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?"