30.1.12

PARTICIPATION: INTRODUCTION & SITUATIONISTS

Holy smokes. It’s the end of January already, this is a little bit insane, but let’s keep this positive momentum going. PARTICIPATION. The MIT Press Documents of Contemporary Art series so far has been little too helpful in relating many of the theoretical essays to the work of the artists that are being discussed. Perhaps because relational aesthetics is so based in theory, the need was finally felt for a bit of explanation, which you know, was appreciated. Participation is split into 3 categories. Theoretical Frameworks//Artists’ Writings//& Critical and Curatorial Positions.

The way this book is split up explains a lot about the process of experiencing work, as does the introduction by Claire Bishop. I’ll be honest, historically, I have not read much about relational aesthetics, which means all the more reason to gain a better understanding of what it is that I am or am not experiencing. Bishop helps me out in her introduction by really setting up a context from which one should begin;

“The idea of constructed situations remains an important point of reference for contemporary artists working with live events and people as privileged materials. It is, for example, frequently cited by Nicolas Bourriaud in his Relational Aesthetics (1998), a collection of theoretical essays that has catalyzed much debate around the status of contemporary participation.  In parallel with this debate, and perhaps addressing the sense of unrealized political potential in the work that Bourriaud describes, a subsequent generation of artists have begun to engage more directly with specific social constituencies, and to intervene critically in participatory forms of mass media entertainment.  The texts in this reader have been selected with the development of this work in mind.  The aim has been to provide a historical and theoretical lineage for recent socially-collaborative art, presenting a variety of positions that will allow students and researchers to think more widely about the claims and implications of the artistic injunction to participate.”

I love this paragraph because Bishop is so succinct about explaining the context of participatory art. She begins by stating that constructed situations are especially relevant for artists who are working with actual events and people as their medium. She also emphasizes the debate around this idea and how that debate is discussed within Bourriaud’s Relational Aesthetics.  Bishop goes on to say how Bourriaud feels there is political potential in participatory work and that new generations of artists have begun to deal with more specific social issues through participatory forms within mass media entertainment. This conclusion is pretty grand, because Bishop is asserting that artists are thinking outside of the gallery walls to create participatory pieces that encourage an understanding of political and social issues. These situations could take place anywhere, from a public city street, to the internet or televised public sphere.  Bishops states that the texts in this book have this goal in mind - to make clear that participatory work fosters the understanding of broad and specific social and political circumstances.  She also aims to give a historical context for this kind of recent socially-collaborative art, with the ultimate goal of presenting a wide array of positions that reflect the important social/political implications that are available to those who choose to participate. 

There are things to be learned through participatory art, and the focus is on social and political implications. This book will focus on the theory behind much of the work, which will provide a context for us from which to understand. I’m looking forward to jumping into artist writings, because lately nothing seems to be making me happier then reading those. Lastly, we’ll consider the role of the curator and critic in regards to works of art that fall in the seemingly vast realm of relational aesthetics. BIG ROUND OF APPLAUSE, if you read through all that. Great Job.

Oh! Duh, you know I would not give you an entire post without SOME kind of art to consider. Since we’re thinking about historical frameworks, how can we possibly consider participatory art work without looking back to the SITUATIONISTS. I’m sorry, I’ll stop writing things in all caps, I swear. ;) These guys founded their movement in 1957 and they advocated experiences for the fulfillment of human desires.  They experimented with the “construction of situation,” and set up environments that would fulfill these desires through methods pulled from the arts. They also rejected all art that separated itself from politics. I’m greatly simplifying, here is some work by the primary members.

 Asger Jorg

 Constant Nieuwenhuys

 Pinot Gallizio

Guy Debord



27.1.12

SPACE CRUISE //// INTERNSHIP////...

Last night Fisk and I went on a space cruise at the American Museum of Natural History. Open bar, space music, space video games, planetarium, Moon travel, and you know, Mars.
Our celestial travel must have given me some positive moon dust because today I had an interview to intern for this space in Chelsea. Brenda Taylor was more than kind and now I'm an intern!  I can't wait to get my feet wet, and then, you know, jump in the pool.. and then the ocean.. and then turn into a mermaid. Too far? Yea, I thought so too. ;)

23.1.12

RUBIN MUSEUM: TIBET

Oh goodness. I had a Sunday off, so Fisk and I made the best of it by having a relaxing brunch at the Lodge and then we went to check out The Rubin Museum of Art. They have a great exhibition dedicated entirely to Himalayan art.  We started with this great amalgamation of American comics that were centered around all notions regarding Tibet. Lamas & yetis, yes please.
The comic show had these great displays with old toys and authentic editions of comics that were very delicate and beautiful to see. There was also a great 3 minute video that summarized the relevancy of comics in Tibet.  What was especially neat about this show was a long table with chairs that featured many old comics reprinted and ready to read. We sat for a while digging through these old comics, enjoying moments like these:
 

The walls also featured these large prints highlighting different themes. In the above, the Dalai Lama, and just below the White Lamas.  This comic show was really great to see. All in all, comics are pretty underrated in American culture. It was great to see a show dedicated to their relevance, especially after Fisk introduced me to Fables - a fantastic comic series full of excellent story telling.




The museum also had three floors full of beautiful Tibetan sculpture and scrolls. There was also a wonderful shrine that really allowed you to experience a part of Tibetan culture.  It's nothing short of wonderful the kind of artistry that is required to produce such symbolic work. 


We were running out of time, so we ran through the top floor of the museum which had some really great modern paintings. Here are a few of my favorites.
 Tyeb Mehta (1925-2009) The Diagonal, 1975

 Krishna Shamrao Kulkarni (1916-1994) Untitled, 1958

 K. Ramanujam (1940-1973) Untitled, ca. 1970
This was by far my favorite piece of work for the day. What a strange painting! The brushwork was fantastic, rapid and full of movement, and the characters bizarre but refreshing.  I mostly love that the creature's hand comes up and touches the side of the frame, which really gives you the idea that these characters are literally outside your window.  I think this painting really reflects the wonderful kind of match ups that are created when cross cultural ideas meet in one piece of artwork. 




Great. Day.

I've also just begun reading PARTICIPATION published by The MIT Press. Posts about relational aesthetics are coming soon...

17.1.12

SWISS INSTITUTE: Jean-Frédéric Schnyder


Jean-Frédéric Schnyder is no joke. ...wait, I mean, perhaps there is something comical about the paintings he has made. Actually, I think he falls right in that space between kitsch and poignancy. I checked out his latest show at the Swiss Institute last week and there was much to be seen and thought. 

What first struck me about this show was the amount of space that this show had.  I almost laughed when I saw all of these teeny tiny paintings in this gigantic room! It was great though that all the paintings had plenty of room to um, "breathe." Ha.

These paintings have that kitsch element that I mentioned. Here, let's paint some flowers growing out of the bottom of the painting. Pretty courageous and silly in the same work, I appreciate it. There was a house in just about every painting. 


Oh and here are some swastikas. Mmm Hmm...  Here's a quote from the artist regarding this. "I do not care which associations my paintings provoke. Swastika, crucifix and sugar cubes are just motives which are interesting to paint. To apply color - this is what painting is about, right? - is for me the common thread." Just. motives. which. are. interesting. to. paint. Um, it's funny how you can't get away with saying things like that in art school. OH WELL!   Schnyder is not in art school, and anyway, I love that he said painting is about applying color. I would agree, yes, but there are so many more things painting is about!


These two are my favorite. Okay, upside down house with pink and purple trees. I like this. Oh and here are some daisies floating about some pretty clouds. Very sincere, kitsch, and pretty, um, happy.


This painting was hilarious to me. Okay, painting houses, let me paint a three dimensional house on this painting. I love how you can see how Schnyder tried so many different ways to paint this trope! Field of grass, miniature house. Done.


 

To be honest, I really loved this show, but I do think Schnyder downplays the relevancy of a lot of his images. I mean, these two especially I found to be very heavy with meaning. Is Schnyder's portrayal of swastikas encouraging a positive response to them, because his work is so likeable, is it helping us to be okay with these images? Is it giving power to the swastika?  OR, because his work is so kitsch and silly at points, are his paintings working to take power away from this symbol? I don't know, but I like to give the benefit of the doubt, perhaps these works are making the swastika less serious, I can't really say.  I do think that the use of symbols like these should be taken and used in a thoughtful manner, and I wish there was a little bit more information about his use of symbols, and how the artist would like the symbols to be interpreted. Great show none. the. less.

12.1.12

ARE YOU A FRANKENTHALER??

This question was asked of me recently, to which I responded, no.  Of course the context is relevant, I've been working working working.  I like this word, because it can mean many things.  Working at/on/with: _______ blank,, anything really.  Let's fill in the blank. 
 I found this great Helen Frankenthaler catalogue from 1989 at the Strand. I bought it, a nice commemoration to a great painter.  Hence the show and tell.  Amalgam, 1988 7ft 1in x 9ft 5in
 Sugar Blues, 1988 7ft 7in x 8ft 11in


 Morpheus, 1988 9ft 6in x 7ft 5 in



A working girl means a happy studio! Paintings almost done in the background, new ones on the way, and a proper mess about the floor.  Things are going well! Today I will check out a variety of art, in the flesh, and bring more posts soon soon soon.

5.1.12

FINAL SUBLIME: ALTERED STATES

I'm not sure I will ever think about sublime in the same way again, there are so many different factors involved in the essence of what it means to experience the sublime. This final small chapter was one of my favorites in the entire book, a nice and sweet ending to all ideas involved.  Not to unnecessarily stroke this artist's ego, but I can't help it, Abramovic's statement was my favorite of the chapter, though there were provocative others:

Beyond the Body -  "The amplified body is no longer the container of it's rhythms. The humanoid form is transformed into the cuboid space. The body becomes hollow, resonating with its own echoes." Stelarc

HanD HearD/Liminal Objects - "There are works of art that require initiation.  This does not mean that they require explanation, special consensus, or any other prescriptive bearing.  It does mean that one must discover an appropriate mode of entry which is more than informational." George Quasha and Charles Stein


Marina Abramovic
Statements//1992

This was a very short statement, but I enjoyed it because it dealt with very human and magical ideas. Rationality vs. what we truly believe, and how the irrational has potential and much to offer for art and art practice.  
" Only among good friends can someone admit that he believes in dreams, telepathy, acts of providence, astrological prophesies, magical power or visions. Our rational way of thinking demands proof, evidence, but this is only one element in our perceptive capabilities.  Things which we cannot explain rationally are eliminated from our lives, as if they were non-existent.  We don't want to know anything about them. Art is a field in which the non-rational may sometimes be tolerated, where it is creatively employed. I want to introduce the non-rational into our society."
I love to  fancy notions of magical power, dreams, prophecies, and telepathy, mostly because believing in these unrealities allows you hold onto and reach a part of yourself that most things/people in life tell you to ignore. In some ways, to believe asks you to access your own internal, to access a belief that is undoubtedly your very own. It feels as though it becomes that forever argument between you and your own rationality. What you perceive as fact and true, and what you perceive is actually happening. I like to believe it's a combination of both that propels us through our planes of existence. 
 "Artists today? They are couriers, they accompany people on the true adventure, a journey into the inner self. There are no firmly established religious structures any longer, the old structures have all been destroyed and new ones have not yet emerged. Artists accompany us on our search for a new order."
What I appreciate about this last quote is that Abramovic is not afraid to assert that artists have an authority and position of leadership in shaping the ideals and beliefs of the greater whole. Of course I agree, in a most honest and sincere way, though I do believe that collective mindset has yet to catch up. It takes time for a generation to understand the one that follows it, in a way that encourages and facilitates leaders to make changes that better living and life for everyone - and this is optimistic. I'll never forget a conversation that was had in my Contemporary Art Theory class with Mrs. Anne Marie Oliver, where the role of art of was discussed. Conclusions were made - that art is what an artist feels the world needs. An idea so broad and infinite, to try and suggest definition otherwise would be futile. So to imagine for a moment that collective world thought can perhaps be swayed by the notions of generations of artists is completely beautiful and absurd, and in the most considerate sense, nothing short of magical.

2.1.12

SUBLIME: THE UNCANNY

Happy New Year! This post is brought to you by a little lie, I apologize, this is not the last chapter of Sublime: it is the second to last chapter! This was just such a small chapter I previously overlooked its very existence! Perhaps the uncanny befits the beginnings of new years, a familiar yet equally foreign feeling about what may or may not transpire in the coming year.  Gilles Ivain, Hiroshi Sugimoto, and A K Dolven all share space in this chapter, alongside Mike Kelley, about whom I will write today. To-day. 2 day. 

Mike Kelley
In Conversation with Thomas McEvilley//1992
Reading over a published conversation is always interesting to me because I can never stop thinking about the editing that may or may not have happened. I like to imagine that most people can speak so fluidly and concisely, however untrue, it is still great to see an exchange between two minds in such a way. This conversation struck me especially because so many conclusions were made that not only made excellent points, but also left the doors open for interpretation and ideas. Here are a couple moments between the exchange. Critic McEvilley sets up the context of the conversation by stating Freud's opinion of what the uncanny is, "The uncanny belongs to all that is terrible, to all that arouses dread and creeping horror." Which Kelley then relates to Edmund Burke's notions of the sublime, anything so vast and 'other 'that it seems by its very existence to threaten the annihilation of the observing subject. McEvilley then then gives examples from Kant, mountain peaks, storms at sea, Milton's description of Hell, and infinity.  We have an expected notion of the sublime and how the uncanny, because of it's relationship to terror and fear can be tied to it.  After little more back and forth, McEvilley makes this point relating to the previous, 
"For example, the experience of beholding an artwork or literary work which one basically doesn't like, and making an effort to appreciate it by getting into an alien point of view, might be a sublime act on this Kantian model."

In this quote we have both elements of uncanny, a foreign work of art that we do not like nor understand, but we become familiar in our forced interaction and consumption of the work.  Mostly, this relates to Kant's proposed notion that ethical acts can be sublime.  They require the denial of oneself in relation to some greater category, as said by McEvilley earlier. Art here being the greater category, and the consumption of the work being the ethical act. I also found this quote to be humorous in a way, perhaps because I could empathize with the idea of forcing oneself to try to understand that which is foreign and disliked. To imagine that in those moments of annoyance I was somehow channeling some sublime act makes me giggle.  Other points are made about the terror and wonder of sublime through deliberate risk taking that goes beyond self congratulating before the excerpt ends with a summation made by Kelley.

"I see sublime as coming from the natural limitations of our knowledge; when we are confronted with something that's beyond our limits of acceptability,  or that threatens to expose some repressed thing, then we have this feeling of the uncanny.  So it's not about getting in touch with something greater than ourselves. It's about getting in touch with something we know and can't accept- something outside the boundaries of what we are willing to accept about ourselves." 
I found this summation to be entirely moving, because Kelley is asserting that the sublime isn't some exterior experience so much as it is an internal epiphany of sorts where we suddenly become aware of that which we cannot comprehend, the feeling of the uncanny.  Sublime exists as something that we do not want to accept about who we are.




Time to stretch&stretch.