23 February 2012

Jed Perl is right!?

Just a quick note about my current thoughts on the differences between editors and curators. I've got a long standing hate for everything on the web being 'curated' when I feel it's been edited. Seems trifling, but I think it's a symptom of the web being 'visual' to people (I'm delivering pictures of shoes I want, therefore I'm a curator) rather than verbal.

Visuality aside, I believe that if you are taking the course of information we all see daily as (metaphorically) a flow of water, then editing is narrowing down a river to a garden hose (again metaphorically). If you are reducing the scary amount of information to a smaller state, reducing the disorder, then (to me) that is an act of editing. Yes, editors select and organize. That is part of their gig. The editor of an academic book filled with her colleague's work is arranging and organizing, but the reason she was invited to build that book is because she can see the wider seascape and can see the importance of the essays that she selected. That winnowing down to a smaller selection, presenting the original essays without lengthy comment, is an act of editing. Writing a new book that quotes those same essays with new original comments for each and charts how these same essays relate to a wider story, is what curating is to me.

It's publicly adding original information to an existing body of work.

So on to Perl

The challenges involved in such curatorial work are the challenges of interpretation. Scholarship and erudition are essential. So is an instinctive feeling for the freestanding value of the work of art. And all of this must be combined with a sense of how works that emerged in a particular time and place can most effectively be presented in another time and place—in a way that is true both to the past and to the present.

Perl's notion is that real curators are there to present the contextualization of objects, ideas, and situations, and this rings true to me. Curating is the activity of knowing a subject and being able to add to it rather than arrange it.

A consequence of this notion is that it would be easy to say I think that editing isn't scholarly but curating is. I think that editing is equally academic, but it doesn't function synthetically. Editing is analytic and curating is synthetic. For an edited book of essays synthesis happens in the readers mind rather than in the creation of the book.

the unexpected links between fifteenth-century Italy, Oscar Wilde’s England, and New York today

That's what a well curated show delivers. Unexpected relevance.

05 January 2012

2011 is over, long live 2011

Instead of remembering the memories with a top ## list, I'm giving out awards:

Object I most wanted to play with: Manuel Rocha Iturbide's I Play The Drums With Frequency
I wanted to plug my ipod in and see how other sounds changed this sculpture. Disponible would have been a much more pedantic show without this sculpture.

Object I had the most fun playing with: Wendy Jacob's Ice Floe
Good clean fun, eerie, and smart. You could "look" at art without using your eyes, which is always a bonus. Was also a great place to check your phone or think about how awesome art is.

Object I loved, even if I only saw half of it: Christian Marclay's The Clock
I'm not sure how much of The Clock I saw, but it was a lot. The next time someone tells you art has to be experienced completely to be understood, be skeptical.

Nerdiest show: Drawing with Code
This show was fantastic. The Purple Blurb talk at MIT was fantastic. The artist talks at the DeCordova were fantastic. This show was solid with historically interesting work that is often disregarded for being too far outside what art "should be."

Best talk given to a bunch of captive undergrads, their professor, and myself: Katy Siegel talking about Art Since '45 at Tufts.
Seriously, the book was sensational and the talk was compelling. Why did no one show up to this? While we're at it, Art Since '45 should also be considered one of the best books of the year.

The "Live Locally, Show Globally" award: Jaap Pieters at Spectacle
This award is the anti-yokelist award. Pieters work was about the world outside his apartment's window. It reminded me of Rebecca Meyers, but more cogent and succinct. His vision of a micro-local becomes mythical, extending the confined into a elaborate, but universal archetype.

Show most reflecting a generation: The Strange LIfe of Objects, Annette Lemieux
This show was great. It's one of the exhibitions this year that I kick myself for not writing about. Using only a few works, Lelia Amalfitano and Judith Hoos Fox brought more than just Lemieux's work, they illustrated a whole generation's concerns. These objects made visible for me just how complicated art was when the international art market started to dictate artistic value. The concealed personal meaning mixed with social metaphors created/creates meaning that survives to this day.

The I wanna talk to that guy about art all day award: Matrix 162, Shaun Gladwell
Anybody who creates Pacific Undertow Sequence (Bondi) is someone I feel that I could relate to. The work is lovely and I think it expands his visual subject matter just enough to move past the hyper-masculine, Mt. Dew, X-Games style he's become known for.

Best historical document: Record > Again! 40 Years of Video Art in Germany, Part 2
I heart video art so much, and yet knew nothing about almost any of these works. You could teach an entire semester's course off of this collection or maybe finally end the myth that video art sprung fully formed from Nam June Paik's head in 1965. It didn't. It also includes a great window into what the artistic situation was in divided Germany; it was complicated and low-tech.

Best plea for donations: the MFA's contemporary wing.
They have an ambitious staff that truly care about the subject, it's time for the collections to grow. Anyone got a friend who owns some really interesting art?

17 June 2011

Mark Bradford- convert

Been considering Mark Bradford's Merchant Posters lately. He is subtly moving his practice with these works. Instead of inventing via pictorial abstractions he is now attaching himself to forms of concrete communications and their instability.

He purposely culls the posters that are self-help. Their messages are spiritual and practical at the same time. The practical advice is for those that are close to rock bottom. The disenfranchised turn to people who may not have their best interests in mind. Need to do something illegal or what seems illegal? There's a number for that. Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson laid out the list of his subjects in the book about these objects.

My issue is that Jacobson's, and the other essays from the book. relegate Bradford's work to the past. Archaeology, archive, travel document, memory, reclaim, maps, movement, etc. I feel that these works are current. They're not the things of economic bubbles that we've already experienced, they are more present tense than that.

These phrases come from Bradford's voice instead of the invisible con-man.

The stories are about self-motivation and survival on a very basic level. The self-employed, which I consider myself to also be, understand that they have to make their life happen, and that it's up to them to get out there and be heard.


He's not making a joke for rich art patrons, or those that hate them (everyone else). He's actually talking to you, not a stand in other.


Do you need help? Call.

He sees the logic in the statements. He see's why they are convincing cons, and wants to use them to get you involved. Dive into these thoughts. Feel them personally. Listen to him. Form a link with him.

His work here is deconstructionist in nature. In this instance, I don't mean that he doesn't want a meaning connected to it but instead there is a disconnect between the thing being shown and the intended meaning. The grammar is indistinct rather than ineffectual. He does not place his faith in the determinacy of context.

Maybe it's more post-structuralist. There is no rigid connection between the sign and the signification. The symbol here has no correct context that unlocks a singular meaning. There is no structural definition to these posters. His usual work invents a format that you have to buy into, here he relies on the unstable meaning of these posters as a form of realism.

15 June 2011

Gluing squares to hepcats

Brian O'Doherty's Inside The White Cube has a paragraph that I've always puzzled over:

Happenings were first enacted in indeterminate, non-theatrical spaces -- warehouses, deserted factories, old stores. Happenings mediated a careful stand-off between avant-garde theater and collage. They conceived the spectator as a kind of collage in that he was spread out over the interior -- his attention split by simultaneous events, his senses disorganized and redistributed by firmly transgressed logic.

The formal question of dividing spaces into white cube/black cube/non-cube is simple enough. It fits into the history of high modernism's theatrical explorations as I understand them. Groups like the living theatre "attacked the senses" of the audience and confronted their levels of taste, but they did not do so in accepted venues:

In the 1970's, The Living Theatre began to create The Legacy of Cain, a cycle of plays for non-traditional venues. From the prisons of Brazil to the gates of the Pittsburgh steel mills, and from the slums of Palermo to the schools of New York City, the company offered these plays, which include Six Public Acts, The Money Tower, Seven Meditations on Political Sado-Masochism, Turning the Earth and the Strike Support Oratorium free of charge to the broadest of all possible audiences.

Factually, I'm with it. Happenings happened in non-theatrical spaces, often the very spaces that the artists lived in. Where I start to strain is where the happening is between theater and collage, specifically that the spectator is a collage.

After spending time with Greenberg's essay Collage though I think I understand where he's coming from. Greenberg's essay is a earnest attempt to define a key moment in two specific painter's journeys to understanding how abstraction works. Greenberg has a special relationship to both Picasso and to art writers of the 70's. Someone like O'Doherty would certainly be knowledgeable about his views on collage. Even if he was writing for Art Forum, and he was their rival, he still would have repressed Greenberg orthodoxies floating in his writing.

If Greenberg said it, than everyone read it. If it's about Picasso, than it's about where the members of Greenberg's Abstract Expressionist brand can find their genealogical basis.

So what is he on about, and what is "firmly transgressed logic?"

Braque and Picasso had obtained a new, self-transcending kind of decoration by reconstructing the picture surface with what had once been the means of its denial. Starting from illusion, they had arrived at a transīŦgured, almost abstract kind of literalness.

I'm shortening an epic to a haiku, but for Greenberg, the moment of collage is one of exiting the flattened extreme of analytical cubisim and entering into synthetic cubism due to the "independence of the planar unit in collage as a shape." They lost their ability to continue the essence of their brand by being too good at painting things in flattened planes, and had to invent a new way of doing things through collage. It became more real when you glued something on a canvas (at least to the rules of the cubist metaphysic), and for Greenberg especially, they needed for their cubist abstractions to be more real than realism could be.

Happenings often are defined by their inclusion of random people. The chance encounters with art in real life (Marjorie Strider's 1969 Street Works, James Collins' 1970 Introduction Piece #5, Adrian Piper's 1970 Catalysis Series for example). The audience's connection to these events is mere happenstance.

Except when happenings were in the galleries or when people were invited. As I understand it, the audience for this kind of art was tiny at the time. I've seen numerous quotes from artists who talk about feeling obligated to show up to exhibitions from this era as they knew that no one would be in the audience if they didn't. It was a revolving form of credit. If you showed up to Philip Glass's music, than he'd show up to your exhibition.

So back to the audience as collage. If a patently false realism is the highest form of realism, than an audience who were usually insiders and a few chance viewers, then maybe the collage is that the audience is a form of faked random audience?

I feel O'Doherty's intention was that a group of audience members, transfixed by this random event happening in front of them were in a state of collage of random people stuck against the purity of art. By being at a happening, you were effectively glued onto the idealized avant-garde model as a square of conformity in their non-conformist art world. From the spectator's perspective, being unable to look away at a happening is a moment of collage in their lives too. Interrupting the field of daily life is this glued on happening, it fragments their world, complicating the audience member's relationship to real life.

So, the audience is glued to the art. The art is glued to the audience's normal life. The audience is glued in as a false member of the audience, viewing the happening, but accidental and separate from the pure audience. The invited audience is of course not glued to anything as they are uninterrupted in their connection to the happening. They are made of the same stock as the happening. Lots of glue here.

One last part though: the "firmly transgressed logic." Later, O'Doherty defines the principles that make avant-garde art:

Classic avant-garde hostility expresses itself through physical discomfort (radical theater), excessive noise (music), or by removing perceptual constants (the gallery space). Common to all are transgressions of logic, dissociation of the sense, and boredom. In these arenas order (the audience) assays what quotas of disorder it can stand. Such places are, then, metaphors for consciousness and revolution. The spectator is invited into a space where the act of approach is turned back on itself. Perhaps a perfect avant-garde act would be to invite an audience and shoot it.

Now Renato Poggioli enters our conversation. The happening is part of the avant-garde as it assails the audience, attacking their comfort with ill-founded spaces, unproven methods, objectless art, and confrontational inclusion. The work can't be for a new audience, an experiment that is evolving, or even a new format. It has to fit into the avant-garde model by being against your supposedly monotonous level of taste. Art supposedly has to divide us for it to be new. It just seems so old fashioned today.