Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Public art

Leon Reid IV in São Paulo.

Idea: the beauty of art in public is that art cannot be public. Art is necessarily private, intimate, as any experience (yes, also the so-called "group experience"). So art that is out there, when it's good, makes contact also because it creates a special, intimate zone where the public regains its human dimensions.
And yes, to answer your question, I am tempted to think this applies to any public art, of any size and in any context.

(Leon Reid IV via)

Monday, July 30, 2007

Experiencing Bergman

I was full of doubts. I had never been to the cinema to see a Bergman. Tried watching Persona on TV, and I don't recall where and when exactly I was severely disappointed by the Seventh Seal.
Saraband was to be my first real Bergman experience. The film was publicized as extremely slow and extremely beautiful and true - "yet another Bergman classic". I am allergic to film classics. I went to see it on the same principle as I read Hegel and Heidegger - to make sure I know why I don't like it.
I went with a couple of my friends, we were having a great time all day.
The film has a horrible poster of an elderly couple embracing. He has an old sweater, looks filthy, they are both as serious as any Nordic film couple should be. I figured this was one of Bergman's last films.
The experience was stunning. It certainly isn't a classic - thank God. It has a total simplicity about it which only apparently puts it in the bourgeois linage of Strindbergs and other Ibsens. Actually, it's much more delicate, sensitive, it does not play out any scandal (which I am very tired of), only shows how relations between people evolve.
There isn't much more, really. Yet it is the proportions, the subtle movements of the plot, that won me over. I found myself with a sort of enthusiastic empathy for the characters that I didn't know I could have. Yes, it's the artistic containment. But it is also the not-overdoing-it. The getting to what makes up a person.
What impressed me most was that I didn't find any of the annoying symbolism of Persona. There is no need for metaphysics if you look carefully enough into what is in front of you.
Saraband was Bergman's last film.

I have heard an anecdote about Bergman's severe approach to moviemaking: during one of the shootings, his cinematographer's mother fell very ill and was said to be dying. The cinematographer wanted to go. Bergman looked at his long-time, faithful collaborator and said: "If you leave now, you son of a bitch, you can never come back!".
I don't know which film they were supposed to be shooting. But it simply couldn't have been Saraband.

Doing the right thing for art

Fragments of Richard Jackson's installations.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Parantheses from Barthes' Camera Lucida (1&2)

(this is how life is made up of small solitudes)
(one needs to classify, to group, if one wants to constitute a corpus)
(if it exists)
(a certain photo and not the Photo)
(spoken out)
(from what it represents)
(which happens in the case of any other image, charged since the beginning and by principle with the mode in which the object is simulated)
(professionals can)
(out of commodity it is necessary to accept this universal which, at the moment, only sends us towards the tireless repetition of contingency)
(I believe the sharks, according to Michelet)
(I didn't know yet that out of this stuborness of the referent in being always present would appear the essence of what I was looking for)
(there is no photography without something or someone)
(to take pictures of)
(the voice of science)

all the parantheses from chapters 1 & 2 of Camera Lucidaby Roland Barthes (my translation)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Vik Muniz : how much cool is too much?

This is pretty.
Aesthetic experience, yes. Or maybe just a hint of a possible one? How is one to distinguish?

Here is Brasilian artist Vik Muniz presenting his work to an American, non-artistic audience. Notice how technically sophisticated the presentation is. And how the classic dynamic of informal intro - funny bits - thoughtful part - witty ending is well executed. You can clearly see he worked in advertising - he knows how to sell his product. Also, notice what impresses the audience: the technique, the means. The sugar drawings. You did this with sugar?
What's wrong with that picture? What makes it sound like a trick and not like something "creative", in the sense of our dear old contemporary art? Maybe because what is appreciated, in the case of this audience, is mainly 1) skill, and 2) wit. So why is that not enough? Maybe because we tend to dismiss it as having more to do with craftsmanship than with art. But is it really so? The sugar drawings are of kids who work on sugar cane plantations. Still not enough. Something too easy about it, too directly linking two worlds, not letting us travel far enough?
Entertainment. That's what disturbs the artsy eye. He aims to please. He makes his own art look like a fun adventure, not a serious, deep labor. From time to time, he sends a message to the more attentive viewer, but mainly it's just, well, cool.
But an attentive viewer will see there is a lot in there. There are delicious (sorry, I couldn't resist myself) approaches to contemporary art, and some pretty effective dialog undertaken (the dust reproductions, but see also the pigment ones). Effective. Effect. Material. Fluffy little clouds of cotton. Happy. Too happy? Is too happy not contemporary enough? Or is it that sugar is, well, simple, limited? And chocolate, too... Unless, of course, you are Bobby Baker. But maybe, as in Bobby Baker's case, this is to be taken to another level? (The people at PS1 certainly think so)

My favorite part, as you might guess, is at the end, when he speaks about theater and about illusion: "It's not really about impressing, or making people fall for a really perfect illusion, as much as it is...about giving somebody a measure of their own belief, how much they want to be fooled".

You may also want to see Muniz's erotica (made of Silly Putty), although I don't find it particularly attractive.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Art > > framing

photo by Jindrich Marco (via)

I get a sense (...) that somehow I trade majorly in comical irrelevance and apparent digression. Narrators/voices that are never really getting to the point, or who are straying from the point very often and as far as possible. Also the totally irrelevant fact from the background pulled out as preposterous foreground. Makes me think (on a tangent) of that description of movie extras (or is it scenery painters?) - as 'background artists'. Manipulation of background. As if foreground were (is in fact) only ever an excuse for what you are *really* doing, elsewhere.

Tim Etchells, on his excellent (and bloggaly self-centered) blog

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Two absolutely unassociated quotes hereby given a common ground

One suggestive bracket for the project and very close ot the idea of the interview which guided Żmijewski in the realisation of this cycle, is Truth Serum. Althamer is asked a series of question while under sodium pentothal. Żmijewski begins with the usual prosaic issues: Where do you live? How many children do you have? (...) And at the end, a question about art: 'What is the significance of the fact that you make sculpture, dolls, films?' 'It gives me joy,' replies Althamer. 'I like when people laugh.'

- in: Artur Żmijewski. If it happened only once it's as if it never happened. (my bold)

Lisbon and Berlin are, currently, comparable places of creation and experimentation: there, artists seem more free to explore the limits of their undertakings [plus libres d'aller jusqu'au bout de leur propos].

- Léa Lescure, in: Mouvement, #44, July-Sept. 2007

And if you really need a connection, here is a quote and a song (uhmmm... press play):

“A new born child has no teeth.”—“A goose has no teeth.”—“A rose has no teeth.”—This last at any rate—one would like to say—is obviously true! It is even surer than that a goose has none.—And yet it is none so clear. For where should a rose’s teeth have been? The goose has none in its jaw. And neither, of course, has it any in its wings; but no one means that when he says it has no teeth.—Why, suppose one were to say: the cow chews its food and then dungs the rose with it, so the rose has teeth in the mouth of a beast. This would not be absurd, because one has no notion in advance where to look for teeth in a rose. ((connexion with ‘pain in someone else’s body’.))

L. Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations (for a simple analysis followed by a ridiculously complicated statement, see here, and for a note on Bruce Nauman's work inspired by this quote see here)

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Krijn Van Noordwijk - saying more

Is there anything else you wanted to tell me?
Really, there seems to be something you left aside. As if something could explain your silence, your persistent silence.
I am watching, but I am not sure if what I see is what you want me to see. How am I to interpret it? Shouldn't there be some clearer way of knowing where it's you, and where I'm just daydreaming?
After all, I can see you and I can tell, you are this person, from here to here, you have physical limits and those limits constitute you.
Why is it, then, that your look escapes me, that your words seem shallow, as if only touching on the surface of what you are saying? Is there a code? Some sort of password I need to get somewhere?

Come on, be honest. There is nothing. What You See Is... Then why do I see so much, and get so little? Why do I feel we share something we can't admit? Should I shut up? Let it go? How dare I?
All the pictures taken from Krin Van Noordwijk's site, which deserves a close look (although it's not very comfortable to look through).


Friday, July 20, 2007


Happy Famous Artists on the Wittgenstein Forum. Here, this is a triple inside joke. And it makes me smile.

Machine That Tries to Tie a Shoe
by Adriana Salazar

Placed outside of the White Cube Gallery Masons yard at 3.30 am on Sunday night in response to the Damien Hirst's "For The Love of God" diamond skull exhibition.The "For the Love of God" prank was created using 6522 Swarovski crystals
and took Laura, the artist, a month to create.

The Power of Re-blogging

Some art bloggers seem to consider re-blogging, or the idea of having the same image, review or "discovery" appear on many sites, a proof of a lack of originality and frankly a waste of the reader's time. After all, we want to see new things, discover new territories, etc. It is one thing to have a group of political blogs re-post the same silly picture of the opponent, but quite another, to have the same artistic event presented in the very same way on different art blogs. This idea clearly implies that art blogging is "supposed to be" about uniqueness. The art blogger is somewhere between a curator, a critic and yes, an artist.
Re-blogging, in my view, is a wonderful way of discovering what we have in common, of creating trends and actually promoting artists and events. Copying someone else's text might lack in originality, but isn't that one of the things which gives, say, the sciences so much credibility? Doesn't it empower those who speak? A quote is a powerful thing. And if at first I frowned upon seeing the very same news appear in several art blogs, I now find it thrilling. So what if I've already read some comment - right besides it there are three others I've never stumbled upon. It's strange to see how the "artistic milieu" has a tough time dealing with the idea of a wave, a tide. Some blogs of course go for it, even all the way. But it's as if it were wrong, or worse, poorer. If you really need it, you can just consider that the different contexts in which the news appear shows the broadening scope of a work, it's range of impact. But actually, I find the "art milieu" so far behind in respect to self-promotion, PR and the like, I wouldn't mind seeing ten times as many re-posts. Ah, a world filled with art...

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Gravel, Mayes, Sondin-Klausner and the art ripple

Oh boy, oh boy... When life mixes with art, it's exciting. But when politics becomes conceptual, that's really something!
First, here you have it: a video of former US senator Mike Gravel, who is now a candidate for US President.

I need not say this is brilliant. And funny. And this and that.
Now what you need to know is that, contrary to what many news-desperate journalists claimed, this is not part of his campaign.
It is actually the work of two young artists and art teachers, Matt Mayes and Guston Sondin-Klausner. You have all the background explanation in this lengthy interview:

The funniest comment on this event appeared in the LA Times. My favorite part is:

Gravel's works confront us with our own existences and our deaths, the brute thereness of truth, the skull beneath the $400 haircut, the cellulite under the pants suit. His is neo-existentialist, post-apocalyptic, post-post modern art, a silence that screams and cajoles.
I suggest to you that a Gravel presidency would lead to an entirely new America, doing to us what cubism did to post-impressionism: dragging us moaning in glorious epiphanic pain into a new world.

(Some people actually didn't see the irony.)
It is amazing to see how even after they acknowledge that the video is not a political ad, commentators still analyze it as such. This brings about a few issues:
- The power of presence. No matter how many times you explain the context of your action, if you are facing a camera/the viewer, you are identified as yourself, and are thus, yes, creating a ripple.
- It's impressive how people find it difficult to accept that this is no stunt, no ad, no campaign. It might be pointing towards one, but, as Gravel says himself, he didn't even get the chance to buy the two artists a cup of coffee. Apparently, though, the (American?) viewers find it hard to disassociate a politician with his political life.
- There is room for art in politics. Also thanks to the net and YouTube and the like. You just have to be witty.
- If someone had an idea for promoting his product and decided to take a fairly known politician to do it, it could be difficult to execute. Especially if the idea was odd and came from an unknown individual who had a (seemingly) low social impact. But, and this is my thesis, because it is art, it was accepted. Meaning art at last has managed to become a political lobby! Or, to put it more calmly, there seems to be a space opening up for artistic/social games that extend towards politics.
- Mike Gravel himself has clearly underestimated the power of what he participated in. But he seems to be a courageous guy, fighting vehemently for many issues other politicians avoid. So this is not a random choice on the part of the artists, it is a deliberate participation in a political debate. Which brings me to another question:
- Couldn't we see this sort of activity as a narrowing of artistic perspectives? Yes, I mean by using them to a concrete political goal, making a very specific statement, letting go of so many other issues we could have... If you drop by here from time to time, you know my view: art is not just some golden puppy. Sure, it can be. But there is nothing wrong with opening up to a "broader audience". And letting in some fresh (political! social!) air.
The link between artists and the rest of mortals is a delicate issue, mined with all sorts of surprises and turn-arounds. Many works that at one point seem completely isolated from society (think Duchamp's Fountain, but also many films, actions, etc.) some time after are cherished as a wonderful expression of what "society feels" (heheh). But also, and this is the part many of us forget, many initiatives that are made with the goal and conviction of bonding with the world (think the Living Theater), when seem from a perspective look a little (or very) ridiculous, and certainly not attaining the utopic communion with the onlooker. So it is great to see a work that in a very simple way manages to convince people to stop a second and watch the ripples in the water. And, because of the particular context, help them make some sense of it.

Mayes and Sondin-Klauser also made another video with Gravel, Fire, which I find somehow less appealing, probably because the editing with a several-minute-long close-up of fire was to me, hummm, boring. And also, as often in minimalist works that never end, I find it slightly arrogant to have me there staring and waiting what will happen, just so I get the idea that this will last. I get it. No need to push the issue.

(found here)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Plug yourself

Vilcus, the Plug Dactyloadapter, by Art Lebedev (see also here), who have brought some other truly wonderful ideas so far - and have been working on more (like this great keyboard where you can actually program the keys according to your current needs - QWERTY, AZERTY, or Photoshop, or anything else, for that mater).



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