Unreal Nature

August 31, 2019

Regenerative Potential

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:05 am

… their generative or regenerative potential, indeed their very life — has fallen through the cracks of an already solidified world.

This is from Making: Anthropology, Archaeology, Art and Architecture by Tim Ingold (2013):

… When scholars speak of the ‘material world’ or, more abstractly, of ‘materiality,’ what do they mean? Put the question to students of material culture and you likely get contradictory answers.

… In every case, there seem to be two sides to materiality. On one side is the raw physicality of the world’s ‘material character’; on the other side is the socially and historically situated agency of human beings who, in appropriating this physicality for their purposes, are alleged to project upon it both design and meaning in the conversion of naturally given raw material into the finished forms of artefacts.

… in the notion of materiality the world is presented both as the very bedrock of existence and as an externality that is open to comprehension and appropriation by a transcendent humanity. Materiality, like humanity, is Janus-faced.

… whether we find the history of things, with Holtorf, in the life that surrounds them or, with Bailey, in the traces that remain in them after life has moved on, it seems that in the appeal to materiality, the becoming of materials — their generative or regenerative potential, indeed their very life — has fallen through the cracks of an already solidified world.

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

August 30, 2019

Withholding

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:47 am

… You have to live with the doubts.

This is from Julião Sarmento’s contribution to It Speaks to Me: Art that Inspires Artists by Jori Finkel (2019):

If I had to choose my ten favorite artists in the world, Ghirlandaio would probably not be on that list. But I keep going back again and again just to look at this painting — it’s that beautiful.


Domenico Ghirlandaio, Portrait of a Young Woman, circa 1485

… the first thing that you see is the red necklace. Without the red necklace, she could be anybody. With the red necklace, she is somebody special.

We aren’t, though, given much information about her. The girl is not looking at you and not looking at the painter, she’s looking to her right. There is some life in her eyes, but the rest of her face is truly blank.

Ghirlandaio just doesn’t give you much. You have to build a story about her yourself. You have to live with the doubts. This painting has nothing to do with my own work, but I did call one of my shows, a survey in Spain, Withholding. I am very interested in this withholding of emotion.

My most recent previous post from this book is here.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

August 29, 2019

And I Choose to Do That

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:14 am

… redemption would come when your little gremlin or my little angel were to start having a life of its own …

This is from a conversation moderated by Jan Verwoert in No kind of duck / Would I know how to say what I do? (2016):

[ … ]

Jan Verwoert: On the one hand we’re talking about how economies of time, like the market, dictate a particular rhythm. So we ask: What kind of economy of time do we need to maintain the continuity necessary for our work? On the other hand, the question on the table is: How does continuity even manifest itself in the work? What idea of work are we talking about? Is it the oeuvre, a body of work linked to your body; so as long as you live, it lives? Or is it the work linked to the maintenance of relations, to social life sustaining the art? Then there is the notion of the masterpiece, the terrifying thought that all things one could ever want to say may …

Alex Martinis Roe: … be said in one thing. [laughs]

JV: Yea, like, “damn, I already said it!”

[laughter]

[ … ]

Ralf Baecker: I am probably that person who spends months in the studio, programming, finding problems, designing circuits, and doing all the stuff that takes ages. During these times I don’t go out and see my family for months [laughs], really. It’s not like that I want to romanticize this, but it’s actually important to enable me to get the work to the precise point where I want to get it to.

Jeremiah Day: But I think it’s also only at this point that the work starts to have its own density. I often have the feeling that we’re in the position that artists working on a cathedral used to be in. It’s like all of us are involved in some minor part of the collective process: I’m doing a little angel over here, and you’re doing the little gremlin over there, [laughter] mine is melancholic, political realism, yours is technological progress.

[line break added] We’re all fulfilling functions inside this giant cultural apparatus. Whereas redemption would come when your little gremlin or my little angel were to start having a life of its own, if it were to transcend its status as mere decoration, instrument, or illustration. That’s why I think that it matters to get density into the work, on a material level.

RB: Yes, and I choose to do that.

My previous post from this book is here.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

August 28, 2019

Who Is Talking to Me

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:09 am

… You are giving someone who is utterly not you something to read.

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

[ … ]

Jarrett Earnest: Something you once wrote about sculpture: “The best modern sculpture always expresses some sort of existential gawkiness, capitalizing on the same intimacy of shared space that makes most sculpture irritating.” I think that is insightful; I’ve always thought there aren’t as many critics who can write about sculpture as well as painting.

Peter Schjeldahl: Sculpture is a learned taste for me. It is far and away the hardest art. The demands on it are crushing, especially since it came off pedestals. A painting is an imaginary world, and it hangs on the wall out of our way. There is room in the real world for an infinity of imaginary worlds, which you can deal with or not. The conditions that apply to anything actually in the world apply to sculpture, with the added challenge of blatant uselessness.

[line break added] Three questions we might ask of a sculpture that we unexpectedly encounter are, What is that? Why is it there? When will it go away? If those questions take hold, the sculpture is sunk. There has to be some immediate response that skates past them. It can be dislike. The sculpture has to excite your feelings immediately to have a chance of working for you.

[ … ]

JE: The seventies were a transitional time in art criticism, with people scrambling out from under these towering, polemic figures like Greenberg. How did you see what you were doing in relation to the larger scene?

PS: I had no weight. I bounced around. I had no presence. I was impersonating a critic, often with a weirdly elderly tone. I didn’t have any critical aim. But that served me in the long run. Something I say to students is: You come into a scene and you’re a nobody. I know how painful it is to be a nobody, but you’ll look back at this as the most important period of your life. Because, particularly in New York, if you’re a nobody, no one will bother to lie to you. You are getting absolutely authentic, real knowledge everywhere you go and everywhere you are. The moment you’re a somebody, everyone will try to spin you, as they should, because they’ve got careers to tend.

[ … ]

PS: … I always want to know any critic’s personal uses for art. I’ve got to have a sense of who is talking to me. If it isn’t present in a first paragraph, I stop reading.

JE: Do you think that a degree of narcissism is essential for being a critic?

PS: Absolutely. It’s basic operating equipment. But as with any complicated machinery, you have to be careful — keep it engaged with the task at hand, not let it run amok. You are giving someone who is utterly not you something to read.

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

August 27, 2019

He Has Drawn Our Attention

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:12 am

… The critic … asks, Do you see what I see and what I think?

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

… Criticism often means nothing more than making people aware of and formulating feelings, notions, and ideas which appear fleetingly in the recipient during the artistic experience and remain unarticulated. But critical analysis actually enters its real element only when it begins to correct the superficial, indistinct, and inadequate interpretation of a work.

[line break added] The function of criticism consists here more in the correct interpretation of artistic creations — which penetrates the ideological background and the decisive problems of life — than in the formation of appropriate value judgments on their aesthetic quality. In an age like the present, when the most significant works of art are the most difficult and the most misunderstood, their interpretation is all the more authoritative when informative interpretation embraces proper judgment; the judgment itself on the other hand explains almost nothing of its meaning content.

… The critic points to characteristics of a work which are directly or indirectly perceptible, manifest or latent, and asks, Do you see what I see and what I think? If we see what he means, then he has attained his goal. Without making express judgments he has drawn our attention to the presence of values which have been realized even if they were previously unnoticed, and he has made possible an act of appreciation to which the way was previously blocked.

[line break added] Yet even the most informative criticism does not master the whole task of reception: it merely points to a meaning to which the reader must find his own way. After it has reminded him that a secret is at hand where there had seemed to be an open, unmistakable formal structure, criticism leaves him alone with the work.

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

August 26, 2019

Their Needles

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:00 am

… I’m still working with it as a single thread out of which emerges a surface, a fabric, a narrative …

This is from ‘Knitting is … ‘ by Sabrina Gschwandtner (2008):

When I’m asked what I do I often reply that I’m an artist who works with film, video and textiles. To me the link between the three is instinctive and implicit — media is a textile — and my work expresses why and how I find that to be true. The model for my career as an artist, curator, writer, editor and publisher is knitting.

I started knitting in my final semester of college as an art/semiotics student at Brown University. Two of my roommates were textile students at the Rhode Island School of Design and when they came home late at night, still full of energy, they’d climb onto the yellow stools in our kitchen and chatter and spool yarn toward their needles like addicts. They showed me the basics of knitting and crochet (my mother had taught me when I was eight but I had mostly forgotten) and I was charmed.

… I’d knit or crochet something, leave it, come back, rip it up, fix it, wear it, add some other material, hang it up, leave it, project film onto it, record that, edit it, show it, give it away and start over. Even when I’m not working with knitting as my actual medium or technique I’m still working with it as a single thread out of which emerges a surface, a fabric, a narrative, an outfit, a pattern, a text, a recording, and even, despite my seemingly erratic way of working, a form that encompasses all of these things.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

August 25, 2019

This Incandescent Emptiness

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:53 am

… A flame suddenly burns in us, melting our focalizations into a single one, indefinite in turn.

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

… Just as the common zero-valence of our nature conditions the multicolored omnivalence of cultures, just as the common nil-potency of our bodies conditions the virtual omnipotency of their acts, just as the field’s white space opens up to every crop, just as white places and white objects condition all life in society, just as money tends to replace all things and every social bond … , so our various pieces of knowledge come into being in this incandescent emptiness. Before receiving our language and its singular syntax from the tribe and our mothers, we bear a totipotent capacity to speak.

… We don’t maintain any definite relation with the apeiron or with these sites of ‘objects,’ except that, through a kind of symmetry or face-to-face, they require us in our entirety, without any bound of any kind, without any work program or specialty program, without any specially cut out organ or ‘faculty.’

[line break added] We think about them with all our floating and indefinite attention; we remember them with all our vague memory; we imagine them without any image; we attach our reason to them without any reason; we apprehend them with our seven senses; our entire body bathes in them, bones, muscles, genitals and skin; we desire them, love them with all our heart, await them with all our soul … . A flame suddenly burns in us, melting our focalizations into a single one, indefinite in turn. We go back up to our own incandescence.

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

August 24, 2019

The Forces and Energies at Play

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:56 am

… even if the maker has a form in mind, it is not this form that creates the work. It is the engagement with materials.

This is from Making: Anthropology, Archaeology, Art and Architecture by Tim Ingold (2013):

… We are accustomed to think of making a project. This is to start with an idea in mind of what we want to achieve, and with a supply of the raw material needed to achieve it. And it is to finish at the moment when the material has taken on the intended form. At this point, we say, we have produced an artefact. A nodule of stone has become an axe, a lump of clay a pot, molten lead a sword.

[line break added] Axe, pot and sword are instances of what scholars call material culture, a phrase that perfectly captures this theory of making as the unification of stuff supplied by nature with the conceptual representations of a received cultural tradition. ‘Material culture,’ as Julian Thomas puts it, ‘represents at once ideas that have been made material and natural substance that has been rendered cultural.’ In the literature the theory is known as hylomorphism, from the Greek hyle (matter) and morphe (form). Whenever we read that in the making of artefacts, practitioners impose forms internal to the mind upon a material world ‘out there,’ hylomorphism is at work.

I want to think of making, instead, as a process of growth. This is to place the maker from the outset as a participant in amongst a world of active materials. These materials are what he has to work with, and in the process of making he ‘joins forces’ with them, bringing them together or splitting them apart, synthesizing and distilling, in anticipation of what might emerge. The maker’s ambitions, in this understanding, are altogether more humble than those implied by the hylomorphic model.

[line break added] Far from standing aloof, imposing his designs on a world that is ready and waiting to receive them, the most he can do is to intervene in worldly processes that are already going on, and which give rise to the forms of the living world that we see all around us — in plants and animals, in waves of water, snow and sand, in rocks and clouds — adding his own impetus to the forces and energies at play.

… even if the maker has a form in mind, it is not this form that creates the work. It is the engagement with materials. And it is therefore to this engagement that we must attend if we are to understand how things are made. Time and again, scholars have written as though to have a design for a thing, you already have the thing itself. Some versions of conceptual art and architecture have taken this reasoning to such an extreme that the thing itself becomes superfluous.

[line break added] It is but a representation — a derivative copy — of the design that preceded it. … But makers know better, and one of the purposes of this book is to bring them out of the shadows into which they have been cast by an uncritical application of the hylomorphic model, and to celebrate the creativity of their achievement.

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

August 23, 2019

Found

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:54 am

… But this was just loose in a storage cupboard.

This is from Ilit Azoulay’s contribution to It Speaks to Me: Art that Inspires Artists by Jori Finkel (2019):

My first encounter with this object was when I was doing my BFA studies in Jerusalem, probably in 1992. It’s a very small object in the form of a pomegranate made from a hippopotamus tusk. It’s only 4.4 cm tall, but you couldn’t miss it. It was on display inside two vitrines, one inside another, with a guard standing by. It was so well protected; this was the Mona Lisa of the Israel Museum.


the Ivory Pomegranate

… I came to the object again recently while working on a three-year project at the museum that took me into its inner depths. I was surprised to find the pomegranate bowl in storage, just loose in a box.

What I learned is that the object was found in 2004 to be fake. Researchers found the forms of the letters were suspect, and they discovered through scientific analysis that the patina was a more modern imitation and that the tooth itself is not from the Iron Age but most likely from the Late Bronze Age.

I would still imagine an object like that wrapped in a very particular fabric, inside a box, inside a storage compartment with a key. But this was just loose in a storage cupboard. I was allowed to touch it. Also in the box was a replica of the object. It turns out that when the Israel Museum exhibited the original — it was too valuable. Now the hierarchy between original and replica has collapsed, there is no difference between them, both asleep in a drawer.

There are a few historians who haven’t entirely given up and still make arguments for the authenticity of the Ivory Pomegranate. What interests me is how this little object carries such weight on its shoulders.

My previous post from this book is here.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

August 22, 2019

The Two Yous

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:17 am

… It is as if the talk between songs was the song …

This is from Jan Verwoert’s introductory essay to No kind of duck / Would I know how to say what I do? (2016):

There is a lot to be said for knowing your trade. It certainly puts you in a better place when you are required to broker a deal and negotiate the value of your art. It is easier to state your terms when you know what your work is, what it does, what it needs, and what it takes to make it look good when it is installed. And yes, if the discussions surrounding American art from the 1960s onward have taught us anything, it is that coining concepts for putting a spin on your work is essential to the enterprise of getting your art out there, into the world.

… If the impossibility of extricating yourself from the computational dynamic is anywhere more painfully obvious, it is here. It is the lie at the heart of elegance that you may end up clinging to all the more fervently (I do), the more difficult it becomes to sustain. Why would you play at being aloof — e.g. external to — the workings of social machinery if not because you know too well that you are not. Still, you place your bet to get into the game, not out.

… When you stay all in throughout the game, it ceases to matter at some point whether initial expectations are met or not. What wins you the trust in the end is that you have not backed out, and your body is still at the table, in the building, exposed.

… Regardless of how good one may get, as a maker, at performing the trick of doubling oneself before the public, it seems vital to acknowledge that on a primary phenomenological level this performance occurs at all. The horror of entering an academicized environment or an information-hungry urban public realm today lies in the fact that this acknowledgment simply no longer takes place.

[line break added] What raises the pressure to bizarre degrees is not simply the expectation that one should be able to instantaneously switch from maker to communicator. It is the assumption that the communicator (in you) is the maker (in you). For the performance to pass as professional, no friction should be discernible between the two yous. Experience shows that this notoriously implies for the communicator (in you) to take the place of the maker (in you) and cancel out the latter. It is as if the talk between songs was the song, and there was no other.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

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