Archive for October, 2011

Contribute To The Decorum

October 26, 2011

Which came first, the chicken or the egg, the body or the body image? Old questions, living in the past. It was to be a non-transgressive errand of posting notices for an upcoming, in-the-flesh, physical body assembly (meeting) of the niners (not the Herman Cain variety). Speaking of living in the past, what better place than the local branch of the state university? Visions of messy information boards slathered with notices of everything from “try outs” to “room mate needed” to “upcoming meetings” were shattered by the explicitly designated parking area with its multiple postings of continuous surveillance and actively enforced prohibitions. The campus covers large acreage with multiple buildings, most of a recent vintage, a style I remember being noted in an Art For ‘Em critique as a cross between hotel, upscale shopping mall and corporate headquarters that “helped revitalize” downtown LA. Only this was the central Ohio, Newvegas rendition. It consists of multistory or high ceiling public spaces, with sound deadening walls, ceilings and flooring, all in a drab, muted toned coloration with recessed lighting that made everything “hush, hush”. There was the requisite “help desk” at each entry strategically placed to enable an unobstructed view of all the branching corridors as Acconci had anticipated. The buildings all had food service areas right off the “common” areas, with tables and barriers creating discrete spatial subdivisions unified by an unencumbered line of sight (a common space but an interrupted traffic flow), . Everything had the “aura” of privacy (very much in the Benjamin sense) while at the same time maintaining an ostensible recognition of being public- in funding, purpose and function. Not a messy, unkempt bulletin board covered with notices to be seen. Nothing untidy whatsoever. The campus itself is laid out likewise, with clear, unobstructed lines of sight and no physically private areas whatsoever. If you sat to be with your laptop or your lover, it could only be within the common view of all, be it in the cafeteria areas or the tree shaded green. Within the aesthetic of this architectural space, the human either contributes to the decorum or is not at all.

And what of performance art? Yes, sculpture has gravitated in that direction. The Newvegas campus emulates the real Vegas with bronze, life size simulacras of figures seated on benches or in arrangements of imagined public activity (listening to the music in front of an empty bandstand, etc.). A lady giving birth in a gallery in New York and I can’t even post a piece of paper in public! Performance art is supplanting material 3D sculpture in so many of the undergrad/grad school studio art offerings. The students are always excited and titillated, like children at Halloween. It is so transgressive, a furtherance of the disruptive tradition spawned by Duchamp. Giving birth in front of anyone and everyone. And I can’t even post a scrap of paper! One wonders about this performance art since performance, within a designated performance space, is as old as classic Greek culture within the history of western art.

Performance art is ostensibly all about the body. Yet our actual, physical “public” space (like the Newvegas campus) is all about maintaining security and ensuring a “public”-ness. Here, the actual, physical body morphs into image and branding, something that can only be mediated. The medium is the message. If the actual physical presence in these public spaces does not contribute to the decorum, then it is not. I could have posted my message online, on a virtual bulletin board (it could even be formatted to appear messy). But then, who would have noticed?

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What Is Occupy About?

October 16, 2011

            Occupy has been in the news of late. “What do the occupiers want?” is the “critical” talking point for all the pundits and commentators. Even Bill Clinton has expressed concern and offered words of political advice (Oh Daddy!) since he doesn’t recognize any concise, coherent message coming out of their mouths (though he knows what they are talking about).

            “The medium is the message.” Remember that? In an essay entitled Analytic Terror/ Keyword For Avant-Gardism As Explicative Force (Iconoclash, Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel, editors 2002) Peter Sloterdijk suggests that the pervasiveness of so many various media creates the atmosphere of culture. Indeed, that is precisely the imperative elementary exercise imposed on all undergrad studio art students – to work within the various media. Many times it is to “translate” the same content through assorted media to “discern” the difference. No need to indicate the various media dominating culture today, from the virtual of the internet news and blogs, etc. to social media such as Facebook or Twitter, to You Tube, all the way down to primitive email. Outside of that is the “traditional” print media supplemented by Kindle, etc. network and cable TV, even radio, with side dressings of film at theatres, Netflix, DVD’s, to streaming infomercials while pumping gas, in addition to the grand kahuna- the dream of Dick Tracy made universal (all the hand held mobile communication appliances with built-in, 2 way video capacity). Mourning the passing of content followed quickly on the burial of the author, but for media there is no rest in peace. For Sloterdijk this implicates the continual recirculation of the same ideas but through new, stimulating, and ever more exciting media outlets. Sloterdijk concludes with his cheery “Whatever is in the air is put there through totalitarian circular communication: it is filled with the victory dreams of offended masses and their drunken, far from empiric self-exaltation, followed like a shadow by the desire to humiliate others. Life in a multi-media state is like a stay in an enthusiastic gas palace.” I don’t remember where it is I read it (interview with Mike Daisey re: The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs?), but some one said there is nothing more infantile than being concerned with how fast you can raise a webpage. Nurturing an infant demands continuous, positive, enthusiastic reinforcement (take ‘em to see the Lion King now re released in 3D!).

            Occupy has been in the news of late. “What do the occupiers want?” is the “critical” talking point for all the pundits and commentators. “What is the message?” they all seem to be asking. What McLuhan insinuated is now the status quo, the atmosphere Sloterdijk suggests. Here’s an assignment for all you first year studio art majors – What is Occupy about?

Art After The Holocaust

October 1, 2011

            That was a long time ago.

Don’t be irreverent.

            In one short page?

There have to be points of reference.

            That was a definite relevant occurrence.

            It deserves reference.

Things did change.

            Not so much in the US.

Why not?  

           America seems to have gravitated towards the Warhol interpretation of surface and uncomplicated, positive cultural creations.

There’s always Steven King, gangsta rap and antique heavy metal if you want to visit the dark side.

            Yeah, separate the dark from the shiny.

            Maybe Larry Flint is on to something with his indiscretion bounty on politicians.

Do you think?

America is entangled in the economic crisis happening in Europe and could be deeply affected by any collapse.

            How is it that European cultural endeavors can be described as “complicated” while in the US to be described as such is to receive the kiss of death?

            The Lion King was the top box office draw over the weekend out grossing all others.

Be reverent now, just because we didn’t experience it doesn’t mean we can’t learn from it.

Don’t want it to be repeated.

            Hard time talking about racial issues in the US.

            Elision fields.

Latest census info has more whites.

            Attributed to Hispanics marking that box for affiliation.

Spanish is still a language, isn’t it?

            Why a box?

If we keep the light side light and the dark side dark, our cultural creations will reflect the light side since the dark only makes for shadow.

            Simple enough that anyone can do it.

We are all artists, especially with the latest tablets and apps available.

            Categories and boxes.

Ones and zeros.

            Zero or one?

Just take your place on the train so we can communicate more efficiently.

            Greater efficiency, that’s the solution!