Posts Tagged ‘Art Criticism’

Arts Complicity

August 15, 2016

The Don As Art

[this is a repost from April 2011]

Part of the noose that is knot this week is the Meredith Vieira/Don Trump extravaganza that took place on The Today Show, April 7th 2011. Poor Meredith was dumped on for being preoccupied with packing her golden parachute while the Trump grandstanded over a non issue. Hearing that an epitome of the American entrepreneurial spirit, vested casino owner, pillar of skyscraperdom, and presidential wannabe has doubts was like hearing a Catholic priest wannabe question her faith. Although not mentioned, Meredith’s interview hearkened memories of Katie Couric bamboozling Sarah Palin. By those standards, Vieira certainly came off as unprepared and unarmed. But she was none of the above.

Why Has Critique Run out of Steam? From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern. is an essay by Bruno Latour that appeared in Critical Inquiry 30, no 2 winter of 2005. Reading this in the light of the Vieira/Trump interview makes finding fault with Meredith totally off the mark. As Latour points out, the Don simply employed methodologies and strategies of critique that have been championed for their incisiveness and originality. These methods and strategies were a stable of the pedagogy molding and forming cultural workers for the 21st century, eventually becoming part and parcel of our culture. That we don’t like the message, or the bearer of the message is one thing, but we certainly are enamored with the process by which the message is being delivered. Besides, the message is irrelevant. The Don got media attention, created buzz, acquired political capital, and promoted his “Already Successful Celebrity” Apprentice show. Recently, after a Charlie Sheen performance, in a “how was the show?” man-on-the-street interview by a Columbus Ohio TV station, the attendee gushed with praise for what a genius of marketing and how brilliant a promoter Mr. Sheen was.

How many times have you been to a visual art showing where the artist “interrogated” some commonly held cultural notions or practices, “questioned” given interpretations of reality? (The interrogation’s response- “That is for the viewer to imagine.”) How many times have you left such an art show thinking “Anyone can ask the questions. It’s a little more difficult, and requires some commitment, to provide an answer.” How many times have you seen associations made, juxtapositions of total fabrication, inappropriateness and inaccuracy portrayed as Art, justified by their being meant to jar the viewer and startle them into considering alternate realities? How many issue related works of Art have you pondered that righteously “made the point” that something was questionable or wrong with regard the environment, “human rights”, global economics, genocide, etc. but left you totally irritated and frustrated because the artist exerted absolutely no imagination or creativity in seeing through their banal article of faith declaration and dared not present how it could/should/must be (all the trappings of critique without being critical)?

C’mon folks, we love this stuff. As Latour pointed out, we’ve embraced this critique so intimately that we’ve lost the ability (or commitment) to imagine otherwise, to articulate a definitive and determinate meaning.


Review Of A Review

July 29, 2016

Here are excerpts from a book review by Robin Adele Greeley that appeared in the Summer 2016 Critical Inquiry. The book is Art beyond itself: Anthropology for a Society without a Story Line by Nestor Garcia Canclini.
“Artistic practice, once object-based, is increasingly founded on contexts; artworks are being “inserted in the media, urban spaces, digital networks, and forms of social participation where aesthetic differences seem to dissolve”. This “de-defining” of art throws into question long-standing analytical concepts such as Pierre Bourdieu’s art field that still depend on some idea of national cultures and distinct spheres of aesthetic production or (at the other end of the scale) on postmodern nomadism with its illusion of a world without borders.”
“Our trouble in providing a cogent storyline for contemporary art, Garcia Canclini insists, is of a piece with our vacillations about how to confront a post 9/11, post-2008 world in which conventional categories no longer explain contemporary experience, economics and politics have become “an unconvincing display,” and coherent narratives founder on the “barely explicable ruins of what globalization has destroyed”. Yet it is precisely in contemporary art’s ability to capture this state of incoherence that Garcia Canclini situates its capacity to address our present condition.” [!]
“Garcia Canclini argues that what defines contemporary art’s persuasive power is its “imminence”: its ability to “[insinuate] what cannot be said,” to “[say] things without pronouncing them fully,” maintaining them inventively unsettled. Art’s imminence is “the place where we catch sight of things that are just at the point of occurring”; it produces a “zone of uncertainty…suited not so much for direct [political] action as for suggesting the power of what hangs in suspense”. Art’s ability to critically embody that constitutive indeterminacy is what allows it to confront the bewildering splintering of competing or unconnected narratives.” [we’ve seen this movie before]
“If, for Ranciere, art’s politics resides not in giving marginalized social groups a means of representation but in introducing between the work and the spectator the paradox of the unanticipated, then Garcia Canclini rethinks this model, giving light to art’s current postautonomous condition.” [Didn’t anticipate that one, did you?]

So, next time you encounter something (“just at the point of occurring”) labeled art that makes no sense (“in which conventional categories no longer explain contemporary experience”) and is totally incoherent, you’ll have a handle on how to articulate what it is you are looking at and its significant imminence. Or not. Either way you’ll be able to say “that’s art!”

Quick Critic Critique

April 27, 2016

Better Living Through Criticism by A. O. Scott came out this year (2016). Criticism is a worthwhile activity that Scott certainly has the chops for. The book expands upon the role criticism plays, mainly within the arts and culture purview. A major contribution Scott makes is to re-remind us that criticism is the stepchild of any relationship. Pan briefly, dear reader, to a New Yorker style cartoon of two pigs feeding their faces at the trough of an industrial ag operation. One says to the other: “The lighting could be better in here.” And so it goes with criticism – it is an enhancement to the relationship or activity at hand. Scott likewise enjoins that criticism is an extension of art itself, an enhancement or even an embellishment. He traces much of the history of western European criticism. With that history comes the heavy reliance on argument, and the binary elements of form/content, nature/nurture, etc. (for every tit, a tat). He fails to break free of this. One senses that Scott “knows” there is something else to criticism but his historical expertise with western European thought inhibits such articulation. He touches on it when he promotes criticism as being a constituent component of art itself, part of quality. The Stalinist era Soviet literary scholar and critic Mikhail Bakhtin took an analogous tact by positing criticism as a necessary aid to understanding. The artist, along with the viewer/reader/audience, is “incomplete” in their knowledge or understanding of the activity or relationship at hand. The created work, within the process of becoming sensible, makes certain demands, revealing certain aspects of the author or artist. In becoming sentient, it articulates qualities the artist or author hasn’t considered – restrictions, agendas, outcomes, consequences, etc. (almost like Galatea and Pygmalion or Pinocchio). The artists as well as the viewers are likewise “incomplete” in their knowledge or understanding of themselves/each other. There is a segment of ourselves that we cannot see/appreciate/grasp. Yet others see it readily (for they stand outside the person). We rely on them to inform us. Academics term this “dialogical criticism” (involving more than one, a dialogue form) and students all remember the “more than one” part without noting the “incomplete” part. Scott likewise misses this characteristic of not only the works to be critiqued, but of those experiencing and engaged in the activity critiqued (why so much criticism centers on theater and cinema). Completion is the unspoken basic assumption underlying most western European “conceptual” definition, be it art, science, economics, etc. (if it’s conceptual, it’s complete). In a recently aired (4-24-16) Le Show interview with Harry Shearer, economist James Galbraith spoke about the inability of mainstream economists/policy makers to recognize this assumption. Criticism is disconcerting because, by its very being, it calls attention to this incompleteness. To cut to the chase (as this is a “quick” critic critique), does the lighting contribute to the repast or is it of no consequence – the consumption of swill being complete in itself?

Performance Art

January 8, 2016

For the Associated Press, Wilson Ring and Jill Colvin report on presidential wannabe Donald Trump’s latest campaign promotion in Burlington. Vermont (Protesters interrupt Trump Vermont rally despite screening, 1-8-16). The national media has focused on location and the number of folks who lined up (“Thousands of people stood in line for hours waiting to get into the Burlington event after the campaign distributed 20,000 free tickets to the Flynn Center for the Performing Art, which has just 1,400 seats.”). No one seemed to focus on the actual name of the space, Flynn Center for the Performing Arts, nor the last part of the name, Performing Arts. D. Trump has been labeled a huckster, a P.T. Barnum, a Wild Bill Cody for his use of the stage, social media, and traditional media. Recently, many sources are analyzing campaign expenditure on advertising, noting that traditional TV ads are still king, with most of the other “lesser” candidates on the slate spending heavily to try to stay relevant. Trump has only begun to advertise within this framework. It appears that Donnie Trump is truly ahead of the pack, not only in terms of the polls, but in understanding the aesthetic of today’s culture. Jacques Ranciere may have theorized about the politics of aesthetics (the traditional take on culture as pertaining to art – architecture, dance, visual arts, music, etc.) as well as the aesthetics of politics (how politics is done) but Donnie Trump actually employs it. He may be one of the first to understand, through utilization, the effectiveness and viability of performance art. Within politics, this is a staple of South American democracies. In the US, it has been neglected primarily through regulation of the constitutional right to assembly (designated protest sites removed from the source of contention and debate). Mr. Trump has utilized the power of performance art to run a campaign without reliance on advertising. With the Burlington event we have his campaign manipulating the populace in order to produce the art (20,000 tickets for a 1,400 seat venue. Apparently Donnie has no regard for fire code). The ticket holders show up, forming a line, creating a news event. Like with open carry gun laws, it is impossible to tell which of the ticket holders in line are the good guys, and which are the bad (for or against the Trump candidacy). As with the performance art of the visual arts, no advertising expenditure created a spectacle, a sensation, an event or happening, whichever you prefer. In crass art terms – he got the message out. Performance art has a long, involved and rich history in American art dating back to Allan Kaprow’s Happenings in NYC (amongst others). Now it has finally entered the lexicon of America’s political aesthetic. Unfortunately, for most of the American public, it is a novelty that doesn’t have a name.

Hall Of Zombies

December 12, 2013

A recent foray through the 3D section of a college art department, one that grants a BFA, presented a stark and discernible contrast. The ceramics area was all alive with whimsical creations — creatures and humanoid figures, narrative and abstract shapes in bright and varied colors, textures and surfaces. These forms originated as base clay, eventually glazed, fired, etc. The sculpture production centered around detritus derived creations composed of the cast offs of consumer society – bottles, cans, plastic bags, furniture parts, tea bags, apparel, etc. These likewise were multicolored, textured and various in attempted forms. These pieces never managed to escape the trauma of their base material’s initial priority — that of promoting a commodity based and driven culture. The components’ original intended function was to signal fulfillment and happiness found within (the beverage, food, purchased acquisition, etc. that they originally contained and delivered). Any application to utilize this spent residue was in actuality a contestation of its original functional intent by design; akin to wrestling to undo the Bauhaus through utilizing its own signature designs to create Non-Bauhaus creations. In spite of itself, each piece became a struggle, not only to overcome the overwhelming “aura” of the component material employed but, more importantly, to imagine an “other” to the market compelled ontology that these materials insist on reproducing. Few succeeded in this no rules cage match. Unlike the ceramics area “alive with whimsical creations”, the sculpture trek turned into a flight down a hall of zombies.

It Takes Place In Real Time And You Can’t Control What You’re Going To Say

October 28, 2013

Sherry Turkle, clinical psychologist and MIT professor amongst other things, was interviewed by Bill Moyers on the 10-18-13 Moyers & Company. The emphasis of their exchange was on how the self has been re-identified as one dependent on the mobile device – smart phone, laptop, etc. “You begin to feel yourself as you mesh yourself with the means of communication.” A resulting outcome is the inability of face to face conversation, resulting in one excuse for its avoidance being the title of this blog posting. The mobile device over determines exchange; “The sweetness of something new that’s coming into us on our phone.” or its anticipated promise. Conversation becomes torn, “Attention divided between the world of the people we’re with and this other reality.”

Arthur C. Danto passed away on 10-25-13. It would be pretentious to write an elegy or obit. Perhaps, especially within the volume of what Arthur Danto left us, it would be better to consider what is not found, what was missing. AP presented an elegant report by Hillel Italie with quotes, counter opinions and a brief history (Groundbreaking art critic Arthur Danto dies at 89, 10-27-13). That should suffice for reference and context. I would like to consider two areas of exploration left open within Danto’s contribution that are pertinent and relevant to understanding the art (and culture) after the end of art – the technological reproducibility of next to nearly anything today, and the “rhizomatous” aspect of art production (conflating the scientific and philosophic meanings) and how little this is valorized in our culture.

Hillel Italie gives some intriguing quotes: “”But now I have grown reconciled to the unlimited diversity of art. I marvel at the imaginativeness of artists in finding ways to convey meanings by the most untraditional of means. The art world is a model of a pluralistic society in which all disfiguring barriers and boundaries have been thrown down.”” Danto, of course, was most instrumental in the shift from the hierarchical, progression interpretation (of Greenberg) to one of no end (of art). “”From my perspective, aesthetics was mostly not part of the art scene. That is to say, my role as a critic was to say what the work was about — what it meant — and then how it was worth it to explain this to my readers,” he wrote.” reflects the innate conversational approach that he imagined his work to be about. And “”When I became a critic, I met everyone under the sun. But I knew very few artists when I was an artist. Some printmakers, some second generation Abstract Expressionists. … They were the great figures of my world, like Achilles and Agamemnon in ancient times,” he wrote in a 2007 essay about his own work.” reveals more than its brevity suggests.

Contemporaneous with Danto’s contribution and thinking were the works of other thinkers and critics, events and developments. Some of these appear within his work. Some are never referenced. Although this pluralistic society for which the art world is a model produces work in which performance, installation, ready-mades, found objects and collaborations are ubiquitous, what happens when one cannot distinguish the hand of creation, what produced what, because of the seamless incorporation of technological reproduction (what Benjamin had adumbrated)? Along with the end of art was the death of the author, but when authorship becomes usurped by technological virtuosity, what then? Is this as Turkle describes that “You begin to feel yourself as you mesh yourself with the means of communication.”? Though Danto thought that with the end of art, art’s interpretation likewise differed (no longer seen as a Greenberg progression), he never confronted the dissipation that this produced – that a work’s understanding now hinged on what was not art, what surrounded the artist (“I knew very few artists when I was an artist.”). This horizontal interpretation (of all outside what is the artist’s discipline having a bearing on “what the work was about — what it meant — and then how it was worth it to explain”) introduces rhizomatous considerations associated more with Deleuze and Guattari than Danto. This enmeshed, artist identity produces “Attention divided between the world of the people we’re with and this other reality.” The notion of art as conversation was prevalent before the end of art. It was implicated by the artist’s awareness and reference of what went on before the work at hand as well as after. Contemporary culture disrupts this by “The sweetness of something new that’s coming into us on our phone.” This sweetness is not necessarily in real time (nor referential to anything that went before or to come), but of an “other reality.” – acceptable to technologically driven art but not to conversation (which Danto imagined his own work as a critic). Art after the end of art just may involve a heavy emphasis on what is not art!

The Pig

August 19, 2013

Saturday mornings find me in our local rendition of Bouville at the Makers Market. Due to the demise of my bees I am resigned to peddling my own wares this year. The Makers Market is a shadow market to the official farmers market run by the Downtown Business Association. It is caddy corner to the Makers Market and is quite pricey to break bread with. One of the benefits of being a spider at the Makers Market is that one gets to observe the flies across the way. Parents bring their kids (of course), some leashed, some not, and some in strollers or belly/back packs. People bring their dogs (yes, more than one); some leashed, some not, some even in strollers and belly/back packs. Sometimes a cat makes the scene. Never a dull moment. This past week end a little pink pig appeared on a leash leading a slender young lady. She was accompanied by a tall man in a bona fide chef outfit that gave him a certain Ramsey-esque authority (crowds parted before him as they perused the offerings). Both wore name tags, “Chef” and “Head of University Dining Services”. The nearby college has recently contracted for locally sourced gourmet cuisine to be served in the dining halls.

The woman attached to the pig wore a long grey dress that brushed the ground. She had only stubble on her head, one step removed from being bald, and she suffered from bad acne. She was barefoot. Health was exuded, head to toe. OK, point made. All the aesthetic markers created by a lifetime (and more) of art history scholars presented themselves. Statement made, performance art, commercial at that. Fifty years ago hooter madchens handed out packs of Marlboros and Virginia Slims on fringes of universities. Today it is acne and a pig.

That evening Moyers ran a rerun with Marshall Ganz on Making Social Movements Matter. The overall theme of the show was How People Power Generates Change. “Change” would be the optimal word, something that ostensibly unites Moyers, the lady with the pig, and myself (without others we cannot be whole!). My résumé having included “swineherd” at one time, a certain peculiar kind of nostalgia swept over me there in our very own beautiful downtown Bouville. For some reason, I did not experience this sense of solidarity; with Moyers, the pig and Sartre’s Roquentin maybe, but not with Chef Ramsey, his ward, and their employer. Within the course of the interview Marshall Ganz iterated: “You know, Albert Hirschman, the development economist wrote this book a number of years ago, I’m sure you know about it, “Exit, Voice, and Loyalty.” And sort of the idea was, okay, so you got an institution. And it’s screwing up. And so one way to fix it is to exercise voice. The other way is you can exit. The market solutions are all exit solutions.” Followed by: “Well, so you don’t like the way the schools work, exit, make your own over here. And that way you exercise choice. You don’t like the way public health works, exit, over here, make your own. Now the only problem is you can only exit and make your own if you got the money to do it. And so the result is that you create these parallel systems of elite systems that are, you know, that fragment the whole.”

My Superhero

August 12, 2013

Disney, Marvel Comics, Superheroes. Last night’s news showed a little boy in a little wheel chair wearing a miniature Spiderman costume with mask. “Who’s tougher, Spiderman or Batman?” his mother asked. “Spidey!” came the cry of glee from behind the mask. The child really IS tough, having barely survived being shot in a crossfire at a neighborhood park his mother brought him to for his enjoyment. But the kids aren’t the ones feeding the meter for the recent history of superhero films and their continuous sequels. These films are enormously popular with today’s big kids. Someone/something is creating an identity/connection with having (genetically) unique, exceptional and extra ordinary capabilities and whatever reason it is that makes grown-ups decide to part with their pay on a particular film rather than another (movies are rated in terms of how much money they bring in over a designated stretch of time, not because of any “enduring quality” of the film). To say that being set apart from mere mortals by the ability to fly down the sidewalk on a surf board, or flutter like a bat, swing across town on silken threads, become a walking flame, etc. is for whatever reason desirable would be an understatement. Having the capacity to do something that no one else can do would be like being the sole winner of the largest lottery jackpot, or raking in the royalties from possessing the intellectual property rights on something that humans cannot do without. Oh, it’s just a fantasy like Shrek.

My fantasy of a superhero would be someone named “Just Another Brick In The Wall.” It’s kind of hard to imagine Commissioner Gordon or some ensconced government politico saying “This is a job for Just Another Brick In The Wall.” Or “Thank Gawd for Just Another Brick In The Wall. We couldn’t have done it without her!” Besides, how would Just Another Brick In The Wall enter and exit, distinguish himself from other mere mortals?

I think we need some action movies featuring Just Another Brick In The Wall as a superhero, able to save the world through the exceptional and extra ordinary capabilities (genetically) unique to Just Another Brick In The Wall. Maybe Just Another Brick In The Wall action figures. Often I find myself absorbed in conversations with various of the same folks subsidizing contemporary superhero flicks. After recounting another memorable weekend consuming the box office flavor of the week, we sometimes discuss things like education opportunities for their kids, the globally over heated world their offspring will live in (and they will retire to!), or the increasing polarization (and becoming ever weirder ratio) of the distribution of wealth. Sometimes the conversation will actually break free from the knee jerk references to recent releases like Elysium and we’ll become grounded in the local, the everyday, what we share in common, the neighborhood playground where someone’s child has been hurt through senseless violence, etc. It’s uncanny (and sad) that we part with sighs of relief that we are not like that, that doesn’t involve us. The backyard we just talked about is not mine. We are (genetically) unique. Our identity revolves around our exceptional and extra ordinary capabilities. After all, ya gotta sell yourself to get/keep a job these days!


June 16, 2013

The Spring 2013 Critical Inquiry offers an interesting extension of Barthes’ punctum. In an article entitled Another Punctum: Animation, Affect, and Ideology, Eric S. Jenkins (re)interprets Barthes’ insights with what is definitely not photography (but may employ it in the process) – animation. Barthes punctum is felt. That contributes more to understanding it than anything else. It is affective, much as the Proustian cookie. Something in the photograph “connects” with the viewer, touches the viewer, wounds or breaks the surface. This “something” is not necessarily the same thing for each viewer. It may be a trivial detail of clothing, or setting, or physical feature, gesture. But it is enough to make the viewer stop and reconsider their assessment and response to the image based on how the image now exists in the world as they (the viewer) know and experience it. Barthes also considers a second degree or level of the punctum, that of how the “traditional” photographic image connects with the viewer through the aspect of time, along the channel of finality – death. THAT, which I am looking at, was but is no more. Call it poignancy if you like, it is as affective as the initial connection with some individual element within the make-up of the image. Barthes dwells on the specific characteristic of mortality found with traditional photographs. Traditional must be stressed as so much could not be said for “photo-shopped”, manipulated images or moving “pictures” – film. Contemporary with the development of film was the development of animation, another type of moving picture. Jenkins realizes that folks respond affectively to animation, so there must be a punctum at play there somewhere. The classical Chinese ink painting theorists would describe this as the image needs a doorway, an entry into the painting. We would call it the point where there is a suspension of disbelief. Animation, animated subjects do not exist, have never been, share our world and experience only through the image, nothing more.

“The punctum of animation, although likewise a punctum of “Time,” is about life rather than death. Gertie [Winsor McCay’s Gertie the Dinosaur, 1914] never lived, so her coming death is unlikely to incur a wounding melancholy. Instead, in animation’s punctum, the viewer senses as alive that which does not live. This sense of life is so potent, this prick so sharp, that even knowing otherwise sometimes cannot prevent the feeling that these characters live. For instance, in an oft-repeated anecdote, famed Warner Brothers animator Chuck Jones mentions to a child that he created Bugs Bunny. The child stubbornly denies his assertion, insisting, “’he draws pictures of Bugs Bunny,’” Jones might depict the character moving and expressing, but Bugs lives beyond the drawings. This child expresses animation’s punctum, sensing as alive that which exists only as image.” (Critical Inquiry Vol. 39 No. 3 pg. 585)

After the end of art (the post modern), what makes for art is greatly in flux. No fixed criteria exist to make this art or not. Everything can be art. Everything is not art. Classical aesthetic theory falls short when one considers popular culture as a fountainhead of art. It is squished flat when one considers the current inter relationship of the market and art. Because some “thing” (concrete or conceptual) has had its five minutes of fame, does that make it art? If some “thing” sells, does that make it art? The higher the price, the better the art? What makes for quality with art if we know that it is art to begin with? On pg. 583 Jenkins writes, “If the punctum is like the passage through a black hole, perhaps animation’s punctum can be envisioned as going through another hole, a rabbit’s hole, like Alice transported to a realm where cats talk, caterpillars smoke hookahs, and the Queen of Hearts barks orders for decapitation.”
Inadvertently, Jenkins himself opens a passage that helps answer some of these questions regarding what makes for art, what makes for quality. Allowing for such a bivalent interpretation of the punctum makes an aesthetic utilization possible. Without doubt or controversy, one of the most beloved manifestations of western art would be that produced by the “category” called the Impressionists. Yet what do we find here? We find individual artists who insisted on always “representing” something that already was (much as traditional photography). At the same time, we find a palette and style that belongs more with that of the Disney studios than the contemporary academic painters of the time. The affective response to Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party or Monet’s Haystack at Sunset near Giverny could be equally described by either Barthes’ or Jenkins’ punctum. The house barely appearing in the summer’s pre twilight haze, the woman holding the dog up, these are trivialities that draw me in. They are not Gertie, in that they never have been. They once were. And yet there is also the aspect of the colors and forms, so much in keeping with Jenkins description of animation. Were I to ever encounter life forms like Renoir’s or a landscape like Monet’s, it would be as Jenkins describes, “Temporal hallucination.” (pg. 584) The contribution to considerations of quality or existence (is it art?) that such an expanded interpretation of punctum provides would be along the lines that it once was (something experienced, shared, coexistent with actual experience) AND the acute sense “as alive that which does not live”. Much as the pre Socratics (and the pre Robert Redford’s) described life (philosophized about life) as a river, one that you cannot step into the same river twice. No! Not even once. Yet we all admit we do step into the river. So considerations of art, its being and quality, have to include what definitely was, as well as what we can never enter into, “sensing as alive that which exists only as image.”

I Walked Out On A Talk By Ann Hamilton

April 10, 2013

No, it was not on account of anything she said, or had to say, or gestured, pointed at, or articulated. Actually she was quite captivating, refreshingly lucid, and made connections on levels and depths that one could only marvel at. I followed her. Not like she lost me, left me sitting there because she was Ann Hamilton and thus worth listening to. I mostly admired her affective intelligence (The “cement of affective intelligence” valorized by Carlo Petrini of Slow Food). It was primarily focused on how connections are made between people (within people), over time – living people, living organism, living traces. No, it was all quite good and yet I walked out. Maybe I should back up a bit. Her talk was first person, the best way to explain, articulate. “This is how…” “This is why…” “I felt this” “That’s how one responds…” etc. And it was amazing. But backing up again, this week the strangest connections, the most horrifying links were made. I was making syrup to feed my newly hived package bees, syrup made of sugar. It was not the hundreds of pounds of honey that Ann had mixed with pennies for the witness of sheep – the conceptual realization of what Vandana Shiva describes as the business economy and the economy of nature (but what of the economy of sustenance?). Like a cow chewing its cud I stared blankly at the stove top while waiting for the water to boil. Beet Sugar read the label on the ten pound bag. Just weeks prior I had read that the European union had banned GM beet sugar because it has detrimental effects on wildlife, which I assume includes honey bees. The same wildlife, animals that Ann was talking about in her presentation, so central to what drives her sensitivity, her need to respond intelligently and adequately. That sugar, that I’m about to turn into syrup, sustenance for my infant hives, probably originated from GM sugar beets. The large migratory bee keepers who have thousands of hives to pollinate our summer fruits, nuts and veggies, and who suffered losses of 75% and more this winter, feed their colonies tanker truckloads of high fructose corn syrup. And that is probably from GM corn. The organism, the plant, is genetically engineered and altered to be resistant, detrimental to invasive insects. This is what is known as a systemic insecticide, where the plant itself embodies the repellant, becomes toxic to whatever outside pest may desire it (think flea and tick repellant that is consumed or absorbed by cats and dogs). I thought to feed my newborns mother’s milk, the honey and pollen left behind from the hives that had not survived to a second year. Neonicotinoids (current applied pesticides) create a systemic insecticide when absorbed by plants, where the plant oozes trace amounts into its resin, nectar or pollen. Pollinators gather their stores of pollen to feed the larva, the colony’s future, and nectar to create honey to sustain themselves thereby unwittingly integrating this very poison into their future. What did I have to feed these insects that would give them a chance to survive, as a colony, a society of warm and fuzzy, bumbling bugs until 2014? Wasn’t there an “organic” alternative that would make me feel affectively intelligent? And so I walked out on Ann Hamilton sometime after she described how silk is made from boiling live larva, creating this wondrous sacrificial crimson silk covering she utilized in a magnificent installation with peacocks.