powdered and mixed and sliced so that only the finale in the long sequence of operations from matter to product is left to us: we merely toast the bread. No need to get our hands into the dough.

[line break added] No need — alas, also little chance — to handle materials, to test their consistency, their density, their lightness, their smoothness. No need for us, either, to make our implements, to shape our pots or fashion our knives. Unless we are specialized producers, our contact with materials is rarely more than a contact with the finished product. We remove a cellophane wrapping and there it is …

… We touch things to assure ourselves of reality. We touch the objects of our love. We touch the things we form. Our tactile experiences are elemental.

The object [a photograph] is apparently flat, but it is of course made up of hundreds of thousands of three-dimensional particles. In this way an image archive could be understood as a kind of stratified geological deposit. — Simon Starling (2012)




July 28, 2019

Turn Pale

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:21 am

… We forget the world and time.

Continuing through The Incandescent by Michel Serres, translated by Randolph Burks (2003; 2018):

… Evolution develops like a tree whose branches are divided into smaller branches that are always better adapted to the environment. Species that are more and more specialized bifurcate along this neo-Darwinian schema: some given species discovers a niche favoring, in return, the specific function housed in it and exploits this niche better.

[line break added] A fold in the skin, intended, it seems, for thermal equilibrium, launches reptiles into flight, and their wings become shaped according to a thousand wingspans, profiles and colors in the turbulent air; migratory birds develop a liver whose reserves allow for migration, and others develop countless beaks marvelously adapted to their diets; the melodies given out during mating season also vary in the same way. Does extreme specialization, at the maximum possible ramification, reach a dead end?

I don’t know why — perhaps someday someone will — we left this kind of duration, why we extricated ourselves from this schema.

… Did we forget speciation? Did this indifference, in the broadest sense, this non-differentiation, result from the forgetfulness of just now? We forget the world and time. Do we also forget our program? Can I name our species Homo negligens ? Does it unbind itself from nature?

… As it advances, evolution differentiates; should it despecialize by erasing boundaries, it seems to go backwards. In progressing, it multiplies colors and shades; in regressing, it seems to turn pale and produce a candidate for incandescence. Dedifferentiated, forgetful, we became poor; we became the most destitute of living things.

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




July 27, 2019

Where the Web of Reflections Plays

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:17 am

… It inhabits it, is materialized there, yet it is not contained there …

This is from ‘Eye and Mind’ by Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1960):

… Ultimately the painting relates to nothing at all among experienced things unless it is first of all ‘autofigurative.’ It is a spectacle of something only by being a ‘spectacle of nothing,’ by breaking the ‘skin of things’ to show how the things become things, how the world becomes world. Apollinaire said that in a poem there are phrases which do not appear to have been created, which seem to have shaped themselves.

[line break added] And Henri Michaux said that sometimes Klee’s colors seem to have been born slowly upon the canvas, to have emanated from some primordial ground, ‘exhaled at the right spot’ like a patina or a mold. Art is not construction, artifice, the meticulous relationship to a space and a world existing outside. It is truly the ‘inarticulate cry,’ as Hermes Trismegistus said, ‘which seemed to be the voice of the light.’ And once it is present it awakens powers dormant in ordinary vision, a secret of pre-existence.

[line break added] When through the water’s thickness I see the tiled bottom of the pool, I do not see it despite the water and the reflections: I see it through them and because of them. If there were no distortions, no ripples of sunlight, if it were without that flesh that I saw the geometry of the tiles, then I would cease to see it as it is and where it is — in space; all this is not somewhere else either, but it is not in the pool. It inhabits it, is materialized there, yet it is not contained there; and if I lift my eyes towards the screen of cypresses where the web of reflections plays, I must recognize that the water visits it as well, or at least sends out to it its active, living essence.




July 26, 2019

The Paper Spreads Out Like the Sea

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:55 am

… It cannot be very effective for the artist to attack an object so removed from reality with his flesh and blood body.

This is from The Art of Encounter by Lee Ufan (2018):

… To engage in more profound exchanges and achieve greater liberation,
I need to pull the world into a confined place for a short time.
When I want to discuss secrets, I do so on canvas.
When I want to talk to everyone, I go to the public square.

[ … ]

… If you make a point on a piece of paper, it covers the bit of paper under it. However, in the instant that the paper under the point disappears, it is resurrected as something larger and wider that still includes the point. The paper spreads out like the sea around the point, making it into a floating island.

[ … ]

… Space does not originally exist as form. A planar surface is essentially a fabricated form of space. Canvas, for example, has an ordinary existence as a physical material, but it is defined as space in terms of a special concept. It is even more precisely defined when stretched on a wooden frame. It cannot be very effective for the artist to attack an object so removed from reality with his flesh and blood body. It is necessary to bring together the combined forces of the body and ideas in order to confront the ambiguous space of the canvas.

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




July 25, 2019

A Form That Accommodates the Mess

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:02 am

… this was a way of registering the messy lining of the utopian vision that could not be.

This is from ‘Color-in-Pieces: The Italian Neo-Avant-Garde’ by Briony Fer found in Part Object Part Sculpture by Helen Molesworth (2005):

Burri is best known for his Sacci, which he began to make in 1950 using the burlap sacks imported under the Marshall Plan. His surfaces have been read as wounds, cut and torn, then stitched and sutured. The fact that Burri had trained as a doctor has fueled this dynamic of wounding and repair. This is persuasive up to a point, but it is worth saying that it also marks something of a swansong.

[line break added] The artwork is both in thrall to and transformed by a metaphorics of surface as skin — to be rent and punctured and sewn up again — but it is also transformed by the sheer materiality of rough burlap. Burri makes remarkably intricate material and tactual worlds inside his collages. Tiny spirals of machine stitching may cover over a crater or hole in the fabric; elsewhere a tear gently opens the surface to another layer that can be glimpsed behind it. … This is about as far away as you can get from the kind of monochrome that stares blankly back at the viewer.

… the burlap is not neutral or colorless. A whole range of dirt-brown tones offers an almost tragic burlesque of painterly “tone.” In between, or glimpsed behind, there are patches not just of added hessian but of gold paint and vivid cadmium red, sometimes spread out as a ground, sometimes applied in a crack between two pieces of sacking, sometimes congealed as a small pool.

What this is not is a subtle color accent or “touch” of color. A touch of color can accentuate a part of a compositional whole, but Burri’s red tends to puncture and so destroy the whole surface structure …

[ … ]

Manzoni recognized in Fontana that, for all the talk of infinity beyond the surface, the most significant and productive site of action was going to be in front of it, in the space of the spectator. The palpable material, the tactile, the bodily — all would seem to contradict the rhetoric of infinite space that concerned Italian artists in the 1950s and 1960s. But on the contrary, this was a way of registering the messy lining of the utopian vision that could not be. As Samuel Beckett wrote: “To find a form that accommodates the mess, that is the task of the artist now.”

… The disintegration of color that I have described is not the same as the death of color. As David Batchelor has put it, “Chromophobia might not really have its opposite in chromophilia; chromophobia might be seen as simply chromophilia’s weak form.” White, rather than not being a color, is perhaps the most seductive color of all. And in the context of Arte Provera, so were the colors of sackcloth and ashes.

… Far from exhausting itself, the dynamic between the chromatic and the achromatic continues to animate Arte Povera — just as it had driven the dismantling of a pictorial aesthetic in the work of the 1950s. The legacy of that moment is not over yet.

My previous post from this book is here.




July 24, 2019

The Most Terrific Personal State

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:10 am

… I aim to move away from tedious cries …

This is from the introduction to What It Means to Write About Art: Interviews with Art Critics by Jarrett Earnest (2018):

The one duty we owe to history is to re-write it. That is not the least of the tasks in store for the critical spirit.
— Oscar Wilde, ‘The Critic as Artist’ (1891)

… disparate takes coexist in a multiverse we call art criticism. Every value judgment and distinction in “quality” — the usual expectations of criticism — manifests a particular world view, formed by highly contingent emotional, intellectual, and aesthetic predispositions, making it all the more surprising how little attention is paid to understanding critics’ perspectives. I always want to know, Who Is this person and what do they want from art? Which is another way of asking, What do they want from life?

… Frank O’Hara’s line, supposedly quoting Franz Kline, that “to be right is the most terrific personal state that nobody is interested in” sums up my approach to the history and the future of criticism. I aim to move away from tedious cries of “crisis” and tiresome brawls over “good” and “bad” to instead understand what is striking about any given critic’s work — the nuances of how they approach writing and the way these styles and tactics become meaningful across a body of work and, perhaps more importantly for the purposes of this collection, over the course of a life.




July 23, 2019

The Question

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:18 am

… “The work of art … is not as free of itself, but is essentially a question … “

Continuing through The Sociology of Art by Arnold Hauser, translated by Kenneth J. Northcott (1982):

… However insignificant the contribution may be which the reader, listener, or spectator makes objectively to the received work, the artist’s creation is shifted into another sphere or onto another level when it is simultaneously or subsequently supplemented by the recipient.

… Productive and receptive behavior assume spontaneity and sensibility: on one hand ideas and feelings can be communicated; on the other recipients are able to resonate, to reconstruct, empathize, and come to terms with each other by means of a common formal language. The discovery of such a language is a fundamental condition of art.

… “In the wilderness of the southern forests the bright, highly colored feathers of birds shine unseen, their song sounds out unheard, the torch thistle which blooms for only one night withers without being admired. … The work of art, however, ” [Hegel] says in another place in the Ästhetik, “is not as free of itself, but is essentially a question, an address to the echoing breast, a call to souls and spirits.” *

The question demands an answer and is put in the expectation of one. The persons addressed by the artist are not merely recipients, mute and passive listeners, or spectators, but partners in a dialogue.

… The reception which takes place may be anticipated by production, but nevertheless it represents only one of several possible effects, so that every possible effect is the result of a selection and is not primary, is not an artistically independent variable. Reception seems to be less spontaneous than production only because it represents subsequent completion and psychological empathy. It is by no means more generalizing and more alienated from the individual than the act of creation, which already represents a privation of the ego and — as a result of the objectivization and emancipation of the spiritual contents — a surrender of inwardness.

[ * Or the work of art is an answer calling for a question. Or it’s an answer in the form of a question. Or it’s a question in the form of an answer. (This is not new ground.) ]

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




July 22, 2019

Does It Matter?

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:16 am

… How did language come to be more trustworthy than matter?

This is from ‘Les Immatériaux’ by Jean-François Lyotard (1985):

In the tradition of modernity, the relationship between human beings and materials is fixed by the Cartesian program of mastering and possessing nature. A free will imposes its own aims on given elements by diverting them from their natural course. These aims are determined by means of the language which enables the will to articulate what is possible (a project) and to impose it on what is real (matter).

The ambition of the exhibition entitled ‘Les Immatériaux’ is to make the visitor realize how far this relationship is altered by the existence of ‘new materials.’ New materials, in a wide meaning of the term, are not merely materials which are new. They question the idea of Man as a being who works, who plans and who remembers: the idea of an author.

This next is from ‘Meeting the Universe Halfway’ by Karen Barad (2007):

Language has been granted too much power. The linguistic turn, the semiotic turn, the interpretative turn, the cultural turn: it seems that at every turn lately every ‘thing’ — even materiality — is turned into a matter of language or some other form of cultural representation. The ubiquitous puns on ‘matter’ do not, alas, mark a rethinking of the key concepts (materiality and signification) and the relationship between them.

[line break added] Rather, they seem to be symptomatic of the extent to which matters of ‘fact’ (so to speak) have been replaced with matters of signification (no scare quotes here). Language matters. Discourse matters. Culture matters. There is an important sense in which the only thing that doesn’t seem to matter anymore is matter.

… How did language come to be more trustworthy than matter? Why are language and culture granted their own agency and historicity, while matter is figured as passive and immutable or at best inherits a potential for change derivatively from language and culture? How does one even go about inquiring after the material conditions that have led us to such a brute reversal of naturalist beliefs when materiality itself is always already figured within a linguistic domain as its condition of possibility?




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