Archive for the ‘Jonathan T D Neil’ tag
‘What, exactly, is a blog?’ This question is our contemporary moment’s shibboleth. If you ask it, it’s likely that you’re receiving social security checks, or get into the movies at a reduced rate. Nevertheless, it’s a valid existential question too, because a blog is the quickest and most ubiquitous way to gain an independent ‘presence’ online (i.e. one not tethered to Facebook or Google). And though blogs have been around since the early days of the web browser, their ubiquity belongs to the last decade, long enough, that is, to begin to feedback into the way we look at, and think about, and do things, offline.
Can I Get a Witness, curated, or ‘posted’, we might say, by Tisch Abelow, Jashin Friedrich, and Dakotah Savage, is the first exhibition I have seen that manages to translate, or perhaps ‘remediate’, the form and sensibility of the blog. I say “the blog,” even though there is ‘a’ blog in particular—Art Blog Art Blog, the blog of Joshua Abelow, one of the artists in the show and older brother to Tisch—that has temporarily lent its name to the space (Ross Bleckner’s studio, in fact) in which Can I Get A Witness was ‘posted’. There is another blog too, Ah Hole Ah Hole, which is Tisch Abelow and Dakotah Savage’s, and which does much of what the elder Abelow’s does, and that is to array—this is what blogs do, array things, consecutively, most often vertically, but sometimes horizontally too; it is the blog’s form—images and videos and short tweet-worthy statements and questions and announcements, and, of course, links, all of which have been put there by the blogger(s).
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Eric L. Santner, The Royal Remains: The People’s Tow Bodies and the Endgame of Sovereignty
The University of Chicago Press, 2011
’Sovereignty studies’ has been on the rise over the last decade. The translation of Giorgio Agamben’s Homo Sacer in 1998 and the publication of Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt’s Empire in 2000 did much to bring theories of personal and political sovereignty to the center of debates over the ‘biopolitical,’ Michel Foucault’s term since the ’70s for the type of ‘governmentality’ to which we are all subject at present. At least since his magisterial study of the German jurist Daniel Paul Schreber’s ‘nervous illness’ (My Own Private Germany, 1996), Eric Santner, currently Professor of Modern Germanic Studies at the University of Chicago, has been at work considering the ways that this sovereign power, understood particularly as a ‘space of representation’ – that is, as the ‘offices, roles, symbolic mandates and titles’ that we assume in our daily lives – can affect, to put it plainly, our ‘nerves.’
Drawing upon Ernst Kantorowicz’s landmark The King’s Two Bodies (1957), Santner here, in The Royal Remains, argues that the (traumatic) investiture of sovereign power in The People at the moment of the French Revolution logically transfers the split corporeality of The King, at once the body politic (immutable, devine, transcendent) and the body natural (mortal, contingent, precarious), onto us. This power transfer is not a clean one, however. We never quite ‘fit’ our new symbolic authority. The King never did either, for that matter. The ‘political theology’ of sovereignty itself is always productive of a kind of excess, what Santner calls a ‘surplus of immanence,’ a ‘strange materiality,’ in short, the ‘flesh’, that organises the symbolic networks of authority in the first place….
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Erik Bulatov House, 1992; Seva’s Blue, 1979; Russian XX Century, 1998-99; from The New Museum
Erik Bulatov’s House (Dom), completed in 1992, just months after the collapse of the Soviet Union, could serve as an emblem of the kind of time slip that is everywhere present in Ostalgia, New Museum Director of Exhibitions Massimiliano Gioni’s love letter to the art and artists of the former eastern bloc and the contemporary artists who remain fascinated by the latter. Running vertically down a background of photo-based, faded Kodachrome colored sky cracking with Baroque rays of light one ‘reads’ the three large block letters of the Russian word for ‘house’: ‘дом’. The painting as a whole mobilizes familiar pictorial tropes, such as tensions between surface and depth, image and text, form and content, but there is something more to House than this. It recalls, rather, those kitschy credits from 1970s science fiction movies—think Zardoz (1974), or Logan’s Run (1976), or Solaris (1972)—with their equal mixtures of techno-utopianism and environmento-Wagnerian romanticism.
The point here is not to saddle Bulatov’s work with some particular iconographic resource but rather to note that those films themselves, their aesthetic and their narratives, were, like Bulatov’s paintings and much of the best work in Ostalgia, products of the cold war, which was everywhere itself a product of collective fantasies and fears and desires. The future, back then, was a contest played out on the field of the present with the weapons of history, both personal and political; and SF offered some of the most compelling diagnoses and representations of that contest, precisely because the horizon of time that formed SF’s core orientation was also the horizon that organized the two super powers’ dueling collective projects. And as with capitalism (but notably not democracy) the modern nation state was for socialism merely an exit vehicle, one that could eventually be discarded when the working class or consumer, as the subject and so the inevitability of history, traversed the globe…
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Thomas Lowe, Thanks. Come Again, 2011; image from Horton Gallery
Dada photomontage – think Hannah Höch’s iconic Cut with the Kitchen Knife Through the Last Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch in Germany (1919) – was meant to disrupt the plenitude of the ‘bourgeois’ easel picture. It was syntactical rather than mimetic. Like an editorial, one had to ‘read’ it, which would be a political act, and photomontage a political form, given how it countered any conventional ‘aesthetic experience’. One gets the sense that Thomas Lowe is after a similar politics of form, though with this series of deft coloured-pencil drawings, we’re firmly back in the province of mimesis, but now the mimesis of photomontage itself…
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“To have fidelity to the image.” This is how Robert Longo recently described the way he thought about making the kind of art that he does. It’s a statement that requires greater attention now that this trilogy of works, what I understand as the God Machines proper, take as their subject the holiest sites—St. Peter’s in Rome, the Western Wall in Jerusalem, the Ka’ba in Mecca—of the globe’s three dominant monotheistic religions, all of which, at one time or another, have manifested iconoclastic policies toward some kind of imagery and demanded utter fidelity toward another.
But what does it mean “to have fidelity to the image”? It is not at all self-evident what the relationship between the two critical terms, “fidelity” and “image,” might be. Notice too that it is “fidelity to the image” and not “fidelity to an image.” The latter is more apposite to the worship of icons, for which the indefinite article is key, because the image, in this case, is merely a meaning-bearing token (picture) of a certain meaning-securing type (Jesus or Mary or the Saints). The definite designation of “the” image, however, means that it is the token in which Longo is interested—or rather, to which he is committed, for this is the sense in which “to have fidelity” makes sense. But what does it mean to be committed to a token?…
From Robert Whitman’s Passport, Riverfront Park, Beacon, NY, April 17, 2011
Some days I could do without the cultivation of chance. I certainly could have done without it on Sunday. As my wife and I drove north towards Beacon, New York, to see Passport, a new multimedia performance by Robert Whitman set simultaneously outdoors on the banks of the Hudson River and in a theatre at Montclair State University, in New Jersey, it began to rain. Sunday’s showing was the second run. The prior night’s performance had been cancelled due to weather, and Dia: Beacon’s website had been updated to say that Saturday’s tickets would be honoured the next evening. Dia was doubling down, and the bet did not look like it was going to pay off.
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By the time you read this, Fenway Bergamot may or may not have announced that he is running for president of the United States. That is inconsequential. Not that Bergamot may or may not run for president of the United States. Well, actually, yes, that is inconsequential too, because it is only repeating what was inconsequential about the statement before, which is that Bergamot may run for president or he may not, and that is pretty much the same as saying that you may or may not run for president, or that I may or may not run for president. Really, this is simply a way of saying that Fenway Bergamot exists, and saying that he may or may not run for president is also simply a way of proposing two potential worlds, one where Bergamot runs for president, and one where he does not. The interesting thing is that those two worlds simply describe one world, this world, the current world, in its entirety, which is the world in which Fenway Bergamot may or may not run for president of the United States – on the Republican ticket, by the way.
Fenway Bergamot is Laurie Anderson. This is consequential, though also not wholly accurate. Fenway Bergamot is the name recently given by Lou Reed (Anderson’s partner of 20 years, and husband for the past two) to the voice that Anderson has used throughout her career at moments when she needed to give voice to one other than her own. Some have called Bergamot Anderson’s alter ego, a character that she invented for her performances; but it is important to remember that Bergamot is first and foremost a voice, one that embodies a distinct kind of American authority, our big Other as philosophical talking head, a ventriloquist for the invisible hand of the market, a voice of power plugged into an AC circuit (Anderson has a thing for Nikola Tesla) – or as Anderson would probably say, a blowhard.
So to say that Bergamot is Anderson’s alter ego is to go too far, because with Anderson’s work, it’s not ego, it’s voice. Fenway Bergamot and Laurie Anderson share the same voice, as they do, for example, on Another Day in America, a track from Anderson’s celebrated studio album Homeland (2010; that’s Fenway’s smug mug on the cover). Yet even this is not accurate, because their two voices could not be more distinct, even in their identity…
Painting has long given up the ghost on the Renaissance metaphor of acting as a window onto some other world; it now has to battle it out as just one more screen among many. Yet it is surprising how few of those screens have taken up this metaphor for themselves. Of course Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954) made the case for cinema as voyeurism, and along less mainstream lines, both Michael Snow’s Wavelength (1967) and Richard Serra’s Frame (1969) probed the limits of fenestrated filmic perception and cognition. To my knowledge, however, no practitioner of the camera arts has equated the screen with the window, has literalized this metaphoric relationship, quite as effectively as Krzysztof Wodiczko…
E’wao Kagoshima, Monkey Smoking, 2007; image from Algus Greenspon
Is the difference between eclecticism and pastiche simply a function of framing? When an artist works in many different styles, let alone mediums, and the results are gathered together in one place, the outcome we regard as a kind of willed eclecticism. When those styles all appear in a single work, or when their allusions to other works of art, or artists’ styles, are so strong as to be quickly recognizable, it’s pastiche. But what happens when the frame that keeps eclecticism distinct from pastiche begins to slip, when we find ourselves caught in the midst of a search (for a style) and a comment (on “style” itself) without knowing which is which, or even if the question itself is valid (after all, who would think to talk about “style” anymore)? Valid or not, it is a question that will confront any viewer of E’wao Kagoshima’s output since 1976, which is when the artist arrived in New York and began the various artistic campaigns that are well represented at Mitchell Algus’s (and business partner Amy Greenspon’s) newest enterprise…
Mike Davis’s Planet of Slums hit the neoliberal consensus in 2006 like an earthquake hits a favela. There it was, in Davis’s flamethrower prose, with numbers to boot: more humans around the globe now dwell in cities than not, and they do so increasingly in slums, not because of some inherent degeneracy or collective lack of will to better their lives, but because economic liberalization—deregulation, privatization, tariff elimination, etc., oft administered by the IMF and WTO’s Structural Adjustment Programmes—put them there. “How the other half lives” has of course been of interest to activists and reformers since industrialization put slums on the map. And mapping those slums, that is, making them visible, has been a central strategy of progressive social agendas ever since. But how those slums are made visible—in reports, pictures, documentaries, fictions—is the founding question in the politics of representation, to which any exhibition that would take Davis’s title for its own must answer…
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Image: Monika Sosnowska, 2010 (installation view), photo: Thomas Mueller. Copyright the artist. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth London, New York, & Zurich.
Juanli Carrión just dropped off a pair of beautiful looking catalogues from his project, Kei-Seki, which was part of the Biennial Fotográfica 10 – Espai d’Art La Llotgeta, in Valencia, Spain. I wrote a short essay—”The Currency of Kitsch”—for the book (the texts of which are available on Juanli’s website) and I’m told that there will be a launch party for it before the end of February; so more on that soon.
It is tempting to say that Carol Bove’s show at Kimmerich’s new space in New York was, quite simply, beautiful, and leave it at that. It would not be wrong, either, to state as much, though it likely would be to leave it at that, not only because a show like this, with its conceptual underpinnings (Bove became known for her acute arrangements of historically symbolic items, such as touchstone books and photographs from the 1960s) and manifest attention to detail (no arrangement of things in a gallery has ever been more ‘acute’ than they are here) is after so much more than any mere pronouncement on what can count as beautiful, or perhaps ‘tasteful’, today, but also because one gets the sense that this is exactly what such beauty, or perhaps ‘taste’, is being asked to do – that is, to compel us not to go too far with any kind of enquiry…
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From the April issue of ArtReview:
Just how many times can you watch a magician pull a rabbit out of his hat? This is surely not the central question asked by Diana Thater’s new film installation, Between Science and Magic (2010), but it is one that will certainly occur to most viewers, and in the end its answer will be seen to supersede the work’s more obvious concerns and conceits (which does make it central in some sense). For the answer to that question is ‘more than you would think’, and the reason is that Thater’s new work, for all of its self-reflexive exfoliations—perhaps because of all of its self-reflexive exfoliations—is an object lesson in cinephilia, both Thater’s and our own.
The title of Thater’s piece is drawn from the late Claude Lévi-Strauss’s The Savage Mind, in which the father of structuralism, forever staking out the dyads of our understanding, describes art as halving the axis between ‘scientific knowledge’ and ‘mythical or magical thought’. For nearly two decades, Thater’s artistic province has been the camera arts, which have long enjoyed dual membership in the two societies of science and magic. It only makes sense then that Between Science and Magic is dedicated to filming a representative from the first while revealing the mechanisms of the second (and, if you’re paying attention, the first as well)—that is, what we see is a magician, decked-out in tux and tails, repeatedly perform the illusion of making a live rabbit (‘Josephine’ is her name) appear in what was his demonstratively empty top hat; we see him do this (‘Greg Wilson’ is his name) from two angles simultaneously: the first one fixed, and filmed by Thater, the second one from a series of clock-wise positions, filmed by Thater’s assistant. These two angles are then ‘screened’ side by side, so that we see Wilson both from the front and in the round (we catch glimpses of Thater and her assistant too); but what we are really seeing is the re-filming of a previous side-by-side screening of the same footage on the screen of the Los Angeles Theater (a Golden-Age-of-LA relic), all of which is now being re-projected in the gallery, split-screen-style, by two synchronized sixteen-millimeter projectors, replete with a soundtrack of the previous recordings and projection. So much for the exfoliation.
Over and over again the rabbit appears, and with each iteration, with each successful conjuring of the illusion, we get a little closer to figuring out how the trick works—both the magician’s and the artist’s. The precision of the former’s choreography is matched by the mechanics of the latter’s apparatus. Each is exacting; both, we come to realize, are refugees from the era of what Hollis Frampton named the ‘last machine’ (a.k.a. ‘film’, when precise parts and movements could be ‘seen’). If we attend to science to figure out what the world is like, and we attend to magic to be amazed, then somewhere in between the camera arts let us do both, and we love them for it
Here is a link to a brief piece on Luis Camnitzer’s new project. It’s a more personal reflection than I’m accustomed to, but I don’t really see any other way this work.
Here’s a link to an Op-Ed I wrote, out in The Art Newspaper’s February print issue and now online: Why satellite art fairs are recession-proof | The Art Newspaper.
Check out my catalog essay, “Rosson Crow’s History Painting: Setting and Speculation,” for Crow’s show at White Cube, Texas Crude. The show is excellent, and the catalog has great reproductions of the work, along with an excellent and honest essay by Crow herself; it far exceeds anything I have to say about the work.