Wednesday, August 30, 2006

looking up

well things are looking up. I will be working now at getting that side bar loaded back up with the correct links for everyone else's blogs. Shouldn't take long. I also finished reading Tolstoy's Resurrection, which was incredible, succinct, powerful. Summer is drawing to a close and I have a few more guests to entertain so that will probly again keep me from blogging as much as maybe I'd like, but we'll see. Autumn is my favorite season. Today I walked through the park after one of our daily downpours. Should be a good season.
Image is from the collection of the convent at el museo de los intervenciones.

Saturday, August 26, 2006


Just thought this site was sort of nice, though here clearly the latest B-line to Ciudad Azteca is still missing.

Friday, August 25, 2006

still not september

Still not september and I may not be serious about blogging until the middle (of September), so in the meantime we can think about economics. This Interview With Economist Jared Bernstein from the Agonist is a nice way to start. Here's a small taste:

"...the YOYOs think individual savings accounts and more head-to-head competition will solve the [health care] problem. That approach works wonderfully for millions of commodities in our economy, from pork belly futures to toothpaste at the drugstore. But access to health care is not a commodity; it's a basic human right in an advanced society like ours. So we need to take it out of the market and ensure that it's delivered equitably and efficiently. At least in this regard, we are simply not that different from every other industrialized economy that figured this one out long ago."

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

judicial activism

I've just been sitting here with Art Powerlines talking about what blogs I read everyday, and this quote from Unclaimed Territory sealed the decision for me.

The inanities in Althouse's Op-Ed are far too numerous for there to be any hope of capturing even the majority of them in a single post, but this comment points to one too extreme to be overlooked. Althouse's accusation of "judicial activism" here is particularly incoherent given that Judge Taylor was upholding and enforcing a law (called FISA) that was overwhelmingly enacted by the American people through their Congress. Enforcing a democratically enacted law -- as Judge Taylor did -- is the opposite of what "judicial activism" describes (i.e., where a judge ignores the "will of the people" by undemocratically striking down laws they enact).
Sorry everyone, I promise to be a good blogger again soon.

Thursday, August 17, 2006


Not a lot of time to write today, but seriously, this post from Springs and Wells is the most important thing I've stumbled across in the blogosphere since I don't know when. Though I like the nice stuff that Seeker after Truth puts up from K-murti and others, I think S&W did just as well:

my understanding of contentment is a state in which one could accept things as they truly are - and work with that.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

sifting through ashes

Alright, notice anything different ?

hmm, errrg. I am working on some improvements here with the new blogger, so it may take me a few days to sort things out. I want proper labels on my posts.

Since Art Powerlines is here visiting me you may see some changes at her site too.

And lots of great Mexico City art is coming up soon !!!

Monday, August 14, 2006

"almost everything was explained"

As I’m painting lately, I’ve been listening to an audio-book recording of Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita. It occurs to me that certainly, had Bulgakov not been persecuted, censored and maligned in the Soviet Union, he almost certainly would have been awarded the same honor in the West. The Master and Margarita is so utterly subversive as to shock even my rather un-shockable eyes.

I can't help but think this strange writing must have somehow found its way into the thinking of the great Latin American writers who followed. In many cases, the influence would be seemingly as impossible to deny as would the influence of say Gorky or Gogol on Bulgakov himself. But at one point I was wondering if I could deduce some rules or tips toward understanding contemporary art in light of this art, written as it was, in the first acerbic foam of modernism's failure, a failure that many seem yet to have grasped. For as the Soviet experiment failed, it seems clear to some of us, the American has now also.

Part of that failure surely has been in Kuspit described in the quote I pulled a few days ago. Neo-conceptualism, according to Kuspit, "strips art of unconscious import, reducing it to institutional site specificity and social objectivity, indeed, into a token case of an ideological or theoretical position." Bulgakov had written a screed of unconcious import, at once surreal, outwardly critical and creatively dynamic.

I can almost hear, if not actually feel, the snear that Joanne Drucker would greet something like Fisher's Complicit My Piehole post. Like the official art that Bulgakov parodies to the point of transcendence, Drucker's exhibition and very thesis is a neo-conceptual capitulation against life and against art in favor of an official "token case of an idelogical or theoretical position." Part of that token theoretical position must be that one can make "meta-art" without first and or at least simultaneously making art. This is really what Bulgakov got me to thinking. His is certainly an art within art, fiction within fiction about fiction, and poetry and creativity. Manuscripts do not burn, but official theorem is like flashpowder. Neo-conceptualism is the Socialist Realism of right now.

I'm not going to spell out much more on the antagonistic warfare being fought between pop-culture capitulators and high art defenders. The masses know perfectly well what is the difference. I think that Bulgakov would be not at all surprised to see so many official artists towing the line that official art has to do with official dichotomies, token ideologies, token theories. The not-so surprising thing about the conservativism of "neo-conceptualism" is its reliance on experts with no, or very little experience of art portraying themselves, almost religiously, as experts in "Art."
Image is from the Russian Bulgakov site here. A nice list of available online works is here.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

metrostation fotos from yesterday


latest work

Friday, August 11, 2006

embedded in and emboldened by viscerality

Big and fun to chew on this weekend. I know, I know, I'm the only one reading this:

Neo-Expressionist painting involves an empathic response to its subject matter, Neo-Conceptualist appropriation art is completely unempathic to its medium as well as subject matter. Neo-Expressionism is a spirited re-assertion of art’s commitment to the unconscious -- gospel since Surrealism, and already explicit in Symbolism. It shows that it is still possible to make inspired art, affording an unadministerable sensuous and personal experience, evocative of unconscious feelings and fantasies, in esthetic defiance of the leveling and appropriative tendencies of the administrative society, to which Neo-Conceptualism capitulates. Indeed, Neo-Expressionism is an art of feeling and fantasy, rather than an art that emulates the indifference ingrained in everyday life, which is what occurs in Neo-Conceptualism. It strips art of unconscious import, reducing it to institutional site specificity and social objectivity, indeed, into a token case of an ideological or theoretical position. Neo-Expressionism represents the rebellion and possibility of being a True Self in a false world, to use Winnicott’s idea. Embedded in and emboldened by viscerality, the True Self expresses its vitality in personalized ideas and spontaneous gestures. Its creativity makes it feel real and alive. In contrast, Neo-Conceptualism unwittingly complies with the false world by intellectualizing it, declaring art to be false in the process, and thus contradicting itself to the extent it claims to be art. [Bolds are mine]
I really don't know how you can argue against the NY art world without that paragraph. Thank god Kuspit wrote it so I didn't have to (not that I could have). Question is, do New York people think that because the painting above is not very good that somehow that makes Neo-Expressionism impossible or not worth it ? Does that mean you shouldn't try things like this ? Why should I NOT think neo-conceptualism is Anti-Art and Anti-Intellectual ? Why would anybody want to be involved in that ? It's not even any fun. It's seems sort of in-humane, like looking at advertising all day and talking about it.

Now I am going to have to avoid art galleries with guys riding bicycles and new media for the rest of the weekend. I guess I'll take in the Tamayo Biennial, which thank god, is not actually against art.
Image is: Salomé, Blood Bath, 1979

Thursday, August 10, 2006

present order of things will be transformed, but only slightly

Nice we get a new book from Walter Benjamin every 20 years or so. This review from David Kaufman in the Forward got me thinking about how successful has been the right-wing attempt to re-write history. But I am not going to dwell on that. I think the result has been as much the total nullification of history, and that, as much as anything has acted to stop the USA dead in its tracks.

As Kaufman puts it:

The fatefulness of suffering is nothing but an illusion. Social institutions — like all forms of human endeavor — are susceptible to destruction and transformation. We must learn to see in them the emancipatory traces of decay.
Social institutions do indeed collapse. It surprises me, here in Mexico, to see the fashionable kids dancing in their Chuck Taylors, dancing Salsa with serious intent and expertise. There is not a moments pause when Bill Haley and the Comets starts playing. It is as if the whole world inherited some version of "Americana" that the Americans forgot, or that the American's simply had erased out from under themselves. And now the Americans exist, cut off from everything, in this sort of teal and magenta bank lobby, trying to make withdrawls, depositing popular culture and always there is this flashing error message. And even those Chuck Taylor sneakers, which the whole latin world has inherited, remain symbolic and ubiquitous, but it is a symbolism the Americans no longer recognize.

Monday, August 07, 2006

you want it bleak ?

Seriously, listen to this Berman interview (RealPlayer). Via his own blog and Media Matters. My favorite part was when he said that internet or virtual communities are not really communities, that too much of human interaction depends on body language, something I think artists ought to understand. He compared it to when Walmart says they have a "Walmart Family." Ha ha!!

light falling on a naked body, 2

I think my first post on this subject was well short of the mark on a number of issues and so I will try again. By returning to Berman quoting Bateson.

He was glad to see her [writes Bateson] and impulsively put his arm around her shoulders, whereupon she stiffened. He withdrew his arm and she asked, "Don't you love me any more?" He then blushed, and she said, "Dear, you must not be so easily embarassed and afraid of your feelings." The patient was able to stay with her only a few minutes more and following her departure he assaulted an orderly and was put in the tubs.
It is the idea of the mother stiffening that I still find so outrageous. The real thing that bothers, is that it is not necessarily the son's fault that he is schizophrenic. Throughout his life his mother has been sending mixed signals. "On the one hand, love me, but not too much."

I knew an artist who was channeled into drawing pictures of the most embarassing and intimate details of her childhood, excruciating moments of deeply personal and touching clarity. These were all always rendered in a faux naif style that kept them trapped in a sort of a gallery-chic motif. The idea of presenting any of the content of childhood, any moment of pain or triumph had been completely and utterly expelled from the equation. These drawings were going to be art because of the ironic distance between the subject and the artist. The artist was stiffened to the idea of her own childhood and presented this irony as if it were art.

Whenever there is "art," it seems now that stiffened distance is absolutely necessary. And while I agree wholeheartedly with springs and wells' proffered solution here, it still surprises me that art dealers do not get a grasp on this. I've bemoaned their position in other places, but I come to the conclusion that many art dealers, like many institutionalized MFA faculty members fear grabbing onto any organized school of thought and it's self-reflecting style (however loosely defined) and pushing like hell to get it out there. And more importantly, pushing like hell to collectively understand what it is, and what are the implications.

Winkelman mentioned this the other day.
I know anyone stepping forward with a manifesto would likely be mocked right out of Chelsea, but there do seem to be many more art collectives making waves than a decade ago. Can an "ism" be far behind?
Well, what is holding these art collectives together ? I think one could make a strong argument that in many cases collectives act in a limbo area between self-preservation and against a self-inflicted self-fulfilling gentrification. Like colonists with pox-laden blankets, they go into the "real neighborhoods" to escape gentrification. And again, we stiffen at the fruit of our labor.

We don't want gentrification, and yet anyone who lives out in the frontiers of Brooklyn longs for a decent supermarket because the bodegas canned goods have expired sell-by dates and dust on the faded cereal boxes. And yet we are proud for making our stand and only bitch privately.

The schizophrenia of the $90,000 annual MFA program (mentioned in a nice rant and comments here) and the gentrification that follows is the same schizophrenia of the $90,000 MBA program - the classic "who you know, not what you know" dilemma. Business people (including art dealers) love to talk about altruism, but haven't got time to understand why people become artists anymore than do MFA faculty members. This is the same schizophrenia of billion dollar corporations dumping money into the American Heritage Foundation, while demanding more and more government contracts - that's a Soviet level of corruption in many senses of both words. They stiffen when they hear us speak of "Love of Country" because they know we are a threat to them, just as the institutionalized (tenured) artist stiffens when she remembers why she wanted to be an artist (ie; "Love of Art").

She stiffenes when there is personal content and tries to reframe this content in terms of "art," in terms that the in-humane others she perceives (and thus creates) can digest. Thus the light falling on the naked body reaches only near the body, for the body, being personal, being human and touchable, vulnerable, must be re-cast to fulfill the role of the part-human, that is, she who should never dream of becoming fully him or herself. The all consuming -ism we find over and over again unworkable remains simply captialism. And the -isms arrayed against it are not so very new.

Friday, August 04, 2006

light falling on a naked body

Today I will write about art and therapy. Let's look at the Bateson quote that Berman pulls describing the visit of a mother to her hospitalized son who was recovering from a recent episode of acute schizophrenia:

He was glad to see her [writes Bateson] and impulsively put his arm around her shoulders, whereupon she stiffened. He withdrew his arm and she asked, "Don't you love me any more?" He then blushed, and she said, "Dear, you must not be so easily embarassed and afraid of your feelings." The patient was able to stay with her only a few minutes more and following her departure he assaulted an orderly and was put in the tubs.
This is the position where the student of the arts finds herself. The tubs. The mother is of course, Yale, or pick-your-artschool. All of them stiffen at our feelings, but I think it important to emphasize that in most cases our common and lesser schizophrenia is merely cynicism. That must be it. Cynicism is the lesser confusion and conflation of message and meta-message. I love art, but I don't believe art can work for me. I believe in art, but I can't possibly believe in talking about it in a real way.

And so a lot of times this question will come up; when is it therapy and not art? I am not interested really in addressing psychological problems greater nor graver than cynicism. I believe those larger problems may very well start with cynicism, but cynicism is the one that bites every artist and every experience of art in the ass.

Perhaps I blame the schools and the system too much. Let me list some common cynicisms from every day life:

1. People are too stupid to appreciate the nuances of things that don't plug into the wall.

2. People are too alienated from one another to understand the communicative nature of art; it's just entertainment for otherwise subjugated pawns. I, however, will offer commentary on this, without intruding on the comfort of anyone else's alienation.

3. I want to make art to get famous and rich, after that maybe I will get into how the art makes me more human.

4. All of life is subject to pressures of external reality that render us powerless. This externality defines the contours of my art and life experience.

5. Artists should concentrate on making clean, exhibition-ready pictures in series. The art-world hasn't got time to understand "process."

6. The Art-World is "professional" so whether you're going in as an admin assist or an artist, you are subject to the CEOs all-seeing wisdom. Shut up and play your role. It's too big to be crushed now.

7. I'm this kind of artist, not that kind. I would just never do something like that.

8. Art allows me total freedom, but not the freedom to figure out why I am chained to this dichotomy of otherwise pointless servitude and resentment.
All of these are examples of the kinds of cynicism that afflict everyday life and necessitate the continual therapy of the artists' thinking. There are probably other, better examples, but the conflation of "I love art but I am a victim of the art world" is schizophrenic, to say the least, and also BORING. One must submerse oneself totally in art or one is stuck contending with the uninteresting conflations of artist vs. artworld. It is a false dichotomy. I ran across something yesterday that reminded me of the classic "artist as superhero/socialworker" where they have to create some sort of character that is depicted in some kind of framed "art-scenario," and then tackle some fake problems. I always think about what Robert Hughes wrote about Lucian Freud, something to the effect that no one else wanted to deal with the problem of a light falling on a naked body.

Because I happen to be deeply involved in Tolstoy's Resurrection at the moment, I am dedicating the rest of the day to Katusha running down the platform while 2nd and 3rd class speed away from her. Later, her author friend told her plainly that this, which he called poetical and aesthetic enjoyment, constituted all the happiness of life, and all thoughts of goodness and god were but fraud.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

art and entertainent, 2

Ever notice how bent people get when you challenge their taste for meaningless, drivelly kinds of mass-pop culture. I'm not talking about comic books or good rock bands, but that sort of committee-written, J-Lo kind of mass culture. The answers are always that it's just for fun. "It's shallow, but I think enough as it is." In my experience a lot of them get really defensive, too. It is like their weakness for garbage culture is covering up something, some void that they have to protect. I am not writing this to attack garbage culture. I would prefer to think of it as trying to get at the bottom of the right-wing brain (not that there is much besides bottom in that culture-less wasteland.)

We can accept maybe that real culture comes from individuals. The good example I think is the comparison between the Mattress Factory and the New Museum. Mattress Factory is a one woman show, with a fierce director and an endless string of fantastic shows, all of them flavored by what she thinks and wants. New Museum is a committee driven sort of museum store that endlessly promotes irrelevent installations and issues press releases. There are worse examples than the New Museum, but New Museum is of comparable size and scope to what it could be, namely, something like the Mattress Factory.

But if you get in there and start prodding at what the New Museum is supposed to be and what it is you get statements like this:

The Media Lounge is New York City's first museum program dedicated to the exhibition and exploration of digital art, experimental video and sound works. Media Lounge exhibitions and public programs are supported by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Jerome Foundation and the New York State Council on the Arts.

Just that word "lounge" should tell you that this is an appeal to the savvy entertainment driven youth set. It's frankly insulting to anybody who is interested in culture outside of the lounge scene. But I'd be willing to bet that there is a huge crowd who would argue vigorously that this is just the sort of entertainment the modern museum needs to present in order to reach the lazy, spectacle oriented segment of the market that pays the bills. Maybe Rockefeller and Jerome should cough up a little more so that this kind of crap isn't necessary. And that way New York's premier contemporary art museum could concentrate on putting together good exhibitions of real art instead of entertaining doo-dads that spin and whistle like Jennifer Lopez.

I think a big part of the culture-entertainment complex is dedicated to re-inforcing the notion of a stupid public, to building that public and feeding it like school kids with sugary coca-colas. And those kids damn-well want their sodas !! Just watch out when you tell them that water is not only good for them, but it's used to wash people's feet and float baskets and has meaning. There's nothing like coming between someone gorging on distraction and the source of their pain.

mexican politics

One noteworthy thing on the supposed shut-down of Mexico City's Centro Historico is the utter lack of police, riot police, swat teams. Hardly any anywhere. Yesterday I saw a few, like a busload hanging out in and around their bus, but this is not at all an unusual sight in the center. They are usually sitting in a bus somewhere because there is a demonstration every single day in Mexico City and often there are 2 or 3. Block after block of downtown is basically an information clearinghouse, people asking the courts to allow a full re-count but it is not exactly wall to wall people. If this were taking place in the US there would be jack-booted SS and machine guns on the roofs of every building. Democracy, latin American democracy, is developing into a very different animal.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

art-world vs life-world

One of the things I always remember and always forget is that the art-world is us and the creepy freaks in the galleries and the museums work for us. Not the other way around. I have been reading a lot of art blogs about society this and society that, art-world this, art-world that. Really, we choose who to listen to. It is a little difficult to remember when the democracy we grew up with and expected to help us turned against us and bit us all on the ass. But that is hardly a reason to turn over and die.

I've also been thinking a little about this argument of art-like versus life-like art, and wonder, with respect to all the commited abstract artists, how the conversation they're holding can really move anywhere. It seems to me that most abstract art is now working more in the area of appropriation and can't really go much beyond that. Not that there is anything wrong with Sherry Levine. This goes in for my Wittgensteinian argument that art is part of language and new modes of expression using existing vocabularies is more interesting to me than inventing new vocabularies that speak mostly about existing understandings. Anyway, I don't see any limit to inviting new people into this dialogue. And I think Diletante Ventures did a bang up job, at least for my side.

art and entertainment

Thanks to ArtSlob. This piece on Vincent Price is really quite excellent and links to better and better stuff.

My involvement with East Los Angeles is because it couldn’t happen there. It’s much too honest a neighborhood. It is completely isolated from this world over here. It’s completely different. I was invited to come and talk to this college, which was about five quonset huts on a mudflat, by a woman named Judith Miller. And she wanted me to talk about the aesthetic responsibility of the citizen. That’s a pretty classy title. Well, it fascinated me since the aesthetic responsibility of three quonset huts on a mudflat was not very high. But I went, and I fell in love with it, fell in love with the whole Latino community—Chicano, whatever they call it now. But this was where I decided to put my energy, and to do it without any way identifying myself with it. Because I was accused here of using the arts as an entrée to a world that I didn’t want to be in anyway. People sort of said, “He’s an art snob,” and I just didn’t want to be an. . . . It’s very difficult for me to talk about it. But that’s why forty-five years ago I started this collection in East Los Angeles. It’s been used, it’s grown, it’s produced some very exciting artists.