Thursday, January 31, 2008

For (Visual) Art's Sake

Danielle Van Ark's photos often seem unreal, directed. Yet reality seems to provide her with events so rich they seem definitely out of this world. Out of mine, for sure.
See also her great Taxidermy series...

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

EXITO=success / EXIT=exit

I am delighted to inform you that I have been invited by the TR Warszawa theater (Warsaw, Poland) to create and direct a video department/workshop/center/section/thing. There is great enthusiasm concerning the project on both sides.
Thus, I am thrilled to be going back to Poland (at least for some time).
Thus, I am extremely sad to be leaving Portugal (at least for some time).

I hope to have more on this initiative in a few weeks.

For now, all my friends and friends of this blog are invited to a farewell party on February 2, at a place that will be disclosed any moment.

UPDATE>> we will be partying at the Lounge bar (, although I have no idea how knowing the virtual address can help), at rua da Moeda n.1, in the Cais do Sodre area (by the post office, near the ETIC school). We'll be starting around 11pm. See you there!

Find New Jersey now and win!

Is it possible to take a picture of New Jersey regardless of where you are in the world?

If you think you can answer this question with an image of your creation, accept the challenge of iheartphotograph and participate in the contest.

Two great Josephs

"To be hopeful in an artistic sense it is not necessary to think that the world is good. It is enough to believe that there is no impossibility of it being made so."
- Joseph Conrad

quote taken from the lengthy and uneasy, but interesting Guardian article about Conrad.
(found here)
I should look better and find material that would do justice both to Joseph Beuys and to Joseph Conrad. However, the video above, although somewhat naive, does present Beuys at least in some respect, and has excellent footage from his I Like America and America Likes Me. For more resources go here, and a great overview of Beuys and his influence on today's art can be found on this Tate page.
As for the article about Conrad, its style does actually do justice to the Polish writer. And it is certainly enlightening. However, other suggestions are welcome.

What links those two? What impresses me? Beyond a difficult, though creative, dealing with one's identity - which that doesn't really make them stand out among artists... A sense of a profound and paradoxically bitter optimism. And amazing self-discipline.


The Fat is on the Table
Maurizio Cattelan on Joseph Beuys

beuys is dead
beuys is also uniting love and knowledge
beuys is more present in a desert freak
beuys is sponsored by museum für moderne kunst
beuys is appointed professor of sculpture at the düsseldorf academy of art
beuys extends ulysses by two chapters at the request of james joyce
beuys is surely not a sartre follower, but of course there are many parallels
beuys is mentioned next to steiner
beuys is back in town
beuys is back in belgium, in berlin, US, active in germany
beuys is the contemporary artist responsible for the popular notion that politics is an aesthetic activity that anyone can engage in
beuys is inspired by steiner
beuys is not so reactionary as to deny the existence of the entire art history repertoire
beuys is widely acknowledged as one of the most influential post-war german artists
beuys is the identification with everything from mythological 9gures and historical personages to writers and artists
beuys is a mythical figure in the art world, however
beuys is particularly significant in the light of his introspective research on the possible reuni9cation of human and natural life
beuys is in the creation of the social sculpture
beuys is either loved or hated
beuys is considered one of the most
beuys is widely regarded as one of the most important german artists since world war II
beuys is demanding sun instead of rain/reagan
beuys is more like an evangelist
beuys is famous for an extraordinary body of drawings
beuys is such an obvious candidate; he started making art following a breakdown that was a result of his experiences in world war II
beuys is represented in depth in dia's permanent collection
beuys is
beuys is among the most famous of today's artists
beuys is one of the most famous performance artists
beuys is valid because wolfgang laib shares his belief in the transcendent power of art
beuys is another sculptor that
beuys is one of the major figures in post-war german art
beuys is known for his shamanistic artist's persona
beuys is among the world's most comprehensive
beuys is in these digital photographs represented not by him directly
beuys is a real people's artist understood by a professor
beuys is megjelent a kövek mellett és hamarosan heves vita bontakozott ki közte és a közönség között
beuys is a 1972 lithograph in which the essential feature is that of beuys as everyman
beuys is elvesztette
beuys is átvett és ami interszubjektiv jellege miatt nem volt
beuys is called to account by his presumptive offspring
beuys is veel materiaal verdwenen
beuys is questioned by the activities of maclennan
beuys is instructive
beuys is very important in mail art
beuys is understandable
beuys is known to
beuys is not completed by his death
beuys is i was never secure and happy in the world of galleries from the very beginning
beuys is and how it is pronounced
beuys is cleverly recontextualised in
beuys is of course enormously interesting
beuys is l'eminence grise of community building as an art form
beuys is interested in the proportions between crystal and amorphous states
beuys is able to evoke the experience of the past
beuys is a magnificent
beuys is based on three stages
beuys is a special case because of the build-up of a curious sense of obligation to respond positively
beuys is the generation of my father
beuys is talking about the much wider concept of creative potential
beuys is regarded as one of the most significant personalities of the past
beuys is steeped in the struggle of world war II
beuys is a big influence right now
beuys is unavoidable
beuys is purely a decorative artist
beuys is hype
beuys is cited as the great collaborator of the twentieth century because
beuys believed everybody was a potential artist
beuys is on e-bay
beuys is a mythical figure in
beuys is one artist i wanted to ask you about
beuys is one of the biggest art world phonies of recent years
beuys is probably unique in the history of art
beuys is supposed
beuys is a very controversial sculptor
beuys is grounded in a tradition of narrative sources that is often absent in american art of the same period
beuys is hardly a household name in the history of twentieth-century art
beuys is the great shaman of twentieth-century art
beuys is represented with his monumental work created shortly before his death, lightning with stag in its glare
beuys is best known for declaring "everyone an artist"; koons seems to declare that everyone is a consumer

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Guerrillas looking for Budapest museum director

The site claims:

Position Summary

Museum Director

Director I, Full Time

Monday - Friday, 9:00am - 6:00pm

Hiring Range & Group: 2-4.000 EUR / Month

Closing Date: Open Until Closed

The Ludwig Museum Budapest (LUMÚ) is one of the major Hungarian Museums and exhibition spaces, and holds the most important collection of modern art in Hungary. (...)

Our aim is to create an alternative platform for applicants in order to emphasize the opportunities which lie in this position in order to put LUMÚ on the global map with an internationally recognizable program.

If you wish to apply please send your application (concept) as told below. We do not evaluate but only post all applications on this website.
We hope all decision makers will consider all information collected on this page and will be influenced by your ideas and concepts. We hope they might consider the applicants for the official call. There have been precedents in Hungary where the highest positions have been hijacked by public initiatives in the midst of political status quo. We believe that if you are a sound applicant, you can become the director through public support.

Basically, here is a beautiful case: a group of people really passionate about contemporary art want to have a good museum. So they try to be active. They see that the formal way of solving the issue seems impossible. So they take matters in their own hands, and they announce a pseudo-contest. You can send your candidature, but - and this is the brilliant part - they will not judge it. They will limit themselves to showing those in charge that you exist. And, hopefully, those in charge will take you into consideration when looking for the right person.

Sounds impressive. Guerrillas fighting for justice. Guerrillas who don't want to take over, only think out-of-the-box to try and open minds. After all, if there are competent, interesting candidates out there, why not present them?
A few things worry me slightly: 1) As of today, there is still no candidature online. People don't take it seriously? Possibly. Or maybe, they are not ready to take the risk of becoming associated to something that seems quite a rebellious initiative (after all, it does suggest the Museum has a good chance of receiving the director the politicians will nominate, no questions asked)? 2) What can the real force of such an initiative be? Doesn't it remind you of the rallies that have been so popular these days, say, against the invasion of Iraq? The guerrilla tactics seem more like an interesting phenomenon than an actual force.
Now, the real question might be, what is the strength of this particular utopia?
I hope it does raise the issue of a fair selection. And even if a director is nominated from among the friends and relatives of the Right People, they will have to stand up to the challenge of being compared to the other candidates. The unofficial ones.
What better place to start this sort of initiative than a museum of modern art?
Now, this only works if competent people do send in their proposals. And impress the heck out of everyone.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008


What is absolutely astonishing about this photo by Jill Greenberg is that it seems almost as if taken by chance. Although it is a carefully studied pose, its context is nowhere close to the conceptual play we see here. It is part of a series portraying primates in a relatively classical way - their faces showing somewhat human characteristics, with adequately human titles ("Anxious", "Dude", etc.). They are wonderful and funny pictures, but this one here is really something else. The title is "Mala Centerfold", and that seems an understatement. We are not in front of some cheesy centerfold here. Oh, no! - this is the real thing, this is the indecent Olympia, this is the lascivious Maja.
It is challenging Darwin to a truth-or-dare.
And it is delicious.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A few amazing finds, and a very subjective text

Magnus von Plessen, Felicity

It is hard for me to imagine a live performance that would have (that I would find to have) the density of some visual art. Yes, I distinguish those quite clearly, mainly by the dilating of senses I experience when watching most performance, as if there was no way of just getting to the point, or points, or of just hitting me with whatever they have. "Just". There is justice in this just, a sense of the right measure, like an object where the proportions feel right. I simply cannot recall a single performance I have seen where the proportions just felt right. It seems time and a live body introduce elements that are somehow completely out of the scope of my spectator experience.
Compare the best you've seen on stage to this:

The above images, by the astonishing Tim Hawkinson, are more than powerful: they range from publicity-like to classical sculpture to highly conceptual (the last one is a self-portrait mapping of all the area the artist sees on his own body, the picture before is a Balloon Self-Portrait, a blown-up mold of the artist), and yet each of them seems complete.
Or see these, by Huma Bhabha:

How are we to compete with the perfection of something that is? Another language, you will say. Another state of presence. And yet, the choice of what to lay my eyes on remains. And diversity is no argument, when time after time what is live seems to be disappointing, less thrilling, less surprising, exciting, fresh and bold than what remains there not waiting for the sight. But then again, it is also less exciting than film, which seems only to live when seen!
Indeed, it is perfectly useless to speak of the spectator's responsibility in all this, when the spectator admits he is not up to it and instead choses something less desperate, even as it may be darker and, at least on the surface, less active.
(Both poor quality reproductions are by Magnus von Plessen)
And yet, after having written all this, I still feel that live art somehow retains an incredible potential. Not because it is live, at least in the sense of having live people in front of you, but rather, in the sense of it being an event, and so, something that remains unexpected, but also unfinished, incomplete, and fragile in its egomaniacal form ("look at me!"). I'm still not sure where this is heading, it remains confused, but it might have something to do with the amazing phenomenon of enjoying something while it is bad, enjoying it because you appreciate it as an event, enjoying the fact that you are in the privileged position of

PS: Here is a picture dedicated to the effort of some colleagues from a theater project that has been on these days:
(The picture is by Amy Stein. I believe the title is Domesticated.)

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Duane Michals and Schroedinger's Cat

I really shouldn't. The above work, created by Duane Michals, should be left without a comment.
But how can I resist?
First, let's clear up one issue: anyone trying to better understand the Schroedinger's Cat thought experiment by getting acquainted with this work may be misguided. Although the work plays around with the idea of ontological ambiguity, its way, focus, scope seems to be different from that of the famous scientist. Nonetheless, I am sure Schroedinger himself would refrain from saying such a silly thing as "I wish I had never met that cat", had he gotten acquainted with this little beast (and its charming mistress).

Now, would you look at that. At the delightful play with the point-of-viewness (also, under various other circumstances, called perspectivism or sollipsism or more broadly subjectivism), this attitude of turning the object (of the onlooker) into a subject, and the subject (the spectator, the admirer of the work) into an object (the looked-for, if not the looked-at) is not only a development of motives in art and in philosophy, it is an exquisite retro (the work comes from 1998) portrait of a relation.
This relation is based on faith. Were we to know the cat is in the box, we could not feel the bond the way we do. And yet, this faith does not move mountains. It neither saves the cat, or condemns it. It is rather a sort of a "suspended disbelief" kind of faith, when one ponders, but accepts not to question what is impossible to discover. But this faith also includes accepting not to affirm, as a sort of worldly agnosticism. How are we to deal with what we cannot know or control? It comes to no surprise that Duane Michals cites Zen Buddhism as one of his influences.
Of course, the last picture is a light and funny way of escaping the question (into a new question), but the first two remain. And in them, especially in the first one, there is a hidden level. In Schroedinger's example, the cat is either alive or dead. So when Madame Schroedinger wonders if the cat is or is not in the box, she might not expect the box to be empty. So the question becomes: what is it that makes that presence so present?
The further we get away from the first picture into the next ones, the more delightful the experience becomes. But also the least powerful. From an existential inquiry into you-know-what, it turns into a fun - but not too ambitious - looking-outside-of-the-frame. The work looks at us? Yes, we know. Not a particularly new discovery. And to be honest, it doesn't need to be. Less ambitious? Maybe, and then we can always say, "Who needs ambition when there is such a splendid onlooker peeking out of the box?" I would rather say that since there is no way of knowing the answer to picture number 1, we might just as well accept that and move on. To another possible world - and yet another. Ours.

Question: Have you noticed the box on the first picture might fall if the cat is there and moves as a cat that is there might? Oh, Madame Schroedinger, snap out of it!
Question 2: Have you noticed how much bigger the box is in the 2nd picture? (And how it becomes a non-box in the 3rd...)

More about Michals in this great article.

Found the work here.


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