“Because those are the things I won’t remember.”
Francesca Woodman, House #3, Providence, Rhode Island, 1976
“I would argue that the compulsion of the narrative derives its interpretive animation from the real threat of loss,” Michael Ann Holly writes in her book The Melancholy Art; whether as an art historian you are acting the detective solving the mystery of a painting, or the philosopher attempting to articulate an affective response to a work of art, the motivation for the work remains the same: the experience of a loss.
The spectacle is the effective dictatorship of illusion in modern society. – Guy Debord Continue reading “on notes on the death of culture”
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.
The premise of Rita Felski’s (University of Virginia Professor of English) argument in her most recent book The Limits of Critique, or the point rather, is that the time is ripe for us to spend time critically analyzing critique itself; to dissect how we recognize it, how it has evolved, and ask how or if the suspicious reading that is its modus operandi has gone too far. She argues the onus critical theorists and academics have placed on critique, the dominant position we have created for it in discourse, and our subsequent forsaking of the alternatives, has nearly eliminated the possibility of (my words here) pleasurable reading.