Monday, November 29, 2010

On the Birth of the Contemporary Art Fair

In Christine Mehring's article, "Emerging Market" or "Christine Mehring on the birth of the Contemporary Art Fair", the first of the art fairs as we know them is examined as well as the path of its evolution. The first notable fair was opened on Sept. 13, 1967, in Cologne. KUNSTMARKT 67 was prompted into fruition during a time when the international art economy was hardly in motion anymore. Zwirner and his mentor Stunke devised the plans two years before the launch and received the permission to hold the fair. It was met with success, to say the least. A greater variety of visitors graced the show, and those that have never stepped into a gallery were met with art that compelled them to buy it. There were a few other fair-type deals that predated KUNSTMARKT 67, but they did not have the same appealing guidelines that eventually became a model for future fairs to come. KUNSTMARKT 67 was an exclusive fair, meaning that not just any exhibitor could show. It was a system established to guarantee quality and status. This earned the fair a few competitors in the form of counter-exhibitions. Art fairs became more numerous as a trend, for they attracted far more people than galleries did, but as a consequence, fewer fresh faces ever turn up at galleries. Instead, people wait for the fairs where they can look at tons of art at once, and buy if they feel like doing so, from booths like vendors on a street corner.

I find it odd that art fairs weren't developed sooner. I wonder, does it really matter if there are exceptions/exclusions or not? I know there was a complaint in the article that those who are refused risk their work and their names getting devalued. Is that really the case anymore? There's a ton of art fairs out there these days. In Miami, they have one practically every two or three months. Miami Basel's just one of the really big ones. Yet what I kind of want to know, with genuine curiosity, is what the difference is between an art FAIR and and art FESTIVAL. I remember volunteering for the Coconut Grove Art Festival in tenth or eleventh grade, and there were plenty of booths, but not all of them have art as we know it. And there were rides. And there was a DJ. And there were booths for kids to make arts and crafts in. Do these hurt or promote the idea of an art fair? Or the image of what is art in general? Because I know the point of the art fair, or one of the points, was to spark public interest in art and get people into galleries again. It did one, but it hindered the other. Meanwhile art festivals seem to just be sapping the heart and soul out of art. It's more like a family-friendly spectacle than an art show. So an art fair is essentially an art festival without the hand crafted jewelry, carnival rides, and spectacle. It's kind of like a marketplace with cheap art. They can't jack up the prices too high on the street; few art newbies will pay thousands of dollars to a vendor for a painting, even if it could be worth as much in a gallery.

If I had my work in an art fair, I'd either have the pieces remain NFS or just as expensive as they'd be outside of the fair. I don't believe in devaluing my work so some guy who thinks this or that piece would look nice in the living room but he doesn't want to pay 'art prices' for it buys it up. It's kind of an insult to me. I want to be paid what my pieces are worth and nothing less. Even if it means I have to keep them all and they'll never get sold, I am and have always been more than willing to make a living doing something else and make art as a hobby. That being said, I don't hate art fairs or anything. I don't hate what they stand for. If other people don't care what their piece is going for in the fair vs. in a gallery, then why should I care about them? I've passed by pieces at a fair and wished I had the money to buy them; so they're succeeding in making some cash if I did/could. And I like to look at a lot of art too--that's always a plus.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Anti-Mainstream Museum's Mainstream Show

In Roberta Smith's article 'Anti-Mainstream Museum's Mainstream Show', written in March 2010, Smith criticizes The New Museum's exhibition of Dakis Joannou's collected artwork for being too mainstream for this particular museum. The show was called "Skin Fruit" by Jeff Koons, who is an old friend of Mr. Joannou's. It crowds up the museum's space, as it's a very vast collection of work, though for some of the larger pieces there might have been a better impact from them if they had more space to themselves. The work in this show comes from many blue-chip artists like Richard Prince, Maurizio Cattelan, Urs Fischer, Charles Ray, Chris Ofili, Takashi Murakami, and Ms. Sherman, but all these iconic artists and works brought together for one exhibition gives the show more of an air of being some auction display. There's little in common between all the pieces other than figurative quality, and the work is leaning towards older contemporary rather than newer work, which is what the New Museum was geared for. True, some of the pieces are powerful, but with many others crammed into the same place of the same epic nature, a lot of that energy is lost. It might have been a bad move on their part to host that kind of collection there.

I suppose the article makes a few good points, but was this simply an opportunity the New Museum couldn't afford to pass up? They were getting their hands on a fairly extensive collection, so are they supposed to just reject it if it doesn't match their values? Did they even consider rejecting it? And if they didn't or couldn't or wouldn't, couldn't they decide how much of that work is shown at a time so it's not crammed into the museum space? It sounds as if it could have still been a decent show if more editing was done.

Out of my own experience, I have little to say so far about my work and museums. I do have an exhibition coming up with two other artists, but I knew what sort of work they were doing beforehand. I can see how our work will relate to each others' and though we're not going to have a lot of work at our show, I think it might even be for the best. I've been to shows and exhibits that have overwhelmed me. In just a few weeks we're going to Art Basel where so much art is shown that you need to sneak in a camera to remember a fraction of the work you just saw. It takes the whole day to take all that in. It's incredibly overwhelming. Just after last year alone, I can't remember more than about fifteen pieces I encountered there, and I saw a hell of a lot more than fifteen pieces. And the fifteen I remember had a lot of space to themselves or commanded my attention based on my own personal interest. If I ever get work into a show, I wouldn't crowd the place even if I could. And since I'm no blue-chip artist and I likely might never be, the only museums or galleries that might collect my work would do so with their own creeds in mind. They'll be pickier.

A New Boss, and a Jolt of Real-World Expertise

In another article written on January 11th of this year by Roberta Smith titled 'A New Boss, and a Jolt of Real-World Expertise', Smith examines Jeffrey Deitch's current position as the latest director of The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. Before this well-known art dealer was hired for the job, the museum was not doing well. It was nearly about to fold and sell off until it was donated $30 million from a former chairman of the board named Eli Broad. Competitors were fairing better with their fresh, new directors, so the Contemporary Art museum finally took a hint and Deitch became director. Deitch has a lot of experience in the art world due to his former trade as an art dealer, so whereas he might not have as much experience as an administrator of a museum, he still has plenty of experience in dealing with art, artists, and business. Smith seems to believe that Deitch is fit for the task, as she continues to defend the new director for his experience with writing, organizing, collaborating, and vision. She mentions why his position faces criticism, mainly due to his lack of experience for this particular task. Still, Smith believes that the museum made the right choice in choosing someone like Deitch to change its dying image.

I've heard about this before, last semester. I read about him a bit more after reading this article since the article is a year old and I'm curious as to how he might have helped if he did. I'm still wondering why it gets so much attention. Isn't it beneficial to have someone with art dealing expertise run a museum? From what Smith had to say, it seems as if Deitch isn't guilty of anything except lacking a little experience. Nobody is /born/ with experience. He has to get some somehow. It's like applying for jobs that require you have previous work experience, but it's nothing someone who dropped out of high school couldn't do, so you can't just get experience from that job because nobody else hired you for likely the same reason. Or something like that. Deitch did give up his private galleries and such after taking the job. I believe someone who has worked with many artists is most fitting for the task he's been given. He wasn't bad at what he was doing either. He had enough professionalism about him to get noticed in the first place. The museum made a move, and they're doing fine now, whereas before they were in debt up to their eyeballs and fading fast. If anything though, wasn't it a brilliant bout of publicity to hire the guy? Even if it's a risk, the spotlight turned to the MOCA and hasn't died down since. People are curious about what this new, possibly outrageous museum director has to offer. People are going to read those articles in the Times and remember the name. But I wonder if hiring an art dealer as the museum director is such a big deal, then what sort of attention would a contemporary artist hired for the task attract? I'm not talking about something completely far-fetched. I mean what if this artist has a lot of business experience, has worked and collaborated with other artists, has written criticisms, and pretty much has done everything that Deitch has done, only being better known as an artist than an art dealer? It seems like Deitch alone has brought life back to the MOCA, whether or not he's had years of experience.

I'm not entirely sure how to apply this to my work. I suppose if directors have any say in what ends up in their museums, my work may or might not ever be in one. I'm still stuck on the idea that art goes to a museum to die. Not that it'd have any less value to me if I go there, but ever since that thought was pitched to me, I can't help but imagine works in a museum being preserved in that nasty smelling substance the biology labs would smell of on dissection days. But maybe a guy like Deitch, who apparent is capable of bring a new vision to an old museum, could change that. I only think it's appropriate that they bring such a guy to a contemporary art museum. It keeps the work there fresher--frozen rather than packed in a jar.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Who Needs a White Cube These Days?

In Roberta Smith's article "Who Needs a White Cube These Days?" {Jan. 2006}, Smith analyzes the answers to the question of what an art gallery is. Galleries are now in flux, adapting to the needs of our contemporary artists in response to the question of whether the space work is presented in presents it as a product or a state of mind. Smith cites several examples of 'alternative' galleries that have neglected the institutional 'white cube' aesthetic, such as the Wrong Gallery--which is essentially a one-foot deep doorway. Michele Maccarone has a three-story building that is hardly renovated and scarred by the constant building up and tearing down of work. A gallery with a fictitious owner is then mentioned, then Scorched Earth which is sort of fashioned to function as a publication center rather than an exhibition space. Then there's the Martha Rosler Library, which appears as a used bookstore in which nothing is for sale, but people are free to browse and take pictures and make photocopies if they wish.

I wonder, wouldn't it be easier for artists to take advantage of this trend and make galleries for their own work? I'm sure it's not easy to purchase space, or to get the word out, but it seems as if the people who know best about where their work is best presented are the artists. Some people make work while thinking about the space where it'll be shown in the future. Some people don't. Sometimes white walls are just what you need and sometimes they're detrimental. There's nothing wrong with having a selection. I'm glad people have devised alternative galleries. I loved the idea of a doorway being the maximum show space. But what about the foot traffic? When these alternative galleries are made, how do you get the right people to visit? How do you make it obvious that your space is showing art as a gallery and not as a cafe trying to be hip and modern with the decor? I mean, that's /if/ the owner wants to make it obvious, but the artist should be thought of as well. Art is often made to be seen, after all. I'm just hoping that these alternative galleries can attract the non-art savvy as well, because someday the current lot are going to get old and die and there should be other people in their places.

When I make my art, I think about the space I would present them in all the time. Sometimes I want to do something a little ambitious, like make a maze out of the gallery space, and other times I want to do something simple yet imposing. For my show coming up, I gave up on the idea of using props to accentuate my pieces. Not because it would take more time, but because I didn't think it was going to be necessary. I thought of a better way and though simpler, it should be effective. I can do this within the Crossley space, which in my opinion isn't far from a white cube itself, but it will take a few placement considerations and lighting adjustments. I believe that even a white cube can be manipulated by an artist who not only wants to use a space that people recognize as 'gallery space', but wants it to become something other than that when visitors step inside.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Jack Burgess explains Contemporary Art

In the four minute video on Jack Burgess explaining contemporary art, he very briefly depicts how art has evolved, then describes how one must feel when encountering contemporary art for the first time, and finally what it is in order to better understand it and know what you're dealing with. He gives this explanation is a properly awkward manner, reflecting how one must feel when confronted with art they don't quite understand. It's amusing, getting a laugh or two out of me as I watched, and one could tell it was the aim of this short video to be both informative and entertaining.

I can't really think of any questions I have about it. It pretty much said everything it aimed to say in a short amount of time. I mean...can contemporary art be both intellectual and straightforward? It doesn't always have to seem like a different language, does it? I mean, if the symbols are practically universal and they're arranged in some obvious way, can it still be considered conceptual art if it makes sense right away? Okay, so maybe I had a few questions, but they weren't aimed towards the video exactly--just contemporary art in general.

I probably don't make contemporary art. I say 'probably' because I'm not sure how much of an influence that genre of art is having on my work lately. I'm making prints into sculpture, a possible stop motion video, and I want to present this in a 'fitting' environment {no white walls and bright lighting for me}. So taking all those things into consideration, is my manipulation o the environment and the position of these pieces influenced by the interactive nature found in contemporary art? I always thought of a gallery show as a perfect opportunity to make a set, like on stage. Whenever I imagined having my own show, I never wanted it to just be white walls with pieces tacked on to them and sculptures idling on white pedestals. I wanted the work to be present within the proper environments to enhance the experience they offer. I guess thinking about what could be done to best achieve this is a conceptual process. I don't know.

Either way, this was an entertaining watch. I wish more informational videos could be this amusing.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Frontline: Digital Nation

Frontline: Digital Nation is a program/documentary on PBS that evaluates the evolution of our technology in this 'Digital Age', mainly focused on the Internet and whether or not it is another step towards progress or a hindrance to us. The documentary begins with the concern of multi-tasking and whether or not it is more effective, but even those who claimed to be 'effective' multi-taskers proved to be hardly efficient. A person performs a task most optimally if focused, without several distractions at once. But in this age, with digital natives rising into the later generations, attention spans are running shorter. Students in schools that allow the use of laptops may be more engaged in lecture if they are met on the same digital plane, but distractions still have to be monitored. People become bored and move on to some other task that's just a click away, like checking for messages on Facebook or playing games. Still, some schools have steered towards using this technology to teach, even if through gaming itself as was demonstrated later in this program, believing that the age of page-turning is coming to an end. Meanwhile the virtual reality Internet is able to provide, such as interactive environment and MMORPGs, is investigated. The matter of whether people are interacting in a detached environment to escape loneliness or being genuinely united with many others is brought to question. In the case of gaming online, it has becoming a public health concern in countries like South Korea, where technology first took its grand hold. This addiction, if one can see it as such, is a likely consequence of these appealing alternate realities. The use of our digital prowess in our military pursuits has been increasing to minimize casualties of war and even to recruit potentials.

When I saw this documentary, I felt mixed in my opinions. Whereas I was capable of understanding the consequences of the Internet and our digital evolution, even able to relate to them, I can also see how this evolution can bring about progress in the way writing and transportation have. Sometimes I feel that I am addicted to technology, since I spend hours on end using my computer or playing video games. I don't use the phone much, but my interest hasn't really been much in the real world, but the many possible worlds one can experience digitally. Oddly enough, I never got into MMORPGs, but I do go on forums where roleplaying takes place in alternate realities. Instead of there being a digital space to navigate, created by some programmer and from his imagination, one can type about the place their characters are in and elaborate in any way they choose. It's like making a big, collaborative novel that no one else is likely to read so it promotes a sense of freedom to what you write. I use technology for escape more often than I use it for communication. I don't send e-mails, I infrequently update Facebook and I don't have Twitter or any of that sort of service, and people yell at me all the time for never getting on AIM or MSN. I'm not sure if I'm a common, uncommon, or rare case. So as much as I think technology is going to be a great big part of our future, I can't help but have my quirks against it.

What seemed to concern me most, or what really stuck, was the marriage of technology and war. What will warefare be like a century from now? The technology isn't just going to stay in one place forever. Whether it happens through leaks of information or take over, all these new advances will eventually be carried on to every corner of the world. How will we fight our battles if our armies never have to leave their countries or stand on battlefronts? And what is it going to do to the psychology of war? I can only imagine the bombs would just have to be carried to the cities themselves. It won't be long until civilian casualties cannot be avoided often enough. If anything intimidates me the most about digital technology, it's the harm it can do when put in the hands of people who kill for a living. But this sort of thing is inevitable. As long as people are being defensive or fighting for a cause, for revenge, or all those other colorful sorts of reasons people get into it, they're going to want to have advantages over their adversaries. Technology often provides that advantage, due to its nature of constantly evolving and its capability of being improved upon.

Even if I tried not to use the computer as often as I do, I'd still need to use it. My family would have a coronary if I didn't get on Skype every Friday to talk to them for an hour or so. It's just too easy to get the images I need for reference online, or to stay updated on events on campus through e-mail, or make blogs for my Fine Arts Thesis class. When I get out of school and get a job, I'm going to need to be well acquainted with this technology anyways.

But it gets in the way when I use it for leisure. I stop working on art and get distracted because it's so easy to do. It provides instant gratification, helps me to forget a lonely life, and it gives me something to do when I'm bored that doesn't require my complete, unadulterated attention.

Among the Inept, Researchers Discover, Ignorance is Bliss

In Erica Goode's article "Among the Inept, Researchers Discover, Ignorance is Bliss", written in 2000, Goode reveals that it was discovered through research that the incompetent people of the world are naturally unaware of how incompetent they are while those that are competent often underrate themselves or have a decent awareness of their ineptitude. Tests were administered to research this claim and they turned up positive results; lower-ranked participants were often drastically overestimating their results while those in the higher percentile often underestimated their competence.

When I read this article, it read a lot like an article out of The Onion, so part of me debates on how true this information is. I don't think I'm completely incompetent, but I don't think I'm anything special either. I'd believe there were plenty of others like myself who felt the same way. I am aware that there are people who often over or underestimate their capabilities, but I don't think someone who is inept could continue being ignorant of their ineptitude for long. Eventually shortcomings ought to be obvious and numerous enough to get noticed.

I did find the bit about humor incompetence amusing, but true. Many of those who think they can tell a good joke and repeat a poor one over and over don't seem to get that they're just not funny. I suffer from that incompetency myself. When I was a kid, I'd repeat a joke I heard a thousand times, often forgetting who I have and haven't told it to and repeating it to the same person by accident. Now I just tell jokes that I could laugh at to people when I want to break the ice, just so I can avoid telling the same ones to them later. Though that doesn't always work either. People have different senses of humor. So does that incompetency in humor apply to any sense? I'm talking about slap-stick, dry, stand-up, etc. There are many different types of humor that appeal to different people. My sense of humor is pretty extensive, but the kind I seem to laugh at the most is pretty dark. Some people wouldn't find it funny at all, but disturbing rather {or they just won't get it because half my references are obscure}.

When I think about it, I believe myself to be incompetent in many ways, but that doesn't make me a competent person for being aware of it. It just means I know my shortcomings so I don't get too cocky about it. And in a way that does prevent a lot of stupid mistakes, but it doesn't make me any more competent.

Would an article like this make an inept person more aware of themselves?
I'm not sure, but I'm a little more self-conscious now. I also remember the bit about our society's attempts to being more acceptable, such as the example given on the polite laugh to a bad joke as opposed to a sincere 'You Stink!". Has our society set itself up for incompetence? Now that would be ironic. It's like the pat on your back your parents give you for making a drawing or the nice things people say about your work in critique because they don't want to hurt your feelings. It's as if this forced sensitivity prevents those who need the feedback, or the naturally inept, from being able to identify their own shortcomings.

I'd hope that I wasn't completely incompetent, because then I could make my work with a slightly clearer conscience. I never seem to be satisfied with what I do and I always think I can do better. Wonder what that makes me...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Rumsfeld's Unknown Known, or Iraq's Initiation into Democratic Practice

In Slavoj Zizek's article "Rumsfeld's Unknown Known, or Iraq's Initiation into Democratic Practice", Zizek examines the nature of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and how they relate to true American values. He does not mention Rumsfeld until near the end, when he mentions a quote from Rumsfeld's philosophies on the known and unknown and reveals that he had missed out on the important term of "unknown knowns". He proceeds to relate this to his argument on the prison scandal to prove his point. At the beginning of his article, he recounts on how the Bush administration regarded the acts of torture at Abu Ghraib as isolated crimes that were not indicative of what America stands for for. From there on, Zizek first compares the torture to Western hazing rituals, mentioning the main difference being that in hazing, the person receiving the humiliation or torment is willingly going along in attempts to fit into an exclusive society. He also claims that when he first got hold of the photos, he thought it was a picture of an art exhibit, comparing the staging of the shot to a scene in a David Lynch film or any sort of humiliating publication in some reality show. Zizek then explains how prisoners at Guantanamo were considered to be homo sacer, meaning legally dead though biologically alive. Because they were accidentally surviving combat, they were simply being brought in under a casualty title. This provides a loophole for all sorts of normally illegal activity, allowing any sort of horror to befall these prisoners as it often does. Then he mentions outsourcing, for both economics and torture, to avoid the restrictions of the First World laws to provide cheaper or more effective ways of getting things done, even if health and ecological factors are dropped for the sake of production.

Finally, using the 'unknown knowns' idea that Rumsfeld failed to acknowledge, he explains how the scandal relates to it. Unknown knowns are what we don't know that we know. These are the practices we enact but don't allow ourselves to be aware of. When we outsource, we start to forget what is being done to others for our sake because it becomes easier to ignore, but we're still doing it. No direct orders were ever given to the soldiers to humiliate and torture the prisoners, but the pressure and the opportunities are still present, and like a secret no one talks about, it just happens. The truth is, just like in any society, the American/Western ideal is still underlined with barbarism, even if there's a refusal to acknowledge it. Democratic values are not quite as spotless as they seek to portray themselves.

I don't really have many questions about this article because I was able to agree with the logic and understand the philosophy around it. I even knew of the 'known and unknown' factors before I read this, so as I read Rumsfeld's quote I knew he was missing the fourth, which is just as important as the other three and can be just as dangerous to be unaware of. The article seemed to be in defense of that fourth forgotten term. If I have one question in mind, it's how this article has to do with art. Or how it has to do with artists in general. When David Lynch was mentioned I thought I was on to something, but his work was only used to compare to the photos taken of Abu Ghraib. Is the purpose of this article to help us think about knowns and unknowns when we make our art? Is it to help us understand what sort of underlying 'inhumanities' exist in humanity so we can make work that exploits it? Because obviously all those television programs with excessive violence really catch attention. I know for a fact that most kids rather watch cartoons with violence than the wishy-washy children's shows that try their hardest to be informative and fun, minus the violence. People are just attracted to that sort of emotional outlet because, like sex, violence is a way of releasing our deepest and strongest emotions and that release often brings about a feeling of satisfaction, like throwing down some heavy baggage you've been carrying about for too long. Though, due to our society and the portrayal of what is 'humane', most violence is followed by an insincere sense of guilt, or sincere if there are consequences towards yourself.

Because I don't know how this article applies to art in general, I don't know how it applies to my art. There are no unknown knowns that I can think about existing within it. If I had to choose however, I'd have to say my work is more about the known unknown. What we know we don't know. No one knows for sure how the world will end, but it will. Whether it does in our lifetime or in millions of years from now, it will. Some people believe they know when it will end, firmly so, and to them it becomes a known known, in that case. But from my perspective, it's the former.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Sound of Music, Central Station Antwerp

Can I start with questions this time?

-Why is this so awesome?
-Why can't this happen more often?
-You know they've done this in Japan for a few years? {More of an informative statement}
-Can this be art?


I've seen this video before, about a few months ago. ^^ <--{Happiness}

It's a clip of a stunt used to promote a Belgian television show in which they've got about 200 dancers {after only 2 rehearsals} to dance in the middle of a somewhat busy Central Station in Antwerp. It starts with the music suddenly playing on the speakers and one man dancing to the music in the center of the station floor about fifteen seconds into the song. Then slowly, out of the works, more people join him. It starts to look as if life suddenly turned into a musical.

When I first saw this, I was actually giggling with happiness. I would have loved to have a chance to do something like that. It's the sort of thing that would probably put a smile on anyone's face, even just a smirk. Before I saw this video for the first time, I had actually watched a few stunts in Japan done by some die-hard Anime fans. When I see these kinds of videos, I sort of wish life was like that {but then quickly realize how fast it would get annoying}.

I'm not sure how this applies to my work. I don't even have any performance pieces. Or joy. Or dancing. I've got music. Maybe that's how it can...sort of...relate. My subject's not really the most sunshiney type of subject there is out there. O.o <---{My bewilderment}

But that doesn't stop stunts like these from being awesome.

So these are called flash mobs, by the way, and they don't have to be musical. Get a load of this one:

Hint: Now the real goal is to look for Carmen Sandiego.

Zizek on Crossdressing to the Sound of Music

We were asked to write about the small article by Ben Atlas and the video clip taken of Slavoj's commentary on role-reversals in The Sound of Music. While Atlas seems to be making sense of the clip, he explains that it is easy to extract a mirror image of the Jews in the Nazis, because Nazis believed that Jews were the dominate majority and they had control of all European culture and politics. So as a result, because they wanted all that, they decided to go ahead and shoot for that.

If you can believe it, I wasn't totally buying this. Anyhow...

In the clip, Zizek explains that in The Sound of Music, the Austrians that are resisting the Nazi occupation are depicted as anti-intellectual fascists while the Nazis are not only soldiers, but managers and high-society sorts that reflect more cosmopolitan values. So the movie instead becomes about the fascist Austrians vs. the sound society of Nazis. Apparently this appeals to our inner fascists or something and that's why it became so popular.

Okay. So I've never seen The Sound of Music. I've heard of it, but until I read this article I had no idea what it was about {I always assumed it was a good musical or something}. So I'm not sure what to say in defense of the movie, but I do know what to say about the mirror-imagining topic in regards to the Nazis. From the standpoint of everyone else aside from the Nazis, everyone in Germany was suffering before World War II. Even the 'cosmopolitan, dominating' Jews. So there was no actual role reversal that happened here. But if you think about it from a Nazi's point of view, the Jews were the cause of all strife, so they controlled it, and they themselves became the cause of strife. In that case, you've got yourself a role reversal. So yeah, from a certain slant of light, the group that wore the pants changed places.

What I'm really wondering though, is what does this article/clip have to do with us as artists? Is it supposed to let us know that there are people who will analyze your work that hard? That they'll draw just about any conclusion? And are we really secret fascists? {<-- More of a rhetorical question; I laughed aloud when he claimed we all are.} It just seemed like Zizek might have been looking a little too hard into the movie, but like I said, I've never seen it so I don't know. Maybe the roles were meant to be interpreted as reversed.

In my current body of work, the roles of disasters are many. I already know this as a fact. Disasters don't just destroy; they pave the way for something new, or they change your life for better or worse. There's no heart behind it and it just happens, but what we make of it depends on what we're willing to make of it. Other than that, I have no idea how this all applies to me.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

How Marina Abramovic's Red-Velvet Rope at MoMA Works

Mark Byrne's article on How Marina Abramovic's Red-Velvet Rope at MoMA Works describes the epic wait that guests endure to have a chance at sitting with the artist herself. Apparently by the end of the day, she only really gets to sit with a handful of people, as some sit with her for as long as an hour each. Even so, the people waiting first in line outside the door aren't necessarily the first ones to go. Museum staff, up until the museum's director told the employees that they couldn't take further advantage of the privilege, could get to the front of the line first. Yet even they don't necessarily go first anyhow. If special, VIP guests arrive, they get to skip everyone in line. At one instance to sway the complaints, Abramovic agreed to begin her performance earlier.

What I'm wondering is what could possibly be so prestigious about sitting with Abramovic that people would be willing to wait in eight hour lines to see her? Is the wait itself and the possible interactions that may occur among those waiting in line all part of her piece? Obviously it must have been, because it looks like something one would immediately have trouble overlooking. If she wanted the line to be shorter or to move along faster, she would have set time limits for those that sat with her. Also, what transpires in that space? I'll have to look it up. Is what goes on inside that place any more significant than the journey it takes to get there?

I wouldn't have people wait around to see my work if I could help it. I'm not primarily aimed at making a piece to stir up socialization. I never really had any interest in performance art. I like what is tangible, or what can be seen, smelt, heard, and remembered. I want my pieces to have a presence rather than a moment.

I can see how this relates to the essay on relational aesthetics. Abramovic has control of a very exclusive environment. Those that wait outside are part of the performance just as those on the inside.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Bishop's Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics

In Bishop's Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics, written in 2004, Bishop analyzes Nicolas Bourriaud's theories on the art of the 1990s. Bourriaud claims that the art of the decade is 'relational art', and describes the the goal of this work to bank on human interaction in social context rather than creating an independent space detached from such a thing. Instead of utopian art, this art takes the form of 'microtopias' of the now; instead of dreaming of a better tomorrow, it focuses on making more of today. Tiravanija and Gillick are sited, both creating environments that are boasted as ideal examples of Bourriaud's claim. However, Bishop casts her questions on the structure of this sort of work. The people are interchangeable and the intentions are not clearly defined, as whatever is added to the space before the people are introduced have little importance to the overall structure of the work. It's not always clear as to who the piece is made for or what its aims may be.

She then brings up artists Sierra and Hirshhorn, who don't support Bourriaud's more ideal vision of relational art. While Bishop doesn't downright disagree with the rise of relational art, she argues that the ideal is not the only form it takes.

Could that microtopia be a distopian environment? Does it have to be a comfortable place? One piece that Bishop describes left participants feeling like intruders, which could be close, but it only seemed to me that it was no different from any other reaction-invoking piece. Is distopia too extreme to be considered a relational setting?

At the start of the article, Bishop describes a renovated old pavilion that was left rather bare and un-manicured within. It was against the modern/traditional 'white walls and clean spaces' setting often compared to a laboratory. I found this bit rather interesting, having seen one too many 'white cubes' in the past three years. But is it really a better solution? Just how much does an artist need to be in control of their piece, anyhow? Not only does the content of the piece itself matter, but where it is, the lighting, the interactions, and every little detail you can't quite think of seems to come back and bite you in the ass if you don't catch it. White walls or not, what does it matter? If the gallery setting isn't the place for something to be, then put it somewhere else. If it needs to be in a gallery, then do what you have to to make the work fit.

How does this relate to my work? I'm not entirely sure. To my current work, it hardly relates; I'm a couple of decades behind 'relational art'. My respective 'universe' takes place in its own little space and the people are merely observers. Just as any work, reactions are expected, but I don't make it clear what reaction I'd like to get. I know that I don't have total control of that. I know that not all the stars will be aligned even when I thought I thought every detail out. It would take a month of planning a single piece to cover as many bases as I could. Instead, I'm willing to settle for working my space into the existing one so you might just forget all about the fly on the wall or the guy standing next to you and pay attention.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Artist Statement

Out of the links provided with the purpose to assist us in this endeavor, I mostly relied on this one
to make it happen.

But I also had to find a statement from another artist; something I planned to do anyways because what better information to take down than whatever comes straight from the horse's mouth?

I'm going to post, before my statement {which will likely cower in comparison}, the artist statement{s} that I found for one artist that still inspires my work.

“I am interested in a political art, that is to say an art of ambiguity, contradiction, uncompleted gestures and uncertain ending – an art (and a politics) in which optimism is kept in check, and nihilism at bay.”

On living a lifetime in Johannesburg: “I have never been able to escape Johannesburg, and in the end, all my work is rooted in this rather desperate provincial city. I have never tried to make illustrations of apartheid, but the drawings and the films are certainly spawned by, and feed off, the brutalised society left in its wake.”

On his drawings: “The drawings don’t start with ‘a beautiful mark’. It has to be a mark of something out there in the world. It doesn’t have to be an accurate drawing, but it has to stand for an observation, not something that is abstract, like an emotion.”

Quotations from William Kentridge by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev (1998), Societé des Expositions du Palais de Beaux-Arts de Bruxelles.

So! Here goes something...

Artist Statement Unabridged

When I was a child, I was often scolded for my constant daydreaming. I was smart and scatterbrained simultaneously, and when I could not keep my thoughts and my imaginings in my head I would make them tangible. If I had pencils, I would draw them. If I had clay, I would make them. Sometimes they were characters; the people I wished I could be. Sometimes, they were friends and foes that I didn't have in reality. I have not changed in all these years, though my focus has not remained the same. Now I imagine likelier scenarios to save myself from being lost in worlds that do not exist. Such became the subject of my latest work, involving my current fascination with the apocalypse. I can't keep myself entertained by the mundane that surrounds me in my life. I have to imagine a time or place of action, or I grow bored and weary of the real world, and it leads to the fear that I am ill prepared to live that life for the next thirty-plus years. My work is often an outlet of my imagination, or a plane where I can keep my many worlds recorded somewhere public, rather than privately stored in my mind. I've always been partial to sharing what I have in abundance.

Printmaking and stop motion allows me to take my time in recreating these worlds. I can fashion them with the same care and attention that I use when I think them up. I'm always reshaping and fixing the scenario to make someone or something fit--to make it legitimate--so I felt that my choices of media made the most sense. The certain styles I'm attracted to, like expressionist forms and stark, simple structures, I like to incorporate into my work, as most of the influences in style that I have been exposed to and absorbed came from all the horror movies I used to watch as a child. In time I am sure my own style will evolve from my current fixations, but until then, the work I make is still a combination of many old tricks from many old dogs.

The tl;dr {too long; didn't read} version.

To this day, I am still a daydreamer. I cannot keep myself entertained by the mundane that surrounds my life, so I imagine a more exciting place with interesting people, creating an avatar for myself to navigate these worlds. Since I could pick up a pencil and draw, I would try to reproduce images of the 'people' I would meet, or the 'places' I would go. Many of these worlds were born from nightmares I would have as a child, having been exposed to many of the 80s and 90s horror films since I was four. Later, they were born of the fantasies I would read in books or watch on television. As I grew older, I forced myself to restrain my imagination and think of more realistic worlds were more interesting things still happened. This restriction has lead me to my current focus, and that is my fascination of an apocalyptic world.

I chose printmaking and stop motion to be the mediums of my choice because I felt that they allowed me to create my latest world most effectively. With the process of creating prints I can draw up the plane as I do in my mind, and with the stop motion I can bring it to life as it plays through my imagination. I have always been fond of sharing what I had in abundance, so it only makes sense that I wish to share this world with others.

Still long. Why am I so verbose?

*note if it matters: listening to lots of Yes songs. It helps me concentrate.

The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

In Walter Benjamin's article The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction {1936}, Benjamin begins with a brief overview of the evolution of reproduction in the media, starting with the Greek woodcuts and reaching into the era of photography and film. From there, he starts to examine how human perception has started to change as visual arts began to expand its horizons in a time where mass reproduction was being realized. He starts to discuss how the introduction and assimilation of film lacks the aura of traditional art and the 'originals'. He describes how different it was to stand within the presence of art rather than confronting it through the lens. Before a lens you are at the mercy of the camera, whereas with your own body and mind in the presence of your query can cast its aura on you properly, leaving it to your mercy instead.

At the time this article was written, film with sound was starting to gain popularity. He mentioned one critic of silent film and sound even still claimed that an actor acting for a camera rather than a physical audience experiences discomfort and isolation, making every natural act more difficult to perform. The aura of the audience is just as lost to him as he might be to the audience. Later it's criticized that film promotes distraction whereas painting promotes concentration. The author then clears that up by mentioning that concentration might help to realize details, but the 'distracted' can get a grasp of the big picture. In either case, it's still safe to assume that the distracted may miss out on the point of a painting where one who concentrates would become frustrated with the dynamics of film.

1. How far have we come in this day and age of the computer? Where are we now in the respect of our connection to the cult of art {any kind-writing, image, video, music, etc}?

Now we can pull up images, video, articles, and more at the push of a button. Those who have gained this savvy can often tackle several tasks at a time, which for many reduces concentration as film was thought to do for those in the 30s. There are even virtual galleries being set up online so people can see work from their computers at home, but wouldn't this destroy the opportunity to bask in the aura of the work itself?

2. Also, what of the old reproduction processes? Have they gained more authenticity because of the quick evolution of film and technology? Are woodcuts, etchings, and lithos being met with greater appreciation because easier means of reproduction have been introduced?

And finally...

3. What about the latest technology of 3-D film? Can a film that brings you into the action in such a manner have an aura to it?

Because technically, a 3-D film tends to have a greater sense of inclusion than your average pictures. It was what lent Avatar so much of that special attention it received. Is attending that showing under the 3-D circumstance an experience we can relate to aura?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Death of the Author

In Roland Barthes's The Death of the Author {1977} essay, Barthes argues that an author should not be considered in the value of the text he/she produces. The language itself speaks to us, and not the writer, and so it's detrimental to the reader and to critics to start trying to think of what the author is leaving behind of him/herself in the writing.

I can't say that I fully agree with him, because sometimes it's very important to know the author when you're reading a text. It might have helped if the Germans in the 30s knew Mein Kampf's author while reading what he has written.

1. So does Barthes claim this analysis for all forms of writing, including personal biographies where the author is being taken into consideration quite purposefully?

Then I started to wonder how the idea might apply to art, and how pleasant I found it when I did. It would be nice for people to look at your work and stop trying to figure out the mind behind the piece. The piece should speak for itself, as should any writing ever made. But in the end the artist gets credit for his/her work, just as the author does for his/hers.

2. So does that mean an author shouldn't get credit for their text if technically it's just an arrangement of language?

Maybe the people who invented the language should get credited for everything! Or the inventor of the paint you used to make that portrait! Or the discoverer of bronze that makes up your sculpture!

To forget the author completely isn't a bad idea while you're reading something, but it's good to know after you're done at least for the sake of accreditation. Just like one doesn't just pull the information they find on some subject from any source because it could be a complete fabrication or the person providing the information doesn't know what they're talking about, one shouldn't just take everything they read for face value. They should understand the intentions of the author behind the work if it's supposed to be non-fictional. Or else who are you putting your faith in?

3. So is this article a little too extreme?

In my opinion, I believe it is. Sure you should enjoy what you're reading for what it is, and not who it was that wrote it, but sometimes it's important to know the mind behind the arrangement of language that is that book you're reading, or that article on the internet.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Why I Do What I Do.

I made the decision to expand my artistic talents when choosing a high school to attend. I enjoyed the art classes I took in middle school and I was told that I had a knack for it, and as an added bonus I enjoyed making it. Since elementary school I have not stopped drawing, whether it was all over the margins of a homework assignment or on the desks when no one was watching. South Miami Senior High sported a great magnet program in arts and in music and I applied for both. I got accepted into both and chose art over music. I still love music, but I knew I was not as passionate about playing it as I was about simply listening to it. When I started the program, I loved to learn all the techniques while applying them. Back then I made work I really appreciated, expanding upon my technical skills. I had the opportunity to get into a dual enrollment program to get the first two years of college out of the way while in high school, but it would have interfered with my art classes, so I declined. After doing well in both AP examinations, I was confident. I wanted to keep making art because I enjoyed it and whenever I learned a new process, it would become an adventure to me all over again.

I believe the reason why I chose this path was to keep doing what I love. I love to draw and make new things. I thought I would be happiest if I could improve upon my talents to use them in any way I wish. My mother was good at drawing herself, but she did not pursue the arts because she believed it would be a waste of time and money. I wanted to prove to her that you could still do what you love, even if it is as risky as being an artist, and be happy. Since attending Ringling College, my spirits have been up and down; there are times I feel that I have made the wrong decision and there are times where I would prefer no other alternative. Every year I seem to go through a slump, but I always come to the same conclusion. I approve of the decision I have made. I have learned more than I thought I would have from the start. I am the kind of person who finishes what they have started, and so I have gotten this far and plan to go even further.

Coming up with a thesis idea was troublesome at first. I had to reach a hypothesis of some sort by the end of a chaotic summer and all I could think about were ephemeral subjects--ones I would lose interest in after a month under their limitations. Finally, I started to think about the things that I have always found interesting. Aside from a lot of science fiction and fantasy, I finally settled on something that may be a little of both, but will likely effect us all someday in the future as a very real occurrence. I have always harbored a fascination for the idea of 'apocalypse'. It is a way to end an unsatisfactory, dull, or frustrating life without all that fret about suicide or accidents. The idea seemed to come to me when I was feeling a little depressed and frightened, which is nothing I am not used to by now. I always hoped that something drastic would happen to disrupt my life; something I would not have been able to control. It would give me an excuse to stop, or do something different, or approach life in a different way just because the old way is now over and done with. Then I thought of my obsessions with movies about the end of the world, whether in the form of nuclear bombings or zombie raids. I knew that if anything like that occurred, it would be a very reasonable excuse to just abandon everything.

Now at first, when I came up with this thesis idea, it was about 'peoples' fascination and not just my own. I thought it would be a more powerful idea however if I just approach it from my point of view, because who am I to speak up for 'people'? So I decided to settle on my fascination. It is a topic that I can easily get into and studiously work on, and I would need to have that kind of focus if I want to spend a year on it.

Print 1 is nearly done. Lots of pictures to take, lots of plans to bake, and lots of sleep to flake.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Semester Plan

1. A paragraph that describes the subject, form and content of your thesis project.

So what am I doing, how am I doing it, and why?

My thesis idea, focusing on my fascination with the idea of 'apocalypse', demands that I build a plan for turning this subject into work. People will be included, though I won't be using any actual people. People are not the focus of my idea--not even myself. Not so much. My fascination is the focus. Therefore most of the plane of visual context will be composed of disasters disrupting the mundane of everyday monotony. I want a couple of styles to be included in this undertaking, reflecting my mixture of longing and contempt towards my fascination. Most of my work will be on a smaller scale if it's physical, allowing viewers to look down upon it or see the whole picture in their heads like I do. It will have a stark quality to it whenever it depicts the images of everyday life, but whenever the disasters occur I want a surreal, expressionist contrast to that starkness from before. Since I am working in printmaking, most of the scenery will be made of prints. I plan to use these scenes in a stop motion to bring them all together to make sense of it all in the grand scheme of things. I know the finished piece won't leave every viewer feeling the same, so I didn't make any intentions to aim for that. Just like the mind map I created, the apocalypse has many qualities to it that are admirable, but I'm not blind to the fact that as a young person with no kids of my own, my fascination is not shared by everyone. My video is meant to show someone like me, if not me, and my longing for something so terrible that I can feel ashamed of it all at once. My goal is to share it, maybe not with everyone, but with those who can best understand.

2. What kind of research do you need to do? Where and how will you do it?

I need to look into a few old texts to understand, mainly the religious and mythical ones. I know that the Bible clearly states how the apocalypse is going to happen, but I want to see how far back the idea goes and how people see it. Is it a coming of something good or evil? Is it simply the end of days? Is it meant to fire up the spirit or inspire through fear?

The internet is a pretty good source for this information if you know where to look, but I'm sure the library would have a few good resources I could tap. I've already watched a fair share of apocalyptic movies just because cinema and film are entertainment favorites of mine, and they helped shape this strange romanticism I see behind something as gruesome as the end of the world.

3. What materials and/or processes will you use?

I'm using quite the array of materials so far. I've got clay and wiring for the 'characters' in my final stop motion, acrylics to paint them with, paper for printing, foam core for stability in the set as well as matte board for the thinner things, a camera to take photographs, and I'll be using programs to put the video together on my computer.

I'm using perhaps a couple of lithography editions for this, quite a few silkscreen images, most stand-alone instead of editions {though I will have copies for registration's sake}. I'm going to be folding the lithography prints I'm making into desks, chairs, and so on for my 'characters' to use. In order to make a stop motion sequence I need to take a lot of pictures, 'a lot' being an understatement. Then, using either After Effects like I did once before or a new, better suited program for this project, I will put these images together in a rapid sequence that will create the illusion of movement from otherwise immobile objects.

4. What is the scope of your project? How many works will you make? Approximately what will the size be?

Technically my focus is coming together to form one piece, but there are various elements that need to be made that can be included in it. A few of these elements may be able to stand alone as pieces outside of the stop motion piece. These will not be large, in height or width. The stop motion will need to be projected.

5. Create a timeline that indicates when you will have works completed or meet major milestones.

By the end of this week, I should have my first litho completed.

The weekend on to next week, I shall start building the litho into a set while starting the next couple of screenprints.

By the end of next week, the litho should be fully built and prepared for the first filming/shooting while the screenprints are still in progress.

Another litho may be done next month, along with several more screenprints. Meanwhile I will be filming/shooting as I go along with what is completed.

By the end of this semester, I should have most if not all of the stop motion shot. If it is not done, I will be working editing during winter break and taking the very last shots the moment school begins again. I will try hard to get all the shooting done before the break however so I can get all the editing done before classes start again.

6. In your timeline also include when you will likely schedule each of the four required individual crits and the two required group crits.

Hmm...tough. I'm probably going to try to schedule both an individual and group crit for when the first litho set is finished. I will then schedule another individual one after the first shooting/filming is done.

I will schedule crits from then on whenever I have another part added to the stop motion, or I've done a certain amount of prints. I'm going to try to keep the group crits far apart yet still not too close to the end of the semester because if anyone has any suggestions I need a bit of time to follow them if they're good.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Agnes Martin Interview

I watched it through once and for the purpose of explaining it and so on, I'm going to watch it as I type.

I understood most of what what going on, but it was really hard to concentrate throughout the video. I know I'm going to sound like a large, insensitive prick, but I'm guessing one purpose of these blog responses is to state how we feel about what we just read or watched.

All that lip smacking was driving me absolutely insane.

I know she's old and she's probably missing quite a few teeth, and she may not enjoy interviews or it may just be a nervous habit. I'm not one to pick on someone else, but I'm just saying I was having trouble concentrating on her answers because all I can think about was how much she reminded me of a complacent fish out of water.

So here we go. Bash me in the comments about this if you'd like; I'm ready for it.


Agnes Martin paints with her back to the world. She's non-objective, fueled by inspiration, and free of ideas. She often asks herself what she will be doing next just because she admits to keeping a vacant mind. Martin believes that inspiration disappears the moment an artist is plagued by ideas before they have a chance to work.

She believes education is wrong and the idea that 'we are capable of anything' is just a road to failure. It's pointless, all according, because everything has already been done.

Art is not an experiment. It's made by inspiration.

Art is responded to with emotions, music being the highest art and the most abstract due to the fact that it immediately triggers emotional responses.

If you want to do something new, it takes a long time to develop. She repeats that those who think they're capable of anything are headed to failure and that an artist should be modest. Martin admits she's a little extreme and believes that artists don't really deserve the credit; inspiration is what guides us. You shouldn't think about fairing better than others because it'll tend to muddy up the original bout of inspiration. She says the worst thing you can think of when you're painting is yourself.

She waits three days before she decides if she likes what she's done. Martin likes her paintings best when they head out the door and into the world.

She doesn't treat a man or a woman any different, but she does admit that a while back in her lifetime men had a lot more machismo. They were possessive and women were submissive. Nowadays she claims that all the aggressive men have disappeared.

It took her twenty years to get beyond nature. She paints about what is without cause now.

She used to meditate before she stopped thinking. Martin claims to keep a clear mind at all times.


I found myself either contradicted from what I've been taught or in complete disagreement with Martin nearly the entire time. While I'm sure age can reveal a lot to you, I find myself having trouble thinking that 'this is it, she's got it all right and the institutions are a big lie'.

I have to be a little more intellectual about it.

It's physically impossible for me to just stop thinking. It's physically impossible to keep ideas away when inspiration strikes because my ideas usually create the inspiration in the first place. That's how my mind works; the egg comes before the chicken and that's just the way it is. I don't put aside the idea that I can accomplish whatever I put my mind to because if I'm physically capable of doing something and I care enough to get through it, I can. I don't punt the idea away completely.

I agree that music is the highest art though. Hey! That's something we do agree on!

And me being me, I still don't think it's possible to make something new, even with time. Unless you're some sort of genius engineer who has the blueprints on a fully functional and efficient hovercar, as an artist you're just not going to be a brand new thing. All it takes is the color or the form or the act or the sound--someone's going to relate it to something else and it's just not going to be this cool, new, and exciting thing anymore. You can make something different is what you can do, and yeah, that's going to take a hell of a lot of time.

Now this is what threw me off. She said that the worst thing you can think of when you're making work is about yourself. Isn't the strongest kind of work personal? What sort of piece are you going to make if what you're making is something you have no interest in? A bad one, I'd think. Something unfeeling and solemn. So I'm trying to think about what she really means. Maybe she's just thinking about it in terms of her own work.

I can understand her feelings about a finished piece of work. I'd be happiest seeing it in someone else's hands {someone who can admire it}. I'm hardly ever satisfied with any of the pieces I create and on the rare occasions in which I am, no one else seems to like them. I just stopped having favorites. It's pretty pointless when you think about it. I'm happy to see others in approval of my work, but I'd be even happier if I also liked it as much.

Maybe keeping a clear mind is just something you learn how to do as you get older and all the children leave the home, because I can't imagine myself with one unless I meditate somewhere really quiet. Then I just end up falling asleep. I'm sure in this day and age, people like me have a lot of trouble keeping their minds clear. All the technology around us has even taught those macho men how to multitask and communicate freely like the women used to do all on their own. It's hard to go through a day without realizing there's this or that you want to/got to do.


But I can still respect Agnes Martin, despite all we might disagree on. She's got age on her side so who knows? Maybe she's right. Maybe it'll take me more than twenty years to realize it.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A preview of a map...

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Birth of the Big Beautiful Art Market

Why didn't I read Air Guitar last year? Or the year before that?

I'm buying this book before I get back to Sarasota.

I read this chapter will all interests intact, which is rare for me because art babble usually makes my mind go dim. I understand the writer's comparison of the art market to the early auto industry because part of my family practically worships that day and age, pining after cars long passed because the ones made today no longer have the same magic that they used to.

The art market never quite existed like it did in the mid nineties. Americans were beginning to unfold and truly stretch to fit these values they fought for because the auto industry was making it easy. Cars were icons of freedom and liberty; the very values that our forefathers fought for. Everyone wanted to own one and those that sold these vehicles knew it. Companies shifted their methods after WWII in order to prevent a loss in profits due to over-production. With careful planning and precision, they had the American people tied around their little fingers.

But the cars reflected the manner in which art was discovering its liberties as well. Just as vehicles were being customized by those who wanted to dissent from the herd, art was doing the very same. It was no longer unheard of to put together ready-mades, have them standing upon the ground rather than up against a wall. The idea of what was and wasn't art started to change, yet meanwhile, whatever could be categorized ended up succumbing to that fate with time. Once museums and universities started to accept these 'floor and drawer' arts into their catalogs, they started to gain all these definitions and descriptions that slowly ripped away the originality of making such art.

Artists aren't quitting however, and haven't started to. Just as the auto industry will still release cars until cars are no longer necessary {which is doubtful to happen any time soon}, people will keep making art whether or not they are truly being original or not. People will still be out there and they might still buy because the work/model still tickles their fancy. I can understand however, how it is that the art market definitely got a kick from the automotive industry's ascent.

And like I said before, I need to buy this book. I think I did...

Monday, August 9, 2010

Chaos Theory and Art

Elizabeth Grosz, whom I believe is the writer of the essay on the Chaos Theory and Art, investigates art through philosophy rather than through the conventional methods of historical analysis or criticism. It was actually quite the insightful little essay, and it provided a perspective on art that I had yet to grasp.

I've known for some time that because other people don't necessarily know what you're on about, they'll look at your work and probably take it some way you didn't mean it to be taken. What I didn't grasp until now however are the roots of these sensations, or the part that sensation and art play on the human consciousness all at once. Because people are pretty much sophisticated animals, if you want to look at it in a neutral way, they are influenced by sensations that are not just felt by one and given off by another, but perceived so simultaneously that there's no real proof where the act of sense and sensation begin. Whenever we perceive something, the first thing that runs through us is some inexplicable energy caused by what was seen and the seer's interpretation colliding. Art starts off as a sensation rather than a concept.

Organic beings of a conscious mind show off an appreciation for sensation, art, beauty, and the like the moment they are ready for sexual selection. Now is when preference develops and bonds are formed with chaotic elements in order to shape something new and unique to capture attentions. Without this, life could have never evolved. It is in our very natures to track and trace art because it commits a similar act. It creates a frame, or destroys another, all in attempts to generate a response from the onlooker. The act of making art is the act of trying to form an 'other' out of chaos and nature. It can evoke new sensations never experienced as it creates new planes within its borders.

Or at least that's what I understood.

It's all important to keep in mind. Because this essay doesn't bring up any specific artwork, it lets the reader know that this applies to all forms, all classes, and all kinds of art. Whether it's good or bad, still or moving, this or that--it all harbors the same potential to generate unique sensations.

So, some questions:

1. If organic beings, conscious and all, are able to have sensations and appreciations for art once they're ready for sexual selection, then what of children? Are they ready much younger than we'd initially imagine? Because kids can draw and they can appreciate are too. They develop preferences as early as the age of one and a half.

2. What about the pieces we look at that don't stick? The ones that we pass by with maybe a glance in their directions before moving on. Have they failed to evoke a sensation? Have they failed at their tasks? What do they become?

3. What is the point of trying to make sense of the chaos around us if we ourselves are born of it and practically made of it, whilst living in it and among it?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Challenging the Literal

This post, if you haven't guessed, will be about Daniel Chandler’s Chapter on "Challenging the Literal", where he does exactly that in a very eloquent manner.

I could honestly say, regrets undetectable, that reading this Chapter was exceedingly difficult. I'm not an idiot--I took some pretty advanced classes in reading and comprehension. When an entire chapter mulls on from sentence to sentence with the same complexity in every other phrase as its predecessor, you find yourself double-taking the same sentence about five times before you think you might be on to something. Don't get me wrong, I got the general idea. I even learned a few things, other than the definitions of semiotics and syntagm {by the way, right now even the spell checker doesn't recognize 'syntagm' as a word}. But what this article goes on about is something that even I was starting to grasp on my very own. What you might find to be the most literal definition of something can be debunked by some chum in some other culture/time/upbringing. A cat in the Western world is something different to those in another part of the world. Here, a cat is "A small carnivorous mammal (Felis catus or F. domesticus) domesticated since early times as a catcher of rats and mice and as a pet and existing in several distinctive breeds and varieties." Somewhere else, cats are not kept as pets but are probably seen as either pests or a viable food source. You can be as descriptive as possible in hopes that you will cover everyone and their senses of interpretation, but chances are you will miss one point of view.

Semiotics, by the way, is the study of sign processes. Just think about a man who has never seen a cat before in his life, and comes across a cat for the first time. No one tells him what this animal is, and so based on what he knows, how he feels about it, what experience he has with it, and so on, he will eventually come up with a name for it. That entails the process of taking something and creating a definition for it. In this process, which we have undergone and continue to undergo ever since the day man could comprehend and communicate, we start to find that different people in different places with different experiences and cultures will have different definitions. The man mentioned before might have been lonely, otherwise satisfied with his living conditions, and yet allergic to animal hair. So what might he make of the beast in comparison to a woman living in the slums with children to feed had she come across the same animal for the first time?

Even in one culture where we feel we know pretty much all we need to know, we start to think that our definitions of what things literally are happen to be indisputable. For this, the author explores several devices in rhetoric to analyze this idea. He analyzes metaphor, revealing that there is more to metaphor than the obvious. For instance, there are phrases that have been so involved in our culture that we start to forget that they are actually metaphors and take them on a lightly literal scale. There was talk about metonymy, which in my opinion is the same thing as synecdoche. Though both seem to use the 'part-representing-the-whole' idea, apparently they're different because in synecdoche it is supposedly harder to detach the part from the whole. I just consider them both the same. There's irony, which is a rhetorical device that I would have to admit to finding the most fun. It's pretty much a nutshell. Denotation {which is the way we feel we're literally describing something} and Connotation {which is more like the suggested meaning of a word rather than the actual meaning} are brought up. Then I learned that myth doesn't just have to be fairy tale, but it still functions an awful lot like one.

I'm not entirely sure what sort of questions to ask about this reading, aside from WHY THE HELL IS IT SO HARD FOR ME TO READ THIS? It's this sort of read that makes me cringe at non-fiction. There is a way to write all of what I just learned in an interesting, gripping, and simpler manner. The chapter just seems too authorative and well-learned on the subject to challenge. I agree with the guy; the idea of being 'literal' is purely subjective, like just about anything else. You can try, and you might succeed in a large part of the world with certain signs, but not all of them. I can see how this all applies to art, so I can't question that--you'd want to keep in mind that your work may not mean the same to other people as it does to you, even if you reduce it to the most simple and literal levels.

Why weren't there more examples? No. This was just a pet peeve, just like the sort of language I had to deal with reading this. I really can't come up with any questions. I understood the general idea, and if I didn't, then I guess the final question that remains is "What was it all about then?"

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Against Interpretation

Susan Sontag's 'Against Interpretation' essay from 1964 briefly combs the history of art and interpretation in order to expose both the period in which art could no longer exist without being defended and the dangers of over-interpretation in our modern times. Sontag begins by telling of how there was once a time when paintings could be of real objects, and the art of painting itself was believed to be purely mimetic, meant only to imitate reality. Interpretation sparked near the dawn of scientific enlightenment, as old religious texts and accounts were being challenged. It became necessary to interpret the literal text in order to save the stories and keep them afloat in a time where science was beginning to explain the mysteries of our world. The same concept transferred to art, and it was no longer acceptable for a painting or piece to simply be. It needed to be interpreted and dissected, or it was purely because a human being couldn't look upon something anymore and be comfortable with what they see. Work needed to have some meaning to it in order for people to be contented with it. According to Sontag, modern times have gone too far with interpretations. She claims that it depreciates the value of art rather than supporting it. Offering a few examples of what might elude this issue, Sontag claims more form in necessary in art, among transparence.

After a couple of rounds reading this essay, not to say I'm thick or anything but a second read is often necessary, I agreed to an extent. Interpretations given tend to muck up the original content. I can't begin to list all the stories I have read that have been dissected by literary critics and debated over meanings of this and that without considering the fact that the very story itself might be just what it reads off the pages. Once one solves a mystery, or in this case decodes what one has seen or read to their comfort, one loses interest in the mystery altogether, dismissing it as yet another 'Alice in Wonderland' or biblical allegory--whatever it is comes to mind. No one seems to really appreciate something for what it is, and if they can't find a way to interpret something they indeed become uncomfortable in its midst.

But I can't help feeling this essay is pretty outdated, maybe even for its own time.

It is true that interpretation is a condition that runs rampant in the world even today, but it has extended even into cinema. Movies are now awash with meanings, morals, and symbols more exhausting or as exhausting as your occasional product placements. Art seems to have reached its evolutionary limit the moment The Fountain was introduced to the world. Now, even some of the most meaningless pieces of art are still being abused by interpretation.

So what exactly does Sontag mean when she declares that it is 'form' that can save an art piece from interpretation? Does she mean this in the sense of making something so unmistakably literal that it defies interpretation? Hasn't that been done already? "Look, it's a urinal, but I'm going to call it art." When I draw a boot, a pickaxe, and a light helmet do I need to make every detail as sharp as possible so no one could call it any more than a nifty still-life? Does form apply to the texture of the work itself instead? How far can this go and how far has it already been taken?

When I read parts 8 and 9, my mind couldn't extend past the simplest ideas. It almost seems that if your goal is to avoid interpretation, your art needs to be entirely meaningless. That, or the meaning has to be so blatant and simple that even a child could guess at it and there could be no other possible explanation for the work. I like the idea that art should be felt and truly seen rather than dissected, but I want the art to be a joy for me to make as well. I don't want it to be easy to craft or simple to understand. Interpretation, as evil as it sounds, doesn't strike any fear into me. I've had my work misinterpreted several times before. If there's anything I'm really taking from this article, besides the learning of a few words I had to look up, it's that there's a range of humanity and therefore a range of possible interpretations. If I made work and I don't want it to mean more than one or two things, I'm going to have to make the meaning as clear as possible without any mucking about of my own.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


So prematurely begins my Senior year at Ringling college, granted it can be afforded for one more go. I haven't paid a visit to any museums so far, but I live in Miami, so I have time yet. It's all a matter of getting proper transportation in order. For the moment I have been drawing and contemplating my eventual subject of focus. My mind keeps drifting to 3-d and video despite my love of printmaking. Perhaps with my brilliant mind I can find a way of incorporating the lot in some fascinating way.