Memory is to one what history is to another – an impossibility. – Chris Marker
I don’t think there is anything more important to our understanding and appreciation of history, literature, art, philosophy, and beyond, or anything less taught, than cultural context.
Caption: Gerald Murphy, Watch, 1925.
“Museums innovate at their own risk,” was the way writer Mike Pepi concluded a recent piece for Art in America on New York’s New Museum’s “New Inc.”, the first “museum-led incubator for creative entrepreneurs.”
I’ve been spending a good deal of time recently thinking about our experience of art in 2016. Not just mine but generally how I imagine people are experiencing art both inside and outside of museums in an age of mediated encounters.
Caption: Long before Michael Heizer brought “Levitated Mass” to LACMA, he took pictures of massive boulders, above. The photos and “Munich Rotary” are on view. (Los Angeles County Museum of Art)
A few weeks ago I was reading an essay about Michael Heizer and came across a reference to Frank Stella’s assertion concerning his own work that “what you see is what you see.” The author of the essay seems to leave space for the literalness of Stella, Johns, or Rauschenberg’s art while using Heizer’s photographs, with his manipulation of size and scale, to “explore the ‘truth claims’ of photographic media,” to assert, in fact, photography and film as mediums in which, contrary to what one might think, literalness is more difficult to take for granted.
Are we, in the West, overly consumed with creating validity through language? In other words, by naming something do we legitimize (or at least think we legitimize) something ie., eliminate the possibility of debate?
I’m overly obsessed with language and the question of how it affects the way our mind functions analytically, so I was intrigued by Perry Link’s recent New York Review of Books blog post pondering the possibility that Western languages’ preference for nouns in contrast to Eastern languages’ preference for verbs, might lead Westerners to think something exists simply because a noun (label) for it exists.
Image Caption: The Atlas Group – Walid Raad, Notebook volume 72: Missing Lebanese wars, 1989. Attributed to: Dr. Fadl Fakhouri. ©Photo: Walid Raad. Repro: Haupt & Binder.
Contemporary art is at odds. On the one hand it is interested in temporality and the dissolution of the individual as its practitioners attempt to extricate themselves and their work from the grips of the art industrial complex. On the other hand it is consumed with creating information about art events, thereby preserving it (if you haven’t stopped to look around, much of our art is documentation in one form or another). It seems that, try as we might, despite a million desires and predictions to the contrary, we cannot allow the art object to die.
In Time’s Arrow Tod remembers the past but we, we encounter what it would be like to only remember the future.
It’s chilling to think about, the possibility of life moving in reverse. It’s an idea that is incomprehensible and yet somehow an idea we’ve been mulling over for our eternity, how many times have you heard someone assert something ended before it began?
But really, really think about it. What would it look like? Martin Amis has an idea. It looks like cab drivers paying passengers, bodies becoming stronger, hookers paying their clients, breakups beginning relationships, the knowledge of impending war or disaster, dirty dishes being set on a table, and doctors mutilating their patients.