Unreal Nature

March 17, 2018

Up the Drainpipe

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:36 am

… yes, the happy ending must be coming up …

This is from the chapter on Ken Jacobs found in Film at Wit’s End: Eight Avant-Garde Filmmakers by Stan Brakhage (1989). Jacobs had a childhood that Brakhage describes as being “a little like a Charles Dickens novel”; his parents were separated when he was born, his mother died when he was seven, his father was abusive and so on:

… In rearing his daughter, Nisi, Ken wanted to allow her complete freedom, to shower affection and love on her, and not restrict her, as much of his childhood had been a hell of restriction. It was not just a case of spoiling the child — nothing as stupid as that — but was more a philosophy along the lines of Summerhill’s S. Neill, giving the child every break possible within reason. As a result, Nisi is a very beautiful child, warm, open and sensitive. Sometimes, however, her sensitivity can be an agony.

There is a story which Hollis Frampton tells that points up Nisi’s ultra sensitivity. Ken does not approve of much that is shown on television, so he buys old Castle films from the 1930s, animated films and early film drama, to show Nisi. One time, as Hollis tells it, Ken brought one home for her before he had had the opportunity to preview it — he had seen only the first five minutes, enough to see that it was the animated story of a little girl who, with her nanny, takes her doll out to the park.

[line break added] Great for Nisi, he thought, and so he set up the projector to watch the movie. After the first five minutes, though, things start to take a bad turn. The little girl’s doll gets lost, and it starts to rain, and the nanny has to get the little girl home. She is crying and calling for her doll and being dragged off; and there is a heartbreaking scene of the doll lying in the grass and the rain pouring down and ruining its painted face. Nisi, who had already begun to be upset, was by now weeping.

But Ken felt sure that all would come out happily in the end — after all, the first five minutes had been so sweet and sentimental. But things go from worse to worst: the lost doll is attacked by dogs in the park, then crawls around looking for the little girl. By the time the doll reaches the little girl’s house, both Nisi and Flo [Mrs. Jacobs] were sobbing.

[line break added] But Ken kept the movie running, thinking, yes, the happy ending must be coming up when they saw the doll climbing up the drainpipe to the little girl’s window. But no! The doll looks into the window and sees the little girl with a new, clean, pretty doll with eyes that open and close. The bedraggled doll looks at herself in the glass and realizes she is finished, and crawls back down the drainpipe and throws herself in the gutter.

At this point, Ken was still hoping against hope that the little girl would see her old doll the next morning and rescue it. But in the final scene, the little girl comes out of the house in the morning with her new doll and walks right past the old one in the gutter, and goes laughing happily down the street. Nisi, of course, was in a state of shock.

[ … ]

Ken is confronted newly now, not as someone desperately trying to survive and being shut out in every instance, but as a recognized filmmaker and a teacher.

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




March 16, 2018

The Sycamores Are Already Yellowing

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:28 am

… need lots more gray weather — six days worth might do it & it’s coming on fall.

Continuing through 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.):

[ … ]

9.6.99 … Is this painting any good? At least it didn’t rain. Some patches of weak sun even, from time to time. Painted the sky much brighter white, there is this problem of these half-hearted gray days, they’re not dark. Liked the bright (& warm) white sky over by the RH top corner, with the big isolated coils of razor-wire. Continued it across, even diving into the middle of the tree. Slowly moving away from a dark gray day. Lightened some greens, brightened some sumac flowers, worked on the creepers.

[line break added] Still can’t get the yellow fall[en] leaves deep in the lower part. Need to repaint the baby sumac on this side of the fence, it’s too poky & arrhythmic, too fussed. Thought a lot about Alex Katz & his fucking brilliant reductions of woods, thickets etc. What wld he have done? Not what I’m doing, that’s for sure. I hover between Cathy Murphyesque determination to finish every detail immaculately & Alex’s abbreviating, summarizing distillations wch. choose a few things & run with them.

[ … ]

9.7.99 … Sometimes this world seems so horrible. Buy, buy, buy, stuff, stuff, more stuff. Do we appreciate anything this way? Then I flash to 86th St. & the way so many passers-by think I have a trick, an angle. I must be making money, that’s what it’s all about. No, it’s about looking, about patience, about observing, about savoring differences.

[ … ]

9.8.99 … Some days are not very productive. At first it was foggy & gray, worked on the close-up painting till about 9 a.m. It was hard — I cldn’t get to quite the right spot [because of parked cars], but did a little on the foremost creeper leaves, a bluish green. Nothing looks too good in this picture — there are too many things in it — leaves mostly, of different colors. It’s a jumble, undigested, unsynthesized & poorly executed: fussed, not bold or clear.

[line break added] Then the sun came weakly out wch. was exactly as had been forecast, so I quickly moved to my sunny site wch. was wide open for me [no cars parked in the way]. Then I worked on the razor-wire on the top of the fence, the top strand & it started off OK, thinking the lines, but it was too late to really see the color & it’s rather synthetic.

[ … ]

9.20.99 … for the first time on W. 8th St. I got hassled by some kids who taunted me rudely, picked up my stuff (there were 4 of them + one ring leader who had a nasty talent for insult). Barked them away when he bumped into my easel; soon they came full of apologies — sucker that I am, I said ‘Oh, that’s OK, just don’t disturb me,’ so they started in again. Then I yelled fiercely, and said ‘Don’t come back,’ so they stood on the other side of the road & threw rocks at me! None hit, most didn’t even reach.

[line break added] Eventually their (or one of them’s) mom leaned out of a window & scolded them & told them to stop. End of incident. Not much, but it spoils the near perfect record of W.8th St. as a pleasant human environment to work in. Didn’t get too far with the second 2 paintings today, but got off to a good start (and finish — even signed the damned thing!) in the a.m. That’s enough.

[ … ]

9.22.99 … Quit round 3 p.m. — a good day. … I got quite a lot done. The basic structure is all there. Now it’s just razor-wire color & weeds. Lots to refine, lots to concentrate on, but no ‘where am I?’ feeling anymore. You’re at the third post on the left; got to work out the coils of wire carefully the weeds — need lots more gray weather — six days worth might do it & it’s coming on fall. The sycamores are already yellowing slightly but perceptibly.

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




March 15, 2018

Simply Not Seen at All

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:49 am

… any move outside [these] boundaries and assumptions [will] simply not [be] seen at all.

This is from ‘Some Notes on the Nature of Abstraction’ (1979) found in Robert Irwin: Notes Toward a Conditional Art edited by Matthew Sims (2011, 2017):

… A cloud passes before the sun, trailing its shadow over the landscape and a chill wind passes. A surface that a moment ago appeared rough is now smooth; something curved, now flat; a bright red, now violet; something in profile, now lost in its environment.

How do we picture such a phenomenon, the weave of its textures? Is it enough to say or picture that a cloud has passed before the sun? If it (red, curved, rough) was real before, is it (violet, flat, smooth) equally real now?

… it is naïve (or Machiavellian) to suppose that the boundaries or goals of any personal act can be objectively determined or demarcated on the grounds of an abstract logic, while the individual person is at the same time considered “free” or “creative.” It is essential to the concept of freedom or creativity that the individual give meaning to his or her own actions, for meaning here is in the special way in which each individual attends his or her lived experiences. This is precisely the crucial aspect in the process that subsequently elevates experience into action.

… What remains of the actual dimensions of our experience if we surrender to such radical premises as to see “reality” in a pictorial logic, a “solution” in an analysis of form, or something “concrete” in measures of time and space? Does it necessarily follow that reality is then merely the equal of such “meanings”? And if what I perceive does not “mean” anything, what then?

… the individual, in the moment of creative action, embodies an overlap of both immediate presence and mediated civilization.

… One thing is clear: when the level or kind of reality resides in the events of perceptual phenomenon, as well as in those abstracted concepts of image transference, such methodologies (tools) as language, script, graphs, photography, and the various games of pictorial, historical, curatorial, and literary analysis and description have only the appropriate limited meaning of their present currency in the world. It is in this sense that modern (so-called abstract, non-objective) art may seem obscure, as it generates direct questions aimed at each of these seemingly established roles and practices making up the historical distinctions for art.

The loss is clear. Simply consider the sheer beauty of order in a contextual agreement like a painting for the processes of gaining clarity and true subtlety of intersubjective dialogue — that, for example, each mark or move made in a painting can be eminently compared with and against the whole history of marks or moves by anyone having the knowledge to do so, thus allowing for a continually extending sophistication of understanding and summation, that is, a compounding view of (aesthetic?) quality. So it is only natural that any move outside the boundaries and assumptions of this classic orthodoxy will be seen only in the grossest terms, as anti-rational, anti-art, anti-social, and hence anti-human — or simply not seen at all.

So why and how did modern art and artists ever get themselves into such a predicament? That is, why would anyone in their right mind think to break such an agreement? The overriding fact, however, is that over a period of 150 years, artists have been doing just that — moving through a step-by-step evolution away from the formal logic underwriting traditional pictorial art and thought.

… What are its implications for perceptual consciousness, and what might be its subsequent consequences for social reality?

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




March 14, 2018

What It Has Done to Us

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:40 am

… Some of them use the ambiguous silence of pictures, usually of surveillance subjects, to insist on a kind of dialogue, an extended caption that questions or probes the mute picture.

This is from the editor’s introductory essay to the book Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance, and the Camera Since 1870 edited by Sandra S. Phillips (2010):

We cannot blame the camera for what it has done to us; nevertheless, it has made certain human predilections much easier to satisfy. True, the elders in the biblical story did not need special equipment to spy on the unknowing Susannah — they simply concealed themselves and peeked at her as she undressed for a pleasant bath. Today, however, they would use cell phones to grab a picture of a young woman in a compromised position and send it to friends, having located her garden through Google Earth. Human hunger for seeing the forbidden has not changed. The technologies to facilitate it have.

… the technology of photography has had a considerable effect in aiding its users and observers in a distinctive kind of looking. As cameras became small and capable of recording events that were quick and unnoticed, or far away, or considered private, the resulting pictures encouraged viewers to tolerate or seek out or breech or at least question what we as a culture did not seek out before this invention — at least not without the threat of public approbation that eventually resulted in the elders’ deaths.

[line break added] We look at people in the street from a protected vantage, perhaps in close-up, and they are unaware they are being seen: we invade their privacy. We look at sex or death with the same prying curiosity, knowing that these were once privileged views. We have evolved a whole culture of celebrity around the ambivalence of conflating public and private.

[line break added] As the camera has become more easily concealed, and as we lately have come to feel protected because we are watched, the spy who used to be consigned to the shadows is now tolerated in the open, can in fact by you and me with a cell phone, even as we in turn are observed through the ubiquitous surveillance camera.

… Such photographs generally imply that the person making the picture was unseen; that what he (or she) and ultimately we are looking at represents a transgression of accepted rules of privacy; and that there is ambivalence on the part of the viewer about what is seen, or how.

… In our own time, as the perceived truth value of journalism and journalistic photography has eroded and the public arena has fractured into smaller and usually more personal units, there seems to be no central authority for the telling of objective facts anymore except in intimate spaces. Yet while there are ongoing questions concerning the role of the computer and internet in the encroachment on privacy and the increasing splintering of society, many still believe that technology is essentially democratic and ultimately beneficial.

Contemporary artists who use photography or media often embrace postmodernism’s analysis of media and engage the interchange between public and private. Some of them use the ambiguous silence of pictures, usually of surveillance subjects, to insist on a kind of dialogue, an extended caption that questions or probes the mute picture.

[line break added] As photography increasingly becomes a focus in the art museum, and the art museum itself becomes the location for investigating — disinterestedly but authoritatively — the issues of the culture at large, it seems an appropriate moment to look again at these kinds of pictures, to learn from them, and to better know ourselves.




March 13, 2018

Absence of Interference

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:48 am

… “if the senses completely approve an image, they kill it in the mind.”

This is from ‘Eccentric Abstraction’ (1966) found in Changing: essays in art criticism by Lucy R. Lippard (1971):

… Abstraction cannot be pornographic in any legal or specific sense no matter how erotically suggestive it becomes. (There is no pornographic music.) Instead of employing biomorphic form, usually interpreted with sexual references in Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism, several of these artists employ a long, slow, voluptuous but also mechanical curve, deliberate rather than emotive, stimulating a rhythm only vestigially associative — the rhythm of postorgasmic calm instead of ecstasy, action perfected, completed, and not yet reinstated.

[line break added] The sensibility that gives rise to an eroticism of near inertia tends to be casual about erotic acts and stimulants, approaching them nonromantically. The distinction made by the Surrealists between conscious and unconscious is irrelevant, for the current younger generation favors the presentation of specific facts — what we feel, what we see rather than why we do so.

[line break added] The Surrealist poet Pierre Reverdy said thirty years ago that “the characteristic of the strong image is that it derives from the spontaneous association of two very distant realities whose relationship is grasped solely by the mind,” but that “if the senses completely approve an image, they kill it in the mind.” This last qualification clearly separates Surrealism from its eccentric progeny. For a more complete acceptance by the senses — visual, tactile, and “visceral” — the absence of emotional interference and literary pictorial associations is what the new artists seem to be after.

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




March 12, 2018

Not Cheating on Yourself

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:38 am


… Somehow it comes out of personal integrity, checking up on yourself.

This is from Elizabeth Murray interview (2005) found in Robert Storr: Interviews on Art edited by Francesca Pietropaolo (2017):

[ … ]

Elizabeth Murray: … This is where I get tongue-tied, because I don’t want to say about the cup, “Well, you know, it’s male, female, blah, blah, blah,” because I just think that’s stupid. Underneath it all, these are very sexy images, but you can’t define sexuality in that way, and I don’t intend to. I just want the whole thing to feel alive and vibrant. But if I told myself that, I wouldn’t even be able to paint. You just have to paint it.

I used to say, “I don’t have ideas.” I know that’s not true; I have lots of ideas. But the substance of your paint is so … . You’ve squeezed it out onto your paper plate, or into your tin, and you’re dealing with another kind of life form. And I guess when I say “liquid,” I think that life form then makes the image. It’s all part and parcel of how you made the stroke go around, and you do it many, many times, and finally the image starts to form, and then it becomes one.

From the book’s first Bruce Nauman interview (2004):

[ … ]

Robert Storr: Do you anticipate specific responses from people who experience your works … or is it open-ended?

Bruce Nauman: When I make them, I think of me showing it to one other person and trusting that if it’s interesting or has some meaning to me it can have some meaning to somebody else — maybe not exactly the same meaning. Some sort of human response. It’s a hard thing because it requires a certain amount of exposure of yourself to present that. Because it does mean something to you. And I think that a lot of meaningful tension in any work of art is about what you give and what you don’t expose of yourself. It’s that kind of line, that tension, that you try to present.

RS: Is the reason for not providing certain information [to the audience] primarily self-protection?

BN: I think it’s the tension of what’s given and what’s not given that makes the experience. If somebody writes a journal — it’s very personal — it just might be embarrassing to read. So it’s how you present the information and not how much of it.

[ … ]

RS: If someone has the feeling that they have been subjected to some kind of aggression, that’s part of the piece basically.

BN: Yes.

RS: And then you set the condition for how they can — if they wish — respond or do you want to leave that response wide open?

BN: Pretty much wide open. It occurs to me that when I was working on one of the torture pieces, which are kind of aggressive, David Byrne had done a concert that I had gone to (he’s a friend of a friend of mine). When he finished, he stood and said “thank you” in such an aggressive manner — he was yelling “thank you” at the crowd — and that really connected with some of the ways I’ve been thinking about things. That aggressive “thank you” is a very strong double message. [laughs]

[ … ]

RS: … You’ve made pieces where virtues and vices are the subject. And you have talked about being an artist as an ethical proposition or moral choice. How do you think about that? What are the imperatives?

BN: The personal one is that nobody but you knows whether you’re doing the best you can do and you’re not cheating on yourself. I studied mathematics for a while and one of the beautiful things about mathematics is that there are things you can prove, but there are things that people discover and prove that change the structure of mathematics, change the way you can look at mathematics. And you can see that certain artists do things that change the way you can look at art. But you can’t prove it or disprove it. Somehow it comes out of personal integrity, checking up on yourself. And I think that’s the thing I struggle with a lot: how to maintain that, do that.

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




March 11, 2018


Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:01 am

… it infects them with its spirit of becoming and unfinalizability. It draws them ineluctably into its orbit …

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

… as well as depending on heteroglossia for its definition (and, for Bakhtin, its very existence), the novel is in fact the only location at which all the diversity implied by heteroglossia can in practice be observed:

All languages of heteroglossia, whatever the principle underlying them and making each unique, are specific points of view on the world, forms for conceptualizing the world in words, specific world views, each characterized by its own objects, meaning and values. As such they all may be juxtaposed to one another, mutually supplement one another, contradict one another and be interrelated dialogically. As such they encounter one another and co-exist in the consciousness of real people — first and foremost, in the creative consciousness of people who write novels.

The novel may indeed be a uniquely privileged site for the apprehension of heteroglossia, but this must not obscure the sense in which hetreroglossia is primarily a social fact; heteroglossia describes the fundamental condition of language (discourse), encompassing all forms of verbal interaction, literary and otherwise.

[line break added] The novel is, however, uniquely receptive to heteroglossia, which grows out of the heteroglot (and polyglot) condition of langauge; the novel absorbs and dialogically inter-animates the various strata of heteroglot language, embodied in the discourse of the author and the speech of characters, imagined as belonging to a diverse array of ‘social groups.’ It makes heteroglossia perceptible: it is, to revert to terms used earlier, both a ‘laboratory of creation’ and a ‘powerful condenser of unspoken social evaluations.’

… The novel, the vehicle and product of dialogized heteroglossia, has been viewed as a defective ‘poetic’ genre by centuries of criticism that is itself an expression of ‘the ideological monologism of modern times,’ the vehicle and product of the concept of a unitary language. A critical viewpoint that seeks to establish the ‘higher stylistics’ of dialogized heteroglossia must therefore, from the reverse perspective, expose poetry as a defective ‘novelistic’ genre. Poetic discourse, Bakhtin argues, cannot be the primary vehicle of ‘multi-languaged consciousness’ and ‘double-voiced discourse’ because it was formed in the epoch of the predominance of their opposites, the epoch of the monoglot, the unitary and the centralizing.

Latter-day readers of Bakhtin may reasonably object not only that he himself offers repeated exemplification on poetic material — Dante, Pushkin, Rilke — but, moreover, that the direction of modern poetry since Bakhtin — from Frank O’Hara (1926-66) to Benjamin Zephania (b. 1958) — has resoundingly disproved any implication of the dialogic and heteroglot limitations of poetry due to its genesis in monoglossia. Bakhtin’s disarming response it that this, simply, is entirely consistent with his theory because poetry, in the epoch of the rise and eventual domination of the novel, has gradually but decisively become novelized:

In many respects the novel has anticipated, and continues to anticipate, the future development of literature as a whole. In the process of becoming the dominant genre, the novel facilitates the renovation of all other genres, it infects them with its spirit of becoming and unfinalizability. It draws them ineluctably into its orbit precisely because the orbit coincides with the basic direction of the development of literature as a whole.

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




March 10, 2018

The Top

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:55 am

… is it coming toward you?

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

… To get a personal understanding of Bruce Conner, or any of these artists, you have to remember where they came from. If you go out into a Kansas cornfield at night and stand there, as they each did, you can hear the music of the spheres; there are no other sounds to hear. I suppose that now jets fly overhead, but even when I was there recently there was still this incredible silence.

[line break added] People go to bed at 9:00 p.m. and they sleep quietly. There is no wind most of the time. It is flat as far as the eye can see, no clouds in the sky, just this unbelievably hard — and therefore terrifying — blue dome, intensely golden wheat or corn and the violent emerald green of corn stalks level to the horizon, with an occasional freakish tree desperately reaching up.

If you have that sense of the hard blue dome and the impossible silence, no wind and the tremendous summertime heat, then you might begin to know what it meant to Dorothy of The Wizard of Oz, or to anyone in Kansas, when the cyclone came. The air goes thin, drops around you, the dome massively gray, and you’re wrapped inside a stillness charged with incredible energy. Then suddenly you look and there is something moving like the finger of God back and forth across the horizon, and you ask, is it coming toward you?

[ … ]

… I brooded a lot about Bruce. He stands as a sort of metaphor. I have devoted a great deal of my life trying to become at least famous enough to fight for the things I believe in — in the art world as well as in the whole society. Bruce actually went clear to the top, got his ulcers, got abused, mis-used, got some of his work purchased, and then collapsed out and, as far as the commercial world of sculpture was concerned, became completely forgotten, all within a few years.

… he had been all the way through the system, you see. He was through and out the other side. He had his whole world of privacy intact, in a way that a person who has not achieved “the top” and given up his privacy cannot fully understand.

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




March 9, 2018


Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:38 am

… Seeing thru’, thru’ & again thru’ …

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.):

[ … ]

8.9.99 … Mon. worked on 2 drawings in Liberty State Park, returning to studio c. 1:30 p.m. The first was the ‘Prato’-like lawn opp. Liberty. This was a bit stiff and cautious, the forms all so small & far away, but the rings or ellipses within ellipses are interesting. At home on the wall it looks OK — as a plan for a painting, not as a drawing. That is the great problem with drawings — the ones that have a life of their own are not necessarily good painting skeletons & ones that are good plans may be stiff, lifeless, inhibited as drawings.

[ … ]

8.11.99 … When I arrived this a.m. the giant cherry picker was parked right in my way, covering the exact spot where my easel should go. I set up anyway, thinking to work on the color of the LH side wch. was basically already in place from the drawing point of view. However, the light was so dark under the El & in the sky, on the bricks, etc. I cd. see this wasn’t going to work. At that moment a truck drove up with the cherry picker operator in it.

[line break added] We laughed and joked around at the situation, I told him about Sunday and he said he wld. move the machine as soon as he got a new battery installed. This took just a couple of minutes, then I cd. set up & work. Those boys are not allowed to set up & work till after 10 a.m. when the a.m. rush is supposed to be over, so they hung around but did not bother me a bit.

[line break added] I called Dolores to report the colonoscopy results [all good] at about 8:30 a.m. on my cell phone. After the call, the sky lightened up a lot. The cherry picker said ‘What did ya do? Call the big man upstairs & ask for more light?’ Worked all a.m. on the width & height & color of the LH leg (support) of the front trestle. In order to find it I had to retrace my steps thru’ all the little metal verticals to the right of it in the middle distance, and to redraw the big curve of the lower edge of the horizontal member of the trestle.

[line break added] Also, the way the bottom of that trestle leg lines up horizontally with the one on the right (it’s a little shorter because the paving stones & ground slopes slightly uphill to the left). Lou Kahn on measurement. Saenredam transcending measurement — height — c.f. Claude Lorrain (Naples) & c.f. RD, Snug Harbor [Maine].

[ … ]

8.16.99 Mon. Lv. house at 6:30 a.m. Pass Ros Krauss at No 14 picking up the newspapers from the stoop in her pyjamas. We exchange greetings, the N [train] comes immediately — it can be a long wait — (I go down the stairs & have chosen the right entrance, the 1st one you come to on the west side of B’way). Take Daniélou for reading material on the train. Will cars block both my possible sites, or neither?

[ … ]

8.17.99 … The N goes right thru’ without stopping. It’s still muggy and altho’ I’ve merely walked to the subway, I’m already in a sweat. As the N train came out of the tunnel into the daylight, just before the 8th Ave. stop, there were goods wagons (freight cars, open-topped) with what looked like coal in them, standing on the next parallel track. Somehow this reminded me of childhood in England. I got scared. I thought, I have no idea where I am, I don’t know what I’m doing with my time, why I’m making these unpromising paintings from these razor-wire drawings — what on earth is my life all about?

… Lots of people crowd onto this train at 36th St. & then get off a stop or 2 later. Is 36th St. a transfer station? Yes it is, to the B&M. ‘Sunset Park.’ I think these people were going to work. It’s already 7:45 a.m. A whole hour gone by on the commute. Can it be worth it for some paintings you barely believe in?

[ … ]

9.4.99 … Quit 3:15 p.m. Worked on gray day painting till c. noon. Lunch break. Then drew. Expanded both drawings — this goes surprisingly quickly & easily. Then make a new drawing from fresh spot — maybe better. Got closer to the little switchman’s building, more of it. The scene looks good in near sun, or pallid gray — the razor-wire is there but mysterious & sneaky, fugitive.

[line break added] At first there was a car in the way of all four ‘spots,’ but managed to squeeze into the gray day giant sumac spot [used on a previous day]. Then the sun came out & ruined it, but soon went in again & the owner of the car-in-the-way came & drove off. So I had the best of everything. It shld. be nice to go to Snug Harbor this winter — constant light, no cars etc. The whole key of this gray painting was lighter today, all the greens etc. It’s a layer issue — like Pearlstein’s nude thru’ the rigging of a (toy) yacht.

[line break added] Seeing thru’, thru’ & again thru’ — creeper, fence, weeds, foliage, pipes, etc. one behind the other. Not much of that in the distant landscape. My ‘dry’ tree had fallen down — so the issue of whether or not to include it had been solved by Momma. It’s better without, I think, tho’ it was an interesting ‘part’ or ‘bit.’ The indistinguishable tangle of razor-wire & branches.

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




March 8, 2018

Encounters with Its Incidences

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:02 am

… What does the shape and character of our formal or institutional practice need to be in order to deal with the richness and chaos of such a humanism?

This is from ‘Notes Toward a Model’ (1977) found in Robert Irwin: Notes Toward a Conditional Art edited by Matthew Sims (2011, 2017):

… I slowly dismantled the act of painting to consider the possibility that no-thing ever really transcends its immediate environment.

The last question forced me to give up my practice as a painter, not as an answer but simply as a way to continue following the character of my questions. It seemed that if I were to continue getting up each morning to drive down the same street and spend my time in the same studio environments with the same dimensions and means, I would only continue to do what it was I was beginning to do well, paint. The alternatives seemed very unclear. I don’t know if I would have volunteered had I simply been asked or told, but I had become hooked on my own curiosity.

In 1970 I began again by simply getting rid of my studio and all its accompanying accoutrements and saying that I would go anywhere, anytime, in response. This at first in effect left me in the middle of nowhere, that space created by having “nothing to do,” a delicious state of attention where your perception is allowed to wander and indulge without the demands to function.

… you should not take the following too seriously; I worry that what has been a speculative process while carried out in dialogue, in writing has become almost rigid.

[ … ]

… To what degree can we begin to deal with art forms which seem to lack even the formal, physical properties for assimilation by existing historical method, linguistic analysis, and objective measure for quality? What does the shape and character of our formal or institutional practice need to be in order to deal with the richness and chaos of such a humanism?

… The extender/inquirer in any primary discipline — physics, philosophy, art, etc. — is the anomaly, in that while the movement of all the other intentions within that discipline is toward function and the collective whole, the movement of inquiry begins with the very question of intention as source (the unmediated wonder of the individual’s ability to form a perceptual/conceptual reality), often suspending what is ordinarily accepted so as to summon the obscure questions of doubt and curiosity.

… certain connections or recognitions become potential in experience at certain moments in time and place; and it assumes the fact that if I can come to think something it is because it has become thinkable, and that if I can come to think it, it is not unreasonable to suppose someone else somewhere will be thinking it. Therefore the critical requirement for communication — community — is fulfilled naturally in the dialogue of immanence.

… the fundamental database, the reality for every human endeavor, is experiential, shifting, dependent on non-objective factors, and thoroughly nonconcrete, so that any added distinctions, definitions or functions must account for the added character of its source, i.e. intention. Each abstracted assertion is only of value within the field of its properly intended deployment. The source of art is the intention [of] art.

… Art as an aesthetic inquiry is a nonthing. Which is to say that, like time and space, it has no actual physical properties. Or infinite physical properties. There are in aesthetic experience potentially as many “arts” as there are encounters with its incidences in the world. In confusing the art/object of “art” with the subject of art, we objectively tried to hold to the idea of one transcending art. While there is no one transcending “Art,” there is one infinite subject: the subject of art is aesthetic perception.

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




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