Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Splendorous Form of Noise

To see the following video you should enlarge it (double-click once playing).

The above is a compilation of works by the Swiss artist Zimoun.

1. Funny, one keeps telling oneself, enough of the minimal already, somehow feeling that less is a bore should be embraced, and the outrageously overflowing art of the recent years - appreciated and encouraged. And then, something like this appears, and it's irresistible. We've seen things from this universe before, also on this blog, and yet, the simplicity, yes, the damn purity takes over again.

2. I had a chance, recently, to visit several large factories. There were wonders there that could probably match most of the things on this video. Yet there was one thing they couldn't do: be useless. It's the sheer uselessness of it that gives it the power. We are not attached to anything but the thing. Art as the thing-that-cannot-be-used? Not necessarily, not in some purist sense. Great industrial design is to be cherished. And yet, there is a level of insanity here, of out-of-this-world-ness, that takes us to an exotic land, allowing for the silliest and most delicious connections to be made.

3. Luxury requires waste. A truly luxurious lifestyle is one where perfectly good things get wasted, as if to outplay their natural use and dying away. The true master of luxury seems to be saying her opulence is so great, the very perseverence of things is no match - they lose their original function and only exist to the extent they are participating in this out-of-this-world-ness of luxury.
You know what I'm aiming at? Here's the hypothesis:

4. This, this minimalist joyful pleasure-making, is the true luxury. Not the apparent richness of the new complexities. In the world of useless purity, everything only serves the joy of simple aesthetic pleasure. More complex works are not quite like that - they have an inner game to play. The elements enter a dialogue, start relations and societies, with their conflicts and functions and disruptions. Here, there is only the ping of a shot of pleasure. This engine moves nothing. It is here to make me smile (or bring inspiration, or scare) - and I turn it off as soon as I have. And don't be mistaken - if I had one of those and got bored with and could afford it, it would go to waste.

4a. Ah, you might say, but the truly great art is one we don't get bored with. Possibly. Yet how often do we actually go back to contemplate (not just think about or admire or analyze) a work of contemporary "minimalist" art? Does it mean it's because it's not that great? What if it's about something else? What if it is an element of luxury, a game we play with ourselves, to feel the exquisite taste of the sophisticated dish, and then to ditch it as soon as we're fed up? It wouldn't be a question of bluff, of fakeness, of shallowness. It would be a question of use. Of why we crave it, this new. Of how we make it useful after all.

David Foldvari, Wrestler


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Wishing you aesthetic pleasure

Gabriel Cornelius von Max, Monkeys as Judges of Art (1840)

(I'm the small one watching the work, the one in the middle, whose profile can be seen behind the bent knee)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Earn your money

The Minimum Wage Machine (work in progress), by Blake Fall-Conroy

The minimum wage machine allows anybody to work for minimum wage. Turning the crank will yield one penny every 5.04 seconds, for $7.15 an hour (NY state minimum wage). If the participant stops turning the crank, they stop receiving money. The machine's mechanism and electronics are powered by the hand crank, and pennies are stored in a plexiglas box.

Contrary to some other art experiments on work (I'm thinking of some of Santiago Sierra's early projects, but had I any memory, I'm sure a dozen other works would come to my mind), this, here, is not about objectifying labor. It takes the paradox of work-as-product in a somewhat different direction. If there is a minimum wage, any job should be paid the minimum wage. So turning the handle should actually always give you this result.

You can read a technical description of how it was constructed (didn't understand half of it) here.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


I have no idea concerning the origins of the above.
UPDATE: It is The Cyclops by Jaime Pitarch (2002)
Thank you Claudia!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Does beauty make sense?

Is it as coherent as we like to think it? Does it demand coherence?
And does beauty differ dependent on categories? After all, we do watch differently than we listen. And when we watch, the pleasure of, say, seeing a beautiful feature film is quite different from the pleasure of seeing a piece of video art. And although of course the merging and the postmodernism and the over-all mishmash exists in discourse, the categories are still quite strong, our (my) attitudes vary tremendously depending on what I'm watching. It's a tricky area, tagging. But the fact that it's tricky should only encourage to explore, no?

Between from Via Grafik on Vimeo.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Let's start off easy.

The first image seems the most banal. But we'll get back to it.
The second is clearly far from innocent. Or rather, it is its absolute innocence that brings the tension.
Just one more innocent painting to keep you off-guard...

And here we go:Most of Melissa Steckbauer's spicier pictures are somewhere along the lines of the above. They are people in erotic/sexual situations with animals, realistic or mythical ones. Now, how in the world can she include the first painting you see here (the bear-girl) in the same series, Animalia, as the ones you've just seen?
That is precisely what gives the series such power. They demistify us by including us in the myth. This human animal becomes a being of flesh. Of flesh and myth. This teddy bear is the same girl that's having sex with the dog, moving away from the otherness as it penetrates her. Better: she and the beast are one flesh. They are no different, as if in peace with their unbearable similarity. Look at the man with the bear. What is this? A killing? Could it possibly be a hug? No, it is a hug, be it intended or not. It is flesh, it is warm and cuddly. And foreign. Although harmonious - Steckenbauer insists that for her the crucial issue in terms of eroticism is ethics, which she seems to oppose to a set of taboos. But is there really no taboo? No hidden, dangerous zone? To the contrary, the further she goes, the more mysterious and ambivalent the universe. What is this animal, and how does one distinguish it from oneself?

In the interview at the end of this post, Steckbauer talks about her appreciation for "meat in the painting". And for softness and gentleness. And one of my favorite works of hers combines these two. It is somewhat different from the others, reminding me of Man Ray, maybe. What can we do, it says, what can we do if this is the touch of flesh, the touch that seems to go through my body, to immobilize us as it multiplies the members and gets us way out into oblivion, a communication made ambiguous, an identity lost, or repainted, or foresaken, for the sake of what, of what, oh don't ask me, enjoy.

PS: I dedicate this post to the memory of my aunt, whom I first had the chance to speak to when I was 17. We spoke on the phone (she lived in another country). Her very first words to me were: "Hello young man! How are you? How is your sex life?"


Monday, December 14, 2009

Munching Sweets

From the Towers

by Heather McHugh

Insanity is not a want of reason.
It is reason's overgrowth, a calculating kudzu.

Explaining why, in two-ton manifesti, thinkers sally forth
with testaments and pipe bombs. Heaven help us:

spare us all your meaningful designs. Shine down or
shower forth, but (for the earthling's sake) ignore
all prayers followed by against, or for. Teach us to bear

life's senselessness, our insignificance, and more;
let's call that sanity. The terrifying prospect isn't some
escapist with a novel, fond of comfort, munching sweets—

it is the busy hermeneut, so serious he's sour, intent on making
meaning of us all, and bursting from the towers to the streets.

Paintings by Hegyusz.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The Disappeared

Up to 30000 people disappeared during the period of dictatorship in Argentina, lasting from 1976 to 1983. The desaparecidos, as they are commonly called (the dictator General Videla infamously said they were "neither alive or dead, but disappeared"), are still a very hot topic in Argentina. Following the political changes, the new democratic government introduced what they called the Ley de Punto Final, which impeded any attempts of legally pursuing the lower-level executioners of the Dirty War - thus, granting them impunity. The law of the Punto Final was voided by the Supreme Court of Argentina in 2005.
The majority of the desaparecidos still remain missing.
What made me enquire into all this was a photographic project called Ausencias ("Absences", 2007) by Gustavo Germano.
Yes, the people who disappear from the photos are cases of the desaparecidos.

Omar Darío Amestoy
Mario Alfredo Amestoy

Mario Alfredo Amestoy


Maria Irma Ferreira
Maria Susana Ferreira

Maria Susana Ferreira


Andrés Servín
Raúl María Caire
Luisa Inés Rodríguez

Andrés Servín
Luisa Inés Rodríguez

An interview with the artist (in Spanish) can be found at the Argentinian Museum of Memory.


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