1 December 2012

Il signore della seta

"The last key link is the Canada Council. In 1970 the Canada Council instituted the travel grant, which allowed artists to travel for projects, openings or research to other parts of the country (and elsewhere). Now much has been made of the Canada Council as the enlightened institution it is, largely because of its funding of artists and artist-run spaces, but at this time the crucial elements in creating a Canadian art scene was the travel grant. Suddenly we were all traveling. Now Image Bank's image network weakened as it was replaced by actual contact, actual projects together. And this possibility of traveling across this five-thousand mile linear network, this possibility of traveling in a straight line and meeting almost everyone made the art scene in Canada what it is today: now suddenly all these characters in this epic plot began to intertwine into that Rococo form of bureaucracy called Canadian art today. Suddenly we had a sense of seeing ourselves as beings seeing each other, sensing each other as beings sensing themselves as beings seeing each other. And that is the importance of travel."
— A.A. Bronson, The Humiliation of the Bureaucrat

27 November 2012


"The party for Gorbachev dribbled on for awhile. Eventually the opportunity arose for some small talk. Here at last was my chance to clarify everything. To my astonishment, someone introduced me as 'the German Vyssotski'. My name seemed to trigger a memory - perhaps the scandal of my expulsion from the GDR more than fifteen years ago - and I was excited and happy and solemn. My heart beat in my skull, my brain was overwhelmed by a tidal wave of emotions. In such circumstances words of conversation are, anyway, only crude identification marks amid the headlong rush of protocol. How are people supposed to talk to one another, if they don't even have the time to be silent together? Which is all to say: I embarrassed myself. I said to this complete stranger a sentence which I had believed could never pass my lips again. My four words were spoken as a kind of reflex action, like a dying soldier giving a password; the thirteen letters fell from my mouth like teeth that had been knocked out. Before me stood the last torchbearer of Communist ideology. I said: 'I am a Communist.'

Years of despair and hope culminated in that moment: Gorbachev embodied all the wild thoughts and shouting matches of three decades. A film was running inside my head, beginning with my first doubts after the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1956 and ending with the crushing certainty that the Communist heaven on earth could be nothing but perfect hell.

But as failed Communists is our place in world history therefore as contemptible as that of our old great enemies the Nazis? Of course not! We were always better and always worse. Put more precisely: Our crimes were all the worse, because they stemmed from a better tradition. The Nazis grew out f the blood-stained stupidity of racial delusion, and they remained true to their colours. Hitler honestly promised the extermination of the Jews and held onto it. When the war was already lost, when he needed every truck and every locomotive to supply the Wehrmacht, he still requisitioned enough trains to transport the Jews to death camps. If that was not devotion to principles!

We, however, betrayed everything that we ever promised. We emerged from the humane tradition of the Enlightenment. Our intellectual fathers were the radical democrats of the French Revolution, our poets Heine and Buechner, our thinkers Karl Marx and Rosa Luxemburg. Communism and Social Democracy were siblings in the same historical family: but the intolerant son became a much-admired murdered and the prim sister and unloved wallflower.

It causes me the deepest sadness and it is to our everlasting shame that no one liquidated so many Communists as the Communists. Hitler murdered 64,000 German Communists. But Stalin's executioners murdered almost the whole of Lenin's Central Committee and liquidated a couple million cadres as well. The Nazis did not butcher their own people, apart from a few individual cases. And what was butchered in the Communist workers' movement was a fundamental humane tendency, which historically never existed in Fascism.

We failed. Now any kind of hope for a more just society seems to be discredited until the end of the world. Despite all that, this ruined childish hope is still close to my heart. The best and the bravest and cleverest people who created me were almost all left-wing rebels and undogmatic spirits, all of them burnt children of Communism. And when I met the last representative of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the old wounds burst open again and bled. And it was far from melodramatic, on the contrary; it was a confusingly pleasant pain.

'I am a Communist.' And see: Gorbachev responded to the stimulus like a Pavlovian dog in the Party academy. The little red bell struck, and the old ideological saliva flowed. It seemed to me as if a romantic revolutionary spasm passed through his body. He had evidently not been expecting this signal from the past here in Hamburg. Suddenly he gained a firmer grip on my hand and, looking through my eyes deep into my heart as if through reversed opera glasses, he squeezed meaningfully and tragically, communicating what we both knew very well: it doesn't matter anymore.

Am I exaggerating? No, Gorbachev's handshake was really something! It was a worker's handshake. No, wrong! Real workers shake hands without the noble proletarian emphasis, which Gorbachev had.

One often hears the claim that at the very last moment of life, all of the past rushes through the dying person's head again as a compressed, abbreviated film. I did not at all feel like dying, but I did see a speeded-up film as Gorbachev gripped my hand in a vice: a film of the death of the Communist idea. Our handshake lasted at most three seconds - but for me it became an epic to fill a whole evening.

It was a remarkable handshake; it bore no resemblance to the ones I knew from officials of the labour movement, who shake hands to show that inside they are still workers. Intellectuals who had picked up important posts in the Party or the trade unions exaggerated the proletarian manner, disguising their genteel mitts by gripping all the more resolutely. They took the hand of the unsuspecting so skillfully, that with a relatively small expenditure of energy they could still crush the victim's fingers. This hyper-proletarian trick worked especially well on women. The loyal party handshake also had a formative effect on the arts. Party artists painted monumental workers' hands, with which no real worker could compete. State actors, playing class conscious workers in Socialist Realist films, shook hands with this gusto.

The true Noble Proletarian Handshake begins long before the actual pressing of flesh. It is clearly developing as the proletarian handshaker approaches the person to be greeted. The proferred arm arm displays two indispensable components: it must be extended somewhat further than normal, and the elbow must point outwards and upwards a little. This signals the strength of the working class hidden beneath the jacket, the mighty arm and the shoulder muscles of the steelworker or miner. At the same time it's noticeable that the fingers are unusually far apart. This gesture has its origins in the fact that the reliable comrade worker is distinguished by the noble mark of primitive manual labour: his massive hands. These calloused digits have only a moment ago laid aside shovel and spanner, hammer and sickle for this greeting. Siberian frosts and the fire of the blast furnaces have hardened his skin. The delicate articulation of the finger joints has been restricted as if by a gouty stiffness. This clumsiness acquired through labour must make every heart beat faster that beats honestly on the side of working people.

By contrast, of course, the political body language of the Heil Hitler greeting was entirely appropriate to the class enemy: the slippery smooth fingers are pressed together and are slightly bent. Petty bourgeois pen-pusher's hands. The honest heavy hand of the class conscious worker does not get up to such tricks. Its vigorous grip signifies a feeling of grass-roots heartiness which is foreign to the decadent class and its intellectual parasites. All the effeminate elements hostile to the Party, the work-shy sceptics - the whole bourgeois rabble - betrayed itself by its limp body-language, even before it had uttered a single word.

At the moment of our handshake Gorbachev stiffened meaningfully. We were silent for a brief eternity. I even had the feeling that the habit of this rite of fraternal affection practised thousands of times would propel Gorbachev into giving me a fraternal kiss. Elevating my cheeks to the ranks of Erich Honecker's and Jew-hater Yasser Arafat's. Fortunately this chalice passed me by. So we stood there, two survivors by the open grave of a fixed idea. Then we went on our way."

- Wolf Biermann, Shaking Hands with the Zeigeist

24 November 2012

"Opium began life in the Chinese empire as an import from the vaguely identified 'Western regions' (Ancient Greece and Rome, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Persia and Afghanistan); the earliest Chinese reference (in a medical manual) occurs in the first half of the eighth century. Eaten or drunk, prepared in may different ways (ground, boiled, honeyed, infused, mixed with ginger, ginseng, liquorice, vinegar, black plums, ground rice, caterpillar fungus), it served for all kinds of ailments (diarrhoea and dysentery, arthritis, diabetes, malaria, chronic coughs, a weak constitution). By the eleventh century, it was recognized for its recreational, as well as curative uses. 'It does good to the mouth and throat', observed one satisfied user. 'I have but to drink a cup of poppy-seed decoction, and I laugh, and am happy.' 'It looks like myrrh," elaborated a court chronicle some four hundred years later. 'It is dark yellow, soft and sticky like ox glue. It tastes bitter, produces excessive heat and is poisonous… It enhances the art of alchemists, sex and court ladies… Its price equals that of gold.' Opium was supposed to help control ejaculation which, as sexological theory told it, enabled sperm to retreat to feed the male brain. Opium-enriched aphrodisiacs became a boom industry in Ming China (1368–1644)—possibly contributing the the high death rate of the dynasty's emperors (eleven out of a total of sixteen Ming rulers failed to get past their fortieth birthday). In 1958, as part of a final push to root out the narcotic in China, the new Communist government excavated the tomb of Wanli, the hypochondriac (though long-lived) emperor of the late Ming, and found his bones saturated with morphine. Enterprising Ming cooks even tried to stir-fry it, fashioning poppy seed into curd as a substitute for tofu. Opium was one of the chief ingredients of a Ming-dynasty cure-all, the 'big golden panacea' (for use against toothache athlete's foot and too much sex), in which the drug was combined with (amongst other things) bezoar, pearl, borneol, musk, rhinoceros horn, antelope horn, catechu, cinnabar, amber, eagle wood, aucklandia root, white sandalwood; all of which had first to be gold-plated, then pulverized, turned into pellets with breast milk, and finally swallowed with pear juice. (Take one at a time, the pharmacological manuals recommended.)

It was yet another import—in the shape of tobacco from the New World—that led to the smoking of opium. Introduced to China at some point between 1573 and 1627 (around the same time as the peanut, the sweet potato and maize), by the middle of the seventeenth century tobacco-smoking had become an empire-wide habit. As the Qing established itself in China after 1644, the dynasty made nervous attempts to ban it as 'a crime more heinous even than that of neglecting archery': smokers and sellers could be fined, whipped and even decapitated. By by around 1726, the regime had given up the empire's tobacco addiction as a bad job, with great fields of the stuff swaying just beyond the capital's walls. And somewhere in the early eighteenth century, a new, wonderful discovery had reached China from Java, carried on Chinese ships between the two places: that tobacco was even better if you soaked it first in opium syrup (carried mainly in Portuguese cargoes). First stop for this discovery was the Qing's new conquest, Taiwan; from there it passed to the mainland's maritime rim, and then the interior. 

It was smoking that made Chinese consumers take properly to opium. Smoking was sociable, skilled and steeped in connoisseurship (with its carved, bejewelled pipes of jade, ivory and tortoiseshell, its silver lamps for heating and tempering the drug, its beautiful red sandalwood couches on which consumers reclined). It was also less likely to kill the consumer than the eaten or drunk version of the drug: around 80–90 per cent of the morphia may have been lost in fumes from the pipe or exhaled. Through the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, China made opium-smoking its own: a chic post-prandial; an essential lubricant of the sing-song (prostitution) trade; a must-have hospitality item for all self-respecting hosts; a favourite distraction from the pressures of court life for the emperor and his household. Opium houses could be salubrious, even luxurious institutions, far from the Dickensian den-of-vice stereotype (like an 'intimate beer-house,' a surprised Somerset Maugham pronounced in 1922—a mature stage in China's drug plague), in which companionable groups of friends might enjoy a civilized pipe or two over tea and dim-sum.

Somewhere near the start of the nineteenth century, smokers began to dispense with the diluting presence of tobacco—perhaps because pure opium was more expensive, and therefore more status-laden. Around this time, thanks to the quality control exercised by the diligent rulers of British India (who established a monopoly over opium production in Bengal in 1793), the supply also became more reliable, no longer regularly contaminated by adulterants such as horse dung and sand. A way of burning money, smoking was the perfect act of conspicuous consumption. Every stage was enveloped in lengthy, elaborate, costly ritual: the acquisition of exquisite paraphernalia; the intricacy of learning how to cook and smoke it (softening the dark ball of opium to a dark, caramelized rubber, inserting it into the hole on the roof of the pipe bowl, then drawing slowly, steadily on the pipe to such the gaseous morphia out); the leisurely doze that followed the narcotic hit. The best families would go one step further in flaunting their affluence, by keeping an opium chef to prepare their pipes for them. The empire's love affair with opium can be told through the beautiful lyrics it manufactured for consuming the drug, through the lyrics that aficionados composed to their heavy, treacly object of desire, or in bald statistics. In 1780, a British East India Company (EIC) ship could not break even on a single opium cargo shipped to Canton. By 1839, imports were topping 40,000 chests per annum."

—Julia Lovell The Opium War

12 November 2012

bubble cults of the Main river basin

1) Setting: Create a "special" environment, most often modelled after a café, i.e. small round tables covered with a checkered tablecloth, butcher block paper, colored pens, a vase of flowers, and optional "talking stick" item. There should be four chairs at each table. 

2) Welcome and Introduction: The host begins with a warm welcome and an introduction to the World Café process, setting the context, sharing the Cafe Etiquette, and putting participants at ease. 

3) Small Group Rounds: The process begins with the first of three or more twenty minute rounds of conversation for the small group seated around a table. At the end of the twenty minutes, each member of the group moves to a different new table. They may or may not choose to leave one person as the "table host" for the next round, who welcomes the next group and briefly fills them in on what happened in the previous round.

4) Questions: each round is prefaced with a question designed for the specific context and desired purpose of the session. The same questions can be used for more than one round, or they can be built upon each other to focus the conversation or guide its direction.

5) Harvest: After the small groups (and/or in between rounds, as desired) individuals are invited to share insights or other results from their conversations with the rest of the large group. These results are reflected visually in a variety of ways, most often using graphic recorders in the front of the room.

World cafe whitewash

“The other one is that I’m very uneasy with Cafe-style type of consultation. I went to two of the items with respect to the Library, Mr. Merry, and I just had a sticky on the board, you never know where it went, you never saw it reappear again, with no idea of whether it influenced things.”

“There are also concerns about this ‘World Cafe’ format. For many of us who participated in them, it is simply a white-wash. First of all, people who are in favor of a project will dot every single table, sometimes 2 or 3 of them. As someone said, ‘you know these results are written on these little pieces of paper/post it notes — and guess what. There is a conclusion reached. Is it a conclusion that everyone voted on? We don’t know that. So, basically I think you need to rethink that.”

“But I want to make a comment regarding the World Cafe formats. Engagement is about getting all opinions into a room, not just those opposed to a project. A true representation of getting people who support, oppose, and aren’t sure, at the same table. It isn’t just about compromising.”

“We are here tonight because I’m assuming that the developers invited us here tonight and because they are interested in hearing what we have to say. Whether or not the World Cafe has every single person’s input into the final design, it is up to the developer at this point — in their living room. They have invited us here, which I think is wonderful.”

3 November 2012

Fattening Cannibals in the mensa

"Euler does not exempt her own image from this pictorial universe of ambition. In an untitled self-portrait from 2008, she has wrapped her right arm over her head so that it reaches the left half of her face. The pose recalls a formerly widespread procedure used by German primary schools to test whether a child was ready for school: The candidate’s hand had to reach the ear on the other side. Euler paints herself a certificate of maturity and membership but also stages the artist’s life as a perpetual performance test. The detail of the hand clutching a cigarette in a deliberately awkward pose identifies her as a member of the bohemian segment of the art world, the more so as it imitates a habitual gesture of her professor Michael Krebber. And at least since Francis Picabia’s Espagnole à la Cigarette, 1921–22, the female smoker has been an art-historically overdetermined trope, signifying transgressiveness, meditativeness, and autoeroticism.
Moreover, from the early twentieth century through the 1980s (the heyday of Virginia Slims’ well-known slogan, “You’ve come a long way, baby”), cigarettes also signified women’s emancipation, which may also help account for their appearance in Euler’s works. Certainly with the series of women’s portraits Euler showed at Real Fine Arts this past spring, she had visibly broken free of the male-dominated universe depicted in her earlier portraits. The friends portrayed here likewise catered to their own desires—the painter captured one of them taking a drag on a cigarette, another slurping an oyster. She had not, however, abandoned the affiliation with Neue Sachlichkeit. The thin layers of oil she used to create these pictures once again allude to that movement and the way in which its own facture recalled Northern Renaissance panel painting."
—Isabelle Graw "Social Realism: The art of Jana Euler"

1 November 2012

top drawer homers

"APG’s [Artist Placement Group] slogan was ‘the context is half the work’, an idea in tune with the post-studio tendencies of art in the later 1960s, and indebted to earlier works such as Robert Rauschenberg’s White Paintings of 1951 (a series of glossy monochrome canvases that reflect shadows and light in the gallery) and to John Cage’s 4′33′′ (1952, a ‘silent’ performance in which peripheral sound becomes the composition’s content). However, instead of pulling the audience into the work, as Rauschenberg and Cage had done, APG operated on the inverse principle of pushing the artist out into society. The idea of artists working with business and industry was a familiar tendency during the late ’60s. Early APG documents reference examples in Europe as comparative models: in France, the Groupe Recherche d’Art Visuel (GRAV, discussed in Chapter 3), who were sponsored by industrialists interested in the exploitation of techniques and visual phenomena; in Holland, the Philips electricity company worked directly with an artist to make robot art; in Italy, competitions were sponsored by Esso and Pirelli; while in Britain, various sculptors were working in new materials that demanded close collaboration with steelworks (Eduardo Paolozzi), nickel laboratories (John Hosking) and glass fibre manufacturers (Phillip King). In the US, Experiments in Art and Technology (EAT), set up in 1966 by the Bell Labs scientist Billy Klüver in collaboration with Robert Rauschenberg, aimed to bring science to the service of artistic innovation, while on the West coast in the same year, curator Maurice Tuchman established the Art and Technology programme at LACMA. APG differed from all of these models in its heavily theorised underpinnings, and in not basing the placements around sponsorship or using collaboration as a way to gain access to new technology. Science and industry were not at the service of art, but rather, the two domains were to confront each other ideologically. From today’s perspective, it is tempting to suggest that the tacit agenda for each placement was for art to have a positive, humanising effect upon industry through the inherent creativity of artists and their relative ignorance of business conventions, but Steveni maintains that this was not the case. Outcomes were not determined in advance, and entirely depended on the individual artist in a given context; this was what APG called the ‘open brief’. Nevertheless, some artists were clearly more politicised than others, and this was reflected in their decisions to work either on the shop floor or in the management of a given company. Latham himself claimed to be beyond party politics, which he derided as a ‘form of sectional interest civil war’.
First-hand immersion in an industrial workplace could nevertheless have the effect of strengthening artists’ existing political commitments. Stuart Brisley, who chose to work on the shop floor of Hille Furniture factory, proceeded with his placement in a manner that will sound familiar to any artist working site-responsively today: the main task was social (earning trust) rather than realising a sculptural object. Going to the factory three to four days a week while also holding down a teaching job, Brisley chose to focus on the department with the most onerous work, the metal-polishing room. Workers were initially suspicious of an artist foisted upon them by the management, and it took time to gain their confidence. Brisley initially began by asking questions about how the production line could be improved. Unsurprisingly, the answer was a sceptical ‘why?’, since the workers habitually felt that no one was interested in or listened to them, even though they had many questions and criticisms, which Brisley in turn began to relay to the management. As an outsider this left him feeling empowered, since he could begin to initiate change. One of his contributions was painting the polishing machinery in the colours of football teams chosen by the workers; another was to introduce large mobile noticeboards which could be pushed around the factory floor, so that workers could exchange information and communicate with each other. He also made a sculpture using 212 Robin Day chairs, which when stacked formed a complete circle, ‘a syndromic sign of the factory line itself’.
Brisley felt that the machinery painting project had begun to confuse his identity as an artist, since ‘one was actually moving away from art more into a kind of potentially collective situation’, while the information board incident led him to feel caught in a ‘permanent conflict’ between ‘factory and management’. Despite the modesty of these interventions, Brisley argues that the placement at Hille went on to inform his work in setting up an Artists’ Union (1972 onwards), and impacted upon his protest-based performances of the 1970s. It also had the effect of distancing Brisley politically from APG’s efforts, which he felt to be too enamoured with management (rather than workers), and whose structure he perceived to be ‘a tightly knit, highly autocratic family business, with a poor record of human relations’."
—Claire Bishop, Artificial Hells

23 September 2012

enjoy the nonsense-lab

"V2 Can you make this a bit more concrete as regards interactive art? We’re still essentially in painting and in the visual. Can you give an example from interactive art?  
BM OK, but give me a minute to work myself out of the vanishing point, which has taken over a bit. As I was saying, classical figurative painting employing perspective technique renders the abstract movement of perception as a spatial order governed by a universal principle ensuring harmony between perspectives. What shows-through the dynamic of this perceptual event is a spatial order that is as harmonious as it is unlimited. Its intimations of harmony seem to promise stability (although in the historical playing out of its principle in political ecology, what it delivers is far from it). The vitality affect of the perceptual event taking place is settling, pacifying, “civilizing.” This is why it feels more “concrete” or “realistic” than later painting that claims for itself the explicit label of “abstract” art. In art, concrete and realistic mean appearing with the feeling of a stable perceptual order that lends itself to analogue capture by larger frames of social or political orders that promote stability as a conservative value, even though they are incapable of delivering on it, given the reality of the transmonadic “quiver” at the heart of every formation. Given the virtual agitation tensing the “chaosmic umbilicus” of its affective core (Guattari 1995, 112). Given the Benjaminian disruptions and interruptions this lived-in tension, this lived intensity, immanently invites from outside, in the way it includes within itself its own-others that inhabit it as infinite alternative potentialites. The point is, we should be wary of calls for a return to the “concrete.”
 Decorative motif, for its part, is in no way radical. But it also has less potential for order-bound capture. That’s why decorative art is considered fluff. It doesn’t have that kind of potential because its motifs don’t extensively spatialize, they don’t spin off an extensive order that continues beyond the fringe, wraps back around, and strongly resonates with a political ecology of potential. It restricts itself to producing a movement-effect that is pretty much content to be how it is, where it is. Its effect is anodyne because the vitality affect it produces takes off from patterns of line and curve that in their actual form are figurative of determinate things likes leaves and branches and flowers. There is still a gentle uncanniness to the effect, which consists in an animation of the inanimate support on which the motif moves. But flowers coming to a semblance of life on the lace of a tea cozy are not the most disruptive or potentiating of things.
 Abstract art, on the other hand, was and continues to be just the kind of disruption that figurative art was always afraid of, in its quivering heart of hearts. Abstract art is dissonant, dissensual, incommensurable. It’s eternally popular to hate it. Even those who like it seem only to disagree about it. We interpret it in combatively disparate ways that never seem to find a common ground of judgment. No semblance of a universal principle of harmonious order here. The works punchily affirm the fragmentary nature of their worlding. They are interruptive in their own right, and proud of it.
 Paradoxically, abstract art is disruptive in a way that, from the point of view of the quality of perceptual event that gets mobilized, places it in a kinship with the decorative art it often belittles. It also produces out and out movement-effect—and even takes that further. It is not disruptive, interruptive, dissonant because it brings threatening things to a semblance of life instead of anodyne ones. It is because it draws its experiential power from suppressing the figurative element as much as possible. It makes felt a dynamic, a vitality affect, that has no object. It’s not an animation of anything. It’s a pure animateness, a vitality affect that comes from no thing and nowhere in particular.
 For example, in color field painting, the movement is dispersed across the surface. It is an irreducibly global effect that detaches from the surface, appearing to float above or across the canvas, like its ghostly double. You’re not seeing the work if you’re not seeing this lively immaterial double of it. It has this effect as an expression of its immanent relationality. What is being activated are certain relational dynamics of color—effects of simultaneous contrast and color complementarity, for example. These are relational dynamics immanent to vision, and productive of it. They are the normally unperceived activity constitutive of vision itself. What is being brought out is a perceptual energy that goes unseen even as it makes seeing happen. This is art going back to the conditions of emergence of object- perception, and bringing those conditions to visible expression. It’s the production of a semblance of seeing itself, as it happens—a perception of perception in the making. This brings out the self-referential dimension of perception that I talked about earlier. It lives-vision-in in a totally different way than perspective painting does, without the projective aspect. Rather than projecting perception into an order of different dimensions from those of vision (the three infinitely extending dimensions of geometric space), and rather than projecting these dimensions into an analogical symbiosis with other orders (such a sovereignty), it brings out the dimensions proper to vision as such—dimensions that only live in vision. Touch can also do lines. Empire can also be expansive and extend its order all around. Color is something only vision can do. It brings these properly visual dimensions out as it lives them in. It brings them out and makes them float, in their own optical take-off effect. There’s a tension between a sinking into the dynamic center of vision, from which it emerges, and a floating off from the surface of emergence. The painting visibly quivers. The effect can be a powerful visual feeling, a feeling of seeing sight caught in its own intensive act. The thinking-feeling of vision as it happens. This appearing for itself of an immanent activity, intensely going nowhere, is dizzying.6 Abstract art dizzies vision, not unlike the way Deleuze says modern literature stutters language. It dizzies vision by returning it to its movement-potential while refusing to give that potential an actual outlet feeding it into other existing formations. It strives not to participate in political ecology in any conventional, harmoniously symbiotic way. Of course, this in itself is a political act of a certain kind. The slogan “art for art’s sake” should be understood in this light, as an affirmation of the autonomy of art in the sense discussed it earlier: not beholden to external finalities, bootstrapping itself on its own in-dwelt tendencies."
– Brian Massumi Semblance and Event

13 September 2012

Found in the back of a National Geographic issue from August 2012

"P.S. It might interest you to know the story of the suitcase top. I was invited by an awful modernist architect to participate in an exhibition he had arranged at his house in Cologne… A few years ago, when I was going around Europe exhibiting the Edition MAT (multiplied art objects) I always wanted to be able to carry all the artists in one suitcase. Once I even asked some of them to make their work small enough to fit into a suitcase. So on this occasion… I took up the idea again and I asked ARMAN, CÉSAR, DESCHAMPS, DUFRÊNE, HAINS, RAYSSE, NIKI DE ST.-PHALLE, TINGUELY, and DE LA VILLEGLÉ to participate with me in a suitcase exhibition. I made use of an old suitcase of mine that I was then using as a kind of table; the snare-picture that you bought is the top of this suitcase. By chance, a young gallery owner from Cologne—HARO LAUHUS—came to see the week I was working on the suitcase, and proposed an exhibition at his gallery, to follow the first performance at the architect's house.
So I went. BOB RAUSCHENBERG, who was at the time also in Paris, offered to participate in the exhibit, then said the only thing he'd like to do was furnish a padlock to lock the suitcase with, and to throw the key away. And I did it. It was rather difficult to cross the Franco-German border with my locked suitcase, but I succeeded in explaining to the customs officials that I was an illusionist, and that I couldn't open the suitcase without ruining my whole act—and from the way the top of the suitcase looked, they were ready to believe me… I arrived, with my suitcase, at the house of the architect as scheduled (June 10, 1961). About 200 people were there, including DAVID TUDOR. The architect asked me not to take more than ten minutes, but I think the whole performance lasted about an hour and a half. First I had to saw the padlock, then I hung all the things on the wall, explaining irrelevant things about each artist and his work. NIKI had given me sugar candy to distribute to the public, TINGUELY asked me to blow soap bubbles, GHÉRASIM LUCA made a poem that I handed out, DUFRÊNE screamed a few lettrist poems on a tape, we shot at one of NIKI's pictures, two sculptures of TINGUELY had to be mounted together (they were attached to the suitcase), and so on. Anyway, I succeeded in what I had to do… Next evening was the vernissage at the gallery… And that's the story about the Blue GILLETTE Blade.

P.P.S. For the sake of exactness, I inform you that ROBERT FILLIOU has since made an even smaller exhibit. He carries small "works of art" in his cap, over his head, through the streets. He calls cap and contents "The Legitimate Gallery."d
d. This Legitimate Gallery also has a history. The idea was born during a tumultuous evening at the sumptuous seaside villa of AAGARD ANDERSEN near Helsingør where we drank a great deal, and where FILLIOU insulted MESDAMES ANDERSEN and HALLING KOCH, for which I don't know if he has  been pardoned. In any case, he got the idea of starting a wheelbarrow gallery in Paris, where he was returning soon because of his expulsion from Denmark. Everybody present—TINGUELY, NIKI DE ST.-PHALLE, ADDI AND TUT KOEPKE, the ANDERSENS and his wife, the HALLING KOCHS, the USSINGS and I—was bowled over by the idea and, convulsed with laughter, made preposterous suggestions, which FILLIOU took seriously. And to prove to us that he was serious, the following day he sent TINGUELY this letter:

        Dear TINGUELY,
    Pursuant to our conversation of last evening, I confirm that the vernissage of The Legitimate Gallery will take place during the month of October (or as soon as possible) with an exhibition of your work. The Legitimate Gallery is itinerant. It consists of a wheelbarrow or pushcart, according to need. It travels (legitimately) through the streets, in the highest creative tradition. Upon receipts of your works, I promise to maintain them in good condition, respect your prices, and to follow an itinerary to be worked out with you. My commission will consist of the usual 33 percent.
On your part, you will contribute to the launching of the gallery by sending out invitations to your exhibition, and taking care of your publicity (press, television, collectors).
The Legitimate Gallery will open as soon as legal formalities are arranged. If the license surpasses my means, you will be expected to advance me the money, to be deducted from my commission.
In exchange for your assistance in launching the gallery, I promise to exhibit your "legitimate works" whenever you express the desire, in Paris as well saw in the provinces and abroad (I intend to take the gallery to such cities as Brasilia, Tokyo, New York, Moscow, Peking, etc.), respecting, of course, contracts with other artists (NIKI DE ST.-PHALLE and DANIEL SPOERRI have already given their consent). Your confirmation of receipt of this letter will serve as our bond of agreement.
So long,
To conclude the history of the gallery: FILLIOU was not able to get a license from the city of Paris, so he decided to reduce the dimensions of The Legitimate Gallery and carry it around on his head without a license. Thus The Legitimate Gallery turned out to be an illegitimate gallery."

— Daniel Spoerri, An Anecdoted Topography of Chance, p. 168-170

18 August 2012

"The constitution of identity within an assemblage of (self) quotations – it had been one of Benjamin's imaginary projects, as Arendt mentions, to write a book that consisted entirely of quotations – is the historical reality of Duchamp's La Boîte en Valise.
The strategy of assembling a work from quotations seems to sign over the individual producer's acts of decision and choice, self-determination and material transformation in social interaction to a totality of inescapable predicaments: those of the discourse, those of the conditions of reception, those of the social institution within which the production and reception are historically contained. In the work's attempt to dissolve reification within the very medium and site where they are produced, in the necessity to mimetically anticipate its subjection to ideology by inscribing itself as precisely as possible into those very systems that determine its historical status, it seems to fail to maintain any claim for autonomy and rupture in favour of a complacent, melancholic and passive contingency upon the conditions of rule that it set out to disrupt. It is no mere coincidence or irony of history that Joseph Cornell, the master of that quietism, who spent a life on the perpetual repetition of that ritual entombment of quotations from a vanishing world, whose claim for historical legitimacy and demand for interacting presence were literally reduced to the box-sized space – self determination at its ultimate level of interiority – was actively involved in the assembling and production of the first edition of Marcel Duchamp's La Boîte en Valise. Yet in Duchamp's case, the box is more mundane, a traveller's item rather than a shrine of contemplation, and the quotations that it contains are strictly referring to the artist's own past and historical production, thus keeping the fetishization at bay and retaining some of its original duplicity in regard to the demand of the mythification process of culture."

—Benjamin Buchloch, The Museum Fictions of Marcel Broodthaers

10 August 2012

Rich Kids Of Instagram

It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

The First approach'd the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
"God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!"

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, -"Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me 'tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!"

The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a snake!"

The Fourth reached out his eager hand,
And felt about the knee.
"What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain," quoth he,
"'Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!"

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: "E'en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!"

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Then, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a rope!"

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!

So oft in theologic wars,
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!

—John Godfrey Saxe