While I’m not typically a fan of flower photographs, I have to make an exception for the artist Roy Ardin. You just have to check out his retrospective at the Vancouver. This month. It will be worth the trip!
"The Vancouver Art Gallery will present the first major Canadian retrospective of work by renowned Vancouver artist Roy Arden from October 20, 2007 to January 20, 2008. A major force in establishing Vancouver’s reputation as a centre for contemporary photographic art, Arden has exhibited his work internationally for more than 30 years. Roy Arden, comprising more than 120 photographs, five video works and a recent Internet project, explores the diverse strategies of the artist’s practice from the early 1980s to the present. Organized by the Vancouver Art Gallery, the exhibition is guest curated by Dieter Roelstraete of the Antwerp Museum of Contemporary Art (MuHKA)."
Form is how memory works.
Peter Schjeldahl dropped the above mini-aphorism on us about three-quarters of the way through his Oct. 8th, article in The New Yorker, "All Together Now" which covered the 2007 Istanbul Biennial, among other things. Coincidentally, I’ve been thinking alot about memory too, mostly because I’ve recently gotten back in touch with some old friends who seem to have entirely memories of our childhood together and I’m not sure how this could be. After reading Schjeldal’s article, I thought I’d try to get some of these thoughts down on paper and see what kind of connections I could find.
Sarcastically, the first thing I thought after reading Schjeldal’s assertion was, whew! Now we don’t have to worry about the hippocampus, basal ganglia or all those pesky neural pathways in the limbic system. Forget those cumbersome classifications like working memory, phonological memory [whatever that is], visual/spacial memory, procedural, declarative, and semantic memory. Olfactory sensations? Emotions? Nope. Form is it.[yep, I know about these obscure things because I’m on meds that influence these systems and I have an obsession with knowing how I’m ‘knowing’, if you know what I mean…]
Well okay, obviously he didn’t meen it that way you’re thinking, but I’m not so sure. Schjeldahl made the statement, with no apparent irony, in support of a remark by curator Okwui Enwezor that "contemporary art spaces risk becoming ‘incubators of amnesia,’ devoid of historical recall." In this context we have to conclude that Schjeldahl would like to see art spaces–and by extension art works–that are ‘incubators of remembering,’ and ‘rife with historical recall.’ As if David’s The Death of Marat, or Picasso’s Guernica were viable models to aspire to. Too much? Maybe, but Schjeldahl’s statement certainly betrays a longing for a more engaged, even efficacious art. The notion is touching, nostalgic and powerful.
After all, the history of the relationship between images and real things is one of continual distanciation; as EH Gombrich had it, "in primitive societies, the thing and its image were simply two different, that is, physically distinct, manifestations of the same energy or spirit. Hence, the supposed efficacy of images in propitiating and gaining control over powerful presences. Those powers, those presences were present in them."
In other words, the power to paint the bull was the power to kill the bull. In this sense, art did change the world, it gave man the ability [psychologically and therefore physically] to survive. It was as if we were literally in Plato’s Cave; the shadows and the reality behind the shadows were one and the same. Not entirely unlike some video games…
a vertigo of serial signs–shadowless, impossible to sublimate, immanent in their repetition–who can say where the reality of what they simulate resides? -J. Baudrillard
Art has evolved–like any other complex endeavor–mathematics, science, poetry–quite indifferenent to concerns outside itself, with its own lanquage, theories, factions, professionals, critics and fans.
And while it often takes everyday life as its subject, contemporary art does not address an everyday audience. When Sherrie Levine rephotographed Walker Evans work, did anyone outside the art world take notice, except to laugh, jeer or write dismissive articles in local newsletters? Which brings us again to the subject of language. Memory, history, politics and form are all of a piece, unified through language, naming and knowing. In other words, we’ve been hi-jacked once again by narrative.
Narrative, not form, is the stuff of memory. If the form we are talking about is visual, which one assumes given Schjeldahl’s profession and the subject of his article, then his use of the term is an obvious set-up, and a good one at that. For if form is how memory works, it begs the question, do the blind have no memory? How would the lack of this one sensation eliminate a major aspect of cognition?
It doesn’t, obviously, and Schjeldahl isn’t implying that it does. I think he is implying something entirely different: synesthesia, or the union of the senses. Can we smell red? Can a sound taste bitter? Or in this case, can one see history [‘see, that is history!], or more precisely, can memory be seen [‘that is what I saw!’…Rashomon anyone?] both questions which have at their core the classic aesthetic nut, ‘Can art change the world?’
Too big a jump? I don’t think so, given the context of Schjeldahl’s article. It’s implied by the guilt-ridden invocation of the idea that artists somehow have a responsibility to keep people from forgetting…about political and social injustice and atrocities one assumes.
But that is not how art changes the world.
Every ‘outrageous’ or ‘blasphemous’ or ‘seditious’ work of art is always already dismissed by the general public–the audience it most likely intended to arouse [Serrano’s Piss Christ anyone?]–and counted on in advance on by the ‘institution’–the very power it probably intended to denounce. Need evidence? The following list is in no particular order and is by no means complete: Constructivism, de Stijl, Bauhaus, Dada, La Révolution surréaliste, Situationists, The Personal as Political, Fluxus, Happennings, Futurism, Expressionism, Suprematism, and most of the art of the seventies…
Whether stated or implied, much of this art attempted to align itself with the la révolution du jour. Of course, I’m just as guilty as the next. I’d like to believe that the practice I’ve given my life over to has some kind of importance beyond the limited influence of galleries and publications, friends and critics. I often play with these ideas in my work, developing projects that use the language of global aspiration and political ambition. The projects have been accused by some of signifying the inability of art to change the world. Conversely, they’ve been called flat-footed agit prop or propoganda; an ironic attempt to revive a 60’s, grass-roots ethos.
So now after all this, how does art change the world? I don’t really know, but I have a kind of working definition which is helping me in the studio and elsewhere. It goes something like:
- It can let us know that we are not alone.
- It can make us question assumtions we didn’t know we had.
- It can show us things in a different way.
- It can stimulate our imaginations
- It can be absolutely useless, and in so doing, be invaluable
- It can make the world a better place by the simple fact of its existance.
I’ve strayed far from the subject of memory, true. But I think this post makes a kind of sense, because just as we need to believe we are doing something worthwhile, we need also memory, for as Saul Bellow said:
Memories keep the wolf of insignificance from the door.
(to be continued…)
via Word of the Day
Any time there is free Red Bull involved, count me in!
Bob Dylan on the Chabad Telethon: One of the Only Redeeming Reasons to Live in LA; The Ten most Incomprehensible Bob Dylan Interviews of All Time
We just heard about the new Bryant Park Project over at NPR and while perusing the web component of the project, we ran across this great YouTube clip. Have a listen:
"Dylan’s been giving bad interviews for so long that New York Magazine compiled a list that they call "The Ten Most Incomprehensible Bob Dylan Interviews of All Time." Now I applaud them for their research, and it’s certainly worth a look, because they tracked down video of most of these trainwrecks. (A 1986 classic is above.) But I take issue with New York’s slant.
How many times have you heard Bob Dylan characterized as being out of it and incoherent? How many jokes have been made about him mumbling and rambling through songs and sentences? It’s a pretty old and predictable take, and it has little or no basis in reality.
Say what you will about Dylan. You may think he’s past his prime, you may think his songs go on forever, and after watching interview clips like the one above, you may think he’s a jerk. But make no mistake–he knows exactly what he’s doing.
This is fantastic! Particularly in the light of the ideas I am working with in "Small Spaces" which is a kind of manifesto for the small and pragmatic space. According to the author, the land of blarney, leprechauns and my ancestors is going in exactly the opposite direction of my current work. A really great article from the Irish daily. Check it out:
A few years ago, the philosopher EF Schumacher propounded the idea that small was beautiful. He had a point and in a world where a new brutalism was becoming everywhere apparent — in the scale of commercial enterprise, in architecture, in the size of our cities — he soon had a following.
But not so much in Ireland. In Ireland we were fed up of small. We were, we were endlessly told, a small nation and we came from small farms on a small island where small shops served our needs in the small towns and cities which were our typical urban centres.
Nor did small is beautiful seem to make much sense as an aesthetic doctrine. Why should it? But you may think that it made and makes at least as much sense as its opposite, a fact which it is necessary to emphasise just now because in Ireland at this very moment we seem to be moving fast towards a general view that Big is Beautiful without reservation or further qualification.
In fact, judging from a lot of what is admired merely for being big, aesthetics has very, very little to do with it.
I live beside an infant school where young mothers (the "yummy mummies" of David McWilliams’ mythology) deliver their small children in the morning and then collect them in the afternoon. Almost one and all, they use SUVs and people carriers for this. Mostly the ratio is one small child per one large vehicle. But the attraction of these monstrous conveyances is not their practicality. Nor is it, I need hardly say their beauty — in fact they are amongst the ugliest motor cars ever made. What makes the young women’s eyes shine when they sit in behind the wheel of one of these dangerous monsters is simply their size, their power and their cost.
There was more than a touch of the yummy mummy about many of the responses when the plans for a new building on the Jurys-Berkeley Court site were unveiled recently.
The proposed building will be 37 stories high, or more than three times the height of Liberty Hall and 12 metres higher than the Spire in O’Connell Street. In other words, it will be a giant, even among the many other huge new skyscrapers which are planned. Mr Michael Colgan’s eyes evidently shone at the thought.
"I think we have to start producing really, really magnificent architecture, and this is it," he told a reporter for this newspaper. Mr Colgan is an arbiter elegantiarum — artistic director of the Gate Theatre, former member of the Arts Council — but this seems to be a reference to size rather than beauty.
However, art will be suitably looked after. Mr Colgan is to be in charge of what is described as a "cultural centre", provision for which is included in the plans. What will go on there?
"What I have planned is that you are going to come in here during the day and you are going to hear music. You are going to see dance studios through glass partitions. You are going to have public art."
Actually, it sounds a little more like Soho in the old days than Ballsbridge in the future.
Mr Paul McGuinness is also, in a sense, an arbiter of the True, the Good and the Beautiful — manager of U2, former member of the Arts Council, etc. But in relation to ultra-large buildings he seems more concerned with hard-edged stuff like inevitability, progress and size than with aesthetics.
"The city has to go up … we have to allow high-rise in the city," he said.
But he did not say why.
"At the intersection of green design, space-making, and textiles, the Bouroullec brothers’ Stitch Room is one part design genius, one part child-like playtime. Known for designs that cross the boundary between furniture and architecture, the creations of this design duo tend to emphasize possibilities, and their exploration of space in The Stitch Room is no exception. Using eco-friendly textiles from the ultra-green Danish company Kvadrat, the brothers have created organized, versatile spaces that can be transformed to almost any imaginable use."
“The World as a Stage brings together a key group of sixteen international, contemporary artists in an exhibition which explores the rich historical relationship between visual art and theatre. In a selection of large installations, sculptures, performances, films, participatory works and events, many of which are new commissions, the exhibition investigates the extent to which a sense of theatricality impacts upon the gallery visitor’s experience and is carried into the world at large as an altered mode of perception. Different elements of the theatre form — back stage, actors, props and audience — are played with in relation to the customs of art and exhibition making — studio, gallery, artist and viewer. Works will be displayed both inside and outside the exhibition space at Tate Modern, drawing attention to the theatrical nature of the everyday and incorporating the viewer into the work as both willing participant and oblivious performer viewed by others.
The artists featured are Pawel Althamer (b 1967), Cezary Bodzianowski (b 1968), Ulla von Brandenburg (b 1974), Jeremy Deller (b 1966), Trisha Donnelly (b 1974), Geoffrey Farmer (b 1967), Andrea Fraser (b1965), Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster (b 1965), Jeppe Hein (b 1974), Renata Lucas (b 1971), Rita McBride (b 1969), Roman Ondák (b 1966), Markus Schinwald (b 1973), Tino Sehgal (b 1976), Catherine Sullivan (b 1968) and Mario Ybarra Jr (b 1973).
The exhibition is curated by Jessica Morgan, Curator of Contemporary Art, Tate Modern and Catherine Wood, Curator of Contemporary Art & Performance, Tate Modern. “
more here: http://www.tate.org.uk/modern/exhibitions/theworldasastage/
"If we do not respect ourselves … we are peculiarly in thrall to everyone we see, curiously determined to live out — since our self-image is untenable — their false notions of us. We flatter ourselves by thinking this compulsion to please others an attractive trait: a gist for imaginative empathy, evidence of our willingness to give. Of course I will play Francesca to your Paolo, Hellen Keller to anyone’s Annie Sullivan: no expectation is too misplaced, no role too ludicrous…
It is the phenomenon sometimes called “alienation from self.” In its advanced stages, we no longer answer the telephone, because someone might want something; that we could say no without drowning in self-reproach is an idea alien to this game. Every encounter demands too much, tears the nerves, drains the will, and the specter of something so small as an unanswered letter arouses such disproportionate guilt that answering it becomes out of the question. To assign unanswered letters their proper weight, to free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves — their lies the great, the singular power of self-respect. Without it, one eventually discovers the final turn of the screw: one runs away to find oneself, and finds no one at home."
–Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem
via the excellent Maud Newton
"In recent years, Ballard has become a destination Seattle neighborhood for those in the know, thanks to Scandinavian industrial charm, a few new bars, restaurants, a gallery, music stores and boutiques—including the standout men’s clothing boutique, Blackbird.
With a good selection of the labels we know and love, some of the more obscure and lesser-known brands, like the Italian shoemaker Marsèll, put the two-year old store a cut above the rest. They even have a great men’s jewelry collection that introduced me to the hard-to-find brand Alksndlia, a company that creates vintage rings and necklaces with old-world appeal. New in this fall are items from Raf Simons, Wings + Horns, Partik Ervell and Robert Geller. Next spring will include pieces from Tim Hamilton, Henrik Vibskov, Harmon and Wrath Arcane…"
via Cool Hunting