Posts Tagged ‘House’

House Haunting

January 21, 2010

            We all learn it early. It is a primary survival skill prerequisite of liquid modernity. One of the few determinations of perception we all hold in common. The ability to pick out the essential from the camouflage forest of advertising enables us to negotiate our way through a vampire world of print ads, infomercials, junk mail, spam, etc. It brings to mind the art of Liu Bolin.

            Recently I had the opportunity to briefly peruse the latest copy of Sculpture magazine.  I deftly navigated my way through the pages focusing my attention only on what the International Sculpture Center currently considers significant (at least prior to publication); that is, what entices the viewer to part with their money as opposed to what the ISC has deigned to include in order to get vendors to part with theirs. Later, I couldn’t remember seeing anything that was figurative within the magazine’s specific “content,” yet I distinctly remembered an image of a Marylyn Monroe piece, and of several other figurative works prominently presented. I double checked. Sure enough, within the category of works deemed currently significant in the estimation of this esteemed international organization, there were no figurative representations to be found. Yet the vendors of materials, services and educational opportunities gushed forth profusely in representative splendor, primarily hominid.

            This all evoked the spirit of House. House is often confronted with the fact that he doesn’t even know (or care to know) his patient’s name. When his recovering patient expresses personal gratitude, House has been known to say he doesn’t find the patient interesting anymore. Here, in stark contrast on the pages of the International Sculpture Center’s publication, is the clear dichotomy of the professional disposition regarding contemporary art, and everyone else.  Just as House is obsessed with diagnosing the problem through the efficacy and efficiency of science (and logic) while “humanity” swirls around him in the subjectivity of Cutty, Wilson and the various patients with their families, so with this issue of Sculpture, we find professional, “problem solving” 3D art surrounded by the subjectivity of human form. Our communally shared “survival skill prerequisites” inconspicuously entrap us and promulgate this distribution of sense (that the understanding of certain matters must always necessarily be deferred to those designated as “professionals”). It does this by dismissing anything with a face or a name. This separate “professional” aesthetic swims within the subjectivity of the vendors with their de facto preference of promoting their wares and services through human representation.

            One reading of this issue of Sculpture would have the viewer believe that representative figurative sculpture is simply not done within the contemporary. Another reading would have that it is done, but it is plebian, too uncouth for patrician tastes. A third reading, the one haunted by House, is that within culture, the arts can only reveal what is already integral to the culture, what comprises the distribution of sense. The International Sculpture Center’s publication clearly reveals this within the contemporary aesthetic, what is promulgated as “real” art and what aspires to be considered as such.


(Not This) Old House Rerun

October 31, 2009

I was watching an old rerun of House. His friend left, ostensibly because he was enabling House to “spread misery” since House couldn’t get involved in any real relationships, etc. (all the things that make the unsocial out to be ogres, onerous and inhuman). I was wondering why I like House. I realize that the character, House, embodies everything “ideal” we find in our machines, our created intelligence robots with their perfect memory and recall, their ability to (re)search through associations and connectivity, their fantastic, unerring mechanical skills (we prefer them to a surgeon’s hands when it comes to operating on our hearts), their ability to always win at any game, etc. Indeed, the reason these machines were created in the first place is to make up for what all we continuously err at, for what we lack (Could it be that they are lack? Why they are so desired?). Like House, they are always correct. Now put all those characteristics into a human and, voila, you have House. Previously, before shock and awe, budget accounting involving trillions, and global warming, you had Spock. And before Spock, there was Dr Who. And before that- I’m sure with research one could go on and on through the likes of Sherlock Holmes, etc. But now House is the center, the main character of this current narrative, this TV drama. In the original episodes of Star Trek, Spock was an adviser, an assistant, a “supporting” character to the central hero, the all too human William Shatner. Before that, Dr Who was a Rudy Maxa kind of travel guide. His compatriots would find themselves in totally bizarre and unknown locales which only Who knew how to navigate. These travelers primarily witnessed the drama that played out with every visit and encounter, like spectators at a sporting event. The events took center stage like tourist attractions but didn’t actively engage the visitors (save to trap or threaten them). Like all good travel guides, from Hermes on down, Who facilitated this witnessing, and made it possible for us to immerse ourselves in the curiously imagined worlds at the center of this show. Unlike Spock, Who in no way advised or supported the human involvement in the unfolding of events. In House the human element is now relegated to the periphery, the margins, the contingent (everyone but House). Their story, or rather stories, swirl around his flawless functioning. The central, or essential, is now the perfection (that we all rely on in order to stay alive). This (new) center (or essential) is unbearable (why the friend leaves- because he “enabled” it). It is unbearable not because it is a lie, but because it exposes the lie. Of course, that is the whole attraction of the show. Through focusing on the unerring perfection of House’s genius (comparable only to what we expect of our machine creations), the contingent humanity is exposed for what it is -the lie that is the cohesive thread for an identity that is not. The narrative does all this without ever naming or indicating it (the “essential” lie) as such.