Tuesday, May 30, 2006

the politics of what other people think, 2

Geoffrey has a really nice summary of his experience with the fence memorial in Oceanside. Why does it sound so different from accounts of all the stand-offs between the so-called "pro-war" people and the rest of us ? Why does it sound so different from an art event as catalogued by the so-called "art blogoshere?"

Highlowbetween has a good punchey post on issues relating to the Steve Kurtz bio-terrorism trial, while Winkelman is just figuring out that there is something a little off about the New York Times and the world of politics. I shouldn't be too hard on him, his outrage over the issues is right on, but the New York Times flagrantly allowed a political operative to manipulate the truth via those pages and torture is the result. They should not be forgiven. The Times responsibility is co-equal with that of the worst members of the administration and I think that includes every wretched department at the Times.

Outside the country, the USA is known as a country with a wildly censored, sensationalist press, and a completely corrupt, broken system of government. That makes it a little difficult to imagine what sample the gringos are drawing from when they decide, via "what everybody else is thinking" that New York is the art capital of the world. I think Geoffrey's post indicates it isn't even the capital of anyone's heart now. That may be in Bagdhad and it may be in Tuscaloosa.

I don't agree with the AmericaBlog commenter that Avrosis posted here, though I think it is a good example of the politics of what other people think. The commenter writes: "I hate the America that now exists." But I don't think it exists, any more than I think Matthew Barney is a good artist. The ugly art I keep seeing as top-picks in the NYC blogosphere is just that same boiling-over falsity that comes when the eye of the public is so mal-directed, given to committees and PR people rather than to artists. Journalists had always recognized the art of their jobs and the art of presenting the truth, that is, until control was taken from their hands and given to people with an interest in acquiring and maintaining defense contracts and other lucrative sources of income. (Hi NBC News!)

The photo above is from the Philadelphia Inquirers pathetic excuse for a story. Dredging out this retard to make him representative of some bigoted fascist minority as if their sick views are worthy of any consideration at all. That is their idea of balance. Presenting the people who are clearly wrong with no judgement whatsoever, that's where we are now. Morality. Uh huh. The politics of what other people think is always about a wrong-headed minority doing the shit-work of some very powerful corporations.

Monday, May 29, 2006

the politics of what other people think, 1

I remember mentioning to some art professional once how ambiguous and complicated everything in art was. The response was that this is true but that people don't want it that way. People want things simple and clear. This was around the time when I was also hearing a lot of criticism based on how a given painting might "read" with the public. These self-styled critics loved to interject that "reading" into just about everything they said. The problem is that this painting "reads" as if...

The problem is that this public does not exist any more than does an audience for the Today Show. The Today Show likes to create a nation that looks a lot like Colorado but unfortunately even Colorado doesn't look like that. Not does Chicago, nor the suburbs of Dallas nor any of these ugly cities that are designed around the bland backdrops that serve as settings for these fake news shows.

Obviously we can apply the same criticism to loads of other areas, like Politics for instance, where discussing issues rather than what fictional people think about the issues via polls is considered "liberal." But since this is an art blog I will try to stick to that topic. Clearly if you are "reading" paintings you are able to put on a pair of public-spectros and see what "the public" sees.

On it's face this is so ludicrous that it would be funny if it were not so pervasive, but I will pick it up again in a later post.

horrible people should feel bad

Primarily for not writing an essay as good as this one at ArtPowerlines. This means all the people trying to use their blogs to wedge their ways into the corrupt Chelsea/Williamsburg gallery system with their crappy art and their pretensious attitudes. This fun pic I found through Bibliodyssey.

Saturday, May 27, 2006


Winkleman had me thinking a little bit and I started spinning around for thoughts on transgression and luckily decided to see what is up with Kuspit lately. Chapter 4 is about the 1930s, mostly Paul Klee and lovely old Jackson Pollock. He ends up giving kudos to Minimalism and Pop Art, thankfully, but I fear Kuspit relates quite strongly to the despair that Klee obviously felt toward the end.

...but Europe caught up with him, and outdid his primitivism with its barbarism. The new esthetic primitivism that had flourished since Cézanne, becoming explicit in Expressionism and abstraction, was no match for the age-old forces of inhuman barbarity; like a frail flower, it was easy to stamp out, which is what Hitler’s boots attempted to do.
And that's sort of what makes reading Winkleman feel a little silly. We're the people being transgressed against here. The idea of Chelsea showing transgressive art is just so far off the map, it would be like network news reporting the truth, the whole truth, like the repeal of the 1996 telecommunications act.

Transgressive art is what we're all about. And I doubt those Williamsburg eyes have ever gazed upon it, but it is always striking from the first moment. I suppose glazed over eyes art-industry eyes would find it rather dull but it is happening all over and it takes very little commentary to see it.

Friday, May 26, 2006

We're the salt of the earth

There's an excellent list of 80 & 90s YouTube Music Videos here. Thanks again to Things Magazine, god ruining my life.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

more politics

Yeah, so I don't really read the Washington Post much. Luckily Josh Johnson's Art Blog pushed me to this really quite interesting Phillip Kennicott review of the NEA 40th Anniversary and an exhibition, "Visual Politics: The Art of Engagement." Kennicott's take is really pretty interesting:

So you feel a kind of impotence in many of these pieces, not because they are weak, but because a vast void separates them from their target. The art hasn't necessarily been neutered, but it's been fenced in. And often the fences are of the artist's own making. Perhaps that's why the art here that deals most directly with fences, with separation, has the most impact -- especially when the artists avoid the symbols that demarcate them as part of an angry minority.
I have long established sympathy with Fence Art. But further, I think Kennicott highlights the co-responsibility of both the politicians and the artists. And while I am not one to bash shrillness, the level of it in political art seems unabashedly obvious these days. I would suppose this has more to do with Americans never really understanding Fluxxus, and rejecting German art out of hand since Beuys's death. I really would love to know where the undergraduate education on Fluxxus went and what problem exactly do the people who end up getting tenured positions have with Beuys ?

I can't go into a huge defense of the NEA here, though I've never been anymore unhappy with them than I have been with the post-office. I never got any money from the post-office either. The artworks that the Washington Post put into their little 5 slide slide-show seems like it would go over all right on the Today Show. I fear the far bigger problem facing the political scene and the art scene is that so much of the art really is designed to be palatable to the folks at the Today Show. There isn't anything Fluxxus, (probably the most significant political art movement of the last 50 years) in the stuff we call political art now. It is like the art faculties took the very worst of the 80s and now we are stuck with it. There is, of course, political content in a Julian Schnable painting. And ?

the unfortunate length of history

I enjoyed Mindsprinter's essay on honesty and generosity and dreaming this morning. Certainly she seems a lot closer to the truth than whatever is going on over at Winkelman. Though, I will say in general I think Ed's writing is really clear and his commenters spend a lot of time sorting thru this stuff with sharpened tools in the end I can't help but
think if the lady at the bus-stop or the guy fixing your washing machine doesn't respect it, then something is wrong. And there is lots wrong with society, including with artists. Remember those Scottish cattle farmers marveling over Andy Goldsworthy's work ? I can't really remember the last show I saw that had caught up with what Erazim Kohák writes about in the passage picked up here at Modern Kicks.

All of that is really to say, the intellectual advance that happened in our life-time was that :

Our direct awareness of nature as the meaningful context of our lives [...] presents itself spontaneously, without a subject's effort. If anything, it requires the very opposite: to suspend effort, to let be and listen, letting nature speak. In a real, though not a customary sense, it is what we mislabel "poetic imagination" that is, "objective," a spontaneous experiential given. It is our image of nature as dead and mechanical--and the image of the human as either a robot or a rebel--that is "subjective," a product of the subject's active imagination rather a given of live experience--and actually quite counterintuitive.
It's not that we use technology and it alienates us. Insight is not that artists are personalities now and we need to explain this. Insight is not that "modernism" failed, much less that all of our alienation needs to be prominently examined.

I've not read much of Kohák, but we find these sentiments throughout the better side of our discourse. The truly un-healthy obsession with the death of modernism lingers on and it is clear from the talk who has seen what replaces it and with whom only the shreds of the modernist project seem viable. Nature and beauty and experience seem boring to people dazzled by glossy magazines and Times Square. Art without celebrity seems like it must be a horrible alternative, like not being able to think big.

One time I was priveliged enough to visit the Warhol Museum on Carpatho-Ruthenian day and saw these old dancers still performing, with some flagging enthusiasm, their hundred year old dance from the far west of Slovakia. I wondered if the present day modernists would ever understand the "Everyone" part of the famous 15 minutes.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

clearer now

I was for a few days. This foto will give you an idea what I was doing. Many thoughts.

Clearly when one is driving thru strange and beautiful territory, one thinks of landscape and place, and meaning... -being. Nice to come home to Paddy's very straight up piece at NYFA Interactive. One of the things I dwelled a little on while getting the city behind me was what makes a good blog a good blog. Updates constantly. Focussed. Has a voice.

I am pretty sure I don't fall into the category of a New Media Artist, but using new media is certainly not out of the question. I look for inspiration to blogs like Firedoglake. I understand what political blogs are aiming for, and it's not "just revolution." Maybe better to say of course that in fact it is total revolution. But for me right now, the voice that is missing is just simply honest about what we want out of art, why we became artists, why we studied art as opposed to say... graphic communications or something up that alley. (I really hope not to ever be cutting edge in art. That stuff has a shelf life of 14 seconds.) I think you'll see more posts along these lines as I put my head back together.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Virgin Mother and Christ make appearance in Oceanside California

Good Job Guys. Story here.

juan cole on opus dei

Juan Cole's explanation of the Da Vinci Code / catholic church freak out is better than convincing. It is actual thinking. Peggy Noonan, on the other hand, is one of earth's truly pathetic thinkers. Not linking to her retardation, but I will tell you that the WSJ is publishing her. Why ? Dunno. Conspiracy ? No, just business.

But if some Catholic can in good conscience (imagine that) tell me why this man's organization is STILL affiliated with Opus Dei I would love to know what it is.

city on a hill

Am putting together a wee exhibition of fotos such as the above and with the title above. It is striking to me the rhetoric that comes flooding out of that country to the north. The idea that those people can claim Americanness makes me want to pass out Job's ashes for some of them to wear in the near future. There is not a person here, in Mexico who believe it is a good nation or a nation worthy of respect and yet each of them look at me with a reservation and return to me with the utmost in humility and respect, as if always to say to me, "we realize you are not your country, that people should not be judged by where they came from." A country that has so internalized that ethic is worthy of a place at the table. And the one that puts its worst face on its editorial pages, the one's I wince at thru google news, and its TV and its radio, they bring shame upon all of us. Mexico is a beacon of hope.

Zai Jian!

Via Things Magazine, I found this excellent article on the Dashanzi International Art Festival at The Art Life. Worth a read and the pics are excellent. Read the Things Mag piece for a brief intro.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Finland the clear winner

of the Eurovision Song Contest. Mostly posting this for Jennifer's benefit. I'd give Lithuania a second, for their song, "We are the Winners of Eurovision."
[UPDATE] Alright so Lithuania ended up a bit further down the list, but Finland pulled it off. Interesting to watch the vote tallies coming in, with clear favoritism by almost every country going to the sappy, truly syrupy songs of their immediate neighbors. In a few cases you could see favor shown to countries from which large immigrant communities had originated, such as when Germany gave high points to Turkey. But I would be willing to bet that Finland got the attention of a lot of teenagers and people who are just sick of watching long-haired people in suits flail around to nonsense music and convinced them to vote. Finland carries the day because at least they acted like real people - fun, ballsey and with a song that was at least a real song as opposed to the over-arranged Altria-style entertainment that most of the rest offered up. It would be nice if, at the end of every crap competetion you could have confused looking people giving out flowers and trophies and realizing that the whole thing was a crock of shit. In fact, this was the first TV competition I saw that was not crap. Finland deserves high honors for putting some perspective on a crappy contest and for helping to restore faith in real democracy.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Tilt-a-Whirl spotted

I found this great Tilt-a-Whirl spinning and clacking in one of Mexico City's more southerly, slightly mountainous neighborhoods. I didn't check to see how much it cost to ride, I assume a few pesos. And to think that people go their whole lives and miss the magic of Mexico.

3 pics from Miercoles

These are just to tide you over till later.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Wite Out Chicago

Maybe they're trying to prove the point that all bloggers are stupid. Via AFC, we're pointed to Ruth Lopez's gross assertion that:

The artist/writer role has always existed, bravo—go hang out at the College Art Association. But having read a fair amount of artist/writers, interviewed artists (many brilliant, inarticulate ones) and having waded through my share of ridiculous “Artist Statements,” I know that what we need does not exist outside of our field.
Oh really. I had a roommate (Hi Jennifer) who used to keep TimeOut New York inconveniently near the door of my bathroom, and after a year or so of thinking I had been shitting my brains out I realized that I was definitely becoming stupider from reading this advertising dependent, public-relations driven drivel.

One of the reasons that artists are writing is because advertising dependent media has become swamped in the idea (if you can call it that) that any puff piece of copy next to a snappy picture is "journalism." Another reason is that in the past 25 years of ONLY advertising supported media, our culture has sunk into the toilet. Luckily we have listings magazines to reprint press releases, but they still can't direct you to what culture is left. For that, hopefully you have friends and acquaintances. Ideas, well we are working on it, but it is pretty plain what failed: Advertising Supported Media AND the CAA (God they make me even angrier than TimeOut).

The better questions are still about how to maintain integrity in-spite of your MySpace profile.


I am going out to take some pictures today. I am tired of reading blogs and thinking about all the pain and suffering in the world. Not to mention all the crappy blogging.

But here's some thoughts on the "Immigration Problem."

It's one economy. Try to deal with that. The conservative estimate is that 60% of immigrants remain in the United States between 3 and 5 years. The figure is probably 80%. According to Rhandi Rhodes yesterday, the percentage of Mexicans among illegals in the USA is 20%. 20% with 80% staying less than 5 years !! Not an immigration problem, it's a racism problem.

All Mexicans understand how bad and evil governments are - ALWAYS. They laugh at me when I suggest that progress is possible. Not because they think progress is impossible but because they know it's a long hard slog.

Mexico is an open country, with open borders, free trade internally (Mexican's are allowed to sell things, unlike in US where only corporations are allowed to sell. Mexican's are allowed to hire each other, unlike in US where only corporations may employ, Mexicans are allowed to build and beautify things unlike in US where only corporations have development rights.) Mexico, unlike the US, is respected by the world and international communities and has free, open cultural exchanges with many other nations. United States has limited access to information from beyond its borders and even it's educated classes live under the yoke of an extremely ideologically slanted perspective.

Mexican's love their country and believe it will suffer forever. That positions them very well for alleviating the suffering. They believe they have rights equal to those of Germany, France, South Africa and Korea, all of which are plainly visible from here.

I am going to photograph some of Mexico.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

the company we keep, Wind Fest, Part 2

And just to emphasize which way the winds are blowing, take a lookey. This is who the so-called "bloggers" of the critical edge thing are collecting checks from:

The Collaborators *
Wall Street Journal
Associated Press
Miami Herald
San Diego Union-Tribune
Philadelphia Inquirer
Dallas Morning News

The Probably Could Be Doing a Helluva Lot More
The Star-Tribune
Seattle Times

The Probably Not So Bad but why are they talking to people who work for Republican Operatives ?
Rolling Stone
Modern Art Notes
Time Out Chicago (I'm assuming this is something like white-out new york, a culture free zone)
National Arts Journalism Program

* So if you're being paid by one of the organizations in the first group, it might be really sort of worthwhile for you to think - THINK - about why people might be blogging.

highlights of the wind festival, Pt 1

Below are some of my favorite things said in the Critical Edge thing. God, it's good they don't organize this thing more often:

Far too much of what is published in traditional publications these days seems like rote and pointless space-filling.
Douglas McLennan

For one thing, newspapers and magazines are edited. For another, they are usually subject to standards of accuracy and basic fairness which are pretty arbitrary on the Web -- as in, the assumption that "saying it's so doesn't make it so." And getting facts straight, and correcting errors, are essential to a writer's credibility. (And, by the way, to a functional democracy.)
Misha Berson
[HA HA HA HA Thank God for Editors in our functional democracy !! ]

I appreciate that newspapers of diminishing circulation fear that ambitious criticism alienates readers. But writing that is boring is even more alienating.
Joseph Horowitz

I haven't the slightest interest in combing through all that stuff.
Anthony DeCurtis

The trouble is that something has gone terribly wrong in American journalism. It is bogged down in rules and traditions that are actually relatively new but are applied as if they were gospel truths. [...] Perhaps I am sadly mistaken and out of step with "young" sensitivities, but I read print journalism when I was "young" and got fired up by it.
Enrique Fernandez

[Parade Magazine much ?]
Caryn Brooks

I don't particularly care where those opinions are published, only that I have access to them.
Maud Newton

So the good news is that in the future there will be millions of art critics. The bad news is that only a handful will have impact and earning potential. There will be some [...] who will likely do much better financially than any current critic does (having surveyed their salaries, I know how paltry they are). But there will only be a select few who can build their blogging credentials into a full-blown omnimedia brand.
Andras Szanto

For all the crowing of bloggers, I've yet to see one offer what a decent daily newspaper's arts pages -- and ONLY a decent daily newspaper's arts pages -- do. One-stop access to a wide variety of guidance to local arts. There are theater blogs, visual arts blogs, and so forth. But to be able to staff a full-range of local guidance generally requires, well, a local staff.
Jerome Weeks

So the big question is, who will be the people on the top of the pile up?
Caryn Brooks
[umm, Parade Magazine much ?]

The other matter is, ahem, getting paid for doing this work.
Anthony DeCurtis

Perhaps even more probative work on the questionable decisions in schools across America to value and fund sports more liberally than music and theater.The breadth of work to be done is wider than the focus taken on by the combined forces of all the arts journalists in America. Too much of that focus remains on criticism alone.
Chris Lavin

One of the most irksome aspects of critical disengagement, in all its forms, is that this “objectivity” business is something new and questionable, not something old and venerable.
Joseph Horowitz

It was rigorous but not "objective" and it argued cogent theses from the perspective of engagement. More of that, please!
Enrique Fernandez [Best wind so far - read this one]

What has cheapened the entire enterprise of cultural criticism isn't blogging but the cynical, corporate manipulation of the press: the networks' and movie studios' and record companies' use of blurbs from Any Critic Anywhere (even the creation of Phantom Critics), its promotion and manipulation of happy-face critics on TV and so on.
Jerome Weeks

Anyone who has had to explain to an editor why, say, Duchamp is not an obscure reference in an art review, knows how limited traditional print journalism can be as an environment that promotes critical (let alone historical) thought. [...] And without bloggers, we might not even be having this conversation.
Ruth Lopez
[Yeah - We'll all keep that in mind, Ruth]

Monday, May 15, 2006

on fixation

Below is the longer version of an essay I wrote for the March/April issue of ArtSeen Magazine. It's in print-edition only. I think you can get it on better (artsy) newstands in NYC and in London and Italy (I assume other parts of Europe too).

One of the things I am constantly fixated upon is a particular angle. I see it clearly in colonial buildings where they are buttressed and sometimes where, after some hundreds of years, they have settled into ground that is ever uncertain. The angle appears again in a train station being built not far from my house with concrete that imitates nothing but a smog filled sky. Here the buttresses are so enormous as to make the angle almost invisible but from a distance. I have used its one note iconography to describe airplanes and religious figures and I have used it to prop up things that would other wise fall. It is always an illustration, though I dislike illustration, it insists that I can only partially describe it. I have no idea where it came from. I believe if I grabbed hold of it, like a Carlos Castaneda figment, it would whirl me to some other location and I would probably be numb for days, if my heart survived the shock. It betrays some kind of movement, but it never moves. It is always a part of something stationary though it appears as though it is moving. I can easily associate it with different parts of my body and I believe it thinks a little bit in those parts of me, when I allow it. I try to always allow this angle to be thinking, but right now, when I am writing, it is quiet. It may even be tense.

A friend of mine who’s been typing away at a writing program asked me to put down a few words about motivation and fixation. We were talking, of course about the problems of art schools, and being stuck in programs that insist on their own inadequacy. What follows is based on my letter to him, on how artists might use obsessive tendencies and fixations that they already possess to try to inform their work, keep it moving and to make the work a little easier by making it part of what we are doing all the time anyway. When I try to talk about the angle, then I begin to realize that it is a language unto itself and it doesn’t like being translated because it isn’t pure at all.

The angle has a thousand associations and none of them is clean, many of them are cheap. None of them is without sin. The most important sin to allow in your fixation is promiscuity. Your fixation should couple with its opposites and its family and your family. It should move in and out of every association, tell you each time about the other thing, the association and if you force it to, it will trick you into believing that it is worth pursuing. A fixation never tells you about itself. If it does, and it will, it is lying. A false fixation is as good as a true one.

Calling this thing an “angle” is not honest. The word leads one to believe it is somehow a geometrical abstraction, an ideal. It is not really a posture either, though I have used it that way more than perhaps every other connotation of the word. When you find the right thing, then of course you see it everywhere. Finding what fixates you of course is going to require you to see it all the time. I see it in stooped figures of whose remarkable lives I know nothing. It isn’t supernatural. It isn’t un-real. It requires not one ounce of faith, because it is always something else anyway, and it mocks me for writing even this sketch of it.

And why should it come up now, in these pages when so many other pressing issues of importance are out there clamoring for our attention. There are many good reasons why you don’t learn much about fixation, about epistemology, in the institutions we’ve inherited from the past. They are largely forbidden from entering into your psyche and we can be grateful for that. Institutions are challenged with protecting and upholding the order that we see crumbling around us. The people in these institutions no longer believe in the modernist notion of the object of our study being 100% separate from us, languishing out there in the cold scientific laboratory. Certainly they are being paid to maintain the biologists strict scientism, and they’re economics departments depend on the forever expansion of gross national product, and they must do this while they teach us, with a smirk, that the arts are on the “entertainment” side of higher education. The collapse we are witnessing is in line with the truth that we understand and that institutions must by their nature deny. The Fordist model of education is not going to go away any more than will the Cartesian model from which it sprung. It is just as when I spot the angle leering at me from the new train station that I realize, of course, the station still requires an incentive to be built in the first place, moving people, easing traffic.

We are challenged with thinking in spite of these older models and one good teacher or good thought has been enough, at enough times in history that we shouldn’t be too discouraged. I am hoping you have something in mind already. Perhaps it is an actual object, a memory or idea of some event that involved such an object. Perhaps it is only that when ever you draw something, it always ends up being the same thing. Fixations like to present themselves as mistakes, or as errors. Certainly they show up as obstacles more often than they show up as facilitators. That is why we spend so much time fixating on all the problems associated with making art rather than actually making it. All of those fixations are the same thing. I believe my angle is deeply aligned with a sense of frustration, perhaps my initial frustration. Frustrations are less artful ways of describing fixations. I am hoping you can squint a little bit and not take things at all seriously, and watch for the things that are watching you. These should scare the hell out of you. That is what having an interest involves of course. One does not learn to make art from art any more than an astronomer aims a telescope at a map of the sky. Therefore an art school without a serious nature program is a bit like a secular seminary or an observatory built inside of an atrium. I can condemn these things but they won’t go away any more than will my fixation, our frustration.

In very simple terms what we are doing when we work this way is we are trying to sublimate the ego-thinking that normally accompanies our everyday lives, and we are trying to think even for a few moments, mimetically, or as the object we’re observing might itself think. It sounds quite simple, in fact it is simple, but it is not something that everyone can do easily. It does require relaxation and suspending our everyday thinking. There are probably countless other methods and tools that artists can find to try to achieve this. But most important is to understand that there is an ecology to your doing this. Thinking happens in the completion of a circuit. That is to say that the thing is there outside of you, your working with it adds another unit, point to point and the two together amounts to the thought. And all of these circuits happen as parts, arcs, circles, within larger systems.[i] The thought is not going to exist solely in your head but requires the fixated object to become a thought.

But all of this is a way saying that in fact a good deal of how the present imagines itself is utterly, contemptibly wrong. Writing around, or painting around your fixation is a tremendous blow to the giants including the art-world and literary giants not even to mention those others. This of course explains the vigorous and venomous attacks on sensuality. Of course the sublimation of sensuality has always been what has enabled the nightmare version of “progress” that we are seeing now. I am asking you to commit a very sensuous thought-crime and you must be vigilant in committing it regularly and in aiming for hard results. Working with a fixation requires your totality, not in a way that should exhaust you but in a way that allows more of your totality to speak. It is that totality to which people, audiences, consumers, respond, and to which your most modest success must be devoted.

Mexico City, January 2006

[i] This essay is indebted to Berman, Morris. 1981 (1984). The reenchantment of the world. New York, Bantam Books. These thoughts relate to his discussion of cybernetic thinking, pg 256.


Glenn Greenwald's take on the 'immigration debate' this past weekend is almost unbelievable. I believe I was very near to laughing at one point.

mexican elections

there's a fairly introductory summary of the upcoming elections and political info here.

Saturday, May 13, 2006


Artmargins has a terrific article, Memoirs of a Video Activist by Joanne Richardson that I have been reading for a couple of days here. Doing what sounds like sometimes grudging and confusing work in Romania, she's written an insightful piece on a country where media conditions are probably even more grim than in the US and with a lot of appropriately reversed roles and reactions. But more than that, she's got a lot of good solid reflections on activism and how it relates to the whole process of creativity. I put some choice quotes below I hope not too haphazardly.

By valorizing the confrontational posture of warfare and dividing the world into enemies and allies, militancy gets caught in a vicious circle that mimics rather than subverts that which it opposes.
We tend to idealize self-organization as a sign of freedom, and to equate freedom with exercising our rights and limitless possibilities. In reality, freedom is not only the joy of discovering our creativity and latent capabilities, it’s also the terrible burden of responsibility and hard work, which is why many people prefer to cast it away.
Making film politically means investigating how images find their meaning and disrupting the rules of the game, whether the game is Hollywood mystification or activist propaganda. It means provoking the viewers to become political animals, to reflect on their own position vis a vis power, to entertain doubts and to ask questions. By contrast, a lot of contemporary video activism is really propaganda in reverse. While the content differs from the mainstream press, the form and function is often preserved. Propaganda puts forward its position as natural and inevitable, without reflecting on its construction.

Friday, May 12, 2006

cleverness, the slippery slope.

HighlowBetween has a distinctly not clever post going on, and that seems like just the sort of thinking that ought to be done in response to a lot of this wild eyed speculation about the soon to burst art bubble.

I called this post what I called it, because it seems that a lot of these artists really have been encouraged to be clever at some point along the way, as if a clever take on a very short history could somehow make art, if not beauty. It would seem obvious to many of us that making art, much less clever art, would be a big fat no-no, and that we would get taught that. That we would be taught that the pretense of trying to make "art " was a doomed proposition, as opposed to the proposition of say, making a painting. And so now after a few decades of this stuff, we've got even dealers and curators who have yet to be slapped in the face for the presumptive hoodwinking they've undertaken on behalf of the rest of us.

In thinking about the state of things up there, "art" would be precisely the last thing that people need or want or of which they are even capable. Though a few blatant political advertisements don't seem out of line. Now, a few good and not clever paintings are certainly not going to hurt. Paintings that are untouched by the "artworld" and that therefore "do," and "work" the way that art works, that is, that makes people thoughtful and contemplative and invites people into the world of otherliness and interaction with mystery. Maybe there is a sidearm for pedagogy, but that has failed rather miserably more often than not, hasn't it ?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Freedom is pretty cheap, comparatively speaking

One of the things I remember, one of the main reasons for the collapse of the USSR, is that tyranny is much more expensive than freedom. Keeping tabs on all these political enemies is costing you guys a ton. The 52 warnings about OBL before september 11 probably cost a pretty penny already, and that was for legitimate police work. What is that shit going on in the background costing you ?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Actually still thinking about beauty and wondering why it is so much more prominent a factor in more southerly places. Doesn't it seem the end of English-speaking credibility will bode well for us beauty fans ?

beauty and politics

I was looking around for a way to think about Gusky's very good post about Saltz in Modern Painters and read Winkleman's very good post about political art, and have been thinking about HighLowBetween's comment (in the comment's at Artblog Comments) whew...

I would argue that beauty may actually be a democratic approach to connecting to a wider audience on important issues and concepts
something I wonder if Kentridge thinks about -Kentridge being Winkleman's example of good political art. And I think I agree with Winkleman about Kentridge.
Now, I have not read Saltz's article in Modern Painters. And I think I take a little bit of issue with Highlowbetween's choice of the word "democratic" up there, I would probably like to choose a word like civil or civic to describe the approach, but all that said, I like thinking that Beauty is a pretty easy way of making complex issues and ideas complicated.

Is beauty not the preferred way of making an issue identifiable and empathy-worthy to a given audience ? I have never been a huge fan of Kentridge's, but I think there is beauty littered throughout the work. The ugly example that Winkleman chooses, that of some lying apologist that the US Administration is hoping for some chance of a better future for the Iraqi's while the USA's beautiful future lays in ruins, is an example of just this - creating a beautiful fantasy Iraqi future in order to seduce it's intended audience. But as Winkleman says:
any exploration of the issue that dismisses such a possibility out of hand cannot do justice to the issue, and therefore would not make for "good" political art.
But not only would it make for bad political art, it is just plain bad politics, politics that deny the possibility of beauty, of ambiguity, of possibility. Yes, I think beauty is about possibility, and that is why Republican politics are always so fucking ugly. There is so much certainty in that ideology, that ownership leads to responsibility and nuclear families are the only model, etc, etc, etc, that the only way to a better Iraqi future is through ugliness and barbarity.

The soft diplomacy of the other side, the Canadians and the rest of the world, is on the side of art, on the side of ambiguity and possiblity. On the side of good political art. And this is why I find the certainty of ugly art, art that is so certain that beauty has no role, that beauty plays into the hands of barbaric little non-art people so utterly unbecoming a democratic people. I find the out-of-hand dismissiveness performed by these 70s people with their ugly art to be unable to do justice to their issues and, therefore unable to do "good" art. Stretching Winkleman's argument perhaps for the worse, Justice is Beautiful.

Monday, May 08, 2006

American Pictures

Funny, I just had the brilliant idea to see if Jacob Holdt ever put anything on the internet. I read his book probably 15 years ago and was as deeply affected by it as by anything, any piece of literature or movie or painting I have ever witnessed. It had already been out of print some 10 years when I read it. I think his website might be even better. Sorry no slick graphics...

This presentation is difficult, for the pain we witness is our own deeper pain and insecurity. The more personal pain people in my audience are in, I find, the less can they usually relate to other people's pain - and endure this presentation. But if we dare not confront the dark sides in ourselves, we all too easily act them out in displaced anger.
I am posting this today in hopes that a few of you might spend the hours his subject matter requires and also because I am fed up with the invisibility that is being forced upon us. This was possibly the most censored book in US history. Would love to know what you think.


Carla over at Art Powerlines has a perfectly reasonable response to the Mia Fineman piece in yesterday's NY Times. Juxtaposing Lewitt's seminal 1969 series of sentances against the grasping at straws nature of the Time's piece, one conclude's that it's got to be tough for the Times to keep trying to cover up the fact that New York is a center of African American and Dominican culture with the words that fall out of Jeffrey Deitch's mouth. Deitch, a marketer of fake art, provides the sort of justifying and stirring phrase-work that rallies fake artists to their feet.

"But even in the most prosperous market, there's no way that the majority of young artists are going to make a living just from their own art.
One wonders what making a living constitutes. Presumably, in the new economy one would need a contract from the defense department to even begin considering the new line of flat screen televisions coming over from China.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

so many difficulties

One of the most troubling things in writing about art in the United States at the moment is the fact that the United States seems to have stopped existing. Maybe this gang from brooklyn with their tales of happy trips to Chelsea have just missed that the entire government, if it is not on its way to total collapse, is being propped up now by ridiculous sentiments equally distant from reality as those of these starry eyed art fans. People who decry the bubble and yet hope it's shimmery walls will part just long enough to let them slip inside.

True, artists can and should live independently of their system and their surroundings. But it seems to me that much of the hype of the current "art market" and the miserly spectacle of its artistry is aimed at maintaining a false cultural hegemony that obscures the actual work of culture being built beyond the bubble of american conciousness.

One of the truly great things about moving out the gelatinous envelope of America's self-imposed Sovietization is in finding people everywhere who understand that culture is an obligation and a tradition. it is still real and it is still happening.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Alright, I think it was friday here. So, I win for cutest cat but I guess I will win for lamest blog also. Sorry. Things to pick up this weekend.

here is the other side. still thinking about how to address this.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Shot this today at the Siqueiros museum. Will update later, thoughts on grafitti, muraling, politics, state funded little museums. Check out this pic though, damn !!

So why "no cynicism" ? Cynicism is a generation of college level art teachers who believe that art can not be taught. That there are too many and too complicated theories of art to ever navigate them, and the one that is merely satisfactory or fashionable is worth clinging to and exploiting. Cynicism is believing that all those people who want art, who want to be impressed by it, will be impressed by anything that they don't understand. Cynicism is believing that art is pointless anyway, that it never changed people in the past and can't actually change them now and so what we have instead is an utterly repugnant capitalism that we should exploit before it exploits us. Cynicism is about not believing anything, even if belief is only temporary, or willing to change. Cynicism is not even that. Cynicism is a rock solid faith in nihilism. Not the quaint fatalistic nihilism of the dadaists and the people who knew what watching 40,000 people die in one battle actually meant. We have now a cynicism that learning that 40,000 people are dying because of us is without meaning because art is without meaning. What meaning we could conjur would be just as easily wiped out by one stroke of a copywriter's pen. Mind you, not a journalist's pen. Incidentally this is my new cat.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Justify this

I'm sitting here thinking about a conversation I had recently with an art dealer who was explaining to me how much time and work it was for him to "justify" the work he was selling. He admitted that he didn't very often deal in work that he didn't like, and so I wonder what exactly this part of the job description must mean. Presumably, if you are asking a really high price for a work you might need to justify the price, I suppose. Issues of provenence and pedigree ? Let's be serious. Of course, we were talking about butt ugly contemporary art that wouldn't likely stand a chance in hell of actually selling itself based on how it LOOKS. So what is this justification ? Where the artist studied or who the artist knows ? Is it based on what the artist knows ? What the artist tried to do ? The more I think about it...

Well, the more I think of an episode of this thing on TV where you let Martha Stewart bitch her head off at you and then in the end, if you're a total piece of crap human you get a job... with Martha Stewart !! Why don't they have a show where people try to be assistants to a great white shark and then one by one, they get eaten. The lucky winner will get to swim away with the great white shark.

The point of the show though, it seems to me (I watched it dubbed into Spanish so how do I know what it was about ?) has something to do with (mostly) marketing utterly pointless sideline products of major corporations. The kind of crap that no one believes in, the kind of work that no one likes. But with a budget of a zillion dollars you can "justify" it to some kind of fake public thus keeping the fake economy going for another 2 weeks. And then there is a fake critique of the work done, making it seems like Stewart and her cohorts are "professionals" and the losing contestants are somehow less professional in this contest of nothingness. No product. No benefit. No work actually done, no one changed or different or better.

I wouldn't presume to understand how art dealers "justify" the work they sell. I am pretty sure I don't want to know. I am still thinking we are going to return to a world where art sells itself because it is art and dealers deal in that. One would think that a profitable place to be. Cynicism. We don't need it.
Awesome foto from the photo gallery of protected species at The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

Monday, May 01, 2006


yeah my blogging got broken. Tomorrow, alas, is my test so things should be looking up around here as I have tons of things I am working on and tons of things I am thinking about and wanting to talk about. Please remember, this May 1st, that there is NO IMMIGRATION PROBLEM in the United States. There is only a racist problem, a fact of which the administration is only too well aware.

So, after tomorrow, no more subjantivo, no more antepreterito tenses for me. At least for a while. Here's a shot of Del Valle for those of you wondering what it looks like. More fotos to come oooh, lots and lots !!